Wednesday, December 31, 2008

MSF's Top Ten Humanitarian Crises of 2008

Massive forced civilian displacements, violence, and unmet medical needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, and Pakistan, along with neglected medical emergencies in Myanmar and Zimbabwe, are some of the worst humanitarian and medical emergencies in the world, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports in its annual list of the “Top Ten” humanitarian crises.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Best Year-End Wrap-Up I've Seen So Far.

Uncle Jay Explains: Year-end! 12-22-08

I can't wait to see what 2009 brings.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Secrets for Enjoying the Holiday Season

Earlier today a friend asked how, despite challenging circumstances, I manage to have so much Christmas spirit. After I shared my secrets to holiday happiness with her, she suggested that I share them with you. So, even though it's probably too late to help anyone this year, here are a few tips to tuck away for November/December 2009.

First, accept the fact that the same laws of the universe that apply
to every other day of the year also apply to the Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa season. Stuff happens, roll with it.

Visit a hospital, nursing home or animal shelter. Get a perspective on how blessed you really are. If you can, take a fruit or gift basket for the staff. Or,
if you visit an animal shelter, take a gift certificate for a Petco or Petsmart. They'll be surprised and really appreciate it.

Make your own holiday tradition. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate most holidays. While there are a few specific religious observances, for the most part, how, where and with whom you spend your holidays is a matter of choice. Choose carefully and don't succumb to emotional blackmail.

Find your spiritual center. Embrace your faith while remembering that everyone else may not share it. If you want a nativity scene put one on your lawn and don't get upset if there isn't one at your City Hall or at the local Target. Conversely, if you're not into the religious aspects of the season don't begrudge those who are.

If squirrels decide that your outdoor Christmas decorations are their winter playground just grab your camera, take pictures and have a good laugh. Who knows, you might have Animal Planet or America's Funniest Videos material. Besides, you really should have put out a few nuts for those squirrels, right?

If a few of your Christmas lights fail, don't worry. Your magnificent display is just a blur to passing cars and your neighbors will not run you out of town if it is not perfect. Seriously, if the view from your living room window looks good, just enjoy it. Why obsess over what strangers think?

Balance your news intake with equal measures of holiday cartoons and movies. While I don't recommend sticking your head in the sand, a soul can only take just so much discussion of political corruption and corporate crime.

Stop trying to find the perfect gift for everyone. Some people aren't going to appreciate your gift no matter what you get them. Shop early and spend a little extra effort picking out gifts for the appreciative people on your list. Then, either buy gift cards for the rest or cross them off the list, entirely. The latter won't remember what you gave them anyway. And you can donate the money you've saved to charity.

Stop waiting for your mother's ( or other family member's ) affirmation. Get used to it. She will never praise your cooking or decorating. This is a law of nature.

And on the subject of cooking ... Don't wait until the last minute and don't feel that you have to cook a traditional menu. If you aren't well acquainted with a certain recipe make sure that you have a back-up plan. If something is inedible, decide if it will make tasty pet food or a treat for the birds and squirrels. If not, it goes into the compost pile or the garbage bin before anyone but you is the wiser.

Instead of making yourself crazy with shopping, clean out your closets and garage. Anything that you haven't used or worn in three or more years probably needs to be given to someone who needs it. Give the really nice items to a local charity. It will make you feel good just dropping off the items.

Surround yourself with all of your favorite things. Wear your best PJs and use your best bed linen, candles, crystals, etc. Reward yourself for being SO good all year long.

If you're really not into the decorations, songs, gatherings and religious observances, save your vacation time and go away. But let's face it, it's hard to escape the holidays. Just make a game plan for getting through them. They happen every year.

And lastly, know who your true friends were for the other 300+ days of the year and keep them close during the holidays. No matter what the holiday season brings, having friends and/or family in your life who really love and care for you will get you through it.

photo courtesy of

Monday, December 22, 2008

Consumer Alert: Beware of Scam Calls Posing As Your Security Alarm Service

It seems that there are always scam artists who are determined to play the Grinch during the holidays.

The current scam involves calls to home security alarm system owners from individuals posing as customer service reps. The caller identifies the call as a courtesy call to see if the homeowner is happy with their security alarm system and if it is working properly. An interesting call to make around the holidays, don't you think?

