Write to be read. What you need to know and do to turn every word you write into the word that gets results.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a writing machine. My first article was published when I was 5 years old, 59 years ago; I’ve been a writing machine ever since. I’ve made a fortune knowing how to manipulate the incredible English language.

Sadly, I am in the minority. Having taught writing courses at many institutions of higher learning, including Harvard, I long ago came to the conclusion that most people would rather get a root canal than struggle with the dicey business of writing so people will read, understand and respond to what they write. Needless to say this costs them big bucks, since if you cannot use your own language, the lingua franca of the world,as the essential tool it is for business and life success, you lose much of the value of that language. And that is a crying shame.

I want to help you out, and I’ve therefore created the list below of key points which when mastered dramatically improve the way you write and the results you get.

1) Just because you’re a native English speaker doesn’t know you know anything about writing our complicated, sophisticated, absolutely splendid language. Speaking and writing are two separate, though related, things, and must be seen as such.

Start from the proposition that you are, shall we say, “challenged” by writing in English. There are many reasons why this could occur: you weren’t properly taught. Although teachers unions may strongly disagree, the fact is most teachers are not trained to write words that get results. Thus, they are unable to teach their students, who thereby start off their life-long relationship with writing the right words on the wrong foot. What’s more, most never manage to overcome this poor start; instead of trying to overcome the problem, they find ways to minimize or even avoid writing altogether. That is surely what throwing the baby out with the bath water means.

2) Admit you have a problem that’s not going to get better on its own.

As a business writer for my entire (now long in the tooth) adult life, one of the saddest things I see is respected business leaders not only unable to write the Queen’s English proficiently but proud of themselves because they mangle it in both its spoken and written manifestations. Yes, proud of themselves… each embarrassing misusage and mistake proving their warped satisfaction that they are therefore “people of the people”, thereby immune from proper usage. Just to state this proposition is to prove what a zany idea that is… yet it is common.

3) Force yourself to write more and better.

Like so many things in life, the more you write, the better you’ll get. Most business people are poor writers because, being VIPs, they delegate such “minor” tasks to others. What seems at first glance to be something rational and efficient, upon second glance proves to be nothing more than a means to slough off something you strongly dislike. Now hear this: even if you are the Chief Poobah of the world, indeed because you are that self-same Poobah, you need the ability to write the right words to get the results you must have to expand your clientele and business altogether.

This means no longer delegating all writing projects which ordinarily accrue to people of your dignity and position, but accepting at least some of them, not least to give yourself necessary practice… with the clear understanding that practice does most assuredly make perfect.

4) Less is always more.

Brevity, it is said on the highest authority, is the soul of wit. It’s also the key to ensuring that what you write will be carefully read and easily understood.

Poor writers are prolix writers; they write too much, edit too little, and manage to kill any fruitful results that might come by burying the objective in verbosity thereby suffocating the writing and ensuring its failure.

When you sit down to write any document whatsoever, your objective, 100% of the time, is to

state what you aim to achieve

Then, succinctly, marshal your arguments, with the preeminent and clear focus on what the recipient gets from you by taking the promptest possible action.

This means that if you want results, your invariable focus must be on the “you” you are writing to; getting this person’s attention, interest, then action is what all good business writing is about… such writing may never win the Nobel Prize for Literature… but who cares? It can make you rich.

5) Use numbers to structure what you write.

Good writers, particularly good writers in a hurry (are there any others?) use numbers to ensure readership and clarity. Thus,

“I have three reasons for contacting you today….”

“There are 6 major reasons why you must respond today….”

“Here are the 5 reasons you’ll want to take advantage of this offer now….”

Get the picture? Numbering provides structure, and it makes both writing and reading of what you write easier. Remember, you do not need to win prizes for your prose; it need only be good enough to get the results you desire.

6) Always write for the “you” receiving your writing.

Good writers, and by that I mean fast, efficient, easy to read writers, know a secret which, until now, has been unknown by you: that English prose sings when you make it “you” centered, the you in question being the person you are addressing your words to.

All people are egotistically and I-centered. Don’t fight City Hall on this one; take advantage of this fact, to your substantial advantage. The words you write should always be about, for, directed at and done (whether explicitly or not) for “you”, the person you must never forget you are writing for.

7) Read your words aloud… and save your breath!

Want to know whether what you’ve written will achieve your purpose? Read it aloud to yourself. If you find yourself meandering through dense thickets of words and punishing verbosity, difficult “show off” words and elusive meaning and directions, you need re-write (as every Hollywood director knows).

Sentences should never be longer than you can comfortably read in a single breath, no fudging either.

Key points should be made, emphasized, stressed… but always in short sentences.

Your writing should have a cadence which reading aloud will demonstrate. The best writing is writing that moves you briskly through the subject at hand, without a single superfluous word.

Start today.

As you implement these steps and begin to see tangible results which will only improve, you will be glad, even blissful, that the bugaboo of being a poor writer is now gone… never to return.

What will fill its place is one result after another achieved by deft use of the written word you feared at the beginning of this article… and now rejoice as one of the absolutely essential tools for enhanced business success. And that’s a fact you can write home about!

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is ., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates

Lizzie and Johnny Edwards were lovers. Swore to be true to each other, true as stars above….

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. To get you in the right mood for this honky-tonk tale of adolescent passion and its sordid conclusion, search for Elvis Presley’s version of “Frankie and Johnny, or You’ll Miss Me In the Days to Come.” Written by the Leighton Bros. and Ren Shields (1912); it was the title song in the 1966 film starring Elvis. It exactly conveys the right mood for this article.

Cute, cute, so temptingly, dangerously cute.

This is the story of a cute Southern boy named Johnny Reid Edwards to whom the gods gave everything… except the self-control he needed to keep all his treasures together. You find such boys everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. Dressed in polo shirts and shorts, they’re quick with a quip and that dazzling smile, the smile whose power they soon understand and use with devastating effect.That smile is the royal road to everything… including the women who love them, not wisely (as they all come to discover), but too well.

