Wednesday, August 8, 2012


AUGUST 8, 2012--VANCOUVER, WA--- SINCE BEFORE THE BLUE DRESS, MANY PONDERED how an official's private behavior reflected on their public duties.  Does private behavior have an impact?  What is the actual relationship between private and public behavior?  Should anybody be concerned about what public figures do in private at all? How much weight should the public give to the consideration of private behaviors?

                   There were     those that wondered if it was germane to even consider private behavior.  Others said that it did matter because naughty behaviors increased the risk of blackmail.  This column is about a different take on the matter. Before I can address the issue, you will need some context.

For  two years, I worked on a book on the private lives of many recognizable figures from the Republican and Libertarian parties.  Some of the names frequent the pages and screens of the "above ground" media; Others are strictly Internet fodder.  All have power.  Some exercise it behind the scenes.  Some exercise theirs in more public venues.   They all have the ability to impact your life and mine.  Some already have.

Take Ayn Rand. Some Libertarians see her as the mother of Libertarianism. Actually, there are two other women who truly deserve that title, but they have been eclipsed by the Randians in the Libertarian Party.  Ayn Rand was a mediocre writer of screenplays in Hollywood who penned an excoriating critique of communism that brought her to the attention of a bunch of bankster sociopaths.  Then she wrote the definition guide to being a sociopath: The Fountainhead.   She wrote another book that amplified the same themes which was Anthem.  These were followed by other books and articles including "In Defense of Selfishness" which is the only one that practiced "truth in labeling."

Rand  referred to her verbose apologias for selfishness collectively as The Philosophy of Objectivism.  Much like Scientology tomes, Rand's books are heavy on cliche's and phrases that have become jargon for those seeking a rationale for anti-social behavior.  When I first tried to read these books, I could not believe that any sane person would take them seriously.  The ramifications of everybody doing what they want, when they want seemed manifest to me.  The ultimate result would be utter chaos, destruction and misery for the vast majority and pain-free living for a minority.  That was clear to me even in my youth.  I dismissed Ayn Rand as a repulsive self-aggrandizing and self-indulgent woman.  Clearly, I was wrong.  Lots of people took her poorly-thought out ideas seriously.  They did not bother to extrapolate what applying these ideas on a grand scale meant.

What these ideas meant for the rest of us was spelled out in 2008 when banking took a swan dive off of the top of the biggest banks in New York.  Without getting into the particulars, let's just say that laissez faire is anything but fair and it is terribly destructive to let a country be run by people whose defining characteristic is greed.  It can only result in catastrophe for the majority and it has.  Nor does Alan Greenspan's apology for basing his economic policies on the ramblings of an economic illiterate like Ayn Rand really salve the wounds.

What business does an economist have basing his policies on the ramblings

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Saturday, May 19, 2012

On Writing and Being Human

I began work this week.  I am tired.  I wanted to write about it a little bit however.  I am delighted to have money coming in while I finish my book, but I really long for the world to return to a time when people like me--with educations obtained during the time when you had to actually KNOW something to get a degree--could earn a decent living with the fruits of our minds. 

Believe it or not, the Internet depreciates writers.  Anybody with a keyboard can start a blog.  It doesn't matter what their actual writing skill is. It doesn't matter if they have something to say or not.  This situation juxtaposes the lyrical stylings of a Phil Rokstruh with the inane hyperbolic prattle of News Max.  The uncritical notion that all of this text out there has equal value needs to be challenged.  It is not all the same.  Not all the writing on the web is authoritative.  Some of it is merely opinion unencumbered by facts of any kind. Actually, a lot of it is opinion. 

For us, humanity, to make the right decisions going forward, we need facts and analyses to draw from.  We have seen what basing policy on opinions can do.  When Alan Greenspan admitted that he was "misled" by basing his economic policies on the prattle of Ayn Rand, that was an example of just what I am writing about.  Ayn Rand wasn't an economist.  She wasn't even a deep thinker.  She was a deeply disturbed woman who believed that mankind's highest good could be reached through self indulgence.  That is just hedonism in prose clothing.  It is not a sound philosophy for leading life and certainly not one fit to base a society or policies upon.

