Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber gives TED talk on power of storytelling

Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation works to change the mindset of Americans about how easy it is to fight back and win.

The way to do this is with stories that show how others have achieved victory against corporate thugs and scammers.

Watch this funny TED talk video and learn how Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Dallas Morning News, tells stories that move people to action and change.

See how Dave Lieber’s “Magic V-Shaped Storytelling Formula” helps others in this testimonial.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

dmnsmalltwitter1small

wdn1smallyoutube2small

fb1smallgplussmall

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong

\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun website: DaveLieber.org

The Watchdog frets about his son’s new driver’s license and car

The Watchdog is supposed to be infallible, impervious to supervillains, shoddy corporations and disappearing refrigerator repairmen. But I have one vulnerability that leaves me with an overwhelming sense of helplessness and resignation.

It’s not battling an electric company or arguing with a cellphone company. Much worse than that. My vulnerability involves someone I cherish, now permitted under law to insert himself inside a 3,246-pound machine and hurl himself along a superhighway at speeds approaching 70 mph.

Last week, my youngest son, the 16-year-old, got his driver’s license.

watchdog_badge profile pic
With that, my lack of control and helplessness truly begins. As The Watchdog, I’m not used to this. I know how to take care of business. Make sure things go right. Fix them when they go wrong.

Take on a powerful corporation? No problem. Stand up to formidable politicians? Child’s play. But give my youngest kid a driver’s license and a car and suddenly, that’s me — a howling watchdog with no more bite. He’s free, and I can’t be around all the time to protect, to scold, to nurture, to watchdog him anymore.

Before you think my fears are overblown, know that Austin, my beautiful son, has already set a world record of sorts involving his new car and an auto body repair shop. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

My two older children received their licenses and first cars in the pre-9/11 era. It’s different now. Getting a license has become an ordeal, apparently part of Homeland Security’s desire to keep licenses out of the hands of terrorists and scammers.

Instructions are overly complicated. There are too many forms (the DE-964, DL-92 and the ever-popular DL-90b). Supplemental documentation resembles what’s needed for a home loan.

The PTDE packet was nearly my undoing. That’s the Parent Taught Driver Education packet. Otherwise known as the PWJOCW for Parents Wanting to Jump Out of the Car Window. The inventor of Parent Taught Driver Ed also probably invented waterboarding.

Our nighttime lessons took place after I came home from work. They’d begin the same way every time. He’d pull out of the driveway and I’d say, “You forgot to turn on the headlights.”

He’d say, “It’s not the end of the world.”

“You left the garage door open.”

“Dad, it’s not the end of the world!”

Watching a teen learn to drive is probably funny if it’s someone else’s kid. But when it’s your own, it IS the end of the world.

Hanging on fearfully to the passenger side door during sharp turns, I began to understand that a new driver’s license serves as the main doorway into adulthood. This is where a watchdogging parent must learn to give it up.

His mother and I have done what we can. We purchased a safe, dependable used car for him and signed him up for proper insurance. We bought him an associate membership in AAA, taught him how to use his new debit card at a gas pump, lectured him about tow-away zones, red-light cameras, suburban speed traps and the most important challenge: how to remember where you put your car keys.

At the end of our lessons, once we were back safely in the garage, I always tried to end on a positive note.

“Good job, son. You forgot to turn off the lights.”

“It’s not the end of the world.”

My son named his car after a favorite character in the movie The Hangover. Previously, I mentioned that Austin and Mr. Chow together set a world record of sorts — the fastest time for a new driver to send his car to the body shop for repairs. In my son’s case, before he even drove his car, he put a hurt on Mr. Chow.

Poor Mr. Chow had barely entered his new home before my beautiful son closed the garage door on his back bumper. A $500 repair — before the car left the house.

Yes, as a parent watchdog for my children, I have this vulnerability that leaves me helpless. But I’m looking for a sign that he and Mr. Chow will make a good team.

I found one. On New Year’s Day, my son hosted five friends for a sleepover. At 3 a.m., when the boys were still up talking. Austin left to go to his job. Every day before sunrise, he cleans a neighborhood restaurant before it opens for business.

That’s real responsibility for any 16-year-old. I’m proud of him for that. I know in my heart that it’s time to let the bird fly.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

dmnsmalltwitter1small

wdn1smallyoutube2small

fb1smallgplussmall

Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun websites:

Personal: YankeeCowboy.com

Hipster site: DaveLieber.org

The Watchdog: Friend’s death from MRSA changed how I saw the world

I kept thinking about my old newspaper friend Chris Neely. In recent weeks, every time I drove by the cemetery where he is buried, something tugged at me to find his grave.

First, I asked my youngest son to jog through the cemetery and look for his tombstone. But that didn’t work. Austin couldn’t find it.

My son suggested I use the Internet to find the grave, and he was right. A map on a website pinpointed the location.

