Thursday, June 30, 2011

Anti-tax pols should look to the Greeks

Any U.S. Republican or Democrat who believes we can cut the deficit and balance the budget without a tax increase should listen closely to Greek protesters who ask "Why me?" when their government insists on austerity measures.

The Greek poor have a good argument if they haven't benefited from the huge debt their society built up before going bust over the last decade.

On the other hand, the hypocrisy of anti-tax politicians in Washington resounds all the louder because they ignored and allowed the speculative practices of Wall Street bankers and traders who got America into the mess we all find ourselves in today.

President Barack Obama took to the White House press-conference podium yesterday to scold Congress when he said, "These are bills that Congress ran up. ... Now they are saying, 'Maybe we don't have to pay.'"

Instead, the congressmen and women who oppose raising taxes -- mostly Republicans but including some Democrats -- want to cut government spending to the bone, which means they want the burden of curing the deficit placed squarely on the backs of the middle class and the poor.

Not only did the poor draw no benefit at all from the wealth generated on Wall Street before 2008, but companies all across America whittled away at the middle class by eliminating jobs; cutting salaries; pushing people into part-time, no-benefits positions; increasing health-insurance co-pays and deductibles; and forcing employees out of defined-benefit pensions into 401ks where their retirements were put at risk by the same Wall Street traders who caused the 2008 crash.

But the "cut-spending-only-crowd" has yet another motive. Opposing increased revenues for government today essentially means the rich will escape paying the government back for Bush tax cuts that made them even more wealthy over the past 10 years. Anti-tax pols have but one constituency it seems: the people who fund their re-election campaigns year after year.

Because George W. Bush promoted a lack of dissent as the only true expression of patriotism in America while all that was happening, neither the poor nor the dwindling middle class took to the streets to protest their lot.

But the Greek rock-throwers offer a glimpse of what could happen in America as more of the poor get poorer; more of what's left of the middle class gets pushed into poverty; and the rich inexorably keep getting richer, as seems the goal of the current Republican majority in the House.

Revolutions get started in the back streets of any nation; and the middle class in the U.S. elected Obama to change things for the better, not worse. If anti-tax Republicans and Democrats believe the population of their country will remain somnolent forever they should look to Greece and the Arab Spring, then remember the anti-Vietnam-war demonstrations of the 1960s.

The people here are not afraid to peacefully stand up against their government. They just have to be pushed hard enough.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In the Chemo Room: Colon Cancer Alliance national meetup

I walked three miles today, more than I have been able to exercise since they but a bag on my belly and took a tumor and my rectum out of my bottom in September 2007. It felt good.

I was following some of the primary advice given colorectal cancer survivors -- about 60 of them -- attending the national conference of the Colon Cancer Alliance at the Marriott Denver City Center on Friday. The advice I heard most often was: Keep exercising. It will prolong your life.

Which is what all those survivors are looking to do. Some, like me, still have the cancer and are still fighting it. More than half of the 60 had survived the disease for more than five years, and some had passed the 10-year mark. Most of those looked pretty fit. And many of them walked in the Denver Undy 5000, a 5K and one-mile fun run and walk held this morning in City Park.

It didn't take long to be told on Friday that exercise was one of the best anti-cancer drugs. Dr. Tim Byers, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Aurora, opened the day-long conference with a keynote address packed full of statistics that showed declining death rates for both men and women treated for colorectal cancer.


"We don't really know," Byers said, striking a tone that held throughout the conference: a forthright realism about everything from ordinary doctors' lackadaisical endorsement of colonoscopy, the most effective preventive for colon cancer, to the lingering effects of "chemo brain," a loss of memory and other cognitive function after prolonged chemotherapy.

Another University of Colorado Cancer Center doc, Stephen Leong, lent credence to cancer survivors' complaints of "chemo brain," and suggested it was one of several persistent side effects doctors need to pay more attention to as increasing number of survivors live cancer free for longer than five years.

Other speakers noted lengthening survival times tend to make the magic five-year mark less meaningful. Cancer changes your life, many speakers agreed; but after-cancer realities are often magnified: money problems from long-term loss of income, relationship problems from a lack of a sex life, reassessment of career goals and capacities, all make surviving cancer a new life challenge.

