Sunday, November 30, 2008

Being a Capitalist or Socialist

There has been much talk of late with the many bailouts if we are becoming a socialist country. Some wonder if capitalism has ended. In pondering the reason we have arrived at this very discussion I wondered if it is not a question of capitalism vs. socialism but how the market is "played."

In his latest book, Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life, John Bogle writes that business over the last 75 years has focused "on the gradual accumulation of intrinsic value, derived from the ability of our public owned corporations to produce the goods and services." This he called investing.

Speculating, as defined by Bogle, is the opposite of investing. He defines it as "short-term trading, not long-term holding of financial instruments-pieces of paper, not businesses-largely focused on the belief that their prices as distinct from their intrinsic valued, will rise."

Bogle points out that John Maynard Keynes thought of investment as an "enterprise," as forecasting the prospective yield of an asset over its entire life." He defined speculation as "the activity of forecasting the market."

Here is Keynes' warning on speculating:

"When enterprise becomes a mere bubble on a whirlpool of speculation (and) the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job of capitalism is likely to be ill-don."

It looks like we have been speculating about business and not investing in business and there are more people besides money managers engaged in this activity, albeit legal. There is no intrinsic value in shuffling paper for the whole and there is no long-term sustainability either.

Perhaps capitalism in itself is not the culprit but how the overall system was changed from investing to mere speculating by a larger number of people. This reminds me of a book I read about seven years ago, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, about the life of "The Boy Plunger," Jesse Livermore (1877-1940).

The book was given to me by a very successful friend who calls himself a "stock operator." He sees himself as such since he has created all of his own stock charts over the past 25 years and does not consider himself a mere trader or speculator. He is a stock operator. I have always failed to see the difference when the activity remains the same and produces the same results. A name by any other name is still a name.

While I thought the Livermore story was very interesting, I also wondered of the intrinsic societal value of such shorting. And to be quite honest I was also pretty grossed out by the name given Mr. Livermore. It had an incredible ruthless ring, as did many of his activities on the market appeared. There was an unsettling nature to his successes. His bankruptcies and eventual suicide were disturbing as well.

Perhaps speculation of this kind is a game that is too risky for the whole of society, for it takes the will out of companies that are regrouping or struggling to stay afloat. Its ultimate effect is the loss of jobs. Maybe shorting worked for years when the the system was not duly challenged. But when there are a great number of people now betting on the failure of companies by selling short, maybe this can be quite detrimental to business and society.

Being Inspired by Others

"Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people."

--Alvin Ailey

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Being the Other

I am the other; the other is me. What would we like the world to be?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being Thankful for Others

Early this morning I went to the market to purchase a turkey and prepare it for dinner. I had never done such before, being the youngest of 12, where both men and women are pretty amazing cooks there was nothing strange about this. My contribution has always been drinks and desserts.

This year my friend and I were having a quiet dinner and we would pop over to our families for dessert. I had watched my mom for years, as I cut up the many vegetables that went into the dressing: celery, onions, red, yellow and green peppers.

Just as I entered the store I noticed a senior. There was something about her and I wanted to make her acquaintance. I hung close without being obvious, thinking of how I might strike up a conversation. She had a few things in her shopping cart.

"Hi, Happy Thanksgiving. I'm sure you have made many turkeys in your day."
"Yes, Lord."
"This is my first. I wonder if you might be able to help."
"Sure. Now, let's see. What have you got in there?"
"Not much."
"That's just fine. You'll be needing...."
"Thank you."
"Don't forget to get the cooking bag and be careful not to throw away the ties."
"Yes, the bags come in twos and the ties are in the instruction part." (I remembered.)
"OK. Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving."
"Happy Thanksgiving, baby."

I went down just about every aisle, so as not to forget anything. As I had followed her initially, it appeared that she was now following me, for in every aisle she seemed to appear.

"How's it going?"
"It's going pretty good."
"What kind of turkey did you get?"
"Butterball." (That's what my mother always bought.)
"Honeysuckle's on sale for half the price. Come dear, let me show you."

As I rolled my cart beside hers, we talked about her dinner and who would be coming over. She was having quite a crowd, but complained that her family did not appreciate that she had just gotten out of the hospital. She thought that they didn't seem to care that she was not feeling altogether well yet. I listened, reaching out and touching her hand.

"You look great."
"Thank you, dear."

When we got to the check out, I asked if she would allow me to pay for her groceries; it would be my pleasure. She resolutely refused, saying that the only thing that she hoped for was that I would remember her during dinner. I assured her that I would. "I will be with you in spirit," she said. I loved her.

Saying our goodbyes, I gave her the biggest hug and kiss on the cheek. I watched as she headed toward the automatic doors. Her stride took on a quicker pace and her head was held a bit higher. My heart filled with love. I am thankful for her.

Being a Giver III

"You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others - something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it."

--Albert Schweitzer

We are most blessed to have such a First Family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Being One of Faith, Hope and Love

"And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

--1 Corinthians 13:13

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being Independent

I have written here before of my conservative sister who I love dearly. She and her husband with their children reside in a very conservative town where about 95 percent of the population vote Republican. Other family members live in the same town, but consider themselves moderates. They were for Obama immediately.

The day of the Springfield announcement a relative phoned me to say "this man will be our next president." Great! I was on board the minute the President-elect began exploring whether to run. I had been following him for a little while. After a few discussions, I could see my sister leaning toward the left, something she had not done since she first voted. She has been with her husband for 18 years and he is a McCain man.

My relatives would often phone me to share the sometimes heated conversations they had with my brother-in-law. It seemed like the children had adopted their dad's talking points and were repeating them often. Such brainwashing, I thought. But I guess if I had children I would also be talking to them about the differences between the two candidates, but perhaps not dictating what they should do. My mother always talked to us about national and international politics. We were always very much engaged.

