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Archive for the ‘Human behavior’ Category

Without question, what happened in Manchester, England is beyond comprehension. “Evil losers,” as Donald Trump has called those responsible, perhaps begins to describe those responsible, and yet, I’m not certain there are any words in the vocabulary of any peoples that adequately describe the mindset of what we now classify as “terrorists.”

We are attempting to ascribe to others our own morality, and we are attempting to apply our own cultural mores, ie, “the essential or characteristic customs and conventions of a community,” to those who are completely different from any of the characteristics, customs or conventions of any community. Their moral compass is 180 degrees from that of Western Civilization. What these “radical jihadists’ have done is to cannibalize all of the beauty of the religion of Islam and turned it to their own egregious ends. In effect, they are completely ignorant of the Quran, its teachings, or even their own end game. Their ultimate goal appears to be killing for the sake of killing and terrorizing those more culturally developed nations into fearing them purely for the sake of fear. I have yet to hear anyone in any leadership position within ISIS, ISL, Al Qaeda, Taliban, or whoever happens to be calling the shots these days, issue any statement of purpose or what it is they wish to achieve.

As I understand it, Salman Abedi used to be a “lovely kid” when he first attended Didsbury mosque with his father. Something changed. What was it? Was he confused by his family, his schools, the study of business management, his friends, what? We will never know. Perhaps this was a young man who turned to radical Islam as an escape from pressures that he felt, but that others didn’t. We will never, ever know, why this man/child exploded a device that, so far, has killed 22 and injured more than 160 people of all ages.

I have a theory. It goes something like this: I believe that all of these people who blow themselves up in the name of something they don’t fully understand are weak-willed and ignorant immature sheep. I would classify them as lemmings, but we all know that that is a myth created by a Canadian film crew back in the 50s. I’d say that they should be driven out of the Middle East the way St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland except we also know that never happened. No, these people are sheep, searching for a shepherd to lead them and give them some direction. Unfortunately, the leadership they find is with arrogant, ultra-conservative groups and individuals who brainwash the sheep into believing that they will live a much better life after death, and that their ‘ultimate’ sacrifice will please the god they worship. All of this, of course, is pure fabrication consisting of half-truths and outright prevarications.

Following a religion is a bitch. Seriously, being tied to a single faith, whether it’s Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Hindi, or any one of a million other faiths, only tends to create problems with those of other faiths. As stupid as it may sound today, I was banned from having a serious relationship in high school because my girlfriend’s family were strict Roman Catholics and I, god forbid, was a Protestant. As life would have it, I married a woman who was Roman Catholic by religion, and our children were raised as ‘they’ wished to be raised. We took them to a variety of Christian churches and were allowed to make their own decisions regarding faith. Would we have blessed an inter-religion or inter-racial marriage? I don’t have an answer for that, largely because it never became an issue. Look, if you will, at the restrictions imposed by the Holy See. They may not lead to war, but there are some pretty strong “Oh, no, you don’ts’ in that faith. It appears that the Muslim faith, as practiced by some sects in the Middle East is akin to, “My way or the highway,” and in this case it’s the highway to death. Can you imagine, for example, a minister, priest, or rabbi telling his or her congregation to stone a woman to death because she went out in public without her hajib or because she wanted to divorce her unfaithful husband? The people who are putting forth laws created in the time of Caesar or before have no concept of gray for anyone other than themselves. It’s fine for them to rape, rob, and pillage wherever, whoever, and whenever they so desire, but they do so in the name of their god without fully comprehending the messages of their god.

There will be more attacks, particularly on Western Civilizations, particularly on countries that are predominantly other than Muslim. On the other side of that coin, however, there are millions upon millions of Muslims who understand perfectly well what Allah’s teachings were and are. They are at peace with their religion and religions as practiced by others. Do they understand these other religions? Perhaps so, perhaps not. Do those of us in other religions understand Islam? Perhaps so, perhaps not.

I’m quite certain that there are some people in the Middle East, Taliban, ISIS, and all of the others, who consider themselves to be “freedom fighters” as opposed to terrorists. I don’t know what freedom they are fighting for, nor do I really care. I’m certain also that they believe those who are attempting to exterminate them are, in their own right, ‘terrorists,’ and that includes the American and other nations’ soldiers who are shooting at them. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Most important of all, how do we prevent these extremists from continuing to kill innocents. If you have an answer to that one, I’m all ears.

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Didn’t seem to be a big deal. Fellow came by yesterday. We were sitting at the kitchen table, just chatting, and he asked, “Do you know those little Tedeschi stores?” I just smiled and nodded that I did know them. Maybe my smile gave something away, I really don’t know. However, he followed up with, “What, why are you smiling?

I had to ask, “Do you know the history of the Tedeschi’s?”

“No, whadda you mean?” he asked.

Well, you know me, I’m not one to let an opportunity pass, so I had to tell the story…at least as I know it, and so I began…

Years ago, gosh, I couldn’t have been older than six or seven, we lived on the first floor of a two story house in Rockland, Massachusetts. The house was on Belmont Street, number 51 to be exact. Down the street from us was a little neighborhood grocery store. It was actually attached to the residence, but it had a parking lot that was big enough for maybe six cars. The husband and wife who lived there were Angelo and Katherine Tedeschi. There were days when my dad would take his shotgun and some shells, walk down the street and into the store. He’d yell, “Hey, Angelo, get the dogs and let’s go hunting,” and Angelo would tell Katherine to mind the store, and off he and dad would go to hunt. Remember now, this was late 1940, early ’41. If they were lucky, they would bring home a number of rabbits. Angelo would skin them and put them in his freezer. I have to tell ya, this store was just a little big larger than a two-car garage, so when I say it was ‘neighborhood,’ I mean, if you walked in there, you knew right away who was shopping. They were your neighbors. They knew you. You knew them, and it was a gathering place for neighborhood gossip as well as for picking up that night’s dinner.

