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You have an opinion, but do you have what it takes to be heard?

Zeba Khan
Toledo, Ohio

Zeba Khan

Voted out Nov. 23. I am a social media consultant for nonprofits. I have researched women and minority issues in the Muslim World, Islam in America and counterterrorism finance with the U.S. Treasury Department. ALL POSTS

The women of the web

The Post picked 10 contestants from about 4,800 entrants to move on to the next round of competition. Here's what finalist Zeba Khan wrote in her initial entry:

It may have been the youth that used the web to elect President Obama, but if the White House wants to mobilize its virtual army to push health-care reform, it might want to consider calling on the women of the web instead.

Women have always been leaders in using and understanding social networks. Sixty years ago, Brownie Wise, a single mother from Dearborn, Mich., saved the Tupperware brand by launching the first of what would become known as Tupperware parties. As Wise hosted these parties to introduce Tupperware to her friends, some of those friends became Tupperware sellers themselves, hosting parties for their friends and on it went. Within a decade, Wise and her exponentially growing cadre of hostesses sold millions of dollars' worth of product every year through their networks.

Today, social networks have moved online with companies like Facebook, Ning and MySpace leading the way. And just like in the '50s, women dominate the social networks of today. MySpace's U.S. user base, for example, is 64 percent female, followed by Ning's at 62 percent and Facebook at 59 percent.

Not only are there more women networking online than men, but the number of older women in particular is growing at a phenomenal rate. In the first quarter of 2009 on Facebook, women aged 35-44 experienced a 154 percent growth, women 45-54 grew by 165.3 percent and women 55-65 grew by an incredible 175.3 percent.

Recently, Team Obama used its online tools to organize a national phone banking drive resulting in over 300,000 commitments to call Congress demanding health-care reform. But considering that this same pool of supporters helped turn nine states from red to blue last November, this response is hardly reflective of the potential mobilizing power this groups has.

Health-care reform is not as sexy as a presidential election. The youth vote that put Obama in the White House is the healthiest demographic in the country. It is no surprise that the urgency of health-care reform has not struck a chord with them. Women, on the other hand, are the dominant drivers in the household when it comes to health-care and understand firsthand the problems with the current system.

Social networking appeals to women because they are relationship-driven, and the White House must capitalize on this connection. If it can figure out how to reach its female supporters, it just might get the backup it has been waiting for.

By Zeba Khan  |  October 30, 2009; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Entries
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Next: Fox News' surprising constituency

Comments

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You write an op-ed on women and technology, but then yasser1 accuses you of authoring an article that you did not author and posts the comment twice. That's defamation and I would report it to the Post.

You have a unique background and a different take on issues. Your voice is needed in this contest.

Posted by: stevia1 | November 9, 2009 4:16 AM
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Better than her first entry.

Posted by: smartgirl312 | November 8, 2009 8:09 PM
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This contest is supposed to be for regular everyday people and you are one of two in this competition who is without the lofty title, fancy position, etc. And you're from either Michigan or Ohio. Both places are underrepresented. I hope you go on to the next round.

Posted by: scscannen | November 7, 2009 7:44 PM
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Nice try, but I think Wall Street dough had more to getting Obama elected than youth on the web.

Obama can use the web all he wants, but until he starts doing something the youth and women want--like healthcare, end the wars, come up with an effective plan to address climate change, and start creating jobs, then I think the youth and women will abandon him.

Posted by: markbonfield | November 6, 2009 9:51 PM
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Posted by: kurrambero | November 5, 2009 5:48 PM
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Social networking will not solve the problem the Obama admin faces with healthcare reform. The problem is that the plan remains a mystery, which is not only frightening, it's dangerous. I don't know of any decent intelligent women who would buy insurance without knowing the coverages and exclusions, let alone intentionally attempt to persuade others.

Posted by: Lizadoo2little | November 5, 2009 10:06 AM
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Whitfield34, thank you for the clarification. I must admit that yasser1's comment sparked my curiosity. The author of that article is certainly not the author of this pundit entry. I'm glad I checked out the facts myself. It turns out WaPo finalist Zeba Khan has a quite a unique background - one that may very well make her the most interesting of the bunch. Looking forward to reading her next entry.

Posted by: ralphie4 | November 5, 2009 12:48 AM
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I am in the AARP membership, and appreciate a good lobbyist plan. Khan outlines a good lobbyist plan, and offers a call to action, by using Facebook to build a consensus. I agree with Khan.

