Saturday, January 31, 2009

Being in the Old Guard III

Having written more than a few post about the Old Guard, Being in the Old Guard and Being in the Old Guard II, seeing this picture made me once again think about the necessity of fresh faces and ideas in the Senate.

Yes, there is a storm gathering and a rocky road ahead, but can these senators get us there? What do you think? Do you think the Senate needs fresh faces and ideas? Can these senators really do anything differently? I am beginning to really have doubts.

Being Serena Williams

Congratulations to Serena on her straight set victory over Russia's Dinara Safina in the Australian Open. This will make Serena's 10th and she regains the number 1 ranking. (The ranking for the Williams sisters is deceptive, as they are obviously the best even though they do not play enough tennis a year to usually secure the number 1 ranking.)

I actually stayed up and watched the match which began at 3:30 AM! I'm a huge tennis fan, something I acquired as a kid watching my brothers, Haywood and Chris, and looking at Open after Open. We love tennis! My oldest nephew's middle name is Bjorn, after the great Bjorn Borg.

Congratulations to both Venus and Serena for their doubles victory at the Australian Open!

Being the CEO of Sprint (Dan Hese)

Considering the climate, I can see the rationale behind the new Sprint commercial where the CEO, Dan Hese, speaks about their new single solution plan that will save the customer nearly $500 dollars yearly. Anything to get the public thinking positively about CEOs and not about salaries and bonuses, eh?

Hese speaks in the dark of the city lights in a place of tranquility and happenings. He is tranquil; we are the happenings. Good pitch. Good commercial. But after the years of absolutely horrible service with horrendous time-consuming hours upon hours on the phone with Sprint customer service reps month after month, no amount of saved money would be worth the aggravation. My blood pressure rises a bit just thinking about Sprint.

Recently, my sister, Robin, picked me up to take me to the airport. When I got into her car she was in a very animated discussion with someone about her cell phone bill and service. She signaled both a cheery "hi" and complete exhaustion and kept on with the discussion. After having already spent 30 minutes on the phone, she would not be denied a justifiable answer and was terribly upset by the inadequacy of the customer service rep.

I believe she was transferred to two managers by the time we nearly reached the airport, making complaints about the reps and her service. One rep had actually hung up on her; she had me get a pen and paper to write down the name of the next rep should this one hang up on her. I did. Boy, did I remember those horrendous days! Maddening!

When she eventually hung up, some 20 miles later, I asked her which service she had. You guessed it --- Sprint! We began to exchange horror stories. I asked her why she stayed with Sprint year after year. She has 6 foster kids and a niece in a package deal who are away at school and thought it would be too much of a hassle to switch service. The hassle that I had with Sprint on a continuous bases with the customer service reps is what I didn't need. After my two-year-contract expired, I changed service immediately. What a relief!

The CEO's sales pitch will never be enough to get me back. I wonder how many others feel the exact same way about Sprint and a great many other companies.

Being in Black Face II

African American Republicans are not the issue with the selection of Michael Steele as the RNC chairman. I have written more than a few posts here in support of African American Republicans, including Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, not to mention the great Frederick Douglass.

All of the above are brilliant; all I have supported. But the Michael Steele move seems gimmicky indeed. Steele served as lieutenant governor from 2003-2007, and ran for the Senate, disassociating himself from the political party of which he is a member. He lost.

Color me black seems to have its advantages and disadvantages.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Being in Black Face

The Republican Party has just elected the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, Michael Steele, as the Republican National Committee chairman. Now, I must admit to not knowing much about Mr. Steele, except that he is black and looks more like our current popular president than Mike Duncan or Katon Dawson.

Judging by the sea of sameness at the Republican Convention last year and every year beforehand, I doubt it if many Republicans know anymore about him than I do. Wasn't Chip Saltsman, that "Barack the Magic Negro" guy, leading in the race up until he quickly withdrew his name yesterday?

This selection feels to me somewhat like the selection of Sarah Palin. In this football season, how apropos. Hail Mary anyone?

Being in a Dream: "Return"

"Après Un Rêve" (After a Dream) Gabriel Fauré

In a slumber charmed by your image
I dreamed of happiness, ardent mirage;
Your eyes were more tender, your voice pure and clear.
You were radiant like a sky brightened by sunrise;
You were calling me, and I left the earth
To flee with you towards the light;
The skies opened their clouds for us,
Splendors unknown, glimpses of divine light...
Alas! Alas, sad awakening from dreams!
I call to you, oh night, give me back your illusions;
Return, return with your radiance,
Return, oh mysterious night!

Based on a poem by Romain Bussine

Sung by Kiri Te Kanawa

Being Nassim Nicholas Taleb VI

"Scandalous! Why do they keep their bonuses," Taleb asks? He makes the significant point that executives like Stanley O'Neal, after tanking Merrill Lynch, has kept his bonus--not to mention those who got bonuses of $18 BILLION just last year while their hands were out and small businesses were closing all over America. With the Bank of America bailout, we have essentially bailed out Merrill Lynch and not held O'Neal accountable. This is Taleb's point.

Stanley O'Neal is now on the board of Alcoa, Inc, "one of the world's largest producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum, and alumina," according to its website, after having served on the board of General Motors from 2001 - 2006. Did General Motors not just receive a massive bailout? Are these board members rewarded for inefficiency?

What's the matter with these large companies? Tank a company, run away with billions, and reward these with board positions where they are likely to allow more of the same. No wonder nothing changes. But we can change. Let's hold the board members responsible and give no more money to companies who seat the likes of these on their boards.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being Dick or a Prick? II

According to Wikipedia, Dick Armey has made more than a few offensive statements.

In 1995 Armey called openly homosexual Congressman Barney Frank, 'Barney Fag'. He later said it was a slip of the tongue.

On May 1, 2002, during an interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Armey called for a homeland for the Palestinians outside of Palestine, which the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said was a call for ethnic cleansing.

In September 2008, while commenting about Barack Obama's name, Armey stated that it could "give people concerns that he could be or have been too much influenced by Muslims, which is a great threat now." Armey consequently drew stern criticism from Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) whose representative was quoted as stating, "If he (Armey) really believes that Muslims are a threat, then he must be out of step with American values of inclusion, respect and plurality."

Some have wondered whether Dick is a prick. You be the judge.

Being President Barack Obama II

When have you heard a president candidly speak with such clarity about the "restraint, discipline, and responsibility" needed in such crises?"

Now, let's demand policies that will hold CEOs and executives responsible when our money is used to bail them out.

Being Arianna Huffington

Here is Arianna's ever bright and brilliant response to what's really going on in Davos with regards to banker to government transactions as opposed to banker to banker transactions. There appears to be a lot of contrition going on in Davos too. But my question is how long will it last and what is the outcome?

Who will be held accountable for this massive mess? My advice? Follow the money. In this interview Arianna also speaks about the emergence of social media; she's pretty funny too. Her book, Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption Are Undermining America, was also mentioned. Perhaps it should be required reading for all those in attendance.

Being for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

May the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act begin restitution and the institution of policies for the many women who work for unequal pay for the same jobs men do every day.

Being Jobless in America

No Republican in the House voted for the stimulus package as they insisted that it did not offer tax cuts that would stimulate the economy. But The Washington Post reports that there are tax cuts of "$275 billion, roughly a third of the package."

I guess it depends on which Americans you are referring to, even though those who make more than $150,000 yearly will benefit from a decrease in taxes too. (The latter was a concession.) President Obama appeared to want bipartisan support of the stimulus package.

