When the Worst Brings Out the Best: President’s Message November 2011

Posted: November 14th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Life is funny, when everything is “normal”, when the sun is shining and there are blue skies overhead, most people find it relatively easy to be kind, generous and patient. But when “normal”, either individually or collectively, is disrupted our ability to think, much less act, at our best is tested and challenged. And when we are placed under unexpected stress, how we respond can be either incredibly beautiful or ugly beyond words.

In the preceding 10 weeks we have experienced 2 “hundred year” storms that have impacted not only the daily routines but the lives of those in the path of these weather events. And while some of us have been affected to a greater extent than others, collectively these circumstances have touched each and every one of us as members of not only our community but as members of greater society. In the aftermath these two “anomalies” I’ve encountered both generosity and selfishness. On the one hand, the vast majority of people have responded wonderfully; I’ve witnessed concern and caring expressed in a multitude of ways, from people help each other clean up to opening up their homes and businesses to friends and strangers alike. On the other hand I’ve heard accounts of people bullying utility crews in an attempt to speed up the restoration of their own service as well as stories of people harassing elected officials because of what they perceived as an inadequate response to their own needs.

How we respond to the routine or extreme stresses that each of us encounter should not be left to happenstance; our responses should be purposeful. Our equanimity can be cultivated. To that end, our forefather Rabbi Hillel posed 3 core questions that remain as relevant today to all people, regardless of their faith, as they did to our ancestors 2000 years ago:

  • If I am not for myself then who will be for me?
  • If I am only for myself then who am I?
  • If not now, when?

Taken independently, each question poses an intriguing consideration. But it is when the 3 questions are considered together and applied without exception, without caveats and non-selectively that they present a path to peace and prosperity through mutuality, commonality and accountability.

Certainly some would argue that in 2011 it is impossible to do this at all, much less all the time, life is too complicated, issues are too diverse and we are, after all, only human. But that is precisely the point; being human and living in a world with 7 billion other humans is very hard, crowded and highly competitive. We can leave it at that and let fear and anxiety dictate our actions or we can choose the other path, the path that transforms each and every moment of each and every day of our lives into a test, a challenge and an opportunity to be better than we are at this moment. And if we truly desire a life defined by peace and prosperity then it is the purposefulness of our own actions that offer us the only chance of our actually achieving it.

With the greatest respect.

Ten Years Gone: what was found and then discarded

Posted: September 12th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Ten years have gone and even with the passing of time, September 11 remains the one day each year that I actively dread. The slaughter of thousands by the hearts and hands of those who purport to serve the Source of all creation is in itself traumatic and obscene on many levels. But what we as a nation gained and then seemingly squandered may in fact be the greater and more enduring tragedy; for that one brief moment our inherent nobility was realized as we willingly cast all our differences and individual needs aside and our primary concern became the well being of all Americans, rich or poor, friend or stranger, pink skinned through every shade of brown. That spontaneous eruption of humanity elevated all humans and endowed profound meaning to the day’s senseless deaths.

In retrospect, the bigger loss may be the one that we have perpetrated on ourselves; as a nation, evidenced by what passes for political discourse, we are meaner spirited, smaller minded and far more selfish than I have ever seen. Our memorial to the loss of life on that crystal clear blue skied morning is unquestionably both majestic and beautiful but if that is the sole legacy of 9-11 then we are just a generation away from turning 9-11 into an empty slogan.

We must never forget the bravery and dignity of the first responders, their ultimate sacrifice as well as the lives of our family and friends. But more importantly, we must never forget how we responded. How we all elevated ourselves through caring and compassion. How without hesitation, we collectively embraced cooperation, empathy and selflessness. And when we reclaim that spirit, those qualities that define the best of humanity, September 11 will come to symbolize the day that we changed ourselves.

CBH President’s Message, August 2011

Posted: August 1st, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »
The Times They Are A-Changin'

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown.
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Excerpted from the “The Times they Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan (1964)

As I write this on July 25, I am somehow drawn to a tale that my uncle first told me when I was a boy. Somewhere buried deep in our Jewish culture is a legend about the precise moment when the world changed. Some say that was the moment when everything that was held sacred abruptly ended. Others reflect back and say that was the moment when everything that is truly sacred actually originated.

