Monthly Archives: May 2020


The following is an excerpted article David Brooks wrote for the N.Y. Times.

“When Arthur Brooks was 24, he was playing the French horn in a chamber music concert in Dijon, France. He noticed a beautiful woman smiling at him from the front row, so, after the recital, he made a beeline for her and introduced himself.

“Within seven seconds he came to two realizations. First, he was going to marry this woman. Second, she didn’t speak a word of English, and he didn’t speak a word of Spanish or Catalan, which were her languages.

“When he got home, he realized that if he was going to have a chance with Ester he was going to have to show commitment. So he quit his job in America, moved to Barcelona and went to work with the Barcelona orchestra. Over the next few years, he learned Spanish and Catalan and Ester learned English. They have been happily married for 22 years.

“‘Sometimes you just have to be all in,’ says Brooks (who is no relation). ‘You have to go beyond cold utilitarian analysis.’

“Brooks later became a social scientist and is now president of the American Enterprise Institute, probably the most important think tank on the American right. He has emerged as one of the most ardent defenders of the free enterprise system. But the humanist that he is, he has primarily defended capitalism on moral terms. He’s criticized Republicans for defending capitalism on materialistic grounds—because it makes some people rich. Republicans, Brooks says, have an overly small-business focus. They talk as it everybody should become an entrepreneur.

“The real moral health of an economic system, he argues, can be measured by how well it helps all people make an enterprise of their life. Whether they work at odd jobs or at a nongovernmental organization or at a big company, do they get to experience the joy of achievement? Do they know that their work amounts to something?

“He’s pointed out that the percentage of people in the world living on $1 a day has declined by 80 percent since 1970s, adjusting for inflation. That’s the greatest increase in human possibility in human history. The primary cause is globalized capitalism.

“But capitalism now faces its greatest moral crisis since the Great Depression. The nature of that crisis can be captured in two statistics. When Facebook entered a deal to buy WhatsApp, it agreed to pay a price equal to $345 million per WhatsApp employee. Meanwhile, the share of the economic pie for the middle 60 percent of earners nationally has fallen from 53 percent to 45 percent since 1970.

“This economy produces very valuable companies with very few employees. Meanwhile, the majority of workers are not seeing income gains commensurate with their productivity levels.

“This puts a strain on the essential compact that you can earn your success. As Joel Kotkin has argued, the middle class is being proletarianized, and the uneducated class is being left behind.

“To his credit, Brooks is responding aggressively to this moral challenge, in a way that is providing a needed jolt to Republican circles. Over the last two days, for example, he had the Dalai Lama, a self-described Marxist, over at the American Enterprise Institute to discuss the morality of capitalism. Jonathan Haidt, of the Stern School of Business at New York University, challenged the mostly Republican audience to invent a new capitalist narrative, going beyond the simple demonization and celebration narratives.

“Brooks recently published a daring piece in Commentary magazine on a conservative social justice agenda. It was called ‘Be Open-Handed Toward Your Brothers.’

“He pointed out that conservatives love to talk about private charity, but, if you took the entire $40 billion that Americans donate to human service organizations annually, it would be enough money to give each person who receives federal food assistance only $847 per year.

“Instead, Republicans need to declare a truce on the social safety net. They need to assure the country that the net will always be there for the truly needy. Then they need to point out that it is the web of middle-class entitlements, even the home mortgage deduction, that really threaten benefits to the poor.

“The big new problem, Brooks writes, is that labor markets are sick. Fewer people are working and enjoying the sense of reward that is a key to happiness. Democrats embrace a raise in the minimum wage that could drive another half-million workers out of the labor market.

“Much better, he says, would be to expand the earned-income tax credit or maybe use direct payments or loans to help people move to opportunity.

“The big story here is that a major pillar of the American right is leading his institution to fully embrace capitalism, but also fully embrace government policies that will help the broadest number of people earn their own success. In this era, the invisible hand may not be enough.

“Sometimes you have to go all in.”

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A few non serious thoughts to break the monotony of being sequestered for two months.

For all Lexophiles; i.e., Lovers of Words

1. A bicycle can’t stand alone because it is two-tired.

2. What’s the definition of a will? It’s a dead giveaway.

3. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

4. A backward poet writes inverse.

5. In democracy, it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your count that votes.

6. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

7. If you don’t pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.

8. Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I’ll show you A-flat minor.

9. When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.

10. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

11. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

12. Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under.

13. He often broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.

14. Every calendar’s days are numbered.

15. A lot of money is tainted. ‘Taint yours and ‘taint mine.

16. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

17. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

18. A plateau is a high form of flattery.

19. The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

20. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

21. When you’ve seen one shopping center, you’ve seen a mall

22. Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.

