(Editor's note: Back when Tom Pfeifer was required to read five-plus newspapers a day for his day job, for amusement he compiled news reports from which he could thread a theme and emailed his Initial Thoughts to family and friends. While he works on other projects, he is regurgitating some of them here. We hope you enjoy.)

Initial Thoughts
© 2009 Tom Pfeifer
Current as of February 28, 2009

You know the economy is on life support when even the funeral industry is dying.

People just aren’t putting much cash into

death these days. Yeah, I loved Grandma,

but just barbecue her and stick her in the

ground. She’s dead. She won’t care.

People are so caught up struggling to

survive they’re not even contemplating the


“If this recession continues,” David Farris Jr.,

a fourth-generation undertaker, told The

Washington Post, “we’re going to see a

ripple in a few years—perhaps in 2015—

of people dying without having made plans.”

To which John Prine sings:

“Please don’t bury me
“Down in that cold cold ground
“No, I'd druther have ‘em cut me up
“And pass me all around
“Throw my brain in a hurricane
“And the blind can have my eyes
“And the deaf can take both of my ears
“If they don’t mind the size.”

Fortunately, you can still make money in the life industry. Melanie Burnett, a 21-year-old college student, made $6,000 last semester donating her eggs. She’s part of an increasing trend of folks selling their blood plasma, sperm, and eggs to make ends meet. Sperm donations alone are up 15 percent in the past year. Perhaps that spells good news for the beleaguered porn industry as well.

Of course if you have a job, keep it. Even when others tell you to pack it in. That’s Roland Burris’ thinking. Burris is the U.S. senator from Illinois who replaced Barack Obama. You may remember that the other members of the most exclusive club in the world weren’t going to let him play in their sandbox because he was appointed by Rod Blagojevich, the unconvicted governor who lacks convictions. But Burris said he was untainted by the pay-to-play scandal and they relented. Except that, oops, the only reason Burris didn’t pay to play is because no one would give him money. Now his colleagues are throwing sand in his face again.

And John Prine sings:

“I’ve been a bad boy again
“Now I’ve been a bad boy again
“And all the trouble that I’m in
“Makes me a bad boy again.”

Jobs for journalists are precarious right now. So you want to be careful not to pull a John Sanders. Sanders was a television reporter in Baltimore who doctored a video to make it appear that Fox News Radio host John Gibson had made a racial slur about the nation’s first black attorney general. It was a joke, Sanders said, created for the enjoyment of a few select friends. But it went viral, and Sanders’ job died from the disease.

Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take risks. CNBC reporter Rick Santelli lost his cool and ranted live against President Obama’s housing plan, getting traders at the Chicago Board of Trade to cheer him on. Rather than get a reprimand for breaking reporting etiquette, CNBC posted the video on its web site and promoted it on air. It too went viral, earning Santelli fame and praise from all but the White House and others who happened to disagree with him.

John Prine sings:

“We are living in the future
“I’ll tell you how I know
“I read it in the paper
“Fifteen years ago.”

Should you lose your job, look at the opportunities that abound. Many journalists just turn over the notebook to become political flacks. With the Democrats in control now the opportunities are seemingly endless.

Creativity also will take you far. Larry Levine is an ex-con. He runs a thriving business teaching real estate scammers and other highfalutin white collar criminals how to survive in prison. It’s a growing industry, with company names like American Prison Consultants, Fedtime 101, and Dr. Prison.

Cue John Prine:

“And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile
“It don’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while
"Won’t you please tell the man I didn’t kill anyone
“No I'm just tryin’ to have me some fun.”

Which just may be former governor Blagojevich’s theme song. He’s looking for a job if you know of anything. It probably doesn’t have to be a longtime gig.


Anton, Mike. “About to do time? Meet your best pal.” Los Angeles Times. 27 February 2009.

Bacon Jr., Perry. Washington Post Staff Writer. Staff writer Peter Slevin contributed. “Burris Says He’s Staying Put As Durbin Suggests He Resign.” Washington Post. 25 February 2009. Page A02.

Castro, Tony. Staff Writer. “More cashing in on selling plasma, eggs, sperm in hard times.” Los Angeles Daily News. 26 February 2009.

Halsey III, Ashley. Washington Post Staff Writer. “Increasing Economic Decline Having an Effect Even in Death.” Washington Post. 22 February 2009. Page C01.

Kurtz, Howard. Washington Post Staff Writer. “Reporter Loses Job Over Altered Video Of Fox’s Gibson.” Washington Post. 25 February 2009. Page C01.

Prine, John. “Bad Boy.” German Afternoons. 1988. John Prine Shrine. 28 February 2009.

Prine, John. “Illegal Smile.” John Prine. 1971. John Prine Shrine. 28 February 2009.

Prine, John. “Living in the Future.” Storm Windows. 1980. John Prine Shrine. 28 February 2009.

Prine, John. “Please Don’t Bury Me.” Sweet Revenge. 1973. John Prine Shrine. 28 February 2009.

Rutenberg, Jim. “Ex-Journalists’ New Jobs Fuel Debate on Favoritism.” New York Times. 3 February 2009.

Stelter, Brian. “CNBC Replays Its Reporter’s Tirade.” New York Times. 23 February 2009.


(Editor's note: No one should go hungry during these trying times. If you have the means, please donate to your local food bank. Even a dollar goes a long way. Simply search "food banks near me" to find one. If you're in need, please contact them for help.)


Tom Pfeifer is president and CEO of Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

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Initial Thoughts: Working It from Singsong to Sing Sing

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