Newly released de-classified documents about the 1961 failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba embarrasses U.S. further.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. For this article of ugly disclosures I have selected a famous Cuban song of sultry, seductive beauty… It’s the famous habanera “Tu” written by composer Eduardo Sanchez de Fuentes (born 1874) when he was just 16. I like the version by Fernando Albuerne.

In it he serenades Cuba the beautiful island of ardiente sol, the queen of all the Caribbean flowers. You’ll find this song in any search engine. Go now, find it and let this canto lindo, insinuating and beckoning caress you. If you do, you will understand why so many love her, want her, and will do any act, any act at all, to get her and keep her… And it’s been going on like this since Christopher Columbus discovered Cuba for Spain on 27 October 1492.

Too much promised, too little delivered.

On 22 April 1961 Immediately following the humiliating failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy asked General Maxwell D. Taylor, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Admiral Arleigh Burke and Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles to form the Cuba Study Group, to learn what lessons could be derived from the failed operation. On 13 June, General Taylor submitted the report of the Board of Inquiry to President Kennedy.

The defeat was attributed to lack of early realization of the impossibility of success by covert means, inadequate aircraft, limitations of armaments, pilots and air attacks to attempt plausible deniability, and, ultimately, loss of important ships and lack of ammunition.

At the time this group did its work and reported it, hundreds of the men who both made up the invasion force and native Cubans who favored it were being tortured and killed in the most barbaric of ways as a victorious Fidel Castro, relieved to be alive and still in power, showed what a man will do to prove he remains El Jefe Maximo. Blood was called for and blood he got… for the isla hermosa, sorceress, was worth it.

The CIA’s report.

Doing now what it should have done before the invasion, the CIA released its report in November 1961. It was authored by CIA inspector general Lyman B. Kirkpatrick and entitled “Survey of the Cuban Operation” and remained classified top secret until 1996. Its conclusions were:

1) The CIA exceeded its capabilities in developing the project from guerrilla support to overt armed action without any plausible deniability. (It other words, the CIA was well and truly over its head.)

2) Failure to realistically assess risks and to adequately communicate information and decisions internally and with other government principals.

3) Insufficient involvement of leaders of the exiles.

4) Failure to sufficiently organize internal resistance in Cuba.

5) Failure to competently collect and analyze intelligence about Cuban forces.

6) Poor internal management of communications and staff.

7) Insufficient employment of high quality staff.

8) Insufficient Spanish-speakers, training facilities and material resources.

9) Lack of stable policies and contingency plans.

In short, in plain-spoken language, they just plain didn’t know what they were doing and hadn’t begun to do the necessary and essential planning that would increase the odds for success. Nothing that should have been done had even been considered, much less accomplished.

And now, with the release of the latest batch of newly de-classified documents more of this regime of muddle, inefficiency and glaring incompetence at the highest levels of our government is revealed… whilst we, fascinated, wince at so much ineptitude by the officials who should have known better but quite clearly did not.

The newest revelations.

Before telling you the latest information, just de-classified, a setting of the stage is important. Try to remember what President Kennedy and his Cuba team wanted. They wanted to snuff Fidel Castro, do it so no one at any time (especially Russkies) could point the (accurate) accusing finger at us… whilst we, busy at our work, went about the happy task of installing (always with plausible deniability) a government well disposed to Uncle Sam.

This was all fatuous, foolish and impossible to achieve… but no one told the Emperor in the White House that his plan had no clothes. But who could tell such truths to such a president, so young, so tender, so inexperienced. His feelings would be hurt… and no one wanted to be responsible for that. Better to proceed, to ignominy, to the deaths, maiming and torture of hundreds than that.

What the newly de-classified documents show.

This time the documents offer rare details about the close links between the CIA and the presidents at the time of Guatemala and Nicaragua, Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes and Luis Somoza, respectively.

First, we owe thanks to an April 2011 lawsuit filed by the independent Washington-based National Security Archive. The nonprofit group has sought for years to de-classify all five volumes on the invasion. With the release of these 2 volumes 4 of the 5 are now available. The group remains active in de-classifying the fifth and last.

The newly released volumes describe how Guatemalan leader Ydigoras helped secure the training space for the exiles in Guatemala and even wanted his own troops to participate. He was rebuffed but let Washington know that he hoped they would back a multi-national force to fight communism not merely in Cuba, but throughout Latin America, the better to make safe the plethora of dictators supported by the United States and threatened by Castro and his Cuban revolution.

But gifts from dictators never come without the inevitable strings and conditions. In this case Ydigoras wanted U.S. assistance in combating his own insurgents, very much under Castro’s spell. He wanted Napalm bombs, for instance, mounted on GAOG B’26’s. The request was declined for technical reasons; privately the CIA probably just wanted what they wanted, no strings attached. They politely thanked Ydigoras and kept the door open…

There is also new correspondence between the CIA and the two Somoza brothers running Nicaragua, Luis and Anastasio. It was previously known that they provided the base from which the Bay of Pigs air attacks were launched. Unfortunately, they were mishandled. While the first strike virtually wiped out Cuba’s military aircraft… they did not destroy private aircraft… and these managed to launch air strikes against the invasion force’s supply ships, which were destroyed. Castro’s forces then had the invasion troops trapped… and so they were killed and captured (to be killed) accordingly. And so Castro survived… right up to and including the present moment. You see he know the words from “Tu”, “Fuego sagrado guarda tu corazon”. He is the keeper of this sacred flame and, for whatever time he should have, he means to remain so, whatever the Yankees might say or do, for he fears nothing but the loss of the isla hermosa who has possessed him and possesses him still.

The fish that ate Chicago. A true story of the invasive carp that won’t quit.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. This is a fish story… a big fish story… the story of two different Asian carp species who have already wiped out the competition down river from the Windy City and now mean to seize Chicago and swim north to capture the Great Lakes. It’s the story of what happens when man changes his environment without understanding the consequences (or, worse, knowing the consequences but going ahead anyway). And it is a story of our sneaking admiration for the… fish… who can outsmart us, the great poobahs of the planet.

For this story, then, I selected the song called “High Hopes”, recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1959. With music written by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Sammy Cahn, it was introduced in the 1959 film “A Hole in the Head”. It was nominated for a Grammy and won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 32nd Academy Awards.

It’s a tune about tenacity, persistence, grit and unbeatability… all things the carp have got to spare…. but which we humans often lack, too often taking the easy path… dozing through the crises around us. You can find this number in any search engine. Go now, listen up and get in the “can do” mood. And if you find the version Sinatra recorded for John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960, give a listen. It’s a classic piece of Americana.

How the carp got here.

The first thing you need to know about this story is that we did it to ourselves. Yep. Imagine you are a friendly, law-abiding carp. You’re living somewhere in Asia and life is good. You’ve got all the plankton you want… and you’ve got the respect of all the other denizens in the water ways you have populated and control. You’re the boss.

Then one day in the 1980s you find yourself captured by some hoodlum who’s sold you and your captured buddies to a bunch of Southern U.S. municipal wastewater treatment facilities. Your job: to control algae growth in aquaculture. Disgusting. You’re forced to do this job, this really dirty job, and you do… biding your time until you can escape to freedom and cleaner water. Then one day when the humans who are supposed to keep you in captivity aren’t looking you… break out… and start swimming north! And along the way you reproduce like crazy. By the time the schleppers at the wastewater plant have figured out what you’re doing, you are already a significant river presence, a fact to be reckoned with… and you’re having the time of your life, reproducing faster than ever.