Today my brother phoned to relay a story that my sister had recently told him. I thought it was the cutest story ever. On the day of the election she got the kids off to school and then prepared to go vote. My four-year old niece, who is very attached to the nanny, rarely asks if she could go along. That day she would not be left behind.

All the way to the polling station my sister said that my niece seemed happier than normal. She sang one song after another and just chatted endlessly about this or that. Standing in line people stopped to say how cute and bright this curly head kid was. I must admit that she's most adorable.

As they walked toward the polling booth, my niece said, with a very loud voice, as if she had waited until that very moment, "remember to vote for Barack Obama, Mama." But it was simply amazing that my four-year old niece had been following the debates between my brother-in-law and my brother and made up her own little mind which candidate she would choose.

My sister said that she had not publicly given her opinion, yet my niece had decided that she would go with her relatives and not her dad. If there's anything we are, we are most certainly independent thinkers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Being First Families II

President Bush and family have handled the transition of power wonderfully. Not only did the President make it known to his staff that full cooperation would be expected, he allowed the Obama transition team early access to White House soon after the election. This was a great gesture. Another perhaps not very noticeable thing also occurred. On the day Michelle Obama brought Malia and Sasha to the White house, the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, took time out from their respective lives and made a trip to the White House to welcome the Obama girls to their new home.

The gesture was wonderful and shows that they were raised properly. It might be also assumed that they were raised to think independently. It was not certain that they had not voted for Obama. When Jenna was on Larry King she did not tip her hand as to who she would vote for. While her her mom, Laura, said she would vote for McCain, Jenna said rather softly though resolutely that she had not decided as of yet for whom to cast her vote. You did not get the impression that it would not be John McCain. The President and Laura Bush have raised good girls.

Being C-Span II

Watching one of my favorite news source, C-Span's Washington Journal, a caller was speaking about the necessity of change. She insisted that senators and congresspersons should work for minimum wage since they believe that such an amount is a living wage. I chuckled. She bemoaned the fact that all of our jobs are going overseas and we are producing nothing. America needs to produce more products she insisted.

When asked what the caller did for a living she responded that she was a manufacturer. The host asked what she manufactured. She shot back pornography. The host gave a grim expression and cut her off quickly with a curt, "Thank you. Our next caller on the Republican line..." I outright laughed. The reality, however, without any moral judgment, is that we need to manufacture products of various kind.

Another caller just called in and he too seemed pretty sound and sober. He spoke of the billions of dollars taken from the taxpayer and going to these large banks that refuse to lend to small businesspersons. He himself couldn't get a loan for his invention. The system he insisted was unfair. He spoke of the necessity of innovation. He spoke of the many countless of products that undoubtedly never make it to the market because of the lack of funding; this was a travesty, as it could help consumers and the economy he insisted. He was unhappy with the government.

This caller was well spoken and not belligerent. He spoke rationally and calmly. I listened. The host then asked him what he produced. He answered that he produced a purification system that would turn urine into drinking water. A new form of recycling I assumed. It would go directly from waste to purified water instantaneously to your very faucet. This reply was also met with a curt, "Thank you." by the host. "Our next caller on the Democrat line..." I laughed.

C-Span does not only have great interviews, it is also wonderful to listen to the thoughts of the public uncensored. The American people display great intelligence and often times a little comic relief. It is quite fun to also watch the hosts who so very who so very much try to contain their palpable agreement, stern disapproval, and desire for an outright belly laugh. The body reveals much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Being Al Gore

Al Gore is indeed admirable. This I've always known. But after recently reading Donna Brazile's book, Cooking with Grease (Tipper Gore comes across there as incredibly intuitive and caring too.), reading his wisdom on climate change, contributing to students as a professor at Fisk University, and just listening to him on GPS with Fareed Zakaria, I am increasingly more appreciative of him. There is an intelligence, kindness, and committment to his country and the world that cannot be denied. Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

Being Inspired by Others

"The force of his mind overcame his every impediment."

-- Thomas Macaulay on Samuel Johnson.

The same can be said of the brilliant physicist, Stephen Hawking.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Being Seduced

The Great Seduction

The people who created this country built a moral structure around money. (Well, in some ways they did; benefiting from an economic system of free labor in both the North and South that reduced people to property was in no way moral. Yet, we progress onward to that "more perfect union.") The Puritan legacy inhibited luxury and self-indulgence. Benjamin Franklin spread a practical gospel that emphasized hard work, temperance, and frugality. Millions of parents, preachers, newspaper editors, and teachers expounded the message. The result was quite remarkable.

The United Stats has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it reminded industrious, ambitious, and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spend what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country's moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

David Brooks
The New York Times
June 10, 2008

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this piece. What do you think? Can we turn things around? How might we do so?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Being Alvin Ailey

This is a tribute to the great choreographer, Alvin Ailey.

This is also for the countless others who appreciate dance, music and art, all of which transcend space and time.

Love is this transcendence, a power that impacts the here and now.

Being Self-Confident

The decision that President-elect Obama has presumably chosen his former rival, Hillary Clinton to serve as Secretary of State shows an incredible amount of self-confidence and leadership, not to mention wisdom. Senator Clinton is most qualified for the job. Through his decisions President-elect Obama is proving to be a person of immense self-confidence, a quality needed for any great transformational leader.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Being Emily Dickinson

I Dwell in Possibility

I dwell in Possibility --
A fairer House than Prose --
More numerous of Windows --
Superior -- for Doors --

Of Chambers as the Cedars --
Impregnable of Eye --
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky --

Of Visitors -- the fairest --
For Occupation -- This --
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise --

--Emily Dickinson

Being Encouraged

We are forever becoming...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being a Winner?