This is the story of one such boy, Johnny Reid Edwards, the boy with enough wattage in that smile to take him to the top. Or so he reckoned. For now he stands indicted. The man who might have had the White House… now faces the possibility of the Big House.

Born June 10, 1953 in Seneca, South Carolina, a good place to get out of.

Johnny Reid Edwards’ parents were Wallace Reid Edwards and Catharine Juanita “Bobbie” Edwards (nee Wade). The family moved frequently during Edwards’ childhood, eventually settling in Robbins, North Carolina. There his father worked as a textile mill floor worker, eventually promoted to supervisor; his mother had a roadside antique finishing business, featuring the kind of dusty bric-a-brac without value where a smart passerby hopes to make a discovery for “Antiques Roadshow”… but never does. She later became a postal letter carrier. It at least paid regular.

Johnny Reid Edwards, a boy who looked up.

Johnny Edwards was a high school football star. That, and always remember that mega- watt smile, gave him what he wanted… what he always wanted… attention. And lots of it, as any American knows who has ever watched (and envied) the staged swagger of these adolescent lords of the gridiron as they enter their kingdoms each day. He learned what he had to do to move out… and move up.

Edwards was the first person in his family to attend college. He attended Clemson University and transferred to North Carolina State University. Edwards graduated with high honors earning a degree in textile technology in 1974 and later earned his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina School of Law (UNC) with honors.

The girl of his dreams?

A man has dreams of the person he wants to marry, but only he knows whether the girl he marries is that dream. Did he get what he wanted… or did he just settle for less? His wife assumes she is his beloved… only to discover, sooner or later, she was merely a facsimile, and therein are the seeds of dissension.

While at UNC met Elizabeth Anania. They married in 1977; they were both cute as bugs in a rug… but Edwards was clearly cuter, and of course he was always festooned with the mega-watt Southern boy smile that just wouldn’t quit.

The couple had 4 children (Wade in 1979, Cate in 1982, Emma Claire in 1998,and Jack in 2000.) Elizabeth matured into an ample matron during these years… John Edwards stayed as young and cute as ever, the very picture of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1891) where the portrait ages, not the man. When a man comes to learn that he retains the secret of adolescence, of what mayhem and conquests may he not dream, and more than dream? For who would be sensible in the face of such a boon?

Malpractice millions.

After law school, Edwards clerked for a federal judge and in 1978 became an associate of the Nashville law firm of Dearborn & Ewing, doing primarily trial work, defending a Nashville bank and other corporate clients. The Edwards family returned to North Carolina in 1981, settling in the capital of Raleigh where he joined the firm of Tharrington, Smith & Hargrove.

He was about to break through to the big money, the really big money.

In 1984, Edwards was assigned to a medical malpractice lawsuit that had been perceived as unwinnable; the firm had only accepted it as a favor to an attorney and state senator who did not want to keep it. Nevertheless, Edwards, assisted by that all-powerful smile, won a $3.7 million verdict on behalf of his client, who had suffered permanent brain and nerve damage after a doctor prescribed an overdose of the anti- alcoholism drug Antabuse during alcohol aversion therapy. It was his first big victory… but only the first of huge, multi-million dollar victories and the huge sums he made. In due course, Edwards developed a winning formula that established him as the unstoppable rainmaker… the most important lawyer in any law firm, for they were the ones who had mastered the art of getting the serious money.

Edwards soon became a legend for this money. He had an eye for which cases would deliver the big bucks… and of course he knew, a combination of instinct and experience, how turn the woes of the little people into a cascade of cash, how to squeeze the big guys and rise high.

The tragedy of his life.

And so it might have gone, with the silver-tongued orator able to take the jury to just where he wanted them to go, showing them their power… and showing them how to wield it for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. But in 1996 his first-born child Wade was killed in a freak jeep accident. It was perhaps the only true tragedy of his life, for here the gods took what he so loved… and here, for once, words failed Edwards; the reality of too-soon death too real, too distressing.

A few weeks after Wade’s death, the words were his to command again. Edwards in his 90 minute closing to the jury referenced his great personal tragedy. Mark Dayton, editor of “North Carolina Lawyers Weekly,” called it the “most impressive legal performance I have ever seen.” The jury awarded the family $25 million, the largest personal injury award in North Carolina history… And so, with great irony, his son’s death helped Edwards rise high and higher still…. senator from North Carolina (1998); vice presidential nominee (2004) and, until his implosion in 2008, candidate for president.

Through it all, he still had that Southern boy cuteness; looking like the sunny side of 30 that he wasn’t. Acting like it, too. Which is how ex-senator John Edwards,husband, father, respected statesman, found himself, June 3, 2011, in a North Carolina court charged with violating federal campaign finance laws, using contributions from wealthy benefactors to conceal his mistress and their baby while he was running for president in 2008. That boyish demeanor, handsome face, lithe body, and that smile had at last gotten him into deep trouble.

Elizabeth Edwards, the loyal wife who shielded him, divorced him, then died (2011). American voters who had believed in him now reviled. The big money had stopped. Only one thing remained: he looked absolutely terrific when he walked into the courtroom, the result of forgetting something: Lizzie and Johnny Edwards were lovers. Swore to be true to each other, true as stars above…. he was her man, and he did her wrong.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is, where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates

‘Where the Iris grows… That is where I want to be….’ The flower at the end of the rainbow.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. To put yourself in the right mood for this article, go to any search engine and find one of Tennessee’s four Official State Songs, “When It’s Iris Time In Tennessee,” words and music by Willa Mae Waid. It’s a lovely, lilting tune, wistful as all songs are which are sung by those far away from home… remembering.

