Thursday, December 31, 2009

Being in a New Year

Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!

--William Arthur Ward

Happy New Year from me to you!

Being Excellent

O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

--Psalm 8

(This recording is of Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago, a performance-oriented organization globally recognized that focuses on developing young people to pursue excellence. Its objective is "to educate the minds, elevate the spirits, and illuminate the souls of our youth." How excellent!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Being Earth

This incredible image is earth as seen from space. Looking at it I immediately thought of Van Gogh's "Starry Night." It appears that Van Gogh's dreams were close to reality. He seemed to not only have an upward vision, but an outside one as well.

"For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream."

-- Vincent van Gogh

Being Goldman Sachs XIV

Witnessing what is reported here up close in a very successful real estate broker friend's office ten years ago, I have long said that if the government wouldn't have backed home ownership through "no doc" loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and if banks and mortgage companies would not have given such loans, the American public would not have been able to receive these mortgages turned bundled derivatives by the like of Goldman Sachs, where it hedged on its investment, gaining on the front end in fees and the back end in bailout billions, the financial crisis would not have occurred.

While Goldman Sachs may not have been obligated to "disclose its secret bets to its investors," the American people should not have been obligated to secure these bets to the tune of billions. Here we have an investment bank turned commercial bank hedging as the former and receiving FDIC protection without the deposits of the American people. The FDIC is supposed to secure deposits not risky investments. To think that the Financial Times bestowed Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein with the "Person of the Year" is shameful.

May the new year bring real banking reform.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Being on the Move


Being Michigan

Pure Michigan...

Memories and realities indeed...

Being Winter

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing, &c.

-- William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 1600

Being Goldman Sachs XIII

Goldman Sachs is "doing God's work."

--Lloyd Blankfein, CEO Goldman Sachs

Monday, December 28, 2009

Being Unemployed and Underemployed

Being a Detroiter where the unemployment rate is 50% and where 700,000 people cannot feed themselves, I am utterly annoyed at both liberal and conservative economists telling us that Americans do not want to pack meat or clean buildings. Recently, when there was a job fair at Cobo Hall here there were so many people in attendance that it was a mob scene. I found these statistics on the website of the Center for Immigration Studies:

Number unemployed or underemployed: As of the third quarter of 2009, there are 12.5 million unemployed native-born Americans, but the broader U-6 measure shows 21 million natives unemployed or underemployed.

There are 6.1 million natives with a high school education or less who are unemployed. Using the U-6 measure, it is 10.4 million.

In addition to those less-educated natives covered by U-6, there are another 18.7 million natives with a high school education or less not in the labor force, which means they are not looking for work.

The total number of less-educated (high school education or less) natives who are unemployed, underemployed, or not in the labor force is 29.1 million.

There also are 6.6 million native-born teenagers (16 and 17) not working.

To place these numbers in perspective, there are an estimated seven to eight million illegal immigrants holding jobs.

Unemployment rates for less-educated and younger workers:

As of the third quarter of 2009, the overall unemployment rate for native-born Americans is 9.5 percent; the U-6 measure shows it as 15.9 percent.

The unemployment rate for natives with a high school degree or less is 13.1 percent. Their U-6 measure is 21.9 percent.

The unemployment rate for natives with less than a high school education is 20.5 percent. Their U-6 measure is 32.4 percent.

The unemployment rate for young native-born Americans (18-29) who have only a high school education is 19 percent. Their U-6 measure is 31.2 percent.

The unemployment rate for native-born blacks with less than a high school education is 28.8 percent. Their U-6 measure is 42.2 percent.

The unemployment rate for young native-born blacks (18-29) with only a high school education is 27.1 percent. Their U-6 measure is 39.8 percent.

The unemployment rate for native-born Hispanics with less than a high school education is 23.2 percent. Their U-6 measure is 35.6 percent.

The unemployment rate for young native-born Hispanics (18-29) with only a high school degree is 20.9 percent. Their U-6 measure is 33.9 percent.

The overall unemployment rate for immigrants (legal and illegal) is 9.9 percent. Their U-6 measure is 19.6 percent, which is significantly higher than the rate for natives.