I have asked myself why this 52 second classic movie scene from Syriana makes me laugh. Perhaps it's the odd juxtaposition of such tragic lines aligned with our peace. ("Corruption keeps us safe and warm.") Perhaps it's the unreality of such lines spoken by a small unimposing figure, not a commanding one; the long shots are great in showing the sleazy smallness and lack of stillness of this oily Texas businessman. ("Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations.")

In any event, I find the scene brilliant. Perhaps the actor's flailing and timing have something to do with the comedic and surreal nature of the lines, not to mention evoking Nobel Laureate, Milton Friedman. It all seems so out there. But there is that saying about life imitating art and art imitating life. For me, I will take this scene as simply classic movie drama. Corruption is not why we win.

(While the scene is brilliant, the movie, though bold and well-acted, is by far too convoluted. I'd give it a 2 out of 5 stars.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Being Dispensed Words of Wisdom

In this recent six-minute NPR interview John Bogle dispenses invaluable words of wisdom on investing and life. It's relevant, precise, honest and needed.

Being General Motors II

I wrote a post Being General Motors nearly two weeks ago. There seems to be more pressing reasons for a bailout. But when will it end? This year $25 billion is needed. Next year $100 billion may be needed. Being in Michigan, a state already struggling, I well understand the necessity of GM here and even beyond state borders.

Here are some general questions:

1. Can we sustain a loss of 3 million jobs?
2. Can we continue to borrow money, increasing the deficit?
3. Is the playing field fair with foreign companies getting major tax breaks that perhaps allow for greater innovation?
4. Will the lack of a bailout affect national security?

GM CEO, Rick Wagoner, makes his case on youtube:

Would Mr. Wagoner's case get your vote? (I must admit to finding it slightly strange to see such a one on youtube making such a case. What does this say about our current time? For one, it looks like CEOs can no longer sit in glass offices out of view of their customers. This is good. But while there are nearly 4100 views there are no comments at the time of this post. I wonder why?)

Being a Capitalist II

"Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate."

--Bertrand Russell

While I respect the great thinker Bertrand Russell, capitalism need not be defined as such. The "sacred principles of liberty" need not include "tyranny over the unfortunate." There is no sanctity in that. The "sacred principles of liberty" must be infused with the power of love and this will make the difference.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being John Bogle

This afternoon I received in my inbox a "Message from Jack Bogle," founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group. Yes, I admit that I am a Boglehead and being such I have received this message. It included a chapter from his newest book, Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life. In the introduction, Mr. Bogle tells a powerful story:

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch - 22 over its whole history. Heller responds, "Yes, but I have something he will never have... enough."

Enough. I was stunned by the simple eloquence of that word — stunned for two reasons: first, because I have been given so much in my own life and, second, because Joseph Heller couldn't’t have been more accurate. For a critical element of our society, including many of the wealthiest and most powerful among us, there seems to be no limit today on what enough entails.

This story reminded me of a meeting with an incredibly wealthy associate who I have known for many years. Enough is never enough for him and sometimes he shows an incredibly insensitive ruthless self-centered side that is baffling. This bright complicated intelligent man can be just as kind. I suppose we are all complicated beings. But how we view money can say a lot about who we are at the center of being With this friend, money means more to him than just about anything. Sometimes it seems as if money has imprisoned him.

When enough is never enough this is what scripture calls the "love of money" that is the "root of all evil." Greed and loveless actions is the result. It is not that money is bad, needless to say, nor is it what money can do that solely corrupts. (Many very wealthy people use money for great good. Whether through business or charity; this is truly admirable.) But it is the love of money that causes great problems, for it excludes all possibilities of goodness, save that which increases itself.

This associate tells me repeatedly that it's not about money or power; it's about the game. But without the pursuit of increasing money achieved in part by a single-mindedness and carelessness of others, there would be no game. Not being able to say enough also reminds me of another scripture; "the eye is not satisfied."

For his brilliance, hard work, ethics and thoughtfulness, Mr. Bogle is one who I greatly admire. Are we developing leaders like this anymore? From the inferences in the introduction of his newest book, it took a village to instill such principles. Can we return to this sense of collective responsibility that breeds individual accountability?

Being John Bogle II

A few days ago I commented on a post, Leadership Farming, written by John O'Leary on Tom Peter's blog about financial engineering as opposed to engineering products. As I am not a financial expert, I simply wrote about what appeared to me. So, this afternoon it was good to read that my hunch was not too far off, as the financial veteran of 57 years, Jack Bogle, writes about financial engineering in his newest book, Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life that bore relevance to my thoughts. He writes:

In my speech at Georgetown, I noted that during 2006 the financial sector alone accounted for $ 215 billion of the $ 711 billion in earnings of the 500 companies that make up the S & P 500 Stock Index — 30 percent of the total (and perhaps 35 percent, or more, if we included the earnings of the financial affiliates of large industrial companies, such as General Electric). The domination of financial companies in our economy and our stock market has been extraordinary. The earnings of these financial firms alone totaled more than the earnings of our highly profitable table energy and technology companies combined , and about three times the earnings both of our booming health care sector and of our giant industrial firms.

By the time 2007 had ended, the financial sector earnings had plummeted by almost half, to $ 123 billion for the year. Not only had fi financial sector earnings shrunk from 30 percent to 17 percent of the $ 600 billion earnings total of the S & P 500 companies; the sector also accounted for fully 90 percent of the S & P 500 decline in earnings for the year. The carnage has continued during 2008. Call it poetic justice.

