Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Edwards, a True Voice for Others

While I understand the reasons why John Edwards is suspending his campaign, I am disappointed to know that he will not be participating in the California debate. His voice during the debates was an important one for me. In a race that is beginning to have much too much emphasis on being FOR Barack and AGAINST Hillary or FOR Hillary and AGAINST Barack, I found John Edwards to be THE voice for many, many Americans desiring this race to be about the issues and not the next political superstar. My hope is that John Edwards will continue to receive media attention, but knowing how the media thrives on creating controversy rather than being an impetus for positive progress, I have only hope.

To read John Edwards speech delivered in New Orleans just a short time ago:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Call to Action Regarding John Gibson's Abuse of America's Freedom of Speech

The following is my letter sent today to all Fox News Sponsors...

Dear Fox News Sponsor:

RE: Fox News and John Gibson’s Public Commentary Regarding Heath Ledger

I write to you because I recently discovered my tolerance level for public abuse of freedom of speech by a paid broadcaster. We each have our own levels of tolerance and I respect the levels set by the Board of Directors and/or CEO/President of your company. However, John Gibson surpassed mine with his publicly stated, insensitive comments directed at a recently deceased young man Mr. Gibson admits to not ever having met.

I do not believe mean spiritedness ever accomplishes anything, nor do I believe the silent majority ever creates progress. So, I do not raise my voice in rants about John Gibson’s character, but I do come to you with a raised voice about his actions – the actions you support as long as you are a sponsor of his program and/or the network that supports his program.

The freedoms we enjoy as Americans came at a VERY high price to those that fought and continue to fight (and serve) in our military. To disgrace and exploit those sacrificially earned freedoms the way John Gibson and his colleagues have is beyond explanation and excuse. Just because we have freedom of speech does not mean that consequences should not follow when those freedoms are abused -- Don Imus learned that and I believe John Gibson falls into this same category. Mr. Gibson, his colleagues, Fox News, and their sponsors need to learn that it is never the right time to do the wrong thing.

I come to you as a consumer that has made the decision to NOT support the businesses that support the actions of those taken by John Gibson. I believe strongly that Mr. Gibson and his colleagues should be terminated from their jobs. At the very least, a fine should be implemented against all of them and Fox News. Heath Ledger was a fine young man, father, son, brother, and acting was his profession. His death is a tragedy and the world embraces his family by mourning along side them.

Mr. Gibson’s apology has been offered, truly, to only those that were “offended by his comments.” He has taken no responsibility for his commentary – he essentially places the responsibility of offence on those that were appalled by his words. I see a great chasm of difference between these two actions. I will not support John Gibson’s actions by supporting your company as long as you continue to sponsor and advertise on Fox News where John Gibson and his colleagues are employed.

I encourage you to do the right thing – withdraw your advertising dollars from Fox News and publicly release a statement informing your consumers that you are a company and a group of people that represent a product and a service that can be trusted by the public to “do the right thing” in ALL areas of business; a company and a group of people that stands for their consumers and not against them.

Heath Ledger did nothing to deserve the actions rallied against him on John Gibson’s broadcast. Which of your innocent consumers is next and how long before the public begins to associate your company with these kinds of actions? Please, take a stand now and let’s work together to teach all generations that the freedom of speech Americans enjoy came at a very high price and deserves to be respected and not abused by those in public positions.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to a well considered response.


Penny Ronning

The link I found for the current list of Fox News Sponsors is:

Monday, January 28, 2008

It is NEVER the Right Time to Do the Wrong Thing

Please take the time to read Mary McNamara's article in the LA Times.,1,7605919.story

The following is my email sent today to all those listed below at Fox News. PLEASE, PLEASE send your own emails or letters -- thank you.

Mr. Davis, Mr. Finnerty, Ms. Briganit, Ms. Scott, and Mr. Ailes:

I respectfully continue to call for the termination of John Gibson at Fox News.

