Sunday, May 31, 2009

Being Inspired by Others

Apres un Reve (After a Dream) by Gabriel Faure

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn.
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom's way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind--
Of such I dream, my world!

--Langston Hughes

Being Joyous II

"Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

--Nehemiah 8:10

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Being that 800 lb. Gorilla

On CNN Wednesday host, Nicole Lapin, asked Arnold Schwarzenegger: "What do you think the future of the Republican party is? Who exactly is in charge? Do you think Rush Limbaugh is in charge of the Republican party these days?"

The Governor replied:

Well I think that they say that Rush Limbaugh is the 800 lb. gorilla in the Republican party," Schwarzenegger responded. "But I think that's mean-spirited to say that -- because I think he's down to 650 lbs. I think one should be fair to him about this whole thing.

In all seriousness, I think that the Republican party -- if they listen to the voters- - they're gonna be fine. They're gonna come back again," he added. "There is no two ways about it. I think the key thing is to keep that large tent and to have, you know, the right-wing, which has, you know, a very, very strong place in the Republican party. But we also need to create a center of the Republican party, and I think that the bigger our tent is, the better it is.
Limbaugh is good for Limbaugh but he sure isn't good for the Republican party despite what Dick Cheney says.

Being Self-Destructive

Arianna Huffington writes a provocative piece on the conservative sexist and racist attacks on President Obama's nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, to the Supreme Court.

She begins:

Listening to conservatives like Pat "She's an Affirmative Action Pick" Buchanan, Rush "He Picked the Hispanic" Limbaugh, and Tom "Latino KKK" Tancredo play the race card in attacking the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, I've been marveling at just how self-destructive they've become.
She ends:

Here's the bottom line: Republicans know Sotomayor is going to be confirmed, so the howls of protest are all for show. It's all about fund-raising and rallying the base. But it's already so super-heated, what will be left to get worked up about by the time we get to the actual confirmation hearings?

Unless there are pubic hairs on Coke cans and secret porno rentals ("The Return of Long Dong Silver"!), it's going to be a total snooze.
Uh, yeah...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Being Inspired

Inspiration is how things get done. Without it there is nothing.

Being a Philosopher II

It's 3:00 am and I'm sitting in a 24/7 cafe writing and reading. I'm working on a book and reading for the third time Thus Spoke Zarathustra by the brilliant philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. In the back of this edition there are comments by respected scholars and philosophers. I found this one by Harold Alderman particularly interesting:

Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a work of fiction; that is to say it contains no facts or empirical arguments and no metaphysical axioms from which Nietzsche purports to deduce eternal verities. Philosophers, however, have been bothered by the fictional character of Thus Spoke Zarathustra to the point of saying that it is not a work of philosophy; such philosophers apparently do not realize that all philosophy is fiction. For Nietzsche, however, this fact was one of the clearest things about the nature of philosophy; it was so clear that he decide to emphasize the fictional character of philosophy by constructing his major works as a conversation among a number of fictional characters.
There are many people that get terribly bothered by a great many quotes of Nietzsche's; I have never been one of these. His voices are multiple, fictional and profound that cause us to think if nothing else. I often find myself laughing while reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche did not take himself very seriously, even though he is most certainly a serious thinker. I find his work humbling and thoughtful. There is great beauty there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Being Prepared

Preparation is a now experience. It's action in time: past, present and future. Without it there is no structure and because of it there is present success and future opportunity.

"If you prepare yourself . . . you will be able to grasp opportunity for broader experience when it appears."

--Eleanor Roosevelt.

Being Communicative

Communication is about exchange and change. Words do not exist in and for themselves and sentences are not without action. Communicate. Words matter.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Being Remembered

This is the use of memory:
For liberation-not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of country
Begins as attachment to our own field of action
And comes to find that action of little importance
Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The face and places, with self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured in another pattern.

--T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

May God bless our veterans and their families. May we never forget their sacrifices. Do something kind for a veteran today, as the "love of country begins as attachment to our own field of action." What we do keeps our veterans and their memory alive, even if "that action" seems to have little significance "though never indifferent."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Being Inspired by Others

"That Name"

There is a name that is so precious,
a name so wonderful to me.
This name is worthy of all praises.
Because of him, I am made free.
That name is Jesus, oh how I love him.
The one who gave, his life for me.
Because of love, so unconditional,
I will have life, eternally.

