by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767) was Controller General of France at an important point in the fast developing Revolution. M. de Silhouette was no more successful in solving the tremendous problems of French finance than any of his hapless colleagues. He talked about them, and talked about them some more. But at the end of the day, he had nothing to show for his regime but pictures cut out to resemble the outline of the sitter without the trouble of creating a truer and more formidable work of art. In short, M. de Silhouette did nothing, and left nothing but his title behind as his contribution to the surging events which became 1789.
His name has become attached forevermore to a party game; namely, he had families all over Europe cutting out profiles of their nearest and dearest, often before a wintery fire. These pictures, which captured the linear essence of the subject, saved the bother and expense of having the complete portrait done. You didn’t need to spend money on a portrait when you could do it cheap as a silhouette.
And so, the silhouette was born, enabling Barack Obama to take advantage of it, which he fully did at the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Here, each year, at the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation, the Kennedy tribe and entourage gathers to tell themselves just how good they are, and that there are people, important people too, who are willing to come and tell them all just exactly what they want to hear about themselves.
This rite of spring occurs each year, and has as its task saying too many good things about people who wish to believe them, and are happy to come to Boston to hear themselves lauded, and laud in their turn their colleagues worldwide.
This year, the poohbahs of the Kennedy Library and Foundation inducted recently former President Barack Obama into the fraternity of “I love you, you love me”, and invited him to do his part by getting up on his hind legs and lathering the audience with an avalanche of frothy compliments.
And so, Obama, honoree, gave a 30 minute speech which proved more than anything else that Barack Obama did not deserve a Profile in Courage Award.
Now you and I probably have a pretty good idea of what constitutes courage. That is to say, facing a situation where defeat is a very real likely possibility, and where the outcome depends on you, what is in you, what you believe, what you can do, what you must do to change reality, and bring about a lustrous and even unexpected conclusion. All of us have the ability to be courageous, but the person who stands forth in courage does not just think, but acts, and acts again, and again as necessary to achieve the goal which was once thought impossible.
And so with this definition in mind, see Barack Obama coming to take his place at the podium, and launch into his political beliefs, and what he intends to do to help the country that made him President for two terms. He chose, as well he might, the subject of Obamacare, whose official name is the Affordable Care Act, and which was created to sustain the sick and vulnerable, the people who need the care the most, and have the fewest means of getting it.
Now you would think, but you would be wrong, that it would be a pleasure to take on the task of saving the poorest and most vulnerable among us, and when it is all said and done smile to himself and reassure his friends that he had not lost one scintilla of his high and mighty purpose, or the energy needed.
You would think, but you’d be wrong, that he would enjoy the prospect of ripping Donald Trump, shredding him, happy in the good fight for universal healthcare, and be ecstatic to undertake even one more bold battle in the war that is by no means ended.
You would think, but you’d be wrong, that before this audience of like minded souls, he would have found an energy, a joy, an exuberance, that would carry him across the nation, with the good wishes and prayers of the millions he was pledged to assist.
You might say, but you’d be wrong, that Barack Obama knows Browning’s great lines, “The best is yet to come. The last of life, for which the first was made.” You would think that being an older man capable of doing a young man’s work, he would undertake the great crusade that could make America healthy, strong, and resilient.
You might think all these things, and in every case you would be wrong. What you got instead was a silhouette… a thread… a mere line without blood or tenacity. The real man, the man of courage and certain purpose and sure touch made no appearance that night. The silhouette of a President had been there, and it was disheartening to see nothing more.
This speech, which should have commenced with high purpose, excitement, and enthusiasm for the good cause, went on paragraph by paragraph, thanking every member of the Kennedy family, present and deceased. As I read these compliments, I thought to myself here was a man who was President of the United States, the proudest office of the land, who came to pay obeisance to the members of the Clan who needed him and his compliments to make themselves and their followers feel certain that the great days of Camelot have not gone by.
One looks in vain for the sense that every Red Sox fan had for 86 long years: “Next year”. For the Democrats, for the country, for the faithful assembled in this ornate dining hall, there must always be a next year. And Barack Obama, on this count as with so many others, let these people down.
I told my father that Obama always acted the lawyer’s role. That is to say, that he knows how to divide pies, but not how to bake them. Dividing pies, as most every lawyer does, enables you to sit high above the teeming masses in the expensive accouterments of the legal office, and divide up the hard work and lifetime achievement of others.
But that is not how money is made. That is not how societies are built. That is not how great events are shaped. For this, we must need the bakers of the pies… the people who know what to do and get out dirtying their hands and doing it.
As I read Obama’s speech to the glitterati of Camelot, I thought to myself, what would happen if he were ill? Don’t we all know. And what about his daughters, and his wife? He and they are well taken care of, to a degree which none of us can even imagine. He doesn’t need you and me to get his healthcare, but all the rest, you and me, need all the help we can get.
We look through his printed remarks of just the other day, and something nauseating rises to the surface. There as Gertrude Stein said, “There’s no there there.” There was the man who had held all the tricks, who could have gone anywhere, said anything, helped anyone. But he is a pie divider, not a pie maker. And one senses about Mr. Obama that it is the little things of life, and the insignificant things about life, that grab his attention. For this man, this word spinner, is no fighter.
Where was he when healthcare facilities across the nation needed his assistance? He had White House-itis of course, the condition that makes you think your presence is more needed in the Rose Garden than in the health establishments around the nation, which could have used a President of the United States and his moxie to help their difficult and often disheartening tasks.
What does Mr. Obama care? For him, only one place in Obamacare counted, and that was his place. Thus, what matter does it make that he comes to accept a dubious award, supposedly given to those of exemplary courage and joy? For let us make sure that joy is not forgotten.
