Monthly Archives: January 2014

President Obama’s State 0f the Union Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Tuesday’s anemic State of the Union address by President Obama covered a wide array of topics but was notable for lack of substance. Probably the most glaring omission was his failure to explain how he plans to put the millions of unemployed Americans back to work, an issue that has plagued the administration from the beginning. There was also no mention of the Keystone pipeline, a project that will help America achieve energy independence and create thousands of jobs. His signature healthcare plan has been a fiasco from the beginning and is arguably the biggest job killer of all. He declared 2014 to be a “year of action,” but there was no plan announced for economic growth, no new ideas. Moreover, the American public is increasingly doubtful of his ability to work with Congress to get anything done. His threat to rely on executive orders if Congress does not cooperate, not only smacks of dictatorship, but is symptomatic of a dysfunctional president.

Compounding the presidential failures at governance is the fact he has lost credibility. The problem is that the president lied about his signature healthcare law. His promises, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period,” and “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor, period,” have been proven false. So, where’s the credibility? How can anything uttered by him be believed? The country is now paying the price for electing an inexperienced, unqualified, and incompetent, but smooth talking politician as president. The country deserves better. There is no doubt about President Obama’s likeability, his eloquent speech making ability. But more is needed. His leadership qualities are clearly lacking, and his lack of experience is painfully clear.

With apologies to Shakespeare, the fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves. Our political system allows anyone to run for president. Maybe that’s the way it should be in a free country. On the other hand, it can be argued with a fair degree of conviction that only someone with demonstrated experience at governance, in making decisions, in leadership, should be qualified to run. I think this was the intent of the founding fathers. As stated by Alexander Hamilton in “The Federalist” (No. 68), “…the office of president will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents of low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity [will not suffice]…It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.”

At a business convention I recently attended, one of the featured speakers was billionaire Donald J. Trump. Trump, always an interesting speaker, was clear: He wants to see America great again. Amen to that. Greatness includes leadership, a quality that has been lacking in the present administration. It also includes the ability to take responsibility for its failures. But to date no one has been held accountable for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, no one has been held responsible for the IRS scandalous targeting of conservative groups for inquiry. It seems to be a trademark of this administration to duck responsibility whenever possible.

President Obama had no proven record of accomplishments he could point to when he was elected. Nor did he have any record of working with diverse groups of people to reach a compromise on given issues. He never showed himself to be a leader in any respect. I hope the country doesn’t repeat these mistakes again but I have my doubts.

Copyright©2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Summary of Clear Writing Guidelines and Techniques

My book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print, introduces fundamental guidelines and techniques necessary to develop clear writing skills. The guidelines and techniques discussed in this book may seem obvious to some readers and appear to be mere common sense to others, but they are important, time-tested approaches to developing a writing style that will lead to the creation of a final, clearly written document.

Writing is no different from any other undertaking in life: you have to start at the beginning to master it. All art is created through the exercise of a craft such as painting, sculpting,etc. Every craft must be taught and learned, including writing. Clear writing is an art form because it can be learned through the craft of writing. Almost everyone can write to some degree, but to write clearly is a goal worthy of achievement. The long hours and hard work it may take to get there are tasks eminently worth the effort. Remember that a clearly written document will speak well of the author and the purpose it seeks to advance.

Develop and maintain a strong belief in your ability to write clearly. You can do it if you train yourself to do it, but it takes dedicated effort and continued practice.

The five fundamental guidelines discussed in my book should apply to any writing project, no
matter whether you are writing in English or any other language. Here is a summary:

First, develop confidence in your ability to write clearly by writing every day. Read extensively and study the writing style of experienced writers.

Second, learn to recognize clear writing. You will know it when you see it. A clearly written document should flow smoothly, be easy to read, and be visually attractive.

Third, get organized. Thoroughly plan your writing by organizing your thinking. Prepare a mental blueprint of what you’re going to write, then, prepare an outline that closely reflects your
blueprint. This is, perhaps, the most important step of all to improve the clarity of your writing.

Fourth, know your reading audience. If you don’t know who you are writing for, you may as well not write at all.

Fifth, know your subject matter. Become a maven on the content of your writing. You need expert knowledge to write with authority on any subject. If you try to fake it, your reader will see right through you. Take the time to research your subject matter thoroughly. The result will be high quality content, a vital ingredient for any successful writer.

Be concise in your writing, use shorter sentences, carefully edit all writing before using it, and, most importantly, eliminate all spelling errors.

Also, read good books, magazines, and newspapers. Expose yourself to experienced writers whenever and wherever you can. Learn from their style. Make a list of all new words, learn them, and learn how to use them. Become familiar with all punctuation marks and their application. Train your eye to learn grammar by word association rather than by definition. This is your homework, so to speak. The more thoroughly you apply yourself, the clearer your writing will be.