It appears that President Obama called for cuts in the package that the Republicans balked at. But this did not seem to matter. No Republicans in the house voted for the stimulus package, though one of the banks who employs the spouse of a rising GOP star benefitted from TARP.

Some House Republicans are calling for a decrease in the deficit. This does not seem possible while Americans stand in long lines at the unemployment office all across the nation. We have, in fact, seen the greatest deficit increase in the past eight years after having been given a surplus by the previous administration. This is the largest increase of the deficit in any time in our history. Whose fault was this? Who led? Who followed?

The Labor Department announced today 588,000 new jobless benefit claims. "In the week ending Jan. 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 588,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 585,000. The 4-week moving average was 542,500, an increase of 24,250 from the previous week's revised average of 518,250."

I wonder what alternatives the Republicans have to offer jobless Americans now. Perhaps when unemployment reaches in the high double digits, we will see some real alternatives as opposed to talk. Then again, maybe not. They seem to be waiting for failure for a shot at the White House in 2012. But joblessness will not wait. Americans are losing jobs at record numbers.

Being Dick or a Prick?

"I'm so damn glad you can never be my wife because I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you every day," Dick Armey told Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of "That's what I'm talking about -- she's making a political malarkey here."

Some have called Dick a prick for his sexist statement after Walsh gave a very rational intelligent oppostion to his argument. He seemed unable to handle the oppostion so he resorted to sexism. Is Dick a prick? You be the judge:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Being a 51-Year-Old Runway Model

Women in suburbs all across America, like those on the reality shows "The Real Housewives of Orange County," "Atlanta" or "New York," are probably calling agents right now to see if they too can be the next 50ish runway model in the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week next year. The women above are already on stage 24/7 and often appear to be in competition with their teenage daughters. Anorexia in middle-aged women is increasing.

Yes, this runway model, Inès de la Fressange, is indeed beautiful, as are many women of her age and beyond are with more or less body mass or wrinkles. I have known them all of my entire life. But really, do we want to perpetuate the image of the pubescent runway model indefinitely? Although the picture below is hardly that, more than a few of the women in the aforementioned reality shows appear to be just blossoming into womanhood. What a contorted image, eh?

There is no hating here. This is a beautiful woman for sure. The question for me still remains if we want to focus on the exterior all of our lives, not that we have to let go of ourselves at a certain age either. This I am most certainly not advocating for women or men. Perhaps just the image of beauty and health alone are inspiring for some. This I could not knock.

Who wants to be a 51-year-old runway model? Do you?

Being a Namesake III

Having written two posts on the power of a namesake, Being a Namesake and Being a Namesake II, I was not surprised to read at Live Science that names given to boys, regardless of race, may have a negative affect on the outcome of their lives. What about girls? I shutter to think of all the names given to some kids I have taught as a substitute teacher while attending graduate school. God, help them!

What's in a name? According to this study, a name is everything. But then again maybe not. I wonder about kids with foreign names. Are kids with foreign names more likely to be juvenile delinquents or graduate students? A great many first generation immigrants from Africa, India, and Asia are in medical and engineering schools all across America. It seems to be more than just any name and more deeply related to a namesake, one of lineage or purpose.

Being Confident

Chuck Berry is confident and brilliant:

"Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news."

What news might that be? Chuck Berry rocks!

Having confidence is the first step of any successful venture.

Being Conscious of Word Usage

Have words with negative connotations such as nigger become acceptable? Personally, I never speak such offensive words and rarely use them unless I'm writing and trying to make a specific point. Have words with negative connotations such as nigger become acceptable? Personally, I never speak such offensive words and rarely use them unless I'm writing and trying to make a specific point. Most times such words do not come off well, including many of their associated words as words largely depend on context, etymology, and historical usage.

Yesterday RNC chair candidate, Chip Saltsman, who sent out the parody "Barack the Magic Negro" as a Christmas gift, defended his decision on MSNBC. But I still wondered about Saltsman's use of the word negro. Negro and nigger are both etymologically rooted in the country of Niger in Africa by colonists. Americans by and large didn't buy Saltsman's explanation of the gift.

Saltsman's defense of his right to use satire on MSNBC appeared sort of like Rush Limbaugh's comedic, often perceived as racist, political satire where just about anything goes. But Rush isn't running for a public office and context and good judgement are still important. By the way, Republican leaders are pleading with Rush to put a sock in it.

Oxford's definition:

Nigger (‘nIg∂(r)), Also niggar. [Alteration of NEGER. Cf. Also NIGER and NIGRE.]

1. a. A Negro. (Colloq. And usu. contemptuous.) Except in Black English vernacular, where it remains common, now virtually restricted to contexts of deliberate and contemptuous ethnic abuse. b. Loosely or incorrectly applied to members of other dark-skinned races. c. to work like a nigger, to work exceptionally hard. orig. U.S.

Recently, I used the word nigger in a discussion on and it brought on a discussion its use. (I never use the euphemism "n-word," although I understand and can appreciate why others do.) why others do and can even appreciate it.) I realize its import and believe that there is no sanitizing words that have created such deep historical wounds.

Not being a fan of the word, I do not like to hear it in lyrics sung repeatedly over a "wicked" beat or spoken readily by young African Americans as a term of endearment. There is nothing endearing about the term. But when I hear the word or see it written I tend to judge how it is used and respond accordingly.

On a walk recently I came across four young men with book bags near the high school having a good time. (I typically stop and talk with young people just about stuff in general; most times I have never seen them before.) One of the young men wore a jacket that read "State Property." It was a bit disturbing, so I asked him about it.

The conversation went like this:

"Hey. How was school today?"
"OK." (They never seem to say more than that initially.)
"That's a nice jacket.
"But what does it mean?"
"What...State Property?"
"It's a record label. thought...."
"Yes, I thought you were wearing a jacket that praised prison-life."
"No ma'am. I'm going to college."
"Oh, that's great! And you?"
"Me too."
"Me too."
"Me too."
"Great! You can do anything. Have a good day."
"OK. You too. Thank you."
"No, thank you. You have made my day."
"Yes, really."
"That's dope."

I left. I didn't even ask him about the meaning of "dope." I assumed it meant cool. But it did leave a lingering thought about word usage for young people. As I continued my walk I could not help but to wonder about the record label. Why choose such a name that obviously has such a negative connotation?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Being in Davos

This week is the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Swiss resort town. (You know it's a sweet spot when the billing is notably named for the posh town and not the event itself. The Forum is simply known as Davos.) Considering the climate, I wonder what the bankers and financial analysts will say and to whom will they be saying it? The likes of themselves? Will there be a lot of understanding among these? Will they pat each other on the back in affirmation that they did the best they could do? Will they speak among themselves of the big ticket items bought after respectively receiving their multi-billion dollar bonuses? Will they sit in natural hot springs sipping champagne and noshing on caviar after a day of insightful sessions?

Besides the bankers and financial analysts from Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab, there will be quite a few distinguished guests, including World leaders. Among these are: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. These sessions should also be interesting.

Arianna Huffington will be attending the conference and it looks like she will be chairing a few really interesting sessions on technology and social media. She is without doubt a pioneer of social media. Her sessions should be quite interesting too. But I would most like to hear the bankers and financial analysts at Davos talk about the lapse of ethics and deregulation in the form of free trade and globalization that have brought us to this global economic crisis. I have a few question to asks. Do you?

Being John Thain III

Reuters has just reported that John Thain has been subpoenaed by the New York Attorney General over Merrill Lynch bonuses before the takeover by Bank of America last year. Let's see how this story ends. Do you think it will end justly?

