My Heroes Have Always Been Evil Geniuses!

megalomaniacs

I know it is strange.  Most young men when I was growing up had cowboys as heroes, particularly the ones who wore white hats.  Men like Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger were the heroes to an entire generation of young baby boomers.

My heroes have always been cowboys
And they still are, it seems
Sadly, in search of, and one step in back of
Themselves and their slow movin’ dreams — Willie Nelson

vetta pse

I guess I was always different because I liked the guys with the black hats.  They seemed to have more fun and less inhibitions.  You never saw the good guys kiss the girls, but the bad guys thought nothing about kissing them.  Bad guys were also early into bondage (think of all the women tied up on railroad tracks) which was taboo for good people back in the forties and fifties.  In fact, until 50 Shades of Grey, bondage still had a sort of naughty ring to it.

ming-the-merciless-tom-carltonMy first real hero was Ming the Merciless.  He had all the primary characteristics of an evil genius.  He was a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world.  He was always smarter than Flash Gordon.  He had dozens of minions who followed his every order.  He obeyed no rules except his own.  And finally, he lusted after Dale Arden who was a pretty hot babe for the time.  Dale had wonderful blond curls, a great figure and was into bare midriff before it became popular in the 90’s.  Flash was a wimp when it came to Dale but Ming the Merciless knew what he wanted and really went after it.  I suppose tying women up today would not be proper but if you are an evil genius it is simply part of the expectations.

Ming the Merciless: “Flash, you stand in my way of my ruling the universe.  Not only that, but I want Dale for my bride and queen.  If you will give her to me, I will make you ruler of a galaxy of your own.  You can have more riches and power than you have ever dreamed possible.  If you don’t give her to me, I will destroy you, your mom and dad and all your sisters and brothers.  I will hypnotize Dale into loving me anyway and I will take over the earth and turn the earthlings into cockroaches and then step on them all.”

fu-manchuMy second Hero was Dr. Fu Manchu.  A character created by the writer Sax Rohmer.  Fu was as evil as they came.  He was a brilliant megalomaniac.  He obeyed no rules or laws except his own.  He was alleged to hold doctorates from four Western universities.  Unlike the wimpy college professors who one associates with a Ph.D. degree, there was nothing wimpy about Dr. Fu Manchu.  He would not hesitate to murder anyone who got in his way.  In the 1932 film, The Mask of Fu Manchu, Fu tells an assembled group of his minions that they must “kill the white men and take their women.”  Evil geniuses have a knack for thinking big and ignoring the normal bonds of propriety and civility.

Dr. Fu Manchu: “I hate Western imperialists.  I will drive them all from the face of the earth.  Together with my supporters, I will take over all of Europe and the United States.  I will have my pick of White blond women who I will make part of my harem.  I will destroy the capitalists and take over all the gold in Fort Knox and all the diamonds in the DeBeers Diamond mines.  If you Sir Denis Nayland Smith try to stand in my way, I will boil your friend Dr. Petri in oil very slowly and feed him to my pet crocodiles.  I will take your sister and put her in my harem.  I will spit on your mother’s grave.”  If you join me, I will give you your own harem.”

A few years after I ran out of Fu Manchu stories, I discovered my third hero.  He was none other than another brilliant Ph.D. named Professor Moriarty.  He was the arch nemesis of the world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes.  Dr. Moriaty was a genius with pretentions for ruling a large swath of the world.  Moriarty wanted to be the head of a vast criminal enterprise that would control all illegal underworld activities.

professor_moriarty_by_borbel-d2rstoyAs is usual with evil geniuses, Moriarty was always one step ahead of Sherlock.  Perhaps because it was still the Victorian age, Moriarty did not have much to do with lusting after women.  There was no kidnapping, tying women up or forced kissing in any of the Moriarty tales.  However, Sherlock was not much better in the womanizing category and seemed to be a confirmed bachelor.  His main relationship with a woman was with his housekeeper Mrs. Hudson which always stayed platonic.

Professor Moriarty: “Sherlock, you are one big pain in the ass.  You can’t outsmart me because your brain is too addled with cocaine.  I have hundreds of willing crooks who will help me to defeat you every time.  Why don’t you just take your friend Dr. Watson and spend more time playing your violin.  All, I want is to control the entire British underworld and you keep interfering with my plans.  I am warning you for the last time Sherlock, keep out of my affairs or I will eliminate your housekeeper Mrs. Hudson so that you and Watson will have to do your own cleaning and cooking.”

My next hero was from the Marvel Comic book universe and his name was Dr. Victor victor von doomVon Doom.  You must love someone with a name like that.  Dr. Doom was evil and ruthless and a certified genius.  He had many gadgets and inventions that enabled him to defeat an entire pantheon of superheroes.  When it came to bad, he took a back seat to no one.  Imagine, someone who would let his childhood sweetheart be savagely sacrificed so that he could gain the power to rule the world.  Yes, like most other evil geniuses, Dr. Doom was also a megalomaniac who wanted to rule the world.

Dr. Victor Von Doom: “Dr. Strange, you have thwarted me for the last time.  I am banishing you into the netherworld of demons and monsters from which you will never return.  Before I do, I want you to watch as I destroy all the other superheroes in the Marvel universe.  I will be ruler of the entire planet and there will be no one left to stop me.  I will make all the gypsies in Rumania into the leaders of all the countries on earth and everyone will have to learn how to play the violin and the accordion.”

a villains coloring bookI have not had time to describe all the evil geniuses whom I have loved and admired.  I have given you only a few of the ones who have punctuated my life.  I do not have the space to do justice (sic) to some of my other heroes such as Lex Luther, the Kingpin, The Joker, Green Goblin and of course Sauron.  By the way, recently we had a female megalomaniac out to destroy the world.  It was quite refreshing to see how Hela kicked Thor’s butt from one end of Asgard to the other.  But to bring you up to the present, I have now found perhaps the most evil genius in history.  He has all the truly great characteristics of evilness.  He is also a genius.

