Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shouting in the streets

In "Feeling Too Down to Rise Up", Sudhir Venkatesh examines why we have not taken to the streets in protest over all the present ills in the United States. I think that the analysis given misses certain central points.

First, while there is much shouting going on these days, it comes in a fundamentally different form. We are in an era of non-stop communication and we debate, discuss and dissect through our computers, our iphones, our blackberries and television sets. Our voices are heard but not in the ways of past generations. We don't have to organize rallies when we can have instantaneous polls, questions of the day, and liberal and conservative viewpoints deliberated ad nauseum. We don't have to plant ourselves outside the White House to be heard.

Further, while we may have a fundamental distrust of those with opposing views, it seems we ALL want to see the President and his agenda succeed (Rush Limbaugh notwithstanding). We are in the very early stages of a very different political universe in our country. We are all hoping that the administration has a way out of the hole we have dug. We do not place the blame on the shoulders of those now in control for us being in this quagmire. We want to give them the opportunity to make it right before we send out the lynch mobs. While we might have had uncontrolled rage for AIG executives (and some did take to the streets, and to the homes of the beleaguered bonus babies), we choose not to exhibit that kind of venom for those whom we must trust to lead us to the promised land.

President Obama has preached patience, over and over. He knows we are down, but he tells us we are not too down to rise up. If the President can show us that we have the ability to overcome, and that we are on our way there, then we won't have the need to rise up in the way Sudhir Venkatesh would suggest. If belief in this administration wanes, then and only then may the streets be filled with shouts of anger. Until that point in time, we will let our 21st century form of communication act as our forum to air our concerns.


President Obama met Friday with the chief executives from 13 of the largest financial institutions in the country, including the heads of Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs. The "we are all in this together" party did not, by all accounts, include a game of pin the tail on 13 donkeys.

The reports are that there was some continuation of the Obama mantra of "we are mad as hell as we are not going to take it anymore" on the excessive compensation question. But the President, and those gathered around the table all recognize that the only answer lies in concerted joint effort. Play nice had to be the theme of the day.

It is hard to comprehend, but we have apparently pumped so much money into some of these entities that they feel no need to keep from repaying the money we have loaned them. The leaders of American Express and Goldman Sachs explored that possibility in the dialogue with the President. The New York Times reports that the President advised that, while this might be a positive step, it needed to be done in a way that did not undermine lending (New York Times, March 28, 2009, "For Obama and Banks, a Little Unity"). Thanks but no thanks.

We are in the middle of a strange dance between partners who may not really want to be dating but who have to do so out of necessity. We are in a universe where I don't need your money, you have to keep it, is a conversation taking place at the height of a recession bordering on depression.

While the fit may be uncomfortable, as long as the economic blues keeps playing, those gathered at the White House yesterday are going to have hold hands and embrace. Look into the camera and say cheese.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Word Games

Schott's Vocab, a Miscellany of Modern Words and Phrases is described by the New York Times as an exploration of news sites around the world to find words and phrases that encapsulate the times in which we live or shed light on a story of note. Compiled by Ben Schott, some of these entries find their way into pieces in the Times, as they did today.

This caused me to begin thinking of terminology that was not mentioned, but that I think could become part of our lexicon. I have listed some of them below:

obsessorizing- the ability to find something every day to become an intense object of attention, like Bernie Madoff, the state of the economy, the value of your stocks or AIG

finger picking- spending vast amounts of time communicating without speaking by way of e-mails, instant messages, twitters, blogs and various other means of sign(in) language

cable culture- that growing portion of the population who has no need or interest in any of the non-cable communication on their television set

$tupidity- obscene distributions to people like hedge fund managers and executives of failed and failing companies in the face of the worst economic crisis in at least 8 decades

ticketed off- the public outrage over the price of seats to some entertainment venues like Yankee Stadium

trillionitis- a new disease afflicting the emotional core of the American public as they watch the estimates of the debt grow ever larger

American idolatry- undeserved attention on anyone who finishes in the top 10 of this years American idol

the change that refreshes- a President with intelligence, wit and an ability to communicate

tenting- vast unemployment causes homeless 'cities' to pop up all around the country

unretirement- a review of your 401 K account

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Interview (An Autobiographic Tale of Fiction)

He hated wearing a tie and jacket. If there was one aspect of being his own boss that he took the most pleasure in, it was not having to get 'dressed up' to go to work. He owned only one suit. Now, he fussed with the tie to make sure it was properly centered. The gray suit looked its age. So did he.

He had never really been on an official job interview. He had gotten his first job through connections. Later, he had worked at two firms, but he had known the bosses at each stop and had been hired over lunch and a handshake. He had spent the last 25 years answering to no one but himself.

Like so many others, what he had taken for granted no longer existed. The feeling of forever was now gone. It had been replaced with a new reality. He adjusted his tie once more. He thought that maybe his neck had gotten bigger. With time, gravity had begun pulling everything downward, and jowls were now a distinct possibility.