Being Held Accountable

After receiving a bailout, "nine out of ten bank executives are still running the show," according to NBC. Here's a simple question: If you mismanaged the company that you worked for as these men (and they are all men), would you have been fired immediately? What's up with the board? What's up with holding these people responsible for their actions, especially when taxpayer money has been used to bail these institutions out?

Being Healthy in Recession

A few weeks back a discussion raged on Tom Peter's blog about obesity and health. In thinking about our current economic situation, where McDonald's has simply been recession-free, I wondered about the length of the recession and the health of our kids. Wal-Mart is another company that has done pretty well in this economy, but it is debatable whether shopping at Wal-Mart for healthier foods can compare to the dollar item menu at McDonald's.

Will the recession affect the health of Americans? It's not like the obesity level is not at an all-time high. We were probably the healthiest 12 kids on the block, living on the likes of beans with smoked turkey, baked chicken, rice, oatmeal, greens, and vegetables. But these days kids seem to dictate to their parents what they will eat being inidated with non-stop television marketing. What to do?

Being John Thain II

Mr. Thain offered some lame excuse for why his office was redecorated last year to the tune of $1.22 million citing that the financial crisis was not as bad at the time. He also intimated that this is just what they do.

In his contrition Thain failed to mention the $2 billion to $3 billion dollars in employee bonuses while Merrill lynch was reporting loses last year. Yes, he said that he was "sorry" and would pay back the $1.22 million (mere chump change for this guy) for the redecoration costs. Is that enough?

Thain seems to be simply on a mission to rehabilitate his image. He wants another job. But has he learned anything? If board of directors look at this guy as viable, let them rehire him somewhere else. But anywhere he goes his bad behavior is likely to follow and any bailout money given to a company he leads should be made to be repaid immediately.

Being Ken Lewis

Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, came to Detroit last year and before the Detroit Economic Club said, "I think there's one too many" automakers. (Are others thinking the same of banks right now?) After the speech, Mr. Lewis also said, in a rather pedantic self-righteous tone, "I think the American people are suspect of just giving more money and buying more time. They want to see that the companies have in fact changed and the strategies have changed."

After the original bailout of $25 billion, Bank of America was recently back to the Treasury Department for an additional $20 billion. Do you think someone needs to remind Mr. Lewis of his own words? Should Treasury have withheld the additional $20 billion? Speaking of accountability, where did the original $25 billion go? Bank of America got the additional $20 billion without being held accountable for the first $25 billion. This is insanity.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Being for the Stimulus Package II

It is not enough any longer, considering the incredible time our country now faces, for a political party to simply define itself by long held ideology without actually bringing something to the table. House Minority Leader John Boehner described the stimulus packaged as "big government boondoggle." Well, that's not going to cut it.

We need less rhetoric and more action. Any ideas? The whole idea of Democrats being for big government and Republicans being for business is archaic and farcical. If we have not had big government in the past 8 years, I do not know what we have had. President Obama has inherited $482 billion in the 2009 budget year. The reality is that there should be vigorous debate. But let's also create solutions, not simply offer ideology and criticism.

Being a Psychopath V

In this interview with MSNBC Governor Blagojevich compares himself to Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. I find the governor incredibly interesting and even more so considering that someone such as himself could even get elected as the governor of a large state. I can see, for example, how Governor Palin could get elected in Alaska. But Chicago? Surely Governor Blagojevich's irrational behavior and shady politics were displayed before he became the governor of Illinois. Who voted for this guy?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Being Optimistic about the Market

"Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

"But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."

--President Barack Obama, Inauguration Address

I agree. But have we not been here before? Who will be "a watchful eye?" The practices of Bernie Madoff, for example, were investigated more than a few times before the scheme broke and no wrong doing was seemingly found.

Being for the Stimulus Package

Susie Gharib interviewed Warren Buffett for an airing on Nightly Business Report and among other things, I found this quote particuarly interesting with regards to economists and the need to act now.

"Economists like to talk about it, but in the end they’ve been very, very wrong and most of them in recent years on this. We don’t know the perfect answers on it. What we do know is to stand by and do nothing is a terrible mistake or to follow Hoover-like policies would be a mistake and we don’t know how effective in the short run we don’t know how effective this will be and how quickly things will right themselves."

--Warren Buffett

President Obama's 100 hours have been a major push to get the economy moving with a multi-billion dollar stimulus package and tax cuts.

What are your thoughts?

Being Inspired by Others

The young people of the Brattleboro Union High School Band of Vermont inspired me. Their practice and precision were duly noted in the Inaugural Parade. Bravo to the band leader and members! You were great! Young people are to be praised and appreciated.

Being in the Inaugural Parade

I have always loved marching bands, especially at ceremonial events and football games. At Michigan the band really revived up the crowd! So, it was no surprise that the Inaugural Parade made me quite happy. I marched along with the bands gleefully.

I was proud and pleased with all of the bands with the exception of a few. I have a good mind to write the principles of a few schools and call a few teachers who allowed their young people to provocatively dress and dance as if in a night club and not at an honored event. There is a time and place for everything. But these young people are even too young to be in night clubs for goodness sake!

What were these teachers thinking? Lead! Did the parents not come to the rehearsals? Model appropriate behavior! But most high schools bands were great! I especially appreciated Vermont's Brattleboro Union High School Band as they drummed and drilled "We Shall Overcome" to a lively tune. Bravo Brattleboro Union High School Band! You made us all proud!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Being Superficial at Work

"Superficiality in a special way is an enemy of intimacy. When one thinks carefully about why certain people who are competent, well-educated, energetic, and well supported with good tools fail, it is often the red thread of superficiality that does them in. They never get seriously and accountably involved in their work."

--Max DePree

If one is not involved in his or her work, how can they be productive? How can uninvolved people accomplish anything? And where seriousness and accountability are lacking how can progress be sustained? Is superficiality the underlining reason why we fail?

Being Intimate at Work

"Intimacy is at the heart of competence. It has to do with understanding, with believing, and with practice. It has to do with relationship to one's work."

-- Max DePree

Intimacy is a major element of responsibility and creativity. If we are intimate with our work, how much more will we be with our co-workers? How much better will our team be? How much better will our products be? How much more innovation will there be?

Being Ex-Senate Leader Joseph Bruno

Will the corruption in public and private life, in government and business, ever end? The New York Times reports on the former GOP State Senator Joseph Bruno's indictment.

Bruno is believed to have received "more than $3 million over a 13-year period, beginning in 1993, from a handful of companies seeking contracts and grants with the state, as well as contracts to manage pension fund investments for at least 16 labor unions."

By the way, what ever happened to Senator Ted Stevens? Out of sight out of mind? I'd like to know. Steven's conviction in the hundreds of thousands (some $250,000 to be exact) seems like chump change in comparison, though no less egregious.

Maybe jail time mixed in with the general population can be a deterrent. But has jail time ever been deterrent? Greed seems to supersede the possibility of jail. It seems to blind the once perceived wise man leader of the Senate.

Senators in ancient times were so revered for their wisdom and ethics. What a reversal. But then again the more things change the more they seem to stay the same. These senators often became wealthy at the expense of the provinces.

What are we to do?

Being Digitized II

President Obama will keep his Blackberry. Yippie!
Can I get that email address?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Being Digitized

Many kudos to Pope Benedict XVI for creating a Vatican channel on YouTube. Bravo, Pontiff.

Being President Pervez Musharaff

Watching "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer this evening, I was somewhat puzzled at the former Pakistani President Musharraf's words. He seemed to be complaining that America should have given Pakistan much more than 10 billion dollars to fight the war on terror. After all, he intimated, we had given trillions in Iraq and many more billions in Afghanistan.

