Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Foreword to But...at What Cost: A Skeptic's Memoir

What made a busy former tutor and small-business entrepreneur a Tea Party activist? Why did she threaten to quit? What caused her to switch from political organizing to writing her memoir?

You will find the answers in But…at What Cost?  Author Judy Axtell has experienced, as the Chinese say, “interesting times.” She became a changed person. Socrates is credited with admonishing, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Judy Axtell’s often-challenging, closely examined life has been well worth her struggles. She has lived and learned.

Initially, a few years ago, Judy emailed me to ask that I prepare a flier for her Tea Party group, summarizing our joint skepticism about “global warming”: Is the climate actually getting warmer? Due to human activities? More bad than good? Preventable at reasonable cost? My background in environmental physics, mathematics, and modeling was just what she wanted in support of the position I shared with the Tea Party. A friend I was helping write a memoir had called me to Judy’s attention. We quickly became allies, by phone and Internet.

Judy and I first met in person in the fall of 2013. We agreed to work together on a book that would distill her experience of seven decades into an explanation of how and why her views had changed radically from the liberalism of her youth to the conservatism of her maturity. We met about twice a month to discuss and debate her ideas and hone their presentation. She wrote rapidly and well, finishing her first draft in less than half a year, despite her continual revising in an effort to get it just right. She has given her views prolonged, serious thought, and hers is a life story worth reading.

Some say that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. Others have claimed that one would need to be cold-hearted to be a conservative in one’s youth and empty-headed to be a liberal in one’s adulthood. Those two messages are much the same: experience teaches, and it often teaches that lofty ideas fail when applied to real people.

Judy Axtell’s book is a cry from her heart that America must return to the principles of individual freedom and responsibility that catapulted this country to greatness over the past two centuries. She believes only this will help erase the terrible consequences of slavery, America’s “original sin.” Until politicians stop pitting one group against another, we will continue to pay the price for past slavery, segregation, discrimination, and Jim Crow. Rather than recognizing and protecting the individual as the basic unit of society, politicians divide us into voting blocs, as “mascots” and “targets” in the words of the brilliant black economist and political philosopher Thomas Sowell, one of Judy Axtell’s heroes and one of mine.

It was my real pleasure helping Judy to produce her book, a candid and thoughtful memoir we hope its readers will both profit from and enjoy.

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.



Judy's book is available through amazon.com.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Field Day, A Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

Rick asked Tess and Tim, “What do you want to do for a booth at Field Day this year?”

Every year, on the Memorial Day week-end Saturday, their town held Field Day, where people came to watch a softball game between the police and fire departments, to ride on a few rented amusement park rides, and to buy various items from tables set up by the townspeople, with the profit to go to upkeep for the town’s Bradley Field, including such things as mowing the grass, keeping the softball diamond ready for play, repairing the swings and other park equipment.

“Refreshments stand,” said Tess, and Tim nodded in agreement.

“Would you be selling food? That seems rather hard, especially if anything needs to be cooked.”

“Soda,” said Tim, and --- surprisingly --- Tess agreed.

They sat down at the dining room table, and Rick started writing their plans on a large pad of lined paper. First came a discussion of what sodas to sell: Coke or Pepsi? Diet or regular? Root beer? Mountain Dew? Ginger ale? Orange soda or lemon-lime? They listed lots of other possibilities.

Mr. and Mrs. Williams got involved briefly in the planning. Mrs. Williams thought that on a hot day people would not be very choosy about their drinks, and she quoted the saying, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

“What’s a gander?” Tim asked.

“A female goose,” Tess answered quickly, as though it were a TV quiz show question.

Mr. Williams had a different view, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

“Poison?” asked a puzzled Tim.

“I mean that what one person likes another person may dislike. It’s just an old saying.”

“Oh,” said Tim.

Mrs. W., sometimes a history teacher, thought to herself, I’m tempted to joke that one man’s Mede is another man’s Persian, but I doubt anyone will laugh.

Having given the children the benefit of their advice, although not agreeing with each other, the parents wandered off.

