Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Being Two-Faced

The famous bust of Queen Neferetti, the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, has two faces. German researchers discovered this. Isn't it fascinating the discoveries of ancient civilizations?

Human nature, though, has not changed much. Vanity remains. The discovery may also point to posterity. For this sake there may be a more desirable image for the royal sculptors, more Western perhaps.

According to the Associated Press "the differences between the faces, though slight — creases at the corners of the mouth, a bump on the nose of the stone version — suggest to Dr. Alexander Huppertz, director of the Imaging Science Institute at Berlin's Charite hospital and medical school, that someone expressly ordered the adjustments between stone and stucco when royal sculptors immortalized the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten 3,300 years ago."

The finding also made me consider our notion of beauty. Was a slight bump of the nose and a few lines less than perfect for such a queen? Who ordered the changes?

Being First Families III

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in London today for the G-20 summit. There is a lot of buzz about the First Couple. I thought it odd that President Sarkozy was huffing and puffing and threatening to walk out of the G-20 summit if certain regulation policies are not met. Why announce it? Simply head back to France,though probably not without fanfare. He does appear to be a bit temperamental.

Is there a little competition here with the striking leader of the G-20 from across the pond? I also thought it odd that President Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni, who was a hit in Britain last year and noted for her beauty and style but not her compassion, intelligence and down to earth quality (not that she's lacking in these attributes particularly), will not be accompanying her husband. Hmmm? Afraid of being upstaged?

But, oh, we love the French!

Being in the Old Guard V

Listening to Congressman Frank and Senator Orrin Hatch on Squawk Box, a show that I rarely watch, I must admit to having this nagging feeling of slight sickness. The former gentleman more than the latter induced such a feeling as spin is less preferred. Politicians often appear as pundits and not thoughtful advocates. Mr. Frank disparagingly spoke of the media. Arianna Huffington clarified this.

Congressman Frank and Senator Hatch appeared less like advocates for the people. Often times career politicians appear to be merely talking and not thinking. The blame game by Franks was also quite unattractive; he has been in Congress for years and a part of powerful committees. What has he been doing? I did, however, appreciate the mention of Senator Hatch and Senator Kennedy's Serve America Act.

Here is an exchange with Congressman Frank:

John Geanakoplos, the James Tobin Professor of Economics from Yale, made some excellent points about the real estate market. He spoke of the need to lower the principle on homes which helps the bond holder and homeowner. He asserts that the plan to reduce interest by Treasury still does not help the homeowner with his house that will be foreclosed upon.

As one who is directly involved in purchasing foreclosed properties, putting liquidity back into the market with cash purchases and seeing many people being foreclosed upon, the above are appreciated. Geanakoplos' insistence that the administration deal with foreclosures is right on. A bottom up approach is needed also, not the reverse.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Being in Davos II

I posted earlier on Being in Davos and Being at Davos vs TED which included Arianna Huffington. Here is Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the same idyllic setting. Taleb asks why should we socialize the debts and privitize the gains of Wall Street banks?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Being Jill Scott

Live your life! Listen not to the haters!

Jill Scott is awesome! What a voice! What spirit! I'm now watching her new series, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on HBO. She is such a natural. I hope the show succeeds.

Being GM VI

The White House and Congress can both look like a big sad joke at times, whether under the past or present administrations. (Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers still don't sit well with me, even after Geithner's appearance on various talks shows today. In fact, he has caused me to wonder even more. I know he can't be stupid; so, he's probably not trustworthy.) How can they be taken seriously with the best interest of the people at heart with such double standards? Excuse me, I'm livid!

According to the Associated Press, the CEO of GM, Rick Wagoner, has been asked by the White House to step down. He will do so immediately. Now, I wonder how many in the White House administration and Congress will do the honorable thing and step down before we allow them to issue one more brown cent?

GM, Chrysler and the UAW have been asked to make major concessions before receiving a bailout. OK. But what annoys me is that there seems to be a double standard when it comes to companies that make products and those that merely shuffle paper.

Hundreds of billions were given to Wall Street banks and AIG which siphoned billions, to the likes of Goldman Sachs which received $12.9 billion and some 30 plus billion to Barclays in London and Deutsche Bank in Germany. Some $168 billion went to AIG alone. A total of about $17.4 billion went to GM and Chrysler.

Yeah, don't mention to me that AIG has a new CEO, the hand picked former board member of Goldman Sachs, Edward Liddy.

Being Sylvia Plath

I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize me senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality.

--Sylvia Plath

Is this the existential fear--that of being irrelevant, neutral?

Being GM V

Over the past few weeks I have been noticing a variety of GM cars on the road that have caught my attention. From sports cars to family vehicles to SUV's, I'm really liking what I see.

Being from Detroit and having seven brothers some things grab my attention in ways that some might not think typical. I have always loved cars. Check these out, ranging in division, style and price.

Cadillac CT Coupe 2009

Chevy Impala 2009

Saturn Vue Hybrid 2009

Chevrolet Camaro 2009

I can only imagine that GM sales will increase.

Being in Blackface VIII

Michael Steele is a buffon. As if his recent comments regarding his previous statements being a part of some grand strategic plan (Yeah, right!) wasn't enough, Steele now says that he's done reaching out to the President.

Why would the President of the United States reach out to such a one? Steele is completely irrelevant to the many crises our country face here and abroad. He is purely a partisan political figurehead. Michael Steele probably does not even enter the mind of President Obama.

Steele is an utter embarassement. I would that he not even speak. But here goes...


STEELE: Look, I like the president personally, even though I think he has got a little thing about me, that I haven't quite figured out what that is.

CNN: You haven't spoken to him?

CNN: You've reach out?
STEELE: Several times, and I'm done.

CNN: So there is no bipartisanship going on there?
STEELE: Not, not that I know of.

CNN: Is there any professional jealousy?
STEELE: Not on my part. What would I be jealous of?

CNN: He's the president of the United States.
STEELE: I'm chairman of the RNC, so, what's your point? We both have leadership responsibilities and roles. I'm not equating the two. My point is: you are on your track. I'm on my track. You do your thing. I do my thing.

Being Arianna Huffington VI

This Tuesday morning on CNBC's Squawk Box from 7-9 Arianna Huffington will be the guest host. The show will feature Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Nouriel Roubini, and Congressman Barney Frank. Maybe this will begin the process of resuscitating CNBC's tattered image. After the Jon Stewart evisceration of CNBC's financial analysts, we all know they need it. Arianna Huffington's piece on Jon Stewart's interview with Jim Cramer and John King's interview with Dick Cheney is great.

The Huffington Post article can be read here. Brilliant comparisons are made between the Jon Stewart and John King interviews. Squawk Box this Tuesday promises to be interesting with both professionalism and punch. While the intentions and knowledge of Huffington, Taleb and Roubini my be trusted, the same may not be said of Barney Frank. I tend to distrust politicians generally. Senator Chris Dodd (D) and Senator Richard Shelby (R) would be among these. Neither would get my vote if I were constituents in theirs states.

