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With several candidates recently announcing their run for President in the 2016 election, I think it is a good time to discuss this issue.

It’s no secret that our elections have problems here in U.S.A.  First, there is the huge amount of money which corrupts the process.  Then, there is the challenge of getting voters and potential voters to pay attention to the process, not to mention goading the disenchanted and indifferent into taking more of an interest.  Also, third parties and independents are often entirely left out of the process.  Then, there is the potential for voter fraud and low voter turnout.

But what can we do to fix this?

I suggest doing the elections as a “Survivor-style” competition, with free call-in voting.  No negative campaign ads, no campaign contributions, no boring debates, no leaving out third parties and independents.

We can dump all the candidates in the middle of nowhere, and televise it 24/7 for free, while they all fight it out with each other for a few weeks.

“The first one of you to find the WMD hidden in one of these huts can have immunity for the next challenge.”

Viewership would increase, and so would voter turnout.. plus, it would just be fun to watch.

Of course, we run the risk of “the naked guy” winning, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.

The recent debate over a law requiring equal pay for women has touched a personal sore spot.

I recall years ago, when I began working as an administrative assistant for a large insurance company, I was paid about 10% less than the male I was replacing– and I had more administrative experience than he did!  But, at the time, I was young and naive, and it never occurred to me to ask for higher pay.

I was also charged about 20% more for my health coverage, purely because I am a woman, in spite of the fact that I had (and still have) no intention of having children. I actually argued with the inurance rep over this point.  The health insurance rep (also a woman) explained that it made no difference, because there was a chance that I might change my mind. When I asked hypothetically if they still charge more for women who were menopausal, she answered yes. I told her I hoped that someday she would realize how sexist the practice was. Then I paid the extra 20%, because what else could I do?

Women are not charged 20% less for everything for being women, so why should we be paid on average 20% less?

This should be important to men, too. These women are your wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. If they are making equal pay, it is a benefit to the men in their lives too.  When women are making the same pay as men, imagine how much easier it will be to save for your children’s educations, pay your mortgages, or take longer vacations.

Moreover, women make up about half the world’s population, so equality for women is equality for every ethnicity and culture.

And, ladies.. it is time to be bold. If you do not ask, you do not receive. Employers trying to save a few bucks will pay any employee a little less if they can. Don’t be afraid to ask for more; you might be surprised how often you get it!!

Tshirts, buttons, bumper stickers, and hats featuring the phrases “Free Ai Weiwei”, “Where is Ai Weiwei?”, “Love the Future”, and “Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei” are available in the Free_Ai_Weiwei store on

10% of total sales will be donated to charity.

My personal fave is the design with the sunflower– partly because it reminds me of Ai’s sunflower seeds exhibit, and partly because the one prominent petal makes it almost look like the sunflower is giving the bird (something Ai is known to do).   Or maybe that last bit is just in my head.  Does anyone else see it??

The resemblance the petals bear to a flame is nice, too.

If it was possible, this stuff would all be free.  Unfortunately, I currently lack the funds to buy and distribute these by the truckload.

Initially, I was more hesitant to fully boycott all goods made in China, since this often only hurts those whom it is intended to help. Typically, those in power hoard scarce resources and it is the rest of the people who suffer.

However, money seems to be what most understand, better than petitions and protests.

If the tainted pet food, lead-paint toys, and cadmium-covered drinking glasses haven’t convinced you to buy fewer Chinese products (or none at all), perhaps nothing will.  But I will try to convince you anyway.

I admit that I myself have been less than fully conscientious when it comes to buying various personal and household products.  I haven’t always looked at the “Made in” labels, and at times I have gone for the lower price the “Made in China” stamp offers.  No more.

As an artist/individual who has at times been too outspoken for my own good, I can easily imagine myself in a similar position to that of dissidents being “detained” or “re-educated”, which is perhaps why the arrest of Ai Weiwei has struck such a chord.

So, I recently contacted, which handles the art prints and gift merchandise I offer through the soulbearing store, and asked which items are produced in China.  They responded very quickly that all of their product manufacturers must comply with fair labor standards, that many products are made domestically, and that the mugs offered are produced in China but printed here in USA. 

It is important to note that is a fabulous company offering high quality merchandise and prints from many fabulous artists.  However, I cannot in good conscience keep offering items produced in China since I object so strongly to the Chinese government’s current treatment of its own people.  As lovely as some of the mug designs were, and as much as it pained me to cease offering them, I had to ask myself: Which is more important? Humans or mugs?

Of course, it’s a no-brainer.  So, the mugs are no longer available through my store, and if I find that any other products are manufactured in China, I will do “close-outs” and cease offering those items too.

I realize it is only a drop in the bucket.  But, while I doubt my individual act of protest will make a huge difference alone, I do hope it will start a trend of boycotting goods made in China, until the Chinese government upholds its promises to allow more free thought and expression.  Enough drops in the bucket can create a flood.

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