The Shakedown Behind The DOJ Apple/Publisher eBook Antitrust Lawsuit

The Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and the major publishers for conspiring to force Amazon to sell ebooks at higher price points than $9.99 USD. This is ironic—and moronic—for several reasons.

Until Apple introduced the agency model for letting publishers set their own ebook prices and keeping 70% of each sale, Amazon had a 90% market share as it sold the bestsellers as lost leaders to sell more Kindle devices and the publishers kept 35% of each sale. After those changes went into effect, Amazon’s market share dropped to 60% as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony and other ebook retailers expanded their market share.

The DOJ may have a better antitrust case against the publishers for maintaining higher ebook prices than it does against Apple. The publishers are still stuck in the traditional brick-and-mortar world of printed books. If the ebook price of a new printed book is substantially less, the consumers will favor the cheaper alternative. Higher ebook prices are necessary to maintain an unsustainable business model.

Why does the ebook version of a 50-year-old science fiction novel, “Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein, have to be priced at $9.99 USD like a premium paperback?

But the antitrust lawsuit isn’t really about ebook prices. It’s about Apple sitting on $100-billion-dollar in cash reserve and not sharing the wealth with the Washington lobbyists, who in turn wine and dine the political establishment.

The DOJ Shakedown

When Microsoft had a multi-billion-dollar cash reserves, it spent nothing on lobbyists. After the DOJ filed the antitrust lawsuit in 1998, Microsoft spent millions of dollars each year on lobbyists thereafter. The antitrust lawsuit failed to quash Microsoft’s twin monopoly in operating systems and office suites, but it was a significant boon for Washington lobbyists.

As Silicon Valley companies acquire huge market share and cash reserves, they have to spend more money on Washington lobbyists as the DOJ and other regulatory agencies threaten various legal actions, and entertain presidential candidates when they stomp through Silicon Valley for campaign fundraisers. As Willie Sutton once said about banks, it’s where the money is.

If that wasn’t ironic enough, lobbyists are complaining about a new rule that would prevent them from wining and dining the two million federal workers who are not politicians but often wield indirect influence on the government.

Investigate Amazon

Being a writer who publishes ebook, the antitrust lawsuit is a concern but doesn’t impact me as my short story and essay ebooks are priced from $0.99 USD to $2.99 USD. I doubt I will ever put out an ebook priced at $9.99 USD or higher .

Like many things in life, I have the opposite problem. When I released my writing blog compilation ebook, I priced it at $0.99 USD on Amazon and, because it was listed for FREE on Smashwords, there was a “technical glitch” regarding the pricing info that made it unavailable. I subsequently had to unpublished the ebook from Amazon.

If the DOJ wants to get serious about ebook prices, they should investigate Amazon for stifling FREE ebooks.

UPDATED 04/16/2012 — Looked like it was a technical glitch. My writing blog compilation ebook is available at Amazon—for $0.99 USD. I’m pestering them to make it free. Probably won’t happen until the ebook appears on the Smashwords third-party distribution network (i.e., Apple, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, etc.).

An Unopened Library on SOPA/PIPA Awareness Day

I wasn’t planning on doing a blog post on SOPA/PIPA Awareness Day, even though the passage of these two ill-conceived anti-piracy bills could impact my work as a writer and ebook publisher.

As circumstances would have it, my car stalled out four times in stop-and-go traffic on the 85 and I left work early to put it in the shop yesterday. This comes after blowing out the front right tire that took the wiring harness for the front lights halfway between Stockton and Sacramento on the I-5 last week. After my father fixed the tire and rewired the front lights with a replacement wiring harness from the junkyard, I returned his truck and got my car back this past Sunday. I was hoping that my car problems would be behind me. Since this was my father’s old car, it wasn’t that simple.

As I was walking home from the shop, I noticed the chain-linked fence still surrounding the brand new library on Bascom Avenue that haven’t open since being built two years ago.

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For the first time in decades, I now lived within walking distance of a library. Unfortunately, with the Great Recession impacting tax revenues and the out of control pension costs, the City of San Jose doesn’t have the budget to operate the new libraries that weren’t replacing an older library. (Money for building and renovating the libraries came from a $212 million bond measure approved by the voters in 2000.) The existing libraries are open for three or four days a week, and more cutbacks are forthcoming. A council member recently proposed replacing retiring librarians with volunteers to save more money.

