Wednesday

What Would Jesus Do Were He a Baker?

Much has been made of the accusations of gay discrimination and the subsequent announcement by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to revise a bill that rights activists and U.S. businesses contend allow discrimination against gays. Regardless of the legitimacy of the issue and what side of the argument Americans stand, I am flummoxed by the entire controversy.

I do understand the dismay of gays who feel their rights are denied by businesses who refuse offer them service. I also understand private businesses who believe that they should have the right to deny service to anyone.

What I cannot comprehend is how any person who professes to follow Jesus (i.e. a Christian) refuses to extend service to those whose lifestyles are deemed unworthy of their faith. 

What?  


What would Jesus do were he a baker?
Even more confusing is that I've not heard a single voice express their outrage at what seems to me to be an egregious demonstration of hypocrisy. 

Have we strayed so far that we've forgotten Jesus' response to the adulteress at the well? Clearly, the woman's behavior was anything by righteous. Regardless, Jesus took the time to serve... 

Why? He loved her. 

Yes, I recognize the concern of Americans regarding the ever-increasing governmental intrusion into every part of their daily lives. I too would prefer that government side with freedom, allowing our culture to fully experience the consequence of its behavior - reaping what is sown. 

However, when it comes to Christians denying service to those who do not share their faith, the disconnect of their action with the doctrine they embrace is mindbogglingly antithetical to everything Jesus taught. It's grotesquely absurd. 

My fellow Christians are fond of citing "love the sinner, hate the sin." Yet, for all its pith, for some it does not seem to amount to anything more than good intentions. 

I cannot think of any better way to display our love, a love worthy of the name Christian, than when we extend ourselves for the benefit of those whom we strongly differ. How else might others experience of the love of Jesus were it not for those who have professed to be his emissaries while living on the outside of heaven?

Unless I've missed something, and Jesus actually meant that the world will know we belong to him by our judgmentalism, it would seem to me that a more loving and Christian response to the non-christian is not rejection but expressing the heart of Jesus. 

After all, were it not for loving Christians who accepted me and took me in while I was lost, I'd still be reveling without a clue. Romans 5:8.


One last comment for my friends who are reading this and shaking their heads as if I’ve lost it (which was swiftly made evident after posting this on my Facebook page...).

One of the essential differences between God and human is that whereas people are quick to judge by outward appearances, God discerns the heart. God is not into 'gotcha' tactics or looking for loopholes to trip you up - like humans. He is ‘sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; he judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.'

I trust Him to detect the difference between loving others, reaching out with the hopes of reflecting His love and grace, from that of "celebrating" in harmony with behaviors antithetical to His design.

In other words, it's exactly the reason of hating sin and loving the sinner that Jesus, were he a baker, would have baked a cake.

That is, un
less someone would like to make the case that Jesus crafted furniture for only the righteous. 

Mark
©Googtoon - Life • Popular Culture • Politics • Entertainment • Public Figures

Monday

Yelp - Ethical or Extortion?

Yelp boasts of being the premiere website portal where the general public can voice their views on just about any business and service. Up until the arrival of such sites, the airing of one's perspective was consider an opinion. Today, however, such judgments are elevated in status and are regarded as reviews.

A quick visit to Yelp will quickly reveal a "Search for" feature where you can effortless begin to search out any business in the country. With a couple quick clicks you're up and running, reading the wall-to-wall reviews.

Seems like a great idea, right?

For the thousands of businesses who are in good standing with Yelp, I'd have to say it's highly beneficial, but for the thousands of businesses who Yelp deems unworthy, the consequences are anything but favorable.
yelp [yelp] verb - to utter a sharp or high-pitched cry or bark, often indicating pain (esp of a dog)
Take me for instance. A quick search for Orange County Photographer,  Mark Jordan Photography shows positive reviews from every site that posts them. Google Reviews posts 31 of them, all 5 Star. CitySearch has 18 reviews - all 5 Star. MerchantCircle with 14 reviews, again all 5 Star. The list goes on and on.

So how about Yelp? I have 15 reviews so far - also all 5 Star. Yet anyone visiting my site would never know. Why? They've all been removed, or what Yelp euphemistically refers to as "filtered." Why? If I knew the answer to this, there would be no need for my post.

Before I continue, a short look back in the very recent past is in order.

