Saturday, January 31, 2009

4,000 women run for office in Iraq

What an unexpected headline to greet me while browing my phone for news earlier today.

I had no idea that elections were taking place this weekend in Iraq, much less was I aware of the fact that women are guaranteed 1/3 of all seats that they run for.

This is affirmative action at its finest - in a week where President Obama signed into law "equal work for equal pay" legislation, across the globe, women are running for office and will win with laws in place to ensure that same occurs.

Here is the link to the story as it ran on CNN earlier today: As always, I encourage you to read the story in its entirety. One woman who is running for office stated: "Although a woman's role in the Arab world is mainly that of a mother and child bearer," she said, "I want to prove that women are just as capable as men when it comes to challenging arenas." Would that this were true throughout the world.

Women can choose to have babies, or not, choose to be full time mothers, wives and homemakers, or not or choose to have fulfilling careers, or not.

We are certainly living in exciting times.

It is time for the status quo in Iraq and elsewhere in the world to end - women are just as important as men and their contributions should be recognized and validated.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In Tough Times, Bill Gates says to give more

The previous is a quote from an AOL news post earlier today.

I have long-admired Bill and Melinda Gates for their unabashed philanthropy.

As one who works at a non-profit, it is hard to see the donations dwindling, wondering how many more people will be laid off in order to balance the books.

There are so many ueber wealthy individuals, who have weathered this financial tornado and are more than capable of giving more and then some to charities and other worthy causes. It is at precisely such times as this when more and more needs to be given, not the opposite.

That is the link to the story - as always, I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Here is an excerpt: (Jan. 27) -- In his first annual letter on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates said he plans to invest more, rather than less, in philanthropy this year as a result of the global economic crisis: "[T]he wealthy have a responsibility to invest in addressing inequity. This is especially true when the constraints on others are so great."
If that doesn’t happen, he wrote in the letter, "we will come out of the economic downturn in a world that is even more unequal, with greater inequities in health and education, and fewer opportunities for people to improve their lives. There is no reason to accept that, when we know how to make huge gains over the long term."

Powerful recommendations from an equally powerful man. He truly puts his money where his mouth is and I commend him for his efforts to address health and educational inequalities at home and abroad.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Has change really come to America?

I rode with my mother through Westchester County today - the condos and homes all beautifully kept as we wove through the streets towards the Bronx where my cousin lives in a beautiful home with his wife and two daughters who attend private school in New York City.

When I first came to New York over a year ago, I was amazed at the countenance of the buildings that are owned by the New York Housing Authority. My feeling is that the buildings should be power washed to remove grime regularly. Flowers should be planted in boxes outside of windows and EVERY project or subsidized housing complex should be home to at least one community garden and park.

We are at a historic time in America. We have the first African American President - he is half black and half white, but he looks black, so we content ourselves (not me personally, as my children are also mulatto and I would not deign to have them deny their Caucasian parentage on their father's side).......another story for another entry.

President Obama and his wife embody the American Dream for all of us - black, white, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Native American and all shades and hues of God's people and religions inbetween. They both worked hard to pursue Ivy League educations and only recently paid off their student loans.

Obama is the product of a single mother - the Ann Coulters of the world would have us all believe that single mothers are the bane of the world and that our children are responsible for all societal ills - please note that in her new book, she does not include divorcees such as myself and Obama's mother as single mothers. She is, instead focusing on those mothers who live in public housing, bearing numerous children with numerous men as fathers, subsisting on government subsidies.

It is time for more comprehensive welfare reform - if one has never paid into the system and becomes pregnant at age 17, then one cannot receive public housing or welfare payments - one can have the medicaid that will entitle one to receive appropriate and adequate healthcare and one can live doubled up with a family member while availing themselves of WIA (workforce investment act) funds and other government subsidies designed to help get women off welfare and into the workforce - it worked in Michigan while I was working for Governor Engler's welfare-to-work program - it is one of the most successful programs in the country. One can have access to WIC - the Women and Infant Children Program that provides fresh fruit, legumes, protein and milk, fomula and cereal to mothers and children under age 5. One can have access to a community garden, instead of food stamps, so that one can connect with nature and have a notion of where one's food comes from, instead of lining up at a grocey store with food stamps, purchasing (not in all cases, but in many that I have seen over the years) unhealthy foods to feed ones family.

It is a beautiful thing to see a black and brown couple as the first family - Sasha and Malia are the quintessential fashion plates, with charm, great manners and their parents' good looks. What an amazing role model we have for all Americans.

Unfortunately, if a person wants to be a 5th generation welfare mother or father, that is what that person will aspire to, no matter who is in the White House - Bill Cosby, Sojourner Truth, Fredrick Douglass, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Michael Jordan, Venus and Serena Williams, Tiger Woods - all of these individuals have blazed a trail for African Americans to follow.

We did not need to see one of "us" in the White House in order to realize that living in the projects is not an acceptable permanent lifestyle.

I ask the question again - has change really come to America?

Are we willing to make the changes from within in order to see this happen?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kennedy withdraws her name

It is with a sad heart that I read this story this morning.

Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn her name from contention to replace Madame Secretary Clinton. She cited personal reasons in her explanation: "I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate," she said in the one-sentence statement according to a story on AOL today.

I had truly hoped that Ms. Kennedy would have been the Governor's pick for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is her name recognition - she would have had the star power required to lobby and get things moving in Albany and Washington as others might not. Her ability to raise enormous amounts of monies for children and the education causes close to her heart have not gone unnoticed.

I hope that she does not retreat into the background again - her vision and clarity are needed.

God bless her uncle, Ted - may he have a speedy recovery.

Change is coming to Washington

I love the change that comes to an office with a new administration.

As a former political appointee, I served one mayor of a US city for over 5 years - 2/3 of his 8 year term in office.

I would often hear the grumblings of city employees and other staffers when changes came and executive orders were announced. They had been used to doing things "the old way". I love change and thrive on it. I welcome it in my personal, professional and even political life.

President Obama has ordered that Guantanamo be closed - granted, it might take a while for this to take place, but on his first full day in office, he is setting the precedent for what will transpire during his presidency - a transparent one.

He has also frozen salaries, instituted ethics rules, and will be reviewing his recovery plan which is advancing through the House. He has tasked Madame Secretary Clinton to step up US diplomatic efforts - she was unanimously confirmed yesterday with only 2 dissenting votes. He also managed to squeeze in time to retake the oath of office.

He will now devote his second full day to foreign affairs. Mrs Clinton has her hands full and is clearly up to the task.

Let us pray for our new administration and ask ourselves again - what we can do to aid our country.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama pledges a remade America

"We cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lives of tribe shall soon dissolve."

There are many quotes that stick out in my mind from today's inaugural speech.

This one speaks to me as the mother of 4 bi-racial sons - the youngest is 11 years old and is being raised by his Caucasian father - the others are 19, 21 and 23 respectively and were raised by their black single mother for 10 years after the divorce. It is my hope, dream and prayer that they will not know the hatred of racism and bitterness that accompanies it in years to come. It is my hope that they will live the dream of the beloved and departed Dr. King.