Good policy balances the interests of the many against the interests of the few.  In that balance, there will always be some party with an unfulfilled wish.  Those with these unfulfilled wishes will complain.  SO WHAT?  Stiglitz recently said that it is time to ask: "What is an economic system?  What is it supposed to do?"  I think that we need to be asking these questions, not just of economic systems, but of society in general. 

WE WRITERS SHOULD BE ASKING THOSE QUESTIONS AND BEING HEARD.  Our voices shouldn't be lost in the cacophony of belligerence and conflation that the web has become.  We need to be asking the timeless questions of mankind:

Why are we here?
What can we do to make things better?
Who is God?
What is good?
What is bad?
Why is Snooki even on television?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Love Thy Enemies...

APRIL 28, 2012--PORTLAND OREGON--THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE REAPPRAISING THINGS. For about five years, economics and politics consumed me.  Rants on the idiotic nature of austerity policies and predictions that their inevitable impact would be a deeper depression filled many of the posts strewn by me around the net.  There is little satisfaction in seeing those warnings proved correct.  Why is it so necessary for some people to cause misery to feel better about themselves?  Far too many people who hang out at the Von Mises and Davos forums appear incapable of empathizing with those that they would cut from the welfare roles.  They view their indifference as sanguine, a noble Darwinian ethic that lets them make the "hard decisions" about who should eat, who should have a roof over their head and who should die.


From personal acquaintance with a number of people holding these views, I would say that they are garden variety psychopaths, nothing more.  There is nothing noble about selfishness.  There is no real intelligence required for myopia.  Whether it is dressed up in Ayn Rand's pallid imitation of a philosophical perspective or simply the dismissive whine of the overly-indulged, selfishness is still selfishness.  It is unworthy of civilized humanity to embrace such a childish viewpoint, but it is contemptible to pretend that this attitude is the result of high mindedness.

 Humanity needs to grapple with these issues now, before the conflagration starts.  It is only a matter of time before the people judge and condemn those that have visited poverty upon so many for reasons that have nothing to do with bettering the world.  Frankly, people who drive silver plated Mercedes and sit on gold covered toilets appall me.  Why is such ridiculous luxury necessary?  Why is anybody impressed by such folly?  Why isn't somebody standing up to say that what an incredible waste it is to spend enough money to feed ten thousand families on a toilet? 

Then there is the matter of the unhappiness of these same spendthrifts.  They are miserable even sitting upon their golden throne.  Why was it so important if it doesn't even make them happy? 

The truth is that happiness comes from doing good.  Happiness comes from helping other people and from doing good deeds.  It doesn't come from money and its trappings.  Don't hate these short-sighted people.  Pray for them.  They surely need it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Impassioned Love Letters

Writeous is going in a new direction.  These days, our world appears to lack one extremely important emotion:  LOVE.  John Lennon said that "Love was all you need."  I happen to agree.  So, in the interest of "love proliferation," Writeous is going to focus on writing about love for a while.  I hope that these articles help my readers reach out to those that they care about.  For those with love in their lives, may it grow abundantly.  For those seeking love, may you find the words to claim it for yourself.  For those who aren't sure about love,  I heard an Ayurvedic practitioner say that "love is the great balancer" and, indeed, it is.  Find some.


Writing a good love letter isn't just having a great vocabulary or facility with words.  Great love letters open the heart and pour out its contents.  They offer a vision of another person seen through the gauze of great feeling.  For example:

                          A so-so love letter might say: "I like your blond hair."

                          A great love letter would say,
                         "I could lose myself in the silken mystery of your hair, "


                        "the scent of your hair lingers with  me."