The unemployment rate for immigrants with less than a high school education is 12.3 percent. Their U-6 measure is 27.4 percent. The unemployment rate for young immigrants (18-29) with only a high school education is 12.2 percent. Their U-6 measure is 25.2 percent.
I find it completely ridiculous, even criminal, that our immigration and globalization policies, or the lack thereof, have not been the focus of our conversation and not this utterly facetious comment that Americans do not want to work at meat packing plants or clean buildings. Americans want to feed their families.

(For sake of clarity, I don't know much about the website that I have cited here, even though I am more likely to believe the stats above. What I am not particularly fond of is the terminology i.e., "native Americans." Not only does this term typically refer to the indigenous people of the Americas, but it could be seen as used divisely here and in various articles on the site. I, nonetheless, agree with and appreciate a few of the articles that I have read.)

Being Barack Obama XVIII

Barack Obama promised to bring change to Washington. What is for certain is that his leadership style is unlike any that we have seen in recent years. When people from all sides pulled at him about the health care debate he lead but insisted that the legislators, according to the Constitution legislate and he as the executor will lead. He did this by simply stating what he desired to see but leaving it up to the people and legislators to decide. Of course, there appears to have been a certain amount of push back and pushing of the administration behind the scenes.

With the recent terror threat in Detroit, President Obama's critics and others are asking why he Obama hasn't come out and given the people confidence. They are comparing him to the former president who readily spoke about terrorists, probably embolden them and giving them a continuous platform while indicting the whole of the Muslim world. The former president and his administration spoke of axes of evil and often maligned those in the East. It sometimes appeared hard to distinguish between the terrorist and Muslims as a whole.

President Obama has not publicly made a statement. He appears to trust those leaders who are in position throughout various agencies and also appears not desire to put the whole world on edge or in further enmity against each other. While President Obama is undoubtedly getting briefs on his vacation in Hawaii, I appreciate his rather deliberate leadership style. Even I have desired at various times that he speak out more or that he lead differently. But I am really beginning to appreciate his style. He leads judiciously. We can be assured that even though President Obama has not publicly spoken about the event, he is well informed and will do so in time. It is this deliberate judicious leadership style that is appreciated.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Being Inspired by Others


"Let me stress most emphatically that we who were rescuing children are not some kind of heroes. Indeed, that term irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little."

--Irena Sendler

Being Michael Bloomberg II

On Meet the Press this morning Mayor Bloomberg questioned the health care bill by saying "you have to question what kind of government we have." This was precisely my question when he successfully lobbied the courts in NYC to enable him to run a third four-year term. In spite of term limits, the assumption was that he alone could guide NYC through this rough economic crisis. I sincerely doubted this. Mayor Bloomberg won the election by a narrow 5 percent margin, spending over $100 million of his own money. When I read this I also asked "what kind of government we have." I would like for Mayor Bloomberg to answer his own question when it appears that being a billionare can thwart policy and buy elections.

Being Penguins

If you have not seen the National Geographic film, March of the Penguins, it's a must see. Although it came out in 2006, I just saw it over the weekend. It's a beautiful story of family, love, loss, persistence, and survival. You've gotta see it if you haven't already. It's awe-inspiring.

Being the Senate

Ezra Klein writes in the Washington Post of the need for Senate reform. I agree. We can start with term limits and reforming campaign finance. But I have been wondering lately after the incredible acrimonious health care debate and dubious horse-trading that seemed to do more for particular states of various senators as opposed to the country as a whole, if the Senate itself is even needed. We have a legislative body, the House. Why even have the Senate? Maybe this is radical change we can believe in.

Being Percy Sutton

Percy Sutton (24 November 1920 – 26 December 2009) was a civil rights activist, lawyer and entrepreneur.

Percy Sutton was a San Antonio, Texas native. Percy Sutton was the last of fifteen children. His parents Samuel and Lillian were both educators with his father being one of the first blacks in Bexar County. His father also served as principal of three high schools. All of his siblings graduated from college. His brothers included G J Sutton (the first black elected official in San Antonio, Texas) and Oliver Sutton (judge on the New York Supreme Court). Sutton attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1936 and was recognized with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America as an adult. Sutton states that Scouting was a key factor in shaping his life.

