Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Not my age, but the number of posts on my blog. I actually have written 52 pieces since I started this exercise, but I have withheld one as I believe it too personal ( I know that is hard to believe, given what I have revealed) and another I have removed as I felt it might have struck a discordant note with one reader, and was not worth my risking that response.

What have you learned about me? You must have formulated some opinions if you have been one of the consistent readers of this blog. I actually am aware of how many people look at this blog on any given day. I don't know who you are, but I do have some idea as to repetition of visitors to the site, as well as new visitors. I know that some of you do make viewing of my pieces a part of your day. So what insights have you gathered as to the workings of my mind?

I find it interesting that I have revealed as much of myself as I have through the pages. Whether this is good or bad is up to you to decide. But it is clear that there is much of me that is open to public view. This may be my form of a psychiatrist's couch, but without the expense. You all serve as the collective doctor. You should analyze me and tell me as to the state of my mental health.

What parts of me ( mentally, not physically) still remain hidden in your estimation? If there were to be 50 more essays, where should they head? If you were directing the blog, what topics would you want to see discussed? Are my personal recollections of most interest, or entertainment value? Are my political ramblings of any merit? Are my observations of the human condition worthy of print?

I am sure I will go on posting my thoughts as they come to the forefront of my mind. They will undoubtedly cover the range of areas that I have touched upon in my first 50 pieces. I am hopeful that there may be a topic that captures me and carries me with it on a longer journey then just one short essay. I don't know if I even have the capacity within me as a writer to take such a journey, but I hope to get the opportunity to find out.

I am asking you to give me your insights and observations about me. You are reading this now and must have some thoughts in your mind about what you have read over the last 2 months. Have you thought that this is nothing but a narcissistic exercise? Do you believe that it has touched you or in any way made you think differently, or at least more closely, about any of the topics discussed? Has it changed your opinion of me, or of yourself?

I don't know if I am a different person from the one who sat down to write about Roger Clemens and Congress back in March of this year. I do know that I am enjoying the time spent in front of the computer screen trying to make my thoughts known to someone other than myself. In the long run, maybe the exercise of my brain is the real answer. Maybe what I have to say is less important than merely that I have created a discipline for myself in which I must address in a structured manner the issues that are taking up space in my head.

So, I take my leave of you now and head off to the rest of my day. I wonder if 100 is a possibility . I wonder if anyone cares.

Monday, April 28, 2008


In 1999 Amadou Diallo was a 22 year old black West African immigrant. While he was standing on the front steps of his apartment he was shot down in a hail of gun fire. 41 bullets were fired by 4 white police officers, who indicated that Mr. Diallo appeared to be reaching for a gun when the shots rang out. Mr. Diallo was unarmed and apparently reaching for his wallet. The 4 officers were acquitted of all criminal charges.

On November 25, 2006 Sean Bell was leaving his bachelor party, with 2 friends. A confrontation with 5 undercover officers escalated and Mr. Bell, a black man, was shot and killed. 50 shots were fired by 3 officers. 31 shots were fired by one of the officers, a white detective. While questions as to whether the officers reasonably believed that Mr. Bell, or one of the other 2 men with him were armed, it turned out they were not. 2 of the officers were black. All 3 officers were acquitted of all criminal charges.

The implicit association test is a tool developed by social psychologists to try to help measure subconscious triggers that affect behavior. The test involves split second associations. It is the subconscious universe and its profound effect on decision making that is the focus of these investigations. 'The implicit association test measures the thumbprint of culture on our minds' (Washington Post, january 23, 2005). The most prominent of these tests is the one that measures bias on race.

What the results reveal, not surprisingly, is that 88 percent of white people had a pro-white or anti-black implicit bias. But what the test also found was that 48 percent of blacks showed a pro-white or anti- black bias. In addition to the more readily acknowledged bias that whites hold against blacks, these results demonstrate that black-on-black bias is also prevalent in our society.

A 2002 article on "the Police Officer's Dilemma" examined the effect of ethnicity on shoot/ don't shoot decisions. In the 'shooter test' application of the implicit association test, a video game served as the mechanism to analyze bias. Both African American and White targets appeared on screen, either holding guns or holding other objects (items like a cell phone), in complex backgrounds (in front of an apartment building, in an office building, in a park like setting etc). Participants were told to 'shoot' at armed targets and 'not to shoot' at unarmed targets. The results of the test showed both that the participants made a faster decision to shoot an armed target if the target was black, and decided not to shoot an unarmed target more quickly if he was white. In addition, the study found that there were equal levels of bias among both black and whites who participated in this test. (The Police officer's Dilemma: Using Ethnicity to Disambiguate Potentially Threatening Individuals, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 2002 volume 83, No. 6).

Reverend Al Sharpton is leading a protest designed to question the propriety of the court's decision in the Bell case. He is asking for a Federal investigation, hoping to bring into focus the question of what is perceived as excessive force that is used on a continuing basis against blacks. It is an unfortunate reality of our society, that even if our intention is to be even handed in the way we approach split second decisions involving whites and blacks, we have not evolved in our thinking to where this is a reality. The shooter task clearly suggests that those split second reactions, by both blacks and whites alike, will be similarly biased against blacks. For the police officers, both black and white, popular culture and attitudes have very likely ingrained in their subconscious a bias that even they may not know exists. Until these biases disappear, we seem doomed to repeat the tragedies like those involving Mr. Diallo and Mr. Bell.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Size Matters

I am 5 foot 7 inches on a good day. I wear size 8 shoes and my hands are pretty small. I am Jewish. But has every spammer in the world been discussing my shortcomings? Have they been getting into bed with me at night? Is there a candid camera hidden in the walls? How else can you explain the constant reminders to me that my private parts need enlarging?

It was bad enough when the information as to the sure fire ways to a bigger and better me first started getting through on the computer. I could laugh it off and believe that it was random selection and not focused attention. But when the onslaught continues on a daily basis and the message is repeated that I am less of a man that I can and should be, well I just don't know. Can 10,000 people, all delivering the same message,be mistaken? Am I really in need of expanding my horizons when it comes to expanding myself? Should I consider taking membership in the member club?

Recently, I was in my doctor's office (Frank, whom I sure you remember from some of my posts about other not so private matters). While I was waiting to be poked and prodded (don't get any ideas), I read an article that Frank had written about whether enlargement procedures were really effective. The conclusion, happily, was that these procedures are not worth the effort. I say happily, because if the issue ever 'arises' I can point to the article as proof positive that what you see is all that you are ever going to get.

The onslaught is endless. While filters and blockers and whatever other techniques are utilized to direct the mail, the messages keep coming. While almost all of it ends up in my spam folder, the sheer volume of what must be placed on the internet is staggering. There must only be a few men in the world fully confident in their manhood judging by the constant reminders I receive. How many men do you think really get these notices and say to themselves, I wonder why I didn't think of that sooner?

I don't mean to be grotesque (don't go there). I am just saying that I wish there were as many notices to me on how to cure my putting woes as there are on how to cure my putter. If I am having difficulty as I always seem to veer off to the left, I would like them to be talking about ways to straighten out my swing, and not how to straighten me out. I would love to receive an onslaught of PG rated mail that was directed at improving myself instead of improving myself. I want to be getting notices about applying for memberships in golf clubs and not about membership to improve my club.

I think I could go on forever with comments that amuse me, if no one else. But the point is that these notices have long since stopped being funny. After a while they became annoying and have since moved many more levels up the food chain of disgust. I am tired of being reminded of my inadequacies and I want them to stop. I only wish there was a way of getting the home e-mail address of every person in every business who tells me every day that I am not a real man. I would be happy to enter into a philosophical discourse with each one of them on the issue. Short and pointed would have a very different meaning on that day

But until that day comes to pass, I must suffer the slings and arrows reminding me of what I am missing. With age, it seems like our feet swell a little and our shoe size creeps up. If this continues, by the time I am 90 I can proudly announce I am wearing size 11 shoes. When that day arrives, maybe the notices will stop.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Running on Empty

I know that gas prices are starting to catch my attention when I consider a good week not by the receipts in my law office but by the number of fill ups in my car. When we all swell with pride that NJ has possibly the lowest gas prices in the nation at well over $3 per gallon, we are engulfed in our own gas wars . How bad has it really gotten?