How do I know he is evil?  He grabs women by the pussies.  He incites violence.  He belittles disabled people.  He lies continuously.  He cheats on his taxes and cheats on just about anything he purchases.  He treats his minions with scorn and he has scores of servants willing to do his bidding.  His followers are willing to lie and cover up anything he does wrong.

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How do I know he is a genius?  That is easy.  The simple answer is because he says so.  But the real proof is in the mountains of money he has made.  He has property all over the world.  He owns humongous golf courses and houses.  He has plans to build a big wall to keep out all the immigrants who want to come to the United States to start a better life.  He is also smart enough to get congress to do whatever he wants.

destroying the world

Finally, we know that a chief characteristic of an evil genius is that they must also be a megalomaniac.  Webster’s defines a megalomania as:

1: a mania for great or grandiose performance

  • an outburst of wildly extravagant commercial megalomania

2: a delusional mental illness that is marked by feelings of     personal omnipotence and grandeur

I think you can easily see that Donald Trump is also a megalomaniac.  His rallies are key examples of the need for grandiose performances.  There is little question that he feels that he is omnipotent and can do anything he wants to do.  For example, he said:

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

He has also commented that he can get anything he wanted from a woman because he was a star:

“I just start kissing them.  It’s like a magnet.  Just kiss.  I don’t even wait.  And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything.  Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Evil geniuses are real studs when it comes to women.  I never had that kind of success with women when I was growing up but then I was never terribly evil, megalomaniacal or even a genius.

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I guess I will just have to continue living vicariously through my heroes or at least until I get bitten by a spider or hit with some type of gamma ray and acquire super powers.  You better watch out if I do.  I will grab your mother, sister and wife by the pussy, maybe even your grandmother, after I take over the universe of course.

Time for Questions:

Who is your favorite evil genius?  What do you admire about them?  How come we have so few women evil geniuses?  Did Hillary qualify for one?  Who can you think of that you admire?  Why?  What is it about evil geniuses that seems to attract people?  Why do they always get the best parts in the movies?

Life is just beginning.

With the proper training, I could’ve been an evil genius.”  —  George Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty and Aging:  Can the Two Go Together?

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A common cliché is that “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”  But have you ever stopped and asked yourself “What is beauty?”  Can you give a definition of beauty?  Would your definition be like mine?  Would old people have the same definition as young people?  Would Blacks and Latinos and Asians and Indians have the same definition as Whites?  Are some definitions more fitting or more powerful than others?

“Outer beauty pleases the EYE. Inner beauty captivates the HEART.” — Mandy Hale

people magazine

You can have your own definitions of beauty, but the world also sets standards.  We have lists of beautiful people all around us.  Magazines, TV and the media hype the “beautiful people” almost daily.  People magazine, Maxim and many others regularly maxim hot womenpublish their lists of the most beautiful people in the world.  Beautiful people marry other beautiful people and are constantly in the news.  The Kardashians would seem to have few talents except their almost incredible beauty.  Rich men marry beautiful women.  Beautiful actresses marry NFL football players.  Beautiful heiresses marry rock stars while beautiful rock stars marry record producers.

beauty and the beast

One common cliché is that true beauty lies beneath the skin.  We see the classic “Beauty and the Beast” movie wherein love becomes blind since the Beast is so kind and thoughtful.  It should surprise no one however that in the end, the ugly Beast turns into a handsome dashing the handsome prince

young Prince and they live happily ever after.  I am still waiting to see one beauty contest or pageant based on the “true beauty” that lies within.  Can you imagine the “Annual Miss Beautiful Beneath the Skin Beauty Pageant?”  Or the Top Ten People with the Most Beauty Inside?

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”  —Kahlil Gibran

sexist men in the worldI once asked my MBA students whether they would rather be smart or beautiful.  They almost unanimously selected beautiful.  I was very surprised but the more I have observed about life, the more it would seem that beauty will get you further than brains.  Brains can get you some things but being nerdy is not one of the things that most people aspire to.  Anti-intellectualism is a fact of American life as noted by Richard Hofstadter in his famous book: “Anti-intellectualism in American Life, 1963.

“Here the politician expresses what a large part of the public feels. The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser.” — Richard Hofstadter

I have many women friends on Facebook whom I regard as strong intelligent women.  They are smart independent and hard working.  They would never depend on a man for their lives or careers.  Nevertheless, let any woman publish a picture of her young daughter and everybody, women as well as men, will fall all over themselves to provide compliments such as “beautiful, pretty, attractive, gorgeous, etc.”  Even among women who should know better, a young girl is defined first by her looks.

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I once wondered how aging would affect my idea of beauty.  I wondered if I could grow old with a wife who would eventually look like any other “old” woman.  I am now 71 years old and my spouse is 73.  I always thought my spouse Karen was beautiful.  I had a harder time convincing her of this fact since one must accept their own beauty or no one can convince them otherwise.  Karen simply never saw herself as beautiful.  I confess I was not really attracted to her the first time we met.  However, I fell in love with her the second time when I watched her smile and laugh while we talked.  Her smile and laughter and kindness towards others have always held the secret to my attractiveness to Karen.

