Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Radio, Podcasting, and Internet Radio Coaching, Name Your Own Price

This is Radio Coach Sam Weaver, (Website http://www.radiocoach.biz

Veteran and beginning communicators in traditional radio, podcasting, and Internet radio, want direction with preparation and presentation. Thanks to my 30 plus years as a radio programmer, announcer, and educator, it is always a pleasure to guide others on the journey of knowledge. It is a mutual trip because learning never stops for me. I am a personal radio talent trainer and coach with a passion for working with others.

My problem has always been how much to charge for services. However, the answer came from a “Priceline” commercial, let broadcasters name their own price, and pay what they think is fair? Therefore, that is exactly what I am doing. Do not let money stand in the way of learning, make the call to 1 888 680 RADIO (7234) or e-mail me, thecoach@radiocoach.biz.

All bids are welcome, do not hesitate; you’ll get my coaching services at price of your choice, be realistic with what you can afford for a month or more.

To find out more about me, the website is http://www.radiocoach.biz. While I try not to blush, but here is what some peers have said:

BJ Murphy, Air Personality
"Sam Weaver was the key person in my development as a morning personality. I have been a student of his for 18 years. He is the best I know for getting the best out of his talent. I was so fortunate to have Sam Weaver early in my career to help me and guide me. I owe my foundation in morning drive success to him".

Joel Denver, AllAccess.com Pres./Publisher
"Over the years, one of the most consistent winners in radio has been Sam Weaver. His attention to detail, content, and the ability to grow and nurture talent puts him in a class by himself."

Dana Hall, Executive Editor, Radio-info.com
“He is passionate, knowledgeable, and an incredible coach”.

Earl Boston
Owner, Earl Boston Inc
Computer Music Rotation
“Over the years, one of the most consistent winners in radio"

Jon Zellner, Vice President of Music and Programming, XM/Sirius Satellite Radio
“I competed against him in Kansas City and he did a phenomenal job with KPRS. It was a constant ratings and revenue leader”

Tony Gray, Gray Communications
“Sam Weaver is among the leading programmers in this country”

Gary Bernstein
President of Syndication One

“He is one of those rare programmers that can find, motive, educate, and grow air talent”

Rob Wagman
PD, WIBT 96 The Beat, Charlotte

“A constant in my career has been hiring talent that has worked with Sam. I have hired them because they have learned what to. I know because he taught me.

Jerry Boulding, Urban Editor, Allacess.com
“I’ve known Sam for the better part of our careers. I’ve observed him as an air talent and a programmer.
Over the years he has groomed and developed air personalities and several morning shows. He is motivated, research oriented, analytical, and has a knack of explaining things in an understandable way”

In one of the Dirty Harry movies, Clint Eastwood said "A man's got to know his limitations". It is another way of saying, know your strengths. Coaching radio personalities is my special talent and the new audio platforms of Internet radio and podcasting have expanded my base because both require the same skills. Take the first step and let's get started.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Radio and The Portable People Meter: Part 1

The new ratings measurement, the Portable People Meter, or PPM, is not magical or mystical, nor is it the greatest invention ever created to assist radio and its advertisers in separating consumers from their cash. What it will do is monitor passive radio listening, show increases, and help improve strategic marketing for businesses. It will, however, be a challenge for radio to learn how to manipulate the results of the new report card.


Arbitron Inc. is a media and marketing research firm, serving media, radio, television, cable, Internet streaming, advertisers, and advertising agencies in the United States. Its core business is to measure network and local market radio audiences, surveying retail, media, and product patterns of consumers in local markets. Arbitron provides software to analyze media audience and marketing information data. The company has now developed the Portable People Meter, a new electronic technology for media and marketing research and measuring radio.

Through the years, there have been few competitors. By default, Arbitron is currently a monopoly. Through a joint venture with The , Arbitron also provides additional media and marketing research services to television, newspaper, and online industries. Its marketing and research headquarters are in Columbia Maryland, and the executive offices are located in New York City.

Electronic Measurement

The new electronic measurement tool, PPM, is an excellent showcase for publicly owned Arbitron, which of course wants to show its shareholders that it can increase or retain its stock value through more advanced offerings. For years, advertising agencies and radio have been hoping for an improved way to measure listening. This new system is a researcher’s dream, but a headache for radio programmers, sales managers, and clients. The Portable People Meter (PPM) has its own language and provides measurement for traditional radio, streaming, HD, podcasting, and satellite radio. Arbitron has made excellent use of broadcast researchers to market this GPS-like technology to the radio industry.