As I recall the story, there was a favored young priest who was born with an extraordinary talent for leading services. His lamentations and calls to prayer were so authentic and moving that every year more and more pilgrims found their way to the Temple. The high priests, who tightly controlled the precise nature of prayer, were so thrilled with the throngs of worshipers making their way to the temple that they began to give the young priest more and more freedom in how he expressed reverence for the true word.

On a warm summer evening, a particularly large crowd had gathered for the late prayer. It was rumored that the young priest was going to do something so different, so spectacular that it would truly change the world forever. Neither the multitudes of worshippers nor the elder priests could contain their excitement as they all eagerly anticipated something so moving, so emotional, that it would bring them that much closer to the Source and thus change their world.  And he did not disappoint them, he did change their world, but not in the way that they had expected.

The service started and rather than hearing the wisdom of words swept along by the dulcet tones of his unique voice gently accompanied by the familiar strumming of an acoustic guitar and occasional harmonica, they were shocked to hear the piercing twang of an all electric band at a festival devoted exclusively to folk music. In fact, a normally peaceful Pete Seeger was so outraged that he tried to actually cut the power cable in the middle of Maggie’s Farm, a song that leveled criticism directly at the movement that had spawned the Newport festival in the first place.

Hopefully, by now you realize that this is not a Talmudic allegory or some lost Hebrew apocrypha recently uncovered in the desert. I am talking about July 25, 1965, the night that everything changed, the night that Robert Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan plugged-in and sent the folk music scene into fits of anger and then into an existential depression from which some in the movement have yet to recover. This was also the night that many believe legitimized a new musical movement. A movement that gave the past a vote but reinterpreted it, dare I say reconstructed it, by fusing styles, cultures and experimentation creating an experience that was at once familiar but completely distinct and frankly more relevant and vital than the Folk community had realized at the time.

As you are all aware, our movement has begun to undertake some changes over the last 7 months. Personally I am glad to see a continued reevaluation and reconstruction to insure the uniqueness and vibrancy that initially attracted my family to our denomination over 20 years ago. As a congregation we should embrace this spirit as well; it is imperative that we reevaluate what is working and be bold enough to try new things, express ourselves in different ways and allow ourselves the freedom to experiment knowing full well that it may initially appear to be a failure when upon deeper reflection it may be a guidepost pointing us in the direction of something wonderful.

“If you try to be anyone but yourself, you will fail; if you are not true to your own heart, you will fail. Then again, there’s no success like failure”

Bob Dylan

Epilogue: Bob Dylan was booed off the stage that night in Newport. Seeing how upset he was, Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, handed him his acoustic guitar and prodded Dylan to return to the stage where he performed Mr. Tambourine Man (listen to William Shatner’s version) which mollified the hostile crowd. Pete Seeger also “forgave” Bob Dylan and now recalls that night with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. With the greatest respect,


Mission Accomplished.

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Mission accomplished. At least it appears that way from al-Qa’ida’s perspective. Tomorrow is traditionally the biggest travel day of the year and if the extra security required to get on a plane doesn’t gum things up, the planned protests about the extra security certainly will. The terrorists have achieved a state of terror. They have disrupted an entire industry. They have taken over our news cycles. They are in our heads. They have fed the animosity between a government trying to protect its citizens as well as travelers and the men and women who are charged with making sure that they reach their intended destinations safely. Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished. But only because we are allowing it to happen. Seriously, do you think that TSA agent really wants to grab your package or feel you up? I don’t think that was in the initial job description. If someone really enjoys looking at a faceless x-ray image of me after waiting in line at an airport for 2 hours, then go ahead; I am just glad that I could bring a little joy and/or excitement to an otherwise dreary day.

The TSA says that the radiation from the body scanners is the equivalent to 3 minutes in a plane at altitude. Frankly rather than protesting the use of x-ray machines or full body pat-downs prior to flying there should be protests about improved radiation shielding on airplanes. And as the x-ray machines need to be calibrated regularly, we should be concerned about insuring proper oversight in both maintaining the machines as well as maintaining an accurate record of the calibration, service and maintenance to insure the radiation output is kept at the proper levels. And speaking of low dose radiation, in some instances, low dose radiation has been shown to increase the immune system, so if you are not exposed to radiation on a regular basis, this may actually be positive for you.

