Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Things that baffle me..

Several things that happened today, well, they baffle me....

Why did the UN allow Iranian President Ahmadinejad to address the assembly? Even worse, he is better treated on Larry King Live than our own presidential nominee John McCain is treated while being interviewed by Meredith Veira on The Today Show. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with our country when an actual terrorist is better treated than a man who has fought for and served this country his entire life.

I want someone to write an article that actually describes, in acute plain simple detail, what WILL happen on Monday morning when the stock market opens and the Congress hasn't passed the 700 billion dollar bail out? I want to know, much like I wanted to know exactly what would happen to us when we hit $4 gas (thank you Newsweek for answering my question). Yes, I know the world will end. No credit. No lending. Economy comes to a loud grinding halt. But the sadist in me wants to know what all of that will really feel like to little ole me sitting in Shakopee MN. POSTSCRIPT: Thank you George Bush for answering this question.

The Democrats want to add a bailout to the taxpayers by way of an addition to the 700 billion dollar deal of some larger amount for homeowners who are struggling paying their mortgages. Ok. Lets stop the madness. I am taxpayer, who now is not only bailing out Wall Street, but bailing out myself?! I am not in the business of giving the US government money so that they can repackage it and give it back to me and my neighbors. How about - I will just keep my money?!

Someone needs to tell the lunching ladies at the Minnetonka General Store that the sky is falling. Clearly these ladies have not been watching the news. They were not panicing about the impending end of the financial world and seemed quite happy to digest their popovers and honey butter, chicken salad sandwiches and cheddar beer soup before shopping for non-essential items as Yankee Candles and Vera Bradley purses through the afternoon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A novel

There has been this little idea bopping around in my head. I want to write. It isn't a new feeling for me. I have this itch every now and then. It strikes me like a forgotten item on a "honey do" list... I need to write. Man. When am I going to do that?
Needing to write also causes me heartache. There are ramifications of having "writing" on my to do list. Needing to write necessitates an assessment of my actual job - an assessment that frankly I would often like to avoid. Lets put it this way, I didn't go to school to be a claims adjuster. I don't think anyone ever dreams of being a claims adjuster. Some times my job is surprisingly fulfilling but most of the time, it is just my job. Writing to me is like the vacation I can't afford to take. Its the cabana on the swim up pool at that fabulous Riveria Maya all inclusive that Erik and I haven't made it to yet... I can close my eyes. I can feel it. Oh, man...
Writing also opens a lot of doors, and windows too. What would I write about? If I were really truly going to write, a nooooooooooovel... all of a sudden the words, the thoughts they disappear. A novel is just, well, long. Mara tends to function in short bursts of energy and thought. A big bang, if you will. If I could, I would write about love, about seeing the world with new eyes. About birth, death, life, fear and fruition.

A novel is like a thesis. I wrote a thesis once and not sure I would sign up to do it again. It demands an outline. Character development. Consistency. Thought. Mood. Funtion. Dynamism. Wit and poignancy. It requires editing and more editing. Critique, criticism and re-writing. So much emotional investment. Such a journey.

It is at about this point in my thought process when I start to make excuses. It sounds like an awful amount of work, this writing. Mara is lazy, a lazy pragmatist really. That is my great excuse. The dog didn't eat it. I just didn't get around to doing it.

But more and more, writing speaks to me. It has started here. I am not sure where it will end or who it will end with. Maybe my story will be told. I am coming around to the idea.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On Politics - Continued

People want to hear more about what I think about politics. I can hardly contain myself (no sarcasm here).

My reaction to the Palin speech? The next morning, I made an online donation to the McCain/Palin campaign. Needlesstosay, I was impressed by Palin and it is not just because she is a woman. But as to the conclusion of my point by point discussion of the conventions:

