Archive for January 2015

Entertainment as Advertising   Leave a comment

Film is a medium that we think of as entertainment, but often this is not entirely the case. Take military movies, for example. Films such as Top Gun included heavy involvement of the Pentegon and other military boosters to provide an awe-inspiring film. When Hollywood comes to the Pentegon with a request for production assistance, the military sees this as an important opportunity to tell the American public something about the US military that will help them recruit and retain personnel. It is a relationship of mutual exploitation. Movie makers get to use military props — where else are you going to find an aircraft carrier? — and the Pentegon gets to influence how it is portrayed on the silver screen.

That works the opposite way as well. Movies like Platoon, Dr. Strangelove and The Hurt Locker portray war in certain ways to influence the audience to reject war in any and all circumstances. These movies may not get the Department of Defense seal of approval, but they do no less an effective job at presenting anti-war propaganda for a particular political agenda — using entertainment to influence political viewpoints.

Promised Land (Matt Damon’s anti-fracking movie) is a clear example of this. Despite the Environmental Protection Agency saying there is no scientific evidence to support concerns over ground-water contamination from fracking, the movie has several scary scenes showing burning water coming out of the tap. For the record, the EPA has found no burning tap water that it is admitting to … and it’s the EPA, so chances are good, if burning tap water existed anywhere on the planet, they’d find it and put a stop to whatever was causing it. I’m expecting them to outlaw oxygen as a flammable gas sometime in the future — perhaps in my life time.

Ever wonder why there is now a gay character on almost every show on American television? Supposedly homosexuals makes up about 5% of the population, but they are represented on almost every television series. Why? It’s been on ongoing campaign in Hollywood since the mid-1980s to normalize homosexuality in the American mind, but it is hard to normalize 5% of the population. It’s too small a slice of the population to be viewed as normative. By presenting homosexual characters that are entertaining and likable on almost every show, Hollywood promotes a particular view of American society that doesn’t really exist. There is not a gay person in every office and not every family in America has at least one gay member. Having worked with a number of lesbians and gay men over the years that I worked in social work, I can tell you from personal experience that some of them are very nice people who live fairly ordinary lives, but none of the men I know are monogamous and the women are not lifelong partners with one another and, yes, some of them sexually abuse their stepchildren and sexual harass their heterosexual coworkers. Until that side of reality is shown on television, the portrayal of homosexuality on American television can be called propaganda in the same way that the unrealistic portrayal of heterosexual family life on 1950s television was also false, misleading and manipulative.

Again, while it is tempting to call for regulation to demand that entertainment and advertising/propaganda be kept separate and well identified, it never works out well to do it that way. Regulation is a slippery slope that starts out for the good of the nation and then turns into a tyrannical nightmare. A better solution would be for Americans to recognize the manipulation for themselves and use the power of the wallet to make it stop … or switch channels and read a book, which will amount to the same thing — and leave those who like to watch certain sorts of fairy tales to do what they like.

The Rich: to Soak or Not to Soak? | Austrian Economics   Leave a comment Rich: to Soak or Not to Soak? | Austrian Economics.

Lela on Indian Nations and States Rights   4 comments

Thom, this is why I like our conversations. You force me to dig back into my memory and, when it fails, research. Last week you said I was off base on the Civil War and you ended up defending Indian sovereignty against someone who is a member of a tribal nation. That’s kind of ironic, I think.


DSC01494First, I don’t agree with you about the payback thing. We need to stop the back-and-forth retribution attitude and move forward. I’m pretty sure if I dig deeply enough I would find a white ancestor who killed Indians in retribution for my ancestor Barasallai killing white settlers in the Michigan wilderness circa 1810-ish. To be angry at one and not the other would be inconsistent and to be angry at both would be schizophrenic. There are parts of both sides of my heritage that I love and parts of both sides that I find regrettable. “Move on and let the dead bury the dead” is my motto. I don’t see a racist behind every bush trying to bring back Indian transportation. I see people who look a lot like my dad who are mostly trying to be my friends, who may not understand my family history … as I may not understand theirs. I don’t hold them accountable for the actions of their long-dead ancestors. I only hold them accountable for what they personally do to me and then I give them the rough side of my tongue if I feel it’s necessary. I don’t need special status to do that. It’s a natural right we’re all born with as humans.