It was later in 1941, December 7th to be exact, that America changed. We were drawn into a Second World War. Angelo and my dad were too old to join up, but some of the Tedeschi boys, as I was later told, went right down and enlisted. Ralph, the oldest, went into the Army as an officer. He fought in Europe and was promoted to the rank of major. To his misfortune, he was captured by the Germans. Ralph’s treatment at the hands of his captors was not too good. He was severely beaten. He was urinated on, and a number of other rather vile and despicable treatments were his wont in the camp in which he was held prisoners. He was isolated and thrown in a cell that had a dirt floor. As I understand it, he found a small stick at some point, and that dirt floor of his cell and that stick probably saved his life. You see, Ralph would diagram on that dirt floor his ideas for a new kind of market that he and his family would build when the war was over and he could go home. Different stores, different designs, different this and different that…all on the dirt floor as he was recovering from his beatings and his interrogation. Eventually, Ralph was freed from his captors by Russian soldiers. He was reunited with his family, and he began to plan.

The first “supermarket” opened by the Tedeschi family was on Market Street in Rockland. Ralph’s family, including brothers, Sam, Nick, and Bobby, as well as sister, Etta, were all part of the team. There could have been other brothers, heck, I could never keep track of all of them. Anyway, Angelo and Katherine were able to retire and watch their boys build a small empire. Stores in Braintree, Hanover, and a couple of other towns followed. Eventually, Stop & Shop, another major New England chain of supermarkets took notice. They offered to buy out the Tedeschi’s, and Ralph, as I understand it, drove a pretty hard deal, one that resulted in reasonably good wealth for all members of his family. Oh, and there was another proviso in the buyout. Ralph was prohibited from opening any other supermarket with the Tedeschi name for a period of ten years. Hey, they were all now millionaires, right, so what’s the big deal. Well, not so fast. The Tedeschi family hadn’t gotten to the position they were now in by being lazy and sitting on their collective butts. Within five years, the supermarket bug that had bitten Ralph was back and chomping away. As a result he opened some supermarkets on Cape Cod under the name of his father. They were called, “Angelo’s,” and they were big! As time went on, Ralph turned the business over to his brothers and other relatives. Eventually, another chain came and, once again, purchased the stores.

That, however, is not the end of my tale. My own Mother and Dad were in Florida when Angelo Tedeschi died. They read of his passing in a paper, and Mom called me. “Will you please go to the wake and the funeral and represent our family?” she asked. It was an honor I couldn’t refuse…probably would have gone anyway. When I walked into the funeral home, there they were, all of the brothers, greeting people who had come to pay their respects to this wonderful man who, along with his wife, had raised some pretty damned good kids. Ralph walked over and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?” I explained that my folks couldn’t come and that I was representing the family because someone from our neighborhood had to be there. I no sooner got the words out of my mouth than Ralph grabbed me in a bear hug and carried me into the room where Etta was sitting with her mother, Katherine. “Look,” said Ralph, “It’s Dickie Bishop!” [Gad, how I hated that nickname…still do]. I spent some time with the family and, really, it was old home week. It was also the last time that I saw Ralph alive.

Years later, my wife and I were spending a vacation in Bermuda. As I was heading for the water at our little beach, a lady ahead of me yelled out to her friend, already in the water, “Wow, not like Green Harbor,” – a beach on the Atlantic to which our my family and all of our friends frequently visited. Being the smart mouth that I am, I responded from behind her, “Not like Brandt Rock either,” another haunt of our neighborhood and right next to Green Harbor. We both laughed and went for our swims. On getting out of the water, I told my wife of the brief encounter which she thought to be rather amusing. About half an hour later, I noticed one of the women talking to a man on their blanket and point over toward me. “Ah, what the hell,” I figured, “might’s well walk over”…which I did and introduced myself. “I’m {can’t remember the first name] Tedeschi,” he said. To which I responded, “Whose are you?” This rather confounded them, and I asked if they were from Rockland. “No,” the man said, “We live in Norwell.” I repeated my question, adding, “Which one of the brothers are you the children of?” It was as though the lightbulb went off, and he responded, “Do you know my family?” I allowed as how I did and asked them what they knew of their grandparents. Turned out that both Angelo and Katherine had passed on before these young people were born. “Did you know my grandfather,” I was asked, and thus, once more, I had the privilege of telling some folks a bit of their own family history. Did I embellish just a bit? Of course, because Angelo and Katherine deserved to be embellished. They, along with their children, believed in and became the American Dream.

I write this not out of a need to tell a story. I write it because another fellow came by yesterday, sat at the kitchen table, and asked if I knew the name Tedeschi. This fellow, too, is an immigrant. He and his mom, escaped from the Soviet Union about thirty-five years ago. He owns a small business, and I can see in his eyes and in his work ethic, that he, too, is pursuing this thing we call the American Dream. I think he’s going to make it, maybe not the way Ralph or his counterparts did, but I really think he stands a good chance of realizing what just about every immigrant dreams of when he or she enters the shores of our United States of America.

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I don’t want to say anything but when a felon is convicted of ten counts of sexual assault and one count of object rape, and the judge calls him “an extraordinarily good man,” there is something wrong with our judicial system. That’s exactly what happened in a case in Provo, Utah. Judge Thomas Low heaped praise on the former Mormon bishop before sentencing him up to life in prison for his actions. According to the Associated Press, “Prosecutor Ryan McBride speculated that Low had been swayed by the more than 50 letters referencing Vallejo’s character as well as Vallejo’s brother’s testimony, which compared the rapist to Jesus, maintaining they were both wrongfully convicted.” Compared him to Jesus? What is wrong with these people?