As we protest the bills that could censor the Internet, let’s not forget the brick-and-mortar libraries that need our support. They could easily disappear with the budget cuts, which has already happened in some communities across the nation. A free society depends on the free flow of information, whether in physical or virtual form.

Pondering The Secret Gospel Of Mark On Easter Morning

When my radio alarm blared at 6:30AM on Easter morning, I listened to Brent Walters, who is the host for God Talk on Sunday mornings for KGO-Radio 810AM, talking about the spiritual significance of Easter. The second and third hours told the story about how he, as a young man in still seminary school, was trying to learn about the real Jesus beyond the traditional biblical references. He read all the available books he could find. After ordering a 12-volume set written by a leading biblical scholar through the bookstore, and reading all those books, he felt no closer to discovering the real Jesus. His father, who was a minister, then asked him if he read “The Secret Gospel of Mark” by Morton Smith, which he hadn’t, and his father refused to tell him anymore. He went to one bookstore to order the book, but the clerk refused to do so. Several more bookstores refused to order it for him. Eventually, he got the book. Today it’s very easy to get “The Secret Gospel of Mark” through Amazon. A very interesting topic for Easter.

The canonical version of the Gospel of Mark was supposedly edited by a rival faction within the early church to suppress certain church doctrines that weren’t widely accepted elsewhere. This doesn’t surprise me at all. There are at least forty authors who had written the Bible. Each one had their own political viewpoint to shape and mold the text as they like, presumably under divine influence. The most recent controversy was the Old Testament (the Hebrew bible) being edited to remove references of God having a wife to present a single god rather than multiple gods that were common prior to the Jews being exiled to Babylon.

Thirteen years of church had left me a cynic. When I first came into the church in 1992, we were encouraged to study the sermon and verify the message against the Bible. When I left the church in 2005, neither the ministry nor the fellowship were doing that. The word of God should be trusted through faith and a grain of salt. But not the men who wrote and edited the Bible in the past, and those who claim to know the know the will of God today. Everyone has an agenda that they are trying to push on others. If someone claims not to have an agenda when preaching the word of God, they are lying to themselves and others. I think being a Christian today requires examining the controversies behind the Bible, the motivations of those who wrote the Bible, and questioning those who preach the Bible.

Finding More Bargains At Several Closing Borders Stores

Before my friend and I went to see that groan-inducing stoner comedy movie, “Your Highness,” on Saturday night, we stopped at the Borders store in Oakridge Mall. We didn’t know what to expect since we haven’t been to this location since Borders announced it was closing 200 stores around the country. Borders haven’t sent out any emails on the current state of the going out of business sale. As we approached the store after buying our movie tickets, we noticed the signs in the windows proclaiming a $1 per book sale. What was left in the store for sale?

Overwhelmingly, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin books (about 100 each). No one was buying these and other books written by conservative writers at $1 per book in this working class mall. I seriously doubt that the publishers would take any of the books back even if Borders wasn’t in bankruptcy court. A half-dozen shelves were stocked with mostly political and history books, plus a few odds and ends. The rest of the store was closed off with yellow caution tape. All the shelves were up for sale at $100 or more, with signs that they would look great in the laundry room or garage. It would be cheaper to buy lumber from Home Depot and build new shelves that fit.

Here are the four books I picked up for $1 each:

  • “The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush’s America” by Frank Rich
  • “Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras, and The Crack Cocaine Explosion” by Gary Webb
  • “Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption” by Jules Witcover
  • “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward

The next morning I went over to the Santana Row store. The 90% off sale was still going on with much of the first floor stocked with books, and the second floor closed off. The few Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin books were hidden away like Easter eggs all over the store, but books about President Obama were more prevalent in much smaller quantities (10 copies or less). That makes sense since Santana Row is a mixed development of stores and luxury condos. People with money are more likely snap up the latest conservative books than working class people. Political and history books will probably be the big leftovers for the $1 per book sale.

I kept thinking that this was a treasure hunt and a riot will break out over that one special book that everyone wants but can’t have (perhaps a signed copy of a Harry Potter book). Nothing that exciting took place as everyone milled about from one shelf to the next, pawing and gawking at the books. I spent most of my time watching people and listening to their conversations. The two sales clerk leaning against a stocked shelf that I was trying to browse had an over the top discussion about their sex lives. I know there is a short story idea to be found in a bookstore going out of business sale—treasure hunt, Easter eggs, gossip, murder— but I haven’t figured out how to pull it together yet.

