Sunday, January 31, 2010

Being Inspired by Others

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."

-- Georgia O'Keeffe

The O'Keeffe quote reminds me of something that I often say: Being fearless is not the absence of fear; it's moving forward in spite of it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Being in Love

Meeting him has been wonderful. He is rapidly filling my heart. He writes:
Your words and voice soothe me unending. How is it? I must have met you eons ago before God created the earth, with a pledge to find you at the right time.
I feel like I'm in a free fall but I don't know where. Tell me you've been there.

(Maybe this will not last but I'm enjoying it for now. Yeah, I know...fatalist, eh? Or, perhaps it's a bit realistic. I've fallen before but from a different cliff. Why do we fall on this trip?)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Being Arrogant

President Obama was called arrogant by a number of analysts and contributors on Fox News after his State of the Union address. It's completely amazing that this label was used to describe a president who like none other was a community organizer, working with the humblest among us. Here was a young man who, after attending Harvard where he was president of the Harvard Law Review, chose not to go to Wall Street but to the streets of Chicago. The arrogant label has little to do with President Obama. It has more to do with the desire to position him to a lesser degree. To them he is the quintessential historical "uppity negro." In reality he is the President of the United States.

Being the Supreme Court II

When President Obama addressed the Supreme Court directly in his State of Union speech, it was good to see that the Justices are human after all. With these words Justice Alito was visibly upset:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.
Justice Alito's obvious disapproval with the President at least shows that he's human. During the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor it was like everyone believed that the Justices were robots. Alito's reaction wasn't quite a "you lied" moment but it was as close as it will probably get from a starchy-black robbed Justice who sits on the highest court of the land who holds such indefinite life-time power. Okay, I'm not feeling the Supreme Court as of late.

Some of the other Justices also seemed displeased with President Obama's words. They seemed surprised that he would address them directly. But I don't understand this. After all, they are chosen by the President even though there is a separation of the three branches of government. Personally, I loved the moment!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Being on Message

When you allow others to define your message you can be assured that it will not be yours.

Being on Message II

In his State of the Union address President Obama made news to me. His administration has not raised taxes "on one single person."
Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95% of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.
Republicans did not even clap for what they supposedly believe in more than anything else: tax cuts.

Being in Davos II

Okay, I admit it. I may just completely be in a state of utter skepticism. But I simply could care less about what the geniuses of the world are pontificating about in Davos. Well, that's not altogether true. I suppose there is a sense of what's occurring there, as this is an annual meeting of the world's most powerful. It's just that many of these which include Wall Street bankers have completely lost my respect by their sheer greed, recklessness and dearth of ideas. As I read the tweets from those in Davos, there is no urgency and little relevancy. I wonder if this conference has largely become a mere meeting of fat cats where innovation is lacking and compliments among the attendees are aplenty, fattening themselves even more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Being Timothy Geithner IV

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says that the markets are doing incredibly well. Isn't strange that this is so when many millions of American and small businesses are doing so incredibly bad? Small businesses can't get loans to stay afloat and individuals can't get them to start a business. Wasn't the bailout to the Wall Street banks suppose to enable these things? Wall Street banks are flush with cash largely because of the money the American taxpayers lent while they sit and do nothing for us.

Listening to Geithner, I wondered if were seeing the same reality. Perhaps his indicators point to some other reality. But when has it ever been that the markets were doing so well and the American people so poorly? Does this not support the fact that Wall Street is the other Las Vegas as Nicholas Darvas asserts in his book, Wall Street: The Other Las Vegas. John Bogle writes in in his wonderful book Enough that "there is too much speculating and not enough investing." I agree. What is for sure is that the national and global economies were saved by the bailout and stimulus. I don't think bottoming out was a viable option. But it should have been required of AIG to make concessions to their counterparties. Instead, the like of Goldman Sachs and Barclays, who failed miserably by investing in new products like credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations, got paid big in fees before the crisis and a big bailout totaling over 20 billion in Goldman Sachs' case thereafter. Who wouldn't be flushed with cash with such opportunities?

When asked about Arianna Huffington's movement, Move Your Money, which encourages people to move their money from big Wall Street banks to small banks and credit unions, Geithner thought it was a bad idea. He was initially quite dismissive of the power which rests with the depositors. Without giving reasons why it was not a good idea Geithner quickly backpedals to offhandedly support the American people with words. But we'd like to see some action. The bailout was suppose to increase lending to small businesses. Instead, these Wall Street banks give out billion-dollar bonuses.

