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Back in Business

2017 March 2
by Randy H. Milgrom

It’s been years — but what better opportunity than this moment for an expert with experience in holding people to saying what they mean? Stay tuned….

You’re Welcome, Mr. President

2012 November 1

In the last week of the presidential campaign President Obama has trimmed his message to just a few basic points, one of which is that while his opponent is some kind of shape-shifter, the American people already know who he is. He says you can trust him to do what he says he will do — even if you don’t always agree with him.

“The President is someone who says what he means and does what he says,” Obama campaign spokesman Dan Pfeiffer confirmed and reiterated.

Another campaign staffer told a reporter that the President “says what he believes and does what he says.”

Here’s the President, in his own words: “The things I say, I mean.”

Pretty close to MilWrite Communications’ famous tagline: We Say What You Mean.

You’re welcome, Mr. President.


2012 October 26
by Randy H. Milgrom

At the end of an interview recently granted to Rolling Stone contributing writer Douglas Brinkley, President Obama off-handedly referred to Governor Romney as a “bullshitter.”

Given the nature and state of the Twittersphere — and the rest of the raging Internet — the remark did not go unnoticed. There was a decent amount of complaint by Republicans, and fulmination among the farther-right, but it didn’t even trend on Twitter, nor did it pick up much steam elsewhere. One could almost feel the collective shrug. That, after all, is what the president has been going around saying about Romney on the stump in nearly every swing state these last couple of weeks. He’s been saying that what “salesman” Mitt Romney has been selling is “kind of a sketchy deal.” The language printed in Rolling Stone was more blunt, but only to a degree.

At least as interesting as the relative lack of online interest is that neither Romney, nor his campaign, have officially objected — or even responded in any direct way — to the Presiden’t assertion. While many a right-wing (and even a few left-wing) pundits have objected to Obama’s use of the term, the closest I’ve come to finding an “official” Romney campaign response was the following in

“The Romney campaign says it’s the president who has broken promises.”

But that’s not the same thing, is it? Obama’s not accusing Romney of breaking promises. He’s accusing him of lying. Many of us find we’re unable to keep our promises — sometimes through no fault of our own. When you lie, it’s always your fault. President Obama would have liked to have kept all of his promises — who wouldn’t? — and he even admits he hasn’t been able to do so. So the Romney rejoinder is not only a non-sequitor, it’s old news — if it’s news at all.

Why hasn’t Romney pushed back harder against against Obama’s disrespectful slam? If someone called me a bullshitter, I’d fight back. I’d demand an apology. Unless, of course, I knew it was true.

Why Do I Listen?

2012 September 7
by Randy H. Milgrom

This concerns a certain local sports talk radio guy named Mike Valenti — though in fairness to him (and this may be the last time in this post that I will be fair to him) — he did garner a modicum of wider notice for a 2006 rant following a Michigan State-Notre Dame football game:

The Rant aside, this is mostly what I hear when I listen to Valenti’s show, which he co-hosts with the long-suffering Terry Foster of The Detroit News: “I can’t watch it,” or, “It’s unwatchable,” or, “the state of [pick any professional or college sport] stinks,” or, “I don’t care anymore,” or, “Who cares about any of this,” or, “Go ahead — you talk about it. I’ve stopped listening and I’ve stopped caring.”

So my question: Is this young man really as unhappy and as angry as he appears? Does he hate his job — and his callers, the subjects they want to discuss, and the opinions they dare to express — as much his sour demeanor and harsh words suggest? In other words — Does he really mean what he says?

Perhaps it’s all just an act. A ploy to stir tension, bring attention, and increase his audience. Does he do the job solely to please his employers? Is it only about the money? Or does he genuinely enjoy sports, and his job, but merely thinks this is the best way to entertain himself, his bosses, and his listeners?

My best guess is that it’s a show, primarily because it’s got to be: this guy couldn’t possibly be as obnoxious in real life as he is on the air. Nothing wrong with putting on a show, but Valenti’s knowledge, talent, and smarts go largely unnoticed because they are so vastly overwhelmed by his disdain for both his audience and his subject matter.

It’s impossible for me to listen for long, so I punch up another station. But then I return. (I admit that I have listened to him — thankfully leavened by the mostly mild-mannered Foster — many more times than once.) So Valenti is winning. But what I want to know is why. Because if Valenti is as tortured by having to watch and talk about sports as he says he is, then shouldn’t he just quit? Do you know how many other 32 year olds would kill to have this guy’s job?

Misplaced Outrage

2012 July 26

Anger and outrage toward George Zimmerman — prejudged or not — is understandable. Trayvon Martin, an apparently innocent 14-year-old kid, is dead, and Zimmerman killed him. But whatever responsibility Zimmerman has (and will be judged to have had) for that death, he is not also responsible for the actions of the local authorities who dealt with the aftermath of that death. So for those in the media and elsewhere who appear to be blaming Zimmerman for not being held or charged at the time of the incident, your emotions are misplaced. Zimmerman’s not to blame for still being free.

Save the hue and cry concerning the defandant for the upcoming trial, whenever that might occur. The investigation by the Sanford police department — and whichever other judges or politicians might have been involved in deciding whether Zimmerman should have immediately faced charges — was apparently faulty from the start. Because beyond the issues relating to detaining and charging, Zimmerman reportedly was allowed to keep his gun (which allegedly was neither examined nor tested), and the same is true of the clothing he was wearing at the time of the shooting. He was never drug tested — though it has been reported that Trayvon Martin, the victim, was. These basic evidence-gathering mistakes will be impediments to successfully trying the defendant, no doubt, but the motives behind what the authorities did — and did not do — in the hours following the killing must be called into serious question.

Because don’t forget this: It also has been reported that the police did not call Trayvon’s girlfriend, or parents, or any of the other numbers in Trayvon’s cell phone, for two whole days — 48 hours! — following Trayvon’s death. They just let the young black teenager lie on a slab in a morgue, or wherever else, as if he were simply less than. And none of that was George Zimmerman’s fault. So who will pay for it?

Judicial Restraint and Activism: One and the Same

2012 June 30
by Randy H. Milgrom

“It’s a great pleasure, in this week when the entire political world is hanging on the Supreme Court’s health care ruling, to welcome so many liberals to a cause dear to my heart: The crusade for judicial restraint.”

So begins a recent column by The New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat, whose normally temperate manner is replaced in this case with sarcasm — not to mention uninformed judicial analysis.