I have some thoughts about Congress and some questions for Congressman Frank. Has the Federal Reserve become a hindrance to a viable democratic capitalistic system where there should be checks and balances? The Fed does not have absolute power! Not only has the Federal Reserve failed us, but Congress too in their lack of oversight of the Fed—instead there appears to have been, rightly or wrongly, collusion in regulating these big American banks with ties with hedge funds and the likes of Barclays in London and Deutsche Bank in Germany.

This week Treasury Secretary Geithner asked that the Treasury be given more power to regulate some companies, namely those such as AIG, and perhaps GE, who are not banks but behave as such. To give the Federal Reserve more power seems like a sick solution. How do you give more power to those who have utterly failed the American people who seem bent on a global imperialistic financial agenda to concentrate wealth among the few in the world? JP Morgan, the founder, was astute at this kind of global financial focus many years back shortly after the Civil War.

There is no surprise that Wall Street bankers are arrogant and self-centered. Although JP Morgan served the US well with his financing of Thomas Edison, and his investments in infrastructure, big banking seems to have been conceived out of arrogance and dominance, the necessity of centralized global power in banking. Some may assert that it is simply human nature. OK. Regulation is then mandatory, perhaps the kind that is revisited for efficacy and maintained for stability.

As a member of Congress how is it that Congress' oversight of the Federal Reserve went completely unwatched? For many yeas Alan Greenspan was instead a revered demigod of sorts with Congress shaking its heads in agreement to everything he proposed. I have written here on Being Alan Greenspan that included a scathing critique by Bill Flickenstein. He has written of Greenspan often, beginning some years back. Mr. Flickenstein provided more oversight over the past years than members of Congress on the right, left and center. They, by and large, seem to have their self-interest at heart, one that seems to go straight to the heart of campaign financing in order to keep their "illustrious" civil servant careers.

I hope that Mr. Frank will have to answer hard-hitting questions, perhaps from those coming from the people. While Arianna Huffington never seems to shy away from hard-hitting questions for all sides, Democrats and Republicans, I also understand that polticially sometimes it is not always the platform, especially considering certain shows on certain networks work, not to mention the rescuitation of CNBC. My very wealthy Republican partner said that since Taleb and Roubini will be on Squawk Box with Huffington that he will sell short on Tuesday. As one who does not take tips from anyone, he took Huffington's guest appearance on Squawk Box with Taleb and Roubini as Tuesday tip. That was funny! Truth generates short-selling.

I'm really looking forward to the show on Tuesday. Maybe Huffington should have a show every Tuesday. It would be great to have a finance show that addresses critical issues and how decisions made by government and private coroporations affect the masses. The perfect storm seems to have been created in that the masses were duped, though not without culpability with the complicit will of Congress through legislation and the creation policy for the likes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to accept mortgages so that individuals and Wall Street banks could collect billions of dollars in fees beforehand and a bailout thereafter.
These are some of the questions and thoughts that I'd like to see addressed when Arianna Huffington hosts Squawk Box this Tuesday. What would you like answered or what comments would you make?

Being Think Tanks and Institutes

Watching C-Span this morning confirmed my long-held belief that think tanks and institutes are aligned to prove their particular political agenda on an array of issues from the military to education to foreign policy etc.

The scholarship of these organizations does not seem to be to disprove their ideology, which is the basis of relevant factual understanding, but to propagate their particular agenda to align sources who agree. Agreement then becomes the vehicle to sway government and public opinion for particular outcomes.

Come to think of it, is this what scholarship is, the effort to approve ideology as opposed to disproving it? Perhaps to some degree this is what science is too and the reason for procedures and medicines that are later proven to be harmful. Maybe this is the wrong kind of thinking for think tanks and institutes. Maybe we should try the opposite--disproving our ideology and agenda.

Is the motive for research than influenced by our agenda, our particular biases and opinions? Does this affect outcomes?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Being Transgender

When I was working on my PhD I met Clara, a brilliant nuclear physicist who also had a degree in electrical engineer and was working for one of the Big Three. This was an English theory class offered in the evening which focused on the works of great philosophers. Clara never missed a class and she was quite an impressive figure, both intellectually and physically.

I was drawn to Clara immediately because her mind was quick and her questions penetrating. She stood 6' 2" with a ruddy complexion, auburn hair and a voice that was slightly on the rough side. We got on fine. During breaks I would find her and we'd talk. After class we'd walk out together, talking about stuff, mainly class material but never personal matters.

One day about half way through the semester she asked if I would be "willing" to meet her for lunch the next day. There was something that she wanted to tell me. "Sure," I said. "You pick the restaurant," she replied with the biggest smile. "OK," I said.

As I got into my car, my heart sank. Oh, God, I thought, what does she want to tell me? Is she interested in a relationship with me? I assumed she was gay. But I didn't worry about it. The next afternoon we met at a popular spot near my house.

We arrived at the restaurant at the same time and walked in together. As the hostess took us to our table, we got tons of gawks; people began whispering as we passed. This angered me incredibly. I drew Clara to me and told her that it was good to see her. She smiled and embraced me midway to our table. There! As Bonnie Rait says, "Let's give them something to talk about. Let's give them something to figure out. Let's give them something to talk about. How about love?"

I ordered salmon salad. She did not eat. The conversation went like this:

"I want to share something with you."
(I looked at her with the most compassionate I could
give, thinking that people must stare at her all the
time. It's funny. I never saw what others might have
seen until that afternoon.)
"I am transgender. My name used to be Charles...
(Wow! That never even occurred to me.)
"I hope that's OK."
"Everything is alright."
"My insides hurt. My emotions are a wreck. I have to
take many pills daily. I'm sick of swallowing. My
family is in a mess; my wife has been great throughout
this, but she's not well. My children, especially my
son, are in bad shape."
"Where does he live?"
"With us. But he needs to find his own place. I told
him that I'd pay for wherever he'd like to go. But he's
afraid or something."
"How is your relationship?"
"It's good. But my change has affected him."
"Is he seeing someone?"
"Yes, for some years now. He's a good boy."
"I have a friend who owns a lot of houses; I'd be
happy to see what she has available."
"Oh, thank you."
"Does he want to be near campus?'
"That would be good. I'll pop in often."
"OK. I'll check with her."
"Thank you, Judith. My life is a mess. It's
been 10 years now. My wife is so good."
"What a woman!"
"My family is very wealthy and I visit them
occasionally on the East Coast. But we've never
been a close family. I spent my life with
nannies and at boarding schools."
"Are you seeing someone?"
"Yes, I have been seeing various psychiatrists for years,
before and after the surgery."
"Well, that's good."
"My body is completely out of sorts. I am so sorry I
did this. I thought that I was in pain then. The pain is
unbearable now. I don't think I will live."
"You shall live and not die!"
"It hurts so bad."
(I tried to contain my emotions as she spoke further, but
tears rolled down my cheeks uncontrollably.)
"I don't know."
"I love you, Clara. God loves you too. He sees who you are
and you are very, very dear to Him."
"Thank you so very much for that, Judith."

