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The Pot Plank and Presidential Politics

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The Marijuana Policy Project came out with its report card for 22 presidential candidates and hopefuls this week and the headline is that no one is sticking their neck out very far when it comes to the legalization of marijuana or the loosening of federal pot laws. Admittedly, this is not the biggest issue on anyone’s presidential platform but as more states jump on the bandwagon, voters will be demanding a pot plank as the 2016 race gets underway.

Republican Rand Paul stands out in the crowd for supporting the rights of states to establish marijuana policy and also for being a voice for decriminalization, legalized medical marijuana and access to banks for marijuana businesses. The MPP voter guide sends him to the head of the presidential class with an A-. On the other hand, the MPP gives Republicans Chris Christie and Rick Santorum an F for saying they will enforce federal laws to crack down on states that have charted their own course in legalizing pot.

Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb are taking a wait and see approach to the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in Colorado and other states. They get B grades from the MPP. Republican Rick Perry also gets a B for supporting state rights to establish their own policies and working to reduce pot penalties in his home state of Texas.

Republicans Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina get C+ grades for accepting the right of states to create their own policies despite opposing the legalization of the drug for any kind of use. New York Republican George Pataki, who also opposes legalizing marijuana for all purposes, still gets a C for saying he’ll keep the federal government from interfering with states that vote to legalize pot, as long as it stays away from kids and doesn’t upset neighboring states. Republicans Donald Trump and Lindsay Graham get C’s for supporting only medical marijuana. Republican Bobby Jindal gets a C- for only supporting limited medical marijuana and would be candidate John Kasich gets a C- for not even supporting that.

Continuing the “gateway drug” narrative has earned Democrats Martin O’Malley and Joe Biden a C- and D respectively. Republicans Scott Walker and Ben Carson also get D grades for not giving up on the theory. Florida Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Arkansas Republican Mike Huckabee, who oppose the legalization of marijuana for any purpose, get D’s as well.

According to Marijuana Policy Poject Communications Director Mason Tvert “voters should know which candidates support rolling back prohibition and which ones are fighting to maintain it. People are becoming increasingly wary of the federal government’s role in our nation’s marijuana policy.” Indeed, the disconnect between state and federal laws has been one of the biggest challenges dogging the young industry. “If states are to be our nation’s laboratories of democracy, our next president needs to respect their right to experiment,” Tvert said. “They should be committed to basing marijuana laws on science and evidence instead of ideology and politics.”

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9/11 Ten Years Later

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

There are some things I never forget. The day President Kennedy was assassinated. The day the Challenger exploded. Columbine. What I was doing on 9/11/2001. My husband called me and said turn on the television. I got there in time to see the second plane hit the tower. I watched with my hand over my mouth then turned to my little son and said “Kyle, we’re going to war.” All day long I walked around in a daze. That evening I was called by NBC News. Justice correspondent, Pete Williams, had been vacationing in Yellowstone National Park. He could not get back to Washington so he went live from KUSA in Denver. I was his producer. I wasn’t at Ground Zero. I wasn’t among my east coast colleagues. After a couple days Pete finally was able to get home and I returned to my routine and family.

But 9/11 wouldn’t let go of me. I was consumed by the reports and confused by my feelings. I was feeling detached, panicky and somehow responsible. The more I listened to television and radio the more I felt that the United States had somehow brought this upon ourselves. I needed to bear witness to get some perspective. I decided to go to New York and see things for myself. No one I knew would travel with me so I took my son, Kyle, the same one who looked at me confused when I said “we’re going to war.” We arrived in New York City one month to the day after the attacks. My family was incredulous that I would take him there. My husband’s family was furious that I would put him in danger. What kind of mother was I?