~ Penny Ronning

The following is my email to Ms. McNamara of the LA Times:


Thank you for your well written article regarding John Gibson's inexcusable public actions relating to Heath Ledger. I appreciate your thought line and agree with you in the call for his termination. I, too, asked for John Gibson's termination from Roger Ailes, Fox CEO. I do not believe mean spiritedness ever accomplishes anything, nor do I believe the silent majority ever creates progress. The freedoms we enjoy as Americans came at a VERY high price for those that fought and continue to fight (and serve) in our military. To disgrace and exploit those sacrificially earned freedoms the way John Gibson has is beyond explanation. And just because we have freedom of speech does not mean that consequences should not follow when those freedoms are abused -- Don Imus learned that and I believe, John Gibson falls into this same category. This is why we have laws for slander and defamation of character. Mr. Gibson and his colleagues need to learn that it is never the right time to do the wrong thing.

Thank you again. Please know that I am very much a willing participant to assist in the call for Mr. Gibson's termination. If you know of anything I can help with, please feel free to contact me. I will continue to blog about this subject in the meantime.

Most sincerely,
Penny Ronning

Here is a list of contacts at FOX to whom you can express your thoughts:

Mr. Roger Ailes
Fox News Radio Network

Mr. Mitch Davis
Vice President
Fox News Radio Network
1211 Avenue Of The Americas
18th Floor
New York, NY 10036-8701
Direct Phone: *212-301-5800
Outlet Fax: *212-301-5455
Outlet Phone: 212-301-3000

Mr. Robert Finnerty
Senior Vice President
Fox News Radio Network
1211 Avenue Of The Americas
18th Floor
New York, NY 10036-8701
Direct Phone: *212-301-5800
Outlet Fax: *212-301-5455
Outlet Phone: 212-301-3000

Ms. Irena Briganti
Vice President of Public Relations
FOX News Channel
1211 Avenue Of The Americas
New York, NY 10036
Direct Phone : *212-301-3608
Outlet Fax : *212-382-1411
Outlet Phone : 212-301-3000
Contact by: E-mail

Ms. Suzanne Scott
Vice President, Programming
FOX News Channel
1211 Avenue Of The Americas
New York, NY 10036
Direct Phone : *212-301-8558
Outlet Fax : *212-382-1411
Outlet Phone : 212-301-3000


Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Wake Up Every Morning Hoping This Will Be the Day People Will Not Shock Me...Today is NOT That Day

My hands continue to shake as I type this blog. The shaking first began when I logged into my account and read a blog by Giulia Rozzi. The blog was listed under the film category and that caught my attention. Saying that I was not prepared for what I read and listened to is an understatement. Please judge for yourself the actions by Fox journalist, John Gibson and his colleagues. Listen to the link provided within the following blog link:

John Gibson's and his colleagues' actions at Fox regarding Heath Ledger in his life and most sadly in his death are beyond explanation and excuse.

Many thoughts run through my mind as I watch the news about Heath Ledger's death. The sadness and shock are of the most stunning, tragic, and deep to the core gut wrenching kind. I debated whether the right and respectful thing to do was to be silent and not blog about this extraordinary young man. However, two items published this morning created the impetus needed to make my decision. The right thing is to document the impact the amazing life force named Heath Ledger had on this world.

A.O. Scott, New York Times journalist, writes of Ledger:

...he should have had time to outgrow his early promise and become the strange, surprising, era-defining actor he always had the potential to be.

Mr. Scott's last line in his article was the first impetus for me this morning. A journalist I respect, Mr. Scott is, in my opinion, most often thought provoking, eloquent, and spot-on-accurate within his professional writings. However, today I must disagree with the conclusion of his article. Yes, Heath Ledger should have had time to continue to grow in all areas of his life, but as an actor Heath lived up to all of his potential all the time. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Heath Ledger was THE most gifted actor of his generation. I'll even go a step further, I believe Mr. Ledger was one of THE most gifted actors working today and that the body of his work will hold its own against any actor at any time in history.

