About Gene'O

Compulsive writer, amateur photographer, and blogaholic. Also an evil genius.

To the Publishers and Editors of the United States: An Open Letter

russian-billboard_getty

Dear Friends and Former Colleagues,

Donald Trump has been dominating news coverage for so long now, the stories have become predictable. There is a larger story about this election playing out which no news organization seems to be taking advantage of. Whoever breaks this story first is going to regain a lot of reader trust and generate a lot of internet clicks.

There are Pulitzers and book deals here in the offing for an enterprising journalist. All that journalist has to do to win them is find the truth and report it honestly. I’ve put together a list of facts to help you on your way.

1. The New York Times has published a long, well-detailed story about President-Elect Trump’s potential conflicts of interest which stem from his business relationships abroad. Time  and The Washington Post have published accounts Mr. Trump’s connections to Russia  and admiration of Vladimir Putin.

2. On Nov. 28, 14 members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee communicated a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that the committee begin a review of Mr. Trump’s finances “in order to identify and protect against conflicts of interest.” Ranking Member Elijah Cummings requested this review two weeks prior, and as of Nov. 28. had received no response from the chairman. The letter of Nov. 28 states that the Committee’s offices have received more calls from citizens asking for this investigation than they have ever received about any other issue.

3. On Nov. 29, seven members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence requested in writing that President Obama take steps to declassify information about Russian involvement in the recent Presidential election. The letter was made public.

senate_russiaAt the very least, this is notable enough to warrant front-page coverage. Intelligence matters are typically negotiated privately. It is highly unlikely that seven senators would make such a communication public unless they were sure the information requested includes facts the American people should have access to immediately. See Rachel Maddow’s report on 12/1 and Spencer Ackerman’s “Senators call for declassification of files on Russia’s Role in US election” in The Guardian to confirm the facts.

The overseas relationships and the Russian manipulation of the election must intersect somewhere. Follow the money.

If I were a publisher, I’d commit serious editorial resources to investigating all this. I would be investing money into the effort. I would have my best people on it and I’d be looking for a long series of front-pagers or cover stories.

The direction of U.S. policy for decades to come, the well-being of future generations, and the survival of press freedom may very well turn on the decisions we make about how we respond to this situation.

Sincerely,

Gene’O

-ed. The Trump/Putin billboard was captured in Macedonia last month by both Getty and Reuters and is verified as authentic by Snopes. The Getty version appears here. I’ve seen several other examples of this sort of imagery from Russia and the former Soviet sphere of influence in the last couple of months.

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Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I Find Myself at a Crossroads

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I miss writing for the #WeekendCoffeeShare linkup. I also miss writing the pop culture posts, and wanking about social media, and occasionally ranting about politics. Writing — especially high-frequency writing that’s done just for fun — has to be a habit if you’re going to do it consistently. Sadly, I’ve gotten myself out of the habit.

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I’d tell you I miss reading a dozen blogs a week and chatting with people on comment threads even more than I miss publishing my own posts. Facebook has somewhat taken over my social media life, because for the last several months, my internet time has come in unpredictable 20- and 30-minute blocks. And let’s just face it. Communication on Facebook is way easier than communicating on blog threads.

Well, I have a lot more free time than I am accustomed to this weekend, so I’m planning to spend quite a bit of time in the blogosphere. After I add this post to the linkup at Part Time Monster, I plan to check out the Princess Bride Linkup Party at WriteOnSisters.com.a-princess-bride-linkup-party_

I may even re-watch that movie this afternoon and see if I can rush out a post for the linkup myself. You can check out the FAQ here and you can add your own post to the linkup here and you can also share Princess Bride links using the hashtag #PrincessBrideParty. Check it out! It’s sure to be a lot of fun.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you we’re closing in on the time of year where I typically cut back on my blogging and start planning for January. I do this because in my experience, mid-November to late December is the worst time to try and get anything except holiday-themed content seen on the Internet. I’ve blogged so little this year, there’s really nothing to cut back on, but I am still taking stock and trying to make some decisions about what I’m going to do next year.