Sutton attended and graduated from Prairie View A&M University, Tuskegee Institute and Hampton Institute. He went on to attend Brooklyn Law School. During World War II, he served with the Tuskegee Airmen as an intelligence officer.

He was married to Leatrice Sutton since 1943 up until his death in 2009.


(Photo: Percy Sutton to the left and Malcolm X in Harlem, 1963)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Being Goldman Sachs XII

The Financial Times, has named Goldman Sachs' CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, "Person of the Year." Here is noted bank analyst Christopher Whalen's response in a letter to the paper upon canceling his subscription:

Mr. Blankfein and his colleagues at Goldman Sachs, in my view, have done more to damage the reputations of global financial professionals than any other organization in 2009, yet you applaud them. Not only is your suggestion ridiculous and repugnant, but it illustrates to me the fact that the FT is part of the problem in global finance, not as one would hope and expect, part of the solution.
I could not agree more. It is indeed "ridiculous and repugnant." I shall discontinue my subscription also in complete agreement that the Financial Times "is a part of the problem in global finance, not as one would hope and expect, part of the solution." Goldman Sachs is currently being investigated by the federal government for dubious trading practices.

This choice says a lot about the malaise in global finance. It also seems to say a lot about the "collusion" of media and big business and their desire to pull the wool over the eyes of sane people everywhere--sort of like Blankfein's words that this investment bank is "doing God's work."

The Financial Times writes that Goldman Sachs -- though recently becoming a "commerical" bank as if there are deposits in order to be federally protected by the FDIC with billions in backing -- "not only navigated the 2008 global financial crisis better than others on Wall Street but is set to make record profits, and pay up to $23BN in bonuses to its 31,700 staff."

With this kind of choice and assessment, the Financial Times could not go out of business fast enough and the results of the investment practices of Goldman Sachs could not come sooner. Let's insist that Congress do an investigation worthy of itself.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Being Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

May God bless us all. May there be peace on earth.

Being for Health Care Reform

While the bill that passed in the Senate this morning is not perfect, what is appreciated about this landmark legislation is what President Obama outlined below. I also appreciated the fact that President Obama was in Washington to give support. (He is the executor and the Senate the legislators.) Vice-President Biden presiding over the Senate today was also appreciated.

President Obama said this in part after the vote:

The reform bill that passed the Senate this morning, like the House bill, includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition. They will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get sick. No longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for the treatments you need. And you'll be able to appeal unfair decisions by insurance companies to an independent party.

If this legislation becomes law, workers won't have to worry about losing coverage if they lose or change jobs. Families will save on their premiums. Businesses that would see their costs rise if we do not act will save money now, and they will save money in the future. This bill will strengthen Medicare, and extend the life of the program. It will make coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who do not have it -- 30 million Americans. And because it is paid for and curbs the waste and inefficiency in our health care system, this bill will help reduce our deficit by as much as $1.3 trillion in the coming decades, making it the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade
May we now press forward still in bettering our health care system and the way business is done in Washington. What preceded this landmark legislation was ugly. All such things in our history tend to be. But must the debate always be so mean-spirited and ugly?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Being Bo Obama

During Oprah's Christmas at the White House special she is greeted by Bo who gives her a "high five." This is so cute!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Being Inspired by Others

Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone

by Garrison Keillor

I've just come from Cambridge, that beehive of brilliance, where nerds don't feel self-conscious: There's always someone nerdier nearby. If you are the World's Leading Authority on the mating habits of the jabberwock beetle of the Lesser Jujube Archipelago, you can take comfort in knowing that the pinch-faced drone next to you at Starbucks may be the W.L.A. on 17th-century Huguenot hymnody or a niche of quantum physics that is understood by nobody but himself.