Victims of sexual assault are “VICTIMS!” They do not go into court wanting to tell their stories of how they were groped, raped, battered, or too drunk to know what was going on. They are not sluts or whores or any other derogatory term that some use. They are “VICTIMS,” and should be treated as such. When Canadian federal judge, Robin Camp, asked a victim, “Why didn’t you just keep your knees together,” referred at one point to the victim as “the accused,” and asked later why she didn’t just let her bottom drop into the sink so she couldn’t be penetrated, he was forced to resign.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I know what it feels like to be raped. How could I? I’ve never been in a situation where something like that could or would occur. Can a male be raped? Of course he can. As I understand it, this is not uncommon in some criminal detention facilities. Never having spent a great deal of time in one, I just wouldn’t know. I’ve never been robbed at gunpoint either, so I don’t know the terror that that might hold. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s impossible for me or any member of my sex to know what horrible terrors must go through a woman’s mind when she is being physically assaulted and penetrated by a complete stranger who is, in effect, exercising control over her body. The only thing that I can say is…nothing…I can say nothing because I don’t know.

Unfortunately, even though it is the 21st Century…repeat that to yourself…”this is the 21st Century.” We have come so far, in so many fields…science, medicine, technological changes, invention after invention, all just within the past century, and yet, sociologically, we live in the dark ages. We’re still back where it’s okay for the caveman to bonk the cavewoman on the head with a club, drag her wherever the hell he pleases, and fucks her. Don’t be disturbed by the language, because that’s the way it was and, quite frankly, there are still those who believe it is okay today. Granted, they are warped, sick, psychopathic assholes, but that doesn’t matter either because they live in the 21st Century. The larger problem is that some of those males are in law enforcement, positions of power in the workplace or school place, and some of them are actually sitting on the bench in our legal system.

“She brought it on herself…by flirting…by wearing that outfit…by getting drunk…because I heard she was a slut, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” Bullshit! I don’t care if she walks naked through the hallways and sits down to take notes in Economics 101, she is not meat on a hook. If she wants to get laid, she’ll say so. If she wants her boobs or her butt squeezed, she’ll say so. Yes, this is an exaggerated example; of course it is, but goddammit, if it takes absurdity to get a message into someone’s thick skull, then absurdity I will use.

Have I ever pushed to get a little sex? Sure, when I was 17 or 18, sex was always on my mind…well, along with working at the A&P, doing chores around the house, getting ready and then going to college, and a whole pile of other things…but yeah, sex was reasonably important. Then I grew a little older, took more responsibility for my life and the lives of others, like workers in the workplace, my wife, my growing family, making a living, et cetera, and while sex certainly didn’t take a back seat, I, as with all of the people I know, didn’t go around ‘hunting’ for something or someone to be forced into placating our sexual desires. Unfortunately, there are people – men – out there who do exactly that. “If she’s female and I want her, I’m strong, and she’s weak, and I can have her.” And the answer is, “No, you cannot. You cannot because she doesn’t want you, probably doesn’t even know you exist, and what you are contemplating is not acceptable in an advanced society.”

Not only is sexual assault not acceptable, but blaming the victim for its happening is also unacceptable, whether that blame comes from innuendo, direct remarks, or anything…VICTIM blaming should just not be done…at any level. Thomas Low and Robin Camp are only two examples of the thought processes that go on in the heads of many men, everywhere. It’s difficult to comprehend, I know, but these are the same people who don’t see anything wrong with paying a man more for doing the identical job that a woman is doing…and they’re wrong! The Declaration of Independence states, “…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.” It was wrong when they wrote it, and it is wrong today. It is wrong because while some say it was the “generic” men of which they were speaking, more realistically, it was white males. Blacks and women were considered chattel, and, as unfortunate as it may be, that still holds true today. And it is WRONG!

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I find it difficult to understand why Senate Democrats would block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination when they all know that it will just lead to the ‘nuclear option’ that will allow the man to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. This is just the child-like behavior that Republicans showed over the past eight years of the Obama administration. It seems to me that the two-party system in America has degenerated into a bunch of name-calling, infantile, assholedness that we often attribute to police state countries in other parts of the world. Perhaps the part that bothers me most is that the American public appears to be content to tolerate this behavior on the part of our national law makers…and that my friends is no less than absolutely frightening.

Are the Democrats so fearful the Justice Gorsuch will sway the balance of power that they have to use anything they have to prevent his nomination from passage? Yes, of course it’s true that he will be a voice of conservatism on the Court, just as Merrick Garland’s appointment would have made the Court one that would lean more to the liberal side of the aisle. However, I have to assume that the successful block of Garland’s nomination was nothing more than a cry-baby attempt by conservatives to further their agenda of diluting any kind of legacy that would be left by Obama. Certainly, Trump’s executive orders and the House’s idiotic attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seem to be designed to ensure that there is no Obama legacy to be undone.