In a report of April 16, 2008 from InflationData.com, it was stated that "with average March prices at $3.22 Gasoline Prices are above the average annual prices paid at the all time peak in 1981". That was the year the Iran-Iraq war started.

For perspective, in 1955 the average gallon of gasoline sold for 29 cents. In 1972, the year before the Arab oil embargo, prices were only 36 cents per gallon.Adjusted for inflation, a May 2006 report of the Cato institute stated that , in 2006 dollars, this would translate to $1.76 (for the 1955 gasoline) and $1.36 (for 1972).

While prices had climbed to 60 cents per gallon in 1976, they zoomed to $1.35 in 1981. Inflation Data stated that this gallon would cost $3.17 in today's dollars. We have now surpassed that figure and established a record of which none of us (except the oil companies) is proud.

When we have to consider whether to use our car for leisure, when the airlines have to charge us for every possible 'amenity' in an effort to somehow keep from going under, when food prices soar in part because of the cost of getting goods to their destinations, then there is something badly broken in the system.

When statistics tell us that gasoline is now a precious commodity, this only serves to reenforce our innate understanding. When one of the main attractions of our state is its gasoline prices, and when one takes a trip to our gas stations, but not to our beaches because it costs too much to get there, we are all going nowhere fast.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


So now we trudge on to Indiana and North Carolina. There is really nothing left to say about their positions on the important matters of the day. It can only be more of the same. We must prepare ourselves to listen and learn about things that separate the candidates not on their substance but on some imagined matter that shows us what the other candidate is really about. I am tired and they must be bone tired.

It is now 15 months since Barack Obama began this journey. It is more than another 6 months until the general election. When analysts talk of the baseball season being a marathon, not a sprint, they are right. But when we look at the tortorous length of this campaign, it makes baseball appear like a 100 yard dash.

When Senator Clinton is practically begging for contributions so she can keep her campaign going, after having received $20 million last month, we have to ask ourselves what we are doing. Day after day, and month after month, they slog on. When Senator Clinton said it takes a village, I don't think she envisioned having to take each and every village along the way.

When Senator Obama must raise $40 million in a month to try to get his message across to try to stem whatever momentum Senator Clinton is mounting, he must be shaking his head. The math does not say Senator Clinton should still be here. She cannot overtake his lead to get enough delegates and superdelegates to capture the nomination. Logic should dictate that she give up the fight so that all attention can be focused on Senator McCain. But Senator Clinton will not go gently into the night. She will exhaust herself, and every resource at her disposal, to keep going. In the movies , we see the bloodied and battered fighter on the canvas and we pray he will stay down. This is not the movies, and Senator Clinton is back on her feet once more.

When do they sleep? I heard James Carville suggest that Senator Obama was off his game the other night in the last debate with Senator Clinton. He stated that this could well be attributable to his being sleep deprived. The constant need to be 'on' must be so difficult. There was an article in the NY Times this morning referencing an incident in which Senator Obama is being questioned by a reporter about Jimmy Carter and Hamas, as the Senator is trying to eat his breakfast. He questions , out loud, why he can't just be permitted to eat his waffle.

When I worry whether Senator Obama has the stamina and staying power, physically and emotionally, to withstand the rigors of the next 6 months, I cringe. This is a young man, in the prime of his life, who may very soon make Senator McCain seem much younger than 71. I don"t want the Democratic nominee to be a shell of a person while the real fight still lays ahead, but I think that is the ugly possibility. For while I am tired , that is nothing compared to how our Democratic candidates must feel.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Green is Universal...

...but, according to NBC, consensus on global warming is anything but.

NOTE: This is a guest post from my son, Richie. It also appears on his blog, The View from the Seven-and-a-Halfth Floor.

As part of their company-wide greenwashing campaign, Green is Universal, General Electric subsidiary NBC ran an episode of Dateline last night dedicated to environmental themes.

The last story on the episode was about the retreat of Bolivia's glaciers due to global warming, and the effect this will have on the residents of Bolivia. At first, the story seemed to treat the issue objectively, contrasting old photographs with present footage, and interviewing locals and experts, all in an effort to describe the disappearance of the world's highest-elevation ski area, and to discuss the current ramifications for La Paz, Bolivia, which relies on glacial runoff to produce hydroelectric power and provide clean drinking water for its residents. Several times in the story, the glacial retreat is directly linked to global warming.

Then, out of left field near the end of the story, the 'journalist' states as fact that there is not scientific consensus that an increase in greenhouse gases has caused the global warming we are observing, and that some scientists believe it is part of a natural 'cycle.' No subsequent effort is made to present an alternate theory for this rapid warming 'cycle' (because there is none), nor to explain the highly coincidental correlation between CO2 levels (a primary greenhouse gas) and global average temperature. While acknowledging that global warming is actually occurring AND that the rapidly accelerating glacial retreat is a real phenomenon, the producers went out of their way to create the impression that global warming is some big mystery, and that nobody is certain why it is happening.

My bullshit detector hit liar liar pants on 5-alarm fire.

Why does our government under the current administration, and many major American corporations (some of them, like GE-subsidiary NBC, posing as sources of unbiased news), feed us this crap, and why do we let them do so? Haven't we reached the point where we can accept that there is total scientific and public consensus that human-induced pollution has raised greenhouse gas levels and directly contributed to global climate change? Isn't the only "lack of consensus" remaining in the details, as in "How great is our impact on the climate?," "How much will the climate change?," "How quickly will this all happen?," and "How the hell do we get ourselves out of this mess?"

Could you imagine what this country would be like if people weren't constantly fed carefully-tailored crap, bordering on propaganda and teetering on the edge of intentionally false, every time they turned on their television? For starters, we'd have a different president, we'd choose our wars more carefully, we'd have safer food, consumer goods, and workplaces, and we certainly wouldn't think that right-wing Republican John McCain is either "moderate" or a "maverick."

I also can't help but find it a little coincidental that BOTH President Bush and his wife Laura will make high-profile appearances on NBC this week, the former during an episode of Deal or No Deal (President Bush is hoping to reduce the national debt by one-million-dollar-suitcase), and the latter as a guest host of the highest-rated morning show on American television. Could it be possible that NBC toned down their environmentally-friendly rhetoric, and kicked the anti-science bullcrap up a few notches, all in an effort to make their visitors this week feel more at home?

UPDATE (4/21/08): More than three years ago, nearly the exact same story appeared in another NBC outlet (MSNBC.com)--minus the crap about greenhouse gases possibly not contributing to global warming (the article does appropriately consider other factors that contribute to both glacial retreat and climate change, but does not dismiss human-produced pollution as one of the major ones). This is one step backward for NBC Universal and American journalism, one giant leap backward for the health of our planet and its people.

Glass Houses

'McCain sees the tawdry ceremonies of politics- the spin and hucksterism- as unworthy. He's not one to put on silly hats; his shtick is substance' ( Joe Klein, Time Magazine, April 28, 2008). Klein goes on to say that McCain wants to have 'substantive' debates about the major issues like the war and climate change.

On the day that this piece was received and read, I also received an e-mail from Christian Ferry, Deputy Campaign Manager for Senator McCain. The headline announced that 'Hamas weighs in on US Presidential Election'. It quoted Ahmed Yousef , Hamas Political Advisor, as stating that "we like Mr. Obama and hope he will win the election".So much for the integrity quotient being raised by Senator McCain.

