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Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins

Overview
Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins (August 30, 1944 – January 31, 2007) was an American newspaper columnist
Columnist
A columnist is a journalist who writes for publication in a series, creating an article that usually offers commentary and opinions. Columns appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, including blogs....

, populist
Populism
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

, political commentator, humorist and author.

Ivins was born in Monterey
Monterey, California
The City of Monterey in Monterey County is located on Monterey Bay along the Pacific coast in Central California. Monterey lies at an elevation of 26 feet above sea level. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 27,810. Monterey is of historical importance because it was the capital of...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and raised in Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

. Her father Jim Ivins, known as "General Jim" because of his rigid authoritarianism (or sometimes "Admiral Jim" for his love of sailing), was an oil and gas executive, and the family lived in Houston's affluent River Oaks neighborhood.
Ivins graduated from St.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people. As long as you don’t think about what that peculiar body should be doing and what it actually is doing to the quality of life in Texas, then it’s all marvelous fun. Texas Observer|Texas Observer, Notes from a rookie, March 26, 1971.

There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity... The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That's what I do. —quoted in People magazine interview, 1991. "The Mouth of Texas." People Weekly, Dec. 9, 1991.

On a personal note: I have contracted an outstanding case of breast cancer, from which I intend to recover. I don’t need get-well cards, but I would like the beloved women readers to do something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Done. Dec. 14, 1999 syndicated column

"The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention."

Encyclopedia
Mary Tyler "Molly" Ivins (August 30, 1944 – January 31, 2007) was an American newspaper columnist
Columnist
A columnist is a journalist who writes for publication in a series, creating an article that usually offers commentary and opinions. Columns appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, including blogs....

, populist
Populism
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

, political commentator, humorist and author.

Early life and education


Ivins was born in Monterey
Monterey, California
The City of Monterey in Monterey County is located on Monterey Bay along the Pacific coast in Central California. Monterey lies at an elevation of 26 feet above sea level. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 27,810. Monterey is of historical importance because it was the capital of...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and raised in Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

. Her father Jim Ivins, known as "General Jim" because of his rigid authoritarianism (or sometimes "Admiral Jim" for his love of sailing), was an oil and gas executive, and the family lived in Houston's affluent River Oaks neighborhood.
Ivins graduated from St. John's School in 1962. In high school, she was active in extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activity
Extracurricular activities are activities performed by students that fall outside the realm of the normal curriculum of school or university education...

, including the yearbook staff. She had her first pieces of journalism published in The Review, the official student newspaper
Student newspaper
A student newspaper is a newspaper run by students of a university, high school, middle school, or other school. These papers traditionally cover local and, primarily, school or university news....

 of St. John's School, though she never wrote any of the political columns that would become her specialty later in life. Ivins later became co-editor of the arts and culture section of the student paper. In addition, she frequently participated in theater productions and earned a lifetime membership to Johnnycake, the drama club.

Ivins enrolled in Scripps College
Scripps College
Scripps College is a progressive liberal arts women's college in Claremont, California, United States. It is a member of the Claremont Colleges. Scripps ranks 3rd for the nation's best women's college, ahead of Barnard College, Mount Holyoke College, and Bryn Mawr College at 23rd on the list for...

 in 1962 but was not happy there, and transferred to Smith College
Smith College
Smith College is a private, independent women's liberal arts college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters...

 in 1963. During this time, she became romantically involved with Henry "Hank" Holland, Jr., a family friend, and then a student at Yale, whom she referred to as "the love of my life." When he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1964, her friends would later say that she never seemed to find anyone else who could replace his memory, and she never married. She spent her junior year at the Institute of Political Science in Paris, and received her B.A. in history in 1966. She earned a master's degree at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

's school of journalism in 1967.

Professional life


While at Smith, Ivins spent three summers as an intern at the Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
The Houston Chronicle is the largest daily newspaper in Texas, USA, headquartered in the Houston Chronicle Building in Downtown Houston. , it is the ninth-largest newspaper by circulation in the United States...

. Her jobs there included the complaint department as well as "sewer editor," as she put it, responsible for reporting on the nuts and bolts of local city life.