Those hatreds must truly and surely pass away if our nation is to thrive. We need each other in this country - black, white, male, female, Jew, Muslim, Christian and everything inbetween.

God is not a respector of persons and we are all created equal in His sight.

President Obama is a man of many facets, spiritually, intellectually and racially speaking to name a few. He is the one who can unite our divided world - he can bring hope to the downtrodden and will lead us into peace and prosperity.

Neighborhood ball - conceptualized by the Obama's

This ball is taking place in Washington DC as I write this. It is the first of the 10 balls that the President and First Lady will attend into the wee hours tomorrow morning.

I am thinking back on the great parties we attended in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

A man with great vision and sense of social justice, mayor Rocky Anderson, instructed his staffers to send invitations to an amazing party - the invitations went out to Mr and Mrs John Q Public in various zip codes within Salt Lake City.

I never had so much fun at a party - there were rich, poor, black white, Christians, Jews, Muslins, Hindus and much more inbetween. It was an amazing experience that he wanted to create for his neighbors at one of my favorite places in Salt Lake - the Jewish Community Center.

I am optimistic at this new presidency - I am not asking what Obama can do for me, I am asking what I can do to help him.

I am involved, as always, in a myriad of projects presently - spurred on by a sense of urgency based on the mandate for us to become socially involved. I have long been doing the community organizing thing myself and recognize the importance thereof.

God bless America and God bless President Obama

Friday, January 16, 2009

Even in Republican Utah, Bush presidency rated lackluster, poor

That is the headline to a Salt Lake Tribune article I read today:

Having lived in Utah as on "Outsider" and a Democrat for over 7 years, this story did not surprise me altogether.

Here is the link: - As always, I encourage you to read the entire story - I know what you are thinking: Why on earth does a person in New York read the Salt Lake papers? I am still very much connected to Utah - one cannot live in a place and make ties and connections for as long as I did without still being close.

I am at present working as a consultant on a campaign to unseat the most Republican of all Democrats - Jim Matheson. The opponent is a feisty and remarkable man - all things being equal, he would still be in the military, but he is gay and that just doesn't play well in the Army at times.

Gary Barkley ( is the website should you care to visit) is fast becoming one of my few most-admired Utah men. His wisdom, intellect, tenacity and vision are phenomenal and I do not use those superlatives lightly. We visit via phone and email daily - not an easy feat, given the two hour time difference. He has served his country and now wants the opportunity to serve the people of the great state of Utah.

God bless Utah and God bless Gary - we need a few more good men such as he.

Farewell to George Bush

"You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" - "Mexicanly owned companies" "I love my little brown nieces and nephews" - those are Jeb Bush's kids for those of you who don't recall that last quote.

The story from AOL today speaks candidly of his missteps - here is a quote:

Leaving office with the highest disapproval rating since Richard Nixon, Bush said, "You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made, but I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."

I will miss George Bush - he is the king of malaproprisms. I have laughed longer and harder at some of his missteps in the last 8 years, along with many Americans and indeed others in the free world.

George Bush was a uniter and known for his strong bipartisan leadership as Governor of Texas - he was, in fact, quite outstanding in that role - his leadership, integrity and morality were unquestionable and unfailing - things changed rapidly when he came to the White House - I believe that George Bush will indeed be vindicated and here is the caveat: His naivete in allowing Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others to have such control over policy and other items of national interest, the billion dollar war in Iraq - all have shown his inability to choose the best person for the job - think for example of Alberto Gonzales who is not yet out of the woods - he just might yet get subpoenaed on his misdoings as Attorney General.

I encourage you all to read Scott McClelland's book "What Happened" - it is a truly candid look inside the White House, and speaks of what went wrong - so very wrong - with this administration. As a former political appointee to the mayor of Salt Lake City, I found many parallels between what happens publicly and what is really going on in the hallowed halls of politicians and their private lives. I am fortunate - for the most part, my boss was an outstanding public figure - he was known for his hard work, tenacity and ability to get things done - unfortunately, his management skills left lots to be desired, as evidenced by the departure of some 70+ senior staffers during his tenure - Politicians are not perfect - just trying to do the best job they can for the most part.

What I do know is that George Bush has strong morals and principals - he was, however, clearly out of his league in the White House - his approval rating in Africa for example is 80% - due to his infusion of more funds than ANY other president in history in the US.

He got some things right, but unfortunately - many things he got wrong.

The jury is still out on his legacy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New homes being built smaller

Gone are the days of "McMansions" - I just read this story on AOL.

Here is the link:

For the last decade, and probably even prior to that, we Americans have been obsessed with big cars, homes, salaries and now we are paying the price. We can no longer afford to live a half a million dollar world on a $40-50 thousand annual salary.

There lives in Salt Lake City, Utah - an amazing woman by the name of Lisette Gibson. She lives in a beautiful area of the city filled with charming homes. The area is entitled Yalecrest and the name conjures up images of quaint modest sized homes.

A few years ago, I was blessed to make Lisette's acquaintance - it seemed that some nefarious developers and homeowners were purchasing small homes, in order to tear them down and put up massive "McMansions" out of style and character with the "look and feel" of the neighborhood.

With the help of her amazing architect husband and a group of dedicated citizens, Lisette brought about the city council ordinance restricting massive homes in 5 of 7 city council districts.

What I learned from that dedicated group of grassroots activists is that we can do anything we put our minds to - a la Rosie the Riveter "We can do it!" and that when we are anxiously engaged in doing the right thing, right will most often prevail in the end.

The moral of this story: Never underestimate the power of a woman and by small means are great things accomplished.

Royal behaving badly

Princess Diana must surely be turning over in her grave - or at very least - feel disappointed in her son's incredibly poor behavior vis-a-vis foreigners that recently came to light.

Prince Harry has been the "bad boy" for a long time now and we have all given him grace - myself included - knowing that he has experienced serious trauma as a result of the untimely death of his beloved mother.

That stated, it is clear from his statements that the Prince is a racist - those comments were not taken out of context - he did not just suddenly become enlightened and recognize the folly of his choice of verbiage - he is simply a racist.

Here is an excerpt from the story: "Britain's opposition Conservative Party leader David Cameron said Harry's comments undermined work to root out racism from the country's armed forces. "It is obviously a completely unacceptable thing to say," Cameron told the BBC.
Harry is purported to have made the remarks in 2006 during a visit to Cyprus to carry out training exercises with fellow military cadets. In the video, Harry is heard to refer to one colleague as "our little paki friend" — using a derogatory term for people of Pakistani origin.
In a second clip, Harry is heard to call another cadet — who was wearing a headscarf — a "raghead." The newspaper said that the video was filmed by other cadets and supplied to the newspaper.
Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Ramadan Foundation — a British Muslim youth organization — said the comments are likely to offend people both in Britain and Pakistan.
"Harry, as a public figure, must ensure that he promotes equality and tolerance and this rant, whether today or three years ago, is sickening and he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself," Shafiq said."