The Wendake (Wyandot in the US) share a reservation with the Cherokee in Oklahoma, but I admit my grasp of Cherokee history was mostly confined to a PBS special. The Wyandot were “free” by the 1830s, they had been accepted as American citizens, which meant they had a very different history than the Cherokee and other tribes who refused to assimilate. They chose to reconstitute as a tribe in the 20th century. Most of my immediate family had already assimiliated, but my grandmother registered with the tribe and my mother became friends with distant cousins in Oklahoma.  I’ve never lived on the reservation, but I do visit and I am a full-fledged voting member of the tribe. And now I’ve brushed up on my Cherokee Nation history and I understand why they were angry, but I still don’t understand why my cousins feel we should join them as our experiences were very different.

The Wyandot consider themselves to be a nation too, but you know – I don’t buy into it. Especially groups like the Cherokee and Wyandot who have no blood quantum standard for membership — it feels a little bit like a scam. Because I am a member of the tribe, I can claim to be an American citizen when it’s convenient. I can vote for President and claim Constitutional protections. When things aren’t convenient, I can claim to be a citizen of the sovereign Wyandot Nation, slip into the Cherokee Nation reservation and they’ll protect me. Literally, I’ve seen them (all of the tribes that share the reservation) circle the wagons (pun intended) and hide someone from outside authority, which walks on egg shells on Indian land. I don’t buy that. It’s having it both ways and that argues against my belief that we’re all pink inside and equality means all races being treated the same under the law.

It’s all predicated on two decisions in the 1830s that were dancing around Indian apartheid. The SCOTUS refused to hear the Georgia case because, they said, they couldn’t determine if Indians were American citizens, sovereign nations outside of the United States authority or some sort of enclave under US protection. Since they refused to rule, transportation – which was what the Cherokee were trying to prevent – was undertaken. Less than a year later, the SCOTUS ruled they were sovereign citizens of their own nation who could resist transportation on their own land, but the Trail of Tears had already begun, so they had no land on which to resist, but also because they weren’t citizens, they had no rights in US courts to protest what was happening to them. Those decisions were used later with other tribes to assert that Indian “nations” didn’t have a right to the land the US gave them by treaty because it was not their ancestral land. Pretty sweet Catch 22 — unless you happened to be a member of one of the unassimilated tribes.

At about the same time, the exact same US government that transported the Cherokee against their will offered the Wyandot money for their land in Ohio and a substitute grant of land in Kansas. The Wyandot agreed if they could become American citizens. The citizens stayed in Kansas when it became an organized territory. Those that didn’t become citizens were transported to Oklahoma in the 1870s, because non-citizen Indians didn’t have any rights. Whoa, there’s a pattern there!

I am not saying what the US and Georgia did to the Cherokee was right. I have some personal theories about how American history would have turned out had the government done things differently, but they didn’t and that can’t be changed. What if wasn’t, which leaves us with what is. Today, because white folks feel guilty for the actions of long-dead white folks against long-dead Indians, Indian nations now have special rights.  I object to that because it continues the cycle of racism and retribution. Can’t we all just be Americans? No white privilege, no Indian pride, just folks? American culture is a crazy quilt of glorious diversity and I love that.  Not only should you respect my culture, but I should respect yours — or at least your right to celebrate it. What would be so wrong with actual post-racial America? That only happens when all American citizens are equal before the law, but if I have special status, then I am more equal than you are. I want to be judged by the content of my character, not the color of my skin.

Now, once again, setting aside the slavery issue and just looking at states rights …

The bombardment of Ft. Sumter was equivalent to the shot heard round the world, when the British moved on vital American interests and the Americans moved from diplomacy to defending themselves. South Carolina seceded from the union in December. Between that time and President Lincoln’s inauguration in March of 1861, the seceding states tried hard to avoid aggression and President Buchanan took no military action, noting that while he believed the states had no constitutional authority to secede, he could find no constitutional authority for him to prevent it. While refusing to allow the resupply of Ft. Sumter, the South offered a peace treaty and to buy the military installations it was asking the Union to vacate. Because Buchanan was a lame-duck president, he didn’t move on those requests, but they could have settled the issue peacefully. Instead, Lincoln came into office and, like King George before him, refused to acknowledge the rights of the people of the seceding states to self-determination and moved to resupply Ft. Sumter, which controlled Charleston Harbor.