People in Cambridge learn to be wary of brilliance, having seen geniuses in the throes of deep thought step into potholes and disappear. Such as the brilliant economist Lawrence Summers, whose presidency brought Harvard to the verge of disaster. He, against the advice of his lessers, invested Harvard's operating funds in the stock market and lost the bet. In the cold light of day, this was dumber than dirt, like putting the kids' lunch money on Valiant's Fancy to win in the 5th. And now the genius is in the White House, two short flights of stairs above the Oval Office. This does not make Cantabrigians feel better about our nation's economic future.

You can blame Ralph Waldo Emerson for the brazen foolishness of the elite. He preached here at the First Church of Cambridge, a Unitarian outfit (where I discovered that "Silent Night" has been cleverly rewritten to make it more about silence and night and not so much about God), and Emerson tossed off little bon mots that have been leading people astray ever since. "To be great is to be misunderstood," for example. This tiny gem of self-pity has given license to a million arrogant and unlovable people to imagine that their unpopularity somehow was proof of their greatness.

And all his hoo-ha about listening to the voice within and don't follow the path, make your own path and leave a trail and so forth, encouraged people who might've been excellent janitors to become bold and innovative economists who run a wealthy university into the ditch.

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.

Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.

Christmas does not need any improvements. It is a common, ordinary experience that resists brilliant innovation. Just make some gingerbread persons and light three candles and sing softly in dim light about the poor man gathering winter fu-u-el and the radiant beams and the holly and the ivy, and you've got it. Too many people work too hard to make Christmas perfect, find the perfect gifts, get a turkey that reaches 100 percent of potential. Perfection is a goal of brilliant people, and it is unnecessary where Christmas is concerned.

The most wonderful Christmas of my life was 1997, a quiet day with no gifts and no tree, waiting in a New York apartment for my daughter to be born. And the second most wonderful was one in the Norwegian Arctic, where it rained every day and the sun came up around 11 and set around 1, not that you ever actually saw the sun, and the food was abominable, boiled cod and watery potatoes, and the people were cold and resentful, and there was no brilliance whatsoever. And I had the flu. Why was I there? Good question. But every year it gladdens my heart to know that I will not be going to Norway for Christmas. A terrific investment. Mr. Summers should be so smart. For one week of misery, I get an annual joyfulness dividend of at least 25 percent. Merry Christmas, my dears.

Being Hypocritcal V

For the past eight years I have heard and received emails from others from pastors and preachers passionately advising the hearer and reader to pray for those in authority for tranquility and peace according to 1 Timothy 2: 1-3. Over the past year there have been prayers alright but they are largely in opposition to the current president and administration.

Having spoken with friends who are well-affiliated with various well-known churches and televangelists, they have most certainly changed their tune and tone. I find it hypocritical indeed that prayers are not publicly going up on behalf of our current president and his administration. Has this scripture lost its efficacy?

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.
Many pastors and preachers are praying alright, but their prayers are against the current president and his administration. There are no prayers for tranquility and quietness. Their prayers are full of "prophetic" and apocalyptic rage in a presumed effort to steer policy, including health care reform and to weaken the president. Many pastors and preachers ought to be "ashamed" for not "rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15) Many are hypocrites. They are not "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Being a Pundit, Newscaster and Analyst XI

In my effort to always give credit where credit is due, I recently included a great quote by Dylan Ratigan about children. I have to admit that I had to really think twice before including him in a quote. While I appreciate many of his words, his style often overwhelms the substance and this can be a major turn off. Here is a great example:

I have written here often about the behavior of newcasters, pundits and analysts. Ratigan did not disappoint in his outright disrespect of congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. His behavior was descipicable. Many times it seems like these guys, liberals and conservatives, are trying to catch Limbaugh in ratings. Ratigan behaved like a bully towards a respectable member of congress, not to mention that she was a guest on his show. How rude!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Being Caring

"Do we care about children we don't know?"

--Dylan Ratigan

Being Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young)

Teach Your Children

You, who are on the road
Must have a code
That you can live by.
And so, become yourself
Because the past
Is just a goodbye.