About a year ago I received a call from a Yelp salesman, Brandon. He highlighted my many, 5 Star reviews while delivering a persuasive pitch about how advertising with Yelp would dramatically increase my business. We shared several phone conversations, and though I was impressed, in the end Yelp's fees were more than I wanted to pay. Were I a restaurant owner or contractor, I'd have signed-up for sure. Being a portrait photographer, however, I wasn't confident the cost was worth the risk or that Yelp could perform as promised.

Brandon and I parted ways and thought nothing of it - that is until the following week when I noticed all my reviews had mysteriously disappeared. I called Brandon to ask him what happened, whereupon he assured me that declining Yelp's offer to advertise had nothing to do with my reviews vanishing: "Even though the reviews had been posted for quite some time, it was just a matter of coincidence that your reviews were filtered subsequent to declining Yelp's offer to advertise."

When I inquired as to how my reviews were filtered, Brandon explained that "Jeremy" (Yelp's CEO) installed a special program which determines which reviews are trustworthy and relevant, and which are not. It seemed that Yelp simply decided that the reviews that were once evaluated as worthy, having met all their guidelines, suddenly no longer were.

Okay, seems fair enough. Nothing furtive here. One day my reviews are relevant, for a protracted period, and then right after declining to partner with Yelp, they're removed.

Are you buying this?
No Yelp for you!
Makes a grown man want to, well, yelp! 

In the interest of time, suffice it to say, this same scenario has been repeated on the reviews written about my photography studio ever since. Every single one of my reviews are now filtered. I don't know about you, but from my perspective, something doesn't seem quite right here.

If you're wondering about an "appeal" process, none exists. Yelp's decision is final. No Yelp for you!

Does it hurt? Sure it does. Not only are the visitors to my
business told that my portrait studio does not merit a review, the clients who have invested their time are being silenced from sharing their positive experiences. It's enough to make a grown man yelp!

Just so you understand that nothing is peculiar about the reviews written about my studio, here's an example of a typical one:
"Mark did an exceptional job on my corporate head shots. He has a true talent for bringing out the best in his subjects. My photos were professional AND captured my personality. I highly recommend him." 
The client who posted the review above included her name (Janet B) and even the headshot I created. You can see for yourself (along with the many filtered reviews that have yet to be deleted).

A quick review of Yelp's guidelines will show that my client's assessment fulfills their protocol to the tee. In fact, this review, along with all the reviews written about Mark Jordan Photography, could not better define what Yelp is looking for in a trustworthy, relevant review. And yet her voice is "filtered," along with thousands upon thousand of voices like her - all who simply desire to share their experiences.

---------------------------

So then, is Yelp ethical or is it extortion?

To be frank, I do truly do not know - I can only share my experience.

However, I am convinced if Yelp does not either develop a more transparent method of filtering its reviews and answering questions to customers like me, it won't be too long before Dictionary.com will not only define Yelp as a high-pitched cry of pain, but added to the definition of unscrupulous:

Un·scru·pu·lous [uhn-skroo-pyuh-luhs] adjective not scrupulous; unrestrained by scruples;
conscienceless; unprincipled - YELP!


Mark
©Googtoon - Life • Popular Culture • Politics • Entertainment • Public Figures


------------------------------------------------

ADDENDUM: 7-24-12
One review was restored and is now posted, the one review that was not filtered is now filtered, and four other 5 star reviews were removed altogether - Yelp representative stated that they were "possible conflicts of interest."

ADDENDUM: 10-10-12
One review remains (an active Yelper), eleven now filtered, with four removed altogether.

ADDENDUM: 02-02-15
Eight reviews remain (all actives Yelpers, which it appears to be the key to having a review stick), sixteen now actively filtered, with an undetermined number of reviews removed altogether.






Sunday

DUMB Redefined by Seattle Seahawks

Inches away from the endzone the Seattle Seahawks inexplicably threw the ball from the half-yard line. With 25 seconds left on the play-clock, the ball was intercepted by the New England Patriots, who won the Super Bowl 28-24.

It's one of the wackiest endings, to an otherwise hard fought game, in Super Bowl history.
DUMB redefined by Seattle Seahawks - 2015 Super Bowl
Seattle Seahawks called for a slant to Ricardo Lockette, but Russell Wilson's toss was picked off by Malcolm Butler, putting an abrupt end to Seahawks hopes for a back-to-back Super Bowl win.