The Rest of the RNC
1. Rudy Guiliani - Wow. I knew I liked Rudy. Growing up on Long Island, Rudy's impact on the NYC was very obvious. NYC became clean, safe, and cops on every corner. After 9/11, Rudy became America's mayor and for good reason. He threw a LOT of punches at the Obama camp at the RNC, and it reminded me of the grittiness of a true New Yorker. I think that Rudy's most effective point might have been about Barack Obama's voting "present" in the Illinois legislature. Apparently it is not uncommon to vote "present" in the Ill. legislature, but there is still a question about the bills that Obama found it impossible to take a position on (some were unanimous votes except for Obama's "present" vote). Which begs the question, if you don't agree, why not just say no? Perhaps, then, it was above his pay grade to make decisions as well?
2. Palin - I wish that they could have run Palin's bio video, but alas, all she did was walk on stage and start talking. I loved her style. She is smart, sassy and sophisticated. She is a quick study. Her presentation was easy to listen to, easy to laugh with and easy to relate to. She did a good job building up McCain's record. She told her story with humility and humor (I don't need to quote the hockey mom comment do I? - a total adlib when her teleprompter went off - even MORE impressive). The moment that I knew Sarah was for me was her very serious delivery of lines such as "But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot" (with a sly smile). Loved it. It has been a week since the speech and now as (some of) the dust has settled, I am struck by the pragmatism that Sarah Palin has displayed in her politics and her approach. I consider myself a pragmatist, so, it is no surprise that I like her. I was pumped up last Wednesday night and I am STILL pumped up.
3. Lindsay Graham - WHY do they let this man speak?! Yikes. Snooze. I know he's buddies with McCain and Lieberman, but spare us.
4. Cindy McCain - Two things here. I never knew much about the McCain family and the story of their adopted daughter Briget is a sweet one. The story of Cindy's family and her romance with John was nice to hear. It humanized the long term politician that we know. But, secondly, I felt bad for Cindy. She was obviously nervous, and although sweet and endearing, she is no Laura Bush. She did a good job, but it was hard not to reflect HOW good Sarah Palin was after seeing the pre-McCain speakers on Thursday night.
5. The Main Show - I felt terrible that the first 15 minutes of John McCain's speech was constantly interrupted by protestors. Why can't we just give each side its hour with respect and civility? Each time a protestor stood up, the crowd started chanting 'USA' and poor McCain kept having to stop.... but when the protestors had done their damage, John McCain got his footing and I think, considering he isn't a speech-maker-of-note, he made a good case for his role as reformer, and got the crowd pumped with his rousing call to:
"Fight with me. Fight with me.
Fight for what's right for our country.
Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.
Fight for our children's future.
Fight for justice and opportunity for all.
Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.
Stand up for each other; for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.
Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here."
Given this isn't McCain's favorite forum, I think he did exactly what he need to. He reframed the argument. He made a case that he is a real agent for change. As evidenced by the week that's followed, the Obama campaign still doesn't seem to know how to respond.

Overall: Despite the challenges of Gustav and having to revamp the schedule, including Bushie time (not a bad development, really), the RNC was a wild success. The theme was (painfully) clear: Country First. The VP pick impressed us - energizing the base and providing some independents and women a reason to give McCain another look. The speeches reminded us what the true differences are between Republicans and Democrats, but provided a necessary departure from the Bush years. It is hard to believe that a year ago it would have been unthinkable for a Republican to have a shot at the White House in 2008, and yet, here we are with a forward thinking reformist ticket! For the future though, I think it would be best if we could keep the dancing at a minimum at the RNC.

Another Follow Up / The Media: Since my post commenting on the utter bias of Olbermann and Matthews, MSNBC has removed the two from their moderation of the campaign debates. They will remain as analysts (where their bias is accepted), but will not be delivering the "news". That job has been given to White House correspondent, David Gregory. Fox News is reporting that the change is due to pressure from Tom Brokow on the NBC big-wigs. If so, good for Brokow. I knew I always liked him.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Xanthe's First Swim Lesson





As most of you know, a large majority of my childhood was spent in a pool. So, taking Xanthe in for her first swim lesson was a full circle moment for me. Erik did the honors of being in the pool with her, so I had the joy of watching her experience the water. On first entry, she splashed and bounced. She showed interest when her classmate arrived and joined her in the pool with his Dad. There was lots of singing and splashing. She was happy until about half way through, when it became apparent that normally, 10:15am is naptime! After her first experience with "humpty dumpty", and being dunked under water, she was surprised. When Erik placed her back on the wall again, her eyes went wide, and she screamed as if to say, "Oh, no! Not again!" I laughed during the rest of the lesson, as they did the Hokey Pokey, every time she went in a circle, she zeroed in on me sitting on deck, and gave me eyes that said, "Mom, help me!"
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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On Politics