Teach, your children well
Their father's hell
Did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks
The one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

And you (Can you hear and)
Of tender years (Do you care and)
Can't know the fears (Can you see we)
That your elders grew by (Must be free to)
And so please help (Teach your children)
Them with your youth (You believe and)
They seek the truth (Make a world that)
Before they can die (We can live in)

Teach your parents well
Their children's hell
Will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks
The one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

--Graham Nash

(Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) inspired me early this morning as I listened to the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Anniversary Concert on HBO for the third time. Once again, I was completely blown away by their performances. What extraordinary talent they have! Great music and lyrics. Excellence doesn't diminish. Bonnie Rait's performance of "Love has no Pride" with Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) was also extraordinary. Music makes alive.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Being for the Public Option XI

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Being Unemployed

According to the Detroit News, unemployment is near 50% in Detroit. Ugh! I shall now roll up into a fetal position for the night. Perhaps I will be good to go again tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Being Inspired by Others

"In Memory of Our Cat, Ralph"

When we got home, it was almost dark.
Our neighbor waited on the walk.
"I'm sorry, I have bad news," he said.
"Your cat, the gray-black one, is dead.
I found him by the garage an hour ago."
"Thank you," I said, "for letting us know."
We dug a hole in the flower bed
With lilac bushes overhead,
Where this cat loved to lie in spring
And roll in dirt and eat the green
Delicious first spring bud,
And laid him down and covered him up,
Wrapped in a piece of tablecloth,
Our good old cat laid in the earth.
We quickly turned and went inside
The empty house and sat and cried
Softly in the dark some tears
For that familiar voice, that fur,
That soft weight missing from our laps,
That we had loved too well perhaps
And mourned from weakness of the heart.
A childish weakness, to regard
An animal whose life is brief
With such affection and such grief.
If such is weakness, so it be.
This modest elegy
Is only meant to note the death
Of one cat so we won't forget
His face, his name, his gift
Of cat affection while he lived,
The sweet shy nature
Of this graceful creature,
The simple pleasure of himself,
The memory of our cat, Ralph.

--Garrison Keillor

Being the Cutest Kid Ever

Here's the cutest kid ever rocking John Mayer's "I'm Yours" on the ukulele and sorta singing it too. Isn't he the cutest ever? He's also quite talented too.

I must also say that every kid is the cutest kid ever, until the next cutest kid, of course. They never cease to amaze. Kids are wonderful the world over!

Being Wall Street

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributing editor, said that Wall Street "is one Ponzi scheme after another." A good friend who is an investment banker made this exact same point to me last week. He said the only difference in what Madoff did and what investment bankers do everyday is that Madoff was not a licensed investment banker.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Matt Taibbi
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Taibbi talks about the change in Wall Street from investing, which built businesses, to gambling occurring over the last 20 years. Nicholas Darvis , Hungarian world-renowned dancer, self-taught investor and respected author, wrote How I won 2,000,000 on Wall Street (1960) and Wall Street: The Other Las Vegas (1964) thought differently.

I read How I won 2,000,000 on Wall Street and Wall Street: The Other Las Vegas years ago and it was very difficult to refute the arguments therein. The former dealt with avoiding tips by brokers and the latter with how to game a gaming system. I've gotta pick them up again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Being an Aunt VI

Luckily for me when my nephew Sheldon called to see if I could watch his daughter so he could take a two-hour exam, I had run four miles earlier. I had spent many hours with him and my other older nieces and nephews as kids. We still meet for lunch and shopping sprees. Most are in college, high school, and middle school. I haven't spent one on one time with the really younger ones. My youngest niece, my sister's daughter, is two years old, the same age as Destinee. But they live four hours away so babysitting duty has been pretty much not necessary; plus, they have a nanny. There are eight kids. My sister says that she's finished. This time I think she's serious. We thought that she was trying to catch up to our mom.

When Destinee arrived, I had to first calm her down after screaming for her dad for about 15 minutes straight. I offered her all kinds of treats, including a treasured windup music box which only caught her attention intermittently. I had to keep saying "Shhh, can you hear the music?" She would stop crying enough to help me wind the music box up again, but start wailing again. I jumped around, sang nursery rhymes, and got on my hand and knees playing "peek a boo." She was fascinated by my actions but was still bent on going with her dad. I thought she would never stop screaming. But she did calm down eventually and we had a snack and headed to Borders.