23. When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dyed.

24. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

25. Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

26. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.

Travel Plans for 2020

I have been in many places, but I’ve never been in Kahoots. Apparently, you can’t go alone. You have to be in Kahoots with someone.

I’ve also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don’t have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my children, friends, family and work.

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I’m not too much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

I’ve been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I’m in Capable, and I go there more often as I’m getting older.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age, I need all the stimuli I can get!

I may have been in Continent, but I don’t remember what country I was in. It’s an age thing. They tell me it is very wet and damp there.

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I didn’t suffer much during the hibernation. I ate well. As a matter of fact, I ate a little better with daughter-in-law Julie cooking meatloaf, banana nut bread and a few other specialties she cooked up to keep from getting bored. I probably gained a pound or two. I had all the comforts of my home. I just didn’t have the freedom I was used to. That was true to a great extent even before the virus finally got our government officials to catch up with what was needed to help slow the spread of this unwanted visitor.

Being in the most vulnerable group of potential virus victims, I was personally very cautious.

My life changed only slightly and in a few strange ways. Writing my blogs was difficult and my interest in finding new material for blogs was down to zero.

The other strange thing was I kept thinking—as soon as this is over, “we can move back to our old neighborhood in our own country.”

Contrary to logic, I was convinced we were in a different country. I know that wasn’t literally true, but it seemed right.

So let me share with you just a few of the things that did catch my interest in the virus fog.

The Mythology of Inequality: Debunking the Wealth Inequality “Crisis”

Many political leaders and pundits consider wealth inequality to be a major economic and social problem. They complain about a shift of wealth to the top at everyone else’s expense and claim that plutocrats dominate policymaking in Washington.

This is an oft-repeated refrain, especially among Democratic presidential candidates—but is it true?

Cato’s Chris Edwards and Ryan Bourne examined the truths and falsehoods surrounding the wealth inequality narrative in their latest policy analysis, “Exploring Wealth Inequality.”

The authors focused on six aspects of wealth inequality, discussing the evidence for claims that wealth inequality is drastically increasing. They found that wealth inequality has changed surprisingly little given the large economic changes in recent decades driven by technology and globalization.

Moreover, Edwards and Bourne identify several shortcomings of current wealth inequality data, which provide no information on levels of poverty or prosperity and are not useful tools for guiding public policy.

The study also debunks the claims of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that most top wealth was inherited, not earned. Among the Forbes list of 400 Americans with the highest net worth since 1982, only 40 percent were self-made. By 2011, the share of self-made billionaires on the list rose to 69 percent.

Edwards and Bourne also point to the biggest contributor to wealth inequality in the United States: cronyism and regressive government regulations that undermine wealth-building.

As talk turns to the future of Gaza, these haunting words of Golda Meir are as current as today’s headlines. She could have been talking about Hamas,

“We can forgive [them] for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with [them] when they love their children more than they hate us…” – Golda Meir (1957)

How JFK Censored Right-Wing Radio

In the early 1960s, President Kennedy’s administration launched one of the most successful censorship campaigns in U.S. history. The subjects of Kennedy’s ire were conservative radio broadcasters, who constantly attached the administration’s policy proposals. Worried about his reelection chances, Kennedy instructed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to target the offending broadcasters with tax audits and heightened regulatory scrutiny. Within a few years, this censorship campaign had driven conservative broadcasters off hundreds of radio stations; it would be more than a decade before the end of the Fairness Doctrine enabled the resurgence of political talk radio.

To give a sense of the scale of what I call the “Radio Right,” consider that the single 1960s broadcaster with the greatest reach—a fundamentalist preacher from New Jersey named Carl McIntire—had a weekly audience estimated at 20 million, which is comparable to the number of listeners that Rush Limbaugh could claim at his height decades later. McIntire’s show had gone from airing on just two radio stations in 1957 to airing on more than a hundred stations in 1960 and surpassing 475 stations in 1964. But McIntire was only one of a dozen conservative broadcasters who aired on at least a hundred stations nationwide.

An Honest Politician

Harry Truman was a different kind of president. He probably made as many, or more important, decisions regarding our nation’s history as any of the other 42 presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence, Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father; and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an “allowance” and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was on Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, saying, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the president, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.”

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, “I don’t consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.”

As president, he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale.

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, “My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference!”

I say dig him up and clone him!

Enjoy life NOW—it has an expiration date!

The Future After the Pandemic

In 1970, a book called “Future Shock” sold six million copied by basically saying innovation would change the world.

Shocking? Not so much.

Today a real future shock is forming because of the contagion and all of our lives will be affected.

Let me give you one example of the coming changes: Jobs.