This name speaks peace, unto my storm clouds,
This name speaks calm, unto me fears.
And when I feel, that no one loves me.
His loving presence is so near.
That name is Jesus, oh how I love him.
The one who gave, his life for me.
Because of love, so unconditional,
I will have life, eternally.

Praise that name!
Praise that name!
Praise that name!
Praise that name!

Someday I'll leave this earthly dwelling,
Through time and space, my soul will soar.
And finally see the face of Jesus.
And praise his name, forevermore!
That name is Jesus, oh how I love him!
The one who gave his life for me!
Because of love so unconditional,
I will have life eternally.
Excellent is that name!
Glorious is that name!
Wonderful is that name!
Oh praise that name!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Being Harriet Tubman II

"If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they're shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going."

-- Harriet Tubman

I bear in my own body the marks, struggle, beauty, and hope of this great woman.

Whom does your very body bear witness of?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Being Dick Cheney V

Lawrence O'Donnell called Dick Cheney's speech, "as sleazy a presentation from a vice president as we've had since Spiro Agnew. It was a complete abomination." "When you have a majority of Americans, seventy-something percent, saying we shouldn't torture, then I'm not sure it helps for the Vice President to go out and continue to espouse that position...," said Senator McCain. Arianna Huffington called the speech "absolutely delusional."

If you have read anything that I have written of Dick Cheney of late, you know my thoughts on him. What are yours on this speech? It is apparent that the opening disrespectful remarks of President Obama points to the fact that he is most certainly no leader or solider. His six deferments come through loud and clear.

Being David Brooks

While I sometimes appreciate New York Times columnist David Brooks’ opinions, I think he misses some very important points in a recent article, "In Praise of Dullness". Based on a study, "Which C.E.O. Characterisitcs and Abilities Matter?", by Steven Kaplan, Mark Klebanov and Morten Sorensen, Brooks suggests that listening and communication are overrated and that never has/shall the twine mix successfully, as one is about execution and the other merely about charm and ideas. He distinguishes between the politicians and the business leaders with regards to execution. By the way, not once while reading the article did I picture women business leaders. Hmm? I wonder why?

There need not be a separation between ideas and execution and there also need not be not be a specific model from which every CEO is hewed. Personalities matter and there are as many diverse personalities in this position as there are people. In fact, person is the root of personalities. While the core characteristics of any venture, government or business, is execution, ideas on how it is done is what allows for execution, even when the CEO ultimately makes the decision on how things are done. Listening and communication are essential in our time especially.

Brooks seems to be writing about CEO's that had not been a part of the information age by and large. It was a different era. While the basics of business have not change i.e., "execution and organizational skills, attention to detail, persistence, efficiency, analytic thoroughness and the ability to work long hours" the way in which these things are done within a global market, if not more than the necessary communication with others globally, has changed. It's a global market and a CEO better be listening and communicating, not only to his teams but to others outside of them and these team members better be listening to each other and the general public. Business has never been done in a vacuum.

Brooks' opinion also does not take into account small business owners who are the backbone of this economy who rely on communication with their staff and clients and where listening is paramount. These also build community in ways that big business does not and where perhaps a lack of communication and listening on some levels is not as paramount. (Maybe the lack of such has been the downfall of community in some sense. Or, perhaps it is being somewhat redefined.) But it is not an either/or situation—to listen or not in this age. It is the only solution. The past environment may have lend itself to a more centralized power structure where all people thought alike and a diversity of input was not as welcoming. But this is an altogether new global technological age and how we communicate and listen is more important than ever.

It's funny. Brooks says that "business and politics do not blend well. Business leaders tend to perform poorly in Washington, while political leader possess precisely those talents – charisma, charm, personal skills - that are of such limited value when it comes to corporate execution." Hmm? I wonder about the correlation between Mr. Cheney and Halliburton here, Washington and corporate executives. This solitary image utterly defies what Brooks has written. Cheney was a CEO, Vice-President, horrid listener by all accounts, and lacked communication skills. He left the country in a big mess. According to Brooks' standard an opposite Washington type would be a more hard-line non-communicative dictatorial type like the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But just look at where his leadership in Iraq left us before the thoughtful more communicative current Defense Secretary Dr. Robert Gates. According to Brooks' standard an opposite Washington type would be a more hard-line non-communicative dictatorial type like the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield. But just look at where his leadership in Iraq left us before the thoughtful more communicative current Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert Gates.