"Please don't think that this $10 billion was such a great amount that we ought to be eternally grateful while we know that we deserve much more and we should have got much more and we must get much more if we are to fight the global war on terror," said President Musharaff.

President Musharraf reminded us that America is leading the war on terror and they are a partner, even though they are being treated "unequally." But does Pakistan not benefit from defeating terriorism? Should President Musharraf be dictating to America what we should give to others? Are others not partners in this role on terrorism too? What are their roles? Have they fulfilled them?

I'd be interested in knowing what President Musharraf felt his failures were as the leader of Pakistan, resigning before being ousted, and in partnering with the United States in the war on terror. Listening to the interview, the former president seemed to have a fitting answer for everything, but I wondered about his country's responsibility.

Being an Inaugural Quartet Member

The whole discussion of ethics and the brilliance of the quartet that performed at the inauguration is much ado about nothing. Instruments are difficult to tune in very cold weather so the pre-recording was necessary. We all know that the members of this quartet are fine musicians indeed. It would be different if the recorded music was not theirs. It was.

Being Eternal

"He has also set eternity in the hearts of men"

--Ecclesiastes 3:11

Fear not. The end is not the end.

Failures are new beginnings.

Being Slapped on the Wrist

John Thain has resigned from Bank of America after redecorating his office to the tune of $1.22 million dollars after his company received a government bailout totalling $45 billion dollars. What I didn't report here in my earlier post is that Thain's driver was paid big loot too.

According to MSNBC, "Thain also paid his driver $230,000 for one year's work, which included the driver's $85,000 salary and bonus of $18,000, and another $128,000 in over-time pay, documents show. Drivers of top executives are often paid about half that amount."

Thain's resignation will be a simple slap on the wrist if he resurfaces as a CEO or senior executive of another major corporation that received government assistance anytime soon.

Being a Psychopath IV

In an interview yesterday with the Associated Press disgraced Governor Blagojevich compared his arrest with Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Dec. 9 to my family, to us, to me, is what Pearl Harbor Day was to the United States," said Governor Blagojevich. "It was a complete surprise, completely unexpected. And just like the United States prevailed in that, we'll prevail in this."

Paging Dr. Phil. Need more be said?

Being John Thain

The arrogance, disrespect, and dishonor of people such as John Thain, former CEO of Merrill Lynch now with Bank of America, is mind-boggling. But the reality is those in his industry have operated in an alternative universe for so long that their actions are simply a matter of course for them. This is business as usual and one of the main reasons that we are in such a financial crisis.

Recently, it was discovered that Thain spent some $1.22 million dollar redecorating his office after Bank of America, which acquired Merrill Lynch, had received a bailout from the government to the tune of $45 billion dollars. First Bank of America received $25 billion and then it recently returned to the Treasury Department seeking an additional $20 billion. They got it.

Thain's spending was reminiscent of leaders of another large financial institution upon receiving welfare. Remember that AIG spending $440,000 on spa services after receiving $85 billion of welfare from the government. Here is how a portion of the bailout was spent according to The Daily Beast :

One Area Rug: $87,000
Another Area Rug: $44,000
Curtains: $28,000
Chairs: $87,000
Fabric: $11,000
Table: $25,000
Cadenza: $68,000
Sofa: $15,000
Desk: $18,000
Coffee Table: $16,000
Chandelier: $13,000

While some have called the infusion of government money into private industry a bailout, or a life-line in the above cases, I like to call it welfare. We only associate welfare negatively with certain sectors of the population who cannot care for themselves, even when children are concerned.

Bank of America and AIG receive welfare for mismanagement, greed, and wasteful spending. The ugliness of this all, while perhaps more than a few employees released last year received some sort of government benefit, is disheartening, quite disgusting, to say the least.

Should John Thain be fired immediately?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Being Vice-President Biden

Even though he has been in Congress for many years, Vice-President Biden remains fresh and inspiring, not jaded by Washington. He is quite knowledgeable and affable and seems to speak, as does his wife Dr. Biden, from the heart. (Her "revelation" on Oprah's show, later disputed by the Office of the Vice President, was refreshing to me, not to mention the VP's often honest responses. I like this rather natural transparency.) President Obama is blessed indeed to have such a partner in policy, diplomacy, and national security.

Being a Father

This video by Jan Gunnarsson is for all fathers and mothers in support of these. Godspeed to you all in rebuilding families and world communities.

Being Hillary Rodham Clinton

Watching Madame Secretary on her first day of work, I was incredibly pleased. Anyone needed to have only watched her Senate hearing to realize that this Secretary is brilliant and hardworking. Her performance before the Confirmation Committee was simply stellar.

Being a Real Leader

"Leaders focus on the soft stuff. People. Values. Character. Commitment. A cause. ... it's the stuff that real leaders take care of first. And forever. That's why leadership is an art, not a science."

--Tom Peters

Are measurements your first focus of leadership?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Being John Bogle V

In a review just posted this evening on the Huffington Post, I wrote on John Bogle's latest book, Enough! True Measures of Money, Business, and Life. I have written here of this wonderful little power-packed book more than once and wanted to share it with a larger audience. The HuffPost gets 20 million hits a month. I hope you will be one of these.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Being President Barack Obama

Godspeed, Mr. President!

Being an American

We are One.

Being Hope-Full

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick."

--Proverbs 13:12

We are all healthy and happy this day, for we are all full of hope!

Being Personally Responsible

If anyone knows me or have read anything that I have ever written, I am all for personal responsibility. I remember getting into big trouble as a consultant with a large city government for insisting that communities be personally responsible for their own neighborhoods. Change begins with each of us on the smallest of levels. Trash in our neighborhoods is not a small thing. As does love, respect begins at home. But when I heard Joe Scarborough and Peggy Noonan this morning on "Morning Joe" talking about personal responsibility it had a particular divisive and partisan ring.

"Barack Obama is going to be talking about Republican themes of personal responsibility and cleaning up the vacant lot next door," said Joe. Are democrats not personally responsible? Who lives among vacant lots? Peggy Noonan chimed in some time later with the same pejorative buzz word, as if either of them actually knows what President-elect Obama will say, "Yes, he's going to talk about personal responsibility, like cleaning up those vacant lots in your own neighborhood."

By then I was livid. There is no doubt that this disparaging "vacant lot" had not only a derogative anti-Democratic tone, but was used pejoratively to indicate African Americans. Such words are incredibly disheartening especially considering the past eight years where vacant lots in and of themselves did not add to the financial crisis currently rocking America. What about President Reagan's notion of laissez-faire economics that many believe has brought us to our current financial crisis? What about those who bankrupted banks and mortgage companies escaping in golden parachutes that landed in pristine gated communities? The financial crisis had more to do with these and less to do with vacant lots. Who will be held personally responsible for these things?

Financial institutions received welfare the likes that vacant lots will never see in thousands of lifetimes. Vacant lots had nothing to do with water boarding. Many Americans are asking that the current Republican president take personal responsibility for torture. Many are insisting that the incoming president charge him with war crimes. (I am not.) Yes, we all need to take personal responsibility but divisive partisan buzz words and tones will not unify us and will not get to the heart of what's needed to turn this country around. We need bi-partisanship and personal responsibility from everyone with respect for differences. Derogative buzz words strike the absolute wrong chord in this difficult time America now faces.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Being Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

How beautiful are these words of love and truth spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who preaced the gospel of peace. These are words of power, clarity and inclusiveness, infusing hope.

We acknowledge the diversity and hope of those in the crowd, black and white, old and young, Christians and Muslims, rich and poor. The diversity of the gathering is beautiful.