But is it? The clients of the banking firms have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the risky debt obligations that the banks created, and layoffs of employees are rife — more than 200,000 financial sector workers have already lost their jobs — yet most investment banking executives continue to be paid at astonishingly high levels.

We have moved to a world where far too many of us seemingly no longer make anything; we're merely trading pieces of paper, swapping stocks and bonds back and forth with one another, and paying our financial croupiers a veritable fortune. In the process, we have inevitably added even more costs by creating ever more complex financial derivatives in which huge and unfathomable risks have been built into the financial system.

The discussion at was on leaders and protegees. Here is what I wrote:

There is no doubt, keeping with the fruit analogy, that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. Also, in the same vein, the fruit of love, which is the basis of leadership, is collective. Love is the best gathering force that initiates and implements projects, bringing together important elements such as respect, creativity, openness, passion, rigor, ambition, and thoughtfulness. Where love is lacking there is a lot to be desired. Have you worked on a project where nobody cared? Where ambition was the only driving force? Where apathy was so deep that it's difficult to go into the office?

The leader sets the tone and guides the group. While this is happening, it may appear that all is well and the direction is copasetic; the numbers may even prove so at the moment. But some years later some have argued that if you look at that leader's company and those of his proteges, there is, in fact, much to be desired. In such a case, has the leader not developed his proteges well and promoted unsustainable models over the long haul? Or, is it a matter of the necessity of change? (Disclaimer: What's to come is NOT an indictment of any one man nor of any one company. I am not adept to speak in depth about these things. These are just thoughts from a point of leadership and succession.)

Consider GE, for example. Some point to financial engineering as a big culprit in its steady stock decline over the years as well as the companies of those that have taken on this model. This model appears to have reduced products and expanded paper. Many leaders came out of the mode of Mr. Welsh and have themselves come to lead major companies. Leaders were "popping up like shoots around" him, pointing to the fact that he had "likely done something right." We are sure he did and we have enjoyed reading his books and have learned from them as well. Many thanks!

But why the steady stock decline of these companies over the years? Perhaps as leaders we give what we can give at any particular time. Perhaps what's also important is to be forever open and honest about where we are and quick to change directions once we see things clearer. For this, Paulson can be appreciated. He came out yesterday and said we have made changes to the financial rescue package because "the facts changed and the situation worsened." We can't throw money at bad paper whose worth can’t even be determined. Many have always thought that thought this was ill-conceived. Perhaps this was a bit of election fever to propose such a thing from the start. As Paulson sees it, credit has improved but other industries have worsened.

But what happens when we do not see that our processes or when our plans are ill-conceived and we continue to develop and promote them? Could it be the toppling or the threat thereof of the leaders' companies and the proteges' companies too? Can the blame be laid at the feet of the leader? Some have remarked that Mr. Welsh's GE and the companies of all his proteges are now in trouble because of a bad business model. Personally, I don’t know. These are just thoughts.

As I read Mr. Bogle's first chapter, "Too Much Cost, Not Enough Value" in a section entitled, "Money," I am reminded that sometimes hunches can be spot on.

Being John Bogle III

Here is Mr. Bogle on hedge fund managers, namely Henry Paulson, in chapter one of Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life.

According to the New York Times, the highest - paid hedge fund manager for 2007 was John Paulson, who took down a cool $ 3.7 billion. It is said that his firm, Paulson & Company, made more than $ 20 billion for his clients by betting against certain mortgage - backed securities (more fully described later). Who's to begrudge Mr. Paulson a large share of the rewards that his firm earned for its clients by such a remarkably successful speculation?*

Not I! My problem with the incredible compensation earned by hedge fund managers is its asymmetry — its lack of fundamental equity. Managers on the winning side of speculation win big; but the losers don't lose big. For example, if the Paulson firm indeed won its gamble by betting that mortgage - backed securities or collateralized debt obligations would tumble (or being on the right side of the rank speculations known as credit default swaps), some other firm lost its gamble, betting that those debt obligations (or those swaps) would rise. The other side, it follows, would have lost $20 billion. But those managers, as far as anyone knows, didn't give $ 20 billion back to their clients. So the huge cost of our financial system rose, benefiting insiders even as their clients were impoverished (relatively speaking).

∗ I do begrudge hedge fund managers the maximum 15 percent tax rate that the federal government applies to so - called carried interest, an obfuscatory phrase referring to the share of profits paid to hedge fund managers. Such a low rate is an insult to those hardworking citizens whose far smaller earned incomes are often subject to standard federal tax rates that are twice as high or more. I also understand that clever tax planning enables this income to be deferred, free of any taxes and earning a return until drawn down later. Unsurprisingly, attempts at tax reform by Congress have been overwhelmed by the well - funded lobbyists hired by hedge fund managers.

Is having Mr. Paulson over the $750 billion dollar bailout like having the fox in the hen house?

Another question, who has benefitted most over these past years, the hedge fund managers or the middle class?

Mr. Buffett's fair statment that his secretary should not be paying more taxes than him is very relevant here.

We can't continue like this. What should be done?

Being John Bogle IV

Here is Mr. Bogle again in chapter one of, Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life:

Over the past two centuries, our nation has moved from being an agricultural economy, to a manufacturing economy, to a service economy, and now to a predominantly financial economy. But our financial economy, by definition, deducts from the value created by our productive businesses. Think about it: While the owners of business enjoy the dividend yields and earnings growth that our capitalistic system creates, those who play in the financial markets capture those investment gains only after the costs of financial intermediation are deducted. Thus, while investing in American business is a winner's game, beating the stock market before those costs is a zero - sum game. But after intermediation costs are deducted, beating the market — for all of us as a group — becomes a loser's game.

Can a nation the size of America sustain itself without production?

Being Inspired by Others

Here is the incomprable Stevie Wonder. Enjoy!

"Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision."

--Stevie Wonder

And just because a man has eyes doesn't mean he can see.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Being President-Elect of the United States II

A very good friend, who has to be one of the most conservative people that I know, said something rather astonishing at lunch today:

"Judith, You know I didn't vote for Barack Obama. But the more I listen to him the more I think he is the right man for this time."

President-elect Obama gives hope and inspires responsible citizenry and servant leadership.

Here is the President-elect on the G20 Summit and the financial crisis. The ability to inspire to bring change must not be minimized.

Being Demanding

"Power concedes nothing without demand."

--Frederick Douglass

But how we do what we do when we do it, makes the difference.

Wisdom and understanding are essential.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Being Fitly Joined Together

As the physical body is fitly joined and held together by ligaments, bones to bone, for various functions, so does there need to be bodies of all kind including, corporations, governments and schools that function together as such. It takes many parts to create a sound whole.

The physical body would not be whole without its various parts; neither would corporations, governments and schools be sound without all of its parts. Hence, it is most important for all of us to take active roles in our corporations, governments and schools.

As ligaments connect bone to bone to form joints that hold the physical body together and allow for movement, respect for differences is the connectivity that similarly does the same with bodies of all kind.

Let's be fitly joined bodies.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Being a Superior Leader III

Bishop Desmond Tutu speaks here of the qualities of superior leadership. This is something for us all to forever aspire to reach.

Being on the Losing Side

Never in my years of following politics have I noticed that once a party has lost that its leadership immediately begin to regroup publicly, holding conferences, and publicly cruising together to discuss a comeback strategy. This to me seems ill-suited, especially when we have so many current crises to deal with right now. What about the country? They are not putting Country First.

Never have I heard of the losing ticket emerging merely a week later on talk shows and in the national media. Something smells terribly bad about this. We are not interested in these figures independently right now, nor are we presently interested in them politically in preparation for future presidential runs.

What we are most interested in is how we are going to get our economy back on the right track and bringing a responsible end to the Iraq war. This is what the losing side should be concentrating on. What they yet appear to be doing is putting themselves first and definitely not Country First.

Being Nassim Nicholas Taleb III

Be well advised on the market. Here is NNT in a recent CNBC interview:

Being in a Global Economy

The global financial crisis has taught us a very important lesson if we had not learned it already: The economies of the world are more interdependent than perhaps we ever thought. Markets are all of us globally linked.

While we are proposing measures to drill for oil for national security reasons, our financial structure is such that a single decision of another country could topple our economy, even though to do so may mean the destruction of their very own. Perhaps this is a security measure.

National security measures themselves seem interdependent too in that we need allies. There seems not to be another way to avoid this in respect to both economics and security. Perhaps this is the way that it should indeed be. Diplomacy then becomes even more of a necessity for global economics and for the security of us all.

Being a Political Strategist

Sometimes we do not make the best choices for when the rubber meets the road or when we feel the pressure of doing certain things in order to win. You know the saying, "everything is fair in love and war." It seems as if the same can be said of politics. Karl Rove, considered the chief strategist of dirty politics in our time, will probably be forever linked to such campaigns. But he showed a softer side in relations to Donna Brazile that is worth noticing.

Many of the electorate despise Mr. Rove and his operatives for the dirty political campagins they have run. One thought of the Swift Boat and the Harold Ford Jr. ads sends many into a bit of a rage. I must admit to not having the friendliest or fondest feelings toward him either after the 2000 and 2004 elections. Yet, we see another side of him in Donna Brazile's book, Cooking with Grease, that has caused me to think about the importance of not passing judgment and retaining bitterness.

"How do you go back to being a normal, functioning human being after something like the 2000 election?" writes Donna Brazile. "I thought I'd died politically. No one wanted Gore people around. I thought, 'Why have I given my entire life to this?' and was bitter, bitter, bitter. When I was being kicked to the curb, you know who it was who called me? It was Karl Rove. He'd say, 'Donna, you doing O.K.?'"

Who would have thought? But I wonder if he has asked for forgiveness of those whom he has smeared through his political campaigns. By the way, I do not think that everything is fair in love and war--politics either. We have to answer for our actions and there are consequences too. There is also grace.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being of Service

"Because who is greater, the one who sits at the table, or the one who serves? It is the one at the table, isn't it? But I am among you as one who serves."


Be of service; it is the essential element of life, personally and professionally. Service engenders greatness.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Being a Superior Leader II

Leadership is not about the leader. Leadership is the external impetus, driven by internal convictions, along with those of others.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Being in the First 100 Days

When reading up on the "First 100 Days" of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it seems frightening how today seems remarkably similar.

President's "First 100 Day" concentrated on "immediate relief," which along with the Congress passed these initiatives:

*Federal Emergency Relief Administration
*Civilian Conservation Corps
*Reconstruction Finance Corporation
*Tennessee Valley Authority
*Federal Trade Commission Board New Regulatory Powers
*Mortgage Relief to Millions of Farmers and Homeowners

Perhaps President-elect Obama's First 100 Days will include:

*Economic Stimulus Package
*Mortgage Relief to Homeowners
*New Banking Regulations
*Iraq Withdrawal Timeline
*Green Initiatives
*New Technological Initiatives

Here is one view of President Roosevelt's First 100 Days:

Congress was almost entirely compliant and gave the President everything he wanted. The Emergency Banking Bill, which strengthened, reorganized and reopened the most solvent banks, was passed overwhelmingly by Congress with little debate.

On March 12, Roosevelt announced that the soundest banks would reopen. On March 13, deposits at those banks exceeded withdrawals -- a tremendous relief to a worried nation. "Capitalism was saved in eight days," said Raymond Moley, a member of the President's Brain Trust.