Geithner seems to care less about the unavailability of loans to small business and individuals seeking credit to start a business and more concerned about Wall Street banks which he did not oversee during the years he spent as the New York Fed chairman.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb XII

Nassim Nicholas Taleb in a upcoming issue of ai5000 to be released in February gives six reasons that inhibit Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke:

1. His education is in tools that aren't helpful - and he doesn't know it.

2. He studied the Great Depression, but the current economic environment is not comparable.

3. Bernanke doesn't recognize that 99% of risk is tied to debt/leverage and the explosion of connectivity. It's like he did not see a truck coming right at him.

4. He has no notion of nonlinearities, and how monetary policies can be responsive in non-linear ways.

5. He doesn't understand fat tails.

6. He doesn't realize that the biggest risk of failure is signified by the Federal Reserve. We do not need more regulation. We actually need smaller institutions.

With regards to investors he advocates doing nothing with your money sometimes. "It's like smokers," he explains. "The best thing you can do for a smoker's health is to tell him not to smoke. And what has been the best investment over the past ten years? Cash and short-term bonds."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Being Beautiful II

"Hallelujah" is one of my favorite songs and I have posted another version here before. Here is Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris singing "Hallelujah" during the "Hope for Haiti Now Telethon." As I listened live, I was incredibly moved.

It's simply beautiful. I think you'll agree.

Being Blessed and Be-Hatted

Recently, a Facebook friend from many years ago posted this photo. It brought back such memories. The women in this photo made sure that my siblings and I always had enough to eat growing up. They paid particular attention to us on Sunday mornings. "You want a hotdog, baby? You want a hotdog?" Mother Triplet would say in rapid succession. Our church served hotdogs, donuts, graham crackers, milk and hot cider for the 3,000 or so kids that were a member of our large congregation of some 10,000 members. There was a break between Sunday School and morning service that all the kids looked forward to. A lot of old school mothering was going on. You had many mothers and anyone of them could get you straight if need be.

My great grandfather was the founder of the church and my uncle was the pastor when we were growing up. These women made sure that my mother's 12 children had enough to eat. She was raising us alone and they knew this. My oldest brother Haywood reminded me over Christmas that we needed to call Mother Porter in particular to see if her needs were being met. Her husband, who was like a father to us, passed some years back. He looked after us even though he had a large family himself. We honor him.

Over the weekend I wrote to Mother Porter's daughter to see if I might help in anyway, anyway at all. (What I could not do alone, my siblings and I could definitely do together.) She responded that her mother had all that she needed and that she was indeed blessed. All she wanted was to see us more often. I assured her that I would visit more often. There was no doubt that Mother Porter looked blessed. But you never really know the circumstances of others. So, it's important to always ask. It was good to know that she is indeed blessed; it is clear that she is most beautifully be-hatted.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Being Inspired by Others

"Dance is bigger than the physical body. When you extend your arm, it doesn't stop at the end of your fingers, because you're dancing bigger than that; you're dancing spirit."

--Judith Jamison

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Being a Boogie Man

"I'm Your Boogie Man"

K.C. & The Sunshine Band

(By the way, if you haven't seen Watchmen, it's well worth it!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Being the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court decision today which allows corporations to contribute endlessly to political campaigns assures us that we will not live in a democracy. It assures that corporations will have a greater role in legislation against the will of the people. Who could outspend the likes of Halliburton who are actually flushed with billion-dollar-government contracts paid for by the aggregate of taxes of the American people?

The Dredd Scott decision by the Supreme Court over 100 years ago assured that slaves and their descendants would be considered property. Today, the Supreme Court assures that corporations are people too and have the right to essentially legislate. This decision assures us that lobbyists will have a greater role in influencing our politicians. I thought we were trying to go the exact opposite way to reduce campaign financing.

What does the Supreme Court want? Outright anarchy?

Being Warren Buffett IV

I'm no financial expert, but it looks like the Oracle of Omaha has lost his touch. He once looked at debt as disease, now he is just as excessively leveraged as many others with his hand out like all others who others who indulged in bogus derivatives. Berkshire lost its coveted Triple A credit rating, although much later than others. Positioning seems to have its privilege whether deserved or not.

