Reading Between the Lies

If you’re smart, you believe half of what you hear. Brilliant is when you know which half.
Robert Orben

In my younger years I had a friend who was a great storyteller. He spun stories of his various adventures in travel, career and financial success and seducing women. His stories enthralled many a stranger or new acquaintance. My friend’s tales were entertaining and always showed him in a positive light. The sad part was that my friend was starting to believe in his stories. He could not differentiate between truth and fiction. He believed in his lies.

Lies and exaggerations are the verbal currencies of politics, business, advertising, culture and social media. The more outrageous and fanciful the lie or exaggeration, the more likely it is to spread and to be believed. Indeed, in politics, many campaigns spin fake news in order to stoke contributions and support.

Followers of professional wrestling are labeled as “marks.” Marks totally buy into the character branding of the wrestlers, the contrived storylines and rivalries and that the match results are not scripted. They have not understood that pro wrestling is entertainment, not sport. Great athletes performing choreographed feats of strength, agility, strikes and body slams.

Politics also has “marks.” They are known as “Trumpsters.” Donald Trump has worked with World Wrestling Entertainment in the past. He has participated in a Wrestlemania storyline and his casinos sponsored Wrestlemania events in the past. One of Trump’s Cabinet appointments was Linda McMahon who along with her husband Vince owned the WWE. January 6, 2021 was Trump’s political version of Wrestlemania. Trump promoted the event and his “marks” thought that they could overturn the results of a fair election process. Just like a “battle royale,” Trump’s followers battled Capitol police and even used not so hidden foreign objects just like “heel” wrestlers do to cheat in their matches.

George Washington purportedly said in his youth, “Father, I cannot tell a lie.” There is very little evidence that Washington ever said those words. It’s part of the myth around our first president. Sadly, no modern day politician could ever say that phrase with a straight face.

I have picked on politicians and their lies. However the business world is replete with lies, exaggerations and spin. One cannot trust the accuracy and integrity of quarterly corporate results, CEO guidance, product and service capabilities, mission statements and denials of corruption, regulatory malfeasance, sexual harassment and mismanagement.

Photo by Joshua Miranda: https://www.pexels.com/

Game within a game: How chess strategy mirrors pickleball strategy:

  • The ability to anticipate your opponent (and your partner’s ) future moves.
  • Developing a winning strategy based on your strengths vs. your opponent’s weaknesses
  • The judgment on when to move forward or retreat on a certain move (or shot).
  • The ability to “reset” when at a disadvantage.
  • Positioning chess (or court) positions to maximize advantage

Chessboard photo by Mike van Schoonderwalt-Pexels; pickleball picture by Eric Burleigh

Book Review: The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy by David Gelles

The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy by David Gelles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best business related book that I have read this year…This book is an indictment of Jack Welch, “welchism” and capitalism in general. Jack Welch is not here to defend himself but the author presents a very compelling narrative supported by numbers that Welch was very overrated as a CEO, role model and strategist.

Welch quelched efforts at innovation, long term planning and corporate responsibility so he can meet or exceed quarterly numbers. Welch’s primary business objectives were to please his stockholders and become very personnaly wealthy.

Very well written book. Interesting stories and business analysis…Good investment of my book purchase…

Notes from the book:

Welch employed three main tools in his crusade: downsizing, dealmaking, and financialization.

Welch developed a new policy, colloquially known as “rank and yank.” Each year, managers rated their employees. Those who were in the bottom 10 percent were let go.

GE stock fell 80 percent in the years after Welch retired, becoming the worst performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Welchism has at its heart the conviction that companies must prioritize profits for shareholders above all else, that executives are entitled to enormous wealth and minimal accountability, and that everyday employees deserve nothing more than their last paycheck.

From runaway climate change to steep inequality, to hollowed-out communities abandoned by companies seeking cheap labor elsewhere, it can at times seem like corporations do as much harm as they do good.

The chief executive of a major American company now makes in one year what it would take a typical worker in that company 320 years to earn.




Book Review: The Complete Guide to Memory by Richard Restak M.D.

This is a badly needed book for me personally. At 70, I have memory issues, mainly forgetting someone’s name or being unable to remember the correct term or word. I fear dementia as I get older after seeing what my mother experienced before she died. I was looking for exercises and insights into improving my memory and this book provides it. Excellent tips on exercise, diet, and naps to improve your cognitive skills.

My notes from the book:

Pictures are easier to commit to memory than words. This is based on the fact that the brain wasn’t designed for reading words; reading doesn’t come naturally. We have to be taught how to read, while we require no instruction to form mental images of the objects and people around us.

We now know that memory depends on associations rather than single words. Each word has to be put in context and associated with other words or phrases in order to form a memory for later retrieval. So your best chance of remembering is to enlist the brain’s powers of association.

Another highly effective technique for improving your memory is to keep retesting yourself on the material you want to remember. Even after you have learned something, your long-term memory for it will be strengthened if you repeatedly challenge yourself to recall it again and again.

Based on the older adult risk factor, I advise all of my patients to abstain completely from alcohol at age seventy at the latest. By sixty-five years of age or older, people possess fewer neurons than they did only a few years earlier. So it makes sense to eliminate alcohol at a time in life when it’s necessary to conserve as many neurons as possible.

Fiction, on the other hand, requires the reader to proceed from beginning to end while retaining in working memory the various characters and plot developments.

Incidentally, I have noticed over my years as a neurologist and neuropsychiatrist that people with early dementia, as one of the first signs of the encroaching illness, often stop reading fiction.

For some reason, our brain is better at recalling losses and failings rather than positive experiences.