It is early June, and the irises are now to be found in profusion around the City of Cambridge in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I saw the first one the other day in front of my favorite Chinese restaurant Chang Sho. And though I was busy with one of the necessary errands which constitute too great a part of human life… I stopped. The beauty of this ecstasy in the mud insisted.

There before me was a dazzling thing dressed in cloth of gold, the exact shade of the cream soda I drank too often as a boy fifty summers ago on the humid prairies of Illinois; the cream soda you craved, you gulped, which gave you sticky fingers, but never quenched your thirst; (so clever were its makers).

In an instant omnipotent memory was present, the way unstoppable memory will do. This time it reminded me of something I had read in the memoirs of Sir Henry Channon, the man who had deserted his Chicago roots to find his proper perch in life in London as a Member of Parliament… and collector of royalties. He was a boulevardier, a word for which we have no good English equivalent… a thing which tells us much about the French who do…. and the English…. who don’t.

Sir Henry, universally known as “Chips”, was a boulevardier, man about town, about London town. As such he attended the first Garden Party at Buckingham Palace after World War II. He happened to be gossiping with one of Queen Mary’s relations when this very symbol of “They’ll always be an England” arrived, blinding in cloth of gold. “Cousin May,” he said, “is rather overdressed”, to Chips’ scandalized amusement.

And so was the golden iris in front of me, as if some careless maharajah, rushing, had dropped this most expensive of materials in the mud, later to fulminate against the loss, blaming his chauffeur.

But just as Queen Mary had calculated her breathtaking appearance to touch drab lives with grandeur… so did the flower in front of me, largesse for a drab world, overburdened, as I was myself, with the littlest and most nagging things.

The flower’s unexpected appearance was lavish, excessive, a sharp pronunciamento, “Good people,” it boldly proclaimed. “I have come amongst you to cheer you, to uplift your spirits, to give you the gift of exuberance and excess… of profusion and prodigality. Seize them now… for they are yours for just a moment.”

Here was the true work of the iris, the flower that takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow… and not just any rainbow either… but the rainbow which at its end delivers the treasure you seek at such a place… a treasure of unceasing magnificence without end.

At rainbow’s end, you find irises of every color… a gift of superabundance, without limits, where too much and even more is your birth right. This is the place you have sought your entire life… and which the open sesame of the iris delivers with only one command, “Find bliss here.”

Facts about iris.

Iris is a genus of 260 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. As well as being the scientific name, iris is also very widely used as a common name for all Iris species.

The genus is widely distributed throughout the north temperate zone. Their habitats are considerably varied, ranging from cold and montane regions to the grassy slopes, meadowlands and riverbanks of Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa, Asia and across North America.

Irises are perennial herbs, growing from creeping rhizomes, or, in drier climates, from bulbs (bulbous irises). They have long, erect flowering stems, which may be simple or branched, solid or hollow, and flattened or have a circular cross-section. The rhizomatous species usually have 3-10 basal, sword-shaped leaves growing in dense clumps. The bulbous species have cylindrical, basal leaves.

Iris is for show.

Other flowering plants have many uses culinary, medical, as balms, salves, to clear the mind and the heart.

Not the iris.

Iris is designed for show… not merely to brighten space… but to change the entire orientation of a place, from mundane to brilliant. This is no trivial thing when you think of the unending multitudes striving to find both meaning and escape from their burdensome, colorless lives. For these people, and they are everywhere on earth, the iris is a plant of resolute optimism. Where there is a single iris, there is hope. And where any iris has once lived… there hope lingers, insistent that things can be better, beauty can be achieved and circumstances entirely altered for the better, one militant iris flower at a time. The revolutionary iris shouts, “Beauty here, beauty now, beauty forever!” It is insistent that you, if you but take the time to stop and perceive, shall derive full measure of this beauty, for a life without such beauty is no life at all.

Poets and iris

All poets have not understood the imperial function of the iris, with its life-changing mission… but poet Chris Lane does. In his poem “Purple Irises with hues of gold and fragility,” he writes

“Oh, this beauty with for my eyes to see I cannot keep them for only me with friends true I shall share and next year bring to them the joy I find in a purple world with hues of gold and fragile love.”

Lane knows that the iris turns him and every one perceiving it into a devoted zealot, one who must proselytize with so much beauty, earnest in spreading its unbounded joy to friends and total strangers, too. Iris has a mission and when it seizes your attention, you will have that mission, too.

The role of the adamant iris is clear: it beautifies now and finds dedicated adherents to beautify later. Iris exist in a realm of beauty, beauty today, more beauty tomorrow, cycle after cycle of beauty for all who see it, the task to enlighten those who suffer because they have not.

As such the iris reject literary renderings which turn them from their great mission into mere flowers.

They reject Georgia Gudykunst who writes “May your blooms be floriferous and in good form.”

They reject Edith Buckner Edwards “Iris, most beautiful flower, Symbol of life, love and light.”

They reject the celebrated D.H. Lawrence, in his poem “Scent of Irises.”

“A faint, sickening scent of irises Persists all morning….”

These poems do not have and therefore cannot convey and assist the unending work of iris and its significance for improving the lot of people worldwide and enriching their lives. This needs constancy, consistently and profound belief. And it requires the unceasing ability to touch wounded lives and make them bold advocates of universal beauty.

There is a hint of this in Willa Mae Waid’s heartfelt song “When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee.” For she senses the deep power of iris… its ability to revive us… and uplift our spirits. This is the magic of iris…. and it was all present, every bit of it, in the iris dressed in cloth of gold which had my full attention just the other day as it kept steady watch for people like me who required its succor and were the better for it.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is ,  providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. details at: http://homeprofitcoach.com/associates

Listen my children and you shall hear of Sarah Palin’s version of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. So, who needs facts anyway?

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Sarah Palin came to Boston June 3, 2011 with her traveling circus of friends, children, grandchildren, and hangers on… On vacation, she wanted to show herself off to Boston while instructing her claque in the finer points of American revolution history, so much of which took place right here.