I was afraid to get on a plane. I pushed through it. I was afraid of the Muslim cab driver who picked us up from LaGuardia Airport. I pushed through it. He was as shellshocked as everyone else. I was stunned by the incredible compassion of New Yorkers who were so wounded yet so grateful that we had come. Even the homeless thanked us from their street corners for helping New York get back on its feet. Broadway put on its musicals but theatres were empty. The city was edgy. There were anthrax scares. We went to Ground Zero while it was smoldering. The facade was still standing, crews were still combing through the wreckage and the smell of death remained in the air. We read the flyers with faces of the missing. We saw the flowers and makeshift memorials. I was stunned into silence. I finally cried uncontrollably when we went to Grand Central Station and saw the bulletin boards full of pleas from families desperate to locate loved ones. It was all so much to take in.

I wanted Kyle to know what was lost on that day and what we still had. We couldn’t go to the Statue of Liberty so I took him for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry so he could at least get an idea of what this country stands for and why this attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the very essence of America, was so traumatic. And the most profound thing happened. On board the ferry were so many firefighters. They were all from out of town. They had come to attend funerals of their fallen brothers because there simply were not enough firefighters left to honor so many who had died. They were riding the ferry from one funeral to another to give their brothers a proper farewell. Kyle stood among them and had his picture taken. Kyle and the heroes. Later when we were in Midtown Manhattan we paused and watched a funeral processions for a fallen policeman. It was so somber. There was so much sadness in the air.

Now ten years later we pause and reflect and watch memorial tributes on all the television networks then on September 12 we will quickly get on with our lives. So much has changed as a result of 9/11 but so much has really stayed the same. I think most people wish it would just go away and we no longer would live with this cloud of vulnerability. The memories are so painful. But of course it won’t leave us and we persevere. It never will go away and we shall always remember the day and what we were doing when we first found out. I will always be grateful for that time I spent with my son in New York in October 2001. It gave me a chance to grieve and such a sense of clarity. The United States did nothing to provoke this. Did nothing to deserve this terrorist attack at the very soul of America. And yes we did go to war. At the moment it seemed so right. So necessary. We’ve had a lot of time to reflect on that too.

Going to New York after 9/11 was life altering for me and one of the most profound teaching moments for my child. A couple years ago I took my other son, Blair, to New York City. It was a much more festive time but we still went to Ground Zero. It’s a construction site now with a memorial to the side. I kept babbling about memories from the trip I took with Kyle. I wanted Blair to feel it too. We went to the little church next door that withstood the blast and is a memorial to this day. A choir was singing in memory of the fallen, all those years later. There were touching memorials to the New Yorkers and first responders who died. And we went to the Statue of Liberty so he would know what was lost and what this country still stands for to Americans and the world.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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Deja Vu

My youngest son, Blair, is 13 years old today.  A teenager.  Now I have two of them.  I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Last night I was in his room, sitting on his bed, leaning against the wall, when I had a powerful deja vu.  Just days after his birth I was in the same place, sitting on a futon, holding him in front of me so I could look directly in his eyes, and I was talking to this baby we tried so desperately hard to have.  “Blair, you complete me.”

I was on maternity leave from my “permalance” television production job at NBC News, hoping to get the call that I was being brought on staff.  I was hugely pregnant when they flew me to New York right before Christmas for my interviews at 30 Rock and MSNBC, then I heard nothing.  A month later I left to have a baby and still nothing.  Blair was born on February 1 and I was well into my leave with no word.  I was starting to give up hope that I would get the job.  I remember holding my baby and telling him that it didn’t matter.  “Blair, you complete me.”

Shortly after, the most enormous bouquet of flowers showed up at my door.  It was the kind you see in a hotel lobby.  The card read “Your friends at NBC News would like to welcome Blair Aaron to the world and welcome you to the NBC Family.”  It was one of the most stunning and unexpected gestures I had ever experienced.  Last night I sat on Blair’s bed, cuddling my 13 year old son and I told him that story about how two dreams had come true.  A big boy snuggled in my arms this time and I repeated what I had told him so long ago.  “Blair, you complete me.”