As a final thought, the creation of a paper trail, as discussed in the introduction to section two, will go a long way towards helping you achieve clear writing success. It’s good practice to memorialize all deadlines in writing as well as confirm all past and future events to prevent misunderstandings. Follow up important letters and emails with a letter and/ or memorandum to the file.
Keep your writing objectives in full view at all times.

Clear writing is not easy to achieve. It’s hard work, very hard work. But when you’re finished writing, dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, rewritten and revised the document for the umpteenth time until you can’t look at it anymore, then, like an artist, you can sit back and admire your work with the knowledge you’ve given it your best shot.

At this point, assuming you have been diligent in applying the guidelines and techniques discussed in this book, you should begin to notice a definite improvement in your writing. This improvement may not be noticeable overnight but will be over a period of time. Keep working on it!

Copyright © 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Income Inequality Is For The Marketplace To Cure

Last Sunday night, January 12, on John Stoessel’s program (Fox News), income inequality was discussed. Bob Beckel, a liberal, was one of the panelists. He wants the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour. Here is my take on the topic.

First, I believe in a free marketplace. Free enterprise is now, always has been, and will remain the growth engine for the American economy. It’s the ticket; the less government intervention the better. There are too many people who look for government to help them get along in life instead of trying to do it themselves.

Income inequality is a byproduct of the free marketplace. The market places a value on your services. It rewards those whose services are deemed to be more valuable, who persevere and have a commitment to improve themselves. There are CEOs of companies who command large salaries in comparison with company workers who command much less. Many people complain that this is not fair. But the shareholders of the companies, who own them, elect the directors who set the salaries of the officers who run the company, and if the company is going in the right direction and is profitable, the directors have the right to compensate those who are responsible. Conversely, if the company is not profitable, the directors have the right to make changes in the company officers. Decisions by the directors are approved or disapproved as the case may be by the shareholders. This is the way it works in a capitalistic, free enterprise economy.

I have attended many business opportunity meetings where people from all backgrounds have provided information as to their successes. People from all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, and both sexes have testified as to their commitment to success. These folks make huge amounts of income but they got there by perseverance and dogged determination.

Bob Beckel argued that raising the minimum wage is the answer to income inequality. But I suspect that he has never run a business. It has been reported that 92 million people are out of work today, an historic high. How many more people would lose their jobs if the minimum wage was raised? How many employers would decide that cutting payroll is the only answer to rising labor costs, or that part time workers would be less expensive than full time? How many businesses would fail because costs of operation are too high? How many prospective new businesses would be thwarted because of increased labor costs? Increasing the minimum wage when so many people are out of work is not going to put them back to work. Increasing healthcare costs for businesses is not the answer either; this will only add to the current economic woes.

This is not to say that some government intervention in the economy is not necessary. Business can grow too big making some government regulation appropriate. Monopolies in restraint of trade are not in the best interest of economic growth. Neither is abuse of workers. Moderation is the key.

The current economic malaise is the result of an incompetent and inexperienced administration in Washington. A strong and growing economy with a vibrant work force would put more people to work and result of a better living standard for everyone. I think that’s the best answer. There may not be complete elimination of income inequality but I don’t think that’s possible under any system except communism. And if you think those folks living under communism are happy, take a look at conditions in North Korea and Cuba. Ask those folks what they think of their standard of living.

As I have emphasized before, work to improve your writing skills. Clear writing skills will go a long way to increase your earning ability, lessen income inequality, and improve the skill set of the work force. More skilled workers in the workforce will help improve the economy, so improvement of your writing skills will benefit yourself as well as the country. As President Kennedy said at his inauguration in 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

All of the clear writing techniques and guidelines discussed on this blog are available in one place in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle and in print.

Copyright © 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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The Power of The Written Word Is Best Expressed Through Advocacy

I have previously addressed the subject of paragraphing in this blog (see last week for example) and in particular the use of advocacy in paragraphing. Advocacy in writing exemplifies the power of the written word. Mastery of paragraphing and the use of advocacy or persuasive writing will go a long way to further sharpen your writing skills. Find a subject that interests you, one that you are really passionate about, and write about it. Even if you don’t submit your writing to a third person, just writing about it should help you focus on words and phrases that reflect your feelings. Practice makes perfect. The more you write, the better your writing will become. Writing about a subject that really interests you will thus help you to become a better writer.

Here are a couple of examples of writing involving advocacy of a position.

For example, people who disparage class actions may not appreciate the good the do. Class actions are usually very beneficial to the public, even if the successful lawyer(s) does make a lot of money. Class actions are disfavored by many people because they believe that the lawyers get most of the money and individual class members get little, if any. The problem with that argument is that the lawyer who files the case takes a lot of risk. That lawyer may have to work for years without pay and must usually spend a substantial amount of money up front on investigative costs and expert witness fees. Failure to get a court order certifying the intended class as a lawful class is generally regarded as the “death knell” for the case. The lawyer may wind up with nothing if the class is not certified or the case is lost after trial.