Frankly, we were glad to see her since our tourist business was hard hit by the recent recession and is only just recovering, glad that is…

… until she started lecturing us locals on what we know best: our own history, whose facts she so scrambled that she managed to turn Paul Revere from our celebrated hero into a stooge for the British, a spy treacherously working for the very people we were fighting against, our 18th century owners and oppressors.

Here’s what she said after a visit to Old North Church when she was asked about Paul Revere’s historic ride, April 18, 1775. With the ringing certitude she’s made all her own Professor Palin commenced her mangling. Revere, she said, “warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms. By ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

Except for the part where Palin says Revere got on his horse and rode… Professor Palin is wrong on every single point.

Revere was not on a mission to warn the British. (Where does the lady get these ideas anyway?).

He rode to warn the colonists to get up and defend themselves for the “British were coming”, by sea.

He didn’t work alone but as part of a team of brave people who each, once briefed, had to get up and get out fast, to warn the colonists along their appointed route so that they could defend themselves and the arms they had dangerously, laboriously assembled.

If Paul Revere had done what Palin said he did (“warn the British”) he would have been snuffed out by the locals as a dangerous snitch, a traitor, not raised to the pinnacle of national respect and admiration.

This entire imbroglio, this tempest in a tea cup, should never had taken place. Palin could have chosen to do what I did when I took my nephew Kyle out to the same historic sites.

First, get a guidebook and read it.

Second, visit the superb visitor centers along the way. They are packed with pertinent detail and good (air-conditioned) films, a real pleasure to see and get out of the humidity, too.

Three, pepper the well prepared park service employees and local volunteers in period costumes with all your questions. They’ve heard it all and, in my experience (for I’ve taken friends and family members thither many times) are well qualified, well versed, and always warm and welcoming in the New England fashion.

Sarah, of course, chose none of these sensible alternatives.

Sarah likes “going rogue” about this, as everything else. It means she does things, everything, her own way… and those who don’t like it can lump it. She so liked the idea and the phrase that she titled her autobiography “Going Rogue: An American Life”. (Simon and Schuster 2009). In Palin’s “Alice in Wonderland” world whatever she says, no matter how wrong, is right and anyone criticizing her, however right, is always wrong.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, her Fox colleague, was the latest victim of Palin-think. Sunday June 5, he discovered why even suggesting that Palin could be mistaken ever about anything is like fighting with a skunk. And we all know what that means…

The daring but hapless Wallace suggested that Palin had erred in her Boston lecture on Revere. But Palin wasn’t about to suffer that. What? Sarah! Make! A! Mistake! Not just impossible… but inconceivable. And what’s more, that was just another instance of “gotcha” journalism, bad people out to get her. (In Sarah’s conspiratorial world there are always such evildoers at hand for Sarah’s world is lined with paranoia.)

“You know what?” Palin spat at Wallace, “I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere. Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there. That, hey, you’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms.”

There was more, lots more, delivered with the usual ingredients of her verbal Molotov cocktails… surety, disdain, condescension and her usual “Look brother,don’t tread on me. Get off my back” nastiness, which can in an instant turn her smile into a sneer. Make no mistake about it, Sarah’s a tough customer and any suggestion that she’s not as good as the Virgin Mary directs her firepower at you, while her stiletto comes down hard on your foot, the better to make her point — maggot, don’t mess with me.

And this to Chris Wallace, a professional colleague at the Fox Network!

She went on, fire and brimstone at the ready, for Palin always comes armed with the arsenal of the street fighter:

“Here is what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that the British were coming.., and they were going to try take our arms and we got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn’t take it,” Palin said June 5.

“But remember that the British had already been there, many soldiers for seven years in the area. And part of Paul Revere’s ride –and it wasn’t just one ride — he was a courier, he was a messenger. Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there…. You are not going to beat our own well-armed persons, individual, private militia that we have. He did warn the British.”

And that, she suggests, is that. But, most assuredly, that is not that… and not just because she misstated a few facts which are all easily available in libraries and online. Even Boston’s own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his famous poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” (published 1863) erred in focusing solely on what Revere did, to the detriment of his many other colleagues who also rode hard for freedom that April evening.

No, Palin’s fault is the assumption of infallibility with which she now approaches everything, great and small. That every word she mispronounces is faultless; every sentence she twists and destroys is perfect…. and every fact she gets wrong was in fact just previously misunderstood and is now clarified by her. This is not an American citizen and possible presidential candidate. This is the first, infallible American pope… and a woman too. And if you purists in the Vatican suggest that a non-Catholic and a woman will never be pope, Sarah will tell you different, thundering with words like schism and anti-pope at the ready.

For you see, Sarah aims for bigger fish than the White House with its tiresome term limits and insistent people always to propitiate. Sarah aims for the very seat of St. Peter and a lifetime audience commanded to listen and obey…

“A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore…”

The word of our Sarah urbi et orbi “In the hour of darkness and peril and need”… Amen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is , where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a historian, syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

It’s all Greek to David Norris as this once shoo-in to be president of Ireland fights for his political life.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

By any standard David Norris is an unusual man. For openers, consider this….

He is an Anglican in a country overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.

He was born in the Belgian Congo.

His mother was Irish, but his father was not only English, but in the British Army.

And he is openly gay, something which can still cause a frisson even amongst the most sophisticated of Dubliners.

Norris, in his own personal history and biography, is a symbol of how far Ireland has come from the bleak and bigoted land of recent history.

Indeed, just a few weeks ago this man of determination, grit and grace, gifted with a smile that suggests everything is possible, was riding high in his quest to become the first openly gay Irish president.

Then some sexual habits of the ancient Greeks — and Norris’ opinion about them — surfaced, to create a maelstrom which has laid the man low.

Here are the facts.

