Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let Them Drink Water

"What'll It Be?"

"I'll have the 'all you can eat special'......and a Diet Coke"

New York Governor Paterson's recent proposal to tax non-diet soft drinks should be applauded for one reason only. It will get people talking about the question of whether diet sodas are healthy. There has been some reference to this tax as an "obesity tax". This stunned me, as I firmly believe that not only are diet sodas unhealthy, they CAUSE obesity.

I know, just because overweight people are often seen buying and consuming diet soda, I should not make the simplistic assumption that diet soda caused the obesity. I know it did not. Over-eating the wrong foods, lack of exercise and (perhaps) genetics is the CAUSE. But has diet soda ever helped an obese person LOSE weight? If there was an ounce of evidence that this could remotely happen, wouldn't the diet soda purveyors be flaunting this? They do not, because they know diet soda has zero to do with reducing obesity. My non-scientific observation is that drinking diet soda tricks obese people into thinking they are "doing something about their problem", which paradoxically causes them to ignore the root issues, thereby exacerbating the problem. In logic, I think this is called the "Tab-Conundrum".

This diet soda exception reeks of lobbying, desperation and stupidity. I was insulted by the idea of exempting diet soda from a soft-drink tax. Am I the only one? Soft drinks are unhealthy crap, designed by the mass-food industry to be addictive. Diet sodas are crappy soft-drinks with the sugar taken out, and chemical substitutes added.

There are numerous examples of legislative efforts to tax "unhealthy" products, to raise revenue and discourage unhealthy (and therefore costly to society) behavior. Most people have no problem with a heavy tax on cigarettes. Most of us understand why gasoline is taxed (our society is addicted to it, we should use less, and the tax raises massive revenue).

I don't have a problem with soft drinks being taxed, if it's ALL soft drinks. I can imagine a board meeting at Coke, where they can't be happy about their flagship product being taxed, but also realizing the benefits in touting the tax savings of their "healthy alternative". Ughhh

What will be next? Coffee is a logical candidate. It's addictive, probably unhealthy, and widely used. Would we exempt de-caf? Frappuccinos?

What about tea? Hmmm, revolutions have started over taxing tea. Maybe that's why diet soda is exempted...fear of revolution from the Diet Coke community.

Excessive television watching is unhealthy, contributing to obesity and mental stupification. Maybe we should tax it.....would we exempt PBS? How about radio, would it be subject to the "sedentariness tax"?

Maybe this issue comes at the right time, when people are looking for ways to cut costs. I wonder how much money people would save if they didn't drink soft drinks at all? If they cured their addiction.....and I call it an addiction because people believe they NEED to drink soft drinks. The fact is, if you drink WATER (as is, or with a squeeze of lemon or lime......a 19 cent lime works for about 6 glasses of water), you'll never look back. Except to look at the soda companies to say "good-bye, and thanks for nothing".

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Throw Back the Little Ones

The nature of law practice, like any small business, forces you to think about where you've been, where you are, and where you're going. I think I do this more as I get older, realizing there is not an infinite time frame to get it right.

This morning I was thinking about what I want to do, but it's so hard to stay focused on THAT. My learned thought patterns keep taking me back, thinking about what I've done....usually what I've done wrong. At best, I get to what I'm doing now, that is, what I'm presently doing wrong. Do I have to get past these to think about the future? I don't know, if you figure it out let me know, we can write a book and go on Oprah together.

I DID figure out that I want to be working on things that excite me, BIG projects and bold business ideas. I've had some of these kicking around for years, and they haven't been done. Why? WHY?? One reason is working on a high volume of small stuff, rationalized under the heading of "having to make a living". Would I be making a better living if I were working on bigger and better things? If I had the courage to go after them? If I did not "keep busy" with the small stuff?

For some reason, FISHING came to mind. If I were fishing for bigger and more exciting things to do, what would I do with the smaller fish? Give em to someone else, or....THROW THEM BACK. Naturally, this made me think of the Steely Dan song "Throw Back the Little Ones". It's an obscure Steely Dan song, but I always really liked it. Here's a link....with lyrics, give it a listen, check out the lyrics, and let me know if you like it

If you are fishing, and you don't throw back the little ones, and if you keep bringing them on board, you know what happens? Your whole ship smells like mackerel!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I'm taking a break from helping prepare for Thanksgiving. We will have 12 people today and 16 on Friday (our traditional left-over get-together with friends). We listened to Alice's Restaurant at noon....I wonder how widespread this tradition is. I decided to youtube "Arlo Guthrie Alice's Restaurant", and here's one for your viewing and listening pleasure

