Friday, December 11, 2009

Why You Should Misspell Words on Facebook

What? Did you read that correctly? Am I telling you to deliberately spell things wrong on Facebook? Yes! Ditto for MySpace and Twitter. Tweet away without any worries about verb conjugation, word usage, run-on sentences and whatnot -- if you're using it for social purposes.

If you are promoting your business on any social networking site, obviously this recommendation doesn't apply. But if you're just chatting back and forth with your friends and acquaintances, then you may be sorting five to 50 messages a day. And that's not including your real-world e-mail box and work-related correspondence.

When we're working, we all want to write as well as possible. This includes websites and blogs that are designed to be read by strangers and to attract a high volume of traffic, but excludes personal blogs that serve as diaries or journals.

The Internet has blurred the line between work and play. Suddenly, we're all supposed to be available 24/7 and our brains don't work that way. Most of us are on paper overload, so I say draw a line between your professional life and your fun time.

Writing a comment to your old high school friends on Facebook and wondering if you should use the word lay or lie? Confused about affect versus effect? Who cares? Use pig Latin. Your friends will figure it out.

In fact, if you're carefully proofreading every comment that you make on FB, MySpace and the Twitter updates that you send from your smart phone, you're ignoring your job! You're not spending enough time on things that are really important like paid work, family and friends, and recreation (yes, believe it or not, there is a whole separate world away from your computer. Discover it!).

Words of wisdom from Sigrid Mac (or is that Cigrid, Zigrid, or Siegrid?... hmmm.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Discovery Channel Declares No Conspiracy in the JFK Assassination

Last night the Discovery Channel televised two different programs. The first one, JFK: Inside the Target Car, focused on the blood smattering evidence, which was difficult to analyze at the time. The second program dealt with Jack Ruby. Both shows posed the age-old question: was there a conspiracy to kill John Fitzgerald Kennedy?

A Gallup poll revealed that 75% of all Americans believe that there was such a conspiracy and the Discovery Channel people set out to debunk that.

One of the problems within the car was that, for some inexplicable reason, the Secret Service started to clean out part of the car at the hospital. The car was of course part of a crime scene and altering this evidence made finding the truth about what happened that day extremely difficult.

But the filmmakers went to a special company that works through the defense industry, located in Australia, and re-created several human heads, something that could not have been done 46 years ago. They hired an expert marksman who took shots from various locations, starting with the now infamous grassy knoll where many people suspect a second gunman hit. Shooting from that exact location as well as up next to the fence completely obliterated the artificial head. Only shooting from the sixth floor of the Book Depository resulted in similar wounds that we now see in the autopsy that were also confirmed by bystanders who are still alive today. This enabled the filmmakers to confirm the results of the Warren commission and declare that there was one shooter, Harvey Lee Oswald.

The second program was called JFK: The Ruby Connection. Did the mob hire Jack Ruby to execute Oswald? For that to have happened, all of the following would have had to occur:

One. Jack Ruby would have had to have received a phone call from Little Lynn requesting a $25 wire transfer, which placed him at Western Union exactly four minutes before he shot Oswald.

Two. The transfer was originally scheduled for 10 in the morning and later delayed until after 11 a.m. In order for a conspiracy to have gone down, someone would had to have worked inside the police station or in cahoots with the cops to have Oswald downstairs at 11:10 a.m., because if Oswald left at 10 a.m. as scheduled, he would have missed Jack Ruby by more than one hour.

Three. It was almost the end of November and Oswald was afraid of being cold in the car, so at the last minute he requested a sweater, which further delayed his transfer by about 10 minutes.

Four. When Oswald arrived downstairs, the Ford Galaxy that was meant to transfer him was in the wrong place. It was still backing up because originally the police were going to use an armored van but they decided against it since they had trouble getting it in the garage. So the Ford was 10 feet out of place and because of that, Jack Ruby, who appeared a mere seven seconds before the shooting on video, had an opportunity to take a direct shot at Oswald. Had the car been in place, as it was supposed to be, Ruby's shot would have been blocked by the car.

Five. The scene was so chaotic and the media people so demanding that glaring lights were everywhere. They blinded Oswald as well as the officers who were escorting him out.

Six, and most importantly -- in order for a massive conspiracy to have been committed by the Mafia, they would've had to control all of the above variables, as well as the fact that Harvey Lee Oswald had already been in custody for 45 hours. Imagine how long that is for someone who caves under pressure! Oswald could have told the police anything during that long stretch, and surely a professional organization like the mob would never have taken that chance.

The mob wouldn't have wanted an emotional amateur like Jack Ruby either; a cold-blooded, nonreactive killer would have been much preferred. Plus Ruby was arrested immediately afterwards. Why didn't he have a getaway? Much like Oswald, who jumped on a regular city bus after he shot Kennedy and disingenuously hid out in a movie theater after he killed J. R. Tippit. How clever was that? How does it indicate that he was used as some sort of patsy for a well-oiled operation like the Mafioso? It doesn't.

The conclusion that both of these shows drew last night was that many people are unable to grasp the
sad fact that sometimes a bizarre series of coincidences occurs and results in a terrible tragedy. In less than seven seconds, American history was turned upside down. But there's no reason whatsoever to believe that this was because of a massive conspiracy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why turn prostitutes into criminals? by David Asper

With our prostitution laws being challenged in the courts, moral questions about the world's oldest profession are being debated in Canada.

And not for the first time.

In the mid 1980s, the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution -- known as the Fraser Committee -- extensively studied Canada's prostitution laws. In 1985, it recommended, among other things, that street-prostitution crimes be made tougher, but that prostitutes be allowed to ply their trade in safer, private "bawdy houses" (i. e., brothels) with certain limitations.

Parliament did the first part -- enacting harsher laws regarding street prostitution, but refused to strike down the Criminal Code's bawdy-house prohibitions. As a result, prostitutes continue to provide sex for cash, which is technically legal -- but they break the law when they solicit on the street or partake in the operation of a brothel.

In 1990, a legal challenge to the law made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a case known as the Reference under Section 193 and 195, the court upheld both the street-solicitation and bawdy-house laws. The majority opinion reasoned that the social nuisance occasioned by prostitutes seeking out customers was sufficient reason to justify criminal sanction. It went on to say that the public act of solicitation was degrading, and ought to be out of public view of young women who might be enticed by the supposed allure of the life of a prostitute.

Further, the court held that the crime of keeping a common bawdy house was not an excessive infringement on life, liberty or security of the person because any such deprivation was in accordance with "fundamental justice."

The Supreme Court decision effectively passed the ball back to Parliament on the larger policy issue. Since then, countless prostitutes (and their customers) have been charged and convicted.

