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TheRumpledOne
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11/16/2005 12:17:12 PM

November 12, 2005

The Cheerful People
by Robert Ringer

I recently had the honor of giving the keynote address at The Advocates for Self-Government's 20th Anniversary Celebration. When I was first asked to speak at this event some six months earlier, I admit I was a bit reluctant.

As soon as I arrived in Atlanta, however, I knew I had made the right decision. By sheer coincidence, Hugh Downs' flight and mine were both late and arrived just a few minutes apart. As a result, we shared a limo from the airport to the hotel, and that short ride made the trip worthwhile all by itself.

They say the camera never lies, and so it is with Hugh Downs. What a charming, gracious, unassuming, intelligent man he is. At the age of 84, he has more energy and cognitive clarity than most people possess in their thirties.

According to The Guinness Book of World Records , Downs has logged more hours on television than any other person in history. He was Jack Paar's sidekick on The Tonight Show from 1957 to 1962, co-host of the Today Show from 1962 to 1972, and co-host of 20/20 from 1978 to 1999.

Though he has a reputation for being the ultimate renaissance man, Downs waves aside the renaissance label and instead refers to himself as "a champion dilettante"(dabbler in an art or field of knowledge). Nevertheless, he is a top-notch sailor, pilot, author (eight books to his credit), and music composer (most recently creating a cello piece for Yo Yo Ma that was premiered by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra).

Above all, Downs has a passion for science and health that began in his youth. He earned a post-graduate certificate in geriatric medicine while hosting Over Easy for PBS, a successful program about aging. His credits and awards are staggering - far too numerous to list here.

Following is a sampling of some of the more fascinating quotes attributed to Hugh Downs:

"From a historical perspective, all Americans are libertarians, even those who are not registered as such. Libertarianism was a prominent political development that distinguished free Americans from those subjected to the British Crown."

"All the really good ideas belong to the libertarians."

"I sympathize with people who want to ban guns, but I can't agree with them. We have to be careful that in our zeal to abolish guns we don't wind up pushing counterproductive legislation that will leave armed only those people most likely to do harm with the weapons."

"Here is a weed [marijuana], growing wild, that millions use whether there is a law against it or not. It kills no one. It has been in continuous use for about 5,000 years that we know of, and it has recognized medical applications. And yet the government is waging a deadly and expensive war against it."
With views such as these, The Advocates for Self-Government definitely was the right audience for Downs. What impressed me most was the objective manner in which he addressed some of the most sensitive and politically incorrect issues of our time in a Q&A session following his speech.

Downs doesn't engage in name-calling or personal attacks. On the contrary, he makes it clear that he respects the opinions of others, even if they differ from his own. How refreshing in an age of politically correct insanity where people begin frothing at the mouth when someone expresses a viewpoint that is not to their liking.

I could go on for pages discussing the uniqueness of Hugh Downs, but I'm happy to report that I can do better than that. You will soon be able to listen to me interview him live in an upcoming teleconference series. During that interview, I sincerely believe you will learn more about success - not just financial, but in every area of life - from Hugh Downs than from any other source to which you will ever have access.

I say this because, though he has undoubtedly accumulated a great deal of wealth over his long and extraordinary career, Downs' success goes way beyond money. He has seen it all and done it all, and, at an age when most people are confined to nursing homes, is still living life to the fullest ... still curious ... still learning. He is one of the most remarkable and inspiring people I have ever met, and I've had the good fortune of meeting many.

Congressman Ron Paul. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention one other speaker, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for some 25 years. If you are not familiar with this courageous man and his untiring efforts to promote freedom, I urge you to visit his website (http://www.house.gov/paul ) as early as possible, as it will give you hope that not all politicians are corrupt.

Congressman Paul (a medical doctor who has delivered more than 4,000 babies) is renowned for being Washington's most vocal advocate for liberty. In defiance of so many of his peers on Capitol Hill, Dr. Paul consistently votes for limited government, a dramatic reduction of federal spending, less regulation, lower taxes, free markets, and a return to a gold-backed currency.

