Welcome to Bill O’Reilly’s Left-Right Contortion Zone

Published by Parcbench, April 2, 2010:

For a guy who prides himself on “looking out for you” and maintaining a very strict “no spin zone”, Bill O’Reilly sure can twist himself into contortions. In his never-ending quest to play it down the middle, Ol’ Bill seems to have forgotten the concept known as standing up for one’s dearly valued principles.

During his March 30, 2010 Talking Points monologue, the self-proclaimed champion of the “folks” apparently overlooked a few facts when discussing left-wing media reaction to Governor Palin’s rousing speech at the Tea Party rally in Searchlight, Nevada. After playing a clip of the event, Bill opined:

“So you can see what’s emerging. The most ardent critics of President Obama are going to be labeled racist and extremist. Ironically, the extremist label is used by some on the right against the president.

Last week’s awful confrontation outside the Capitol where charges that the n-word was used by anti-Obamacare demonstrators signifies how intense this issue has become.

As The Factor reported, there is no proof of any racial invective, but we do believe harsh words were spoken by a few demonstrators.

The Tea Party would be wise to publicly disassociate itself from hateful rhetoric.”

He went on to proudly remind the audience about his clearly unheeded advice to the Tea Party Movement, stating, “Most Americans are not ideologues. They are just folks who want a fair system and a noble country.”

Sigh. Where to begin?

I’m not sure why Bill finds it so “ironic” that people on the right correctly chastise President Obama as an extremist. Since his election, among other dubious accomplishments, he’s spent more taxpayer money than every one of his predecessors from George Washington to George W. Bush; alienated our staunchest ally, Israel; gone on worldwide apology tours on behalf of the USA; appointed radical and unaccountable czars like “Safe Schools Czar” Kevin Jennings; and — lest we forget — arm-twisted, threatened and bribed members of his own party into ramrodding a hostile government takeover of one-sixth of our economy with the recent passage of the virulently unpopular piece of legislation known as “Obamacare”.

If it acts like a socialist, walks like a socialist and spouts rhetoric like a socialist, chances are it is a socialist.

Tea Party members — a great number of whom actually did their homework prior to the 2008 election and were thus fully aware of his “spread the wealth” tendencies — are merely stating a fact when they refer to Obama this way. Further, the media’s chosen candidate boldly proclaimed this to be the case just three weeks before  his “historic” ascendancy to the Office of the President of the United States of America, thanks to a willingly ignorant, “anyone but Bush” electorate.  Quoth the Chosen One, “We are just three weeks away from fundamentally transforming America!”

I don’t know about you, Mr. O’Reilly, but the folks who were paying attention knew exactly what he meant. And many of us were also disgusted by your kid-glove treatment of then-candidate Obama, once you’d sufficiently groveled enough for him to deign to sit down with you for an interview. At least back then we could take comfort in the fact that the adults were still (mostly) in charge in D.C. Those were the days!

Furthermore, there has been zero evidence of any such racial epithets directed at any black members of congress by Tea Party activists. Zilch. Nada.

Have you even bothered to watch the videos that have been posted on sites like Gateway Pundit? Cause if you’d had, you would have noted the presence of a few of these elected leaders openly taunting the crowd from a nearby balcony as if they were actually trying to egg them into shouting unacceptable, bigoted insults. One thing you would not have heard? Even just one utterance of the “N” word. And no, “Kill the Bill!” does not count as “incendiary rhetoric.” Rather it is a pithy (as you are wont to advise us when crafting our communications) metaphor for “We don’t want this onerous legislation, Mr. President and Congress!”

So your “both sides have their crazies” shtick simply does not apply here. Show me the evidence! Andrew Breitbart is still standing by with blank check and pen in hand. Alas, it looks as if the United Negro College Fund will not be the recipient of the new media mogul’s largess, at  least not as a conciliatory gesture for something that never took place.

