Thursday, March 29, 2007

"They're grrreat!" - A Look at TV Commercials for Food and Drugs

My favorite cereal as a kid, and even today, is Tony Tiger’s "They’re grrreat!" Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. I loved the TV commercials from Tony Tiger back in the early 1950s. We always had Wheaties in our home, Daddy’s favorite, along with Sugar Frosted Flakes, Shredded Wheat, Grape Nuts, Rice Krispies, Cherrios, Quaker Oatmeal or Cream of Wheat or Rice. I don’t buy Frosty Flakes often today, but I really enjoy them when I do!

A new study regarding children’s TV ads about foods links childhood obesity increased rates to the number of food ads children are exposed to. This makes little sense to me because, for one thing, young children are not out there doing their own shopping or visiting a fast food restaurant on their own. Often I’ve been in the grocery store while a parent, usually a mother, with a small child is in the cereal row. I’ve heard the child asking for a certain cereal, one that would be considered high in sugar, and I’ve heard a mother say quietly, "No, we will have this one," picking up a healthier brand. The opposition from the young child doesn’t usually last long.

I recall my preschool aged kids learning to read and recognizing cereals from TV commercials while grocery shopping. They were both very early readers, and reading cereal boxes was a part of learning. And no, my kids were not overweight.

The responsibility for balanced eating habits is not with young children, but with parents. And other changes have influenced, such as changes in our school systems–the removal of daily gym classes from curriculums–and economic conditions–the need for two working parents–and time restraints in a more chaotic and expensive society.

But there is something of a much greater concern to me. It is not the food commercials or the food shows that may or may not be influencing Americans but the pharmaceutical commercials that bombard us constantly on television. We have become a nation of prescription drugs users (and over-users), buying into the direct-to-consumer billion dollar advertising campaign of the pharmaceutical industry. Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-ulcer, anti-cholesterol, anti-impotence, anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertension, anti-whatever. It is no wonder prescription drug costs are so high with a budget of billions spent on TV and print advertising. Some of these drug ads are required in their "product-claim" to list risks, and hearing those contraindications should be enough for a thinking person to re-consider and seek an alternative. How many prescription drugs have been pulled off the market in recent time due to complications and supposed unknown risk? Too many. I personally feel strongly that everyone needs to play an "informed part" in one’s own medical care and decisions, but I also know how doctors tend to over-prescribe, especially anti-depressants for adults, and even children. And I’m sure if you see a drug that sounds as if it would "fit" you on television, and if you ask, you will probably leave your doctor’s office with an RX in hand (maybe his alternative choice of that drug–his pharmaceutical vendor–a kick-back?). But don’t forget, you also have choices in your care if you feel a prescribed medication is not what you want.

By the way, this children’s TV ad research was conducted by a medical entity, Kaiser Family Research Foundation, and reported by AP, March 28. 2007.

Some day while watching TV for several hours, count the number of drug ads. It’s ridiculous! And enjoy a nice big bowl of Tony Tiger’s Frosty Flakes while doing so! As Tony says, "They’re grrreat!"

~ Linda

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

As the Beatles said, we all "can get by with a little help from my friends". In the age of the Internet with so much of an information flow, many negative thoughts can find itself into millions of lives instantly. Also, hoaxes, jokes, urban legends can instantly change our thoughts and our lives. Such as the ploy being used on determining who should continue on as an American Idol contestant. You’ve probably all heard of the web-site, Vote for the Worst, which posts the worst contestants and encourage us to vote for them. The mean-spirited purpose is to make a mockery of the American Idol competition. And now we find that Howard Stern on his satellite radio show encourages his listeners to also vote for the worst! That explains why the not very talented contestant, Sanjaya, he of the long hair, big white toothy smile, and limited singing ability, popularly known as a "girly-man" continues on as other, more talented singers are getting the boot. This certainly will destroy the credibility of American Idol, a multi-million dollar industry and highest rated television show on TV.