“How beautiful a woman can be if kindness is her true beauty.” Debasish Mridha

180107182313-14-golden-globes-red-carpet-2018-super-916As we both have aged, the process of deterioration taking place in our bodies is clear in the more wrinkled, wizened and paunchy body shapes we now exhibit.  While neither of us was ever beautiful by societies standards, we never had any chance of making any top ten beautiful lists before and certainly not today.  Nevertheless, when I see my spouse in her pajamas or in the shower or when she cuddles up in bed with me, I can’t help but think how beautiful she is and how much I love her.  While I still see the shades of societies standards of beauty in the many young models punctuating my daily life, the beauty I see in my wife is something I cannot describe.  It is a beauty that comes from who she is and not how she looks.  I only know she is more beautiful to me today than she was 35 years ago when we first started dating.

“True beauty radiates not from outer cosmetics, but from the simple joy of making a difference for those that need your voice, passion, and time without expecting or wanting anything in return…”  ― Deborah Barnes

six packYou can claim as you grow older that you either have regrets or you have no regrets.  I have had at least one friend who on his deathbed made the claim that he had no regrets.  I admired his attitude very much.  I wanted to emulate this attitude as I grew older, but try as I might it has escaped me.  I can tell you I have no regrets, but it would be a big lie.  I have enough regrets to write a book about.  One of my regrets is that I am shorter than my father was.  He was six feet four inches paul newmantall and I barely make five feet eight inches.  Mostly though, I wonder what it would have been like to have been born handsome.  To have had the looks of Paul Newman, Sean Connery, Brad Pitt or Robert Redford.  Would I have used my looks to achieve fame and fortune or would I have simply squandered it away on wine, women and song? How much different would my life have been if I had been a “beautiful” person?

“Instead of waiting for beauty to show up at your doorstep, create so much beauty within you that it will inevitably overflow in all directions.”  — Nityananda Das

Golden-Globes-2018-1200x675I understand and fully believe that like ingratitude, (Please read my blog on Ingratitude) wanting external beauty is another trap.  It is too easy to see all the glamorous people and wonder what our lives would be like if we had their looks.  But letting go of the standards of beauty that surround us every day is not easy.  No one believes that simply being beautiful makes anyone a beautiful person.  A very famous saying is that “beauty is as beauty does.”  I was taught that by my parents and I still believe it.

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A few weeks ago, a man I admired as much for his talent as his great looks passed away.  I have always said that if I could be born again, I would want to come back as an opera singer.  My father loved opera and I grew up in Brooklyn NY in an Italian neighborhood that also loved opera.  On a Saturday evening, you could hear arias up and down the block from people singing Verdi and Puccini on their doorsteps.

“I go to Topman at lunchtime and stare at these beautiful, beautiful people who work there and who are so well-dressed.  And I think: Oh! I want to look like that! They’re amazing, how well-dressed they are!” — Nicholas Haslam
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Dmitri Hvorostovsky was one of the greatest male baritones to ever grace an opera stage.  Add to this his ruggedly masculine looks, his wonderful shock of white hair and his six-foot four-inch frame and he had everything I could have dreamed of.  Should I add that his stage presence and charisma was incomparable.  He had a smile that you would not believe.  He always looked like he was having the most fun of anyone in the opera house when he sang.  Dmitri died on November 22, 2017 of brain cancer.  He was only 55 years old.  Would I change places with Dmitri?  No, I would not swap everything he had for the chance to grow older with my spouse Karen.  Be careful they say of what you wish for because you just might get it.

“The mortals never understand. They only see the prize. They never think that the price of getting what you want is having what you once wanted.”MorpheusThe Sandman

Time for Questions:

See my opening paragraph.  Try to answer these questions and leave comments please.  I would love to hear what you think.

Life is just beginning.

I use this byline not because I think I will die and go to heaven or even because I believe in a hereafter.  It simply reminds me of the saying that: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”  So, with that in mind, I try to wake up each day taking the responsibility that today is a fresh start and that my life is truly beginning right this moment.  I do not know what (if anything) comes next, but I do know that I want to live the best I can and do the best I can each day to help make a difference in the world.

Each day that I get up, I have a certain amount of fear that I must overcome.  I fear being useless.  I fear failure.  I fear ignominy.  I fear my friends and family getting older and dying.  I fear not making a difference.  I fear giving up.  I fear the thought that I will get sick and die long after everyone I love is gone.  Some days, it is easy to forget these fears and other days, the process of aging wears me down and I question the value of going on.  On these bad days, living seems to take more courage than I have.  I want to have the strength to go raging into the dark.  If life is just beginning, it is also just ending, and I need to face that as well.  I will continue to do the best I can, hopefully taking two steps forward and only one back most weeks.

 

Whats Wrong with the Democratic Party?

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It’s been a year now since the bad dream or worst nightmare in the history of this country burst upon us.  For many of us, we still cannot believe it happened.  Never in America has a man with so little character and absolutely no qualifications to be president been elected to this office.  In my lifetime, I have seen several presidents whom I did not think were good presidents.  Nixon and Romney come to mind.  I thought Clinton should have been impeached over the Lewinsky thing.  I thought Reagan’s Star Wars Initiative was the height of stupidity.  Neither of the wars started by the Bushs did one thing to make either America or the world safer.  But the new president takes stupidity, arrogance and downright evil to new heights.  Every day, Americans wake up to a new Trump tweet declaring our hatred and belligerence to the rest of the world.  If there was ever a great depression, it is the feelings that many Americans now share about the fate of their country.

I wanted to start a blog this week without going into another political diatribe or rant as some would call them.  I know we all get tired of the unremitting bad news from the papers, radios, TV, Internet and incessant analysts that surround us like flies on poop.  Bad news sells and in our 24/7 daily schedule of unceasing commercial bombardment, we now must hear bad news from any part of the world and not just our own local geography.   If a mother murders her babies in Angola, we will see it on the front page of our local news.  If a young woman is raped in France, we will be treated to a torrent of trending stories until they get tired of the story or catch the perpetrator.  News is now not only 24/7, it is global as well.