The bottom line is that I wish everyone safe and uneventful travels. I also wish the men and woman charged with insuring that our travels are safe and uneventful, a safe and uneventful workday themselves. If we allow then ourselves to get at each others throats and blame our government for the precautions that have been instituted, then have handed the terrorists a victory. However if we go one with our travels and try to use the time positively (like chatting with your spouse or significant other, travel companions or even strangers), be respectful of everyone else who is in the identical situation and remember that the government, through the individuals of the TSA, are trying to protect us and not trying to waste our time, cop a feel or look up our skirts, then we have frustrated the terrorist’s efforts. And at least for the day before Thanksgiving, our collective mission is accomplished.

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Pain and Suffering: A Pathway to Perspective.

Posted: September 16th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »
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To be alive means that you have experienced and will continue to experience pain and suffering. In the conventional sense, most people don’t enjoy it or search it out, but rest assured, avoiding it is simply not an option available to you.

Pain performs a necessary physical function; it tells us to stop. It alerts us, advising us that something is wrong so that we can attempt to mitigate damage. Sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t.

Compassion and empathy are really just pain and suffering given other names. Instead of experiencing pain and suffering directly, we allow ourselves to feel the hurt and sorrow of others. This sacrifice is transcendent yet sadly, these are the types of pain that as individuals and groups we find the easiest to avoid. And the paradox is that if these emotions were more fully embraced, the overall amount of pain and suffering in the world would sharply decrease.

To experience pain means that a condition has changed for the worse. That infers from a relative point of view, the time prior to the pain was good. The burn received from touching a hot stove is distinguished from being unharmed the moment before. The discomfort of a common cold is distinguished from the time prior to being infected with the virus. A broken heart is distinguished from the time spent in love. And the pain brought on by the death of friend or loved one is distinguished from all the time spent with that person while they were alive.

My point is not to explain the nature of physical or emotional pain or kindle memories of the past, rather it is an attempt to provide a perspective on the present. Pain and suffering focuses us on the value of the seemingly ordinary time that existed before conditions changed.  Unfortunately once the pain manifests, that time in the past is anything but ordinary, it is invaluable. And it is also gone forever.

Appreciate what is now. Enjoy the blessings of this moment. No regrets going forward. No wasted time in the past. Smile. Feel each breath, quiet your thoughts and then allow yourself to truly engage all existence.

Your Life: Summoned to Plan or Plan to be Summoned.

Posted: August 4th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
Joan of Arc
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My sister-in-law recently posted a New York Times Op-Ed piece on 2 distinct views of living one’s life. The first method is internalized; it calls for the individual to consciously and precisely focus on what they want to accomplish. The second approach is externally driven,  as it subscribes to the situation (no, not the guy on the “Jersey Shore”) dictating one’s course of action.

I responded with my initial thoughts as follows:

“The only control that people actually have is how they respond to any given situation. To be 14, 24 or 64 and honestly believe that one is independent from mundane or exogenous events is, frankly, delusional. That said, careful observation and consideration of the situation at hand and short term trends may yield insights which can be exploited as unique opportunities. So all that said, I guess I subscribe to a hybrid theory.”

No one’s life can be solely categorized as either “well planned” or “summoned”. Referring back to the article, one has to wonder what life events “summoned” Dr. Christensen to the point of planning it out and then executing it so precisely. For that matter take any contemporary or historical figure and perform the same analysis. The Buddha’s quest and ultimate “awakening” were as much initiated by the events and observations of his life as well as his response. What kind of life would Joan of Arc have lived if she was born 600 years later and 6000 miles away in 21st century America?

Defining life goals and then having some kind of plan to achieve them is wonderful. However one can not reasonably achieve these life goals if they don’t recognize and appreciate the environment in which they are living.

Sacrificing the individuals who have sacrificed for us.

Posted: August 2nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
A New York City fireman calls for 10 more resc...
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Last week the house rejected a bill that would provide medical care for residents, volunteers and rescue workers whose health has been impacted by the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. A New York Times Editorial categorized this inaction as “Feckless and Cruel”, and while I hate to resort to name calling, that characterizes it pretty well. Think back to 9/11 and the days that followed, ordinary men and women descended upon ground zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA, looking not for retribution, but for the opportunity to help. They were and will remain inspirational in the hearts of not just Americans but of people all over the globe.