We were together for a few hours that afternoon and by the end of our conversation I could tell that she was feeling better. I gave her the biggest hug ever as we walked to our cars. She said, "ouch." That made both of us laugh.

When I saw her the following week in class, not much had changed. She still offered her brilliant comments and thought-provoking questions. But I noticed something about her voice that was slightly different. There was a noticeable smile there.

There is nothing like the love and support of others. Give love away.

Being Nassim Nicholas Taleb IX

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, has simple solutions to "save capitalism from the banks." Click here and read how.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Being Ludwig van Beethoven

Happy Spring!

Being Senator Charles Grassely

Senator Charles Grassely (R-Iowa) is obviously ill-suited to be a senator. If his call for Wall Street bankers to commit suicide last week was not enough, his disrespectful comment regarding the wife of Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D) lets us know that this guy has a serious problem.

Did he forget where he was? This was a congressional hearing and not the men's locker room. Perhaps this says something greater about the disrespect of women by some men. It's unfortunate that many are probably in positions of power. I don't know much about Senator Grassely's voting record, but with this kind of heartless and disrespectful language it wouldn't matter much. He would not likely get my vote.

Being President Barack Obama VII

Donned in a red tie and a serious demeanor President Obama announced his plan to deploy an additional 4,000 support troupes to Afghanistan in addition to the 17,000 combat and support troupes already planned for deployment.

While the plan is to dismantle the Taliban and its militant Al Qaeda supporters, nation building in such an already destabilized country will most certainly be a part of the U.S. presence there. How can it not?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Being John Hope Franklin

"We also learn that this country and the Western world have no monopoly of goodness and truth and scholarship, we begin to appreciate the ingredients that are indispensable to making a better world. In a life of learning that is, perhaps, the greatest lesson of all."

-- John Hope Franklin

Last year at the Dallas airport a distinguished elderly gentleman walked towards me with such spry that he captured my attention. I admired him immediately for the elegance of his gate, the pride in his step and the quickness of his pace.

As the gentleman came closer and closer, I recognized him as the great historian, John Hope Franklin. I did not say anything, but I smiled the biggest smile. He smiled back, nodding in the fashion of distinguished gentlemen of his era, as with hat in hand.

John Hope Franklin passed yesterday at the age of 94.

Today, I honor him.

Being a Democratic President

Whether the president is a Democrat or Republican he or she needs to speak directly to the people and hear directly from the people. President Barack is doing this by with his Online Town Hall. By going directly to the people instead of hearing from their representatives alone, democracy is being championed. Why should the voices of the people be funnelled and interpreted through their representatives in Congress alone?

In conversations like President Obama's Online Town Hall this is what's occurring. The people are hearing their president directly and he is hearing them. This is democracy. President Obama's Online Town Hall is democratic. The people are being heard: young, old, rich, poor, male, female, veterans, soliders, students, professionals, entrepreneurs, black, white, brown, yellow and red. President Obama is a democratic president. Democracy so enacted is a beautiful thing.

Being at a Crossroad

America is at a crossroad. The Wall Street crisis and the responsibility place on average Americans in what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls, "socializing debt and privatizing gain," must not continue. President Obama was elected to bring change; let's hope that change is initiated on Wall Street and in Washington.

There is no doubt that we will get change; we don't expect one of the greatest entrepreneurial countries of the world to fail. It won't. The recession will end; markets will turn around. But we may not get fundamental change where power structures on Wall Street and in Washington are shaken to the core and actually turn directions.

Talking to one of my brothers last night, he reminded me of the very real necessity of being behind the President Obama and supporting his agenda, like those designed by Timothy Geithner, who allowed this collapse under his watch as the President of the New York Fed and Larry Summers who allowed deregulation under President Clinton supported by Republicans such as Phil Graham.

My brother, though rather conservative now, began as a real lefty in the late 60's and early 70's. As I listened to him I could hear in his voice the respect and love that he has for the President on so many levels. I have the same respect and love but I admit to being annoyed at what is occuring. Do we expect too much from one man as we did with Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Martin Luther King,Jr.?

President Obama is probably simply being judicial. Do we not realize the political web and the necessity of picking battles and aligning with enemies? As I was railing against Geithner and Summers, my brother took another position. he took another position. "Judith, we can't let President Obama fail," he calmly said in softly spoken tones toward the end of our hour-long conversation. There was a hush on the line.

These words reverberated in my mind again and again as I prepared for bed at some 2:30 in the morning. Should we support our president as many supported past presidents to our detriment? Maybe the politically correct thing is to lie low and let some things settle.

While things may get better for us, as glimmers of hope begin to emerge, I really wonder about the possibility of real change. While I totally support the President, I'm not feeling incredibly optimistic about Geithner and Summers when it comes to the change we need for long-term sustainability. This crisis can't be wasted.

America is at a crossroads. Will we demand change or simply want an increase in our 401Ks? Can we have both?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst VI

While watching President Obama's press conference yesterday evening, I was struck by his customary calm and thoughtful responses. I was also, as many others, struck immediately by the tone of Ed Henry's question, let alone the question itself, even outright bringing the President's daughters directly into the conversation.

In a two-part question about New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, Ed Henry, CNN's Washington Correspondent, questioned whether President Obama's reaction to the AIG bonuses was feigned or not, and asked why the Office of the President was doing nothing while Attorney General Cuomo's office was doing all the work. The question to me was bordering disrespectful, but if asked another way without the reference to his daughters, perhaps not.

The President responded calmly as is his nature. "Of course I do, Ed," President Obama replied. "Which is why we're doing everything we can to reduce that deficit. . . ." "This is hard," he added, especially as he was given a 1.3 trillion dollar yearly deficit. The President also spoke of the need to reduce health care cost and reform education. But this was not enough for Henry, as he appeared to be on a mission to either look smart, get a rise, or openly shame the President.

Since President Obama did not respond verbally to Henry's earlier question that pitted the Office of the President against the Office of the Attorney General of New York, Henry pressed the issue. Although the President did not respond verbally, there was definitely a slight dismissive smile. But Henry would not be denied. He would leave there with the answer he wanted or his achieved intention.

Henry pressed the issue, asking why the President waited so long to respond to which he was promptly put in his place: "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak," he replied, with a look of steal that quickly dissolved as he called upon the next questioner. There was laughter among the reporters. The long shot of Henry shortly after the exchange revealed a somewhat dejected reporter. I suppose he will not try that tactic again--at least not with this President.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Being an Idealist

While visiting a blog that I love, Khaled KEM, I came across a wonderful quote:

"I am an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on the way."

--Carl Sandburg

Is our insistence upon knowing every detail of our journey a hindrance to our arrival?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Being Trash

Tammy Bruce called the First Lady "trash" and pretended as if she did not understand the disparity that Michelle Obama spoke of when black kids in the inner city speak properly and are labeled white.

The First Lady is explaining to kids who live in the inner city the importance of getting their grades and not being daunted by others no matter what is said about them. It is a very important message for these kids to hear, especially from her.

