An American Editor

November 30, 2010

When Will We Ever Learn?

As has been made clear in recent months, distance learning and learning at for-profit institutions are on the rise. In and of themselves, neither bothers me much; I’m a firm believer that being a Harvard graduate only means you are a Harvard graduate, not that you learned or know anything or even that you are particularly well educated. We make assumptions that are not necessarily true when spread over the whole.

Yet what does dismay me is what I read in a recent article in The Economist regarding student tutoring. Apparently, tutoring in mathematics of elementary and secondary school students is now being outsourced and offshored, just like editorial work and manufacturing work. Again, India appears to be the winner.

Students in Britain and the United States aren’t doing well in math (along with any number of other academic subjects). This doesn’t say much for either our educators or our educational systems. To combat this struggle with math, which many community activists think is one root or many that causes an increase in social disorder, tutoring is being tried — and with apparently great success.

The tutoring is done long distance — very long distance, in fact — via the Internet with the students in Britain and the United States and the tutor being in India. The tutoring is one-on-one and the tutors are college professors from Indian universities who are paid $19 an hour for the tutoring services. Can you imagine a professor/instructor at an American university being willing to work for that price!

It wasn’t so long ago that Britain and the United States had a learn-to-get-ahead ethic that compelled students, especially middle class students, to work hard at their academics. But that ethic has changed and moved; that is now the ethic we find in developing countries rather than in developed countries. I often think that this attitudinal change was a by-product of the cultural revolution of the 1960s as I noted the decline beginning then.

Of course, the outsourcing and offshoring of our education shouldn’t be much of a surprise. We see declining standards and abilities in our educators who are responsible for imparting skills and knowledge to upcoming generations on a regular basis. The question really is, When will we learn that reversing this trend of declining work ethic is necessary to ensuring our societal survival? And, once we have recognized the need to reverse the trend, What will we do to accomplish that reversal?

As tough as times are now, they will only get worse if we do not address declining education.

November 29, 2010

Factors to Consider When Deciding What eReader Device to Buy

I’ve been pretty lax recently about writing articles for this blog. I’ve been busy trying to wrap up end-of-the-year work and deal with the holidays. The next week or two will be devoted to getting my holiday thank-you gifts mailed to clients.

However, I have been reading messages and blog posts telling people interested in buying their first ereader device which device to buy. I find most of the advice both wrong and unhelpful, so I thought I would give it a try.

First, let’s separate dedicated from multipurpose devices. If you won’t be satisfied with a dedicated device, then don’t consider a Kindle, Sony, Kobo, or nook or any eInk device. Look at an LCD-screened device such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy or a laptop computer with an application. Essentially these are regular computers with ebook applications.

Among the dedicated devices — and there are a lot of them — for United States and Canada buyers, four stand out for consideration: nook, Sony, Kindle, and Kobo. Choosing among these four is a safe way to go; the companies are likely to be around for years to come. The real question is how to choose among the four. Each has its pluses and minuses, and contrary to what some bloggers, commentators, geeks, tech reviewers, and posters (hereinafter collectively referred to as bloggers) think, Kindle is not the outstanding or obvious choice. Rather, it all depends on how you will use the device and what is most important to you.

Consequently, the place to begin is by deciding what features are most important to you. Is it price? If price of the device is most important, then none of the Sonys are apt to meet your need because each of the Sonys is more expensive than the nook, Kobo, and Kindle.

Is it wireless connectivity? If yes, then my question is why? Yes, it is nice to be able to download to the device directly from the ebookstore rather than having to download first to your computer and then copy the book from your computer to the device via USB. But how often do you think you will really use this function? I generally buy books once or twice a month, so the wireless on my Sony 950 gets used at most twice a month, which isn’t very often. And even with the wireless, I prefer to first download to my PC because that way I have a copy of the book on my PC as a backup copy; if I download it directly, then the only copy is what exists in the cloud, which means I have to hope that it will always be available for downloading to my device. I haven’t forgotten when Amazon deleted all copies of one edition of 1984 because the copy violated copyright even though customers had paid for it.

Would you prefer touchscreen navigation or arrow navigation? Each of the devices has a dictionary. But how they access the dictionary is different. The Sonys use touchscreen technology, consequently I double-tap on a word and the dictionary definition pops up. On the Kindle, I have to use direction arrows to move to the word I want to lookup, select the word, and then select the dictionary function. For me, the tradeoff between wireless and touchscreen is worthwhile because I access the dictionary regularly, but buy books occasionally.