Last week, you said no country could be expected to ignore the bombardment of one of its military facilities. True, except that South Carolina had declared its independence and asked what it viewed as an army of occupation to leave. And, there is American precedent for that. No country could be expected to accept the encroachment of an aggressive neighbor in their most vital port. The bombardment of Ft. Sumter was no different than the siege of Boston or the bombardment of New York during the Revolution. For the Southerners, the Union Army were refusing to leave their country when asked peacefully. The Union Army had taken aggressive military action to entrench themselves in a strengthened position in control of a vital South Carolinian national asset. What choice did South Carolina have but to defend its territory or submit to what amounted to colonial tyranny? Had Lincoln taken Buchanan’s view on the situation, the bombardment never would have happened. Instead, he forced the issue and South Carolina moved before he could take control of their harbor.

I don’t know how we can say it was okay for the Americans to stand up against British colonial aggression and protect the arms cache at Concord and yet turn around and say it wasn’t okay when our government took the role of England against the Southern states. It amounted to the same thing.

Secession is in American blood, after all. We seceded from Great Britain in 1776 AFTER they forced the issue. During that war and for several years after, each of the rebelling colonies considered itself a sovereign nation cooperating with a dozen similar sovereigns in a relationship of shared goals. The Articles of Confederation explicitly asserted that each state retained its “sovereignty, freedom and independence”. It was too loose a confederacy to work and the Articles could not be amended, which is why they were replaced by the US Constitution. Most states joining the union were of the belief that they had retained the right of secession. New England threatened twice, the South threatened over tariffs in the 1830s and the border states threatened during the Civil War. Clearly half the states in the union are on record for thinking they had a right to secede.

Just because the Constitution lacks a specifically stated right to secession does not mean there isn’t one. The 10th Amendment states “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, the federal government was always supposed to be subordinate to the states or to the people — and was until the Civil War. The US Constitution was written by people who believed wholeheartedly in the revolutionary right of a free people to change their government anytime they see fit. They had just done that within their lifetimes. It’s enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Notably, Abraham Lincoln himself expressed a similar sentiment in 1947 on the floor of the US House of Representatives:

“Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuation, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.”

I guess “any people, anywhere” did not include the Southern states when he was President. They had no “sacred right”.

James Madison, father of the Constitution, argued in the Convention that the Constitution would be “analogous to conventions among individual states” and  “a breach of any one article by any one party leaves all other parties at liberty to consider the whole of the convention as dissolved.” From the Southern point of view (and I must thank a Southern friend for explaining this to me), the United States had breached several articles of the Constitution and thus the whole of the convention was dissolved.

Thom StarkI don’t think you can argue that prior to the Civil War, most Americans thought that secession was not allowed or that states rights lacked validity. The very way in which the western states were admitted into the union suggests they saw states rights as important. Why was Missouri allowed to be a “slave” state and Kansas was admitted as a “free” state if not because states were recognized as having rights?

But you are entirely right that since that time, most people have been of the opinion that states have no rights, but that’s based on the Union winning the war, not on any changes in the Constitution undertaken by all parties. I’m arguing that states should have their rights restored and that if the federal government continues to force its one-size-fits-all tyranny on the states, they will eventually breed another round of secession and civil war. Recognition of states rights as Constitutionally intended could possibly prevent the dissolution of the union.

Interview with CMT Stibbe   2 comments

Today’s interview is with C.M.T. Stibbe, author of Chasing Pharaohs and The Fowler’s Snare, exquisitely written historical fantasies set in ancient Egypt.


CMT StibbeTell us something about yourself:

Hi Lela, thank you so much for interviewing me. I’m originally from Berkshire, England. My father was a housemaster at Bradfield College for many years before becoming Head Master of the King Edward School in Norwich. I think it was his courage to survive a war, his stories and his love of English literature that inspired me to write.

I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1995 and I have been there ever since. They call New Mexico ‘the land of enchantment’ and for those of us who have never found our way home, ‘the land of entrapment.’ My husband is American and my son is half Navajo.


What do you do for a living?

I’m doing a course to qualify as a part-time proofreader and copy editor. Then I will be working full-time for Kingdom Writing Solutions, dividing half my day between proofreading for authors and writing my own books.


What were your major literary influences?

The first adult novel I read was Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, a Victorian poet who wrote about a declining rural society set in Wessex. I was fascinated by the way Hardy made his characters so life-like, how we could easily resonate with their suffering and sadness―a theme so central in his work.


Chasing PharoahsYour bio says you’ve done a lot of traveling. Have you been to some of the places you describe in Chasing Pharaohs?