To the encouraging words of the First Lady to these kids that were so blessed to have heard them, Tammy Bruce says, "Man, oh, man. That's who he's married to? Do you know what we have in the White House? We have trash in the White House."

How do these people get shows or sit in for other people who have such shows? Do you ever remember any First Lady ever being called "trash?" Do you ever remember such disrespect spoken about the wife of the President and mother of his children? In fact, the implication here is that the President too is "trash."

Who is married to Tammy Bruce? What a daily nightmare this must be. Does she have children? What life-lessons is she teaching them? What kind of people are they? The President has a most beautiful family. One of the things the President said in the recent "60 Minutes" interview was that he is glad that his children have remained their same non-pretentious selves.

We have beautiful thoughtful considerate people in the White House.

Being a Borrower

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

--Proverbs 22:7

Considering this scripture, I wonder where the borrower will now find itself. Wall Street banks have borrowed from the masses, many the working poor and those others in the middle who are increasingly becoming the working poor. But the only difference here is that the rich still rule as seen in the trillions given to the borrowers that targeted sub-prime loans.

Will these Wall Street banks now serve the poor? They are the borrower. Credit default swaps and sub-prime loans, whether given by Wall Street banks or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were not serving the working poor. They were lining their pockets with billions in fees and now billions of taxpayer money, maintaining the rich and suppressing the poor.

This global financial crisis seems like a designed perfect storm for the rich to become richer and the poor to become poorer. Who is the poor? If you're not in the league of these Wall Street and AIG executives, relatively speaking, YOU'RE poor. You're being ruled over.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Being Dolly Parton

I have always been a huge fan of Dolly Parton, not only for her clear voice, wonderful writing, acting ability, and business acumen, but for her nonsense honest approach to life.

Although Whitney Houston made Parton's song, "I Will Always Love You," famous, I love her version even more. There's a fragile beauty about her version that's so incredibly heartfelt; there is no tonal modulation, no melodrama.

Here is a quote that I came across today that is quintessentially her.

"I am not offended by dumb-blonde jokes, because I’m not dumb – and I know I’m not blonde."

--Dolly Parton

Being Eliot Spitzer II

So, did Eliot Spitzer have to go down?

Being Liz Smith, The Queen of Gossip

When I lived in New York the book, Natural Blonde, came out by the iconic gossip columnist of the New York Post, Liz Smith. I was so impressed with the book's tone and clear voice that I popped Smith a note. To my complete surprise she answered the note and we had several exchanges thereafter. We had hoped to meet for lunch but her schedule and mine did not afford this opportunity. I was soon off for Australia for nearly a year.

In a recent interview in "Newsweek" Liz Smith, this 86 year respected columinst and AIDS charity fundraiser, tells of her firing from the New York Post without an offer of a buyout. Instead, the Post told her to "get out." Reading this gave me further reason for disgust of this paper. The Sean Delonas cartoon depicting the murder of the President did not endear me to the Post either. When I lived in New York I never read the New York Post and will most certainly not subscribe or read it now for sure.

This Queen of Gossip is from the old school. There is fairness and intrigue in her writing, an ethical journalistic voice that many newspapers and magazines, entertainment ones or not, do not have. Liz Smith now writes for Wowowow. I shall read her there. Here's some of the "Newsweek" interview above:

How did you feel about those outlets that announced information prematurely?

These rushes to judgment are typical when people are so desperate for the latest news. People abandon their journalistic standards of being sure. We all have to be more careful.

Has celebrity culture changed?

Our economic problems have forced us to concentrate on important things. I hope we've given up our demonic interest in people emerging from Starbucks with their coffee and they're supposed to be famous and they're not. Fame to me is somebody with some worth.

Is Paris Hilton famous?

She's definitely known. And I liked her hamburger commercial. But I don't think she's a talented person.

Bravissima, Liz Smith! You're awesome at 86!

And you look marvelous!

Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst V

On "Real Time With Bill Maher" Keith Olbermann said that Glen Beck is "nuts." I can't disagree with this; he definitely does not seem to be well, the hype for ratings aside. But I must admit to laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks when on "Fox and Friends" Beck said to the host, "Gretchen, name the monster. There are more of us than there are of them." Uh...yeah!

Here are other highlights:

"We don't in the country recognize evil anymore...We are a country heading towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination...I wanted to debunk these FEMA camps...I can't debunk them...If you trust our government, it's fine. If you have any kind of fear that we might be heading to a total totalitarian state, look out, buckle up; there's something going on in our country that is...ain't good."

Beck is obviously off his rocker; while I laugh aloud, it's actually sad that he has a show, as some might take him seriously. Rupert Murdock and the producers of his show should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such a wingnut to have a platform.

Being for Bonuses

Bonuses should be discretionary and not only performance-based, AIG bonuses aside; there was no discretion there and apparantly no performance either. I can see giving a bonus for effort and encouragement. In fact, I have done this often.

It's like when I was growing up. My sister could have done a better job than I, but because my mother wanted to encourage me, I got the reward. Also, we could have done the exact same thing equally as well and she would get the reward.

As the leader of our family my mother understood what was needed, even when at the time I did not—though I thought I did. What was important was the continual effort on my sister and my part to give our best always which would benefit the whole household. When I benefited, all benefited. But all may not have received a reward--irrespective to our excellent effort or not.

Succinctly put, leadership is key with regards to discretion and how it is explained to all essential. Bonuses are good and should be both discretionary and performance-based.

Being a Blogger II

Recently, I read this very thoughtful comment by a blogger on the Huffington Post by a Marion Watts, an American living in the UK:

I live in the UK, where AIG is primarily known as the sponsor of Manchester United, the country's best-known soccer team and one of the wealthiest franchises in the world, which also happens to be owned by Malcolm Glazier, who's the owner of the Tampa Bay Bucs. What concerns me, as an American living abroad, who pays taxes on both sides of the Pond, is the fact that, a lot of these bonuses went to AIG's satellite investors, who are amongst the big investment banks in the City of London. We hear daily here about exorbitant 7-figure bonuses some of these City whizzkids get and how they flaunt them with their bling-bling parties. And what annoys me further, here in the UK, is that the Brit Treasury intends to do Sweet Fanny Adams about confronting the crisis facing their own economy, instead wishing to ride along on the US coattails, expecting Obama to bail them out. Funny, how under George Bush, we were the pariahs of the Western World; now Obama's everyone's President with a solution to everyone's problems. Fact is AIG is as greedy as the next unregulated enterprise on Wall Street. Big bonuses are common. The company was, effectively, nationalised, and you'd think they would have had more common sense than to use what amounts to public money to reward overpaid employees for a substandard performance."
What has Britain and other Western countries done? I haven't followed much what Britain or the EU is doing. But it does look at first glance that the West is waiting for movement from the United States in order to correct their own situation. (That may be somewhat of an exaggeration.) I guess this is the lot of leaders and perhaps the trouble with some aspects of globalization. Is the responsibility of a leader to bear the bulk of the calamity, while others do what?