Commuting in traffic was a nightmare he had chosen to avoid long ago. He had seen what the daily journey to and from the city had done to his father. Now, the horns were honking in unison as if they had some power to move the line forward. He and his car were at a standstill. There were 45 minutes until the interview was scheduled to begin.

If he got this job, his life would be forever altered in ways unwanted. The freedom of choice he cherished would be replaced by 3 weeks off a year. The ability to decide it was too nice to go into the office would be but a memory. He had always said that life did not go in a straight line but he never was talking about his own life.

The congestion eased as he crossed the bridge. He was able to weave between cars and rush through rush hour. He got to the building with 5 minutes to spare. He registered at the lobby desk and joined many others in a too crowded elevator.

As he entered through the doors of the office, he walked up to the receptionist and announced his name and his intentions. He took a seat, a magazine and a deep breath. He was about to enter his own Twilight Zone. He was just glad for the opportunity. He waited to hear his name and made believe he was reading an article. He was too distracted to concentrate on the words before him.

20 minutes later, it was his turn. He nodded at the receptionist, stood up and began the journey down the hall. He shifted his tie one more time, hand pressed his suit, and stood as straight as was possible given the limitations of the constant ache in his back. He entered his interviewer's office, stuck out his hand, gave his broadest smile, and his biggest hello. He sat down, wondering where life would take him in the next 30 minutes. And the next 30 years. He had no answer to either of those questions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Maximum Exposure

After 8 years of playing hide and seek with the former occupant of the White House, one would think that a President getting out the message and taking the hits would be universally applauded. But the magical mystery tour that is Barack Obama is facing criticism for overexposure.

We have seen him on prime time delivering a State of the Union like speech to the joint session of Congress, giving 2 hour long news conferences, going on campaign style trips to promote the benefits of his economic package, appearing on Jay Leno and on 60 Minutes. If he is not a member of the Screen Actors Guild, he should sign up soon.

The Boston Herald.com blogs post of March 24, 2009 suggests that Obama won't be happy until he is on television 24-7. Holly Robichaud, the Lone Republican in the Herald's Monday Morning Briefing, says that the news conference today is but another attempt to sell a budget program receiving poor reviews (citing Senator Gregg, the once and never cabinet member, as warning that the budget would lead us into eventual bankruptcy).

Meghan McCain, the blogger of note and daughter of Senator McCain, is reported in Politico today (from her interview with Larry King) as commenting that Obama may be on the verge of overexposure. While generation Y understand the constant use of media sources, she says the older constituents of the Democratic party may soon be alienated by the constant public President.

I couldn't disagree more. We are all overwhelmed and overmatched in trying to comprehend the mass of information that swirls around our heads these days. We need comfort, but more than that, we need to get some sense that our leader gets it and can move us forward. If Obama was in the bunker while the shelling was going on, we would feel dazed, confused and lost. I don't need the talking heads. I need the talking Head of State.

In today's Huffington Post, Jason Linkins writes that Chuck Todd believes that the White House feels if the President had not stepped out front during the past week he would have been more burnt by the AIG fiasco. On CNBC today, it was stated that the President is at or near the most powerful he will be during his Presidency. As the good communicator, given the scale of challenges before us, they speak of him being used by his party like a great pitcher who goes out there day after day for his team.

While the pundits warn of the risk of burning out this luminary, his star continues to shine bright in this darkest of times. Obama is the anti-Bush in so many ways. One of the best is his willingness to get in your face, literally, to discuss and educate. For that, he should only be applauded.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

I start with the premise that I do not pretend to understand the complexities of what is happening. As economists around the world struggle to come up with answers, we sit here and wait for the ANSWER. What we appear to be getting today is old garbage in a new package.

First, do we really have to make nice with the financial managers who are being asked to participate with our money in this purchase of toxic assets? Those we have skewered for their obscene compensation packages now must now apparently be assured that they will not be scrutinized if they deem it worthy of their time to once again profit from our past errors in judgment. We beg so they will play in the game. Gimme a break.

Further, can the best solution be that we have to create this facade and buy up the bad decisions at bad prices to make these banks unfreeze the billions and billions of dollars we have already given them? Here is some more of our money, that's all we have, now give some of it back to us if you would. We seem to always be one step behind the bad guys. It is a continuing saga of someone pointing their finger and saying "they went that a way".

There has to be a way in which all the criminals are rounded up and brought before the judge. Like Ricky says to Luci, "you got some splaining to do". It seems like this is just another day when we are not holding anyone accountable, and are not in control of our own destiny.

Let's find a way to be our own masters. Let's not rely on the largesse of those we don't trust to do the right thing. Let's not beg or ask for a way out. Let's make sure that the public participates, if that is what is needed, without kissing up to the fund managers. Let's tell them they should be happy they are not being run out of town for their past misdeeds. Let's tell the financial institutions that we will pump them up but they must no longer stand idle while counting our money. If we buy, you lend. You lose your discretion. We own you and you play by our rules now. If you don't like it, there's the door. Enough.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Help, I Need Somebody

I wonder if he picks up his own phone, empties the trash and makes copies of vital documents. With the economy holding on by the barest of threads, one would anticipate that the full force of our brainpower would be huddled together discussing stratagies and solutions. Yet, Tim Geithner is having a hard time finding someone to keep him company.