Also, I might add that it easy to write congress directly with an on-line tool like, National Write Your Congressman (http://nwyc.com)

Posted by: rmorris391 | November 3, 2009 6:58 PM
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Yasser1 linked to an article by a Zeba Khan at beautifulislam.net. As a point of clarification, this is a different Zeba Khan. Same name, different author. Please do not judge her editorial in the post based on someone else's article.

Posted by: Whitfield34 | November 3, 2009 1:54 PM
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Yasser1 linked to an article by a Zeba Khan at beautifulislam.net. As a point of clarification, this is a different Zeba Khan. Same name, different author. Please do not judge her editorial in the post based on someone else's article.

Posted by: Whitfield34 | November 3, 2009 11:21 AM
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Yasser1 linked to an article by a Zeba Khan at beautifulislam.net. As a point of clarification, this is a different Zeba Khan. Same name, different author. Please do not judge her editorial in the post based on someone else's article.

Posted by: Whitfield34 | November 3, 2009 11:07 AM
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I know nothing about social networking sites, possibly because of my advanced age, and for this reason this editorial baffles me a bit. I have no idea what advantages, say, Facebook offers relative to the telephone, and to complicate the situation I read this:

"Recently, Team Obama used its online tools to organize a national phone banking drive resulting in over 300,000 commitments to call Congress demanding health-care reform."

Is this the advantage of social networking sites -- that they facilitate the establishment of a telephone bank? Am I reading this editorial correctly? I also note that the participants were to call their representatives in Congress, not e-mail them.

I may well be the only technological Neanderthal in the audience. Perhaps so, but I would like to understand the point of the editorial and can't. I wish the author had identified those features of the social networking sites that make them unique and superior to telephones and to e-mail for purposes of communication.

Posted by: the_gardener | November 3, 2009 8:30 AM
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Women use more healthcare than men, until they are 60, where the curve goes in the opposite direction. A lot of that is biological (pregnancy), a lot is the role society defines men as macho/strong (don't need a doctor) and women as nurturers (not if I'm too sick to do it). Women have no problem working in groups, whereas my way or else is the province of so called powerful men. Had Hillary set up an Obamalike ground game and internet use, her gamble to close on Super Tuesday would not have lost the primary. In addition Bush41 setting Bubba up with arab oil money on their worldwide trip, never would have happened with reversed roles.

Posted by: jameschirico | November 2, 2009 3:29 PM
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This seems more like a marketing 101 lesson than an opinion piece designed to get us thinking and/or start a conversation that this subject needs--and I think this is played out in the comments. Keep trying!

Posted by: ReneHL | November 2, 2009 2:19 PM
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How does Facebook know how old its women are?
Big brotherish.

Posted by: IIntgrty | November 2, 2009 1:51 PM
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Tupperware were a direct marketing sales scheme in which a host would be rewarded for exposing her closest friends to a Tupperware sales pitch. The originator, Wise, got rich on this scheme. The basis of motivation here was capitalism.

What socialists do not understand is the tremendous motivational power of capitalism, in which you get to keep the money you earn, and the harder you work, the more you get. Yet it is socialists who want to see the US government take over more means of production, and serve as a central redistributionist facility for spreading the wealth from those who pay taxes to those who do not.

It is strange then to cite a shining example of capitalism as an example of the power of women, and a potential way of advancing the socialist goal of universal health care.

Rather than pointing to women as the tools to enact the socialist takeover of the health care system, a more apt example would be to look to Mao, and how he accomplished his communist revolution in China. You see, Mao used children to rat out their own parents. Perhaps such a tactic might help Obama socialize medicine?

Your central error in this piece is assuming we all are eager to help Obama socialize medicine, and we would have any interest in your methods of achieving those ends.

Posted by: Wiggan | November 2, 2009 12:58 PM
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"Obese middle aged school teachers are very expensive to insure because of their drain on the provider system."

My opinion, i.e. protected free speech; yet the reaction is abusive name calling, i.e. 'TEA BAGGER'...a bit of hate speech foreplay roiling beneath the surface of another 'fat' teacher burdening us with her psychotherapy bills...check the facts with any school system with open books.

Who has the greatest health insurance bills---male or female teachers? ...or don't professional women want us to know the real price of their feminist quest to dominate America?