Traditional radio is becoming a tale of two societies. The PPM will be completely implemented into the top 50 markets by the end of 2010. Markets 51 and higher will continue with the paper diary to measure listening. This older method relies on participant-written accounts of daily listening. Agencies and many radio pundits are excited about the new electronic measurement, the , because in theory, it will provide a more accurate account of listening.
Technorati Profile
Part 2 will cover the survey selection process and
necessary equipment for participation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Radio Internships Part Three

This is the last entry of a three part series on Internships at radio. Read the first installment by following this link.

For a review of "How to Become a Radio Intern", visit the above Internships link.

Prior to the beginning of an internship, make a list of what you want to learn and share it with the supervisor. Take time to learn each department and how each one relates to the on-air broadcasts. Check with your supervisor and see if other departments need help. Rest assured when others discover you are dependable, a bidding war would erupt for your services. Be courteous, pay attention and never complain.

Stargazing and sexual harassment are two areas of concern. Maintain a professional attitude when a celebrity visits the station. If you want an autograph, ask your supervisor how to go about it. Do not abandon an assignment and run down the hallway to watch someone being interviewed. It sends the wrong message. The same holds true for conduct with the on-air staff. There is more than enough time for fun, but let such opportunities take their natural course. If the station is involved with a concert or an event you would like to attend, quietly ask your supervisor if it is possible to get tickets. Never ask in front of others.

When it comes to sexual harassment, do not tolerate inappropriate behavior. If your immediate supervisor shares or initiates such action, inform his or her boss. However, be discreet when handling the situation.

A radio internship can lead to possibilities outside of broadcasting. There is a constant flow of business executives, civic leaders, political figures, and entertainers coming through a radio station. Therefore, remain alert for contacts and opportunities. An internship will strengthen your work skills, build your resume, increase marketability, and provide a professional references. It is the first step towards a foundation for the future.

To read the entire article click here. For a review of Radio Internships Part One and Two, follow this link, and see archives.

If you are a veteran broadcaster or have an ambition to become an announcer, visit the Radio Coach, http://www.radiocoach.biz.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Radio Internships Part Two

This is the second entry of a three part series on internships at radio. Read the first installment by following this link.

For a review of "How to Become a Radio Intern", visit here.

Once it is established where you would like to intern, it is up to you to make contact. Call the radio station's business office and ask for the program director (PD). The receptionist will transfer you. If you get a recorded prompt instead of a receptionist, select Programming. If you actually get the PD or an assistant, state your name, your school name, and your desire for an internship. If the transfer goes to voice mail, leave the same information and your phone number and wait a week for a return call. If it does not come, phone again. Keep trying every few days until someone responds. Polite persistence pays off. Stations usually react quickly to internship inquiries.

Interns are welcomed because there is so much work at a radio station and never enough hands to get it done. The first thing to do is to inform the station supervisor of your computer and writing skills. You’ll be an instant success. Try to intern for the Operations Manager or Program Director. Every department works closely with them. This will give you an overview of the entire work environment. It will also speed up the learning curve.

In the beginning, duties will consist of paperwork and typing memos. You’ll also be a foot soldier, delivering information throughout the company. It will seem like busywork, but it’s not. All work is important and serves a purpose. Focus on the assigned duties and earn the trust of others. In return, people will share knowledge. Good social skills lead to temporary assignments such as answering business phones, request lines, assisting promotions, or helping the music director. No matter how small, all tasks contribute. Social skills consist of politeness and manners. “Yes Sir,” “No Sir,” “Yes Ma’am," “No Ma’am,” Mr. Mrs. or Ms. It is little things like not openly sneezing into the air, covering your mouth when coughing, or cleaning up after eating. Everything reflects on character.

To read the entire article click here. For a review of Radio Interns Part One, follow this link, Radio Interns.

If you are a veteran broadcaster or have an ambition to become an announcer, visit the Radio Coach, http://www.radiocoach.biz.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Radio Internships Part One

Interning in radio can lead to employment. An in-house Internship Program would be an excellent way for a broadcasting company to prospect for and train potential future employees. Many stations have had interns become announcers, salespersons, production assistants, promotion directors, music directors, traffic managers, program directors, and general managers. An internship can be the best route to employment.

Internships and community volunteers share similar experiences, but interns receive high school or college credit for a class. Most internships are non-paid. They are either semester-based or seasonal. Requesting to be a community volunteer, as opposed to an intern, avoids stipulations such as age requirements or restrictions on the time of year. Sometimes community volunteers go on to do internships at the same place they volunteered.

Regardless, intern or volunteer, it's about learning and getting first-hand experience. From this point on, intern will be the only word used in this article. (Community volunteers do not get grades and their participation is not school-sanctioned.)

