There’s A Reason For That Spring In Your Step

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Photo by Mihály Köles on UnsplashCan you feel that? I can. But I can’t describe it.

It’s somewhere between a tinge of excitement and elated joy. It’s anticipatory and present at the same time. It’s a satisfied grin, a certain bounce in my step.

Or, should I say, a certain “spring” in my step.

That’s it! It’s spring.

Disregard the fact the weather still thinks it’s winter. It’s not the precipitation that matters, Continue Reading “There’s A Reason For That Spring In Your Step”

On The Oscars, Bank Runs, And Picking Winning Stocks

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Photo by Mirko Fabian on UnsplashI’m not really a fan of awards shows. I’ve got a lot of other things to do besides watch celebrities celebrate each other. Oh, and don’t get me going on the value signaling.

But I do watch movies. Mostly old ones. Although for the first time in a long time, I actually saw one of the movies nominated for best picture. Only one of them. And I’m probably not alone in that category.

Top Gun: Maverick did something Hollywood really needed. It made people want to go to the theater again. You can count me among them. Granted, that was the only movie that compelled me since the last James Bond fiasco (see “Abandon Bond All Ye Who Enter,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, November 4, 2021).

In return for this gift, the powers that be nominated Top Gun: Maverick for “Best Picture.” It would never win, of course, but they truly believe it’s an honor merely to be nominated. But to make them feel less guilt, they’d have to nominate the film for a few other Continue Reading “On The Oscars, Bank Runs, And Picking Winning Stocks”

How Banned Cartoonist Scott Adams Became The American Illuminati

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Johann Adam Weishaupt, Founder of the Illuminati Source: Art of Charm, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone loves a good mystery. Everyone loves a good conspiracy. And, if you happen upon a good mystery interwoven with a good conspiracy, then you’ve got a best seller on your hands.

Just ask Dan Brown. He’s made a career writing trendy books that allude to the mysteries of the Illuminati. These include The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, both of which, along with Brown’s Inferno, have been made into movies starring Tom Hanks.

Brown writes of a popularized vision of the Illuminati. He is not alone in painting a picture of the clandestine group as a nefarious conclave set on world domination. Through the ages, many have used the Illuminati as their favorite punching bag. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Illuminati was “credited with activities ranging from the instigation of the French Revolution to the assassination of U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy.”

Josef Wages, author of The Secret School of Wisdom: The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati and a board member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, explains the reason for this. He says, “There was a nice convenient vacuum and, until my book was published, there wasn’t a whole lot of concrete information about them. People could inject anything they wanted to about them. The Illuminati could be the founders of communism, they could be trying to overthrow the world, or they could be a nice convenient excuse for the problems in the world. In the absence of information, they could say anything, but we’ve now put a baseline in.”

The reality differs greatly from the fictional Illuminati. Although some scholars find inklings of early versions, the historic Illuminati began on May 1, 1776, when Adam Weishaupt, godson of a university book censor, formed a secret society known as the “Perfectibilists.” By 1785, the group had fully disbanded.

Why was it a secret society?

Wages says after Weishaupt’s parents died in his early youth, his godfather raised him. Rather than burning the banned books, his godfather kept them in a hidden storage. Curious, Weishaupt read the entire library. As a professor of canon law at Ingolstadt, he desperately desired to share this forbidden knowledge. To do so, he set up secret classes. Weishaupt guarded these covert meetings through the use of cyphers and special titles. He even went so far as to rename towns and provinces where the group would meet.

The so-called “Bavarian Illuminati” lasted only about a decade before it fizzled out. In a last-ditch effort to survive, it adopted many mannerisms of the more popular Freemasonry movement. Wages said they did this in an attempt “to take Masons for their money and their members.” The effort failed, and the Illuminati disappeared forever. At least the real one did. The imaginary one kept popping up as a go-to whipping boy.

“The Illuminati aren’t what you think they are,” says Wages. “It’s not the Dan Brown conspiracy version. It’s not the Jay Z/Beyoncé version. It was none of these things. These guys were benevolent by today’s standards. And we have already accomplished the reforms they were advocating for in society through universal education and a general application of morality and virtue.”

But the lessons of the historical Illuminati endure. Indeed, we may be witnessing them play out again before our eyes this very day.

The Illuminati emerged during an era of rampant book banning. You might call it an eighteenth-century version of “woke.” And banning something most often leads to unintended consequences.

Think about what you felt like as a kid when some adult told you that you couldn’t do something. It made you want to do it even more.