What do you think President-elect Obama's First 100 Days should include? Considering the time, should this notion of the First 100 Days be banished completely in order to concentrate on longterm initiatives? In haste did the congress act too hurridely to enact some legislation? I am personally for acting with "deliberate haste, doing what is absolute necessary, such as overseeing the $750 billion dollar rescue package.

We have many things to do. Let's do them right.

Being a Superior Leader

"Being aware of yourself and how you affect everyone
around you is what distinguishes a superior leader."

—Edie Seashore

We are all leaders. Are you aware?

Being Unimpressive and Increasingly Irrelevant

Jesse Jackson has over the years become unimpressive and increasingly irrelevant. It seem incredibly sad that such words could be said of one who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and who spoke with such power and persuasion at the Democratic Convention of 1988. As a college student, I listened with rapt attention and great awe.

But over the years I have become more and more disillusioned with his rhetoric and actions. Many years ago a political friend, who knew many politicians personally, including Mr. Jackson, was completely unimpressed with him and sought to focus my understanding in a more realistic way. I wouldn't hear it. Instead, I defended Mr. Jackson, this hero of mine of the Civil Rights Movement, to the hilt. I informed my very savvy friend, 20 years my senior, that he should not be so jaded.

Now, after years of disgraceful comments, including the despicable open mic one about President-elect Obama himself, and his sidling with corporate America that benefits himself and not the community he serves, Mr. Jackson has become unimpressive and increasingly irrelevant. The replay of his tears at the Grant Park victory celebration does not move me terribly. In fact, I wish the media would cease showing this image.

Being Bipartisan

"Black abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was an early critic of President Lincoln. Douglass became an admirer of President Lincoln after the Emancipation Proclamation and helped the Union Army recruit black troops. In August of 1863, Douglass went to President Lincoln to urge equal pay for black soldiers.

"Nearly a year later on August 19, 1864, Douglass returned to the White House at the President's request. Douglass was impressed that President Lincoln prolonged their conversation despite the arrival of Connecticut Governor William A. Cunningham.

"Douglass recalled: "Mr. Lincoln said, 'tell Governor Buckingham to wait, for I want to have a long talk with my friend Frederick Douglass.'" Douglass commented: "This was probably the first time in the history of this Republic when its chief magistrate found occasion or disposition to exercise such an act of impartiality between persons so widely different in their positions and supposed claims upon his attention. From the manner of the governor, when he was finally admitted, I inferred that he was as well satisfied with what Mr. Lincoln had done, or had omitted to do, as I was."

(The full story can be read at Mr. Lincolin's White House)

Being First Families

From one first family to the next. Many blessings to you both.

May God bless all of the families of America.

Being Remembered

Does the Land Remember Me? I was incredibly moved by the words of Mr. Shihab in a recent post, Being Naomi Shihab Nye III (In Honor of Aziz Shihab). There seems to be a deep connection for many with the land. The land in that disputed Middle Eastern area has long been a struggle for so many, causing much death and destruction—great agony too. I thought it was particularly interesting that Naomi's 12 year old son, Mr. Shihab's grandson came up with the title of his book, Does the Land Remember Me? This is reminiscent of the stuggle being remembered generation after generation. Such memories are evident on both sides.

Personally, I do not know what the right thing to do with regards to that disputed land. But I know that death and destruction is not the right thing. Mr. Shihab suggested that the U.S. should remove itself from the equation and the Israeli and Palestinian people would come together. But can we count on righteous others in the Middle East to be fair? Will our ally Israel be protected, surrounded by enemies? Are they indeed enemies? Must they be? Would these enemies subsist with the perception of fairness? (Are these naive questions?) It is believed that the scores of dead Palestinians far out number those of dead Isrealis. Though, for me, it seems that one death is a tragedy.

Remembering the land for Mr. Shihab seems to be remembering the sights, smells and air or his homeland and remebering a terrible time during the war of 1948 that his land was literally taken away and claimed by others. Although many European were removed from their homes during WWII and their valuables confiscated, it is perhaps not seen as the same. Could the confiscation of their homes been seen in the same light as the removal of Palestinians from their land? I guess everything is fair in love and war. I now write from my land in America which was allowed first through the confiscation of land from Indians and then through the struggle of African Americans for the right not to be property but to own property on a land that is ancestrally not mine.

While there seems to be a distinction between homes and valuables, the great pain of being displaced, however, cannot be underestimated. The move of many to Israel worldwide may suggest that the land itself has value. This move seems to be recognition that this is the ancestral home and there is the sense of never being displaced again. The only problem there seems to that others too consider this very land ancestral and they have indeed been replaced. I don’t have the answers. But what I do know is that there must be peace and justice there for both the Israelis and Palestinians or there will continue to be death and destruction for both.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Being a Sonnet or Haiku

Once I had a brilliant British professor who required us to deduce pages and pages of the most intense philosophical work into a 250 word precise. Initially, upon hearing the weekly assignment, I thought it would be the most difficult thing to do. Loving an intellectual challenge, I began to immediately think of the many possibilities of the task before me, but nothing compared to the process itself, one that required a stepping outside of self in order to understand what another is saying precisely.

How would I deduce such oeuvres into such brevity and keep their essence? The professor and I quibbled often. He was especially hard on me so much so that I thought he hated me. He did not. As I worked on the precis, I came to love them as they helped align my understanding of the text with the author's. (This assignment also helped later to deduce any writing whether business or scientific.) The precis' benefit was in the process of thought formulation that eliminated the unnecessary, keeping the barest of sentiment, yet the fullness of intent.