He refuses to vote for legislation unless it is expressly authorized by the Constitution, which has earned him the nickname "Dr. No." My late friend, former Treasury Secretary William Simon, once referred to Congressman Paul as the "one exception to the Gang of 535" on Capitol Hill. Ron Paul is the rarest of politicians in that he actually sticks to his principles, as evidenced by his admirable voting record.

The Return of The Tortoise. It had been 26 years since I gave the keynote address at the 1979 Libertarian Party Presidential Nominating Convention, and I had forgotten just how refreshing libertarians are. Because of the moral soundness of their underlying philosophy, libertarians tend to be kinder, gentler, more informed, and more cheerful than the average person.

I believe that the above traits are a result of the consistency in their words and actions. Like the Founding Fathers, libertarians believe that liberty must be given a higher priority than all other objectives - period. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. Politicians from both major parties love to babble on endlessly about freedom and liberty, but the voting records of most of them belie their rhetoric.

Put another way, libertarians believe that every human being has a natural right to complete sovereignty over his own life, so long as he does not commit aggression against others. With such a sound underlying belief in individual liberty, libertarians see no need for discrimination laws. Because they value human beings based on their individual merits, factors such as race, gender, nationality, and ethnicity are of no relevance to them.

The purist libertarian on television today is John Stossel. I believe that the reason Stossel has been able to say the shocking (by "normal" standards) things he has said all these years and still rise to be co-host of 20/20 is that a huge percentage of the population is libertarian at heart.

Don't get me wrong. Most people are not even familiar with the word "libertarianism." But when they learn that it is an unwavering belief in individual liberty and smaller government, they suddenly realize that they are, in fact, libertarians. And almost everyone agrees with the premise that politicians and bureaucrats, up to and including the president, are employed by the citizenry ... and not the other way around.

Even if you consider yourself to be a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, you should make the time to learn more about libertarianism. At a minimum, you will probably find yourself to be a hybrid. My own ideological beliefs, for example, have evolved over the past 25 years to the point where I consider myself to be a "theoretical libertarian/practical conservative." (See "Core Beliefs: Western Civilization" on my website, www.robertringer.com .)

William Simon confided in me some 25 years ago that even though he had served in high cabinet posts in two Republican administrations, his ideology was libertarian to the core. I have since found this to be true of a number of politicians to whom I have spoken, both Democrats and Republicans.

Above all, libertarians believe in laissez-faire capitalism - i.e. totally unfettered financial freedom, particularly free markets. Unfortunately, as Ayn Rand pointed out decades ago, pure laissez-faire capitalism has never existed on Planet Earth. The closest we've come to reaching such an ideal was in the United States during roughly its first century-and-a-half of existence and in Hong Kong prior to its being gobbled up by the Big Red Machine.

(In fairness to China, its ruling oligarchy has been smart enough to leave most of Hong Kong's efficient capitalist machinery in place. As a result, China is able to support the artificially inflated U.S. economy by buying up America's debt instruments as fast as Uncle Sam can print them.)

The only way an entrepreneur cannot believe in laissez-faire capitalism is if he is inflicted with cognitive dissonance. This is a psychological term that describes the anxiety resulting from knowing (or at least suspecting) that the facts are contrary to one's desires, yet choosing to ignore those facts and cling to one's comfortable beliefs. Such a person simply blocks out all information that contradicts his established belief structure.

My hat is off to The Advocates for Self-Government. Its members hold no contradictory beliefs. They believe in liberty above all other objectives and equality of opportunity for everyone. They have no moral conflicts when it comes to either financial or personal freedom.

The Advocates for Self-Government is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization that is not affiliated with the Libertarian Party. In the simplest of terms, The Advocates believe in live and let live, which is a pretty hard philosophy with which to disagree.

Again, no matter what official political stripe you wear on your shoulder, if, in your heart of hearts, you believe in less government, less regulation, less taxes, and more personal freedom, you are, at a minimum, a hybrid libertarian. I would highly recommend that you learn more about The Advocates for Self-Government's views on liberty if you would like be reminded of what America is supposed to stand for.