Fortunately the callers forgot one small but very important detail that tips you off to their game. Caller ID displays the origin of the call as "Out of Area" or "Anonymous Call."

I have verified with at least one Security System, Counterforce based in Houston, TX that their company is making no such calls.

So if you receive one of these calls, do not give out any information. Even if the Caller ID display seems to be legitimate, ( caller ID info can be faked), hang up and alert your security company immediately.

Don't let these scammers ruin your holiday.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Solstice Night Treat: Christmas in Yellowstone ReAirs 12/21 on PBS

Author and photographer Tom Murphy explains why he spends part of each winter camping and photographing in Yellowstone.

Join NATURE for a breathtaking look at wintertime deep within America's first national park

For more information visit:

Friday, December 19, 2008

An Advent Weekend Open Thread on Blago, Caylee, the Auto Bailout and Faith.

Today was one of those days that thrills news junkies and makes persons of faith weep.

Within the span of a few hours a bailout of the auto industry was announced, the President elect held a press conference and addressed a failing US economy, embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich promised to fight until the end, DNA tests confirmed that remains found near her grandparents' home belong to missing toddler Caylee Anthony and by the way, Hanukkah begins on Sunday and Christmas is less than a week away.

While all of this news is great for the 24 hours news organizations I can't help but wonder how all of this is impacting our psyche's and souls.

So what are your thoughts on these stories? Do you feel that all of the bad news is affecting people emotionally or has the public become numb?

Good News Reports on the Reality of the Jobs Outlook

The challenge for millions in Americans in the years ahead may not just be finding another job but learning new skills.

Are you prepared?

GOOD News: Job Outlook Not Good

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ten Good Reasons Not to Dismiss Caroline Kennedy So Quickly

It seems that quite a few political pundits are dismissing the idea Caroline Kennedy's appointment to the Hillary Clinton's vacant New York Senate seat as nothing more than a form of Camelot nostalgia.

In a recent article for Time, columnist Joe Klein wrote:

" I've met Caroline Kennedy a few times and she seems like a good person. Compared to many children of the rich and famous, she has lived her life quietly, modestly, in exemplary fashion. She has worked hard for worthy causes; those who've worked with her say she is intelligent and self-effacing. Or was self-effacing. You can't really say that she is now, having thrust herself into the midst of the selection process for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. By doing so, she has displayed an eminently New York quality: chutzpah

If nothing else, Barack Obama's transition demonstrates his intent to launch an era of Real Serious Governance. He has chosen well outside the standard political fast-food menu in some cases--James (OOPs: Steven) Chu, the Secretary of Energy comes to mind. And I'd hope that Governor David Paterson might consider a similar sort of selection--an honorary, non-political (but Democratic) appointee, a person of real, world-class, distinction who would never normally serve in the Senate, to grace the seat until the next election--if he hasn't already been bum-rushed into the Kennedy coronation. Certainly, New York State is filled with extraordinary people."

I agree that New York State is filled with extraordinary people but before everyone dismisses Caroline's bid for office as "chutzpah" or a shot-gun coronation let's consider these ten reasons to think again.

1. Fred Grandy (aka "Gopher" from the TV series "Love Boat") former Congressman from Iowa.

2. Steve Largent, former Seattle Seahawk wide-receiver and former US Congressman from Oklahoma.

3. Jim Bunning former Major Leage Baseball pitcher, former US Congressman and now junior Senator from the state of Kentucky.

4. Tom Osborne, former Nebraska college football coach and Congressman from that State.

5. J.C. Watts, Jr., former quarterback for the University of Oklahoma and later US Congressman for that state.

6. Jack Kemp, former professional football player who began his political career as a Congressman in New York.

7. Sonny Bono, former record producer, musican(?), actor(?) and later Congressman from California.

8. Bill Bradley, Hall of Fame basketball player and former Senator from New Jersey.

9. Arnold Schwarzenegger, (The Terminator) former body builder, actor and now Governor of California ( a state with an economy larger than most countries).

and last but not least ....

10. Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, whose acting career propelled him to the office of Governor of California.

Now I certainly wouldn't question the credentials of the aforementioned list but I would ask just what in their careers as athletes and actors made them more qualified for public service than Caroline Kennedy's experience as a lawyer, constitutional scholar, writer and service on the boards of numerous non-profit institutions.

