Archive for July, 2009

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IT’S NOT THE BEST BUY

July 31, 2009

Earns Best Buy

Let me start by saying I am a BestBuy customer. I think they offer good value on many items.

Not on cell phones.

BestBuy has been running commercials advertising offers on cell phones and calling plans from many popular providers.

This “convenience” will cost you twice as much or more for your phone.

Full disclosure: I have been a Verizon Wireless customer through many 2-yr contracts. My reception is strong and almost always uninterrupted – even in my recording studio, which is below ground level. Before Verizon, I tried many of the other providers and none worked in the studio.

It was time for me to upgrade my phone which was a Silver Blackberry Pearl 8130.

Pearl

I wanted to upgrade to the Silver Blackberry Curve 8330.

381557_BBCURVE_011s_v3.psd

The phones have identical operating systems. The only real differences are the keyboard and screen sizes.

Pearl-Curve

As I was coming close to my “Upgrade Date,” I kept an eye on the Curve. It was down to $49.99 for quite a while, but I was hoping it would be offered FREE with a renewed 2-yr contract. I waited until my “official” upgrade date and checked the price: FREE with a 2-yr contract.

 FreeCurve

Needless to say, I ordered it. The phone was delivered by FedEx THE NEXT DAY, also at no cost.

With a non-Verizon customer wanting the phone and a new 2-yr contract,  it’s $49.99.

VerizonBlackberry

BestBuy offers the identical phone, with a new 2-yr Verizon contract for $99.99.

BestBuyBlackberryPagesm2

BestBuyBlackberry2

If you already have a contract with Verizon, the phone is $99.99 and you pay $9.99 to have it delivered. Huh?

BestBuyBlackberryPagesm

 

BestBuyBlackberry

So, if you’re currently a Verizon customer, it will cost you MORE to upgrade your phone than if you’re a first-time customer. Exactly the OPPOSITE of Verizon’s upgrade policy.

I understand wanting to make a little profit for the “convenience” of offering cell phones and plans at your favorite electronics store. But I don’t believe charging twice as much or more for the phones is worth the “convenience.”

Sorry BestBuy. You’re not living up to your name with cell phones.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

BTW – Did you notice the price of the phone without a plan? $579.99. Are you kidding me?

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“THE BEST OF A BAD LOT”

July 24, 2009

BestofaBadLotLOGO

Calm down. I explain the title in the third paragraph.

I wasn’t a big evening news watcher when I was younger. Being a professional musician, that time of day was usually spent traveling to a gig or, if it was local, getting ready for one. I do remember a few news anchors that really stood out as the best of the best: David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, and of course, Walter Cronkite.

When I did have the opportunity to watch him, Walter Cronkite seemed like a young grandfather, teaching me about current events of the day. I never questioned the veracity of his reports. “Grandpa” was the embodiment of truth.

So when I learned – a week ago – Walter Cronkite was a liberal, I was dumbfounded.  I learned this while watching “Hardball” with Chris Matthews. This is when I also learned that Richard Nixon called him “The Best of a Bad Lot.”

Those of us who watched his evening broadcasts would have never known Walter’s political bias. To my knowledge, Richard Nixon never said anything about it publically.

The broadcasts below are vivid in my mind. Like millions around the country and the world, I can remember exactly where I was during all of these moments.

Before we get to Walter’s broadcast, let’s listen one more time Neil Armstrong’s famous words, as they were spoken:

After retiring from broadcasting, Walter discusses the Vietnam War – something he very rarely editorialized on his broadcasts during the war.

We could always count on Walter Cronkite to tell us the truth.

Now, we have to research it for ourselves.

Peace be with you, “Grandpa.”

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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THIS IS NOT ABOUT A BIRTH CERTIFICATE

July 23, 2009

ThisisNOTaboutLOGO

Here we go… again.

The people who are creating the story about President Obama’s birth certificate are not telling the truth. They couldn’t care less about his birth certificate. They KNOW he was born in Hawaii. The evidence is overwhelming.

This “Birther Movement” is just the latest in “coded rhetoric” and actions by those who hate our President because he is black. They’ve tried Socialist, Communist, Marxist, Fascist, Baby-killer, Anti-Semite – you name it, and nothing has worked. President Obama still holds high popularity marks – as good as or higher than Clinton or Reagan in their first six months. With everything that needed attention when he came to the Presidency, that’s a remarkable achievement. You have to go back to FDR to find a President who came into the Whitehouse with so many different critical situations on his plate at once – and Roosevelt wasn’t dealing with two wars.