A student looking for an internship should check with a teacher, college radio supervisor, other students currently interning, and/or the Internet. If you have a mentor at a commercial station, inquire about internship. Do not be discouraged if the station of interest does not have an intern program. It does not mean that they are not open to the possibilities. In fact, you might be responsible for starting a relationship between your high school or college and the broadcasting company. In any case, make sure all necessary paperwork for academic credit is signed and in the proper hands. All music stations operate the same, regardless of format, but if you are interested in talk radio or sports, apply specifically to those stations for internships. To continue reading, just click interns.

If you are a veteran broadcaster or have an ambition to become an announcer, contact the Radio Coach, http://www.radiocoach.biz.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Coaching Podcasting and Radio Personalities

Radio and Podcasting is theater of the mind and the radio announcer/podcaster is the actor. To become successful it requires passion, practice, a willingness to learn, ability to read, ego, ability to write, patience, desire, and sacrifice. Air personalities and podcasters anchor the broadcast and podcast Industries. A microphone is power. The opportunities for radio and podcast personalities could lead to other avenues.

The announcer alumni list includes David Letterman of Late Nite; Allaccess.com President/Publisher, Joel Denver; CBS Radio President, Dan Mason; Radio One President, Barry Mayo; Carson Daly of Last Call; Allaccess.com Urban Editor, Jerry Boulding; television icon Dick Clark; actor Donald Sutherland; Quincy McCoy, the Vice President of Radio for MTVN Digital Music; Service Broadcasting C.O.O Ken Dowe; Willard Scott of the Today Show; and Bob Pittman, a principal in the Pilot Group, a private investment firm specializing in new media and Internet companies.

As a broadcast talent coach with a career spanning more than 30 years, I would offer the following for those interested in becoming a radio or podcast personality:

1. Anyone who can read and write has the capabilities of becoming a radio or podcast personality. It is important to vocalize written copy aloud. The sound of someone's voice has little to do with being successful. Communicating succinctly in a warm and friendly manner is the ultimate goal.

In the beginning, one of the best ways to practice is to read front-page paragraph blurbs from the USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, or the home page of any online information web portal such as AOL. Buy an inexpensive tape recorder and carry it around. These recorders have built-in microphones.

Another alternative is downloading an audio software program and purchasing a microphone. One of the better programs is Audacity. The software is free and used by many in the radio industry. It would be best to use the tape recorder and advance to audio software at a later date. Audacity also offers podcasting software.

2. Choose five paragraphs to record. Hit the record button read a sentence, stop the recorder or software program, rewind, and listen. This is how recording levels are checked. Depending on the loudness, either increase or decrease the volume. Make the necessary adjustments, sit up straight, and begin reading.

When finished, rewind again and listen. People breathe when they talk. There should be natural pauses, however, it’s common for beginners to attempt to say too much without breathing and become short of breath. For an undetermined length of time, there is a “brain to mouth disconnect” as newbies become accustomed to hearing their voice recorded.

3. After an objective self-evaluation, it will become evident that professional help is needed. A mentor/coach can provide assistance in talent development. There are several ways to find help. Sign up for college radio classes, online broadcast courses, enroll in broadcast school, call a local air personality for advice, or podcasters contact the host of one of your favorite podcast show. Another option is to call the program director of any station and ask for guidance. Whomever the contact, information will be provided and a mentoring relationship might develop.

4. There are many routes to becoming a radio/podcasting personality. A mentor/coach could be beneficial when seeking a radio internship or community volunteer work. Currently, most internships are tied to college courses and do not begin until the junior or senior year. Inquire about volunteering and avoid the problem. This could be done as a high schooler or as a college or non-college student. At the college level, unless the plan is to teach broadcasting, select it as minor and major in another field. Serious podcasters should take the same approach as the traditional radio personalities. The same skills are required to be successful in both vocations.

5. Becoming a radio or podcast personality takes practice. Many college and community radio stations have non-paid positions available. Numerous high schools now have closed circuit broadcast or Internet radio facilities. Podcasters can actually record a show with the correct software.

Consider the financial aspect before entering a career in radio. Few make millions, many make a great living, and most earn just enough to pay the bills. It is a tough business to break into, but remember, it only takes one person to say “Yes". Podcasters have the opportunity to become independent contractors and sell their efforts to traditional or Internet advertisers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Radio and Office Politics

Office politics at a radio station can affect success or failure. Master it and chances for job security and advancement are excellent. Stations are a community of fragile egos and it takes time to understand co-workers. In a perfect world, people are judged on the merits of their work. Sorry, it does not work that way. It’s usually poor office politics and not ratings that cause firings. Test everyone that approaches and make sure his or her intentions are honorable. The keys are caution, patience, and time.