Yes, those with such courage can feel unhappy, distressed, fearful, or tormented. Their work, after all, never ends and often drains them to the very dregs of their humanity. They are not in the business for the reward, no matter how nice it is, no matter how pleasant it is. They are in the good fight for victory.
Barack Obama had the tools of victory in his pocket for 8 years; they came with the job. A nation awaited, prayed, hoped, that he would use the great powers of the Great Republic to succor, heal, and yes love, for those who are greatly courageous are greatly loving, and greatly loved.
Remember this: courage does not come with the job, or the Oval Office. Courage comes from within each of us. It may be found anywhere, may reside in anyone, and exists everywhere to change the world for the better… a thing more and more difficult to imagine, much less do every single day.
And so we find ourselves at this unhappy point. We have the book “Profiles in Courage”, which was not written by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, although his name is on the cover. His assistant, Theodore Sorensen, wrote most of the book and Kennedy’s name was then placed on the cover because the family knew he knew too little, and was of too insignificant a stature to be President.
This book was not originally nominated for the 1957 Pulitzer Prize. Indeed, John F. Kennedy’s father got his friend, columnist Arthur Krock to make some calls so that the book which was not even nominated, ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize. The research to this book was shoddy, the kind of thing a Harvard undergraduate submits for a rushed dissertation.
There is little hint of JFK in the book, because there was little hint that he wrote a single page. What matter that, when you have a father willing to twist the rules, and twist them again, to achieve his objective. Eight Senators were chosen as examples of members of the Upper Chamber who had stood forward on behalf of courage. Subsequently, historians have pounced on these eight selections as being gratuitous, even frivolous. In other words, while there may have been courageous Senators from time to time, they did not necessarily end up in the book dedicated to such people.
And so, sadly, we are able to see the entire situation more clearly. A former President unwilling to use whatever power still remains, whatever prestige he still has, to aid the nation. An annual event which selects honorees with a cavalier nonchalance. What matters who is selected and who comes, so long as that person brings a lustrous name and a willingness to waft incense at them? For don’t they deserve it after all?
And so we began where we started with M. de Silhouette. At least he created a party game of joy. His name will last forever. But can any of us even imagine Barack Obama moving steadily through the eternal future? His remarks, his actions, his commitments, even worthy of any remembrance at all?
And surely that is his tragedy… and ours.
For years, news outlets have been churning out headlines like “Social Security Is Going Bankrupt” and “Don’t Count on Social Security.” And although it’s true that Social Security is unsustainable in its current form, these splashy headlines are spreading the misconception that Social Security will soon disappear, leaving Americans who spent decades paying into the system high and dry.
Here’s the truth about Social Security — and why it will still be there for you.
The trust funds are running out of money
First, the bad news. Social Security will eventually run out of money unless something changes. The American population is simply aging too fast, and there isn’t enough new money flowing into the system to cover all of the benefits we’ve promised to retirees. If the projections released by the Social Security Board of Trustees are correct, the Social Security trust funds will run out of money entirely by 2034, at which point Social Security will only be able to pay out as much as it collects in payroll taxes.
Social Security taxes are currently 12.4% of taxable payroll — half paid by the employee and half paid by the employer. However, the costs of the program are equal to 14.1% of taxable payroll and rising. By 2038, Social Security benefits are expected to exceed 16.7% of taxable payroll.
The Board of Trustees estimates that the program’s trust funds will run at a large deficit until policy changes are made: “The Trustees project that this annual cash-flow deficit will average about $76 billion between 2015 and 2018 before rising steeply as income growth slows to its sustainable trend rate after the economic recovery is complete while the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers.”
The trustees expect unfunded obligations over the next 75 years to total $10.7 trillion.
But it’s not as bad as you may think
Before we deem Social Security DOA, let’s put this problem into perspective. First of all, Social Security taxes are not the only money flowing into Social Security. The reserves in the trust fund are invested in Treasury securities, and thus they earn interest.
Social Security brought in $98 billion in interest in 2014, in addition to $786 billion in tax and other non-interest revenue. Altogether, that’s $25 billion more than the benefits that were paid out — a substantial margin for the time being. The overall trust fund balance isn’t expected to start declining until 2020.
Additionally, if the system runs out of reserves in 2034 as forecast, then the money flowing in will still be able to cover 79% of scheduled benefits. So, in a worst-case scenario, Social Security will still be able to pay out nearly $800 of every $1,000 you’re expecting.
What can we do?
There are several ways to fix Social Security, and most proposed solutions fall into one of two main categories: increasing taxes or reducing benefits. American politics being what it is, the solution will most likely be a combination of the two.
There are several proposals for raising Social Security taxes. One popular solution calls for lifting the maximum amount of wages subject to Social Security tax from the current limit of $118,500 to a level that would include 90% of all earnings (currently around $250,000). According to a study by the National Academy of Social Insurance and Greenwald & Associates, this would take care of 29% of the shortfall. Another option would be to lift the cap entirely, making all income taxable for Social Security, which would have an even bigger effect, though it’s not such a popular idea among high-income Americans.
Another solution would be to increase the payroll tax by 1 to 2 percentage points above the current 6.2%. According to the trustees’ report, an increase in the payroll tax to 15.02% (that’s 7.51% from both employers and employees) would make the system solvent for another 75 years. The NASI-Greenwald study found that raising the Social Security tax to 14.4% would eliminate 52% of the shortfall and would be supported by most people so long as it were phased in over a 20-year period.
Meanwhile, a 16.4% across-the-board benefit cut would have the same effect as raising the payroll tax to 15.02%. Universal benefit cuts are extremely unpopular on both sides of the political aisle, but there are other ways to reduce the amount Social Security is paying out. For example, we could cut benefits only for high-income retirees who aren’t as reliant on this income. We could also raise the full retirement age by a year or two. However, these aren’t quite as popular as the proposed tax hikes.
