Sunday, January 22, 2012


Let me start off this rant by saying I don't particularly like agreeing with Newt Gingrich and my few right wing friends. But even though I think they blame too much on the mainstream media, and are over the top in their conspiracy theories about the media, I do think the clever, sarcastic phrase, "lamestream media" fits what has happened to what was once a respectable voice for freedom in the world.

When I was a radio journalist over thirty years ago, there were standards in place that have been completely thrown out the window since. I know the 24/7 nature of cable news has caused some of this, but I don't think that can excuse the total loss of objectivity and authenticity. Back in my day, every major news organization had a fact-checking or research department. When I was doing an investigative report, say for NBC Radio or KYW or WINS, the all-news stations I worked for in Philadelphia and New York, I couldn't just put something on the air without having it checked out by several sources. Then I had to run it by an editor whose responsibility was to see whether it was true, really new, and important for the public to know.

Budget cuts have eliminated most fact-checking and research departments today. A big contributing factor is the rush to get things on the air, as well as the rush to judgement. Over and over again, we see media repeating outright lies from public figures, or ignoring truths that are very easily obtainable. To me, the most amazing thing today's news organizations do is report something that can easily be contradicted by information available in their own archives. They are just too lazy to look. Many of today's political candidates are guilty of the same lapse, making statements that are proven to be lies when you go into the files and play back their own words captured on video for all to see and hear. It's as if they are totally ignorant of the permanence of anything they've said publicly in the past. Or maybe they are just depending on the stupidity and laziness of the media preventing anyone from looking it up or checking it out.

For years now, I have winced watching network news reports (which I no longer watch) where there is no sense that the anchor or reporter involved has any background knowledge of the subject he or she is reporting on. Huge historical inaccuracies occur almost on a daily basis. Of course, with Google and other online search engines available today, it is easy to catch media types and political types in their blunders. I don't think it's a conspiracy at all, but rather a failure of respect for the truth and refusal to dig up the full story before any part of it is delivered to an audience.

Just as egregious is the failure to follow up on important stories, especially in the political arena. When I was covering the Virginia Governor's news conferences as a newsman for WRVA in Richmond, it was my job to pick out the sentence or paragraph that was most newsworthy and most revealing. This, along with going through reams of AP newspaper wire reports, helped develop the skill of editorial discernment--figuring out what was worth following up on, checking out, and reporting on the air. Today, I catch some astonishing bits of news that never seem to be caught by anyone else. For instance, while I am not a fan and rarely listen to the Laura Ingraham conservative radio show, she had an exchange on her show this past Friday that had a major contender for the Republican presidential nomination admit to a lie that has been repeated often and loudly--that the economy has gotten worse under President Obama. Newt Gingrich repeated it several times today on Sunday news shows in his victory lap after winning the South Carolina primary. She was talking to Mitt Romney, and here is the exchange, which I just listened to again to make sure I was accurately transcribing it:
Laura Ingraham: Isn't it a hard argument to make if you're saying, "Okay, he inherited this recession, and he took a bunch of steps to try to turn the economy around, and now we're seeing some more jobs, but vote against him anyway?" Isn't that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough contrast?.

Mitt Romney: Have you got a better one, Laura? (nervous laughter) It just happens to be the truth!

As might be expected, Rachel Maddow caught this and reported it on her show on MSNBC, but none of the so-called mainstream media seems to have even noticed what could be a major game-changer, and certainly could be the foundation for an Obama campaign ad.

I rest my case.
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Friday, January 20, 2012


I think Thursday, January 19, 2012 will go down in history in American politics. About as officially as anything can happen, the Republican primary battle changed from a race to a farce, with even top conservative voices starting to use the funny-but-deadly analogy that has up to now been the province of comedians and Democrats: "Clown Car."

Perhaps conservative Republican pundit, and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter and Special Assistant, Peggy Noonan, said it best in today's Wall Street Journal:

"We all know politics ain't beanbag, but it's not supposed to be a clown-car Indy 500 with cars hitting the wall and guys in wigs littering the track."