While the Republican partisanism (is that a word?) of the 111th congress’ role call on HR 847 speaks for itself, the Democratic majority is not without blame as they insisted that the bill be subject to a 2/3 majority vote in order to pass rather than to a plurality vote where aspects of the bill may have debated on the house floor.

Democrat or Republican, on September 12, 2001, I have to believe that all members of the 111th Congress were equally moved by the scenes of rescuers digging through rubble, the pictures of missing people pinned to walls and the image of a tattered American flag waving atop a mountain of devastation. These are images that I will never forget. I am saddened that the memories of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been dulled by political agenda.

Perhaps the delayed tragedy of 9/11 is forgetting that brief moment when there were no Democrats or Republicans, we were all simply Americans.  Americans whose only goal was to help each other in our collective time of need. Honorable members of Congress, I ask you to put aside your differences and remember that day. Remember the ordinary men and women who became heroes. They came to our aid when the country needed them. Today, they need you.

Its not personal, its just biology.

Posted: July 12th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
Ernst Haeckel's "tree of life", Darw...
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Number one took AP Biology this year and at one point he had a startling revelation: from a biological perspective the only point of existence is to reproduce, thus perpetuating the species. Think about it, from birth to death, every action of every creature can be indirectly traced back to this genetically hard-wired imperative.

Don’t argue with science, selfishness is just part of our programming. The same can be said for lying, stealing and even killing, its our nature. Its who we are. But why stop there, when competing for scarce resources that may insure the survival of the species, war and genocide are just 2 more tools in our collective belts. Its not personal, its just biology.

As extreme and absurd as the above sounds, in actuality, it is unfortunately reflective of our shared history. That said, are we also willing to allow it to become our destiny? Science can only define what can be defined with in conventional means and as such, if we don’t have the technology to repeatedly observe something, for all intents and purposes, it does not exist until we actually acquire the requisite capabilities. The true blessing of being human is that the potential exists within all of us to transcend our biology, intellectually, spiritually and physically. Our curse however, is that generation after generation, as a species, we have repeatedly, collectively failed to fully recognize this blessing.  And as the Red Sox have demonstrated, one day all curses come to an end.


Posted: June 22nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
Figure 15 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...
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We live in a time that is dominated by fear.  A fear that is different and more pervasive than any living generation in our country has ever encountered. A fear that is characterized  by incongruence. Being both real and imagined, stemming from both emotion and intellect as well as being identifiable and unknown. It is nefarious, It is subtle. And it is surrounding us.

The systems and institutions that have formed the bedrock of our society appear to be collapsing all around us even as these same entities make every effort to keep themselves intact. In cities and towns across our nation, individuals that have followed the rules, lived their lives in moderation, paid attention during school, diligently showed up every day at work, missed some family events for the job, paid ever increasing taxes and participated in the political process by voting feel betrayed, used and discounted by the very political, corporate and economic systems that they have been taught to trust their entire lives.  And the fear spreads like a wildfire as these hard working men and women stand witness to the ineffectiveness of self-serving misguided policies such as  ”too big to fail“, even as the daily existence they have known, the future that they have been promised appears to be crumbling right in front of them.

This is what happens when you worship false gods. When you do things for the wrong reasons. When you give in to the ends justifying the means. When you stand idly by and accept something that you know in your heart to be not just untrue, but simply wrong.

Life, your life is not a series of endpoints, it is an ongoing process. It flows, without beginning and without an end. It is an evolving dynamic experience that provides one with the opportunity to engage a continuum of emotions. And despite what we are taught, despite what innuendos are propagated in popular culture and our modern day mythology, no one stands alone. We are all connected and collectively responsible. Life is not about amassing power and hording wealth but about loving others and the joy of sharing. Life is not about holding on and maintaining the status the quo but about letting go and seeking something more wonderful through a journey into the unknown. Fear breeds greater fear. Love inspires greater love.

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Guilty. Guilty on all sides.

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
ANKARA, TURKEY - DECEMBER 22:  In this handout...
Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThere is more than enough guilt to go around in the unfortunate and quite avoidable incident that played out Monday morning in the Mediterranean Sea.

