Saturday, April 16, 2011

MSNBC, The Democrats and the Pepsi Challenge

Over the months since I first moved to my current location in Bellingham, WA, I've spent many cumulative hours of watching "The Ed Show" and other similarly predictable shows on MSNBC Normally, this isn't the type of thing I'd willingly watch on TV. The fact that I've done so despite my preferences is attributable to the fact that I'm currently the house guest of a "progressive" who loves that network, despite the fact that what the network offers a steady diet of Mostly Snarky and Needlessly Biased Commentary, not anything which could even remotely be described as objective, intelligent journalism.

It occurred to me one evening that watching Ed Schulz ( was very similar to watching an old TV ad for Pepsi (except, of course, that the old Pepsi ads had a whole lot less shouting in them, and a whole lot more good taste).

Many years ago, Pepsi had a TV ad campaign it called the "Pepsi Challenge". They would set up a table in a supermarket, along with a bottle of Pepsi, a bottle of Coca-Cola, a couple of glasses of cola,  and a camera operator and a person with a microphone, in order to find out how well each brand did in comparison with the other brand during each "taste test".

It's been pointed out many times that one reason Pepsi consistently did better than Coke was that it was generally a bit sweeter than Coke (which is precisely why Coke decided to create the "new Coke", until the marketplace told them that in fact, they should have stuck with doing their thing their way, because what those Pepsi ads didn't reveal was that there was a substantial number of people who actually preferred the taste of Coke, not the slightly sweeter taste of Pepsi. (My own mother told me that she preferred the taste of Coke. Personally, even though I could detect a difference, I found it to be a pretty subtle difference. If I'd had any preference at all, I'd have said that I preferred RC Cola, but even there, I thought that it was a pretty trivial difference, about which I was anything but passionate. What I mostly hated was the cloying aftertaste of the "diet" versions of those various colas.. Why didn't Pepsi's"taste tests" address that issue? Because, hey, there was money to be made, even though many scientists later persuasively argued that diet drinks were utterly ineffective at combatting obesity.)

The folks in charge of Coca Cola wouldn't have wasted their time trying to win the taste test wars if they had dared to question the premise on which those Pepsi ads were based.

First of all, the premise was that the test was a fair test. On the surface, the Pepsi ads were designed to make their "test" seem fair and unbiased, and they might have been fair if Pepsi had been committed to the goal of presenting the results of all of their tests in a fair and unbalanced manner, whether the results of the tests had favored Pepsi or not. But Pepsi was in complete control of what happened to the developed film they'd created during those tests. If it had turned out that the tests favored Coke, Pepsi didn't have any particular legal obligation to publicly release ads which featured the test results which were unfavorable to Pepsi .If those "tests" had favored the Coke over Pepsi, logic would tell you that Pepsi would have quietly buried the results by choosing to put those rolls of developed film in the nearest "circular file", also known as a trash can. The success of those ads when they were running regularly relied almost totally on the willingness of extremely gullible TV viewers to assume that since the tests were conducted with "real people" in a real world environment, the tests portrayed in those ads were therefore "scientific" and unbiased. But there are all kinds of ways to lie covertly without doing so in ways which can be proved to be false and deceitful, especially when one is dealing with film (or video) which can be edited in ways which distort the truth.

There are also ways to produce the results one wants to get and therefore misrepresent the truth, simply by polling people whose probable preferences are already well known. For instance, if Pepsi had already run various marketing tests in certain areas of the country (and I'd bet that they had done so), they would have known which areas were most likely to give them the results they wanted. Therefore, such ads would have been deceptive, even if those folks were speaking from the bottom of their hearts with regard to their own personal preferences.

Even without any subsequent chicanery in the editing room, Pepsi could have distorted the truth simply by conducting their "tests" in environments or neighborhoods where Coke was at a known statistical disadvantage, and where Pepsi's marketers could therefore predict with a fair amount of reliability that they would prevail during those taste tests.

All of this reminds me of how Ed Schultz handles controversial issues on his show. He does have guests on his show, it's true, but the vast majority of them have clearly been cherry picked precisely because of their sycophantic predilictions, meaning that they are boot lickers who will say just about anything in exchange for having their egos stroked by Schultz. In other words, just as Pepsi's methodology was a type of propaganda, and therefore untrustworthy, the same could be said for Ed Schultz's methodology.  In both cases, it's a "filtered reality": when we are in need of the "unadulterated truth", we get someone else's idea of the truth instead.

Schultz clearly knows that, and he milks it for all it's worth. On rare occasions, he will invite his political opponents onto the show, but even then, it's usually pretty clear that he asked them to appear on the show precisely because he was confident that it would be easy to openly ridicule them, with little or no fear that they would be well-informed adversaries who would promptly and expertly put him in his place. It amazes me that people play into his hands as often as they do, but then again, it never ceases to amaze me when I consider the number of people who have gladly endured the humiliation of appearing to millions of TV viewers on shows hosted by people such as Maury Povich and "Judge Judy" (who I suspect got her law degree and her arrogant and abrasive personality out of a cereal box) and Jerry Springer (the king of sleaze). Schultz deals with more issues of national importance, but when I think about how he's treated some of his conservative guests, with extreme disrespect, I think he's pretty much in the same camp.

Schultz is not particularly averse to trying to shout loudly enough to drown out his guests if he dislikes what they have to say. In my books, that makes him a bully, not a competent journalist. However, to give credit where credit is due, at least Schultz doesn't end each show by throwing a handful of loose papers at the audience, as Keith Olbermann did before management at MSNBC showed Keith the door! Wow, talk about juvenile behavior which would embarrass most 5-year olds.! I guess that's what liberals do when they run out of cliches with which to avoid actually addressing the issues.

If worse comes to worst, and if Ed's guests prove to be less predictable than Ed clearly thought they would be, he can always completely ignore them when they dare to dispute him, as one of his guests did the other day when she was unwilling to say what he clearly expected and wanted her to say. A more intelligent man would realize that he'd just been revealed for the manipulator he is, and such a man might have even been humble enough to apologize for his presumptuousness, but not our Ed. No sir! He went on to make a total ass of himself without skipping a beat.

What now passes for TV journalism would have struck the journalists of the sixties and seventies as laughable, or possibly as cause for a day of national mourning. It's just another example of how things in this country are going downhill. Maybe it makes me seem like a cranky old man for me to say such a thing, but I'm only two years younger than Ed, and he's more than a little bit cranky himself, especially for someone who acknowledged just the other day that he was in the top 2% of the country's richest people!

I'm financially destitute, and people like Schultz have (by dominating the media) deprived me and others like me of a real voice. Unlike Mr. Schultz, I have good reason to be a little bit cranky, when I consider the deceptive ways in which I've been regularly "dissed" by people like Schultz, even though such people have only rarely bothered to ask me my opinions. What, exactly, is his excuse?

By the way, since Ed supposedly has great empathy for impoverished people such as myself, why does he feel that he needs to be coerced by the government into doing the right thing to help poor people like me? He seems to think that we should be impressed by his willingness to be taxed at a very high rate, but I ask: What's to stop him from sharing his wealth with the poor voluntarily? Hey, if he wants to demonstrate his sincerity with regard to his alleged concern for the poor by sharing some of that wealth with me, so that I can be assured of not having to sleep under the nearest overpass if I should lose my housing during the next year, I'm an easy person to find. (My e-mail address is mwp1212[AT] He merely needs to send me an e-mail message to the effect that he wants to share his wealth with me.

Nah, that would be too easy, and it would deprive liberals of the feeling of power which is their actual objective whenever they argue that the only proper way to address the needs of the poor is to rely on government action.

Speaking as one such American, I don't much care how folks choose to help me when I'm down and out, as I am to some extent even now. I just care that it gets done (which is precisely why I recently created an online community I call the Need Meeters' Network). Or one of the reasons, at any rate, since I do genuinely believe that that network has the potential to help a lot of people, not just me.

When one is able to totally control the conditions in which one faces down the opposition, then it's easy to take them down (or more accurately, to put them down). So easy, and in fact tempting, that Ed has a regular feature called "The Take Down". (Gosh, why do you suppose that so many conservatives have a negative opinion of the media? Could it be that so many so-called journalists have become little more than shills for the Democratic party, which is less interested in solving problems than in winning the next election?)

Not long ago, MSNBC argued that America needed a return to "civility" in the political arena, not so subtly implying that the blame for the decline in such civility belonged solely to Republicans. Well, I acknowledge that some Republicans need to be taught better manners. Their point was not lost on me.  Yet it was going way overboard when they implied that all or most Republicans were somehow responsible for the horrible shooting down in New Mexico. (Even a cursory examination of the facts revealed that the shooter was motivated by his mental illness, not by any strong commitment to any political party.) How, exactly, does taking cheap shots help America to return to civility? When it comes to cheap shots, it seems to me that both parties are equally guilty.

MSNBC regularly employs acrimonious, self aggrandizing idiots like Ed, who are less interested in fairness or deep thinking than in promoting the Democratic "brand" with such ridiculously overheated rhetoric that one would think that every Republican on the face of the earth was a clone of the Devil. MSNBC would have a lot more credibility if that network's employees practiced what they preached.

A very rich clone, I might add, since the rhetoric which regularly spews from Ed Schultz seems to rely upon stereotypes to the effect that financially impoverished Republicans such as myself simply do not exist. (I assure Mr. Schultz that I am very real, even though he clearly wishes that such was not the case.) Like most of his cronies, Schultz almost never seems to acknowledge that a substantial number of Republicans such as myself consist of people who vote Republican for reasons having a lot less to do with economic considerations than with the fact that Republicans have historically opposed legal abortion, because they understand that the legitimacy of any government relies on whether or not that government consistently treats all human beings as if all people are indeed created equal. Treating people in some age groups as if they have a right to government protection from those who would wish to kill them, while treating others (specifically the unborn) as if they have no such right, is irrational, and utterly inconsistent with the values which we claim makes America so great.

Not only that, but a failure to consistently defend the value of human life in all of its manifestations is a failure which ultimately undermines all human rights. It does little good for someone to defend my right to free speech, my right to freedom of religion and other important but comparatively minor rights, unless that person also defends my right to be protected from others who would seek to kill me. If one is free to murder others and thereby deprive them of the right to live, then he can (by killing them) simultaneously deprive them of the ability to exercise any other rights they may have. Because it is such a fundamental right, the right to life is arguably the most important right of all. Those who deprive others of the right to life for reasons as flimsy as those which have been cited by defenders of legal abortion may not realize it, but they are engaged in an enterprise which ultimately jeopardizes every other right they might conceivably enjoy in the future.

The instinct for self-preservation has always been manifest by intense desire to protect one's progeny, even amongst lower life forms such as grizzly bears. (Many bear attacks against humans are attributable to their desire to protect their cubs.) There is something extremely unnatural about people who act in a manner which is the opposite of what one would expect from people who care about self-preservation.

If this were solely a matter of their own survival as individuals, then one might argue that they had a right to jeopardize their own survival or the perpetuation of the human species. But the issue has been misrepresented, by people who speciously argue that a woman has the right to control her own body. Such an argument is specious, indeed ludicrous, when one considers that the bodies people usually seek to kill at the local abortion clinic are not theirs.  A child is a stewardship, not a mere possession to do with what one will. (Talk about an extreme manifestation of the capitalistic impulse! Ayn Rand would be proud.)

Once a woman becomes pregnant, the question is not whether or not she will become a parent. Biologically, she already is a parent, so she already is a parent (as is the man who inseminated her); the only question is whether or not the two parents will maturely accept the fact that parenthood comes with certain responsibilities.

Ed and his cronies at MSNBC regularly refer to "the people" during their evening diatribes. Which people are they talking about, exactly? Funny, I don't recall going to them and asking them to speak for me. Last time I checked, I was a person. But of course, you have to keep in mind when such people use such phrases as "the people" that they don't feel any guilt when they treat millions of unborn children as if such unborn children are not real people whose lives are worthy of consideration. So basically, "people" is a term they feel free to redefine in whatever manner they deem politically expedient for the party. And if they think that it's expedient to promote stereotypes which ignore the diversity (one of their favorite words) of the Republican party, then who are the American people to think for themselves? If Ed Schultz insists on seeing me as one of those "rich Republicans", then who am I to point out that I've suffered as much from this poor economy as anyone else? Who am I to suggest that people so self-centered that they make all of their political decisions solely or primarily on the basis of how it affects their own pocketbooks are people unworthy of leadership positions, regardless of whether they are Republicans or Democrats? Who am I to suggest that we will all face God on the judgment day, or to suggest that it is unwise to neglect that consideration when making life choices which may very well influence God's judgment of each of us on that day?

Maybe, when it comes to civility (not to mention humility), people such as Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow and others at MSNBC need to practice what they preach. But I'm not seeing it yet on MSNBC, and I doubt that I will anytime soon.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Projects Of Mine

I'm publishing this blog post for the purpose of sharing information about several projects in which I've been particularly involved, especially since moving from Chicago to Bellingham, WA in November 2010. The following is a summary of those projects:


The Christian Arts Initiative is an ambitious multifaceted project pertaining to my desire to help to start a "righteous Renaissance" by empowering and encouraging artistic Christians such as myself to more effectively use our various artistic talents and skills for the purpose of bringing glory to Jesus Christ, thereby making this world better, and more beautiful, than it was before we came here.

Admittedly, that's a pretty vague "mission statement", but if you'll contact me with an e-mail message, I'll gladly answer any questions you might have, and I'll also send you some relevant links which will enable you to better understand my vision, in terms of some specifics.

My e-mail address is currently mwp1212[AT]

I especially recommend that you visit the Artistic Christians' Network, which I created slightly less than two years ago. The ACN is an online social network which currently has roughly 30 members. Its name is pretty self-explanatory, to some extent, but you'll learn more if you visit the site for yourself. The web address for the ACN is: I invite you to visit that web site, check out the numerous blog posts I've written, and otherwise investigate the web site in order to get a better idea of what it has become, and what I hope that it will become once people have begun to use the site more fully.

Keep in mind, when you visit the site, that any references to are references to a web site which is currently out of commission due to financial difficulties which caused me to fall behind on the web hosting fees for that site. But I hope to get a new version of that site back online again, once I've addressed various issues I'll need to address in order to bring that site back again.

In addition to developing the Artistic Christians' Network, site, I hope to start local fellowship meetings and planning meetings in the Bellingham, WA area, in relation to the local chapter of a group to be known as the ACE Fellowship of Artistic Christians. (ACE is an acronym, in this case, which stands for Artistic Christian Endeavors.) With the help of the members of the ACE Fellowship, I believe that it's feasible to achieve great things in the Pacific Northwest! If you like that idea, please e-mail me in order to discuss the idea of having such a meeting soon.


More recently I created a second online social network which, like the Artistic Christians' Network, is focused on a specific objective. In this case, the objective is to create a Christ-centered network specifically for the purpose of empowering people who have a wide variety of urgent and not-so-urgent needs, such as the need for employment, the need for adequate and affordable housing, the need for medical and dental care, the need for friendship, and much more. The idea behind the Need Meeters' Network (NMN) is that many of those needs can be much more effectively met if needy people can become part of a "caring community" in which they are encouraged to openly share their various needs more clearly with one another. People can't usually meet the needs of others if they don't know what they are! That's just logical.

The Need Meeters' Network (NMN) only has two members so far, including myself, because I only created it a few weeks ago, and I'm still tweeking its design and developing the concept, not to mention the fact that I'm dealing with other issues in my life which are in some cases quite urgent. Based on feedback I've gotten from others when I've discussed the project with them, however, I think that the project has huge untapped potential, especially when one considers that I also hope to use the NMN to similarly empower various nonprofits, social service agencies and churches which are regularly involved in helping to meet the needs of others in various ways. The interactive nature of the Need Meeters' Network will enable various "need meeters" to develop active partnerships and alliances with people and organizations whose agendas and missions overlap to some extent. I'm committed to the goal of maximizing the usefulness of the NMN to such organizations, especially if they in turn will help to publicize the Need Meeters' Network.

Now, I'll openly confess (because I see it as no cause for shame) that I myself have a vested interest in the success of the Need Meeters' Network. Specifically, I have often found myself in situations where I needed a more effective way to communicate my own needs with people who might be both willing and able to meet those needs, or at least to help to meet those needs. One such need (which I'll discuss more in future blog posts, unless the issue is fully resolved before it becomes necessary to do so) is my own need for emergency housing, if my current housing situation should become even more unstable than it already is.

[As I said once in this blog post already, my e-mail address is currently mwp1212[AT]]

Time limitations often prevent churches and other traditional institutions from offering adequate opportunities for people to share their needs with others. Fortunately, web sites such as the NMN are usually accessible 24/7. So there's really no reason for failing to use such communication options, other than not caring about the needs of others. I'd like to think that most people (especially Christians such as myself) do care about people in this world who are hurting in various ways. So I invite you to visit and join the NMN (for free), in order to help make this world a better place, while simultaneously making it more likely that your own needs will be met in the future.


Ever since moving to Bellingham from Chicago, I have known that I needed to procure employment so that I could be relatively independent, instead of relying upon the help of  Everett Barton, who generously invited me to stay with him when I lost my room at the Lawson House YMCA in Chicago on account of having fallen behind on my rent. I've spent some amount of time in pursuit of that goal. But probably not as much time as I ought to have spent, since I was preoccupied to a great extent with the other projects listed and described in this blog post.

Part of the reason, I must admit, was that I found it very discouraging to have to try to find a job in this economic climate and this job market, especially when I considered the impediments I faced when seeking employment, particularly in terms of my age (of 54 years), and when I considered how long it had been since I'd even had a part-time job, to say nothing of how long it had been since I'd worked full-time.

While it would be accurate to say that this has been a "crisis of confidence" to some extent, I want to emphasize that the crisis pertains to my ability to persuade someone to hire me for the type of job I need, and for which I'm qualified. There is no crisis insofar as my ability to actually do such a job, if I can procure such a job. I'm a skilled worker, with a strong work ethic, and I merely need a chance to prove that that is the case. Ever since I first entered the job market in 1972, I've worked in a number of restaurants, retail establishments and offices, and I've also worked in other positions, such as the time I worked as a news announcer at KSOZ, a 20,000 watt FM station at College of the Ozarks (or School of the Ozarks, as it was known at the time in late 1977). Also as a telemarketer, a telephone surveyor and more.

Any assistance I could get with regard to my current search for a suitable job would be greatly appreciated, because my ability to achieve the other goals discussed in this blog post is contingent first and foremost on my survival! If you believe in the value of those other goals, then please help me to achieve them by assisting me in finding employment in the meantime. I'll be happy to furnish you with my resume if you'll e-mail me at mwp1212[at] and ask for the resume. If you have any questions related to my job search, I'll try to answer those questions as well.

For years, I have been forced by my circumstances to rely for my financial support on the income from a variety of jobs in a variety of work environments, from restaurants to retail businesses to various offices. I would never claim that I was "too good" to do so, but even when this country was not afflicted by its current economic woes, it was more than a bit frustrating for me to have to support myself in this manner, because it always felt like something of a compromise, when I gave serious consideration to what I believed to be God's vocational calling on my life.

This fact would not and will not detract from the quality of my work, if I find myself employed in a "normal" job again, nor will it cause me to seek to end such a job as soon as possible. Once hired, I generally do my best to keep that job as long as possible. In this economy, it would be foolish for me to do otherwise. Besides, I don't plan to rely solely on an outside job in terms of the totality of my income. Rather, I hope and plan to spend a lot of my "free time" when I'm not clocked in by focusing on the goal of raising additional funds, by means of entrepreneurial efforts involving the online sales of various high quality products of my own creation, such as greeting cards, fine art prints, books of my poetry, CDs of my music (once I have adequate time and equipment with which to create those music recordings) and more.

That has been my goal for many years, but it's only been recently that it was feasible. I now have the ability (and at least some of the equipment) with which to implement a plan to sell art-related products online. Every online sale of such products will take me closer to achieving my other financial goals, in a manner which will be consistent with my overall agenda, and which in fact will help me to achieve those other vocational objectives. So please visit this blog page (and other, newer posts at, and check out the links I plan to periodically add to this blog post, in order to learn about my progress in terms of setting up an online storefront and/or selling various products in other easy-to-implement ways (some of which may involve income-earning opportunities for individuals, churches, etc. who are willing to help me to market my products)

If you're visiting this blog post as a result of being directed to the post by materials connected with another artistic expression of mine (such as a piece of my visual art), please consider putchasing a copy of that work of art so that I can spend more of my time developing the Christian Arts Initiative and the Need Meeters' Network, and less time trying merely to survive. Thanks!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hell and Popular Music

Over the years, I've heard a number of popular songs which have referred to hell. Often, they've made it sound as if hell is a marvelous place to be. For instance:

"You know you got to go through hell, before you get to heaven"
... from "Big Ol' Jet Airliner" by Steve Miller

"If you wanna' get to heaven, you've got to raise a little hell"
... Ozark Mountain Daredevils

And who can forget the songs "Hells Bells" and "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC? ("YEAH! Party on, dudes," said the embarrassingly drunken frat boy.)

In my opinion, there is no better way to demonstrate one's ignorance (or, dare I say it, utter stupidity) than to write songs that make hell sound as if it's a vacation paradise (or as if it is a stepping stone on the way to heaven).

I believe that hell is very real, and it's not a place where any sane person would ever want to be. Jesus died an excruciatingly painful death on the cross precisely so that we could avoid hell, if we would only make the simple choice to follow and obey him.

The fact that we live in a culture which treats hell as if it's a big joke says something really sad about that culture. People who have bought into the lies promoted by such songs can look forward to a very unpleasant wake-up call when they die.

That's one extremely compelling reason why we need to invest in turning our culture around, by helping to finance the creation of Christ-centered works of art and music.

Wise Words from Dale Pollard

In the past several months, I've been involved with a Christian men's group, here in Bellingham, WA, known as Prodigal. Some of the Prodigal men meet weekly, on Thursday nights, at Hillcrest Chapel, where I attend church.

I just got an e-mail from Dale Pollard, who leads the Prodigal group. The e-mail ended with the following statement, which I found to be quite astute:

Mostly we think of people with great authority as higher up, far away, hard to reach. But spiritual authority comes from compassion and emerges from deep inner solidarity with those who are "subject" to authority. The one who is fully like us, who deeply understands our joys and pains or hopes and desires, and who is willing and able to walk with us, that is the one to whom we gladly give authority and whose "subjects" we are willing to be. It is the compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen. True spiritual authorities are located in the point of an upside-down triangle, supporting and holding into the light everyone they offer their leadership to. Peace, Dale

It can be difficult, in many churches, to find leaders who exhibit this kind of a Christ-like mentality. Peace to you, too, Dale.