In a twist on the argument first made two decades ago, the new Charter challenge being made in Ontario claims that harm is befalling prostitutes because they have been forced underground into a world where they are being victimized by violence. The argument is that their technically legal trade, prostitution, has been turned into a high-risk activity because the Criminal Code prevents them from performing that activity in a safe, private manner. As Exhibit A, they point to the sex trade workers across Canada who have been beaten, kidnapped or are otherwise "missing."

Many argue that prostitution is a symptom of hopelessness on the part of people who are forced into the business by poverty, addiction or de facto enslavement by predatory pimps. Others say that in most cases being a prostitute is a voluntary choice. Regardless of which view is correct, the fact is that prostitution has been around for a long time. Whatever is motivating a prostitute to trade sex for money, does it seem fair to make him or her a criminal for trying to do their business?

Until Parliament resolves the question about whether prostitution itself should be legal or illegal, we are going to be left with a void between the law and common sense, with ongoing challenges to the validity of our criminal laws.

The Fraser Committee did valuable work and provided very sensible recommendations to Parliament. The Harper government ought to dust off the books and have another look.

David Asper is Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Manitoba.

*Reprinted with permission from David Asper. Original article posted on October 8, 2009 on The National Post Full Comment blog:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Did Jew See That?

The other day I was reading about the recapitalization of Canwest Global Communications in Yahoo news. I skimmed the comments that other people were making and was shocked to see a number of overt anti-Semitic remarks, such as: "That's what Jews do. They borrow from other people and don't pay back."

It reminded me of a social occasion several years ago when I was having dinner with my mother and we had invited a friend of hers over. This woman, whom I will call Cassandra, talked at length about how the Jews were "taking over" the Queensway Carleton Hospital in my hometown of Ottawa (or Nepean, actually). She proceeded to declare that the Jews were trying to run the world, starting with the international banking system. That's because they were so smart, ambitious and greedy. That's not the first time that I had heard that or even the conspiracy theory that Jews were behind 9/11.

Normally, I try to abide by the old maxim, don't talk politics, sex or religion over Sunday dinner (My brother would disagree because I ruined his anniversary one year by coaxing him into a rabid political debate over cocktails. My justification is that that was not a Sunday.) And I also attempt to be fair. I was talking to an octogenarian. She grew up in a different time and place, rife with prejudice. But in this case I made an exception. I strongly opposed what our guest said and I continue to do so when I hear anybody disparaging Jews or any other ethnic group.

Just imagine substituting the word “blacks” or “women” – “Blacks live off welfare because they're too lazy to work.” “Women run up their credit cards and expect their husbands to pay them off.” When we see gross stereotypes like that, we flinch, as we should.

If people want to talk about Canwest filing for bankruptcy protection, fine. Stick to the topic! No need for ad hominem attacks. The fact that the owners are Jewish has nothing to do with anything.

I've never been big on Internet regulation, partly because I'm philosophically opposed and largely because it's so impractical and unenforceable. But there is a way to allow the Internet to self regulate: when you read an anti-Semitic comment, respond back. Be polite, be firm and be clear that it never was and never will be acceptable, online or off.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Capitalism by Michael Moore -- Random Thoughts

Just came back from Capitalism and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I do all of Michael Moore's work, but like most of his movies, Moore skips over important details or leaves me with just as many questions as answers at the end of his performance.

Capitalism is a well-justified attack on Reaganomics, largely blaming it for the economic fallout of 2008. Prior to Reagan's election, the capitalistic system appeared to work well to young Michael when his father was fully employed by GM and his mother, like many women of that era, had the option to stay at home and raise children instead of being forced to work outside of the house as well as inside, which is the current trend. The 1950s and 60s appeared blissful; there was much prosperity and people were happy, according to Moore. But were they really or was this a Leave It to Beaver analysis? What about poor women who always had to work or inner-city blacks and Latinos? The inequality and poverty that are hallmarks of the capitalist system were not even mentioned by our baseball-capped champion for labor in the beginning of the movie.

What was hammered home were tragic images of people being forcibly evicted from their houses by the police; stats about the number of personal bankruptcies; greedy lenders who misled people into thinking that they had money in their home that they could borrow but forgot to inform them that when they went to repay it, it would be at double the interest rate: and lengthy explanations about the Wall Street gambling game that resulted in your pension fund being mismanaged or suddenly transported to another planet. How did we go from abundance to foreclosures? Reaganomics, which was based on tax cuts for the wealthy. And even more dangerous was the fact that Ron Reagan invited into his Treasury Cabinet CEOs from companies like Goldman Sachs, so that the line between government and private industry was forever blurred. How could AIG or Sachs ever act in the public interest when the whole mandate of a corporation is to make a profit at any cost?

At the end of Capitalism, Michael Moore shows footage of FDR where he advocated a second Bill of Rights that would have guaranteed all Americans the right to a decent livable wage, a proper education, universal healthcare, and protection for small business owners from monopolies as well as individualinsurance for those who became disabled, unemployed or reached retirement age. All laudable goals that seem more elusive than ever.

Yet certain nagging questions weren't answered in Capitalism. For example, we see a great celebration at the election of Barack Obama but no real discussion as to whether he removed all of the Wall Street financiers from the Treasury Department. Newsflash: he didn't. Look at his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who made millions of dollars in investment banking, and was previously a director at Freddie Mac, a government created program to help people obtain loans for their homes. In passing, Moore says that Bill Clinton didn't eliminate the new marriage between Wall Street and the Federal Treasury either. No One Left to Lie to (as Christopher Hitchens calls him) Bill retained a similar Treasury Department to that of George Bush senior. We see outrage and indignation at the passage of George Bush's bailout for Wall Street but there is no serious analysis as to what would have happened had that Bill not passed. Would the financial sector have collapsed? Global economic meltdown could have resulted if we had failed to take some sort of action. Would Moore have supported a provisional bailout (e.g., the money could have been a loan, and my lips -- no bonuses!)?

What are Moore's real feelings about Obama? I remember seeing him on Larry King live early on in the campaign and he didn't support our current Prez. Has he since changed his tune? How partisan is that when capitalism is embraced by both major political parties as well emphatically by Libertarians?

And Moore is big on anecdotes as opposed to larger, more representative figures. He claimed that pilots flying for American Eagle made as little as $20,000 a year or less. Is that true? I don't want to fly in a plane with a pilot who can hardly afford his own car! Wikipedia says that it depends on the airline, aircraft, position and seniority, and that a first officer in a medium aircraft may only earn $30 to $40,000 a year but a more experienced captain doing a transatlantic flight on an Airbus or Boeing could earn $80 to $90,000 a year. I would have liked to have seen a breakdown. Give us the mean and median or mode average salary of the pilots at United, Continental or American Airlines rather than interviewing two or three beginning flyers at the least well paid airline.