Reuters reports that
"yesterday Buffett came out against Obama’s proposed bank tax, but his comments were inconsistent. On one hand he’s always maintained banks needed to be bailed out, yet he opposes ways to make them pay for it. At this point, financial giants in which Buffett has large stakes — Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and General Electric — all benefit from an implicit too-big-to-fail government insurance policy. How can Mr. Buffett, an insurance executive, argue that it’s inappropriate to charge them for it?

This is just the latest example of Buffett talking his book.

Buffett also lobbied for and profited greatly from the bailouts. He spoke publicly that his investments in Goldman and GE were predicated on the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, saying that he trusted Congress would "do the right thing."

Later he mocked the stress test, which had over-leveraged banks raise needed capital. This was bad for Buffett because it diluted his stakes in banks.
Isn't it extraordinary that Buffett and his ilk had their hand out for government welfare as an unwed unemployed uneducated mother might, only that her need would not equal nearly one trillion dollars?

Being a Nude Senator-Elect

Just imagine what would have happened if it came out that Martha Coakley posed nude as Scott Brown had. Republican strategists like Karl Rove would have undoubtedly pounced all over this, labeling her in no uncertain terms a whore and splattered the nude images across the entire State of Massachusetts. She would have likely been labeled unfit to serve in the Senate. But Brown is on his way to the Senate. Some issues Democratic strategists seem less concerned about.

When asked about his Playboy spread Brown gave a glib response, saying something like, "I had a great body back then." What about Coakley? First, she would have been eviscerated and not have gotten to first base. Second, if her nude photos had been overlooked if she made such a glib statement she would have lost by double digits. Third, she certainly would not have been able to run on her attorney general record because she would not have had one.

What are your thoughts? Is there a double standard here?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Being Martin Luther King, Jr. II

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

May the natural and spiritual seed of Martin Luther King, Jr. everywhere in the world be particularly blessed on this day. May we all sacrifice in the struggle for the progress of humanity even if we have to suffer. Justice is essential, grace too. May we learn the invaluable benefits of service everyday in the smallest of ways.

Being Inspired by others

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

--Ludwig van Beethoven

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Being Heart-Broken III

"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

--Psalm 61:2

What heart-breaking scenes we are witnessing in Haiti. May God bless and comfort.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Being Barack Obama XIX

In his weekly address President Obama addressed the new fees that will be assessed to Wall Street banks:

"Those who oppose this fee have also had the audacity to suggest that it is somehow unfair. That's because these firms have already returned what they borrowed directly, their obligation is fulfilled. But this willfully ignores the fact that the entire industry benefited not only from the bailout, but from the assistance extended to AIG and homeowners, and from the many unprecedented emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and others to prevent a financial collapse. And it ignores a far greater unfairness: sticking the American taxpayer with the bill."

"That is unacceptable to me, and to the American people. We're not going to let Wall Street take the money and run. We're going to pass this fee into law. And I'm going to continue to work with Congress on common-sense financial reforms to protect people and the economy from the kind of costly and painful crisis we've just been through. Because after a very tough two years, after a crisis that has caused so much havoc, if there is one lesson that we can learn, it's this: we cannot return to business as usual."

Amen! In the meantime, Move Your Money!

Being Delores Lee Ellis VI

Today, on the day of my birth, I honor my mother, Delores Lee Ellis. I was reminded of her great love for others yesterday. Over these past few months I have been engrossed in renovating a very large house. While the house is not in Detroit, I have hired more than a few contractors from the City in an effort to employ as many as I can, considering the devastating unemployment rate there. I have hired five contractors of diverse skill from the City and two others from the surrounding suburbs. The suburbs are hurting too, though not nearly as bad.

A few weeks back as I was walking down the aisle of Lowe's, I heard someone call my name. I turned around and to my delight stood an old family friend of my twin brothers. It was so very good to see him. We embraced and reminisced about the many times he and his brothers would spend the weekend at our home. Our parents were best friends when they were younger. Even though there were 12 of us, our home was always open to others. Over the holidays, people came and went all day. It was nothing to have many people pass through for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And our house was the neighborhood house to hang out. This was good as we could not hang out anywhere unless my mother knew your parents well. She was very watchful, but allowed us to make our mistakes, but only under her discerning eye.