Innuendo and insinuation are the dirty laundry that is aired at every turn in the political sphere. Senator McCain, sitting on the sideline while he watches the Democratic debacle continue to unfold, can appear like he is taking the high road, while at a safe distance. Even then, the stink factor is never far from surfacing. In the 'notice' from the McCain camp , it is clear that opportunities to strike and run will be taken even when the heat is not being applied.

What McCain is telling all of us is that Senator Obama is soft on terrorism. If those who lurk around every corner waiting to take down our country have anything positive to say about Obama, then there can be nothing positive about Obama. Forget that our attempts to ignore and minimize our enemies have only led to total alienation of the US throughout the Middle East and an inability to create any kind of stability in the region. Forget that failure to recognize an enemy does not make an enemy any less recognizable. Forget that our might does not equal our right anymore. Forget that a new dynamic must be envisioned if we are to crawl out of the mess that we find ourselves in and are unable to extricate ourselves from. Forget all that and just remember that if we vote for Obama we are siding with Hamas, and leading our country to its inevitable downfall.

That is what Senator McCain , while telling us he is staying above the fray, and that he wants to focus on the issues, is letting his underlings do on his behalf. The fantasy being foisted upon us that his candidacy is one in which the high road will be taken has already veered into the ditch. There is no way that the Republican machine is going to sit by idly if there is any chance to gain votes through talking points that have nothing to do with substance and everything to do with manipulation.

It is easy to try to look pure when your opponents are in their own dog fight and have scratched and clawed and opened wounds on each other without your having to lift a finger. It will be quite another thing if Senator McCain finds himself trailing badly in the polls. When the heat is on, and the pressure is high, it may well be Senator McCain, and not his underlings, who brings out the quote from Mr. Yousef.

Just remember that no politician is without a closet full of skeletons. When the rhetoric comes flying from Senator McCain, when the smears and attacks are spread on anything and everything Democratic, except the substantive positions , be fair warned that there will be equal return fire. If Senator McCain is going to throw stones, he better realize he lives in a glass house.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Behind Closed Doors

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) broke away from the main branch of the Mormon church decades ago. The main branch, housed in Salt Lake City, Utah, disavowed polygamy in the late 1800's. The FLDS continues to preach and practice the polygamist tradition. This sect is housed in Colorado City Arizona, Hildale, Utah and outside of Eldorado , Texas. Living in sprawling compounds, there is reported to be over 10,000 members.

To get to heaven, it is taught that a man must have at least 3 wives. A woman's path to eternal bliss is only through subservience to her husband .

There is an ongoing dilemma of how to keep the number of boys in these compounds to a minimum so to enable each man to have a sufficient number of wives to meet the goals to attain bliss in the afterlife. 'Authorities have reported that at least 1000 teenage boys have been forcibly separated from their families , faith and community- principally so elder members of the sect would have less competition for wives' (BBC News June 14, 2005).

In 2004, Gideon Barlow was banished from Colorado City for wearing short sleeved t-shirts, listening to CD's and having a girlfriend. Gideon was reported to be one of 71 children born to the eight wives of his then 73 year old father. Suit filed by 5 'Lost Boys' alleged they were removed to lessen the competition for the elders in securing wives.

While the actions of the FLDS have long been known by authorities, there has been a great reluctance for them to take any sweeping action . In 1993, a Waco , Texas sect of another cult, the Branch Davidian's,was raided. The standoff between the government and the Branch Davidian's eventually led to a disaster in which approximately 80 members of the sect were killed.

Thus, actions against FLDS have been limited in scope. There has been an effort to cut off its head and hope that the body collapses . Warren Jeffs ascended to the leadership of FLDS after his father died in 2002. The government in 2005 indicted Jeffs on charges of arranging the marriage of a 28 year old man, who was already married, to an underage girl. Jeffs went underground. Eventually, he was located, charged , tried and convicted of forcing a 14 year old girl to marry her cousin. He currently faces trial in Arizona of being an accomplice to incest and sexual conduct resulting from 2 arranged marriages.

Recently, authorities were alerted by a call to a hotline from 'Sarah' , a 16 year old member of the sect, that she was the subject of physical and sexual abuse.On April 3 , a week long raid began at the 1,691 acre Yearning for Zion ranch outside of Eldorado , Texas. Over that week there were 416 children removed from the compound. First these children were taken to a facility in San Angelo, and many of the older children were subsequently moved to the city's Coliseum. Reports from state investigators are that girls who reported knowing the caller were uncooperative in any further questioning trying to identify this individual.

A Texas judge has now made an initial ruling in the case that all these children remain in the custody of the state for genetic testing. The authorities are now faced with the task of trying to determine the age of each child and the mother ( and father). Lack of birth records for many of the children will hinder the determination of their ages. If DNA testing is successful in linking a child to a mother, and if the age of the child is determined, as well as that of the mother, then the age of the mother at the birth of that child can be figured out. Under Texas law, no girl under 16 can legally marry even with her parent's consent. Thus, if the investigation reveals that a mother had a child before she was 16, the father of that child will have been automatically guilty of criminal conduct.

The circus has come to town. In a scene that was bizarre and compelling, lawyers , the children, and their families gathered in the courthouse, or were taken to a nearby auditorium and connected to the courtroom through videoconferencing. Exhibits had to be marked , copied and then carried between locations. The mothers of these children, all dressed in the same long colorful dresses, all with the same hairstyle,,sat and watched, as the judge made her decision.

It is incomprehensible to try to put oneself in the place of a woman who is living through this unfolding nightmare. The psychological battering that would permit one to be treated in the manner that these young girls and women have , must be relentless beyond our wildest imagination. We cannot project ourselves into a situation that is so foreign to everything we know and see . In the months to come, we will hopefully get a clear picture of the atrocities that must have occurred on a regular basis inside the fortress and out of sight .

Can the children possibly be returned to this environment? For them, it is the only life they have known. For the youngest ones, there may have been no aberrant actions ever taken against them. Certainly, their mothers would be powerless to protect them if they saw trouble coming. The courts will have to sort out whether the group behavior provides legal basis for taking all the children from their home, or only those against whom transgressions have already been committed.

For me, perpetuation of this situation is an unacceptable option. Not one more day should ever pass where a child can be subjected to the abuses that have long existed within this culture. The best interests of these children dictate that action must be taken which will make a loud and clear statement that this type of behavior is morally and socially reprehensible and will no longer be tolerated. While my heart goes out to the mothers who have themselves been victims, we cannot compound the error by in any way sanctioning what has transpired. We cannot put these children back inside the huge walls and hope they will somehow survive. We all know that to do so would be to make us complicit in permitting continuing atrocities to occur.

The court will be faced with walking a very fine line, making certain this does not appear a religious persecution, or an attempt to eradicate a cult without regard to the specific facts relating to individual cases. What is certain that the practices of the sect, when brought out into the light of day, will be viewed with horror and revulsion. We will soon know whether this is enough to force the implosion of FLDS. For the sake of the children, let us hope this is the final result.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Round 4

Yankee Stadium has been the site of many great events throughout its 85 year history. Apart from baseball, it has been host to concerts by many entertainment legends and this Sunday will be the site of a mass to be conducted by the Pope. The sights and sounds associated with this stadium have brought millions to their feet, and will soon bring 57,000 to their knees.

But the one constant occurring throughout the years has been the battles between the Yankees and the various teams invading their home turf. Each year the Yankees have defended and protected their house like no other team in the history of the game. 26 times they have been crowned World Champions, far more than their closest competition. They have made themselves an empire, which to many not living under its protective roof, find to be the worst of all evils. Rich and powerful, the Yankees have been able to fend off all challengers with fists of fury, or at least of gold. However, beginning in 2004, there has been a large chink in the armor. The irritant that has eaten away at the aura of invincibility is the Boston Red Sox.