After each contestant performs, the public has a 2 hour time frame in which to make unlimited phone calls to vote for their favorite performer or performers. Also, I read in an American Idol blog, if you go on-line you are able to vote at least 200 times in that 2-hour time frame. Don't know if that is correct however. There is no limit how many times a specific phone number can vote. At least on Dancing With The Stars the callers are limited to 10 calls per phone. If the producers of American Idol don’t put a limit on how many times an individual can vote, they could end up with an untalented performer as their next American Idol, who would be guaranteed a recording contract and tour


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth

"An Inconvenient Truth" is a brilliant documentary of former Vice-President Al Gore’s Slide Show Presentation. The movie is compelling and definitely eye-opening as to the changes taking place on our planet. Director Davis Guggenheim presented it in a way that is far from boring and I really liked the way he gave us an intimate view of Al Gore and his thirty-year dedication, research, and passion to global warming awareness. Gore has presented his slide show, which is even longer than the movie slide-show presentation, to more than 1,000 audiences around the world. I have considered Al Gore to be an excellent journalist, a visionary, and a man with spirituality. I read his 1992 best-selling book, "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit" and it, too, was brilliant and prophetic. Don and I mentioned Al Gore’s writing in our book, "Whispers From the Soul." Part of what Al Gore stated in his book’s chapter, "Environmentalism of the Spirit": "By experiencing nature in its fullest–our own and that of all creation–with our senses and with our spiritual imagination, we can glimpse, ‘bright shining as the sun,’ an infinite image of God."

Last week I was listening to talk radio and comments about how Gore was spreading fear with his presentation. That is far from my experience. What it demonstrates is urgency–urgency to do something about the increasing problems and dangers we now face with global warming, and to do something before it is too late to recover.

I would agree that some earth changes may be of a "natural" earth cycle, but it is now very evident from scientific evidence and scientific opinion that humans are responsible for damage being done to our environment, and the resulting effects are escalating at an alarming rate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control, made up of over 1,000 scientists from many countries, have now reported they have found a greater than 90% probability that humans are responsible for the increase in global warming. It appears that many who oppose that finding are connected in some way to special interests such as oil companies or large industrial corporations. The IPCC reports will be presented in June to world leaders at a summit in Belgium. I wonder how Bush will take the news of the reality of global warming? Will he dismiss it as he has other reports in the past?

Take time out to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" and share it with your children and grandchildren. Be sure to take the extra time to watch Al Gores’s update following the making of the DVD, and the commentary by Director Davis Guggenheim, and the one by the four producers. In watching the movie, I think you may agree with me and others that the movie was very deserving of an Academy Award. And I like Melissa Etheridge's orginial song for the movie, "I Need to Wake Up." We all need to wake up.

Former Congressman, Senator, and Vice President, Al Gore stated to Congress yesterday: "Our grandchildren are counting on us."

He’s right. It is up to us.
~ Linda

"What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man,
man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.
Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
~ Chief Seattle (1786-1866)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

For One More Day, Mitch Albom

Last night I read Mitch Albom’s latest book, "For One More Day." Actually, I read the book in two sittings. I began reading Tuesday night after American Idol, and last night picked it up when I realized I had an hour to spare before American Idol came on. I reluctantly set the book aside to watch Idol and then finished reading it after the show.

I very much enjoyed the story. It is a small book of 197 pages, and is a fast read. Mitch Albom’s writing is an easy style and reminds me somewhat of the easy style of my favorite author, Nicholas Sparks. Albom writes a fascinating and unique tale of a broken, middle-aged man, Charley Benetto who is deeply troubled by regrets, self-doubt, alcoholism, broken family relationships, and on the verge of ending his own life. It is a story about childhood, hopes and dreams, self-doubt, family secrets, forgiveness, and the power of love. It enhances the idea that love lives on after death. At the moment of Charley’s greatest despair, he returns to his childhood home and encounters his mother who has been dead for eight years. It is heartwarming, inspirational, and in the exploration of family relationships and a mother’s love, readers are left with much to ponder about the meaning of family and love in the own lives.

I’ve not read Albom’s previous two books, although I did see the movie, "Tuesday’s With Morrie." His second book, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," has been sitting in my "TO READ" stack, along with Nicholas Sparks’ "Dear John," Dan Brown’s "Angels and Demons," Nora Ephron’s "I Feel Bad About My Neck," Anderson Cooper’s "Dispatches From the Edge," Suze Orman’s "Women and Money," and several others. I may now be motivated to put Albom’s book at the top of my stack!

~ Linda

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Military Measure of Morality!?

You have probably heard on the news this week that Marine General Peter Pace, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in an interview with the Chicago Times in response to a question about his views on the "Don’t ask, Don’t Tell" policy that allows gays to serve their country:
"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way."

I find it appalling that the Pentagon’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon who oversees an estimated 65,000 gay men and women who today are serving our country as dedicated soldiers would say about our soldiers. That figure, 65,000, is about three times the number of military in Bush’s recent "Surge" deployment. Ironically, the first American wounded in Iraq was Marine Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Eric Alva, who had served his country for 13 years, lost his leg in Iraq, received the Purple Heart, and is gay.