Byers said at the outset that researchers believe all cancers, including colorectal cancer, like car crashes, are caused by a variety of factors -- genetic and cultural, environmental, behavioral, "What we run into in life" and simple "bad luck" -- that often combine in multiple and unpredictable ways.

Colorectal cancer, however, remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States after lung cancer, and part of the reason is that it strikes both men and women and most of it occurs sporadically, meaning the victim's cells mutate randomly.

Still risk factors for colorectal cancer are listed as:
  •  Age, gender, race/ethnicity
  • Family history
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diet
  • Body weight
  • Physical activity.
But an estimated 40 percent of colorectal cancer can be attributed to four specific risks: obesity, lack of physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, and consumption of red meats.

"For colorectal cancer, brisk walking can take down the risk factor dramatically," Byers said.

So the next morning, I decided instead of standing around at the Undy 5000, where runners and walkers wear underwear over their exercise outfits to designate the geography of the colorectal problem, I would indeed walk the three miles to see if I could do it.

It seemed the best and cheapest therapy available.

I did, and it felt good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tommy More tales: Vodka, lemonade and laughter don't mix

In honor of my friend Bill Clair, who died June 16, I've also posted this on my poetry website:

It is the first in a series of "Tommy More tales" I hope to post in the future if contributors will e-mail me stories I can rewrite and post for everyone's entertainment. I believe the statute of limitations will have run out on all but the most serious crimes.

Bill Clair, Ed Nowak and myself shared a Falco's pizza one night long ago in Bill's garage where he prepared his big red Chevy convertible for a trip to Lake Geneva over Fourth of July weekend.

We were planning to take a formidable supply of pink lemonade mixed with vodka to drink in the car on the trip, and actually started drinking some that night. We wanted a pizza and Bill would have none but a Falco's pie, which I argued was too greasy, having once watched a Falco's cook pour grease (or oil) from a pitcher onto a raw pie before he popped it into the oven.

Palermo's wasn't good enough for Bill. So we ate and drank our fill well into the night before rising for the trip.

We took off in mid-morning and by about 11 a.m. came to a stop light on U.S. 12 north of Chicago next to a tall pickup truck with three other guys riding high and looking down at the jug of pink lemonade we were sharing.

"Where you guys going?" said the driver of the truck, enjoying the sight of three youngs guys already pretty wasted and driving under a hot, summer sun in an open convertible.

"Geneva," I said to him from the shotgun seat. "We thought we'd watch a little National Guard action and take in the bikinis," I added, which cracked up both the guys in the truck and Nowak and Clair beside me. A year earlier, Wisconsin's governor had called out his National Guard and police dogs to quell rowdy youths who were celebrating the holiday too raucously. We three had been there then, too.

 "Why don't you guys follow us and come along," I cracked. "We got plenty to share!"

Now Bill Clair was always known for his smile and easy laughter, and Ed Nowak, otherwise called "Dude," remembers him for the contagiousness of that laughter, especially when Billy kind of howled when things really got funny.

Dude started to choke as he laughed, and then cough -- and then wretch, as everybody else, including the guys in the truck, laughed harder and harder and the choking got worse. Until Ed puked, which was no laughing matter inside Billy's sparkling clean red convertible.

Besides that, Dude's vomit was pretty much marked by tiny bits of green peppers cut in perfect squares, lumps of Italian sausage and other liquid that Bill was very unhappy about seeing spread over the rubber mats of his clean car.

"I told you that pizza's too greasy," I said.

But Bill wasn't laughing anymore; he roared away from the green light, cut in front of the truck and looked for a pullout from the highway so he could quickly get the car cleaned up. And Dude, too.

E-mail me with your tale from Tommy More at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Republicans, Weiners and my friends

Obama signs health-care bill
A friend -- you may remember Eric Marburger from when I wrote about him last October -- asked yesterday, during a croquet game whether I was planning to watch the Republican presidential campaign debate last night.