I found the stone, but it was faded and hard to read. I rubbed chalk along the stone and the dates popped out along with an image of a typewriter and the words, “Heaven is a funnier place now.”

That tug was a reminder that this week marks the 10th anniversary of his passing.

Chris Neely

Chris Neely

Of all the loons I’ve worked with at newspapers, Chris was the quietest in person, yet the funniest in print. He was a columnist, like me, at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. His wheelhouse was humor, and he was on a roll. In his final year, he won a national award as a humor columnist and also witnessed the birth of his only son.

Then, at 37, after a routine surgical operation, suddenly, he was dead. How and why he died came as a shock. Over the decade since, it changed the way I look at the world.

Simple surgery had led to a fatal infection. Chris was infected with MRSA bacteria in the hospital. Antibiotics couldn’t save him. One week he was making funny in his column; the next week he was gone.

Actually a fan

In my grief, I began to learn about MRSA, and how it’s handled in Texas. I didn’t like what I saw. But first a little about Chris and why the world was robbed when we lost his talent.

The story I love the most was the one where he decided to poke fun at Jerry Lewis before the Labor Day telethon. He wrote that the telethon was “a painful mix of bitterness and mayhem. But there was just no looking away.”

“Quarts of Vitalis, ruffled polyester dress shirts, spreading pools of flop sweat,” Chris wrote. Calling Lewis “puffy,” he added that Lewis “is seldom on stage during the telethon and barely moves when he is.”

A few days later, Chris’ phone at work rang. A voice on the other end stated, “Please hold for Mr. Jerry Lewis.”

Chris figured it was a joke, but he turned on his tape machine.

Then came the famous voice asking Chris why he was so “mean-spirited.”

“This may surprise you, but I’m actually a fan,” Chris answered.

Lewis invited the columnist to be his guest at the next telethon. Only the birth of his son kept Chris from going.

Mixed news

MRSA infections are most often spread in hospitals and nursing homes. In some cases, the infection is immune to antibiotics. Thousands die each year, though accurate statistics are hard to find.

In the decade since Chris’ death, in terms of MRSA, there’s bad news and good news.

Bad news: Texas does not require MRSA cases to be reported. So the extent of infections statewide isn’t known. The year Chris died, the Texas Legislature created a pilot program that measured MRSA cases in three of the state’s 254 counties. When the program ended, its recommendations noted that it would be cost-prohibitive to report statistics statewide.

Lawmakers also created a reporting system to track the infections, but they didn’t fund it, so it never happened.

More bad news: A study released last week shows that MRSA bacteria is not only found in some health care facilities, but also in homes.

Good news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that MRSA infections in hospitals and the death rate are declining, probably the benefit from a long public campaign reminding health care professionals and the public to take greater precaution. Wash hands with greater frequency. Keep surfaces and objects clean. Cover open wounds properly.

I saw someone I admired die so quickly and surprisingly. Someone with such a bright future as a humorist, husband and new father whose love for retro stars like Jerry Lewis was never forwarded to his baby son.

That’s where I changed. I began to take better notice of what’s happening around me.

When I go to a health care facility, I ask doctors and nurses if they’ve washed their hands. I tell them I’m worried about MRSA.

I know it sounds awkward, but I explain that I had this funny friend Chris Neely, and he’s no longer around to make me laugh.

Follow Dave Lieber on Twitter at @Dave Lieber

IN THE KNOW

How to avoid MRSA:

• Wash hands with soap and water regularly.

• Don’t share personal items such as towels, soaps, razors and ointments.

• Don’t take antibiotics as a preventive measure for avoiding infection.

• Properly cover open wounds.

• When in a hospital, make sure that doctors and nurses clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

dmnsmalltwitter1small

wdn1smallyoutube2small

fb1smallgplussmall

Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun websites:

Personal: YankeeCowboy.com

Hipster site: DaveLieber.org

Watchdog Tip of the Day: Fight a bad water bill

Your water bill arrives and it’s ultra-high. But when you contact the water department, they don’t care. What do you do about a high water bill? In this Watchdog Video Tip of the Day, Dallas Morning News Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber shares ideas about how to prove to your water department that it made a mistake.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

dmnsmalltwitter1small

wdn1smallyoutube2small

fb1smallgplussmall

Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun websites:

Personal: YankeeCowboy.com

Hipster site: DaveLieber.org

The Watchdog: A watchdog tends to the meaning of life at a historic Texas cemetery

For the last half century, Jack Cook prepared for the day he would die. He thought about it, he prayed about it, and more than anything else, he tenderly cared for the sacred and historic cemetery grounds in which he knew he would spend eternity.

The land is Lonesome Dove Cemetery in Southlake, and it serves as the final resting place for some of the original settlers, including early government and church leaders who began arriving in the 1840s.

As readers of The Dallas Morning News Dave Lieber Watchdog column first learned, Cook served as president of the Regular Lonesome Dove Cemetery Association, which meets once a year and is probably the oldest institution in Tarrant County. More than that, he designated himself the official caretaker of the grounds. He and that Cub tractor. The reason for this speaks of Texas.

Caretaker1

[Image courtesy of The Dallas Morning News]

If there’s one little piece of land that shows the meaning of life, not death, it’s ironically this patch of Southlake cemetery land, a century away from the bustle of a place that’s now a boomtown. A quiet 2.3-acre square that hardly looks important because only a few of its original tombstones survive.

For 166 years, Lonesome Dove Cemetery and landmark Lonesome Dove Baptist Church, one of the earliest churches, have existed side by side, one feeding the other. And yes, that’s where Larry McMurtry borrowed the name for his classic Western tale. But unlike Woodrow F. McCall and Gus McCrae, Jack Cook is real.

There are watchdogs for banks and watchdogs for government. But there are also watchdogs for the land, and in Texas that ought to be a most sacred duty.

Caretaker2

[Photo by Dave Lieber]

Jack’s ties to the land go back to his relatives, who arrived in the Grapevine area in 1849. But his connection to the cemetery was burned into his soul in the early 1950s when both his wife of 10 years, Corrine, and his son, Tommy, who was 2, died in a house fire. After they were buried at The Dove, Jack staked out graves for himself and other family members. Then he spent the next five decades learning every blade of grass around them up to the fence on all sides.

He took on all the duties of caretaking. Folks kept asking if he wanted help. He always turned them down. He was in his 70s, then 80s, then 90s. He never wanted pay. He didn’t talk about the fire. Instead, he mowed.

“Nobody has as much invested in it as I do,” he explained.

“This is my life. I was born here. My grandparents, parents, wife and child are buried here — and aunts and uncles galore. Half of all the people in this cemetery were kin to me some way or another.”

Twenty years ago, at age 76, he was asked once again if he wanted a break.

“I hope to be able to do this for many more years. I enjoy it. It’s not hard. I used to mow it and weed it all in one day. Now I stretch it out over two.”

The next year, at age 77, he was still good to go. “One of these days, I’m not going to be doing this,” he said. “What I have is terminal. Old age.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Two years after that, when Jack was 79, another man was allowed to come aboard. Mark Tucker, 40 years younger than Jack, lost his 4-year-old daughter, Emily, in a 1996 car accident. The cemetery doesn’t do much business anymore, not with 1,700 graves crammed into those 2 acres. But somehow Mark found Jack and The Dove.

Jack found room for Emily’s gravesite. He also counseled Mark. One grieving father to another. You never stop being sad, Jack explained, but then there’s this land.

Mark understood. “I’ll do anything that you need me to do, sir. Anytime you need me to do it.”

For once, Jack said yes. After that, it became the Jack and Mark Team. For the same reason. When Mark was offered an out-of-state job, he wouldn’t go. “I’m staying right here,” he said, pointing at that ground.

Ten years ago, Jack was 86 and mowing away when he found a gravesite for a mother. At the next meeting, with the grave still fresh, the mother’s surviving 14-year-old boy was in attendance. An odd sight. But that night, the meaning was passed from Jack to Mark to the boy, and the boy responded.

“I don’t mind coming over here to help,” he offered to Mark the way Mark had offered to Jack.

“Come over anytime,” Mark said.

“How did your daughter die?”

“Car wreck. And your mom?”

“She got sick.”

The boy looked away for a moment and asked, “When does she, uh, change?”

“Think about what God has planned and go with that.”

“OK,” the boy said quietly.

“And remember,” Mark said, “this is the most peaceful place on earth.”

A few years later, Jack was 93 when Southlake issued an official proclamation and held Jack Cook Day in honor of his work at the cemetery. He stepped down as president the next year because he had difficulty keeping track of the agenda. He was 94.

On Oct. 9, at age 96, Horace Weldon “Jack” Cook found that peace he sought for so long. Two days later, his funeral was held at the church, then his enormous family, which includes 10 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren, gathered around that special space.

Mark was there for the burial. He remembered the years he and Jack were a team. “One year rolled into the other,” he said, telling the story of this place.

With the coffin about to be lowered, retired church pastor Coy Quesenbury said, “Nobody deserves a plot in this cemetery more than Jack did.”

Considering who is buried there, that says a lot. A watchdog for the land, in the most peaceful place on earth.

Coming Sunday: The death of a con man

Follow Dave Lieber on Twitter at @Dave Lieber.

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation won a 2013 writing award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Visit Watchdog Nation Headquarters

facebook icon 1

Like Watchdog Nation on Facebook

youtube icon 4

Watch Watchdog Nation on YouTube

twitter icon 3

Twitter @DaveLieber

Are you tired of fighting the bank, the credit card company, the electric company and the phone company? They can be worse than scammers the way they treat customers. A popular book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, shows you how to fight back — and win! The book is available at WatchdogNation.com as a hardcover, CD audio book, e-book and hey, what else do you need? The author is The Watchdog columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Visit our store. Now revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

AVAILABLE IN HARDCOVER, CD AUDIO BOOK, ON ITUNES (AUDIO), KINDLE AND IPAD.

Honoring the late great Betty Brink of Fort Worth Weekly

Thank you Fort Worth Weekly for printing my letter to the editor about Betty Brink, a legendary reporter who passed away recently at age 80.

betty brink letter

How to survive 20 years as a Texas newspaperman without voodoo

   Forget the awards and the thousands of columns I wrote and all the people I met and helped — and who helped me. Looking back on 20 years as a columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram — a career that ended with a layoff last week — I’m proudest of the little box.

  The box is called “Voodoo Lou’s Office Voodoo Kit.”

   It sounds silly, I know. But I’m proud that I never felt the need to open it.

Voodoo kit voodoo office kit 2   

   Voodoo Lou was my backup. My nuclear option. If things ever got too tough for me in the hard-assed politics of a newspaper newsroom, I could open the box, pull out the doll and start sticking pins in it.

   Life is a test. Do they get to you? Or not? I bought that box in New Orleans. Where else? But as long as that doll stayed in the box, I controlled my destiny.

   To understand why that matters is to know my close relationship with the Star-Telegram. I dreamed of joining a newspaper as a columnist since I was 14. After 22 years of learning how to write and hundreds of rejection letters from across the country, S-T editor Mike Blackman hired me as a columnist in 1993 with instructions to practice what he called “New York style journalism.” The dream had come true. I was a columnist! But I was so naive and new to Texas that I didn’t realize that New York-styled anything doesn’t necessarily play well.

   I came down here from New York where I grew up and Philly where I attended Penn and later worked at the legendary Philadelphia Inquirer during its Pulitzer prize-winning heyday. I wrote a comic story about my Yankee-to-Texan transformation in the Pennsylvania Gazette here.

   As a new Texan, I was oh-so-rough around the edges. The S-T polished me up. Taught me how to behave. Act proper, as Texans say. Learning that the “you” is more important than the “I.” Listening is more important than talking. Getting both sides of every story and being fair to everyone. That’s what matters here.

press hat small version

   As part of that, I was drilled in customer service techniques. I bought into it, so much so that I eventually taught the course in training sessions to the rest of the company. (Me? Ha!) For 100 years since it was founded by the legendary Amon Carter, the Star-Telegram has worked to be nice to people. Positive stories. Millions donated to the community. Embedding its staffers in committees, boards and foundations.

   Being nice? At a newspaper? Really?  

   * * *

   “There’s no bogging Dave down with office politics or other concerns. He knows who he is and what he wants to accomplish. But he doesn’t come across as arrogant or above the work that others at the Star-Telegram do. He shows respect for them and may be the first to tell a colleague they’ve done a good job.”  — From Dave’s annual job review, August 2012.

   * * * 

   It’s 1993. My first column. By way of introduction, I ask readers if chicken-fried steak is chicken or steak. I know. It’s a dumb way to begin. Maybe the dumbest. As I struggle to find my columnist voice, the bosses assist by assigning me extra duties. I am ordered to sell subscriptions door-to-door at night so I can understand the product. I am assigned to sit on a United Way committee creating an emergency hotline number. And there’s the company picnic committee. I get that plum assignment, too.

   Twenty years fly by. Lots of good things happen. I’m The Watchdog columnist. Thousands come to me each year with their pleas for help with unsolvable problems or tips about government or corporate corruption. Newspapers may be dying, but my column brims with life. “So many problems, so little time,” my outgoing voice mail greeting explains. My plate is full.

Watchdog Ad

   Then it all stops.

   I’m the latest casualty in the slow death of one of the most important industries in the history of the world – the 400-year-old newspaper business. Former Kansas City Star columnist Bill Tammeus writes on how my departure fits into the bigger picture here.

   I knew the inevitable was coming. So I prepared. Jeff Prince wrote about my layoff and future plans in Fort Worth Weekly here.

   The Star-Telegram gave me many gifts in 20 years. The freedom to write what I wanted. To kick butt like all newspapers should (and hardly do anymore). To root out corruption, chase after bullies, right wrongs, tell great stories, give folks a laugh and help make lives better. Wow.

   With the publisher’s approval, I co-founded the Summer Santa children’s charity, now in its 17th year. The paper backs it with thousands of dollars worth of publicity and donations.

ss logo

   The S-T allowed me to propose marriage to my future wife, her two children and her doggone little dog in my Sunday column. You can read that national award-winning story here. Or listen to me read it here.

newfamily

   The paper gave me room not only to write a column but also launch a national consumer rights movement, WatchdogNation.com.

watchdog_badge-profile-pic- 

   I had lots of old-fashioned stupid newspaper fun, too. Ran my young son Austin for governor of Texas. (And raised money for Summer Santa in the process). Watch his TV commercial here.

austin3

   And against the editors’ best advice, I rode bulls in rodeos, too. Don’t believe me?  Here’s the video.

bullride

   Most important, I got to partner with a brilliant editor, Lois Norder, who for all of those 20 years helped me work toward being what Oregon columnist Bob Welch so kindly described me as “America’s quintessential columnist: likeable, passionate, and hard-driving. Nothing could stop him.” Bob wrote an uplifting column about what my layoff means for him here.

   Lois is now investigations editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the paper where I began as an intern. I wrote a tribute to Lois here. In this pic below, Lois doesn’t know what to make of me showing up for a meeting in a Revolutionary era costume. Why? Watchdog Nation is revolutionary!

  

   “If I were a government official in Texas and picked up the phone to hear, ‘This is Dave Lieber,’ my heart would skip a beat. And not from joy. Lieber is a classic watchdog journalist, looking out for the little guy — and he gets results. While it is admirable that he is an ombudsman, it’s his flair and skill as a writer that earn him this award.” — Judge in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2012 contest who awarded Dave 2nd place for large U.S. newspapers.

   * * * 

   When they call me in on vacation, I figure the meeting is about my contributing video reports for the paper’s new iPad edition. Before the meeting, I search my library for a history book called The American Newspaper Columnist. My plan is to show the editors the line in the book stating that I “pioneered” the “multi-media Internet column” at the Star-Telegram in the middle 1990s with a regularly produced “video column.” Going back to my roots. Whatever you need, boss. I’ll do anything to help us survive. That’s what I plan to say. But I can’t find the book.

   It’s an omen.

   The purpose of the meeting is to tell me it’s over. I’m not expecting this. Well, I am, eventually, just not at this moment.

   * * * 

   “Say it ain’t so.” — Missy Cook Beevers reacting to layoff news on Dave’s Facebook page.

   “And Lieber did a lot of good for the community, looking out for underdogs, the voiceless, the aged, the conned, and the screwed over.” — Jeff Prince writing in Fort Worth Weekly

   “If wealth is counted in friends, Dave Lieber is the richest man in Texas.” — Paul B. Moore on Facebook

    * * *

   My father died at age 90 in July. He’s the one who sent me, as a teenager, out for the newspaper every night. That’s how I met the great columnists, including my hero Pete Hamill. My eulogy for Dad is here.

   Aside from losing Dad, I’m losing a gazillion readers. We’ve been hanging out together several times a week for 20 years. Will they find me on the Internet? And what about my gutsy sources? Where do they go for help?

   The assistant in the school superintendent’s office who secretly helps me analyze documents I received through an open records request so I can figure out what went wrong.

   The City Hall tipster who makes an anonymous call from a pay phone at night.

   The employee so paranoid about giving me information that she visits me in a disguise.

   And the people, all the people with requests for help. Where will they go?

   The friend of 5th-grade teacher Theresa Neil who tells me that Neil is dying of cancer. Her death wish is to meet Emmitt Smith. “Can you bring Emmitt to her classroom?”

   Check.

emmitt

   The 100-year-old Arlington woman who writes a check to her insurance company for $480 instead of $4.80. Ruth Wingfield, shown below, has a hard time getting a refund. “Can you scare ’em?” she asks.

   Check.

Ruth Wingfield at 100

   The big-time preacher, shown below, secretly running church members for city council so he can take over the local government. Perfect for zoning changes he seeks. “Can you expose that?”

   Check.

The pastor

   The city council holding public meetings over dinner in restaurants at taxpayers’ expense. “Can you get them to stop?”

   Check.

   A press pass is a ticket to a front-row seat watching the world, Pete Hamill says. It’s also a way to make things better, day after day, year after year, column after column. What a truly American honor. Every day, I saw being a newspaper columnist that way.

  press pass

   “This past year, Dave’s writing has been more consistently strong. He’s conversational and punchy. He can take complex stories and tell them in simple and engaging ways. He listens attentively to editor feedback — and he has applied lessons he has learned from the coaching seminars he has attended on his own to help him as a public speaker.” — From Dave’s 2012 job review.

   * * * 

   I wrote my final column as a farewell column. I was taught to always write every column like it’s the last. Only this one was the last, but I didn’t know it at the time.  That piece is here, as long as the link is up.

   Then I went to Vegas on vacation for a “Laugh Lab” humor conference led by the National Speakers Association. There I laughed — and learned — for three days from the “faculty,” shown below, along with me and the other students.

Faculty at the Laugh Lab kept me laughing.

 

   On the last day, my wife Karen, Austin, the almost governor, and I flew in a small plane above the Grand Canyon. I listened to Ave Maria on my headset. I felt something strong up there. God was preparing me for my next step. (See, to my old New Yorker friends, that’s what talking proper like a Texan sounds like.)

072

   If you’re gonna lose your job, I do recommend laughing your hiney off for three days, then having a quasi-religious experience above the Grand Canyon beforehand. Puts everything in perspective.

   Fortunately, I’ve been building my new life for a decade. I’ve spoken to more than a thousand audiences in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. For me, writing and speaking go together. Now I get to do more of the latter.

   Sure, I’ll miss writing every week in a newspaper, something I’ve done for 38 years. My online sites are WatchdogNation.com, YankeeCowboy.com and  YourStoryBlowsMeAway.com. But I do love the platform and the live audience. The telling of stories and the sharing of ideas designed to make life better is a lot more fun in person than it is writing alone in a dark room. So helping others is the key to life ahead. Like a proper Texan.

    * * *

   Last week my final piece of mail arrived at the newspaper. It was a card. “Thank you so much,” it said. But nobody signed it.

   I’ll say in my proper Texas voice what my final editor at the paper, John Gravois, always says when he’s thanked for something:

   “No, thank you!!”

cowboy hat tip

 – 30-

 Dave Lieber

Watchdog Columnist

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Read a recent magazine profile about Dave by Rhonda Ross that gives more of the story here.

Catch Dave’s latest happenings on Twitter @DaveLieber.

Visit Dave’s Yankee Cowboy Store for books, CDs and other cool stuff.

 

The Story of Bless 7 and TeachingU2Fish.com

Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation visited a church to learn about an investment program, Bless 7 (part of TeachingU2Fish) that started in Florida and spread to Dallas-Fort Worth. Here’s the story readers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Dave Lieber column first learned: 

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – The scene is a small church off East Rosedale Street in Fort Worth. It’s the regular Tuesday night meeting of Bless 7, a financial program that’s become a summer sensation in Fort Worth and Dallas.

More than 6,000 people have joined, organizers say.

Donald Wilson of Tampa, Fla., founder and CEO of TeachingU2Fish, which offers the Bless 7 program, prepares to speak to three dozen people.

Donald Wilson, founder and CEO of Bless 7, part of TeachingU2Fish

“How you doing, everybody?” he asks with a twinkle in his eye. “How many of you need a financial blessing?” When only a few answer, Wilson tries to pump them up: “It’s time for y’all to wake up now, hear? If they ain’t told you about me, you better wake up now. Amen?”

“Amen!” audience members shout.

Church where Bless 7 meetings are held Tuesday nights in Fort Worth, Texas

Word about Wilson is spreading through the African-American community. He promises that Bless 7, part of what he says is a for-profit ministry, will help pastors raise thousands of dollars a month for their churches.

Bless 7 also promises wealth and exposure for small businesses and nonprofits that join.

Wilson wears his hair in a short ponytail. He keeps a Bluetooth device in his right ear even when addressing an audience. He’s confident of his abilities to persuade.

“God told me when he designed this program, he designed it for the poor and the needy,” Wilson says.

It costs $25 to join the plan. Then members start recruiting others. When they bring in the first seven, they have completed their first mission. That’s where the name comes from. They get paid — or blessed — for each recruit.

But blessings so far have been sparse, some members have said. Audience members say they can’t get the program to work on their computer or haven’t been paid.- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Wilson says that the program started this year in Florida but that when he moved it to Texas in May, organizers used paper applications to register members. Now 6,000 members’ information is being converted to a computerized database.

“The IT people messed it up,” Wilson says. Members lost access to data on the people they had recruited. “So I shut it all down,” he says. “We’ve got two women putting 6,000 people back in there one by one.

“We’ll be resuming pay Friday. If it ain’t ready Friday, we won’t start Friday. … But I think we’ve made it through troubled times. Some places would have shut down. But people all around the world are coming in. Amen?”

“Amen,” some answer.

After his explanation for the delay, Wilson pivots into his pitch. Aside from money for bringing in people, the program promises members other tangible goods and services. Without those, a financial program that pays only for recruiting others is considered an illegal pyramid scheme in Texas.

Wilson says that’s not the case here.

A key part of the program is that members get paid when people use the program’s Web browser toolbar for Internet searches.

A toolbar is a lengthy horizontal strip atop a browser in which search terms are typed. The Bless 7 toolbar also has a donation button, a video button and announcements.

Every search that uses the toolbar brings a member 5 cents. That adds up to thousands of dollars, Wilson says.

Members also have access to an online “discount shopping mall” that offers cash back on purchases. Members get a commission when others use their store.

Other promised Bless 7 benefits: discounts on drug prescriptions, phone bills, travel and a home security system. Medical, dental, auto and life insurance is offered too.

Wilson also promises that as members move up levels in the organization, up to $5,000 a day in gold and silver coins can be delivered to their home. A shiny silver coin is passed around the room. “I would advise you to get a fireproof safe,” a Wilson lieutenant says.

A shiny silver coin is passed around. Get a fireproof safe, the people are told.