A woman was scanning for the used book prices with her iPhone and carting books over to the cash register, where a sales clerk was processing 600+ books. I’ve sold my old books from library through Amazon before. If done right, reselling books can be quite profitable. I made money but I didn’t do it right: I sent everything by first class and not media rate since I was shipping out of a drug store and not the post office. Media rate is dirt cheap but slower and subject to inspection. What the woman had stacked up, I estimated that her average profit margin was about $3 per book.

Here are the books that I got for 90% off each:

  • “Apollo 13” by Jim Lovell and Jeffery Kluger
  • “The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism” by Mark Morford
  • “An Accidental Goddess” by Linnea Sinclair
  • “Unplugged: My Journey Into The Dark World of Video Game Addiction” by Ryan G. Van Cleave
  • “Insurrection (Starfire, Book 1)” by David Weber and Steve White
  • “March Upcountry (Empire of Man, Book 1)” by David Weber and John Ringo
  • “March to The Sea (Empire of Man, Book 2)” by David Weber and John Ringo
  • “March to The Stars (Empire of Man, Book 3)” by David Weber and John Ringo

I was disappointed with the limited selection of science fiction books for $0.80 each. Nearly every available paperback was a series book, and I didn’t want to read a book from the middle or end of a series. I got lucky with the David Weber books, picking the first book of one series and the first three books of another series. Military science fiction is a genre I don’t read that often. Since I’m planning to write a military science fiction novella in the near future, I need to man up on what I would be writing about. Anything less would be space opera. Not that I don’t mind space opera. This particular novella is aimed at breaking me into Analog or Asimov’s Science Fiction, which would be ironic since I don’t write that much science fiction. I wanted to get some fantasy and mystery paperbacks, but those were long gone before I showed up.

After months of whittling down my unread book pile, I have too many unread books. So much to read, so little time to read them all.

Why Do I Hate The Bee Gees? It’s Walt Disney’s Fault!

This came up in Twitter last night: Why do I hate the Bee Gees? Simple, it’s all Walt Disney fault. During the disco craze of the 1970s, my parents gave me a portable cassette recorder for my birthday that was smaller than a shoebox. (The iconic Sony Walkman wouldn’t be a must have item until the early 1980s, and I never got one until the late 1990s.) I was still young enough to appreciate Walt Disney storybooks that had a sing along cassette tape, like Robin Hood and Pete’s Dragon. But there was one cassette that I had played over and over again because I had nothing better to listen to: Mickey Mouse Disco. That, plus watching every re-run of the Bee Gees in Sgt. Pepper’s Loney Hearts Club Band on cable TV, and getting The Beatles album, sour my taste in music for years to come.

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Not that I ever had much taste in music. Although I was born a Californian native, my parents came from Boise, Idaho, where hard work on the farm and smuggling on the road went hand in hand. My father and his brothers used to smuggle untaxed cigarettes from Oregon and sold out them of the trunk in Southern California in the 1950s, and a distant cousin is serving time in the Florida state pen for smuggling cocaine from Cuba in the 1990s. Since my father’s truck only had two radio stations—country and talk—I grew up on classic 1970s and early 1980s country music (i.e., Johnny Cash, John Denver, Willie Nelson, The Oakridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, and Hank Williams, Jr.). Needless to say, country wasn’t very popular when I was going to school with all the wannabe Duran Duran and George Boy running around. Bad enough that I was a normal student misclassified as mentally retarded by the school system, I was considered a freak among the retarded for liking country.

Unlike some of my friends, I have a modest music collection on my iPod. Over the last 20 years I grew to like the top hits from the 1980s music that I never got into when growing up, especially Cyndi Lauper and Joan Jett. I listened to Hootie & The Blowfish, Jane Monheit and U2 in the 1990s. These days I’m listening more to the early The Rolling Stones, especially the recently remastered Exile on Main St. album. The only disco song that I still listen to is “I Love The Nightlife” from the theatrical release of “Love At First Bite”, which is my favorite vampire movie of all time.