Brooks and his ilk also like to pretend that there is some big separation between government and big business when in reality they have been in bed for years. Can you say Halliburton—now KBR? (It's the same business different name.) There need not be a disconnection between ideas and execution, government and business in this regard. In fact, government allowed big business to prosper. It was a union of sorts. Without such there would have been no roads and highways, for example, which enabled Ford, Firestone and Edison to prosper in their business ventures of cars, wheels and street lights. But we have to demand of our public officials on all levels, local and national and be active citizens in our government. We need to hold them accountable. The big problem is self-interest in government and big business.

Opining the death of CEOs' control as he sees it, as if they have not been culpable in the current mess and not in need of imposed regulation as they seem unable to regulate themselves, Brooks writes: "We now have an administration freely interposing itself in the management culture of industry after industry. It won’t be the regulations that will be costly, but the revolution in values. When Washington is a profit center, C.E.O.’s are forced to adopt the traits of politicians. That is the insidious way that other nations have lost their competitive edge." Does this not sound like there have been no culpability with the likes of CEOs in finance and the auto industry? This statement is utterly asinine from this perspective.

Brooks makes this statement: "People in the literary, academic and media worlds rarely understand business." Tell that to Arianna Huffington! "It is nearly impossible to think of a novel that accurately portrays business success," he continues. Can you say Ayn Rand? Hmm? Two women? The problem with David Brooks here is that his views are narrow; he also apparently cannot possibly conceive of women in his neat dull scenario. Brooks seems to be trying to hold on to a crumbling all white male CEO image that he has become accustomed to writing about rooted in political ideology that limits both perspective and reality. Tom Peters' book In Search of Excellence lists as many diverse CEO personalities as there are successes. And that was over 25 years ago!

Being Brazen and Ballsy

Being brazen and ballsy is one way of describing Dick Cheney. One would think that he would go somewhere and hide after such a disastrous performance. He's found of saying that he kept the country safe after 911. But let's not forget that 3,000 Americans were killed on his watch. There is also a level of disrespect that Cheney seems to possess for the office of the presidency and perhaps President Obama himself.

I'm not buying his presumed love for country or that he really believes we're less safe now than when the current administration occupied the White House. After all, the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, has remained in this position from the past administration. Do you really think Dick Cheney knows more than Defense Secretary Gates about our safety? Please, Dick! Go somewhere and shut up! But not tomorrow it appears.

President Obama will deliver his major national security speech tomorrow; Dick Cheney will deliver his very own. The dangerous thing is that sometimes being brazen and ballsy work. In this case, let's hope not.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Being an Angry Old Man

I just watched Ron Paul on The Ed Schultz Show. While I appreciate his independent voice, even some of his positions save his whacked idea about getting rid of the agriculture and education departments, I wonder if he is becoming more and more an angry old man. Ed Schultz is a talk show host. Mr. Paul is a congressman. His yelling and going tit for tat was a bit off putting. Who would elect such a one to the presidency?

Being Patient

"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."

--Hebrews 10:36

Isn't is true that many of us give up too soon?

"For all the promises of God in Him are Yes and in Him Amen to the glory of God through us."

--2 Corinthians 2:20

The "yes" and "amen" are regarding our life, our health, our happiness, our career, our....

For God's glory is declared "through us" by His promises.

"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers"

--3 John 2

Patience enables us to receive the promises of God that we may prosper in all things body, mind and spirit.

Be patient! The promises in Him are yes and amen!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Being Inspired by Others

Ah, what beauty and inspiration, Beethoven and Bernstein!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Being in the Universe

The great physicist, Stephen Hawking, whom I have written of before here, posits that the universe is forever "expanding."

One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!
Man's knowledge of his surrounding is forever "expanding." It is his forever arrival of what has already been.

Being Peaceable

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."


Peace is gained internally in spite of what's occurring externally. The photo represents this peace.