Lastly, Michael Moore suggests that we abandon capitalism in favor of democracy but that's like saying I'm going to skip breakfast because the orchids are blooming outside. They're not related. Democracy is not an economic system. It's a political philosophy that requires representation: government by the people, at least theoretically. The economic system that rivals capitalism would be socialism and that is really what Moore supports. It would have been more honest to have stated his preference for democratic socialism, which is what most European nations practice.

Did these omissions seriously flaw the movie? No. Moore has always had a keen eye for social analysis. Something is fatally wrong with the economic system and we all realized that last year. Where we go from here is anybody's guess.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Second Vision

My sister, Kristin, just launched a fabulous new website called Second Vision. It's all about what to do when you expected your life to turn out one way, but you were delivered a curveball and life took you in an entirely different direction. It's not so much the challenges or adversities that we face as the way that we face them that's important because everybody has something in this life, whether it's unemployment, divorce, loss of a loved one, illness, disability or serious injury, or simple ennui and discontent with one's job, marriage or relationship. Or in the case of D'Amour Road, a friend goes missing and you fear that she may be dead.

Check out Kristin's site and read about her own personal story. As a young woman, she left New York City with dreams of becoming an actress in Hollywood. Shortly after she arrived she was told that she had a degenerative retinal condition that would slowly rob more and more of her sight until eventually she was totally blind. Imagine hearing that news! How terrifying. But Kristin continued to work for more than 20 years in the "biz" and when she left several years ago, she became a fundraiser for the Center for the Partially Sighted in Los Angeles. She hosts a weekly Internet radio show called Second Vision for AIRSLA, an Internet reading service for the blind (, which rivals Oprah Magazine and Reader's Digest in terms of ratings.

Her homepage is at Visit her and don't forget to come back and leave comments.

Sigrid Mac

Monday, June 01, 2009

New -- interview about D'Amour Road on Book Talk with J & J

Please read my latest interview with J & J on Book Talk at

I answer all kinds of questions about the theme of D'Amour Road, how I became a writer, what kind of things give me writer's block, and the books that appeal to me as a reader. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Book Review: Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
by Vincent Bugliosi

Vincent Bugliosi is an acclaimed criminal lawyer and author, best known as the Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted the Manson family and for the fascinating book that followed called Helter Skelter. He’s written numerous other books, including Till Death Do Us Part and The Betrayal of America, but Bugliosi's role as a television prosecutor in the 1986 simulated British trial against Lee Harvey Oswald is less well known. Yet, this performance firmly established him as an assassination buff, with a strong leaning against conspiracy theories.

In this mammoth 1,648 page book, with 1,000 additional pages of references on an accompanying CD, he aspired to debunk those theories and to conclusively establish Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone shooter in the tragic death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963 in Dallas. (For those who want the five minute recap, watch Bugliosi on YouTube:

Bugliosi addressed a variety of allegations about the murder—that both Oswald and Jack Ruby (the man who shot Oswald 48 hours after the assassination) were hired by either the mob, Secret Service, CIA or Cuban exiles; that there were actually four or five shots at the presidential motorcade, not three as the Warren Commission claimed; that the home film taken by Abraham Zapruder had been tampered with; and that Oswald was a poor marksman and never could have succeeded in killing the president with his inadequate rifle.

Let's look at some of those claims and what a few of his critics have to say about them.

Historically, according to Bugliosi, the mob has almost always used their own men, in pairs or with backup, but not alone. The few times that they deviated from this rule were to kill other mobsters, usually hiring young, poor black men to do so. Bugliosi argued that no one cared enough about mobsters, or sadly, about young, disenfranchised black men for this to have provoked much of an investigation. The likelihood that the mob would have hired two novices like Oswald and Ruby seemed ludicrous to him. Also, there’s an unwritten rule among the Mafioso that they don't kill law enforcement and when they do commit public executions, they make sure not to get caught! They certainly wouldn't have shot somebody in an open space right in front of a room full of police officers and reporters the way Jack Ruby did.

The CIA would have rejected Oswald as an emotionally unstable loner with a long history of Marxist tendencies. He never would have qualified as an agent for them because they couldn’t have relied on him to follow orders, Bugliosi argued. More importantly, Oswald was a fierce supporter of Fidel Castro. Why would he have collaborated with the CIA, who had tried to take down Castro in the Bay of Pigs? Some conspiracy theorists say that Oswald was actually quite right wing, not left, and that he was only pretending to be a Marxist. But that would have made him an exceptional actor having "pretended" to be someone he wasn't for his wife, mother, brother and anyone else who knew him, right back to his teenage years.

The number of shots fired is a more complex issue, as is the location from where they were fired. Conspiracy theorists claim that the bullet that killed Kennedy went through the front of the head and out the back of his skull, blowing his brains out. If that were true, a shooter would have had to have aimed from the infamous grassy knoll, a small hill along Elm Street in front of the motorcade. But The Warren Report stated that there were only three shots: the first one missed, the second one hit the president in the back and the third one was the fatal head shot. Supposedly, the second bullet went through the back of JFK's neck, exited through his throat, proceeded to hit Governor Connally in the back, injured his shoulder and right wrist in flight and exited through his thigh.

One can see why this scenario has been referred to as the "magic bullet" theory and why it's so hard to comprehend. Adherents to the JFK conspiracy notion, as well as many current history textbooks, place the governor directly in front of the president in the limousine. If indeed Connally had been sitting in that position, the single fatal bullet could not have hit Kennedy and then moved in such a seemingly twisted trajectory to injure Connally. However, Bugliosi stated emphatically that the governor was not sitting directly in front of the president, but rather in front of him and slightly to the left. That would have enabled our single bullet to follow a straight-line path and hit both men the way it did.

One problem with The Warren Report is its size. The original 888 page report was followed by 26 volumes (more than 50,000 pages!) of supporting documentation, thus making it virtually impossible for the average person to read. Bugliosi felt that this was unfortunate because he extolled the exhaustiveness of the report. But covering every angle and aspect of the assassination was both the report's strength and, by limiting its critical findings to a small number of intrepid readers, its weakness.

The movie JFK: The Case for Conspiracy by Robert Groden alleged that there were four or five shots, which would have necessitated a second shooter, probably operating behind the picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll. The Case for Conspiracy showed actual footage of the president and his wife arriving in Dallas and driving into Dealey Plaza, and stated that 80% of the witnesses heard a shot coming from the grassy knoll, whereas Bugliosi insisted that only four out of 494 witnesses heard a shot from that direction. Everyone else confirmed that the shot came from the Texas School Book Depository, where Bugliosi believed that Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots in succession. (One thing to keep in mind here is the notorious unreliability of eyewitness testimony, which has been repeatedly demonstrated by social psychologists.)