America, we have come to such a historic moment yet again. We will all gather again on the National Mall tomorrow, remembering that other great day, the day a King dreamed.

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the nameless countless others who marched, fought, and died for the peace of America and all of her citizens.

Being Harriet Tubman

"We saw the lightening and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped."

"Quakers almost as good as colored.... They call themselves friends and you can trust them every time."

--Harriet Tubman

Being Marian Anderson

"I suppose I might insist on making issues of things. But that is not my nature, and I always bear in mind that my mission is to leave behind me the kind of impression that will make it easier for those who follow."

--Marian Anderson

Being W.E.B. Dubois

"Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime."

--W.E.B. Dubois

Being George Washington Carver

"Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God."

--George Washington Carver

Being Prepared and Positioned

In a sermon my dad's cousin, the
venerable, Bishop David L. Ellis,
said these memorable words after
hearing a number of congregants
complaining about the seemingly
slow process of change:

"Some of you are wondering
when am I gonna get mine.
When is my ship coming in.
Well, honey, your ship ain't
never gonna come in while you
sitting at the airport."

There is something each of us
has to do to realize our dream.
This something is being prepared
and positioned to strike.

Being Mary McLeod Bethune

"I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you racial dignity."

--Mary McLeod Bethune

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Being Adaptable to Change

I wrote a post, Being Observant and Sympathetic: Darwin's Keys to Service, on Charles Darwin on the necessity of service. He remains one who greatly inspires me.

Recently, I came across this quote which reminds me of the necessity of adapting to change, an appropriate slogan for our particular time in American history.

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."

--Charles Darwin

Being Inspired by Others

"Then let us all do what is right, strive with all our might toward the unattainable, develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us, and never stop learning."

--Ludwig van Beethoven

Being Mighty II

Is the pen mightier than the sword?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Being Hopeful and Patient

Americans are hopeful and patient with faith in the leadership of Barack Obama.

Hope in our new leader is hope in ourselves.

Yes, we can bring change -- together!

Being Mighty

Israel has declared a unilateral Gaza cease-fire. But what has been accomplished besides death and destruction? With all of her military might, the rockets and mortars never ceased. Is there a better way?

Being All Aboard the Whistle-Stop Train

Being Able to Laugh at Yourself

David Letterman's "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" will be missed. I have laughed often. I wonder if President Bush did too.

Being the Change II

Listening to South Carolina Republican Katon Dawson, the RNC Chairman Candidate, on C-Span this morning, I felt a sickness in my stomach. Not because he was a Republican, I have no particular love or hate for party affiliates, but because his tone belied his message. There appeared to be meanness in his message when speaking of values and personal responsibility, as if one Party had these things and the other didn't. A caller asked him to explain exactly what he meant by values. The spin began. Of late, partisanship has particularly sickened, considering what we need to do together to move forward. Are the Republicans not responsible for where we are too?

What was unnerving is the necessity to turn the Republican Party around without turning themselves around. The RNC should be asking, "Where have we failed?" Instead Mr. Dawson kept reminding us of the values and conservatism (code for many to be exclusion) of the Republican Party. I continue to be amazed at the RNC's strident tone and the inability to see their failure. I continue to be amazed at a tone that belies an even more sinister message. If the words were written, one may not be able to determine the spirit of the message as readily. This morning, in particular, I could not stomach it.

Perhaps this sickness was a bit of a hangover from the night before when a good conservative Republican friend on the way to a Jazz club in a discussion about the financial crisis and the Israeli war, shouted out, "they're all f@#^ing Jews." I was astonished. "What did you just say," I asked in shock. He caught himself. But it was too late; those hateful words had already left his throat that I wanted to strangle.

I sat there momentarily immobilized. After just getting in the car out of freezing negative temperatures, the hot tears that fell on my face stung slightly. I was incredibly hurt and very angry. He did not want to discuss the matter; but I insisted including the fact that he and many of his executive friends with the auto industry would not be employed had it not been for some Jewish lawmakers, like Barney Frank and Carl Levin, love 'em or not, who pushed for the auto bailout. He is a staunch conservative who was very much in favor of the bailout. Sitting there I reminded him of that dichotomy. His response, "You know, I don't need the money." “But you do need a career you love so dearly,” I retorted. Believe me, the conversation will continue.

Underneath some words is a disdain for some that comes across clearly in language. Even when the language is tempered, we get the tone and message. The words that my friend spoke last night (yes! he remains my friend) is the shadow language that we often feel when we hear strident tones spoke through tempered words. I got this sense listening to Katon Dawson speak. Now, in all fairness to Mr. Dawson, I had never heard him before his appearance this morning on C-Span and my gut feeling could be wrong. But the message that he gave was we that the Republican Party needed to speak differently and not BE different. Ladies and gentlemen, this is simply not going to bring needed change.

"We must," as Gandhi said, "be the change we wish to see."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Being Delores Lee Ellis III

On this day, the day of my birth, I honor my mother, Delores Lee Ellis, who raised 12 children alone, teaching us each the importance of love, faith, hope, peace, respect, humility, persistence, grace, music, giving, art, sharing, reading, intention, education, language, purpose, destiny, and choice.

Historically speaking African American mothers, perhaps all mothers indeed, have always been the backbone of the family, the one who held things together in spite of loss and depravity, enduring hardship as a good soldier. My mother was such a one. But one who was both mother and father to her 12 children, all by the one man she "loved next to Christ." Bitterness never entered in as we were growing up. Instead, she single-handedly raised us with honor and integrity, taught the value of education, and showed us how to stand gracefully in the face of defeat.

I never saw my mother cry, yet I know she most certainly did. I never saw her in pain, though we know she most certainly had it. I never heard her complain, though there could have been much to complain about. When asked, "how are you?," her response was inevitably the same, "blessed of the Lord." You see, the base of my mother's strength was her confidence in God. In spite of everything, including her three-day weekly journey to dialysis, which sometimes resulted in immense weakness, and her battle with diabetes, she believed that God would not put anymore on her than she could bear--this after raising 12 children alone. Every struggle was meant to end in victory and her love for God and sheer determination propelled her on.

My mother was a mixture of grace and tenacity, gentle as a flower and inflexible as steel, if needed. When dealing with opposition she always smiled graciously, but extended her hand in mercy giving whatever she had to give to pay bills. When growing up she needed only to look at you to express her dissatisfaction. When giving whippings with a firm hand, she gently spoke to us with each stinging lash. In fact, we never heard our mother raise her voice. She simply stated her desires and we followed suit. But it's not like we didn't test her. We did--especially me, but rarely if ever disrespectfully. She always got the better of the debate spoken so in soft tones. She disarmed us with her grace; even when we were raging mad we succumbed to her wisdom, beauty, and her highly refined reasoning abilities.

What a beauty she was! She was, in fact, the most beautiful of wild flowers that endured in spite of inclement times, standing beautifully in the face of high winds, the beating sun and thunderstorms. Can you imagine raising seven boys and five girls alone? We were the apple of her eye and we knew it. She watched us carefully, not allowing us to mingle with the wrong company, insisting that we get good grades and keeping television watching down to a mere one hour per day. Since she loved national and international news, we could watch the news along with her which included in-depth analysis which we were invited to participate. She enjoyed hearing our opinions and teaching us about world events.

Nightly reading and family prayer were essential to our childhood. She spent her last buying books and encyclopedias for us and every Christmas gift and birthday present included a book of some kind. When we heard that familiar song, "Remember Me, Oh Lord, Remember Me," we knew that was the call to prayer and no matter where you were or what you were doing, each of us respectively and respectfully stopped and followed the lovely voice for prayer. It is prayer that enabled us to finish college, become entrepreneurs and professionals, and enter the ministry full-time. In fact, we are all, in spite of our various professions, in ministry as pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. I guess we all went to Seminary of Delores Lee Ellis; her very life was such.