Then there are deals on auto leasing and houses for high-level members. A member in good standing needs only a notarized letter from his or her church’s minister attesting that the member regularly donates to that church. Then the program promises to make auto-lease payments of up to $2,500 a month. After two years, the program “gives” the car to the member, organizers promise.

Members can get a home the same way. Bless 7 organizers say they will get foreclosed homes and give them to members who have a notarized letter from their pastor.

Little of that has happened yet because Wilson says he is still in the early stages of gathering people.

Wilson recently asked everyone to give an extra $7 to keep the program going. He raised $1,900 from that. But he says setbacks this year have cost him $180,000.

That doesn’t stop audience members from stepping to the back of the church to pay.

As another Bless 7 speaker, Elgin V. Pringle 3d, says, “You wake up, put on your bathrobe, pick up the check and lay back down.”

His father, Elgin Pringle Jr., the Fort Worth manager for the program, says, “It’s going to be the next national phenomenon.”

Amen?

Amen.

# # #

Dave Lieber shows Americans how to fight back against corporate deceptions in his wonderful book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. Are you tired of losing time, money and aggravation to all the assaults on our wallets? Learn how to fight back with ease — and win. Get the book here.

Read The Watchdog Nation manifesto here!

Visit Watchdog Nation HeadquartersDave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong

Like Watchdog Nation on Facebook

Watch Watchdog Nation on YouTube

Twitter @DaveLieber

REVIEW: New Bad Dad book by Dave Lieber is “a fascinating read, full of drama, humor and pathos”

Bad Dad?

In his new book, the Star-T watchdog recounts a personal episode that led to global notoriety. Here’s a review that appeared in July 2011 in Fort Worth Weekly.

By BETTY BRINK

Bad dad? Naaah. Frustrated dad? Angry dad? “I’m gonna teach this smart-mouth kid a lesson” dad? Oh, yes. Anyone who’s ever raised a child has been there. But “bad” Dave Lieber is not. By all accounts, Lieber is a really good dad. Goes to the games, listens, helps with homework, volunteers at the school, and spent his son’s first 18 months of life as a stay-at-home dad while mom went to work.

So how did the Watchdog columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, former metropolitan columnist for that paper, and one-time reporter for big-city East Coast dailies — who aimed to bring “New York-style journalism” to Texas — become public enemy No. 1 three years ago in Watauga?

Bad Dad book by Dave Lieber betting great reviews

Simple: by successfully bringing New York-style journalism to, if not the entire Lone Star State, then at least to the little suburb of about 22,000 souls just north of Fort Worth. Lieber’s early columns, published in the paper’s northeast edition, exposed corruption, ineptness, censorship, and embarrassing sexual scandals involving town leaders — including police chiefs, mayors, city council members, city managers, cops on the beat, and a powerful local preacher. No one was exempt from Lieber’s sharp eye and even sharper pen. Early on, one city manager called him in after a particularly embarrassing column and thundered at him, “Don’t you dare write another word about Watauga, Texas, without talking to me first! You hear that, son?” Lieber heard, but he didn’t heed.

Then in the summer of 2008, Lieber found himself in a Kafkaesque world, charged with two felony counts of criminal negligence for “abandoning and endangering a child and abandoning a child with intent.” He damn near lost his job, his sanity, and his good name as the story spread from the police blotter in Watauga to the internet.

The child was his and wife Karen’s 11-year-old son, Austin James Lieber.

Hero or “bad dad,” this tale of Lieber’s travels through the criminal justice system as defined by the Watauga police department is a fascinating read, full of drama, humor, and pathos. But more than that, it is chilling. It shows just how the power of an inept and vindictive police department can turn one family’s life into a nightmare and scare the hell out of the accused, who had more than one moment of panic that he might lose his kids.

Lieber writes with a light touch, but the story he tells is heavy indeed.

Good grief, did he toss the boy in front of moving traffic? Lock him in a hot car for hours? Leave him at home alone to go out partying? Nope, nope, and nope. What Lieber did was nothing more than what untold numbers of parents have done over the years, including this writer: Tell a smart-alec kid to behave or walk home. Home was six blocks away in a quiet middle-class neighborhood.

Here’s the short version of the story: Lieber and Austin are having breakfast at a McDonald’s in Watauga not far from their home. Austin finishes and starts pressing dad to take him home. He wants to call his friends to come over and play. Dad is lingering over a just-poured cup of coffee and reading the paper. He tells son to sit down and be quiet. Son keeps up the nagging, getting louder. Dad loses temper, tells son he’s leaving and that the boy is going to have to walk home. Dad storms out. Boy runs after dad, yelling at him. Dad drives off, leaving son behind in the parking lot. “Shocked” observers call police. Dad cools off after a couple of blocks, comes back to pick up son. Too late. The cops are already there. The first cop says, “You’re Dave Lieber, aren’t you?”