In the Groden movie, which used contemporary footage, Connally is sitting directly in front of Kennedy. Why can’t we see with our own eyes what Bugliosi says happened? Because this was the ‘60s and it was an amateur home movie. The quality of all the various videos taken that day—including the film by Zapruder, who was standing closest to the president during the shooting—was so poor that even close-up shots made it difficult to discern what happened ( As well, the car passed right underneath a large metal sign to the Stemmons Freeway, slightly before the shooting, further impairing our visibility.

As an example of the poor resolution of the film, Groden made a case for a "Black Dog Man" standing up on the grassy hill behind the picket fence, but when he focused in on the image, all I could think was, "Good grief! Where’s my magnifying glass? Or better yet, my telescope!" It would have taken extraordinary vision and imagination to have distinguished a human face on that film. What was disconcerting, though, in this movie, which was not even mentioned in Reclaiming History, was that Groden interviewed a number of doctors at Bethesda Hospital who either treated Jack Kennedy in the emergency room or performed the autopsy. And when he showed many of the physicians, as well as a nurse, the autopsy pictures, they all said that those were not the original photos. Groden concluded that someone had altered the original x-rays.

But Clint Bradford ( discredits Groden's reputation by saying that Groden testified at the O.J. Simpson trial, stating that he had neither photographic credentials nor a high school education; made his living by studying the assassination and acting as a tour guide on the motorcade route; suffered several strokes with subsequent memory loss; and stubbornly refused to recant his testimony about a photograph of O.J.'s shoes, insisting that the picture had been tampered with when 30 other photographs reflected the same shot.

Bugliosi didn’t evaluate The Case for Conspiracy; however, he spent an enormous amount of time examining the 1991 blockbuster hit JFK by Oliver Stone. JFK followed the life of Jim Garrison, a New Orleans district attorney who became obsessed with the idea that multiple shooters had been hired to eliminate Jack Kennedy in order to advance the war in Vietnam. In 1969, Garrison fingered local businessman Clay Shaw as a participant, with no evidence whatsoever according to Bugliosi, who claimed that Garrison changed his story and his target frequently after Shaw was proven innocent by a jury in less than an hour—54 minutes to be exact. It was perfectly clear to the jury that Garrison had persecuted an innocent man. A key witness, Perry Russo, who was left out of the movie altogether, apparently made his accusations about Shaw’s involvement under hypnosis, and Garrison, through an assistant, had tried to bribe at least one witness to supply false testimony. A number of critics believe that Stone played fast and loose with the facts in JFK, but unfortunately, it became a huge hit; thus, the idea that the Warren Commission had committed the biggest cover-up of all time became imprinted in our cultural history.

Conspiracy theorists have suggested that Oswald was a lousy marksman and had an inferior weapon. But Bugliosi said that Oswald actually won marksmanship awards in the Marines for above average shooting—he was good but not an expert—and that his rifle was perfectly workable. Some believe that Oswald never had the time to fire off three rapid shots with that type of rifle, but both CIA simulations using Oswald's actual gun and CBS simulations using the exact model of Oswald's gun have proven that it could be done in even less time than it took Oswald.

There are some conspiracy buffs who think that the Zapruder film was spliced because certain frames were missing. Bugliosi explained that Life magazine damaged a few frames accidentally after Abraham Zapruder sold them his film, but wisely he had made several other copies, which were not damaged. Ergo, the missing frames are still available and nothing out of the ordinary occurred in them.

What we do know about Lee Harvey Oswald, Bugliosi stated, is that he owned the rifle, his prints were on it, there were three bullet casings with his prints on them on the sixth floor of the Book Depository where he’d been standing, and he was a Marxist who opposed American government. That’s Bugliosi’s story and he’s sticking to it. But there are those who vehemently disagree with his ballistic interpretation, like James DiEugenio.

In his article, "Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and Bugliosi's Bungle: A Comprehensive Review of Reclaiming History", which is a lengthy but worthwhile read, DiEugenio disagreed with just about everything that Bugliosi suggested, including the extent of Oswald’s shooting ability; the price, make and serial number of Oswald's rifle; and Oswald's ownership of the gun found on the sixth floor. Claiming that the rifle was the central piece of "evidence" in Bugliosi’s case, DiEugenio summarily dismissed his argument as woefully lacking (

And in "Review of Reclaiming History: A Closed Mind Perpetrating a Fraud on the Public," James H. Fetzer stated that Bugliosi took a prosecutorial rather than scientific approach in his reasoning. Bugliosi had four basic premises, which Fetzer claimed were all erroneous: one, that a single bullet could have gone from Kennedy's body into Connally's as it did [Retort—the solitary bullet theory is anatomically impossible]; two, the shooter was on the sixth floor of the Book Depository [the wounds couldn't have been sustained with a downward motion, thus, the shooter needed to be lower down in the building, such as on the second floor or out on the knoll]; three, he used a 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano [the bullets that hit the president and the governor were high velocity and a Mannlicher-Carcano is a low velocity rifle]; and four, the shooter was indeed Lee Harvey Oswald [yet Oswald was seen within 90 seconds of the shooting downstairs in the lunchroom so he couldn't have been on the sixth floor]. Fetzer, instead, postulates several shooters and probably six shots. (

Fetzer also believes that the Zapruder film and the autopsy x-rays were altered, and that another brain was substituted for the president’s. In addition, Fetzer supports the idea that the US federal government masterminded the 9/11 attacks.

Reclaiming History implores readers to use common sense. Bugliosi is convinced that people just can’t keep secrets, and for government agencies, including Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and future President Gerald Ford, to have conspired to prevent the American people and the rest of the world from knowing what happened to Jack Kennedy, and then for not one of them to have spoken a word about it, including a deathbed confession, for 46 years, says it all.

In addition, Oswald died leaving $183 in the bank. If he had been a paid marksman, who paid him and how? And if he was bought off, why did he shoot the president with a $12 mail order rifle? Why not provide him with not only an excellent weapon but also an airtight escape route afterwards? Was someone there to pick Oswald up after the dirty deed? No, he was wandering the streets alone, waiting for a bus. And it would have been rather sloppy of the CIA or the FBI to have allowed their main hitman to have been interrogated by the police for almost 48 hours before he was killed. If a government agency hired Oswald to kill Kennedy, they most certainly would have picked him up in a secure vehicle immediately afterwards and driven him to his death.

Lastly, Bugliosi said that the motorcade route going down Elm Street and passing the Book Depository was only established four days before the assassination, which would have seriously undermined a collaborative plan. For weeks beforehand, Oswald had applied for different jobs because he didn’t like the Depository, and the night before, instead of staying in and making contact with his "connections," he went to visit his estranged wife Marina to beg her to return to him.