President Obama on The Tonight Show spoke of setting up another system for a securitized market. Arianna Huffington speaks of bolstering credit unions. They are healthy. I like it. This is great but it still seems to not address Wall Street banks that could land us here again. I'm assuming further plans will follow, but faith in the economic team is waning, especially when we consider that those who got us in this mess are now navigating us through it.

AIG paid millions of bonuses to British AIGers where Manchester United, a sports franchise where US Malcolm Glazer holds the controlling interest, probably gets more than "t-shirt" sponsorship. Even if so, we can be assured that the sponsorship is well in the multiple upon multiple millions.

Because millions in bonuses went to a British AIG subsidiary where a great many credit default swaps occurred, the proposed 90% tax will not be assessed. There is also, of course, the many creditors such as Barclays that got billions of taxpayer dollars.

This is our global economy. Wouldn't you chose an insurance company like AIG over a British one or any others when it can be assured that such an American company will be too big to fail and taxpayers will step in?

Here's Times Online:

"Most of the bonuses went to the financial products unit responsible for creating the exotic derivatives known as credit default swaps that caused AIG's near-collapse. Many of those are British employees based in London. It also emerged that $7 billion of the US bailout money was paid to Barclays, a creditor."

Here's Bloomberg:

"The legislation wouldn't attempt to impose the tax on foreign employees of companies such as AIG," said Ways and Means Committee spokesman Matthew Beck. "Many of AIG's bonus recipients work in the London office of the credit-default swap unit."

Is the responsibility of a leader to bear the bulk of the calamity, while others do what? This unknown blogger, Marion Watts, addresses some very thoughtful points in her post that made me consider a few things.

Thanks Marion!

Being Inspired by Others

May God bless you, each and every one.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Being Arianna Huffington V

Here is Arianna Huffington On "Morning Joe." If I had not been browsing the HuffPost, I would have missed this interview altogether. This show has become a must not see for me.

Armed with a master's degree in business from Oxford, Arianna's common sense take on Wall Street banks and credit unions makes a lot of sense. She does not hold the President's opinion on the Treasury Secretary.

The fact that Secretary Geithner had direct influence over Citigroup as the President of the New York Fed can't be overlooked, not to mention that Edward Liddy, the CEO of AIG, said under oath last week that Treasury was in on every decision of the contract. This includes the bonuses for AIG that everyone in the administration and Congress is shocked about.

"Toxic thinking," said Arianna, "is worse than toxic assets." This is her reason for calling on the removal of Geithner, Summers, et al. I have to say that I do not disagree with her.

Being Proven

Once in a difficult season, I was having a conversation with my brother, Rob. He said four words that were life-altering.

I wanted to know how would I know if things would get better. He looked at me and smiled the biggest smile and said...

"Faith is the proof."

Keep the faith!

Being a Poet II

The legitimacy of the pen, the illegitimacy of thought, though they are owned, nonetheless, transferred into poems no matter the content or form.

This is the life of a poet.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Being a "Slumdog" Kid III

These beautiful talented kids, Rubina Ali and Mohammed Azharuddin Ismail, of "Slumdog Millionaire" walked the catwalk during Delhi's Fashion Week.

While they are most adorable and talented, I find it incredibly sad that these kids will go back to their slums as they did after the movie premier. Are these kids being exploited?

Being Inspired

Inspiration is not about speaking to what exists; negativity is often evident. It's about redefining situations and giving hope.

Being on The Tonight Show II

On "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" President Obama said that the AIG executives felt "entitled" to bonuses. The usage of this word got me thinking about how we used to hear a lot about welfare mothers feeling entitled to government benefits. Remember that? I liked the word for it conjures up images of these mostly men in suits on Wall Street and in AIG as welfare receiptients.

A major distinction is that welfare mothers could not harm the U.S. and world economies like these guys have and neither would they feel entitled to receive bonuses for doing nothing to change their situation to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars after having been given hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts.

Many of these Wall Street and AIG executives are welfare receipts and should be kicked off the welfare rolls, not to mention many senators and congressmen in Washington who performance is tantamount to a sense of entitlement.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being Eliot Spitzer

Pesonal sordid sex scandals have never really held incredible interest for me. While I am an advocate for integrity and honesty and believe that how we live our lives matter, we all have personal failures and at any time we may need to ask forgiveness from our loved ones and the community at large.

For this reason, I was not particularly interested in the Spitzer prostitution scandal. If I'm remembering correctly, his undoing was personal and did not include impropriety as the Governor of New York. What I hoped for then and now is for Eliot Spitzer and family to be made whole as they work through a most difficult time. It's been a year and they seem to be healing. Let's hope so.

Now, what does have incredible interest for me is Spitzer's appearance on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this afternoon. During the interview, I was particularly struck by the comment that the red herrig is the AIG bonuses instead of focusing on the "12.9 billion dollars" paid to Goldman Sachs the same company where President Bush's Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, was CEO. The $168 billion dollar bailout to AIG was given and Bear Stearns was allowed to fail.

Timothy Geithner, as the former President of the New York Federal Reserve, is also under a cloud of suspicion. Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Noureil Roubini assert that those who were a part of the financial crisis, Geithner et al, could not possibly now manage it. Nassim Taleb and Nouriel Roubini, including Arianna Huffington, have all said that the same people who got us in this mess cannot get us out of it. It's not looking good. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but is it coincidental that the sex scandal with Spitzer came out at such an opportune time?

Being a Living Testament

We are living testaments. Words matter. But what is our life saying?

Being a Doer

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

--James 1:21-25

It's not enough to hear what needs to be done. We have to do it.

Goodness and success follow.

What are we doing daily?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Being Nassim Nicholas Taleb VIII

Nassim Nicholas Taleb addresses some very important issues in an interview with CNBC. I have written more than a few posts on this brilliant thinker. His book, The Black Swan, is the single most important book that I read last year followed by Enough by
John Bogle.

In this interview Taleb and Nouriel Roubini make some great points. The only problem is that the newscasters' questions and responses are glib and idiotic. It's as if they want to tag team and simply hear themselves speak, repeating "witty" dimwit ditties.

Taleb and Roubini make their points nonetheless.

Here are some of Taleb's highlights:

*Those who did not see the crisis coming in government should be out of there.
*Those responsible should not only be punished but removed from office.
*Bernanke did not see the risk coming.
*Bernanke should not be the Fed Chairman.
*Bankers who got us here are still around and we're giving them more money.
*Unless we do something drastic we are not going to pull out of this.
*The responsible people, need only be punished, but out of there.
*The dependence on debt needs to be eliminated.
*You cannot trust someone making a bonus and handling risks.
*Society pays for this risk. This can't be.
*We need to de-leverage massively.
*Build robustness by eliminating debt.
*Change the culture, maybe change the system too.
*This class of people, i.e., Geithner et al, can't manage this problem.
*Geithner et al have failed before and they will fail again.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Nouriel Roubini should be advising President Obama.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Being Arianna Huffington IV

On "Larry King Live" Arianna Huffington said of the banks that "it's not about liquidity; it's about solvency." This statement rang incredibly true. But I also wonder that with a company like AIG, where we have already invested over $165 billion dollars, if their failure would have even greater consequences. Arianna also called for the removal of Geithner and Summers.