On the other hand a successful class action may result in a court order and resulting judgment correcting questionable company practices such as putting a dangerous or unhealthy product on the market. Moreover, class actions are often settled. A settlement usually creates a class fund, which is approved by the court, used to compensate individual class members for damages suffered, and to pay attorneys fees. Under these circumstances, the lawyer’s pay is earned.

The most satisfying class action I filed was brought against two banks, Bank One, and First USA Bank, for using their customers’ credit card information for telemarketing purposes without the customers’ knowledge or consent. This case was certified for class action with a class of approximately four million California credit card holders and was ultimately settled in the six to seven million dollar range. Settlement proceeds, after attorneys fees and costs, were distributed to court approved charities because it was not practicable, in view of the small individual losses, to distribute any money to individual credit card holders.

Another example concerns politicians who lie publicly. Politicians who lie are particularly galling. How can any such politician be believed? It means a total loss of credibility. It’s bad enough if the candidate/incumbent is running for or holds a lower office such as city council. But it’s worse, much worse, if the politician is running for or holds a higher office, especially if that office is president. As a former trial lawyer, the use of a jury instruction, “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” (false as to one thing, false as to everything) can be a devastating weapon in trial. Thus, if the judge gives the instruction, you can argue to the jury that if a party or witness lied about one thing, he/she can be said to have lied about everything, a very effective argument.

So it should be with politicians. And there are politicians on the public scene who have lied, been proven to have lied, but are being given a whitewash by certain media outlets. You and I, as public jurors, have the right to disbelieve, justifiably, anything they say. When you hear someone in office or running for office make a public statement and you know that person to have lied in the past, you have an absolute right to disbelieve anything he/she says and to vote accordingly as the opportunity arises.

Further guidelines on paragraphing are contained in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print.

Copyright©2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Well Constructed Paragraphs Are The Foundation For Clear Writing – Continued

The benefits of strong paragraphing have been previously pointed out in this blog. But the subject is important and deserves repeating.

Paragraphs allow the reader to take a breath while continuing to read. Without them, a reader would face the daunting task of having to read and decide simultaneously when there is a change of thought or subject.

Clear writing flows directly from well composed paragraphing. The effectiveness of any writing will depend directly on how well you have constructed the paragraphs. As further explained below, all paragraphs should be unified in thought, well organized, and coherent.

Paragraphs may be long or short. Moderation and common sense are keys to good paragraphing. If a paragraph is too short, the reader may conclude the writer has given little thought to the writing. If it’s too long, the reader may simply get discouraged.

There are distinct types of writing available for specific purposes, including persuasive, expository, narrative, creative, descriptive, research, and (book) reporting. Paragraphing does not of necessity completely follow the type of writing you are using, but may vary within the main body of the document being written, depending on the context.

Two main groups of paragraphs exist, narrative and descriptive. Other forms of paragraphing may have different identifying labels placed on them, such as chronological, compare and contrast, definition, and others, but it is simpler to place them in one of the two main categories.

For example, a chronological or progressive paragraph is so-called because of its orderly progression from one point to another, often following a time sequence. But it’s still descriptive or narrative in nature. Describing a fishing technique or a golf swing are good examples of the use of such a paragraph. A recipe, which is by nature descriptive, is another example.

As another example, persuasive paragraphing should be used to advocate a position, as follows:

One new law I would like to see enacted this year is one granting equal time for “celebrity puffing,” i.e., an anti- puffing law.

What is “puffing?” It’s a lot of hot air. Like when movie actors such as Robert Redford or Matt Damon try to take advantage of their celebrity status to present their liberal views to the public. A Wall Street Journal article recently reported that Damon and another actor, Ben Affleck, as well as other notables, including Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nelson, have in effect endorsed the philosophy of Howard Zinn, a pro-Leninist historian and one time member of the Communist Party, who died in 2010, by publicly praising him. By law, the public should be allowed to reply to any such public pronouncements by any celebrity. For example, I would say to any celebrity who engages in puffing, “It’s hypocritical of you to use American capitalism to make all your money and acquire celebrity status and then take advantage of that status to foist your liberal (or more radical) views on the public.” An opportunity to speak out in reply should be provided by law. It’s only fair. I for one am not interested in hearing the political views of any celebrity unless there is an opportunity for rebuttal where appropriate. Many media outlets that invite such puffing as news are liberal in their political views and are not interested in allowing any reply. So a one-sided view is presented to the public and it’s often a distortion of the facts.

The foregoing paragraphing guidelines, and more, (with a different example of paragraph advocacy) are contained in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print. My book, by the way, contains an excellent recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini from the classic Mary and Vincent Price cookbook, “A Treasury of Great Recipes,” now believed to be out of print.

To all of my readers and followers, let me say best wishes for a happy and successful new year!

Copyright 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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