How can we know whose "facts" are correct? It’s hard to ascertain the whole story without reading The Warren Report and many of the major pro-conspiracy and anti-conspiracy books, examining the film evidence and x-rays, having a medical background or consulting with medical experts, and otherwise expending an inordinate amount of time on the project. However, when alleging a cover-up of such magnitude, the burden of proof is on the accusers. Where is their evidence? Just because they pose questions that may never be answered doesn’t mean that there was a massive conspiracy. Often times when presented with an overwhelming amount of information, one must resort to Occam’s razor, which states that the simplest explanation, requiring the least amount of suppositions, is usually true.

Bugliosi made numerous excellent and compelling points. The entire Kennedy family accepted the lone gunmen theory, including Jacqueline, the late RFK, Teddy, and JFK’s now deceased son, John Jr.; the latter even agreed reluctantly to talk to Oliver Stone to discuss his movie and walked out of the meeting disgusted. If even one Kennedy had been dubious of the Warren Commission’s findings, surely they would have used every ounce of their impressive political muscle to call for an inquiry, which none of them ever did.

Aside from the length of the book, one criticism that I have of Reclaiming History is that Bugliosi is clearly self-righteous and condescending towards anyone who doesn’t share his point of view. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly and believes that all conspiracy theorists are just that.


Bradford, Clint. "JFK Assassination Research Materials: Robert Groden and OJ." (, accessed May 18, 2009.)

Bugliosi, Vincent. Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, WW Norton, 2007.

Bugliosi, Vincent. "No Evidence for JFK / Oswald Conspiracies." (, accessed May 12, 2009.)

Groden, Robert. JFK: The Case for Conspiracy, Delta, 2003.

"JFK: The Assassination Movie." (, accessed May 4, 2009.)

"JFK." Wikipedia. (, accessed May 8, 2009.)

DiEugenio, James. "Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and Bugliosi's Bungle: A Comprehensive Review of Reclaiming History, Part 1, Questioning the Prosecutor's Case." (, accessed May 9, 2009.)

Fetzer, James H. "Review of Reclaiming History: A Closed Mind Perpetrating a Fraud on the Public." (, accessed May 14, 2009.)

Stone, Oliver. JFK, Warner Home Video, 1991.

Von Pein, David. "Re: James DiEugenio versus Vincent Bugliosi (and David Von Pein)." (, accessed May 9, 2009.)

"Warren Commission." History Matters. (, accessed May 12, 2009.)

"Warren Commission." Wikipedia. (,
accessed May 9, 2009.)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Mad or Bad?

According to PBS Frontline, there are over one million mentally ill inmates who will be released from prison in the United States within the next 18 months; the majority of these will not be able to function outside of a supervised environment, and will therefore be rearrested, after either causing havoc or harm to themselves or others.

We have similar problems; Corrections Canada cites research from 2004 that suggests "about 11 per cent of newly arriving prisoners had a mental disorder in 2004, compared with about seven per cent in 1997." And Capital News Online claims that "in 2007, 2,219 male inmates and 133 female inmates were identified at admission to federal institutions across Canada as having mental health problems, which marks an increase of 71 per cent and 61 per cent respectively since 1997."

Why do so many offenders have mental health problems? Well, to begin with, there was a strong civil rights movement on behalf of psychiatric patients back in the 1970s. In a well-intentioned attempt to better serve these people in the community, rather than to warehouse them, perhaps for a lifetime, the patients were deinstitutionalized. Theoretically, this could have been a good thing if the appropriate community supports had been in place, but they weren't.
As a result, many people with mental health issues, particularly those with psychotic features such as paranoid schizophrenics and those with bipolar illness, often stopped taking their medication when they weren't in the hospital. This is easy to understand because sometimes meds need to be administered three times a day. That's hard enough for a high functioning person to manage and extremely difficult, if not impossible, for someone who doesn't have the skills to carry around a daily planner, a pillbox, or to make appointments in advance with the doctor and the pharmacy to refill prescriptions.

Often the mentally ill are arrested for small infractions initially, Frontline states in two fascinating documentaries on the plight of the mentally ill in prison: The New Asylums (2004) and The Released (2009), both of which are available to watch in their entirety online: They may steal something at the 7-11 or commit a robbery or break into a house because they're convinced that bin Laden is there or someone is trying to kill them. Since long-term psychiatric care and rehabilitation are a thing of the past, these people are frequently jailed and then put into minimum security. They don't often do well there, having difficulty following orders or simply feeling too agitated and restless to comply with a strict regimen, and may increase their aggressiveness or violence, forcing the system to put them in maximum security. And, of course, the penitentiary is not equipped to deal with anyone who is suicidal, self mutilating or hallucinating.

Sadly, one of the best ways for someone with psychotic episodes who is breaking the law to get help is within the institution rather than the community. This has to change. Otherwise, there will be a continual revolving door of the mentally ill, who clearly do not belong in prison, going back and forth. Frontline interviewed several of these people, notably black men, who did very well inside the penitentiary but instantly decompensated when they were released because they stopped taking their meds, lost them or ran out, and ended up being homeless. When someone is homeless, they can't receive Social Security benefits (or welfare and disability in Canada), and things predictably go from bad to worse.

What's the solution? "We need to have something that starts from the intake, the assessment, even to the community release," said Dr. Francoise Bouchard, Director General of Health Services for the Correctional Services of Canada.

True enough. But we also need adequate community resources and psychiatric care, diagnosis and treatment to help those with mental challenges, and prevent them from entering the penal system in the first place.

Sigrid Macdonald
Ottawa, Ontario

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Death of a Salesman -- Male Suicide Is All the Rage

Recently I watched a television version of the all-time classic play Death of a Salesman. I was struck by its continued relevance today, in this time of economic uncertainty when so much pressure is still applied on men to be successful providers.

As you may remember, Willy Loman, our anguished hero in Arthur Miller's tale, was a salesman who covered seven states in the New England territory. He drove for miles, suffered from great loneliness and isolation at times, but always had to approach his clients with a smile on his face. He had to pump himself up every day when he looked in the mirror, telling himself that he was the best, he was going to make it big time; for sure, he would make a million bucks! Except that he didn't.

In every way, Willy was an ordinary man who tried to convince himself that he was extraordinary because his occupation required him to do so. What he was selling was not so much a product as himself. And if he failed, he couldn't admit it because that would be admitting weakness when Willy was a typical macho man of the 40s. But how much has that changed?

The main beneficiaries of the gender revolution of the 60s and 70s were women, not men, and rightly so initially because women had to be brought up to par (we're still not there in terms of pay equity or equal representation in Congress and Parliament, as top CEOs of companies or studying for Ph.D.s in math, science and engineering. But the focus for several decades has been on improving women’s lives by meting out greater penalties for sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual abuse, and this emphasis has been at the expense of neglecting male issues such as Willy's.)