In January 2002, Norris gave an interview to the politics/current affairs magazine “Magill”. In this article he questioned the age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse and reflected on social attitudes towards incest. At the time, this little read article in less read “Magill” had no influence whatsoever, seemingly sunk without a trace… until it looked like liberal Independent Senator Norris might become President Norris.

Enter the conscience of Helen Lucy Burke.

Burke was a restaurant critic, more at home with souffles and novelle cuisine than Irish politics and statecraft. However she was assigned to do the “Magill” article, perhaps hoping to get Norris, whose girth and enbonpoint showed a gourmand’s disposition, to make some witty culinary remarks. In any event, when the Senator focused on sex rather than truffles, Ms. Burke found the subject distasteful, disgusting, disgraceful.

As the likelihood of Norris becoming president surged along with his poll numbers, Burke found herself on the horns of a dilemma. She knew where duty (and lots of great publicity) lay… and so she took her disgust and outraged conscience to national broadcaster RTE.

Burke titillated the nation with her rendition of what Senator Norris had said in that soon-to-be-infamous “Magill” interview. Words like “incest” and “pedophilia” were on every Irish lip… and every time they were uttered there was another puncture in Norris’ candidacy.

For Norris the timing of Burke’s remarks could not have been worse. After all, the nation stood abashed at the extent of the pedophile priest scandal and how the Church had (mis)handled it. The distinction that Norris wanted to make, and kept reiterating about the difference between the sanctioned man-boy love of the ancient Greeks and the coercive sex forced by priests on innocent boys was lost on the nation. Ireland’s moral conscience, always ready for arousal, drew an adamant line at men and their boys, totally, completely, resoundingly, absolutely.

A sumptuous dinner party chez Agathon.

The source of all this outrage and anger was a fictional dinner party described by the celebrated Greek philosopher Plato c. 385-380 BCE. In this important document 7 well-heeled Athenians come together in what was termed a symposium for superior cuisine and even more superior, entirely candid conversation between men of education, wit and culture.

The subject of this night’s conversation was the genesis, purpose and nature of love… a topic on which every guest could, and did, wax bold, provocative, amusing, even lyrical. It was just the kind of event that the well-educated and clever Norris would have been delighted to attend (and to which he would surely have been invited). Helen Lucy Burke would have wanted to go, too, if only to review the menu, but that was unthinkable! Really, what an outrage against tradition and the proprieties that would be!

Plato placed this dinner party in the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens, the cultural capital of the world. Each man was to deliver an encomium, a speech in favor of erotic love. The dishes (the squid perhaps a tad overcooked) removed, the wine flowing liberally, these high-placed Attic gentlemen (who had each secretly practiced for their moment) got up on legs less steady as the evening progressed to say his piece… for his friends and, as it turned out, for all of human history.

Socrates, always tendencious, preachy, overbearing, went first, the better to get over his predictable remarks that the highest love was to become a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. Younger wits reckoned he would say that, being he was a philosopher, the most important philosopher. Still, poor old Soc, what a bore.

The encomium of the legal expert Pausanias ranged far and wide; perhaps lawyer Pausanias had drunk too deep of Agathon’s fine wines, for some words were muddled indeed. Still this man of the law knew how to please an audience as he discusses the superior wisdom, beauty and intelligence of men… and their undoubted fitness to be the teachers, the friends and counselors… and the lovers of young boys and adolescents. As Pausanias warmed to his subject, his auditors (seduced by the orator’s compliments and graceful asides) would have given their full concurrence.

Over 2000 years later, David Norris,would have given it, too. And he did understandably but not wisely in his “Magill” interview and other, later comments. For Norris the lure of ancient Greece, when men of his inclinations had every freedom, was palpable. But for Helen Lucy Burke, who did not understand, who was perhaps entirely incapable of understanding, it was all sin, abomination, writhing bodies, lost souls…

… and so this mere restaurant critic of painfully few readers took it upon herself to end the political career of the one man best capable of taking their nation to another level of tolerance, acceptance, and comity.

This is why today (June 10, 2011) you’ll find David Norris, whose poll numbers have now crashed, trying to resurrect his once-certain candidacy. To do so he must persuade local councillors that he would be the best president of Ireland, that his remarks have been misunderstood, and that he understands and appreciates the national outrage about his advanced, unwisely stated views.

In other words, this great gourmet must first eat a liberal portion of crow… and even that too little to achieve his goal.

Ireland, of course, will be the poorer without a President Norris, but even in his likely defeat Norris will do what he has done so often: advance the cause of human (and particularly) sexual rights. It is not what he wanted and thought he would get, but human society moves slowly… and, as we all know, painfully slowly in Ireland.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is , where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://videopal.me/page/yJvJCzjKkfyM

‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s….’ words Goshen College needs to remember as it bans ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. To get the most from this article and set just the right mood, go to any search engine and find a copy of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for the words to this, America’s National Anthem, are at the heart of what tiny Goshen College is doing… prohibiting this stirring song from being played because of what college officials call its martial message.

Goshen, Indiana looks, at first glance, to be a typical Midwestern college town. 116 miles from the breakneck pace of the Windy City and all its distractions. Goshen is, particularly in summer, a sleepy place, a place where the pace ambles, and you can still find students sitting comfortably under a tree engrossed in a book.

But first impressions can be wrong… and if you saw Goshen as somnifacient you’d be wrong… for Goshen is more, far more than what you see. It is a land where the Word of God is vital! Living! Omnipresent and Real!

God is not abstract and distant from the collegiate community at Goshen. He is a kind and gentle God, as close as your beating heart. You do not merely think He cares for you… you know it! You see it! It is present reality.

In Goshen, Indiana as in its Biblical predecessor, no armies or any of the paraphernalia of war are allowed to enter… for this is land blessed by God… a land protected by God… a land apart. Glory Hallelujah for ever and ever.

The troubled spirits at Goshen.

For years now, officials at Goshen College have wrestled with something that profoundly bothered them… how could they, in good conscience, play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting and other events when it celebrates everything they abhor and abominate, the chaos, mayhem and destruction of the “rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”?