Football fans worldwide are dumbfounded by the play call. Considering the Seahawks are THE best running team in the NFL, it strains one's mental faculties why they put the ball in the air with the game on the line from a foot away.

When Pete Carroll was asked why he risked redefining DUMB, he stated, "We didn't want to run against their goal line group." He instead will go down as making the single most brainless call in the history of the Super Bowl.

Mark
©Googtoon - Life • Popular Culture • Politics • Entertainment • Public Figures

Wednesday

10 Tips to the Headshot Quote



Recently, I was asked by a young headshot photographer how I go about offering a quote for my services for a commercial portrait session (usually headshots). As a leading portrait photographer in Orange County, my headshot division, Orange County Headshots, has been creating headshots for business and the arts throughout Southern California and the much of the nation since 1981. Consequently, we receive such inquires on a regular basis and from just about every corner of the world (at least where they speak English).

My response to this particular photographer was that providing a headshot quote depends on what the potential client needs. Whether they are in business or the arts, the best possible way to provide a quote is to first discover precisely what they are looking for. No duh...right? Regardless of how obvious, I have to say it. You'd be surprised at how many times this advice alone is a bolt of lightening.
Orange County Headshots Website Banner - Potential Clients Introduction to Mark Jordan Photography
What many photographers are surprised to learn, however, is that much of the time the inquiring client does not know precisely what they need. This is good thing. Why? Think Golden Opportunity! It's your time to shine and demonstrate why you are the right portrait studio

It is at this juncture in your conversation you can seize the old adage, "People don't care what you know until they know how much you care," and put it in full throttle. It's also one of those rare moments where you can accomplish the former (they'll care what you know) while stressing the latter (showing you care). 

By asking a series of professionally prepared questions, you'll not only clearly demonstrate a genuine concern for the client's project, but in the process you'll reveal to them the width and breadth of your services and your supreme competency to satisfy their need. 

They care what you know as you make evident your interest in being an integral agent in their success.


Ultimately, this means the right questions must be asked. Thus, the questions you offer must be prepared and detailed

The next step, and all depending on the situation, is to either forward the questionnaire to the client (for them to answer and return, which I would try to avoid) or conduct the interview over the phone. By all means, do your best to conduct the interview by phone.

Most likely the client will also prefer the phone interview approach. If you receive an email inquiry, reply promptly and inquire as to a good time for you to connect by phone to discuss the myriad details. 

To date, I've not had a single email inquiry decline a phone conversation to acquire the vital details.  

The phone call interview, whether via their call or your's,  will also help in developing a mutually beneficial relationship and expedites the process. The questions you ask will quickly show that you mean business and respect their time, as well as your own.

Once the interview has been completed, I'll ALWAYS ask that if it is acceptable to the them that I take the time to review and absorb all the information they've given me, and that I'll email them a "Quotation Of Photography Services" by day's end. This technique serves four purposes:

  1. Demonstrates you genuinely care and want to get it right.
  2. Gives you time to think and consider every contingency, which equates to an accurate, effectual quote.
  3. Having a written quote not only holds you to your word, but establishes a document of understanding should questions arise later. 
  4. Odds are most photographers are not offering a written quote. You'll stand out from the crowd.
To date, I've not had a single client decline allowing me to forward them a written email quote. Just ensure the quote your promise is thorough and arrives on time.

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At the risk of sounding redundant, I feel a need to stress the importance of my approach once again. What may not be obvious are the intangibles. Namely, your extensive inquiry to their specific needs communicates to your client that you truly have their best interests in mind, and are thus, the consummate professional.

In today's highly competitive marketplace it's not enough to merely answer inquiries regarding cost, like everyone else. You're going to be the studio that goes beyond the call and walks the extra mile. Instead of simply citing prices, you're the studio that demonstrates in a clear and unambiguous way that you are listening intently and that you are ready to serve them to the best of your ability.

This sort of attention to detail not only ensures your quote will be accurate, but that your client will get everything they had hoped for and reflects your commitment to excellence. It will also establish you as the headshot expert in your field, and in ways no self-promotional piece could offer. 

The following questions are by no means exhaustive, but only ones that have worked for me in my portrait studio here in Rancho Santa Margarita. You may brainstorm other pertinent questions that might better reflect your style and expertise. I trust that you will. As always, should you have any questions, no concern is too small.

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1. CONFIGURATIONS or GROUPINGS
Will the session be of a groupindividuals, and/or combinations?
  • Individuals headshot sessions only?
  • Or add Groupings of staff/team members.
  • Images of offices, lobby, warehouse, walls, etc.
  • Product images?

