Category Archives: Culture

Maybe It’s You

I was doing a show at Ft. Polk for the troops in Louisiana a few months ago. Anyway, there are 40,000 men stationed at Ft. Polk. And this really well-dressed, drunk lady yells out, “Every one of them is a bad f***!” You know, after about 39,000 times, wouldn’t you start to go, “Maybe it’s me. I seem to be the only common denominator in this equation.”

Comedian Ron White/You can’t fix stupid

Conservatives are wringing their hands over what they believe is liberal indoctrination of young Americans at the nation’s colleges and universities. This is nothing new. In 2004, George Will, using an American Enterprise Institute survey, wrote:

 [The survey] of 1,000 professors finds that Democrats outnumber Republicans at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. That imbalance, more than double what it was three decades ago, is intensifying because younger professors are more uniformly liberal than the older cohort that is retiring.

This ideological shift is not limited to the humanities and social sciences. A similar review of faculty at Stanford and Berkeley, which included engineering and natural sciences professors, reported nine Democrats for every Republican. Pretty damning evidence that higher education in the United States is populated with left-wing madrasas. Except for a universal truth, there is a difference between correlation and causation.

Will points out this disparity has doubled in the past 30 years. So, just maybe, it is important to take a look at exactly how the conservative movement has changed in that same period.

  • The Republican Party, led by Ronald Reagan, believed the Soviet Union (now Russia) was an “evil empire.” Today, registered GOP voters give Vladimir Putin a higher favorability rating than Joe Biden, despite the former’s invasion of Ukraine and multiple crimes against humanity.
  • The current GOP majority in the House of Representatives rails against the national debt, but conveniently ignores the fact George W. Bush’s and Donald Trump’s tax cuts are the single largest contributor to the spending/revenue imbalance.
  • Conservatives claim the best government is government closest to the people. Yet, they fire locally elected district attorneys, intervene in local criminal investigations, dissolve local school boards, and yesterday, expelled two members of the Tennessee General Assembly for daring to challenge the state’s permissive gun laws.
  • They wrap themselves in the First Amendment, but ban books and punish those who disagree with them.
  • They claim to be for “law and order,” but are silent when the MAGA wing of the Republican Party honors convicted felons who pummeled Capitol police with American flags.
  • The party that once impeached Bill Clinton saying “character matters,” again plays deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to falsifying business records to disguise hush money payments to a porn star and a Playboy model and calls efforts to investigate the alleged perpetrator a “witch hunt.”
  • They declare “individual freedom” to be a sacred except when it comes to a woman’s right to choose and sexual orientation.
  • They promise economic opportunity for all but continue to push two economic theories (supply side and trickle down) which have resulted in an ever growing disparity between the haves and haves not.
  • And just yesterday, we watched as Republicans cried foul over Judge Juan Merchan’s donations to Democratic causes in 2020 (totaling $35) but said nothing about Justice Clarence Thomas’ accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars of unreported gifts from a major GOP donor.

Which brings me back to Ron White.  Conservatives sound an awful lot like that well-dressed, drunk woman at his Ft. Polk performance.  They are dissatisfied, not with sexual gratification, but ideological fulfillment.  Imagine if White had said:

There are thousands of college and university faculty out there. And you think every one of them is a socialist or communist who hates America. They come from a lot of different places and different backgrounds. So, maybe it’s you. You are the common denominator in this equation.

An argument can even be made that even the most conservative educational institutions contribute to this liberal movement.  Hillsdale College’s website states this uber conservative Christian liberal arts school challenges its students to “study timeless truths.”  If the administration and faculty believe what they say, they should not be surprised when students compare the brand of conservatism being peddled by the growing MAGA influencers in the Republican Party to that of a previous era and look elsewhere.