What about the immorality of our administration and the Pentagon: the deceptions and out-right lies that made it "seem" acceptable to invade Iraq; twisted facts that implied they needed to be invaded because they were involved in 9-11; the lack of quality military supplies and weapons to fight a war, putting our soldiers at higher risk; lack of proper medical care and conditions for our wounded military; a waste of millions (or billions?) of dollars of aid to Iraq that have mysteriously disappeared; the play-up of fear in an attempt to keep the war going long after we lost it; the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal, the legitimizing of torture; illegal use of the Patriot Act; Halliburton; and other things that could be labeled immoral?

Homosexuals have always served in our military and wars. For the most part, covertly, and who can blame them for that? They wanted to serve our country, even at risk of their sexual orientation being discovered and facing jail and dishonorable discharge. My late husband, Don Pendleton served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War, and he said there was an awareness of some shipmates being homosexual. As long as there was not any overt expression of that sexual orientation, it was left alone.

During the Civil War, a surprising number of women concealed their identity as women and fought alongside the men without their sex ever being discovered. Some of the women where married to soldiers, others were single women. Were any of these women gay? Maybe? But it does not matter. And it does not matter in today’s military, nearly 150 years later.

The Pentagon has lowered the recruitment standards during recent time and "moral waivers" granted to recruits with misdemeanor and felony convictions nearly doubled since 2003. Yet, the Defense Department purged 11,000 troops, including several hundred much needed linguists, between 1994 and 2005 because they were gay. Doesn’t make much sense does it? Would you rather be serving with a convicted felon or someone who happens to have a different sexual orientation than you do?

It appears homophobia still lingers with the macho military attitude, but it is time to "grow up" and accept diversity in all areas of life. It is said that 24 countries accept gays in the military and they serve their country without any fear of prosecution or judgment, and neither morale or military performance have been affected. Why is this country so behind the rest of the free-thinking people of the world?

The Pentagon wants these men and women added to their recruitment figures, wants to send them to war and have them lay their lives on the line for our country, yet, if in some way, it is revealed they are gay then they are shoved out of the military on their butts. And many of those men and women have had long careers as dedicated and courageous soldiers. Amazingly ?? the number of homosexuals discharged had dropped significantly in 2006. How hypocritical is that? They retain gays when needed and dismiss them when they believe they are expendable.

One of several reasons I voted for Bill Clinton was his campaigning to remove military bans on homosexuals, but after his election he faced overwhelming opposition. At that time I wrote to General Colin Powell to encourage him to give gays the right to openly serve their country in the same manner that any other man or woman. What resulted from the controversy and opposition was the compromise, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy in 1993. It was disappointing that we had to settle for that, but at least it was a beginning. Now is time to rid this country of this policy and let gays serve openly instead of serving under the threat of dismissal for their sexual orientation.

Staff Sergeant Alva stated he was appalled at General Pace’s remarks, telling Anderson Cooper on CNN’s 360, "I think his personal beliefs, his values, his own opinions were very insensitive and disrespectful to the thousands of men and women who...who actually serve in the military under the policy of don’t ask/don’t tell. And it was offensive to quite a bit of people. You’re talking thousands."

That’s right, Sergeant. Sixty-five thousand, plus their families, and thousands and thousands like me who consider ourselves to be Gay Rights Advocates.

It is nice to know there are some military leaders such as General David Grange (RET.) US Army, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division, and who stated to Lou Dobbs yesterday that he had never had to discharge anyone for homosexuality in 30 years of his career, the don’t ask, don’t tell policy, as he recalled, worked well and never had a problem. In response to Dobbs question about Pace seeming to make a moral equivalence in terms of adultery and homosexuality in the military, General Grange did reply he had a few incidents where he was a reviewing authority for adultery charges and they did discharge those people.

Has it occurred to you, as it has to me, that the real reason that this administration does not want gay marriage or civil unions may be because then those couples could file Federal Income Tax as married filing jointly taxpayers instead of single taxpayers, and have greater deduction and tax advantage? Could this be the real administration issue and have nothing to do with "moral" issues? I don’t know how many millions (or billions) of tax dollars we’re talking about here, but obviously it would be a huge figure. Money and greed seems to always be the motivation of our government rather than a greater concern for human dignity and civil rights.