Pandemic layoffs give companies the chance to clean house. Any employee deemed unnecessary or a nuisance is in the kill zone. By mid-summer, it is likely that 40 million Americans will be unemployed.

That’s staggering!

Companies understand that laying off older workers with good salaries can get them sued for age-discrimination. Fire a woman, don’t be surprised to see a “misconduct” allegation. There are legions of “protected” folks in the workplace only they are suddenly unprotected. The virus gives license to kill jobs.

So, the employment picture will be drastically altered. And there will be millions of folks looking for work. Therefore, companies both large and small will be looking to upgrade their workforce.

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This is an article I drafted first for a lifestyle magazine and then for the L.A. Times back page of the Saturday section. Neither one eventually decided to use it, but I thought you might enjoy it nevertheless.

Here it is!

Finding a needle in a dating haystack is tough for everyone, but just maybe a little harder for mature couples.

We met in the olden days; it was early in 1996. It was at the tail-end of the bar scene and blind dates, but before the internet, which was still about three years from popular and extended use. The arena for introductions at that time was the widespread use of personal ads in the print media, newspapers and magazines

In order to get out of the hospital over Thanksgiving, I promised the doctor I would stay home, elevate my foot and use ice bags all day. That’s another story and only minimally related to this one. As you can imagine, staying home with an elevated foot gets boring pretty quickly and there’s only so much daytime TV you can tolerate. To pass the time I started reading the Los Angeles Times, cover to cover, and discovered, with great surprise, several pages of personal ads.

The way this worked was each ad had a box number. After calling the main phone number, you dialed in the specific box number. The ad writer left a message amplifying their ad or just inviting you to leave a message.

After a week or so I said, “What have I got to lose”? I answered a few ads and got some responses. One response seemed worth following up. We met for a cup of coffee. A glass of wine was the only other alternative. We each drove to our meeting so we had our own escape. Dinner would take too long if it wasn’t working out.

The first meet-up was okay, so we arranged a date after Christmas for dinner and then followed up with another date to see the “Waiting to Exhale” movie and dinner.

That seemed about as far as it needed to go.

As you can see, answering ads was pretty much the same as it is today with internet dating sites.

Knowing that answering ads was a numbers game, I kept reading and considering which ads to follow up with. In mid January, this ad appeared and stood out like a flashing red light at K-Mart.

One word demanded my attention!

It was a pretty standard ad in many ways, but what popped out for me was her inclusion of the word “INTELLIGENT.” That is not a description you generally see in many personal ads, particularly from the distaff gender.

I had to find out more. I called her box number and her greeting amplified her ad’s description to tell me, among other things, she liked ballet and opera.

By the way, at that point I was fast approaching age 65 and still working in the marketing arena.

Now it was my turn. I told her I was a little over her age requirement, did not like ballet or opera (but would be happy to buy tickets for her and a friend anytime). I was not sure about her definition of financially secure, but I was interested in the rest of her description and left my phone number.

She did call and we ended up exchanging a number of messages and calls. She worked downtown and I worked in West L.A. so we had some difficulty finding a time we could get together for coffee.

We knew we would be violating one of the basic rules of personal ad introductions, but the calls were interesting enough, so we said, “What the hey, let’s have dinner.”

We met at a local restaurant in the Marina. It was like no other introductory meeting I ever had. Usually at these introductions I had to carry and nurture the conversation with questions to draw my “date” out.

Not this time. She gave me the third degree for over two hours. It was hard for me to get a question in. This was new and different, so I said to myself, “Let see where this goes.”

She asked me about everything in my life. We talked about my background, my business, my priorities, what I was looking for. It was an interrogation; almost like a verbal Rorschach Test.

Her business background was in the apparel industry, but she could have been an FBI or CIA interrogator.

We found a lot similarities and common areas in our background and business experience. We were able to click on a number of different levels.

When dinner was over, we both obviously enjoyed the encounter. We exchanged a hug in the parking lot and agreed we wanted to see each other again.

She claims she called her daughter that night and said, “I found the guy. He was very honest in answering my ad, which doesn’t always happen, and he could be the one.”

Going through a nasty divorce, I was a bit more cautious. I’m not sure I felt as strongly as she did, but I certainly wanted to explore this further.

…and explore we did. A year later, we bought a condo, somewhat later we got married, and have visited 81 countries and all seven continents. It has been an exciting adventure; a truly successful adventure.

This wasn’t the first movie for either of us. So based on past experience, we were able to communicate very openly right from the start and although we were both controlling personalities, we ceded authority alternately on major relationship responsibilities.

The avenue for older couples may be a little harder. As you age, you have more baggage, more habits and become a little more fixed in ways you’re somewhat set in.

It’s never too late, however…but you need to take it one step at a time and be willing to be open to flexibility and change.

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