Here is a link to the story:

Having grown up in London, England, I know first hand of the sense of entitlement and superiority that white British people tend to have over their fellow residents who happen to hail from former colonies. I distinctly recall on many occasions being taunted on the street and being admonished to "Go back to Africa, you jungle bunny!" London remains one of the most segregated cities and likely will always be - there is still a glass ceiling in place - in much the same way as there was when my beloved parents came from Jamaica in the 60's. Much has changed and much has remained the same.

If a conservative leader is enlightened to recognize the danger in Harry's remarks, then we are in big trouble vis-a-vis race relations in England, indeed the world. What if Diana had married the Pakistani doctor she met after her divorce? Would Harry have been more enlightened then? We cannot all have the blessing of an interracial marriage, such as my children - in order to remind ourselves that our race is not the superior one - indeed, the HUMAN race is the superior race.

Prince Harry is old enough to know better and given that he speaks for the entire Royal Family and represents them on the world stage, he should really choose his words more carefully.

Is he sorry he said the words, or sorry he got caught? I suspect it is a combination of the two.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dinner in Washington

I was watching the NBC Nightly News broadcast just now and my ears perked up when I heard that President-Elect Obama is holding a dinner in honor of Colin Powell and John McCain.

I love this story and it speaks to me on so many levels. Barack Obama is a class act - a gentleman - I am reading his memoirs - "Dreams from my father" and feel like I know him personally as a result. What I do know is that he is a decent, honest and good man - fine traits and not easily found in a politician - I know, I have worked on enough campaigns and certainly spent lots of time around one while serving as a political appointee.

Colin Powell and John McCain are two amazing men - full of charm, intelligence, wisdom and courage - their sacrifices for their country as military men is commendable.

God bless Obama for seeing this and celebrating this.

Others should take note

Mrs Robinson goes to Washington

Michelle Obama's mother is moving in to the White House.

I love this idea on so many levels. The Obama family has clearly shown where their priorities are - they love each other - Obama calls Michelle his "rock" and he will need her by his side as he takes on this monumental task of being the leader of the world.

Mrs Robinson grew up on the south side of Chicago and is an independent, feisty spirit. Her family wanted her to be a teacher - she chose to become a secretary - she retired from her position in order to be with Sasha and Malia while their parents were on the campaign trail.

Hillary Clinton often spoke of the African proverb: "It takes a village to raise a child" and she has spent her life working on efforts on behalf of the country's children.

The Obama's understand this concept on a fundamental and functional level. Hence the invitation to Mrs Robinson.

I welcome the new addition to the White House - it is a tremendous sacrifice, albeit temporarily - I have a suspicion she might just stick around......her family needs her, as does her country

The case of the purloined kidney

It seems that a physician is having second thoughts over donating a kidney to his spouse. She committed adultery and "humiliated him as a man and as a person."

I too have known the pain and humiliation accompanied with adultery, but that does not mean I wish ill on my former spouse.

Some years ago, a friend was donating her kidney to an ailing family member - this decision sparked such controversy within the family - (they were worried that she might die) - and the family was literally divided down the middle on two sides.

There is much to be said for anonymous organ donation and I think that this story illustrates the wisdom in not knowing where an organ is coming from.

This physician who has been scorned has asked for his wife to return the kidney or pay him the equivalent of replacement cost for the organ - over a million dollars - as if.

This raises serious ethical concerns and the AMA should work swiftly to pass legislation within their powers or certainly guidelines, to ensure that such actions do not take place in the future. We do not allow selling of organs in this country, so how is this physician putting a dollar amount on his kidney and what price list is he using?

Friday, January 9, 2009

As his inmates grew thinner, a sheriff's wallet grew fatter

That header is from a NY Times story that I read last week. The story disturbed me and brought tears to my eyes. It impacted me so greatly that I have taken a full three days to finish this post. Here is the link to the story:,%20his%20wallet%20grew%20fatter&st=cse

It is incredibly inhumane to think that prisoners are being fed for $1.75 per day for all meals and growing thinner by the month as a result of being undernourished. The kicker is that the sheriff is allowed to keep any monies that he saves as written into Alabama law.

I have sent a note to the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah - Rocky Anderson - who now runs a Human Rights non-profit to see what can be done to address these human rights violations. - he is an amazing and visionary man - he was my boss for over 5 years and his passion and intelligence are formidable.

Additionally, I spoke with a girlfriend who has managed kitchens for many years. Here is a sample meal she fixed for 3 yesterday:

Chicken and vegtables for dinner
2.03 chicken thighs
1.29 str fry veg
1.00 br. rice I allready had on hand
.25 for soy sauce& corn starch
.75 for 3 bananas
Thats 5.32 for three good size serving (one cup rice,one cup veg& meat) and a fresh fruit
thats just 1.76 for one person to eat
Of course beans and rice is even cheaper and salsa or tomatoes for vitamin C
This cost does not account for fuel or staffing to prepare and store food.

I am going to write to the Alabama state prison and find out what their budget is for food and see what we can do to get a petition started to address these savage inequities.

Just because a person has committed a crime (1 in 100 Americans is in prison), does not mean that they have forfeited the right to dignity and respect, above all, health.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Purple Heart is ruled out for traumatic stress

Thanks for your time soldier, now deal with it! Not on our list of illnesses......

That is essentially what the Pentagon is telling some 300,000 sufferers of PTSD.

According to a NY Times story today, "a Pentagon advisory group decided against the award because, it said, the condition had not been intentionally caused by enemy action, like a bomb or bullet, and because it remained difficult to diagnose and quantify.
“Historically, the Purple Heart has never been awarded for mental disorders or psychological conditions resulting from witnessing or experiencing traumatic combat events,” said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Current medical knowledge and technologies do not establish PTSD as objectively and routinely as would be required for this award at this time.”
One in five service members, or at least 300,000, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, according to a Rand Corporation study in 2008.
For some soldiers suffering from the disorder, the historical distinction between blood and no blood in an injury fails to recognize the depths of their mental scars. A modern war — one fought without safe havens and with the benefit of improved armor — calls for a new definition of injuries, some veterans say."

Those of us with a mental illness continue to be stymied by society's lack of sympathy and even understanding of our illnesses.

I know of abuse victims who suffer from PTSD - years later, their lives are fractured, they are unable to trust openly and have difficulty in relationships and jobs, just like the military Vets with PTSD.

The mental health community needs to lobby - and hard to correct this grave injustice.

If you need help:

Or call your local VA hospital.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Burris should not be seated

Burris showed up in D.C. yesterday, hoping (against hope, I assume) to be seated. He was refused a seat, based on his paperwork not being correctly signed by the Secretary of State's office.

Mr. Burris is poisoned fruit - borne of a tainted scandal in which Governor Blagojevich of Illinois chose him to succeed the popular Barack Obama.

While Mr. Burris comes with great credentials and is probably quite capable of doing the job, my concern is based upon his lack of being a viable candidate for public office, yet he still thinks that he should get that seat.

According to my research, "Burris, 71, hasn't won an election since 1990, despite three tries for the Democratic nomination for governor and one run for mayor of Chicago. He was the first black man to win a major statewide office."