Posted by: Common_Cents1 | November 2, 2009 10:37 AM
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Look at this article below by Zeba Khan; is this not homophobic?


http://www.beautifulislam.net/articles/american_parents.htm

"Hooray for gay-rights and the yearly gay-pride parades held in most major cities of the US. If you're fortunate enough not to know what a gay-pride parade is, allow me to ruin your day. It's a procession of cars, decorated floats, dancers, near-naked hijras and brainwashed heterosexuals who are proud to be part of a sin so severe that it caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah."

Posted by: yasser1 | November 1, 2009 3:20 PM
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http://www.beautifulislam.net/articles/american_parents.htm

"Hooray for gay-rights and the yearly gay-pride parades held in most major cities of the US. If you're fortunate enough not to know what a gay-pride parade is, allow me to ruin your day. It's a procession of cars, decorated floats, dancers, near-naked hijras and brainwashed heterosexuals who are proud to be part of a sin so severe that it caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah."

Is this not homophobic?

Posted by: yasser1 | November 1, 2009 3:18 PM
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To the Post Contest Czars -- few of these winners measure up to the finer pundits out there. For example, see http://www.marcmusing.blogspot.com/ to read something truly memorable.

Posted by: OldEnough2Remember | November 1, 2009 2:44 PM
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This time I'm more on the fence. She told me something I didn't know -- Brownie Wise started product parties -- but I'm reluctant to say there really are more women then men networking on the web. First, because the web was begat by DarpaNet -- a military network created and used by scientists and engineers -- largely men in those days. Second, yes it's fun to face book, just like it's fun to meet for coffee. Different venue, same fix. Is this sort of sweeping generalization what I'm seeking in a pundit? Probably not. Feminist that I am, I hate to say it but my top four choices are led by two men followed by two women -- older men, younger women! (Only because for some reason older or even middle-aged women didn't make the WP down-select.) Maybe I'm just getting crotchety in my old age, but I prefer a pundit with some life experience beyond academic theory. And, she if she really worked at Treasury on counter-terrorism? Is that smart to say in such a public forum?

BTW, since when did elections get to be "sexy?" Nothing sexy about 'em as far as I can tell...

Posted by: OldEnough2Remember | November 1, 2009 2:22 PM
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Interesting to have a commentator who actually understands the cyber world out there and isn't afraid of it. This is what is meant by a new voice.

Posted by: bagsl79 | November 1, 2009 12:32 PM
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rosieboa wrote: [Man, people are REALLY harsh in their comments!! Makes you wonder if theirs was one of the 4790 rejected entries...]

Wonder no more, rosieboa. I am one of the losers. Now the rest of you need to 'fess up. It's good for the spirit. All of us know we are better writers than those who were chosen, and can take satisfaction in that fact whilst licking our wounds and taking pot shots that don't have to be limited to 400 words--that's the really great part.

We also know we were rejected by the same people who ran an editorial entitled:
"Our Laureate--Neda of Iran," and I take real comfort in that fact.

I think most of the "losers" as we like to refer to ourselves, are staying away from the contest in droves. And that's a real shame. What does it matter whether you're writing on the top or the bottom of the page? If you like to write and share ideas, you will do it, anyway. The comments sections are the heart and soul
of this paper. You can hide behind them and make petty comments, or you can use them to challenge the writers or their facts. I like to do all of those things.

Posted by: martymar123 | November 1, 2009 9:05 AM
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I wish she were not right, but I think she is. I have paid a social price for being one of the last Facebook hold-outs among my friends. It's where the online action is.
Now if we could only figure out how to get people away from computers and texting, and looking into each others' eyes again. Will not happen again in my lifetime! I still think of all of us old people sitting around the table at a graduation party we were holding for a niece. The celebrant sat there with us but could not be bothered to talk to family members, preferring to send and receive text messages while we gave up precious week-end hours to congratulate her. And this is a very, very nice girl, with loads of potential. I am too old to get it, and too tired to want to learn.

Posted by: martymar123 | November 1, 2009 8:48 AM
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@RosieBoa, regarding "bias" comment.
The article is about using social media to push policy. The subject matter is legitimate for either side of the debate. Republicans should be using this tactic as well. So, the reason why I say it is biased is because it is written as only a suggestive method for the Obama Administration. Okay, fine. But if she is going to pick sides of an issue, put something in the article that addresses the substance of the issue to support her side. She presumes the reader is for Obama-care.