One of the best ways to explain office politics is to take a look at the antics of politicians and professional athletes. Their indiscretions become headline news. Private sector problems are usually confined to the place of business. Unfortunately, the sexual misconduct of public figures, is the only aspect of office politics that is ever openly documented. Here are some examples of poor workplace decisions:

In 1992 female staffers accused Senator Bob Packwood of assault, sexual harassment and sexual abuse. He was forced to resign from Congress under the Threat of expulsion.

There was the “ Petticoat Affair” that involved members of President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet. Allegedly, the husband of Washington D.C resident Margaret O’Neil committed suicide due to an affair she was having with Secretary of War, John Henry Eaton. She and Eaton married shortly after the husband’s demise. This caused quite a stir among some of the cabinet members and their wives. Eaton resigned.

Current Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had an extramarital affair with his Chief-of-Staff, Christine Beatty. He refuses to resign and is under indictment with eight felony counts. City council recently voted in favor of impeachment.

In 1976 House Representative Wayne Hays hired Elizabeth Ray to serve as a secretary on his staff. Later it was discovered that her only job was to be his mistress. She admitted to not having any clerical skills. He resigned from Congress.

Current San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom admitted to having an affair with his campaign manager’s wife in 2005. At the time of the tryst she was working in the Mayor’s office as his aid for City Commission appointments.

During Bill Clinton’s Presidency, he had a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The entire situation led to his impeachment. However, the congressional vote for removal fell short and he retained office.

Sports is not immune the problem either. In the early 70’s, New York Yankee Pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson swapped wives.

To be fair, some awkward office situations have been successful. Jeannie Buss is the Los Angeles Laker Executive Vice-President of Business Operations and the girlfriend of Laker Head Coach Phil Jackson. She is also the daughter of team owner Jerry Buss.

On a daily basis, co-workers consciously or unconsciously interrogate each other. These casual conversations can become the basis for gossip. Try to keep things close to the vest, and only tell people what you want them to know. Keep personal and business lives separate. Spreading gossip can be intentional or unintentional. The causes can be jealousy, misinterpretation, ignorance, miscommunication, deflection, or misdirection.

Jealousy: someone just does not like you
Misinterpretation: something said is taken out of context
Ignorance: for no particular reason spreads gossip
Miscommunication: misunderstanding of facts or an assumption without rechecking the original source
Deflection: attempts to keep the heat off themselves by trying to refocus others on someone else
Misdirection: purposely shades the facts to throw others off the track of truth.

In office politics, gossip grows and takes on a life of its own. It’s similar to the game where people sit in a circle and whisper a story to the person next to them until it travels back to the first person that initiated the game. Many of the facts will differ from the original story. Or, how about those fishing trip stories, where the three pound bass that got away is fifteen pounds by the time the story is told back home.
Exposure to office gossip is constant. Never repeat the statements of others or offer an opinion during informal chitchat sessions. Some use others as pawns to spread rumor and innuendo.
If one becomes the object of gossip, act dumb and never address it or change any behaviors towards others. Acting out of the ordinary will only give credence that the rumors are true.

Let work results be the sole source for judgement. Be a team player, stay focused, and friendly. Attend company parties and participate in spontaneous celebrations such as ratings parties. In either case, do not get drunk, and be careful not say anything that could cause future problems. Be on guard, even with those that can be trusted. Overheard off-color party jokes can turn into gossip and a political nightmare. Do not be paranoid, but use discretion. If accompanied by a spouse or friend to one of these functions, explain what not to say or do. Going to lunch or an occasional happy hour with co-workers is fine. But keep those defenses up. Be a compassionate listener and fight the urge to offer an opinion on work or a fellow employee. Smile and use a lot of noncommittal phrases like, "No kidding", "I hear you", "Really", "You think so", " I don’t know enough about that", "What do you think is going to happen?” "We’ll see", "Can you believe it?” etc., etc. Numerous things can be done to remain above it all and stay out of the fray. Department meetings are the place for work-related opinions. After a certain amount of time, a few actual friendships will develop. These bonding experiences will be special and probably last a lifetime. Cherish the reality and do not let it or others jeopardize personal goals. How can a true office friendship be recognized? Hopefully, after avoiding all the pitfalls, a sincere effort will be made by someone.