Before long, the whole world knows about it. It may be the most publicized non-event in journalism history. Lieber got calls for interviews from all over the globe; his 10-minute angry outburst became the subject of newspaper articles, talk radio discussions, cable news network child-rearing experts’ opinions, and blogs, all weighing in on Lieber’s parenting skills. Was he a bad dad or a good dad? Is government interfering too much in parenting? Should prosecutors get involved in minor altercations between a parent and his/her kid?

Most parents were with Lieber, including Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids Movement, a group dedicated to allowing children to play by themselves without constant adult supervision. (She gained notoriety for letting her 9-year-old son ride the New York subway alone and was called “the worst mom in the world” by bloggers.)

As Lieber reveals in this book that is part confessional, part accusatory tirade, and part “Is this a nightmare and when will I wake up?,” his exposés played no small role in his travails. Before he became the daily paper’s aggressive Watchdog columnist, Lieber wrote about the dark side of Watauga politics. These columns are cleverly woven in and out of Bad Dad and remind this reviewer that, had Dave Lieber’s name been Joe Brown, the cops almost certainly would have told him to take his kid home and discipline him outside the public arena. Case closed.

But Lieber had written too many “bad cop” stories. So instead, the incident was referred to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office for prosecution, and soon enough Lieber was visited by two CPS caseworkers. Next came the call from the police chief — the fifth chief in the 15 years that Lieber had been living in the area — telling him of the felonies and suggesting he get a lawyer. He did. After turning himself in, being fingerprinted, having a mug shot taken, and being suspended from his job, Lieber waited for the next shoe to fall. It never did. Three weeks after Lieber stomped out of McDonald’s, the DA dropped the charges, saying that the facts didn’t rise to the level of a felony.

Lieber, a reporter and columnist for 30 years and a dad for about half that long, takes responsibility for his actions. In fact, in one of his columns he wrote that he was a “bad parent for punishing his kid in such a manner,” claiming that he could have exposed the boy to “grave danger.” That brought howls of protest from a couple of local writers, including Fort Worth Weekly’s Dan McGraw, who wholeheartedly supported Lieber’s decision to let his kid walk home as punishment. However, after Lieber’s mea culpa, McGraw wrote that if Lieber was going to be charged with anything, it was “abandoning his balls.” D Magazine’s editor Tim Rogers wrote, “What? No!! Don’t bend to the pressure, man. You’re a hero to fathers everywhere.”

# # #

Read the original review that appeared July 27, 2011 at Fort Worth Weekly’s website here. Get your autographed first edition copy of Bad Dad bookhere. Read Chapter One here. Watch the book video trailer here.

Scammers: Don’t mess with kids!

WatchdogNation.com gets dozens of letters and e-mails each week, but one that really tugged at us was the case of the 16 Texas middle schoolers and their teacher who lost $2,000 to a fictitious publishing company in Indiana. The students wrote a book called Locker Letters. Their original book signing at a Barnes & Noble store in the spring was held — but it may have been the first book signing in history where the books weren’t even printed. When a police detective visited the publishing company owner at the listed company offices, he found a disheveled man in a bathrobe coming to the door of a rickety home in a trailer park. To catch up, you can read here the previous Dave Lieber column, which first appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The team that produces WatchdogNation.com — the book and our upcoming CD audio book — immediately pitched in to help. Locker Letters arrived at a Borders book store in Colleyville,Texas on Sept. 11, 2010. The students from North Oaks Middle School in Haltom City, Texas in the Birdville school district hosted a wonderful book signing. And you can support these student authors and buy Locker Letters here.

Watch the WatchdogNation.com video Scammers: Don’t Be Messing With Kids here.  Congratulations to the kids! You’re authors now! And Carolyn Hedgecock, the teacher who got fooled, has a new autographed copy of Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. The inscription? “You need to read this! Stay safe, Dave Lieber.”

She need not feel that bad. Self-publishing scams are common these days.  You can learn how to protect yourself from all kinds of evil with the book that promises to save you money, time and aggravation. Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong won two national book awards for social change. Learn more here. Thanks to Jerry D. Simmons of WritersReaders.com for his assistance. Thanks to our book designer, Janet Long, for her book design. Thanks to our copy editor, Anita Robeson, for her work on the project. Thanks to our printing house, Friesens and rep Coral Gates, for their great work.  And a special shoutout to Tamara Roberts whose new company,

Royal Shield Publishing, issued the book as its first imprint. Roberts studied with WatchdogNation.com founder Dave Lieber at a writing workshop. She learned how to create your own book publishing company. Do it yourself! That’s the best way to avoid getting hurt by others. And these days, it’s easy for committed authors to pursue their dreams. After many requests, Dave Lieber created a how-to-self publishing manual that many authors have used to create their own self-publishing companies and live their writer’s dream. Learn more about Dave’s Guide to Self-Publishing here. Locker Letters is the latest book to come out of this Dave Lieber system. Way to go, kids.

# # # Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

Dave Lieber's self-publishing guide shows authors how to do it yourselves, save money, make money and avoid getting scammed.