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

 

 

 


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Budget Cuts and the Bus

So often when officials slash budgets they are just crunching numbers rather than considering stories of loss.  This article by N.C. Maisak from the New York Times tells how a group of Queens, New York bus riders who have become friends, practically family, over their years while riding the QM22 route, are losing their community on wheels because of cuts by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  Just a poignant little reminder of the faces behind the financial crisis.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/nyregion/23bus.html

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Kara’s Tea Party: Am I Missing Something Here?

Eddie is one of my very closest friends.  We have known each other since we were teenagers and knew of each other even longer.  Our fathers were best friends and Polish immigrants who met in London following World War II and came to America on the Queen Mary together.  When I lived in Connecticut and Eddie was in New York we hung out together every other weekend.  We attended each others weddings.  We love each others spouses and parents and the relationship between our families is continuing now for a third generation.  When I travel to New York I stay with Eddie and if he ever would go west of New Jersey I would roll out the red carpet for him in Denver.  Eddie and his wife, Mary, have raised two incredible kids and I hope my children will be as worldly and successful.  I am blessed to have Eddie and his family in my life.   

As close as Eddie and I are, we are on completely different wavelengths politically.  He is very conservative and admires Sarah Palin.  I am very liberal and support Barack Obama.  We love to debate and adore each other despite our points of view.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he sent me a message on Facebook saying “My daughter is KICK-ASS.”  He was proud because Kara attended a Tea Party Rally in Washington D.C. and made an impromptu speech.  She talked about the dollar and how it is losing its meaning because it is no longer earned but rather allocated (she said stolen) through government programs which we are taxed to support.  Kara standing up for the populist Tea Party and shouting out for fiscal responsibility has shaken me.  Until now it has been easy for me to ignore the protesters because they look nothing like me.  I cringe when I hear Sarah Palin’s braying and  see people who remind me of my father-in-law who lives in small town Iowa when I scan the crowds.  If Kara is jumping on the bandwagon it’s time to pay attention.  I need to ask if I’m missing something here?

Another good friend who also shook his head over my politics used to tell me “If you’re young and you’re Republican you have no heart.  If you’re old and you’re a Democrat you have no head.”  So what was Kara doing at a Tea Party Rally?  I’m not certain I can dismiss this movement anymore as a bunch of Republican extremists.  If the message is making sense to smart college educated kids like Kara then perhaps the Tea Party is gaining the kind of traction that will make a difference at the polls in November.  I hope other liberals like me who look at the Tea Party as a movement that clutters the airwaves with hate speak and reaches out to the disenfranchised few and their birther friends, ask themselves if they’re missing something too.  And when they start getting uncomfortable like I am now, when they start realizing that maybe this is a party to be reckoned with, then maybe they can stand up like Kara did and make some noise.

To learn more about Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Remembering 9/11

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

There are some things I never forget.  The day President Kennedy was assassinated.  The day the Challenger exploded.  Columbine.  What I was doing on 9/11/2001.  My husband called me and said turn on the TV.  I got there in time to see the second plane hit the tower.  I watched with my hand over my mouth then turned to my little son and said “Kyle, we’re going to war.”  All day long I walked around in a daze.  That evening I was called by NBC News.  Justice correspondent, Pete Williams, had been vacationing in Yellowstone National Park.  He could not get back to Washington so he needed to go live from KUSA in Denver.  I was his producer.  I wasn’t at Ground Zero.  I wasn’t among my New York colleagues.  Pete went home and so did I. 

But 9/11 wouldn’t let go of me.  I was consumed by the reports and confused by my feelings.  I was feeling detached, panicky and somehow responsible.  The more I listened to TV and radio the more I felt that the United States had somehow brought this upon ourselves.  I needed to bear witness to get some perspective.  I decided to go to New York and see things for myself.  No one I knew would travel with me so I took my little son, Kyle, the same one who looked at me confused when I said “we’re going to war.”   We arrived in New York City one month to the day after the attacks.  My family was incredulous that I would take him there.  My husband’s family was furious that I would put him in danger.  What kind of mother was I?