(Photo: "Peaceable Kingdom" by Tom Peters)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Being a Speculator

There is a difference between speculating and investing. In his book, Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life, John Bogle, the legendary founder of The Vanguard Group, writes that business over the last 75 years has focused "on the gradual accumulation of intrinsic value, derived from the ability of our public owned corporations to produce the goods and services." This he called investing.

We have been speculating, the opposite of investing, more lately. Bogle defines speculating as "short-term trading, not long-term holding of financial instruments-pieces of paper, not businesses-largely focused on the belief that their prices as distinct from their intrinsic valued, will rise." Shorting, betting that the market will go down, is largely what speculators do.

Often times we hear sayings such as "cash is king." When I hear this saying I often wonder which mindset does such a statement derive, from that of a speculator or an investor. While cash may be king it should be about how that cash is gotten to the detriment of what and whom. Speculating often includes shorting the market in the best that stocks will fall. Often times such is the precipitous for their decline.

While short selling is legal, it seems like it also shorts away the actual lives, savings, and retirements of average Americans while they give banks billions in bailouts that speculators short while living large and our beloved country and its average people suffer. People, this is not love of country! It's love of money, power (financial kings in their unwholly kingdoms) and the pure game! The whole thing seems like a big racket!!!

I've been reading the likes of Jesse Livermore and Nicholas Darvas, big time opponents of shorting stocks, for some time now and following the markets closely. Back then there were less players. Now, there are way too many! Bogle is right about the necessity of ethics in these matters and the necessity of investing and not merely speculating! We have had way too much of the latter lately!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Being Apologetic and Appreciated III

After being nationally shamed by Michael Frey, whose book, A Million Little Pieces , was chosen for the Oprah Book Club, Oprah lambasted and shamed Frey on her show while he just sat there like a little kid. I couldn't believe it when it happened.

In a recent article Vanity Fair reports that Oprah called Frey after his appearance and apologized for the way in which she handled the situation. I can see why. Watching clips of that show, I could not help but to feel bad for Frey, even though Oprah may have felt betrayed and he was deserving of some comeupence.

She'd had an epiphany of sorts while meditating that morning. It was time to apologize for what she put him through on that fateful day. She explained that her uncharacteristically harsh evisceration of him was coming, unfairly, from her own ego and sense of having been personally betrayed—a redemptive moment fitting, you might say, of The Oprah Winfrey Show. "It was a nice surprise to hear from her, and I really appreciated the call and the sentiment," says Frey. "When I heard her say, 'felt I owe you an apology,' I was very grateful. As far as I'm concerned, that part of my career is over and behind me and I'm looking forward to writing more books.
Apologies are really appreciated and, oh, so important for all concerned. Although I am not a party in this scene, I feel better that such a deed was done.

Bravo Oprah! We are humbled by your example.

Being Dick Cheney IV

President Clinton is dead on "target" about Dick Cheney:

"I wish him well," Clinton told CNN while greeting voters after a campaign stop with Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. "It's over," he added, apparently a reference to the Bush administration.

But I do hope he gets some more target practice before he goes out again," Clinton said with a grin before moving along the ropeline.

The former president was alluding, of course, to Cheney's infamous 2006 hunting accident in which he mistakenly fired birdshot into the face of a campaign contributor during a South Texas quail hunt.
Here is the smart and affable Donna Brazile on Dick Cheney's asine comment that Rush Limbaugh would be a better leader of the Republican Party than Colin Powell because the latter backed Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign:

"It's not about always left versus right but right versus wrong."

You can see the video clip here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Being Progressive

Being "progressive means ensuring that the actual conditions of people's lives improve through government acts."

In a good article, "Moving Obama", Karen Vanden Huevel, the editor of The Nation gives the above definition of being a progressive. We hear a lot of talk about progressive agendas that thwart private enterprise, but have there not always been government and private enterprise?

We already have the government's influence in our public lives such as in Armed Forces, police force, fire departments, and social security. After all, being progressive, or conservative for that matter, is not only about what programs we support but how we do so.

Both government and private enterprise should improve people's lives and do so in ways that move agendas and initiatives forward. In this regard,I guess we're all progressive.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Being Happy II

"A happy person is a blessed person and a blessed person is a happy person."