This poorly veiled bigotry will get less traction than the “Tea Parties” from earlier this year. At least the Tea Party Movement sounded rational, even if it wasn’t actually about taxation.

Rep. Campbell wants this bill to go to the President’s desk because it would put Obama on the spot. If he doesn’t sign it, he looks like he’s hiding something. There are currently nine co-sponsors of the bill that was sponsored by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL). Not one person of color among them. Interestingly, half are from Texas.

SponsorsComposite

Facts anyone?

Here are what the top fact-checking websites in the country have written on the subject. Snopes.com  PolitiFact.com  FactCheck.org

What post would be complete without a media morsel (or two) on the “crazies.”

Convicted Watergate felon and well-known crazy radio talk show host, G. Gordon Liddy, looking VERY tired on Hardball, tried to defend the Birther Movement.

No crazy conspiracy theory would be complete without “legal” action so it appears legitimate. Attorney Philip Berg filed a lawsuit that was summarily dismissed by Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the US District Court in PA.

JudgeOpinion

Berg was also mentioned in a civil action that Air Force Colonel Gregory Hollister brought to the court, stating he would not serve under Obama because Obama wasn’t a citizen and therefore could not be the Commander-in-Chief. This case was also dismissed. The judge called this case “frivolous,” having ruled on two previous interlocutory cases on the same issue. Here’s the date-by-date rulings by the court on Hollister’s Civil action.

FactCheck.org had this to say:

“FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). We even brought home a few photographs.”

Hawaii has two major newspapers, the Honolulu Advertiser and the Star Bulletin. BOTH newspapers include birth announcements (which come from hospitals, not family), and BOTH newspapers record the August 4th, 1961 birth of Barack Obama.

Barbara Nelson, a teacher at the Honolulu prep school attended by Barack Obama recalled discussing his birth with the obstecrician who had delivered him:

TeacherTestimony

Time for some rational thinking.

“In this day of heightened awareness about terrorists, illegal immigrants, etc. and (Bush Administration) policies hell-bent on invading the privacy of virtually everyone in this country under the guise of protecting us, does anyone really think Barack Hussein Obama would have received the necessary security clearances to be a US Senator and on the Foreign Relations Committee, if he wasn’t a citizen?”

I wrote this during the 2008 campaign in Faith Trumps Fear, when this birth certificate nonsense was first debunked.

I know the Republicans can’t be responsible for the crazies like Lou Dobbs, Liz Cheney, Sean Hannity and Orly Taitz. But they can, and should, reign in their fellow congressmen who are legitimizing this bigotry. Allowing these members to disguise their hatred of our President’s skin color behind proposed birth certificate legislation that will go nowhere, is harmful to the GOP. Media is doing a good job of exposing these clowns for who and what they are. (Of course, this excludes FOX News and the rest of the alarmist talking heads.) If nothing is done by the Republican Leadership to publically oppose this dialogue, then it becomes apparent to many that the fear-and-hate mongers have the support of the entire party.

Are Republicans TRYING to become even MORE insignificant?

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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NOT IN 2012 – NOT EVER

July 20, 2009

NotIn2012LOGO

When she debuted at the RNC Convention last year, she delivered her speech very well. What many people don’t know is that not one word was hers. The speech was written by one of the best speechwriters in the business, Matthew Scully – a writer for George W. Bush. Her ability to deliver the speech via teleprompter came from her experience as a local sportscaster. She rehearsed the speech for several days (with teleprompters), away from the media spotlight.

This was the only way the McCain Campaign was going to gain traction.

It worked until Sarah had to be Sarah:

After these interviews, media and entertainers had a field day:

Pundit World tells us “the Republican base really loves her.” What they are not saying is that this does not represent nearly enough votes to win the Republican nomination for President, much less the Presidency.

While  7 out of 10 Republicans say they would vote for Palin for President in 2012, only 1 out of 5 Americans identify themselves as Republicans.

122,394,724 voted in 2008.

Based on these figures, approximately 24,500,000 people consider themselves Republican. That translates into 17,200,000 votes for Sarah Palin in the 2012 election. Even if she split the independent vote (27% in 2008) with Obama – a highly unlikely scenario – she would add approximately 16,500,000 votes.