The NASI study found that Americans’ preferred solution would be a combination of changes that would include:
- Eliminating the earnings cap entirely over 10 years
- Increasing the payroll tax rate to 14.4% of earnings over a 20-year period
- Increasing the cost-of-living adjustment to better reflect seniors’ rising costs
- Keep the full retirement age at 67
Such a package would have widespread support across different generations, income levels, and political parties.
Will something be done?
History tells us that Congress will act to bolster Social Security, but I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing got done until the trust funds are nearly gone. When Congress finally acts, it’s entirely possible that your Social Security taxes will increase and your full retirement age will rise. However, I can say with near certainty that something will be done, and Social Security will be there when you retire.
Meet the 4% rule
The 4% rule has been around for a long time. It was introduced by financial advisor Bill Bengen in 1994 and was made famous in a study by several professors at Trinity University a few years later. It says that you can withdraw 4% of your nest egg in your first year of retirement, adjusting future withdrawals for inflation. This withdrawal strategy assumes a portfolio 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds, and it’s designed to make your money last through 30 years of retirement.
Here’s an illustration of how it works: Imagine that you’ve saved $500,000 by the time you retire. In your first year of retirement, you can withdraw 4%, or $20,000. In year two, you’ll need to adjust that rate by inflation. Let’s say that inflation over the past year was at its long-term historic rate of 3%. You’ll now multiply your $20,000 withdrawal by 1.03 and you’ll get your second year’s withdrawal amount: $20,600. The following year, if inflation is still around 3%, you’ll multiply that by 1.03 and get your next withdrawal amount, $21,218.
The 4% rule can also help you estimate how much you’ll need to accumulate in the first place — once you know how much annual income you’ll want in retirement. Let’s say, for example, that you’d like to start retirement with total annual income of $60,000 and you expect to collect $25,000 from Social Security. That leaves $35,000 in income that you’ll need to generate on your own. If you assume that $35,000 is 4% of your nest egg, then you can multiply $35,000 by 25 in order to arrive at how large your nest egg will need to be: $875,000. (Why 25? Because one divided by 0.04 is 25.)
So what’s the problem with this seemingly super-helpful rule? Well, unfortunately, several things.
Interest rates have fallen: For starters, remember that the rule was created more than 20 years ago, when interest rates were higher. Mortgage rates in 1994 were in the 8% range, and one-year CDs paid about 4%. In such an environment, the bond portion of a portfolio would have been generating more income than bonds do today. (A two-year government bond recently yielded 1.2%.) We’ve been in a low-interest rate environment for a long time now, rendering our bonds less able to replenish funds withdrawn each year.
It assumes a certain asset allocation: Then there’s the rule’s assumption that your portfolio will be split 60-40, respectively, between stocks and bonds. You might not have or want that allocation. If your portfolio is split 50-50, or you have 75% of it in stocks, then the 4% rule won’t work as advertised.
People are living longer: Data from a 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that those born in 2014 can be expected to live, on average, to age 78.8, up from 75.8 in 1995 and 70.8 in 1970. And those are just averages — many people live much longer lives and some live much shorter ones. The 4% rule aims to make your money last for 30 years, but if you retire at 62 and live to 96, your retirement will be 34 years long and you might be quite pinched in your last years.
Should you use the 4% rule?
Clearly, the 4% rule is flawed. But you don’t necessarily have to throw it out altogether.
If you think you stand a decent chance of having a retirement that’s more than 30 years long, you can be more be more conservative, perhaps using a 3% or 3.5% withdrawal rate — at least in your initial years. That can be helpful during our low-interest rate environment, too. (Interest rates have begun inching up, but no one knows when they will hit various levels.) Don’t be too rigid about it, though. If the market grows briskly in your first few years, you can re-evaluate and perhaps increase your withdrawals.
Another challenge regarding the 4% rule is that every set of 20 or 30 or however many years in the stock market will be at least somewhat different — some with higher-than-average gains and some with lower-than-average gains. If you plan to follow the rule and withdraw 4% of your nest egg in your first year of retirement, you’ll be at a disadvantage if the stock market crashed in the year leading up to your retirement. Such things can happen: The S&P 500 plunged 37% in 2008. If that happens early in your retirement, you’ll either be withdrawing far less than you’d planned on or you’ll be depleting your nest egg faster. You can address this stock market-volatility issue by being flexible — withdraw less in bear markets and more in bull markets.
It’s a good idea to reassess your financial condition regularly during your retirement, too. For example, if when you’re 80 you don’t think you’ll be around in a decade and your coffers are rather full, you could start withdrawing and enjoying more each year — or just plan to leave more to your loved ones.
We all need to plan carefully for retirement. The average monthly Social Security retirement check is only $1,360 (or about $16,000 per year). You can boost your Social Security income via some strategies, but you’ll probably still need a separate nest egg of your own, and a plan to make it last. The 4% rule can be helpful for that, but use it wisely.
This is why having a home business online makes so much sense right now!!
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. What music is appropriate for the undoubted decline and possible demise of one of the grandest creatures on earth — Ursus maritimus — the polar bear? I have selected Edvard Grieg’s 1867 masterpiece “From the hall of the mountain king”, for this is the story of a race of kings, sovereigns all, ruling over a land of snow and ice… a land now melting, imperiling these princes of the North… whose prospects for survival wane as the sea waters around them rise, a rise which threatens human kind, too. This is their story… and we must heed it for they are not threatened alone. You’ll find Grieg’s suite in any search engine. Find it now… and listen to its evocative, enigmatic sound. This sound will endure…. but will the polar bears whose tale I tell this day?