As for Mr. Gibson's comments and the commentary of his colleagues, absolutely nothing can give explanation or excuse for their actions. Heath Ledger brought a sense of dignity, integrity, professionalism, and hope to not only his profession, but to the world at large. This is evidenced by the outpouring of a sense of deep loss felt around the world. Hope has become a word used in great excess as of late. While philosophers try to define it, writers try to express it, and politicians try to campaign on it, some people simply embody it when they smile. Heath Ledger was one of those rare people.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Social Security: Just ONE of the Reasons I Oppose More Money Being Spent on the War in Iraq, BUT IT IS A VERY IMPORTANT REASON TO UNDERSTAND!

The following is a paper on understanding Social Security I wrote for a Business Law class while obtaining my MBA. The paper was written in 2004, but because it is more or less a "how does Social Security work and why is it important to me" type document, it is very relevant today -- especially as we enter into the 2008 elections. While hope is wonderful, it is not a plan. Find out what your candidate's PLAN is for Social Security. If you are yet to receive Social Security, this issue EFFECTS YOU!!! It effects all of us.

Understanding Social Security and the Concern for the Future

Created in 1935, the Social Security system was designed to provide the American workforce with an additional source of retirement income. For over 70 years, many of America’s elderly have relied on the benefits of this system to help meet their financial needs in their retirement years. With the demographics of the American workforce changing, can Americans continue to rely on Social Security for their future?

How Social Security Works

Whether self-employed, an employee, or an employer every person and employer of the legitimate American workforce pays into Social Security with each paycheck. The Social Security trust fund is financed by two sources. The first and largest is by the payroll taxes workers pay on their wages and self-employment income. The second and smaller source is by part of the income tax some recipients pay on their Social Security benefits. Once collected these taxes, along with other sources of revenue, make up the federal government’s operating cash or “checkbook.” This cash source is called the U.S. treasury.

A common misconception about Social Security is that the taxes collected are deposited directly into a special account to be used only for the payout of Social Security benefits. In truth, when Social Security taxes are collected they enter into the federal government’s general operating fund and become indistinguishable with other monies collected.

The amount of Social Security taxes collected is actually credited to the Social Security trust fund in the form of federal securities. Just as the money collected from worker’s taxes enters into the general fund, benefits paid to eligible recipients comes out of the general fund. In other words, today’s workers are paying for today’s beneficiaries. This process is similar to those attached to a regular bank checking account. Deposits made to one’s individual bank checking account are indistinguishable from all of the other individual or business deposits made at that bank. Once an individual or a business makes a deposit a credit is issued to the individual’s or business’s account. The cash actually deposited is used by the bank to make loans. As long as the individual or business account shows a credit, the checks written by the individual or business will be covered by the bank. As long as Social Security continues to show a credit, the federal government will continue to cover the checks written to the eligible recipients.

The Concern for the Future

The Social Security system is currently operating with a surplus. This means more money is being collected in Social Security taxes than is being paid out in benefits. While this is a good thing, the board of trustees of Social Security have great concerns for the future. The projected demographics for the future of the American workforce are at the center of their concern. According to the information posted on Social Security’s official web site, “when the Social Security program was created in 1935, a 65-year-old American had an average life expectancy of 12 ½ more years; today it is 17 ½ years and rising.” The board of trustees also projects that 79 million “baby boomers” will start to enter retirement in 2008. It is expected that the next 30 years will produce approximately twice as many older Americans than there are living today. In addition, the reduction in the American workforce paying into Social Security per beneficiary is expected to decrease from 3.3 as it is today to approximately 2 in 2030.