Such is the paradox of banning anything. It’s why book-burning never succeeded at any time in history. It’s why authors, musicians, and other creative artists desire for some authority to ban their works. Free publicity. More fame. More sales.

It’s simple. It’s math. It works.

Look at what happened to Scott Adams, perhaps most widely known as the creator of Dilbert, but who has ventured into other fields over the last few years. Forget about the details leading up to his personal Inquisition. Focus solely on the results.

Just like Weishaupt, Adams says he wanted to share his knowledge, a knowledge he understood wasn’t politically correct. While Weishaupt already had banned material to entice followers, Adams did not and chose hyperbole to accomplish this. That hyperbole got him banned in a spectacular way.

On the other hand, the ensuing free publicity increased his brand awareness dramatically.

Those familiar with Rosser Reeves will recall he used two metrics to determine the success of any marketing campaign (see “Should You Go Wide Or Go Deep,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, May 9, 2019). Reeves defined “penetration” as the measure of awareness—how many people now recognize the product.

Adams certainly pulled this off. He now has nearly a million followers on Twitter. Before his banning, his daily YouTube show “Real Coffee With Scott Adams” generally had a couple thousand viewers for each episode (with a few notable exceptions). Since his banning, he has regularly had multiple tens of thousands of viewers.

Additionally, and more important to Reeves, is the measure he called “usage pull.” In marketing, this is how many people purchase the product once they become aware of the product. For instance, it’s one thing to have a million followers on Twitter, but how many will actually take action if you ask them to? That’s usage pull.

For Weishaupt, while there may have been penetration, there wasn’t much usage pull. It’s one reason he tried to bring Freemasonry into his movement. As history shows, the lack of usage pull ultimately led to the failure of the Illuminati.

Will Scott Adams suffer the same fate? Something tells me, if he fails, it won’t be for the same reasons as Weishaupt. Adams knows a thing or two more than the average bear when it comes to persuasion (hence, marketing). He’s also probably wealthy enough, and his enterprise is low cost enough, where he can continue doing what he’s doing until fate releases him from his mortal coil.

But is that enough for him? If he truly wants to share his knowledge (and it appears he’s genuine about this), there are several different ways to rate his usage pull. The first, and more traditional measure, is to see how many new people join his premium online community at (and at $5 a month, most people can afford to join).

On March 13th, it will be the only place people can find his comic Dilbert (which Adams will newly christen as Dilbert Reborn). As of March 12th, the last day newspapers will publish Dilbert, Adams had 80,000 subscribers to his site. For those of you counting, after the platform and credit card fees are taken out, that’s about $4 million per year going into Scott Adams bank account.

You can see why he’s in a happy place. He’s free from the woke constraints of traditional publishers and still making millions. It may be a lot less than what he was making (he claims he’s lost 80% of his revenues), but $4 million dollars a year makes a nice retirement pension, especially if you can keep doing the things you love (after all, isn’t that what retirement is all about?).

You can also see why Adam’s efforts likely won’t suffer the same financial woes that visited Weishaupt’s Illuminati.

Regarding usage pull, the more difficult, yet more significant measure, is to see how many people actually implement some of his ideas. Adams seems to say getting people to learn and adopt his knowledge represents his ultimate quest.

Getting people to act on his ideas is the more interesting measure, because if Adams succeeds here, he won’t need to do what he’s doing anymore.


Because when everyone is a member of the Illuminati, no one is a member of the Illuminati.

Let’s check back in ten years to see how things turn out for Adams.

Spaghetti & Tuna Fish

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Photo by Keriliwi on UnsplashLong ago, before Vatican II, before the FBI targeted Catholics as domestic terrorists, before many of our readers were even born, McDonald’s had a problem. Only they didn’t realize how big of a problem.

That realization would be left to a single franchise owner in Ohio. On January 13, 1959, Lou Groen opened his McDonald’s in Monfort Heights, Ohio. It was the first Golden Arches to appear in the Cincinnati metropolitan area.

You probably didn’t know this, but at that time Catholics represented about 87% of Monfort Heights’ population. And they were good, practicing Catholics. Old-time Catholics. (You know. Toe Blake, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore. Those guys were the greats!)

Vatican II was still several years away, and Groen noticed something quite discouraging about his new venture. “On Friday, we only took in about $75 a day,” he said.

That was a problem. A big problem.

After researching what the Big Boys chain did, Groen approached McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc (who was very approachable then) and proposed the idea of selling a fish sandwich. The usually astute Kroc did something he rarely did. He made the wrong decision. He Continue Reading “Spaghetti & Tuna Fish”

And The Jury Is Out

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I had jury duty last week. It worried me.