Some bloggers emphasize that Amazon, on average, has the lowest ebook prices. This is certainly true, but meaningless — just as it is meaningless that B&N’s ebookstore has more than 1 million books (many of which are the free public domain books available from Google) — unless the books you want to read are available at a price you are willing to pay. What does it matter to me if Amazon sells vampire romance novels for $50 less than any other store if I would never buy such a book? If ebook price is the key, then the best thing to do is to check out the pricing at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Sony of the last 10 books you read and the next 10 you would like to read. (An easy way to do this is to use Inkmesh, an ebook comparison tool.) In my case, buying the books at Sony would have cost me $3.50 more in total than had I bought them at Amazon, not a significant difference to me. Also, price is not the only factor to consider: regardless of the number of books available at each store, not all books are available at all stores, so you need to make sure that the books that are of interest to you are available.

Screen clarity is another issue. As of this writing, the Kindle and the Sonys have the best screen clarity. Both use the newest version of eInk screen, commonly referred to as the Pearl screen. Eventually nook and Kobo will also adopt this screen. Some bloggers wonder about fingerprints on the Sonys because they are touchscreen and they complain about the visibile fingerprints on the LCD touchscreen of the iPad. My personal experience is that this is not a problem. After a month of constant use (averaging 4 hours every day), I still didn’t observe smudges on my screen except in one corner where I was constantly double-tapping to add a bookmark.

Another issue is device build quality. If this is paramount, then I think there is no choice but to select a Sony. The Sonys are well-built solid devices that do not feel like cheap plastic. This is one of the things I dislike about the nook and the Kindle — both feel cheaply constructed. Note that I said “feel” — I opted to buy a Sony and so have no long-term experience with any of the other devices as regards build quality. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that my 3-year-old Sony PRS-505 is still going strong and appears to be brand new; my new Sony PRS-950 is built of the same metal components as the 505 was.

The last issue I’ll mention is local library access. The Sonys allow you to borrow ebooks from your local library (assuming your local library has them to lend). The other devices do not.

There are several other important considerations but not room enough to delve into all of them. Perhaps the most important one left is that of formats. Format is important because the more universal the format, the more bookstores that are available for you to shop at. The nook, Kobo, and Sonys all read ePub format. The nook adds an extra layer of DRM (digital rights management) “protection” to its books so that buying a book at B&N to read on the Kobo or Sony requires an extra step to strip the DRM. However, any book you buy at Sony or Kobo can be read on the Sony, Kobo, or nook device as is; any book bought at B&N can be read on the Sony or Kobo device if the DRM is removed, which is very easy to do, as well as on the nook. Amazon, on the other hand, does not use the ePub format and it is not easy to strip the DRM from an Amazon book. Consequently, for the most part, if you buy a Kindle, you are restricted to the Amazon bookstore and to ebookstores like Smashwords, Feedbooks, and ManyBooks, which provide DRM-free books in formats compatible with all of these devices. Those who are very tech savvy can find ways to strip some of the DRM from Amazon books and convert the books, but not from all of the books that Amazon sells. The widest ebookstore selection is available to devices that read ePub. However, if you only ever plan to buy ebooks from Amazon, then the Kindle is your best bet.

Ultimately, I suggest you look at the information available on MobileRead’s Wiki to learn about each of the devices available. Information about Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s nook, Kobo’s Kobo, and the three Sony devices (PRS-350, PRS-650, and PRS-950) is available by clicking the links. You would also do well to join MobileRead and read what owners of the various devices have to say for and against the devices. But under no circumstance should you simply buy a device without first analyzing your reading habits and getting a device that matches your habits most closely. It is likely that once you buy a dedicated device you will find you are reading more than ever before — this seems to be the one common thread that joins all of the various device owners: ereading devices are so pleasurable to use that the amount of time spent reading for pleasure increases.

Happy Holidays!

November 17, 2010

The Future of Editing: Group Sourcing?

Recently, several authors have commented that they have turned to group sourcing for their editing needs. I have also read of a couple small publishers who are trying crowd-source editing in lieu of hiring professional editors. For the past week or so, I have been pondering whether this is the future of editing.

The immediate problem I see with this approach is that you have no idea of what skill level the participants bring to the editing. A professional editor might offer to edit a friend’s manuscript for free, but I can’t see someone at the professional level offering to provide free editing to all comers.