Being Mahmoud Ahmadinejad II

The Associated Foreign Press records this account after President-elect Obama indicated that while Iran "remained a threat" to America that we would be "willing to initiate diplomacy."

This was President Ahmadinejad's response in a press conference according to the AFP:

" 'If changes are fundamental, genuine and based on respect... we wait and see and do not make premature judgement,' Ahmadinejad said in a press conference, broadcast live on state television.

"He had been asked about Tehran's stance toward normalisation of ties with Washington.

"'The first change we expect is that the United States should limit its interference (to) within its borders,' he said. 'They have been oppressing our people for 58 years now... they must change their attitude toward us.

"The Iranian president also called the policy of carrot and stick an 'outdated' one. 'If it is the continuation of the wrong and arrogant policies, the result is predictable,' he added."

Are either responses unreasonable? Is this not a good start to diplomacy?

Being Fully Engaged

How do we best create results? How do we best train? Do we do so by observation or action, gazing or stillness? These question arose for me in a discussion just beginning on Tom Peters' blog where the question arose if young people, fully engaged in the digital age, are gazing less out of windows, enaging instead in continous actions.

The premise is that perhaps young people engagd in the digital age are lacking in some essential skill. But what is gazing? Is the process of gazing akin to reading where moving images evolve out of gazing, creating the aha moment--action that evolve from stillness? (Philosopher types whose gazing result in writing - an action. How do we know what we are gazing at? Does gazing require a focus?) Is the reverse possible, stillness evolving from action? (Scientist types whose experiments result in theory – a non action.)

Window gazing for some young people fully engaged in the digital age just may be different. My guess is they are reading less and this requires gazing (Reading may largely make gazing possible, evolving out of thoughts.) But then again, this action of reading, a movement line by line, requires a kind of gazing. Does action require gazing? Action and gazing may be possible simultaneously. These are just thoughts that evolved from writing which came from a kind of gazing.

The gaze seems always present in action or stillness. For example, young people fully engaged in the digital age, looking at a moving screen, may perhaps be gazing differently. These thoughts for me also focus on how we lead others; the processes by which we allow others to create and innovate, without stifling thereby not insisting upon a certain way of thinking or doing a thing just so long as the essential elements of both action and stillness are present. (This is determined by results.) Action and stillness seem essential in any age.

This is being fully engaged. Can we ask for anything more of anyone?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Being Eternally Hopeful

In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.

Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.

--Ayn Rand

Press forward in hope. You can do it!

Being Amazed by Grace II

Grace is the gift of God through the power of His excellent
mercy. What we witnessed today with the landing of the US
Airways Airbus in the Hudson River and the safety of all 155
passengers is the amazing grace of God.

We are most grateful for the grace of God shown today.

Being Donna Brazile II

Donna Brazile's book, Cooking with Grease, is a great read. She talks politics, heading chapters with a great Southern Louisanna dish of her hometown. Ms. Brazile stirs a delicious delightful sometimes heartbreaking tale of political life on the national level through the aroma of her mother Jean's kitchen:

Chapter 1: Jean's Kitchen: Finding the Right Pot
Chapter 2: Blackend Fish
Chapter 3: Red Beans and Rice
Chapter 4: Crawfish Etouffee
Chapter 5: Garlic Grits
Chapter 6: Jambalaya
Chapter 7: The Melting Pot
Chapter 8: Smothered Chicken
Chapter 9: Brown Gravy (Roux)
Chapter 10:Crabmeat Lafitte
Chapter 11:Stuffed Po' Boys
Chapter 12:Creole Shrimp Bisque
Chapter 13:Bell Peppers
Chapter 14:Dirty Rice
Chapter 15:Cochon de Lair (Roast Suckling Pig)
Chapter 16:Oysters Bienville
Chapter 17:Cafe Du Monde: Coffee and Beignets

Here is a mouth watering example of a preface included before each chapter. The mixture of politics and cusinse is a perfect blend:

Chapter Sixteen, Oysters Bienville:

"Oysters Bienville is named for Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans. The oysters are served in the half shell and topped with shrimp, mushrooms and grated Parmesan cheese and heavily seasoned. Throughout the Gore campaign (which she managed), I attempted to expand the Democratic base beyond its core-the oyster-by adding spices and novel ingredients-new voters and a broader message."

Throughout the book Ms. Brazile weaves memories of Jean's kitchen along with the diciness of national politics. Having begun in politics at the age of nine successfully campaigning in support of a city council candidate who promised to build a playground in her community, she wrote of this period in an early chapter of the book with memories of her mother and paternal grandmother preparing meals:

"A typical breakfast was scrambled eggs with onions with green peppers, toast, bacon or hot sausage, buttermilk biscuits, and Tang, the popular powdered orange juice drink of the sixties. Jean and Grandma, who was a great cook, kept the kitchen fires burning from morning to night. They were always stirring up something, frying something, smothering something, smoking up the kitchen. I know now that the secret ingredient Jean put in everything she cooked was love."

The preface to Chapter 14, "Dirty Rice," prepares us for what will follow:

"Louisanans like their rice and their politics the same way-colorful and dirty. I didn't realize just how low down and dirty the electoral process could become with citizens unable to cast their ballots and confusion on top of it all. The last few months of the 2000 presidential campaign were painful, to say the least."

Being a senior political strategist and former campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman 2000-the first African American to lead a major presidential campaign, Cooking with Grease is replete with amazing stories. The tale is honest and real. She writes:

"Everyone has warned me, from day one, that at some point I would get on Gore's bad side. But it didn't happen to me until the recount. And I got kicked over a principle-the right to vote-and that didn't sit well with me. I was very upset. I had spent my entire career fighting to expand the electorate, helping people to learn how to register people to vote, and I thought about Gore's daddy who lost his Tennessee Senate seat in 1966 because he took a principled position, in support of Voting Rights Act."

Ms. Brazile can be assured that her many years of work on Voting Rights and her desire to expand the Democratic base paid off huge in the election of Barack Obama for president. In hingsight the 2000 campaign seems like a forerunner of what was to come. Cooking with Grease shows how she used the aroma, magic and the binding together of roux to bring change to Washington much of which was learned from her Southern Louisanna hometown.

Cooking with Grease is a great book! I'm looking forward to her second.

Being for Microeconomics

In such a tumultuous time where we have seen such upheaval in the markets, there is this sense that we need to get back to the necessity of putting products back in business and opposed to allowing paper to run the economy. Considering this and the plight of so many large companies, which have affected some small companies, I thought of the necessity of concentration on microeconomics especially in urban areas where the need for change is the greatest. Large companies are good nationally; but smaller ones fuel local communities and assist in the sustaining of national economic structures.

We know that microeconomics work in places where there is some political structure to support it, but not necessarily one that is completely built up. In India, for example, microeconomics has improved the lives of so many families who have begun cell phone businesses. These businesses have made it possible for a great many other businesses to now thrive. In these areas there are less infrastructure and political participation. But necessity has become the mother of invention and towers have been built and businesses formed. Microeconomics, along with continuous operational and strategic improvements, will sustain growth. It has improved the lives of many around the world.

A Newsweek article confirms that such businesses have improved the lives of many in India:

Aruna Gaikwad, 29, is a semiliterate fruit and vegetable vendor in Kokrade village, 270 miles from Mumbai. Her husband used to sell their goods from two stalls on the village pavement, while she tried to make sales in the markets of neighboring villages. It was a life of struggle, providing only about $60 in monthly income for the couple and their two children.