Shortly after Trump was elected, the analysts started to figure out why Hillary lost.  I think I counted over 20 different rationales for her losing.  Everyone had their theory.  The idea of multiple causality seems to have eluded many as each pundit hawked their own explanation.  I won’t bore you by subjecting you to the list.  In a complex answer, each of these theories would be weighted and we would find that some carried more weight then others.  Among the weightier was the issue of racism.  Nevertheless, no single cause contributed entirely to Hillary’s defeat.

One issue is still important today.  There is no longer any reason to worry about Hillary’s email server or about her seeming lack of warmth.  These problems are water under the bridge.  The problem though that is still substantial and that must be addressed concerns the problems within the Democratic Party itself.   If the Democrats want to regain their former influence with Americans, they must do more than fight Trumpism.  They must also stand for something.  The Democrats may be looking better today but that is only because the Republicans and Trump look so bad.  The Democrats were once seen as the party of the working class and the champions of the underprivileged.  They clearly lost this mantle in the years leading up to the Trump debacle.  The Democrat Party has three big challenges:

  1. Moral cowardice
  2. New ideas and creativity
  3. Championing all classes as well as the working class

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Moral Cowardice:

John F. Kennedy wrote a book called Profiles in Courage.   It was about senators who defied the opinions of their party and constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity.  One of the famous stories in Profiles in Courage concerned Senator Sam Houston.  He was pulled from a train by an angry mob of constituents and threatened to be hanged because of his vote.  He steadfastly faced the mob and explained why he voted the way he did and why he would do so again.  Stories like this are rare and while that makes them inspirational, it also makes them sad.

We have a US Senate with 100 members and a US House with over 400 members.  On any given day, most of these men and women are more concerned with their poll numbers than what is good for the America people.  Partisanship has become the norm in Congress with both sides mutely aping their leadership’s call to “back their party.”

I remember well the drum beat to the first Iraq War called Desert Storm in 1990.  A year before the invasion, I could hear the calls going out for an Iraqi Invasion.  I looked for some logic for this war but could not find it.  I waited for my political leaders to counter Bush’s need for an invasion.  Almost everyone in Congress sat mutely by while Bush and his cohorts planned the invasion.  Gradually, they found more and more reasons to invade Iraq.  Gradually, the religious leaders jumped on board to support the administration.  Billy Graham declared it a justified war and held hands with George H. W. Bush while he pretended to agonize over his already foregone decision.  And still I waited and wondered why so few Democratic leaders challenged this war.  Where were the Democrats?

The Second Gulf War was not a repeat of the First Gulf War.  It was an even worse unmitigated disaster.  Trillions of dollars spent, and nothing accomplished except to make some private war contractors rich.  Where were the Democrats?  They seemed to be out looking with the Republicans for the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction that Saddam had supposedly stockpiled.

I had a button many years ago that said on one side “Democrats: The Party of Wimps” and on the other side “Republicans: The Party of Greed.”  I do not know who printed this button but thirty years ago, the writing on the wall was clear.  The Democratic Doves feared the Republican Hawks.  Better to be labeled a Hawk than a Dove.  The term liberal was once a term of pride but under the Democrats it became associated with wasteful spending and half-baked solutions to social problems.  Bleeding heart liberal has now become a term despised by all.

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New Ideas and Creativity:

I live in two counties.  Both are predominantly Red Republican strongholds today.  However, my county in Wisconsin was once a Democratic stronghold.  Wisconsin was once a great bastion of Democratic ideas.  It was a state that was proud to have produced such champions of the underdog as Fighting Bob La Follette, William Proxmire and Senator Gaylord Nelson.  If anyone had ever told me that Wisconsin would have gone Red, I would have said they were crazy.

Now many of my “old” friends and many of my acquaintances in Wisconsin (A state I have lived in on and off for nearly twenty years now) are old line Democrats.  I confess I would rather have Democrats for friends than Republicans these days.  We share many of the same values even though I have never and will never be a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party or any other party.  I take pride in voting as an independent and not someone mindlessly following some party.

I have been each year for the past seven years to the local county Democratic Fundraisers.  Each year, I have listened to Democratic speakers who are jostling for political positions with hopes of defeating the Republican incumbents.  In some cases, more recently they have succeeded.   I can only hope this trend will continue but I am dubious.  My skepticism comes from looking at the people I see running.  Generally, they are well intentioned.  Some might even have the moral courage I want to see in leadership.  However, too many of the candidates that I have seen are either stuck in ideas from the past or lack new ideas that would bring some creativity and innovation to the Democratic Party.

Our political system not only needs new people, we need new ideas.  The same old ideas that worked in the past will not work in the future.  We need forward looking people that can challenge the existing system by promoting innovative ideas that do more than just support the status quo.  Our education system, our health care system, our prison system, our military system, our legal system, our infrastructure system and even our electoral system are all in need of more than reform.  They all need a complete restructuring.  These were systems designed for the 19th and 20th Century.  We need systems for the 21st and 22nd Century.  It is folly to think that simple reforms or piece meal patches to these systems will fix the blight and decay endemic in them.

I see too few of the emerging Democratic leaders as having a vision beyond fighting Trumpism.  That is clearly a start, but we need more than just reaction to Trump we need pro-action in our politics.  We need positive ideas.  We need new ideas.  Good intentions are not enough.