The seas at the top of the world are rising, rising…
While politicians argue about cause and effect, the undeniable fact of global warming and rising seas is beyond cavil and dispute. Sea level has been rising significantly over the past century, according to a newly released study that offers the most detailed look yet at the changes in ocean levels during the past 2,100 years.
Researcher Benjamin Horton, director of the Sea Level Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, found that since the late 19th century — as the world’s industrialization intensified — sea level has risen more than 2 millimeters per year on average. That’s a bit less than one-tenth of an inch… a small amount that signals death for polar bears… and chaos for seaside humans, drip by inexorable drip. It’s all about rising temperatures.
Rising sea levels are among the hazards that rightly concern environmentalists and progressive governments with increasing global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil over the last century or so.
The heat generated works to steadily melt some of the millions of tons of ice piled up on land in Greenland, Antarctica, and elsewhere. Such melting raises ocean levels and this, in turn, raises the possibility of major flooding in highly populated coastal cities and greater storm damage in oceanfront communities.
Polar bears must swim further and further for food…
Researcher Anthony Pagano, a US Geological Survey biologist, at the International Bear Association Conference, has, in his newly released study, made it clear what happens to polar bears as the snow melts and the seas rise. He identified and studied 50 long- distance swims by adult female polar bears between 2004 and 2009 in the southern Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
“Climate change is pulling the sea ice out from under polar bears’ feet, forcing some to swim longer distances to find food and habitat,” said Geoff York, a polar bear expert at the World Wildlife Fund who coauthored the study.
And the cubs simply fall off…
York said polar bears, tracked by satellite devices, routinely swim 10 miles or more for food, principally the seals they dote on and devour. But as the seas rise, these distances increase. Twenty bears in the survey swam more than 30 miles at a time. The longest-distance swim was 426 miles; the longest-lasting swim was 12.7 days, with a few brief breaks on drift ice. All this is bad enough, but here’s the tragic element: eleven of the bears that swam long distances had young cubs when researchers attached the tracking collars. Five of those mothers lost their cubs while swimming… and thus the breed and its prospects are diminished…
Facts about the threatened polar bears, majestic, now vulnerable.
The polar bear, universally admired, is the world’s largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak bear, which is approximately the same size. An adult male weighs around 350-680 kg (770-1,500 lb), while an adult female is about half the size. Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals, which make up most of its diet.
The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the 19 polar bear subpopulations in decline. Researchers estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide; they are listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.
“Nanook of the North.”
Over the course of uncounted centuries, the intricate, necessary symbiosis between the polar elements, the polar bear, and Inuit and other indigenous peoples of the North has slowly, carefully evolved. The Northern people revered the bear whose flesh they enjoyed… they called the polar bear “nanook”… and took the name proudly for themselves.
In 1922, Robert J. Flaherty made one of the most celebrated documentaries of the silent film era, “Nanook of the North”, calling it “A Story of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic.” In the tradition of what would later be called “salvage ethnography”, Flaherty captured (and some critics said staged) the struggles of the Inuk Nanook and his family in the Canadian arctic. In 1989, this film was one of the first 25 films selected for preservation in the United States Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
But the human Nanook, though most assuredly a predator of the ursine Nanook, was never a problem, for he took only what he needed… and was never wanton. He never forgot he needed nanook. No, he is not the problem, though human kind as a whole most assuredly is. For we as a genus are thoughtless, careless always anxious to shift the guilt, the burden, the responsibility to others for what we have done.
And what’s terrible about this so sad situation is this: we know what to do and when and how to do it. We don’t need more learned studies; for studies about the future of the polar bear and its irrevocably changing environment are frequent, thorough, detailed, and unanswerable. We need action… before this matter becomes, like the histories of so many other species, academic.
But, for now, let us end as we began, with Edvard Grieg, master of unsurpassed, haunting melody. A creature of the North, knowing Winter well, he cherished the fleeting glories of Spring. In this spirit, he composed something so beautiful it is painful to listen to. He called it “Last Spring”, and you must go to any search engine now to play it. Let it fill your heart with compassion for the great creatures now completely at the mercy of their greatest predators, us. Let us pray that this song of soul by Grieg remains great music only and that there is no “Last Spring” for Ursus maritimus, beloved of man, dying through the works of man.
For where shall we find your like again; You who thrilled us so?
Where shall we look when you are gone you who have been made by God?
When you are gone who will care for why when your great heart beats no more?
God will know… … but He will not say for we who were bade to cherish failed you.
So now we lament… too late Now we shall know you not and nevermore.
Never to play again under the great northern lights once your heaven.
Where then have you gone? You whom we loved, and failed…
* * * * *
About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell http://HomeProfitCoach.com . Check out Massive Traffic Ultimatum -> http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=sk9BRJW
Give children chores
We’ve all said things that people interpreted much differently than we thought they would. These seemingly benign comments lead to the awful feeling that only comes when you’ve planted your foot firmly into your mouth.
Verbal slip-ups often occur because we say things without knowledge of the subtle implications they carry. Understanding these implications requires social awareness — the ability to pick up on the emotions and experiences of other people.
TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence (EQ) of more than a million people and discovered that social awareness is a skill in which many of us are lacking.
We lack social awareness because we’re so focused on what we’re going to say next — and how what other people are saying affects us — that we completely lose sight of other people.
This is a problem because people are complicated. You can’t hope to understand someone until you focus all of your attention in his or her direction.
The beauty of social awareness is that a few simple adjustments to what you say can vastly improve your relationships with other people.
To that end, there are some phrases that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in casual conversation. The following phrases are nine of the worst offenders. You should avoid them at all costs.