On February 24, 2009, The Business Insider stated that "the Treasury Department still has numerous job vacancies that need to be filled, leaving Secretary Geithner working on his own". Quoting Darrell West, head of government studies at the Brookings Institute, "Essentially Geithner is sitting over there by himself and does not have a staff".

Three weeks later, H. Rodgin Cohen, chairman of the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell withdrew his name from consideration for deputy Treasury Secretary. As reported by First Read on March 13, this was the fourth person in recent weeks to disappear from public view before the vetting process was completed.

On today's Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw discussed possible reasons for this growing dilemma.He stated that the 40 page list of questions that one must fill out to assure purity of heart and mind, has now grown to 60 pages. In addition, Brokaw mentioned that many of those who might otherwise be willing to serve do not want to endure AIG like recriminations for having multiple homes or large bank accounts, and would rather remain away from the spotlight and in the private sector.

Further, Politico points out that "Having campaigned on a promise that lobbyists won't run his White House, President Barack Obama is discovering that what may make for a good sound bite on the campaign trail can complicate governing.... because of a ban on individuals from agencies that they have lobbied in the past 2 years" the pool of potential appointees is limited.

The result of these combined forces is to leave the Secretary of Treasury an island unto himself. This is bad business for him and for us and requires immediate attention and remediation. Do whatever is necessary to get the help to Geithner that he needs and do it now. We all know there is not a minute to waste.

The Greening of My Head

I have always resisted the idea of getting hair transplants. Too painful, too costly, didn't reflect what is the core of my being. Bald is beautiful. Now, I may have found reason to change my mind.

I think I will grow Yankee turf on my head. Those who love everything Yankee will be green with envy as I proudly wear my heart on my head.The front page of the New York Times today (Want to Tread on Jeter's Turf? Yankees Grass is Now a Brand) goes into the details of making this dream become reality. While a field of bluegrass 2 1/2 acres large covers the stadium, the DeLea Sod Farms has grown 80 acres of this magical Yankee turf for the team. From this excess, coming soon to New York City Home Depot stores, for just $7.50 one can own a patch a little bigger than 5 square feet, 16 inches by 4 feet, of fake Yankee history.

Transplants normally run into thousands of dollars. I see a once in a lifetime opportunity to combine my passion for the Yankees with the need to cover my scalp from the burning rays of the sun, all at a laughably small price. If I can just get a piece of turf sown into my head, pretty soon my noggin will be the talk of the town. While I am sure this was not the contemplated use of this item, if the DeLea sod can be marketed as a "field of dreams around the home", why not own "the dome of your dreams"?

The sod comes with a certificate of authenticity which I can carry proudly in my pocket and pull out when the topic turns, as it inevitably will, to the splendor of my grass.

Rick DeLea, Vice President of DeLea Sod Farms, reported to the Times that the sod required full sun, good drainage, and reasonable maintenance. I can definitely handle that. I will have to live and work outside during the summer but that is a small price to pay. I am a little concerned about the winter and how I will be able to maintain a year round full head of grass. I might have to curtail my law practice and spend 6 months of the year down South. I hope the devil is not in the details.

Maybe, if I can grow my grass thick enough, I can cut it into designs and market my head as a billboard. There is no end to the ways to turn a profit off the public if you just think hard enough. Mr.DeLea has taught us all a lesson in ingenuity.For that, I tip my cap (filled with grass stains) to him.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I still harbor hopes of a day on the slopes next weekend before my skis find their way into annual hibernation. Today, my thoughts are elsewhere. Golf and I begin our 51st year together at 12:10 PM.

Yesterday at this time I was reading of a special early season price this weekend for a round of golf. As I looked out the window, swirling snow was falling to the ground. Dream on.

24 hours later I am staring at the changing hues of a beautiful sunrise. Yet, while the snow is gone, the lingering cold can not be ignored. Dressed in a ski hat, ski gloves, a turtleneck, possibly thermal underwear and a windbreaker, I will be ready when the starter tells the 12:10 group to come to the first tee.

This is the time of year when I become closest to the Almighty. I am anything but a religious person yet I frequently find myself talking to Him/Her immediately after one of my shots does not follow its intended path. The one sided conversation is brief and ugly. I am not thinking happy thoughts as I raise my voice to the heavens. Sometimes this ritual includes my offering up my club as a sacrifice. Yet having seen the results it has just produced, the gift is always rejected by its intended recipient and returns to earth shortly after it has taken flight.