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Championing All Classes as well as the Working Class:

Once upon a time, the Democratic Party was known as the champions of the working class.  They stood up for unions, higher wages, income parity and equal opportunity.  The working class was once the class of high school graduates.  Today, more than one-third of the adult population in the United States has a bachelor’s degree or higher.  The average earnings in 2016 for those ages 25 and older whose highest educational attainment was high school were $35,615.  The average earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree were $65,482 compared with $92,525 for those with an advanced degree (Census.Gov).  The composition of the American workforce has undergone a long evolution from the agricultural era though the industrial revolution to the new information era.  Definition of working class has continued to change as social structure has changed in the age of computers and the Internet.

As educational levels continued to increase, aspirations by Americans continued to increase.  Whereas once perhaps most Americans saw belonging to a union and retiring with a pension after 30 plus years to be the epitome of working life, that vision became obsolete.  The typical worker today sees themselves as a college educated salaried worker whose interests are more aligned with their company then with any union.

My father worked for the Post Office for over 30 years before retiring.  He never thought it was a fun job or an interesting job.  For my father, it was a job that paid the bills, had good benefits and would enable him to retire with a good pension.  My father’s aspirations and attitudes towards work were like most of his generation.  The idea of being passionate about your work would have been a joke to my father and his peers.  Times have changed dramatically.  Workers today want to believe in their work and their companies.  Workers want their jobs to be challenging, rewarding and fun.  The old days of waiting to enjoy life until you retire are dead.

The workers in America are different than they were twenty or thirty years ago.  The Democrats forfeited their allegiance to the American worker and allowed the Republicans to become the champions of the American worker.  From coal miners to computer programmers, from trailer parks to gated communities across America, once proud Democrats have become Republicans.  The sad part of the story is that the Democrats did not seem to raise a finger to stop the migration.  They did little or nothing to prevent it from happening.  They allowed the Republicans to become the standard bearer of wealth and prosperity.

Unfortunately, few workers realized that their Republican champions were more about privileges for the elite than sharing the wealth.  Or that gains for the upper class would come at the expense of other classes in this country.  The concept of Trickle Down is alive and well in the Republican Party.

Conclusions: 

Democrats need to build a new party.  Trumpism is a short-term aberration.  Euphoria might be high right now for Democrats who see Trump as the best thing to ever happen for Democratic candidates.  With one of the lowest popularity ratings of any president in history, Trump will help insure a wave of Democratic Party victories.  However, it can be nothing but short-sighted folly to mistake the present disgust for Trump with a disgust for Republican principles in general.  The Republican Party became strong because they offered the American people a vision of society which promised a better life for millions of them.  Unless Democrats can come up with a compelling vision of society that addresses a wide spectrum of workers, the Republicans will regain power once their debacle with Trump is over.

Time for Questions:

How do you decide who to vote for?  Do you belong to a political party?  Why or why not?  What do you like about political parties?  What do you dislike?  What changes do you think we need to make in the political system in America?  Why?

Life is just beginning.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”  — GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

“If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” — DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, speech, March 6, 1956

 

Are Americans Brainwashed?

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What does it mean to be brainwashed?  When I was growing up in the days of the Cold War and the specter of nuclear disaster, the term brainwashed was associated with Communism.  We all knew that anyone who believed in Communism had been “brainwashed” by Stalin and his minions.  Brainwashed people could not think for themselves.  To be brainwashed, meant to be a mindless zombie.  People who are brainwashed have undying fealty to an impossible dream. Communists want a system where everyone shares equally in the production of society.  Communists will fight and die for this dream.

“Communism, my friend, is more than Marxism, just as Catholicism is more than the Roman Curia. There is a mystique as well as a politick. Catholics and Communists have committed great crimes, but at least they have not stood aside, like an established society, and been indifferent. I would rather have blood on my hands than water like Pilate.” – Graham Greene

brainwashingAs Americans, we pride ourselves on being the exact opposite of Communists.  In America, we have a democracy.  To live in a democracy, means that you are “free” to think for yourself.  No one living in a democracy can possibly be brainwashed.  In America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” you will only find people who believe in the truth.  The truth is that democracy is the holy grail of political systems.  It supports everything that is good about life.  In a democracy, all men and women are created equal.  In a democracy, everyone can succeed if they only have the right desire.  Americans will fight and die for this dream.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  –  The Declaration of Independence 

It never occurred to me that Americans could be brainwashed until I started teaching MBA students both at St. Thomas College and Metro State University in Minnesota.  Enrollment in MBA programs soared during the nineties as more and more students gravitated to business occupations and away from such occupations as teaching and social work.  Many of my students had obtained non-business undergraduate degrees and become tired of the lack of money associated with such career fields.  With an MBA degree, you could easily make three or four times per year what you could with a Masters degree in Education.

I really enjoyed teaching in the business field because my students were smart, motivated and challenging.  Most of them had been working for several years and brought considerable life experience to their classes.  Very few of my students had simply finished an undergraduate program right out of high school and then gone on to get an MBA degree.

Since I had spent many years as a management consultant, I brought industry experience to my classes.  I had learned along the way that critical thinking and the ability to question the status quo were essential to continuous improvement and systems change.  I tried to incorporate these insights into my curriculum and classroom instruction.  I soon found that this task was easier said then done.

An eye opener for me was when I tried to use the documentary film called: “The Corporation (2003)” in some of my business ethics classes.  The Corporation is a Canadian documentary film critical of the modern-day corporation.  It was directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and written by Joel Bakan.  The film has numerous examples of corporate behavior that walk a fine line between criminal and immoral behavior.  The film shows that many of the behaviors of modern corporations are immoral although not illegal.  However, there are numerous examples in the paper every day wherein executives and corporate leaders have crossed the line.

“Again and again we have the problem that whether you obey the law or not is a matter of whether it’s cost effective. If the chance of getting caught and the penalties are less than it costs to comply, people think of it as just a business decision.” – Robert Monks.