In particular, if you are a Democrat or Republican, you can help move your party in the direction of more freedom for all by availing yourself of the refreshing ideas offered by The Advocates for Self-Government.


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Robert Ringer with Hugh Downs




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Creating Demand, Microsoft Style

Yesterday, my son frantically dragged me to the mall (Yuk!) to put a $50 deposit on an Xbox 360, which is due for release on November 22. The reason he was so frantic was because, according to everything he had heard from his friends, the only hope for getting an Xbox 360 anytime soon was to put up a $50 deposit and be put on some store's waiting list.

I tried to explain to my son that his friends were just caught up in hype and rumor, and that Bill Gates would sell him all the Xboxes he wanted on November 22. I told him that no company wants to turn customers away for lack of product.

"What a wisdom-filled speech!" I thought to myself. Except for one thing: I was wrong. Not only was my son right, but the situation is far more extreme than even he had imagined. The hip-hop video-game clerk behind the counter at GameStop told us that he couldn't even accept any more deposits because the store's allotted initial shipment was already sold out. Even worse, GameStop had a long waiting list.

However, Mr. Hip Hop was kind enough to suggest another store - EB Games - where he thought we might have a chance to at least secure a spot on their waiting list. Wow! Our lucky day! Sure enough, at EB Games, a cloned version of Mr. Hip Hop granted us the honor of giving him a $50 deposit to get on the store's precious Xbox 360 waiting list.

He emphasized, however, that not only was my son not likely to be granted the privilege of purchasing an Xbox 360 on the infamous November 22 release date, but he couldn't even guarantee that one would be available by Christmas. He said another option was for us to get up early and stand in line at Wal-Mart or Best Buy on that date, because neither of those stores are accepting advance deposits.

It made me feel like the guy on TV who portrays a human version of Wile E. Coyote every time he says, "Lost another loan to Ditech." In my case, Bill Gates just keeps rubbing it in and reminding me why he's worth $50 billion or so more than I am. It's tough to admit, but the truth is that he's a lot smarter than me - and far more clever.

Clever especially when it comes to marketing. Microsoft not only has the wherewithal to produce all the Xboxes it wants to, but I can assure you that it has a pretty good idea of what the demand for its new product will be on November 22. Which means the company purposely doesn't want everyone who desires an Xbox 360 to get one right away.

Instead, Microsoft has chosen to create a frenzy over the Xbox 360. Since kids live by the mantra, "Me, too," the smaller the supply (albeit artificial), the greater the demand becomes. It reminds me of the words of a wise young author who once wrote about something called the Boy-Girl Theory, which states: Everyone wants what he can't have and doesn't want what he can have.

By January, or, at the latest, February, the market will be flooded with Xbox 360s, and anyone will be able to walk in off the street and buy one. But, in the meantime, Microsoft will receive millions of dollars in free publicity with the media showing and writing about long lines of people eagerly waiting for the opportunity to buy an Xbox 360 at Wal-Mart or Best Buy.

Suggestion: Think about how you might use this clever marketing ploy in your own business. If carried out properly, it could totally change your image in the eyes of your customers.

Having said all this, I still stand by everything I wrote in the June 11 edition of A Voice of Sanity . The bottom line to that article was that Microsoft would be far better off focusing on improving its core software business in an effort to protect itself from its first serious threat in years - an outfit by the name of Google that is increasingly acting like the pursuer in a game of Pacman.

But, that aside, Microsoft's marketing strategy for the Xbox 360 is very clever ... and likely to pay big dividends in the form of increased market share. Even so, any such increase may only last until Playstation3 comes out, because Sony (which makes Playstation) still has a 68 percent share of the worldwide video-game market. And no doubt the company will use the same marketing tactics as Microsoft.



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Aging the Weil Way

Dr. Andrew Weil is back with another bestseller - Healthy Aging . Weil has probably done more than anyone else to bring so-called conventional medicine and holistic medicine together. Before him, most doctors and the American Medical Association pretty much looked down on the notion of "alternative" approaches to medicine.