Call me naïve or dumb or whatever you wish, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that 435 men and women, sent to Washington to do the very best for this country by composing, comparing, and enacting legislation that will benefit this nation as a whole, cannot do so. Sure, I understand that what the people in Maine want, the people in Mississippi want, and the people in Montana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts may want, but goddammit, somewhere along the line, there should be things that people in our 50 states can say, “Well, yeah, I’m not crazy about it, but I can live with it.” This is not the case today in the Houses of Congress. It’s “my way or the highway, and fuck you very much!” and that does not serve the best interests of anyone in any part of the country. Congress has become too self-absorbed with what it considers to be its own importance. To top it off, we now have a person in the White House who encourages this type of discord, although for what reasons, it’s hard to imagine. Congress can censure its own members, but the only way that America can benefit is if we throw some of these people out of office and let some new folks attempt to understand the word, “compromise.”

I can hear the politicians now…”Oh, you don’t understand how government works. You don’t realize the pressure we’re under from our constituents to stand our ground.” Perhaps not, but what I do realize is this: Too many of you have been in office too long, and you have turned government into your own political play thing, that does nothing for the nation, but that lines your pockets in ways that are unimaginable to the vast majority of your constituents. Do you think I’m joking? Time Magazine, in a January, 2014 story, wrote, “The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the personal financial disclosure data from 2012 of the 534 current members of Congress and found that, for the first time, more than half had an average net worth of $1 million or more: 268 to be exact, up from 257 the year earlier. The median for congressional Democrats was $1.04 million and, for Republicans, $1 million even.” In that same year, the median income of Americans was $51,939. Doesn’t that make you stop and think that perhaps members of Congress cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be an average American citizen? They listen and nod their heads and commiserate with their folks back in East Bumfuck or wherever, and then they return to Washington, dining at Fiola Ware, Bourbon’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, or The Source, usually at the expense of some lobbyist or other who will get them to vote for a bill that is actually at odds with what the interests of their constituents happen to be…but they tried…they were just overwhelmed by their fellow Congressional leaders or members of their party…and it’s all a bunch of bullshit…just so they can pocket a few more bucks or increase their portfolios.

Am I a cynic? No, that’s not cynicism, it’s realism. I’ve been on this earth for over eight decades, and in that time, I’ve learned one or two things about political leaders. The first of these things is that they are overly impressed with their own self-importance. A second thing is that they may have begun their political careers hoping to change things for the better, but that they soon become corrupted by those who were in office before them and took them under their wing, and if they refused to be taken “under a wing,” they were soon out of office and never even saw the bus that they had been thrown under by their ‘friends.’ Remember what Mark Twain said, “We have the best government that money can buy,” and by God, he was absolutely right.

My political ambition never carried me farther than being vice president of a Little League, and seeing the back-biting and chicanery that happened in something as low-level as that was enough to convince me that getting into the real political arena was somewhat akin to shoveling shit against the oncoming tide…you just won’t win.

I love America with all my heart and soul. It is the greatest country on earth. It’s a land where people are free to pursue their dreams, and whether they succeed or fall flat on their collective faces, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they are free to get up and start their pursuit all over again. Yes, I love my country, but sometimes I wonder just how we ever came to this sorry impasse that we call the United States Congress.

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We all know that there are inequities and inequalities in this world. Well, at least anyone with half a brain knows these things. I’m a big believer in this funny little thing called equal pay for equal work, which makes me just a wee bit pissed that women, on average, receive only eighty-two cents for every dollar that a man makes for doing the same job. When Mary Barra took over as head of General Motors, I’m told, she received a compensation package one million dollars lower than that of her predecessor. Her compensation package last year consisted of a $1,750,000 salary and other compensation that brought her package up to $28,576,651. Admittedly, this is probably one of the few cases where a CEO has earned every penny. Even within the male population, there is inequality. Tell me, if you can, why the head football coach at the Air Force Academy is making eight times more money than the Secretary of Defense of the United States? When one considers the international considerations of each position, it would appear reasonable to assume that the roles really ought to be reversed. Additionally, if the president of the University of Michigan is making $750,000, and the head football coach is making $9 million, how does one justify that inequality…and please, don’t tell me that old saw about the alumni fund depending on a winning season. It may be true in part but is it really true to the extent of such imbalance?

What does one have to do to earn millions of dollar each year? It certainly helps to have a history of achievement and demonstrated leadership qualities. According to Chief Executive Research, executive compensation is a “strategic tool.” “…having the right senior executives on the team and aligned are key drivers of business success, yet far too many companies don’t approach executive compensation strategically.” It seems to me that far too many companies hire more based on ‘old boy networks, school ties, or religious affiliations. After that the 300 multiple appears to take effect, that is, the CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker in his/her company earns. Is this fair and equitable? The answer is complex.

If you hire the very best person for the job as CEO, everyone benefits. The new ‘boss’ plans strategically for a five, ten, or longer period – one Japanese executive created a strategic plan 150 years out. If the plan works, the chief executive should certainly be compensated appropriately. Should the compensation be 300 times what the worker in the factory, on the floor, in the sales office or the secretarial pool? My answer to that is an unqualified, “No!” What if the chief executive increases the profits of the company by 300 percent of his/her strategic plan? The answer is still, “No.” We have allowed executive compensation to get out of control, according to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, but, “Corporate apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts because their corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.” This is nonsense. The economy has grown. The stock market has grown. People have either amped up their spending or gone into greater debt just to “keep up with the Joneses.” CEO’s aren’t any brighter today than they were in 1965 when that multiple we talked about earlier was 27:1. In addition, legislation – until Trump came along, but it still will – favored big companies that wished to outsource, either to other states with more favorable tax rulings and lower labor costs, or overseas where labor costs were markedly lower.