That day I hired our family friend, as well as his two brothers, one of whom had been in incarcerated, but had been out for six years and is doing quite well. During his incarceration I wrote often, sent him support and allowed him to phone me collect. I am pleased with his work and dedication. He simply got caught up in a bad scene. Yesterday, the brother that I met at Lowe's said out of the clear blue as he repaired the oak floors, "Your mother was really amazing. Do you remember the prayers and songs she sang before we went to bed? What about the poems she recited? I'll never forget them." Our ritual did not change no matter who visited. Whomever was in our home participated in our nightly gathering of thanksgiving.

Of course, I remembered those prayers, songs and poems. They have sustained me. What he might not have known was that many of the songs and poems she had composed and written. He began singing the songs one after the other. I was amazed that he remembered them. "Judith, your mother had such an impact on me and my brothers," he said. "I remember one of her favorite scriptures: "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches." Indeed.

On this day of my birth, I honor my mother.

Being Greedy II

In this clip Milton Friedman, the unofficial economic adviser to President Reagan, gets it wrong. He asserts that technology and freedom need to have greed as it basis for advancement. This is one of the most absurd statements that I have ever heard. And just because greed is rampant does not mean that it is good. Friedman advocates greed as the motivator for achievement. Tell that to the American people who have lost so much over the last two years.

Greed is not good.

"What produced this tremendous improvement in technology? It was self-interest or, if you prefer, greed: the greed of producers who want to produce something that they could make them a dollar, the greed of consumers who wanted to buy things as cheaply as they could. Did government play a role in this? Very little. Only by keeping the road clear for human greed and self-interest to promote the welfare of the consumer."

--Milton Friedman

Fulfilling one's passion does not arbitrarily point to greed; neither does producing products in order to provide for one's family greed. It is love of the work and desire to be productive and responsible citizens, parents, and community leaders. Isn't it clearly seen why President Reagan talked so much about "freedom" and "free enterprise." They appeared to be euphemisms for greed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Being Charitable

The Obamas have given a gift of $10,000 to the Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit. In such an incredibly difficult time for the parents of many young people in Detroit, where the unemployment rate is 50%, I was particularly warmed by this gift.

Some years back I worked as a consultant for the City of Detroit, developing youth programs for the recreation centers throughout the City. Besides tutorial sessions, many of the programs included music and drama. The director of the program was a great supporter of Mosaic and I came to love this group through her dedicated support.

Thank you Mr. President and First Lady Michelle.

Being Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author. (Please click on his name above to find out more about this eclectic thinker.) Recently, I came across two of Lanier's quotes that struck me profoundly. I had been thinking along the same lines for some time now.

On one level, the Internet has become anti-intellectual because Web 2.0 collectivism has killed the individual voice. It is increasingly disheartening to write about any topic in depth these days, because people will only read what the first link from a search engine directs them to, and that will typically be the collective expression of the Wikipedia. Or, if the issue is contentious, people will congregate into partisan online bubbles in which their views are reinforced. I don’t think a collective voice can be effective for many topics, such as history--and neither can a partisan mob. Collectives have a power to distort history in a way that damages minority viewpoints and calcifies the art of interpretation. Only the quirkiness of considered individual expression can cut through the nonsense of mob and that is the reason intellectual activity is important.
This quote resonated with me as it is very typical for us to follow blogs that share our sensibilities, become friends with people who look, act and think like us, and have friends and followers who share our beliefs. But in this collectivism Lanier rightly posits that individualism is crowded out which likely produces a non-vigorous non-rigorous anti-intellectual environment. What is actually happening on blogs, Facebook and Twitter? Is there a counter in the culture to social media?
The original turn of phrase was "Information wants to be free." And the problem with that is that it anthropomorphizes information. Information doesn't deserve to be free. It is an abstract tool; a useful fantasy, a nothing. It is nonexistent until and unless a person experiences it in a useful way. What we have done in the last decade is give information more rights than are given to people. If you express yourself on the internet, what you say will be copied, mashed up, anonymized, analyzed, and turned into bricks in someone else's fortress to support an advertising scheme. However, the information, the abstraction, that represents you is protected within that fortress and is absolutely sacrosanct, the new holy of holies. You never see it and are not allowed to touch it. This is exactly the wrong set of values.
Information has no real value without integration and experimentation. Individuals are integrators and experimenters of information. Without individual voices their is no distinction. There is a lack of innovation and more importantly a greater possibility of destruction brought on by a mob mentality. History proves this.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being Pat Robinson

Pat Robinson called the Haitians "cursed" because they made a "pact with the devil" when, in fact, they revolted and defeated the powerful French army centuries ago.