Time magazine recently did an excerpt from Dr. Weil's latest book, which was interesting enough to make me want to buy it. Weil sees aging as "a continuous and necessary process of change that begins at conception." He further explains the importance of learning "how to live in appropriate ways in order to maximize health and happiness."

Weil goes on to say that what is appropriate in your 20s is not likely to be appropriate in your 50s. He uses the example of men in their 30s and 40s who injure themselves playing contact sports or exercising improperly, and further points out that one of the secrets of healthy aging is "being willing to let go of behaviors more suited to younger bodies."

I can relate to this mistake, because when I was in my late thirties and early forties, I became an exercise addict. I religiously lifted weights to the limits of my capacity and played racquetball five days a week. Plus, I jogged at least five mornings a week, always sprinting the last quarter mile.

Without mentioning a plethora of less-serious injuries, I broke my right foot, broke my left big toe, had to have arthroscopic surgery on both knees, severely injured my back, and had to endure an excruciatingly painful tendon operation on my right shoulder.

Being the bright young man that I was, I eventually recognized that perhaps I was overdoing it a bit. My 16-year-old mind simply couldn't keep up with my 40-year-old body.

I agree with most of what Dr. Weil says about aging gracefully, but there's another important point to be made about exercise in particular: The more you overdo it, the less likely you are to stick with it throughout life.

So, when it comes to exercise, one of my favorite maxims applies: Moderation is the best policy. If you want to (1) increase your chances of living a longer and healthier life, and (2) continue to exercise throughout life, you'd be wise to take a moderate approach to exercise.



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Can CNN survive?

Not too long ago, I watched in awe as Charlie Rose interviewed the new president of CNN, Jonathan Klein. At one point, Rose asked Klein to what he attributed the phenomenal success of Fox News. Klein, with a straight face, retorted that it was a result of Fox's ability "to tap into a small, vocal minority of angry white men."

I almost choked on my caviar. Does Klein really believe that Fox's average evening audience of 2 million viewers (versus CNN's 775,000) consists primarily of "a small, vocal minority of angry white men"? If so, he is destined to become the fifth ex-president of CNN in less than five years.

I agree with most of the public that Fox's refreshing faces and programming is the best thing to happen to U.S. television in years. Nevertheless, I'm genuinely concerned about CNN's survival if it can't find an intelligent, rational, sober individual to run the company. I just don't think you can afford to have someone at the top who sees Condoleezza Rice and J. C. Watts as angry white men.

Apparently, Bill Hemmer, who clearly was the crown jewel at CNN, felt the same way when he recently bolted to Fox. Which left CNN with such overtly left-leaning, boring, unappealing headliners as Wolf Blitzer, Paula Zahn, Anderson Cooper, Lou Dobbs, Aaron Brown, and (the biggest turnoff of all) Soledad O'Brien.

It's almost as though CNN has a death wish. When Paula Zahn was moved from being co-host of the cable channel's American Morning show to the hopeless task of taking on Fox's Bill O'Reilly in the evening, it had not one but two golden opportunities to gain viewers.

Daryn Kagan hosted the show for a brief test period, as did Heidi Collins. Both were not only pleasing to the eyes, but, unlike Paula Zahn and Soledad O'Brien, came across as pleasant, talented, well-informed women.

Yet, for reasons that will always remain a mystery to me, CNN passed on both and instead masochistically tapped Bulldog O'Brien to co-host American Morning . I guess she's CNN's answer to Fox's strange affinity for Greta.

Look, no one is naive enough to believe that Fox is totally "fair and balanced." But, to their credit, they do give the left many platforms each day from which they can voice their opinions. It's healthy for the country to hear arguments from both ends of the political spectrum.

Which means it's healthy for the country for CNN to make the decision to become a rational voice for a liberal slant on issues. And a good start in that direction would be to make certain that its next president is a rational individual who can objectively assess the facts.

By "rational," I'm talking about someone who has a clear understanding of why and how Fox, in just four years, came from second in the ratings war behind CNN to an average viewing audience that is now roughly three times greater than that of the former leader.



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