The percentages for successful office dating are not good. Such unions usually end badly. Be single and discrete if a decision is made to have a relationship with another single person at work. It is a tricky situation, and can be the basis for charges of favoritism and discrimination. Fight the temptation to allow personal feelings for the other person to cause conflict with co-workers. Never become defensive or offensive as a result of things said or done in the office towards the love interest in question. If the relationship does not work out, keep the breakup as discrete as the romance. One of the most uncomfortable situations is the breakup of romantically involved office personnel. It can lead to problems. The following is a true story:

Two single air personalities were openly dating each other at work. They broke-up and he became disconnected personally and professionally. Many staffers took sides and department meetings were tense. Lots of "He said-She said". Fortunately, she left for a position at another Broadcast Company. Unfortunately, he attempted to date her replacement, and in doing so, revealed in private that her predecessor made more money. She immediately wanted a meeting and informed management that he had shared the monetary information, and she tried to renegotiate her agreement The incident was a mess, and the only good thing that came out of it, was the fact that they too broke-up.

However, there was another inter-office romance between two single people that resulted in a 15-year marriage and two children. So, nothing is impossible

Office romance between married people married to other people is a disaster waiting to happen. Regular cloak and dagger stuff. There have been many stories of such liaisons ending up in spousal screaming matches in office lobbies. Events such as these could cause others to take their eyes off office productivity and such meandering results in political complications and loss of jobs.

Extramarital affairs outside the office should be kept away from work. Never involve fellow workers by bringing a new love interest to a company function. Obviously, there are co-workers that know the unsuspecting spouse and or children. There is no reason to expose others to a potential domestic dispute or put them in the middle of something that could wind-up in divorce court. This sort of thing is always poor office politics.

Request line regulars become confessionals for some jocks. Therefore, never share station business, personal problems, or opinions about co-workers. However, there are times when these regular callers can be used to pass on misinformation to other stations or to complement a fellow jock. There have actually been situations where upcoming promotions have fallen into the hands of the competition due to a request line conversation. These phone regulars are groupies that love to talk to air personalities and will talk to anyone or any station. They mean no harm, but can unknowingly be dangerous or helpful. Just be a compassionate listener, and occasionally pump them for information about the competitor. Conquer the office political world and experience a smoother work environment.

Here are 10 Things To Help Survive Office Politics:

Establish a good relationship with your supervisor
Finish assignments on time
Do not gossip
Be a team player
Make learning a priority
Stay out of clicks
Make friends and relationships outside work
Do not be a complainer
Use the company computer for company business only
Do not let the phone distract you from work. Some personal calls are necessary, but do not let the workday resemble that of a telephone operator. Focus your energies on work.

Radio employees should approach the job like office temps. Smile, contribute, do not make unnecessary waves, and work with others. Learn to compromise, because the only thing that matters are results. Managers, make decisions. It is either “yes or no”. A “maybe” should come to a conclusion in a timely fashion. Non-managers follow directions and get clarification to complete assignments. Above all, one should always leave a supervisor in a defendable position. Let them know immediately if something goes wrong. They can then proactively analyze and find a solution to the problem. When it comes to office politics, treat others, the way you would like to be treated.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Steroids, Baseball, Bonds, and Clemens

Our national pastime of baseball is no longer past tense, passe, or living in the past. Steroids and HGH deserve the credit. These performance-enhancing drugs have provided Major League Baseball with some marketing juice. This enlightened point of view is a matter of perspective. It's partly sunny, not partly cloudy. The glass is half-full, not half-empty.

There is no such thing as bad publicity. Sports entertainment is about marketing. The Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds steroid calamities provided baseball with an off-season presence. This issue was the hot topic for news media, sports media, bloggers, Internet social sites, and various web-based organizations. Congress even got in on the act with the Clemens congressional committee hearing. Gavel to gavel coverage was provided by every major news outlet. Baseball's "hot stove" season was sizzling.

Who knew a sport layered in traditions would be at the forefront of pharmaceutical muscle and tissue advancement? Major League Baseball has had its share of drug abuses and allegations. Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry, Dock "LSD" Ellis, Ken Caminiti, Dwight Gooden, Wally Joyner, and Jason Giambi are a few of the names that come to mind. Baseball's past has also included rumors about widespread amphetamine use. None of these situations have ever sparked the amount of off-season media attention that anabolic steroids received. Usually, the only thing ever heard about after the World Series, are manager terminations, the winter meetings, and possible trades.