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But I don’t listen to today’s country because it sounds like crap, trying too hard to be half country and half rock. Beside, the only real country music radio station in the San Francisco Bay Area, Radio Keen, went off the air in 1992. When the current country radio several years ago decided to switch to Mexican music—their last English song was “Mexican Radio” by Wall of Voodoo—and switched back to country music three months later, I never bothered to listen to them again. The only thing I listened to while driving in the car (which used to belong to my father) is talk—KGO Newstalk 810AM—or the old Dolly Parton cassette tape still stuck inside the player.

Forget The Shutdown, Dissolve The U.S.A.!

If you haven’t been paying attention to the recent hissy fits in Washington, the Republicans are threatening to shut down the government unless the Democrats commits hari kari by cutting sacred liberal cows from the federal non-defense discretionary budget, which is only one-percent of the overall federal budget and isn’t driving the deficits in the long-term. What would happen in a government shut down? Probably the same things that happened in the 1995 government shutdown: about 800,000 “non-essential” government workers will be furlough, national parks and museums will shut down, and all levels of government paperwork will stop being process (including tax refunds). If you read the comment boards for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, people are very vehement about shutting the down federal government.

Which begs the obvious question: If the federal government is so bad as so many people believe it to be, why not dissolved the United States Constitution and send everyone home?

Absolutely no one is calling for a complete and total shut down of the federal government. I think because too many powerful people are benefitting from the current status quo of a divided federal government. One of the two political parties will eventually cave in to keep the government running—probably the Democrats—and the other political party will pay the price at the 2012 polls—probably the Republicans. The lobbyists, lawyers and news media will continue to do business as usual. The military will grind on in their two-and-half wars with troops being paid later. Wall Street isn’t worried about the government shutting down since there is still money to be made, although that will change if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later on.

The dissolution of the U.S.A., however, would threaten the interests of all these powerful people because power of the government will go back to the non-federal government entities of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all the assorted territories. If power isn’t concentrated in one location, it’s very difficult for any power broker to exercise influence over multiple jurisdictions without it costing a pretty penny. Even Rome stopped being the world’s most powerful empire after everyone went home and the barbarians crashed the party.

What would happen if the federal government dissolved completely? The Balkanization of continental North America is likely.

  • The South will rise again with the Confederate flag flying over head and slavery re-instutionalized for all the sons and daughters of the Confederacy to reclaim their missing heritage, plantations and slaves.
  • The original 13 colonies—minus the southern states in the New Confederacy—will embrace the original U.S. Constitution to become a Tea Party haven.
  • The Midwest and Northwest will be absorbed by the Canadians to spread that wonderful health care around.
  • The Southwest will be absorbed by the Mexican cartels to expand production of America’s favorite white powder.
  • Alaska will be retaken by the Russians to build a Bridge to Somewhere.
  • Hawaii will become New Tokyo as the Japanese nouveau riche move away from the nuclear fallout and avoid having to take care of their irradiated elders.
  • Washington, D.C., will be maintained as a monument to a great nation that coulda, shoulda and woulda if the politicians elected by the people had the brain, heart and courage to acquire some backbone to do what is right for the people and not the special interest groups.
  • California, already the world’s eight largest economy and with one-sixth of the U.S. population, will continue to party on as if nothing had happen.

Does this all seem familiar? If you read “Damnation Alley” by Roger Zelazny (1967), “Friday” by Robert A. Heinlein (1982) or “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson (1992), the Balkanization of North America is a common science fiction theme. I sometimes wonder if  the power brokers in Washington are deliberately hurling the United States into a bleak future to prove science fiction as reality. If the U.S.A. does split into so many factions, former banana republic dictators and Fortune 500 executives will be in high demand to consolidate power. If you can excuse me now, I got a dystopian novel to write about a once great nation.

Paul Allen – The Idea Man At Microsoft

Vanity Fair had published an early excerpt of the forthcoming new book, “Idea Man: A Memoir of The Cofounder of Microsoft” by Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates before they both dropped out of college to build the world’s fifth largest corporation. This should be a fascinating reading for anyone who is interested in Silicon Valley history. The excerpt focused on creating the BASIC programming language for the Altair microcomputer in 1975, and how Gates repeatedly tried to increase his ownership of Microsoft at Allen’s expense in 1983. Already there reports that Allen’s recollections of key events at Microsoft are being questioned by others who there at the time.