Which brings me to Al Sharpton. Why on earth does The No-Spin Zone give credence to a notorious race-baiter who’s made a lucrative living manufacturing stories of the white man’s inhumanity toward his black brethren? In spite of a lack of evidence in this particular case, just like Talking Points Memo,  Al is pretty darned sure some “hateful rhetoric” was spewed that day. He even swears he’s seen the non-existent tape, though for the life of him, he cannot produce one to back up his claim.

My advice when seeking to represent the point of view of black Americans? Book more appearances by people like Kevin Jackson* and Lloyd Marcus, both of whom have been involved with the Tea Party effort from the beginning. As with your interview of Kevin on March 31, 2010, your grateful audience will actually learn something from an intelligent, thoughtful contributor.

As for your belief that “Most Americans are not ideologues. They are just folks who want a fair system and a noble country,” do you suppose said Americans would be OK with the United States Constitution being upheld by all members of our government? Because when you get right down to it, that’s what’s at the heart of the Tea Party movement. We want our leaders to abide by the Constitution, as written and conceived by “noble” men like James Madison. If that makes us “ideologues”, then we are in good company indeed.

And another thing, if you’re going to bring on a bright star like Mary Katharine Ham, would you please allow the woman to complete at least a few sentences?  On the following night’s broadcast, Ham was once again given short-shrift in favor of left-wing ideologue, Juan Williams, who had nothing of substance to add to the Tea Party debate. I credit you, Bill, for pointing out the absurdity of Juan’s remarks vis-a-vis the Gadsden flag, but your annoying interruptions of Mary Katharine — who herself seemed justifiably perturbed –  did not go unnoticed.

Finally, as angry as I am over your left-right contortions, I do salute you for offering to pay the legal fees for Albert Snyder, father of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, most definitely the act of a patriot. God bless you for your generosity.

Now please dispense with the painful contortions and bring back the No-Spin Zone for real — before you break an arm!

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill O’Reilly did have the good sense to have an interview segment with Kevin Jackson the following night. Kevin is the author of The Big Black Lie: How I Learned the Truth About the Democrat Party.

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Wanna Know What Obamacare Portends? Just Ask a Veteran.

Published by Parcbench, March 26, 2010:

One of the ultimate ironies in the ongoing (yes statists, American patriots have only just begun to fight!) battle against the hostile government takeover of healthcare involves the US Military. While this honorable segment of our population has valiantly advanced the cause of freedom worldwide, putting life and limb on the line to defend the very liberties the Obama Administration has been willfully destroying over the last 15 months, their efforts have been rewarded with an unprofessional, ineffective, government-run healthcare bureaucracy that neither meets their needs, nor respects their dignity as human beings.

To be fair, the Veterans Administration – a microcosm for the diabolical piece of legislation that President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid jammed down the throats of the American public using the brute force and naked corruption heretofore mainly reserved for the cesspool known as Chicago-machine politics – has been denying our soldiers proper medical attention long before “hope and change” came to Washington. But now that everyday Americans (as opposed to their Congressional overlords, who are exempt from this travesty) are headed for the same medical nightmare,  they’d do well to heed the warnings of military vets, many of whom have been actively involved in the tea party movement from its inception.

Last week, I bumped into a new tea partier named Scott Vail, an especially passionate veteran of the first Gulf War, when I attended a protest in Boca Raton outside of Congressman Ron Klein’s (FL CD-22) office. Having spotted the Gadsden flag waving in the distance as he happened to be driving by in his car, this former US Army Infantryman decided to pull over and – with his faithful dog in tow – stand with us on the sidewalk alongside the heavily trafficked Glades Road. A few days later, Scott, along with a friend who described himself as a “pissed off, everyday American,” joined the longest-running tea party in the country — the weekly Fort Lauderdale protest– which recently marked its one-year anniversary.