In 2015, “The SEC passed a new rule for large corporations: Starting in fiscal year 2017, they must disclose their “pay ratio,” the multiple by which the CEO’s pay exceeds that of the median worker’s.” In his article in Politico, Michael Dorff states, “The point of the rule is to both bring down CEO pay and to improve the compensation of rank-and-file workers. The theory is that CEOs and boards of directors will be so embarrassed when they have to admit just how much more they pay their chief executives than a normal worker—300 times is typical, though some companies’ ratios may stretch into the thousands—that, in their shame, they will simultaneously lower the CEO’s paycheck and grant their workers a raise.” Personally, I have strong doubts that CEOs and boards of directors that are currently paying outlandish compensation packages give two hoots in hell about their workers, are too narcissistic and self-centered, and it will not become effective until labor unions and workers themselves take action against those same CEO’s and boards of directors.

The idea that a CEO and his/her top four or five executives bear a responsibility only to their boards of directors is ludicrous, although it appears that many of the S&P 500 still adhere to such a belief. You figure it out. If the CEO reports to the board of directors, it figures that he/she also has some input regarding who sits on that board. In an article in The Atlantic, they cite, “…Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried, [who] in their 2004 book Pay Without Performance, argued that this procedure is a comforting fiction. They wrote that skyrocketing executive pay is the blatant result of CEOs’ power over decisions within U.S. firms, including compensation. Being on a corporate board is a great gig. It offers personal and professional connections, prestige, company perks, and, of course, money. In 2013, the average compensation for a board member at an S&P 500 company—usually a part-time position—was $251,000. It only stands to reason that board members don’t want to rock the CEO’s boat. While directors are elected by shareholders, the key is to be nominated to a directorship, because nominees to directorships are almost never voted down. Bebchuk and Fried showed that CEOs typically have considerable influence over the nominating process and can exert their power to block or put forward nominations, so directors have a sense that they were brought in by the CEO. Beyond elections, CEOs can use their control over the company’s resources to legally (and sometimes illegally) bribe board members with company perks, such as air travel, as well as monetary payment.

In other words, get your foot in the door as CEO of a major corporation via the old boy network, make the shareholders and your board of directors your primary concern, and you could well be set for life. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but I believe you get the general idea.

Truth to tell, CEOs and their organizations owe a far greater debt to a larger audience than their shareholders and boards. These stakeholders, as they are known, can also exercise some control over the pay of the CEO. Stakeholders include workers, product consumers if a product is involved, suppliers, creditors, and many others. R. Edward Freeman introduced the concept of stakeholders in business in 1984 in his book, Strategic Management. “The book proposed that effective management consists of balancing the interests of all [of] the corporation’s stakeholders – any individual or group who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of a corporation’s purpose. The stakeholder concept provides a new way of thinking about strategic management – that is, how a corporation can and should set and implement direction.” Only by involving, completely involving, all stakeholders in the decision making processes, will CEO compensation, a major component of directing the organization be brought back into line. It seems to me that as long as CEO’s have any ability to influence who is on their board of directors or that the boards’ only interest is in lining their own pockets, this idea of multi-million dollar compensation will not be curbed, but will, in fact, flourish. The losers in this situation are too many to mention, and it only further grows the gap between the one percenters and the rest of the nation.

In the second part of this two-part series, I will take a look at the health care industry and the compensation of those in it.

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I am a man, just a man. I bear the burdens of all other men. I have the flaws of all other men. And yes, I even have some of the assets, skills, and intelligence of all other men. I have seen my grandparents die, and I loved them both. I have watched cancer kill my Dad, and I loved him. I loved my Mother, but we had quarreled over a period of time, and I was not there when she died. I watched my wife die at home of the same disease that killed my father. I loved my wife as only a spouse can over a fifty plus year period. I still speak to her every night as I’m quite certain other spouses speak to their own loved ones who are deceased. Love is love is love, and loss is loss is loss.

There is one loss that I have not experienced, nor do I believe I could ever survive. It’s the loss of a child. Yes, Joan and I lost three children before our first was born. However, these were miscarriages. We never knew our child or even its gender. Our first is now in her fifties and has three of her own. Our second is a year behind her, and he and his spouse have three of their own. Our youngest is also blessed with three. If any of these twelve people died, I know I would soon follow. The spouses? Yeah, they’re great, but they aren’t mine. My children are mine. My grandchildren, strange as it may sound, are mine…and I would die.

Where am I going with this? I’m going where, perhaps, I should have gone a long time ago. We see on television and in the newspapers that this 16-year old was killed walking on the railroad tracks, and we, or at least I, wonder, “What the hell was he doing walking on railroad tracks…oh, well.” And I think little more about it. Then my eldest calls and asks if I saw the news. “Oh, shit,” I think, and she goes on to explain that he was the only child of a young woman I knew very well when she was a student. She goes on to explain that the boy’s uncle and his wife were at dinner with my daughter just a couple of nights before. I knew the uncle, too, as a student. Then it dawns…what are these people going through? What could possibly be said to comfort them? The answer, of course, is nothing. There is nothing you can say to someone who has lost a child. There is no “closure,” oh God, how I hate that word. “Closure” implies to me that something good is going to come of what happened. A child is dead, not just that, but in this case, an only child, and I sincerely doubt there will be another for this family. What will they do? What can they do? How the hell will they get through the rest of their lives together? Will this make their bond stronger or will it turn into a blame game ending in divorce and two more lives destroyed? Pause for a moment and consider this…every time, this young couple sees a train while they’re out driving, every time they hear the mournful whistle of a train as they are going to bed or getting up in the morning, they will probably be reminded of their son’s untimely death. Not a particularly pleasant thought, is it, to have such an obvious reminder of this terrible tragedy.