Prior to the President's arrival, Geithner was a part of the Fed before his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury and Summers, President Clinton's last Secretary of Treasury, was an advocate of deregulation. By the way, where are Senators Dodd (D) and Shelby (R)? Weren't they intimately involved in the AIG contract as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs?

Being St. Patrick

"Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall."

--St. Patrick

Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst IV

As you might have guessed from my recent posts, I have not watched much cable news lately. But this morning I ventured to turn on the morning news shows and my immediate distaste returned. Flipping between more than a few channels, my ears peeked when some pundit said, "the President hasn't found his voice." Says who? You? This was in response to a discussion about his upcoming appearance on Jay Leno. (Please see my recent posts, Being on Jay Leno and Being Snubbed)

There was also some talk about what Ronald Reagan would have said had he delivered such a speech about AIG. President Reagan would have been oh so much better. What's the matter with these people? President Obama is not Ronald Reagan or anyone else for the matter with a set of circumstances like none others. What these increasingly irrelevant voices need to do to regain some relevance is to concentrate on facts and not give their personal opinions. Do we really care what any of these guys think?

The biggest problem that I see is that those of the old guard, whether pundit or politician, simply do not get it. President Obama does not seem to be terribly concerned about what they think by and large, especially when they simply refuse to think about things differently. Their egos are so large that they are in a fight for him to acknowledge them; in fact, many are in a fight for their very existence, politician, pundit or network. Many have simply become irrelevant, but are fighting for relevancy without a message that matters.

President Obama's very presence seems like an affront to their very sense of being and knowing. They are the ones who seem like they have lost their footing. They want to talk about silly stuff and fail when it's time to address serious stuff. When given the opportunity as CNN's John King's had with the former Vice-President Dick Cheney, we really see what newscasters are made of. King was putty in the former Vice President's hands. Jon Stewart would have been a far better interviewer.

Arianna Huffington makes the above point brilliantly in a recent article on the Huffington Post. I too would that Jon Stewart would have interviewed the former Vice-President. But, of course, Vice President Cheney would have never appeared on such a show; there would be no unwarranted reverence. John King was silenced in such an ominous presence; his inability as a first rate interviewer was revealed. Stewart would have been brilliant. Do read Arianna's article above. It's very thoughtful indeed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Being on The Tonight Show

President Obama will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Thursday. He will be the first sitting president to appear on a late night talk show. I can just hear the serious media talking heads now. Why would he do such a thing? He's the President of the United States!

While many presidential candidates appear on late night talk shows during campaigns, perhaps the forum once elected as president is beneath them. The meeting places would now only include gilded offices with swivel leather chairs.

But President Obama's style is a bit more relaxed and he seems to desire to be with the people where they are. He is the president of all the people and wherever the people orderly congregate he seems to want to be. I like his style.

Being Snubbed

President Obama has turned down a formal invitation by Gridiron Club, "a society of Washington reporters, columnists, and bureau chiefs," to an event that every president since Glover Cleveland has attended in their first year as president. Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune said:

"People feel uncommonly saddened, miffed and burned. I don’t think he understands the implications of not coming to the club in the first year. It’s not your ordinary state dinner. I think it would be helpful for him and his relations with the Washington establishment to come to the club."
President Obama understands exactly what he's doing. Many probably would not necessarily like to appear with many of those who will be in attendance at this function in tails and gowns when people are losing their homes and retirements. While the official report is that the President is too busy, I think there may be other reasons as well.

Firstly, there isn't much to celebrate in traditional media these days. Secondly, these media types have been so powerful and exclusive for so many years, perhaps it is time to think anew about the media and Washington. Maybe it's time to broaden the club. It was not by accident that President Obama called on a reporter from the Huffington Post at his first prime time press conference.

While the Gridiron Club may feel snubbed "uncommonly saddened, miffed and burned" that President Obama will not be in attendance at their dinner, perhaps they should take this time to look at the state of the media and reporting and re-group thereafter. Oh, one other thing, Mr. Page's analogy of this dinner versus a State dinner leaves me cold. It is not like the Gridiron Club includes everyday people. The President sees the likes of the media often.

President Obama should be applauded for his concentration on what's most important during this very difficult time for many Americans and for his independent streak. Now, let's see if there will be a backlash from the media.

Being Talented

AIG pays bonuses of some $165 million to executives and derivatives traders who have all but bankrupted the company. Are these talented? Even though President Obama said that his administration would "pursue every legal avenue to block their bonuses," it may be a mute matter as former Treasury Secretary Paulson allowed such bonuses in the first administration of the TARP passed last year. The agreement made between the government and AIG is legally binding. It looks like this industry, and its government supporters at all costs, even to that of the taxpayers, both lack talent and ethics.

Being a Dittohead

In an article in the Washington Post conservative columnist, Kathleen Parker, questions whether Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads have been the cause of the decline in newspapers. This seems like a huge stretch, eh?

Parker questions Limbaugh's constant attacks on the media which is then propagated by his listeners and repeated again and again, with bringing down newspaper. She posits that this is done essentially by one prominent voice being repeated endlessly by dittoheads. Does this give one man too much power and does this power in the mouths of dittoheads actually bare out in the market? I doubt it. Newspapers may be in trouble for their own lack of innovation and narrowness.

Parker credits the freedom of the press with the freedom of an open society, but yet bashes Limbaugh and his dittoheads for their words. Strange, eh? Now, I am not a fan of Limbaugh by any stretch of the imagination. But I do wonder about the efficacy of the argument presented. Parker purports that "the chorus of media bashing from certain quarters has succeeded in convincing many Americans that they don't need newspapers." This she believes would affect local news.

Parker gives a statistic from The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press where "fewer than half of Americans -- 43 percent -- say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community 'a lot.' Only 33 percent say they would miss the local paper if it were no longer available."

Personally, I have not watched local news in years and I rarely read local papers. The view is often eschewed and most local news is terribly bad news, even worse than national news. I sincerely doubt that Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads are the cause of the decline in newspapers. It's probably largely due to the newspapers themselves, not to mention the many various open media sources on the Internet.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Being a Genius

Who is a genius? Some believe in genius a must who visits, others believe that it is born, and still others believe that it is a combination of both. Some think that genius is the subjective nature of opinions. But make no mistake about it, genius, is a collective label and by this notion it is not altogether personally subjective. We don't have to like a piece of art or music or wholly appreciate a technology to recognize the artist or inventor's genius, yet we collectively agree.