Today, thanks to her phone, Gaikwad no longer has to rely on local traders to give her a decent price on fresh produce, but can deal directly with wholesalers a few towns away. When there's glut of mangoes, for example, she is able to plan her pricing ahead of time. And instead of seeking customers, she now takes orders over the phone, sometimes a day in advance.

Reading such stories and hearing daily the market reports, I wondered about this sense of microeconomics in urban areas where infrastructure is not the issue and neither by and large is politics. There are systems already in place to make better the lives of those within these communities. What one sees, for example, in an area like Detroit, is that many have been reliant on the Big Three for their livelihood for so long, which have brought many middle class, are now facing joblessness.

Within Detroit there are many cell phone businesses (many pre-paid services offered), Coney Islands, and liquor stores, within a few blocks from each other owned and operated mainly by Middle Eastern immigrants who do not live in the community, but make their livelihoods therein and return to the safety of their suburban neighborhoods.

Now, I'm not hating, as these business owners work long hard hours to make their businesses a success, often with tax abatements that could envy any local resident. But what does disturb me to a great degree is the benefit to the community is lessened as there is little concern for the neighborhood or little respect shown to the customers who live the in the community which they make their livelihood possible. Often these stores are filthy and only fatty foods and junk foods. A vegetable is an anomaly.

In considering microeconomics, I have been thinking about the need for people within urban areas that will improve the health of their community and increase small businesses within the communities in which they live. There is most certainly a need to have grocery stores within these communities and they would be competitive with the liquor stores. Perhaps if there were choices within these urban areas, choosing healthier food products will be more likely and even reduce the burden of the government where many are uninsured and have diseases such diabetes and heart ailments associated with poor eating habits, among other things.

Distribution to these stores will also be necessary. Perhaps other businesses can be started which could partner with large food distribution centers and loans given to renovate or build stores in the heart of these communities. Grocery stores are not the only ones that are lacking within these communities; hardware stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, meat markets, dry cleaners, are also needed. On NPR recently I heard a story about a group of young people in Detroit who have turned acres of abandoned land, where dilapidated houses once stood, for farming vegetables. Such businesses could also be centers of distribution and means of sustaining communities.

If microeconomics can help developing countries get on their feet where the political situations and law and order emerging, surely urban areas such as communities in Detroit can benefit from the same where infrastructure and land are available and where a great many citizens do not have transportation to go stores like Wal-Mart that are outside of their communities and where products are by and large less expensive. Many families simply eat what the liquor stores provide which is often fatty foods and junk foods. Microeconomics will not only provide healthier foods for these communities but provide jobs and assist in the rebuilding of community and restoring the necessary pride therein.

Being for Small Stuff

Often times we look for the big things to solve big problems. But often small things work much better and are the foundations for bigger progressive things. It is also the approach of such things that will ultimately make the difference. We often ignore small things and small approaches and opt for big cumbersome processes that down the road prove lacking in small simple details.

Let's consider, for example, some neighborhoods in urban areas. When I ride through them I am saddened by what I see. But then I begin to think of what these city dwellers themselves can do as well as city officials to make a difference. If the officials and neighbors would just do the things that they can do, like implementing regular clean ups by simply picking up the trash on their streets, and, of course, not throwing any down, that would be a great start to re-building these communities.

Many times we want to go for the major stuff or simply the stuff that catches the eye when the simple stuff, not to say at all that other stuff does not need addressing, would at least lead to the best beginning. It's all about that beginning, that mindset of change that makes the difference. Without the proper mindset and personal responsibility it is indeed difficult to build anything.

The City of Detroit opened up one of the largest, most beautiful museums to honor the accomplishments of African Americans. I was hired in the year it opened. It was marvelous just walking around that building. It's a marvelous design! Initially, there were many supporters, but as time went on the visitors tapered off.

Now, there are other issues for the tapering to be sure, as I witnessed it up front, as many other museums have had, including the DIA, the home of the extraordinary Diego Rivera murals. But what struck me profoundly was the necessity of doing the small stuff, such as picking up the trash in the neighborhoods that would carry over to honoring those who have gone on before. (Honoring yourself is key.) It's always the small stuff out of which larger more cutting edge stuff can be built for a surer foundation.

In this regard, let's sweat the small stuff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Being a Namesake II

Last week I wrote a post, Being a Namesake, which spoke of my namesakes, Jewish heroines of the Bible. Moments ago I read about a three-year old named Adolf Hitler Campbell who was recently taken away from his parents.

A few weeks ago we heard about this kid after a grocery store refused to print his given name on the birthday cake his parents ordered. I was sickened and disturbed by the parents' decision to saddle the kid with such a horrific name.

Isn't he the cutest kid? The namesake is hardly apropos.

Why would these parents do such a thing? What a pity. But today when I read that the kid and his siblings were taken away from their parents and placed in foster care, I had my doubts about the legitimacy of this decision. Why were the children removed from their home?

We do not know as of yet why the children were taken from their parents. But I for one, even though I am terribly sad to say this, do not believe that the courts have the right to remove these kids from their parents based on his given name.

What do you think?

Being a Class Act

President-elect Barack Obama is hosting a dinner which John McCain will be honored at the Washington Hilton the night before the Inauguration.

Conservative pundit and former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan, has called President-elect Obama's gesture a "class act." I agree.

But not only is this a class act, it is an act of enormous beauty and love, politics aside. It is one of honor and appreciation.

This gesture must not be seen as minor; it is major indeed.

Being Charming

President-elect Obama is getting some flack about being charming. I have even heard pundits tell us what he thinks of himself, as if they have had personal conversations with them.

Some pundits have said, "Obama thinks that his charm can get him anywhere." They have also said, "What he relies on most is his charm." Excuse me please, but how hell do they know such things? They don't! Furthermore, being charming is not a negative.

Tom Peters points out, the greatest among us have been charming especially in the midst of incredible odds and great feats. In a post, Ike Got It! and And Now for Something Completely the Same, Peters writes of the importance of charm as seen in General Dwight Eisenhower. He quotes from the book, Armchair General:

"Armchair General (May 2008) traces the origins of this mystical Eisenhower trait: 'Perhaps his most outstanding ability [at West Point] was the ease with which he made friends and earned the trust of fellow cadets who came from widely varied backgrounds; it was a quality that would pay great dividends during his future coalition command.'"

Peters continues quoting from the above:

"Ike somehow inspired people: civilians and ordinary soldiers of both nations, even cynical political figures and the always troublesome French. Something about his big grin; his long-limbed, loose American way of walking (the Kansas farm boy grown to a man); his easy, familiar way of speaking to everybody from King George VI down to privates in both armies; his lack of pretension; his evident sincerity ..."

Being charming is an asset, especially when you are brilliant, principled, and kind. President-elect Obama is in good company indeed.

Being Amazed by Grace

Grace is that which takes the heart unawares.
There is nothing that we can do to deserve it.
Grace is the omnipresent gift of God.

Being a First-Rate Leader

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the great American writer of The Great Gatsby, once said that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Can the same be said of first-rate leadership?

Being Non-Partisan

President-elect Obama's dinner at conservative George Will's house yesterday evening, where the guest were other conservative writers including the New York Times columnist David Brooks, Weekly Standard's William Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, indicates that he is compeletly not interested in partisan politics. It also indicates that President-elect Obama is confident in his ability to lead all of the people.