After graduating from Columbia, she took a job in the Twin Cities at the Minneapolis Tribune, where she covered "militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."

In 1970 Ivins left the Tribune for Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...

 to be the co-editor and political reporter for the Texas Observer. She covered the Texas Legislature
Texas Legislature
The Legislature of the state of Texas is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Texas. The legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The Legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin...

 and befriended folklorist John Henry Faulk
John Henry Faulk
John Henry Faulk from Austin, Texas was a storyteller and radio show host. His successful lawsuit against blacklisters of the entertainment industry helped to bring an end to the Hollywood blacklist.-Early life:...

, Secretary of State Bob Bullock
Bob Bullock
Robert Douglas Bullock, known as Bob Bullock , was a Democratic politician from Texas, whose career spanned four decades. His service culminated in his term as Lieutenant Governor of Texas from January 15, 1991–January 19, 1999 during the terms of Governors Ann Richards and George W...

 and future Governor Ann Richards
Ann Richards
Dorothy Ann Willis Richards was an American politician from Texas. She first came to national attention as the state treasurer of Texas, when she delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Richards served as the 45th Governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995 and was...

, among others. She also gained increasing national attention through op-ed and feature stories in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

and The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

along with a busy speaking schedule inside and outside Texas. The Times, concerned that its prevailing writing style was too staid and lifeless, hired her away from the Observer in 1976, and she wrote for the Times until 1982. During her run there, Ivins became Rocky Mountain
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 bureau chief, covering nine western states, although the writer was known to say she was named chief because there was no one else in the bureau. Ivins also wrote the obituary for Elvis Presley in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

for the August 17, 1977 edition. Generally, her more colorful writing style clashed with the editors' expectations, and in 1980, after she wrote about a "community chicken-killing festival" in New Mexico and called it a "gang-pluck," she was recalled to New York as punishment. When Abe Rosenthal, editor of the Times, accused her of trying to inspire readers to think "dirty thoughts" with these words, her response was, "Damn if I could fool you, Mr. Rosenthal." One friend saw her rebellion against the Times authority structure as a continuation of her rebellion against her father's authority. In late 1981, after receiving an offer from the Dallas Times Herald
Dallas Times Herald
The Dallas Times Herald, founded in 1888 by a merger of the Dallas Times and the Dallas Herald, was once one of two major daily newspapers serving the Dallas, Texas area. It won three Pulitzer Prizes, all for photography, and two George Polk Awards, for local and regional reporting...

to write a column about anything she liked, Ivins left New York for Dallas.

Ivins wrote for the Dallas Times Herald
Dallas Times Herald
The Dallas Times Herald, founded in 1888 by a merger of the Dallas Times and the Dallas Herald, was once one of two major daily newspapers serving the Dallas, Texas area. It won three Pulitzer Prizes, all for photography, and two George Polk Awards, for local and regional reporting...

for ten years, although by 1985 the editors had moved her to the paper's Austin bureau to reduce friction with Dallas city leaders. Her freelance work and speaking engagements continued to grow, and she hired Elizabeth Faulk, John Henry Faulk's widow, as a personal assistant. In 1991, her book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? was published, and spent 29 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Also in 1991, rival newspaper Dallas Morning News bought the Times Herald and closed it down. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is a major U.S. daily newspaper serving Fort Worth and the western half of the North Texas area known as the Metroplex. Its area of domination is checked by its main rival, The Dallas Morning News, which is published from the eastern half of the Metroplex. It is owned...

immediately made Ivins an offer and said she could stay in Austin. Ivins accepted, and wrote a column for the Fort Worth paper from 1992 until 2001, when she became an independent journalist. Her column, syndicated by Creators Syndicate, eventually appeared in nearly 400 newspapers nationwide.

Ivins also remained a board member and contributor to the Texas Democracy Foundation, which publishes the Texas Observer in Austin.

In 1995, humorist Florence King
Florence King
Florence Virginia King is an American novelist, essayist and columnist.While her early writings focused on the American South and those who live there, much of King's later work has been published in National Review...

 wrote in a The American Enterprise column that Ivins had plagiarized King's work and mis-stated a quotation from a King column in a 1988 Mother Jones article. David Rubien, writing in Salon
Salon.com
Salon.com, part of Salon Media Group , often just called Salon, is an online liberal magazine, with content updated each weekday. Salon was founded by David Talbot and launched on November 20, 1995. It was the internet's first online-only commercial publication. The magazine focuses on U.S...