Like every mortal who has played the game, I carry hopes and dreams of greatness with me this morning. Let me, for once, be able to shout out in praise and thanks for permitting me to play a round, a hole, or even a shot, that meets my expectations. I think if He/She could get to know the real me in those moments, He/She would be surprised to learn that I am not that raving lunatic seen often over the past 50 years.

Unfortunately, if the past half century has taught me any lessons, it is that history does repeat itself. I fear that by about 12:30 or so this afternoon my playing partners will be ducking for cover as an identified flying object leaves my hands. Welcome to the wonderful world of golf.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dumb and dumber

What the heck are they doing now? Since when did Congress decide it was going to major in idiocy? For our next act, we are doing stupid pet tricks. Roll over and play dead.

I understand that they are aggravated. They are really aggravated. They screwed up by passing a bill that permitted enormous payments to those we feel are most responsible for the mess we call our economy. But don't clean up your poo by adding more poo on top of it.

"Members of both parties raised doubt about whether the legislation could survive a court challenge, saying it was tantamount to a retroactive 'bill of attainder" which is banned by the Constitution. Even backers of the bill acknowledged it amounted to an extraordinary use of the tax". (New York Times, March 20, 2009, House Approves 90% Tax on Bonuses After Bailouts).

When did the Congressmen and Congresswomen become constitutional experts? I guess in the hour they debated this bill they all completed a course in tax law and Constitutional law. I guess they are also experts on the environment, the health care system and the myriad other matters on which they wax eloquent and vote often. I would suggest that most of them never even read the versions of the underlying bill relating to executive compensation before and after being " Chris Dodded".

It is scary to think that we entrust our well being on a daily basis to people who believe that this latest cover our backs action is the best we can come up with for a solution to the problem. In these times of crisis we are entrusting them to deal rationally with trillions of dollars that are needed to keep us from falling to the bottom of the well. If this is the way Congress responds in a moment of panic then heaven help us all.

Hire the best contract lawyers in the world to support the position that the underlying agreements permitting the bonuses were fundamentally flawed and should be overturned. Create legislation without loopholes that prohibits companies from paying exorbitant sums by way of salaries, bonuses, or gifts to your Aunt and Uncle on any FUTURE monies given to these companies receiving funds from the American public. Tax EVERYONE at the highest reasonable rate imaginable who makes a lot of money. Don't do it by playing this shell game. It stinks, and makes us all look like 3 year olds throwing a temper tantrum.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Blame Game

We are a nation of finger pointers. We have a need to compartmentalize and to place blame where we can see it and touch it: Tim Geithner, for not plugging up every hole in the dike, Edward Libby for taking $1 a year to try to reign in a run away train using bubble gum and spit, even the hundreds of employees who received the infamous retention payments from AIG. Parade them in front of us. Give them a tongue lashing. Yes, Mr. Libby, offense was meant to be taken in the questions posed to you. Give me a break.

While we feel better for being able to direct our anger, I submit that we are not dealing with Bernie Madoff when we address Mr. Geithner, Mr. Libby, or even the too highly paid members of the AIG aristocracy. We have a right to be disenchanted, disillusioned and every other kind of dis that connotes our disappointment. But wake up and smell the roses. This is a problem of epic proportion and the shoulders of these few individuals is not where the 800 pound gorilla should be sitting.

I know that amorphous concepts like deregulation, derivatives and administration deception during the Bush years are harder to grasp. It is more satisfying to us to look into the eyes of those who we choose to demonize, call them out and make them squirm. I know our brains don't want to have to do the heavy legwork necessary to connect the dots and understand the real root cause of this debacle. I am sorry but that is what this state of affairs requires of all us.

So we will continue to put this administration under fire. President Obama will have to make statements every few days that the buck stops here. His approval ratings will drop, Geithner may be fired, and Libby will be forced to slink away to the same cave where the heads of the Big 3 went after they were verbally pistol whipped within an inch of their lives. Grow up America. These problems are complex, and the villains you seek have left office and are writing their memoirs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


What is your name?

What day is today?

Where are you?

Who is the President of the United States?

Joanne has been a member of the ski patrol for about a dozen years. She has repeated these questions, or ones like it, every time there is any suspicion of a skier having sustained trauma to the head. I am sure that the Natasha Richardson situation is a nightmare that all patrollers fear.

From all reports, Richardson showed no evidence of injury or disorientation. Conversing and joking about the incident, Richardson apparently presented no warning signs. Was she checked to see if her pupils were at all dilated? Was her speech at all compromised? The actions of the patrollers will no doubt be dissected in the coming weeks.

Would this have been an avoidable tragedy if Richardson had been wearing a helmet?

In a report by Liz Robbins,(the LEDE, Notes on the News from the New York Times, March 18, 2009) she cites Jasper Healy, a professor emeritus at Rochester Institute of Technology, who has been tracking skiing and snowboard fatalities since the 1970's. "Helmets do seem to make a difference in the head-injury statistics: Mr. Shealy’s research found a 35 percent reduction, and he said that other studies had found as much as a 50 percent reduction in head injuries.

“Typically, in the scenario that results in death, you need something more than a helmet to save you,” Mr. Shealy said. Referring to helmet-wearing, he said, “Where it really comes into play is if you fall into hard-packed snow, and that can turn a serious head injury into a minor injury.”

"Helmets have been shown to protect the heads of recreational skiers traveling at a rate of 12 to 17 miles an hour, but typically not at higher speeds."

Patrollers and ski owners will no doubt have many conversations concerning the incident involving Ms. Richardson and its future impact relating to safety and first aid at the mountains. No answers will come easily, and unfortunately, for one highly recognizable figure, they will come too late.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I have come up with the perfect not so serious solution for how the AIG bonuses should be handled. We are all aware that there is an enormous sense of outrage that we have once again been snookered by the fast talking financial wizards. Those who led us down the path of destruction continue to reap outrageous rewards for their actions.

President Obama is now weighing in. He has committed to "pursu(ing) every single legal avenue to block these bonuses" of $165 million to various, yet unnamed AIG executives. For the sake of truth in advertising, it should be noted that this money was apparently already distributed last Friday.

Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general for the State of New York, has been as aggressive as he can be in trying to dissuade the recipients of these monies from retaining these benefits. As early as last October, he demanded that AIG recover bonuses and other payments from its executives. He has even discussed the possibility of there being actionable fraud if these bonuses were negotiated at a time it was known that the company did not have the wherewithal to pay these sums.

Coincidentally, in this morning's Letters to the Editor of the New York Times, there is a comment regarding "Prosecuting Fraud: The Senate is Taking Action". Edward E. Kaufman, Senator from Delaware writes that " the Judiciary Committee recently reported out the Fruad Enforcment and Recovery Act of 2009, bipartisan legislation... provid(ing) the resources needed for the Justice Department, the FBI and others to uncover and prosecute financial fraud in the banking and mortgage industries, including $165 million a year for hiring fraud prosecutors and investigators".

Don't tell me that it is just a coincidence. $165 million out to AIG executives, and $165 million needed to prosecute financial fraud. Talk about instant karma.

The answer, to appease the outraged, is for the AIG executives to turn back their bonuses, thus giving the government the funds required to go after the financial bad guys. In one glorious moment, these executives get out from under the microscope, walk away from any possible investigation of financial wrongdoing, and 'fund' a project to prosecute those who have truly wronged us. From devil to angel. What could be better.

We can then turn our attention to more pressing questions like how did companies such as Goldman Sachs receive both billions in bail out money from the government and also billions more from AIG from the billions the government gave to them. I am afraid that not all pieces of the puzzle fit so well.


I am a compulsive straightener and neat freak. I walk around our apartment lining up loose papers, making sure that if shoes are lying on the floor they all point in the same direction, opening all the window shades to the same height, not leaving the bedroom in the morning with the bed unmade, removing plates from the table even before you may have finished eating, together with a thousand other annoying little routines. I get on my own nerves sometimes.

Last Wednesday evening, Joanne and I traveled to Great Barrington for a 2 day mini-vacation. Whether my office is busy or not, I have to check my e-mail virtually non-stop throughout the day (from the moment I get up until I go to sleep). I call in way too often to see if I have any messages, and generally obsess about whatever may or may not be happening. I cannot, given my shortcomings, ever truly escape. Thus, I took a briefcase (more like a suitcase) full of files with me for our trip.

Once we arrived at our destination, we unpacked. Instead of the files being placed on the floor next to my desk, they were put in a closet across from where I was to do my work. It would not have met my neat-meter test for this case to be out in the open. It was tucked away, hidden from view. No clutter was allowed.

The next 3 days passed without incident. I did what work I had, created many unnecessary e-mails as usual, printed out copies of these communications and of any documents reviewed. All of these papers were neatly stacked in a pile on my desk.

Sunday morning we headed back to New Jersey. The bed was made, the dishes were put away, the shades that had all been opened to the exact same level were now closed, the towels were aligned in a neat row in the bathroom. All was in order. The papers on my desk were removed and put into the suitcase for the journey. Off we went.

It was not until Sunday evening that the sickening reality struck me. I was asking Richie if he had paid a particular bill. He had not BECAUSE THE BILL WAS WITH THE FILES IN MASSACHUSETTS.

Only by the greatest luck did my compulsive disorder not result in a round trip of 250 miles on Monday morning. It turns out that we have friends from New Jersey who also have a house in Great Barrington. They were at their house Sunday evening and not returning to New Jersey until Monday afternoon. I found someone with the master key to all the units in the complex. My friends retrieved the files and disaster was avoided.

Did I learn any lessons from my near miss? I don't think that is a possibility. There is something deeply ingrained that drives me ever onward. Even now, as I write, I have to end this piece because there are 3 pens not lined up in size order on the other side of the room. If Joanne sleeps much later, I am going to be forced to make the bed with her in it. I need help.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I just received word that my story about coming to grips with my bad golf game has been selected to appear in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Golf Book: 101 Great Stories from the Course and the Clubhouse" which is scheduled to be available in bookstores on April 21, 2009. [Richie's Note: Or at amazon.com. This is not to be confused with "Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul" or "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport: The Joy, Frustration, and Humor of Golf and Sport" or "Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul: 101 Stories of Insight, Inspiration and Laughter on the Links," previous editions that you may currently find in stores].

For those of you who want to get a sneak preview, here's a link to the original post. (This was a piece I wrote early last year, so some of you long time readers may already remember my lament).


PS part of my payment is 10 complimentary copies of the book . 1 for Joanne and me, 1 for my sister, 1 for my mother, 1 for my mother and father-in law, 1 for my sister and brother-in-law, 1 for Richie, 1 for Alex (that makes 7 pledged already, whether they want it or not). 3 more unsuspecting victims left [Richie's Note: Or you can buy the book at Amazon for less than $11. Or your local bookstore. Full disclosure: Dad's remuneration is not based on the number of books sold, and he will not be quitting his day job.].

Ticket Master

In 'Brother , Can You Spare $350 a Game', Richard Sandomir looks on with amusement as the Yankees try to unload "premium" box seats starting at $350 and climbing to $2,500 per game (NY Times, March 15 ,2009). In this piece, he asks "who out there remembers $ 4.50 box seats". The answer is surprising.

I graduated from college in 1974 (the year before the Messersmith/McNally decision began the era of free agency in baseball). The price of a Yankee box seat in that year was $4 (riveraveblues.com). The average major league salary was $40,839 (stevetheump.com). 10 years later, the box seat prices had only risen to $9 and did not reach $10 until 1987. By the end of last year, the average major league salary had ballooned to $2,925,679 and the Yankees had raised their charge for box seats to $250.

Sandomir reports of the difficulties in the Yankees unloading these outrageously priced tickets in the middle of the worst economic cataclysm in almost 80 years. In December of last year, Randy Levine, the Yankees President, stated that "we are very sensitive to the economic conditions, to people's concerns. We monitor it very closely and if necessary, can make adjustments" (Associated Press, December 25, 2008). Two months later, Lonn Trost, the team's chief operating officer, acknowledged that the recession had an effect on the pace of sales of these 4,000 or so premium seats. Yet, when asked if the Yankees might drop the cost of these seats to entice buyers in these hard times, Troast replied "no, our prices are our prices" (Newsday.com, February 24, 2009)

We understand that sports long ago stopped being about anything but business. We recognize we are no longer being entertained like we are at a little league game but at a Springsteen concert. But while Nero continues to fiddle, Rome is definitely burning. In the span of 35 years, the top price for Yankee tickets has multiplied 90 fold and shows no signs of letting up.

We have come face to face with reality in 2009. The era of living dangerously has brought us to our collective knees. The stock and real estate market bubbles have burst. The sad truth is all around. Yet today, my cup of soda for the Yankee game costs well in excess of what my SEAT cost 35 years ago. The least expensive premium seat now costs more than my gross salary PER WEEK as a lawyer in 1977.

I have a message for the Yankees. Stop, for one brief moment, and really look around. Treat us like loyal customers who have sustained you throughout the years. We helped finance the building of the new Stadium. It holds 10,000 fewer seats than our old beloved stadium and many more luxury boxes. Thus, fewer of us get in to see our team and even fewer of us can find affordable seats.

In our time of trouble, don't slap us in the face, but reach out your hand and help us up. We see you as being like the executives from those companies who took our bail out money and then treated themselves to large bonuses.Take a smaller bonus this year and put that extra money back in our pockets.Don't continue to drink champagne when we can't afford the price of your soda.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I support McCain

I come to you with a dirty little secret that I must reveal. I have found a Republican to believe in. I may be late to the party, but as they say, better late than never. There is a voice of reason in town, and it is one that draws me in. That voice belongs to McCain. Meghan McCain.

The daughter of the former Republican nominee for President, Ms. McCain is an outspoken critic of the extremists that now populate the party. She has chosen to take on one of those voices in Ann Coulter. The Huffington Post (3/9/09) quotes Ms. McCain as stating that "I don't understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting and confusing all at the same time."

McCain has also taken verbal swipes at Michael Steele and his new hip-hop strategy for the party. While professing her love for the GOP, McCain has recently commented they have to become more moderate and reach out especially to younger voters (Rachel Maddow Show, 3/11/09).

This is a woman willing to be different. In her blog, McCainBlogette.com, she speaks of the tattoo she should get to commemorate her time on the campaign trail with her father. She says the unofficial survey is leaning toward McCAIN in gothic letters on the base of her neck. (McCainBlogette.com, 3/7/09)

Tattoos and outspoken criticism of her own party. Next, I wonder if she will go after the godfather of the party, Rush Limbaugh. This is my kind of woman.

She is only 24 and professes no interest in a future in politics. Until recently she was an independent but has now registered with her father's party. I have a fundamental difference with the policy beliefs which this party espouses. However, in distancing herself from the worst of the lot, she is certainly a breath of fresh air for the Republicans.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The hearing

When we visited the Beatles a few months ago they were weighing in on the trials and tribulations of the political campaign.

Now it turns out that Bernie Madoff, those speaking on behalf of the victims and the judge in his criminal matter have all agreed that they will rely solely on quotes from the Beatles when making their statements in court today. I was able to get a copy of the statements ahead of time, and you are the fortunate ones to get a sneak preview.


I should have known better...I should have realized a lot of things before (I should have known better)

I'm a loser, I'm a loser and I'm not what I appear to be...What have I done to deserve such a fate. I realize I have left it too late, and so it's true pride comes before a fall (I'm a loser)

But if I seem to act unkind it's only me, it's not my mind (I want to tell you)

If you've got trouble, then you got less trouble than me, you say you're worried, you can't be as worried as me (If you've got trouble)

Well I hope you come and see me in the movies, then I know you will plainly see, the biggest fool that ever hit the big time, all I gotta do is act naturally (Act naturally)

I'm down (I'm really down), I'm down (Down on the ground), I'm down (I'm really down) (I'm down)

Well, don't you know I can't take it, I don't know who can, I'm not gonna make it, I'm not that kind of man (I call your name)

Crying, crying tears keep a falling all night long, waiting, waiting, it seems so useless, I know it's wrong to keep on ... crying, crying , crying (Crying, waiting hoping)

Ev'ry night the tears come down from my eyes, ev'ry day I've done nothing but cry, it won't be long yeh, yeh (It won't be long)

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they're here to stay, oh I believe in yesterday. (Yesterday)

If I could get my way, I'd get locked up today.(I'll cry instead)


Tell me why you cried and why you lied to me. Tell me why you cried and why you lied to me. Well, I gave you everything I had but you left me sitting on my own. (Tell me why)

What goes on in your heart , what goes on in your mind, you are tearing me apart when you treatt me so unkind , what goes on in your mind (What goes on)

He's as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see, nowhere man can you see me at all (Nowhere man)

Hold your head up you silly (boy) look what you've done. When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself to a bit of what is all around you silly (boy) (Martha my dear)

Have you seen the little piggies crawling in the dirt, and for all the little piggies life is getting worse, always having dirt to play around in...In their styles with all their backing they don't see what goes on around. In their eyes there's something lacking. What they needs a damn good whacking. (Piggies)

I don't know how you were diverted, you were perverted too (While my guitar gently weeps)

Try to realize it's all within yourself,no one else can make you change. And to see you're really only very small and life flows on with or without you (Within or without you)

The best things in life are free, but you can't tell me 'bout the birds and bees, Now gimme money, THAT'S WHAT I WANT, that's what I want, THAT'S WHAT I WANT (That's what I want)


Boy you're gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time (Carry that weight)

Day after day alone on a hill, the man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still, but nobody wants to know him, they can see that he's just a fool... and nobody seems to like him, they can tell what he wants to do, and he never shows his feelings, but the fool on the hill sees the sun going down (The fool on the hill)

For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder (Hey Jude)

Cry baby cry, make your mother sigh (Cry baby cry)

And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make (The end)

The sentencing in this case will not occur for several months. It has been rumored at that time that the Beatles' songbook will again be the sole source for the closing chapter in this saga. I will see if we can get a peek at those words before they are uttered in open court.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The First Night

He was having difficulty breathing. He was trying to remember how to get air into his lungs. He felt nauseated.

As the walls began to close in on him, he sank to his knees. He could no longer hold the weight of his body under him.

His heart was beating wildly. There was either pain or numbness radiating to his limbs. In his anxiety, he was unable to distinguish.

He tried to crawl over to his bed but was unable to move.

He felt himself falling forward. As he reached out to break his fall, his arms failed him, and he landed heavily on his face. His glasses flew away and blood appeared on his lower lip.

He lay motionless. He had neither the strength or the courage to call out.

This was going to be the longest night of his life.

This may not be how Bernie Madoff envisions the first night of the rest of his life behind bars. But, as he gets into bed tonight he knows the end is near. The nightmares will soon be real. Sleep will not come easily this evening.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Buffetted by the Wind(bags)

We have become readers of the ouija board, tarot cards and the crystal ball. We look for truth in tea leaves. We are searching for answers that elude us.

We see things that are not. We miss things that are. We find what we have overlooked and overlook what we are staring at. We guess and second guess. We look forward and then back. We have been told the time was right to dive in the water and then later that we have fallen off the cliff. We are going in so many directions we have lost our way completely.

We want all those uncertain to stop sounding certain. We beseech you to quiet down until we have quieted down. We are confused enough. We don't need more noise in our heads.