2. PEOPLE
Information about the people you will be photographing?
  • Obtain the number of people will you be photographing.
  • Names of everyone in sessions.
  • You many also want to ask about their position with the company.
  • If someone's name makes gender ambiguous, ask!

3. DATES and TIMING
Is there a specific date and time required for the actual session?
  • Any Specific Session DATE (most likely they will).
  • Any Specific Session TIMELINE (most likely they will).


4. LOCATION
Has a specific location been established for the session?
  • Obtain Site Location Name/Business and Address
  • Telephone Numbers, office and cell.
  • Special instructions, security, gate, parking, entrance


5. PRODUCT
What is the end product you have in mind? Please be specific.
  • Will you be needing Photographs?
  • Sizes? Quantities? Qualities (if applicable)?
  • Will you be needing Digital Files?
  • Resolution: web-75, medium-150, high-300?
  • Quantities needed of each?
  • Any Digital Specs to a adhere to?


6. RETOUCHING
Will you be requiring our studio to perform digital retouching?
  • Discuss the differing degrees of retouching application (where applicable).
  • If an 'in-house' graphic designer will be employed, inquire tactfully as to their familiarity and skill with the idiosyncrasies of the human face? That is, are they portrait savvy, or primarily design design  focused?
  • b. Are there any special alterations, blemishes/facial features, and/or design concerns we need to be made aware of?
  • If so, please tell us.


7. DEADLINE
Will the finished product be required by any specific due date?
  • Date FINISHED images are needed by?
  • Determine delivery preferred (email, dropbox, disc, etc.)


8. DISTRIBUTION
For what purpose are these images needed?
  • To what extent will they be utilized?
  • This may also be a good to review your distribution policies regarding differing fees.
  • Frequently, use/distribution will also dictate the resolution quality required.


9. CONCERNS
Are there any circumstances or concerns you have or might foresee that could pose a challenge on the day of your session?
  • This might present itself in the form of location issues, time of day, personality differences, timeline, etc.
  • Any special concerns (weight, glasses, physical limitations, etc.)

10. CONTACT 
Please email us complete contact information, including address, emails, phone...
  • Obtain Office phone number, AND Cell. 
  • Also offer your contact information. Don't ASS U ME anything.
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Too much detail for you? I know, it might seem so. However, in my three plus decades of creating headshots for business and the arts, I have found that not only will ascertaining detailed information better insure that you'll amply meet the needs of your clients, but will also elevate your stature in the hearts and minds of those businesses and artists who employ your headshot services. 

You may want to check out my four Part series on the 4 Key Factors of Headshot Photography. 

All the best,

Mark
©Googtoon - Life • Popular Culture • Politics • Entertainment • Public Figures

Saturday

Barack Hussein Obama Presidential Library & Museum: Sneak Preview

Yes, the rumors are true. I just returned from the Sneak Preview opening of The Barrack Hussein Obama Presidential Library and Museum. I didn't know whether or not to post news about my recent escapade but with all the talk about Barack Obama's Presidential Library it occurred to me that my readers would appreciate a brief account of my trip, along with a few photographs (googtoons).
Surprise Invitation to attend the Sneak Preview of the Barack Hussein Obama Presidential Library dedication ceremonies.
Not being a huge supporter of the president I was understandably taken aback to receive an invitation to the Sneak Preview opening of his presidential library. Regardless, I felt is was my duty to attend regardless of my sentiments of the Obama presidency.

Besides, who could turn down an all expense paid trip to Hawaii, as well as a round of golf with the president! Yes, I also received a personal note from the president himself asking if I had time "to play a round or two."

My first class seat included a beautifully handcrafted program of events (signed by the president), a pair of PJ's and slippers (worn by the president), a personal masseuse (used by the president), and an Obama-sized gift bag with all sorts of governmental entitlements (all paid by American citizens).
Getting some shut-eye on the flight over amid Obama's largess. 

While snuggling in a lavender "I Got You Covered" official Obama commemorative blanket, I took the time to read up on the new library. I learned that Obama's presidential library is the 14th of its kind, and that it is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The library is "located on the beautiful campus of University of Hawaii, allowing visitors, researchers, and historians to explore the history of the Obama Presidency while enjoying the familiar surroundings of Obama's birthplace."