The three Williams kids then decided to limit the number of soda types to four: cola, diet cola, ginger ale, and orange soda. They chose flavors they would be willing to drink if they did not sell them all. Cans or bottles? Cans seemed safer, nothing to break.

How much soda should they buy? They hoped to raise $50. If they sold the sodas for $0.50 each more than each cost, then they would need to sell 100. Could they sell that many? It would depend on the weather and on how many people came.

How many people would likely be at Field Day? Rick estimated it would be a couple of hundred. The police and fire softball teams had about 15 members each, a total of 30, and most of their spouses and kids would probably come, for a total of around 100. Other people would be there to watch the game and to go to the different tables, so maybe that would be another 100, a total of 200 or so. That seemed like the crowds they had seen at the last couple of Field Days, too.

“This is not so easy to figure out,” Tess complained.

“You can see the problem business people have,” Rick answered.

“Will everyone buy a soda?” Tim wanted to know.

Rick said, “Good question.”

“Not likely,” Tess replied.

They decided to buy at least 100 sodas, probably more. They knew that the sodas came in cases of 24 each, and the crew ended up planning to buy two cases of regular cola, along with one each of diet cola, ginger ale, and orange, so five case, a total of 120 sodas.

They arranged to get a table and a large garbage can, then started buying what they needed: the sodas, plastic cups, napkins, and ice that they kept in their freezer.

Field Day came. Rick, Tess, and Tim arrived early and set up their table. It was sunny and was going to be hot for the end of May, so they were likely to sell all their sodas, which they put in the shade. They had a large insulated container for their ice, and put up a sign listing the soda choices, the price for each, and stating that the profits would go to the Field Day Fund.

Business was good before the softball game, then slowed during it, but picked up briskly when the game was over. The three of them were kept busy getting and opening the cans, putting ice in the cups, pouring the sodas, taking the money, making change.

Ginger ale did not sell very well, but a lady who had just come from eating a hot dog hurried over and bought a ginger ale. “Ginger ale is great for an upset stomach,” she said softly enough so that the hot dog stand people wouldn’t hear.

Mrs. Williams came by, looked at the people lined up for drinks and at the number of soda cans left. She trotted over to the family car and drove off. She headed for home, quickly returning with lemons, sugar, a dish, bottled water, a few spoons and a sharp knife.

“What’s all that for, Mom?” Tess asked.

“Lemonade!” Mrs. W. got to work, and her lemonade sold more rapidly than any one type of soda. It was a hit.

When Field Day ended, the Williams crew had made more than $100 profit…they donated it all. They were pleased and proud.

Mr. Williams was happy, too. For the fourth year in a row, the Fire Department, for whom he played third base, beat the Police Department…soundly. Mr. W. made a few fine plays and got a couple of hits, as well.

That night, chatting about the day, Mr. Williams couldn’t help joking, “They say that when things are tough, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade…and I’d say that when wife gives you lemons, sell lemonade.”

Nobody laughed at this, but Mrs. W. smiled, commenting, “They also say there is no disputing taste…each to his own taste…perhaps they meant taste in humor.”

Only Rick laughed.


One of our fifty instructional short stories for young readers.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fair Play

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Mr. Williams, I want to speak with you,” said the mother of Aaron, one of the kids on the fourth-grade, week-end soccer team that Mr. W. coached.
“Sure. What about?”
“Why didn’t you play Aaron as much as some of the other kids?”

“I did play him half the game, as our AYSO rules specify.”

“Yes, but you played other boys more, including your own son, Tim.”

“True, but I play the better players more, and I also keep track of who comes to the practices. Aaron is pretty good, has missed some practices, and played about as much as other kids of similar skill.”

“That’s not fair. They all want to play, and they should play about he same amount each.”

“I understand your opinion, but I don’t agree. I think the better players and those who attend practices regularly should be rewarded with more playing time. Making sure every player plays at least half the game seems fair enough to me.”

“You won the game 3-2. Didn’t that allow you to substitute more?”

“No. In soccer, a goal can be scored suddenly, and if they had scored, the game would have been tied.”

“Then everyone would have been happy.”