Facts about silver carp.

The silver carp is a species of freshwater cyprinid fish, a variety of Asian carp native to north and northeast Asia. It is cultivated in China. Pound for pound, more silver carp are produced worldwide in aquaculture than any other species. It has been introduced to, or spread into via connected waterways, at least 88 countries worldwide. The most common reason for importation was for use in aquaculture, but enhancement of wild fisheries and water quality control were also important reasons for importation.

These facts are important, of course, but what’s really important is this:

1) These carp are BIG, whoppers. Their average weight is 30-40 pounds, but it is not uncommon to find some weighing up to 110 pounds.

2) They can leap 10 feet in the air, thereby presenting substantial hazards for people fishing from boats. And you must never water ski in areas known to be inhabited by silver carp and bighead carp. That would be most foolhardy.

3) These carp are voracious eaters and in short order deprive native fishes of the nutrients they require while eating up to 20% of their body weight each day.

4) They are difficult to catch. Silver carp are filter feeders; this is what makes them difficult to catch on a typical hook and line gear. Special methods have been developed to catch these fish, the most important being the “suspension method” usually consisting of a large dough ball that disintegrates slowly, surrounded by a nest of tiny hooks that are embedded in the bait.

5) Silver carp feeding on certain species of blue-green algae, notably the often toxic Microcystis, can pass through the gut of silver carp unharmed, and pick up nutrients while in the gut. Thus, in some cases blue-green algae blooms have been exacerbated by silver carp… and the carp are therefore hazardous to eat.

Now this resourceful adversary, so far successful in all its endeavors, wants to seize Chicago and move into the greatest hunting area on earth, the Great Lakes, where, by the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

Thus did America’s great Victorian poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in “The Song of Hiawatha” (1855) write of Lake Superior, now a target for the silver carp and a prime reason why at this very moment in August 2011 deeply concerned humans are racing to raise defences which must hold, or the fish will triumph.

The carp must take the Chicago Waterway System to reach their goal… and we must make sure they cannot seize it.

The manmade Chicago Waterway System connects the Great Lakes to the Illinois River, which then connects to the Mississippi River. Both sides know the pivotal battle will be fought here. Each side controls a major part of the puzzle. The silver and bighead carp have overwhelmed the Mississippi River network; humans still own the Great Lakes.

The carp have numbers and time on their side. They also know that they can sacrifice as many of their species as necessary to win; they will produce as many as required. Above all, they know this: that their human adversaries must keep EVERY invasive carp out of the Great Lakes… while the carp have only to get ONE carp into the Great Lakes to seize the first lake, then all the lakes, and change the environment forever, turning it to their exclusive advantage and wrecking havoc on the ecology existing now. The stakes could hardly be higher.

That is why today, on a perfect summer’s day for fishing, crews will instead be straining muscle and mind to stop these brazen invaders, already too close for comfort. They will be using electric jolts to stun fish, sweeping the waterway with half-mile-long nets, and sampling and resampling Lake Calumet and the Calumet River.

What the folks at the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Council (which keeps a detailed daily blog on the subject) find so troubling is this: DNA from silver carp has already been found in 11 samples in the lake and river in July. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced July 22 that it had found additional samples containing DNA from silver carp. Experts cannot say from the sampling whether live fish are already in the lake or if genetic material came from dead fish or was carried into the lake from bilge water. The sampling, of course, continues… and chary professionals remind us no final verdict on the matter is yet possible.

But for me, my money’s on the fish. They have outsmarted us at every turn, with every current in the great river system they now control. They have destroyed an immemorial eco-system, snuffing out every native variety of fish, destroying, too, boating, fishing, and travel businesses along the way, replacing lucrative native fisheries with their own flesh, worth so much less on the open market.

They insist that nothing, absolutely nothing, will pause their onrushing vehemence. Against such a determined adversary, have we the grit and commitment necessary to win… or are we just going through the paces, already defeated? These dog days of August will determine all. Like I said, I’m betting on the fish. They’ve got the high hopes.

Remembering the commencement of World War I, when the road to Tipperary proved to be very long and arduous indeed, 1914.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s Program Note. This day in August 97 years ago was a day of general European warfare. The great powers, the most civilized nations on earth, had, at last, done the unthinkable, allowing a regrettable incident to morph into mayhem.

For this story, I have selected one of the most famous songs of World War I, “It’s a long way to Tipperary” to be the musical accompaniment. Written by Jack Judge in 1912, it started life as a rousing music hall number, and you can almost hear the clinking of glasses as you listen. It’s got a catchy beat of course but the underlying message is sad, even tragic, for with each passing day, the way back to Tipperary got longer… and the list of those who would never go home again did, too. You’ll find this tune in any search engine. Try to get the version by celebrated tenor John McCormick (born 1884) It’s grand indeed. Once you’ve found it, play it a couple of times. And listen to the words… carefully… many men died with this song on their lips and in their hearts….

How had it happened…

Once a war begins, people cease to be very interested in how they got there… and focus instead on how to ensure that they go home again safe and sound. That is entirely understandable, but not what we want to know today. We want to know why, so that (we hope) we can avoid such travail and grief for ourselves.

The proximate cause of the war was the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I have two autographed pictures of this man, known to history solely for his assassination and death, when, had he lived and reigned he would have been known for more.

The photographs I am looking at as I write show him first in 1890 (age 27 ) and then later in a glorious silver presentation frame with his archducal coronet blazing in gold at the top looking supercilious, complacent, a tad silly, and not just for his outsized handlebar mustache either.

He looked like a man you wouldn’t want to cross… and insiders within the empire knew he was adamant about reforming the ramshackle imperium, bringing her antiquated systems and infrastructure up-to-date. He gave every impression that he meant not just to be emperor… but master. “Yes, Gustave, he means what he says,” they whispered over their snitzel, then went on with the national obsession, living well. This was Austria in 1914… where things were significant, but not important.

Franz Ferdinand has gone down to history as stern and unyielding. The Hungarians certainly thought so… and Hungarians (whose royal status had been upgraded in 1867) had a huge (entirely negative) influence in the empire. Franz Ferdinand meant to change all that, with a system he called “tri-alism”, aimed to elevate the Slavs in his empire to equal status with the Germans who founded it and the Hungarians. The Hungarians, especially the nobility of this most aristocratic of nations, were opposed… and not just mildly, either. In fact, had one heard that Franz Ferdinand had been shot your first reaction would have been to assume the deed was done by an Hungarian. There was certainly (suppressed) joy around the noble tables of Budapest when the news of his death became known… joy and (very subtle but heartfelt) toasts (in the very best tokay, Aszu Escenzia).

A man of cultivated taste and sensibility and a gnawing sense of injustice.

Though Franz Ferdinand’s public persona was grave, censorious, insistent, he was very different at home… for there he was a man in love, whose deep affection was equaled only by the burning rage he felt because his wife could not be accorded his imperial honors. She was Sophie Chotek von Chotkovato, a mere countess, hence beneath the contemptuous notice of the sublime Hapsburgs.