Politics is a hard topic for anyone to talk about because it opens the door for conflicts that one might rather avoid. Many of my friends don't agree with my politics, and the issues of the day are just issues, they don't make me any different than who I am. I am still Mara, your friend, your colleague, for better or for worse.
I can’t seem to contain my thoughts on the Presidential Election and the conventions. I watch both parties. I watch, trying to critique the speeches, like a college student would - for content, for style, for delivery, etc. I come to the table as what the pundits would call a "suburban Republican". I generally vote for the conservative ticket, but I am a social moderate, and my support for President Bush has certainly waivered during his second term.
Why do I vote Republican? For the philosophy. I would rather handle my own money than give it to the federal government to spend. I believe that if you truly believe in the principles the country was founded upon, that you have to embrace capitalism, and that means less regulation. I believe that the country was founded on the principle of freedom and opportunity, not the equality of result. I believe that in order to have clout in the world, we have to have the strongest, most well funded, most respectful military in the world and still fear the need to use it.
I come to the broadcasts of the convention with the above biases. Here are my thoughts:
1. The Hillary Issue: By the end of her speech, I almost liked Hillary. The whole thing was very Clintonian – let-me-tell-you-how-amazing-I-am. Putting herself in the line of the suffrage movement may have been a bit over the top. Do I think that the Obama campaign did itself a disservice by discounting the Clintons? Absolutely. Do I think they solved the problem at the DNC? No. Don’t be fooled, Hillary will be back and the Dems will be praising her again in a couple of years...
2. Joe Biden; For as exciting as Sarah Palin is, Joe Biden is dull. Am I moved about his commitment to his sons in the face of their mother's tragic death? You betcha. But, if he is the experience on the ticket (and he is) - let's talk about THAT. I listen to the news, and other than knowing he is on (the head?) the foreign relations committee, I don't know what he has done in all of his decades in the Senate. When did he reach across the aisle? What did he reform? Tell me, I want to listen, I want to hear it. I am begging for a good reason to be a swing voter. The result: Biden night didn't do it for me. Where's the beef? (And a question to the media: if we are going to talk about family pregnancies and DUI tickets in high school, why aren't we talking about Biden's plagiarism?)
3. The Spectacle at INVESCO Field - I watched Barack deliver his keynote speech at the DNC in 2004 that launched him to superstar status. I was impressed by him. His poise, his promise. I believed him to be THE rising star of the Democratic party. I really wanted to like him. But, his speech at INVESCO Field struck me as lacking on several points:
1. The inherent paradox: His story is the American dream. He is the son of a single mother, born to a Kenyan father (an interracial relationship in that age must have created a stir). He grew up in small town America, gaining respect and experience through the pursuit of higher education. It says so much about our country that someone like Barack can go from humble beginning to Harvard to the state legislature to the Senate. And Barack told his story well. But within paragraphs of concluding his American dream story, he went on to say, that these days, the American dream is in jeopardy. That Americans are no longer able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and that when he is President, there will be programs in place to help. Does that make sense? If Barack was able to do it in the 1960's, what has changed to make it impossible now? Maybe this is the fundamental reason I have voted Republican. I still think that in America, if you work hard, you can live the American dream. Maybe it is just that we don't want to work for it anymore?
2. Barack didn't give us a memorable theme or line or something from his speech. The fireworks were impressive, but I didn't leave stirred with a chant in my head. Was it "yes we can" or "say no to four more years" or “change” or what?
3. Why didn't he go with what he is good at? I think he should have gone with the big rhetorical speech. He should have pulled on the heartstrings and gotten us emotional. He had the stage set up for theatrics and we got a vanilla speech. It was a laundry list of the ills of America and "working class" this and that, with no real concrete reason as to why he is the "change" candidate other than he is a democrat. Unlike Oprah Winfrey, I am sad to say, it didn’t change my life.
4. Overall Impression: Notably, the DNC rarely mentioned 9/11/01. It was lacking in the Bill Clinton speech (not surprising), it was never discussed as a reason WHY the country is facing challenges abroad, with our military, etc. The DNC created a revisionist history that glossed over the minor detail of the largest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. I do think that the democrats were successful in unifying their party with the Clinton spotlight. Hillary conducted herself with grace. The DNC failed to convince me that Democratic party is going to offer any 'change' other than the same old democratic platform.
1. Gustav - I think that the Republicans handled the Gustav threat very well. The timing was unfortunate. One hopes that each party will get its full time to explain its message, but so be it. Did it remind us what a failure the government, local, state and federal, was during Katrina? Yes. Do I think it has been proven that the lesson was learned? Yes.
2. Fred Thompson - Delivery was excellent. Even as a regular news watcher, I did not know the details of McCain's military experience and I was moved by the story. McCain is a brave man. His military experience doesn't qualify him to be President, but it sure does speak to the man's character. I don’t think his courage is in dispute.
3. Joe Lieberman - Clearly, this man has a lot of respect for McCain. He is difficult to listen to, his voice, his presentation is lack luster. He is putting his neck out there by supporting McCain and it speaks volumes given the wrath that he will face from his former Dem friends (as evidenced by Bill Richardson on the news circuit this morning). If you are independently minded, I don't know if Lieberman's endorsement really means anything. The independents that are up for grabs are probably the ones that left the Gore/Lieberman ticket in 2004 and voted for Bush. I originally thought it would be dramatic if McCain would choose Lieberman as his running mate. After his speech, I am relieved that he didn't.
4. Sarah Palin - On Friday morning, when the news channels were reporting that Sarah Palin was the anticipated pick - "mmm... who?" was my reaction. But, the more I hear the more I like. Do I agree with her on all issues? No. I am not ready to reverse Roe V. Wade for one. But, her record (and yes, if the press would focus on REAL news, she has one worth talking about) on taking on the old boys in Alaska, taxing Big Oil and rebating Alaskan citizens is good. She is an exciting out-of-the-box VP pick. Unlike the Biden pick, she has the potential to bring real change to Washington. I can't wait for her speech tonight.