During the course of our conversations, he told me what to expect with the passage of Obamacare, based on his experiences with the VA:

  • No doctors. Caregivers are interns, nurse practitioners and medical technicians.
  • Two-to-three month out appointments. “If you need one right away, good luck!”
  • Constantly rotating staff. “My primary changes every two years,” Scott noted.
  • No accountability. “If you’re having lots of drug interactions, don’t expect anyone to care,” he remarked.
  • A redefinition of the term “emergency”. As he informed me, “The emergency clinic is only open on Thursdays at 3 p.m., so be sure to time your emergency!”
  • Rank incompetence. “Everybody knows about the Hepatitis B &C/HIV colonoscopies in Miami. Just imagine the incompetence you don’t know about.”
  • Non-existent test results. To quote my veteran friend, “After medical testing, you never get your results. And should you ask for and eventually receive them, they are always inconclusive.”
  • Grossly inept facilities, including the parking lot. “There is no parking early in the week, so hurt veterans have to walk. In Miami, the staff has to take a shuttle bus now. Is it any wonder there aren’t any real doctors available?!”
  • Last, but not least, complete dysfunction, a personal favorite of this particular veteran, who observes, “All the clocks are set to a different time, which is hardly surprising. Time is not important in dysfunctional facilities!”

So what’s Vail’s advice for Americans horrified by what’s in store for them with the passage of Obamacare? “Stay healthy!”

And just like my veteran friend, it wouldn’t hurt to get out of the car or off of the couch to  join with fellow Americans and states’ Attorneys General in the pushback against this abominable legislation, either.

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Cyberspace and the Single (Conservative) Girl, Part One

Published by Parcbench on March 8, 2010:

Recently, when I was bemoaning yet another disappointing date (a gentleman I met by chance via the internet when he came across my book website) to a sympathetic girlfriend, she blamed the information superhighway for the breakdown of respect I repeatedly bent her ear about during the course of our one-hour conversation. According to her theory, we should blame cyberspace for making it too easy for liars to lie and players to play.

While I understand and even share her sentiment, which does contain some merit, I submit that it is merely a symptom of a much larger problem that has its roots in every liberal Baby Boomer’s favorite decade— the “illustrious” Sixties. While today’s traditional-minded Americans rightfully rail against cultural killers like the breakdown of the family; the prevalence of sexual promiscuity among pre-teens and teens; and the objectification of little girls (as a quick trip through any girls’ department in a retail store will affirm), it would also be useful to acknowledge the genesis and evolution of these formidable problems.

Our current cultural crisis did not develop overnight; nor will it be a simple task to undo an unfortunate phenomenon that has been over 40 years in the making. And while it would be quite convenient to place the blame fully on technology, that’s a bit little like blaming the messenger for an unpleasant announcement: simply because modern communication provides another (admittedly easy) vehicle through which to deceive, does not deem it culpable for the preponderance of deceivers.

As someone who was raised in a traditional home with parents who not only espoused values like respect, integrity and honesty—but actually demonstrated them in their daily interactions—dating and relating in the modern world has been and continues to be quite a challenge for me. If practice indeed makes perfect, I should’ve achieved a Gold Medal by now; unfortunately in the stiff competition between conservative upbringing and contemporary culture, there truly are no winners, although the latter seems to prevail most of the time. And for that, I hold those self-proclaimed “champions of women,” the Betty Freidan’s, Gloria Steinem’s and Jane Fonda’s of the world at least partially responsible.

Once upon a time, long before the Summer of Love (which should be more accurately titled “The Summer of Free Sex without Commitment”), there was a quaint little practice in America known as courtship, whereby if a man found another woman to be attractive, he would invite her on a date, fully expecting to pay for dinner, regardless of whether or not he felt a “spark” within two minutes of talking to her across the table. Cognizant of three possible options, e.g. the first date could pave the way for 1). a second date only; 2). an exclusive relationship; or 3). end with the understanding that there would be no future dates for a myriad of reasons, the man simply expected he’d have to make this small investment of time and money. Call it the price of dating, if you will.

But as last summer’s events involving David Letterman and Sarah Palin so aptly demonstrated, we are (sadly) light-years away from the world of Ozzie and HarrietLeave it to Beaver; and I Love Lucy. Somewhere between the 1960s and now, it became acceptable to reduce females to sex objects, rather than desirable potential girlfriends or wives to be wooed with dinner dates, flowers and—most importantly — respect. Spurred on by alleged feminists who believe it a matter of equality for women to imitate the bad behavior of some men (i.e. engage in meaningless sex with multiple partners without the benefit of a verbal commitment, let alone a ring), our culture began to change for the worse.

Often referred to as “the mother of modern feminism,” Betty Freidan, author of The Feminine Mystique, sought to “free” women from the shackles of marriage and motherhood— the very foundation of a strong and prosperous nation. But what conservatives view as an honorable life purpose, women such as Freidan condemned as indentured servitude:

“Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and brownies, lay beside her husband at night—she was afraid to even ask herself the question ‘Is this all?’”

I am not quite sure how Freidan conducted the necessary research to make such a sweeping pronouncement. Suffice it to say, I am beyond grateful that my own mother took great pleasure in raising her five children (including one with special needs); nurturing her marriage; managing the books for my father’s medical office; volunteering for various school boards and organizations; and cultivating genuine, lasting friendships with other women who were also happily engaged in similar activities.

Of course, I am also eternally grateful that my parents were pro-life, having been conceived at the worst possible time — financially speaking — when they already had four young mouths to feed, a daunting mortgage payment and a dearth of furniture in their two-story suburban colonial.

But I digress.

Somewhere between Woodstock (every self-absorbed Boomer’s most cherished memory) and The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler’s incredibly distasteful play that did more to objectify women than any man ever could), we reached a point in this country where a woman’s worth in pop culture was judged by the quality and size of her breast implants; her prowess in the bedroom (a once private matter reserved for her and her husband); and — if she happened to be a celebrity — her latest drunken sexcapade with the pool boy while her young children were left unattended in her Beverly Hills mansion.

And then there’s the Internet.

As with everything else, it is not the invention itself, but its misuse by dishonorable people that presents the problem. For the most part, the Internet has been a positive force in my life, enabling me to self-publish my novel, write political and cultural commentary for a variety of websites, and express my views as a co-host on countless Blog Talk Radio programs. But with respect to dating, it has wrought more harm than good.

More on that in my next post.

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10 Literary Techniques Used in Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

10 Literary Techniques Used In Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

As I’ve written about extensively, I employed several literary techniques in my first novel Water Signs, all of which combined, helped to draw readers deeper into the story and sympathize with the main characters. I believe a good fictional book should mesmerize the reader to such an extent that he/she loses all concept of time and place as they are whisked away on a mental vacation where the only thing that matters is what’s going to happen next.

In my loosely autobiographical story, here are the ten techniques that made it possible for me to add vibrancy and authenticity to the settings and characters:

1. Flashback – Throughout the book, I used short-term and long-term flashback as a way of building suspense and understanding a character’s motivation. This technique also allowed me to slowly share information with the reader in a future chapter by not divulging everything that transpires in a previous chapter. For example, in one emotionally tinged episode, Maddy and Ken peruse a photo album from his days in the US Navy, but it’s not until the next chapter that the story of his former fiancee is revealed to the reader — though he shares that with Maddy as they look at the photos.

2. Juxtaposition – As a reader, this has always been one of my favorite devices and I put it to use most often in the first half of my book, to help draw contrasts between characters and to create more intrigue. The best example of this occurs in Chapter One, when readers first meet Maddy and Ken as individuals, before the characters themselves meet each other unexpectedly (for them at least) at the Key West Club.

3. Italics – In Water Signs, I used italics to denote the sharp contrast between what a character says and what they are truly thinking and feeling. This is especially true of heroine Madeline, whose personal development includes learning how to effectively express her feelings, since her inability to do so in the beginning of the story contributes to much miscommunication and heartache for her and the novel’s hero Ken.

4. Music – Because my story spans 16 years in the lives of its characters and makes use of flashback, I employed musical references to help anchor the reader to the present moment in any given chapter. Thus in 1992 – the year the story begins — I reference popular songs and artists including The One by Elton John and Just Another Day by Jon Secada.