We are in for a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In a quiet rebellion, parishioners keep the faith

That tagline is from a NY Times story this morning.

It seems that the powers that be in the Catholic church have unfairly singled out a financially solvent parish and determined that it be shut down and sold. Not so, say the faithful parishioners. While they have been stripped of their priests to lead worship, they remain resolute in their faith to keep their parish open in spite of overwhelming odds.

Following is an excerpt from the story: "Many of the St. Frances holdouts describe being transformed from passive Catholics to passionate, deeply involved members of a spiritual community that they say could be a model for the future of the troubled Catholic Church.
“You would think because there are fewer and fewer priests that the various archdioceses would welcome a new configuration,” Mrs. O’Brien said. “Let the lay people do everything but the sacramental.”
Since St. Frances has no priest, parishioners lead services that include everything but consecration of the host. On the Sunday before Christmas, about 50 parishioners attended a service conducted entirely by women, including two who distributed communion. The hosts had been consecrated elsewhere by a priest described by Mr. Rogers’s wife, Maryellen, as “sympathetic.”
Parishioners also hold suppers in the vestibule and meet Tuesdays to say the rosary. They raise money as a nonprofit group, donate to charities and open the church to outsiders seeking comfort or repose.
“Lots of troubled people have come through, and all they need, really simply, is someone to connect to,” said Karen Virginia Shockley, 43, who participates in the vigil with her two teenage sons. “Usually there’s an older person here who will sit down and just listen to you.”

The Catholic church has been through a great deal recently, scandals, lawsuits to the tune of $85 million in that archdiocese alone. It is clearly time for them to rethink Catholicism - it is not working on so many levels.

I am a big fan of a lay/eucharistic ministry - it is likely a holdover from being a Mormon for over 20 years. No-one is paid in the LDS Church - not the bishop, not the president, not teachers, music directors - everyone volunteers their time and serves anywhere from 1-5 years. I have personally served in the longest standing womens' organization - the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - I have been a Sunday School teacher, I have worked as an administrator of childrens' services and camp counselor to girls and much more over the two decades during which I was a participating member.

This article brings to light the dire straits in which the Catholic church finds itself - a need for priests that is so great, they are being imported en masse (no pun intended) from South America and Africa in order to meet the needs of their followers.

I worry that the Catholic church will not be able to sustain itself and then I am reminded of the huge outpouring of love and support that came from the youth and younger priests and nuns as I watched the Pope here in NY last year. I am also reminded of a conversation I had with a Catholic professor recently - he believes that a new wave of optimism is sweeping the country among Catholic youth - given that he teaches in a Jesuit college, he is closer to the situation than I.

On occasion, I celebrate Catholic mass - I know, I know - what religion am I anyway? Spiritual, not religious, dear readers.

Kennedy missteps might not trip her up

Caroline Kennedy seems to be enduring the public media scrutiny well these days. She is learning about how fickle and difficult the press and public can be. Following is the link to an AOL news article posted today:

Mrs. Kennedy is learning in much the same way that Mrs. Clinton learned when she tried to sidestep her fellow New Yorkers, my own representative, Nita Lowey was among those vying for the seat that is now held by Hillary Clinton back in 2000.

Here is a Wikipedia paragraph about one of my most-admired NY women: "Lowey strongly considered running for the United States Senate in 2000, but stepped aside when First Lady of the United States Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her candidacy. Congresswoman Lowey was considered a top contender for appointment to Clinton's Senate seat after Clinton was nominated to be Secretary of State, but in a December 1st, 2008 phone interview with the Associated Press, she stated that she isn't interested in giving up her seniority seat on the House Appropriations Committee.[1]"

As you can see, Lowey has now been in this Hillary/Nita friendly skirmish twice. Ms. Lowey has decided not to run or make overtures for Senator Clinton's seat even though she stood a strong chance at winning it.

Caroline Kennedy now comes to the game late. That stated, at least she has been a resident of NY State proper for some years, and did not simply show up here, purchase a home, announce that she is running and expect all kinds of consideration as the former First Lady.

I really wish that Governor Patterson would appoint an interim person and let the chips fall where they may - that is, Caroline et al can campaign for a year and run for office properly in 2010.

I was recently at an open house and an attorney and I were discussing the general election. He spoke of "taking turns" and felt that Obama had stepped ahead of too many people. Nothing is promised or guaranteed in this life - the early bird gets the worm, no matter how long the other birds have been waiting for it.

Obama got the worm because he ran a phenomenal campaign and was well-prepared to address the needs and concerns of voters - I know this because I spent hours on the phone talking to voters in swing states - yes, I said swing states - I am sure you all recall how well he did in those states.

Had Obama lost that election to McCain, I cannot imagine him suing for a recount a la Coleman in Minnesota.

When will it end?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Barack's Blackberry - one public servant who knows why he needs one!

Below is the bio of the man who is my locally-elected official:

Paul Feiner began his career in public service at the age of 12, when he worked as a volunteer on the successful 1968 Congressional campaign of Ogden Reid. At the age of 16 Paul Feiner was already fighting for quality of life improvements. As Chair of the Teen Democrats of Westchester, he persuaded the county of Westchester to open the Bronx River Parkway on Sunday for cyclists, a program that remains popular to this day. Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude at Fordham University and a 1981 graduate of St. John's Law School, Mr. Feiner immediately put his academic skills to good use. He led the campaign to open committee meetings of the Westchester County Board of Legislators to the public. This successful effort prompted Common Cause to name Mr. Feiner one of six national recipients of the Common Cause Public Service Achievement Award in 1982. His award cited Mr. Feiner's "force of imagination, initiative and perseverance that have made an outstanding contribution to the public interest in the areas of government performance and integrity." In 1983 he was elected to the Westchester County Board of Legislators, defeating two opponents who were supported by the political establishment. As a County Legislator he always put his constituents first. Thanks to Mr. Feiner the county Legislature adopted a number of open government reforms, including meetings with public speaking access. And, in 1986, Mr. Feiner established the "Have a Heart for the Homeless Committee" which to date has helped over 400 families avoid homelessness. As a Legislator Mr. Feiner worked to lower utility rates and find housing for indigent families.

I consider myself to be a blessed individual - each morning when I have my morning devotions, I thank God and the universe for allowing me to have as much as I have - truly an abundance in a world where so many have so little.

I am very blessed to have in my life many men whom I find incredibly intelligent, passionate about life, causes, people, places and the like. They are, in no particular order - elected officials, attorneys, professors, teachers, coffee shop owners, restauranteurs, school teachers, small business owners and now a President of the United States, along with any number of professions in between.

I live in Greenburgh, New York - Hartsdale, actually, but we are unincorporated. Greenburgh was rated by Money Magazine as a top place to live in the country. Prior to moving here, I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah - also a top-rated place to live. Blessed I am indeed.

What does all this have to do with Barack's Blackberry, you ask?