For example, we collectively agree that DaVinci was a genius. We collectively agree that Mozart was a genius. We collectively agree that Stephen Hawking is a genius.We collectively agree that George Washington Carver was a genius. We collectively agree that Prince is a genius. We collectively agree that Auguste Rodin was a genius. We collectively agree that Marcel Proust was a genius. We collectively agree that Thelonious Monk was a genius. We collectively agree that Sartre was a genius. We collectively agree that Alexander Pushkin was a genius. We collectively agree that Georgia O'Keeffe was a genius. We collectively agree that Toni Morrison in a genius. We collectively agree that Van Gogh was a genius. We collectively agree that Thomas Edison was a genius.

Genius is not merely subjective; it's collective thought and acceptance. It's also impact, appreciation and value. The interesting thing is that geniuses are not often labeled as such during their lifetime. But it is something that we recognize collectively in spite of particular present or future acknowledgment, individual taste or in-depth knowledge of those who appreciate them. I love the mind of Stephen Hawkings, but some of what he says just blows me over, not only because my background is not physics, but because of his particular perceptions of science and the universe.

By the way, all of the above geniuses stand alone as individuals with repeated brilliant works and discoveries, though more than a few, such as Rodin and Edison, worked so closely with others that here are discrepancies as to who actually created some of their works and inventions. But the muse remained with these, but it would be interesting to think what they thought of their own works. Van Gogh certainly did not think very highly of his works all the time, neither did Mozart or O'Keeffe and many others as their letters reveal.

What are your thoughts on genius? Who else might be included?

Being Hopeful

While watching C-Span this morning, Dana Perino, the former Press Secretary, spoke of her recent work in South Africa with the faith-based organization, Living Hope.

The interview was a reminder on the importance of service and the great work initiated by President Bush to aide the global AIDS crisis.

Hearing the name of the organization, Living Hope, I could not help but ask the question, is there any other kind of hope, save that of the living?

If you have breath, there's hope!

Being Inspired by Others

E N C O R E!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Being on Sesame Street

Being a Poet

"The poet laureate is an Aunt Sally, to be shied at by all the couplets of philistinism and ponce-bashing that the press like to indulge in. Yet poets are not naturally showmen. Poetry is by nature and convention a secret art.

"Poems are coded messages for your eyes only, left under pillows, behind whisky bottles, tied to roses, written in water. There are no regular poetry reviews in cultural magazines, or poetry programmes on the telly.

"Nobody is televising their awards live. Poets fall a long way behind actors and musicians, artists and novelists, for celebrity."

--A.A. Gill

Poets are seers bound by truth. They see and say what others dare not; their value is intrinsic, aligned with their perceptive selves that do not seek the spotlight.

Emily Dickinson

Poets precisely speak truth; their value is intrinsically profound. Whether soft or deep, in a sonnet or haiku, poets speak to us in ways that none others do.

e.e. cummings

In fact, poets are true.

Being Wealthy

"Our wealth is our work."

--Jon Stewart

Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst III

Why Jim Cramer agreed to go on Jon Stewart's show is beyond me.

Jon Stewart is brilliant!

Will Jim Cramer survive? I don't know.

Being First Lady Michelle Obama IV

When my father went away to war my mother also struggled. When he returned after the war she said he was never the same.

Americans, we are blessed to have such a First Lady who supports our troops and their families.

May God bless her and hers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Being President Barack Obama VI

President Obama participated in a Business Roundtable this afternoon. He never ceases to amaze me. His depth of understanding and his willingness to listen to others is so incredibly remarkable. Personally, I have not seen the combination of his brilliance, sensibilities, and confidence in many leaders, nationally or globally, in the private or public sectors.

On issues of the economy, taxes, regulation, competitiveness, deferrals, globalization, emerging markets, and so many others, the President's responses were in-depth and thoughtful. The business owners seemed genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to express themselves and pleased with the President's plan in moving forward. In fact, it was noted that many business owners present have been a part of putting the plan in place. This is key.

President Obama sees the financial crisis in inclusive and not exclusive terms. His budget addresses both short-term and long-term strategies, as would any good president of a nation or corporation. Education Secretary Duncan's presence at the Business Roundtable was very encouraging to see. We will not be competitive without addressing our education and training failures which require not only funding, but the responsibility of parents, houses of worship, and the community at large..

Mr. President, we, the American people and many others throughout the world, are with you.

Being "Deeply Sorry and Ashamed"

Bernie Madoff, the crook that stole billions of dollars from others-- retirees, foundations, universities-- pleaded guilty today, avoiding a public trial and open shame of himself and accomplices, was given a go straight to jail sentence.

Madoff said in court today that he was "deeply sorry and ashamed." These words are utterly useless and have no redemptive value. What happened to the money Madoff? Who helped you make off with so many billions of OPM? Who benefited?

Being sorry and ashamed or deeply so isn't good enough!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Being Ellington Ellis

"Between the past and the present there is no space; and therein is found the wormhole of universes untold. To discover the opening between the past and the future unlocks the mystery of existence and reveals the Theory of Everything."

-- Ellington Ellis

Being a Capitalist III

Yesterday evening on "The Charlie Rose Show" the Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, says that capitalism will "be different" and that the changes are already "dramatically different" in that the "financial industry is already profoundly different."

This scope seemed to include the sheer number of banks that have failed so far. Secretary Geithner also indicated that what doesn't get taken care of naturally will be done through regulation which will "clean out a lot of the excesses and bad practices."

Quite frankly it's not the small banks that concern me; it's the big Wall Street banks that hold the greatest concern for me. We have already had many bank failures, some 26 this year alone, and we have had major banks scandals in the past. Remember the S&L Scandal?

What have we done differently since the S&L scandal that should have made the difference now? Secretary Geithner assures that we will have "better rules of the game."

What do you think? I hope he's right.

Being a Smiler II

Today a wonderful new friend forwarded me an email from "Bruno's Minute," entitled, "You Have the Power!" It made me smile.

"We all have incredible power but often don't realize it. I am talking about our SMILE power. Want to see if you have it? Next time you meet someone with a crabby face, smile and watch how he changes. Or when you're in an elevator with people you don't know, smile, say something friendly, and watch everyone's mood lighten up. But why should we use this special gift? Well, that one is easy. It's our responsibility to make other people feel good if we can. And smiling is one of the best ways to do so."

"You can never give away a smile; it always comes back."

-- Anonymous

"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."

- Phyllis Diller
So, simply smile. It matters. Smiling has power!

Being Tom Peters

In a recent post Tom Peters includes the new forward for a 2009 edition of his awesome imaginative book, Re-Imagine. I have written of Tom Peters quite often on this blog for his leadership in management and his passion for excellence. The forward, however, sparked me to create a post in appreciation for his many years of service to business and for inspiring so many people worldwide to think and do things differently. Re-Imagine is pure beauty, a creative business book and the new forward is relevant and expansive.

The overall tenet of the forward is so central to what's happening today that it clarifies and sets direction by, nonetheless, returning to the basics of forever beginning anew the fundamentals which will keep us in good stead in 21st Century. Excellence is Tom Peters' mantra. Excellence is and will always be the forever standard, for it is the basis of love. Anything that is done with excellence is done with love. There is nothing that we have ever done that is of significance that lacks love and excellence, no matter how small or large the feat or accomplishment. Thanks for this reminder.