When we first encounter Willy, he’s having a nervous breakdown. He keeps crashing the car and his faithful wife Linda discovers a hose in the basement connected to the furnace. She knows that he’s trying to kill himself but she can't bring herself to talk to him about it because she's afraid she'll hurt his ego. And Willy can't talk to his wife about his fears because it would be emasculating. (Although women suffer depression more often than men, men are far more likely to commit suicide for a variety of complex reasons, starting with the fact that they don't seek medical help; they don't confide in others because they need to keep up a sense of bravado; they have higher rates of alcoholism and drug addiction than women [but women are catching up]; and most importantly, they choose more dramatic methods such as hanging and shooting.)

Men are particularly vulnerable to suicide during periods of unemployment. At the age of 63, Willy had been placed on straight commission and his salary had been slashed by a company that he’d worked for for 35 years. When he complained to the new CEO, the son of the original owner -- a boy who Willy had known all of his life and even named -- Howard shrugged him off. “Just business,” he explained. “Nothing personal.” “Get yourself together!” So much for loyalty, dedication and reward for a lifetime of hard work. Willy was no longer producing, consequently, he was disposable.

One thing that I noticed this time around that had escaped me during previous readings of the play was that Charlie, a mere acquaintance of Willy's, offered Willy a job but he refused to take it because of his pride. Willy was too good for the $25 a week job. He was a salesman through and through and he was better than that. He needed his old job back for the sake of his self image; anything other than that was simply charity or beneath him.

We all know the ending to this sad story: Willy kills himself so that his family can collect $20,000 in insurance money. His sons, one a full-time Lothario and the other unable to commit to any sort of decent job, view their father's death differently. One sees it as the end of the American dream and his realization is liberating to him. He will no longer strive to be perfect or extraordinary. He, Biff, will be perfectly happy to be just like everyone else. The other son, Happy (who is anything but), is more resolute than ever to carry on his father's illusions about life and what it means to be a man in this society.

In these troublesome times, with tens of thousands of layoffs and people literally losing the roof over their heads, how many more company men will decide to make the final exit? In Britain, five times as many males between the ages of 15 and 34 kill themselves as females. This rate drops a bit and then rises dramatically from the age of 65 to 75. According to the World Health Organization, Canada is ahead of the United States in terms of male suicide at 21.5 men per 100,000 people compared to 5.4 for women versus 19.3 men per 100,000 and 4.4 women in the US [].

When suicide is the third leading cause of death in Canada, followed only by cancer and heart disease, and men outnumber women four to one, why isn't this considered a national crisis? We don't need the deaths of any more salesmen! We need to encourage true sex role equality, where we say that we want men to be open about their feelings, from sorrow to rage, and we mean it and don't ridicule them behind their backs. We need to reduce the pressure on young men who are trying to find themselves professionally and in the work world, and let them know that they don't have to be perfect or support entire families without contributions by their mates. We need to stop thinking about men as the ones who are violent and privileged – men as the problem --and realize that the traditional male role is just as confining as the female role, and in some respects, it's worse.

In his book The Myth of Male Power Warren Farrell argues that only men are drafted in North America; men may well be the greatest perpetrators of violence but they’re also the largest number of victims of violence; men work in many occupations that are physically dangerous like firefighting and construction; and men suffer domestic violence at equal rates to women, although women are far more likely to be seriously injured or hospitalized when a man hits them. And something is dreadfully wrong when our young men, the next generation, our greatest resource, have already decided at 25 that life is too difficult and painful to bear.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Happy March 8! It's International Women's Day.

Congratulations to us. We've made such strides in the 56 years I've been on this planet. Women in equal numbers in law and medicine. Women in the Supreme Court, women in the legislature and a woman who almost became president of the United States. Yahoo! But there are areas where we still fall behind: hardly any women in the math and sciences, lack of equal representation in Congress, the oppressive beauty ideal that continues to plague mainly women but also men in some industries, and the things that we do to ourselves in relationships.

In the last week, I've written two short articles about women who remain in bad relationships. This was partly sparked by seeing so much of Rihanna and Chris Brown in the news but also because I wanted to do something for IWD to send out an empowering message.


Smart Women Being Stupid

Back by Popular Demand – Smart Women Being Stupid, Part Two

Recently I wrote about women who were attracted to the wrong men, and I discussed one woman in particular that I knew who was drawn to a criminal. I received so many comments about that short article that I decided to write a slightly more in-depth sequel, asking the question “Why?” Why do perfectly intelligent, often well-educated, decent women who deserve so much better fall for men who are abusive? Worse, why do they stay?

In the 90s, the explanation was battered women’s syndrome. The women had been psychologically tortured and beaten down to such an extent that they were no longer able to make good decisions. They were afraid of their abusers, and often stayed for financial reasons or to keep the family together. Some of this may still be true but it doesn’t cover all women by a long shot, and it doesn’t get into the psychological factors that drew them to the wrong men in the first place.

What could possibly make a bad-ass boy look good? Well, to begin with, sexual chemistry is paramount. We can’t really help who we’re attracted to – it’s just automatic. What we would hope is that if we find ourselves attracted to someone who may harm us, we’ll have an internal alarm that says, “no way!” And then we’ll lose interest. But some women don’t have that alarm. The bad boy is sexually appealing, perhaps because he acts more overtly sexual; he may be more flirtatious, charming or lustful. He may make the woman feel wanted physically in a way that other men don’t because he doesn’t mind crossing lines.

The bad boy’s behavior may start out being something minor. Perhaps he just seems nonconventional. He’s not afraid of authority. He bends the rules or makes his own, so he comes across looking like an alpha male when in fact he’s just defiant or self-centered.

Some men are drawn to the chase and often prefer a woman who plays hard to get or acts like a bitch (and men are also abused. Domestic violence statistics now reflect an almost equal number of men being hit or hurt physically or emotionally by their partners, although women continue to be more likely to be seriously injured or hospitalized by male violence, largely because of their smaller physical size.) Even though they’ll deny that this is true, some women have the same tendencies to go for that guy who appears distant or unavailable. None of us is particularly interested in a drooling puppy dog or anyone who comes across as even remotely desperate or lonely. If a man acts aloof, or is very attentive sometimes but standoffish and distant other times, the healthy response is to think, “This guy is definitely not for me.” The unhealthy response is to start humming “I’m Going to Make You Love Me” by Diana Ross and the Supremes.

Likewise when the relationship starts to go bad, particularly when a man has already hit a woman or injured her the way Chris Brown hurt Rihanna. Those of us watching that sad drama unfold kept rooting for her to leave him and stay away. Don’t go back, I was shouting at the TV. Press charges! I don’t care if he’s 19 years old, he’s probably not going to change. But no matter how hard I yelled, she couldn’t hear me.