Recently, Paul Feiner, my Town Supervisor, was on a weeklong vacation with his family and we experienced an inordinately rough winter storm in his absence. Apparently, trash was not picked up during that time. At least, based on the emails I received from Paul via listserve. I live in a condo, so I don't pay attention to such things. Apparently it was a bit of an issue for other residents who wanted to know why their trash had not been picked up. The email from Paul was brief and to the point - sorry for the missed pickup, the storm had delayed it and bear with the public services folks who would get the trash picked up the following day.

It was a minor interruption in Paul's vacation - at least I hope so - but it serves to illustrate the importance of keeping in touch with one's constituents and department heads when one is an elected official.

The Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman Junior - does not use email - he writes everything out longhand. Rumor has it, things are then sent to the shredder.

Barack Obama wants to keep his Blackberry when he is Commander in Chief. He needs it and he should be allowed to keep it. I know of many individuals, myself included who have used wireless devices to keep abreast of constituents and fast-emerging political situations whose systems have not been breached.

If the powers that be cannot figure out how not to compromise Barack's Blackberry - they should be looking for another job.

Historians fight Wal-Mart for battle site - at what price development?

I found this story just now, but it posted yesterday on AOL.

It seems that the behemouth is going to build yet another super Wal-Mart and very close to some hallowed ground to boot.

"Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is under fire from historians and preservationists over plans to build a Supercenter in Virginia about a mile from the Civil War site of the first fight between opposing generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant." So reads the caption under the picture of one of the numerous civil war battles that accompanies the story.

Here is another excerpt from the story:

"Wal-Mart and its supporters point out that the 138,000-square-foot store would be right behind a bank and a small strip mall, a full mile from entrance to the site of the 1864 clash that left thousands dead and hastened the war's end.
Local leaders also want the $500,000 in tax revenue they estimate the big box store will generate for rural Orange County, a gradually growing area about 60 miles southwest of Washington.
"In these economic times, the fact that Wal-Mart wants to come into the county is an economic plus," said R. Mark Johnson, a tire shop owner and chairman of the county's bard of supervisors. "This is hardly pristine wilderness we're talking about."

$500,000 is hardly anything to sneeze at, particularly in these difficult times economically speaking, but there are ways to get a win-win for everyone. In this instance, Wal-Mart could locate a little further away - surely there is more land they could use - and maintain the integrity of this ground where historians say the first battle took place between Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. I wonder whether Mark Johnson needs a history lesson - pristine wilderness notwithstanding. The ground in question was used as a staging area for troops and is hence deemed sacred or hallowed and appropriately so.

You know of my love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart and this is just one more reason why I do not like the retail giant - they tend not to want to play nice with their new neighbors - "let us develop or be damned" their attitude screams.

I am watching closely to see who will win the Wal-Mart/Tesco war - I hope that my fellow Brits will have more compassion when they begin building megastores in this country. Please don't prove me wrong.

As economy falters, more families are living apart for the paycheck

I am blessed (or cursed, some might say) to be single with no need to make considerations for anyone other than myself.

I lived in Michigan some years ago after following my military husband from Germany to Oklahoma and Kentucky for career opportunities (read "military orders" for those military readers) for the first few years of our 15 year marriage - . In the military we are not given the choices as spouses or military members of where we live, even as commissioned officers. I think that given the recent wars and skirmishes, the American public is painfully aware of the deployments and accompanying hardships that are an expected part of military life. Indeed, the mental health concerns have been greatly heightened among military counselors given recent spikes in abuse, death by homicide and suicide and all number of fallout from too many deployments as a result of the Iraq war (see my post from last week referencing same in greater detail).

In 1997, my marriage ended whilst living in Michigan. I went back to college and trained to become a PC guru - in theory, I can take a PC apart and put it back together and have it still work. Once I completed the course, I learned that with my language skills (fluent in French and German), I could earn markedly more monies in California or Utah.

I made the painful decision to separate the family - leaving the youngest child with his father in Michigan, while I trekked to Utah with the 3 older children. The former spouse promising to join me once his management training at a large retail store was complete. That unfortunately did not occur. Some 10 years later, and the fallout is still occurring - I had a super senior in high school and one of my sons is 21 and working on a GED - the transition and accompanying stress was simply too much for them to adjust to - being tweens and teens during a divorce/move is painful at best, life changing at worst.

I digress. The tag from this post comes from the NY Times story this morning under Fashion and Style, curiously enough - I wonder whether the economic section might not have been a more appropriate place for the story......Here is the link and as always - please read the story when you have a moment so that you can get it in it's entirety:

Following is an excerpt:

"Reginald C. Richardson, a vice president of the Family Institute at Northwestern University and a lecturer in psychology, agrees. “I think we are going to see more and more commuter marriages in the future, given the global economy and the fact that our technology now makes this more doable,” Dr. Richardson said.
Emma Child, a partner in the investment banking group of Rose Partnership in London, a financial services and corporate search firm, said that in recent months she had noted a marked increase in the willingness of couples to live in different locations.
“Eighteen months ago anyone searching for a new job would ask to be placed in their current location,” Ms. Child said. “Now they come in and say ‘I am prepared to move,’ even, if necessary, without the family.”
She added: “We send a lot of people to emerging markets right now. But honestly, who wants to move the family to Lagos? And if the spouse is working, who wants to give up the second income?”

The story is regarding the skyrocketing number of families living apart due to economic struggles. In days gone by, an employee would not relocate for a job opportunity, citing the need to stay close to family, or continuity in childrens' education, etc. That is no longer an option for many families - based on the article, the families dealing with this tend to be from more affluent echelons of society versus those who are lower to middle income - there is a college professor referenced in the article, for example. Through the miracles of such technologies as email, instant messenging, "free" long distance and Skype, these families are able to keep in touch.

I moved from Utah to New York over a year ago after the youngest child living with me moved back with his dad and the older two were fairly self-sufficient.

I love living in New York. Opportunities abound and are plentiful - the energy is great and I am blessed to be able to work part time at an amazing non-profit while working on my many community organizing projects and still meeting my financial obligations, which have, of course, been pared down to fit the new budget. Gone are the days of 60 dollar dinner tabs, endless shopping on clearance racks for that latest greatest outfit - layaway is a great way to purchase things that take a bit longer to pay for and clearance racks are still my great friend.

I love my new life - it fits me, slow and steady works for me - time to devote to my various causes and no children living at home to worry about. Life is good.

My prayers go out to those families living apart in order to maintain jobs that can sustain their families.

Again, let's pray for the new administration, new jobs, some stimulus in the economy and a sweeping change to come to our country - we desperately need it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Beautiful hair, Goree Island and the Episcopal Church

I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I am always trying to do something new - translation - I have been trying to grow "natural" hair or "dreads" for years. Whenever I think I am close to the final product, I grow impatient and run to the beauty shop so I can get curls again.

Today I went to church services and was greeted by a beautiful Jamaican woman who commented on how much she preferred my hair in it's present (read "processed") state, versus the natural state that I had been sporting for several months, while desperately trying to get my hair to behave and grow into those beautiful twists that so many of my African sisters seem to do effortlessly to their hair here in New York.