There was a college which promoted the principles of curiosity and personal exploration.  New College of Florida.  Once described as the learning ground for “free-thinkers and risk takers,” the school has been emasculated by Governor Ron DeSantis.  After replacing the entire board of trustees with friends and political allies, applications have declined, current students are transferring to liberal arts colleges in other states and alumni donors have pulled back $30 million in pledges.  Among its first actions, the new trustees abolished the Office of Outreach and Inclusion Excellence.

So much for school choice.  Oh, you can go to any college or university you want.  But it is becoming a false choice, much like having the freedom to select any flavor at the local ice cream parlor.  Except every tub is vanilla.

When Donald Trump said, “I love the poorly educated,” he made the point better than I can.  If a generation of young people with college degrees, at institutions where they were taught research skills and critical thinking, grow up to be liberal professors that is not the fault of the professors.  They are responding to the social, political and cultural environment in which they live, using a value-free skill set to observe and come to their own conclusions.

If conservatives want a better ratio of kindred ideologues in higher education, return to true conservative values that might make sense to inquisitive young people.  Until then, stop playing the victim, accept some personal responsibility, stop whining and lead by persuasion, not force and suppression of free thought. You know, the very things you allegedly claim to believe.

For what it’s worth.



Sharq Tanq

Entrepreneurship education used to be solely about starting for-profit businesses. That changed in the early 2000s. Instead of focusing on a single desired outcome, the discipline shifted its emphasis to human development. The spirit of this movement was captured by Guy Kawasaki, a member of the Apple team which developed the Mac computer. In his book Rules for Revolutionaries, Kawasaki wrote, “Entrepreneurship is the mindset of individuals who want to alter the future.”

In response, universities started offering courses in corporate entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and public entrepreneurship. Whether operating in a complex organization such as a Fortune 500 company, a mission driven not-for-profit entity or in the public sector, students were taught the value of opportunity recognition and problem solving based on the Timmons model of entrepreneurship: balancing opportunity with team and resources.

Being a political animal, I looked for occasions to demonstrate the efficacy of entrepreneurial thinking and behavior in the realm of governance and public policy. One such opportunity was the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 20 years ago today (Monday, March 20). I developed a lesson plan in which I asked students to think about the war effort as an entrepreneurial venture. I had not thought about this classroom moment for years until watching a rerun of Shark Tank on CNBC. And realized, if I were going to do something similar today I would fashion it after that show. Consider the following.

ANNOUNCER: Entering the Shark Tank are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Their company is called “Middle East Democracy” and  they believe they have come up with a unique way to introduce an old product to a new market.

BUSH: Hi, my name is George W. Bush. You can call me W. This is my partner Dick Cheney. We are bringing democracy to the Middle East. We are looking for a $1.5 trillion investment in exchange for the honor of being part of this noble enterprise.

MARK CUBAN: Mighty impressive. How did you come up with this idea?

BUSH: I got it from my Daddy. He dreamed about it since he was CIA director. For a short time in August 1990, he even tried to do it himself, but just couldn’t take it far enough.

KEVIN O’LEARY: As you know, Mr. Wonderful is interested in one thing, making money. How can I get my investment back and make a profit?

CHENEY: Easy. Just buy a few thousand shares of Haliburton, Raytheon and General Dynamics. That’s where most of the investment is going anyway. You’ll be counting your ROI faster than you can say “yellowcake low-grade uranium.”

BARBARA CORCORAN: Tell me about your sales so far?

BUSH: Well…

BARBARA: Do you at least have some orders?

BUSH: Well…

CHENEY: Let me handle this, son. Everybody loves democracy, especially American democracy. Those folks will welcome our troops, er, I mean sales reps, as soon as they land, oops, arrive.

ROBERT HERJAVEC: The Middle East is a very large market. Have you thought about a pilot program in just one country? I’d like to see some evidence of proof of concept before investing.

BUSH: Yes, sir! We thought we’d start in Iraq. Low hanging fruit, not to mention political opponents.

LORI GREINER: Tell me about your team. Are they prepared to take on such as big challenge?