Of course, as often happens when I get clips from thing led to another, and I was looking at all kinds of related videos. With Arlo Guthrie came clips of "This Land is Your Land". That song feels very American and reminds me of Thanksgiving

Here's a young Arlo Guthrie with Pete Seeger

Here's something a bit later

Then I longed for the Bruce Springsteen version....which I suspect may show up at either the inauguration or at the Super Bowl

Then I found this one....Peter, Paul & Mary "If I Had a Hammer" very cool

I am thankful for anyone and everyone who reads my blog,
and thankful to live in this great country, where we collectively did the right thing, and thankful we had the opportunity to do it, and we did it, and
thankful to be celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Happy Holiday to all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Two Wacky Ideas

I would pontificate about GM and Chapter 11, but much smarter people are already doing that. My brief take on way they are getting bailed out with this Congress and President, they should be forced into Chapter 11 with government financing on the reorganization. Resisting the bail out pressure will put President Obama to the test.

Sometimes it seems like the whole economy should file for Chapter 11.

Things have gotten so complicated that I am reluctant to contact President-Elect Obama about my two BIG ideas. These are things I have been thinking about for a few years. Maybe I am not the only one who has thought of these things, but for once, I have not googled them because I want to feel like I thought of them. I want to develop them. I want these ideas to be put into action because I know they will work, despite their apparent oddness. I might even let some think-tanks tinker with them, maybe perfect some of the fine points. There may be some possible flaws in these ideas, but I can assure you, they are misguided and can be addressed to the satisfaction of any clear thinking person. are the two ideas.....................

1. A cashless economy. I am proposing that we eliminate all cash money except one dollar bills and quarters. All transactions, and I mean ALL transactions, should be on credit/debit cards. I want everything in the economy accounted for and verified. No cash payments for anything. Nobody working illegally, nobody getting paid off the books, nobody skipping out on their taxes. I am proposing that EVERY single person pay ALL of the income taxes (and mandatory health insurance premiums) that they are supposed to, and I CHALLENGE anyone to show me how this will not substantially lower the tax and insurance burden on us all. I mean, you could probably balance the entire Federal budget just on proper taxation of restaurant owners and waiters.
The technology certainly exists to do this. A card for every legal American (oh, and I would grandfather in everyone who's already here, except criminals and people under age 65 who cannot speak English after a two year grace period...but that's another story), which will be security protected for each individual. ALL your transactions are on there....when it's time to file your tax return you just swipe your card and you know where you stand. When you get paid at work, your check is direct deposited. When you need "money" you can swipe your card at an "ATM" and get your dough on your card.
Oh, and don't tell me you don't want "big brother" watching you. I have no problem with Big Brother "watching" long as he is watching EVERYBODY. This is not about anybody watching anybody else. It's about making things FAIR. 'Cuz you know which part of our economy really needs Chapter 11'ing? All the stuff that's just plain not fair. All the things that really irk fair minded people from all perspectives. I don't like that my taxes are so high, and my crappy business owner health insurance is insanely expensive, but what irks me the most is that if everybody paid, these things would cost less.

My other idea is in the "foreign policy" area. I won't elaborate on it. I will just throw it out there for some thought. I personally think it would work, and would ultimately make the world a better place. Please think about.........

2. Israel as the 51st State.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Essence of "HEALTH" Insurance

Yesterday I visited my cardiologist for a regularly scheduled exam. It was thankfully uneventful, and since I was her last patient of the day, I was comfortable making some political/medical chit-chat. This was prompted by our review of my ever changing meds, which change not because my health changes, but because my carrier regularly switches presciption plans in an ongoing effort to save (their) money (undoubtedly at the expense of MY health and convenience).

I asked her what direction she thought Obama and the Democrats would take health care. I must admit, I expected her to talk about the dangers of "socialized medicine", so before she answered I threw in a preliminary "what we have been doing is not working".

She said, "You know which health insurer I find the best to work with, as a doctor?"
I said, "No, which one?"
"Medicare", she replied.

"How could that be?"
She answered, "Basically, they have a fee schedule and it is what it is. When we submit a claim, it seems to me they process it and pay it, efficiently. They seem to have very little waste, and studies have shown this is true. They are not being run "for profit", so they don't nickel and dime the doctors, and force that game where you put in high claims knowing they are going to be knocked down. It also burns me up when I see a retired doctor sitting as chair of Aetna, making $12 million a year. There's something wrong with that."