MLB needs to promote year around. However, the main focus should be on the off-season. Baseball needs to become the leader of self-promotion. Take a tip from Fox, ESPN, and HBO. Energize beyond the core audience and think outside the diamond. Have some television and radio commercials produced to promote the excitement. Action packed video and audio collages of player home runs, spectacular defensive plays, and great pitching moments. Target the spots at the 18-34 demo and have them narrated by current lifestyle leaders in music, movies, and fashion. Buy time on TV networks other than ESPN and Fox. Place ads on shows that appeal to the demo. Also, embrace more of the new media that technology has created. Go beyond the XM broadcasts and MLB.com to sign partnerships with YouTube, Myspace, Facebook, and any other social networks to advertise the sport. Currently, MLB.com offers inexpensive packages of live game audio and live game video and audio of any team regular season game. The use of this technology probably appeals to sports junkies and the developing younger 12-30-year-old demo that view movies and TV on their computer screens. However, baseball does a poor job of promoting these options.

Devise something for the winter months at a destination location to create some buzz. Pro-football and basketball have turned their drafts into events. Baseball owners annually hold winter meetings during the second week of December. This would be a perfect time to host an event to showcase MLB and its relationship with the fans. On Opening Day, start promoting the venture so people make plans. At the event, get the players involved in an All-Star softball game and other types of non-contact activities. Set up player autograph booths. It is very important to make this extravaganza free. In attendance, have big named musicians, TV celebrities and movie stars that love baseball. Showcase these entertainment icons. Insure that there is something for every age bracket. The objective is to generate excitement and spotlight the sport in the off-season. Sports TV and sports talk radio will love it. Make it an annual event.

Attendance continues to rise and yet there are still some pundits that act as if baseball is a step away from a glue factory. It's believed that baseball's lack of growth among youth and African Americans is a direct reflection of societies flaws and the game itself. Some experts have suggested that increases of single parent households are partly to blame. The premise being that the lack of fathers playing catch with their sons has created a potential future crisis for MLB. Another myth for baseball's problems are the deliberate pace and length of games. Both theories are absurd.

Americans of all ages will buy anything packaged and advertised correctly. Lest we forget the Pet Rock, Cabbage Patch Dolls, $150 Air Jordan gym shoes, Beanie Babies, paid cable TV, and bottled water. MLB just needs to blend old traditions with new ones and market to the masses.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vladimir Putin's Plan For Iraq and Iran

The Iraq war resembles the movie, “Pulp Fiction.” Each situation is a segment of the whole picture. You have to examine the next episode to figure out the previous one. No one is saying it, but historical facts and current events point to Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

The Soviet Union lost the Afghan War thanks to the partnership of the United States, Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, and Congressman Charlie Wilson. Former President George H. Bush once called the Taliban, “freedom fighters.” He advocated funding Bin Laden in the mid 80's. The U.S.S.R’s loss of the war, caused financial ruin, dismantled Communist Party rule, and broke up the Soviet Bloc. President Putin, the former head of the KGB, resurrected himself and recreated communism disguised as free enterprise. Putin’s master plan combined the best of capitalism, socialism, communism, and fascism. On the surface, you see a free Russia with a head of state for each country that was once part of the Soviet Union. Don’t be fooled, step out of line and Putin will crush you. Just ask Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. During his successful bid for office in 2004, he almost died of dioxin poisoning. There had been long standing disputes over borders and Russian naval bases in Ukrainian territory. During the election, Putin quietly backed Yushchenko’s pro- Russian opponent, then, in 2006; there was the mysterious poisoning of ex- Russian spy and Kremlin critic Colonel Alexander Litvenko. He died from a radioactive substance. He had fled Russia in 2000. Both poison cases were reminiscent of the Cold War and how the KGB silenced opposition. As far as Putin goes, it is hard to teach a former KGB Chief new tricks.

Russia’s new look economy and government have flourished. Petroleum and oil are a large part of the success. Godfather Putin and his Russian “Dons” actually have won bids against U.S oil companies for the right to have gas pumped into American tanks.

Now, fast forward to 2003 and the U.S liberation of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and disposal of his weapons of mass destruction. Post Desert Storm, Putin, had a great business relationship with Hussein. Iraq has the world’s third largest oil reserve. When the U.S took over, all monies and contracts with other countries were frozen. In February 2008, Russia wrote off 12 billion (93%) of Iraq’s 12.9 billion-dollar debt. America’s exploits of the last 30 years have gravely affected Russia. What President George W. Bush actually saw in Putin’s eyes was “revenge is a dish best served cold”. Mr. Putin is playing all ends against the middle.

