Monday, August 21, 2006


Some women prefer good writing to the long ball

"This above all: to thine own self be true; and it follows, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man." William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

When I started this week’s column I thought it was my 100th. When I double checked I discovered that I had neglected to number my first column on my computer directory, so it’s actually number 101. It’s been more than two and a half years, with an eight month hiatus from August 2004 through April of 2005, since Sandy Farkas ran into me at the movie theater and asked me to write a column for the paper he had just purchased. He told me he liked my letters and guest columns in the Albany Herald and thought I’d be a good columnist for his paper. I told him I’d think about it. The next morning he saw me at the YMCA just after I’d coached a youth basketball game and he asked me again. Thinking that seeing him twice in less than 12 hours must be some kind of omen, I agreed.

First Efforts

My first published column was a fun, self deprecatory take on internet dating, and it ran January 23, 2004. But that wasn’t the first column I wrote for the Journal. My first effort never ran because I saved it for a later occasion, which never came, until now. Here’s a slice:

"For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat- and wrong." This H. L. Mencken quote sums up American political campaigns in a nutshell, where issues like crime (stricter judges), joblessness (tax cuts for the super rich), and terrorism (kill all the terrorists) spawn sound bites rather than sound policy. Rarely do we get thoughtful debates between intelligent candidates willing to concede that the other side may have a good point or that issues have two sides. In fact, during election season, rarely do we get any public airing of issues that actually matter. In the 1988 Bush I versus Dukakis presidential race, the issue was saluting the American flag- and it should have been about the wisdom of the Reagan-Bush Administrations’ support for Iraq, which had used chemical weapons to gas its enemies and its own people, and which, two years later, invaded Kuwait. In 1996, three years after the World Trade Center was attacked and one year after the Saudi barracks were blown up, there was little or no mention in the Dole-Clinton debates about how to deal with foreign or domestic terrorism. In 2000, Bush II v. Gore, we got simple answers about how to use our “surplus” (Al Gore’s “lockbox” compared to George Bush’s tax cuts “because it’s your money.” One now wonders whose money is paying for the $500 billion dollar deficit- oh wait, that’s our grandchildren’s money).”

Reader reaction

I’ve often felt that I was writing in a vacuum, but recently many readers- including our esteemed mayor, Dr. Willie Adams- have been providing some positive feedback. Last week’s story, "Going Home," drew praise from one of my toughest audiences, my son Ben, still halfway around the world. Many people have commented how much they appreciated the piece I did in June, "This One’s for Mom," and it’s nice to have a labor of love, written from the heart, received in that fashion.

Of course, I get critical comments, too. But rarely mean spirited comments. Oddly, many of those who compliment me on a particular Journal column or Herald letter start out by assuring me that ordinarily they don’t agree with my point of view, but.... and then go on to say how much they agree with what I wrote and how much they appreciated my writing it. One piece on the Phoebe Factoids controversy was almost universally accepted. Dr. John Bagnato and Charles Rehberg were particularly appreciative of the pieces I wrote debunking the criminal prosecution they endured until it was dismissed earlier this year by an outside judge.

Some chicks dig writers more than the long ball

A few years ago Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux starred in a funny Major League Baseball commercial called “Chicks dig the long ball” as the two scrawny Hall of Fame pitchers attempted to beef up to hit a home run or two. A few steroid scandals later, MLB ditched the commercial and will likely never go down that path again. I’ve discovered to my delight that there are some discerning women who like what I write enough to be enthralled. Here’s one instant message exchange from last December:

“JL says:
Wonderful articles
Definitely the second "draft" on the divorce is better
You must do some serious researching for your columns...I'm quite impressed

Jim says:
Thanks for the compliment and the feedback. I didn't realize you were going to read the Joe Lieberman article. Did you like the pictures?

JL says:
Yes. I like you, too

Jim says:
Well, I collect data as I cruise the internet and save a lot for future articles. Plus, if you go to some of my old essays, you'll see some of the quotes. And I like you too. A big bunch.

JL says:
aw, shucks. Really, though, you have quite a talent with words...”

And a few months later:

“Dear Jim,

I just read your article...absolutely wonderful!! I was quite impressed with this one. You really need to do something with all of those great ideas running around in your head, and I believe you know what I'm talking about!! By the way, I think you're smart...I want to date you!! (I think you're sexy, too...)”

Final Thoughts

Of course, I write because I must. Because to be silent in the face of injustice and oppression is wrong and allows them to continue. Because the opinion pages should not be the playground of those who distort facts, make straw man arguments, and use illogic and unreality to serve the agenda of their masters. Time and again people have come up to me to thank me for opposing those in power and those who will serve them. For having the courage to say what they think but are unwilling to put in print where all can read. They look to me as their voice, their messenger. To prove that logic, reason, kindness, compassion, and good still have a place in the world. That opposing war, hate, and greed is important. And I thank them, but I still think- just once in a while- it would be nice to lay down the baton and let someone else carry it, if just for a moment.

(Note: most columns are archived at:


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