Douthat’s not a lawyer, so his lack of depth on this subject is understandable. The man clearly cares deeply about this issue, so even his semi-vitriol is excusable. Passion is pardonable. But what can never be pardoned is duplicity.

Douthat’s theory is that judicial deference originally was the province of social conservatives and right-wing populists, and that this “changed gradually [only] as the influence of Republican appointees inevitably tilted the court rightward.” Now, as the “Obamacare” decision looms, Douthat says that “liberals [believe] … the Court has become a purely ideological actor, a rogue body unmoored from any cause save partisanship….” He tries to debunk any such concerns with statistics about the relative number of precedents invalidated and the average number of laws overturned under the Warren, Rehnquist, and Roberts courts, but while the numbers are relatively similar, what is vastly different are the types of laws and precedents that are being cast aside — and that’s the only difference that really matters.

So it’s not a matter of “liberalism’s conversion to the cause of judicial restraint,” as Douthat sarcastically suggests. And there’s still no real consensus “that judicial modesty is one of the best possible qualifications for a position that offers so much untrammeled power and brings so much temptation along with it.” Because what still matters most, to either side of the political spectrum, is what that justice is being “modest” about it.

As for what appears to be Douthat’s primary point that liberals want more “judicial restraint” only because cases might now be going against them: no kidding. The very idea that there ever has been any truth to whether any particular justice is likely to be a “strict constructionist” or someone who “legislates from the bench” always has been — and always will be — a distinction without a difference. It’s always been nothing more than a convenient canard for either side to hide behind to avoid having to say, “I want someone who will strike down all the things I don’t like and allow to stand those I do.”

Some Unsolicited Advice: Do Not Accept Unsolicited Advice

2012 May 20
by Randy H. Milgrom

While University of Michigan point guard Trey Burke has been deciding whether to return to school for his sophomore year or jump to the pros — where his draft prospects seem surprisingly brighter than I might have expected — Michigan State University Athletic Director Mark Hollis somehow believed it was appropriate for him to weigh in on Twitter with direct advice for Burke, a student-athlete from a rival school.

In less than 24 hours (one might question whether this is a fast or slow turnaround in TwitterWorld), Hollis admitted his mistake. But not before a fair amount of backlash, including an effective rejoinder from University of Michigan AD David Brandon.

First, Burke’s lament about unsoilicted advice: “EVERYONE got something to say… smh I thought this was my life!”

Then, Hollis’ direct tweet to Burke: “My advice, believe in YOUR heart & mind, everything else is interference. People u seek out is better than those that seek u.” Incredibly poor grammar aside, this is undeniably sound and apparently well-intentioned advice. But how is it possible that Hollis would have thought it was his place to comment about such an important, delicate, and ultimately personal matter — and in such a public forum, no less?

“If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve made it a general tweet,” Hollis admitted the following day in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It was probably unfair to direct my message to one person going through a process that I think has failed a lot of student-athletes.”

Yes — but how about simply following your own advice and waiting to be approached before offering any. If Burke were to accept the advice you’re offering, you’d have him ignore it, right? Or am I mising something? If so, please tweet me. (It’s okay. I’m asking for it.) And by the way — you don’t have to do it again. You didn’t have to do it the first time.

Hollis and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon have had what seems a friendly if not playful relationship, both on and off Twitter. But Brandon’s own Twitter advice to his in-state counterpart was pretty straightforward.

“Mark Hollis had good intentions-but made a mistake,” Brandon wrote. “Not appropriate to tweet one of our student-athletes. Won’t happen again. End of story.”

Hollis has acknowledged that he understands Brandon’s concerns, yet he continues to stand by his general message to anyone gathering information to determine whether to leave school early for professional sports: “My advice to anybody — our kids, anyone at Michigan, Ohio State, or anywhere else — is to reach out to people who will help you make a rational decision instead of listening to people reaching for you with their own agendas. I reacted in compassion to a tweet from what seemed like a frustrated athlete and not because of the rivalry we have with Michigan.”

And still not a word about the irony of offering unsolicited advice about not accepting unsolicited advice.

Speaking Ill of the Dead

2012 April 25

Hold your tongue at a funeral. It’s the decent thing to do. An unwritten rule of etiquette nearly universally followed.

And then there’s Matt Taibbi, in Rolling Stone, concerning the recent death of right-wing firebrand Andrew Breitbart:

“So Andrew Breitbart is dead. Here’s what I have to say to that, and I’m sure Breitbart himself would have respected this reaction: Good! Fuck him. I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead.”

Of course, Breitbart started it. Soon after Ted Kennedy’s passing, Breitbart tweeted, “Rest in Chappaquiddick,” before unapologetically attacking Kennedy as a “villain,” “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard,” and a “prick.” “Kennedy was a special pile of human excrement,” he concluded.

As Taibbi writes, anyone who write such things desrves — if not expects (or should expect) — similar treatment.

Yet even Taibbi’s funny and well-reasoned attack on the just-deceased Breitbart seems harsh, if not cruel (even if accurate).

Say what you mean, yes. But sometimes it’s best to just not say anything at all.

Geraldo: Hoodied Meanings

2012 March 30
by Randy H. Milgrom

Geraldo Rivera — whom I once admired; I was an impressionable teen when he burst on the scene in the 1970s and ’80s as a mod hipster truth-teller (or so it seemed) — has been roundly and justifiably criticized in most quarters for his odd comment about the culpable role that Trayvon Martin’s hoodie played in the young man’s death. I don’t want to repeat the comment, so I’ll show it instead:

Geraldo Rivera Blames Trayvon Martin (Or His Parents) For Wearing Hoodie

It’s odd because whereas Geraldo actually correctly identifies the problem – straight-up prejudice based on appearance – he seems to thinks the solution is to somehow make yourself look acceptable to those who might kill you based solely on the way you look. I don’t know if he said what he meant to say, but he certainly seemed to mean what he said. (It’s earnest advice he gives to his son, no less.) Geraldo Rivera’s been on a downward slide since the O.J. Simpson trial, so this may merely be a desperate attempt to recapture some attention. Mission accomplished…in a bad way.

North is South and South is North — in South Carolina

2012 January 23

What transpired last week in the South Carolina Republican Primary was a cllinic in misdirection, obfuscation, and ironic expression.

Steven Colbert–the comedian and (fake) TV talk show host–bases his act on winking hyperbole. His bloviating pundit doesn’t really believe–or mean–what he says, right? How could he possibly?