Although I had read nearly every book on Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak at Apple, I haven’t read that many books on the cofounders at Microsoft. The few that I had read were focused on the federal antitrust case against Microsoft, which, from my perspective, was nothing more than a government shakedown to increase the amount of money that Microsoft spent on Washington lobbyists to spread the wealth around. (Apple, which is also facing a possible antitrust investigation, is now hiring more Washington lobbyists.) If I’m not mistaken, this is the first insider account about the early days of Microsoft.

If you read “Hackers: Heroes of The Revolution Computer Revolution” by Stephen Levy, the story about the Altair BASIC that Allen and Gates put together, and the controversy a year later when hobbyists were stealing their software, is well known.

What Allen brings to the story is the behind scenes account of how the program was put together. They didn’t have actual hardware to test the code on since the company producing the Altair microcomputer was no better than a fly-by-night operation, putting electronic parts into a plastic bag for hobbyists to put together. The Apple II several years later would become the first assembled computer for the home market that didn’t require users to own a soldering iron.

Using the Intel 8080 microprocessor guide as a reference, they rented time on an underused PDP-10 minicomputer at Harvard (which school officials later frowned upon), and created a software program of the hardware to develop their software on. They worked non-stop in the familiar Silicon Valley grind to make the deadline in two months, often missing classes and regular jobs until they had more or less dropped out altogether.

The BASIC program worked fine on the simulated hardware, but what about the real thing? Allen took the paper tape—the common storage method back then—to New Mexico, wrote a quick-and-dirty bootstrap loader program on the plane to have the Altair load the BASIC program into memory, and it worked flawlessly. Microsoft had it first sale and the rest was history.

Much hay is being made out of the fact that Gates tried to squeeze Allen out of the business. This isn’t surprising in Silicon Valley. When a startup stops being a small business and starts attracting serious outside money, there can only be one dominant founder to claim all the credit and glory for the company’s success. Everyone else is either shoved overboard or long forgotten. Besides, Gates wanted to run a Fortune 500 company since he was 13-years-old. Even Allen was wise to step aside in the face of such ambitions when the time came for him to leave the company.

Scaring Young People To Save More With The Proteus Effect

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about scaring young people into saving more money for their retirement by showing them a digital image of themselves when they are in their 70s. Researchers at Stanford Labs have determined that if young people see who they will become in 50 years, they will feel more sorry of about themselves and take the most appropriate action. This is known as the Proteus effect, according to the article, where changes made in the virtual world often reflect changes made in the physical world.

How does the Proteus effect make people more willing to save? “Imagine that you just got a horrible haircut or bought a great new suit,” says Jeremy Bailenson, a virtual-reality researcher who runs the Stanford lab. “You already know that your physical appearance affects your attitudes, your emotions and your behavior even if you’re not consciously thinking about it. The same thing happens in virtual reality, when you become this person with a different body or face. Those features of your avatar affect your mind.”

After reading the article a half-dozen times, I think the writer took the latest scientific research in virtual worlds to re-slant a generic article about saving more money for retirement. I seriously doubt that young people would go to a financial adviser to see a virtual image of themselves in their 70s to scare themselves into saving more money. If young people want to see what they look like in the future, one look at their grandparents should be enough to scare them. Most older people haven’t saved enough, were wiped out when the real estate market crashed, or haven’t considered that being retired means spending way less money to live within their means.

If they are going to a financial advisor in the first place, saving more money will already be on their list of priorities. Most credible financial advisers would recommend saving six months of living expenses for a rainy day fund, max out all available retirement funding options, and use any left over money for investments. Of course, there are plenty of financial advisors who would churn the account to generate fees for themselves and use gimmicks like virtual images to beguile gullible suckers.

The Delaware Chancy Court ruled against the private equity buyout of Del Monte Foods because the bank was managing all sides of the transactions to generate excessive fees. Once upon a time in America, the financial industry used to grow wealth by investing in new companies with innovative products. Not anymore. Now the financial industry is all about slicing-and-dicing the same ever smaller pie of wealth at the expense of everyone else.

According to the Wikipedia article, the Proteus effect describes the changes people make when playing an online avatar that doesn’t reflect any changes made in real life. Another article describes how people who played tall avatars were more willing to make outrageous demands and people who played shorter avatars were more unwilling to accept an unfair offer when trading. All this research is quite fascinating.