--Rob Ellis

The two are inextricably bound.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Being a Mother

If Nature smiles -- the Mother must

If Nature smiles -- the Mother must
I'm sure, at many a whim
Of Her eccentric Family --
Is She so much to blame?

--Emily Dickinson

Happy Mother's Day

Being Inspired by Others

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Being Arianna Huffington IX

Here is Arianna Huffington as guest host of Squawk Box with two of my favorite people of late, Elizabeth Warren and Eliot Spitzer. I have written of Spitzer more than a few times here.

It is incredibly difficult to disagree with the wisdom of both Ms. Warren and Mr. Spitzer, as well as the poignant questions and prompting by Arianna Huffington.

Being Hypocritical

What's wrong with this picture? Here actress Hayden Panettiere, MVP for the Tampa Bay Rays Matt Garza, and Bristol Palin, daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, pose for photographers on the red carpet during an event to promote National Teen Pregnancy Awareness Day Wednesday, May 6, 2009 in New York.

Did Bristol Palin forget that a few months ago she spoke with Greta Van Susteren and said that abstience was the best option for teenagers but was not "realistic?" During this interview Sarah Palin drops in on the interview with the baby. The look on this young woman's face is revealing. The dominineering self-serving nature of a typical stage mother is evident; her words seemed void of sincerity.

As I watched the interview, I felt empathy for the young mother. The mother pushed abstinence, but it was obvious the young lady's heart wasn't in it. Levi Johnston, the father of Bristol Palin's baby, has said publicly that Sarah Palin knew that he was living under her roof with her daughter. Is this not hypocritical? No wonder the Governor's approval rating, according to
Hayes Research Group has plunged in public opinion from 57% in the "very favorable" category on 3.12.08 to 30.5% in the same category on 5.5.09.

I agree with Bristol Palin that abstience is the best option for teenagers. But I also agree that it certainly isn't "realistic." Now what?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Being One Who Makes the Difference

There is no relevant being without making. My brother, Rob, made a very significant point the other day: "Just waking up is the lowest level of existence," he said, even though it is waking that is most essential. But it is what we do with our waking hours that is important. It is the making of our lives for others that matters most.

The great philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, distinguishes between being that exist in-itself (en-soi) and that which exist for-itself (pour-soi). The whole notion of being in itself or for itself is never merely enough because it is still about self; but being of value requires making conscious decisions, as we are all in the world among others, whether in the personal or professional world. Being (existence) is basic.

People make the difference, although the fact that we are cannot be denied--obviously.

Being Dave Bing

Detroit has chosen the former NBA superstar, Dave Bing, as its mayor. As someone who was raised in Detroit, I commend the people on this decision. (I did not have a vote.) I was a consultant in the Archer administration and was pleased with how the City had moved forward with regards to business and inclusiveness.

Dave Bing was not only a stellar basketball player, but he is a great businessman. I believe Detroit will move forward for sure under his leadership, although it will not be an easy task. I know well the entrenchment of old thinking in such political adminstrations. Bing is no spring chicken, but his ideas are what matter.

Let's wish the new mayor and the people of Detroit well. I am happy that they have made a change in the right direction.

Being a Winner

"Celebrate failure. Yes, damn it, CELEBRATE. Try and fail and adjust and try and fail and adjust, then try and fail and adjust. Repeat. Forever. At the speed of light. To paraphrase my friend Richard Farson: 'Whoever makes the most mistakes wins.'"

--Tom Peters

This is so incredibly true. Embedded in this statement is also the complete refusal of not giving up. I have tried, oh, so many things since my early adolescence on purpose; I’ve had heartbreaks, some successes too. After writing a very lengthy novel some 12 years ago and after so many rejection letters from agents, I simply filed the work. I then wrote a collection of short stories of my travels which also did not go anywhere. Later I became a content editor of various works from business to self-help to philosophy and served as a ghost writer for another.

Eighteen months or so ago I had an ideal for a book. A friend suggested I begin a blog. I did so that very day and write many posts a month, though I may have to cut back very soon here. I check in with this friend occasionally by phone and email. "Am I still OK?" "Yeah, you're good. But... And... Have you thought of this?" "No, thanks!" I then try something else. I have quite a few people like this in various fields and I too am a sounding board for others.