If this is all too morbid for you taste, tune out now because I’m just getting started. Over 20 years ago, friends of this same eldest daughter lost their first born to SIDS. He was under a year old. I had held that child and then he was gone. I guess I was just trying to be a good Dad when I accompanied my children to the funeral. I remember thinking that I was going to have to be the ‘good’ one, the one who held my family tight as the funeral progressed. Pall bearers carried the tiny white casket to the front of the church. The Mass began. Everything was fine. My kids were weeping and I had my arms around their shoulders in comfort. “Stay strong,” I remember repeating to myself, even though I was fully aware of just how close I was to not staying very strong. Then a soprano in the balcony began to sing Michael Joncas’ On Eagles Wings. That was the end of my ‘stay strong’ period. It’s one of my favorite hymns, and, frankly, I fell apart. When the service ended, it was my kids propping me up as we made our way to the car.

Children who die before adulthood, think of what the parents have actually lost. There will be no pictures of high school or college graduations. There will be no pride of having a son or daughter join the military because it’s something they had always dreamed of doing. For Dads, there will be no walking her down the aisle or the joy of seeing him standing at an altar, watching his life partner walk toward him. There will be no grandchildren to love and to hold…and, of course, to spoil rotten. No, all of those things will be denied, and that means that the word, “closure,” is a nothing word. It connotes nothing to the parents who have lost everything.

Perhaps this is my way of saying that I will never, ever, take the loss of a child quite the same again. Whether it’s because the kid was speeding and he/she survived while others were killed, or because all were killed because the 17-year old had found someone to buy booze and was drunk at the wheel. It just doesn’t matter. It’s a child or children who are lost and cannot be reclaimed. The SIDS death mentioned above was, in its own way, favorable in that the couple went on to have two more kids who are now young adults, but that’s just not always the case. So whether it’s a child shot in a drive-by, or a teenager who overdoses on fentanyl, it’s still a child who is lost to this world, and that’s a burden that you or I never wish to shoulder. To every family who has ever lost a child, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that it took me so many years to understand the depth of your loss.” May the Good Lord find other ways to bring positive blessings into your lives.

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“From the day you’re born, you begin to die.” I have heard this so often from so many bloody pessimists, that I’m rather disturbed by the statement itself. Furthermore, nothing could be less truthful. It would be better if it was said that, “From the day you are born, your destiny is to die.” Not one of us can foretell whether or not we will be a great chemist or teacher, mathematician or bus driver, doctor or physicist, but we all know that from the moment we begin to understand life, our final destiny is death.

Obviously, I think about death. What 82-year old do you know who doesn’t consider it to some degree or other? Oh, don’t know any 82-year olds? Hell, you don’t know what you’re missing. We are, alternatively, joyful, cynical, hypocritical, positive, negative to a degree you wouldn’t understand unless you were 82, and at times, we are absolutely youthful and playful. In other words, we’re just about as screwed up as the rest of the world’s population…but we can be one whale of a lot of fun at a party…as long as it ends by 7 pm.

So no, we do not begin to die when we are born. In fact, we begin to grow. As usual, I’ve bounced around the Internet to learn when we actually do begin the process of dying. It appears that our brain, lungs, and skin are the first to go. According to a column in the London Daily Mail, and confirmed by a few others, “As we get older, the number of nerve cells – or neurons – in the brain decrease. We start with around 100 billion, but in our 20s this number starts to decline. By 40, we could be losing up to 10,000 per day, affecting memory, co-ordination and brain function.” Now, I don’t know about you, but the math would indicate that it won’t be long before I become a blithering idiot. No, of course that’s not true. Our neurons can regenerate, if only in certain portions of the brain. Hey, and guess what helps this ‘neurogenesis?’ There are a couple of things, and one of them is physical exercise. I’m not going to ask my neurologist why this is so, but I would add this: On days that I exercise really hard, I have more energy and can attack with greater success such things as crossword and jigsaw puzzles, and have more interest in taking on new challenges. In addition, I find that my attitude is more positive than on those days when I don’t make it to the gym.

Like the brain, the lungs also mature at about age 20 – 24, yep, even those that haven’t been messed up by smoking. Since I happen to be one of those jerks who didn’t heed the Surgeon General’s warnings when they first appeared in 1975, you can just imagine how bad my lungs are. Hell, I didn’t quit until 1998. I now have emphysema as well as COPD, and I can tell you firsthand, it “ain’t no fun!” If you happen to be a smoker, give quitting a chance. I know it’s a bitch, I’ve been where you are, but believe it or not, you will feel better in about three weeks.

As far as our skin is concerned, let’s face it, most of us treat our skin brutally. We’re sun freaks; we don’t ‘lotion’ up to keep the skin soft and supple, particularly men, so it really is no wonder that our skin, by the time we’re 20, is ready to rebel…can ya blame it?

Let’s talk about the heart. The heart begins to age at around 40. Referring again to the article in The Daily Mail, The heart pumps blood less effectively around the body as we get older. This is because blood vessels become less elastic, while arteries can harden or become blocked because of fatty deposits forming on the coronary arteries – caused by eating too much saturated fat. The blood supply to the heart is then reduced, which can result in painful angina. Men over 45, the time of my first heart attack, and women over 55 are at greater risk of a heart attack. What can you do to prevent becoming a victim of the number one killer in the US? This one’s going to hurt so hang on tight. The first thing you can do is to watch your diet. I didn’t, but I sure as hell do now. The second thing is exercise…yes, I know I’m beginning to sound like Bob Harper or the male equivalent of Jillian Michaels, but it’s truly impossible for me to tell you just how much better you’ll feel. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to begin a regime of daily exercise, but it works. I didn’t begin regular workouts until four years after my first heart attack. I didn’t have the time. I didn’t want to join a gym. It was too much work. You think of the excuse and then recognize it for exactly what it is…you’re lazy. Start off by taking a walk around the block three times a week. Okay, so you have to get up half an hour earlier to do it. Your loved ones as well as your heart will thank you. Oh, by the way, before you do it, check with your Doc. After all, he’s the one who’s been telling you for years that you don’t get enough exercise.