Great love letters are poetic and beautiful without being smutty.  That doesn't mean that they fail to mention physical passion.  What greater bond is there between men and women than that of sweaty sheets and the melding of two bodies?  Yet, it is so often described in ways that more closely resemble agricultural catalogs than love letters.

Far too many people write things like: "Wow, that was hot last night."

By contrast, a great love letter writer might write

 "I cannot breathe for the memory of the sheen of  your body.  I wanted to stay there, nestled in you, forever.  I felt like we were melting into one another.  I cannot focus on anything but you and the night that we shared."


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Other Facets of Communication

APRIL 12, 2011, SAN ANTONIO, TX--- When writing, just as in life, there are non-verbal cues that render the most brilliant commentary ridiculous.  One example is posting something like: "Yore an igorant ijit" as an insult.  The insult itself is rendered moot by the poor grammar and spelling of the writer.  When writing, make sure that you don't exhibit those same flaws.  

Many people fear grammar.  They appear to be haunted by ghosts of teachers past.  Rather than running from grammar,  embrace it with tools that help to improve yours.  There are some marvelous resources on the web to get started with.  One of the best is the book below.

Common Errors in English Usage: The Book (2nd Edition, November, 2008
This book is the paper version of a remarkable website:
Every possible common error is on this site.

Because much of what we write about these days is accompanied by data, it is important to learn how to organize data.  Don't let your graphs confuse your prose.  The book below is an excellent reference on the use of data in ways that make its import immediately obvious.

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition by Edward R. Tufte
Data has become a larger part of communication these days. Presenting numbers or other
information in an easy-to-grasp format is a skill that many writers lack.

Keeping Your Tools On Your Belt Isn't Just for Carpenters
In evaluating whether to buy a book or software version of a book, remember that writers may have to leave their cozy offices to get stories written.  Web access is not always a given for writers. If a story has to be covered in Timbuktu, a writer can waste time trying to find a web cafe or just write the story. Since history waits for no one, capturing the events and the reactions is more important than researching on the Internet. The same holds true of tools. If you rely on tools accessed online, they may not be available. If you have to choose, buy the books. Buy the desktop software later.  Then you're ready when the story is.

Creating A Verbal Symphony

MARCH 28, 2011; SAN ANTONIO, TX: Writing in an intriguing way that keeps the reader involved and interested is a skill. Unfortunately, far too many people writing on the web lack this skill. They produce the equivalent of verbal polyester: it is serviceable but not pretty or memorable. This blog is about how to write engaging and informative prose.
One thing that is often forgotten is that writing is about words. The more that you know and use, the better that your writing can be. Variety isn't just the spice of life. Variety is verbal flavoring. Varying word choice keeps readers intrigued. Word choice also adds to the melody of what you write when it is read. Think of words as the notes in a song.. Just as music entertains the ear with its varied notes, melody and repeated phrases, so can the right mixture of words create a feast for the mind and the ears. For those wanting to acquire verbal agility, here are some great tools.

The Visual Thesaurus
Not only can you look words up by their meaning, but by their proximity to other words. Even though their definitions can be a shade off, it is a remarkable tool. There are two versions: an online subscription and a desktop variant.

Word Menu  
There are two versions of this tool. One is a book that I like very much and the other is software that I have not used. The software comes from the same author as the book. If it has the same functionality as the book, then it would be very useful. Word Menu, the book,  organizes words by categories like industry.  This permits a user to become familiar with the vocabulary for a particular industry, science, or profession in one sitting. This is a wonderful tool for freelance writers. Not only can one be up to speed rapidly on specialized jargon, but Word Menu but relevant key issues for that industry as well.

There are many varieties of dictionaries out there. The best way to choose is to find one that has as many words as possible and detailed word origins. Knowing the derivation of a word not only builds a foundation for learning foreign languages, but it helps with being able to infer meanings of unknown words as they arise in research.