This week I began writing the first 75 pages of a new work after having been asked to do so by arguably one of the finest agents in New York. I just kept trying stuff. The same can be said for the multiple businesses that I have started where some succeeded and others did not. But there are seeds remaining, however, in each.

What remains, what you keep after having tried, is also the significance of simply trying stuff. I never tire of trying stuff, even when momentarily I'm unsure or fearful. I tell myself courage is not the absence of fear; it is moving forward in spite of it. I press forward, anyway; clarity comes in trying stuff.

I'm winning even when I'm not.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Being Prominent and Articulate

The de facto leader of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, has called Sarah Palin the "most prominent and articulate" voice in the Party. Wow! The GOP is in bigger trouble than I thought. Re-making Palin is not gonna get it. She is probably the most insignificant and inarticulate politicial voices that we have heard in a long time and it is obvious that Senator McCain made a serious error in selecting her as his running mate. I think he knows this, as is so clear in the moderate voice of his daughter, Meghan McCain.

This push Palin is amazing, considering that she made such an incredibly bad impression during the campaign. But then again perhaps not. Limbaugh is probably pushing to counter the moderate voices in the GOP who is speaking out against extremism or far right conservatism, the kind that Limbaugh and Palin endorse. I have written here of my appreciation of the articulate voice of Olympia Snowe. He is wise not to go after her and, of course, she never even utters his name.

Limbaugh is, in fact, more prominent and articulate than Palin, though not for the good of the country; extremism can never be.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Being Warren Buffett II

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, partners in Berkshire Hathaway, have finally come around to what Nassim Nicholas Taleb has been saying for years now. VAR models are dangerous, though they are taught widely in business schools and used on Wall Street. Mr. Munger even now talks about the risk of such mathematical theories being taught in business schools. While Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger seem to be late to the game, better late than never--I guess.

Perhaps Mr. Buffett needed to speak out now as the Oracle, whom I like as a person who lives moderately and seems like a basically good guy, after Berkshire lost big over the last year and a half, even its coveted triple-A credit score rating. Berkshire has a 24% stake in Moody's Investor Service, the credit scoring company that gave Wall Street companies that engaged in credit default swaps and the like triple-A ratings, even after it was obvious that such a rating was not deserved. Does this feel like collusion?

Some might wonder if Berkshire's rating did not go down until early this year because of its stake in Moody's. After all, Berkshire seems to have itself written complicated financial instruments that have been hammered for some time now. Berkshire has gone down 39% since December 2007. Oh, what a racket it all seems to be, even among the seemingly good guys. Because of this, the mere whiff of impropriety, the public's ire musn't wane. Arianna Huffington has been hitting Wall Street banks hard and rightfully so!

Below Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger speak about the dangers of mathematical theories, making it clear their mistrust of the use of "higher-order mathematics in finance." But where were they before now? I have not heard them speak against such while Berkshire had its triple-A credit rating or when they were writing these complicated financial instruments. I don't mean to be accusatory, as I am most certainly no financial expert. But it all just feels so incredibly wrong right about now considering this harrowing time on Wall Street.

"There is so much that's false and nutty in modern investing practice and modern investment banking, that if you just reduced the nonsense, that's a goal you should reasonably hope for," Mr. Buffett said. Regarding complex calculations used to value purchases, he said: "If you need to use a computer or a calculator to make the calculation, you shouldn't buy it."

Said Mr. Munger: "Some of the worst business decisions I've ever seen are those with future projections and discounts back. It seems like the higher mathematics with more false precision should help you, but it doesn't. They teach that in business schools because, well, they've got to do something.

Mr. Buffett said: "If you stand up in front of a business class and say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, you won't get tenure....Higher mathematics my be dangerous and lead you down pathways that are better left untrod."
Here is Mr. Buffett on Moody's credit agency. But this too doesn't seem right, especially with Berkshires stake in Moody's. It also seems like a whole lot of people should go to jail. (The reference here is not specifically with regards to Mr. Buffet or Mr. Munger.)

Mr. Buffett was asked about Moody's, which gave a triple-A rating of billions of dollars to mortgage backed securities that subsequently lost value.

"Basically, four or five years ago, virtually everybody in the country had this model in their heads, formal or otherwise, that house prices could not fall significantly," Mr. Buffett said. He later added that "it was stupidity and the fact that everyone else was doing it."