While I so value the precis, there is something to be said for longevity too and its ability to foretell yet other sides of understanding and sides of you, sides that perhaps aren't revealed in fewer lines. There is something to be said for storytelling that creates many pictures. More lines may give layer upon layer of further insight into the writer himself or even send you, the reader, down another path of greater understanding of you.

I love both the sonnet and the haiku.

Being Naomi Shihab Nye III (In Honor of Aziz Shihab)

Here is my dear friend the poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, and her dad, Aziz Shihab speaking about his memior, Does the Land Remember Me?

Mr. Shihab passed away last year and we are blessed that he was here. During this time, I am thinking of my friend, Naomi.

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on Earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,
brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother,
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
let this be my solemn vow,

To take each moment and live each moment
in peace, eternally.
Let there be Peace on Earth,
and let it begin with me.

Words and Music by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller, Circa 1955

Being Inspired by Others

It was during the time after 911 that the then 74 year forever young legendary soprano, Leontyne Price, offered this blessing to America.

In this current difficult season for many remember God still has blessed America and we have much to be grateful for and inspired by.

Be encouraged.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Being James Reeb

There are many civil rights activists that I know, including Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian mother from Michigan who was murdered after the Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama, and some that I am coming to know.

Today I learned of the sacrifice of Reverend James Reeb, the Boston Unitarian minister who responded to an urgent telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King to participate in a non-violent march in Selma, Alabama.

Many thanks to the Unitarians for their love, sense of justice, and bravery. It's not by accident that in the very heart of such unrest both were of this particular religious denomination from two different states. People of other faiths fought non-violently too.

Reverend Reeb and two other Unitarian ministers responded to Dr. King's call. The day after their arrival in Selma, he and the other ministers were beaten by four white assailants. Reverend Reeb later died after having taken blows to the head. Dr. King eulogized the good reverend:

"And if he should die, take his body, and cut it into little stars. He will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night"

These beautiful words from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet so eloquently describe the radiant life of James Reeb. He entered the stage of history just 38 years ago, and in the brief years that he was privileged to act on this mortal stage, he played his part exceedingly well.

With the election of Barack Obama, it is very important to remember that many people have brought us to this very day. These include dedicated Abolitionists who lead the Underground Railroad and the Iowan voters who delivered that initial victory for President-elect Obama, without which this day would not have been possible.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Being Symbolic

Flanked by a team of outstanding financial advisers and governors of hard-hit states, framed by a series of American flags, President-elect Obama delivered his first news conference since the campaign. For those looking for the President-elect to offer detailed solutions to the current financial crisis, beyond what was said during the campaign, you looked for far too much. While we only have one president at a time, the image signaled presidential confidence and calm. The symbolism was not lost.

Being General Motors

Listening to a clip of Rick Wagoner, the CEO of General Motors, explain that the fate of Lehman Brother cannot be that of General Motors, I thought of the possibility of further job losses in my state and throughout the country. Wagoner insists that GM cannot share the fate of Lehman Brothers and a financial rescue package is necessary. Not too many would disagree that GM cannot fail; a failure would be far too systemic.

Being from Michigan and seeing the effects of plant closings and the impact on many other ancillary businesses, including suppliers of all kind, it seems critical that General Motors can't fail. It seems surreal that we are talking about the possible failure of GM. Such a failure would be both immensely systemic and emotionally devastating. The latter cannot be understated.

General Motors can't fail. But in thinking about a financial rescue package, how are we assured that the rescue will be used properly? (Banks were given a bailout which was suppose to stimulate the economy and they're not lending.) How are we assured that more jobs will be created here in the US to include perhaps green initiatives? How are we assured that there will be productive engineering and not merely the financial kind. For example, Cerberus Capital Management's buyout of Chrysler may indicate more of the latter. This firm also owns 49 percent of GMAC, GM's financial arm.

In considerations of a financial rescue package, how are are we assured that management and production will run more effectively, even more so in booming times as preparation for leaner ones? How do we know that this is not a Band-Aid? How are we assured that there will not be one bailout after another? How are we assured that the massive red tape that goes into production will be replaced with a better streamlined system?

I don't have the answers but I have plenty of questions. Any insight?

Being Manic Depressive

In an informative interview yesterday on CNBC with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, he described the market as "manic depressive." (The variables are many relating to human proclivities.) But there also seems to be something else that defines the market: hopeful in bad times. Today the Labor Department reported that Americans lost 240,000 jobs in the month of October. The market is up. With all the job losses I, for one, am feeling down.

Being the Change

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

--Mahatma Ghandi

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Being a Beacon of Hope

Sometimes we in America forget how blessed we are to live in an incredibly wonderful country, failings and all, that values freedom unpracticed in some other places in the world. Sometimes we forget that the people of the world look to us for leadership on an array of issues.

Sometimes we forget that we have a responsibility to our global neighbors even when we do not see things eye to eye. We have a responsibility to live up to our values, especially when we ourselves are facing daunting times. The world is watching. We must not disappoint.

Being a beacon of hope is an awesome responsibility, one that we must forever be conscious of and with humility and grace take pleasure in.

May God bless America. May God bless the people of the world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Being One Universally

Because America has spoken and the world agrees, we can better lead in universal change, one that has a greater possibility of making the world a far better place for all of us.

Grant Park, Chicago Illinois, Election Evening

Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois, Election Day

Grant Park, Chicago Illinois, Election Evening

Basra, Iraq

Paris, France

Athens, Greece

Nyangoma Kogelo, Kenya, Obama Family

Obama, Japan

Manila, Philippines

Jerusalem, Israel

Jakarta, Indonesia

New Delhi, India

Sydney, Australia

Copenhagen, Denmark

Being in a Beautiful Day

May God bless President Elect Barack Obama and family. May God bless the people of America. May God bless the people of the world from the shanties of Africa to the castles of Europe, from the Chinese factor worker to the Dubai executive.