I wasn't, and this morning reading about the debate I realized why. It doesn't matter. Look at the potential nominees and it becomes clear not one of them will have a ghost's chance in hell of beating President Barack Obama.                                                    Photo credit:

Unless, perhaps, the nominee is U.S. Rep Michele Bachmann, who announced her official candidacy at the debate.

If Republicans nominate her, the country might entertain the idea of electing the first woman president, but then a majority of voters would also reconsider her Tea Party affiliations and vote for the incumbent as the lesser of two evils.

It seems every presidential election comes down to that kind of decision in modern America.

Besides that, by November of 2012, Obama will have proven himself a president who acts in the best interests of all Americans, not leaving out even those who oppose him.

One element of the debate last night proves my contention. I'm depending on New York Times coverage published in the Denver Post when I quote former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who said during the debate: "What you're doing will not work. It's a huge power grab by the federal government."

That's nonsense and Romney knows it. He was talking about Obama's health-care legislation and even conservative-minded Tea Partyers will realize the benefits universal health-care coverage will provide them by the time the election rolls around. By then, too, all Republican opposition to the plan will be seen for the lie that it is.

Affordable health care for all the people of the United States will be just as laudable a goal in November of 2012 as it was during November of 2008 and all through 2009 and 2010 when the Congress debated the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Obama signed it.

Calling it "Obamneycare" will just remind people that the president, like Mitt Romney when he signed similar legislation in Massachusetts, was thinking of all the people in America, not just the rich and not just the poor, but all the people who make up the great middle class.

We need universal health care in America; the president's plan protected the private insurance industry and offered health-insurance availability to 30 million uninsured Americans. It was a compromise position, but he got it enacted into law, and a grateful electorate will reward him with a second four-year term.

Even the idea of a woman president won't overcome that perception when we go the polls in 2012.

Now, about Weiner. New York Rep. Anthony Weiner made all kinds of headlines except one over the past few weeks. Another friend, I won't say who, suggested I write this headline for a blog post I might write about Weiner: "It really was Weiner's wiener!"

I hope my other readers appreciate my discretion in containing the headline to a single paragraph here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to make money on the Internet! The new normal

Dave Taylor
Dave Taylor is a business expert in Internet communications.

He is a co-organizer of Front Range Bloggers, a teacher and a public speaker who last January in Las Vegas told an audience of bloggers, website operators and other techies to enjoy the life they've made for themselves despite the digital speed and pressures of the world where they have chosen to work.

"The Internet will survive without you for a day," he told a hundred "affiliates," who are people paid by the click for hosting advertisers on their blogs or websites.

"Try to have no-work days," he said, "or no-e-mail afternoons."

That's an odd message for the closing keynote speaker at a conference called "Affiliate Summit West," where most attendees had come to learn how to make more money on the Internet, not less. But bloggers and website operators are more than just ad-sales people.

They are writers, software developers and independent contractors of all sorts, trying just as hard to make a buck from their expertise as business consultants in management, engineering, marketing or politics.

In fact, many white-collar consultants -- whole businesses for that matter -- are becoming bloggers and website operators in order to extend the market for their wares to the Net. It's the new normal.

Taylor is an expert in the new normal.

I sought him out to ask how to monetize a website or a blog because my own effort to add advertising to this blog over the past 18 months can best be described as a frustrating exercise in learning what I didn't know.

I have learned, however, that you have to ask the right questions, and one of the ways I learned that lesson was by going to one of Taylor's popular websites: Ask Dave Taylor!

On the site, Taylor offers "free tech support" to all kinds of computer users, answering questions like this one running on the site right now: "How do I install an ad blocker in Google Chrome?"

Click on the link to get Dave's answer, but even if you don't and you still spend much of your time in front of a computer screen during your workday, you must realize how often you could come up with a similar question about your machine and not know where to go for help. Go to Ask Dave!

That's where I went first with my question about how to monetize my blog. It's a question most every blogger wants to know the answer to because most hope to make a living from their work.