Information contained in the Congressional Research Service Issue Brief for Congress, Social Security Reform, states, “The trustees project that Social Security’s surplus of taxes and interest will cause the system’s trust funds, comprised exclusively of federal bonds, to grow to a peak of $7.5 trillion in 2027...However, the trustees project that the system’s taxes by themselves would fall below its outgo beginning in 2018.” If the taxes collected for Social Security are not enough to cover the benefits being paid out, the federal government will have three choices: raise taxes or other income, cut spending or borrow money.

Policymakers seem to be divided into two groups when it comes to the future of Social Security. One group perceives trouble ahead for Social Security and the other group suggests that the problems are not as serious as some critics would make them out to be. The first group believes the Social Security system needs to be revamped so that the system can meet its long-term commitments while the second group contends that Social Security is currently running surpluses and only moderate changes need to be made.

Suggestions for Social Security reform range from minimal changes to scraping the entire system and replacing it with a program modeled after IRAs or 401(k)s. While none of the ideas presented before today’s policymakers have received a majority’s endorsement, the debate continues. What the majority of policymakers have been able to agree upon is the fact that action to protect Social Security needs to be taken soon. However, what needs to be done and just how quickly a plan can be implemented is still up in question.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A cause to which I am deeply committed, Amnesty International USA

Amnesty International USA is an organization to which I am deeply committed.

As some of you may know, the Case Foundation is giving out over $50K to the organization that raises the most money on a Facebook cause.

Donating just $5 or $10 is incredibly helpful. Donations through the Facebook page listed below are secure when using a credit card.

AIUSA is offering an incentive:

Raise $50 (that’s only 5 friends donating $10 dollars) or more for Amnesty International by January 31st and receive a free Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur CD! This double CD includes tracks from more than 50 musical artists, including U2, Green Day, Ben Harper, and Aerosmith, who have joined this international effort that combines John Lennon music, technology, and human rights activism. I own this CD and it is FANTASTIC!

The more donations made to Amnesty on Facebook before the end of January gets Amnesty closer to winning $50,000 from the Facebook Causes Giving Challenge.

Funds raised will help Amnesty stop the human rights catastrophe in Darfur, Sudan. The conflict in Darfur has led to some of the worst human rights abuses imaginable, including systematic and widespread murder, rape, abduction and displacement. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed by both deliberate and indiscriminate attacks, and over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced.

Help Amnesty stop the violence. Join the cause on Facebook. Please ask at least five friends to join and give to help Darfur.

To get started visit:

Thank you!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yes, The Empire Strikes Back

The following was written by my wonderfully talented friend Lance Mungia, Director of Six String Samurai (one of my favorite movies of all time). With two back to back posts on Barack Obama, one might easily think that I am a locked in vote for him. But, alas, truth be told...I am not. Yes, I admit it..I am an undecided. So, if anyone out there would like to write a blog supporting Hillary Clinton, I will be happy to post it. Oh, heck...Kate, if you want to write one supporting your case for Ron Paul I'll post that too! I'd even post one for Mike Huckabee and with a respectful nod to POW John McCain, I would post one for him too. You see, I LOVE this process called an election and I LOVE that I have friends so fired up about their candidates of choice and the 2008 election -- I celebrate that passion. Our country has been broken in spirit for a number of years and I believe we are feeling the rumble in the jungle approaching and it feels good (please feel free to imagine your best Muhammad Ali and James Brown voices)!

How blessed am I to have friends that write so beautifully.

~ Penny

Lance is a local team coordinator in the Los Angeles area for Barack Obama's campaign. Here is an email/blog he wrote the morning after the New Hampshire primary:

I'm tired and until a few hours ago I was starting to feel lazy. I was thinking about all the things I could start doing with my spare time again once we had the nod locked in New Hampshire. I figured that would seal us an early Barack Obama victory and it would be a short and sweet trip to the nomination from there. I was worrying and wondering if our efforts in California could turn out more frosting than cake and I was as surprised as I was grateful for that unexpected question in my head.

I was wrong.