One bright idea after another was tried, to serve God as they were sure He wanted…. while not outraging the profound patriotism not merely of their Indiana neighbors but which they themselves deeply felt.

Some suggested playing a tune like “America the Beautiful” (which many of their fellow countrymen in any case prefer) or “This Land is Our Land.” Others recommended playing the National Anthem along with the anthem of another country, perhaps of an international student.

The discussions were long, learned, abstruse, unsatisfactory. There was no idea, no policy that satisfied all and kept Goshen true to its principles. Because a few could not solve the conundrum, Goshen resolved to consult the many. A survey was sent to 4,000 alumni, faculty, and students… A year was dedicated to finding a solution to a problem that seemed insoluble, how to serve their God and their country, too.

In due course, college officials released their findings… and in minutes the peace of Goshen College and its idyllic community was sundered; officials had decided to ban the National Anthem altogether, thereby returning the college to its strict previous policy…. Obeying God, so they reckoned, was more important than America. It was a decision nicely calculated to produce maximum criticism, outrage, and anger. Peaceful Goshen, where God’s peace abideth, was not peaceful anymore.

Their decision subjected an unhappy Goshen to the scrutiny of America. Officials who saw themselves as stewards of God…. were now pilloried as insular, bigoted, selfish people willing to take the benefits of the Great Republic while insulting the profound symbol of that Republic.

Goshen College, only days before unknown and unacknowledged, was now pummeled and ridiculed, assaulted and demeaned by local townspeople and by the nation. News media helped fan the flames by framing the matter as a debate between those who love country, who honor the military and its sacrifices, and despicable religious zealots and America detractors.

For Goshen these days of June, 2011 were the unhappiest of days. There was no peace in the land where in happier days God Himself found peace.


All of Goshen was on alert now, waiting for the further attacks they knew would come, and bitter, too. And as the attacks mounted the college officials resolved to do what members of the Academy so often do: abjure inconvenient principle, find a comfortable modus vivendi. In short, they waffled.

It was painful watching these officials, all targets now, twisting in the wind. They wanted the ban to continue; they wanted the attacks to stop. They wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted the impossible…

But in God, all things are possible.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” (Mark 12:17)

Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus was constantly questioned by those seeking to discredit him. The occasion on which he uttered the words above were one of the most important. Here some of his many detractors sought to trip him up by asking a vital question about taxes, specifically should they be paid at all. His questioners hoped Jesus would give a simple “yes” or “no” response. Answering “yes” would have left him open to the accusation that he was in opposition to the Jewish resistance to the Roman occupation and therefore against God, too.

Answering “no” would have given those present an opportunity to report him to the Roman authorities as someone who was trying to incite a revolt. Either way, the questioners supposed, Jesus was trapped.

But he wasn’t.

And neither are the people of Goshen College, for Jesus has solved for them, the problem he solved for the Jews the day they asked the question they were sure would trick him, ending his bothersome ministry.

The flag of the United States and its magnificent anthem are of Caesar. Use them, honor them accordingly, for you have the highest authority for doing so and no cause for dismay and confusion. Confounded you may have been… but can be so no longer.

And so America asks you, Goshen,

“O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Let the flag fly… the great anthem soar… not divisive but uniting and all under God… for in these ways the people see how God loves us and with what munificence He has shed His grace on us all.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is ., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://videopal.me/page/yJvJCzjKkfyM

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5 Things the Retirement Fairy Wants You to Know (If She Existed)

ou don’t need to worry about retirement. Stop stressing and enjoy your life, already. Work and die; that’s all you have to do. In fact, we have a secret to tell you: There’s a tiny retirement fairy who will deposit money into a savings account set aside just for you. When you’re ready to retire, just send an email to your employer, and your human resources department will let her know it’s time to transfer the funds. Ha ha … we’re just messing with you. There’s no retirement fairy. But if there was a fairy overseeing your retirement, she would have a few very important things to tell you. Here are five things the retirement fairy wants you to know.

1. The retirement fairy is not going to help you

Woman dropping coins in a jar

Woman saving money by dropping coins into a jar | iStock.com

You have to take responsibility for your retirement. You won’t retire and then just have a savings account with all the money you need to stop working and live a comfortable lifestyle. One person who can help you, however, is a certified financial planner. He or she can assist you with developing a realistic plan so that you can reach your retirement goals.

2. You’re running out of time

man hitting his alarm clock to sleep in

Clock | iStock.com

You don’t have as much time as you think you have. Start contributing to a retirement account as soon as you get your first job. You might be young, single, and carefree now, but before you know it, you’ll be married with a couple of kids and a mortgage. Start planning now.

3. Your retirement number is most likely wrong

Retirement plan with graphs and glasses

Retirment plan | iStock.com

The amount you think you need to retire comfortably may not be correct. A TIAA study revealed that many retirement savers don’t have a realistic view of how much money they will need to retire well. It will be important for you to get as close to your real number as possible so that you can avoid having to work longer than you anticipated or returning to work. If you need help figuring out your number, you can meet with a certified financial planner. You can also take advantage of one of the many retirement tools available.

4. Your 401(k) isn’t a piggy bank

Broken piggy bank with coins & hammer

Broken piggy bank | iStock.com/wpd911

Start beefing up your emergency savings fund instead of relying on your 401(k) to bail you out. Taking a hardship withdrawal should be your last resort if you’ve fallen on hard times. Know that you won’t be able to receive a hardship distribution unless your employer offers it. So don’t bank on your 401(k) funds coming to the rescue.

5. Stop putting your kids first

Smiling student holding a book in library

College student | iStock.com

You love your children and you would do anything for them, including emptying out your savings account so they can attend a good college. However, this won’t be a good long-term plan if you ever hope to leave the workforce. Tell the kids they’ll either have to work a part-time job, go to a less expensive school, apply for scholarships, or take out loans. You, on the other hand, don’t have as many options as your children do, so if you have to make a choice put your retirement ahead of college financing.