, described the incident: "In a 1995 article for Mother Jones on Southern manners and mores, she extensively quoted, with affectionate attribution, statements from Florence King's book Southern Ladies and Gentlemen. But for some careless reason Ivins still fails to comprehend, she left the attribution off a few King statements." Ivins wrote a letter of apology to King, but characteristically ended it with:"...boy you really are a mean bitch, aren't you? Sincerely, Molly Ivins, plagiarist." King published Ivins's apology and her own reply in a later article.

Death


In 1999, Ivins was diagnosed with stage III
Cancer staging
The stage of a cancer is a description of the extent the cancer has spread. The stage often takes into account the size of a tumor, how deeply it has penetrated, whether it has invaded adjacent organs, how many lymph nodes it has metastasized to , and whether it has spread to distant organs...

 inflammatory breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is an especially aggressive type of breast cancer that can occur in women of any age .It is called inflammatory because it frequently presents with symptoms resembling an inflammation...

. The cancer recurred in 2003 and again in late 2005. In January 2006 she reported that she was again undergoing chemotherapy
Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with an antineoplastic drug or with a combination of such drugs into a standardized treatment regimen....

. In December 2006 she took leave from her column to again undergo treatment. She wrote two columns in January 2007, but returned to the hospital on the 26th for further treatment. Ivins died at her Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...

 home in hospice care on January 31, 2007, at age 62.

After her death, George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

, a frequent target of her barbs, said in a statement, "I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment will be missed."

Writing style


Writing from an unabashed populist
Populism
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

 perspective, Ivins repeatedly described herself as a populist and, on some occasions, as a left-libertarian
Left-libertarianism
Left-libertarianism names several related but distinct approaches to politics, society, culture, and political and social theory, which stress equally both individual freedom and social justice.-Schools of thought:...

. Ivins peppered her columns with colorful phrases to create the "feel" of Texas. Her writing styles sometimes conflicted with her previous words, even in the same passage. "I'm not anti-gun... Ban the damn things. Ban them all." When outraged by instances of what she considered malfeasance or stupidity on the part of public officials, she couched her argument in an air of stunned amusement. She enjoyed telling stories about the Texas Legislature
Texas Legislature
The Legislature of the state of Texas is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Texas. The legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The Legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin...

, which she simply called "The Lege", calling it one of the most corrupt, incompetent, and funniest governing bodies in the nation—a well she dipped from on a regular basis. For example:
Practice, practice, practice, that's what Texas provides when it comes to sleaze and stink. Who can forget such great explanations as "Well, I'll just make a little bit of money, I won't make a whole lot"? And "There was never a Bible in the room"?


In 2003, she coined the term "Great Liberal Backlash of 2003," and was a passionate critic of the 2003 Iraq War. She is also credited with applying the nickname "Shrub" to George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

.

Quotations


On the subject of Pat Buchanan
Pat Buchanan
Patrick Joseph "Pat" Buchanan is an American paleoconservative political commentator, author, syndicated columnist, politician and broadcaster. Buchanan was a senior adviser to American Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, and was an original host on CNN's Crossfire. He sought...

's famously combative "culture war speech"
Culture war
The culture war in American usage is a metaphor used to claim that political conflict is based on sets of conflicting cultural values. The term frequently implies a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal...

 at the 1992 Republican Convention, which attracted controversy over Buchanan's aggressive rhetoric against Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

, liberals, supporters of reproductive
Pro-choice
Support for the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-choice movement, a sociopolitical movement supporting the ethical view that a woman should have the legal right to elective abortion, meaning the right to terminate her pregnancy....

 and gay rights, and for his comparison of American politics to religious war
Religious war
A religious war; Latin: bellum sacrum; is a war caused by, or justified by, religious differences. It can involve one state with an established religion against another state with a different religion or a different sect within the same religion, or a religiously motivated group attempting to...

fare, Ivins famously quipped that the speech had "probably sounded better in the original German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

," implicitly comparing Buchanan to Nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

.