I’m not going to go through each and every organ in the human body, but I was a bit surprised that our breakdowns occur a bit earlier in some cases and a bit later in others. Our hair begins to leave us after age 35. The eyes begin aging at 40. Men, you can expect your gut to become noticeable by 55, and ladies, sorry but the boobs begin to age at 35. All in all, while death may be our final destiny, it’s probably a good idea to take care of what we’ve got while we’ve got it. But whatever you do, enjoy life; far as I know, it’s the only one we’ve being given.

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Norbert Fullington was a terrific European History teacher. As one of the questions on his final exam, he presented a blank map that looked something like Europe. Our job was to outline the countries and to then mark the approximate location and name of each country’s capital. The nice thing about Professor Fullington was his consideration for our time. This particular question was to take us no more than 20 minutes…yeah, right, good luck, Norbert. The funny thing was that after you stared at this piece of paper with the single funny line for about five minutes, everything began to fall into place. I told you he was terrific. Okay, so maybe it took 25 minutes to half an hour, and maybe there were a few erasures along the way, but he was one hell of a teacher.

Norbert is dead now but I still remember him as one tough SOB who could really make you think and think hard before you answered any of his questions. He was interested in the facts behind what happened in Europe. Had we presented him with “alternative facts,” his first question might have been, “And what are your sources?” He was very persistent. Had we the temerity to cite something from an “alternative” history text, he probably would have read it, and countered with, “And the author went on to state what?” and eventually we would find that the hole into which we had dug ourselves was nigh on impossible from which to emerge. Norbert would just smile, shake his balding head, and ask, “Anyone else care to contribute?” It wasn’t so much frightening as it was…terrifying! Fullington was one of those faculty members you loved to hate and hated to disappoint.

Today, “alternative facts” appear to be a hallmark of the spokespersons for the 45th President of the United States. I don’t know what they call “alternative facts” where you come from, but in Norbert Fullington’s classroom and in my own personal life, we called them “lies.” A lie is not an alternative fact. It is an untruth. It is not a fact because it is fiction. If you would care to tell me that the white stuff falling on a winter day in New England is ash from some distant mountain in Japan, I would have to say that you have just presented me, a native New Englander, with an alternative fact. Although, to be frank about it, I would probably say, “You’re full of shit. It’s snow!” You see, I’m not as tactful as my dear, departed professor. I have more of a tendency to cut right to the heart of the matter.

It’s really not so much the lies that are coming out of the Trump administration when a week has yet to pass since the inauguration, it’s what they are lying about. Who really cares about the size of the crowd at the inauguration, whether it was bigger than Obama’s crowd? Who is truly interested in the fact that Clinton won the popular vote? It doesn’t matter. The fact – not alternative by the way – is that Donald J. Trump was elected to the Presidency of the United States in a peaceful transition of power. If the size of the crowd or illegal voters are of such great concern to the President, what the hell will he do when something of consequence actually happens? Since, to date, his tactic appears to cast blame on someone other than himself or anyone in his administration, perhaps he will blame the mayor of the city or the governor of the state where that ‘something of consequence’ took place…and that would be wrong. Example number one is blaming Chicago’s problem on Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Certainly, the buck stops at the mayor’s desk, however, to say that he bears the full responsibility for creating Chicago’s “war zone” is a bit of an exaggeration.

Another “alternative fact” coming from the new administration is to believe that it will be possible to recruit 5,000 new border patrol agents. When police departments in the country are hiring people who actually have minor offence police records, what makes us think that we can just grab 5,000 good and honest people to guard our borders? Perhaps we would be wiser to invest in technologies to limit the number of illegals crossing our borders.

I find it difficult to believe that others cannot see through this alternative facts malarkey. The only world leader who seems to be having some fun with this at Trump’s expense in German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said in a recent speech, “There needs to be an understanding of persuading people with facts instead of fakes.” It appears that we have entered the “post-truth” era in which objective facts and candor are being replaced in shaping public opinion by appeals to emotion and personal belief. We must make every effort not to allow another leader to achieve supremacy by telling the big lie.

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I was a depression-era baby. My mother and father believed strongly that if you couldn’t pay for it, you didn’t need it. That included just about everything, including a can of baked beans to a new or used car. It’s just the way things were. Mom had a ‘Christmas Club’ whereby she would go to the bank each week and deposit five or ten dollars – sometimes as little as a couple of bucks – in order to buy presents for the kids in December. This was ingrained in us from our earliest years…”Don’t get into debt!”

When I went off to college, my folks had scraped enough money together to get me through my first year. My part-time job put money in the bank so that I could continue. Since I went to a university that offered the co-op plan, I was able to work a term to pay for a term…”But I didn’t go into debt!” Tuition and books were a lot less expensive then, and I most assuredly was not a residence hall student. One book that was a required text was “Advertising Production.” At the first meeting of the class, the instructor informed us that it was not his choice of a text, but the department chair insisted. He then said that it wouldn’t bother him in the least if we returned the text to the bookstore. That had been the most expensive text I had ever purchased and, suffice it to say, no one from the class came close to getting to the bookstore with the speed and exuberance of yours truly.