Franz Ferdinand was forced to sign a declaration prior to his marriage saying that while he retained his position in the succession… his wife, of such lowly rank, could not share it, neither would any issue by her be allowed to reign. And so out of his great love for his lady came an abiding, gnawing sense of injustice, rage, and dishonor. Growing exquisite roses, collecting exquisite furniture, the tastes of an accomplished aesthete, did not begin to heal his anger and mortification. The humiliation was as calculated as 650 years of Hapsburg rule and unbending protocol could make it… she could never walk into any imperial function on his arm; she had to walk instead where her rank as lady-in-waiting placed her… each slight an insult like acid… to be endured but could never be amended. He fumed… and whilst fuming sought ways to show her and the world how he felt about the woman he so loved… such an opportunity came in July, 1914. He was going to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in connection with his military duties. He brought Sophie along because she could share his rank there… and he was insistent that she should.

A young revolutionary, burning with youthful zeal and the righteousness of his cause, the cause of Slavic independence, gave Sophie equal treatment indeed, killing both her husband and herself at the same moment. Ironically he got his chance because the car carrying both made an erroneous stop just a few feet from Gavrilo Princip, one of the several terrorists placed in the crowd that fateful day. Even the novice that Princip was couldn’t miss… and didn’t. Another Balkan crisis, amidst an unending stream of Balkan crises,was underway. But “crisis” didn’t necessarily mean “war”. While this great question was being answered, Princip, in prison, probably tortured, became the third fatality. He was just 20 years old…

War did not have to come; a negotiated settlement was not only probable but virtually certain.

Patriotic Austrians were rightly outraged and aghast at the murder of their imperial heir. He might not be popular but the dynasty he represented was. Importantly those with political acuity saw an opening, to weaken the Slavs who wanted total independence from an empire not willing to concede the point. And so an ultimatum, reckoned to be the most severe one sovereign nation had ever sent to another, was drawn up in Vienna and sent to Serbia… an ultimatum which made it clear that each point was not negotiable and that any quibble, even the smallest, would result in an immediate invasion of Serbia and the most abject of terms, even worse than in the ultimatum.

Serbia, having no means ready to combat Austria-Hungary, capitulated… with one minor, even trivial exception. Here was the basis for peace and even the German Kaiser Wilhelm II knew it.

And yet war came. Why?

Because a militaristic coterie in Vienna (headed by Conrad von Hotzendorf, Chief of Staff) and one in Berlin (headed by the Kaiser and the court and army officials who kept this mercurial emperor on track), wanted this war, at this time, sure they could win it. They almost won their bet, too… only to be handed in due course ignominy and total defeat.

Along the way, the road to Tipperary became long and bloody indeed, inscribed as it was with the names of all who knew the poignant significance of its words. As for us, we must remember that we, too, have more than enough people amongst us with a penchant for war. Eternal vigilance is the price we pay to ensure we do not experience any more of the long roads than we already have.

Remembering London, as riots shake the greatest of cities… resurrecting the Edward R. Murrow style, August 10, 2011.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note: In the early days of World War II, and most importantly during the punishing air raids of 1940-41, one man, with gravel in his voice, brought that war, its devastation and its courage, home to America, in all its reality.

That man was Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965), and he worked for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).

Murrow was a journalist’s journalist… and thus every real journalist who aspires to honesty and integrity wants to be like Murrow…. and so, owing so much to this man, I now pen my own paean to him.

To hear some of his wartime broadcasts, go to any search engine. Listen carefully. These reports are each of them historic not just because of where they were made and when but because of the distinctive Murrow touch, deft, real, unforgettable.


Hello, this is London calling.

Today I broadcast to you not so much as a journalist but as a man intensely grieving for a great city he loves, the greatest city on earth, London. I am now in the charnel house of the eastern neighborhood of Hackney… and the scene is one of mayhem, violence, and anger.

I am in London, but I cannot believe this city of culture and history has been laid so low. But it has…

When we think of London, we think of its kings,queens and princes… for never forget this is a royal city where the greatest of sovereigns, and some of the worst, have trod the very stones we trod.

We think, too, of the greatest of authors, of the Globe Theatre and the Bard of Avon backstage, refinishing a line moments before the fretful player would have to utter it.

We think of ladies of high style and ladies who compromised… of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her profound ability to give love… and of such a royal mistress as Nell Gwynn whose knowledge of that subject was different but exhaustive and effective.

We think of politicians and statesmen like the great William Pitt, who helped forge an immense empire in North America… and the infamous Lord North, whose lack of judgement threw it away.

This is the London I love.

And now, this London, though I cannot quite believe it, is burning… right before my eyes.

London has burned before, of course…

There was the Great Fire of 1666 when King Charles II showed his people where his heart was, not by fleeing the great Metropolis, but by going into the fire, the flames, the billowing and choking smoke and passing water pails like the least of his subjects. Why did he do it? “Because I am a Londoner, too” and this pithy sentence procured him a lifetime of indulgence. For his Londoners loved him too.

London burned too in the Blitz of 1940, when the best the Nazis had turned their destructive genius to the pulverizing of a city determined it would not bend the knee, would not waver, and would never die… no matter how punishing each wave of airborn catastrophe might be.

For this is London… more lasting than the Eternal City itself. Determined to live and to flourish.

And now this great city burns… and at the hands of its own disgruntled citizens, as if they know that immemorial London, this hallowed place, can only quaver from within, at their own restless hands.

This is London… blackened, in rubble, humiliated… by those who care not for the English genius of politics and law… but only for immediate gratification of an anger they are determined to show a world aghast at what is happening.

What you see here, at this moment, will disturb you, distress you, revolt you…

Buildings of valuable commerce and utility, set afire, burnt, still smoldering.

Vehicles much needed by the good people who require them to get to work and deliver children and pick them up, now just smoking bits of dangerous metal.

Trash dumps… each required for the modern life we wish to live… now places of the utmost danger and peril, for here fires burn deep and may flash high and mighty at any time.

This cannot be the London I have known for a lifetime… it is not possible.

Yet it is…

Here there is riot!

Here there is wanton vandalism!

Here there is woe deliberately undertaken… with profound malice aforethought.

The perpetrators are young and thoughtless.

They who have every means of communication at their disposal select the most ancient means of communicating of all — with rocks, bricks, sticks, bottles, and any sharp instrument to hand. They do not want resolution…. they want chaos. And now they have it.

Like the malcontents of Ancient Rome, their weapons are the most primitive, but effective. They prize the old paving stones of Londinium and smash them into pieces small enough to throw… big enough to wound a man for life. Molotov cocktails cannot be far behind…

London is not defenceless, of course. She has thrown at these dark forces the men and material to put the insurrection down…. and she has arrested hundreds, who will soon understand English justice better.

How had it all started? Why did it grow so fast?

On August 6, 2011 there was a small antipolice demonstration in Tottenham over the fatal police shooting of a local man, Mark Duggan. This, as if by magic, spiraled into looting, violence, and madness.

There are a legion of “excuses” for what has happened. The economy is bad, the government is unpopular with its pinching austerity plans, jobs are hard to find. All this may be, probably is, true. But it does not account for the denizens of London, who have undergone so much more in times past, destroying their own shops, residences, offices, and neighborhoods… and with such incendiary menace.

16,000 police officers have been deployed. 111 of them have been wounded, many seriously. And riotous conditions have spread to other English cities, like Birmingham where three people are already dead.