Russia is openly an ally of Iran and anyone else who has a beef with America. Iran needs Russian support to offset all the export embargoes against them. Many believe that Iranians provide funding, training, and arms for many of the Iraqi Shiite insurgents. Logic dictates that Putin would probably funnel money and weapons through Iran to the Iraqi insurgents. This would replace the loss of revenue. From 1981-2001, the former Soviet Union supplied Iraq with 50 percent of its arms. Why do the majority of the Shiite and Sunni insurgents fight? For food and necessities. Our own military admits that the insurgents consist largely of diplaced solders and workers caused by the invasion of Iraq. In fact, 1,300 Iraqi policeman and soldiers were just fired for reluctance to fight the Shiite militias in Basra. It’s natural to assume that the discharged will now get paid to fight for al-Sadr’s army or some other disgruntled group.

The surge has worked because we determined that paying Shiite and Sunni to police their own neighborhoods would be a good thing. The U.S paid insurgents are called militia and Iraqi Security Volunteers. It is about putting food on the table and not jihadist ideology. Not to say that is not the case for some insurgents. All the disruption is financially beneficial to Russia. One of the main jobs for the insurgents is hijacking oil tankers. The Pentagon has estimated that 70% of Bajaii refinery production winds up on the black market. Meanwhile, Putin is actively pursing the Iraqi government for a share of contracts to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure, especially in the crude oil and the gasoline sector. Another fact, The Shiite radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has extended his militia’s six-month cease-fire. Translation, he and his people probably renegotiated a new deal with the U.S. His army helps police Shiite Basra and other neighborhoods. However, Iran, Russia, and certain groups in Saudi Arabia want to keep the confusion going. It is conceivable the reason for the current uprising is coming from disgruntled factions within al-Sadr’s militia that are tired of the Iraqi government promising to reconstruct basic services. Many neighborhoods still have trash piled in the streets, no electricity, sewage problems, and a lack of clean water. Al-Sadr’s way of building support through the delivery of aid and services are probably too slow for some.

In order to keep control of his own militia military and reputation, al- Sadr has to give the appearance of agreeing with the current in- fighting in Basra. He’s probably behind the arrest of those in his own employ. It would be the best solution for getting rid of his detractors. Iraq Prime Minister Nouri-al Malik was once an ally of al-Sadr. The Bush administration discouraged this relationship. Publicly they oppose each other. But do they really? Al- Malik’s tough guy act was suppose to demonstrate his ability to police Shiite militias. How was it that al-Malik undermanned his own plan? It has come to light that he implemented the operation without consulting the Iraqi Council of Representatives or the U.S until it was underway. This failed affair has reinforced al-Sadr’s power. Meanwhile, the same Iran that recently loaned Iraq one billion dollars brokered a brief cease-fire between al-Sadr’s militia and the Iraqi government. It makes you wonder what were the real intentions? How ironic it happened just prior to the NATO summit in Bucharest and the Bush-Putin talks in Southern Russia. Keep your friends close and your enemies’ closer. This ordeal is embarrassing for a U.S that has refused to hold talks with Iran. Vladimir Putin’ fingerprints are all over this one. What a murder mystery, militia’s, the military, oil hijackings, racketeering, in-fighting, the black market, religious conflict, manipulation, private contract armies, insurgents, criminals, numerous Shiite and Sunni tribes, and politics. It all adds up to a complete disembowelment of a once thriving country.

There is another twist to the saga. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni, and Sunni’s controlled the Iraqi government throughout his rein. Many of the current Iraqi Shiite inner government voluntarily exiled to Iran during the Iraqi-Iranian war. Those in control of Iran are also Shiite.

All the misdirection works for Putin. He stays just friendly enough with all the central Asian and Middle Eastern countries to take advantage of economic opportunities. It is a win- win for Russia. The real “evil doer” lives in Moscow with a self-created non-elected title and a hand picked president. Free Elections in Russia? Right, wink, wink.

Russia is one of the world’s major oil and energy players. It’s the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest oil exporter. The top five oil exporters are: Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. Putin would probably stop at nothing to ensure that America becomes even more dependent on oil from the former Soviet Union. Negotiations are currently underway involving American companies to develop Russian portions of the Arctic shelf.

Then there is the other Iraqi war going on in the Sunni regions of Baquba and Ramadi. The conservative majorities do not like the extremists. For those keeping a scorecard, it’s The Sunni establishment and paid U.S backed Sunni militia’s versus Al Qaeda, unnamed Sunni insurgents, gangs and armed groups. Since President Putin is now in the “good guy” business, there is probably some Russian seed money being funneled to the Sunni anti-establishment factions

At least with the Cold War you knew who your enemies were.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Victory In Iraq

Win in Iraq? It is a word game and it depends on your point of view. Some politicians want to pull out and others want to go the distance for a victory. To reiterate, the surge was suppose to give the Iraqi government time to make strides towards independence. The only thing our troops have done is police the streets and manage a bad situation. Iraq should be giving us a deadline. They should select a date for self-governing and military readiness. This is not a white hat versus black hat war. It is like Vietnam, the good guys and the bad guys have the same skin color. An ideology or thought lives in the mind and can not be defeated with weapons. The Shiites, Muslims, and Sunnis have been in conflict for centuries. They will be able to act as a sovereign state only when compromise becomes part of their daily routine. See the link for for more information.