Caroline Kennedy may not have a long political resume but apparently a little chutzpah and intelligence goes a long way. And it certainly couldn't hurt to be a good person.

None of us chooses the family to which we are born. We can only play the cards that we're dealt. Some might say that Caroline was dealt a good hand but should be held against her.

Maybe she should have played in the WNBA.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bush, Blagojevich and Two Tales of Impeachment

Ironically, while the US media is fascinated by the scandal and possible impeachment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the man whom many people believe should have been impeached is adding the finishing touches to his legacy.

In his last months in office Pres. George W. Bush is doing just what many Progressives feared he would do ... finishing the job he started. The job of wholesaling America. As Tim Dickinson reported in his article for Rolling Stone Magazine, "Bush's Final F.U.", Bush 43 is busy violating the public trust in every way he can while he can.

Dickinson reports:
" In its final days, the administration is rushing to implement a sweeping array of 'midnight regulations' — de facto laws issued by the executive branch — designed to lock in Bush's legacy. Under the last- minute rules, which can be extremely difficult to overturn, loaded firearms would be allowed in national parks, uranium mining would be permitted near the Grand Canyon and many injured consumers would no longer be able to sue negligent manufacturers in state courts. Other rules would gut the Endangered Species Act, open millions of acres of wild lands to mining, restrict access to birth control and put local cops to work spying for the federal government.

The most jaw-dropping of Bush's rule changes is his effort to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act. Under a rule submitted in November, federal agencies would no longer be required to have government scientists assess the impact on imperiled species before giving the go-ahead to logging, mining, drilling, highway building or other development. The rule would also prohibit federal agencies from taking climate change into account in weighing the impact of projects that increase greenhouse emissions — effectively dooming polar bears to death-by-global-warming. According to Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, 'They've taken the single biggest threat to wildlife and said, 'We're going to pretend it doesn't exist, for regulatory purposes.'"

John Podesta, the transition chief for the Obama administration, has vowed that the new president will leverage his "executive authority" to fight Bush's last-minute rule changes. But according to experts who study midnight regulations, there's surprisingly little an incoming executive can do to overturn such rules. The Bush administration succeeded in repealing just three percent of the regulations finalized before Bill Clinton left office in 2001. "Midnight regulations under Bush are being executed early and with great intent," says Bass of OMB Watch. "And that intent is to lock the next administration into these regulations, making it very difficult for Obama to undo what Bush just did."

Does this surprise anyone? It shouldn't. No one in Washington can say that they didn't see this coming, especially Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

When a vast majority of the American public was ready to see both Bush and Cheney impeached, Nancy Pelosi quickly took the option off the table.

Sen.Russ Feingold (D-WI), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) certainly recognized the numerous reasons why Bush should have been impeached. It was common sense. If you suspect that a politician is corrupting his office he should be removed before he can do further damage. Just ask the Illinois State Attorney General and State Legislature.

However, except for a minute minority, politicians in Washington chose to let the fox remain in the hen house.

Now, while almost all eyes are focused on Illinois, the "lame duck" President is writing executives orders that will impact generations. If one didn't know better, you might think that the Blagojevich scandal was a diversion for even darker deeds being carried out in Washington. But that would be nonsense, right? The Bush administration has never created diversions or manipulated the media in any way.

Just what were Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats thinking when they took impeachment off the table? Were they thinking that after the Bush Administration broke the economy, millions of Americas were unemployed, millions had lost their homes and the US military was bogged down in two wars, that it would make it easier for the Democrats to win back the White House.

Well, win back the White House they did. But just look at the cost. The full cost of the Bush administration probably won't be tallied until mid 2009. And when it is, it may take decades, (longer than two terms of an Obama presidency) to turn it around.

Was it worth it to let the fox stay in the hen house until all of the chickens were dead?

While much of the 2008 election focused on who was right or wrong about the Iraq War, decades from now historians may be a little more interested in who was right or wrong about impeachment.