As with most of the Ellis clan, she is as independent as any. She just walked through the children's section of Borders like she was home and had so much to say about each and every book, stuffed animal and rattling trinket. I guess they put things in little bins so kids can reach them easily. But, boy, did I have to walk through with arms loaded with things, asking her to put toys back in bins when she was finished with them. I had to tell her each time that she could only get one of each instead of three of the same with slight variations. She never actually chose two of the exact same toys. I thought this was very perceptive of her. She was very discerning. (Did you notice her facial expression in the photo?) She just wanted so many things.

"Which do you want?" I asked, putting the load of things that I had in my hand on the floor to hold each up. "This one or that one?" "That one." "Okay, good." But it wasn't for me as I could barely hold one more thing and follow her too. Do they have baskets at Borders? A few times I wanted to go and look but I could not take her away from the toys and books long enough to find one and I was already a bit nervous about keeping an eye on her every single second in such a busy store. She was walking around like she knew the store well and she knows no strangers.

After about an hour, I was exhausted. I had run four miles earlier, but it was like I hadn't. I think the stress of running behind her with arms packed so high and dropping things occasionally (Why didn't I just stack them up somewhere until we were ready to go?), seeking to teach her lessons as we walked about from bin to bin and book to book, and keeping an eye on her every single second was a bit taxing to say the least. "Come, Destinee, let's read a book." I was happy she thought this was a good idea because I needed a break. Other kids thought it was too because they gathered around as if it was story hour. I learned how to tell stories from my Aunt Dorothy who often took me with her shopping and to her house for tea and biscuits. There were mini stories always, lessons in behavior that were quite fun.

Watching Destinee I also remembered just what an amazing mother we had. She raised 12 children alone without losing her mind. She was always calm, fun, and steady, even when inside she must have wanted to loose it. She never did. We left Borders with a big bag of goodies. On the ride home she went to sleep. I guess she was exhausted too. On the way to Borders we sang songs the entire way, many of which I made up. I got that from my mom. For all of my older nieces and nephews she composed a special song for each at their births. They still sing them today. One that I particularly love is "Grandma's baby 'leepy." Roberto used to say, "Grandma, I'm 'leepy." He was the only niece or nephew who would actually ask to take a nap. Most were super rambunctious and would run until they dropped.

The kids used to keep me hopping. But they also knew quite well that there were certain boundaries that could not be crossed and that they had responsibilities, as I insisted upon for Destinee, even at her young age, like putting toys back in the bins when she finished playing with them. I was not opposed to tapping their little hands too. They loved me, but I insisted on discipline. When Sheldon left he said, "I know she'll be okay. You were so good with us. Thank you so much, Auntie Judith." "It's going to be fun, Sheldon." Yep, it was really fun, but when he arrived I was happy to see him. But there will be a next time and I will be happy to see her again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Being a Genius III

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

--Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Love is the soul of genius. The soul of genius is divine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Being a Racist

What's wrong with this video and why is it that conservative groups, with statistics by Rasmussen, the hired consultant for the former administration, put such ads together? This kind of ad is nothing new for conservatives. Think of George H. Bush's Willie Horton ad or Bob Corker's "call me" ad against Harold Ford, Jr.

Not that progressives are perfect by any means, but overall I don't think that they use race so divisively in political ads as conservatives. (If there are such ads by progessives, please let me know.) I had not even heard that Americans were attacking President Obama's stance for health care reform in racist terms, except for the teabaggers with their overtly racist signs.

If Rasmussen is to be believed, perhaps that 12% was taken at "tea party" events, where such sentiments are likely. (However, there is probably a case to be made for the underclass, usually minorities to a large degree, that is disproportionately without health care insurance.) President Jimmy Carter is unjustly maligned in this video. I think he was responding to the blatant racism on display at these "tea party" events from rallies to town halls.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Being Given Much

"To whom much is given much is required."