CHENEY: Great team. Condi Rice. Colin Powell. Don Rumsfeld. And General Tommy Franks. The troops, damn it, account reps, could use some more training and samples, but sometimes you have to go to market with the sales force you have, not the one you need.

LORI:  How are you acquiring your  customers?

CHENEY:  We use guerilla marketing.  We simply drop in (some literally by parachute) and take over the market.

KEVIN: I’m still not sold. Anything else.

BUSH: They wanted to kill my Daddy.

CHENEY: Not sure that’s what he was looking for, boy. How about this? Truth is these guys are developing weapons of mass destruction. Nukes. Chemicals. While we’re bringing them democracy we can confiscate their weapons, and maybe a few billion barrels of oil.


KEVIN: I’m just not sure it’s sustainable.

BUSH: It doesn’t have to be sustainable. We’ll have 100 percent of the market in less than a year. You’ll see. Before you can say “Saddam Hussein,” there will be “Mission Accomplished” signs everywhere.

KEVIN: Okay. You’ve got yourself a deal!

“Middle East Democracy” UPDATE:  The business shut down after eight years and a total investment of $2.4 trillion.  Neither Iraq nor any other Middle East country is currently importing democracy from the United States.  On the bright side, the region has not exported a terrorist attack to the U.S. since 2001.  When asked if they planned any future activity in America, an Al Qaida spokesperson responded, “How do you expect us to compete in your country when the market is dominated by domestic suppliers?”

For what it’s worth.

Angst Me Anything

Welcome to Deprogramming101’s answer to Reddit’s popular feature “Ask Me Anything!”

Among the things I enjoy in retirement is hosting sessions of “Cinema and Conversation” at Story & Song Bookstore Bistro.  During last month’s discussion of Christopher Guest’s For Your Consideration, an attendee asked my opinion of the movies up for this year’s best picture Oscar.  In the interest of “truth in advertising,” let me begin by confessing, to date, I have only screened five of the ten nominated films. 

To set the stage, I owe the impetus for this post to my wife.  When she suggested her choice for best picture might be Top Gun: Maverick, I knew she was sending me a message.  Not so much about that particular film, but the other contenders.

I start with Triangle of Sadness, the one viewed most recently.  To paraphrase comedian Kevin Pollak’s review of The Hours (2002), “Triangle of Sadness is two hours and 27 minutes of my life I will never get back.”  This is what happens when a writer/director, in this case Ruben Ostlund, cannot decide if he wants to make a reboot of Ship of Fools, The Perfect Storm or Lord of the Flies.  You end up with Perfect Fool of the Flies.

Which brings me to Tár.  Not to be outdone, Todd Field consumed two hours 38 minutes of my life that I will never get back.  This is the Moby Dick and A Man in Full of cinema. Like Herman Melville (whaling) and Tom Wolfe (horse breeding), Field believes his audience is incapable of understanding the protagonist without a 45 minute dissertation on conducting and obsession.  An indictment shared by one critic. “If you can get through the first hour, it’s worth it.”  It reminded me of Voltaire’s quote after delivering a two volume commissioned work, “It would have been shorter if I had more time.”  Considering this was Field’s first movie in 16 years, it begs the question, “How much more time did you need?”

To make it short and sweet, did we really need The Banshees of Inisherin and Everything Everwhere All at Once to affirm the term “dysfunctional relationships” is redundant?  These stories, centered on mismatched friends and a nuclear family, both have merit.  Stellar performances.  And in the case of EEAAO, an imaginative utilization of time travel and manic editing.  Still, both films fall in line with the theme du jour, the color of angst.

To reiterate, I am not suggesting these motion pictures lack effort and professional achievement by the directors and actors.  The primary example being Elvis, which I intentionally avoided, although it was readily available on HBO MAX.  Why watch a movie about an out-of-control celebrity barreling toward an early death at the hands of a manipulative manager, when we have been subjected to the exact same story with more appropriate casting?  The Donald as Elvis and Roger Stone as Colonel Parker.  And much like best actor nominee Austin Butler, Trump and Stone seem possessed by and unable to escape their on-screen personas.