I don't know about you but I find it a little ironic to hear all of the voices calling for Blagojevich's impeachment that remained silent about George Bush. It kind of makes me want to take off a shoe and throw it, too.

typos corrected 12/21/08 -- I told you about that late night blogging:-)

Send Your Bush Christmas Card Today

Remind yourself that "Change" did not begin and end in the voting booth.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tell the Chamber of Commerce: Out of the Way of Fair Pay

I just watched a cute little Batgirl video on fair pay for women. Check it out. While you are there join me in supporting the Out of the Way of Fair Pay campaign urging the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to remove their opposition to pay equity reform proposals.

Women should be paid what they are worth and improving pay equity would create substantial economic gains for women and their families.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Broken Government Project Release

A Message from The Center for Public Integrity:

"As the Bush administration comes to an end, the federal government is not functioning as it should. Just how bad is this government dysfunction? In an effort to answer that question, the Center for Public Integrity embarked on Broken Government, an examination of the worst systematic failures of the executive branch over the past eight years.

Broken Government documents more than 125 examples of government breakdown in areas as diverse as education, energy, the environment, justice and security, the military and veterans affairs, health care, transportation, financial management, consumer and worker safety, and more — failures which adversely affected ordinary people and made the nation a less open or less secure place to live.

Click here to read more from our latest investigation.

Want to read more about these widespread failures and how they affect you? Here’s what you can do to learn more:

  • Visit the website to search our database of government failures by category, agency, or view a full list;
  • Suggest additional failures so we can continue this project in January 2009, as well as begin the process of holding the new administration accountable;
  • Pass it on - let others know that Broken Government is now available online;
  • Make a contribution to support this project and help us continue our critical work!

This is just the first step of this groundbreaking project. Keep an eye out for more information from the Center for Public Integrity as we continue our investigation throughout 2009 into what it will take to repair and renew the nation’s government.

Thanks for your support.

Bill's signature

Bill Buzenberg
Executive Director"

Be sure to bookmark this website. It will help you keep score of what the new administration keeps right or wrong. This time we can't afford to not hold Washington accountable. is Open for Questions

Today, the Obama Administration launched a new feature on its website. The feature titles Open for Questions invites you to ask the Transition team questions about their plans to address issues that are important to you.

In addition to posting your own questions you can browse through the questions of others and then check off the ones you think are the most interesting.

The community states that it is committed to maintaining a two-way dialogue with Transition team members.

As Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefield reported for TPMedia:

" The rub, though, is this: The public is able to vote on how much they'd like certain queries to be a priority, and the voting tally is visible -- which means it'll be tougher for the Obama team to not answer questions that participants clearly want answered.

Here's how it works: Users get three options in voting on a question. They can vote in favor of a question being answered; they can vote against it being answered; or they can flag the question as inappropriate.

The Obama team is clearly exposing itself to a bit of a risk here. It could find itself choosing between answering an uncomfortable question and ducking one that the public is clamoring for an answer to. And if the state of the country fails to improve (or gets even worse) over the next few years, the public could also end up registering more and more negative questions."

So here's your chance to express your thoughts to an administration that is actually soliciting questions.

Check out "Open for Questions",

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

C'mon Man!

After hearing about Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest I just had to borrow that line from the ESPN guys.


But all kidding aside. Is this man insane?

As Andrew Malcolm reported for the LATimes:

" According to the 76-page indictment, agents using wiretaps on....

...the governor's home phone and bugs in his office caught the governor talking openly about the opportunity to name Obama's successor, saying such things as, "I've got this thing and its (expletive) golden. and I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I'm not gonna do it."

He's also accused of threatening to withhold millions in assistance to a children's hospital without sufficient fundraising for him, with expecting fundraising in return for tollroad contracts and threatening to withhold assistance from the Tribune Co. in the sale of the Chicago Cubs unless the newspaper fired editorial board employees who'd been critical of the governor. (Tribune also owns the L.A. Times.)

All this wide-open bluster from a politician who's known for three years he's under federal investigation.

Just what President elect Obama and his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel needed for Christmas/Hanukkah, an investigation into how much they did or didn't know about Blagojevich's attempts to sell a Senate seat. A Senate seat which will probably be slightly tainted no matter who fills it in 2009.

Will the GOP try to turn this be the new administration's Whitewater?

Of course Blagojevich is innocent until proven guilty but with audio tape evidence I wouldn't invite him to my Christmas party, would you?

The only upsides to this story is that it's given SNL some great new material and Louisianans something to laugh about.