And in a Washington Post op-ed column today, titled THE GOP'S SUICIDE MARCH, conservative icon Charles Krauthammer wrote:

"The President is a very smart man. But if he wins in November, that won't be the reason. It will be luck. He could not have chosen more self-destructive adversaries."

On MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning, former conservative Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, pointed out a pretty uncomfortable fact, in a campaign punctuated by more fantasy than fact. He noted that the deficit went up by a trillion dollars in 2011, the first full year in which Republicans controlled Congress and the purse strings, and a higher debt increase than in 2010. And their main campaign focus against Obama is that he is a big spending, big government president.

I won't even go into last night's ABC interview with Newt Gingrich's 2nd wife, in which she said he asked her to consider an open marriage as he had another woman in his life. He denied the story when CNN foolishly gave him an opening to get a standing ovation by putting that "he said, she said" question to him as the opener to the final South Carolina debate. And if it's true, I may upset some folks, especially some sanctimonious folks, by suggesting this is more loving and honest than just tossing his wife aside with no options.
If this weren't such a silly season, far more attention and contemplation would be focused on the question posed by leading evangelical spokesman James Dobson, when he asked whether America was ready for a first lady who was a mistress for eight years.

It is no accident that comedian Stephen Colbert's mock Republican run is gaining so much traction. He has a higher favorability rating than any of the current GOP candidates. I admire President Obama's restraint in not going on national television and doing a funky victory dance.

A couple of my furthest far right friends think I am, as they have put it, "an Obama lover." Not true. While I think he has been a far better president and done more to turn the economy around than John McCain and Sarah Palin would have, I also think he has stumbled a lot, not taken charge of his message, not made his mission clear to the American people, and certainly not taken full advantage of the obstructionist Republican House's blatant disregard for the public welfare in favor of stopping him at any costs.

The current disarray of Republican candidates is a direct result of the oafish Anyone But Obama campaign, which spawned the "birther" idiocy, and the fiasco over the debt ceiling and, more recently, the payroll tax debate. I know it's a contrarian view, but I believe that more rational Republicans like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, and Tim Pawlenty have opted out of running against Obama because they realize, in their wisdom, that once the dust settles and the truth comes out, Obama will be unbeatable. And they'd like to start clean with a run for the White House in 2016.

My personal preference? I would love to see be successful in their efforts to have the first direct presidential election online. This is a nonpartisan, visionary experiment in democracy. The organizers want the presidential and vice-presidential candidates to come from different political parties, and they already have more than half the signatures they need to get their effort on the ballot in all fifty states. It would be nice to have a grown-up campaign. Obama will be on the ballot, but I think we all will be better off is he is having an intelligent discussion with a credible opponent rather than acting as ringmaster for that Indy 500 clown-car race.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Okay, it was a hard decision. As an author and voracious reader, I have been resisting buying an electronic ebook reader for some time. I like the feel of a book in my hand, and through the years I have collected and saved thousands of books. In recent years, partly because of twelve years of incarceration, I lost most of my book collection. And while in prison, every book I had sent in by a friend, or managed to borrow or barter from fellow inmates was a precious gift to be savored and valued. But then, in recent months, several people have suggested I approach about re-issuing the original Moneylove in an e-edition for Kindle. So, I wanted to at least get a sense of what reading a book on a Kindle would be like.

Just before the end of 2011, as a gift for myself, I took advantage of the new lowest price model offered at $79. I was especially drawn to it after reading several reviews that said it was the best model out there because it only weighed six ounces. It doesn't have a touch screen like the new Fire and other higher-priced Kindles have, but I don't even use the touchpad on my MacPro, so that was no concern. I don't really know how it compares with other e-readers like the Nook, but have had many dealings with Amazon and have always been satisfied with their service, including their rapid no-questions-asked return policy.