But recently the fake Steven Colbert has become a real (if joking, as well as instructive and cautionary-tale-type) presidential candidate. Others, on Colbert’s behalf, have legally formed and funded a Super PAC, over which he has absolutely no (wink-wink) control–even though he also was able to legally transfer the fund to his partner in comedy and what-should-be-a-crime, Jon Stewart–who promptly changed its name and helped to produce ads that ran on television in many South Carolina media markets during the week leading up to the vote.

So (fake or otherwise) Steven Colbert, who’s not really a candidate (we all know that, right?), is nonetheless able to associate with a Super PAC, which is running political ads on his behalf in South Carolina, even though Colbert filed too late under South Carolina election laws to even get himself on the South Carolina ballot–and even though the law also prohibits write-ins. (If a South Carolinian wrote in Colbert’s name, as I’m sure one did, that effort didn’t count and the ballot was discarded. Talk about thwarting the will of the voter.)

But none of this deterred the “truthiness”-seeking Colbert. It wasn’t enough for him to reveal the absurdity of the Super PAC laws by lampooning them from afar. Instead he exposed them utterly merely by employing them. And now Colbert also was thwarting the balloting laws, this time by using (likely as his unwitting accomplice, given his astonishing lack of self-awareness) a real (though former) presidential candidate who should have been fake: Herman Cain.

Though Cain had “suspended” his campaign a few weeks prior to the South Carolina primary because (oh, never mind why), he still was on the SC ballot because–well, because when Cain had been a candidate he had timely filed the appropriate papers. Presumably with Cain’s permission (or possibly not; it’s likely not even legally required), Colbert’s Super PAC TV ads solicited votes on behalf of “Herman Cain,” but whenever Cain’s name was mentioned, Colbert’s likeness appeared.


So to whom do Cain’s South Carolina votes belong? Don’t ask any lawyers or politicians to explain it to you.

I’m Not Blaming the Refs

2012 January 9

I love what Detroit Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz has accomplished since taking over the team three years ago. Making steady progress almost from the start, he’s quickly transformed the team from longtime joke and near-term catastrophe to one of the most relevant and intriguing teams in the NFL. As a lifelong fan of the Lions, I could hardly ask for more, and I consider this season a great success. There’s no shame ending the season by losing to the Saints, whom many believe will win the Super Bowl next month. The Saints beat the Lions because they’re the better team.

Still, it might have been different.

Schwartz said immediately following the game that he takes no comfort in his team playing well and having a lead against perhaps the best team in the NFL for more than a half. When asked if he cared to elaborate on early season comments about never settling for anything less than winning — if he’d be willing, in other words, to put the Lions’ season in perspective — he said, “No,” and walked away.

Schwartz will meet the media again tomorrow afternoon in his last formal press conference of the 2011-2012 season and he may well be willing to elaborate and even say a nice thing or two after he’s had a good (or horrible) night’s sleep. But if he’s not willing to accept anything less than excellence from his team he also must apply that standard to himself. And Schwartz made a crucial mistake in what may well have been the game’s utltimate turning point.

I’m not privy to the behind-the-scenes stories so I’d never criticize the way Schwartz prepared his team, and I don’t know enough about football in general to even comment on his game plan — though I’d venture that on both fronts he was solid if not stellar. His team came ready to play, it was competitive until the game got out of hand late due to desperation, and it was beaten by a few of its own mistakes and a handful of big plays made by the better team.

While Schwartz’s pre-game performance may be difficult to judge, it’s not hard to admire. His in-game performance, on the other hand, is both easier to assess and much easier to criticize. Midway through the third quarter, the Saints were ahead 17-14 after scoring a quick and unanswered touchdown on their first drive of the second half. A stalled Lions drive later and they were on the move again but still on their own side of mid-field when a Lion defender seemed to stand a Saint up well short of the first down marker on a third down play. But the refs allowed a generous spot and quickly signalled a first down.

I’m not blaming the referees for making a bad call — though I believe the replays clearly showed the spot was erroneous. Refs make bad calls (among the vast majority of often amazingly accurate calls). But the rules allow each coach to challenge two calls per game — so I blame Schwartz for not challenging this one.

This is even easier to assess in hindsight, though I was yelling out loud at the time for Schwartz to throw his own flag before the Saints snapped the ball again. He didn’t — and a handful of plays later the Saints had scored another touchdown to make it 24-14, which put the Lions in a hole from which they never recovered.

Some might say this type of call is most difficult to overrule, and that with still more than 20 minutes left in the game Schwartz was right to keep his two challenges in his pocket to use when the game’s on the line. But by game’s end, Schwartz still owned a challenge per pocket. Others will say it might not have got overturned — but we’ll never know because he didn’t try. When callers on talk radio in the last day have complained about the refs, local hosts have been quick to scold: the refs didn’t lose this game for the Lions. And of course they’re right. But Schwartz had an arsenal of weapons he never used in the biggest game of the season. So it’s impossible to say he went all out.

Schwartz’s team should be proud of the job they’ve done — and aware of the mistakes they’ve made. And so should Schwartz. He’s often almost comically tough and curt with the media, though he’s also relatively young for a man in his position, with eclectic tastes in music and pop culture and a wry sense of humor he occasionally allows to seep charmingly through. He says he keeps his criticisms of players between him and the team private — and perhaps he keeps his own counsel about self-criticisms as well. So it’ll be interesting to see if the media questions Schwartz about this decision, and if they do, how he responds.

What’s to Love?

2012 January 4
by Randy H. Milgrom
      After struggling to beat a lesser opponent in a recent first-round match, tennis star Serena Williams casually mentioned to reporters that she “doesn’t love” the game (though she did admit that she can’t live without it).
      Serena’s comments triggered a slew of analysis—most of it unkind. Many claim her admission that she doesn’t enjoy working out as proof that she doesn’t care as much as others. Some insist her unwillingness to play a full schedule is not a lack of love but an unwillingness to do what it takes—and what her competitors accept. They read into Serena’s statements, in other words, nothing but arrogance. Her comments aren’t self-revealing; they’re self-congratulatory.

     But those who characterize Serena’s disdain for the grind as laziness ingnore her upbringing. Williams and her older sister Venus were teenage tennis phemonena, groomed from birth by an overbearing father to dominate tennis by overpowering it. So it was not surprising to hear Serena, now 30, say, “I have never liked sports and could never understand how I became an athlete”—especially after reading the same sentiment in the autobiography of Andre Agassi, another tennis tot made to play by a domineering dad. By the time Agassi was able to think for himself, it was—he felt—too late to reverse course. Besides, he was good at it, and he realized that that was what he liked about tennis, and why he kept playing. It brought him riches and acclaim—and he loved that. But did he love tennis? Agassi says no.
     If Serena doesn’t love the game it’s because she didn’t come by it naturally. She started playing not for herself but for others. The desire didn’t come from within so she had to find something outside of herself that would make her keep playing. She can’t live without tennis at the moment because it’s what she knows, and still does, best. But Serena’s entitled to play—and to stop playing—on her own terms. She couldn’t control how and when she got into the game so she’s more than earned the right to control how and when she gets out.

Nutty Newt?

2011 December 20
by Randy H. Milgrom

Newt Gingrich says as President he’d require judges—including Supreme Court Justices—to “explain their rulings” at Congressional hearings. Asked which rulings would be the subject of this cumbersome (not to mention unconstitutional) scrutiny, he admitted that he’d start only with those that were “extreme.”

Under the heading of saying what you mean—or of this blog’s narrower line of inquiry, which is deciding whether public speakers have said what they’ve meant to say—let us examine Newt’s nonsense.

First, under what power might President Gingrich summon Antonin Scalia (okay, Ruth Bader Ginsberg)? The President of the United States has no subpoena power of any kind—and even if such a power existed, is it even imaginable that it would extend to the use of the floor of the House or the well of the Senate? And why must they “explain their rulings?” Isn’t that precisely what judges and justices likely would already have accomplished in their often lengthy — if “extreme” — written opinions?

And that, of course, is the crux of it. “Extreme” to whom? Newt has pointed vaguely to a series of rulings that he claims have systematically stripped religion from public life, but he didn’t even mention the arguably most extreme recent case of Citizens United, which trampled nearly a century of case law to declare a corporation the equivalent of a person in terms of its right to political speech. But that’s extreme, presumably, only to those on the political left. Not Newt’s peeps.

So did Gingrich say what he meant to say? I suppose, unfortunately, that he did. He was pandering to that portion of his political base that fervently abhors “activist judges,” and to those on the religious right. And calling judges to account for their heathenish ways is precisely what’s due, I imagine, according to that crowd—no matter how nutty Newt’s cure.

Trying To Keep A Job

2011 October 7
by Randy H. Milgrom

          Politicians appear increasingly motivated only by what helps them to keep their jobs. Many run for office following often long and sometimes lucrative careers so money may not be a major motivator, but power‘s a known stimulant. Once you’ve been a U.S. Senator or Representative, it’s easy to find follow-on employment — often in the private sector, at many multiples of a civil servant’s salary (see, Newt Gingrich). And neither public shame nor outright disgrace — even for those going straight from federal office to federal prison — prohibits a gainful living. 

          But what about those of us in the private sector? Do we want merely to keep our jobs, or are we motivated by more? Most want to accomplish, not place-hold. But inertia — and the not uncommon need merely to feed a family — forces many to settle for less, and then to cling to that. We want to climb, and sometimes do, if only through sheer seniority. But showing up (with apologies to Woody Allen) is not just not enough — it’s out of fashion. Unless you’re a member of Congress.

          Holding firm — to long-held if not outdated positions — is rewarded by some voters, as is pandering, which is why both endure. Colleagues are prized not for their lawmaking but their head-counting or deal-making or power-brokering. But if you’re out of a job, perhaps your elected representative should be, too.

Does He Even Believe What He Says?

2011 June 27
by Randy H. Milgrom

          When President Obama released his birth certificate, Donald Trump was rendered useless but not mute. The Donald thumped his chest and declared himself “proud to have accomplished something nobody else has been able to accomplish.” And then he did sit mute as the President gave Trump a public beat-down at the White House Correspondence dinner on the night — and mere hours — before the Commander in Chief cooly pulled the trigger on Osama Bin Laden.

          Later Trump confirmed what everyone else knew: he would not be running for President of the United States. “After considerable deliberation and reflection,” he said, as if capable of either, “I have decided not to pursue the presidency.” No kidding. Thank you. Goodbye.

           Yet the man who had long teased, “You’ll be surprised at what my announcement is,” also said this: “Business is my greatest passion, and I am not ready to leave the private sector.” Trump chose money over country; no surprise there.

          Trump should be old news — and perhaps he is in many quarters — but TV hosts still invite him to speak, though nearly always by phone. Recently, when he hinted he may yet run, one host probed for more. But Trump would only say that people would be “surprised” (again) about his next moves.

          But what surprises me is that anyone would take this man seriously. When he first officially opted out of the race in May, the congenital braggart concluded: “I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and, ultimately, the general election.”          

          Anyone who truly believes he is capable of winning the presidency but decides against running is either lazy or a fool.  Never believe what a delusional man says.

Message Delivered = Message Received?

2011 June 17
by Randy H. Milgrom

          Before I upgraded, just last week, to a Droid x2, I was hanging on to my trusty old Blackberry — the very first World edition, according to the snickering but helpful Verizon employee who sold me the new phone. The old one died, which is what had to happen to force me to swap it for something everybody had been telling me would be better. And perhaps I’ll agree once I learn how to use it — or how to use it for functions my old phone could not perform, even on its best day. I know I’m not yet overtaxing my new Droid (I do not like that name, by the way). And I admit that by the end I had abused my old phone, thereby hastening its mechanical breakdown. (When the ball ain’t working, it’s time to move on.)

          But there’s one piece of information the Blackberry provided that the Droid does not. While using my Blackberry’s Short Message Service, or SMS — when “texting,” in other words, as it is commonly known — the phone’s read-out would inform me that my message had been sent. And then, some seconds later, with the sudden addition of a tiny check mark, my phone would further comfort me: my pithy 140-character missive had been delivered. The Droid — whose set-up is not only more readable but also more entertaining, with strings of texted correspondence displayed within the kinds of crudely formed bubbles one finds in comic books and graphic novels — also confirms that my message is sent. But it offers no definitive confirmation of delivery until or unless my recipient favors me with a reply. This may not be a deal-breaker, but my former circumstances seem preferable to the guessing and waiting game I now must endure.

          Yet even the Blackberry had left me with a philosophical — if not existential — question to ponder. I felt confident that my message had been sent. And I believed it when I was informed that it had been delivered. But had it been received? I still never really knew. I mean, they got my message — but did they get it? That’s the ever-present potential gap I try to bridge in my business-writing business, and with each blog post. It’s trickier when communications are limited to 140 characters, and even more so if you have an aversion to emoticons.

Debt Deadline Dread

2011 June 1
by Randy H. Milgrom

          I’m worried, if not for our country’s actual ability to meet its obligations then certainly about the messages our lawmakers are sending — to Wall Street, to U.S. bondholders, and to investors and policy makers around the world  — regarding our continued willingness to do so. Our stubborn and perpetually warring political parties are as far apart as ever on the conditions precedent to raising the debt ceiling, which is necesary merely to pay the bills we’ve already incurred. Congress proved its lust for deadline-baiting during the last budget battle that threatened to shut down the government, and it seems even more willing this time to engage in risky brinksmanship.

          But this particular impasse holds even greater potential for harm. And the last possible moment could come sooner than many of these seemingly oblivious lawmakers may think. There is the very real possibility that the mere perception of deadlock as the deadline nears will disastrously roil the markets — which react, and over-react, on a daily and significant basis, often on information that doesn’t even come close to qualifying as news anywhere outside of Wall Street. The specter of the world’s leading economy defaulting on its debt obligations, on the other hand, is newsworthy everywhere, and it dwarfs by a significant margin the first failed vote on the 2010 budget. It even potentialy surpasses the harm caused by the initial failure in late 2008 to authorize TARP, which caused a record 777 point one-day downturn in the Dow. Yet these same lawmakers — along with too many clueless first-timers —  appear to be relishing their roles in the fiasco-to-come. 

          The stage has been set not by facts but by messages. Consider the ominous blurts by a leading senator from each side of the aisle on last Sunday’s Meet the Press:

           Republican McConnell: “I’m confident that unless we do something really significant [including passing major elements of Rep. Ryan’s budget and Medicare plan] about debt and deficit, [the debt ceiling] is not going to be raised.  It’s not going to get my vote….” 

         Democrat Schumer: “[T]he only way we’re going to come to an agreement on the budget and the debt ceiling is if Senator McConnell and his Republican colleagues take the Ryan plan off the table, and take it off now….”

          Against this backdrop, last night’s up-or-down vote on a “clean” debt ceiling bill, which was resoundingly defeated, was acknowledged by both sides — in a rare moment of agreement — as pure political theater.  Republicans, who brought the measure to the House floor, urged its defeat, while Democrats — who would like nothing more than to pass this very bill — accused Republicans of staging a political “stunt,” since they knew full well it wouldn’t pass. So Wall Street ignored last night’s vote; this morning’s downturn is being attributed to a disappointing new jobs report, not to results of the vote, which Republican leaders reportedly assured business executives had been staged to make the point to President Obama that an increase cannot pass absent his agreement to rein in domestic spending.

          A U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative said “Wall Street was in on the joke” of last night’s vote. But there’s nothing funny about what’s being said by those most responsible for steering our economy from disaster. And the real vote — whenever that comes — will be a deadly serious matter.

Know What You’re Talking About

2011 May 18
by Randy H. Milgrom

          All that New York Times reporter Mark Bittman knew about Detroit was what he had heard and read. And none of it was good. But then he visited:

          So there’s a simple communications lesson here, right? Do your own homework. Never base your opinions on what others say or write. First-hand knowledge is the best evidence. Had Bittman visited Detroit and arrived at the same negative conclusions, I would have been disappointed but I wouldn’t have had much ammunition for rebuttal. When someone bad-mouths Detroit, I simply ask, “Have you been there?” — or, perhaps more importantly, “have you been there lately?”

          As Bittman discovered, the city is not continuing its downward slide. It is on its way up — if the will and passion and inventiveness of its citizens are any indication. And seeing for yourself  is believing.

Photo Expressions

2011 May 6
by Randy H. Milgrom

          A picture may be worth 1000 words, but how many messages does it send?


          Somebody looks pretty damn focused on his target. And speaking of the target: what purpose would be served — and what message would be sent — by a photo of Osama Bin Laden in whatever condition he may have been left following the U.S. assault on his compound? Those are the questions President Obama and his team considered before deciding — at least for now — that no such photo would be forthcoming. While some critics of this decision have asserted the need for “evidence,” nobody can reasonably doubt the U.S.’s claim — especially now that Al Qaeda itself has confirmed the death. Sustained demands come now only from those who will not be satisfied. And a photo expresses nothing new.

Credibility Gap

2011 April 19

          I’m no economics expert, but it doesn’t require more than a merely glancing awareness of rating agencies — and their role in the economic meltdown of late 2008 — to be skeptical of Standard & Poor’s recent downgrade of United States debt obligations. The agency bestowed its top-tier AAA seal of approval on every toxic subprime security that led directly to the nation’s economic near-collapse — and now it’s squeamish about good old Uncle Sam savings bonds?      

          Excuse me if I chose to ignore Standard & Poor’s recently adjusted outlook — from stable to negative — for U.S. debt. Yet the stock market didn’t ignore it. All major exchanges opened much lower the morning of the announcement — though much of the retreat was quickly erased by more positive trading news over the next several days. Standard & Poor’s message, though, was not so much economic as it was political: the dangers lie not in the U.S.’s relative ability to make good on its obligation but in our political class’ inability to find a generally viable way forward — in both the short term and the long run. And on that score our elected officials are continuing to send us an unambiguous message: we are as far apart as ever — on both the current budget and the prospects for raising the longer term debt ceiling — and we have no desire to strike any kind of deal with the wrong-headed other side.

          It may not require an economics professor to confirm the looming impasse, but it doesn’t hurt: And we certainly need not rely on the advice of Standard & Poor’s.

What Does President Obama Stand For?

2011 April 12
by Randy H. Milgrom

          Paul Krugman argues in The New York Times that President Obama’s message is muted or missing:

          Do you know what causes President Obama stands for? Do you know what he will stand up for?

Doing What You Said You’d Do

2011 March 31
by Randy H. Milgrom

          Let us set aside the merits, and especially the politics, of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal and — pursuant to the MilWrite Blog mission — analyze his message, and how he’s been delivering it.

          Since presenting his budget — and after the inevitable sniping that immediately followed — the Governor has stayed calm. He has smiled and he has shrugged. He has said that he worked “very hard” on what he put forward and that he is “proud” of his effort. (And the Governor does seem to be working very hard.) He also said it is the “right” budget for Reinventing Michigan. When critics continued to complain, he simply said, “I’m doing what I said I was going to do.” And that is where the expected pabulum ends and the required analysis must begin.