He said that if Moody's had started to take a negative view on residential real estate, the ratings provider would have been hauled before Congress to testify about why it was hurting the U.S. economy with its bearish ratings. "They made a huge mistake, and the American people made a huge mistake," he said.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Arianna Huffington are clear voices that can help guide us out of this Wall Street morass. Taleb's firm did not engage in such because "everyone else was doing it." Is this really an excuse for such? Sometimes even oracles are misguided. Who am I to say such a thing?

Being a Local Shop Owner

The "Small Guys" Guide to Walloping Wal*Mart: [Be] a community star! ("Sell" local-ness per se. Sell the hell out of it!)

--Tom Peters

This is so very difficult when these big box stores can offer so much for so cheaply when dealing with large quantities, gotten at steep discounts. It seems the only way to combat or compete with a Wal-Mart is to offer excellent service, to bond personally with the members of your communities. But this may not be enough.

About a year ago I was talking with someone that I have known a number of years who owns 15 supermarkets. He was saying that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do business and this Dutch supermarket chain knows how to bond with the communities that they serve; they have done so for many years.

What now? The competition seems overwhelmingly in the favor of Wal-Mart. But such "walloping" may come in serving underserved communities where community is much tighter simply because there is not a means to get to a Wal-Mart which is typically on the outskirts of towns, not in the centers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Being Robert Ellis

The Seeds of Blessing III: Appropriating the Blessing

Obedience is not a bad word, even though we have made it such. Our obedience should come from understanding the love of God which is reflected in "line upon line and precept upon precept" in Scripture. There are blessings in obedience. But we must be both "willing and obedient." Scripture tells us in Isaiah 1:19, "If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land." This simply means that your willingness and obedience will bring prosperity. Willingness and obedience is how we appropriate the seeds of blessing.

But many of us do not want to submit to anything or anyone. Submission, however, is not an oppressive force. It's a powerful mutual force to obtain a goal; it's cooperative. The Apostle Peter tells us "all" in 1 Peter 5:5 to "be submissive to one another and be clothed in humility." Many of us will not succeed because we will not submit to one another and humble ourselves at home or work; yet, we want our homes to be peaceful and we want to get a promotion at work. We must learn to submit one to another in love.

God is love.

Being Inspired by Others


By gates of Eden, Angel, gentle,
Shone with his softly drooped head,
And Demon, gloomy and resentful
Over the hellish crevasse flapped.

The spirit of qualm and negation
Looked at another one – of good,
And fire of the forced elation
First time he vaguely understood.

"I’ve seen you," he enunciated, -
"And not in vain you’ve sent me light:
Not all in heaven I have hated,
Not all in world I have despised."

--Alexander Pushkin

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Being the Highest Paid CEOs

The Associated Press listed the Top 10 CEOs for 2008 at Standard & Poor's 500 companies.

1. Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake Energy Corp., $112.5 million

2. Sanjay Jha, Motorola Inc., $104.4 million

3. Robert Iger, Walt Disney Co., $51.1 million

4. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., $42.9 million

5. Kenneth Chenault, American Express Co., $42.9 million

6. Vikram Pandit, Citigroup Inc., $38.2 million

7. Steven Farris, Apache Corp., $37.2 million

8. Louis Camilleri, Philip Morris International Inc., $36.9 million

9. Kevin Johnson, Juniper Networks Inc., $36.1 million

10. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co., $35.7 million

Is there something strange about this list?

Being Anti-Democratic

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois proposed legislation that would assist the "8 million Americans facing foreclosure." Wall Street banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo all lobbied Congress in opposition to the bill and all received billions in bailouts.

Twelve Democrats joined Republicans to defeat the bill that ended in a 45-51 vote. There has been no legislation to support homewowners, although TARP was supposed to assist those homeowners who were being foreclosed upon. No legislation was even needed for the hundreds of billions that went to banks.

"The banks that are too big to fail are saying that 8 million Americans facing foreclosure are too little to count in this economy," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois

I'd be interested in knowing the link between campaign contributions and the "no" vote in the Senate. This definitely does pass the smell test. It seems incredibly anti-democratic. This is supposed to be a "government by the people, of the people and for the people." How is it that we elect officials to go to Washington on our behalf and they instead support Wall Street banks that receive billions of our taxpaying dollars?