The second problem is that how does one determine which edits to keep and which to discard when the editing is group sourced? One person changes which to that and a second changes that to which. Which change does the author see? How does the author decide which to keep and which to reject?

The third problem that rushes to the forefront is that involving improvement of the manuscript’s structure and text, not just the basic grammar and spelling; that is, the developmental edit. Does the crowd scour the manuscript with the idea of offering suggestions for improvement or of outlining gaps? From what I have seen of group-sourced editing, this is a real weakness of the system, almost like the blind leading the blind.

A fourth problem is how well the author has prepared the materials for the crowd-source edit. For example, a professional editor will take the time to create a character list and description so that each time the editor comes across the character Betsy, the editor can make certain that Betsy is described the same. Preparing such stylesheets is time-consuming and not something that can be expected to be performed by someone working for free. So if not prepared by the crowd, it needs to be prepared by the author and distributed. From conversations I have had with authors who have tried crowd-sourced editing, they do not distribute stylesheets, often not having prepared detailed ones for their own use.

There are other problems with crowd sourcing of editorial function but there are also good things that can come of it IF crowd sourcing occurs after a traditional professional edit and proofread but before final publication. For example, it never hurts to have feedback from the target audience. Has the author successfully communicated with his or her target audience? Are there errors that still remain that can be fixed before release?

What attracts authors to crowd-source editing are the cost savings and the belief that nearly anyone can edit — the “I can read therefore I can edit” syndrome. Admittedly, it is hard for professional editors to combat the cost issue as there is a wide gap between whatever the professional would charge and the “free” of crowd sourcing. The strongest argument in favor of professionals is the debunking of the myth that anyone who can read can be an editor.

As those of us who are professional editors (in the sense that we earn our livelihood from freelance editing) know there is a lot more to editing than just reading a manuscript and fixing spelling and grammatical errors. We have developed techniques and skills over years of doing such work, and have a collection of resources that we consult when questions arise. Yet the idea that all we do is correct spelling and grammar is what most people believe when they think editing.

Group-source editing can have a place at the editorial table if properly used to supplement the work of a professional editor, but not if it is a substitute for professional editing. The challenge professional editors face in the coming years is educating authors and publishers that crowd-source editing is not a substitute for professional editing. Whether we are up to the challenge remains to be seen.

November 10, 2010

The Internet and Free: A Problem That Will Grow

Cook’s Source magazine has been the topic of conversation in recent days for grabbing a copyrighted article written by Monica Gaudio off the Internet and publishing it without permission or compensation. When Ms. Gaudio complained, she was told that she should be thankful Cook’s Source “improved” the article by editing it and then publishing it with attribution. Cook’s Source‘s editor wrote:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!

Ignoring the grammatical errors in the Cook’s Source response, which, considering he thinks Ms. Gaudio should pay him for his editing, adds insult to injury, the real question is whether Cook’s Source is simply reflecting a viewpoint that is becoming more commonplace among Internet users.

There has been a lot of uproar in recent years regarding software, book, music, and video “piracy.” On one side of the argument are the copyright holders whose works are “pirated,” and on the other are the consumers who do the “pirating.” (We need to be careful about using the term pirating or piracy because its use implies that the act is wrong. I want to use it here in a more neutral sense, the sense that it is simply a descriptor of action not a conclusion as to whether the action is right or wrong.)

Are the Internet and the posting of material online changing expectations? From what I observe of “consumer” attitudes, the answer is yes. Increasingly, Internet users expect these things to be free and freely usable — a phenomenon that seems to have an inverse relationship to the user’s age; increasingly, copyright has only meaning between companies and not between copyright holders and consumers.

The situation is exacerbated, at least in ebook world, by agency pricing and DRM. I suspect that there is less piracy of books that fall closer to the low-price-DRM-free side of the curve than of books that fall closer to the high-price-DRM side of the curve. The situation is also exacerbated by such things as YouTube and Wikipedia, both of which encourage sharing and free use. Consumers become accustomed to free use of intellectual property. There is also the problem of a decline in understanding among the general population of what constitutes intellectual property that is protectable and why it should be protectable. Is there any reason other than corporate greed to keep extending the protection life of Mickey Mouse?