As for the other movies I have not seen, I have no interest in All Quiet on the Western Front since a reboot is being produced in real time in the trenches of the eastern front in Ukraine.  As regular followers know, I do not consider CGI an acceptable substitute for a good story and script, especially when it comes to sequels.  As you might already surmise, as far as I am concerned, Avatar: The Way of Water can go the way of the dinosaurs.

However, I am intrigued by Women Talking.  Critic Mark Kermode (Observer/UK) describes it as “A tale that is at once timely and timeless.”  If only it could be the successor to the original Star Trek, during which creator Gene Roddenberry used metaphor to address issues of social importance otherwise considered taboo by the networks’ standards and practices divisions.  Can a tale about subordination to an isolated religious community provide insight about fealty to a political cult?  Unfortunately, critic David Stratton (The Australian) warns this is a “tough-minded yet sensitive film that could pose a bit of a challenge to some audiences.”  In other words, those most in need of seeing it, most probably will not.

The one movie I anxiously await is The Fabelmans, as the result of an interview with Steven Spielberg by Stephen Colbert.  The Late Show host asked his guest about a scene from the movie in which young Sammy Fabelman makes an amateur movie starring his family and neighbors. “It suggests you see things through the lens of a camera you do not see with the naked eye.  Is that true?”  Spielberg’s positive response suggests there are more powerful insights awaiting those who watch the film.

Despite the variety of characters and locations, the selection of these 10 nominees makes sense when you remember who picks the finalists. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “We in Hollywood highly resolve these movies shall not have been made in vain–that this artform shall have a rebirth–an industry of the angst-ridden, for the angst-ridden, and by the angst ridden.”

For what it’s worth.


CRT: Now More Than Ever

Welcome to Black History month.  Or if you live in Florida, END OF BLACK HISTORY month.  Ironically, it is the loudest voices decrying “freedom of expression” in education and view their opponents as “snowflakes” who (1) are passing laws to limit free speech and (2) claim their children can not handle controversial topics.  As has been said on numerous occasions, these folks need to take the copy of the U.S. Constitution they use as a performance art prop out of their coat pockets and purses and actually read it.

If they did, you might not have a spokesperson for Florida governor Ron DeSantis tell us “the state education department is reviewing the revised (AP Black History) curriculum for compliance with Florida law.”  If DeSantis was ever to take an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he would be committing perjury if he did not add the words “except for the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Forgive the brief lesson in Constitutional Law.  The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” among other things. For those of you who believe this restriction to Congress means it applies only to the federal government, you would be right if you lived in pre-1868 America.  Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment made the “incorporation doctrine” the new standard. According to Cornell University’s Law School, “The first ten amendments of the United State Constitution (know as the Bill of Rights) are made applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause.  Incorporation applies both substantively and procedurally.”

In what can only be described as 1984-style NewSpeak, the Florida Legislature passed and DeSantis signed HB 7, the “Individual Freedom Act” under which a public school teacher can be charged with a crime for mentioning “critical race theory (CRT).” That act defines CRT as the concept that “one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex” and that “a person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”  Hard to disagree, except that it is not true.

An honest discussion about CRT should start with a more accurate description.  Per the Encyclopedia Britannica:

An intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color.

In  other words, CRT specifically contradicts the false narrative that it accuses individuals of being racists.  The latest and best evidence is the beating death of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis black police officers.  Nichols was not the victim of a hate crime.  He was the victim of a public policy, the creation of the “Scorpion Squad,” an elite, specialized unit formed in 2021 to fight violent street crime.  The culture and training associated with the Scorpion Squad was colorblind. It did not matter if the members of the unit were white or black. 