Being in Guys and Dolls

The daughter of a family friend will be performing in "Guys and Dolls" at her high school today. The excitement of the day reminded me of the many years I prepared for such productions throughout my adolescence and teenage years.

Last week I agreed to give some lessons to a few guys and dolls who will be performing in the show today as a means to pass on what I have learned in my many years of performance.

The performance promises to be an exciting time for these young people. Afterwards, I will treat a group of guys and dolls to dinner. In getting ready for the show this thought came to mind: How are we passing along our gifts and talents to the next generation?

We all have something to pass along.

Being Apologetic and Appreciated II

In a recent post, "Being Apologetic and Appreciated", I wrote about the necessity of apologies and how they are appreciated as a means of doing business.

Tom Peters had written an excellent post on apologies and I had conveyed a story of my time as a college student waiting and hoping for that apologetic free Domino's Pizza if the delivery was even a minute late.

This morning I received a note from an Amazon bookseller after having ordered and paid for a book, Liberation Management, by Tom Peters that had not arrived three weeks later.

On late Thursday I wrote a note to the seller via Amazon. On Friday morning he responded with a brief apology, explaining that he would "pull the order and shipping information and email you back all of the specifics."

Today I received this email from the seller which erased any bad feelings I had for having not received the book in a timely fashion:

Judith - Thank you so much for allowing me to pull all of the information regarding the shipment and order. I will provide you all of the specifics as well as what I have done to rectify the situation for you.

Your order was placed on Thursday April 9th and was shipped via media mail from my location in south Florida on Monday, April 13th to the following address:

Judith Ellis
00000 Hope St.
City of Love, MI 00000-0000

Based on my estimates the book should have been received the 22nd to the 24th of April at the latest. Please accept my apologies for this.

I went ahead on Thursday and immediately sent you another copy in the same like new condition, except this one is actually autographed by Tom Peters. It was shipped on Thursday, April 30th to the same address above. It was sent with tracking / delivery confirmation. the number is 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000. The progress can be checked at

Please accept my apologies for this situation and I hope that my quick action, once I was aware of the situation, will help to rectify this.

Thanks so much.

An apology, with swift action--along with something a little extra, reverses negative situations which can become a moment of appreciation. Not only will I get the book I ordered but it now comes with the signature of Tom Peters, someone whom I greatly admire. I will order from this seller again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Being Miss California

It's been more than a few days since the controversy over Miss California Carrie Prejean's response to gay marriage. But let me publicly say that I support her right to express her opinion regarding gay marriage and I personally thought she did so in a way that was not disrespectful to the choice of others.

Let me also say that I thought Perez Hilton's response was distasteful and disrespectful, as well as the pageant's release that Miss Prejean had had cosmetic surgery. This is no shocker for any contestant; so, it was probably meant to demean. Why would the pageant do such a thing? There seems to be a lack of respect for Miss Prejean, not that many people think that such pageantry is worth much respect itself. But I digress. That's another discussion for another day.

Hilton's campaign to infringe upon the rights of others to express their opinion is quite disturbing. Who is Hilton, in fact? What talents does he have? Is he the reigning fascist of the far left? What is his end game? Perhaps this is just this particular issue. Is the intention of Hilton to set a standard of what contestants can and cannot say regarding certain issues?

Miss California has my full support in her right to express herself. If such opinions are inhibited, perhaps the Miss America Pageant should be no more. After all, are we not a country of freedoms?

Being President Barack Obama IX

The President's got game! So does the women's NCAA basketball champions the Lady Huskies, obviously! Congrats on your win!

I love the ribbing, "oooooohhhhh's" and clapping; there are some sighs too. Isn't it great to have such a president in the White House?

Fun affirming stuff!

Being Talented

"Great things are accomplished by talented people who believe they will accomplish them."

--Warren Bennis

Talent is not enough. Belief that great things can be achieved is also necessary, not to mention hard work.

Being a Child II

"Assuredly, I say unto you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will by no means enter it."

--Jesus Christ

Children are pure in love and forgiveness. This is their beauty and Christ-like qualities. Children are great examples.