Ask a teenager whether the sweater in Macy’s is free (or should be free) and the response usually is no, it costs money. Ask the same teenager whether the text on the Internet is free (or should be free) and the answer turns 180 degrees. The major difference, at least for books and text, is that to the upcoming generations words shouldn’t cost because no one owns them. When the discussion turns to copyright, they are either befuddled or they are familiar enough with copyright to say that it was OK to protect words when the protection was limited but with today’s extensions that make the protection nearly permanent, copyright has no meaning. Besides fair use is in such a state of disarray that few people have any understanding of where it ends. (I know of several publishers who unilaterally declare that x number of words constitutes fair use, with x changing depending on the book and the publisher. Of course, x applies to words quoted from books from other publishers, not from their books.)

If you think about it, the protection extensions in copyright law are contrary to capitalism and free market thinking. Society is willing to tolerate a limited extension, but not an extension that makes it more or less a permanent monopoly. Although Monica Gaudio is right that her work is protected by copyright, Cook’s Source is simply reflecting the capitalist-free market position that when copyright exists into absurdity (i.e., forever), it should be viewed as not existing at all.

This dilemma will never be resolved absent a recognition by the producers of copyrighted material that they are encouraging consumers to pirate their work by their demand for never-ending and increasingly restrictive protection. Consumers look at the ever-narrowing of their rights and take the only tack they can — they ignore the restrictions. The Republicans say that the midterm elections demonstrate that the Democrats don’t hear the people, perhaps the Republicans should listen to the voice of the consumer and reverse course on the DMCA and copyright laws — instead of pushing for increased protections and more onerous burdens on the consumer, they should push for a return to the original limits and a more relaxed view of fair use and what consumers can do with material they have legitimately bought.

November 9, 2010

On Books: Olivia’s Kiss

My general policy is to review only books that I find exceptionally good (e.g., On Books: Promises to Keep are Promises Kept) or exceptionally bad (e.g., Truman & MacArthur & Why a Good Editor is Important) or that relate to language (e.g., On Books: An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology). However, Olivia’s Kiss by Catherine Durkin Robinson, which is available at Smashwords and other ebookstores, is an exception.

Catherine Durkin Robinson’s Olivia’s Kiss is a book that should (and could) be exceptional. The subject is compelling (battered spouses revenged/avenged by a female professional assassin) and author is a compelling writer. In fact, as I read her book, I immediately thought of Dashiell Hammet and Rex Stout, occasionally even Ed McBain. Robinson’s writing style is the staccato, rhythmic style associated with the original hardboiled detective story writers of the 20th century.

If I have to rate Olivia’s Kiss in its current form on a 5-star scale, it gets 3 stars; it could easily be a 5-star book, however. Although self-published, this book does not suffer from the grammatical and spelling errors often seen. In this regard, the book appears to have been well-edited.

Yet editing of a book is more than grammar and spelling and punctuation. What Olivia’s Kiss desperately needs is a quality developmental edit. As it stands now, Olivia’s Kiss is an acceptable, mediocre novel. A reader won’t go too far wrong buying it and reading it (although I think the $3.99 price is high for this particular book; in its present form, I think $1.99 is a more appropriate price) because the writing is taut and the story interesting.

I think, however, with a good developmental edit Olivia’s Kiss could become a cinderella and go from acceptable-mediocre to great-outstanding, worthy of being picked up and published by a traditional publisher, deserving of great accolades from ebookers, and worthy of a significantly higher price. This is that rough diamond waiting to be transformed by a good polish.

The author describes Olivia’s Kiss as follows:

Olivia discovered a talent for killing men while in her teens, after shooting her abusive father in the head and watching him die. Now, a sophisticated young woman, Olivia travels the world pursuing bad men and making them pay. When Max, her longtime love, proposes marriage, Olivia dares to wonder: Can she really trade guns and glory for gold bands and bath towels?

The description is accurate as far as it goes (although Olivia pursues bad spouses regardless of gender, not just men). Unfortunately, the story is inadequately developed and much is missing in its current form. Characters are underdeveloped, especially the important parts of their histories that make the connections that are presumed in the novel; more character development/background is needed. For example, how did Olivia make the transition from killing her father to professional killer? How did the friendship of the 4 women that is central to the story develop? The friendship of the 3 friends who, along with Olivia, are the core of the story is taken for granted; it is insufficiently developed to support the ending. Why did Olivia confess her story to Sarah and why didn’t Sarah disclose it? (Yes, I know that Sarah is a nun, but that doesn’t solve the problem.)