Based on her current popularity, Sarah Palin would get approximately 24% of the vote in the 2012 Presidential election.

These facts are not lost on level-headed Republicans. They know Palin can’t win. So do many others. If Obama’s first term is even slightly successful, no Republican can win in 2012.

Then again, that might be the very reason to nominate Palin.

Get her bid for President out of the way in 2012 (figuratively throw her to the wolves) so that a viable contender can run against what may very well be an open field of Democrats in 2016. (Joe Biden will be 74 years old on November 20, 2016.) If she waits until 2016, she would be going up against qualified candidates with the gravitas she’ll never have.

You can’t teach what Sarah Palin needs to learn.

I firmly believe she will say or do something that will completely eliminate her from even considering a Presidential bid – ever. Quitting her job as Alaska’s Governor mid-way through the first term with ethics charges flying is a very good indication of how she handles responsibility. Again, level-headed Republicans are aware.

Sarah Palin will not be the Republican nominee for President.

Not in 2012.

Not ever.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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OLDEST SON OF AN OLDEST SON – VOL. 3

July 19, 2009

IndyAdamEpilogueLOGO

It’s Friday evening. I’m checking my e-mails, as usual. I see one from Adam:

“can you skype tomorrow sometime?  what’s your schedule… i’m HOME!!!!!”

“Hi there! WELCOME BACK! Lonna and I are going to a cook-out at the home of the bassist and his wife at around 4:00pm. The rest of the band will be there as well. So, you tell me. Any time before say 3:30 is good. Can’t wait! Dad” 

“Awesome… I’ll give you a call in the morning… i’m shutting offeverything for a day.  UGH. -A”

Throughout the next morning and early afternoon, I’m anticipating his call. He’s good at keeping his word, so why would this morning be an exception? He’s back in the country, so what could possibly be keeping him from calling? It’s three hours earlier in L.A. so I’m not expecting a call before 11:00am. But now, it’s nearly 1:00pm and I’m in the middle of some housecleaning. If he calls now, I’ll have to leave everything in a mess to take the call, which means turning on my PC, logging on, setting up my camcorder and lights. Knowing us, we’ll gab for a while which means I’ll probably be late for the cook-out. Okay, Adam. Call, already.

As I’m walking from the kitchen to the living room, I see Lonna working on some of the landscaping in the front of the house. I notice someone approaching her…

IT’S ADAM!?!?!?

A few minutes later Kenny, my other son, stopped by, not knowing his older brother was in town. As I later learned, NO ONE knew. Adam changed his flight plans in Boston the day before, creating a 27-hour lay-over, which included sleeping in the airport. He decided L.A. could wait a few more days and came to town completely unannounced. It felt great to have the four of us together again in such an unexpected way.

It was one of the best surprises I’ve ever experienced.

When I made the decision to be a professional musician (in my mid-teens), it was not because I wanted to make millions of dollars. No one with even half a brain gets in the business for that reason. It was not because I wanted to prove something to everyone around me. I’m sure they were convinced of my insanity the moment I made the choice. It was not in defiance of my parents who wanted me to “…put the music away…” and go to law school. They couldn’t understand how music could be a way of life and not a pastime. When I decided to become a professional musician, I disappointed nearly everyone.

And yet, I knew it was the right path for me.

“…since my father was a performer my entire childhood (full-time musician until just a few years ago) there will always be that yearning to make him proud. I have, that’s not in doubt, but he will always be the first phone call. He will always be the one person who knows every second of my life in a way no one can, and with an understanding only a fellow performer can have.” Adam

No regrets.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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SOUR GRAPES

July 16, 2009

SourGrapesLOGO

He just can’t stand it.

He has to be in the spotlight. His narcissism is second-to-none. He never retracts statements – regardless of how malicious and untrue they may be. Fortunately for him, he’s not paid to be a nice guy – a role that would be an anathema to his existence.

The idea that a counterpart could actually achieve a modicum of success that surpasses his – on just one level – is enough to drive him crazy. So he does the only thing he knows how to do: attack. No congratulations. No respect. No recognition for the hard work that it took to get there.

This is the sad and pathetic amoeba that is Rush Limbaugh.

In Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, I wrote…

“On January 2, 2004, a new voice entered the nation’s airwaves  – on two radio stations…naturally, there were detractors. Some said the voice wouldn’t last a month. Others called it a $4 an hour nobody.”