This may be true of the women in your life. In my last post, I said speak up if one of your friends or family members is involved with someone who could seriously harm them, but that’s not always effective. We can talk until we’re blue in the face but adults will do what they want to do. Women don’t leave for many reasons. Aside from obstacles with money or children or actually fearing for their physical safety (which is not extremely common, by the way. It is unlikely that your male partner will murder you like my friend Louise. She was killed by a man who had already been in jail for killing another woman so he was a criminal. And women are not killed in huge numbers by their partners. This is a misconception.)

The main reason that a woman stays with a guy who hits her is that she still loves him. She remembers when he was different and when things were good between the two of them. He begs on bended knees for forgiveness, and tells her it will never happen again. She wants to believe him because she wants it to work out between the two of them, even when the rest of us can see that’s not gonna happen! And that he never was the guy that she thought he was early on in their relationship because he was only putting his best fake foot forward.

All of this is compounded if either party uses drugs or alcohol to access. Drinking and drugging impair our judgment, and predispose women to choosing men who also drink and get high – a great pair. Two people who aren’t thinking right and who’re living in a purple haze. Drugs act as great disinhibitors and if a guy has any violent tendencies, whatever control he had over them is likely to lapse when he’s drinking too much.

What role does self-esteem play in this picture? Clearly, someone who is involved with a guy who beats her, or breaks her jaw, can’t feel very good about herself, but which came first – the low self-image or the bad relationship?

When a woman can’t or won’t leave an obviously dangerous situation, I think the best way to treat that is the way we do with addiction. Loudly and strongly voice opposition to the behavior, but offer warm and loving support to the person. Condemn the act, but let that friend or sister know that you’ll be there for her to help her get out of the quicksand. Have a family intervention or a group of friends get together and tell this person that she’s putting herself in harm’s way. Recommend a good counselor to help her work through her issues related to relationships in general, all of which will be very individual.

And remember, it’s not her fault -- blame is futile. It’s judgmental and helps no one -- but it is definitely her responsibility to get out of a toxic relationship. And if we love her, we’ll extend our hand and stand by her every step of the way.

Friday, March 06, 2009

For International Women's Day -- Empower Yourself by Choosing Your Relationships Carefully

Smart Women, Dangerous Choices

Some women are attracted to bad boys. They may be alcoholics, married men, or men with an attitude like Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire, or James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. The worst type of bad boy is a convict or an ex-con and sad to say, there are many women who fall for these men. Why is that?

It may be that a woman likes an element of danger in her relationship. She could like the idea of taming the beast. So she chooses a man who’s rough and tough, or brags about his infidelities because she believes that she is going to be the one woman who will make a difference in his life. She will be the one who will make him faithful. She will be the one who gets him sober. She will be the one to change him.

That kind of thinking can be very dangerous. An acquaintance of mine fell in love with a prisoner. She was a member of my David Milgaard support group. While the rest of us were working to free David Milgaard, a Canadian man who had been wrongly convicted of murder and spent 23 years in prison, my friend, Louise Ellis, worked tirelessly to get a guilty man out of prison.

Louise met Brett Morgan at Milgaard's Supreme Court hearing in 1992. Morgan was a "jailhouse snitch"; he claimed that he shared a cell with a man who confessed to killing a woman that someone else was doing the time for. Louise admired Brett for coming forward. His motives seemed altruistic at the time, so she introduced herself to him after the hearing. They exchanged addresses and began a correspondence, which culminated in a passionate affair.

Brett was in jail for killing a woman in Edmonton. He had been charged with manslaughter and only served eight years out of his ten year sentence, thanks to Louise spending her hard-earned money to get him the best lawyers in town. How did he repay her? Brett went to live with Louise when he was released from prison. Nine months later, she went missing. I was part of a search team that went looking for her. Her remains were discovered in Wakefield, Québec three months following her disappearance. Morgan had strangled her after she intimated that she wanted to leave him. He was convicted of first-degree murder, but he never served out his term because he died of hepatitis C in prison.

Was Louise Ellis a fool to have taken a chance on Brett Morgan? Some people think so but I disagree. Louise was a 46-year-old freelance journalist. She was bright, pretty, spunky and spiritual. She was a dynamic person and a social activist. Louise gave Brett a second chance in life. She believed in him and he was convincing — I know because I met him. Louise wanted to save Brett. She tried to play Florence Nightingale and it cost her her life.

In the past, women were often held responsible for their own misfortunes when they met violent ends. If a woman was out alone at night, wearing a short skirt in a bad neighborhood, and she was attacked or raped, people would shrug and say, "She asked for it." We now recognize that archaic attitude blames the victim.

What can we do about this tragedy without blaming the victim or judging these women for their actions, but at the same time holding them responsible for making bad choices? We can all encourage the women that we know and love to take a hard look at the men that they’ve chosen as partners. Do these men have a temper? Have they ever struck a woman physically? Are your female friends constantly choosing men who have glaring flaws, hoping and believing that they can change them? No one changes another person. The only time that anyone changes is if he or she decides to do that for his or her own reasons.

We all have daughters, sisters or colleagues who might benefit from our advice, even if they don't want to hear it. Women who are consistently attracted to the wrong men may need counseling. Or maybe they just need to know how valuable they really are, and that it’s not worth the risk to be involved with a bad boy.

If we manage to save one life by speaking up, it's worth it. I'm sorry that I didn't voice my disapproval about Brett Morgan more emphatically to Louise Ellis. Perhaps if I did, she might be here with us today. By the time that she considered leaving him, it was already too late because that’s precisely when certain men become dangerous. Think of Nicole Brown Simpson. Neither Nicole nor Louise realized that they needed police protection after they told their spouses goodbye.

On a larger scale, women's magazines and Hollywood movies need to recast their male heroes. There's nothing sexy or romantic about an ex-con or a tough guy like Chris Brown. A goofy, kindhearted man like Ray Romano on Everyone Loves Raymond is a lot more attractive than Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire. If we can get that message out globally, we could save some women and their families a lot of heartache.

Sigrid Macdonald is a longtime feminist and social activist. She is an editor, book coach and the author of two books including D'Amour Road, which is dedicated to Louise Ellis.

Visit her at

Monday, February 16, 2009


Several years ago, I picked up the book He's Just Not That into You with disdain and embarrassment. I thought for sure that it was going to be really stupid and I didn't want anyone to see me reading it! I was wrong on both counts.

