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.

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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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.


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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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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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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