I commented to the woman that I was ambivalent with my hair, and much preferred it in its natural state, since I am from Africa originally and my hair should reflect my heritage. She asked me pointedly if I had no proof that I am African. I told her I didn't need proof - I simply knew.

In October, my mother took a historical trip to Senegal to visit my sister who works for the U.N. The trip was therapeutic, filled with good food, sunshine and all manner of amazing indigenous experiences orchestrated by my sweet sister. As we looked through the digital slide show on mum's camera upon her return, I marveled at the beauty of the land, culture and people. At one point, the camera showed a hollow looking building - it was Goree Island - I had never heard of this island, growing up in post-colonial England and learning little of my African heritage, but the picture haunted me and my eyes filled up with tears - instinctively, I knew that there was great pain associated with the place.

I don't need anyone to prove to me that I am from Africa - I know where my roots are from, my curly processed hair notwithstanding.

Today, I made the decision to join the Episcopal church again - it is going to be a transitional time for me. I need to fellowship and take communion and feed my soul - attending services does that for me. The congregation where I currently attend is not as diverse as I need it to be, but it will serve its purpose for the time being. I have my eye on another church when the time is right: The UCC Church at Chatterton......a place where everyone is welcome regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Now THAT's my kind of church.

Andrea Moore-Emmett - femme extraordinaire goes to Washington to THE inauguration

Andrea Moore-Emmett is a woman I am honored to call friend and mentor.

For many years, she has been an advocate for women who are stuck in the quagmire that is present-day polygamy. Her book, "God's Brothel" chronicles the lives of some 18 women dealing with the fallout of living the principle of polygamy. Following is an excerpt of her bio.

"Andrea Moore-Emmett is the author of God's Brothel, The Extortion of Sex For Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped. She was the researcher for the A&E documentary, Inside Polygamy, which also aired on the BBC. As a journalist, she has been the recipient of five awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Utah Headliners Chapter, including the Don Baker investigative Journalism Award. She was also awarded a Women in Communications Leading Changes Award. Moore-Emmett served as Utah NOW President, a member of the Salt Lake Mayor's Commission: Bridging the Religious Divide and is a Tapestry Against Polygamy Board Member."

I met Andrea some years ago when I was serving as co-chair of the Salt Lake City Mayor's commission on Bridging the Religious Divide. I found Andrea to be bright, insightful, articulate and very intelligent.

I have stayed in touch with Andrea since we both left "Zion" and since we are both former members of the LDS Church, and divorcees with sons, we have much in common.

I was thrilled when I called her this week and she shared with me that Harry Reid D-Nevada had asked an associate of hers to to attend the inauguration witha group of women advocates against polygamy (Andrea is included in the group of 4), in order to bring to the President's attention to the plight of those suffering under polygamy.

I can't wait to hear the you-were-there details of her two days in Washington.

Go Andrea!

Bill Richardson drops secretary bid - (men behaving badly?)

That is the headline that just greeted me after returning from morning services.

I can only express utter and complete disappointment in Richardson, in much the same way I expressed the same when Edwards was caught in the affair lie.

The Democratic party is in the fight for its life - Blagojevich, Franken not being seated - Burris being challenged - the list goes on and on.

There is a serious breach of ethics afoot in American politics and someone has to fix it. I don't know who will do it, nor do I profess to know how they will do it, but do it for God's sake.

The country is depending on all of you "leaders" to help get us back on track and out of this financial quagmire we have dug ourselves into, not to mention unemployment, the mortgage crisis, war in Iraq, conflict in Gaza, uprisings in several other countries et al........

Let us hope that Bill Richardson is vindicated and that this is all a terrible misunderstanding. Methinks, alas, based on my previous post today regarding Hillary Clinton that the show is just starting.....hold on to your hats folks - it's going to be one hell of a ride.

A donor's gift soon followed Clinton's help

The preceding is the link to an interesting piece in the Times this morning.

I had been an earlier supporter of Hillary Clinton for President - I immediately threw my support behind the stronger and better candidate - Barack Obama when he announced his candidacy. As a former political appointee, I know politics and I tend to pick winners - just the way it is.

Many believe - mistakenly - that the reason those 180 million votes was not higher - the reason Hillary was not voted for and hence did not receive the nomination to the Democratic ticket - is because she is a woman. My belief is that it is because of her husband. He continues to be a liability with the donations to his foundation, questionable as some of them are.

According to the story - and again - I encourage you to read it in it's entirety - the junior Senator Clinton helped to enact legislation that ultimately approved a large amount of federal monies in the form of tax exempt bond dollars to help a developer in his quest to build and expand a mall in Syracuse.

While serving as a political appointee, I developed a distaste for developers - I won't bore you with the names and details, but suffice it to say that many of them had overblown egos and more money than they knew what to do with - they would build malls, housing complexes and all manner of buildings, not always to LEED specifications to my chagrin and certainly not always including affordable housing in the equation - indeed, there is at least one case of which I was aware where affordable and/or low income housing was demolished to make way for "development".

Mrs. Clinton is on to bigger and better things now. Her appointment as Madame Secretary is going before congress soon - her senate seat will likely go to Caroline Kennedy (more on that in one of yesterdays posts) - and she will likely be confirmed.

Or will she? The story is compelling and if there is any connection whatsoever to her husband's foundations receiving a $100,000 donation from the developer with curious timing after Senator Clinton approved the package - we should all be very concerned with how that appears.

Ground Fighting Widens a 9-Day War on Hamas

That is the headline of a NY Times front page story this morning.

I continue to remain heartsick about the escalating war on Hamas. What on earth are we going to do? What can we do? A girlfriend invited me to attend a protest at Times Square yesterday to support Palestine - I did not attend as I had a myriad of projects I was working on at home.

The UCC and other churches have recently sent the letter that follows this paragraph to President Bush - I urge all of you to write to your elected officials and encourage them to broker peace talks with these feuding nations. We can no longer stand by and act as though Israel is so innocent - I am not saying that they do not have the right to defend themselves as a sovereign nation, but this latest slaughter has gone too far - even the UN Security Council is condemning it.

"Thomas, Watkins sign letter to Bush urging 'decisive U.S. leadership' in Middle EastWritten by staff reportsDecember 31, 2008
Leaders of the UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have signed a letter to President Bush calling for “immediate, visible and decisive U.S. leadership” to help end the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, and the Rev. Sharon Watkins, the Disciples’ general minister and president, were among those who signed the Dec. 31 letter from leaders of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East.
“The toll in human deaths and suffering, the negative effects on progress in negotiations for peace and the risks of wider war caused by this escalation of violence cannot be allowed to continue,” the letter reads.
The full text of the letter is below.

December 31, 2008

President George W. BushThe White HouseWashington, D.C. 20500Dear Mr. President,

We write as leaders of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace to urge you to take immediate action to help end the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel. We believe that more than words are needed. We urge you to send a high level personal representative to the region immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire and make provision for humanitarian aid.