Posted by: beckycamara | November 1, 2009 8:17 AM
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This is quite good. [Man, people are REALLY harsh in their comments!! Makes you wonder if theirs was one of the 4790 rejected entries...]

In general, "Something neat about women that you may not know" isn't my all-time favorite topic when it comes to my recreational magazine/newspaper/blog reading, just because genuinely fresh perspectives and original insight are so hard to come by (and of course, nearly impossible to develop in 400 words). That said, I totally agree with the person who said that the tupperware to health care thing works in this piece. This was a cute angle, led up to a good point, and I wanted to read more.

I'm surprised to see the comments of "bias" and lack of "critical thinking skills" for what seems such an innocuous topic, and an uncontroversial treatment/thesis. If anything, I would have liked the author to include more opinion, or be a little more forceful with it.

Bottom line, people, this is one of the only entries that actually reads like an op-ed in a major national newspaper. This author has real potential -- I look forward to her next piece.

Posted by: rosieboa | November 1, 2009 7:30 AM
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congrats on being top 10. I'm more interested in a political policy perspective when reading an editorial rather than suggesting campaign techniques to build public support. your article is biased without giving us substance.

Posted by: beckycamara | October 31, 2009 11:31 PM
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This essay betrays poor critical thinking skills. In her effort to make a point about the potential utility of women on assisting the Administration to push her own preferred solution to whatever she sees as the problems with the current health care system, Khan makes the disrespectful suggestion that all women think alike.
All women do not march lockstep to the same beat and the so-called "reforms" offered by Obamacare may be detrimental to the interests of most of them, especially in the age group currently on Medicare, or approaching eligibility. They oppose the Democrats plans by 2 to 1. They are tearing up the internet to defeat the plans in Congress.

It is further demeaning to women to assume that they consider health care the number one issue facing the country. Only the Obama Administration and its supporters make that claim. The gender gap has narrowed significantly as women have become more knowledgeable about economic matters. Health care is usually well down the list after a group of economic and even national security concerns in all responsible polling.

Posted by: parkbench | October 31, 2009 10:55 PM
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SMART GAL.

Admittedly, I've joined but do not use Facebook. I still can't figure out how to use the darn thing!

But, that aside, I believe this gal has a very valid and voracious point.

I recommend she keep calling and emailing the White House, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, and other key Democrats, until someone listens!

An emphatic two thumbs up!

Posted by: kentuckywoman2 | October 31, 2009 7:12 PM
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Well written. It's difficult to flesh out an idea in 400 words, but I'd be interested to know the author's thoughts on where such a movement might take us.

Posted by: bostskin | October 31, 2009 6:01 PM
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Common_Cents1 says "Obese middle aged school teachers are very expensive to insure because of their drain on the provider system."

Wow! How to lose friends and insult people! If there were a prize for offensive comments, this would be in the top three. What a grumpy old guy this commentor must be. Why pick on school teachers?..there must be a story there.

I thought this was an interesting piece and had the virtue of being true. The fact that she was chewed up by some people because she didn't bog down a limited length essay with a lot of statistics or answer all the tea baggers' objections to health care shows more about those who commented than it does about her. The fact is, opinion pieces are not exhaustively researched, footnoted dissertations. They are...uh, OPINION pieces.

This is not my favorite essay, but it is a lot better than some of the regular columnists that I read in this paper and others.

Posted by: donrus1 | October 31, 2009 5:01 PM
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I have three points:
1. The number of older women on fb may be growing at a phenomenal rate, but from what base? Moving from 2 to 5 is a 150% increase, but isn't exactly useful from a political mobilization standpoint. 2. Also, being on fb isn't the same as using it. What are the fb statistics on active users? I'm curious because the majority of my over-40 female fb friends hardly use it. 3. For an online social network to be politically useful, it has to be given a message that's easy to pass along (like "Yes We Can"). There's nothing easy about deciphering a 1,000+ page piece of legislation.

Posted by: MsJS | October 31, 2009 3:55 PM
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I like Gyamfi's, Huffman's and Khan's entries from this round (not necessarily in that order).

Posted by: ralphie4 | October 31, 2009 2:53 PM
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Critical premising is lacking in the argument.