Recently, I have written on this blog and on the Huffington Post using Peters' "managing by wandering around" to explain President Obama's leadership style. Yes, we all know that it will ultimately be the outcomes of his leadership that will matter most, but what we can say for sure is that it resembles Peters' MBWA which is essentially being present.

The President is seen everywhere. He has aimed high, created a plan, assembled a team, and manages by wandering around. Peters presents a series of E's that is also indicative of the President's leadership style: Engaged. Electronic. Encompassing. Emotion. Empathy. Experience. Eliminate. Errorprone. Evenhanded. Expectations. Eudiamonia. Excellence. The President has such high approval ratings for being and doing these things to a lesser or greater degree in his first 50 days. Let's hope he succeeds.

Peters writes of an "open and deliberate fashion, to helping people-e.g. the single mother trying to raise two kids on a receptionist salary-achieve their dreams." I so appreciate the example of the single working mother with children. Sometimes a mere image, as that of that single working mom with kids, breaks through in ways that printed words on a wall-plaque of set core values elude. The image breaks through the staid example of men in the workplace that we are so accustomed to embracing and allows for a greater sensibility to what others are experiencing and perhaps will change the dimension of ethics in the workplace as well as variance. This will affect what and how things are done.

Men, by and large, ran the global financial markets off the cliff. Men largely brought on this financial "Pearl Harbor," spoken of by Warren Buffett. I cannot help but to wonder would such have been the case with the inclusion of more women in decision-making. With or without approval change is coming, nationally and internationally. There is a beautiful necessity of the old-fashioned example of women being a help to men.

I'm sure some women may be railing right now at the above thought and some men perhaps thinking that they don’t need such help. But we are helpers one to another and everything needs to be taken in its context and in the light of everything else. Women may have made the difference. What are we doing in moving forward? Will we continue the same old same old in likeness and structure? How much change occurred after the S&L scandal?

While there are other models out there, when we think of organizational excellence we often think of the Welch model, especially those of a certain era. I have read Mr. Welch's books and have appreciated the principles therein. But it also may not be by coincidence that the large companies that have followed the GE model such as Home Depot and now Chrysler, where the leaders have been groomed in a particular management style and structure, are in such dire straights now. I really dunno. I'm no expert. This is just a mere observation. Maybe it's just the time.

Perhaps GE is in such straights because of GE Financial which seems to have engaged in bogus derivatives like the big Wall Street banks. Producing things seem to have become a side gig for this once great product producer. (Maybe bigger is not always better.) I also wonder about any leadership model that does not focus on small things and whose leaders are essentially cut from the same cloth, following the same model, industry after industry. Excellence is not a model; it's a forever pursuit, though I'm aware that structure is necessary.

Technology is becoming more and more of an intense interest to me for its ability to constantly create and innovate. It does not seem like a model but a constant necessity of change and continuous improvement—science on steroids, in fact. There is a pulse created that evades typical business models, though I'm sure that a structure of such exist in the thick of this culture. But the focus on pure innovation based on the desires and needs of people is most relevant and its impact in ways that Van Jones writes and speaks of is most important. Recently Peters wrote a post about the need for optimisim which included a look at what's happening in Silicon Valley; it was great for its insistence on innovation.

The model of innovating is invigorating. While technologies are being created, it is people who are doing so and jobs being created for the enjoyment and betterment of people in various industries worldwide, including the health industry. It is also a forever brand new world of seeing things differently. It is essentially one of science, one of discovery. Detroit has lagged behind in this and is now reaping the whirlwind. (Education nationwide is reaping such too! Bob Foster has a great piece about this on his blog, US Falling Behing in Innovation-Part 1". If nothing else, the pulse of the tech industry is needed, not to mention the science needed for its continuous development.

Tom Peters' new forward to an already incredible book is pure beauty and brilliance.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst II

Recently I wrote a piece, Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst. Included is a classic Jon Stewart clip. Here's another. Check him out; he's really funny.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Being a Smiler

Smiling matters. When I lived in New York everyone was just so busy trying to get from one place to another that there seemed to be no time for smiles. But I decided that every time I went out that I would smile more on the subways and as I passed people on the street. It often worked. They smiled back. I found New Yorkers to be wonderful people, even though they sometimes scowl.

In spite of what's said about New Yorkers, they are friendly and readily offer assistance when asked. The people of Detroit and its suburbs, however, are less friendly and are perhaps more suspicious. "What do you want?" This is often the response to a smile. "Nothing," my smile replies. I practice smiling, nonetheless, and often engage people on the street and in various offices.

Smiling makes the difference. People are drawn to kind faces; they want to hear you. You are far more likely to be heard than not when you wear a smile. Besides, fathers, mothers, co-workers, managers, waiters, and sales clerks often need encouragement too, even when it is their duty to serve and lead by example. It's funny how we can each change the atmosphere with a smile. The frontline or customer can lead too. It often helps you.

So, simply smile.

Being General Electric

In a recent post, Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst , Jon Stewart eviscerates the CNBC financial "geniuses" in a classic clip. I guess Joe Scarborough needs to be added to the clip. He does what the CNBC "geniuses" have done just before the collapse of major banks. Scarborough talks GE up in what Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post called an "infomercial." The clip can be seen above, but here is the transcript:

SCARBOROUGH: The thing is, while Jack's children and grandchildren are disappointed in GE's stock level, I'm actually excited for my children and grandchildren. This is how recessions work and this is how the market turns recessions around, into rallies, because I'm going to start investing heavily in General Electric because they've actually created things over the past twenty-five years. It is not some Wall Street organization that just shuffled around money and played shall games. And Mike, we know the future for General Electric, it's our parent company, I know. I'm just saying, that's the type of company I can build an economy on over the next twenty-five years. There are so many other companies that are collapsing because they don't have the fundamentals right.

BARNICLE: You know what the key to what you just said is? GE makes things.

SCARBOROUGH: They make things. America has stopped making things, for the most part. GE makes things.

Look closely at Jack Welch's face, as he buries it is his coffee cup. He doesn't even believe Scarborough's sales pitch. Scarborough appears as a shameless storytelling idiot. It is obvious that GE is tanking and the fact this once great company became the likes of a big investment bank that produces products on the side is precisely the reason their stock is down to $7.41 and rapidly decreasing.

Joe Scarborough conveniently leaves out the fact that GE essentially became a financial institution. GE, in fact, became a "Wall Street organization that just shuffled around money and played shall games." This is a very crucial detail; instead Scarborough focuses on the lesser fact of the production of GE. The production aspect has been a secondary gig for years, as they made fat fees with GE Capital.

Scarborough just might be what Zbigniew Brzezinski said of him. Perhaps he is "stunningly superficial" or just plain stupid. If not, little is more distasteful than using your platform to pitch favors. The only problem is we don't believe the seemingly "stunningly superficial" Scarborough. Come to think of it, maybe he isn't. GE owns NBC Universal, including MSNBC.