There is more than enough guilt to go around in the unfortunate and quite avoidable incident that played out on Monday morning in the Mediterranean Sea.

Yes the Israeli government is guilty. Guilty of being politically out maneuvered. Guilty of being played in the world press. And guilty of being bated into using deadly force.

The organizers of the flotilla are also guilty. Guilty of precipitating an international incident by attempting to run a declared blockade in an internationally recognized war zone, guilty of endangering the lives of those on the ships and guilty of provoking the Israelis.

Turkey is guilty of supporting the flotilla and its intention to violate war zone and the blockade of an ally. The US, Russia, China and the UN are all guilty of allowing these events to unfold, without making any efforts to proactively diffuse the situation.

The Israeli government, as well as the rest of the world, was well aware of the flotilla before it launched. Whether the purpose of the venture was for humanitarian aide or purely to bust the blockade is debatable, but the point is that the flotilla and its destination were all publicly known in advance of the incident. The flotilla had the implicit backing of the Turkish government. Was a public appeal made to the Turks to intervene? The flotilla was intercepted in international waters. Was a public appeal made to the UN to intervene? Turkey and Israel are both key regional allies of the US. Was an appeal for the US to support some kind of intercession made? Both Russia and China have aspirations to become global powers, why were they both silent?

Had any appeals for intervention of discussion been made forcefully and publicly, perhaps the flotilla would have been diverted. Perhaps the humanitarian supplies would have arrived to those that need them. Perhaps no one would have been put in harms way. No one would have been injured. And most importantly, no one would have been killed.

This incident is just a small part of a larger situation that is inflamed with humanities darkest passions and emotions. And that is precisely the problem; the base emotions of those on all sides obscure meaningful dialog and constructive discourse. Empathy and passion are drowned out by hatred and bias. And rational thought is displaced by impulses to react mindlessly, and most regrettably, sometimes violently.

If humanitarianism and peaceful coexistence are the true goals, than these ideals should be clearly visible in all words and actions. Meaningful progress won’t happen until all sides admit their guilt.

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Pacifism makes sense (if you actually want to live)

Posted: June 2nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
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pac·i·fism [pas-uh-fiz-uhm]
  1. opposition to war or violence of any kind.
  2. refusal to engage in military activity because of one’s principles or beliefs.
  3. the principle or policy that all differences among nations should be adjusted without recourse to war.

When it comes right down to it, war is pretty stupid. Even “just wars”, which some may very eloquently, intelligently and convincingly argue that we are morally bound to engage in, are in the end stupid. As are wars over resources, ideology and religion.

Some may argue that we humans are “hard-wired” for conflict. That may have been the case 50, 500 or 5000 years ago but it is not necessarily the case today. It is a documented fact that the brain is “plastic” and re-organizes or re-wires itself based upon internal thoughts and desires. If we want war to cease being an option than we all need to truly believe war is not an option. If we want the cycle to end than we must end the cycle. And that starts with us, as individuals.

I have mentioned this before, an incredibly wise man once told me “do not fear the evil in the world, just concentrate on doing good.” Concentrate on doing good and it will change you. I challenge you to experience this wonder. You may be very surprised how life looks on the other side.

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The gulf tragedy: Whose arrogance is the real question.

Posted: May 27th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »
Gulf of Mexico
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According to this WSJ article, there was a “spat” between the BP company representative and the Trans Ocean employees who actually operated and maintained the rig, on the proper procedure to shut it down. Guess who won? So it appears that the arrogance of the BP representative on the rig is at the root of this tragedy. The more important question is, was the decision his alone or was he carrying out orders from BP executives. Regardless 12 men are dead and the damage from this disaster will impact the region for generations.  I guess the only person who wins is the captain of the Exxon Valdez as it appears that he may no longer go down in history as the man responsible for the largest man-made environmental catastrophe ever recorded.

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Greatest hits (or misses)

Posted: May 14th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
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When I started this blog in February of last year, I had no expectation that people would actually read it. At the very least it would provide a mechanism for me to record my thoughts, musings and opinions. Now 600+ people from over 70 countries read this blog. Frankly that blows me away. As there are both a lot of new readers, I decided to high-lite 5 of the more popular earlier posts that newer readers may have missed.