We await the day when the clouds disappear and the future becomes clear. We will let you know when that day arrives. We are shutting you off and shutting you up until then.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Black and Blue Chips

In the latest twist to the "brother can you spare a dime" story, there is a report in the NY Times ('Slump humbling Blue Chip stocks, Once Dow's Pride', 3/6/09 by Jack Healy) about just how far your dollar will take you in the stock market. This is really a tale of the fading American dream.

What we are going through on a daily basis is a vote on our chances of survival. Strengths and weaknesses of a particular company are irrelevant. Long term analysis has been replaced by nightmares of what tomorrow will bring.

We are in free-fall. We appear as one to be going into hibernation and taking our ever dwindling pile of food with us for the long winter. While daylight saving time will soon add light to our days, and the cold will soon moderate, we seem to be headed into the caves. Nothing seems to follow its natural order.

Some day soon I hope we feel that the choices we are making as an administration have made a positive impact. Until then, I am afraid many more people will be buying GE fluorescent light bulbs than will be acquiring a piece of that company's future.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Minor Alterations

A little nip here, a little tuck there. No one will notice. Someone did.

My hometown of Fort Lee, NJ got a little unwanted notoriety today. It seems that someone in the high school system has been altering transcripts sent to colleges on behalf of an unknown number of students. In today's Record, our local newspaper, it is reported that this practice has been going on for at least 6 years. The length and scope of the deception has not yet been made public knowledge. The perpetrator or perpetrators have not yet been named.

It is as though the steroids era has now reached the world of college advocacy. The line between right and wrong has been moved once more.

In 2007, Touro College's former admissions director and former computer center director, along with 3 New York City public school teachers were indicted on charges that they were among 10 people in a "cash for grades scheme" in which transcripts were altered and degrees were created for people who never attended the institution, including the 3 teachers. (New York Times, July 17, 2007)

In 2008, 2 high school students were charged wtih hacking into the school's computer system and changing the grades on their transcripts. (Orange County Register, June 17, 2008).

From initial reports, it appears that this latest incident was neither for money or for personal acceptance into a college. We now find ourselves on to the next level of irrationality.

One wonders where the win at all costs philosophy will take us. Living in today's world, we are surprised by almost nothing. The next chapter awaits around the bend.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the fighter (a history of our country's resiliency)

Looking every bit his advanced years, the fighter staggers back to the corner. His red, white and blue trunks are spattered in blood. He is facing an opponent who seems to be coming at him from all angles. He appears defenseless, and out of answers. He sits on his stool wondering how he can summon the strength to go on.

He has fought many epic battles through a long and illustrious career. In his youth, seemingly overmatched against the long time ruler of his division, he had won a great victory, ending his opponent's reign of domination.

He had even been compelled to go face to face and toe to toe against his own brother. It was a bloody and horrific mess, long and torturous for both sides.

Through the years he had rebuffed the attempts of many from other lands who thought they had the power to overcome him. Though many tried, none prevailed.

In his own camp, mismanagement and greed had, in the not too distant past, threatened to strip him of everything. He had almost succumbed once, and had dealt with other financial troubles through the succeeding years, but he had always clawed his way back to the top. Now, he seemed to be facing the greatest test of them all.

He searches in his corner for answers, or at least words of encouragement. Where there had always been nothing but bravado now there was nothing. Silence.

He turns his weary gaze towards his opponent, who is standing and smiling broadly. The smell of victory is in the air, and the giant that faces him is anxious to finish it off. He is sure that this will be the final bell for his all but vanquished foe.

It is in his opponent's eyes that the weary warrior finds his vision. He will not let this happen. When he looks across the ring he sees not the one person awaiting the kill but the millions of eyes that are counting on their hero to arise from the ashes. He will not let them see him defeated and diminished. He will have to extinguish that look of arrogance in his opponent for all who count on him and need him. Their strength will be his strength.

As the bell rings, the fighter springs off his stool and rushes out to the middle of the ring. In an instant, the combatants are throwing their best shots at one another. This is far from over.

Monday, March 2, 2009


1) what is a stress test?
2) how many banks are being tested?
3) what happens if a bank fails a stress test?
4) how does a bank fail a test?
5) do we own preferred stock or common stock in troubled banks?
6) what is the difference?
7) how many times have we bailed out AIG?
8) how much $ has AIG received?
9) what do we own in AIG?
10) how much has Citigroup received in assistance?
11) how much has Bank of America received in assistance?
12) what was the 4th quarter reported loss by AIG?
13) how much has the govemment handed out in bail out funds?
14) has any of the stimulus money been handed out?
15) how much $ have each of the Big 3 received?
16) do any of the Big 3 have requests for more $?
17) do we own a stake in any of the Big 3?
18) who pushes the buttons on the decision to hand out monies?

I seem to have an ability to retain numbers. I read each day about what is happening 'out there'. Yet it is next to impossible for me to retain or comprehend this information.

Does it all seem like one big swirling mass? They talk about trying to wrap your arms around a problem. Whose arms are that big?