When it came time to purchase our first home, my wife and I were very concerned. We both held full-time jobs, but both were in education. Anyone who has worked in the field knows that the salaries are not exorbitant. My folks couldn’t help but my wife was the only child of a successful theater chain executive. He helped us with a ‘wink, wink loan,’ and our mortgage became something manageable.

By this time, credit cards were becoming a bigger and bigger business. “Buy now; get it now; pay later,” was the mantra and many people fell into the trap. Since she, too, was a depression baby, our philosophy was a bit different…”If you can’t pay for it, you don’t need it.” Gee, where had I heard that one before? Did we eventually build some credit card debt? Absolutely, but not to the point where we couldn’t pay the debt off in the short- rather than the long-term. We calculated annual rate percentages and couldn’t stand the thought of “them” taking all of our interest. Hell, it ticked me off that our mortgage payments were more interest than principal for a while.

The biggest drawback to this frugal behavior didn’t catch up with me until the other day. In order to get a substantial discount on a moderately expensive item, I agreed to apply for an Amazon credit card. In the turn down letter that I received, was written, “We used information from your credit report in making our decision. In whole or in part, from the credit reporting agency below (Experian, Inc). The agency won’t be able to provide the specific reasons for our decision. We’ve enclosed details about your right to know the information in your credit report at the end of this letter.” I was truly pissed! I called Experian to learn what was going on, only to be told after an hour and two minutes on the telephone, that I didn’t have a credit rating because, basically, I didn’t have any credit debt. Of the three people with whom I spoke, not one could speak the King’s English. I kept asking to speak to a supervisor which only got me transferred to another – be polite now – international speaker. After the first 26 minute wait, I asked how many people were working the phones in the office. This question at first stumped the person on the other end. Finally, she admitted that there were somewhere between 100 and 150. “Why then the long delay in answering your phones?” I asked. She just chuckled, yes, chuckled, and asked how she could help. She couldn’t and I was again transferred. After a similar wait, I reached Kadherin, who neither spoke English very well and either chose not to understand or didn’t understand my request. Here’s the topper: I am now being charged $39.95 for calling Experian plus a $1.00 charge for my credit report, which I will never see because it’s nonexistent!

Tomorrow I go to my bank and request a credit card from them. I will use that credit card, but only to the extent of receiving a monthly statement for the purpose of establishing some credit line. I should not have to do this because I pay my bills on time. This has been ingrained in me since birth. Thinking back on it, while mother was changing my diapers I do remember her singing a lullaby about “…the Joneses are in debt; we won’t keep up with them, etcetera, etcetera,” and the chorus was “…if you can buy it, you don’t need it,” or words to that effect. Yeah, yeah, I remember that (uh huh, sure you do)!

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There was a time when I could be as shocked as the next person over some well-known celebrity’s death, but if you think about it, what the hell, it’s going to come to everyone sooner or later. When your time is up, it’s up, and there’s really not much one can do about it. In the Bible it says, “Oh death where is thy sting; oh grave, where is thy victory.” This is told to us because the Bible says that something better is waiting on the other side of death. We don’t know that for certain because no one has come back and gone on the lecture circuit to tell us how great it is. Why would they? If it’s so great, heck, they’d stay there and soak it up…which is probably why no one has come back. My sister tells me that when she died and before she came back, she saw “sheer beauty,” but then the doctors’ reclaimed her so she’s no help…nah, she’s a good kid!

Many of us have experienced family death. The question is whether it’s been sudden and shocking or a lingering illness that steals the live of someone we loved. My father was rather young when, riding in an open touring car, he lost his biological mother to a train crash. My mother’s folks were not so lucky. They lingered in a hospice facility, side by side, as cancer wasted them away. You might raise the question, “Why were they ‘not so lucky’?” If you’ve ever watched cancer kill, you would have your answer right there.

When Florence Henderson died recently, it got me to thinking. Here was a woman born in the same year that I was hatched. I didn’t really think of her as the “Brady Mom,” but more for the musical shows in which I had heard her. She had a terrific voice, was the voice of the first ‘Fanny’ and, as I understand it, ‘Oklahoma’ was written with her in mind for the lead role. But now she’s gone, and it was just another reminder of my own mortality. She died of heart failure. I’ve had four heart attacks. Makes me sortta wonder.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really fear death itself. My life has been extremely full. I’ve traveled across America from east to west; been north and south and spent time in the places in which I wanted to spend time. Got married to a terrific lady and together we raised three pretty darn good kids. Got them educated, into adulthood, married, and now they each have three. Along the way, I’ve watched the kids set collegiate records, run their own businesses, coach Olympic athletes and, in many ways, do far better than I ever could have dreamed…or done myself. I guess we can all brag about our families in one way or another. I have been twice blessed by another woman whom I love and now, in my dotage, I can look back and say that there are very few things I haven’t done that I truly wish to have accomplished. So, bring it on. Death, you have no sting for me. My sins are many and I may wind up where the sun doesn’t shine and heat is pretty bad, but what the hell (so to speak), I’ll meet so many friends that at least I won’t be lonely. The single drawback will be that my wife won’t be there. She’s in a more heavenly place.

Dying, of course, is a different story. It’s rather like that interim step toward the completion of your goal. You’re born…you live your life…interim step…death. Those seem to be the stages. Perhaps that third step, because of its uncertainty, is the one that I fear. I’ve known several folks who have just gone to bed at night and didn’t bother to get up the next morning. That sounds all well and good but what the heck were they dreaming about when they passed. A former classmate was laying on the couch and didn’t say anything…just rolled off and was dead before he hit the floor. It doesn’t really matter what that interim step is because we will all take it in one way or another.

It might be wise for all of us to pay heed to the words of author Jordan Smith, “When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.”

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