Naps too exert a positive influence on memory. Naps lasting anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half have been shown to increase later recall for information encoded prior to the nap.

The key to successful napping is waking up more empowered than you felt before the nap.

Dark chocolate enhances episodic memory.

This serves as another reminder that anything that gets one up and about and focuses attention, however briefly, will prove beneficial. At the deepest level, physical activity of any sort promotes synaptic and cognitive resilience.

Book Review: The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts

The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety by Alan W. Watts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book has been on my bookshelf for decades. I have read or skimmed through this book dozens if not hundreds of times. I have yellow highlighted much of the book. I think that everyone should read the first chapter of this book for Watts’s brilliance and insights into reality. Considering that this book was published over 70 years ago, it’s amazing that the insights are certainly relevant for today’s world. For sure, the world has not become more secure since 1951, but significantly much less.

This book tries to address an issue that was relevant in the past and is certainly relevant in our present time. How are we to find security in peace of mine in a world who is very nature is insecurity, impermanence, and unceasing change?

Watts’s book serves as a guide for life – – how to approach it rationally and wisely. This book has had a profound effect on my life. Both uncomfortable and settling, it has provided some perspective to me on my philosophy of living. In a sense, this book became my Bible.

Listed below are some nuggets of wisdom from the book…

By all outward appearances are life is a spark of light between one eternal darkness and another.

If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp that ever excludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death.

However long postponed, everything composed must decompose.

When belief in the eternal becomes impossible, and there is only the poor substitute of belief in believing, men seek their happiness in the joys of time.

This kind of living in the fantasy of expectation rather than the reality of the present is the special trouble of those businessman who live entirely to make money. They fail to live because they are always preparing to live.

To be happy, we must have what we cannot have. In men, nature has conceived desires which is impossible to satisfy.


¨We fall in love with people and possessions only to be tortured by anxiety for them.

Human desire tends to be insatiable. We are so anxious for pleasure that we can never get enough of it.









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Book Review: With a Mind to Kill (007) by Anthony Horowitz

With a Mind to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble so I hoped I made a good reading investment. This is a gritty, violent and dark 007 adventure. No tropical island scenarios and his love interest was almost passionless.

The book starts off with the funeral of M reportedly killed by 007. Following the Ian Fleming template, the story starts off somewhat slowly. Bond has to pretend that he is still under the control of the brainwashing he received from the Russians earlier.

007 ’s mission is to find out what the huge plans are to upset East-West relations. This story takes place in 1964 where there is turmoil in the Russian government under Chairman Khrushchev. Bond is aided by a Russian doctor Katya Leonova who was involved in the brainwashing of Bond.

I liked the storyline. Like I mentioned there were parts of the book that moved slowly. I was more interested in what the characters did and said as opposed to the architecture and history of buildings that Bond visited.

This is old time Bond not the Bond played by Daniel Craig or the latest Bond movies. No special gadgets. No technology. A 1964 Cold War thriller…





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We’re Toast

Coronavirus has killed over 1.01 million Americans. 74.2 million people voted for Donald Trump in 2020. What’s the greatest national tragedy? At least, we have developed vaccines and other medical protocol to control a pandemic. The Trump plague will be with us for decades and will not just affect us but future generations too.

After his testimony at the January 6 Congressional hearing on how Trump pressured him to appoint phony electors, Rusty Bowers, the Arizona House Speaker said a truly remarkable thing. He said that he would vote for Trump again.

Really?

You’ve just testified how Trump tried to override an accurate and legal election result plus you witnessed the storming of the Capitol fomented by Trump and you would vote for him again?

For a man who has witnessed 70 years of American history, these are very depressing times. While advances in technology, medicine and science have largely been mind boggling positive, our national politics, culture, civility, judgment and educational systems have remarkably declined.

We are a country that cannot agree on facts, science, history, truth and the meaning of decency. Civil conversations today? How? We are cursed liked the workers on The Tower of Babel, unable to communicate civilly or constructively. No greater example of this is to watch a session of Congress or a political debate. Or better yet, postings on social media…

So now there is a “wailing and gnashing of teeth” about this week’s Supreme Court rulings? Did you really expect the wisdom of Solomon to emanate from men and a woman appointed by a failed businessman, corrupt politician and reality star? Democrats, liberals and journalists expecting a different result are as naive as the stupidity passed on by the Court.

While I appreciate the calls to vote out pro-life politicians and pack the Supreme Court, to quote Carole King, “And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late.” You are now at the mercy of a noted judicial scholar and husband of Ginni Thomas and at least four or five others who have an agenda to roll back social and racial justice progress for the past seventy years.

My guess is the current furor over the abortion rights decision will sadly dissipate. There may be some demonstrations and continued expressions of anger and grief. Do I think abortion rights will be the focal point of a national referendum? Maybe. Our national memory is very short. We’ve already largely forgotten the young children massacred at Uvalde. As their dust was scattered in Texas, so was our national attention.

Congress congratulated themselves for passing a paltry gun control bill that was quickly offset by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws limiting guns in public places. So the Supreme Court is taking us back into the 50’s. No, not the 1950s but the 1850s.

I have read a number of books about Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. What strikes me is the utter denial of the German people as to what was going on particularly as it related to the inhumane treatment of European Jews and the curtailement of civil liberties for many groups. We seem to be in a similar state of denial. There is no unity. There are very few principles that we agree upon. Very few shared sacrifices. We are led by old people with their old ideas and prejudices. I keep waiting for new leadership by a younger generation.

Until this happens, We’re toast!