Unfortunately, our flight was made much longer than anticipated when we discovered whilst airborne that the UH we were heading for was a satellite campus in Nairobi.

So much for packing my snorkel and fins.

Amazingly enough, I was greeted at the airport amid much fanfare and hoopla. After the ensuing festivities I was whisked away by private limousine to the dedication ceremony.
An AP photographer was on hand to capture Nairobi's greeting guests. Here I am arriving and leaving.  
Just shy of entering the University of Hawaii Nairobi campus, a large blue bus lurched in front of us, lost control, and came to a screeching halt just shy of the road berm. Steam was billowing from it's hood and the back left tire was hissing air. I motioned to my driver to stop and see if we might offer some assistance.

We quickly pulled over just across from the promenade parking. While waiting for my door to open I looked through the windshield and noticed all but two heads inside the dilapidated bus - a female behind the wheel and the backside of a conspicuously irate man descending the steps.
A snapshot I took of Pelosi and Reid in their dilapidated bus facing the
wrong direction. Banner on bus can be seen just before falling.

As I approached the run-down bus I could hear the older man, who was now clearly the baggage handler, complaining about gridlock and the Koch brothers. The driver too was babbling away - something about having to pass the limo in order to see who was inside it.

No sooner did I recognize their faces when my driver advised that we needed to get going as the ceremony was about to begin.

I was able to take a quick snapshot before the "Obama Supporters" banner plastered across the side gave up its last residue of adhesive and fell in a crumple atop the pavement.

I felt bad about leaving the two to fend for themselves, but I shouted something back to them that I felt confident they'd understand and would surely lift their spirits: "Have no fears, I had every intention of offering you help!"

Unfortunately, we arrived to the event ten minutes into the dedication ceremony. I was hurriedly escorted to my seat - front row center! After politely protesting that the name on the chair wasn't me, I abruptly shut my mouth (and snapped a photo) when I suddenly realized the origins of my invitation. It wasn't the first an inattentive staffer at the White House inadvertently confused my name and address with that of Michael Jordan's.

Origins of my invite quickly become apparent. 
I quickly looked about to see if anyone had noticed the embarrassing faux pas. You can imagine my shock when sitting directly behind me were the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Alan Keyes, et al. I took a sigh of relief - I was among friends.

Obviously, a White House staffer either had a morbid sensed of humor or Obama had an administrative turncoat in their midst. Most likely it was the latter.

It was then I noticed the rear of the venue where workers were busy removing dozens of rows of seats. We were later informed that extra seating was needed for the "massive overflow of guests outside the event." No, it didn't make sense to me either, but nor has anything else this administration has done over the past six years.

Sharing the historic day with the President and Mrs. Obama were all living Presidents, their wives and the president's two remaining supporters, Pelosi and Reid. Present on stage (standing from left to right, upstage) were President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, Vice President Joe Biden, President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush, President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush (sitting and holding an American flag).

Pelosi and Reid were hustled in and stationed downstage center at the end of a glistening red runner. I don't know if it was just me but they seemed to perch themselves like vultures. They flanked the presidential library seal like sentinels, scavenging the audience for whom they might pounce upon and eviscerate for no apparent reason. Bad habits are hard to break.
President inexplicably donned scrubs and stethoscope for his Presidential Library Sneak Preview. 
About twenty minutes into the ceremony, just as Obama was stammering through his 87th "uh," disaster struck! A strong wind suddenly swept across the stage, knocking the standing dignitaries and their wives off their feet! Only Michelle and Obama stood unscathed.

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi hastily rushed to the aide of the fallen VIPs. However, when not a single luminary recovered from their ungracious face-plants, we all stood to get a better look. We were puzzled to see their backsides glistening white and flat. Harry and Nancy then gathered up and repositioned every dignitary, which we realized to our astonishment we're nothing but life-size cutouts!

Were this not bizarre enough, no sooner had Harry and Nancy tidied the cardboard figures when Obama leaned over to steady Michelle only to have yet another brisk wind rip her from his grip and sweep her away. Simultaneously a large section of Hillary tore away from it's base, in the shape of a broom, which then joined Michelle in mid air. The united ladies rose in a swirl and floating briefly overhead. They then slowly disappeared over the curtain backdrop as the howling wind writhed into an eerie cackle.
I was able to capture eerie scene of Michelle and Hillary flying out of sight.

The entire scene was the most surreal sight I've ever seen. Even more strange was that none of us could help but wave goodbye.

After the applause died down, Obama deftly recovered from the disaster by wowing the crowd with theatrical star power. One moment the stage was enveloped in light and smoke, and the next, every star from Opera to Clooney illuminated the platform.

At the fore of the stage, with guitar in hand, appeared Obama's tour de force, Bruce Springsteen. The crowd went wild. However, that too turned sour when Bruce failed to take into account his audience and began singing Born in the U.S.A. 

As dirt and wind began to gust again we instantly detected that The Boss too was one-dimensional cardboard, as were all of Hollywood's elite. Pelosi and Reid jumped upon the now tattered rocker and unceremoniously dragged him away, tossing him atop the pile of presidents, their wives and the toppled celebrities.

With Pelosi and Reid being the only actual carbon-based guests left standing, Obama announced he suddenly remembered a 2:00 tee time with Michael Jordan, excused himself and made a hasty retreat.

The entire ceremony and exhibition tour was scheduled for five hours, but with only a single achievement to commemorate, it was possible to experience the entire library in a matter of seconds. The dignitaries, guests and secret service packed things up and departed before lunch. I lagged behind momentarily and had the library to myself.
Sneak Preview of The Barack Hussein Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Here's a "selfie" of
me in the back corner of Obama's Presidential Library reading Exhibit #440, "First Black President."
For me, the most remarkable aspect of the museum was the Presidential Seal at the entrance of the "Gallery of Achievements." The seal had a soft vibrating hum from a recording of adulating crowds and it glowed around it's circumference. If you bent over and listened carefully you could also hear what appeared to be the rising oceans lapping against the shore.

I appreciated the self-deprecating humor (intended or otherwise).

Glowing, Vibrating Presidential Seal with echoing sounds of
adulating crowds and lapping oceans. 
When one reporter asked the museum's curator, Hugh Janis, how the library came to be, two years before President Obama's departure. He stated, "Considering it's traditional for presidential library dedication ceremonies to occur after presidents have left office, Barack Obama could now declare, honestly, that he'd actually done something that was truly unprecedented."

"Also, as a lame duck with abysmal polling numbers, the president has, for all intents and purposes, accomplished everything he will be remembered for. With no other achievements to speak of, President Obama's supporters decided it was prudent to make the most of his legacy before his only real triumph was also proven a lie as everything else."

Made perfect sense to me - period.

Mark
©Googtoon - Life • Popular Culture • Politics • Entertainment • Public Figures

Friday

Early Christmas Gifts from President Obama

Have you heard the late breaking news about President Obama's greatest achievements? He's being credited with "rebuilding the American Dream." And you know what? They're right!

Now before my friends on the left rejoice, and by buds on the right gag, it's not at all what it seems.

The internet is all abuzz regarding an 82-year-old lady who is thoroughly convinced that President Obama is "rebuilding the American Dream!" Not only does she love Obama, she thinks he's amazing and is thanking God for the President.

However, her take on what constitutes "rebuilding the American Dream" is not what I'd guess our left leaning friends want to hear, nor contemplate. Following are her personal observations and an explanation. The graphics, as always, are mine:
REBUILDING the AMERICAN DREAM: Early Christmas Gifts from President Obama to Conservatives Everywhere

Early Christmas Gifts from President Obama

1. Clinton Political Machine Destroyed
Obama destroyed the Clinton Political Machine, driving a stake through the heart of Hillary's presidential aspirations - something no Republican was ever able to do.
  
2. Kennedy Dynasty Obliterated 
Obama killed off the Kennedy Dynasty - no more Kennedys trolling Washington looking for booze and women wanting rides home.

3. Democratic Party Devastated
Obama is destroying the Democratic Party before our eyes! Dennis Moore had never lost a race. Evan Bayh had never lost a race. Byron Dorgan had never lost a race. Harry Reid - soon to be GONE! These are just a handful of the Democrats whose political careers Obama has destroyed. By the end of 2016 dozens more will be gone. Just think, in December of 2008 the Democrats were on the rise. In the previous two election cycles, they picked up 14 Senate seats and 52 House seats. The press was touting the death of the Conservative Movement and the Republican Party. However, in just one year, Obama put a stop to all of this and has given the House and the Senate back to the Republicans.

4. Liberalism Exposed 
Obama has completely exposed liberals and progressives for what they are. Sadly, every generation seems to need to re-learn the lesson on why they should never actually put liberals in charge. Obama is bringing home the lesson very well: Liberals tax, borrow and spend. Liberals won't bring themselves to protect America. Liberals want to take over the economy. Liberals think they know what is best for everyone. Liberals are not happy until they are running YOUR life.

5. Conservatism Rejuvenated
Obama has brought more Americans back to conservatism than anyone since Reagan. In one year, he has rejuvenated the Conservative Movement and brought out to the streets millions of freedom loving Americans. Name one other time when you saw your friends and neighbors this interested in taking back America!

6. Firearms Sales Skyrocket
Obama, with his "amazing leadership," has sparked the greatest period of sales of firearms and ammunition this country has seen. Law abiding citizens have rallied and have provided a 'stimulus' to the sporting goods field while other industries have failed, faded or moved off-shore.

7. New Direction for America
In all honesty, one year ago I was more afraid than I have been in my life. Not afraid of the economy, but afraid of the direction our country was going. I thought, Americans have forgotten what this country is all about. My neighbors and friends, even strangers, have proved to me that my lack of confidence in the greatness and wisdom of the American people has been flat wrong.

8. America Has Awoken
When the American people wake up, no smooth talking teleprompter reader can fool them! Barack Obama has served to wake up these great Americans!

9. Obama Is The Pariah
He can’t get anyone to take Chuck Hagle’s job as Sec. Defence. They just don’t want to be a White House Doormat and ruin their own futures.

Again, I want to say: "Thank you, Barack Obama!" After all, this is exactly the kind of hope and change we desperately needed!

EXTRA
AND he made Jimmy Carter happy since Jimmy is no longer the worst president we've ever had.

Merry Christmas from President Barack Obama 
As to the "82 year old lady" herself, I don't know if she's a genuine, living-breathing human being or a construct of an imaginative conservative. Regardless, it does offer a sound rationale to consider and possibly something to be grateful for as we count our blessings this Christmas Season.

Mark
©GOOGTOON- Observations on Life • Popular Culture • Politics • Entertainment • Public Figures

Wednesday

Balance of Power - Trading Places

Balance of Power is Trading Places in the wake of a tidal wave of changes in Washington. ©Mark Jordan Koeff

GOP Picks Up 7 Seats, Takes Senate Majority

By Dunstan Prial
Published November 04, 2014


FOXBusiness
"In a historic rebuke of Democratic incumbents, Republican challengers are projected to have picked up seven Senate seats in Tuesday’s elections, decidedly shifting the balance of power in Congress to the GOP.

Republicans are poised to replace Democrats in North Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Colorado, Arkansas, South Dakota and West Virgina, according to Fox News projections.
Polls suggested Republicans could gain control of the Senate by winning six elections to gain a majority of 51 seats. The seventh seat adds emphasis to the GOP victories. And there could be another, depending on the outcome of a runoff in Louisiana next month.

Since the GOP was widely expected to maintain its majority in the House of Representatives – and did -- the shift in the Senate will leave President Barack Obama -- and all of his highest priorities -- isolated by a Congress ruled by Republicans in both chambers.

The question is whether a Republican-controlled Congress facing off against a second-term Democratic president will break the political gridlock that has all but stalled important policy decisions in Washington for years, leaving much of the electorate deeply frustrated, cynical and increasingly disillusioned.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital Management, said a Republican victory could lead to less gridlock and more pro-business legislation. Specifically, Cardillo said corporate tax reform and immigration legislation would likely move to the top of a GOP priority list, as Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage get shelved.

"These are all things that could benefit labor markets,” Cardillo said.

Some influential voices on Wall Street are skeptical, however, that a shift in the balance of power in Congress will have much immediate impact on breaking through the longstanding political logjam.
“Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s election, no progress is likely to be made on the key issues of corporate tax reform, immigration reform or entitlement reform before the 2016 presidential election,” David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds, said.

“This is quite important in the medium term for U.S. investors since, without real efforts to increase both labor and capital supply, the U.S. economy is likely to run into a significant capacity constraint in the next two years, leading to higher inflation and interest rates,” Kelly added.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Fox News is projecting that Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen will beat Republican challenger Scott Brown in one of the more closely-watched races of this election.
And in Louisiana, in another race that could determine the strength of the GOP’s Senate majority, Fox News is projecting that the Senate race will go to a runoff on December 6. Based on exit polling, Fox projects that three-term Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican challenger Bill Cassidy will both fail to exceed 50% of the vote tonight, so neither can claim an outright win in Louisiana’s so-called “jungle primary.”

Here’s a roundup of the Senate flips from Democrat to Republican:
In North Carolina, Fox projects that Thom Tillis, a Republican member of the state legislature, will oust U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, a first-term Democrat, in a closely fought race that saw spending top $100 million.
In Iowa Fox News has projected that Republican Joni Ernst will beat Democrat Bruce Braley, which officially gave Republicans control of the U.S. Senate and dealt a major blow to President Obama’s agenda in the final two years of his term.
In Montana Fox News is projecting that Republican Steve Daines will defeat Democrat Amanda Curtis, flipping control of the Senate seat to the Republican Party for the first time since 1913.
In Colorado, Republican congressman Cory Gardner will oust first-term Democratic Senator Mark Udall in one of the most closely watched contests in this election cycle.
In Arkansas, Republican Congressman and Iraq war veteran Tom Cotton will unseat two-term Democratic Senator Mark Pryor;
In South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds is projected to beat Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler to replace retiring Democratic Senator Tim Johnson.

Those turnovers are in addition to an earlier pick up in West Virginia, where Republican Shelley Moore Capito defeated her Democratic opponent for seat held by Democrats for nearly three decades.

Candidates and those with a vested interest in the results have spent $4 billion seeking votes, a record for a mid-term election.

A 'Win-Win' Situation for Stock Markets

A call for raising the minimum wage, one supported by President Obama and many Democrats, is another hot button issue that has yet to be resolved.

In the short-term, continued gridlock could actually benefit investors because stock markets have been moving higher in recent years despite Washington dysfunction. Maintaining the status quo of a dysfunctional Congress would mean the markets would continue to respond solely to economic data and Federal Reserve policy rather than politically-driven legislation.

“It’s a win-win situation for the stock markets,” Cardillo said.


Republicans have not controlled the Senate since 2006, ahead of President Obama’s election two years later. Control of the Senate may not be determined for months, however, if individual candidates in Louisiana and Georgia fail to collect more than 50% of the vote, forcing runoffs in December and January, respectively.

According to the latest polls, Democratic incumbents are battling to retain their seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, states in which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defeated Obama in the 2012 election. Given Obama’s plummeting approval ratings, voters in those states could play a key role in shifting the balance of power in Congress.

Other incumbent Senators facing tough re-election bids are Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, and Republicans Pat Roberts of Kansas and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who would replace Nevada Democrat Harry Reid as Senate Majority leader if the GOP gains control of Congress’ upper house. McConnell won his election against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The only question related to House races was whether, and by how much, Republicans would increase their majority. All 435 seats were at play and a gain of 13 additional seats would leave the GOP with its largest majority since 1946.

Weak Economic Recovery Could Boost GOP
With the president’s approval rating hovering at around 40%, many Democratic candidates chose to distance themselves from Obama’s six-year legacy, in particular Obama’s signature piece of legislation the Affordable Care Act, which sought to reform the nation’s health care system but has come under harsh criticism from opponents of all political persuasions.

In addition, many voters are likely to hold the president and his party responsible for an economy that hasn’t recovered as quickly as many would have preferred. While the headline unemployment rate has fallen sharply in the past few years, wages have been stagnant and many Americans have been forced to accept temporary jobs or part-time positions. Significant numbers of Americans have also dropped out of the workforce altogether out of frustration in finding a good paying job with benefits. The labor force participation rate, a key economic indicator for the health of U.S. labor markets, is at its lowest level since the 1970s.

Elsewhere across the country, 36 states will elect governors in races that could potentially impact the 2016 Presidential election, notably in Wisconsin where incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker defeated his Democratic opponent.

In Rhode Island, Fox News is projecting that state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, will beat Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, a Republican, to replace retiring Democratic Governor Lincoln Chaffee, a former GOP Senator.

In those 36 gubernatorial contests an unusual number of incumbents appeared to be struggling heading into the election. While Obama raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates over the past two years, many candidates chose not to be photographed with the president for fear of alienating voters who have grown disillusioned with the president.

In Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., voters will decide whether to join Colorado and Washington state by legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Education is at the forefront of a ballot in Missouri that would tie teacher's jobs and salaries to student performance, curb tenure and limit contracts to three years.
Mark
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