Do you remember the first time you got summoned for jury duty? This wasn’t my first time. It was my fourth time. Actually, I wasn’t surprised by the notice. I selected the third week in February last November when I opted for my one-time deferral after receiving the original summons back then. I was a high number (meaning a lower chance of being called), but given my schedule I couldn’t risk it. So I deferred.

My position as an elected official (on the Mendon Town Board) provided me with an exemption the first time I received jury duty. They’ve since changed the law and now Continue Reading “And The Jury Is Out”

You’re Either Living In The Past Or Living For The Future Because The Present Doesn’t Really Exist

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Photo by Wyron A on UnsplashYou’re either living in the past or living for the future because the present doesn’t really exist.

OK, that sounds a little harsh. Allow me to offer something a bit more palatable.

You’re either living in the past or living for the future because the present is a moment that lasts but a quick instant.

Think about it. It takes a lot of effort to constantly live in the present. It’s a constant churn to live for the day every single day. I suppose if you’re a hedonist, it might be a tad easier. Still, even then, you’ve got to be numb to withstand the constant movement of the Continue Reading “You’re Either Living In The Past Or Living For The Future Because The Present Doesn’t Really Exist”

The Return Of The King: Albany Aims To Take Away Your Home Rule

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British Parliament Stamp Act 1765, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a slippery slope. Once the camel’s nose pokes into the tent, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the beast enters that humble abode.

And so it is with our own communities.

Or at least so it may soon be.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned. These pages brought this to your attention in a most blunt manner several years ago (see “First They Came For Our Plastic Bags…,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, February 6, 2020). Each year, it seems, Albany removes another right from our fingers.

Like a spreading disease, this usurpation creeps into the very heart of our lives. This year, it threatens our very communities.

It’s called “Home Rule,” and it’s part of existing New York State law. First paragraph of Section 10 (“General Powers of Local Governments to Adopt and Amend Local Laws “) of the New York Municipal Home Rule Law states:Continue Reading “The Return Of The King: Albany Aims To Take Away Your Home Rule”

The Art and Science of Influence and Leadership (Part II: The Art)

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Influence and leadership

Original Sun-Maid package, Designer unknown, incorporates painting by Fanny Scafford, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

At some point, any effective exercise merges theory (the “science”) into practice (the “art”). Ironically, the following analysis of the art of influence and leadership predates the previously discussed science by roughly half a century or more.

That doesn’t mean this art didn’t follow science as you will immediately see.

The convergence of the art and science of influence and leadership can best be found in the field of advertising. Before Mad Men, before Madison Avenue, this field first blossoms in the not-so-quiet offices of the Chicago firm of Lord & Thomas.

You remember Lord & Thomas, don’t you? They were the “McMann and Tate” of the first quarter of the twentieth century. While it’s president Albert D. Lasker (a.k.a., “The Man Who Sold America” who The New York Times once called “The Continue Reading “The Art and Science of Influence and Leadership (Part II: The Art)”

The Art and Science of Influence and Leadership (Part I: The Science)

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Office of War Information, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Influence, the last of the three leader traits to be researched, stands out as the most practical measure of successful leadership. Be warned, though. Just as obedience to authority contains a dark side, so, too, do the methods of influence.

Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert and renowned persuasion expert, calls behavioral psychologist Robert Cialdini the “Godzilla” of persuasion. Cialdini’s research, compiled in various books, lays out in simple language six different ways to influence people.

In his website, Cialdini states, “It is through the influence process that we lead, generate, and manage change. Like most things, the process can be handled poorly or well. It can be employed to foster growth and to move people away from negative choices and in more positive directions, thereby creating the conditions for Continue Reading “The Art and Science of Influence and Leadership (Part I: The Science)”

Is Obedience To Authority A Virtue Or A Crime?

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Advertisement for Milgram Experiment subjects. The original uploader was Poolisfun at Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

World War II marks a turning point in almost every facet of mankind. From science to engineering, from business to politics, to the very core of our culture, the world changed as America rebuilt Europe and reframed Japan. You see a shift from a feudal/monarchical-centric philosophy towards a populace/organizational-centric viewpoint.

Within the academic arena, research on authority moved from the Sociology Department to the Psychology Department. In fact, one of the most famous and useful psychology experiments of the mid-twentieth century represents this shift. It answered the most compelling question regarding the nature of authority to come out of the Second World War.

The Psychological Origins of Authority

You might not recognize the name Stanley Milgram, but you’ll instantly recognize his Continue Reading “Is Obedience To Authority A Virtue Or A Crime?”

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