“Not really. A common sports saying is, ’A tie is like kissing your sister.’ Do you see how hard the kids play? They are trying to win, and as long as they play fair, I am happy to see them do that.”

“Who cares who wins the game?” Aaron’s mother questioned.

“Well, it means less to you or me than it does to some of the players, but their feelings count, too.”

“Would you have played Aaron more if you were way ahead or way behind?”

“Yes. It would have been good experience for him, and he would not have been in danger of losing the game for the team, which would have displeased at least some of his teammates.”

“I don’t agree with you. I think all the boys should get equal playing time.”

“Next year, you or your husband are welcome to take the job of being a coach for the boys, and you can run the team as you see fit. This year, it is my role and my rules.”

Later, when Mr. Williams told his wife what happened, she agreed with him, “Aaron really needs to improve if he is to keep up with the other boys. He needs to ‘walk before he can run,’ needs to work on improving his skills before expecting to play a lot or be a star.”

“I could have told his mother that, but I did not want to hurt their feelings. I knew I was within the rules and was doing what I thought was right. I had the final say, the power as coach. As Theodore Roosevelt advised, I spoke softly but carried a big stick…the power to decide how much paying time each boy would get.”

“Just like former President Teddy Roosevelt, eh?” Mrs. W. kidded her husband. “Perhaps this position of great power is going to your head.”

“Well, my love, they say ‘there is no “I” in ‘team’ but I see that there is ‘me’ in manager…somewhere.”

“Yes, there’s an ‘m’ and an ‘e’ in ‘manager’…and a ‘nag,’” she teased.

“Even a good thing can be overdone,” Mr. W. admitted, deciding not to try to come up with another old saying in reply.


One of our fifty instructive short stories primarily for young readers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review of THE CUT-OUT

Americans are less aware of it than are the British, but in 2008 a British jury concluded that Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed were “unlawfully killed,” a charge just shy of “murdered.”
Jon King’s book, The Cut-Out, gives chapter and verse with only some names and details changed to protect the guilty and the author.
In espionage jargon, a “cut-out” is an unwitting individual used to pass messages or material. The author finds, eventually, that he himself was a dupe for a high-ranking officer of Britain’s MI6, their CIA. In investigating Princess Di’s death, King is fed clues to lead him in certain directions desired by MI6. When he breaks free from his leash, his investigation is hampered and his resulting book is eventually embargoed. Despite this, he succeeds in getting an official investigation of the killing of Princess Di, who would have likely survived this crash of her sabotaged Mercedes limousine if her seat belt had not also been deliberately damaged.
King’s own investigation reveals that, for reasons of church and state, government officials decided that either Camilla Parker-Bowles or Princess Diana had to die, by “accident,” before the impending marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla. An unsuccessful attempt on Camilla’s life made the killing of Princess Di deemed necessary.
King’s book is fascinating, well worth reading by those who like riveting stories and those who want to know what goes on behind the scenes when a government rules without ethics.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Apples and Oranges," A Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“That’s like comparing apples and oranges,” Fred told Rick, as they argued who was the better athlete, former baseball great Hank Aaron or former basketball great Michael Jordan.

“People say that, but you can compare apples and oranges. They have similarities as well as differences.” Rick, a future physicist, had a keen mind and liked to argue.

“Go ahead,” said Fred, the doubter.

“OK. They are both fruit, round and roughly the same size. Both can be grown in America. Both give healthful vitamins. Both have seeds you don’t eat. They have their differences. Apples can be eaten unpeeled; often they are cooked; you can make an apple pie but not an orange pie. Oranges are juicier, have more vitamin C, have separate segments, and are orange inside, where apples are white. Apples and oranges are more alike than grapes and grapefruit, for example and less alike than applies and pears”

“Fine, fine. How do you apply that to comparing Aaron and Jordan?”

“If we really wanted to do it right, we’d need a lot of statistics.”

“Such as?” Fed was still questioning, Rick still answering.

“How long did each play professionally? How many times did each win Most Valuable Player? How many times did their teams win their league championship? How much were they paid to play in comparison to others in the same sport? Where is each ranked in the all-time listing of great players and compared to how many others?”