It's a beautiful day!

Working together day by day we can make everyday more beautiful than the last. Let's love more. Let's give more. Let's be personally more responsible. Let's honor our neighbors more both near and far. Let's rebuild America. Let's set a new bold beginning of diplomacy.

We can do it! Yes, We Can!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Being President-Elect of the United States

Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause. Hope is what led me here today--with a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have courage to remake the world as it should be.

Barack Obama

Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable - a most sacred right - a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.

Abraham Lincoln

Man's greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his powers to things needed to be done.

Frederick Douglass

It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task.

Robert Kennedy

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Harriet Tubman

Being Affirmed

Whatever happens tonight this election has affirmed the belief for so many that all things are possible. Canvassing the streets with clipboard in hand to get out the vote, there was a group of young men hanging out donned in do-rags and saggy pants. As I walked over to them, they smiled brightly, rushing to tell me that they each had voted, most for the first time. While there is work to do to infuse personal responsibility and to legislate collective policy, the affirmation for these young men and so many others was well worth my miles and miles of walking to get out the vote. Whatever happens we have come a long way together.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Being is Believing: Yes, We Can! (Redux)

Yes, We Can!

Being in The Oedipus Cycle

My aunt just sent me great reviews of my cousin, John Rolle's dramatic performance in The Oedipus Cycle at the Pearl Theater. John is a graduate of Boston College and the Juilliard School and I am so very proud of him. He began as an operatic tenor and later studied the classics. He has also appeared in TV dramas.

Bravo, John! You're doing great! And congrats to both you and Lili on the birth of Ehren-Bennet. She's too cute, a beautiful blend of many. The bat mitzvah will be here sooner than imagined. It hasn't been too long ago that you followed me around New York and now you're out in the world making it happen.

Much love to you...

Being is Believing: No, You Can't!

No, You Can't!

Being Anita Hill

Listening to Anita Hill this morning, I am reminded of how impressive she appeared before those awful hearings and how outraged I was by Clarence Thomas and the smear machine. Smear worked then as a mode of conservative operations. But it does not seem to be working in this presidential campaign.

In a recent article in the Boston Globe Ms. Hill takes a counterintuitive bent on race and this election. She writes about "racial amnesia" and the importance it may play in this presidential outcome. Ms. Hill sees economics trumping race and points to the remembrance of the past "fading or being altered." In this regard, she sees "racial amnesia" as a plus. I do too.

But while there something of great value in getting beyond race, there is also something for the appreciation of culture and difference. Like Ms. Hill, I am incredibly hopeful that "after this election, we may never see race in the same way again." I also, like Ms. Hill, realize that "getting people to address racial disparities in education, employment, and health care still won't be easy."

Whatever happens tomorrow, we will be better because of this presidential process. Look at how far we have come.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Being Pro-Justice

Recently I posted a piece entitled Being Pro-Israel where I wrote of the defamation of Barack Obama and the respected Palestinian scholar, Rashid Khalidi (who remained nameless in the post), with implications of being terrorists. I was incensed by this allegation.

A good friend of mine who knows the respected scholar, Professor Khalidi and his librarian wife, Mona, very well was also outraged by the defamation. He wrote to me of his personal concern for his friend and his friend's family by the terrorist allegation. He also wrote of the daily injustice faced by Palestinians.

It might be noted that we can be "pro-justice" -- which to me feels larger than "pro-Palestinian" or "pro-Israeli." I often wonder if people who say they are "pro-Israeli" could really be "pro" years of systematic daily oppression, degradation, home seizure, and murder -- when we, our country, has also paid for the weapons regularly used for this nightmare.

It is common knowledge. Saying one is "pro-Israel" without acknowledging the profound failings of the official Israeli state --is questionable. All violence should be rejected, by Christians and Muslims alike, or they have no right to claim any religion.

With the desire to become larger than politics and closer to the message of Christ, I henceforth proclaim that I am pro-justice and believe that love, instead of revenge, must be the clarion call for all people who have experienced injustice anywhere in the world.

Being Inspired by Others

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e e cummings

Being Funny VI

Senator McCain shows once again that he's a good sport (wish we has seen more of this early on) and that he has great comedic timing. (Remember the Al Smith Memorial Dinner? Funny!) As heard by the raucous response to his jokes, the live audience was quite appreciative. Audience members were also appreciative of Senator McCain's mere appearance on SNL. He received a great round of applause, even from an elite New York non-patriotic audience.

Here's the Weekend Update. What a sport! He's very different from Sarah Palin who did not participate, but was a mere observer of her own image. Yuck! Enough of her, here is Senator McCain, the comic.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Being Compatible

While the Catholic church found Galileo guilty of heresy in the 16th century, later vindicating him in the 20th century, it is just good to see that science and religion can come together on agreeable terms, even if the beliefs haven't always been believed to be compatible.

In this sense it was particularly wonderful to see that the Vatican invited the brilliant physicist, Stephen Hawking, to speak at an event given by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. "There is no opposition between faith's understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences," said Pope Benedict.

In an interview with Reuters last year Hawking said that he was "not religious in the normal sense." Many of us would not be considered such either. "I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science," he continued. "The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws."

The laws of God and those of science may be indeed compatible.

Being Inexpressible

When I first heard this duet from the Pearl Fishers with Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill I was 12 years old. Sitting alone, I remember weeping uncontrollably. I didn't know why.

Today, many years later, after years of study and singing, I weep still. I do not know why. I suspect it has something to do with the undefinable, the oft inexpressible nature of life and love, heartache and beauty.