I was afraid to get on a plane.  I pushed through it.  I was afraid of the Muslim cab driver who picked us up from LaGuardia Airport.  I pushed through it.  He was as shellshocked as everyone else.  I was stunned by the incredible compassion of New Yorkers who were so wounded yet so grateful that we had come.    Even the homeless thanked us from their street corners.  Broadway put on its musicals but theatres were empty.  The city was edgy.  There were anthrax scares.  We went to Ground Zero while it was smoldering.  The facade was still standing, crews were still combing through the wreckage and the smell of death remained in the air.  We read the flyers with faces of the missing.  We saw the flowers and makeshift memorials.  I was stunned into silence.  I finally cried uncontrollably when we went to Grand Central Station and saw the bulletin boards full of  pleas from families desperate to locate loved ones.  It was all so much to take in. 

I wanted Kyle to know what was lost on that day and what we still had.  We couldn’t go to the Statue of Liberty so I took him for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry so he could at least get an idea of what this country stands for and why this attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the very essence of America, was so traumatic.  And the most profound thing happened.  On board the ferry were so many firefighters.  They were all from out of town.  They had come to attend funerals of their fallen brothers because there simply were not enough firefighters left to honor so many who had died.  They were riding the ferry from one to another to give their brothers a proper farewell.  Kyle stood among them and had his picture taken.  Kyle and the heroes.  Later when we were in Midtown Manhattan we paused and watched a funeral processions for a fallen policeman.  It was so somber.  There was so much sadness in the air. 

Now eight years later we pause and reflect and name the dead but then we quickly get on with our lives.  So much has changed as a result of 9/11 but so much has really stayed the same.  I think most people wish it would just go away.  The memories are so painful.  But of course it won’t leave us.  It never will go away and we shall always remember the day and what we were doing when we first found out.  I will always be grateful for that time I spent with my son in New York in October 2001.  It gave me a chance to grieve and such a sense of clarity.  The United States did nothing to provoke this.  Did nothing to deserve this terrorist attack at the very soul of America.  And yes we did go to war.  At the moment it seemed so right.  So necessary. 

Going to New York after 9/11 was life altering for me and one of the most profound teaching moments for my child.  This summer I took my other son, Blair, to New York City.  It was a much more festive time but we still went to Ground Zero.  It’s a construction site now with a memorial to the side.  I kept babbling about memories from the trip I took with Kyle.  I wanted Blair to feel it too.  We went to the little church next door that withstood the blast and is a memorial to this day.  A choir was singing in memory of the fallen.  There were touching memorials to the New Yorkers and first responders who died.  And we went to the Statue of Liberty so he would know what was lost and what this country still stands for to Americans and the world.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com


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Trend Setting Iowa

My husband is from Iowa.  His parents live in a town of about 10,000 called Storm Lake in the Northwest corner of the state.  I’ve been going back and forth for many years.  The Iowa I used to see was a conservative, set in its ways kind of place that didn’t really welcome change.  But my view is shifting dramatically.  Iowa voters were prescient with their early support of Barack Obama.  I’ve found citizens working hard to co-exist with the new Hispanic populations that are flocking there to work in the meat packing plants.  And now the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that denying gay marriage violates constitutional rights to equal protection.  More and more Iowa is becoming a bellweather for the nation when it comes to social change and civil rights.

I mentioned how proud I was of Iowa and it’s progressive shift the other night at dinner and the table fell silent.  But Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column “Demi in Des Moines” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/opinion/12dowd.html?ref=opinion) isn’t silent at all.  She writes about how California used to be the nation’s trend setter but not anymore.  “Once the West Coast glowed with prosperity and was the harbinger of hip new things.  Now it’s in the grip of recession and repression.  California’s cool has been stolen by, of all places, Iowa.  White bread, corn fed, understated Iowa… now it’s flyover country that’s starting high-flying trends.”   Maybe this land dominated by reason and common sense is helping America come to its senses.  