The “others” I referred to were Rush and his ilk.

Since his attack on MSNBC backfired in May of this year (KO’s K O), Rush has now decided to go after their latest host and his one-hour show (6:00pm EST weekdays), Ed Schultz.

Some people just don’t learn.

True, Ed still has some rough edges. His presentation isn’t always the smoothest but he’s only been on television since April 6th. Not bad for a guy who started out as a “nobody” a little over five years ago. Based on his instincts so far, I would say that he’ll do just as well in front of the camera as he does in front of a radio microphone. BTW – The ratings in his time slot are up 30% since he went on the air according to the latest cable news ratings.

Rush had his own TV show from 1992 to 1996 that he cancelled because he could only get it aired late at night. The show was too big of a departure from what his fans had come to like about him on radio – his constant attacks on the Clinton Administration. A comedic Rush was not what his audience wanted so the ratings/reviews were never strong enough to move it into a better timeslot.

And then there’s this more recent gem ala FOX News. God help us all if this tidbit of fiction ever comes true.

It’s amazing to me that a man with a $400,000,000 contract is so insecure that he has to attack a guy who is earning 2 to 3 percent of that income. Why is Rush so concerned? Why take up valuable air time on a three hour radio show to go after this “nobody?” The “business” answer is that Rush knows by attacking Ed, he increases his exposure.

But it’s more than that.

This is sour grapes, plain and simple. Ed has his own television show – Rush doesn’t. Rush has not been offered a TV slot since 1996 – not even from FOX News. What Rush fails to see is that by going after Ed, he makes Ed look even more successful. Ed has everything to gain and nothing to lose by talking about Rush. By attacking Ed, Rush looks petty.

Life lesson, Rush: money and success are NOT synonymous.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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STRATEGY OVER BLATHER

July 11, 2009

StrategyOverBlatherLOGO

When the current battle over healthcare is over, there will be choices – which will include a robust Public Option.

How do I know?

The same way our President knows.

Numbers.

This is why you don’t see him out there everyday going head-to-head with media, pundits, and his political opposition. As I’ve written before in Checkers and Chess, No Beef and Faith Trumps Fear, they keep underestimating his ability to size up the debate, learn all he can about the issue and develop the winning strategy that serves the needs of the country, not the politicans’.  

There are enough congressional members who support the President’s healthcare reform plan to get it passed. These are the same people that already passed the Cap and Trade Bill and the Stimulus Bill. The members who opposed those bills are almost exactly the same people who are now opposing the current proposal for healthcare reform. They couldn’t block passage of the others, and the same will be true this time.

You’d never know this watching 24/7 cable news channels or listening to the talking heads on the radio.

They want you to believe this “battle” could go either way.

Listening to some, you’d think that the opposition has enough power to stop the legislation – they don’t. The House will pass the bill without too much resistance. There are now fifty-eight Democratic and two Independent Senators who vote with the Dems 99% of the time. Even if you discount some of the “hesitant” conservative Democrats, the numbers are still there. Contrary to what you may hear, there are Republicans who also want this bill to pass – with a Public Option.

Yet, the debate goes on.

You’d think the country was equally divided on the Public Option issue – not true. Over 70% want a Public Option. Others argue the Public Option is no different than “Single Payer,” (a totally government run healthcare system with no private plans). Again, not true. It is ONE of the choices, not the ONLY choice. There are and will continue to be many choices, including private healthcare company plans. Those who try to equate the two are concerned that the Public Option may eventually become “Single Payer.” This is a possibility, and maybe a probability, but it would be the will of the people, not Washington, that makes it happen.

By now, we’ve all heard the false argument that people in other countries with government run healthcare systems do not receive quality care, and are coming here for care. Again, not true. In fact, the opposite is true. American healthcare companies are pricing themselves out of the market and businesses are exploring overseas options  for healthcare for their employees – senior management included. For example, a comparison of our healthcare system vs. Canada’s  reveals that the quality is at least as good, and in some cases, better. As is true with any healthcare system, both have challenges. I understand commentators need to fill time, but all that blather makes me want to take a nap.

Media and pundits are playing right into Obama’s strategy by presenting all the arguments for and against his plan. Perfect. Let them fight the battles, and when they’re done, the President will address the country in the final stages of the debate, and convince more than enough legislators to vote his way.

They fight the battles – he wins the war.

Strategy over blather.