My second novel project is about two hacker groups to going to war inside a virtual world that uncovers in an international conspiracy. I’m hoping this will be a modern successor to “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, which introduced avatar and virtual worlds before the technology became even practical. The Proteus effect, and the differences between the real and virtual worlds, will be a central theme.

When I was testing Unreal II and Unreal Tournament 2004 at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises), I selected a female avatar for multiplayer games for a very simple reason: everyone else—including the female testers—were using male avatars. By being the only female avatar with a wicked sniper rifle in the game, everyone in the department knew who was scoring multiple head shots. I grinned every time my name was cursed out loud over the cubicle walls. Management asked me to stop using the sniper rifle. I switched to the rocket launcher, the cursing still didn’t stop.

Using a female avatar wasn’t because I wanted a smaller waist, woman-boobs and more options to fondle myself, or have a latent desire for a sex change operation, in real life. Using a female avatar was about being standing out in the crowd. As the old Japanese saying goes, “The nail that sticks out the most gets hammered the most.” Naturally, my female avatar was an Asian woman of modest portions. It’s all about having fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now I don’t play MMORPGs where playing an avatar of the opposite sex requires a distinctive mindset (i.e., you can’t play a female avatar like you would a male avatar). Those players often invest significantly more time and money into maintaining their avatars that the differences between the virtual and the real can blur significantly. (A great book about that would be “Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot” by Julian Dibbell.) But it can also lead to some awkward conversations: “You do know you’re trying to pick on up on a fat white guy in his underwear?”

Tuesday, 29 March 2011 @ 3:00PMThe Wall Street Journal writer posted a followup article defending his logic for scaring young people into saving. Didn’t make sense last week, still doesn’t make sense this week.

If You’re Going To Lose Big, It Helps To Be A Billionaire

During the California gubernatorial campaign last year, Republican Meg Whitman spent a record $144-million of her own money to lose big to Democrat Jerry Brown. A new report came out that her wealth was relatively unchanged over the last three years despite dropping a pretty nickel on her first attempt at public office. Whitman, however, did drop in rank from 773rd to 938th on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people. When you’re a billionaire several times over, $144-million really is pocket change.

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A recruiter called me last year to talk about being a PC technician at the Whitman campaign office in Palo Alto. I flat-out refused to consider taking the position. This astonished the recruiter. I had previously worked 13 months at eBay as a desktop support specialist. A perfect background to work with the former CEO of eBay. After all, everyone at eBay loves Whitman. Sure, if you’re working at eBay. Like most tech companies in Silicon Valley, drinking the Kool-Aid is a requirement if you want to keep your job. Like most corporate CEOs who pull down a stratospheric salary, Whitman developed a sinister dark side when it came to dealing with the employees who serve her: a PR person was shoved in a verbal confrontation in 2007, and an illegally employed nanny of nine years was let go before the campaign got started in 2009.

Did I want to work for such a person? No way, Jose.

I also had more personal reasons not to work for the Whitman campaign. As a moderate conservative, I was supporting moderate conservative Tom Campbell in his run for governor. Didn’t make sense to work for Whitman when I wanted her to lose the primary election. Unfortunately, with the Tea Party gaining ungodly influence in the primary elections, a moderate conservative didn’t have a prayer even if he had a better chance at winning independent voters in the general election. Campbell dropped out of the governor’s race to run for U.S. senator but he still couldn’t beat the more conservative Carly Fionrina. I ended up voting for Jerry Brown for governor and Barbara Boxer for senator. Not a single Republican candidate won state office in the 2010 election.

For a moment I did seriously consider taking the job to write a kiss-and-tell essay after the campaign was over. I saw a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson who covered the presidential campaigns of President Richard Nixon and George McGovern for Rolling Stone magazine about a week before the recruiter called. I always did love the idea of independent journalism that spits in the eye of the establishment news media. I’m now reading “Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America” by John McMillian.

And maybe I did make a mistake by not taking the job to do just that.

I write and publish mostly fiction, and never seriously bothered with writing non-fiction beyond the occasional blog post. After the election was over I started creating ebooks to reprint my previously published short stories, and learned from other writers that original non-fiction tend to sell better as ebooks. (The reprint of my Christmas shopping essay is still my best-selling ebook to date.) If I’m still doing contract work next year, I’ll work for one of the presidential campaigns and write a kiss-and-tell ebook.