Once again, thank you to those that read this. Please feel free to comment, email me and recommend Consensual Delusion to your friends, colleagues, and family.

This entry on how my 1st son’s birth changed my perspective was picked up by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Tina Kelly and the New York Times “Local” blog last year.

This post, “Die Once”, is about my dad wrestling with his mortality.

After reading “Crisis and Opportunity”, a friend from high school asked me “when did you become so smart?” I’ll take the back-handed compliment.

I am actually grouping these 2 posts together as they both illustrate the very fuzzy boundaries that define science and mysticism. Both posts attempt to show the reader that we believe we know much more than we actually know. And that is both supremely arrogant and very dangerous; “master planned obsolescence” and  “Is your reality, really reality?”

Lastly, in my opinion, this may be one of my most useful posts from a day to day living perspective. If my kids take anything away from this blog, hopefully it will be this message, “Don’t count on 2nd chances.”

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Fat Fingers my #&%@?%!

Posted: May 7th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
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A trader with fat fingers caused the 1000 point drop in the DJIA yesterday. Someone made billions in about a half an hour. The timing and extent of the drop were perfect as they occurred in such a way as to avoid trading curbs. Was this an organic event or was the market manipulated? Will we ever know….

Fat fingers. OK, and President Kennedy was killed by a single shooter with a magic bullet. And we are the only intelligent life in the universe. OK, maybe I am subject to some hyperbola every now and again but this is my blog.

Call me a skeptic but I felt compelled to check all my keyboards and on every single one, the letter “N” separates “B” and “M”. So this trader in Chicago must have really really fat fingers or maybe a really really small keyboard. Oh, and the mistake just happened to occur after 2:30 when the circuit-breaker trading curbs on the NYSE end. And the drop just happened to fall short of the 10% mark that would automatically close the market. Perhaps this was just a coincidence. A “perfect storm” so to speak.

Coincidence is totally plausible. Its even more plausible if you happen to believe in “too big to fail”, Goldman-Sachs puts it’s clients and the country by just supplying liquidity and that then President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Timothy Geithner just happened to be out of the room, every time the health of CitiBank, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and their ilk were discussed. As a side bar, Secretary Geithner appeared to be setting himself up for a top job a Goldman, once he left the government. But now with Goldman’s image tarnished, he may have to pursue alternate exit strategy.

The stock market is a zero-sum system. Someone buys and someone else sells. I’d like to know who bought at the bottom yesterday. Someone made billions. Perhaps it was Goldman-Sachs, just acting as a simple market maker at 2:30 PM, absorbing excess inventory of companies like Accenture  or Excelon (which both dropped from the $40’s to pennies only to close back up in the $40’s), and then selling that inventory back into the market at 3:00 (as they testified ad naseum to Congress, they are just market makers and they are really careful about holding onto “aged” inventory).

Will we ever know what actually happened? Was the market manipulated? Were the computer driven systems gamed? Will Goldman be around in a few years? And if so, will Tim Geithner have an office there? Stay tuned……

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Goldman Sachs is the new Drexel Burnham Lambert.

Posted: April 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
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Talk about being “surreal”, to quote the Goldman banker at the heart of the SEC’s current investigation, this has all happened before and will likely happen again. It appears that Goldman Sachs really is the new Drexel Burnham Lambert.

Here is how I see this Lincoln/Kennedy-esque relationship unfolding: Employees from both firms clearly considered themselves the smartest guys in the room. Both firms developed innovative financial products that were eventually abused by select customers at the expense of other customers and ultimately the American taxpayer.  Both firms and their employees were the envy of Wall Street because of the huge amounts of money they were making. Both firms became synonymous with greed, lying and all that is bad in finance. Civil investigations paved the way for criminal investigations. Right or wrong, certain high profile individuals are singled out and publicly made an example. Others will fade away and still others will rise from the ashes.

What is even more ironic is that back in the 1980’s when Drexel was at its height of power and influence, I had friends who were bankers at Goldman and they hated Drexel. They thought they were immoral. They said they were doing horrible things. They said they acted arrogantly and brashly. And they relished it when the sharks began to circle and Drexel was toppled. I always interpreted the intensity of emotion with regard to Drexel as jealousy or schadenfreude. I think most of the reaction to Goldman now comes from the same place as opposed to being truly outraged due to moral lapses.