1. Bristol's pregnancy - If this candidate was a man, and it was HIS 17 year old daughter who was pregnant, would we still be talking about this? Bristol's pregnancy doesn't reflect on how successful Sarah Palin is as a mother and even less related is the reflection it has on her ability to be the Vice President of this country. Even more ironic, is that our other historic candidate is the child of a single mother. Does that reflect on him? on his mother? Bristol's pregnancy is not incongruous with Palin's abstinence position. Palin is promoting a form of birth control, and like all birth control, sometimes abstinence doesn't work. Bristol Palin isn’t the first teenager to get pregnant and she won’t be the last.

I saved the best for last. It has never been more apparent to me than in the last 2 weeks how absolutely bias the media in this country are. I have watched MSNBC for years and was moved to tears when I heard of Tim Russert’s death. I always considered the network fairly moderate, if not, liberal leaning. But I would swallow the liberal leaning for the cool tones of Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw.

Not anymore. How the media has jumped like rabid dogs on Sarah Palin and her less than newsworthy family news, her “experience” issue, and the digging of dirt on her alleged ethics issues is appalling. This morning I watched Meredith Veira lay into Rudy Giuliani about whether Palin was experienced enough to be Vice President.

Here is a little refresher. She is going to be VICE President. McCain is still fully functional as far as I can tell. And if, God forbid, something would happen, Palin would have A. the experience of having been VP for some amount of time and B. the ability to choose a running mate to compliment her relative lack of inexperience on foreign relations issues, someone, hmmmm… like Joe Biden? Sounds like exactly what the Obama campaign had to do because their Presidential candidate has no foreign relations experience, no military experience and no executive experience at all.

So, lets all watch tonight as the much maligned Sarah Palin takes the stage. She has already put fear into the hearts of the Democratic faithful and the media, my prediction is that their attacks will become even more desperate by the morning. I can’t wait to hear what Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews will have to say about it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Naked Time!


I couldn't help myself.... now, I have ammunition for when she is a teenager!
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