1. “You look tired”
Tired people are incredibly unappealing — they have droopy eyes and messy hair, they have trouble concentrating, and they’re as grouchy as they come. Telling someone he looks tired implies all of the above and then some.
Instead say: “Is everything okay?”
Most people ask if someone is tired because they’re intending to be helpful (they want to know if the other person is okay). Instead of assuming someone’s disposition, just ask. This way, he can open up and share. More importantly, he will see you as concerned instead of rude.
2. “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!”
Once again, a well-meaning comment—in this case a compliment—creates the impression that you’re being critical. Telling someone that she has lost a lot of weight suggests that she used to look fat or unattractive.
Instead say: “You look fantastic.”
This one is an easy fix. Instead of comparing how she looks now to how she used to look, just compliment her for looking great. It takes the past right out of the picture.
3. “You were too good for her anyway”
When someone severs ties with a relationship of any type, personal or professional, this comment implies he has bad taste and made a poor choice in the first place.
Instead say: “Her loss!”
This provides the same enthusiastic support and optimism without any implied criticism.
4. “You always . . .” or “You never . . .”
No one always or never does anything. People don’t see themselves as one-dimensional, so you shouldn’t attempt to define them as such. These phrases make people defensive and closed off to your message, which is a really bad thing because you likely use these phrases when you have something important to discuss.
Instead say: Simply point out what the other person did that’s a problem for you. Stick to the facts. If the frequency of the behavior is an issue, you can always say, “It seems like you do this often.” or “You do this often enough for me to notice.”
5. “You look great for your age”
Using “for your” as a qualifier always comes across as condescending and rude. No one wants to be smart for an athlete or in good shape relative to other people who are also knocking on death’s door. People simply want to be smart and fit.
Instead say: “You look great.”
This one is another easy fix. Genuine compliments don’t need qualifiers.
6. “As I said before . . .”
We all forget things from time to time. This phrase makes it sound as if you’re insulted at having to repeat yourself, which is hard on the recipient (someone who is genuinely interested in hearing your perspective).
Getting insulted over having to repeat yourself suggests that either you’re insecure or you think you’re better than everyone else (or both!). Few people who use this phrase actually feel this way.
Instead say: When you say it again, see what you can do to convey the message in a clearer and more interesting manner. This way they’ll remember what you said.
7. “Good luck”
This is a subtle one. It certainly isn’t the end of the world if you wish someone good luck, but you can do better because this phrase implies that they need luck to succeed.
Instead say: “I know you have what it takes.”
This is better than wishing her luck because suggesting that she has the skills needed to succeed provides a huge boost of confidence. You’ll stand out from everyone else who simply wishes her luck.
8. “It’s up to you” or “Whatever you want”
While you may be indifferent to the question, your opinion is important to the person asking (or else he wouldn’t have asked you in the first place).
Instead say: “I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but a couple things to consider are . . .”
When you offer an opinion (even without choosing a side), it shows that you care about the person asking.
9. “Well at least I’ve never ___”
This phrase is an aggressive way to shift attention away from your mistake by pointing out an old, likely irrelevant mistake the other person made (and one you should have forgiven her for by now).
Instead say: “I’m sorry.”
Owning up to your mistake is the best way to bring the discussion to a more rational, calm place so that you can work things out. Admitting guilt is an amazing way to prevent escalation.
Bringing it all together
In everyday conversation, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Try these suggestions out, and you’ll be amazed at the positive response you get.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. Friend, I suspect you are not up on the all-important words and necessary phrases from the world of croquet. That is scandalous, of course, and you should be ashamed of yourself for the dereliction. Fortunately it can be remedied at once by going to the always helpful Wikipedia, where you’ll find an admirable glossary. Go now… and while you’re there be sure to find the original score for the quirky film “Heathers.” (1989). Why?
Because those ever inventive jeunes femmes fatales invent a game (so clever, don’t you know) called “strip croquet”. You won’t play it in your neighborhood; your crusty neighbors would be scandalized… but I can play it in mine, because I live in Cambridge… where beautiful young people abound, glorious to look at but without the sense they were born with.
They’d love the inspired innovation. Play the theme music right away. It will put you in just the right frame of mind for this scrutiny of one of the most conspiratorial and vengeful games on earth and where (on the pretext of helping another player with her grip) you can snuggle up without demur…
Lord Reggie learns the power of croquet…
Lord Reggie Pasworthy was in despair. This 7th impecunious son of the impecunious 17th marquess of Unworthington had heard, always on the very best authority, that Lady Pamela Noacres had cast sheep eyes at…… but that couldn’t possibly be… for she was… his… and had once nearly said so. She couldn’t…… she wouldn’t. But it appears she might.
What could he do?
He applied at once to Basil Uppercrust, who knew all but said nothing, so admirably discrete, so clever Basil. “Freddie, old chum, you need to do only one thing to be right as rain with the gel… ” Then he whispered just one word……
“Croquet”…. and immediately wrote his cousin the duchess to arrange a week-end where Lord Freddie might shine amongst the wickets, his admirable figure displayed to best advantage.
Though it has been many years now since that week-end at Castle Allworthy not a thing about it has been forgotten. How Lord Freddie confounded Lady Pamela’s advance with a ball-in-hand.
How Lady Pamela distracted him by proposing a double-bank with her grace. (He won that, too.)
How it all came down to the final hoop… and that unforgettable moment when Lord Freddie took control, determined, insistent, a gentleman no longer but a beast, my dear, I tell you a beast…. Lady Pamela’s temperature rose from tepid to scalding… from polite interest to… riveted… while Freddie ran the hoops until he completed that glorious sextuple peel to roquet her ball spinning down the verdant acres… and when the gallant victor offered his lavendered handkerchief, her fate was sealed…
The engagement was announced in the “Morning Post” just today.
The plight of the World Croquet Association.