" It is no surprise that the urgency of health-care reform has not struck a chord with them. Women, on the other hand, are the dominant drivers in the household when it comes to health-care and understand firsthand the problems with the current system."

One could also say that women are the 'victims' of media induced hysteria concerning health scares and emotional charges into health food stores for some kind of nostrum.

so which 'system' are we talking about?

The one which has a herd of women crowding into their 'therapists' to discuss this or that 'concern' at $100/hr...billable to a health insurance provider?

Or the other one which has odd tubes of ointment and supplements that 'prevent' this or that health threat?

Or the one which results in very expensive 'preventative' examinations that may not be all that useful?

Women are a very expensive component in health care reform...not meeting and 'treating' their supposed needs; but in reducing the enormous cost to the system they now present.

Obese middle aged school teachers are very expensive to insure because of their drain on the provider system.

Care to first document the drain then 'plain' why?

Posted by: Common_Cents1 | October 31, 2009 2:35 PM
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For readability, I would have preferred to start with the Tupperware story. It's close to home, and establishes the notion of women's networking, so that there's fewer transitions between the big picture and the parochial small picture from which you draw guidance.

I don't really get the guiding principle, however. Obama should appeal more to women? To social-networking software? To face-to-face retail politics? I don't grasp a clear thesis.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 31, 2009 12:43 PM
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Interesting theme. Good editing will sharpen the writing. No editing can sharpen thinking! Your comment to the Obama administration shows the latter ability, which would also make yours a column with potential. Keep it up.

Posted by: marthapage | October 31, 2009 12:23 PM
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Social networking will not solve the problem the Obama admin faces with healthcare reform. The problem is the plan remains a mystery, which is not only dangerous it's scary.
I don't know of any intelligent women who would buy insurance without knowing the coverage and exclusions, let alone intentionally attempt to convince others of its merit.

Posted by: Lizadoo2little | October 31, 2009 11:46 AM
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WaPo's web gnomes messed up the excerpt for this entry:

"The Post picked 10 contestants from about 4,800 entrants to move on to the next round of competition. Here's what finalist Zeba Khan wrote in her initial entry:It may have been the youth that used the web to elect President..."

Unless this a new way to bury the lede.

Posted by: whowhat | October 31, 2009 9:20 AM
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I've posted on several of these but my comments don't appear.

Posted by: martymar123 | October 31, 2009 8:55 AM
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Well, I like your column, the neocons who run this paper could use some interaction with an actual Muslim while they constantly demand we bomb and torture and kill them, and you're a fellow Ohioan: as of right now, you've got my vote.

@brucerealtor@gmail.com
The all-caps enhance, rather than diminish, the craziness of your nonsensical rant, you know.

Posted by: brendan_m | October 31, 2009 2:37 AM
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You may win a prize for viewing things through the lens that is, at the moment, the politically correct lens.

By the time you're 50, you'll be yesterday's news.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | October 31, 2009 1:46 AM
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Cool. Tupperware parties for health care reform. It kinda works I think.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 31, 2009 1:22 AM
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ARE WE MOBILIZING THOSE WITH PLENTY OF EXTRA TIME, OR THOSE WITH HIGHER SKILL SETS ???

BOTH WILL HAVE TIME ISSUES,

BUT BEING A DEMOCRACY [1 PERSON, 1 VOTE] IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM BEING A REPUBLIC [WEALTH, PROPERTY OWNERSHIP OR ADVANCED LEARNING, 1 VOTE]

WHAT IS OUR OBJECTIVE ANYWAY. THE RULE OF UNEDUCATED MASSES, OR ENLIGHTENED LEADERSHIP BALANCED IN THE REAL WORLD [LIKE CHENEY].

DEMOCRACY IS ABOUT, GIVE ME, GIVE, ME -- PAYMENT FOR THIS IS 'OPTIONAL,' IT SEEMS.

A REPUBLIC IS ABOUT PAYING FOR WHAT YOU GET HONESTLY.

HOW MANY LIVES DID OBAMA SAVE TODAY BY NOT DRIVING HIS CAR IN WASHINGTON ??? NOT A JOKE, EVEN IF IT SEEMS TO BE ONE DUE TO 'FUZZY MATH.'

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | October 31, 2009 1:17 AM
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I concur. A related aside, just take a look at the growth in mom-blogs. Women dominate the blogosphere.

Posted by: citizenme | October 30, 2009 11:42 PM
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