All this, too, shall pass. But not until we faithful lovers of London, shocked and appalled, have scrutinized these events and grieved for them, for anything that hurts the London we love hurts us, and so we are hurting deeply now…. and for many days to come.

‘I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter, crunchy peanut butter, too.’ Doesn’t everyone?

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. The other day when my helper Mr. Aime Joseph and I were at the Shaw’s Market in Cambridge, you know the one up Massachusetts Avenue at Porter Square, I felt a thought being implanted in my head, or rather it was more like some kind of brain wave zapped one of the thousands and thousands of subjects I have in my brain’s computer. All of a sudden I had a sharp pang that leads to something that one hadn’t planned to buy being put in my shopping cart, to swell the profits of Shaw’s… and the company producing the product in question. This time the wave zapping me said, “Skippy Peanut Butter…. Crunchy.”

It was the work of a moment to change my direction and return to the aisle where lived Skippy and its dogged competitors Jiff, Peter Pan, and nowadays some examples of what I call “designer foods,” in this case expensive peanut butters made to cater to the tastes of a few people with capacious pocketbooks.

I had the craving. I did what the craving told me to do (“Buy Skippy’s.”), and I had Mr. Joseph take me straight home where, in a minute or two, I was doing something else that craving phenomenon ordered me to do: “Eat some. At once. Be happy.” I did as I was bid.

“Peanut Butter” by The Marathons.

In 1961, the group called The Vibrations was in the curious position of having two concurrent hits under different names . As The Vibrations (Afircan-American soul vocal group) from Los :Angeles) they released “The Watusi.” I remember it well…

Then with a few lineup changes the group hit again, this time under the name of The Marathons with their catchy little number “Peanut Butter”. It’s this song I’m using as the background sound for today’s article. Start by going to any search engine. Then go find your blue suede shoes and that absolutely necessary hair oil for that essential young punk “do” that says, “I’m hot… and so cool. Eat your heart out.”

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

“Well there’s a food goin round that’s a sticky sticky goo (Peanut, Peanut Butter) Oh well it tastes so good but it’s so hard to chew (Peanut, Peanut Butter.)

Believe me, it’s lots better when you hear it, though it is a song that when played in the soda shoppe after school produces wry looks and consternation. You see, it’s too slow… and you can’t dance to. it But it’s just right to eat peanut butter by… but secretly. Cool kids ate peanut butter… but never at school and never from a lunch box. I, of course, didn’t know this until long after high school. Typical! Life is much simpler now… when all I have to do is buy it… and eat it. I think you’d agree.

What is peanut butter?

Peanut butter is a food paste primarily made from ground dry roasted peanuts. It’s popular in North America, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and parts of Asia particularly The Philippines. It is mainly used as a sandwich spread, sometimes in combination as in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The United States and China are the leading exporters of peanut butter.

History of peanut butter.

Peanuts are native to the tropics of the Americas and natives have been mashing them into a pasty substance for hundreds of years. The Aztecs, people of discernment, fancied peanut butter’s first versions. Purists will argue that there is a difference between peanut paste and peanut butter… but the people waiting for one or the other will not stand silently by until learned folk resolve the matter. When they want their peanut butter, they want it now. Still what are experts for if not to quibble?… Eat your peanut butter first; when you’ve had your fill there will be time enough to hear what they’ve discovered.

Food historians (yes, there are such people graced by the mandatory Ph.D.) believe peoples like the Aztecs did not have smooth peanut butter; they had not yet so advanced (another good reason for their eradication by Spain); instead they had the precursor, peanut paste. The difference? Peanut paste is pure roasted peanuts. It is is harder to work with than regular peanut butter and had more of an unadulterated, somewhat bitter taste. People still ate it up… no doubt enjoying every bit.

Fast forward to George Washington Carver (1864-1943) and the many folks who learned so much from this great, great man. Now people began to experiment with their peanut concoctions… purists were not happy (purists never are)… but with additives like sugar and molasses there was no telling where these new flavors would take the humble peanut. And as Professor Carver rose, so did these peanut fanciers. One man even took his love affair with the peanut and what you could do with it as far as the White House where as President Jimmy Carter he presided from1980-1984.

As soon as scientists like Carver had their say, canny entrepreneurs entered the scene to have theirs. What they liked was not so much the sweetness of the peanut butter… but the even sweeter sound of money.

Evidence of peanut butter as it is known today came in U.S. Patent 306,727 issued in 1884 to Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec. It covered the finished product in the process of milling roasted peanuts between heated surfaces until the peanuts entered “a fluid or semi-fluid” state. As the peanut butter cooled, it set into what Edson explained as being “a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment.” Edson’s patent is based on the preparation of a peanut paste as an intermediate to the production of peanut candies. While Edson’s patent does not describe the modern confection we know as peanut butter, it does show the initial steps necessary for the production of peanut butter.

More importantly the celebrated J.H. Kellogg, of breakfast cereal fame, and his brother W.K. Kellogg invented their own early version of peanut butter in 1895 and 1897 with U.S. Patent 580,787 for their “Process of Preparing Nutmeal,” which produced a “pasty adhesive substance” they called “nut-butter”.

Bit by bit the peanut-butter business was growing… so that by 1914 there were several dozen brands of peanut butter on the market. One, with the invention of a process to prevent oil separation in peanut butter, was about to break out of the pack. It was the Rosenfelt Packing Company, which in 1933 began the process of obtaining trademark registration in the then 48 states and Hawaii. It took 11 years to complete this proceess. The result was Skippy peanut butter, made into an instantly known brand name thanks to the power of American advertising, including sponsorship of the Skippy Hollywood (radio) Theatre, from 1938 and “You Asked For It”, from 1951.

Skippy sales soared because the folks at Rosenfeld Packing Company had a very clear idea what they wanted: a brand that was as American, as clean cut, as tasty, as fun as the nation itself. And so Skippy grew. This is why I didn’t reach for Jiff or Peter Pan or the designer brands, wonderful though may be… I reached instead, as if by instinct, for Skippy, as I have done for a lifetime. It is always Skippy for me, chunky at that.

Thus, although I go for long stretches without any peanut butter at all, my lifelong loyalty and (a lifetime of buying) is what made conglomerate Best Foods acquire Skippy in 1955. After all, as The Marathons sang,

“All my friends tell me that they dig it the most…Peanut, Peanut Butter.”

‘Why was he born so beautiful? Why was he born at all? He’s no bloody good to anyone. He’s no bloody use at all!’ Of bodybuilder Albert Arroyo and his ‘disability’.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. If you are lucky in the blog which sent you this article, a well oiled and eye-catching picture of bodybuilder Albert Arroyo accompanies the text. If you don’t have it, go to any search engine to find pictures of this now notorious x-Boston, Massachusetts fire fighter. You will have no trouble finding plenty; for Albert was a man born for the camera… and pumping iron videos, too. You’ll find that the photographic and video documentation is substantial… our Albert loved the lime light and applause… Now he’s bombarded with more of it than he ever dreamed of or bargained for. Sadly it’s all negative. As for the title of this article, “Why was he born so beautiful?…” this is a tune sung by raucous soccer lads. I have been unable to find a reference to it in search engines; composer and date of composition are likewise unknown. That’s unfortunate for it’s a very peppy little number, equal portions of condescension, bombast, and insult. Matey Brits love it… and so do university students who drop into this song at a moment’s notice.