Yes. Location is extremely important and it often becomes a character in itself. I have stayed in Luxor, the ancient city of Thebes in Upper Egypt. It is a magical place, so easy to imagine Thebes as the major military capital and to see the pharaohs in their luxurious palaces. The Valley of the Kings makes a perfect setting for Commander Shenq’s ambush in my novel―slopes of scree spill into rock spurs and limestone clefts make for great hiding places.


What type of central characters do you like to write about?

My central characters are outcasts, people thrust outside society by flaws and emotional torment. These people are the stuff great stories are made of and many readers enjoy relating to them.


What is something you cannot do without?

The Bible, a God-breathed book that describes the founding and preservation of the nation of Israel’s people. A few other things would definitely include my family, a laptop, and a really good cup of coffee!


You and I could definitely hang-out and get along. Tell us about Chasing Pharaohs. How did you develop it?

The research for Chasing Pharaohs took almost a year, including interviewing historians, researching databases, visiting libraries, and travelling to Egypt. There is nothing like smelling, tasting and sensing the sights of the places we write about. I chose the 18th dynasty because these were the golden years comprising some of the most famous Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

Chasing Pharaohs is loosely based on the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose II and his sister-wife Queen Hatshepsut. Their court is far from straightforward: wives competing for power and priests brandishing the flail. Ancient Egypt has always lent itself to mystery and intrigue, and a little scandal here and there. Not only are these characters manipulative, they are robust and entertaining. Some are true to history and some have been conjured from my own imagination.


Fowlers SnareAnd, The Fowler’s Snare continues the story?

The Fowler’s Snare is the second in the series. Only this time Pharaoh Kheper-Re holds a chariot race to determine who will be the next Supreme Commander of Thebes. This book is set outside Thebes, a race to the death that takes place in Egypt’s infamous white desert.

The third book is about a princess, a gift from a foreign King to cement ties with Egypt. This time Pharaoh Kheper-Re is so lovesick, he forgets all his other wives, including his Queen.


Oh-oh, that sounds like trouble. Now tell me about your detective fiction.

At the moment, I’m writing a novel set in New Mexico. The central character is a middle-aged, pot-smoking detective of Ethiopian and British descent. It gives just the right mix of character to spice up the plot and for readers to enjoy the cultural differences. Detective Van Straubenzee must solve a crime that involves the kidnap and slaughter of young girls.


What do you enjoy the most about being an author?

I think one of the rewards of writing is being able to make up your own characters, living with them, and watching them endure the most lethal conditions and coming out of it better than they went in.


What other projects are you working on?

I always have several projects on the go and there are a few Medieval/Tudor stories languishing in my head. Right now, the Chasing Pharaohs series and the Detective Van Straubenzee series are full time babies.


To find out more about CMT Stibbe’s books, visit her website at




Claire is also a member of the New Mexico Book Coop and the Southwest Writers Association.



Chasing Pharaohs: (Historical Fantasy Fiction)

In the aftermath of a battle between the great powers of Egypt and her old foe Kush, Pharaoh Kheper-Re rules Thebes, the city of the golden gates. But still the wars rage on and the kingdom is on the brink of chaos. Kheper-Re fears an invasion by his old nemesis in Alodia and with the help of his most favored Commander he musters a group of men more deadly than the enemy he fears. As the future of Egypt hangs in the balance Commander Shenq, leader of Pharaoh’s Most Honored Ones, must protect Thebes from a Shadow-Hunter and his army of ten thousand men. The Queen, too, is making plans―with a few followers of her own. And as a Hebrew prophet interprets dreams and a bodyguard hears rumors, the quest for peace has never been more challenging. Commander Shenq must drive out all threats to the throne and bring the assassin to heel.


The Fowler’s Snare: (Historical Fantasy Fiction)

When a band of Alodian outcasts crosses the border to Egypt, Pharaoh Kheper-Re invites them to compete in a grueling chariot race across the western desert against his bodyguard, Commander Shenq. The prize is great; the winner will be awarded the title of Supreme Commander of Thebes.

Determined to win, Commander Shenq and his team enter the race confronting the most brutal of obstacles. Not only must they beat the Alodians, they must also triumph over the punishing terrain, the savage desert jackals, and above all the Imazi, a group of flesh-eating nomads.

With so much at stake, treachery and sorcery are once again in season as the princes of two rival kingdoms go head-to-head. It is a race that will cost the loser everything he holds dear.


The 9th Hour: (Suspense/Thriller) Will be released 2015.