Of course the fight is not over in the states that allow gay marriage or those that are considering it.  There are many galvanizing to oppose even the slightest momentum.  But they may not be able to stop the cascade of citizens and courts calling for fairness.  In presidential politics it is often said “as Iowa goes, so goes the nation.”  Will it hold true on the issue of gay marriage as well?  In it’s article “The Meaning of Iowa’s Gay Marriage Decision” (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1889534-2,00.html) Time Magazine pointed out, “There might even be good news in the Iowa decision for gays in California, where activists are fearfully awaiting the justices’ ruling on Prop 8, which is likely to be issued in coming weeks. The Iowa decision cited the California case eight times and borrowed its reasoning again and again. That kind of homage from a sister court — and one that, like California’s, has a long history of breakthrough civil rights decisions — may strengthen the resolve of the majority in the Golden State and turn aside the narrow vote of the people.”

The tide may not be changing yet on gay marriage but it certainly is a sea change when conservative states like Iowa separate church and state then blow by California and New York in recognizing that the constitution really did intend equal protection for all.  Maybe the same citizens that voted for a new world order with Barack Obama are starting to weary of a country marked by divisiveness.  Or maybe with so many economic woes people realize there are much bigger things to worry about than same sex marriages by loving couples.  It might even be a boost for Iowa’s economy as gay couples move to the state which, along with its New England counterparts, is starting to brim with inclusiveness.  The ringing of the bell in little old Iowa is clanging loud and clear across the country.  Unanimous.  Affirmed:  All Justices Concur.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.  Also look for the report on Hispanic Immigration in Iowa on the page entitled Stories and Links.


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Do The Right Thing

My friend, sportscaster Len Berman, got the news this past week that he was being let go from WNBC.  Len is one of the most talented personalities I know.  He’s been a fixture in New York sports for decades.  He is witty and well respected.  I actually stop what I’m doing when his “Spanning the World” segment comes on during the Today Show.  Len is another casualty in broadcasting’s purge of talent as executives grapple with declining viewership and revenues.  It’s time to reinvent the wheel and there’s little room for high priced anchors in this economic reality.  So those we’ve come to know, love and trust are being shown the door and the industry is diminished for it.  For his part, Len is taking this well.  He knows he will have a bright afterlife. 

ABC and the Walt Disney Company have also made painful cuts.  This past week an announcement was made that 1900 people were being being laid off in the theme parks.  This is following cuts of 5% at ABC and here is the headline that I’m burying.  CEO Robert Iger made $51.1 million in compensation in 2008.  He is one of the top paid CEO’s in America.  His cash bonus alone was over $13 million (in his defense he did give up a $2.4 million bonus related to sharholder return.)  His compensation from 2007 to 2008 is up 85% even though the net income of his company is down 5%, the total return is down 10% and shares dipped 34% in the fiscal year ending September 2008.  From what I calculate he jumped from #81 to #3 on the list of highly compensated executives.  There is no doubt Iger is a brilliant businessman and that shareholders believe he is worth every penny and there is a contract but perception is perception.

In February, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt (GE owns NBC) convinced the board that it was not appropriate for him to earn his hefty bonus for 2008 and his $11.7 million compensation when the company was having so many financial difficulties.  He told the Wall Street Journal, “My compensation is never going to be an embarrassment to GE. … It’s going to be responsible; it’s going to be appropriate; it’s going to be transparent; and it’s going to reflect the financial performance of the company.”  It doesn’t make it any easier for me to accept the lay off of my friend, Len Berman, but at least I know Immelt is leading by example.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if more CEO’s lived by the example of Jeff Immelt or better yet, of Jack Windolf of Bollinger Insurance, who took $500,000 of deferred compensation and gave each of his 434 employees a thousand dollar bonus.  He called it a mini economic stimulus package.  Largesse not layoffs.     

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/04/03/diy-stimulus-ceo-gives-workers-1000-each/?icid=main|htmlws-sb|dl1|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailyfinance.com%2F2009%2F04%2F03%2Fdiy-stimulus-ceo-gives-workers-1000-each%2F

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://www.teletrendstv.com