In a historic battle in the American League playoffs of 2004, the Red Sox recovered from a 3 to 0 deficit in games to win 4 straight games . With the last of these wins they ushered the Yankees out of the playoffs, created a new sense of power in the Boston franchise. The Sox went on to win the World Series in a 4 game sweep. Since then, they have repeated their World Series triumph with an equally impressive destruction of their National League opponent in 2007. The Red Sox have become what the Yankees have always been.

When the Red Sox played second fiddle to the Yankees, I did not hate them. I had an air of superiority ,certain that in the end, the Sox would be dispatched and sent home with head bowed. Until 2004 , the Red Sox had not won a World Series in 86 years. However, with the role reversal arising from the triumphs of the Red Sox over the last 4 years, my smugness has disappeared. It has now been replaced by a total disregard for everything Red Sox.

Thus, what had always been an interesting and entertaining spectacle between these 2 teams, has now taken on an added sense of urgency and depth. Each game played during the regular season is but one more attempt for the Yankees to try to wrest away from these upstarts the crown that has been stolen away. The Yankees and Red Sox play 18 regular season games against one another, 9 at each team's home stadium. Tickets to each of these games has long been a prize possession. Now it is like getting a seat at a championship fight.

Last night was Round 4 in this year's fight. The Red Sox had won 2 of the first 3 contests. The lone Yankee victory had come by way of the strong arm of their ace starter, Chien Ming Wang. In an unusual twist, Wang was now making consecutive starts against the same team, as the battle moved from Fenway Part to the Stadium.

What no one could have anticipated was that this was to be a game in which haymaker punches were thrown all night. Instead of a tense, low scoring affair, this was like Ali and Frazier throwing knockout punch after knockout punch. The Yankees delivered the first blow, scoring 3 runs in the first inning. The Sox hammered back and soon tied the score. The Yankees responded with 4 runs. Just as quickly, the Sox returned the favor , scoring 6 times. It was 9 to 7 Boston and you didn't know whether to laugh or cry. You were happy, then sad, then happy, then sad, and the game was only half over.

The Yankees immediately erupted for 4 runs to take an 11-9 lead. This finally seemed to deflate the Red Sox. After being knocked down repeatedly, they finally stayed on the canvas. Their bats went quiet, while the Yankees tacked on 4 more runs in a 15 to 9 win.

It was an exhausting and exhilarating evening. For the fans, it was worth every moment of pain, knowing that eventually we wore the enemy down. Yet it is only April 16th and there are 14 more regular season games against the Red Sox and 146 more regular seasons games in total. The season really is a marathon, and any true victory over the Red Sox will have to await the post season. But, on this night, it was a good beginning.

Uncomfortable Moments Update

I left you about 4 months ago having just received a phone call from my doctor telling me that the test results of my prostate biopsy were fine but that I would have to come back to him in about 3 months for a follow up visit. I did not heed my own advice to lose his phone number and address.

Several weeks ago I went back to Frank's office. Blood was taken to see if my PSA levels had gone down from the time of the first go round. I was feeling fine, and was certainly hopeful that I would get the good news I wanted. I had to wait a week for the results.

I was also, at this visit, scheduled to have a minor growth removed by Frank. Modesty prevents me from discussing any of the specifics relating to the whereabouts of the offending mole. With little mental preparation, I lay down on the 'operating table' and was shown, from a camera being projected onto a screen, the site where the work was to be done. I had absolutely no interest in watching the proceedings and suggested that the screen be used for me to watch a replay of the Yankee game from the night before.

After receiving a series of local injections, the dicing, slicing and splicing began in earnest. For several minutes, small pieces of me were taken away and deposited into receptacles, to be analyzed. Once this process was complete, and the offending parts removed, the stitching commenced. You would have thought there was a crater being sewn up from the number of stitches utilized. I would think my head and my feet were being tied together for this much work to be necessary.

Finally, the work was completed and I was sent home, to deal with my physical and emotional wounds, and to wait for the results of the blood test.

When Frank called the following week , he said that the growth was benign, as expected. However, the results of the blood test on the PSA levels were not as hoped for, which meant that I would have to go through round 2 of the biopsy . Frank said there was no rush, but I decided to do the procedure as soon as possible (last Friday).

The time waiting to go in for the procedure was painful on several levels. The recovery from the minor surgery was not as minor as I would have expected. I was not able to move about freely and had some level of discomfort. I also was envisioning my upcoming reunion with Frank and the instruments of torture.

The day finally arrived and the biopsy itself went very well. I guess, because I had been through it before, I was slightly more relaxed. Frank reported that I was not quite the tight ass I was the first time, and thus his work was a little easier. After viewing the pictures he had taken, Frank stated that the medication I had been ingesting the last 3 months seemed to be doing its job on the prostate. Yet, I would have to wait another week to get definitive answers.

Tomorrow would be one week from the biopsy. That also happens to be my birthday. By this morning, I decided to try to get an accelerated answer. I did not want to spend my birthday waiting to hear news I didn't want to hear. I called Frank's office, advised them of my birthday, and asked if there was any way they could try to get the results to me today. They said they would do what they could.

About an hour later, I picked up the phone. It was Frank, singing happy birthday to me. It was the best rendition I had ever heard. He then gave me the good news, and told me to stay the course with my medication, to try to fight off what appears to be no more than a stubborn infection. I am to repeat the song and dance with him in another 3 months.

I have 2 friends who are battling cancer. One has been sick for a while, and has handled his struggles with amazing grace and dignity. He is forever positive and is always upbeat in our conversations. When we speak, he is more concerned with talking about my issues or my son's efforts to get back to good health, then he is about focusing on himself.

The other friend has been recently diagnosed. He has avoided doctors studiously for almost 15 years until his health demanded his attention. He went to the doctors and was then rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where he spent 13 days. He had surgery done, and is hopefully on the way to a full and speedy recovery. Like my other friend, he speaks little of his own condition but deflects attention onto others.

It is not easy to face up to our mortality. These past few months have given me a small window into what waits for all of us.While I watch my friends deal with harsh realities in courageous fashion, I don't know if I would have the inner fortitude that they have shown. I hope it is many years from now before I have to find the answer to that question.

In the meantime, I will follow the doctor's orders and take my medication every morning. I don't want to have to be reporting to you , after my next visit, about round 3 of my biopsy battles. I would rather be reporting on the battles between McCain and Obama or the Yankees and the Red Sox. Until then, I will keep my fingers crossed and hope that any future 'contact' with Frank is just verbal.


Has everyone been living under a rock for the past 8 years? Barack Obama has been under constant attack since he spoke of bitter Americans trying to explain and rationalize their growing frustrations with a country that has been unresponsive to their needs and has led us into times where the economy is in peril, our country is in a war without end, the costs of health care are spiraling out of control, the price for gas seems to escalate from morning to evening, the environment is an issue left largely unaddressed and our position as a world leader is being diminished day by day. While Obama's choice of words may have left him vulnerable and exposed, his perception of an angry public is not wrong.

In a summary of findings of the Pew Research Center, polling results showed an American public angry with Congress. There was talk of the public's strong appetite for change in Washington. Their poll found that twice as many voters were looking to cast ballots reflecting their position against the Bush Presidency then for it. Congress had achieved little and Americans were fed up. That poll was taken in 2006 and the discussion focused on the pending mid-term elections. Those sentiments have only grown stronger in the succeeding 2 years.

It was this feeling of increasing unhappiness and resentment that was the catalyst for the Obama campaign. Hillary Clinton , in response to Senator Obama's recent remarks, spoke of her unshakable faith in America and its promise. Well, the real truth is that our faith has been shaken . America's promise has come into question. We can dance around it all that we want but the 'in your face' reality is that many of us are bitter with where the government has taken us. We are not , as individuals, or as a country, where we think we should be. We look for answers and explanations in many different arenas.

Robert Reich, a former Cabinet Secretary under President Clinton, recently wrote in reference to Senator Obama's comments:

"Are Americans who have been left behind frustrated? Of course. And their frustrations, their anger and, yes, sometimes their bitterness, have been used since then -- by demagogues, by nationalists and xenophobes, by radical conservatives, by political nuts and fanatical fruitcakes – to blame immigrants and foreign traders, to blame blacks and the poor, to blame "liberal elites," to blame anyone and anything."
Link to Robert Reich's post

Many do believe that the government has led them into, and then left them unattended, in hard times. The centerpiece of Senator Obama's change message is that what has been happening is not good enough, and that we can do better. In his recent words, he was not trying to castigate but to explain.

It has always seemed to me that the sounds of hatred and divisiveness have emanated primarily from the Republican party. Their method has too often been to point fingers at others as a source of their problems. It is pure fantasy to believe that we reside in a country in which finger pointing does not serve as a way to rationalize our frustrations. If Senator Obama overstepped the bounds of what politics dictate one should discuss, that is unfortunate. If the consequences of his transgression is that we step away from him as the candidate of choice for the Democrats, that would be disastrous.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mix and Match Update

In a highly anticipated and much discussed contest, John McEnroe and Brett Kaplan squared off yesterday in a battle of legends. Kaplan admitted to nerves affecting his early performance, as he was broken in his first service game. After McEnroe held serve, the combatants traded victories in what was becoming a very evenly played match. Kaplan spoke of his belief that he was McEnroe's equal from the baseline throughout the set, but that he had trouble dealing with the lefthander's big kick on his second serve.

McEnroe eventually was able to prevail 6 games to 2. When a second set was discussed, McEnroe talked of his back tightening up. While we cannot be certain of the accuracy of this assessment, our conjecture matters not. After McEnroe's voicing of physical concerns, the players shook hands, and walked off the court. The question hangs in the air as to whether Kaplan's performance in the first set had buoyed his confidence to the point where he could take the better of the former number 1 player in the world.

We will probably never get the opportunity for a demonstrative answer. While the public (me) is clamoring for a rematch, there is evidently no talk of a regular Saturday game.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Great Barrington

When winter starts to fade, and the temperature begins to rise, I try to begin most weekend mornings with a walk for the paper. It is about a mile to the store. I walk past the heart of the main street of town. It is filled with restaurants, clothing stores, shoe stores, record shops and many other small businesses. On most weekends, it is busy in this part of town.
My journey then takes me past banks, churches and into a commercial part of town that has seen better days. Several buildings have no tenants, some places are in great disrepair. Ceilings have come down, leaving exposed insulation on the floor. It is an area that has long ago been forgotten and left to rot .

I walk past several small shops that have somehow survived the difficulties here to stay and fight another day. I finally reach my destination. It is a convenience store/gas station. The men and women behind the counter show the signs of hard lives. You can read the struggles in their faces. I greet them, sometimes enter into small conversations of no import, buy the paper, and then start my walk in reverse. I am in Great Barrington and this is my home.

My wife was always concerned that I would never be able to calm my senses enough to get comfortable with the cadence of a town like this. Living outside of New York City, in a part of the world that does not find slow in its vocabulary, I have been told that I don't know how to relax. While I may, to many, seem an affable , take it easy kind of guy, I have never been able to do nothing very well. I eat quickly, I play golf quickly, and when I am not doing something, I think I should be. So, you can see why a somewhat sleepy New England town might not be what I had in mind as the perfect getaway. But, it is.

We were lucky enough to be able to buy an apartment here last spring. Since then, I eagerly await each trip as it seems to me a vacation of the body and the mind. On weekend mornings in the Berkshires, we have been taking long walks with several close friends. It has become our new old tradition. At our appointed hour, we all emerge from our homes, and begin our trek. Up and down the hills, we converse about the events of our week, we talk of the housing market and whether there are bargains to be had in Great Barrington, we look at the beauty of the scenery, walk past the local lake and soak up the company and the surroundings.

On summer afternoons, there is a gathering of many of the apartment complex residents by the pool. There are 20 units here and most are occupied by people who are in the latter part of their lives. The area next to the pool is shaded by many large trees. Thus, when the heat of the day begins to fade, chairs are placed in a circle, and the crowd begins to fill in. With drinks in hand, they sit around and chat. It is a time of friendship and it is filled with comfort and good cheer.

This is a place where you can block out some of the distractions of the rest of your world. We all face the concerns of our businesses, our children's lives, our parent's lives, and the myriad other matters that take up much of our waking thoughts. But, there is a sense of calm and serenity that attaches to my life in Great Barrington. The issues that are so critical become just a little less pressing. The dilemmas I have to face will be still be there tomorrow , but today they are on hold.

The hours pass and day turns into night in my home in the Berkshires. If we have plans with friends, if we find ourself at Tanglewood, or at a local theatre, or if we are just hanging out, it is all good. I find that I don't have to map out a day of events to fill my plate. It is enough for me to just be here. It is a quiet time , a time for relaxation. As much as I never thought I would say it, I believes it suits me just fine.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mix and Match

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, gives us 23 pages of the history and accomplishments of John McEnroe. McEnroe participated in 24 Grand Slam finals, winning 17 . He was a 3 time singles champion at Wimbledon, a 4 time singles champion at the US Open, a 9 times doubles champion in Grand Slam events and even a winner in a mixed doubles Slam. His epic battles with Bjorn Borg filled our screens and captured our undivided attention. His temper was legendary. He could infuriate us as he sometimes appeared nothing more than a brat, but as an elder statesman of the game he grew on most of us. John McEnroe will turn 50 next February.

Brett Kaplan graduated from Horace Mann and went on to Emory University.He was a tennis player of renown, albeit in a division 3 school. Second singles in his first college year, he was elevated to the first position his last 3 seasons. He was most valuable player on the team his junior and senior years, and garnered all-American division 3 honors in all 4 years of a stellar college career. He has since gone on to success in the business world. Most of his trophies from his days as a tennis star sit in his childhood bedroom.. Brett Kaplan is 29 years old and is my nephew.

This Sunday, McEnroe and Kaplan will square off in a match which I have been eagerly anticipating for many months. Brett is a member of the same New York tennis club as McEnroe. Months ago, Brett was able to work his way through some stiff competition at the club to win its annual championship. The prize for capturing the tournament was more than a pat on the back and a handshake. It was an opportunity to step onto the court against John McEnroe and compete against him.

This seemed to be a big deal for almost no one , except me. For the rest of the world, it was nothing more than a footnote. For McEnroe, and even my nephew, it was an afterthought. Time passed., while business matters, injuries and more pressing issues kept the match from moving forward.

I received a call from my nephew earlier this week. In the course of our conversation, he casually mentioned that he was finally going to be playing McEnroe this Sunday. No discussion of strategy ensued. After a few seconds, the topic of our talk turned to more mundane matters such as his mother's upcoming birthday party and preparations being made for this occasion. When I spoke to his mother ( my sister ) later that day, she said she didn't even know the match was happening.

As Sunday draws nearer, I wonder if Brett is even thinking about how best to attack McEnroe's game. As McEnroe is reaching the half century mark, it would probably help to drop shot him some. Make him move, tire him out. Get him going corner to corner, and make the rallies last until McEnroe can take no more. Brett's youth and vitality should help him scale the mountain.

While my nephew is probably more concerned with whether he has to pick up bagels before of after the match, my mind is focused on the image of Brett readying himself to serve to McEnroe for the first time. In my head, I hear the announcer calling out, " from New York City , New York, former All American at Emory University, Brett Kaplan". Go get him Brett.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Friendly Skies

"Please take your seats We cannot take off until everyone is in their seats with their seat belts fastened". For over 100,000 people who intended to fly American Airlines yesterday, they never heard those words uttered. Today is to be more of the same.

Within the past several weeks, including the problems to be encountered today, there have been over 3000 scheduled flights that have been canceled. There have been hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been disrupted. People have scrambled to find hotels, or been compelled to sleep on the floor or in uncomfortable chairs at the airport. Every imaginable problem arising from an inability to get to one's destination on time has been encountered. And still, the cancellations continue .

The Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of making certain that our airplanes are safe to fly. Compliance with their regulations is a mandate that we, the public, take as a given. We are in an era where we are increasingly diligent for the threat of terrorism, where every 90 year old grandmother and 1 year old baby are subject to random search of their body to insure that all of us on each flight are going to reach our destination without issue. While every bottle we possess containing more than a certain amount of liquid must be shown and be subject to confiscation, we are given the impression that no stone is left unturned when it comes to protecting those on board. We are wrong.

Since the middle of last month, when the failures to inspect first came to light, we have seen the FAA propose a fine of over $10,000,000 on Southwest Airlines for flying planes that should not have been in the air until they were inspected, American Eagle Airlines forced to ground 25 regional jets until it insured the same met inspection requirements,and American and Delta Air Lines taking their MD-80 aircraft out of the air to make sure the wiring harnesses were all properly connected to a pump in the wheel well. A Federal investigation of the FAA resulted in a committee reprimand for its lax oversight and for its failure to heed whistle- blowers who reported problems with inspections.

The airlines continue to assure us that our safety has never been at risk. We are led to believe this is much ado about nothing, and are given a sense that all our lives have been needlessly interrupted. Yet we have to wonder why the FAA was asleep at the wheel. Is this just another scenario in which the administration's philosophy that any regulation is bad regulation has been evident? Like the financial markets, has oversight by the government to protect the best interest of its citizens, been ignored while disasters , or near disasters, are permitted to go unchecked?

The FAA has recently suspended a top flight safety regulator for American and Southwest Airlines. It appears to be trying to get its own house in order at this late date. We are all very thankful that its lack of focus to the task at hand has not resulted in the loss of lives.We would all hope that this attention to detail is now a given, and not an exception as we move forward. We have learned to expect delays , for reasons unknown, when we go to airports. We have accepted that each one of us is subject to intense scrutiny as we make sure the skies are safe for all of us to fly. What we did not expect, and cannot tolerate, is that we are left without wings due to the failure of our Federal regulators to do their jobs. For those now fuming over canceled flights and lost days of their lives, apologies for work badly done, or not done at all, just doesn't seem sufficient.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The World is Watching

By 1936 , Hitler's Nazi regime was in its days of glory. The Olympic games were to take place that summer. The atrocities the Nazis were committing upon their own people were known to the world. While it would attempt , on the streets of Berlin, to eradicate any sign of its decimation of the human rights of a portion of its own population,it could not hide from sight the plight of the German Jews. The German Olympic team was stripped of its Jewish participants in the weeks leading up to the games. This was a moment to demonstrate Aryan supremacy to the world.

There were no protests of the games that year. Rather, it was felt that the best way to show up the Nazis was to try to bust the Aryan myth on the playing fields. Led by one of the best black athletes in history, the United States would fight its fight at the games. Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals in those Olympics. 9 Jewish athletes from around the world won medals. Yet history shows that this did nothing to stop, or slow down Hitler and his myth of Aryan supremacy. It would be 9 years, and countless lost lives, before Hitler's regime was over.

In 1968, Harry Edwards was a young sociologist. A black man, concerned with the continuing plight of black Americans, he advocated a boycott of the Mexico City games that year. While his hopes of using the games as a forum to focus the world on the inequities in our society did not lead to a boycott, it did result in a memorable moment of protest. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were 2 young black American sprinters.Among the best in the world, they both medaled in the same Olympic event. As they stood on the podium to accept their awards, they slightly bowed their heads while each one raised a black gloved fist. It was their way of expressing black unity and trying to get the world to pay attention to the problems blacks continued to encounter. 40 years later , Barack Obama spoke eloquently about the hurdles still left to overcome.

In 1980, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan was in its second year. Led by President Carter, the United States , together with 62 other countries, refused to participate in the summer Olympic games . While our athletes stayed at home, the games continued in a diminished capacity. In unity, much of the world said it was watching Russia and was opposed to the atrocities it was committing. It would be 9 more years before the Russians were forced to leave Afghanistan.

In London and Paris, they have lined the streets by the thousands. In San Francisco they have had people climb up the Golden Gate bridge and hang banners of protest. It is now 2008 and the eyes of the world are upon China, as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. As the Olympic torch makes it way around the globe, in its trek to its final destination at the Games, people everywhere are protesting the human rights violations of the Chinese in Tibet. In all likelihood , the scope of the concern will also encompass issues relating to the complicity of the Chinese in the ongoing slaughter in Darfur. Some have even extinguished the Olympic torch as it travels from country to country. Hillary Clinton has suggested a boycott of the opening ceremonies as a defining act of protest.

Yet , if there is one thing that history teaches us, it is that symbolic Olympic actions, while laudable, do little to effect long lasting change. It is incumbent on all of us that the light that shines on these atrocities during Olympic years not be extinguished as soon as the Olympic flame goes out. Our diligence in seeing and responding to the wrongs around us must be more than a one time effort. Change is a very formidable foe . It takes time and continuing diligence to make a difference in the ways of the world. While the protests of China's abuses are now occurring as we all turn our focus towards them, let it be our Olympic goal to keep the pressure on China long after the games have been completed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Burning Bright

Jack Nicklaus won 18 major golf championships and finished in second place another 19 times. There are only 4 major championships in a season.. The chance for any of the best golfers in the world to challenge for a 'major' even once in their careers is a milestone achievement. For one golfer to either win, or almost win, one of these championships on 37 different occasions in a career is a staggering accomplishment.

Tiger Woods was born to play professional golf. At the age of 2 he appeared as a golfing wunderkind on the Mike Douglas TV Show, putting against Bob Hope. By the age of 3 he had broken 50 for 9 holes. He began winning junior world championships at the age of 8 and dominated those his age throughout a remarkable junior career. He was the first golfer to win the United States Amateur championship 3 years in a row. After turning professional at the age of 20 , he has continued to leave all competitors in his wake. Now , at age 32, he has won 13 major championships. He is closing in on the record of the great Nicklaus. Most believe that , if Tiger remains in good health and the competitive fires continue to burn, that the number 18 may be reached and surpassed.

Which one of these golfers is the best ever?

The pursuers of Nicklaus included some of the best the game has ever seen, from Arnold Palmer to Gary Player and later, Tom Watson. Jack was able to win a major championship at the age of 46, when most players would be happy just being able to compete on the same stage with the best. His longevity and his focus on the task at hand, are the stuff of legends.

Tiger has sustained his greatness from the first day he picked up a golf club until the present. In watching his exploits it has appeared that he is capable of greatness with every swing , every round all year long. Year in and year out, he has amazed me with his presence , his composure, his mind, as much as his God given talents. He seemingly wills himself to win, and win and win some more. Those who try to wrestle victory from Tiger know that it is not only his swing but his mental toughness that they must overcome. Given this combination , Tiger's sum is greater than the parts of all others. To be the best in the physical AND mental aspects of the game has made him an impossible opponent from the cradle onward.

At age 21 , Tiger won the Masters, one of the 4 major championships, by 12 strokes. At age 24 , he won another of the majors, the US Open, by 15 strokes. At age 25 , he held all 4 major titles simultaneously. At age 29 , he won the British Open by 5 strokes. At age 30 , he won the PGA championship by 5 strokes. At 31, Tiger improved to a perfect 13 and 0 when leading going into the final day of a major championship. When Tiger has you down, you don't get up. When he beats you, you stay beaten.

The Masters begins this Thursday in Augusta , Georgia. As always, Woods is the favorite to win this tournament. If he fails to do so, it will be a surprise to me, and most every other person watching. His dominance is unabated. The gap between him and the rest of the golfers on the planet seems enormous and unassailable.

For me, every swing Tiger Woods takes reenforces my belief that his star burns brighter than that of any other person who has ever played this game.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Mark Penn is being forced out as the chief adviser in Hillary Clinton's campaign. This is a person who has been very closely allied with the Clinton's since 1996. A co-founder of what became one of the most influential and well respected polling firms in the country, Mr. Penn has been involved in helping shape strategy on campaigns from Ed Koch, to David Dinkins, to Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton. From 2000 on , he has played an important role on Ms. Clinton's team. Now he is on the outside looking in. While still given a limited position through his polling company, Mark Penn is being demoted. With the Clinton attempts to derail the Obama engine having failed, it looks increasingly like a Clinton train wreck is inevitable. Mr. Penn is but one of its victims.

While we would like to think that every word coming from our candidates originates from their hearts , their minds and their mouths, we all know that this is more fiction than reality. For Senator Clinton, that seems to be the unfortunate centerpiece of her personality. While she may have interesting and insightful views, many of us get the uncomfortable feeling that every word she speaks is a result of analysis, dissection and discussion. This lack of spontaneity is a part of what many find troubling with her.

Senator Obama gave a stirring speech several weeks ago concerning the ongoing problems with race relations in our country. One of the reasons for its overwhelming appeal, was that the words appeared to be coming straight from his heart. We were told that these were the thoughts and phrases of the candidate himself. This was not coming from an analysis of the pros and cons of every syllable and its impact on a certain voter group, but from deeply felt personal beliefs. It was compelling in its frankness.

For Senator Clinton, the course laid out for her has had no such shining moments. While she spoke early in the campaign of finding her voice, I don't think many of us feel that she has done this . Through Mr. Penn , and others in her inner circle, she has not been certain of her approach. On occasion, she has forced the attack on Senator Obama, only to find that to be viewed with less than great enthusiasm. It has made her, at times, appear desperate and mean spirited. Her message has never seemed to find a home, and she has always seemed to struggle to be heard.

The blame for these failings has to fall on those trusted to help shape the candidacy. Chief among these for Senator Clinton was Mr. Penn. With the decision to sever at least part of the relationship with him, it is but another signal that times are becoming increasingly difficult for the Clinton campaign. When we find that , this late in the day, those central to her are being asked to step aside, the signs are unmistakable. We await the results from Pennsylvania before seeing if Senator Clinton will bow out of the race. Whether she does,or decides to stay and fight yet another day, it appears that the end is near.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I had dinner with Ed, the 12 second man, last night. I had never met Ed before. I wondered if he was disclosing things to me better left unsaid. What goes on behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors. However, Ed was not revealing his deepest darkest secrets to me. Rather, he was discussing the world record he held in penning.

No, this is not a handwriting competition. Penning is an event undertaken by those of us who fancy themselves as cowboys . Don't count me among that crowd. Ed asked me about my horseback riding skills. I told him that the last time of note that I had been on a horse was when I was about 9 years old. I was at camp and was riding in a stable. I fell from the horse, got my foot caught in the stirrup and spent the next few seconds being dragged through a succession of manure piles. It was an unforgettable experience in ways one would rather not imagine.

For Ed, getting on horseback was far from my world of manure and disaster. Who ever could envision a middle aged, Jewish man, spending his weekends competing to see who could herd and corral a steer as quickly as possible? That is the endeavor that Ed voluntarily chose as his escape from the rigors of his everyday life. On most weekend days, you can find Ed saddling up his now 16 year old horse and either practicing, or taking part in various events, in which the goal is to demonstrate how skilled you are in his unique undertaking .

Ed explained to me, in detail, the world he inhabited on Saturday and Sunday. The events were either solo, or 3 man, competitions. If it was a solo event, you and your horse waited behind a designated line. 20 steer were placed in an area in front of you, about the size of a football field. Each steer was numbered. At the other end of the field from where you and your horse waited, was a pen, with a gate open. Your responsibility, whether it was an individual or team event, was to locate your steer as quickly as possible, separate it from the rest of the steer, and herd it into the pen. Ed had become a master at this task.

Can you imagine going into an arena and those around you staring and whispering to one another "there goes the 12 second man"? For Ed, it is his badge of honor that he wears proudly. Years ago, Ed and his horse were ,on one special day, the best there had ever been. 12 seconds after Ed began his ride, it was over, the steer safely in the pen. The record Ed set that day still stands.

So while you and I try , in more mundane ways, to put aside the concerns of the week, Ed still gets up early on weekend mornings, gets in his car and begins the journey that will soon find him trying once again to become Ed the 11 second man.

I have recently been informed by one of my friends that he no longer can play in our weekend golf games, because he is now fully committed to his weekend passion of being a harness driver. Whatever happened to coin collecting as a hobby?

Saturday, April 5, 2008


I grew up the son of a lawyer . I loved and admired my father. I always thought there could be no better way to spend my career then sitting at my father's side. I would learn from him, and eventually, to the best of my ability, become what he was in his professional life. I never really got the opportunity to see that vision become reality.

My dad got sick in 1977, which was the year I became a lawyer. I spent the first year of my professional career employed as a law clerk in Bergen County. For one year, I listened to nothing but divorce cases. I absorbed what I could and moved on. I did not intend to,or see myself, devoting a good part of my future life in the pursuit of the best resolution of marital disputes.

When I went to work with my Dad in 1978, he was already in serious decline. He was no longer taking on new matters, and was unable to devote the time and energy to the practice that had been the cornerstone of his career. I was watching my Dad in a diminished capacity. Neither one of us was able to get the pleasure out of the experience that we longed for.

My Dad passed away in 1979. Unable to take over a sophisticated New York based real estate practice, I found myself marketing my only skill. I soon became a divorce lawyer. Over the next 15 years , most of my professional life consisted of listening to and trying to calm down, agitated and aggravated men and women. Wronged by their spouse, and uncertain of a system they did not understand and never intended to be part of, they were for the most part, polite to me and totally unhappy to be having to deal with me. I was an unnecessary necessity.

Slowly, the focus of my professional life began to shift. The real estate market in the latter part of the 1990's was booming. Opportunities seemed to abound in every direction. People were becoming brokers and doing nothing but listing properties. Many who had spent a lifetime trying to save a few dollars, now saw their net worth escalating by the hour. There was work for everyone in this exploding market, including me.

Over the succeeding years, I was able to move further and further away from my former career path. I found myself involved in many complex and sophisticated real estate transactions. I was actually moving closer to the vision of my professional life that I had contemplated in the 1970's. But the problem that I now began to encounter, with increasing frequency, was that the personality and psyche of my client base was not vastly different from those of the matrimonial clients. As the excesses in the market led to bad decisions and severe consequences, I too often found myself listening to and trying to calm down agitated and aggravated men and women. Wronged by a bad business partner, and uncertain of a system that they did not understand and never intended to be a part of, they were , for the most part, polite to me and totally unhappy to be having to deal with me. I was an unnecessary necessity.

So I now sit here and wonder where my professional life is headed. There are paths that I have gone down which were totally unintended. There has been a repetitive pattern to my professional existence that I could not possibly have envisioned. I have started doing daily postings on my blog, with no hope or expectation that it will lead anywhere. But if I have learned anything over the years it is that I cannot envision my future. I am going along for the ride and I can do no more , and no less, than go where it takes.me.

Friday, April 4, 2008

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

Martin Luther King Jr. would now be 79 years old. He had a vision of a world free of the shackles that held it down. The mountaintop would only be attainable when those shackles disappeared. If Dr. King is today looking down on us, is he looking down on us?