The Good Humor Man, a tale of hot summers long ago.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. To get into the mood of this article, I recommend searching any search engine to find one old summer song that retains its toe-tapping zest. It’s Mungo Jerry’s 1970 hit “In The Summertime.” So timeless is this infectious little number that Hershey’s, the chocolatiers, is using it in a current (June, 2011) ad campaign. As Mungo says in the song, “Sing along with us.” My prediction is that you won’t be able to help yourself… it’s ok, when summer comes we’re all young again… and just plain happy to be alive.

Two things that could not be denied inspired this article… first the oppressive record-setting heat wave here in New England, a phenomenon which turned all of us in the city from folks assiduously avoiding each other into sweltering fellow travelers, anxious to hear the latest news about possible relief… and having no hesitation or shyness about reaching out for news and the agreeable opportunity to be resoundingly banal, “Hot enough for you?”

The second thing that caught my attention was the trill of bells which sounded at first hearing just the way the bells sounded from the Good Humor truck as it traversed the neighborhood, proving beyond a doubt that all us Illinois kids had absolutely no hearing problems; we could hear those bells across Guinness-Book-Of-Records distances… and nothing, but nothing, was going to get in the way of that truck and all of us making an absolutely certain rendezvous. It was clearly written in the Book of Kid Rights and Privileges, that it was our irrevocable and bounden duty to hear its bells, stop the wagon, and look long and hard for what a dime could get you. Personally, I was always seduced by the orange creamsicles. I haven’t seen, much less enjoyed one for decades… but as I write, I am falling helplessly into the insistent consumer mode which marked all my encounters with the mobile ice-cream emporium. The truck arrived; my money departed.

You need to be very clear about our relationship to Good Humor and its cascade of ice-cream novelties. Kids we ceased to be when we saw the truck and reviewed our resources. We were practised buyers, omniscient as to what was on that truck and what we fancied and would have, negotiators with proven skills, discerning, our “due diligence” certain, exhaustive, no doubt frustrating to the college kid home for the summer who wore the company’s uniform and drove the company’s vehicle… Long-suffering, so young himself and barely out of the juvenile consumer throng before him, he saw his profits melting as his pint-sized customers looked, looked again, made a decision, changed their mind, then looked some more…

It was a ritual, and no matter how many times you stopped the wagon, you performed it, loyally and with care. It was, after all, part of the experience… and, besides, you knew, none better, that the customer (even the most dilatory) was always right. It was something your father told you that you never forgot.

Some facts about Good Humor.

As a card-carrying kid and loyal Good Humor customer I knew absolutely nothing about the company whose success hinged on the wishes and buying power of kids like me. The only thing I cared about was whether they had orange creamsicles (they always did)… and what new novelties they had, putting them prominently at the front, the better to seduce me from my unending favorite; I have to admit I was always willing to try the new offerings, particularly if they came with the lure of that magic word: “deal” and a handful of discount coupons, which soon expired but could be seen months later under refrigerator magnets.

So ignorant then about my favorite company, I felt obliged for this article to rectify the matter… and so I have. Originally, Good Humors were a product, chocolate coated ice cream bars on a stick; I loved these too and regarded it as my particular job to ensure Grammie always had a good supply; since she loved them, too, my job was never onerous. Grammie and Grampa had great power and influence on Good Humor drivers. One never-to-be-forgotten day, Grampa who (I now know) had a talent for the right gesture at the right time, peremptorily stopped the wagon when the supply of ice-cream had run low at a birthday party Grammie was hosting for one of my young cousins. With a practised gesture I can see to this day, he ordered the wagon to stop… and invited all the guests young and old to take their pick of the inventory. When the impressed and jubilant driver had done his work, Grampa tipped him liberally, it may even have been $20, a fortune. Grampa was a dark horse in such gestures; he didn’t make them often (for he was a good penny-pinching, investing Hanoverian) but when he did… people noticed, winked, and said “Good Old Walt,” with just the right amount of admiration. They knew, and in due course all the grandchildren knew, that under his gruffness, an art form, there was a man who knew just when to be lavish with ice-cream… or whatever was called for.

Good Humor, having found success with Good Humor bars, did what all successful businesses do: it added new products, always using America’s kiddoes as ground zero for testing and launching new products. Good Humor started in Youngstown, Ohio in the ‘twenties; by the mid-‘thirties it covered most of the nation. Catering to the national sweet tooth and a love-affair with ice-cream that still seems inexhaustible, Good Humor flourished, until at its peak in the 1950s, the company operated 2,000 “sales cars”.

But the tribal ways of Good Humor, which I knew to my fingertips, were under threat; baby boomers like me grew up and put aside Good Humor along with the baseball glove and “Mad” magazine.. There were labor issues, costs increased, gasoline and insurance soared. And profits declined.

In 1961, Good Humor was acquired by Thomas J. Lipton, the US subsidiary of the international Unilever conglomerate. Sad but true, in 1978 the company sold its fleet, and an era truly came to an end. Distribution was then handled by grocery stores and independent street vendors. By 1984, Good Humor was profitable again… and (from 1989) growing. Gold Bond Ice Cream, that included the Popsicle brand, was acquired… and in due course Isaly Klondike and the Brewers Ice Cream Company. Nine plants nationwide work hard keeping up with the demand. (I confess I love Brewers chocolate ice-cream whose taste rivals more expensive brands.) I am glad that they prosper, for having lost creamsicles, I can ill afford to lose any more flavors… or a single memory.

Having completed this article, I shall allow myself the luxury (though it is very early on a Sunday) to reward myself with an ice-cream flavor I did not previously know, peach cobbler. It’s by Ben & Jerry,whose flavors I cherish, though their politics are intrusive and unappealing.