          Candidate Snyder’s campaign slogan was “Reinvent Michigan.” But he never told us how he would accomplish this reinvention except to say that he would make the state more business-friendly. When asked for specifics — especially about the budget — he used his outsider status to explain that until he was in office and had an opportunity to examine the true (and sorry) state of governmental affairs, he could not comment further. But as One Tough Nerd, he said, he would get to the bottom of it and offer immediate solutions. And to his great credit he has delivered swiftly and mightily on that promise. Which is all well and good; in fact, it is great. But he can’t tell us now that he’s doing what he said he was going to do if he never told us what he was going to do in the first place — unless you think that saying you’re going to balance a budget without suggesting how you’re going to do it and then balancing it in a way you’ve never described before until it’s announced qualifies as doing what you said. And I don’t believe it does.

          Governor Snyder also often suggests that he knows what he’s doing, and that he has a “track record” for “getting things done” to back up that claim. As a business executive he may have had to try to reach consensus among a handful of other executives, or to please the occasional boss or Board of Directors. But he’s never had to put any of his grand plans to the formal vote of a large number of people or seek the approval of a majority of those he not only did not hire but whose jobs in many cases actually depend on how effectively they can oppose him. 

          Mr. Snyder does not yet seem to recognize that this is just one of the vast and defining differences between government and business. Or does he? The Governor has countered attempts even to so much as tweak his plan by suggesting that pulling on just one thread will unravel the whole. He has thus far clung closely to the argument that his is a carefully conceived and deliberated plan that is so finely-calibrated to get the job done that all adjustments of any kind would only serve to knock the entire enterprise off course. And he says this with such conviction that the unspoken implication is that if there were any better methods of restoring the state’s fiscal soundness then he not only would have thought of them but he also would have placed them firmly within the bosom of the plan he’s already offered. “Trust me — there are no other options. Take it or leave it.” (Or maybe that’s just me who’s hearing the words he hasn’t spoken.)       

          Is this merely posturing — an opening gambit and attitude in preparation for the bargaining he knows must inevitably ensue — as some of my friends and colleagues (and professional pundits) have argued? Time should tell. But the Governor’s public pronouncements do not suggest it. And it doesn’t feel that way to me.

Is Sheen Winning?

2011 March 7
by Randy H. Milgrom

          I don’t care about this. But everybody’s talking about it so I have to care at least enough to weigh in with some sort of opinion when it invariably comes up as a topic of discussion at the office, on the street, or over a cocktail. (Plus it does technically fall within the Message Delivery Analysis parameters of the MilWrite Blog.)

          Charlie says he’s winning but it’s difficult to know if this is true without knowing which game he’s playing. The initial rant that gained him such acclaim did not appear to be premeditated, whereas all of those that followed have lacked the same spontaneity. His success, therefore, in winning the attention if not the admiration of the media-consuming public, was inadvertent. But his act still has legs, and if all he seeks is airtime then his rants have been effective. But he seems to want more. He wants money, certainly. He says he no longer wants drugs but he still wants women — and more than one at a time. But doesn’t he also want respect? He denies this, but he’s human so he must. No one yearns to be shunned.

          We’ll see how long this lasts before he finally bores — or disgusts — his audience. In the meantime, I may as well try, along with so many others, to win some portion of Sheen’s expanding exposure by tagging this post with today’s most effective internet traffic magnets: Charlie Sheen, Winning.

Setting the Tone

2011 February 21

I suggested in an earlier post that President Obama may have been sending an unintended message when he froze all Federal government salaries at the end of last year. Now, as state and local budget battles ensue across the country, the starting point is not whether but how and how much to cut government employee compensation and benefits. Public unions are public enemy number one, and hardly anyone’s even trying to defend them anymore.

As E.J. Dionne writes in The Washington Post today:  “Washington is acting as if the only real problem the United States confronts is the budget deficit; the only test of leadership is whether the president is willing to make big cuts in programs that protect the elderly; and the largest threat to our prosperity comes from public employees.”

But inconsistent messages abound. The same group that chants, “We’re Number One!” also insists we must get used to getting along with less. We’ve fallen far behind other countries in educating our youth, yet half of our population is convinced that teacher cut-backs are necessary.

Union-busting fervor and the whim to trim long have been brewing. In the current impasse in Wisconsin, the public unions already have all but conceded that of course they’re no longer entitled to what they’d bargained for. They’ve been reduced to pleading simply for their continued right to collectively bargain.

President Obama offered support to workers in a recent television interview, and his administration’s political arm may even be offering behind-the-scenes assistance to pro-union protesters in Wisconsin and other states, but his unilateral freeze on Federal employee compenstaion late last year helped set the tone, if not the stage, for the state of the current budget battles.

As Dionne concludes: “[A]ny fair examination of the news suggests that [Obama] is in danger of losing control of the national narrative again, just as he did during the stimulus and health care battles. In his State of the Union address, Obama made a good case that budget cutting is too small an agenda and that this is also a time for more government — yes, more government — in areas that would expand opportunities and strengthen the economy. [But] that argument has been entirely drowned out. If politics is reduced to a crabbed and crabby accountants’ war, Obama loses. The country will, too.”

Give ‘Em What They Want

2011 February 8
by Randy H. Milgrom

          National Football League team owners and the NFL Players Association are deadlocked over terms for a new collective bargaining agreement. Though the existing agreement will expire on March 3, the sides have barely talked. A few meetings are scheduled, and most observers predict that indifference will turn to frenzy, as usual, as the deadline approaches. But the upcoming season clearly is in jeopardy.

          Major points of contention include how to divide $9 billion in annual revenues, setting the rookie wage and retired player benefits scales, and the owners’ desire to expand the regular season from 16 to 18 games. All but the last are perennial contract issues, and it’s the expansion push that has garnered the most media attention.

           NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell represents and works for the owners but he also oversees and disciplines players. His broad powers come with an enormous salary (which he’s pledged to forgo should the lack of bargaining result in the loss of part or all of next season) and a delicate balancing. On the crucial expansion proposal, which the players oppose, Goodell has publicly sided with neither the players’ nor the owners’ and has stumped for the fans instead.