But Taylor's answer, made to me in an interview, indicates a more complicated business analysis than a blogger might expect. You have to think about what your blog and website is doing for those who read it, Taylor said. And like everything in small business, doing something new on your computer becomes a learning experience in itself.

Taylor told me he was reluctant at first to put ads on his sites, fearing, as a writer, that he might over-commercialize them. Thinking through the process, however -- he has an MBA so the thinking was very businesslike -- he put some ads up on one of the sites (Ask Dave!), and soon realized he could pay his mortgage with the money he was making by showing the ads.

The first ad network Taylor used was Google's AdSense, an ad-placement service the giant search- engine company provides qualified bloggers. The service automatically selects and places ads on sites whose readers might have an interest in the advertisement. The blogger or website that hosts the ad is paid a portion of what Google is paid when a reader on their site clicks on an ad.

Taylor signed on with AdSense years ago, but because of the amount of traffic he has generated for his Google advertisers since then (all those people asking computer questions), he has been invited to be an AdSense premium publisher, meaning he gets special help and added services from the AdSense team to maximize the impact of his ads. That means both Taylor and Google make more money.

But Taylor runs another website (he has four) where he runs no ads at all. The Business Blog @ is a business-management blog that discusses topics like: "Understanding the Legal Structure of Business," a guest-written piece currently posted there by Taylor to help readers understand an issue related to starting a business.

Taylor's success as an Internet businessman and his successful monetization of websites depends on one word in that previous paragraph: HELP.

It is a part of Taylor's overall business and Internet philosophy. A blog that tells it's readers over and over again, "Here's what I'm going to sell you today," he says, "turns off most people, and it ends up not being successful."

"It's not sell, sell, sell," that makes your blog successful, he says, "It's help, help, help."

Ask Dave Taylor! does that directly, while does it more intuitively, or indirectly, Taylor says.

"The site is very much designed as an indirect revenue stream for me," he said. Articles there support his reputation as a teacher and business-management consultant, and spawn consulting contracts and speaking engagements for him.

The ads on Ask Dave! produce direct revenue when readers go there, "get the answer to their question," see an ad that interests them, "and leave" the site happy, Taylor says. The good experience will probably bring that reader back when a new computer question arises, ever increasing his traffic on the site and the number of eyeballs delivered to the advertiser.

"Generating traffic is all about pushing really good content, and then recognizing that you're not flying solo on the Internet, but you're actually a part of a larger ecosystem," he says.

That ecosystem not only includes millions of readers looking for help -- from crafts people who sew quilts to entrepreneurs hoping to launch a new startup -- but also thousands of experts willing to offer free advice or paid-for counsel.

You become known in the ecosystem by interacting with as many players as possible, Taylor said.

"It's really important for you to look at other blogs and other sites and make sure that you're known and visible and helping people on other sites," he said. "I don't care how successful you are, there's very likely someone who is more successful than you, who has more traffic than you and more visibility, and considered more of an expert," he adds.

"If you know who these people are, then you participate off their site, you leave comments, you e-mail them and ask if you can write a guest post.... [It's] a primary way to generate new traffic" back to your own site.

Finally, there's a reason Taylor was speaking to an audience of techies at the "Affiliate Summit West" in Las Vegas in January. Monetizing a website invariably puts you in front of a computer screen and requires a certain -- and increasing -- amount of computer savvy.

"You're right," Taylor told me. "If you are someone who is much more comfortable sewing a quilt than using your computer, then you are going to have a really hard time with Google Analytics."

Google Analytics is another service the search-engine company provides bloggers it hosts (including me). The service tracks page views your blog receives, and it can tell you various things about who is reading your blog. These demographics are important to potential advertisers, so the Google AdSense team uses the stats to qualify bloggers for certain advertising programs.

"Google Analytics, like everything else that Google has," Taylor said, "is very much predicated on geeky data collection, not on user-friendly, understandable outputs."

"I mean I look at analytics sometimes, and I'm pretty confused," he added. "And I consider myself pretty savvy in the tech space." That's just "the way it is," he said.

It's the new normal, dictated by a digital age. That's why Dave Taylor was telling the techies in Vegas to look up on occasion, and smell the roses.