People who take jobs, who make careers on Wall Street, are not doing it for altruistic reasons. They are doing it for the money. I have no problem with that and frankly neither should anyone who derives any benefit from our economic system, which is virtually every person on the planet. I do have a problem with cheating, lying and stealing. I have an even bigger problem with the powerful abusing their positions of power and forcing the little guy not only clean up their garbage but take it to the street and eat it. And I have an even bigger problem when these powerful individuals are convinced that the garbage is no longer there solely because of their brilliance and that makes them both completely indispensable to society as well justified in taking ever larger salaries and bonuses, even as the real world is crumbling all around them.

So in the end, maybe Goldman will get what it deserves. Or more likely, even more than it deserves.

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iPad: A love story. Part 1

Posted: April 20th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I was out of the country when the iPad went on sale. I was traveling with my iPod Touch, which has done a completely adequate job of keeping me connected and semi-organized when away from my desk. But the iPad really intrigued me. Here was a device that could not just extend my iPod Touch with a larger screen but potentially replace a laptop. A device that I could actually use to record ideas, do some writing and maybe even maintain an up to date schedule.

So upon returning from my trip about a week after they were introduced, I went to the Apple Store and checked them out. Yes they were very cool but I was not totally sold. I wanted to check around the web and see what real users were saying. The associate told me they were on back order and the best thing to do was to reserve one as the backlog was about 5 days. As the reservation was non-binding, I agreed. Five days would certainly give me enough time to decide. He stepped me through the process on-line, using a 27″ iMac and then congratulated me when it was complete.

The next morning I got an email “congratulating” me as my iPad was waiting for me at the Apple Store. So 5 days became 24 hours. I waited for my kids to get home from school and asked them if they wanted to go with me to the Apple Store. Number One, who wanted his own iPad, said no. He was going to wait for me to buy one and use mine first (like that was really going to happen). Number Two said sure and he would even get me his “friends and family” discount -which I don’t understand as he has no family working at the Apple Store but he said he was friends with Jordan, the manager. Number Two is 13.

So we go to the store and find Jordan. She is about thirty, attractive, tastefully tattooed and yes friends with my 13 year-old son. I give her a copy of my congratulatory email, she checks it out and then she proceeds to congratulate me too. My son asks her about the discount. She smiles and apologizes. No one is getting the F&F discount. I think to myself, he is obviously not that friendly with her. She leaves us to retrieve the iPad from the back of the crowded store.

Jordan comes back with my iPad and John. John congratulates me too. They begin to double team me about the benefits of Apple Care. Normally I blow these things off but 2 years ago when I bought my first generation Kindle, it stopped working after a week. Fine, include the Apple Care. Satisfied, Jordan handed me completely off to John to process the sale.

i told John that I wanted a keyboard. As we were walking across the store, he tried to sign me up for mobile me. I told him that between google docs and dropbox I was covered. He pressed me again, telling me that I could have access to all my files from any computer. I told him that I already had access to files from any computer. He shrugged and led on.

I was going to buy the bluetooth version but John steered me toward the docking keyboard as it had special iPad keys. Fine. Ring me up. The whole deal was just short of a grand. John took my Amex card and swiped his iPhone terminal. The card was good. I wanted to yell “approved” like Kristen Wig on SNL but this was the Apple Store, not Target. And besides my son would be mortified.

Despite my protests, John went to the back of the store to get us a bag -it was part of the Apple Store experience. He returned and packed us up. He congratulated me one more time, this time he raised his hand in the air, trying to give me a hi-five. I complied as it would have been awkward to leave the guy hanging.

As we walked out of the store, I mentioned to my son that it was a bit cult-like being congratulated over and over again for dropping a grand on something that I was not sure I actually needed. “Dad, you have an iPad”.

……..to be continued.

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Follow this rule and you will be successful. My choice is to fail.

Posted: March 18th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

A wealthy man that I know has a rule that he swears by.  He calls it the “T” rule. He believes that if someone follows this rule they will become “successful”. Until recently, he never explicitly mentioned it to me, but looking back, it is certainly consistent with his behavior.

Here is his rule: Draw a “T”.  Now think of your life.  The right side is for all the times that you were “screwed” or got the shorter end of a deal.  The left side is for all the times that you got the better end of the deal or you “screwed” someone else.  The goal is, over the course of your life, maximize the left and minimize the right.