--Luke 12:48

We often think of this scripture relevant to abundant wealth. But I saw it differently when I read it recently after having committed it to memory since my youth: Since much is a relative term, we are all required to give. Give something.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Being Inspired by Others

My friend, Dave Wheeler, posted this video on his blog last week and it touched me profoundly. It's truly inspirational.

Everybody can be great....because anybody
can serve. You don’t have to have a college
degree to serve. You don’t have to have to
make your subject and your verb agree to
serve. You only need a heart full of grace.
A soul generated by love.

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Thanks, Dave!)

Being Built on Debt

Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote a great piece in the New York Times, "A Financial Mirage in the Desert", where he writes that "for the last couple of years, the running joke on Wall Street was 'Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai or goodbye.' If you were the C.E.O. of a troubled investment bank desperately looking for cash, you made a pilgrimage to one of those three cities with hat in hand. They were the places most likely to write a quick billion-dollar check; their eagerness should have also been a tip-off. Now you have to wonder about Mumbai and Shanghai, too. Are they next in line to take a fall?"

I'm wondering if debt and the service economy go hand in hand and if our new economy is all a big mirage, for where there is decreasing production what is the basis for service? What's there to service? The mirage seems not only relevant to Dubai, but to our own economy if we are not careful. It seems to me that businesses, small and large, have to largely build and people need to work in order for there to be stability in the economy. This is how our middle class was built. How these Wall Street banks are currently investing can't be the bedrock of the economy if we are going to be viable, not to mention that they will undoubtedly need a hundred billion dollar bailout out again, perhaps this time over multiple trillions.

Citigroup lent Dubai $8 billion on December 14, 2008 after being bailed out by taxpayers for $25 billion and then another infusion of $20 billion the month before. Do you think they'll need another bailout? It seems that Citgroup hasn’t learned its lesson on structuring risky derivatives even though the government (you and I) has a large stake in this bank. While Dubai is building, largely on the backs of slave labor, it seems like a capitalist city built on debt that has gone amuck. David Rubenstein, the co-founder of the private equity giant Carlyle Group pointed out in the article, "You know, they don't have any oil."

Is our economy being built on debt which is in this case a risky derivative? Investments banks hold 6 trillion in financial assets while commercial banks hold 4 trillion. (The distinction is actually murky as Wall St. banks are acting as commercial banks with backing by the FDIC although they hold no deposits.) Is an economy built largely on service a "mirage?" Is service based on debt where there is decreasing production, in essence, a risky derivative?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Being Ellington Ellis II

"What do you have that you have not received?"

--Ellington Ellis

My brother spoke these words to me this evening in an extended conversation that got me thinking. Innovation, ideas, creativity, wisdom and knowledge are not formed in a vacuum.

Being Zbigniew Brzezinski III

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser for Jimmy Carter, is one of the most eminent foreign policy experts. There is a reason that I have written of him more than once here. I admire him greatly. He is a model for what we need today. He is a voice of reason, he is brilliant, he is well-informed, he is wise, and he is fair.

Dr. Brzezinski appeared on Morning Joe after President Obama gave his speech on Afghanistan. He agrees with President Obama and clearly outlines the assumed "ambiguities" in Afghanistan that wasn't addressed in the speech, partially because of the nature of the conflict and our position. As always, his appearance was brilliant. When asked by Arianna Huffington of the legitimization of the Karzai government as defined by many experts he responded that America should not throw stones:

Who are we to seriously be preaching [such] a crusade? We have a financial sector that is voraciously greedy and exploitative, to put it mildly. We have a Congress which is not immune to special interests. And we have an electoral system that is based largely on private donations which precipitate expectations of rewards. The notion of us going to the Afghans and preaching purity is comical... I think we should just quit that stuff.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Perhaps Dr. Brzezinski should be directly advising President Obama, if he isn't already. I would also hope that politicians in and around Washington, both old and young, sit down and take notice of this national treasure. In fact, we all have a lot to learn from him.