Some might say that this dinner was just a gesture. But gestures matter! This one as well as a great many others will go a long way in fostering the proper mindset necessary to move us forward together as a nation. It will also bring the far Right and far Left together, bringing a more centrist politics. We want the same thing, both the Right and Left, even if idealogically we differ. We want a better America for all Americans and to be a responsible member of the world community.

America, this is our time!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Being Lead by Values not Edict

While listening to President Bush give his finale press conference, I was appreciative for his service to our country and had compassion for his position in a very difficult time indeed.

As I listened to the range of topics been addressed and the range of emotions exhibited by the President, I could not help but to think that in such times it is even more crucial to lead by what we value most and not by edict.

Otherwise, our institutions are hollow.

(Listening to Senator Clinton's Senate Confirmation Hearing this morning gave me the thought above. I had been considering President Bush's press conference into the wee hours of the morning; her words this morning made sense in relation to the President's remarks. I trust, if confirmed, that Senator Clinton will bring the needed change to the State Department. Her remarks hit the mark. God-speed in implementation!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Being Bishop Garfield Thomas Haywood

Bishop Garfield Thomas Haywood (1880-1931), my paternal great-grandfather, was a great man. Not only was he a pastor of the largest church in Indianapolis, Indiana of 1500 members, half of which were "white brethren" in the state where the KKK was founded, he was also a respected architect, composer, author, painter, and businessman of a large printing press that he and his brother, Orville, ran. He is honored still in Indianapolis where a large section of Fall Creek Boulevard has been re-named Garfield Thomas Haywood Boulevard. There are signs of his likeness gracing the boulevard for miles.

Bishop Haywood traveled the world extensively and when he could not make it, his writings did. I remember traveling abroad once and just happened to meet an elderly lady with whom I struck up a conversation. I began to tell her that I was there doing missionary work and she thought that was the greatest thing. Come to find out her parents knew my great-grandparents, as they had come to that country many years ago and built a church and community center in the midst of abject poverty.

This kind lady told me many stories that her parents shared with her. She spoke of my great-grandfather's willingness to bring people together and of his great compassion and love for others. She told me of his ability to talk with government officials and businessmen in her country as well as the kids in the community in which he was building. She told me of his brilliance and humility. She told me of his songs that they still sing that Christian artists still record today. She told me of his fairness and determination not to see the bad in people but to choose to honor the good in them. I honor my great-grandfather today in the light of his great work, and for believing in the goodness of people even when he himself faced incredible odds.

Being Outwitted by Think Tanks?

In a round table discussion, "Challenges for the Incoming Obama Administration" on C-Span, I listened to Richard Perle, a political advisor and lobbyist who worked for the Reagan administration as an assistant Secretary of Defense, make some pretty good points until a young man asked a question about diplomacy matters. Perle was dismissive, dogmatic, and curt in his response. Personally, I thought the young man had asked a rather astute question about acknowledging Iran and North Korea, even though we may not agree with their leaders and policies. They are nonetheless a part of the world community, even if we do not recognize them.

Mr. Perle, without acknowledging the legitimacy of the young man's question, dismissed it as ridiculous and spouted a series of negative adjectives including the "e" word that have been used for those, who may not be saints, but are world leaders themselves. (I was incredibly heartened by Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic's goodwill trip to North Korea. In fact, I loved it!) There have been more than a few who have called our current president "evil" with regards to policies in Iraq. Does it make it so? Are there legitimate reasons for such words?

I am unequivocally in support of Israel's right to exist. But what concerns me is our rhetoric and policies may be such that create more enemies for Israel and America than our support for her will legitimize worldwide. How we say what we say still matters. Diplomacy is still needed and policies forever reviewed. The talking heads of think tanks (and institutes), who exercise a lot of control in Washington, are forever telling us what we think. But do we really think as they purport about a great many issues, Israel aside momentarily?

What is desired is an honest conversation uncontrolled by think tanks. Really, how much thinking is really going on and how much dogma is being exerted?

Being a Part of the Community II

National Day of Service: January 19

Let's begin the year with service to "Renew America Together."

Being a Part of the Community

The Obama Family spent their first weekend, as many others when arriving in a new community, checking out the neighborhood. This is nothing unusual except for there are two Washingtons, those who serve the people, whose taxes make it possible for them to have a solid middle class existence, and those who live down the road who often live in poverty. Many presidents seemed isolated from the other Washington, with the notable exception of President Jimmy Carter.

While the Obamas are not a part of the working class poor in Washington, many of whom historically served as servants in the White House and assisted in the building of America's most famous House, being out in the community sends a profound message for the whole of America; it sends the message of care and concern for all. The President-elect, as seen eating a chili dog in a local diner in D.C. and in his diverse inauguration choices, intends to be a president of all the people and to include all the people in his plans.

There may also be another very important message here, one that they are sending to their children about the importance of staying rooted and grounded to the concerns of those around you. This will help these beautiful girls determine what is most important in life, others and not things. These are great lessons indeed for all of Washington and the American people as a whole. The people of Washington D.C. are indeed blessed to have such neighbors in their community.

Being an Innovative Organization

"If your organization chart ‘makes sense,’ then you probably don’t have an innovative enterprise. Adhocracy requires letting go of linearity assumptions."

--Tom Peters

Being in the Old Guard II

On Good Morning America Democratic Senator Chris Dodd did exactly what I've been speaking about here. Being in the Old Guard, he simply did what many in his position often do, shift the blame on the other Party instead of taking responsibility and offering innovative solutions to problems. Senator Dodd blamed the Bush administration for the failure of the financial bailout disbursements, as if he bore no responsibility as the Senate Banking Committee Chairman. Ugh!

Are you getting really sick and tired of this kind of do nothing rhetoric? I am. What makes Senator Dodd think that anything will be different when the President-elect assumes office if the Congress continues to act in this way? Senator Dodd speaks as if he himself has no responsibility with how the financial bailout was handled. He appeared to be pandering to us. We'll, we don't need it. We want responsiblility and accountability now!

Yes, "further aide must include pay limits" but what about the limits that the good senator did not see to in the hundreds of millions that have already been dispersed without line by line accountability? Spending other people's money has always been no problem. The mess with the disbursements have not been the fault of the Bush administration alone. Congress bears responsibility and so does the American people for not speaking out loudly RIGHT NOW, declaring ENOUGH and signaling to the new administration and the new Congress that we insist on real change and not rhetoric!

Being Content

My mother used to quote this line to us taken from the spirit of Philippians 4:11: "Wherever you find yourself therein be content." But the overarching message was to make better choices and change perspectives in order to be so; the direct message that came through loud and clear was that some things you cannot change right away but work very hard in smart consistent ways to be a better person every day. (Find contentment.) She did this through love and kindness (and she was tough too; believe me!), teaching us balance by how she lived her life everyday in the choices she made and the words she spoke. Words mattered a lot to her. She was self-confident and humble.

Being content means not desiring that which is another's; it's finding your own balance. We need not desire the qualities or things of another. (As the Apostle Paul said, "All things are yours.") I, for one, never have such a desire, whether physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. I am forever pleased with me and work daily to be the best person I can be. Appreciating, honoring, and respecting others is very important through acknowledgment and deference. But I never see myself as desirous of another. The very thought of desiring what is another's may indeed spur greed, conflict, depression, the lack of self-worth, obesity, anorexia, addition and compulsion.

(The thoughts here came from a great discussion on Tom Peters' blog. Check out the post and comments. You may find them interesting.)

Being Live on Saturday Night

Here is "Rachel Maddow" interviewing "Governor Blagojevich" and "Roland Burris." Some lines are not so funny, but some are quite funny indeed. You may think differently; humor's like that.