          “We started this with the fans,” Goodell said at a recent news conference. “The fans have clearly stated that they don’t like the preseason. We have … 16 regular season games and four preseason games, and the fans have repeatedly said the preseason games don’t meet NFL standards. And that is the basis on which we … [are]… taking two low-quality preseason games and turning them into two high-quality regular season games.”

          The only problem with this reasoning it that it appears not to be true. All fan surveys — and there have been many — reveal an extremely low level of support for regular season expansion. The players oppose it on the basis that it constitutes more work for the same pay, among other reasons. And everyone knows that televsion revenues — the primary financial driver of this multi-billion dollar industry — are based on regular season and playoff games, not exhibition contests.

          So it’s about the money. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But that’s not a message Goodell could productively deliver to his fans — especially when they’re the only ones who won’t be receiving any of it.

That’s What I’m Talking About

2011 February 7

          The Chrysler/Detroit/Eminem Super Bowl commercial everyone’s still talking about:

          Let’s keep the conversation going.

You Don’t Say?

2011 January 15

          Saying is believing – isn’t that the expression some use? (Okay, it’s Seeing, but close enough.) Others plead, “From your lips to God’s ears.” Or the opposite: Say it ain’t so!

          But talk is cheap. We all know it takes more than talk to make something happen. But we also believe in positive and negative energy, and that it can be generated not just with our words but with our attitudes. It’s why we avoid complainers. And why we shun Debbie Downers and Nervous Nellies in favor of Positive Petes. But incessantly sweet or irrationally sunny types (Pollyannas, if you will) unnerve us, because we’re not interested merely in Happy Talk. We want our upbeat views suffused with just the right amount of realism.

          I’ve long encouraged fellow Michiganders to say good things about our state. Talk up the mitten (and the top hand, too!) – or at least stop putting yourself down. Will it help? Not by itself. But it can’t hurt, right? And I know of plenty of tangible reasons to be optimistic. I’m aware that both longtime and fledgling businesses are hiring new employees to do exciting and innovative and important work. (But even if I weren’t, I wouldn’t make a point of talking about it. And I certainly wouldn’t complain about it. What good would it do merely to complain?)

          Good news begets good news. As positive signs appear, more of us are not only receiving that message but we’re also spreading and acting on it. The Pure Michigan advertising and marketing campaigns are helpful. Governor Snyder’s Reinvent Michigan campaign promise, if bolstered by effective policymaking and fiscal support, offers not just hope but a viable new mission. And the burgeoning Michigan movie industry not only diversifies our local economies but it’s a sexy and self-multiplying industry (think hotels and cabs and restaurants and movie maps and tourist traps). The movie business attracts a great deal of attention, especially among the all-important younger cohort. And it creates its own iconography, which offers a built-in self-advertising advantage.

          So go out and tell about it. Tell it! If we don’t say so, who will?

Facebook Friend or Foe?

2010 December 18

          I reluctantly joined Facebook and after three years I’m still a tentative user. I very occasionally post a status update, and in rare moments I’ve been moved to opine on someone else’s comment or picture. But mostly I lurk.

          I enjoy perusing the site, and I don’t mean to be anti-social. I just want to limit the amount of time I spend on it. But what message am I sending as a taker but not a giver?

          My policy regarding “friending” (sorry, but it will always be befriending to me) is likely more controversial. From the beginning, I’ve accepted virtually every invitation (which is how I was lured onto the site in the first place), but I haven’t made any friend requests of my own. It’s a strategy (again) designed to cut down on my Facebook involvement (with some fear of rejection thrown in), but what message does this send? I know it doesn’t make me look very popular in comparison with my other friends, who’ve all compiled much larger caches of friends than I have — and I assume everyone notices how many friends each of their friends has, and competes in this regard on some conscious or subconscious level — but am I also violating some explicit or implicit protocol if I’m only accepting and never requesting? And is there a (presumably derogatory) name for what I’m doing – or who I am?

Federal Employee Compensation Freeze

2010 December 14

          Reasonable and knowledgeable people agree that placing a hold on Federal employee compensation will have a less than insignificant (if not utterly imaginary) impact on the nation’s budget woes. So if it is agreed, given the size of the federal deficit and resultant accumulating debt, that the “freeze” accomplishes next to nothing in addressing those problems, what message did President Obama intend to send by announcing it? Was it merely symbolic – or something more?

          If it’s symbolic, what does it symbolize? Some (the cynics, perhaps?) say the Democratic President is a political pragmatist, clever to co-opt a Republican issue and thereby blunt the impact not only of his opponents’ fiscal arguments but of their “too liberal” claims and “socialist” labels. Others (the naïve, possibly?) think he’s implementing the freeze because he truly believes it’s the right thing to do. But if this President not only has been drawn to public service but has also been engaged in government work most of his adult life, why would he suddenly want to reduce its allure?

          More importantly, why would the President want to send the message – and this one is undeniable, isn’t it? – that all Federal employees, regardless of their responsibilities, workloads, and proficiencies, are not only overpaid but indistinguishable? (Full disclosure: My son is an employee of the Federal government.) A more thoroughgoing review of every agency and a more surgical cut within each department would have been much more appropriate and effective – and the Obama administration is said to be considering this further tactic as well. But if we agree with an opponent’s arguments – and even implement some of their conclusions – then we are certain to be sending the message that we also agree with at least some of their premises. And one of those premises is that if you’re a government employe, we don’t care who you are, how hard you work, what you do, or how much you care. Your job isn’t important — in fact it may not even be necessary — and you’re being paid too much.

Casual or Careless?

2010 November 8

          Former University of Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin was in a story-telling mood in the days prior to his departure in March of this year. Martin told that he and his wife Sally used to love to ride their bicycles to the U-M football games in the early 1960s because the stadium was never crowded and they could stretch out and sit wherever they liked in the bleachers.

          “Then,” Martin said, “Don Canham got lucky, got Bo, and he filled the place up.”

          Perhaps Mr. Martin only meant to compliment Bo without insinuating that Mr. Canham was less than purposeful — or prescient — in his choice of Mr. Schembechler. Martin might only have been careless when describing the man some would call (with due respect to Yost and Crisler) the most productive AD in the history of Michigan athletics. So it might have been inadvertent — or Martin might have been intentionally (if casually) trying to bolster his legacy by suggesting that Canham was fortunate whereas Martin had to scramble for days only to be rebuffed by three other coaches before Coach Rodriguez finally said yes. Or maybe Martin was going for humor – or irony: Schembechler had been successful at second-tier Miami (of Ohio), but he was a relatively inexperienced, if not entirely unknown, coach when Canham – in one of the first of many major decisions he would make during two expansive decades as AD – needed just 15 minutes with Bo to sense his nascent greatness and hire him on the spot.