“I’m getting the picture, but basketball is a sport and baseball is just a game.” Fred was not letting Rick off the hook easily.

“I know people say that. No doubt that in basketball running and jumping and rebounding all are hard and take speed, like other sports. Shooting and dribbling take more skill, less strength and endurance. But baseball has a lot of running, by the batters around the bases, by the fielders, especially the outfielders. Pitching takes strength and skill and endurance, and playing catcher for nine innings is a real challenge.”

“So you think Jordan was the better athlete?” Fred asked.

“I like Mike!” Rick replied.

Sometimes you can compare apples and oranges…or Aarons and Jordans, but it isn’t easy.


One of our fifty instructive short stories for young readers.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Born in 1979, currently the CEO of Atlanta’s Johnson Media Inc., which he founded, Kevin D. Johnson had already established several successful enterprises while still in his twenties. In his book, Johnson offers the would-be entrepreneur 100 guidelines, complete with apt quotations, and enriched by his personal experience, expressed candidly.

I liked his comment that going into business to make money is like getting married to get sex. To succeed, one needs more admirable motives. He’s not big on “follow your passion” nor “become your own boss,” either. Rather, become an entrepreneur if you want to provide goods and services that others value and if you get real pleasure out of doing so. The money will likely follow.

He writes well– clearly, interestingly, with many supporting quotes and examples. Neither overly modest nor unwilling to share his failures, Johnson presents some hard truths, including that the entrepreneur has got to be wiling to put his business ahead of his family. Talk about not being politically correct!

Fortunately, he married a woman in synch with his lifestyle. Surprisingly to me, they have a mortgage. Though it is a form of financial diversification, when you owe money, you are less secure than when you do not. You have to be willing to take risks, Johnson notes, and he has been rich and nearly broke within the last decade or so. It will be interesting to see whether he continues his well-earned winning streak or runs into circumstances that even diligence and talent cannot overcome.

Johnson’s success is at a scale that puts him within reach of many potential readers. He has multi-million-dollar success rather than mega-million dollar triumphs, much less the billion-dollar riches of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or of the founders of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, etc. If his level is hard for us to reach, it is not out of sight. His advice is relevant to the would-be captain of industry during those early years when such captaincy is just a distant goal.

Sub-titled “100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs,“ his book delivers as promised. The 100 topics are categorized within seven chapters: Strategy, Education, People, Finance, Marketing & Sales, Leadership, and Motivation.

Some of my favorites from the 100 are: Think Big; Create New Markets; Build a Company That Is Systems-Dependent, Not People-Dependent; Ask for Help; Business Comes First, Family Second; Hire a Good Lawyer; The Business Plan is Overrated; Fire Your Worst Customers; Technology is an Opportunity, Not a Threat; Always Follow Up; Failure Doesn’t Kill You; An Idea’s Execution, Not Its Uniqueness, Yields Success; Don’t Underestimate Your Competition; School Is Not Necessarily Education; Spend the Majority of Your Time with People Smarter than You; People Don’t Only Work for Money; Get the Right Mentor; A Check in Hand Means Nothing; The Biggest Investment in Your Company Is Yours; Your Customer Is Your Boss; Networking Isn’t All About You; Act in Spite of How You Feel; Make Difficult Sacrifices; You Are Excited When Monday Morning Arrives; You Are Disappointed When Friday Arrives; You Feel Unequaled Joy When Your Idea Becomes Reality.

The book ends with some valuable contact information for Kevin D. Johnson: at Twitter, he is @BizWizKevin; his email is kevin@johnsonmedia.com; not surprisingly, his web site is TheEntrepreneurMind.com.

Mr. Johnson knew he wanted to be a businessman from early on, once he found he was too vertically challenged to make it into the National Basketball Association, even as a point guard. He now has the NBA as one of his premier accounts. He convinced me, however, that this is a route I was glad I had not taken: too much work, too many trivial issues, more stress than I would want. Still, he has hobnobbed with interesting people and seems to have enjoyed his choices.

The audience for this book should be those who want to understand successful businessmen and those who are entrepreneurs or are thinking of running their own businesses.