Isn't this the same reverend who blamed 911 on Americans and Katrina on gays?

Being Heart-Broken

Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti during this very difficult time. It is believed that 100,000+ Haitians have lost their lives. You can donate as little as $10.00.

Here are some ways that you can donate online.

The White House
Red Cross
Partners in Health

Whatever you can do, please do it.

May God especially bless the people of Haiti and their loved ones.

Being Heart-Broken II

Signore, ascolta (Sir, Listen)

Sir, listen! Ah, sir, listen!
Liu cannot stand any more
It breaks my heart!
Alas, alas, how I walk with your name in my soul,
with your name on my lips!
But if your destiny will be decided,
We will die on the road in exile.
I will lose his son,
The shadow of a smile
Liu cannot stand any more
Ah, sir!

From the opera, Turandot, by Giacomo Puccini

Being Goldman Sachs XV

Not knowing the background of Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, not that this would make much of a difference, I couldn't help but to think of him as I watched his testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission as a cross between a used car salesman and a circus carnival leader. His appearance was as oily and buffoon-like in his constant effort of wining over an audience as opposed to soberly answering essential questions. Mr. Blankfein seems to think that we are stupid. Maybe we are. Goldman Sachs is flushed with cash that we gave them to the tune of double digit billions for betting on bogus securities leveraged to the hilt, as the American people hurt badly.

Being Schizophrenic

Recently, I came across a beautiful blog, Cinda, meanderings from the inside..., where she often writes about the heartbreaking and courageous story of living with a daughter mental illness. The other day she wrote a most beautiful story, See Me, of when her daughter was confined and her initial guarded reaction to the others there that actually turned out to be a healing and learning experience for her.

The story reminded me of my dear friend, Jim, who was a schizophrenic. We met in a laundromat in New York City. Introducing himself he said, "Did you know that you have a perfectly balanced face?" We sat on the bench outside the laundromat all night talking about everything under the sun. He was brilliant. That night he told me of his struggles. Anytime he was at his worst, he would call me and I would find him in various places in the City often after having cut himself, not enough to be hospitalized but enough to seek help.

Usually, I would bring him back to my loft and clean him up. Some people on the subway, sensing that something was amiss, would look strangely at us. I drew Jim closer to me. He is from an incredibly wealthy family and had a lovely apartment that his parents paid for. Yet, he could often be found on the streets or in parks when he did not take his medicine. He was never dirty and always clean shaven. He is a tall attractive red head with a few freckles. It appeared that someone loved him.

Jim was raised in boarding schools and felt utterly alone. Once he gave me his mother's number in New Jersey. I wanted it in case of a true emergency. Once I called her after not having heard from Jim for a month and having gone to his apartment to be told by the doorman that he hadn't been seen for some time. His mother asked me right away, "Do you know about my son?" I assured her that I did.

Jim would sleep in my loft bed with me and watch over me the whole night. I would awake and he would be looking at me rather lovingly. (God was always watching over both of us.) I would always prepare something for him when he was over. He would eat and say, "Your food tastes the best." I don't know if he ever really ate well enough. He was frightfully thin. There was never any food in his refrigerator or cabinets. Sleeping besides him might have been a really silly thing to do; my mother and boyfriend at the time were very uncomfortable with my friendship, but somewhere deep inside of me I knew that he would not hurt me. He never did. He was more interested in hurting himself.

Love endures and covers all. It has been 15 years since I have seen my friend, Jim. I hope he is well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Being Gleaners

My friend Kelly at My Voice, My View posted this beautiful painting, "Gleaners" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau on her Sunday Citar. I was moved by the painting; it struck me profoundly. The beauty of the painting depicts the beauty of gleaners, those who reap after the harvest. Gleaning is the process of gathering what is left after the harvest. What is reaped is thought to be sub-prime, yet it nourishes.

There is a harvest after the harvest.

Pressing your hand to the sickle even when it appears that the best has passed or that you are out of options is important. It is also possible to reap where you have not sown. This is the element of grace and humility necessary for us all. We are all indebted to someone or something and our acknowledgment of this is important. In fact, many times we reap where we have not sown. Yet, the sickle is still required.