Here’s how it happened…

For Boston firefighter Albert Arroyo, March and April 2008 were ostensibly rough months. He reported falling on March 21 and suffering a back injury so severe that, a few weeks later, his doctor wrote that Arroyo should be granted an accidental disability retirement because he is “totally and permanently disabled”.

Yet, on May 3, after being out of work for six weeks and collecting his full salary tax- free, Arroyo achieved a significant feat. He finished eighth in a men’s bodybuilding competition, the 2008 Pro Natural American Championships.

By late May, Boston fire commissioner Roderick J. Fraser, Jr. learned of Arroyo’s strict training regimen and his record as a competitive bodybuilder. Fraser urged the Boston Retirement Board to deny the application.Then in July, 2008, the Boston Fire Department shifted Arroyo, then 46, from injured leave to regular sick leave, which is taxable, after its chief medical officer determined that any injury was not work-related.

A very public black eye for Boston and its pampered firefighters.

The story about Albert Arroyo could scarcely have come at a less felicitous time for Boston firefighters. In mid-April 2008, a federal grand jury issued scores of subpoenas to Boston firefighters as part of a criminal investigation into years of questionable disability injury claims by retired and active firefighters of all ranks. Arthur Arroyo became the poster child of a sleaze-ridden system that over and over again granted pension disability payments to those who by no means qualified for them. It was a Boston scandal; one which seemed to be endemic to every mayoral administration, business as usual for all. This was especially true of Local 718, Boston Firefighters. It was a union marked by fraud, chronic cheating, and flagrant favoritism and mismanagement. The citizens of Boston, already hard-pressed by the great recession of those years, erupted in an avalanche of anger, outrage and (because of Arroyo’s bodybuilding, wearing little more than a smile) caustic humor, deadly and accurate. Long overdue reforms were a must and the Arroyo case helped insure they were started.

Fire commissioner Roderick J. Fraser, Jr., the man in the middle.

Fraser was relatively new (2006) to his important job. Fraser, a former naval officer, met fierce resistance from the Boston Firefighters Union in his strenuous effort to change the culture in a department long dominated by the union. Firefighters of every rank, except the commissioner, belong to the same union, and until Fraser arrived, commissioners had always risen through the ranks.

Arroyo’s application for a disability pension came as the department was roiled by embarrassing disclosures about questionable injury claims.

In January 2008, the (Boston) Globe reported that in the 6 previous years, 102 Boston firefighters has been granted enhanced disability pensions because their career-ending injuries occurred while they were temporarily filling in for superiors and being paid at the higher pay grade The additional cost to the city from paying those pensions at the higher grades will be about $25 million. When this figure was disclosed, citizens screamed again — and this time hitherto timorous political leaders decided to act. Again the (nearly naked) figure of Arroyo, now universally known throughout the metropolis, was a factor… he and his case were completely understandable… and when they understood citizens screamed bloody murder at the previously recalcitrant and hesitant city officials. This time these officials acted… and one of their first captures was Albert Arroyo. The man who previously could waste a day or two deciding just how small his posing strap should be, highlighting by judicious selection, now had real problems… the feds charged him with applying for a $65,000 a year fraudulent tax-free, accidental-disability retirement benefits package. If proven, the charge could send Arroyo away for up to twenty years, ironically the very length of his service as a firefighter.

Trial underway now.

The trial is now underway in Bean Town.

Having a good basic knowledge of how the law works is important for every citizen of the great Republic. Every citizen is in this sense a repository of what the law is and how it functions. If you’re such a citizen, congratulations. You are doing your great task as a citizen. Such people, now jurors, are even now reviewing Arroyo’s robust, healthy lifestyle since he claimed to be disabled of playing baseball, shopping, dining out, visiting a tanning salon and taking out-of-state trips. They will seek to show by pointing to each thing he did which as a disabled person he should not have done; that his disability was bogus, a fraud from first to last.

The defense has a more difficult task. They must show that while Arroyo was disabled for certain things (like inspecting buildings for the Fire Department) he was most assuredly not disabled for others (like playing baseball… and competing in high stress, high stakes male bodybuilding competitions). Their’s then will be a defence of slicing carefully and hoping they can get the jury to buy into what could be a defence that does not defend.

Good and lasting effects of this fraudulent Boston firefighter pension business.

1) Local 718 Boston Firefighters Union got a wake-up call. Your job is not to protect people who lie, deceive, make-up in order to get a significant pension. Your job is to protect the public by making sure only the best firefighters are selected… and bad firemen are not rewarded but sacked.

2) If you’re the doctor Arroyo went to first to certify his disability (that would be Dr. John F. Mahoney, Dorchester neurologist) ask yourself why you didn’t see anything odd in the perfectly buff, symmetrical and sculpted patient before you that was requesting disability. Some think you never met Albert Arroyo at all… or if, when you did, you didn’t bother to actually look at him. Of course now you’re scrambling to show that you really did examine the man, really.

3) If you’re Fire Commissioner Roderick J. Fraser, Jr., watch out…. In Boston if you’re on the right side of the wrong issue the long knives await you… and for gouging this sacred cow,they definitely want to snuff you. Beware.

And as for Arthur Arroyo, you most assuredly will never get that $65,000 tax-free each year… and a trip to the pokey is likely. There you can practice your posing to your heart’s content. Just don’t drop any soap in the shower.

‘Darlin’, everybody hustles. It’s just a question of how, when and where.’ A tale of pre-Katrina New Orleans and your business success.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. I didn’t have to look for the perfect tune to accompany this article. I’ve known it for decades. “I’m still here,” from Stephen Sondheim’s incredible musical “Follies” (1971). It’s a song about grit, determination, doing what you have to do with the person you must do it with… to move up, move on, and force the big guys at the top to move over. This is the song you listen to on days when the recalcitrant world is just not going the way you want… it’s the song you listen to when you mean to change that… and try again, because that’s what winners do and losers can’t even imagine. Go to any search engine now… go into a room all by yourself, the better to turn up the volume to the ear-shattering range… and let Sondheim’s incredible music waft you to the place of your dreams… then listen to what you have to do to get there!

In the days before Hurricane Katrina, I used to frequently teach marketing communications at the University of New Orleans. My classes were held on week days downtown and on Saturday’s on Lake Pontchartrain, whose name I loved, coming as it does from a great French statesman who had the infinite good sense to be painted by Robert Le Vrac de Tournieres (1667-1752). I loved that picture from the first moment I saw it… and I loved New Orleans, too, its people, its spirit, its often painful madcappery and self destruction. When I came to know about “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole (published 1980), I read it with an avidity fed by its macabre history; (the author had to commit suicide before any publisher would condescend to review it; it then went on to win the Pulitzer Prize). From the very moment I left my hotel room (where I spent the absolute minimum amount of time) adventures were drawn to me, because they knew I was completely receptive to them.

Her name was Yvette…

On my very first day in New Orleans (it was a Friday), I stayed in a big, fancy hotel just off the French Quarter. I never made that mistake again; on my many future visits I always stayed in a little hotel in the Quarter, steps from the wonderful people I met who filled me with admiration for their zest for living and unadulterated joy under unremitting duress.