Part Time Monster and Comparative Geeks have both moved recently and they are both still thriving, so I feel as though I accomplished the two most important goals I set for myself when I came back to the blogosphere three years ago. My blogging, in the first instance, was always about giving either Part Time Monster or Sourcerer a chance to break out. And about forming a community of bloggers that was loose enough to tolerate a broad spectrum of worldviews, but close-knit enough to hang together whether I remained at the center of it or not.

I think Part Time Monster still has a chance to break out, and a lot of the contributors I recruited for Sourcerer during the two years I ran that blog are still talking. In fact, a lot of them are contributing for the new-and-improved CompGeeks. That makes me unreasonably happy. I feel that all the energy and sweat I put into the blogging between 2013-15 was worth it, even though I am a peripheral part of the operation at best (for now).

Getty stock image.

Getty stock image.

All this said, my own blogs are practically dead. I wasn’t able to bring Sourcerer in for a soft landing. I’ve almost slapped a coda on that blog several times just for the closure, but when I sit down to write the last Sourcerer post ever, I just can’t bring myself to do it. It hasn’t been updated in nearly a year, and the last post is a comics post Luther published for me in the last days before I decided I had to let it go for awhile. Sourcerer at this point is a like a story with no ending and that pains me. It’s still the most valuable piece of internet real estate I’ve ever developed, though — especially when I include the twitter account I built for that blog. That’s hard to let go of.

As far as this blog is concerned, it’s been through several iterations, and it has never performed to my satisfaction. I have around 350 Facebook friends and followers. More than half of those are bloggers and people I met through blogging. Even if I go back to posting a couple of times a week here on a regular schedule, I’m not convinced this blog is ever going to get me more than I’m getting with well-timed public Facebook updates.

So I am not sure where to go with my blogging in the next year. I feel as though I need to either commit myself to publishing one high-quality post per week, or else I just need to walk away. And I have no blog of my own that’s good enough at this point to post my very best stuff, because I can’t get enough readers on my own blogs to make it worth the time and energy I put into my very best posts.coffee

I’m still thinking, but it looks like I’m going to be a contributor at CompGeeks and occasionally at the Monster for the next little while — if I am able to get back to blogging consistently at all. This blog will be for infrequent personal posts and political rants, unless I can find a way to get Sourcerer running again.

I’d love to have some input from those of you who have followed me for a long time, and from those of you who have more blogging experience than me.

This post is nearly 1,000 words long, so I’m calling it a day. Maybe I’ll see you for coffee again once or twice before the holiday season kicks into high gear. Have a photo of my puppy, who I’ve talked about here a time or two before. She’s nearly a year old now, and this was taken a couple of days ago.

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Have a great weekend, and keep blogging!

A Serious Personal Finance Question

Calling all you finance geeks. I have a “friend,” *cough*, who is using a balance transfer credit card with a long zero-interest introductory period to freeze the interest on some debt and aggressively pay down the principal over the next year or so. He is seeking advice.

He’s gonna be smart about this and do things like not use the transfer card for any purchases, and not use the other cards going forward for anything he can’t pay off in one month. He is disciplined enough to do this. Here’s his question with context.

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He has 60 days to transfer balances with no fees and no interest until 2018. The limit on the transfer card isn’t quite enough to absorb all the debt he’s trying to close out, but will cover most of it, and we’re not talking about a huge amount of money. He’s already consolidated two accounts and the transfer card is at 89% utilization. He stopped there because credit agencies consider a card that’s at 90% maxed out.

1. So does he pay down as much interest-bearing debt as he can in the next billing cycle, then go ahead and max the transfer card completely out just before the 60-day window closes?

2. Or is he better off stopping with the transfer card at 89% and working from there?

I’m leaning toward telling him to take the transfer card to 100%, because he’s done applying for credit until next summer at the earliest. Credit utilization is a huge factor in credit scores, but it’s just a monthly snapshot. Not tracked over time. This is why paying down 50% of your debt in one go is one of the quickest ways to improve your score, and why running up a bunch of credit cards in a short period of time is one of the easiest ways to damage your score.

I’m only leaning, and I’m not an expert, so I am interested to know if anyone else has better advice.