The toll in human deaths and suffering, the negative effects on progress in negotiations for peace and the risks of wider war caused by this escalation of violence cannot be allowed to continue. Immediate, visible and decisive U.S. leadership is urgently needed.

As religious leaders, we will encourage our faith communities to support active U.S. engagement to achieve a ceasefire and we are personally prepared to do whatever we can to be helpful to efforts to halt the violence and restore progress toward peace."

Girlfriends and their complications

A close girlfriend and I (yes, I know that there are no such things as casual girlfriends) - were recently discussing her relationship with a male friend. Theirs is a platonic relationship. Always has been.

It seems that a problem has now arisen with his live-in girlfriend - she is "jealous" of the friendship he has with my girlfriend. Some background here: My girlfriend has been friends with "John" for years. They have hiked together, rollerbladed together, started an activity group for singles together, lived as neighbors and shared many meals together - the list goes on and on.

A couple of years ago, my girlfriend moved to another state and that is when the troubles began. While the girlfriend of "John" had some apparent issues with my friend prior to the move - she didn't understand why her sweetie needed a friend besides her - and a woman friend to boot!......she has become increasingly negative towards my friend.

I say we all needs friends - the more the merrier and men and women are more balanced when they have a mix of friends. "John's" girlfriend should be happy that he is a well-rounded kind of guy!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Britain's Tesco makes inroads in US

I worked at a Tesco grocery store as a teenager in London - it was my first real job and I loved having my own money and autonomy. My own children have done everything from fast food to camp counselors to farm workers and much inbetween.

According to a recent AOL news article, my favorite British store is making a splash across the pond. It is causing a stir at Wal-Mart - and well they should!

I have a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart. I stopped patronizing the store some 20+ years ago after seeing a report of an interracial couple being fired for getting married (they later sued for back pay and pain and suffering, but the point is the same......).

Later in life, I began to realize the working conditions of Wal-Mart's worker as less than ideal. Indeed, some dear friends of mine have 2 of their children employed at the megamart. One is a single mother who is proud of the fact that she owns a home, and yet she relies on Medicaid and food stamps to help provide for her family - talk about dichotomy and hypocrisy.

My love-hate relationship started when I lost my income and needed to shop cheap to eat, so to speak. My children had known for years that we were not patrons of the store and had a hard time understanding how I could possibly go against what I had preached for years. Thankfully, I have other options again and can choose to shop elsewhere.

I hope that Tesco gives Wal-Mart a big run for their money and that they come out on top.

In the meantime, I suspect things will change at Wal-Mart vis-a-vis labor unions and organizing under the new pro-union administration.

Portland: Largest US City with Openly Gay Mayor


What a headline. - This from January 1, 2009 in the Portland Examiner:

"Seven months ago, he won the job with 58 percent of the vote in a primary race against a travel agency owner and other, less well known, candidates. That meant he didn't have to run in a November runoff election.
He didn't campaign on gay rights or social issues. "I'm running not to be a gay mayor, but a great mayor," he said.
None of Adams' opponents raised his sexuality in the race. Neither did he.
"This is a testament to how fair-minded Portlanders are that it wasn't an issue," Adams said. "I spend my time on the basic issues of life. A part of that includes equal rights, but that's not even close to a majority of the time."
Adams was one of more than 100 gay, lesbian and bisexual candidates running for federal, state and local offices endorsed earlier this year by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C., group whose aim is to increase the number of openly gay elected officials.
Denis Dison, the organization's spokesman, said 80 of the candidates won, including 33-year-old entrepreneur Jared Polis of Boulder, Colo., who in November became the first openly gay man to win a seat in Congress as a non-incumbent candidate.
Another candidate the group endorsed was Oregon state Sen. Kate Brown, who describes herself as bisexual. She will become Oregon's second-ranking state official when she is sworn in as secretary of state.
She was also, Dison noted, the only winning candidate among the handful the group endorsed for statewide offices. Most winning candidates endorsed by the organization run in local contests - but none of the local candidates represent a population so large as Portland's."

That is a remarkable story, in that gays are garnering ever-increasing power in public office. What a wonderful human rights victory. The most interesting part of this article speaks of Sam Adams - Portland's mayor-elect - his platform was not about sexuality or social issues and the fair minded residents of Portland overwhelmingly accepted that.

Would that we were all as accepting of our GLBTQ friends.

What if Governor Patterson appointed an interim person to fill Hillary Clinton's seat?

This question was posed at a New Year's Day gathering earlier this week.

I was intrigued: As a former political appointee, I have had many opinions on the appointment of Caroline Kennedy. New York politics are a different animal, certainly versus the Utah politics on which I cut my political teeth, indeed, they are quite hard-nosed and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

It appears that Mrs. Kennedy is finding this out as she tentatively makes her way around the state to test the sometimes hostile waters.

There are a number of candidates vying for that seat. The person who is appointed will hold the seat for two years and an election will take place.

What if Governor Patterson didn't appoint anyone from that group, rather appointed an interim gatekeeper of sorts?

It bears thinking about.

Friday, January 2, 2009

T.A.G. you're it!

Thanksgiving, Appreciation and Gratitude.

I was blessed to be invited to join this morning prayer group by a dear friend who is also my aunt.

We meet every morning, Monday through Friday at 7.00 a.m. EST and make a call in to a free number and have a conference call with about 5-8 individuals who are following the principles of living their lives with T.A.G.

I invite you to visit the website and learn more: or to go directly to the link for the conference.

We are in the midst of a frenetic time, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, nationally and internationally. It is imperative that we take time to nurture our souls with prayer and meditation. We need to pray for our leaders locally, domestically, our new administration, our senators, governors, teachers, co-workers - they all need our prayers.

Spending just 15-30 minutes a morning with a group that uplifts me feeds my soul.

I invite you to join us.

A focus on violence by GI's back from war

What a sobering headline and even more sobering story.

We are becoming used to the headlines by now. Iraqi war vet kills family, self. Iraqi GI commits suicide. Iraqi war vet beats girlfriend to a pulp. I have made up those headlines, but the stories are there nonetheless.

The amazing Ken Salazar, D - Colorado - Obama's pick for Secretary of the Interior - has called for an investigation into recent spikes in violent crimes committed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Many GI's have not just served once in Iraq, but have rotated several times - to the point that mental health counselors don't just ask whether they have been to Iraq, but how many times they have been deployed when meeting with clients initially.

The stigmas attached to mental health issues continue to plague our society. As one who manages bi-polar disorder, I am all too cognizant of how one is viewed when one has a mental disorder/illness/disability. Indeed, I was forced to resign from a beloved job only two years ago due to increased stress which exacerbated my illness and caused erratic mood swings and behavior.

I digress. The story can be found at this link: As always, I encourage you to read the entire story instead of just my excerpts.

I wanted to share the following for those of you who won't have time to read the story today: "General Graham, whose oldest son, Jeff, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq a year after another son, Kevin, committed suicide, has made mental health a focus since taking command of Fort Carson in 2007. “I feel like I have to speak out for the Kevins of the world,” he said. Graham is the base commander at Fort Carson and his son was an ROTC shining star, on track to become a physician - when he started to experience depression, he was worried about how he would be viewed (dimly, from all statistics in and out of the military, unfortunately for Jeff) once he disclosed his illness. He hung himself at the tender age of 23.