Based on her Smashwords profile, it seems that this is Robinson’s first book. Hopefully, it will not be her last. Robinson clearly has a gift for communicating, but needs the guidance that a professional developmental editor can provide.

Should you buy and read this ebook? Yes and no. Yes, because it is well-written and there are no distractions caused by poor grammar, spelling, or structure. The story is compelling and interesting. By buying and reading the book, and adding your own comments and review, you will encourage the author to work more on this and future books, and Robinson is an author who should be encouraged. No, because it is unsatisfying because the characters and story are incompletely developed. Olivia’s Kiss almost seems as if it is a draft of what could be the next great novel.

November 8, 2010

Commentary on Bookstores: Humor

We all know that brick-and-mortar bookstores are in trouble in the Ages of the Internet and eBooks. With that in mind, here are two videos about bookstores that are worth watching.

The first illustrates the problem of customers with declining reading skills, which will negatively impact on bookstore survival:

The second video may portend the future of deep-discount bookstores as consumers strive to pay less and bookstores struggle to survive:

November 4, 2010

A Musical Interlude: Odes to Editors

Editors receive a lot of abuse these days and often get blamed for errors that are inflicted by others in the production chain. That is not to say that we editors aren’t often the causes of errors, either from a failure to catch the error or because we introduced the error in our zeal to demonstrate our editorial prowess.

But, as the following video demonstrates, there are some who still prize our skills:

Yet the question is whether our profession is in decline. Gus is a new entrant to our profession:

As Carmela demonstrates, we aren’t sitting still and letting the world pass us by. We constantly seek new and better ways to improve the work of our clients:

The importance of proofreading cannot be overstated. Taylor Mali illustrates the problem of editing by homonym:

Knowing how difficult things can be in the editing world, it was only a matter of time until we had our own lament:

November 2, 2010

WOW! That’s My Take on the New Sony 950

I finally received my new Sony Reader, the PRS-950, and have been using it for the past few days. All I can say is WOW!

The first thing I did was enter a subscription to the New York Times. If I didn’t enjoy reading the Times on it, then the plan was to return it. The second thing I did was load on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, which I was in the middle of reading on my Sony PRS-505.

I began “testing” the 950 by continuing to read Larsson’s book. Turns out, the new 950 weighs less than my 505, so it is easier to hold. The reading experience is better as well. Even though it has a touch screen, a short finger swipe changes pages, the text is sharper than on the 505, whose screen was considered the gold standard for e-ink readers. In the predecessor 900 model, the touch screen, which was a different type than what is on the 950, did not receive accolades.

Then came the Sunday morning New York Times. Alas, if what you like to read are the advertisements, you are out of luck — the electronic version currently is ad free. But if your focus is on the stories, then the electronic version has them all. I found it easy to use and navigate and the same text as was in the print version appeared in the electronic version (I compared several of the articles). As bonuses, the electronic version is half the price of the print version and I can receive the electronic version when I want it, not having to wait for the delivery person to get out of bed — well almost. As I discovered today, the current day’s edition isn’t available until 5 a.m., which was a bit annoying this morning as I tried to retrieve it beginning at 4 a.m. But 5 a.m. is better than 8 a.m. or not at all, which is what my home delivery has become the past couple of months.

The biggest objections to the Sony 950 are its price ($299 without a cover), it is only available in silver (I would have liked black), and it uses a micro rather than a mini USB cable to charge. (If it had used the mini, I could have used the same charging device for both my 950 and my cell phone.) Except for price, the others are very minor obstacles. I must admit that I would also have liked to have received a printed user’s manual rather than the PDF version, especially as it is a long manual, but I can at least view the manual on either my desktop or via a printout.

The price has to be put in perspective. The immediate comparison that most people make is to the Kindle 3, which with all its bells and whistles runs $189. However there are some differences between the 2 units that increase the cost of the Sony, the two most notable differences being the touchscreen (Kindle uses a physical keyboard, buttons, and a joystick to navigate; the Sony uses a virtual keyboard, a couple of basic buttons if you want, and your finger or a stylus that comes with the device) and the screen size (the Kindle is a 6-inch e-ink and the Sony is a 7-inch e-ink; both use the new e-ink Pearl so are comparable in terms of clarity).

The Sony also provides basic web surfing capability and e-mail capability, which is nice for those of us who either rarely use a cell phone or who use cell phones without data capability (I happen to fall into both categories). It will be nice to be able to travel with just my Sony 950 and still receive e-mails.

For me, the biggest advantage the Sony has over the Kindle is that it accepts ePub format, which Kindle does not; I can buy ebooks at lots of different places, which is something I like.

I’m enjoying this 950 so much, I’m thinking about buying a second one for my wife. She is inheriting my Sony 505, which still works perfectly after 3 years of use, but the 950 has charmed me with its ease-of-use and greater functionality. The advantage to getting her a 950 of her own is that she will no longer have to wait for me to finish the New York Times before she can read it. That is one advantage that the print version has over the electronic version.

If you are looking for a great holiday gift and have been thinking about an ereading device, be sure to check out the new Sony 950 (the 650 is a 6-inch touchscreen version but without wireless; the touchscreen and the screen clarity are identical to that of the 950).

November 1, 2010

How Much Is That Job Worth?

I read the other day that Meg Whitman has spent $143 million of her own money in her quest to become governor of California. Today I read that midterm campaign spending will set a new record — nearly $4 billion, approximately 50% more than the last midterm election spending, and the article didn’t make it clear whether this was spending on just federal races or on all races (my bet is just federal races). These numbers started me thinking, primarily about how far down the wrong path we seem to be going.

How much is the job of governor of California really worth? Or United States senator or representative? To the office seekers, apparently a lot, but I don’t understand the return, unless it is sheer naked power or being able to say “I am 1 of 50!” Does Meg Whitman really need to be governor to influence policy? As the various pressure groups demonstrate daily, one can buy a lot of lobby power and influence for a lot less than $143 million.

But consider the other ramifications. A lot of Americans go to bed hungry, and with no health insurance. If it costs $12,000 a year to buy a family health insurance plan in the private marketplace, Whitman’s $143 million could insure nearly 12 million families for a year. Or it could give more than 12 million families $200 a week for a year to buy groceries.

And after the election has been bought, what will we citizens get in return? If the past few years are any guide, not much.

Contrast the value placed on elective office to the value placed on editing. I’m not sure we are even talking same dimension, let alone same planet. Isn’t it interesting that corporate America keeps pressuring editors to lower their fees yet corporate America keeps raising the expense of obtaining elected office. One would think if it were good enough for editors, it would be good enough for politicians, too. (I wonder when the day will arrive when we outsource/offshore our political offices because the candidates cost less?)

Okay, I’ll concede that any politician has a greater influence on most people’s daily lives than does any editor, but that may well be because we value editorial skills so lowly. Grammar skills don’t seem to matter; spelling skills don’t seem to matter; only cost seems to matter. Yet the future of corporations lies in the communication skills of the generations of leaders yet to come, which would make, to my way of thinking, editorial skills more important than they currently are viewed. Imagine the chaos that will ensue when the corporate CEO gives instruction (or the politician drafts a bill) and those whose job it is to follow those instructions do it incorrectly for the lack of clarity. (Think of simple things like: “Johnny Depp’s wife, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.”)

Of course, the other sad thing about the cost of buying political office is that voters’ choice is generally among those who were failures but pocketed a large fortune while failing. Carly Fiorina wants to bring jobs back to America yet fired a third of her American workforce in order to make her company more profitable and thus pocket more in bonuses. Is there a disconnect? Yet she can afford to dig into her own money to run a political campaign, whereas the successful small business owner who has created American jobs in each of the last 10 years cannot afford to run for political office against a Fiorina or Whitman.

This is much like the argument against health insurance mandates. I admit that I do not like being told what I have to spend my hard-earned money on, but I also realize that sometimes you need to spend some to make some, and these mandates are like that. Consider the person who has no health insurance and becomes ill. Where do they go for treatment? To the hospital. If they cannot afford to pay the hospital bill, what happens? The cost gets spread to those of us who either have insurance or are able to pay the bill, as well as to the government (or the taxpayer). Strikes me that opposing a mandate to carry insurance is like insisting that the government raise my taxes or that my insurance carrier raise my premium rates. Someone has to pay, and it generally falls on the taxpayer to do so, which is what gets lost in the argument.

All of which brings me full circle to the original matter: Is spending $143 million to become governor of California what we citizens want to see? Wouldn’t it be better to take that same sum of money and provide health insurance or food to 12 million American families? How did we, as a society, come to be so disconnected from what is right and good? I don’t know, but I sure don’t think spending billions of dollars on politicians is such a great idea.

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