Private Speech Made Public

2010 November 5
by Randy H. Milgrom

During the latter stages of the political campaign of former – and now two-time – California Governor Jerry Brown, an audiotape surfaced in the media that was said to contain a conversation among the Governor and his staff members during which one of the staffers called Brown’s opponent, Meg Whitman, a “whore.” The Whitman campaign promptly tried to use this transgression to its political advantage, but the attempt failed – not only in the obvious sense that Brown ultimately won the election but also based on the more immediate polling and gamesmanship aftermath – even though most observers agreed that Brown also mishandled his muted and confusing semi-apology during a televised debate just a few days later.

          The tape was inconsequential because most people understood that the staffer was not making a specific sexual reference, nor employing a sexist term (as the Whitman camp insisted) but was merely calling Whitman a “sellout” in the same generic way that many of us now seem to think of most politicians, regardless of gender. Besides – it was a staffer, not Brown, who said it, even if it’s also true that Brown seemed neither shocked nor offended by its usage, and sounded just as excited as the others about the prospect of hurling it as a public insult (at least in television advertisements). So in a state – and a country – with more pressing problems to solve, the voters largely shrugged. They understood that language uttered during a private conversation would not – and should not – determine the outcome of an election. And without passing judgment on its content, they acknowledged that different standards apply in different contexts. And this is true regardless of party affiliation. Neither Richard Nixon nor Lyndon Johnson would have been elected President had voters judged them on their purported private vocabularies.

Teach, Preach, or Merely Mention

2010 October 27
by Randy H. Milgrom

I wrote last week of my pleasant surprise when a colleague told me he had been inspired by advice I had offered long ago. This reminded me of another time I was informed well after the fact that my words had been helpful — but in this case my advice had been inadvertent. 

Very early one Sunday morning a number of years ago an acquaintance and I were matched up on the golf course. At that time he was dissatisfied with his copywriting work at a large agency and was thinking about going out on his own. So in between golf shots he picked my brain about being my own boss.

I had remembered that pleasant morning only vaguely. I knew we had talked about the differences between collecting a salary and “eating only what you kill.” And I’m sure I had emphasized the time and energy and passion and patience required to develop an interesting caseload and a loyal clientele. But all my golfing partner had gleaned from our conversation – as he told me years later, when his own firm was well-established – was just one short but important sentence. He had asked me the key to my longevity and evidently I had told him, “You have to be good.”

I wondered how he took a positive message from something that now sounded boastful. But that wasn’t how he heard it. He knew my business had sustained itself almost entirely on referrals from satisfied clients and collaborators. So you need to be good, I had shrugged. It’s to his credit that he was confident enough to believe that as long as he did good work (which he thought he could and would do), success would follow. And that’s the principle that jump-started and has continued to propel his one-man shop.

You can try to shape your message to control how it might be received. But you can’t always know what people are listening for – or what they might hear. Sometimes you get lucky and you find out.

Michigan chooses…Rick Snida?

2010 October 26
by Randy H. Milgrom

Have you seen – or I should say heard – the latest “Rick Snyder for Governor” television commercial? The Ann Arbor venture capitalist’s campaign tagline is “Rick for Michigan,” and the commercial offers a straightforward message: Snyder is the best man to turn this troubled state around. As puppies romp in slow-motion and young children throw and catch and hit a baseball, a deep voice intones: “Michigan…[has]… one chance to move forward; one chance to be great again…with Rick Snyder.” Later, the voice-over rumbles: “We choose new. We choose Michigan!” And in an unmistakable New York accent, the announcer concludes: “Michigan chooses…Rick Snida.” The commercial’s all about Michigan and the narrator’s from the Bronx!

21st Century Calling Card

2010 October 20

Not long ago a colleague told me I had inspired him to write his first book (he’s since gone on to publish three or four more). He said it was because I once told him, “A book is the 21st Century Calling Card.” This would have been in the late 1990s — it was a phrase I often used in those days with business consulting clients looking for an edge — and though I remembered passing on this sage advice I had no idea it had ignited his passion for publishing. I was flattered when he reminded and thanked me, but I mention this now because even in the era of websites and Facebook and Twitter and blogs, the book still resides at the top of the Information Age pyramid.

          I suppose this is true because nearly anyone can build a website or start a blog or create a Facebook page or establish a Twitter account — but not everyone can write a book. And even fewer can get one published. But that’s not all: Even those involved in cutting-edge digital technologies want to write a book about what they’re doing. (An educator advocating paperless classrooms recently sought my advice about writing a proposal for a book that would describe how to implement that idea.) And many feel they need to write a book  — occasionally because they believe it’s essential for their message to reach a larger, often older (non-plugged-in) audience, but more often to gain a certain level of prestige than otherwise would be unattainable. When you’re introduced as an “author,” people still step back a bit, and maybe even let out a little gasp. It’s still considered the most impressive communications achievement. And I say thank goodness for that.

Welcome — and Vote

2010 October 11
by Randy H. Milgrom
Welcome to It Is What It Is — Or Is It? My name is Randy Milgrom, and I’ll be your host and moderator.
          This Blog examines news from the realms of business, politics, sports, and culture. It asks — if not always answers — at least two questions: What message is intended? And what message is received? It may occasionally stray from these strictures, but it will never waver from its mission: message delivery analysis.
          I have stockpiled a number of posts as this site has been under construction, so for the next several weeks I will intersperse those slightly older items with more current topics. In the meantime, I’d like to discuss something that has yet to occur: Election Day 2010.
          Pundits have since January 2010 been referring to the federal elections to be held on Tuesday, November 2, 2010, as “off-year” elections. It’s what they’ve always been called, but why must this be so? We’re holding the elections; why aren’t they “on?” The conventional wisdom is that citizens must be cajoled into voting in non-Presidential Election Years, so it must be true — at least to the extent that it’s been true in the past. Or is this merely a self-fulfilling prophecy? Are we really less motivated to vote this year than we were two years ago, or have we just been told (and therefore believe) that we are? It doesn’t make a difference to me that the ballot lacks a Presidential contest. If you’re paying attention, and you care to vote at all, not only does every vote count but every election counts. Every one. City, state, and federal.
          I’m not persuading, I’m just reminding. Prove me right. Go out and vote.