Pity the situation and plight of these admirable folks and their invaluable efforts on behalf of croquet. They want us to see croquet in the benign light of demos and beer…. when most of us enjoy the game because of its unabashed elitist, aristocratic nuances played out with insouciance and fine champagne on the most perfect grass we have ever seen, the result of hundreds of years of arrogance and care.
A brief history of croquet.
Ask anyone (anyone, that is, of any intelligence and discernment whatsoever) just where croquet was invented… and, without missing a beat — they’d tell you “Why, old man, in Jolly Old England, what.” And, of course, they’d be wrong… and, such are the ways of croquet, they’d also be right.
Croquet scholars (fastidious and accurate) will tell you the rules of the modern game arrived from Ireland during the 1850s, perhaps coming from Brittany, where a similar game was played on the beaches. A game called “crookey” was played at Castlebellingham in 1834 and, in 1835 was played in the bishop’s palace garden; later that year it was played in the genteel Dublin suburb then called Kingstowne (now Dun Laoghaire) where it was first spelled as “croquet.” There is, however, no pre-1858 Irish document that describes the way the game was played… but the Irish don’t care about such details. They claim croquet and that is that…
…but, of course, that most assuredly is not that, especially if you are of the English ilk, and damn their cheeky assertion.
In the book “Queen of Games: The History of Croquet,” author Nicky Smith offers another hypothesis. Smith says that the game was introduced to Britain from France during the reign of Charles II of England, and was played under the name of paille maille or pall mall, derived ultimately from the Latin words for “ball and mallet.” This is what the “Encyclopedia Britannica” wrote in 1877. But of course the xenophobic Britannica would say so, wouldn’t they?
But at last there is documentary evidence that confirms English inventiveness and croquet paternity. Isaac Spratt is the champion. He created the oldest document known to bear the word “croquet”. He wrote a description of the modern game of croquet and the first set of rules and regulations of a game which became ever more esoteric, obscure, arcane. Just the way the players like it!
Spratt’s contribution came in November, 1856 when he filed his document with the Stationers’ Company in London. It is now in the English Public Records Office. In 1868 the first croquet all-comers’ meeting was held at Morton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire and in the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbleton, London. There was absolutely nothing democratic about any of it, and one would have drunk beer, instead of a stirrup cup, at one’s considerable peril.
This result, however, was unacceptable to Ellery McClatchy, dead at 86, in September, 2011 at his home in Pope Valley, California.
If you live in Northern California and are even remotely with it, you will recognize at once the surname, for there (and amongst the politically sentient) it is a household name because of their substantial newspaper properties, not least the major paper in Sacramento, the Bee. As you may imagine, to have such a property, such a position in the largest state in the Great Republic is to have financial resources… and the time and ability to pursue your particular interests. In this case… croquet.
McClatchy was, and this is crucial to the case, an all-American boy; thus he disdained the exclusivities of old regimes everywhere. He had a “desire to make croquet available to people of all ages and to see croquet lawns in a great variety of places,” according to a profile on the US Croquet Association website. He pursued this inclusive objective over the many years he was a ranked croquet player and in 1995 when he was inducted into the US Croquet Hall of Fame.
While we all think highly of his years of effort, democratic (or republican) croquet is not what any of us desires. Which is why our favorite croquet match ever is the one overseen by the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s immortal book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The balls are live hedge hogs and the mallets are opinionated flamingoes. It is curious, odd, unconventional, the best way to play this marvelous game which puts dull baseball and interminable football in their places. I say “off with their heads” to any with the reckless temerity to gainsay me.
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About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell http://HomeProfitCoach.com . Check out Massive Traffic Ultimatum -> http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=sk9BRJWy
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note:
Jam! Can you imagine life without it… smooth, delectable, always there, never contumacious like your last lover, never foul mouthed or vulgar (like some of your friends); something which never disappoints… always satisfies… a friend in fair weather or foul. Yes, jam is all this — and more.
Thus, we will today remember the preparers of jam (some of the most important people on earth)… moments of pure joy as you ate it… then dipped a spoon into the jar.. and ate some more, for additional, predictable bliss.
For such a day of exaltation, celebration and mouth-watering delectation, I have selected (as theme music) the peppy little number written by Cole Porter (1940), sung by Judy Garland at her most bouncy. She belts it out, “If you’re ever in a jam, here I am….” The tune is, of course, “Friendship”.
Go to any search engine now… find the recording. Don’t play it quite yet. First, get your very best serving bowl out… and fill it, heaping, with something you love now, have loved from the beginning, something you will always love and desire… jam.
Grammie’s best crystal… for a boy she loved who loved her incomparable jams.
The snows in the interminable prairies of the Great Republic bring days when you are sure the sun is a hoax, when the light is gray and harsh, when the wind howls early and late and your thoughts turn maudlin, oppressive, inward looking and sad. For such days God invented Grammie… and her jams.
My grandmother, Victoria Burgess Lauing, was of English stock… and this, I am sure accounts for her sweet tooth… and her love of (amongst many glorious foods) the concentrated joy that is jam. She came by it, I am sure, in her genes… even in her name, for the Great Queen she was named after had a sweet tooth, too, which she indulged with imperial frequency. Sweeties, and this included jam, were the secret of the empire… the reason the sun never set… and tea was religiously served each day… for tiffin meant….. jam and thoughts of England, home, so very far away and loved.
The very best jam in the very best crystal.
Grammie was what young women today disdain, but do not know or understand. She, the “lady of the house”, was a house wife. She mastered, she perfected, she exemplified every virtue of her place and profession… and just how practiced and most excellent she was could be seen to clear advantage with the jam she served on her best crystal.