The first person who met me (note the language) was a person who looked to me like Tinkerbell on something. He walked up to me and said, “Honey, I can tell you are new to La Nouvelle Orleans. Let me be your guide”. I had never, and I mean never, been spoken to like that… but I recognized in these words Fate’s distinctive messenger. I accepted, bought my guide a drink… and in due course, having gleaned without difficulty but with some incredulity that I was a writer, he said, “But you must meet Yvette.” Of course, I must. That too was Fate…

She was, as the French say, a woman of a certain age; that might have been anything from forty into eternity. I knew at once she had that unmistakable quality the Parisians call “chien”. Yes, I know that means “dog”, and its English connotations are not good… but she had, and unmistakenly, that mixture of age, chic, dress sense, allure and brass that forces one involuntarily to look back and be sad that vision is rushing to be with someone else. But this time, perhaps for the first time, this woman with a Past was going to influence my future… and I was ready to hear whatever she said.

The conversation turned to life… it always does in the French Quarter with such people as Yvette. With each drink (and there were many) came another piquant observation that convinced me “real” life and I had only a nodding acquaintance. Yvette knew the vicissitudes of life inside and out… and I was bright enough to pay close attention to her observations, often as diamond sharp as Madame de Sevigne (1626-1696). This one completely arrested my attention:

“Darlin’, everybody hustles. It’s just a question of how, when and where.” It instantly occurred to me that this is precisely the element missing from far too many of my business students and people starting and running businesses generally. They are running businesses; they are not hustling for success as if their very lives were dependant on it… and that was the reason so many of them were barely getting by and wondering why, when they were such good and proper folk.

It’s because they were missing what Yvette had to spare: hustle. In short they wanted success, but they wanted it on their terms… which just ain’t gonna happen.

YOU say you want success, but (for whatever reason) you are not willing to work all the necessary hours it takes to achieve success. SUCCESS says, “You will work as many hours as it takes to capture me… not merely the hours you wish to work.”

YOU say you want success, but are not willing to work evenings, week-ends, even standard holidays. SUCCESS says, “If you want me, you must be willing to sacrifice time you’d like to use for other things. Choose!”

YOU say you want success, but you’ll only do jobs that make you such-and-such amount. SUCCESS says, “If you want the money, stoop to conquer. When you’ve got the money you want, then you can afford to be so picky. But that day hasn’t dawned yet.”

YOU say you want success, but your spouse is doing everything but put you in a cage to make sure you can’t achieve it. SUCCESS says “Sugarbabe, there are more good women and men in the sea than those who’ve come out. Dig my meaning?”

YOU say you want success, but you’ll only look at business opportunities that cost you nothing. SUCCESS says “Lambikins, ain’t nothin’ ever come from nothin’. You’ve gotta invest to get a return on that investment.”

Still more…

YOU say you want success, but you are not willing to do the necessary homework and due diligence to ensure that what you do delivers the substantial rewards you want. SUCCESS says, “Quit trying to beat the system. People who make money are constant, never-ceasing students of success. They review each and every thing to understand how it works… then follow the directions EXACTLY to achieve success. They are not trying to cut corners, because they know that doesn’t work.”

YOU say you want success but once you get some, you don’t gun it to get more. SUCCESS says, “Every successful person on earth has a success system. They know that if they do X, they will get Y results. Thus, as soon as they are successful and can prove their system delivers the desired results (or even better), they arrange their time and resources so they can replicate their successful system over and over again, each time reaping the expected (and ever increasing) benefits.”

YOU say you will study successful people to see how they do and how they work because you understand that the achievement of success is inextricably linked to studying the successful and making a point of then doing what they do. SUCCESS says, “Well, are you studying the successful? I certainly haven’t seen you around anyone but your low-down worthless friends. The only time they’ll appear in the media is for robbing a convenience store! Dump ’em.”

YOU say you want success on the Internet. Good for you; it’s where lots of people nowadays get big bucks and worldwide, too. SUCCESS says, “You’re all talk and no action You don’t have anyone to help you. You don’t have the necessary tools you need; you don’t have the training. And, as for your traffic, that’s a joke that you don’t know how to fix. Moreover, you have no way to profit 24 hours a day in this demanding 24-hour-a-day environment.

And what of Yvette?…

Let’s just say my appreciation for Yvette and what she taught me did not flag as the hours advanced. And as for her profound insight into the sustained hustling all true success seekers must engage in?… why that has now gone from just Yvette to me… and now from me to you… for my next adventure… and, by grasping this article and its recommendations, for your faster, greater, truly impressive success.

And as she aged, she asked with trepidation ‘Am I still beautiful to you?’ And he said, ‘yes, yes, more beautiful than ever….’

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. The world is graying as the Baby Boomers, now millions of us in our sixties, get older and older still day by inexorable day. Farseeing Stephen Sondheim, who I once met when I was at Harvard many years ago, wrote the musical for us back in 1971. It’s called “Follies”, and it has the perfect music for today’s article…a knock-out number called “Beautiful Girls.”

If you know it, you’ll be glad to hear again the lyrics and music to age by… and if you’ve never heard it before, you are in for a treat you’ll want repeated over and over again, not least for its profound message that, aging, we are yet deeply and profoundly desirable…and that if we’re lucky we have the empathetic people around us, especially that special person, to say so… You’ll find this song in any search engine. Go find it now… and listen to it, really listen… You are about to make a very special person so very happy….

Can you even remember the last time…?

The problem with relationships is that the good thing, having it there every day, is the bad thing. It’s comfortable like an old shoe or bunny slipper. You don’t have to do much, maybe nothing, because it’s right there, right now…. and so it goes until you are well and truly in a rut, devaluing and taking for granted the most important thing you’ll ever have.

If I’m describing things at your home, then this article is for you, and not a moment too soon!

Not a woman’s issue, not a man’s issue, a human issue.

We humans are social animals. We do not do well alone which is why solitary confinement in prison is considered the ultimate punishment… to deprive us of the necessary company of our fellow beings is completely unsettling. Thus, because togetherness is not merely a nice thing to have but an absolute necessity, we spend our entire lives, men as well as women, working (and working hard) to find that “perfect” mate… the one who gives us just the volatile mixture of peace and passion we require. It is a tall order; many never find it, many have much of it, but throw good relationships away trying to get the rest. In many ways the struggle to find and keep the “perfect” person constitutes the most important of life’s many struggles.

People need to have their desirability noted, confirmed, extolled, especially as the burdensome years add up.

I am 64 now and acutely aware of time’s winged chariot; I often feel it is running me over… or at least that I am slower these days about getting out of its way. It is an irksome feeling, irritating, exasperating and shared by millions worldwide. “Why,” we wonder “couldn’t we have had just a bit more of the magic of being twenty, thirty, thirty nine… even an extension on yesterday?” We’re smart… we know why… but we never stop wishing for more of what we had.

But such wishes, as we know only too well, won’t add even a single moment to the brilliant events of our lives. Thus, we must focus on what we have, for that, too, will be gone too soon and deeply missed. Under such circumstances we must learn to enjoy… to appreciate… to celebrate… to exult. And that must start today.