My first reaction was disbelief. Then I felt sad for him. I also realized that as defined by this, he must consider me a complete and unequivocal failure. A sucker or an easy mark. Someone who is wasting his potential and amazing opportunities. But that’s OK because I try to follow a different rule. And mine is golden.

Do One Thing.

Posted: March 13th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Staff and residents of Covenant House NJ joined us for services last night.

I can not help but cry when I hear the stories of marginalization encountered by these youth. I cry more when I see the concern, dedication and selfless compassion of the staff.

We have so much. It takes so little to make someone’s life just that much easier. A safe place to sleep. A hot meal. A shower. Shoes. A smile. A small reminder that there is goodness and love in our world, no matter how dark and alone it may seem. A reminder for me. A reminder for you. And a reminder for them.

Please visit their site Do1thing.org

Many Laws. Only One Simple Rule.

Posted: March 12th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There is one simple rule that would make our lives would be so much brighter, so much richer and so much more meaningful, if we simply just lived it. In any language, in any faith, it reminds us of how truly wonderful we humans can be when our individual thoughts and actions are aligned in commonality of purpose, to the benefit of all.

One simple rule expressed in a multitude of ways. One simple rule that is both universally relevant yet as ancient as humanity itself. One simple rule that unites us in our past, guides us in our present and points us to our shared destiny.  Just one simple rule.

“Son, that which seems evil unto thee do not do to thy companion”

-Babylonian legend of Ahitar

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

-Confucius, The Analects

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; That is the whole Torah. while the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

-Hillel, the Talmud -Shabbat 31a, the “Great Principle”

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

-Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7:12

“Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you”

-The Prophet Muhammad, the Farewell Sermon

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.”

-BrihaspatiThe  Mahabharata

If your neighbor’s jackal escapes into your garden, you should return the animal to its owner; that is how you would want your neighbor to treat you.”

-African proverb

Hiding behind the curtain.

Posted: March 4th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

This started out as a comment to a post from my friend, Rabbi Amy Small, but as I was composing it, I realized that it’s context was better suited to its own post.

In my minds eye, the ability to laugh at oneself is a both an indication of how one enjoys life as well as a marker of one’s confidence in living. At a Purim play and carnival, Rabbi Amy Joy Small took on some rather unconventional roles that evidently caused some to pause. Why? Perhaps because she was acting outside of how a Rabbi is stereotypically perceived. To varying degrees, I think the title “Rabbi” generally evokes images of a more dour, serious and older male in most people. Further, I think synagogue evokes the image of a sacred, serious and somewhat solemn place controlled by a rigid hierarchy of wise and near perfect learned men.

With no disrespect intended, its all a bit like the Wizard of Oz as presented in the film; an awe inspiring individual whose perceived power lies in his mastery of arcane information. He resides in the most sacred section of the great Emerald City, protected by guards and limiting his contact with the citizenry who look to him for leadership and guidance. As such, his legend and mystique are based more upon managed perception then the actuality of deeds and character. It is only when this “wizard” is inadvertently unveiled by an animal, which is immune to the crafted personae, is revealed to be a mere man hiding behind a curtain, that the “wizard” acknowledges his humanity, faults and all. By understanding and accepting his own shortcomings rather than focusing on living up to the image he created, he is now free to see the strengths of others and he is able to open their eyes to these qualities.

In actuality a Rabbi puts on her pants one leg at a time (just like everyone else) and a synagogue is just a structure where the congregation (i.e. community) can gather together. What makes our congregation both distinct and appealing to many is that our shared humanity, quirks and strengths are honestly embraced and accepted. A culture of seeing everyone as a person who has value and must be respected is continually emphasized and fostered. And this does not just apply to congregants or even just Jews, but to all individuals.  I saw this immediately when as a family we joined many years ago (it was at my wife’s behest as I had no desire to join anything). I have continually told my kids that our synagogue, our congregation is a place where you can see how regular people, including clergy, lay leadership and members all bring in divergent perspectives and idiosyncrasies but they are united by the goal of trying act unselfishly, responsibly and with true concern for others. And by others, I mean all others. That is the ultimate take away and that is why we belong here.