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war...We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'" (from her last column)

"Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that."

"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."—quoted by John Nichols
John Nichols (journalist)
John Nichols is an American journalist and author. He is a political correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times. Books authored or co-authored by Nichols include: The Genius of Impeachment and The Death and Life of American Journalism.- Biography :Nichols holds a...

 for The Nation
The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

Original source: "The Fun's in the Fight" column for Mother Jones, 1993.

On Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

: "If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal." (Introduction to You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You)

On James M. Collins
James M. Collins
James Mitchell Collins, often known as Jim Collins , was a Republican who represented the Third Congressional District of Texas from 1968-1983. The district was based at the time about Irving in Dallas County....

, US Representative, R-Dallas: "If his IQ slips any lower we'll have to water him twice a day." Collins had said that the current energy crisis could be averted if "...we didn't use all that gas on school busing..." Ivins' quote engendered substantial controversy, with calls and letters pouring into her newspaper, The Dallas Times Herald. The newspaper turned the controversy into a publicity campaign, with billboards all over the city asking, "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?"—which she later employed as the title for her first book.

On George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

, she likened him to a post turtle
Post turtle
Post turtle is a phrase that has been used in political discussion of various countries, including the U.S. and Canada, based on an old joke. Various politicians have been referenced by the joke or used the joke, including George W Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Stephen Harper.-The joke:An...

.

"Of Bush's credentials as an economic conservative, there is no question at all - he owes his political life to big corporate money; he's a CEO's wet dream. He carries their water, he's stumpbroke - however you put it, George W. Bush is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America. ... We can find no evidence that it has ever occurred to him to question whether it is wise to do what big business wants."

Awards

  • William Allen White
    William Allen White
    William Allen White was a renowned American newspaper editor, politician, author, and leader of the Progressive movement...

     Award from the University of Kansas
    University of Kansas
    The University of Kansas is a public research university and the largest university in the state of Kansas. KU campuses are located in Lawrence, Wichita, Overland Park, and Kansas City, Kansas with the main campus being located in Lawrence on Mount Oread, the highest point in Lawrence. The...

     (2001)
  • Smith Medal from Smith College (2001)
  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

     (2001)
  • Ivan Allen Jr.
    Ivan Allen Jr.
    Ivan Allen, Jr., was a U.S. businessman and Democratic political figure most notable for serving two terms as the 52nd Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia during the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s.-Biography:...

     Prize for Progress and Service (2003)
  • Pringle Prize for Washington Journalism from Columbia University
    Columbia University
    Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

     (2003)
  • Eugene V. Debs
    Eugene V. Debs
    Eugene Victor Debs was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World , and several times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States...

     Award in the field of journalism (2003)
  • David Brower Award for journalism from the Sierra Club
    Sierra Club
    The Sierra Club is the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892, in San Francisco, California, by the conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president...

     (2004)
  • David Nyhan
    David Nyhan
    David Nyhan was a journalist and biographer whose op-ed column ran in The Boston Globe newspaper for many years.After working for The Boston Globe for 32 years, he retired in 2001....

     Prize for Political Journalism from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy
    Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy
    The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, named after Joan Shorenstein, explores the intersection of press, politics and public policy in theory and practice, striving to bridge the gap between journalists and scholars, and between them and the...

     at Harvard University
    Harvard University
    Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

     (2006)
  • The Molly National Journalism Prize from the Texas Democracy Foundation (2006)


In addition to these formal awards, Ivins said that she was particularly proud of two distinct honors: having the Minneapolis
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis , nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States...

 police force's mascot
Mascot
The term mascot – defined as a term for any person, animal, or object thought to bring luck – colloquially includes anything used to represent a group with a common public identity, such as a school, professional sports team, society, military unit, or brand name...

 pig named after her, and being banned from the Texas A&M
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University is a coeducational public research university located in College Station, Texas . It is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System. The sixth-largest university in the United States, A&M's enrollment for Fall 2011 was over 50,000 for the first time in school...

 campus.

In Huntsville, TX each year the Walker County Democrat Club has a Charity Dinner in honor of Molly Ivins.

External links