What a novel concept.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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WITH FANS LIKE THESE…

July 8, 2009

WithFansLikeLOGO

On July 3rd, using a rambling narrative that sounded like a third grade composition, the Governor of Alaska stood with her family at the water’s edge and resigned.

Naturally, op-ed journalists and pundits started figuratively chewing off each other’s arms trying to be the first to write about what they thought was the reason for her resignation. They narrowed it down to four:

A.)  Running for President in 2012.

B.)  Paying off debt by doing speaking engagements on the “Lecture Circuit.”

C.)  Getting out before one of her ethics violations starts morphing into an indictment.

D.)  All of the above.

Personally, I couldn’t care less that Sarah Palin no longer holds public office in Alaska. Her activities mean nothing to me. She is not a viable political force on the national stage. I’m dumbfounded that there are rational, reasonably educated people who will watch these nineteen minutes and disagree.

I have no desire to create an opinion on this event. There are plenty being thrown around by all segments of the press and blogosphere.

Instead, allow me to share two insightful comments from among her more eloquent supporters:

Slamahammer writes: “the republicans and dems are scared of this woman– she would expose the corruption, kickbacks, ect. going on in washington.. she is just what we need, a stand up true american with great values, and one hell of a record..washington dont need somebody disrupting there scams and stealing our freakin money..i just hope that america will realize that sarah is one of us..“

Tbenzadrine adds: “I sure hope Sarah Palin goes on to run for president. We need someone with conservative values rather than a lying, closet Muslim, socialist, liberal (progressive) freedom stealing, bastard like bHo and his scum sucking administration.”

With fans like these…

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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IMAGINE THAT

July 5, 2009

ImagineThatLOGO

We Americans are an interesting bunch. We’re a combination of different backgrounds, ethnicities and religious beliefs. We like to think we are a generous people. We believe we are the hardest workers in the world with unmatched capabilities to research and develop new industries and technologies.

The above said, it stands to reason that we are a blend of the different labels that are used to categorize us by media and politicians – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative and Liberal.  But national polling would have us believe we fall into only one category with a chance that some also fall slightly into a second.

I disagree.

Surely, you’re not surprised. 🙂

ManFlagTraveling this country over the years, I’ve learned most people are not defined by a single category as the polls would indicate, but instead, by portions of many categories. At our core, we Americans are both individually unique and collectively similar.

Most of us believe we are open-minded and willing to listen to others. We believe we are firm in our faith, following our denomination’s teachings, especially as they relate to accepting those of different cultures. Most of us know that there will be change in our lives – whether we like it or not – and therefore, cannot always be bound by the rules of previous generations. For the most part, we are a peaceful people, co-existing in a very diverse nation.

So, based on the paragraphs above, what “category” do we really fall into? Let’s look at the above traits as a dictionary definition: 

a. Not limited to established views: accepting of new ideas:

b. Tolerant of the cultures of others; broad-minded;

JesusWaterDoveMost of my family members and – on a much broader scale – my friends and acquaintances, would probably agree they fall somewhere within these definitions. If I were to have a heart-to-heart conversation with any of them, we may find some minor differences, but nothing earth-shattering.

That is, until the conversation turns to politics or religion. Then the term “earth-shattering” becomes an understatement. Many of the very same people who would agree with me, or I with them, about most of the general life issues described above, are suddenly miles apart. How does that happen? What causes people who appear to care about each other, about their community, their church, their family and  friends, to be so divided over these two subjects?

I don’t have an answer.

If I were to speculate, I would say that most of what is said during conversations about politics or religion comes from what has been heard, and not from conclusions that were derived through extensive personal research, reflection and experience. As these conversations “heat up,” defensiveness increases, especially when questions requiring real honesty are asked. I don’t know if this is an attempt to hide a lack of knowledge or it is simply discomfort due to a perceived attack on one’s integrity. Either way, when conversations digress to this level, I exit.

However, as a nation, it does seem we’re progressing in our dialogue. There are big shifts occurring and for the first time in a long time (if ever), the change is coming from the grassroots – not from the top. We are slowly but surely – with some discomfort – taking our country back from those who would divide us into separate categories so as to keep us from the basic commonality that binds all Americans.

BTW – Here’s an actual dictionary definition of the traits I discussed at the beginning of this post:

“a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.”

TeamworkShaded

It’s the definition of liberal

Imagine that.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com