Much to my surprise, many of my students did not see anything wrong with such immoral behavior.  Their standards were set on what was expedient and legal rather than what was moral and ethical.  Repeatedly, I found that modern business students believe in an amoral system of ethics rather than a moral system.  In an amoral system, right and wrong is defined by what works and what does not work.  If you are within the law, you may conduct your business with little concern for the residual effects on either society or citizens.  The first law of business trumps all other concerns.  That law is to make a profit.

No amount of persuasion or argument could sway my students from their steadfast believe in the value of capitalism and its sanctity as an economic system.  Students were not persuaded by the iniquities in the system, by the inherent racism in the system, by the inherent sexism in the system or by the unequal distribution of wealth in a system that has become increasingly dysfunctional.

What we should admit to begin with, if we can, is that good socialism is better than bad capitalism. The logic of the statement is really inescapable. It is only when capitalism fails that people and nations resort to alternative forms of political economy.”  – Jude Wanniski

How can anyone as bright and experienced as these MBA students not see the obvious flaws in America’s belief system?  An excellent book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) by Thomas Kuhn talks about the nature of scientific and paradigmatic change.  Kuhn found that even scientists could not see the truth behind a new theory because their old paradigms blinded them to the new reality.

In the same way, it has been gospel for many years now that America is an “exceptional” nation.  Americans are smarter, tougher, harder workers, more courageous, more creative and more ambitious then workers from any other country in the world.  Since it is believed that America is built on Capitalism and Democracy, these two ideologies have become sacred tenets of American life.  To cast doubt or aspersions on the value and efficacy of these systems is to suggest that America and hence Americans are not exceptional.  Trying to talk students into seeing the flaws in either of these systems is about as effective as asking them to describe a Martian.  If you have no foundation for seeing a new reality, you can only describe familiar objects in your current reality.

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Business students today are not critical thinkers nor or they creative thinkers when it comes to politics or economics.  Most of them have been brainwashed.  When I use this term, I mean it to signify someone who cannot think out of a box of concepts that has become their dominant world view.  Just as I suppose a die hard Communist would find compelling reasons to defend communism, die hard Americans can always find compelling reasons to defend America.  A brainwashed person cannot see another reality or even begin to envision what might be wrong with their weltanschauung.

“This is what economics now does. It tells the young and susceptible (and also the old and vulnerable) that economic life has no content of power and politics because the firm is safely subordinate to the market and the state and for this reason it is safely at the command of the consumer and citizen. Such an economics is not neutral. It is the influential and invaluable ally of those whose exercise of power depends on an acquiescent public.”  John K. Galbraith, (Power and the Useful Economist, 1973)

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So, what am I getting at?  What is my point?  To find it, we need to return to the thesis of this article:  Are Americans brainwashed?  If we define what it means to be brainwashed as: “One who persists in the belief of something despite apparent evidence and facts to the contrary,” then I would suggest that the evidence points beyond a doubt to the fact that Americans are some of the most brainwashed people on the face of the earth.  It has little to do with experience in business, innate intelligence or amount of degrees accumulated.

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A red herring in our acceptance of my conclusion is the common belief that brainwashing is forced.  Too often, we have the picture of an individual strapped to a chair being made to listen to propaganda or watch propaganda films.  The fact of the matter is that brainwashing can be covert and subdued.  I suggest another picture for brainwashing that is just as effective as “forced” brainwashing.  Picture the average American watching four or five hours or television every day.

Television Statistics.  According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.

During the average day, an American will have seen or heard between 300-700 marketing messages per day, including messages from the Internet and video gaming. – (Source: Phil Barden, “Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy”, 2013).  Much of the research on the role that advertising plays in consumer purchases suggests that it is mostly informative rather than persuasive.  In other words, it appears that consumers use the information to choose between products but are not necessarily persuaded by the advertising to buy any particular product.

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As a business instructor and former retail store manager, I am skeptical of the consumer research.  My firsthand experience in regard to the power of these marketing messages does not agree with the research findings.  Students and customers will repeatedly deny that advertising messages play any overt role in their purchasing decisions.  However, any observation of the buying habits of Americans will easily demonstrate a disconnect between what people spend their money on and rational economic sense.

Furthermore, when we look for the messages that “brainwash” many Americans we must look beyond Madison Avenue.  We have a cornucopia of messages bombarding Americans every day that serve to instill mythical beliefs in American exceptionalism, American patriotism, American heroism and American capitalism.  Let us look briefly at some of the beliefs that I noted earlier.

Americans are the hardest working people in the world:

The U.S. ranks 17 out of 38 countries in terms of average hours worked each year, according to the OECD, while Mexico, where labor laws cap the work week at 48 hours, ranks no. 1.  Workers in Costa Rica and South Korea work the second and third longest hours, respectively – Sept 2, 2016

Americans are the most creative and innovative people in the world:

In this area Americans do rank exceptionally high.  The Martin Prosperity Institute ranks 82 countries on a scale for creativity based on technology, talent and tolerance for new ideas.   Overall, America ranks second behind Sweden.  Note however that we are not number one in any category.

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Technology Rank: 3

Talent Rank: 8

Tolerance Rank: 8

Global Creativity Index: 0.902

Americans are the toughest people in the world:

This is a very ambiguous category and an allegation that is difficult to attack or defend.  How do we define tough?  Is our military the most powerful in the world?  The answer would be yes.  Are our athletes the best in the world?  An all-time medal table for all Olympic Games from 1896 to 2016, including Summer Olympic GamesWinter Olympic Games, and a combined total of both shows that America has clearly dominated the Olympic games.  The top three countries in medal totals are:

America:  Total Medals:  2,804

Russia:  Total Medals – 1,204

Great Britain:  Total Medals – 875

American-exceptionalism

But if we define tough as a measure of resilience to strife and turmoil, we find that Americans are not in first place.  The FM Global Resilience Index ranks and scores countries across nine factors, illuminating their supply chain resilience and resilience in general.  Across political risk, exposure to natural hazards, and infrastructure quality, the index quantifies a nation’s ability to withstand a disruption and bounce back, so products can get to where they need to go.