No cake or frosting for us, folks. It's going to be person by person, bayonet to bayonet, even steven in the trenches. We've worked our butts off to have that opportunity and don't kid yourselves, its the most golden one we could ask for. We got lucky tonight instead of fat and lazy. Lucky.

I'll explain.

Only now, a few hours after losing New Hampsire by 2 points and probably still counting, I'm beginning to realize that this is the best possible scenario we could have wished for. Just like how Bush needs terror and how Rudy needs Hillary, uh... we need our own Darth Vader too. We need a villian for our art house indie flick to become a blockbuster with legs. Without Hillary Clinton, there's no third act to our script. There's no Death Star. There's no sequel.

Without a close race, we won't continue to build the public interest and hone our muscles for a general election. If Hillary bowed out now Barack would still seem untested in the Republican showdown. There'd be no drama or sweat equity invested in the many States left to weigh in. The American public as a whole wouldn't be as invested as they are tonight.

Maybe if he'd lost by ten points I'd say something different. But it was so close that all it did was keep eyes on us and keep it interesting. Get it?

He lost by a point and a half, maybe. He's going to win South Carolina and Nevada is going to be a razor's edge either way. It's wide open and ours to lose. If you're in the dumps wash the dirt out of your ears and eyes and look around.

Look at what a brilliant speaker Barack has evolved into and what a movement he's created. Why? It's because of the adversity he's faced, because of the passion adversity fosters and not the ease of his candicacy. Never ease. Ease = ease up.

No doubt its the same in all our lives. We're defined not by our victories, but how we handle our tribulations. Our trials make us who we are. Whole.

Yes, The Empire Strikes Back. Now we must use the force and Darth Vader Must bite the dust if we are ever to restore the old Republic to its former glory.

Let it all come what may and let it all matter. Let each State have an equal voice in deciding the next leader of the free world as should be their right. New Hampshire might have deprived a majority of the country of their say in electing the first black man to the office of President, the first true outsider, the first community organizer President. How unfair would that have been?

If Barack and through Barack we, all of us, cannot win anywhere the fight goes from here, then we don't deserve it because ultimately we NEED to win the general. The best person needs to win for the sake of this country. Thanks to Barack all is shaping up to be the most honest race to the White House in modern memory. There's a real choice to be had and we've provided it for the American public. We. The People.

Earlier tonight, as results came in, preparing for my weekly meeting to phonebank, I said a prayer for Barack. I'm not overly religious, but this was a big deal for me. Melissa, my wife, corrected my prayer. She said, "Instead of asking God to help Barack win, say, 'help the best person to win. That's all you can hope for."

She was right. To me, it was saying the same thing, but the phrasing was everything, because I know in my very soul that Barack IS the best person. I have nothing to fear and nothing to hide in that regard. Vet him until the cows come home to Bill Clinton's farm.

Bill Clinton was right today when he suggested that Barack Obama needs to be vetted. Let it be played out across the entire American field until they've had a belly full. Let the entire country engage meaningfully in this discussion. Instead of an afterthought as we usually are in California, we will now be in the thick of the storm and our thoughts will count. People will be invested as they never have before.

It's truly in our hands now whether you've realized it yet or not.

I say let the rain come. Let it wash away everything but the truth. Barack Obama is by far the best candidate to run for President in modern political history AND THAT'S THE TRUTH.

The more people are exposed to him the more they'll see what we already see. Bring on the pundits, the naysayers, the well wishers, the flip-floppers, the arm chair quarterbacks, the good weather friends as well as the foul. I welcome them feathers and all. I welcome the American public in every State to open their eyes and pay attention because if we're paying attention nobody can steal our Democracy from us. An engaged electorate is a protected one.

Mind me, we'll see Barack in the White House because of this loss tonight more than any win in New Hampshire could have assured. NH might have given him the nod but not a free pass to the oval office and a get out of jail free card. If anything it would have constricted him.

Expose Barack Obama to the harshest, strongest light imaginable and it will make him even more of a beacon, every hard night like this will make for a good one to follow and will make him and his case and us stronger.