First, He's Just Not That into You is an extremely funny book, which is one large step up for the writers of Sex and the City based on their last movie. Not into You was born in the office when Greg Behrendt noticed that all kinds of foxy, sophisticated, and otherwise intelligent women that he worked with were trapped in relationships that were going nowhere -- or worse, they were pursuing men who were treating them badly. Not into You was a phrase that Greg coined to kindly break it to these misguided women that the men they were panting for were never going to come through. If he's not calling you, if he's not sleeping with you, if he's not marrying you, guess what? He's just not into you! Married Greg teamed up with fellow colleague, and single woman, Liz Tuccillo, to impart the message to the masses.

But is this really true? The book took a very black and white position in terms of gender roles. What about the guy who is really shy? Afraid of commitment? Just too broke to take you to dinner at the moment? "Not into you" seemed to be a trite and dismissive way of looking at complex issues, despite the kernels of truth at the core of its message.

And it was clearly geared towards women, and biased in their favor. Women were foxes -- awesome creatures just waiting to be discovered -- and men were insensitive brutes, but the reality is more complex. We've all known women who are greedy, domineering, overly possessive, unfaithful and just plain nasty.

The movie seemed to recognize many more subtleties than the book, perhaps because of all of the criticism that the book received for being one-dimensional; the movie was nothing of the sort. It's humor was absolutely stellar and I laughed out loud pretty much throughout the whole thing, except for the sad and dramatic parts, which were well developed. We saw so many different types of people in relationships -- the wide-eyed young girl who meets a married man and thinks that he's going to leave his wife for her; the equally naïve female who goes on a date and gets the message all wrong, thinking that it went well when in fact the guy never plans to call her again; and a couple in a serious long-term relationship that is satisfying to both of them except that he doesn't want to get married and she does.

I won't offer any spoilers here in terms of who hooks up and stays together and who doesn't, but I will say that the ending has a strong positive message that it's okay to be by yourself if your relationship isn't working out, and it's okay to make compromises within relationships -- in fact it's essential, as long as you're not compromising something that is critical to your own well-being. But as much as I thoroughly enjoyed this lighthearted flick, I was left with a lingering question as to whether or not it was sexist and portrayed men badly. It also seemed as though gay guys were just thrown in as a token, politically correct measure, but their relationships weren't examined at all, which was too bad because everybody, gay or straight, encounters signals that they can't quite compute in relationships, and He's Just Not That into You offers an interesting road map.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Interviewing Phyllis Zimbler Miller, Author of Mrs. Lieutenant

Hello everyone,

Today I will be interviewing Phyllis Zimbler Miller, author of Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel, a fascinating tale of four Army wives in Kentucky during the 1970s. Mrs. Lieutenant was nominated for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And Phyllis is also the co-host of the Blog Talk Radio Show, Your Military Life.

Welcome, Phyllis.

Why did you write this book?

I’d wanted to write this book ever since the spring of 1970 when my husband went on active army duty during the Vietnam War and I became a new Mrs. Lieutenant.

Only six years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, that time in 1970 just as the women’s liberation movement began was a unique time in the social history of women in the U.S. The juxtaposition of young officers’ wives facing the fears of their husbands being sent to Vietnam and, at the same time, having to adjust to getting along with women of different racial, religious, geographic and class backgrounds offered a compelling story.

What took 38 years for this story to be published?

For almost 20 years I did nothing about writing this story. Then two female producers optioned the story for a film. When they couldn’t get anyone in Hollywood interested without having a book first, I started writing the novel. By the time I’d written the first draft, they had moved on to other projects. And then followed almost 18 years of learning to switch from writing as a journalist to writing as a novelist.

And then no one would publish the story. One rejection I got was that the story was outdated because there was no longer any racial prejudice in the U.S. Another rejection was because the four women had to meet through their own jobs, say at a law firm, and not through their husbands.

Thirteen months ago I had an epiphany — I was too old to wait for someone to say yes to me. I decided to self-publish — because I knew there was a market for this story.

Did you have to buy hundreds of books yourself in order to self-publish?

Self-publishing today has so many more options than in the past. I contracted with BookSurge, now owned by Amazon, to publish the book as a print-on-demand book. I only had to buy as many books as I wanted to buy. Then people who want the book can order it through Amazon, and most of these people probably don’t know it’s a print-on-demand book.

I’d like to add that I had the confidence to self-publish my book partly because of two things: One, I’d taught copyediting at the college level and I’d always been a stickler for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, so in this respect I thought my book was ready for publication.

Two, for years friends read the book manuscript and liked it, but everyone kept saying something was missing and no one could figure out what. Thus I hired a book consultant to read the manuscript and figure out what was missing. And he did. Something seemingly so small but so important — a clear timeline so that readers could easily follow the story as each chapter is told from the POV of one of the four new officers’ wives.

These two elements — good editing and good editorial story advice — convinced me that my book was ready to see the light of day.

What about marketing a print-on-demand book?

I’m the co-author of the Jewish holiday book, SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION, which first came out from a division of a major publishing company in 1992. At that time, I and co-author Rabbi Karen L. Fox had to do all the marketing ourselves. Thus I was prepared to market my novel myself. And what I quickly learned was that the Internet has leveled the field in many areas.

In June I took a virtual book tour through, which arranged for me to “visit” numerous blogs. From this experience I gained valuable knowledge about how to market MRS. LIEUTENANT. And at the same time I dove into social media in order to promote the book. I took class after class about effectively using social media for business.

How do you use social media to promote MRS. LIEUTENANT?

After joining numerous book sites and social media sites, I’ve learned to concentrate my efforts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I connect with people on these sites and share valuable information with them. I also offer copies of my book to help promote a cause of their own. Currently the website is offering a copy of my book as a prize in a drawing of site members who submit a 500-word essay about themselves. And I arranged for the other two prizes through my contacts on social media sites.

In addition, I’m now sharing book marketing information at my site I even sell a Special Report on using social media for marketing books. The report takes newbies to social media by the hand and helps them over the threshold to this new world of possibilities. I know that, after book authors are given a start in this arena and see the possibilities, they’ll be able to come up on their own with even more ways to utilize cyberspace to promote their books.

What audiences have you found to be the most interested in MRS. LIEUTENANT?

Women book bloggers of any age have been very receptive to this story of four very unlikely women bonding in difficult circumstances. For younger women who knew nothing about the Vietnam War era, they find this story a window into a time their parents or grandparents talk about. And for women, as well as men, who lived through this turbulent period — they respond individually to looking back at a period that they may not have thought about for a very long time. For one former army wife, this story brought back difficult memories she thought had been buried forever; for a young woman blogger, the story brought her closer to a deceased father who would never talk about his time in Vietnam.

It sounds as though your book has really had an impact on its readers. I can understand why. For those who want to find out more about Mrs. Lieutenant, please visit Phyllis’s blog at, and don’t be shy – leave a comment. Or search for the book on Amazon. An excellent read.
Thanks so much for sharing this info with us, Phyllis. Sigrid Mac