I am glad the store is handy… I am glad I won’t have to wait for the ice-cream truck to come, always late, increasing my impatience.

And I am glad I have shared this story with you. For while there have been many vicissitudes at Good Humor… the only thing that really matters, the ice-cream itself, abides, perfect for a hot summer’s day like the one just dawning. And that is good to know and to share with a friend.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is, where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

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The short life and appalling death of Raymond Zack, an avoidable American tragedy.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Crown Memorial State Beach, Alameda, California is the kind of place you come to breathe and shake off life’s trials and tribulations.

The panorama is just what you think the Golden State should be…a place of possibilities, not inhibitions. Here the air is superior to any French vintage… the chill waters are bracing and playful….

Here the very birds fly higher because they are contented at such a place… and in the distance, clearly seen, is the great structure of one of mankind’s signature triumphs the Golden Gate Bridge… which sends every spirit soaring…

It was here that Raymond Zack came to die… and where the people charged with protecting life assisted Raymond take his, to the astonishment, wonder and outrage of the world.

Raymond Zack, born July 23, 1959.

Raymond was, like so many millions of us, a son of America’s great heartland; Ohio born and bred. His life moved to the rhythm that is so quintessentially ours…

He was a product of Columbus’ Catholic schools… where he learned good manners, the importance of being a good man and valuable citizen… and where he glimpsed, at the hands of his dedicated instructors, the reality of God Everlasting. At 6’3″ tall, this giant of a boy excelled at track and baseball… people saw him above the crowd and, with a wink and nudge, said the boy had talent.

He went, and went proudly, to Ohio State…. as American as any educational establishment in the land. It was here, upon graduation, that he entered the community of educated men and women… And where he decided to answer Horace Greeley’s great exhortation “Go West, young man, Go West!” And he did, attracted by the dazzling sunshine and even more dazzling possibilities of California, the pot of gold at the end of America’s rainbow.

But California life, for all that the sun was radiant, gave Raymond Zack more than his share of life’s troubles. His family life was turbulent, confusing, never restful though he was the beneficiary of his foster mother’s affectionate care and unceasing concern.

He weighed 300 pounds now and, like millions of his countrymen, was challenged by the complexities of food and the clear and present dangers of overindulgence. Chagrined by his bulk, Raymond, bit by bit, withdrew from the body politic and faced the secret sorrows of isolation and loneliness, the abiding reality for too many of his countrymen.

His mother died in November 2010… and though there had been confusions and disappointments there, still she was his mother… and her loss magnified his burdens.

Then, in the midst of a great recession, where California’s profound promise was tarnished, Raymond lost his job at the St. Vincent de Paul Free Food Distribution Center where, along with Mrs. Dolores Berry, his foster mother, he had helped everyone who came. Now the man who had helped so many… was himself in need of help. This, too, was, quintessentially American for too many…

Raymond, with a “God helps those who help themselves” attitude, tried hard to do what he’d been taught to do; to keep his chin up and a stiff upper lip; to do what he could… to stay cheerful in the face of adversity.

But bit by bit, like so many, his resilience and hope were worn away. Raymond’s dark days were nigh…

In the still of the night…

We shall never know where Raymond’s anxious forebodings carried him, alone at the midnight hour. At such a time a man may turn to booze, women, any dissipation to dispel the gloom… but Raymond seems to have faced his great matter alone… and in profound despair. This, too, is reality for millions of the dispossessed and fearful.

At some irrevocable moment in his profound human misery Raymond decided the game was not worth the candle… and that it was time to move again, out of very life itself.

Thus, on May 30, 2011, while his countrymen were celebrating the sacrifices made by others to the benefit of all, Raymond Zack decided to make a sacrifice, too — of himself, since living life was just too painful and without hope.

And so he waded into the chill waters at Crown Memorial State Beach, about to be the venue of muddle, confusion, bumbling… and death. A great American tragedy was about to commence… unnecessary, scandalous, an event that enhanced no one and left Raymond Zack, floating face down, his life’s work at an end.

Seen by many.

Remember, Raymond Zack was a big man, 6’3″, over 300 pounds. He moved slowly, deliberately in the shallow waters. He was clearly seen though his purpose, at first, was not. Still, as Raymond walked into deeper waters, residents were concerned; a 911 call was made… alerting police and firefighters that some kind of incident was underway.

In just 4 minutes help was at hand… and at hand help stayed… but without lifting a finger. And here is where an avoidable tragedy morphs into disbelief, reproach, scandal, and incomprehension.

Not one of the many lifesaving professionals on the beach, not a single one, did a single thing to forestall the tragedy that could so easily have been prevented.

Later these officials, pummelled by an incredulous world, worked overtime to manufacture excuses they hoped would appease, mollify and cover.

Fire officials said that because of budget cuts no one knew the necessary rescue procedures. But this excuse was quickly blasted… when it was shown the department had money, but no sense. Other officials said rescue policies did not cover the case in point.

A police spokesman said officers stayed out of the water because Zack was suicidal and posed a possible threat.

A boat was requested to take officers to Zack… but those requesting it never indicated the matter was pressing.

In short, at every moment where judgement, help and assistance were required… the professionals at hand, our honored paladins, were without judgement, help and assistance.

And so, in full view of the world, in full view of his hysterical foster parent, 86 year old Dolores Berry, who unsuccessfully begged for celerity and assistance, Raymond Zack died…

In the way of these things, everything the system could have provided Raymond in life only emerged when he was dead… in such ways does America expiate its negligence.

Now there are flowers on the beach where he died, a crowd gathers daily to reflect and wonder; bishops make Raymond the subject of their learned lamentations. Municipal officials investigate and dismiss the inept. All this is good, right and proper.

But we must not forget the man at the center of it all, Raymond Zack, dead too soon at 50. He meant us well, each and every one of us. Now, prematurely, he rests in the bosom of the Lord; may he find the peace there he never had here.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is, where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding