Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the zero-sum game

" In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant...Cutting a cake is a zero-or constant-sum because taking a larger piece reduces the amount of cake available for others. Zero sum games are also called strictly competitive." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, the zero-sum game theory.

In contrast, the non-zero sum theory holds that, "assuming the parties are acting rationally, any commercial exchange is a non-zero sum activity, because each party must consider the goods he is receiving as being at least fractionally more valuable to him/her than the goods he is delivering." Wikipedia, supra.

On December 23,2008 Ali Gharib reporting in IPC quoted senior counsel on Foreign Relations fellow Walter Russell Mead on his concept of how the Palestinian Israeli conflict should be addressed: "The Obama administration needs to accomplish a kind of Copernican shift in perception: looking at the same sun, moon, planets and stars that others have seen , it must reconceptualize the relations among them". Mead went on to say that the U.S. must "understand conceptually that there are a lot of non-zero sum issues on the table in Israeli-Palestinian issues".

We are now staring at an ever escalating conflict regarding the Gaza strip. With Israel declaring an all out war against Hamas in this region, there is clear evidence of a mindset to eradicate. In this scenario, there appears no option but winning or losing.

David Brooks, writing in the NY Times on September 21, 2006, viewed the ongoing battles involving terrorist groups as "chaos theory in human form- an ever shifting array of state and non-state actors who cooperate, coagulate, divide feud and feed on one another without end." The resulting conflict was always to be zero- sum victory for one side or the other.

The fallacy of that logic is discussed by Robert Wright in his book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny. Therein, he quotes former President Bill Clinton,from a Wired interview in December 2000, as follows:
" The more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero sum solutions... we have to find ways that we can all win, we have to accomodate each other".

President elect Obama faces a world in which non-zero sum theory must prevail. We have just witnessed 8 years of the devastating results of the alternative through the misguided actions of President Bush.

It often feels like our universe is incapable of realigning its fundamental approach to conflict. I know that the new President will undertake a task that makes the trials of Sisyphus seem gentle by comparison. But, unless and until the folly of the theory of destroying and and conquering is embraced , and the benefit in sharing our toys becomes paramount, we are doomed merely to repeat past failures. That would be a zero sum game in which there are no winners.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Crash landing

The moment I took flight, I knew that trouble lay ahead. Man was not intended to leave earth in this fashion. As I hurtled through the air out of control, I had but one thought."This is going to be bad".

I had ignored the warning signs. My body had been telling me for almost 2 weeks to shut it down. I have seemed to swallow an entire bag of stupid pills lately, and soldiered on notwithstanding the pain and the knowledge that disaster almost assuredly lay ahead. If that was not enough, my surroundings spoke to me in volumes of the dangers I was facing. I had received years of training and knew what to look for. Nevertheless, I was not to be deterred in my quest.

The morning began cold and overcast. Christmas day had brought a day long downpour, shutting off any possibility of subjecting myself to the problems I should have been avoiding. The following day I had been cautious in my efforts, and had circumnavigated the worst in front of me. I had an old friend as a companion for these few days and knew he would be disappointed if we didn't take part in this adventure. It had been more than a quarter of a century together of risking limb, and possibly life. Today was one more to add to the collection.

As we approached our destination, I began to search out the obstacles that we were to face. Guns were going off in almost every direction. As evidence of their power lay strewn for as far as the eye could see, all was not clear ahead. If sanity prevailed, I would not venture anywhere near these massive warriors.

We put on the last part of our armor, our boots. As my friend struggled mightily to secure himself properly, I could see the beads of sweat begin pouring down his face. I knew it was not fear but just the physical strains of protecting himself fully, that caused my ally so much consternation. Finally, he was ready and off we went.

We were cautious at first, staying far away from the worst of the trouble. We would ease ourselves into the water, testing slowly, toe by toe, until we were fully immersed.

Then we came upon another of our brethren. He was taller, stronger and younger. He knew nothing of fear or moderation. He could brave the best the guns had to offer and plow ahead, undeterred and unmarked. My first big mistake was following in his tracks.

He sped off and was soon out of sight. I was next to go. As I went past the first of the guns I felt somewhat unsteady. I was being tossed about. My environment was dictating my path. I steadied myself and traveled on, cautious but intact. Ahead lay another gun. I continued on, directly towards my enemy.

And then it happened. As I came into the gully, it felt like my forward motion was stopped for a split second, as if I had just hit a brick wall. In the next instant I was catapulted as if shot out of a cannon.. It would only take a second or two before I would crash and burn. I had to protect the shoulder that I had injured some 2 weeks before while in the midst of this unholy pursuit. My face was the first part of me to feel the impact. Like a body surfer trying to avoid eating some sand, I raised my head slightly.

I had to do something quickly to stop the descent. Instinctively, my arms went out in front of me. That was mistake number 2. The pain was intense. I knew that there was to be no happy ending to this story. As quickly as it began, it ended. I lay there stunned. If my appendages were still attached, my extended appendages were now back up the hill, alone and forlorn.

My friend could see I was in trouble. Soon others would happen upon us, and suffer similar fates. We were in treacherous terrain. As we all lay there, we must have collectively wondered what could have caused us to venture into the eye of the storm.

Slowly, I gathered myself up and put myself back together. Like Humpty Dumpty, I did not leave these grounds the same as when I arrived.

I was able to find my way to safety. While the danger of the moment had passed, the stupidity of my hubris was still evident. The shoulder was to be a constant reminder to me of the folly of my actions.

For now, I know but 2 things for certain. First, I will not venture out skiing again today, or for some days to come. Second, snow guns and the sticky, wet substance they spew forth will remain a safe distance from me in the future.

Friday, December 26, 2008

the look

It emerges slowly.One day it is nothing, then, a hint of something. In relatively short order it is there enough for people to begin asking questions .Soon, the comments and inquisitive glances start. I am at early stage in its evolution. I am, for the moment, growing a beard.

Like many of my contemporaries, this is not my first foray into this territory. I have.over the last 40 years, redefined my look on numerous occasions. I have grown everything from a Lincolnesque beard to a Selleck-like mustache..

While my wife has been my constant ally, I know that I face the disapproval of my mother, my sister and my children. In earlier incarnations of my beard or mustache, I was subjected to varying degrees of criticism from many of my loved ones. It ranged from the laudatory for my clean cut self (' you are so handsome without it') to the highly critical ( 'why are you doing THAT'). On one occasion, while I was in the process of growing a beard, I met my mother at her beauty parlor. She introduced me to some of the women there. "This is my son, he doesn't always look like this".

I also must deal with my own doubts about the look I will achieve. Being bald, I have this image of my face seeming to be on upside down.. I also fear that I will stare into the mirror and see an old religious man staring back at me.

Yet, I carry on in my experiment. I want to be seen as the professor, learned, venerable. I have recently abandoned contact lenses, after an affair of nearly half a century. What better time to reinvent my image then at the moment that the glasses have already made me look smarter. There is definitely a lot of gray in my beard. In the right setting that can help cultivate my intellectual image.

Maybe it is nothing more than that I am on vacation. Maybe it is that it has been a difficult year and I want to begin next year with a fresh start. Maybe it is just vanity. Maybe it is boredom.

My daughter is coming home from vacation today, and will soon get a look at me. I know that my son and my sister will be reading this piece shortly.My razor stands ready, on a moment's notice, to spring into action.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So you think that was stupid

I left you after my maniacal dash to Kennedy Airport. After completing my wholly inappropriate, unnecessarily dangerous escapade, you would think that I would come to my senses. I would be thankful that I escaped with my driving record, my car, and my health intact. If that is what you thought, you would be sadly mistaken.

I woke up the following morning to predictions of the first significant snowstorm of the winter. "Lock the doors, put the logs on the fireplace, and hunker down". I guess the message got lost in translation to me.

I finished work around noon. Most people had not even bothered to come to the office. The snow was now falling at a significant clip. I got into my car and headed home. But that was not my ultimate destination. Some 120 miles away, was the beginning of my vacation.

It had been a tough year in the office, with clients and phones exploding in front of my eyes.That would be forgotten as soon as I got out of the area. But I had to get out of the area.

The drive to the apartment in Fort Lee was bad, but not impassable or impossible. I could do this, and do this today. The lunacy of that decision would become self evident in short order.

Joanne, Richie and I packed up the car and headed to the Berkshires. We had taken this trip hundreds of times over the last few years. It was a 2 hour walk in the park on most occasions. 2 hours into this trip, I would wonder what I had been thinking.

The roads were bad, the storm was locked in, and the visibility was diminishing rapidly. That was the best part of the journey. Early on, it was clear that crawling was the speed for the day. As the snow piled up even on the highways, third gear became the goal. Then, the highway closed in front of us. Detour led to another detour. Zigzag, and road maps were our companions on this trip.

Then the fun began. The windshield wipers seemed to trap the snow and turn it into ice on a moment's notice. The drill started. Pull to the side of the road, or the highway. Joanne and Richie began the jackhammering of the wipers in a futile attempt to create a world I could actually see. It was of no use. Every few minutes the road basically disappeared in front of me. I was left trying to chase the lights of the cars ahead. If they went off the road, I was next in line.

The muscles in my neck tightened. My back stiffened. My eyes hurt from the strain. And yet, in my continuing lunacy, I carried on.

Minutes became much more than just 60 seconds. Hours went by, and still the end was nowhere in sight. We had turned this into something it didn't have to be, and there was no rational explanation for my behavior.

Six and one half hours after we began, we pulled into the driveway of our Berkshire home. Richie and I had now spent two consecutive days trapped in a car for hours while I battled the traffic and my own idiocy. Somehow, at the end of it all, we stood there, hunched over, but intact. Stupidity had triumphed again.

I would like to say I learned from my misadventures, but I would only be fooling myself. I think I am doomed to being an idiot forever. Does anyone want to drive with me on my next journey? I think my son's seat is available.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The trip

I think I may have been a little over the top. I admit that driving on the shoulder of the road on the highway for about a mile, so as to speed past the line of traffic which was at a standstill, might not have been the brightest thing I ever did. Even as the lane seemed to narrow and just about disappear, I squeezed past trucks, avoided the remains of a tire, watched out for signs of the police, and headed for my destination at warp speed. I was not going to be denied.

I had left my office at about 4:30 PM to begin my journey. I had been in the middle of what seemed like a week long series of disasters relating to my work. As I conversed by way of conference call with at least 4 other participants, I kept repeating that I had to go, I had to go. I did.

The traffic to the George Washington Bridge was moving at a crawl. I weaved in and out, got into the lane that would dump me off in Fort Lee. I called my son to be ready. I rocketed through the sidestreets and arrived in front of our apartment building. It was 5PM.

My son hurtled into the front seat, and off we went. The trip across the bridge was slow and torturous. The minutes kept ticking away. My foot was paused on the accelerator, waiting for the slightest opening. Over the bridge, we crawled down the East Side Drive. The merge on 125th Street began on 140th Street. The slowdown on 71st Street started on 96th street. The clock and I stared at one another intently, anger in our eyes. Stop moving I silently yelled. Nothing slows down time it haughtily responded.

We called our daughter that we were closing in on her apartment. It was 6 PM. We were still in pretty good shape.

We arrived and I hustled with Alexandra to get everything together and in the car. It was 6:15 before the engine started up again and we were off.

I had never in my life been in the Queens Midtown Tunnel,which led into the LIE ( that is the Long Island Expressway, not the big LIE). I will never go on it again. It took us 20 minutes to get through the tunnel, as people rubbernecked in their cars to look at something of no interest that was happening in the other lane. It was now 6:40.

The LIE was a PARKING LOT. Crawling was really an exaggeration to describe the pace at which we moved. My sighing and running my hand over the top of my head increased exponentially. This was not good. It was almost 7:00 and the first exit off of this road had not been reached, and was no where in sight. It looked hopeless.

Then, a shoulder on the road appeared, beckoning me. I am going for it, I said. If I don't, we have no chance at all. I moved right, into the non-lane, with no cars in it, and hit the accelerator.While hundreds of angry people must have looked out their car windows, called me every name imaginable, given me the finger and wished I would run directly into a cop, I sped forward. It was 7:10 PM.

My daughter, in the back seat, made certain inaudible noises. While I think she might have been saying, please slow down, watch out, I am sweating profusely and I may be having an aneurysm, I was a man possessed and was listening to no one. It was 7:15 PM and an exit loomed just around the bend.

Thank God for the navigator. My son pulled out a map which none of us knew we had. Get off here. Go about 5 miles and turn there. Then you go 2 miles and you are just about there. Turn here. Get in the left lane now. We are just about there. There it is.

It was 7:30. The predictions for the weather in the upcoming days had led the airlines to tell people to forget about flying tomorrow. It was today, or forget it. This was the last flight out of JFK to Park City for the evening. If Alex wasn't on the 8:20 PM flight, she would not be meeting up with her boyfriend and starting a well deserved vacation until the cows came home.

We pulled up in front of the terminal. My son and daughter rushed out of the car and headed to the baggage check area.It was 50 minutes before the flight and we were not sure if we were too late. I peered out of the window intently. Suddenly, I saw a big smile on my daughter's face, and both my children gave me the thumbs up sign. Our odyssey had come to a successful conclusion. It had been over 3 hours since I left Hackensack, but it felt like 3 days.

As my son and I son began our return trip home, I slowly pulled out of my double parked spot, and into the line of traffic. A car sped by me, going way too fast. What a jerk, I thought.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can you hear me now, Cablevision?

The phone receiver and cord lay lifeless in my hand. They had been ripped from their usual place in the course of the struggle. When one says that a phone is dead, it does not usually bring up images of it being killed. I had killed my phone.

My odyssey began some 3 months ago. My existing phone carrier's charges were being substantially undercut by another carrier. Why not save a few bucks? The switchover would be painless. It turned out to be anything but.

The initial quick installation took 4 days before phone service was 'fully operational'. During that time, despite my pleading, cajoling, begging and screaming at anyone and everyone who would listen, I had intermittent, inconsistent service. The company blamed the problems on everything from the old carrier to me. You get caught in this vacuum of issues, allegations and false solutions and in the end you are swallowed whole.

It was like being in a 15 round prizefight. At the end of the 4 days, when both my lines would ring when people called, and when I could in turn make outgoing calls without fear, I felt like I had created a bond through adversity with my new phone. We were now family, and we would protect one another in the future.

I was wrong. The phone continued to be my enemy. It often gave little warnings that it was about to erupt, like in the days before a volcano blows. The lights on my phone would blink like lights on a Christmas tree. Calls would not go through. But the disasters were small, and they came and went.

Late last week, and through most of this week, the battle began in earnest. Incoming calls were not happening. Then, outgoing calls became a distant memory. The carrier was contacted, and another round of useless action ensued. It is definitely this, it is assuredly that, it must be , it has to be, it should be, it could be, it isn't. I wasn't happy.

When I thought, 2 days ago, that we had found THE ANSWER, I was disgusted but hopeful. Then the blinking began anew, the outgoing was not going, the incoming was not coming, and I snapped. With a rapid series of movements, I raised the phone from its cradle, and BANGED IT back down repeatedly. If I was going down, I was taking the phone with me.

$60 later, a new phone arrived. Later that day, the service people appeared to resolve THE PROBLEM. By the end of the day yesterday, I was assured all was well in my phone world. So far , so good. But I am telling my new phone that it is on a very short leash. One wrong move, and it will join its brother. BE WARNED.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On buying treasury bills ( with no return)

It must be that my eyes deceive
This must be some bad make believe
It can't be that when I retrieve
What I gave is what I receive

Can the return be 0 per cent
How will that help pay the rent
This cannot be what you meant
To give me zip on money lent

Where is it we go from here
We live in a state of fear
We worry where we'll be next year
Just give us bucks to buy a beer

The government has spoken
The system's officially broken
For our dollars you give no token
And we ask if you're joking

So to the drawing board let's go
To find a way to make some dough
To help make our economy grow
So for our work there's green to show

You must give more than you receive
For us to have faith and believe
Give us hope so we perceive
There's nothing hidden up your sleeve

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I have been, and continue to be, a lifelong NY Yankee fan. I am one of those people who bleed pinstripes. From April to October, most of my evenings are spent watching and wondering where my Boys of Summer are headed. Today, I learned that the Yankees had signed a free agent pitcher,CC Sabathia, to a 7 year contract worth $161 million. I am disgusted.

We have just paraded the heads of the Big 3 before the cameras in an attempt to humiliate them, and humble an industry too long full of hubris. Corporate jets, and all signs of excess were to be abandoned. We are in a time of crisis, the automakers helped drive us there, and they were to act contrite. One of the lessons being learned was now was not a good time for a show of wealth.

I understand that the Yankees are not the engine for our doom In fact, we can all use a little escape from reality. We are told things are bad and will get worse before they get better. In these times, let the sports world entertain us, but do your business in quiet.

There is talk of the team offering AJ Burnett, another sometime wonder on the mound, $85 million over 5 years. Andy Pettite, a pitcher on the tail end of a glorious career, is seeking $16 million to play one more year. The Record (my local newspaper) reports today that "the Yankees will zoom past the $200 million (payroll) threshold in the coming weeks without guilt or shame".

When I see hundreds of billions dollars being pumped into our economy to try to save it from collapse; when millions are unemployed; when mortgage foreclosures are epidemic; when we all live in fear that we are headed into the possibility of a depression, don't tell us that 25 baseball players are going to make probably close to $10 million per person this season.

Ticket prices already reflect the Steinbrenner muscle flexing. The closest an average family of 4 will get to a good seat to watch a Yankee game this season is from their living room. When I am sitting with my son or daughter watching the game on televsion, I would rather be discussing the math involving the pitches thrown by CC Sabathia then trying to figure out how much he is being paid every time he steps foot on the mound.

Now is the time for quiet to be the new loud. Tone it down boys and do your business behind closed doors. I want to be able to look forward to April with a pure heart. I want to yell at the players for their misdeeds on the field, not the money in their pockets. Let us have that, in a time when we have little else.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday greetings to our incoming President

Dear President elect:

We wish you peace, serenity and success in the new year in dealing with:

1. Afghanistan
2. Pakistan
3. India
4. Iran
5. Iraq
6. Israel
7. North Korea
8. Russia
9. Georgia
12.Radical fundamentalists
13.Nuclear proliferation
15.World wide poverty and hunger
17.Wall Street
18.Main Street
20.Climate change
21.The greening of America
22.Health care reform
23.Social security reform
24.Education reform
25.Immigration reform
26.The Supreme Court

Welcome to 1600. Just recognize that this may not be the best time for you to try to quit smoking.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Starbury , the fall from grace

Parabolic wizard. Airball.
A onetime sometime shooting star, burnt out.
Forced out, found out, left out, forgot
Yesterday pried from your hands

Graceful in game, ugly in flight
Hard to watch this unfold
Defiant, denying, disputing The Man
Unwilling to let it go

In a prison, in a fishbowl, alone in a crowd
Standing up, standing out, looking in
Make a point, but never score
Nowhere to head, no home.

Overstayed your welcome
No reason, and no one cares
Goodbye, good luck, good times and bad
Starbury is no more.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Locked and loaded

Plaxico Burress is all of the following: a self-inflicted wound, a walking (limping) disaster and a poster child for stupidity . He has hurt himself, has damaged the image of his league, and faces serious questions concerning his continued employment and freedom. He has made a series of bad judgments throughout the years that have negatively affected his family, his teammates and his employers. He has shown himself to be a meltdown waiting to happen.

Having said all that, and in no way meaning to excuse the act of which he now stands accused (or in the eyes of Mayor Bloomberg, convicted and sentenced), I found it a striking coincidence that I had read, within the past week a series of essays in ESPN (the 12/1/08 issue) entitled "Living Scared". The cover piece, written by David Fleming, was followed up by a number of short pieces written by NFL players, and even one by a former policeman,now a security guard for the Denver Broncos.The articles focused on the perception by the league and the players that they are inviting targets for attack and discusses how they handle their concern.

Everything seems to center around the death of Sean Taylor, a former player for the Washington Redskins, who was killed when intruders entered his bedroom in his apartment in Miami on November 26, 2007. While his girlfriend and 18 month old daughter lay under the covers in the room, Taylor was shot and killed. Fleming reports that many players "can't shake the feeling that someone is out here, beyond the blinds, lurking". Other recent incidents include a New Year's 2007 shooting and killing of a player outside a Denver nightclub, while riding in his limousine; the June 2008 robbery of a player by the Vegas strip, in which he was beaten unconscious; the September, 2008 shooting (14 times) of a player (Richard Collier) leading to the amputation of one leg above the knee and his being paralyzed; and the robbery at gunpoint last week of a teammate of Burress.

The response of the players has been as one might expect. Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers spoke of having someone brandish a weapon in his face. His reaction was to have a bodyguard with him at all times. He said there was something about this that was so sad, but he does what he has to as he feels he is trying to save (his) life. In September 2007, Dunte Robinson while living in a gated community, was the victim of a robbery in his apartment. A gun was pushed in his face, and his arms and legs were duct taped. Until that point, he never owned a gun or thought he needed one. Now he does.

Another player guessed that gun ownership in the NFL was about 50% of all players.

The stories go on and on. Many, like Fred Taylor, who was a teammate of Richard Collier, talk of guns making them feel safe. Derrick Brooks, a Tampa Bay Buccaneer echoes what he believes every player thought after the death of Taylor, that if it happened to him, it could happen to me. He said that players had to remember " not everyone is crazy about us being blessed".

The other evening,Plaxico Burress placed himself and those around him in unnecessary jeopardy. By pure 'good luck', his carrying and discharge of a concealed weapon, illegally possessed by him, did limited physical damage. I understand that the message to come from this incident is not to excuse the act merely because the result was not horrifying. Punishment will come, and should. I do not attempt to justify why Burress was cocked and ready for action when he entered the nightclub. However, I do have some idea why this was so.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The much smaller 3


We see that:
1. you each came here today by foot
2. you have agreed to forego any salary until we decide you appear responsible with your personal spending habits.
3. you will require our written approval before you manufacture even a door handle on a car
4. you have sold the corporate jets and donated all the money to a save the economy foundation.
5. you will reduce your workforce to 100 people by next Wednesday

So, why are we not convinced that you are deserving or our attention or our money?


1. Why is there this level of oversight (and begging) regarding the auto industry and their request for up to $34 billion, but a free flow of hundreds of billions to banks, other financial institutions and insurance companies with no questions asked?

2. Why do we not get a dog and pony show regarding matters like the estimated $20 billion in year end bonuses that may be handed out from the $125 billion given to keep the financial institutions afloat?

3. Why are you not concentrating your time and efforts on getting money into each of our pockets, making us able to breathe and to walk into a car dealership with funds and a low cost loan?

4. Where is the flow of credit from the lending institutions with the monies you gave them?

5. How can any business plan for the auto industry work until you force the money out of the tightly clenched fists of the lenders and into the economy?

I heard a new estimated figure of government money and guarantees necessary to resuscitate the economy of 7.5 trillion. Let's deal with the bigger picture and let the auto makers go home with tails between their legs and money to survive in a smaller, more efficient, 21st century form until better days come.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What did they say?

I read with much interest the series of articles in the Sunday Opinion page of November 30,2008. We as a nation are facing unprecedented economic difficulties. As many of us try to analyze these problems , I believe we share a common dilemma. None of us have any idea what the experts are saying to us and what it all means.

I have been advised at various moments in recent weeks that we face the possibility of inflation, stagflation or deflation. Depending on the time of day and whether Jupiter is aligned with Mars, it appears that a particular solution is the answer de jour. We seem to have given away billions of dollars with no understanding and no oversight. We are putting so many fingers in the dike at the same time that we are now using our toes to stop the flow. We are twisting ourselves into knots, and we have no concrete knowledge as to whether this is doing any real good.

Mr. Boskin, Mr. Leuchtenburg, Mr. Stiglitz, Mr. Hornats, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Lindsey are all undoubtedly brilliant economists with keen insight. However, they must understand that we are all dumber than fifth graders. While they may be talking, all we are hearing is the sound of a sinking economy. Until we feel that we are given the ABC's of where we stand, what we are doing, and the reality of what it truly means, we will all continue to feel that what we are being told is just sound and fury signifying nothing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The incredible shrinking man

3.3. What a wonderful number. If I recall correctly, that was my cumulative average in college. However, that is not the reason this number has become of great import to me. It is not the projected size of the household for those getting married in 2008. It is not the length of the average career in the National Football league. What this figure does represent is the results of my latest PSA reading.

When last we left off, I had gotten myself off the table at Dr. Lowe's office, searched for my pants, my pride and my equilibrium and waited for the results of a prostate biopsy. I advised everyone that all turned out well, but that the monitoring would continue. And so it has.

I have included the taking of a pill, supposed to help shrink my prostate, in my daily regimen for most of this year. Yet, despite my following the doctors orders, my readings were like an elevator on a quick ride to the top floor. 2.5 became 4, then jumped and jumped again until my reading reached 12 late this summer. This was one time that a part of me getting bigger was not a positive.

Dr. Lowe and I spent another morning together several months ago. We repeated the process of discussing anything but what was happening in front of him (and behind me). What he saw was, in the end, ok . I was told I was suffering from a prolonged case of prostatitis. However, with the PSA levels rising, doubt in the biopsy results became my constant companion.

About 2 weeks ago, I trudged over to a local lab and again had blood taken to get the latest reading on my PSA. Several days later, Dr. Lowe called and said "3.3". Nothing preceded that statement, nor was it necessary. The how and why this had happened was not what this conversation was about. Dr. Lowe knows I am a 'projector' and wanted to be certain to get my blood pressure down immediately.

Throughout our time in school, we have been taught to strive for the perfect 4.0. I have learned that for me, the number that I want to hear is as close to 0 as possible. I will continue to keep you posted on the success of my downward aspirations.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My date with Barack

One of my favorite movies of recent years is a documentary called "My Date with Drew". It chronicled the attempts of one man to meet and have a date with Drew Barrymore. In the end, with perseverance and good luck, wish became reality.

I am now setting myself a more modest goal. I don't want to have a date with Barack Obama, I only want the date of January 20,2009 to be the one myself and my family will talk about as being part of a defining moment in our history. I am looking for 4 free seats to the inauguration.

My first attempt to secure a place in family lore was to follow up on the report that tickets to the swearing in were being distributed by Senators and Congressmen free of charge. My local congressman introduced my wife to me over 31 years ago. He was a guest at our wedding. My call to his local office, several days after the historic events of November 4, resulted in a polite response from one of the office staff that the tickets they were allotted were gone by 9:30 AM on the morning of the 5th. I did not even get a chance to grovel in front of my old friend.

The enormity of the quest was only reenforced when I investigated further. I read a November 10 report from CNN of ticket brokers asking as much as $20,095 for a single ticket to the inauguration. In that same article, Senator Diane Feinstein was quoted as saying she heard of tickets being sold for at least $40,000 apiece.

Methods to turn a profit from this event run rampant. When I go to Stub Hub I find offers to attend an 'inaugural gala' either the night before or the night of the election, but no seat to the swearing in. I also learn that America Tours can give me a 4 day vacation to NY and Washington and the tour guide will find the best available place where you can see 'as much as possible' but can't guarantee if you will be able to see the parade or how close you can get to the events.

The NY Times (November 28,2008) advises that house rentals are going for up to close to $60,000, outside of Washington, for the days leading up and including the inauguration.

CNN reported that 250,000 tickets have been printed for the inauguration and that the same are being held in 'a secure location'. Of course they are, because they are worth more than a ticket to any other event in the history of mankind.

I have just over 50 days to beg or steal (I don't want to have to borrow) my way in to the hottest event ever. I could suggest that many of the seats (if not already given away) be handed out by lottery, but this wouldn't provide any certainty of success. I might think that for admission to the event you have to swear under oath that you voted for Obama for President, but I doubt any Republicans would fess up and give up their seats. In any event, this still wouldn't bring me any assurance of reaching my goal.

I am asking for your help. Circulate this post to anyone and everyone you know. Maybe there is one person out there who will be in position to give my family the greatest holiday gift we have ever received.

In exchange, I can only offer the power of the written word. I can promise that the person's generosity will be the subject of a post announcing my eternal gratitude and extolling the virtues of my benefactor. Your good deed will long be remembered and praised.

Like Barack Obama, I want to trust in the audacity of hope. I want to believe in miracles. Remember, it is the season of giving.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hide and seek

They have finally gotten the goods on the outgoing lame duck leader. While acting as caretaker of his nation until early next year, he now must endure personal humiliation based on allegations that he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

In a scheme reminiscent of the one unhatched in the Producers, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is facing charges that he fraudulently billed the same flights to multiple entities on numerous occasions between 2002 and 2006. During the period in which he served as mayor of Jerusalem, trade minister and deputy minister of Israel, Olmert was apparently stuffing his pockets with these overly generous reimbursements.

After 8 years of George W. Bush, could we not have uncovered some wrongdoing on his part of at least such magnitude? Couldn't we have given Bush a going away present handed to him by a Federal officer?

Forget his complicity in human rights violations. Don't investigate his role in making the oil companies richer than almost any country in the world. Don't analyze if he broke any laws regarding the deregulation disaster. Just find something in his political garbage that could take him down. If Al Capone was sent away for tax evasion, there must be one misstep in the past of President Bush that could have made him run for cover during his presidency.

We are a nation that almost forced a President out of office (and into the arms of Federal prosecutors) for being less than forthright about an embarassing liaison. Years before that, we bid adieu to a sitting President for his participation in a scheme to spy on his political enemies, and his failed attempts to cover up his involvement. And yet, we are less than 2 months from having our 43rd President walk out the door relatively unscathed.

How did President Bush avoid such a fate? Where were we looking?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like

I think all of us have an indelible impression of the depression: long lines of the disconsolate and downtrodden awaiting handouts of food. Turn on your televisions and see the lines at the food shelters this Thanksgiving eve. It is a troubling image.

I watched a program which reported of the incredibly magnaminous gesture of a farmer giving away hundreds of thousands of pounds of potatoes and other produce that were in his fields. The camera then panned to reveal some of the estimated 40,000 who showed up to share in the benefits of the farmer's largesse . It was like a small reminder of the Grapes of Wrath.

A recent UPI article sited the increase in the distributions of a Southern California food bank but a problem in meeting demand. More than 1000 people lined up in Montebello Park in Los Angeles as early as 7AM last Sunday to get free bags of groceries.

In Sacamento California, a local food bank reported that they had 2000 Thanksgiving turkeys in the deep freeze but needed at least 1000 more. Their 'clients' numbers had risen by more than 20% since August to over 16,000 per month.

If we don't think we are an economy on the verge of collapse, just spend a moment looking around.The depth of the problem has affected virtually all economic strata. Recently, a television reporter standing outside a food shelter turned to a well dressed woman next to her sports car. When he pointed out to the woman that she was not the image we all have of those in need, she said she went on camera to let us all know how far the tentacles of the financial meltdown had reached. She stated that she had worked all her life, but was now unable to find employment and was but one more of the faces of those in need of assistance in making ends meet.

Thanksgiving is a time for us to be grateful for all the benefits that have been bestowed on us. But, the 'us' that is to be considered goes beyond the boundaries of our own lives. When the difficulties stretch as far as the eye can see, we can only hope that next Thanksgiving treats us all a little better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Game shows

I am starting to look at the financial bailout as if it were just one big game show. The giveaways just keep on coming. "behind door number one, we have $20 billion dollars more for Citigroup; behind door number two we have $25 billion dollars for the auto industry" (you have to beg for this prize). The list continues to grow daily, and where it stops no one knows. I have tried to imagine all those tv shows, past and present, that might compete to be the host of the greatest game show ever (all of these are titles of actual shows)

1. Deal or no deal
2. Who wants to be a millionaire
3. The price is right
4. Are you smarter than a fifth grader
5. Break the bank
6. Mad money
7. Truth or consequences
8. The $64,000 question ( you know how long ago this show aired)
9. Jeopardy
10.Wheel of Fortune
11.Sale of the century
12.Winner takes all
13.The joker's wild
14.The big showdown
15.Queen for a day
16.The biggest loser
17.Who do you trust
18.Beat the clock
19.To tell the truth
21.The big payoff
22.The Great Escape (I know this is a movie title, but it was too good to pass up)

It would be a mad scramble for the right to host a show in which the government each week gave away money to the most needy (the Big 3, Citigroup, AIG etc). The format could have the host appear wearing an oversized hand (a large handout). Each contestant would have 3 minutes to make their best effort to secure the sympathy of those watching.

Like American Idol, the ultimate decision would be left in the hands of the public. Votes could be cast and tabulated. At the end of the show, the winner would be announced and would walk away with the monies necessary to keep it afloat. The losers would be headed next door, where the bankruptcy judge would be waiting.

The rules would provide that no winner was eligible to return to the show for at least one year. No other big handouts were available, and it would have to survive on the billions given to it by the largesse of the American public.

Does this seem a far-fetched concept? Doesn't it feel like we are already in this show, but just didn't know it? Stay tuned.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's 3 AM

The phone is ringing and there is nobody home. The call that Hillary said we should be expecting has come. But, it is not the sounds of war that we are hearing. It is the economy that is crying out and begging for help. Those pleas from the Big 3 executives have now been followed by frantic overtures from Citigroup for assistance. Yet, nobody seems ready or able to answer the call.

President Bush has tried to disconnect all the lines. His seemingly daily entreaties to the public to be calm, to be patient, only stirred up further fears. He has retreated into his bunker, and emerges only sporadically before scurrying for cover.

President-elect Obama has stated that there can be only one President at a time. Obama has resigned his post in the Senate. During the Congressional session last week to skewer the heads of the auto industries, Obama's team was apparently not doing arm twisting to assure passage of the legislation that Obama believes critical for the continued viability of the Big 3. While putting together a formidable Cabinet and big plans to attack the problem and hit the ground running in January, that still leaves us yelling for someone to pick up the damn phone NOW.

A crisis of confidence would suggest there is some confidence still in reserve. That is a rapidly fading concept. We are waiting for the economic SHOCK AND AWE. Instead we get reports that we are buying in to the bad debts of Citigroup. They are too big to go under, we are told, and we must save them from themselves. We are again discussing concepts such as preferred stock or warrants. I could have sworn that we abandoned these ideas weeks ago. Weren't we told just last week by Hank Paulson that financial institutions were no longer a concern regarding imminent collapse? What happened?

How many days is there between November 4, 2008 and January 20, 2009? If your answer is anything other than infinity, you are wrong. In what has to be the biggest chasm ever created, we are staring into the deepest of economic holes and going to recess. We are waiting for the heads of the auto companies to return in several weeks, hat in hand. Each of the big shots has to either thumb a ride or show that they came to Washington by 3rd class metro rail before they are allowed to speak. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees.

It is time for the old to go and the new to emerge. Let the Obama team begin the process of governing TODAY. The pretense of the rule of Bush must disappear. In whatever ways possible, OUR stimulus package must start now. For us to be able to really consider this Thursday as Thanksgiving we must be able to feel, to know, that someone has picked up the phone and is giving us the guidance and the answers we need. Until then, we all feel like the phone is just OUT OF ORDER.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rush Limbaugh, please don't change

I heard a very disturbing report from a friend of mine recently. I do not know whether it was true but it sent a shiver down my spine. I was told that Rush Limbaugh had grown weary of tilting against the Obama windmill and advised his listeners that it might be time to back off. All their dirty tricks, their lies and innuendos had failed to accomplish the goal of dislodging Obama's hold on the public. So, at least for the time being, inaction might be the only way to go.

I will be very unhappy if this is in fact the directive from the head of the right wing nut jobs.

Our universe is composed of certain absolutes. It is how we know how to function. There can be no good without bad. There has to be a Ying for there to be a Yang. Oscar is nothing but a slob without Felix.

I spent much of the last 6 months focusing on the idiocy coming on a daily basis from the doomed to be stupid crowd. I don't want them on my side because it is too entertaining disagreeing with them. Life would be so much less interesting with no dissension and disagreement. The evenings spent agreeing with all my liberal friends were nothing if not boring.

I want the litany of Limbaugh misstatements about Obama, like the following, to continue unabated:

1. July 12, 2005- calls him Obama Osama ( 7 times))
2. February 7, 2006- compares him to Donovan McNabb, ie does nothing and is a rising star because the media wants to prop up a black ( the initial reference to the media overrating McNabb and giving him a free pass had led to Limbaugh''s dismissal from ESPN in 2003)
3. February 14, 2007.- Obama should renounce his race and just become white
4. March 3,2008- he issues an apology for laughing at a caller's comments comparing Obama to Curious George, a monkey.
5. May 8, 2008- he urges the superdelegates to support Obama over Clinton as the weaker of the Democratic candidates.

Where would we be if bi-partisanship actually took hold and the lunatic fringe was left out in the cold? It is too frightening a concept to consider for more than a split second.

I don't like change. I insist on the givens being givens. I offer my assistance to Mr. Limbaugh in whatever capacity I can to make sure that he has the necessary ammunition to continue his campaign against Obama and everything Democratic ad infinitum. I need Limbaugh. Please don't let me down. You are my anti-hero.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


As we all try to catch our breath from the political marathon we have just run, we step back to survey what lays before us. We have trouble on so many fronts, it seems impossible to put our fingers in all the holes to stop the water from rushing over us. In the months that lay ahead, there are monumental issues that will have to be tackled.

What is clear is that the landscape is unlike that we have previously encountered. The economy appears to have come to a standstill. Everyone is frozen in place, unable or unwilling to venture forward. The trickle down effect of this inertia can be seen all around us. I am an attorney who relies primarily on an active real estate market for my livelihood. Enough said.

I have been working since 1977. While many of my friends would argue with my definition of working, I would submit that I have been as diligent as I could be. In the years where the pace of my practice has been frenetic, I have met the mandates of the workload. I do everything that my clients require, to the best of my ability.

That being said, I have often envisioned a time when I could choose not to work. I have discussed how good it would be for all of us to get a sabbatical in the middle of our careers. If we could get 6 months away from the daily grind, when needed, and then pick up exactly where we left off, I thought we would all be better for it in the long run.

Like many others, I now face a slowdown of indeterminable length. This is not to ask you to feel sorry for me. I tell my daughter specifically that everything is fine and we are in good shape financially. But, I am a facing a forced sabbatical and that makes me uneasy. I so much want to say that the diminished time working will be an unanticipated gift for me. I can do more writing, if I choose. I can spend more time in the Berkshires. I can kick back and relax.

Yet, I am a natural worrier. While I know somewhere in the recesses of my mind that the world is not likely to come to an end, that the next client's call will come this morning, I cannot capture that feeling in my heart. I understand that next year, or the year after, the economy will start to right itself and then everyone who has been waiting to deal in the real estate market will explode onto the scene. But, until that day arrives, the gnawing in the pit of my stomach is very unlikely to disappear.

So, I am conflicted. While I know that my son does not really like these pieces about middle-aged angst, this is what I am. I thank all of you for being my collective psychiatrist while I try to work through these issues. Your patience and understanding is appreciated. I will definitely get back to you if I need some more of your sage advise.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In defense

When I began writing these pieces, I thought that I might be able to pen the same kind of 'the world from a weird angle' stories that seem to flow effortlessly from the mind of David Sedaris. For anyone unfamiliar with his writing, Mr. Sedaris takes his readers on a journey through a strange and wonderful life (his). His tales are filled with images that make one laugh uncontrollably and, at the same time, shake one's head in disbelief that a human being could actually be thinking these thoughts and doing these things.

I quickly learned that my writing, given the limits of my mental capacities and the middle ground my life has taken, made thoughts of my becoming 'Sedaris the second' fade into oblivion. Harvey Leeds on the other hand, is as close to David Sedaris as you and I will be able to find in our worlds.

If anyone of you watch Entourage, picture Ari Gold in the music business.

I was once in a car with Harvey when his phone rang. He put the caller on the speaker phone. It turned out that it was a wrong number. Unfortunately for the caller, he did not realize this, and Harvey did not bother to tell him. Rather, Harvey pretended that the call had gone through to its intended recipient (a business associate of the caller). Harvey proceeded to speak for 5 minutes, discussing in depth problems with a business meeting that he had attended on behalf of the company. The call concluded, and Harvey then moved on with me to the next topic, as if nothing unusual had just transpired.

For the piece 100, people submitted their thoughts while I remained mute. Almost everyone spoke about me, and gave me compliments which I much appreciate. Harvey talked of the sign in restaurant bathrooms that require only that employees wash their hands upon exiting. I called Harvey to tell him that I had often had the same problem with these signs. David Sedaris the second would have been writing about this issue. Harvey writes about these issues because those are the things that catch his attention and stick in his mind. Harvey is the lunatic edge of the universe.

Are some people taken aback by him? Of course. I am drawn to his insanity. It is often uncomfortable and difficult to be in the swirling vortex around him. If you don't understand what is happening, or if you are looking for normalcy, I suggest you head elsewhere.

This piece is written in defense of my friend Harvey Leeds. While many would ask him to grow up, I like him fine the way he is.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Under the microscope

He came out of Illinois as a person of limited political experience. He had not been without defeats in his early political career. He was tall, slender and unusual in appearance. He came to power in a time of unprecedented crisis in the history of our nation. He faced difficult decisions even before he officially took office. When Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States in 1861, he filled many of his cabinet positions not with his political allies, but with those who challenged him in his quest for the highest office. President Lincoln brought his opponents for the 1860 Republican nomination into his cabinet as attorney general and secretaries of the Treasury and the State.

Hillary Clinton's name has now surfaced prominently as the frontrunner for the choice as Secretary of State. Without determining whether this is the best career move for her (Harry Reid clearly is blocking her ability to play the leading role in the Senate, but is a Supreme Court seat there for the taking?), the consideration of Clinton would be viewed by most as Obama's sleeping with the enemy. Yet, I would suggest that this contemplated action is nothing if not consistent with Obama's philosophy of governing, modeled on Lincoln.

In a town hall meeting in Florida in May of this year, Obama was asked if he would consider Senator Clinton for his running mate on the Democratic ticket. He responded that "my goal is to have the best possible government, and that means me winning... I'm a practical minded guy. And you know, one of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln". Obama went on to refer to the Doris Kearns Goodwin book on Lincoln's cabinet choices "Team of Rivals" and Lincoln's pulling political adversaries into his Cabinet "Because whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was how can we get this country through a time of crisis? I think that has to be the approach one takes to the Vice President or the Cabinet".

Yet, every move Obama makes is now under the most intense scrutiny and potential criticism. Richard Halloran, (Taipei News , November16, 2008) reports of his concern that Obama is surrounding himself with nothing more than a retooled Clinton staff. He points to Rahm Emanuel, Obama's only appointment so far (Chief of Staff) as being a former aide in the Clinton administration; the transition team being headed by a former Clinton chief of Staff (Podesta), the selection committee for the foreign policy team being headed by a former Clinton secretary of state (Christopher ) the defense selection team being headed by a former chair of the foreign services committee under Clinton (Nunn), and Lawrence Summers possibly repeating the role he held in the Clinton administration of Secretary of the Treasury. I think the fallacy in Mr. Halloran's position is that he would just say discard everyone and everything that has touched Washington in the last 16 years under the banner of change. That, to me, is short sited and choosing form over substance.

As troubling is the notion that Obama has an obligation to certain constituencies to give various high level cabinet appointments to one of their choices. Bonnie Erbe (US News, November 13,2008) reports that the rumors in Washington are that there will be only 2 female choices for Cabinet positions (Penny Pritzker at Commerce and Janet Napolitano at Justice). Ms. Erbe says that Obama "owes it to women and women of color whose votes he secured in historic proportions to put them in Cabinet positions they've not yet held, such as Treasury and Defense". She goes on to point out that George W. Bush , " no friend of women" had 7 women serving for all or part of his second term as President".

Is Ms. Erbe any more right or wrong than Mr. Halloran? Does Obama HAVE TO rid himself of any connection to the past to be the true candidate of change? Does he HAVE TO fill his cabinet with selections that serve as thank you notes to all that put him in the ultimate position of power? Or does he as President, take the approach of Lincoln?

I do not believe that President-elect Obama thinks that he has the luxury of making his decisions based on anything other than what ultimately will best serve the needs of the nation. To do anything less would be, in my opinion, unpresidential.

(this piece was written early today, but was not posted until now, to allow 100 to take its preappointed position. In the interim, I have read today's op ed by Maureen Dowd in the NY Times, that echoes some of the sentiments discussed above)


Richie Jay said...
One hundred and svimf and schwanzig yore and many many more...or whatever it is you say. Congratulations on reaching this milestone. Ooooh, and don't you like the pretty banners on your blog? Yeah, I made those.
November 15, 2008 9:45 AM

Nancy said...
Robert, I knew you were frustrated by the lack of response to your posts. I've often wondered why so many of us choose not to comment. I've found I turn to your blog the same way I turn to the op-ed pages of the Times. I learn from them, I am often amused by them and I mostly agree with their position on issues -- just as I do with your blog. Perhaps you should invite people who would find your left leaning opinions offensive. I think you would get a lot more posts but, quite frankly, I'd be disappointed. I enjoy To Early to Call because it's informative, opinionated, often clever (in a Robert sort of way), and being a left of left liberal myself, it's a soothing way to start or end a day.
November 15, 2008 1:01 PM

Anonymous said...
One of the first things I do every morning is read your blog. It's not every woman who gets into her son-in-law's head so easily! So far, we are in agreement both politically and morally- but watch your step! "Ya know what I'm sayin?"
Since we both love the same girl, and as A is to B as B is to C that means that I love you, too.
November 16, 2008 9:37 AM

Anonymous said...
With respect to the recent election,a black man did not win but a man who happens to be black did.
November 16, 2008 8:51 AM

Alex said...
It is Sunday morning--well, except that you (dad) have probably been up for eight hours already. And I have waited most of the weekend to start my homework. But rather than sit down and open my books, I am procrastinating--yet again--by contributing to your blog.

I'm thinking back to the night of the election when "too early to call" flashed across the screen, over and over again throughout the evening. It really is a shame that someone did not try to buy the website from you for some several million dollars. Maybe perhaps in four years time. But in the meantime, looking forward to the next hundred posts.
November 16, 2008 12:52 PM

marc said...
They've all been great, for different reasons. It's that variety of subjects — and emotions they call up — that makes the blog so consistently enjoyable. As you might imagine, I especially like the ones about you and your Dad. Brings wonderful memories flooding back. Thanks for sharing yourself so often -- and don't stop.
November 16, 2008 12:58 PM

Anonymous said...
You make words. Pretty good ones at that.
I make sawdust.
November 16, 2008 1:44 PM

David B said...
I love your blog !! I have learned many things, maybe too many things, but it is all about you. What did
I learn? I now know that you love the Yankees [go Brooklyn Dodgers!], that you love your family [do you really make breakfast-in-bed on Sundays?], that your golf game sucks [I wish my game sucked like yours], and that you are a liberal.
Your blog makes my day, and I thank you for that.
David B
November 16, 2008 3:39 PM

Anonymous said...
I wish had the time (and energy) to be a more consistent reader of Too Early to Call but as we have the chance to discuss lfe, politics, family and friends with great regularity and in person - I feel like I'm pretty up to date.

It is teriffic that you have the continued interest and enthusiasm to share your musings etc with all of us.
So in summary - we share your admiration for your kids, for Barack Obama, less so for the Yankees and golf.
(the other) ASK
November 16, 2008 4:35 PM

Anonymous said...
Hey,Robert! Congratulations on your 100 posts...Linda
November 16, 2008 5:56 PM

Harvey Leeds said...
Yeh 100! Lets talk about bathroom habits. I have worked with many people from Britain and I have discovered that many (not all) don't wash their hands after doing a number 1 or number 2. I have witnessed it countless times-they go to the bathroom and then sit down and have a meal-disgusting! How about they go to the bathroom and then walk around shaking hands at a meeting or reception. What gives? I am sure this is not exclusive to people from the UK-how many ugly Americans are guilty of this germ spreading habit? Don't you love those signs in a restaurant-employees must wash hands before returning to work-yeah well what about the patrons of the eating establishment shouldn't they be encouraged to wash or does not washing add to the flavor of the food especially at all the fine dining establishments in the Garden State. Oh-and how many of you reading this flush the toilet with your foot and then use a paper towel or some other inventive way to open the bathroom door? Survey sez.........
November 16, 2008 6:11 PM

Anonymous said...
Robert was writing a smart thought provoking blog and now Harvey has taken it into the toilet. Why must we discuss bodily functions? Robert,be careful what you ask for. This should be the forum to discuss intelligent things. Someone should GROW UP!
November 16, 2008 6:25 PM

Brett said...
Congratulations on 100 posts. This is really a great forum of ideas you have and it’s something I like to look at to read views and ideas and possibly get my brain functioning for at least a few minutes.

Sheldon said...
As you already know, I greatly admire the conversational nature of your writing style. Thank goodness the election is behind us and you can get back to injecting your brand of humor into the more mundane aspects of day-to-day life.

Margaret said...
Thinking back, the blogs that have stayed with me are the personal ones, whether they concerned family, friends, golf or baseball. But then in the end that's what really matters.
Having said that, I am appreciative of your fine efforts and pleased to be part of your group.
I trust and hope it is your intention to continue.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


This is the 99th post on this blog. Not all of these are a result of the workings of my mind (thanks to Richie for his continuing contributions as a guest on this site, and to Micah for his recent piece), but most of the words on these pages are mine.

For post 100, I will remain silent. I want this to be your turn to talk, my turn to listen.

You can speak of anything, your thoughts on life, love, the pursuit of happiness, the Yankees (the Phillies if you must), Barack Obama, George Bush (if you can't stop yourself), the name for the new dog to be in the White House, your mother-in-law, my blog, 2009 etc. The possibilities are limited only by you.

The length of your submission can be from a word, to a thought, to War and Peace.

If there is nothing on your mind, or if you think this is a journey to nowhere, post 100 will be blank. I hope not.

I will not edit. What you say is what will appear.

I have bored you, interested you, made you think or didn't, for many months now. It is now your turn to return the favor.

I will take submissions between now and 9PM this Sunday. You should respond in the comments section, which is but a click away. At 9:01 PM on Sunday, your thoughts will be lifted from a mere footnote on a page to a center stage position on this blog. You will forever be a contributing writer to tooearlytocall.com.

The first 99 posts have been mostly about me and my world. Enough already. Now it is YOUR TURN.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A guest post from a lifelong Phillie fan ( Micah)


I've been trying to figure out what this whole phillies championship thing means
on a personal level…

I think the word "closure" best describes it. A closure of childhood is perhaps
what we all may be feeling in varying degrees. For me, this is particularly
bittersweet. My last year living in Philly, my last months in school…. I have
clung to my sports championship dream for the past 25 years with an immature
exuberance and naivete that has no doubt stunted my growth as a person. For
100 seasons (about ¼ of which I wasn't even following sports) I have saddled up
for countless man hours of phillies, flyers, eagles, and sixers watching…I have
put off countless tasks citing our teams lack of sports successes as a reasonable
excuse for my developmental procrastination. And though I cursed and cried
with the frustrating and unfulfilling ending of every season, I have ironically
come to feel a sense of chaos and anomy in the celebration that has followed
this one season that didn't end like all the others. I can't explain it but I miss
the warmth of predictable loss, inevitable futility, "there's always next season"s.

With the sharp dive of a Brad Lidge slider out of the strike zone, childhood was
over. I can't see myself being able to dress in kilts, capes, and face paint or
being able to ditch school or place fanatical phone calls to WIP any longer.
Aren't we above all that now? This saddens me. Without our despair, where will
our sense of urgency go that has defined us for so many years? I miss it

As Hinske swung and missed I was mad at myself for having this feeling that I
felt I needed to suppress. I always envisioned feeling pure elation as
championship point would play itself out. In contrast, the devil (ray) within me
hoped for sabotage. I wanted victory, but I felt a sense of calm as Tampa got
into scoring position in the top of the ninth, because I would have been ok with
the more familiar choke.

I feel as though I'm spewing blasphemy. So many Philadelphians are claiming to
be experiencing the highest high of their lives, but I can't help but feel there
may be others who feel the same. Am I alone?

I'm thankful this happened while my feet still stood within thy walls, Philadelphia,
but now the sand in my 25 year hour glass runs thin. I suppose it's time to
accept the new responsibility that a world title brings forth… New York, here I

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It still doesn't add up

There have been indications that the number of mortgages in delinquency and in threat of foreclosure is 4 million. That is a staggering figure .The repercussions of foreclosures even approaching that number is mind boggling.

It is critical that steps be taken to assure this does not happen. The suggestion that these defaulting loans be reworked to keep people in their homes is a mandate, not an option. There is talk of massive mortgage modifications, tying the payments into the capacity of the borrowers, by extending the years of the loan (and reducing monthly payments accordingly), or reducing the monthly principal repayments , or some other similar methods. The laudatory goal is to stop the bleeding, give the banks some infusion of money, and provide much needed relief to those in the most economic distress.

That being said, the reality is that most of these people are in distress because their income has either dwindled or been shut off completely. When giving these people affordable monthly obligations ( a necessity) the monies generated to the lenders will in many cases be very little. While this stabilizes the situation, and potentially takes millions of home off the foreclosure roles, it would provide little real money to the lenders. The government funding ( the bailout money) would still have to be the real source for liquidity for these lenders.

The further effect would be that this would certainly not stimulate activity on these homes saved from foreclosure. It would be hard to imagine that those with limited resources, given a life line by way of a reduced mortgage payment, would in any way be willing to sell the home and take away the benefit granted.

Thus, while we have stabilized, how do we stimulate? If half of the equation is getting the pressure off, isn't the other half nudging the rest of the community into economic action.?

We have all seen our savings dwindle. We have all seen jobs disappear. We are all being very cautious before putting even one toe in the water. What is going to make the rest of our society venture back in? What help are you offering to make it attractive for us to load up on new mortgages?

I have some very simple suggestions, which may have already been considered and discarded as impractical or inappropriate. First, reduce the capital gains rates on sales of homes for the next 12 months. This will provide an incentive to those who may actually have a gain on a sale to move forward now. Second, provide that for anyone who purchases within the next 12 months, 50% of the mortgage interest paid is not deemed a tax deduction ,but a tax offset (ie a dollar for dollar reduction in taxes) for a 2 year period after purchase. This would make borrowing money more attractive and give the hesitant public a push

I know there has been discussion of tax cuts for those earning up to $200,000 (or maybe $250,000). The tax cuts discussed above, directed at buyers and sellers of homes is a specified incentive, meant to take us out of the economic paralysis in the housing market.

If we are learning anything, it is that we need a full frontal assault on all problems in the financial sector. If the mortgage crisis was ground zero in this global collapse, let us look for all solutions to reverse the housing disaster and get the economy moving in the right direction as soon as possible.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I can be bought

An open letter to Hank Steinbrenner:

I know that the free agency period begins this Friday and I just wanted to alert you to my status and my qualifications:

1. I am 56 years old. I am 5 foot 7 inches tall and weigh about 150 pounds.My belly is starting to protrude, but only a little
2. I last played organized baseball 44 years ago (1964) . When were you born?
3. I pitched a 1 hitter in Little League (I think the official scorer should have changed the hit to an error, as the second baseman made a feeble attempt to snare a grounder hit right at him).
4. I never hit a home run in any official game, but I once hit a ball that caromed off the fence on a bounce.
5. I was a phenom at age 6 in the softball league put together by Norman Birnbaum ( his son Roger is now head of one the studios in Hollywood, but he was only a mediocre hitter and fielder).
6. I played co-ed softball when I was in my 30's. Though I hit down in the order, the first baseman was really impressed with my arm strength from the shortstop hole.
7. I have attended a lot of games over the years (the Reggie 3 home run game, the Jeter catch, the last game played at the stadium). I have spent a lot of money on the Yankees, some of which must have found its way to your family.
8. I stopped playing most sports over the years due to pulled muscles, tight hamstrings, and general laziness. I have thus saved on much wear and tear on my body by not doing much of anything.
9. As the economy has slowed down, so has my business. Thus, I am able to devote more time to getting myself in shape by spring training.
10. I don't know what the major league minimum salary is, but I accept whatever this may be as my pay for the upcoming season. I know you have many high priced players, so you clearly have to cut costs somewhere on your roster.
11. I am a lawyer and I can handle A-Rod's divorce (at a reduced rate), re-write wills for anyone who wants, and take care of all real estate purchases and sales of anyone in the organization.
12. I won't be one of those problem players for the manager. I won't second guess how he uses me.

I think my resume speaks for itself. I am giving you the first opportunity to acquire my services. I feel a loyalty to the organization for all the years of pleasure it has provided me and my family. However, my offer will be rescinded if not accepted by Monday at 5 PM. The ball is in your court.

Sincerely yours,

Robert S Nussbaum

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life support

Banks. Investment banks. Insurance companies. The big 3 auto giants. Individuals who have defaulted on their mortgage obligations. The list seems to get bigger by the day. The costs of stabilizing our economy seem to have no end. It is like we are learning a lesson in the actual meaning of infinity.

Those of us who watch the events swirl around us and who are not recipients, or potential recipients of the government's economic interventions have a natural inclination to recoil and ask, "when is it going to end". I think the answer is that we have no idea, but that does not provide an appropriate rationale for shutting off the spigot now.

Let's say we don't give the monies needed to prevent the collapse, by year's end, of our largest automakers. The projections are that at least 2.5 million jobs will be lost ( in the auto industry, and related industries that rely on their business from the big 3). The present true unemployed and underemployed rate is now estimated at 11.8 %. This means that of those who want full time employment, more than 1 in 9 can't find it. Add in those segments of the working population who have revised expectations as to the level of their compensation, and you can see why the economy appears to be in free fall.

If we voluntarily add to the roles of those who are without work, if we permit millions of foreclosures to move forward unimpeded, if we allow segments of our banking industry to go under, a recession will seem like a walk in the park.

If the economy shuts down, the economy shuts down. You may be the last man standing, but you will be holding a lot of nothing in your hands. President elect Obama has apparently suggested in his meeting with President Bush that he not oppose immediate assistance for the Big 3 (with caveats that the Democrats want on environmental and energy conservation in the production of new automobiles, as a condition for handing out financial aid). The legacy of Bush can ill afford another blow. His tying his support to unrelated free trade agreements, is another short sighted mistake. Step aside, Mr. President, and do the right thing for once.

I know we will have hell to pay in the future for all these handouts. There can be no question that we will all have to figure out some method of righting the economic ship in the future, before it sinks from the overload. But if we do not continue to pour the necessary funds into all segments that are on life support, I am afraid we will already be sunk.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The Meeting

These are probably questions that will not be uttered today when the President and President- elect sit down together:

Obama to Bush-

1. Can Dick Cheney sit in with us?
2. Wasn't the sight Tuesday night in the park in Chicago the most wonderful image you have ever seen?
3. Are you upset that Rahm Emanuel wasn't on your team?
4. Is that Shakespeare on your desk?
5. Do you think the Iraqis will let us stay longer if we ask nicely?
6. Could you pronounce nuclear for me just once more?
7. Was McCain right when he said the economy is fundamentally sound?
8. Will you stay on as an adviser to me on foreign affairs/ domestic affairs?
9. Can I name the new dog after you?
10. What do you think are the top 5 items that I should address in my first 100 days in office?

Bush to Obama-

1. Wasn't Sarah Palin just the most exciting breath of fresh air in years?
2. Do you think Joe Biden is fooling anyone with that hair transplant?
3. Should I start to write my memoirs now, and can you give me some pointers on book-writing?
4. I think I did a pretty good job, don't you?
5. Is Africa really a continent?
6. If there were no term limits, do you think I could have beaten you?
7. Dad and I want to have you over for a barbecue next week to discuss our views on the war, can you make it?
8. Does McCain really have all those houses and cars?
9. Will Joe the plumber be able to fix the leaky toilet in the master bedroom?
10. What do you think were the 5 worst moments of my Presidency?

The meeting at the White House should be brief. For, as we have all learned over the past 8 years, while all the lights have been on, there has been nobody home.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes, he should

He came upon his passion under very unusual circumstances. With a pedigree like almost no other, he had a father and uncle who were instrumental in helping to shape our country and challenging each one of us to be part of the solution to our problems. His own background included graduation from the most prestigious college in the country and a degree from a highly regarded law school . However, in 1983 he pled guilty to charges relating to possession of heroin. To serve his 1500 hours of community service, in 1984 Robert Kennedy Jr. joined the Riverkeeper organization, working with the group to sue alleged polluters of the Hudson River.

When his 1500 hours of mandated work were done, Kennedy's efforts were not over, but only beginning. Kennedy was hired as the chief prosecuting attorney for Riverkeeper. He was founder, and is the present chairman of Waterkeeper Alliance, a group supporting local waterkeeper groups. For over 20 years he has served in the capacity of Clinical Professor of Environmental Law at Pace University School of Law. He has been named by Time Magazine as one of the "Heroes of the Planet" for his work in helping restore the Hudson River

He was a supporter of Hillary Clinton in the Presidential primaries, breaking with his more famous relatives, Senator Ted Kennedy and cousin Caroline Kennedy. Yet, Kennedy in an interview with Matt Lauer on October 1, 2008 said that he always believed Barack Obama to be a transformational figure.

When Barack Obama was elected this past Tuesday, the name of Robert Kennedy Jr. quickly surfaced as one of the leading candidates to head the Environmental Protection Agency. When informed of this possibility, Kennedy stated that he "would be of service in any way that the administration asked me to help". Kennedy compared Obama to President John Kennedy, finding in Obama the same "intellectual passion... his obsession and preoccupation with justice and including all different members of our society".

We are in very difficult times. Barack Obama is inheriting a host of problems unlike those faced by almost any other incoming President. He is in the process of putting together a core group around him to help us navigate through waters that are turbulent and polluted. Almost everywhere he turns, there is trouble. In the darkest and worst of times, the best and brightest are most needed.

For his passionate support of the environment for the past quarter of a century, for his clear intellectual capacity, for the emotional lift that the pairing of the Kennedys' with this administration can give to all who are so badly in need of positives, Robert Kennedy Jr. would seem to be a perfect fit for the head of the EPA. After enduring 8 years of cronyism and selections for critical posts that were predicated on anything but qualifications, we are more than ready to turn the page. The choice of Robert Kennedy Jr. by Barack Obama would signal the beginning of that new era.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jake Shimabukuro

His performance sets a standard that you couldn't fathom as a possibility. His vision as to what could be accomplished permits him to take us places we couldn't otherwise conceive. He has created the opportunity for us to listen and to dream.

For sure, these are lessons we have recently learned from Barack Obama. Last night, at the Blender Theatre in NYC I discovered the greatness of Jake Shimabukuro.

Greatness comes to a very select few. I have always been a sports junkie. I have been informed by experts that Michael Jordan was a transformative figure in basketball and that Lawrence Taylor changed definitions in football. Jake Shimabukuro plays the ukulele, yes the ukulele. However, what he brings to life through this instrument will forever alter your thought processes on the limits of what an instrument can do.

Forget Tiny Tim, remember Jimi Hendrix. This is not Don Ho, this is the Beatles. This is a musician on a journey to a new landscape.

I am not a musician, I am not 'into' anybody. Yet, I am now officially 'into' Jake Shimabukuro.

Run, don't walk, to purchase his CD. He opened his set last night with a rendition of the National Anthem. It was stunning. It took my breath away.

I can't delve into the specifics of what I heard. To do so would serve a grave injustice to the music. I will not attempt to analyze. I can only inform you that I was mesmerized.

I know there must be a legion of ukulele groupies out there. They must be very possessive of Jake Shimabukuro. Just be advised, there is now officially one more in your entourage.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

an update from the Beatles

In the wake of the victory of Barack Obama, the Beatles weigh in. Please note, that even in the moment of triumph, there is a warning about the environmental problems that are of paramount concern (kudos for suggesting this song go to Marcia Allar).

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right.
Little darling it's been a long cold lonely winter,
Little darling it feels like years since it's been here.
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right.
Little darling the smiles returning to their faces,
Little darling it seems like it's years since it's been here,
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Little darling I feel that ice is slowly melting,
Little darling it seems like years since it's been clear,
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
It's all right, it's all right.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Labor and delivery

Take a deep breath. You have been pushing hard for a very long time. I know you are exhausted. Stop for one more second. Gather your strength for the final push. One last time and it will all be over. I know there have been a number of contractions and this has caused you much pain. Don't worry. You have shown more strength and fortitude then anyone knew you had. It is now time. In just a moment you will be giving birth to the next President of the United States.

The next cry we hear will be one of pure joy from the collective voice of the new parents of the ruler of our country. It will be the sound of proud parents who have survived a gestation period unlike any known to man. Cigars will be handed out, backs will be patted and smiles will be in abundance. Overcoming incredible odds that suggested this day was never a possibility (either (a) because we knew this birth had never happened before and we were not ready for it to happen yet or(b) because we were told that the path to the delivery had proven too difficult and all the experts agreed it could not happen) our new baby will be unlike any other before it.

Who takes almost 2 years to go from conception to birth? What parent can be tested so repeatedly over such an extended period and not feel like every ounce of strength has been wrung from their body?

The average gestation period for humans is 266 days, 8 days short of 9 months. The average period for certain mammals ( and one bird) is as follows:

Finch- 11-14 days
American opossum-- 12-13 days
Baboon- 187 days
Ass- 365 days
Giraffe - 420- 450 days
Sperm whale - 480-500 days ( it takes a very long time to give birth to something so huge)

Nothing compares with what we have just gone through. We will very soon be in the Guinness Book of world records.

I sit here now at 4:15 AM an expectant parent, unable to sleep , thinking of what the past 22 months have brought and what this birth will mean to not only me but to all of us. Like every parent of a new born, I wait to count the fingers and the toes, to hope and pray that the baby will be intact and whole and will be able to accomplish all the great feats that we know he can. We know he has the capacity to lead us all to a better time and place. We know he will have, in his tiny hands, the power to shape and mold all of us. His future is our future.

Like any newborn, there may be missteps along the way. He may be unsteady in the beginning. There will be obstacles placed in his path that he will have to overcome. But we know in our hearts that he will have the strength and determination to persevere and triumph.

We have been part of a great miracle. It is finally here. It is the moment of birth. Enjoy it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The song of our lives

I went to a political satire show last night. It featured parodies of songs that reflected views on many of the key issues surrounding the Presidential race. This got me to thinking of Beatles' lyrics, UNCHANGED, that speak of what is on everyone's minds in these frantic moments leading up to November 4.

John McCain on where the campaign has led him - Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they're here to stay, oh I believe in yesterday. Suddenly,I'm not half the man I used to be, there's a shadow hanging over me. Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

McCain on his ever-mounting problems with Sarah Palin- Help I need somebody. Help not just anybody. Help you know I need someone.

Barack Obama on his journey to the White House- The long and winding road that leads to your door will never disappear, I've seen that road before. It always leads me here, leads me to your door.

The banks on the financial spiral downward - You never give me your money, you only give me your funny paper, and in the middle of negotiations you break down

The rich Republican's view on Obama's 'Redistribution' of wealth - Let me tell you how it will be, there's one for you nineteen for me. Cos' I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman. Should 5% appear too small, be thankful I don't take it all.

The Democrats on change, and the war- You say you want a revolution, well you know we all want to change the world. You tell me that's it evolution, well you know we all want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.

On facing a troubled economy- Now the darkness only stays at nighttime, in the morning it will fade away. Daylight is good at arriving at the right time. It's not always going to be this grey. All things must pass. All things must pass away. All things must pass. All things must pass away.

On the end of the Bush Presidency- The fool on the hill sees the sun going down and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round.

The Republican operatives- Listen, do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell, whoa whoa. Closer, let me whisper in your ear. Say the words you long to hear... I've known a secret for a week or 2, nobody knows, just we 2.

Talking about Joe the Plumber- Nowhere man, please listen. You don't know what you're missing. Nowhere man, the world is at your command. He's as blind as he can be. Just see what he wants to see. Nowhere man can you see me at all?

Bill and Hillary talking to Barack- Anytime at all, anytime at all, anytime at all, all you have to do is call and I'll be there.

John talking to Sarah- Two of us riding nowhere, spending someone's hard earned pay. You and me Sunday driving, not arriving on our way back home. We're on our way home, we're on our way home. We're going home.

Barack talking to his wife- Michelle, ma belle, sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, tres bien ensemble. I love you, I love you, I love you. That's all I want to say.

All of us talking to the next president- Don't let me down

Don't let me down
Don't let me down
Don't let me down

Why do we need talking heads and political pundits when we have the Beatles?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

and another thing ( from Richie to Robert)

Again, while repeatedly conceding the point that an Obama victory is not 'in the bag,' I want to point out that the aggregate polling data is better for Obama today than it has been at just about any point in time.

Take your pick, they're all saying the same thing:

I don't trust polling data all that much, especially this year (election results represent present-day reality, whereas polls reflect an approximation of a sentiment at a time that has already passed, within a margin of error that is contingent upon near-perfect methodology), but at least if you're going to cite it, take a look at the big picture, which is rosier (not cloudier) than ever. If there was a 'Joe the Plumber' bump, it has long since faded, much like the Palin bump that not only evaporated but later inverted. (Incidentally, both of them draw passionate rally crowds, and her disapproval rating is sky-high, so rally enthusiasm does not necessarily equal public support level, though you seem to have drawn this conclusion with Joe the Plumber). I think it's time to move on to the next non-story story that the Republicans will use to try to sway the electorate (which, as I see it, is going to be this Obama-has-illegal-immigrants-in-his-family one).

Republicans like to do things because their 'gut' tells them it's right. We're wonky liberals, who like to fret and overanalyze. This may be our downfall, or it may be our salvation, but either way it is how we always do things. So, just because you 'feel' like Joe the Plumber is swaying the election, doesn't necessarily make it true, according to my dispassionate analysis of objective reality (which, as Stephen Colbert once so eloquently said, has a well-known liberal bias). Then again, if the polls are all wrong (which they may very well be) and the general consensus is wrong too, I think it's time to go with your gut (but beware the indigestion this might cause).

Halloween's over, quit freaking out ( Richie's reply to Robert's "say it ain't so joe)

If John McCain wins the election, it will NOT be because of Joe the Plumber. Joe the Plumber has largely faded from the headlines, since it became very clear to all but the most deluded and devoted that his was a made-up story and he was a constructed campaign tactic. He may captivate the crowds of fans at rallies, but he has not captured the popular imagination. I was watching Morning Joe--a bipartisan show for lack of a better term--for like an hour this morning, and "Joe the Plumber" was not uttered once. I'm not sure what you've been reading/watching/listening to, but I politely but decisively disagree with your reading on this. This is an old story, and in a 24-hour news cycle, old stories die hard and fast. (On a related note, it means you have to jump on an idea early for your letters/essays to remain current and relevant).

Like I've said, now is not the time to get cocky and overconfident, since Obama could lose, but in your search for reasons, I think you're hitting all the least likely answers (i.e. Joe the Plumber, and what you perceive as a tightening of the polls that have actually remained decisively in Obama's favor).

In my humble opinion, if Obama loses, it will be for one or more of the following reasons:

1. It turned out Americans still won't vote for a black man. Cold feet at the voting booth.
2. Voter discouragement and disenfranchisement.
3. Bad polling methods across the board (very possible in such an unprecedented election).
4a. November surprise. A major national or international event.
4b. November surprise. Another Republican dirty trick. News just broke this morning that Obama has an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT aunt living in Boston. They could run with this one...it makes him seems foreigner and scarier. Maybe they've got more made up scandals ready to bring out.
5. A gaffe, or at least some one-liner that the Republicans can turn into an attack line between now and the election. Something as simple as "spread the wealth around" = socialism, which actually has had more staying power than Joe the Plumber (right-wing pundits are still pressing this socialism point, but are not pressing the "Joe the Plumber" point).
6. As superficial as this sounds, McCain/Palin could win on a 'charm' moment. Maybe McCain knocks one out of the park on SNL, or Palin holds 10 babies at once (one on the tip of each finger).

So, please continue to have a healthy level of panic and anxiety, but at the same time, don't go looking for even more reasons to freak out. The list I have provided above should be sufficient.

say it ain't so Joe

Charles M Blow's "October Demise" speaks of the Presidential race being over. Barack Obama's coronation is but a matter of days away. Mr. Blow says the fat lady has sung. So why am I not sharing in his feelings? I have 3 words for Mr. Blow, Joe the Plumber.

Say it ain't so, Joe. Say that the Joe the Plumber who benefits from a Republican Presidency is a fiction. The truth will set you free. The lie may shackle all of us to a continuation of the nightmare.

Momentum. McCain says he can feel it. The Republican train is moving forward with the new 'it' person as the conductor. While the Palin phenomenon has receded and the bump that she provided to the party evaporated, the new 'fair haired' (no hair) leader of the charge is a fantasy. Joe the Plumber has captured the hearts and heads of many in the party. It is now he, and not Palin, who stands with McCain. It is Joe, and not Palin, who shares the podium and the adulation. If his 15 minutes last 3 more days, McCain's 'feeling' may become reality.

How can so many be so consumed with so little? He is like the 'cellophane man' in Chicago. You can see right through him, but yet he is still standing and waving to the cheering throngs. It is the last gasp intellectual dishonesty of the Republicans and it appears to have legs.

If not now, when for the Democrats? The confluence of events ( the war and the economy) together with the political albatross (Bush/Palin) should have diminished McCain to a paragraph in the history books. Yet I feel so uncomfortable in the days leading up to November 4. It is the plumber who is causing my internal plumbing so many problems..

The mass irrational exuberance has a mind (many minds) of its own. You can talk to it until you are blue in the face, or maybe red in the face, but your voice will be drowned out by the sounds of Republican rhetoric. While it may be impossible to find a coherent thought in their message, it matters not to those who are listening to them.

If only Joe would step up and say it ain't so. If only he would tell of the fraud that was being perpetrated. If only the cellophane man would shed his facade. If only I had wings I could fly. If only.