The valuable lesson a CRT discussion in public schools could provide is that policy matters. If an excessive response to urban crime can turn Black police officers into alleged murderers of a brother who just wanted to get home, what other policies result in harmful outcomes? That conversation does not teach any black child to accuse a white classmate of racism or for any child to think he or she is superior to another. It implies just the opposite. Each of us, regardless of accident of birth or life experience is susceptible to the the same shortcomings of human nature. And it does not matter if children grow up to be a police officer or governor, they need to be cognizant of the power they wield and the consequences of misusing it.

Sadly, the Florida Department of Education and an increasing number of parents across the state think their precious snowflakes lack the intellectual capacity to appreciate the importance of that lesson.

For what it’s worth.

The Booger and the Kiwi

Even classic works occasionally require an update. Today, it’s Aesop’s turn.

Once upon a time there was a professional football player named Anthony Darrell McFarland. His teammates called him “Booger.” He was a star defense tackle at LSU and played on two Super Bowl championship teams in the NFL. He is now an analyst on ESPN.

Last Wednesday, during a guest appearance on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” Tony Kornheiser asked him whether he thought quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers would retire. Kornheiser prefaced his questions by quoting former San Francisco quarterback Steve Young who once compared retirement to death.

The quarterback position is a little bit different. I saw football as a means to an end. I wasn’t in love with the game. The game was not something I stayed up at night and dreamed about. For me it was an opportunity to take care of my mother and my family. And it gave me the platform that I continue on, even to today.

For me, once the means to the end didn’t make sense anymore, when the last contract I was offered wasn’t beneficial to me, I knew it was time to move on and do something else.


Halfway across the kingdom there lived a princess named Jacinda Ardern. She was known to her subjects as Madam Prime Minister. Announcing her abdication, Princess Jacinda told her subjects:

I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job. I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility, the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also when you are not. I know what this job takes and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.


After Booger achieved his original goal, ensuring his family would never again want for food or shelter, he hung up his helmet and shoulder pads. For Princess Jacinda, ridding her country of assault weapons following a mass shooting of school children was the accomplishment of a lifetime. It was someone else’s turn to wear the crown. Despite Booger’s absence, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won another Super Bowl. New Zealand remains a desirable place to visit, work and live under the new monarch.

I thought about Booger and the Kiwi while watching news of the January 20 “March for Life” in Washington, D.C. Would the Dobbs decision be the law of the land if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had stepped aside when Barack Obama could have appointed someone with equally strong women’s rights credentials to the high court? Would Donald Trump been able to appoint three justices if his 2016 opponent, despite all her qualifications and experience, had recognized voters suffered from Clinton fatigue? And, in turn, would Trump himself go down in history as a disgraced, twice-impeached seditionist if he had been content living a fairy tale in his palaces in Manhattan, Palm Beach and Bedminster?

A wise mentor told me the day I accepted the position as director of the entrepreneurship center at Miami University, “The first thing you need to do is find your successor.” He knows I do not always take his advice, but on this occasion I did. And when I moved on nine years later, I did so knowing the program was in good, if not better, hands. The transition was seamless. And, to this day, I have no regrets about leaving a job I enjoyed.

I wonder if Brady and Rogers will ever experience that same sense of personal satisfaction. Or, for that matter, will Joe Biden if he chooses to run for a second term? Last night, Biden’s departing chief of staff Ron Klain ticked off the Biden administration’s accomplishments over the past two years. Even those who disagree with the content must marvel at the skill with which his team marshalled the president’s agenda through Congress with little room for error in a 50/50 Senate and an equally divided House of Representatives. No one would think less of Biden if he rested on his laurels and rode into the sunset.

At some point in every life, a person faces a similar decision. It does not matter whether it involves retirement from a prestigious post or knowing when it is no longer safe to drive a car. He or she can emulate McFarland and Ardern. Celebrate past success and move on. Or keep hanging on. Sports is a perfect lens through which to view one’s options. Look no farther than Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays or Mohammad Ali. The only opponent they could not defeat was Father Time.

The moral of this story: Actors who believe they are irreplaceable are those most in need of exiting the stage. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Norma Desmond.

For what it’s worth.