John McCain has come late to the party in celebrating the memory of Dr. King. His earlier opposition to proclaiming Dr. King's birthday a national holiday cannot be dismissed as an error made by one not fully informed. The prior actions of Senator McCain speak volumes. We still live in a world where, try as we might to hide it, we are often only comfortable when we foster policies that lead to separation and exclusion.

If we think the borders of our inclusiveness have significantly expanded, we are seriously mistaken.The inability to control our prejudices closes our national borders, fuels our wars and colors our opinion of our Presidential candidates.

If we could harness our brains, and focus on what is common rather than on what is not, our landscape would be altered forever. If preconceived notions that create dislike and distrust gave way to openness and unbiased examination, then hatred for hatred's sake might soon be no longer. If we permitted ourselves the freedom to judge worthiness , rather than pre-judge it, we would be able to respect the differences in us, and celebrate similarities we share.

Until that day arrives, color, religion,sexual orientation and a host of other prejudices will be barriers of the mind that prevent us as a society from reaching our potential. For Dr. King, looking down on us, the world won't be looking up unless this happens.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Arrested Development

Two Yankee season ticket holders attended the home opener the day before yesterday. At some point , they decided to take part of the Stadium home with them. Their attempts to carry out their nefarious scheme proved unsuccessful. They were caught stealing bunting and were arrested. Does anyone else see the incredible irony in their actions ? If they had planned it, they could not have possibly envisioned a more perfect metaphoric failure. Baseball terminology and real world collide and leave them out in the cold and in shackles.

There are certain parts of history that belong to all of us. There are buildings, like Yankee Stadium, that are more than brick and mortar, or whatever building materials that went into its construction. This is a monument that is being torn down.There are some memories that are meant to be shared and disbursed, without cost. There are some things that have no price tag and shouldn't. Yankee Stadium is one of our treasures and it is part of the public domain, not the possession of its temporary holders. The Yankees are merely the lucky ones asked to care for this monument during her existence.

When the time comes for the wrecking ball to perform its intended task, this should not be the signal for the Yankees to conduct an auction of its pieces. This is not to be a picking over the cadaver and an opportunity for the corporation that pays a quarter of a billion dollars a year to its players, to profit from our attempts to own our memories. Let this be a time when loyalty and passion are rewarded . Let this be a moment where charity begins at home. Let this be the day when the Yankees look back and say we gave a proper thank you to everyone who has walked into these hallowed grounds. Let this be looked back upon as the hour when the Yankees did the right thing.

There should be millions of items that can be given away. I don't need a seat from the Stadium, although I would dearly love one, to be thrilled with my prize.Memories can be preserved in the tiniest corners of our homes and still be kept as a cornerstone in our hearts. Just let me have something, anything , to look upon and know that this is my part of history. There is no money that can or should pass hands for my acquisition . Let the corporate engine show its heart and its recognition that it exists only because of what we have given it, and not the other way around.

So, as the Stadium nears its end, the scoreboard actually counts down to 0. When the Stadium is no more, then the time will have come, for better or worse, to take out the old and bring in the new. When we walk into a different home in 2009 let us carry with us a piece of what we leave behind. We will thank you for it , and you will be the better for it. We should not have to worry about whether we will get caught stealing bunting. For us, it cannot be stealing because it is already ours.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lie Detector Tests

For all the bad that TV brings, possibly the worst is the show where you have to confess to the most horrible truths about yourself iin order to win the ultimate prize. To be the best, you have to bare your soul to the audience, consequences be damned. I have just thought how this horrendous , abusive concept can be turned into something good. Let's have the candidates running for President strapped to the machines and answer the tough questions.

We won't need any debates. We won't need 2 years, or 2 millenium, to try to figure out what each person is really saying, or what their position really is on the critical issues of the moment. There will be no parsing of words, or careful reflection. Tell the truth or you are gone.

I guarantee you that there will be the largest worldwide audience ever to watch a show. We will all be glued to our seats. When the first question comes out, it should be an easy one, like " do you love your mother". Let the candidates get comfortable, have some false moment of security, before the games really begin. As the topics became tougher, the ratings numbers will surely go through the roof. Everyone will be waiting to see which of the questions a candidate refuses to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate him or her, or at least cast them in a lesser light with their own party.

Wouldn't it be great if we only needed one night to decide who we really supported for President? It would be so refreshing to know that Truth or Consequences really did have some meaning.. At the end of the evening, we should all just cast our votes, like the nation does each week when watching American Idol. We would all have one hour to call in to 1-800 elect a President. When the votes are calculated, the winner would be sworn in and become the President of the United States. Along with this, he or she would win an all paid 4 year stay at the big building on Pennsylvania Avenue. The losers would be thanked for their efforts, left to deal with their lies, and shuttled off stage. If they are unlucky, their answers could lead them to places unknown, never to be heard from again. Now that would be the ultimate game show.

Safe at home

When we were little, we all had something, like a blanket or a toy, that we looked for to provide us with comfort and peace. Once that item was in our clutches, the sights and sounds of the rest of the world receded. My blanket is Yankee baseball.

At approximately 7:05 PM last night, my universe changed, at least for the next 6 months. I know that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain are still out there. I know that the problems that are of concern to me in my own life, and in the lives of others, are not disappearing. It is just that they have been moved slightly to other regions of my brain. They will have to accept the fact that they have to share me with my first and most enduring love. With the first pitch thrown by Mr. Wang, everything else became of slightly less import.

I continue to find sustenance my shallowness. I wrote a piece about 2 years ago wondering whether I would ever grow up and focus my concerns on the important events of the day. I think I am beginning to do that. Yet I can't, and don't want to, break away from what has been a lifelong passion. I am not ready, and doubt I ever will be, to abandon my oldest and dearest friend.

The phone rang immediately after the last pitch of the game last night. My daughter was calling to recap the events of the game with me. She is out in Utah but had watched the game by getting it through MLB TV (or something like that). The bonds of baseball (not Barry) continue to bring us together, even as we are thousands of miles apart. Each night, the local 10 o'clock newscast begins by asking if you know where your children are. As of last night, and through the remainder of the baseball season, I know mine are safe at home.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Up Yours

This falls in the category of you can't make this stuff up. Today, a newscaster , reporting on the abuses in the credit card industry said:

If you default in 1 payment on your credit card, they can up your interest rate to 2 or 3 times the previous rate. Further, even if you miss a payment on another credit card, they can UP YOURS.

Were truer words never spoken?

In a system that seems to find everyone credit worthy, whether you be 10 years old or 100, or a tree stump, there appears to be no limit to the way customers get screwed. How many people, long deceased, have been sent a notice of congratulations on qualifying for a credit card? There is a boundless willingness to give, along with an even greater desire to take away. It is a cycle meant to entrap and engulf.

In the setting of an administration that has spent almost 8 years studiously avoiding regulation, except where it serves its own needs, the credit card fiasco has run amok. Any calls for reform now are too little , too late. While Nero has fiddled, Rome has burned. In the dying days of the Bush presidency, there is no reason to believe the music will stop.

We have been seduced by easy money in the mortgage and credit markets. We have been led to the brink, looked over the edge, and had no answers. While personal bankruptcy regulations have been tightened , we sit with empty pockets and unfulfilled dreams. We are broke emotionally and financially.

Credit card companies live in a world of revisionist history. If we do something wrong, we not only pay for it tomorrow, but we pay more for it yesterday. We have not only increased rates on prospective borrowing, but we now have to pay exorbitant rates RETROACTIVELY on monies we have already borrowed.We pay coming and going for our transgressions.

There seems no limit to the greed. We have come to a point in time where its repercussions threaten all of us , rich and poor alike. If the system remains unchecked, then in the very near term, we will find the results will have destroyed the haves as well as the have nots.. The uncontrolled forces that would take and take, will wake up to find they have not only screwed others but also themselves in the process. If that occurs, it will be the largest UP YOURS of all