There is a harvest after the harvest.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Being Ignorant

McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt claimed that "She (Sarah Palin) knew nothing." Palin had to be taken through World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and she was not aware there was a difference between North and South Korea. She thought they were the same country. My fifteen year-old nephew knows this.

Palin insisted that Iraq was behind 9/11 in spite of data proving otherwise and when her son was sent to Iraq, she couldn't describe who we were fighting. Her explanation for being chosen as the VP candidate was that it was God's will. I guess God must have gotten it wrong when, in fact, her God was Senator Lieberman. He was said to have gone to personally pray with her.

Although it is said that Sarah Palin was a quick study in the video, obvious she wasn't that quick. All of her interviews were disastrous and it was very obvious that she does not even read. It could probably be asserted that she has not read her own book. She certainly didn't write it. She can't even speak in coherent sentences. I guess these campaign officials have to say something good about the ignorant VP candidate John McCain chose. He should retire soon.

It appears that Sarah Palin will now spread her ignorance on Fox News. How could they even be considered a legitimate news broadcast? It is not surprising that Sarah Palin is the the tea party's candidate. I tried to think of a softer word instead of ignorance, but this is the best descriptive for the woman who could have been one step away from the presidency. Did I say that John McCain needs to retire soon?

Being in Black Face X

Senator Harry Reid made a statement in support of the then Senator Obama's presidency referring to him a "light-skinned" African-American who lacked a "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." (By the way, I have never heard of any white dialects. Have you? Come to think of it people in the deep south say around the hills of Tennessee generally sound alike to me.) There have been Republican senators and leaders calling for Reid to step down.

Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, was one of those calling for Reid to step down, saying that the comment was "racist." This was particularly peculiar coming from the man who has basically become a laughing stock with his gaffes and poses. Below are examples of these. For the good of the Republican Party, it looks like Steele is the one that should step down.

"We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

Steele called President Obama's stimulus "bling bling." All he needs is a stage comparable to Al Jolson's. He would be positioned properly.

Being Loved

"Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it."

- Swedish Proverb

How so very true is this? Just imagine what a difference it would make if we actually practiced this? It would be transformational in our daily lives. The act of love is dynamic and expansive.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Being Inspired by Others

"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received- hatred. The great creators- the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors- stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won."

--Ayn Rand, Fountain Head

To paraphrase Goethe, whatever you think you can do start it now!

We win if we stay the course of our dreams, even if we don't now!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Being Delores Lee Ellis V

Today is the day of my mother's birth. If you have read my blog for anytime you will understand the love and appreciation I have for my mother. She raised 12 independent successful children alone, of which I am the youngest, instilling us all with responsibility, kindness, grace, and ethics. While she was not perfect, every single day I am simply amazed at what she was able to do. It was nearly shy of extraordinary.

It was always like our mother was teaching us lessons for when she would no longer be here and for her grandchildren and their children's children. She had tremendous foresight. Everything was a beautiful lesson without judgment. When we messed up the most this was when her love was strongest. She never ever raised her voice; our house was very peaceful and completely spotless, not that we didn't leave our wraps about and have disputes. We did. But there was never any love lost and respect was paramount in all of our relations and surroundings.

Above is a picture my aunt recently sent me of my mother and father in California in 1960. (They are on the far left.) There were nearly half of us born at this point. My beautiful tormented father, having served in the Korean War as a very young man and having an incredibly difficult father whom he loved and respected, left the family shortly after I was born. When I look at this picture I am reminded of his sensitivity, grace, stature, and kindness and my mother's pizazz, independence, elegance and strength.

My mother passed four years ago and I miss her incredibly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Being Hypocritical VI

President Obama waited two days before addressing the American people in detail after the thwarted Christmas Day bombing.

Here is Rudy Guiliani's hypocrisy on CNN:

GIULIANI: I think the president has to make a major correction in the way he is dealing with terrorism because I think he has mishandled the situation. First of all, it was 10 days too late. This is something you react to immediately, not 10 days later after your vacation.The president of the United States, when there is a potential massive attack on this country, which is what this guy was going to do, should have been on top of this immediately, not 10 days later, 11 days later, 12 days later.