I knew nothing of Ken Salazar prior to reading about him being nominated for his new position in Washington. We are all incredibly fortunate to have such an advocate at the highest levels in government.

If there are any readers out there who are struggling with depression, help can be found here: 1-888-999-6264 - National Alliance for the Mentally Ill 1-800-969-6642 - National Mental Health Association - for those of you who want to attend support groups for people with depression - look under "community."

Last week I learned that I have been accepted into Mercy College here in the NYC area where I will study social work. Ultimately, it is my desire to get an MPA/MSW so that I can help those who struggle with social issues, mental health issues and those who are the marginalized in society. There is an overwhelming amount of work to be done, but it must be done. Let's roll up our sleeves and spend some time volunteering at our local VA or crisis center.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I want an Oompa Loompa now, Daddy

That line comes from the character Verucca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Verucca is an overindulged little girl who wants what she wants when she wants it.

She reminds me of the American public - they wanted their Oompa Loompa (cute little man to play with - in the story, but one can insert SUV, larger home, huge TV's, vacations etc - you get the picture).

We are a nation of consumers and have become so ad nauseum in recent years. We are having to learn difficult lessons now. Our homes are no longer cash machines - the equity line of credit is no more for many Americans - going to the bank to purchase homes, vehicles and other large items are no longer walks in the park, a la Washington Mutual and others who preyed on consumers offering sub prime loans to those who could ill afford them.

We should not expect to live on an average salary and have a half a million dollar lifestyle - that is simply not realistic and is incredibly irresponsible.

The Oompa Loompa is gone - the bust is here and now we have to pay the piper.

Gary Barkley for congress - maybe?

I have the blessing of having many many friends - some closer than others, but still more than I can count for the most part. They are in Utah, New York, Germany, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and other places in between.

I recently received a call from a dear friend, Robert. He is from California and lives in Utah now. He ran for mayor of Salt Lake City last election.

It seems Robert has a friend by the name of Gary Barkley who would also like to consider running for office - only not as mayor - Gary has his heights set higher - he wants the seat of Jim Matheson - a congressman. Gary is exploring the possibility of running even as I write this.

Robert suggested that I speak with Gary a couple of weeks ago. What a remarkable man. Gary is a former Iraqi war veteran, the son of Utah coal miners, born in California and gay. As soon as Robert told me about him and asked whether I would be interested in speaking with him and possibly doing some fundraising for Gary in the NYC area, I said yes in a resounding way.

That was some two or three weeks ago. In that time, I have pored over his website and spent considerable lengths of time on the phone discussing strategy, fundraising, the needs and desires of Utah residents and a myriad of political hot issues.

I strongly encourage you to visit the website, email Gary - he is knowledgeable, articulate, intelligent and forthright in his candor.

He is going to bring a refreshing change to Utah politics and will give a voice to Utah's progressives, and gays who have historically been marginalized with respect to legislation.

Go Gary!

Sen. Webb's call for prison reform

This came from a NY Times editorial piece that ran yesterday.

I have long been an advocate for prison reform and based on circumstances in my personal life, am becoming much more personally involved, to the point that I will forego my work with the homeless in order to be an effective advocate for prisoners and their rights.

Senator Webb, like many of us, is concerned with the large number of incarcerated individuals who are non violent offendors, mainly drug charges.

Given the large number of requests at the Justice Department (see my earlier post from today), some 2,000 individuals are seeking clemency for various sentences from President Bush.

Here is an excerpt from the article, but as always - I encourage you to visit the actual story and read it: "The United States has the world’s highest reported incarceration rate. Although it has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it has almost one-quarter of the world’s prisoners. And for the first time in history, more than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars."

This is a disturbing fact and we should all be alarmed - more than 1 in 100 Americans behind bars. What on earth do we think will continue to happen in our society if these individuals are let out of prison and have no jobs or other opportunities for vocational training and the like to of which to avail themselves?

As long as societies continue to marginalize the weakest, we will have such statistics.

I am with Senator Webb - let's make a change happen and soon.

Let us hope that with the Obama administration, we can look for that change.

Resolutions schmezolutions

I stopped making New Years' resolutions some years ago.

It was the year I realized that I tended to focus so much on the changes I wanted to make, and as a result, it was causing me more stress to make said resolutions.

I decided to stop making any promises to change at the beginning of the year with its accompanying pressures and started making resolutions during the year with less hype and fanfare. Statistically speaking, I was better able to control my decisions with less pressure.

People are signing up with health clubs, financial advisors and making all sorts of life changes today in hopes of a brighter tomorrow. I wish them all the best.

I will continue to make my incremental changes throughout the year and let that work for me.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year - Cuban cigar included

I spent a delightful evening with some new friends at a New Year's Eve soiree.

The food was delicious and the company was outstanding.

At one point over dinner, I mentioned that the party was quite delightful, and Dick, one of the guests said that was not possible and his grandchildren would consider this gathering to be "boring" - granted the group was on average 20 years older than I, but I loved the diversity of thought and opinions that we discussed over the evening.

We spoke of politics, the new administration, nationalized health care, education reform, law, religion and a myriad of other topics.

My favorite part of the evening came after the sumptuous dinner was settling in our sated tummies. Paul, the host wanted to partake of a cigar. I am a closet cigar lover. I have never bought one but have smoked them on occasion with men and women - most recently over the summer. The temperature was decidedly frigid and we bundled up against the cold and walked down the block, puffing and chatting.

We then returned to the house, popped delicious champagne and sipped it while watching the ball drop on frozen revelers at Times Square. Thereafter, we partook of great coffee, delicious tiramisu and apple pie with real whipped cream. A sensory delight.

It sure is a wonderful life.

Happy New Year!

On fast track for clemency via the Oval office

I am the queen of projects. At any given time, I tend to have a few of them cooking.

At present, I am working on a project to get clemency for someone who is incarcerated and serving a 6 year sentence for a robbery.

The tagline for this post comes from the NY Times this morning. It would appear that some people are using their "political" connections to get access directly to the White House, instead of going through the Justice Department as protocol would dictate.

As a former political appointee, I realize how power works and quite well. I recall the mother whose son had a drunken melee outside a Salt Lake City night club and received some minor injuries. I do not recall all the details, but what I do know is that the mother was friends with the mayor. I was tasked to work with the police department to ensure that all efforts were being made appropriately on behalf of Brock, the son. I performed my job accordingly and the mayor was pleased with the outcome - the mother's requests to see that justice was served were honored and all were happy.

In the NY Times story, friends of governors and the like are circumventing the lay person's process and going directly via the White House. This is unfortunate, as there are some circa 2200 cases pending for review with the Justice Department. These individuals will likely not get their appeals heard before the changing of the guard at the White House.

Where have I heard again that God is not a respector of persons and that in America, all men are created (treated) equal?

Happy New Year!