One another level, I selected certain songs not so much for their ability to connect the reader to the year at hand, but to allude to the characters’ origins. The best example of this is the reference to Then Came You by the famous Philadelphia band, The Spinners.

5. Sports – Growing up in the Philadelphia area in a family of sports fanatics, professional sports was a huge part of my life. Throughout the novel, the characters discuss many real-life events including the Philadelphia Eagles defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game in 1981 and the Philadelphia Phillies beating the Kansas City Royals to win the World Series in 1980. Pro football is a shared passion of Madeline and Ken, and one of the many things lacking in the relationship/marriage he eventually shares with Erin. Similarly, Dr. Rose’s (based on my own dad) love of baseball and the Phillies helps to bring his character to life.

6. Technology – The progression of technology from 1992-2008 also helps anchor readers to the time-frame of the unfolding plot. So in 1992, unwieldy car phones are the latest rage, but by 1995, Maddy notes how phone booths will soon become extinct, having relocated to South Florida and observed their nearly ubiquitous presence (along with the now-defunct pagers). By the end of the book, she’s working for a company that provides e-proposals to the hospitality industry. Look for Madeline to expand her use of technology to include internet radio hosting in my forthcoming sequel.

7. Food – Of all the techniques I used, food was probably the most fun possibly because the Philly area is famous for its excellent culinary traditions. Whether it’s tomato pie, spaghetti with mussels or Italian wedding cookies, I employed food descriptors to evoke the ambiance of the geographical locations in which the plot plays out. Look for an e-book soon on The Food of Water Signs.

8. Branding – Another method of creating a palpable appreciation for the Philly area, South Jersey Shore and South Florida in my novel is the use of brands. From Tastykake and Turkey Hill to Wawa and Herr’s, readers get an appreciation for what’s most popular in the geographic regions from which the plot unfolds.

9. Water Imagery – Perhaps one of the most important techniques of all, water imagery is at the heart of the novel — and not simply as a means of paying homage to the title. Water in religious and spiritual traditions is a symbol of rebirth and renewal, and thus underscores one of the book’s most important themes.

It is also a symbol of the emotions, which play a significant role in character development, particularly for Maddy. She suffers for years with panic and anxiety disorder — a gross distortion of the emotions that negatively impacts the physical body — without actually knowing what it is — until she reads the packaging for the medication prescribed by her doctor. Prior to her unusual cure by a psychic, the only time she finds relief from her sometimes frightening symptoms is when she’s immersed in water, whether swimming in a pool, riding a wave in the ocean or standing under the pulsating refreshment of a hot shower.

Ken, although not a co-sufferer with this affliction, often heads to the beach or to the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier when life seems overwhelming. In Part Two, when rocked by Maddy’s unexpected arrival in Florida — blissfully unaware of his engagement to another woman — the pier is his destination of choice when he seeks his mother’s counsel in person.

On a basic level, the coastal locations of the story, the characters’ shared Pisces sign and Ken’s US Navy service contribute to Water Signs’ “escapist” quality, conjuring up images of beach-inspired beauty, majestic ocean waves, colorful fish swimming beneath the sea’s surface and American heroes serving their country on awe-inspiring aircraft carriers.

10. Dreams/Journals – As a lifelong keeper of journals many of which I employed to fill in details of the plot, I cannot stress enough the importance of writing down your thoughts and recording your dreams (the latter I’d often do in an attempt to decipher whatever message my psyche was trying to convey while I slept). Not only did my own journals play a critical role in fleshing out the plot, so did actual dreams.

In one very heartbreaking chapter, Maddy dreams that Ken has arrived on her doorstep to announce he’s broken off his engagement to Erin because he’s still in love with her. It’s so real to her that when the alarm clock goes off, she cannot determine whether it actually happened or if it was just a product of her imagination. And a few days later, Ken really does unexpectedly knock on her door, though the conversation does not play out quite the same way in reality. This is all taken directly from real-life experience.

So there you have it, my Top Ten Favorite Literary Techniques. As a professional writer, what are yours?  Let me know in the comments….and happy writing!

Preview and purchase Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal on Amazon.

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