Being Obese

Some of us might be surprised about the US Department of Health's obesity standard. We may indeed be walking around obese. In case you want to know, you can calculate your BMI here. I have been working out with a trainer three days a week and working out a total of six days a week in order to get back to my optimum weight.

When I looked at this photo taken of an obese man by a flight attendant on an American Airline flight, my first thought wasn't about obesity, but about safety. It went something like, "this man is a safety hazard to everyone on that plane in case of an emergency." On the lighter side, I don't know how the flight attendants got the cart up and down the aisle.

What do you think? Should such obese people be required to buy two seats for the safety of the flight?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Being a White House Correspondent

We have been talking here on this blog about the lack of professionalism in the media. April Ryan of American Urban Radio did not disappoint. I was appalled at her questions and the way in which she asked them. She asked tabloid-like questions about the "party crashers" and did not allow Gibbs to answer without rudely jumping in with responses like, "answer the question." Who does she think she's talking to and where does she think she is?

After being tested repeatedly White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, shot back with a clip of his own, instructing Ryan to "calm down" and "take a deep breath," adding "I do this with my son and that's what happens." The other news correspondents audibly respond. Gibbs is well known for his quick terse responses. I have written of him here.

Ryan became more petulant. "Don't play with me." Or else? I wonder if she forgot where she was. She was in the briefing room at the White House questioning whether the Social Secretary, Desiree Rogers, came to the state dinner to be the "belle of the ball" thereby "overshadowing the first lady." I have never seen such ignorance and disrespect of the Office of the President. There are serious issues to address in this country and April Ryan has fallen way short. American Urban Radio should reassign her.

The funny thing is that I used to watch Ryan during the last administration and I never saw such disrespect or familiarity at the White House then. Her questions during this recent briefing were inappropriate, not to mention her tone and neck bending sista from the hood responses. It's like Shaniqua was in the House. The only problem is that this was not Ryan's house. In fact, if I was at home my mother would have set me straight immediately as Gibbs did. Well, I guess Gibbs is not her parent. Oh, well. I thought he was more than patient.

Don't take my word for it. Watch this exchange in the White House briefing room:

What do you think? Should Ryan continue in her position? Was Gibbs' response appropriate?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Being for the Public Option X

According to a recent poll Reuters reports that "most Americans would like to see a public option in health insurance reform but doubt anything Congress does will lower costs or improve care in the short term, according to a poll released on Thursday."
The survey of 2,999 households by Thomson Reuters Corp shows a public skeptical about the cost, quality and accessibility of medical care.

Just under 60 percent of those surveyed said they would like a public option as part of any final healthcare reform legislation, which Republicans and a few Democrats oppose.

Here are some of the results of the telephone survey of 2,999 households called from November 9-17 as part of the Thomson Reuters PULSE Healthcare Survey:

* Believe in public option: 59.9 percent yes, 40.1 percent no.

* 86 percent of Democrats support the public option versus 57 percent of Independents and 33 percent of Republicans.

The nationally representative survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percent.
Are Congress members elected to Washington at the behest of the people?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Being Voyeuristic

Who's business is it what goes on between Tiger Woods and his wife? I have been absolutely disgusted that the media will not leave this couple alone. Something has to be done about the intrusion into the personal lives of others. We have to change this voyeuristic culture. Why should Woods have to come out and admit to anything publicly? While he spoke of "transgressions," he should not have to have said one word. What kind of power do we give the media when we feel forced to respond publicly to a private matter? An admission of guilt won't end the speculation in his life or others.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Being in Afghanistan IV

May God bless America and Afghanistan. May God bless President Obama and President Karzai. May God bless the people of America and Afghanistan.

President Obama delivered a great speech tonight. While I am against war, I am not naive enough to think that there will never be another war.

May God bless us, one and all.

Being Deficit Neutral

Arianna Huffington asked Ben Stein a very good question on Larry King last night to which he had no reasonable answer. It went something like this: Why is it that we require health care reform to be deficit neutral and not require the same of war? The response to the question was that we always did it that way. China is literally banking on our continued conflicts and rising debt. It seems that we will not disappoint.