First, understand that it is the universal human condition to experience dismay, despair, even desperation as we age. We see aging as a process of diminution and diminishment. As a society, we are fixated on the bodies, the looks, the capabilities and agilities of the young, often the very young. We are a youth-centered society and as a result end up depressing those whose youth is often a distant memory. This is wrong. And Stephen Sondheim knew it was wrong, a situation screaming for a different emphasis. And so he wrote “Follies”. It’s the story of 5 women, all stunners, who have aged through the engrossing, demanding high times and low of their lives…

Sondheim wants them to live again in all their beauty and jaw-dropping perfection. And so “Follies” was born. It was a great success, an enchantment that made an audience leap to its feet as one aging gloriosa after another came down the circular staircase into the limelight and applause she claimed by right. We all wanted her to have it… and we were all grateful to Sondheim for resurrecting the joy these women gave us, beautiful girls forever… whatever their chronological ages.

Now for you…

When was the last time you took a moment to consider the situation and desirability of the most important person in your life, the person who needs the balm of your reassurance. “Am I still beautiful to you?”

This question is a gamble, only asked in extremis, out of anxiety, fear that their entire world will crash if they get the wrong answer. And so, first, recognize the courage of the questioner. They risk everything by your answer.

In such a moment, seize your beloved as if this were your last day on earth and say, “Yes, yes, more beautiful than ever!”, a sentiment confirmed by the most passionate kiss ever.

This does not end the matter… it just starts it… for from such a moment a greater love is born… the love that is greater and more important than any physical perfection.

When you look at your beloved, man or woman, you are looking at the most significant person in your life. When was the last time you made that clear… clear that you understand his sacrifices, her unceasing focus on you and everything about you? Each wrinkle, each furrow on a furrowed brow is there for you… is evidence that you were wanted, desired, lived for and loved… You have been and are a lucky person indeed.

Don’t wait for a special occasion, the fact that you both are here now is special occasion enough. Taking action today, on an “ordinary” day gives whatever you do its poignant significance and power. You are saying, and saying loud and clear, that your so special being is not merely special on the days society has appointed for such matters… but each and every day… a day which touched by your inventiveness transforms an ordinary day into one of the days of your life.

Now use the magic of Sondheim’s music and profound understanding of the human condition to assist. in making a point which cannot be made too often.. Sondheim’s lyrics are about all beautiful girls; change them now to be solely for your special one:

Hats off, Here she comes, that Beautiful girl. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. Nature never fashioned A flower so fair. No rose can compare- Nothing respectable Half so delectable. Cheer her In her glory, Diamonds and pearls, Dazzling jewels By the score. This is what beauty can be. Beauty celestial, The best, you’ll Agree: All for me, my beautiful girl!

I don’t have to tell you what to do now… the stage is now set for a day you will never forget… and which is there to remind you that what you once had you have again… … thanks to that beautiful girl, or guy, in your life, in whose grateful eyes you see the resounding.

* * * * *

Economic times dismal at your end? Here are 5 positive things you can do RIGHT NOW to beat them and smile the smile of the shrewd!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. I’m sure you know the song “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream… Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.” It’s an English language nursery rhyme, sung as a round. At the commencement of each line another person joins the chorus until all participants are engaged. It’s a tonic for depressed spirits… right now there are millions of those as the world economy resembles nothing so much as a pogo stick — up, down, up, down. But not for you… I’m dishing out today the sane, safe, superior advice that’ll enable you not only to get through these difficult days of Chicken Little and the doomsayers, but actually be better off. And by the way, if you’ve never heard the immemorial round above, you can easily find it in any search engine. It’s a grand song…

1) People panic. You cannot.

The first thing that happens during bad times is that millions of people panic, thereby causing an avalanche of bad news, thereby causing millions more to panic. And so on until you’re thoroughly alarmed, depressed and, you’re convinced, in financial extremis.

This is happening right now.

My father, and the Good Book, deliver the sage admonition “This too shall pass.” And so it will. Good times, bad times, mediocre times, entirely unforgettable times, and the entirely forgettable ones which precede and follow, it’s all just fodder for the newspaper. What matters is not so much what’s happening, but what you do with the intelligence.

Lots of people refuse to accept this economic gospel and run themselves ragged in days like these, lamenting the condition of the world and their own impending penury and residence in the poor house.

You’re smart… you take the long view. You realize that,for all investment strategies you need a window of AT LEAST five years, and that the minimum. Only if like scaring yourself should be reading economic data on a daily basis The long view is the only view.

2) When the world sells, buy.

Over the last days, especially in the light of the downgrading for the historic first time ever of Uncle Sam’s credit rating, the markets have experienced hyper instability. This worries you. But what you should be worrying about is whether you’ve been buying stocks at often dirt-cheap prices enabling you in later days to exult at your cleverness and cause involuntary cheer that “life is but a dream.”

Virtually every company on earth is for sale RIGHT NOW at rock-bottom, fire- sale prices. As stock prices tilt (or even careen) lower, you are handed on a sterling silver salver one buying opportunity after another. Smart money, therefore, is buying today, even if there is a reasonable likelihood prices may go lower tomorrow. But the smart money never lives to micro-time the markets. The celebrated Victorian financier J.P.Morgan when asked by someone in search of a hot tip what would happen on Wall Street, majestically opined, “The market will vary.” And so it will.

Bet that the worldwide economic order will not collapse under Chicken Little’s jeremiads, and buy, buy, buy. To bet on the economic future of the world is hardly much of a risk at all… and all investment harbors some degree of risk, even Uncle Sam’s (still golden if a bit tarnished) bonds. 3) Pay off debt.

We New Englanders have an expression for roiling seas, “Hunker down.” It means secure absolutely everything you want to keep, then sit back to ride out any storm, even the most destructive.

Commandeer your kitchen table and artfully arrange the invoices and statements for every bill you pay. Your first job is to see where the money actually goes. Surprisingly large number of people haven’t got a clue, much less the precise figures to hand. You, protecting wealth, building wealth as you are, cannot afford to be so cavalier. Get the bills and the details of every cash outflow. Ask yourself these crucial questions:

* Can I either dispense with this item altogether or at least reduce its cost?

* Will pre-payment of this account garner useful cash discounts or other savings?

* Can I get a lower priced alternative to the service I have now?

In good times, many of us are casual indeed about undertaking new expenses; we can afford the liberality and the laxity. But in bad times we cannot. Thus, invite yourself to a thorough review of every expense with a view towards eradicating, eviscerating or even just mildly reducing your current financial burden. Remember, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

4) Enhance your physical surroundings.

When turbulent economic times hit not only do companies and their stocks go on sale but so does the combined physical heritage of mankind, including paintings, fine furniture, carpets, silver and goldwares of royal and imperial provenance… and every kind of valuable and historic artifact. Smart shoppers, smart collectors, insightful connoisseurs are ready to pounce. And you must be ready, too.

In the darkest days of the great recession of 2008, when purveyors of the dismal science were at their most bleak indeed, smart buyers were intensely scrutinizing the worldwide economy; as it tanked, they exulted. Every brilliant artifact on earth from the great Impressionists to the storied Easter Eggs of the Romanovs went on the block… and sank… to the glee of discerning — and patient — collectors worldwide. Such people — and I unabashedly include myself –live for such moments, of war, revolution and acute economic distress. Why? Because each artifact no matter how grand and impressive its provenance changes value as often as stocks, bonds and commodities. And they know that what goes down will (if an artifact of beauty, refinement and appeal) go up again. Thus you should welcome economic downturns, the more acute the merrier, as an opportunity to live like the Windsors (who are by the way such canny “fire sale prices” collectors.)