For your information, during the foiled shoe bomber incident President Bush was on vacation and he did not make a statement until six days later.

Here is Karl Rove, Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush, on Fox New. He follows suit:

ROVE: Look, they woke him up immediately to tell him he won the Nobel Prize but couldn’t bother to interrupt his vacation for three hours to tell him a terrorist tried to bring down a plane on Christmas Day. And the President waits 72 hours before we hear from him, and it’s over 72 hours from the time of the incident to the time that the President spoke today, and then the President said some things that are simply not true.

Here is Dana Perino, White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush, on Fox News, denying that 911 happened on the former president's watch:

PERINO: We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.

I have sincerely tried to give these people the benefit of the doubt. But it is so difficult to continue to do so. Are they so foul and corrupt that they actually believe what they're saying? Or, do they simply not care about honesty as long as political points are gained?


Not being a big fan of PETA, even though I have been in the past, I was annoyed that they used Michelle Obama's image without her permission and refused to change it. This decision, as well as many others, does not endear me to this rather extremist organization. What about the ethical treatment of people?

PETA reasons that it's a public service announcement so the FLOTUS's permission was not needed. (Forget respect, eh?) My reasoning is does PETA intend to collect donations during the time her image is on billboards and buses? What might the recourse of the FLOTUS be?

The POTUS and FLOTUS are astute lawyers so I'm sure something is being worked out or at the very least it's being dealt with. I assume PETA thinks that it would be a public relations nightmare if the Obama's sought legal action. They could not use my image without my permission. Can you say lawsuit?

Being David Brooks VI

A frequent commenter here who goes by the name of Zorro pointed me to an article, "The Tea Party Teens", written by David Brooks in the New York Times that outlines the possibility of this movement becoming center stage. The tea party movement has only just begun that article posits. It's an interesting perspective and I suppose Brooks has a point, especially considering how this country started with a ban of dissenters opposing a then powerful empire.

Brooks points out the movements of the 60's and 70's that changed the landscape of America. The main difference here as I see it is that the civil rights movement and the feminist movement had to do with human rights. The frightening thing about the tea party movement with Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann as spokespersons is the hate, divisiveness, and violent aggression that is exhibited at their rallies, not to mention the racist background and rhetoric of the tea party founders, If this movement can transform America it will indicate that we have not really evolved and the history of oppression can readily re-emerge.

Fear, real or imagined, has a way of bringing up deeply seated biases and prejudices. If this movement indeed has the potential of becoming center stage, I understand even greater now the message of Jews: "never again." I see the tea party as an ominous movement, not because of its passion but because of its racist divisive message coached in constitutional rights such as the right to bear arms and speak freely. I also find it correlative that such a movement emerged with the election of the first African American president. Vigilant we must be!

Another thing that is important to mention is that Brooks is an intellectual and conservative. While I appreciate much of what he writes, the fact that he uses Rasmussen in his article as proof of his ideas for a central point which includes the all-important independent voters, did not sit well with me. Rasmussen, the hired pollster for the Bush administration, is known to be bias. Its polls are ALWAYS favorable to the issues on the right even when all others are left by large margins. This seems to indicate prodding via questioning to evoke a desired response.

The problem also with intellectual types is that they take themselves too seriously and hence tend to find reasons to support their opinions as opposed to doing the exact opposite, finding reasons to negate them. With the latter reality is more readily revealed. I am not particularly disparaging Brooks, rather making a general statement. I do, however, find his last statement a bit ironic considering all that came beforehand. Perhaps, he is indicating that he has actually taken the opposite view to arrive at his reasoning. This is understood. But I do wonder about Brooks' motive.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Being a US Senator or Congressperson

Senator Dodd announced that he is retiring. Praise God! Here's to hoping that many more will follow suit in the Senate and House, both Democrats and Republicans. We also need to pass a law that prohibits them from ever lobbying Congress with hefty corporate fees against the interest of the American people. They need to go fishing or get another career altogether. Many of them seem puckered out anyway. Just looking at them makes me tired and knowing that they will work behind the scene against our interests angers me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Being an Aunt VII