It may have been Lennox or even Waterford, a boy doesn’t notice such things, but you knew you were being treated better than Little Lord Fauntleroy (published 1886) when, with great ceremony, she presented what you craved — jam — on a dish ordinarily used only and solely for the great family festivals of the year. On such a Winter’s day when the bleakness of the prairies had seeped into your soul, she knew a potent counterattack was absolutely necessary. And she knew where to find it… in the jams which harbored the sunlight and sweetness we all require on such days.
She, a thoughtful, conscientious, practical woman, had planned for just this day when, in high Summer, she had decreed it was time for making the jams, so sweet, so necessary against the inevitable Winter, its winds, and howling oppressions.
Pursuit of sweet perfection, labor of love.
It is time to tell you, for unless you had such a Grammie you cannot know, of the process, at once exacting and precise, that produced the jam which would, all too soon, sustain us.
My grandmother’s kitchen was her domain, everything about it was redolent of who she was, of her beliefs, values, organizational skills, what she deemed essential… and what she discarded, and when. Unobservant folk missed all this, but other house wives of the prairies never did… and it was partly for them that all was laid out in perfection. Grammie was a competitive woman… and she would never allow or tolerate any imperfection that would cause her neighbors to cavil, denigrate, or exult over any fault found. She was a proud woman… and she wanted to stand well before her peers and the world. She never disdained the house wife’s role… and what she did, she did in exemplary fashion, with exemplary results. So it was when it was time to make the jam.
Hot, hot, infernally hot.
If Illinois was arctic in Winter, it was nothing less than an inferno in Summer when the oppressive heat slowed the pace and made one wish, if only for a moment, of the snows they would get soon enough and disdain.
Jam, as you probably don’t know if you are an urban dweller, is made of chopped or crushed fruit and sugar. To begin, you wash the fruit. Crush it, but don’t puree. Then cook it stove top until the ingredients are well mixed and start to boil. At this point, very much on the qui vivre, Grammie would be vigilant, alert, watchful so as not to scorch. Perfection, she knew, is the result of every necessary decision exactly made, no error made, allowed, or tolerated.
The mixture, having reached a boil, would then be transferred from stove top to oven, always being sure to stir with practiced skill and care. Maestro that she was, she would have taken, time to time, a spoon full’s quantity of perfection in progress; to place this small amount in the freezer for just a minute, thereby knowing, in meticulous fashion, whether the jam was done, or would be better still by waiting a bit. These were not matters of conjecture… but of a lifetime’s knowledge of her subject, sternly to be followed and adhered to now, without rush or cutting corners. That would never do, and so was never done.
This was work that called for judgement, unstinting care, patience… of knowing just what to do and when to do it… and it was all done in a place heated twice, first by the unrelentingly sun of Summer… and then by the high heat of stove and oven. It was all necessary to derive the excellence, the perfection of the jam she would afterward share with her critical neighbors and friends (proof of her mastery) and with her family, who tasted in the finished jam the evidence she loved us so and would never give less than her always astonishing best.
Grammie gone, her revelations gone, too.
I have always wondered why neither of Grammie’s two daughters, my mother and her younger sister, bothered to record Grammie’s recipes, for they were her true genius and legacy. My mother now is gone herself so I cannot ask… but whatever the reason I rue the result and wish it otherwise. All this came home to me the other day when I saw that Tommy at the Montrose Spa right up the street was having a sale of Bonne Maman jams. I bought the fig preserves first… and the next day went back and bought the plum, the blueberry, the strawberry, and (for good measure) another fig. They are (and this is my highest praise) reminiscent of my Grammie’s highest skill. Product of France they may be, they yet bring me home to my English Grammie, who on the highest days of Summer could be found stirring the mixture that brought sweetness and comfort to all, reassurance we would get through the rigors of the Winter to come, made bearable by her great art and always by her love.
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About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell http://HomeProfitCoach.com . Check out Massive Traffic Ultimatum -> http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=sk9BRJWy
I have always taken a great interest in the Presidency of the United States. I’ve wanted to know who was elected, who was defeated, and what happened next. I just cannot get enough, and I know readers are in the same boat.
Everything any President does is hot news, subject to instant analysis and argumentation. In this connection, I am especially interested in the burgeoning candidacy of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She clearly wants to run in 2020, and is making all the old familiar moves.
Since her two-story Victorian home is just a few blocks from where I live and am writing you now, my interest is more tense than it usually is. I mean, how are we going to install a helipad in our ultra-packed neighborhood? Where are we going to put the Secret Service agents? Where will the journalists covering her hang their hats?
This is problem enough, and when I ask people in the neighborhood about these things, I am pleased to tell you that no one but me has given any attention to these issues at all – just me.
Of course, each and every one of them has an answer, but not worth too much trouble until she demonstrates that she may well end up as the President of the United States. However this may never take place. First, because of the Massachusetts Curse.
Massachusetts has nominated more candidates for President than any other state in the nation, including big ones like New York and California. In recent years, some of the best and brightest Americans of both parties have been nominated and then crushed in the Presidential election, thereby making Massachusetts Presidential and Vice Presidential poison.
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was on the 1960 Nixon ticket. John F. Kennedy, of course, headed the 1960 Democratic ticket. Michael Dukakis, Democratic nominee, was on the 1988 ticket. The next one was Mitt Romney, who headed the 2012 Republican ticket. All were defeated except JFK.
The next potential Massachusetts Presidential Candidate is Senator Elizabeth Warren. Will the curse capture her? I think there are good reasons to suppose so, and the prime one of these reasons may well be the fact that she sounds like everybody’s mother in law… nagging, hectoring, determined to have the last word on every subject. Is America ready for a White House nag?