One thing I do agree with General Pace on, is his comment that the United States is not well served by policies that say it is okay to be immoral in any way. I would suggest the General take a closer look at immoral practices implemented by this administration.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Women and The Five Letter Word ~ Money

I enjoy the Suze Orman Show on CNBC every Saturday evening. Suze is a financial advisor with a lot of intuition and insight, and I am fascinated how she brings out the psychological-emotional problems in regards to money issues with her guests. I’m interested in the dynamics of money in peoples’ lives and the resolution of money issues through new insights. (Must be the writer in me). Often, the root cause of money problems goes back to childhood and self-esteem issues.

I like Suze’s motto: "People first, then money, then things." What we have to remember about "people first" is that also means ourselves. As women, we are nurturers and that quality is ingrained within us and reinforced by raising a family. So on the totem pole of relationships, a woman usually ends up at the bottom. Everyone else–husbands, children, family, and friends –seem to always come before our own needs and desires.

A courageous and freethinker, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, fighting for equality for women, had this to say more than one hundred fifty years ago: "Woman will always be dependant until she holds a purse of her own." Who holds your purse? Married or not, do you have credit in your own name alone? An individual savings account? Are you building a solid financial future for yourself? Circumstances can change over the years, and too often in unexpected ways.

Nancy mentioned in her earlier post, "Help! I Need Somebody," that she, like many of us women at an older age, find ourselves with financial situations not as richly abundant as we had hoped. First, time goes too fast, and almost before you blink your eyes, you find you are 40-50-60 plus, and collecting Social Security and awaiting Medicare coverage. (Of course, Medicare may be a financial relief from outrageous medical insurance premiums). In those earlier years of raising a family, often living paycheck to paycheck, we did not have 401Ks, IRAs, or the money or motivation to invest in the stock market.

Nancy and I learned to save at a young age. We had savings accounts through school. Seems like we saved a quarter weekly, or maybe it was monthly, but we had our bank savings account books. Ironically, through my genealogical research of our family, I learned that the bank school savings idea was put into place by our distant cousin, banker and best-selling author, Rex Stout (Nero Wolf novels). The Educational Thrift Service came to be just before the 1920s.

Our parents did not believe in credit cards. When Daddy wanted a new car, he saved. I believe they may have once obtained a short term 90-day loan at the bank, but that was very unusual for them. Even to this day, Mama has only charged something once that I recall. She can’t imagine having credit card debt or late payments. She has always paid bills a day or two after she receives them. Nancy and I tease her that she has a fear of being hauled off to jail if she was to have a late payment. LOL.

So what happened to Nancy and me? We got married! And with that, during the 1960s, we probably did little saving, if at all. I know I didn’t. There was always other obligations–such as food, clothes for the kids. You know, the usual obligations of raising a middle-class family in those days and living on "good wages" of about $6,000 a year or less. I was married in 1960 and we rented a small but very nice two bedroom house and the monthly rent was $87.50! Times have really changed, haven’t they? Life was simpler in those days, less chaotic, less fluff, more close-knit family activities.

I plan to buy Suze Orman’s new book, Women and Money. I may not learn anything new but I look forward to reading it. In her book she writes of the Eight Qualities of a Wealthy Woman. Wealthy in self-reliance and the ability to bring abundance, in whatever form, into your life. She lists these qualities as Balance, Harmony, Courage, Generosity, Happiness, Cleanliness, Beauty, and Wisdom. She made some good points about these qualities on her show tonight and she’ll be dealing with them in the coming weeks. If we have balance and harmony–think, say, and do, as one; courage to say no, or to express our real feelings; then it leads to happiness and with the understanding that we don’t spend money on things we don’t need or on others when we may not have it to spend; cleanliness means to remove clutter and put things in order; wisdom to know when things in your life are out of sync; and all these qualities in balance culminates in feeling confident and beautiful; and then abundance flows toward you.

Try a little experiment during the coming week or two. I learned this from Suze Orman a few years ago while seeing her on PBS. Clean out clutter! The theory is when clutter is cleaned away the door opens for abundant energy to flow into your life. That worked for me the first time I tried it. After her show that night, I looked under my couch cushions and much to my surprise I found a dollar bill and some change. Then I went into my master bath and cleaned out cupboards and drawers. You know . . . those bottles of various products with a dab left in them. By the time I finished I had a full trash bag of junk! Then I cleaned out my closet. About that same time, I put into effect some Feng Shui techniques in my home. I not only had good things come my way, but money came from unexpected sources. Not huge amounts but nonetheless, money. And besides, it made me feel good to get rid of clutter and raise my energy level. Give it a try.

I believe one of the most valuable gifts we can give our children and our grandchildren is an understanding of the importance of saving for their future, and do so while young and on a regular basis. A sense of responsibility about money learned at a young age can avoid a lot of conflict and worry as they go through life.