It's been a month now and I find that reading a book on my new machine is as easy, probably easier, than reading a paperback book, and less cumbersome by far than a hardcover. Before it even arrived, I got a library card and checked out borrowing Kindle editions from the library. You can do it in seconds online, and keep them for two to three weeks, at the end of which they just are automatically removed from your Kindle, with no effort at all. As part of the ads and offers that appear when my Kindle is in the sleep mode (otherwise it would cost $100--and these ads only appear when the machine is not used to read books and is turned on) I got an offer to buy one book from a list of 100 for $1. So far, this is my only expenditure other than the original $79 (with free shipping) cost. Meanwhile, I now have 150 books stored in my Kindle, with room for a total of 1400 volumes. This includes a couple of library books, including John Grisham's newest, The Litigators, and a number of the free selections Amazon offers every day.

I like mysteries, and they have at least 100 mysteries that are free on any given day. This is smart marketing, in that they often offer the first book in a mystery series free, and if you fall in love with the author and series, additional volumes are about $9.99 each. However, with so many to choose from free and on loan from the two library systems I belong to, I doubt I'll be buying many books.

Amazon also offers hundreds of books in the public domain free for Kindle. I am catching up on classics I may have missed, including Mark Twain and Jane Austin and Charles Dickens, plus some of the early mystery and thriller writers I've meant to explore, like Edgar Wallace, G.K. Chesterton, and John Buchan of The 39 Steps fame. I've been pretty selective about building my library so far, but have added books by Aristotle, Plato, William James, Andrew Carnegie, Thoreau and Emerson. I still intend to buy and read books, but very, very carefully. I don't have a lot of storage room, and want to stay mobile as my travel plans are uncertain over the next few years. I'm not even sure where I'll be living in a year or two, so it will be nice not to have to lug boxes of books with me, just a device I can easily fit in my pocket.

With such authors as Timothy Ferriss choosing Amazon and the Kindle format as their primary publishing outlet, this is obviously going to revolutionize the book business. I'm not sure whether this will be good or bad, and certainly publishing has been changing before this latest technical development. Whatever impact it has on my own writing career, it already has been a delightful personal experience. How many cultural breakthroughs come along that make life a lot easier and less expensive while offering a major expansion of choices?


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Sunday, January 1, 2012


Well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that most people don't really don't take advantage of the opportunities offered by a brand new year. Sure, we make resolutions and perhaps take stock of our lives and look at how the last year has been, but in terms of making major changes, or developing new perspectives, most people have a pretty dismal record.

I just berated myself for doing something that I would call, "same old, same old." It wasn't anything criminal or even destructive to me or anyone else, it was just an old habit and I had a clear intention to start out this new year with a whole new set of behaviors and perceptions and actions.

So I decided to make up for my backsliding by actually doing something on this first day of the new year that I have never done before--something I have thought about doing over a number of years, but for some reason have never taken the plunge. It wasn't anything monumental or earth-shaking, but it was something new, something different, and involves somewhat of a risk. You may think it's silly when I tell you.

I placed an order with Omaha Steaks after years of getting their mailings. I've heard their food is good quality, and it was a pretty amazing $49.95 offer. But I'm not even sure I will be able to fit it all in the freezer I share with three housemates. And I'm not sure I will even be able to prepare all of it, since our oven hasn't worked in a couple of years, and I have to cook food in a fry pan or in the microwave. Steaks and stuffed sole and pork chops and stuffed potatoes, gourmet franks and steak burgers and a six piece cutlery set will be a fun package to receive in a week or so. It is something new, after all, and it helps underline that 2012 is also brand new and gives me many new opportunities to reboot myself and my life.

And on this first day of the new year, I've set myself a task that I will finish before I go to sleep tonight. I am making a list of 10 New Things To Do This Year I Have Never Done Before. And all of them have to be things that I think will meet one of my criteria for living a prosperous life, in that they each will have to bring me Pleasure, Profit, or Knowledge.

I'm adding a task that I can tackle in the coming days and weeks. Once I have that list, and know whether it will bring me some pleasure and fun, or somehow enhance my level of prosperity, or teach me something worthwhile and interesting--then I will try to expand the new thing that I will do to include one or both of the other items. And if I can have it bring me profit, pleasure, and knowledge all at once, that in itself will be a source of fantastic new energy and fulfillment in my life. I invite you to explore this task with me with your own ten new things.
If you aren't a regular reader of my prosperity blog, even this can be a new thing for you this new year.