Monday, February 25, 2008

John McCain, Keating 5 and Lobbyists

Following the "Keating 5" Savings and Loan scandal, John McCain rebuilt himself as a reformer. Fighting against soft money donations, with the McCain-Feingold bill. Lobbyists are the catalysts for influencing both political parties in Congress. It is their job to use whatever means necessary to persuade our elected officials to vote the side of their clients. Therefore, why would McCain surround himself with so many former lobbyists in his campaign? You would think he would do everything possible to avoid looking hypocritical. Isn’t experience suppose to count for something? Shouldn't you learn from your mistakes? The New York Times story should have focused on lobbyists and not one lone female lobbyist. Remember, the Senate reprimanded John McCain for “poor judgement” in the "Keating 5" episode. Perhaps this is the kind of stubbornness his detractors have been talking about. The following link sheds light on this subject and a few others.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

NBA All-Star Weekwnd 2008 A Slam Dunk

The NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans was a lot better than last years in Las Vegas. The game itself was fun, but Saturday's slam-dunk contest and the musical performances at the game were outstanding. It has been years since an actual known star put on a display. Dwight Howard was a highlight reel. Two of his dunks rank with some of the best ever at this event. The off the back of the backboard and coming around to dunk on the side of the basket was unreal. First class showmanship displaying the Superman jersey and putting on the cape. Then flying towards the basket with cape flowing and elevating so high that he actually threw the ball down through the basket. Outstanding!!!!!! Howard’s last dunk was a perfect combination of eye hand coordination, agility, and power. He was the clear winner.

What a difference a year makes. Great halftime show! Harry Connick Jr. was the perfect host. Showcasing New Orleans jazz and some of the towns legendary jazz musicians was a three point play. Ellis Marsalis, Dr. John, Davell Crawford, Ivan and Art Neville, Jonathan Baptiste, and Allen Toussaint. Truly an all star lineup. It beat Las Vegas’s performances of last year. I still have nightmares about Wayne Newton performing a cover on “I feel Good” by James Brown.

History is important. Featuring footage and background on the late Pete Maravich was quite a spectacle. Listening to Magic Johnson, Charles Barley, Kenny Smith, and other Maravich contemporaries was touching . The footage displayed some of his unbelievable moves and how easy he made it look. He would have been perfect for today’s NBA. Can you imagine how much he would be worth now? The NBA does the best job in professional sports of turning an exhibition game into a weekend happening. Baseball is working on getting it right, Hockey is what it is, and the NFL Pro Bowl is much to do about nothing. Commissioner David Stern, my hat is off to you, your league, and TNT. Checkout these links: www.harryconnickjr.com , www.radiocoach.biz, nba.com:petemaravichsummary

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hillary's Image and Texas Primary/Caucus

I understand why Hillary’s campaign has ventured into mild negative Ad’s in Wisconsin. In the past, this has been the way to challenge an opponent. However, this is a unique campaign with a unique set of circumstances. As a woman, she has to be careful. There is a lot of sexism in this country and any kind of negativity plays into the “Hillary’s a b**ch”. Also, with Obama being an African American, any type of criticism seems to be perceived as racist. HRC needs to lay-off any negative campaigning and promote her policies for this country. By the way, in Texas, on the day of the Democratic primary, the polls close at 7pm. Then caucuses are held from 7pm until 9pm. This makes the race for delegates somewhat tricky. Winning the primary does not seal the deal for a democratic primary candidate in the Lonestar state.

Here is how it works:

Texas will send a total of 228 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. 126 delegates will be assigned based on primary results in 31 State Senate Districts (instead of allocating delegates by its 32 Congressional Districts like many states). The number of delegates in each Senate district varies based on previous Democratic turnout in the last two general elections. The delegates from each Senate District are assigned to candidates proportionally based on the percentages they receive on primary day.
Of the remaining 102 delegates, 67 are determined through a convention process that begins at precinct conventions (caucuses) on the night of March 4 and culminates with delegate allocation based on each candidate's delegate strength at the State Convention on June 6-8. Of those 67 delegates, 42 are "at large" rank and file delegates and 25 are pledged party leaders, legislators, and local elected officials.
The remaining 35 delegates are "unpledged" delegates, including 32 so-called "superdelegates".