Hone your political muscles against Darth Vader now because you'll need them in the general to fight with and trust me that's where we'll be. This is just a sparring session folks. It's just the beginning, and the more we can get people to pay attention to a close, dramatic race, the better we'll all be for the future of this country.

Never think that what we're doing doesn't matter, because it matters more than anything else we could possibly be doing. It's the most important thing we could be doing in fact. The result is secondary to the act of participating. We're changing the world as much as our own lives simply by thinking and being the change we want to see.

Believe it. Our enemies tremble at the thunder of our approach. They are not enemies we must fight from without. No, those are not our true enemies. Our real enemy is hesitation, fear, and a small mind.

The most tragic thing tonight would have been a slip back into apathy and laziness or worse, a slip into hopelessness and negativity and the fear that is the dark side.

Anybody who's weary, who's fed up, who wants to give up, well, you're human, but you're also still here paying attention. You didn't give up. You hurt and the hurt makes you mad and then you use it. Anger can blind you but it can also make you see clear.

Your reaction defines you. Giving up is not an option.

That didn't happen. Not to him. Not to us.

I am more motivated. I am more fired up. I will not lie down and go quietly into the dark. I will stand up and I say let the rain come. Let the Death Star approach. Let the thunder roar and the clouds weep, because you can't wash away or drown out the truth, you can only make it clean.

Good morning.

Lance Mungia

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Barack Obama, the Hope Singing Inside Me, and a Spirit of Unity

The following is written by my dear friend Valarie Kaur, writer/producer of the amazing documentary Divided We Fall; Americans in the Aftermath.

Hey everyone,

I woke up this morning a mess of nerves, and I realized it was because the Iowa caucuses are tonight. I walked along the ocean and prayed hard, and then I realized that perhaps my prayers would be better served if I shared them. I thought I would start with my friends.

My days protesting the war in college left me deeply disillusioned with politics and the political process. In a chance meeting with John Kerry when he was running, I told him this. He told me not to be disillusioned. That still didn't change anything.

For the last year and a half, many of you know I have been traveling with the film all over the country talking to people. All kinds of people. Students, liberals, conservatives, evangelicals, believers, nonbelievers, immigrants, people in the south and the north, white people, black people, and everyone in between. And I discovered I was not alone. Whether in a red state or blue state, a small town or a big city, I heard the same thing -- people are tired. People are tired of war and car bombs and coffins. People are tired of the environment going to hell, terrorist threats, and hearing about how the world hates us. People are tired of hearing how divided we are. And the funny thing is, I began to see how we are all united in this longing -- this ache -- for something better. We are aching for a better country, a country where we can be seen for how we see ourselves. And for personal authentic leadership to take us there.

The cynical part of me believes that this is not possible. It's the same part of me that shrinks away from turning on the news. The part that would rather not hear about the violence in the world than face my own smallness to it. But there is another part of me buried deep inside...

A few weeks ago, I heard Barak Obama speak. With an edge of fatigue in his voice, he spoke with passion and conviction. He spoke about his own impossible journey and his vision of unity. I heard my voice in his voice. He saw what I saw. He wanted what I wanted. His vision was my vision. And he could be president. Despite myself, I began to cry. Had it been this long since I felt any faith that my country could produce a leader who spoke my truths?

I could be wrong. He could not be the one. All I know is that the part of me that was buried is alive and singing. It is the hope in me. It is the dreamer who sings. He could be president. He could change the world. I could change the world.

And so I read his books, learn his positions, watch speeches, make donations, talk to people. This is the first holiday season my family did not have a political argument. For the first time in our adult lives, my Republican father and I want the same person to be president. I take it as a sign. The very best article I have read about why Obama should be president was written by a conservative commentator -- his reasons are mine:

"At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce."

Thanks for reading this. And whoever you choose to support, may there be a bit of hope singing inside you. It's a bright shiny new year.