“The latest version of the ranking, which comes from a Rhode Island-based insurance company, has Switzerland in first place, followed by Norway, with Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the central United States, Canada, Australia, and Denmark counting out the top 10 places.” – Fast Company 

Conclusions:

If Americans belief in the above ideas is false but we continue as a nation to keep repeating them ad nausea, does that mean we are brainwashed?  Or are we simply delusional?  I submit that the causality behind these beliefs is less important than the arrogance and hubris that they demonstrate to the rest of the world.  How can we expect to be respected and admired when we waltz around treating the rest of the world as though they are second class citizens?

“This unchallenged faith in American exceptionalism makes it harder for Americans to understand why others are less enthusiastic about U.S. dominance, often alarmed by U.S. policies, and frequently irritated by what they see as U.S. hypocrisy, whether the subject is possession of nuclear weapons, conformity with international law, or America’s tendency to condemn the conduct of others while ignoring its own failings. Ironically, U.S. foreign policy would probably be more effective if Americans were less convinced of their own unique virtues and less eager to proclaim them.” – Foreign Affairs: The Myth of American Exceptionalism, Stephen M. Walt, 2011

Time for Questions:

Do you think many Americans are brainwashed?  Why or why not?  Do you think there are many beliefs that we as Americans hold that are false?  If so, where do you think they come from?  What do we need to do to see the truth?  How do we overcome mythologies that are constantly reinforced by special interest groups?

Life is just beginning.

The conservative version of American exceptionalism has become a password of sorts for candidates who want to prove their credentials to a right-wing America.” – Russ Feingold

 

Alexa:  I Need a Date for Saturday Night!

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Friday Morning:

John:   Alexa.  Can you find me a date for Saturday night?

Alexa:  Which sexual persuasion do you prefer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual,  transgender or straight?

John:   I would like straight.

Alexa:  Do you prefer male or female?

John:   Female.

Alexa:  What age range do you prefer:  20-25, 25-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, 60 and over?

John:   20-25 please.

Alexa:  What body shape do you like:  thin, voluptuous, statuesque, petite, pudgy, full bodied or rotund?

voluptuous womanJohn:   I prefer voluptuous.

Alexa:  Are you looking for a long-term partner or a simple hook-up?

John:   A simple hook-up.

Alexa:  How far are you willing to travel for this date – 10-20 miles, 20-50 miles, over 50 miles?

John:   I prefer 10-20 miles.

Alexa:  Searching Searching

Alexa:  I believe I have a hit.  Mary (no last name given) is also searching for a date for Saturday night with male characteristics that are similar to those you have input.  I will check for  receptivity on her part.

A few minutes later:

Screen_Shot_2017_04_26_at_1.19.49_PM.0Alexa:  Mary has some questions for you John.

John:  Alexa, what are her questions?

Alexa:  What kind of movies do you like?

John:  Action adventure.

Alexa:  What is your favorite place to eat in Casa Grande?

John:  I like the Olive Garden and Mimi’s.

Alexa:  What are your favorite hobbies?

John:  I like traveling, music, reading and jogging.

Alexa:  I will check back with Mary.

A few minutes later:

Alexa:  Mary has agreed to a date.  She would like to go to dinner with you at the Olive Garden and then a movie.

John:  How will I recognize her?

Alexa:  Checking!

Alexa:  Mary will be wearing a bright red dress and a red scarf.

John:  That’s all Alexa.

Sunday Morning:

alexa-funny-382x255John:  Alexa!

Alexa:  What is it John?

John:  I had a horrible date on Saturday night.

Alexa:  What went wrong John?

John:   Mary was nothing like I asked for.  She was overweight, about 50 years old and looking for a long-term relationship.  She was far from voluptuous.

Alexa:  Feedback from Mary was similar to yours John.

John:  Alexa!  Please explain.

Alexa:  Mary reported back that you were skinny and not muscular, you were closer to 70 than 40, you were bald, and you did not have a large yacht in the Caribbean.

John:  Well, I might have exaggerated a little on my characteristics.

John:  Alexa!  let’s try again for this Saturday night.

Alexa:  Please input requirements John

John:  I want a 25-year-old voluptuous blond who would like a simple hookup with an overweight, bald, 70-year-old man with no money.

Alexa:  Searching, Searching

Several Hours Later:

John:  Alexa!  Have you found a woman like I described yet?

Alexa:  I have searched all of the United States, all five continents as well as the entire Universe, no results found for such a woman as you describe.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAlxAAAAJDY5ODJlMDZmLTYzOWYtNDg4YS1iOWI5LTAyZGI3MDQ3OWVhOAJohn:  Alexa!  Where is the best place to get a pizza in Casa Grande for Saturday night?

Alexa:  According to Yelp, the best pizza is at Papa Murphy’s on Florence Street.  They have a 4.2-star rating based on thirty reviewers.  Should I order you a pizza for Saturday night?

Time for Questions:

Do you own an Alexa device?  Are you planning to purchase one?  Why or why not?  Have you experienced what such devices can do?  What do you think will come next?

Life is just beginning.