My young handsome talented nephew, Pierre, stands 6' 5" and got a scholarship to play college basketball. While he was a gifted athlete, his heart was never really into it, even though he played sports in junior high school and high school. Both of his sisters also received athletic scholarships to college and are by far more athletically inclined and totally into it. One graduated in sports medicine and the other is a junior in college now. Although gifted, Pierre really didn't have a heart for sports. He and I talked of it often. He was always conflicted. As an aunt and artist, I offered what help I could. Today, two years out of college, Pierre is no longer playing basketball and is following his dream of being an artist. Above is a recent picture of a dance performance. (What about that body, eh?) I love him very much and wish him the very best. I also trust that he will carry the lessons his dad and grandmother taught him. He will need it in New York. I sometimes worry about him. But I know that he has been given a solid foundation. It will not be easy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Being Inspired by Others

As a kid I learned of George Washington Carver, the brilliant humble scientist and inventor, who is one of my heroes. Although I admire a great many people, I have few heroes. What follows is taken from a website dedicated to ideas and inventors: In 1895, Carver co-authored a series of papers on the prevention and cures for fungus diseases affecting cherry plants. In 1896 he received his master's degree in agriculture and in 1897 discovered two funguses that would be named after him. Later that year Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, convinced Carver to come south and serve as the school's director of agriculture.

At Tuskegee, Carver developed his crop rotation method, which alternated nitrate producing legumes-such as peanuts and peas-with cotton, which depletes soil of its nutrients. Following Carver's lead, southern farmers soon began planting peanuts one year and cotton the next. While many of the peanuts were used to feed livestock, large surpluses quickly developed. Carver then developed 325 different uses for the extra peanuts-from cooking oil to printers ink. When he discovered that the sweet potato and the pecan also enriched depleted soils, Carver found almost 20 uses for these crops, including synthetic rubber and material for paving highways.

The farmers were ecstatic with the tremendous quality of cotton and tobacco they grew later but quickly grew angry because the amount of peanuts they harvested was too plentiful and began to rot in overflowing warehouses. Within a week, Carver had experimented with and devised dozens of uses for the peanut, including milk and cheese. In later years he would produce more than 300 products that could be developed from the lowly peanut, including ink, facial cream, shampoo and soap.

Suddenly, the same farmers who cursed him now found that a new industry had sprung up that could use their surplus peanuts. Next, Carver looked at ways of utilizing the sweet potato and was able to develop more than 115 products from it including flour, starch and synthetic rubber (the United States Army utilized many of his products during World War I.)

Carver did not stop with these discoveries. From the inexpensive pecan he developed more than 75 products, from discarded corn stalks dozens of uses and from common clays he created dyes and paints. Suddenly Carver's fame grew and grew until he was invited to speak before the United States Congress and was consulted by titans of industry and invention. Henry Ford, head of Ford Motor Company invited Carver to his Dearborn, Michigan plant where the two devised a way to use goldenrod, a plant weed, to create synthetic rubber. Thomas Edison, the great inventor was so enthusiastic about that he asked Carver to move to Orange Grove, New Jersey to work at the Edison Laboratories at an annual salary of $100,000 per year and state of the art facilities. He declined the generous offer, wanting to continue on at Tuskegee.

He continued constantly working with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans trying to produce new products. He developed more than 300 products from the peanut (including Peanut Butter), 175 from the sweet potato, and 60 from the pecan. He extracted blue, purple, and red pigments from the clay soil of Alabama. He researched the manufacture of synthetic marble from green wood shavings, rope from cornstalk fibers, and veneers from the palmetto root. During WWI, he worked to replace the textile dyes that were being imported from Europe. He ended up producing and replacing over 500 different shades. In 1927, he invented a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans.

Although he did hold three patents, Carver never patented most of the many discoveries he made while at Tuskegee, saying "God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?" Three different patents were issued: US 1,522,176 Cosmetics and Producing the Same. Jan. 6,1925 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama. US 1,541,478 Paint and Stain and Producing the Same. June 9, 1925 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama US 1,632,365 Producing Paints and Stains June 14, 1927 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama.

The beauty in George Washington Carver is that he did not yield to excuses, he refused to be denied, and he absolutely rejected the notion that he alone should profit from his inventions. In this obsessed society fixated on personal wealth, I yearn for the likes of Carver but insist that they be honored and compensated and that others not seek to solely benefit from their work which has often been the case for such scientists in the past, even the present.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Being an Ordinary Miracle

"We are all apart of the ordinary miracle."

Make it a great year! You have all that you need.