Hillary Clinton tried this stubborn carping approach that boiled down to this failed formula: “I know everything in the whole wide world, and you better listen to me, because you don’t know squat.” Understandably, this approach to the important business of changing America, correcting the flaws, and improving her in every aspect, did not go down well with the American electorate, particularly men, who found Hillary insufferable, and her mode of information distribution irritating in the extreme.
Despite the fact that she was America’s best funded and arguably smartest candidate ever, she took it on the chin, because particularly men in the West, Midwest, and South had enough criticism at home everyday from their nagging wives… She Who Must be Obeyed. They didn’t like it at home (thank God for the golf course), and they didn’t like the thought of it for the White House… and so the “cannot be lost” election became a historic nightmare for the Democratic party.
Before I go further, let me state unequivocally that Elizabeth Warren is a smart cookie. But, she needs better advice than she’s been given. Consider the way she handled the matter of a $400,000 speaker’s fee to be given to former President Barack Obama. The story broke on April 28th, 2017, just the other day. The payment in question came from a large Wall St. firm with substantial interests in the healthcare industry.
Elizabeth Warren jumped on this matter immediately, and soon the world knew that she was “troubled” by the Obama speaking fee. Now here is where judgment comes in. Imagine the situation. Obama opens an envelope, and there inside is a pledge for $400,000. He is not a rich man; never has been. He has no particular capital, and pretty much has to live on his income, which includes his White House pension. You can imagine how happy Michelle was when she learned about this plum.
And then, the manure hit the fan. Just think for a second what Michelle said, and what you would have said if someone offered you a chance to clear off some nagging bills merely by giving a 60 minute presentation. Then Elizabeth Warren did what she always does… she scolded, she criticized, she yapped, and tisk-tisked Obama.
I think we can all guess which word the exasperated Obamas would use to describe Elizabeth Warren’s interference in a manner which was quintessential American politics. Can you guess the word? It starts with a “b”. “Just where does Elizabeth Warren get off criticizing us?” That kind of comment rancors, and can simmer for years to come.
The thing we all need to realize about politics is that little things often count for more than big things. The littlest things produce welts and acute irritation. This was a situation tailor made for Senator Warren to shut up and keep her mouth closed. But the lady is constitutionally unable to let small things go by the wayside. And one of these things is you do not criticize a former President from your own party about a matter which is perfectly legal and customary.
However, Elizabeth Warren is famous for lack of discretion and people skills. This may not matter much in her Harvard Law School classes. After all, these pirhanas will do anything to get an A… even when they know their professor is wrong. You won’t find any of them out on the street corner hammering their professors. That’s just out of the question.
One of the things that constantly bothers Senator Warren is the role of banks and financial institutions in the government of the United States. Thus, every chance she gets to clobber the financial institution industry, she takes it, despite the fact that she is a card carrying capitalist herself, with a magnificent Victorian home worth close to $2 million dollars, a salary of nearly half a million dollars a year (currently suspended because of her Senate term), and a net worth of over $15 million dollars.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”
A few facts you should be aware of regarding Elizabeth Warren and campaign finance. Despite her constant jeremiads on the subject of campaign finance, as of 2017, she had $4.8 million in her account. This was more than any other Democrat up for re-election next year had in their account. It is also $1 million more than any other Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) aside.
Needless to say, Elizabeth Warren never troubles to discuss the financial resources that she has available for her re-election campaign in 2018, and whatever resources are available for her to give in key states where she would have to do well to stand any chance of being the Democratic nominee in 2020, presumably against President Trump and his re-election bid.
Elizabeth Warren now finds herself in a position where White House dreams may dance in her head like so many sugar plums; however to win she must make some major adjustments and make them immediately. First, America does not require a comment from Senator Warren on every single thing on the national agenda. What she needs to do now is do the behind the scenes grunt work that every Presidential candidate needs to master.
1) That is to say, identifying potential donors, and continuing to build significant fundraising lists.
2) Work the phones. She should be aware of and in touch with key Democrats, including all the Democrats who were elected as delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It is likely at least three quarters of the delegates who were active in 2016 will be active again in 2020. Everyday Senator Warren’s staff should hand her a list of 15-20 calls. She should stay in her office, establishing beneficial contact with these people, and of course, always asking for their tangible financial support.
If she continues to comment on absolutely everything, she will turn off people who might otherwise agree with her and be willing to assist. But no one, absolutely no one, wants candidates for President who comment on absolutely everything. That turns electors off and ensures that they will ultimately stop paying attention. Senator Warren might very well fall into this pit.
But there is still more. She has gained a national reputation with a populist message that would do William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) proud. In case your history is a bit rusty, consider this: in 1896 Bryan took over the Democratic party with his message of powerful populism. His speech before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago electrified not just the party, but the nation, and caused every Republican to quail, for fear that the peasants were at the gate, armed with pitchforks and vituperation.
The final two lines of Bryan’s speech were:
“Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
The capitalist interests of the nation were terrified at what this young messiah could do to their vested interests. But a funny thing happens when the rhetoric of the people comes before the nation. The interest of capitalism in these circumstances do what is necessary to maintain their interests, and ensure mere demagoguery will not succeed.
What does this mean for Elizabeth Warren? Simply this: that throughout the history of the United States, populists have gone forth on crusades to bolster what they see are the perogatives of the people. But each time these populists have gone for the people, these self-same people not only fail in their objective, but are crushed.
And so Elizabeth Warren, who has proclaimed herself the people’s advocate, will likely wake up the day after the next election only to find that what seemed so promising in the matter of gaining her party’s nomination, and a place on the national ballot, came a cropper in the election box.
Thus Senator Warren needs to re-think her position and approach, or else she may find herself the latest victim of the Massachusetts Curse. For while her vision of America may well be sufficiently clear in Massachusetts, it is popular nowhere else.