Until a man loses his daughter to a serial killer, until he loses his best friend, until he is down on his luck, Darryl Williams must put all thoughts of retaliation out of his mind.

Nine year-old Kizzy Williams is taken from a campsite in the night. Partial human remains discovered at a remote ranch and a small red journal is known to be hers. A serial killer is on the run and Detective Van Straubenzee must piece together the last days of Kizzy’s life by way of an interview with the only prisoner he has.

Stay Tuned for Writing Wednesday   1 comment

baa10-bluetypewriter-whitepinkflowersThis week’s interview is with CMT Stibbe, author of Fowler’s Snare and Chasing Pharaohs.

Life As We Knew It   Leave a comment

Front CoverThe dystopian thriller I have been calling A Well in Emmaus has a new name and will definitely be getting new cover art.

I finished the draft for Life As We Knew It yesterday. I’ll put it aside for a few days to work on Murklin Wood and then I’ll start the revision process with promos to follow. I hope to have it ready for publication by April.

Ratings Are Important   Leave a comment

Neil_CavutoA commercial medium wants to sell ad space or time to businesses with products or services for sale. To make that sale, they need to be able to tell potential advertisers that their messages on the air, in print, or on the monitor screen will be viewed and heard by large numbers of consumers. And that’s where ratings come in.

Nielsen program ratings for cable news channels for April 2012:

  1. The O’Reilly Factor – Fox News — 2.87 million total viewers
    2. Hannity – Fox News — 2.075 million total viewers
    3. Special Report with Bret Baier – Fox News — 1.778 million total viewers
    4. On the Record with Greta van Susteren – Fox News — 1.722 million total viewers
    5. Fox Report with Shepard Smith – Fox News — 1.688 million total viewers
    6. The Five – Fox News — 1.674 million total viewers
    7. America’s Newsroom – Fox News — 1.272 million total viewers
    8. Your World with Neil Cavuto – Fox News — 1.252 million total viewers
    9. O’Reilly Factor (11PM) – Fox News — 1.22 million total viewers
    10. America Live – Fox News — 1.191 million total viewers
    11. Studio B – Fox News — 1.113 million total viewers
    12. Fox & Friends – Fox News — 1.082 million total viewers
    13. Happening Now – Fox News — 1.029 million total viewers
    14. The Rachel Maddow Show – MSNBC — 985,000 total viewers
    15. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell – MSNBC — 931,000 total viewers
    16. The Ed Show – MSNBC — 875,000 total viewers
    17. Hardball with Chris Matthews – MSNBC — 744,000 total viewers
    18. PoliticsNation – MSNBC — 712,000 total viewers
    19. Piers Morgan Tonight – CNN — 567,000 total viewers
    20. The Situation Room – CNN — 548,000

Notice that programs owned by News Corporation dominate the first 13.  The next five are NBC Universal programs and the bottom two in the top 20 list are Time Warner programs.

Bill O’Reilly has five times as many viewers as Wolf Blitzer. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing nor should it be considered evidence that Rupert Murdock is Satan. Ratings just show what people are watching. When I worked in newspapers as a journalist one of the things I learned was that advertisers often couldn’t care less about the politics of a program so long as their advertising gets seen. Advertisers do not, therefore, exhibit much influence over the news they advertise on. Viewers actually exert a lot of control with the power of their remote control.

Rupert Murdock is not a conservative by American standards, but Fox News Network has a strong right leaning bias. Some of that can be attributed to Roger Ayles, the CEO, who is a conservative, but more of it is attributed to who viewers are tuning into. Apparently viewers like Bill O’Reilly more than they like Chris Matthews, so advertisers, wanting their ads to be seen by the most people, buy advertising where the viewers are. If Murdock were to replace Ayles with Hendrick Hertzberg (for example), Hertzberg would do well to note the ratings of Fox’s media stable and not mess too much with a winning formula because Murdock is all about making money and Bill O’Reilly brings in more advertising dollars than Wolf Blitzer.


Would those advertising dollars shrink if Hertzberg made O’Reilly modify his message? Yes, probably. How do I know? Look how high in the ratings Neil Cavuto is. Neil is not the most entertaining person to watch, but people are tuning in, so it has to be something other than his scintillating personality. His message is compelling and viewers are tuning in for that.

I’m not making a judgment about which message is better or whether you can trust Fox News to give you better information. I am saying the viewers seem to prefer FOX’s message over what is offered at MSNBC and CNN.

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