5) Put off non-essential purchases.

To be an American is to be born with a credit card. “I buy, therefore I am” is our national motto and birthright. As a result, we all buy too much, including way too much of the inessential. During periods of economic confusion and anxiety, intense scrutinizing every purchase before it’s made is essential.

List every single thing you intend to buy in the next month, two months, and quarter. Grade their necessity, with 1 being an item of little need… and 10 being one of acute and pressing want.

Remember, buying things, especially non-essential things, is the quickest way to punch a gaping (and avoidable) hole in your rowboat. You avoid it by becoming a “conscious buyer”, never an impulse purchaser, no matter how tempting the item in question.

Last words

To build wealth is a matter of constant scrutiny and penny-pinching frugality, the kind so beloved and extolled by Benjamin Franklin, the original “time is money” man. And remember this: when all the trees of the world are gone, when all the water in the world and all the air are gone, when every animal species is not just endangered but gone, there will still be money and lots of it. Why? Because money is manmade and therefore capable of infinite expansion. Use these timely tips to make sure you get more of it, much, much more. “Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…” For now your financial betterment is not a dream but daily improving reality.

‘For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the repeated risk of his life…’ Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer… recipient of the Medal of Honor. True grit.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. For this article, there is only one song that will do: the Marines’ Hymn of the United States Marine Corps with its revered and unmistakable opening line, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”.

Given that it’s one of the signature songs of the nation surprisingly little is known about it. The music is from the “Gendarmes’ Duet” from an 1867 revision of the 1859 opera “Genevieve de Brabant” by Jacques Offenbach, the man who wrote the music for the scandalous “Can, can.” The lyrics are more obscure because there is no known 19th century version. Legend has it that it was penned by a Marine on duty during the Mexican war (1846-1848), hence “From the halls of Montezuma…”

On September 15, 2011 at a White House ceremony presided over by President Obama it will be played with the pride and flourishes it has earned for Dakota Meyer, the man fate allowed to serve instead of die… and whose selfless heroism embodies the best of the nation… at a time when America needs to be reminded of who we are, how we got here, and the people and characteristics we need to carry the great Republic forward….

“Operation Enduring Freedom,” part of the Afghan War which promised much, and delivered little.

Every once in a while, the nation remembers it is at war, first in Iraq, then, very much an afterthought, in Afghanistan, where warfare is the biggest part of its history, economy and past, present and, one sadly concludes, future. Afghanistan is simply a cauldron where the many elements of unending instability and war are blended together to create a noisome, noxious vintage. It is a place no sensible person wishes to go… and where the words “Operation Enduring Freedom” are nothing so much as high irony, grand but unobtainable objectives, a cruel hoax. Into this unforgiving land, Dakota Meyer came to make history.

The date was September 8, 2009.

It was another hazardous day in hazardous Kunar province where Meyer was serving with Embedded Training Team 2-8. There was news… and it was bad, the kind of news no Marine wants to hear and which he instinctively wants to do something about: a group of insurgents had attacked with savage results. Three U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman were missing.

Dakota Meyer didn’t have to think about what to do… he knew. His responsibility was to rescue his brothers… any other action was unthinkable. Marines help Marines. And that was what he and his combat team set out to do as they moved forward to find and engage the enemy.

Let us recreate the circumstances of that fateful day…

As the combat team moved forward it was hit by intense fire from roughly 50 Taliban insurgents dug-in and concealed on the slopes of Ganjgal village. They had to be removed to accomplish the rescue mission.

Meyer, trained for such an event, mounted a gun-truck, enlisted a fellow Marine to drive, and raced to attack the ambushers and aid the trapped Marines and some Afghan soldiers, too. What ensued was a six-hour fire fight in which Corporal Meyer called upon every feature of brain and body. The Taliban was determined Corporal Meyer would not advance… he was equally determined that he would. The result was war, war in all its brutalities, in all its unpredictabilities, its confusions, and unexpected developments, war to the death between wary opponents who respected each other’s capabilities and meant to have victory… whatever must be done.

Yes, Dakota Meyer meant to go forward… And his determination to do so changed dozens of lives, not least his own. He had brothers to rescue and nothing, absolutely nothing was going to stand in the way of getting to them and bringing them back. Absolutely nothing.

As he moved forward, inexorably forward, he changed lives. He saved 36 Marines and Afghan soldiers that day before he found the bodies of his 4 brothers. To get to them he performed deeds prodigious, sublime, unimaginable. Alone, he charged into the heart of a deadly U-shaped Taliban ambush.

But not just once… not twice… not even three times… but he went into this vortex of mayhem and death four times. What drives at man so, when such a forward policy could, in an instant, send him into eternity and his mangled body home to grieving parents and relations? What drives a man at such a moment, when all the joys and pleasures of a young life could end in an instant?

He was insistent, determined that his brothers, or whatever was left of them, should not be mutilated, humiliated, and left to rot in the inhospitable soil of this supremely inhospitable land. He did not think of death… or valor…. or heroism. He thought of brothers, of buddies, young men as young as he, just a moment ago bursting with hijinx and wise-cracking humor… now face down in their own blood and the dust of Afghanistan. These brothers, spirits now, called out to Dakota Meyer… and they did not call out in vain.

Charging alone into the enraged, determined Taliban he focused on his mission… beyond thoughts of death. At such a moment, facing fearsome odds, a man becomes so certain he will die that a profound liberation occurs… because death is likely, he means to exact a terrible price on the enemy… and he finds hitherto unknown strengths and abilities which he is determined should be fully used with deadly effect.

Meyer killed 8 Taliban!

Meyer personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded!

Meyer provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a determined and numerically superior foe!

On his first foray his lone vehicle drew machine gun, mortar, rocket grenade and small arms fire while he rescued five wounded soldiers.

His second attack disrupted the enemy’s ambush and he evacuated four more wounded Marines.

Switching to anther gun-truck because his was too damaged they again sped in for a third time, and as turret gunner killed several Taliban attackers at point-blank range and suppressed enemy fire so 24 Marines and soldiers could break-out.

Despite being wounded, he made a fourth attack with three others to search for missing team members. Nearly surrounded and under heavy fire he dismounted the vehicle and searched house to house to recover the bodies of his fallen team members, the brothers who he valued beyond his own life and who, he knew, would have done as much for him. As any Marine would…

One of only 86 people to receive the Medal of Honor while still living.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military award. It represents the highest standard of courage, boldness, and valor. Only 86 living people have received it and the last Marine to do so was Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg, Jr. in 1973 for gallantry in Vietnam.

Meyer, modest, polite, affable, makes it clear that he is no hero, just a Marine doing his best for his brothers… but we are not circumscribed in what we may say about this man who, by any reckoning, should have died that day a dozen times in Ganjgal…. but who instead delivered life to many colleagues without thought of his own. It is fitting and proper to award such a rare and prestigious award to such as Dakota Meyer… a man who, so young, reminds America that great deeds are conceived in selflessness and sacrifice. God shed his grace on thee, Dakota Meyer. You remind us all of what we each must do to ensure He sheds it still on all of us and our great exercise of freedom, now challenged on all sides.