“Design is a way of life, a point of view. It involves the whole complex of visual communications: talent, creative ability, manual skill, and technical knowledge.  Aesthetics and economics, technology and psychology are intrinsically related to the process.” –  Paul Rand

“New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It’s all about how people choose to use it.” -David Wong

 

 

 

 

The Persico’s Annual Holiday Letter

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to You from John and Karen Persico

Karen asked me to start our annual holiday letter.  I was trying to think of a cool “theme” to carry through the letter. I remember when I worked for the Wisconsin Job Service, we categorized jobs under the following:  People, Things and Ideas.  If I add Places, I thought it might be a good scheme to use.  I will defer to Karen on People and Places, since I have always liked Ideas and Things better than People.  Of course, People does not include any of you.

Ideas:  I truly like the idea that we should be about compassion for others less fortunate.  Kindness to those in need of help and Courage in the face of old age and death.  I have been attending seminars on caregiving and Dementia to help me to better understand the impact that these could have on my life and the life of others around me.  I notice that as I age and my friends age, there is a tendency for us to play it safe and to pull in on risk taking.  Maybe that is inevitable, but I think we (I) need to fight back to some degree against it.  Well, that’s all on ideas.  I have left out politics since I am sure that none of you want to hear any of my ideas about it.  Don’t blame you one bit.

Things:  Karen and I bought our first TV set in nearly forty years.  It is a “Smart” TV that we are using via WIFI to watch Netflix and Amazon videos.  Karen likes listening to music on it.  We get no commercials or FAKE NEWS. 😊  If you want to see a vison of the future of “Things,” read the book: “Building the Internet of Things” by Macie J. Franz, a VP of Strategic Innovation at Cisco.   The future will be unbelievable in terms of things.  We will all be around to see some of it.  Well, time to turn this over to Karen.  She is going to her 3 times a week Zumba class now but will return shortly. — John

People and Places:   It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am not nearly as organized as John, so I’m lumping people and places.  They usually go together anyway.  The rhythm of our snow-birding life continued between Fredric and Arizona City with a wonderful addition this year of a trip to England in the fall for nearly a month.  We were very fortunate to have John’s sister Jeanine (my sister too) travel with us.  WIN_20170919_06_37_03_Pro

We spent most of the trip in the Cotswold area in a stone cottage dating from about 1740 (where I had my first ghost experience).  From there we did day trips to quaint villages and castles with a 3-day jaunt to London.  Jeanine and I rode the London Eye, we saw Kinky Boots in the theater district, and did all the usual touristy things.  We felt like we were living in one of the many BBC shows we’ve watched over the years.  A highlight for me was being able to sing in the choir of St. Mary’s the Virgin during the Tetbury Music festival.

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The town of Tetbury above is where we stayed. 

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Karen sang here with the choir for the service the morning of the Tetbury Music Festival.  St. Mary the Virgin Church. 

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The staircase where Karen saw her ghost. 

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A typical country road.  They still give me nightmares. 

Went to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Kinky Boots and up in the London Eye.  Spent three days in London just doing the usual tourist stuff. 

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Great to come home each day to our little cottage and cook our own meals.  We would pick up groceries each morning before going out and then cook and have a fire in the evening.  This was our little kitchen area. 

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A nice little place in Tetbury to eat out.

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Some friends we met in the country side while visiting different places.  We met up twice. 

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I found this great trail for hiking and running each day. 

 

Our children are doing well.  Juli spent much of the year planning and sewing for Garrick and Kat’s wedding last spring.  The newly-weds are living in St. Paul.  Susan is working an extra job to help get her boys through college.  Zach is a senior at Augsburg in Minneapolis and Sam a high school senior in Northfield.  Juli’s Logan is a high school senior in St. Paul, so there will be lots of graduations this year.  Kevin has become a commuter between the Bay Area in California where he works for LinkedIn and his new property in Northern Wisconsin.  It will be nice to live in the same state at least for a few months of the year.  Megan has had an eventful year, moving into a new apartment, surviving the death of her dog Moose, adopting a new Min-Pin, Bambi, and completing her first novel.

John and I are (thankfully) healthy and busy, though a bit slower than we used to be.  It sure feels like it takes longer to do less now.  John has been attending some classes and learning more about caregiving in preparation for us taking care of each other.  He’s been substitute teaching in AZ with interesting stories, particularly of the grade school classes.  He’s taught everything from kindergarten to high school dance classes.  His creativity and organizational skills can get him through most situations.   I’m still working in consulting and ICD-10 coding and playing my dulcimer(s).  We did the usual dulcimer festivals and weekend trips.

We wish all of you a wonderful Christmas season and a blessed New Year.   John and Karen

John:  Could I please say one nasty thing about our politicians? 

Karen:  NO! 

John: OK DAM IT!

 

 

Bully in Chief and Liar in Chief!

‘He is a bully’: Gillibrand hits back at Trump over demeaning tweet

Senator Gillibrand

Trump is not only THE Bully in Chief, he also is THE Liar in Chief. I am still waiting for one journalist to be honest and call this guy a Liar.  At least Senator Gillibrand has the guts to label this lowlife for what he really is. We have a President with NO integrity and a Senate full of politicians with not much more integrity. Do you think this poor excuse for a human being would still be president if even 1/4 of the Senate had the guts to speak out and call him for what he really is?  He no more deserves to be president than Benedict Arnold.  Time for more calls to impeach him.  Time for more Americans to speak out.  Let the waves of indignation and moral outrage roll down and sweep him out of office.

No bigger mistake has been made in the history of this country than the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America.

Time for Questions:

When will we impeach this lowlife?  What about the people who helped to put him into office?  Have they any regrets?  Are you speaking out?  If not, when will you add your voice to the chorus of people who have the courage and integrity to speak their piece?

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Life is just beginning.

Trump is not the end but the beginning.  We are going to see more rights for people in the world, more justice, more compassion, more of what will make American’s proud just as soon as we dump trump.

 

 

 

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