Wow! I asked if she thought nationalized health service would work, and whether quality of care would suffer. She did not favor nationalizing it, but said she felt strongly that McCain's talk about "the private marketplace" were the wrong way to go.

After I left, I could not stop thinking about this.

What really bothers me is the feeling that health insurance has nothing to do with health. It's strictly business. Do you ever feel they would "err on the side of caution" and approve something? Without a fight?
Would premiums ever, EVER go down? Even if profits went up?
Have you ever looked at the game that goes on between doctors and insurers? The one where various bills are submitted for say.....$4300, and the doctors are paid $382.....when you know you had high level tests and were attended to by at least six highly trained, caring, competent health care professionals?
Should health insurance be adversarial? Damn, it always is.

I'm usually not big on conspiracy theories, but I sense that these problems do not only rest with the health insurers. Am I the only one who thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with our "pharmaceutical" system? Well, it has something in common with the insurance industry....a profit based system based on OUR health.

Gee, I feel like half a socialist having said that. Let me go one step further....Would anyone argue that food and nutrition have at least SOME effect on health? The disrespect of the nation's health by our food purveyors is another example of profit and health not mixing.

Uh - how about cigarettes? Yeah, that too....profit and health not mixing. BTW, many are aware (and many are not) that President-Elect Obama has struggled with cigarette addiction for many years. I'd love to see him kick it for good and take a real stand against the industry. It's hard to imagine he didn't smoke during the campaign

In one of the debates Obama spoke in some detail about healthcare, concluding with "prevention". He is so right about this, but he will be fighting strong entrenched power. When the time comes, this issue can be taken in the right direction, and it will not come from the government, though they can lead, it will come from all of us.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Top 10 Memorable Events....Where Will This Rank?

I was going to post a "post-election wrap-up", but so many smart people have already said and written so much, I'll keep mine brief. I especially enjoyed Frank Rich's column in The Sunday Times .

I can't resist a few quick observations....

I thought the choice was a "no-brainer", and was horrified by the possibility of racial stupidity actually deciding it. Thankfully, we did a collective "Do The Right Thing". As an aside, if you have never seen "Do the Right Thing" rent it!! It was groundbreaking because not only did it show white racism from a black perspective, it also courageously questioned many values in the black community.

Obama has incredible energy and stamina. Looks like he took a day off and is ready to get started.

I think Obama will bring in great people. Rahm Emanuel is just a start. If you don't know much about him, check this out

As an adjunct to dealing with the economy, I think immigration will be an early prominent issue. We're gonna need more taxpayers and more participants in universal health care!!

Look for "family values" to return to national discussion. When Obama talks about it, it will have an impact. One of the best things he said during the debates was that "Parents have to take responsibility for education and turn off the TV when necessary."

This election night strikes me as one of those all time "I remember where I was" moments. Will that last? Here's my list of top 10 memorable events (Personal events not included):

10. Mookie's gound ball going through Buckner's legs.
9. Iranian hostages freed.
8. The aftermath of Kent State....I was 13 years old and pretty "conservative". When I heard people justifying the shooting of college students, I changed my world view.
7. Watching the Watergate hearings drone on, when suddenly a Nixon aide said something about tape recordings, and thinking....WOW.
6. Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. A subway conductor announced it over the intercom.
5. John Lennon assassination.
4. Martin Luther King assassination.
3. Robert Kennedy assassination.
2. JFK assassination. I was in second grade. The teachers were crying.
1. 9/11

Obama's election may find a place on that list. How's your list? Will this election be on it?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Top 10 Reasons I'm Voting for Obama

I'm proud to say it is never an easy decision. I abhor labels, and while I am a registered Democrat, that is only so I can vote in our politico-machine controlled New York primaries. I am not a liberal or a conservative, I'd rather be a "thinker".

No political affiliation owns my patriotism. I assume that all people who have opinions and vote, are patriotic. I make my decision based on what I perceive as best for this country.

I try not to look back, but it's impossible to avoid. Looking back.....I thought Gore would have made a fine President, but the country wanted a change after Clinton, and Bush's handlers made that message work. I thought W proved himself inept in his first term, and although I voted for Kerry, clearly he was a flawed candidate.

History will not be kind to W. In my view he will go down as one of the worst Presidents ever.
On election day 2008, the country will collectively say "WHAT WERE WE THINKING????"

Which brings us to Obama v McCain......
During the Republican primaries, I wrote positively about McCain
I especially admired his efforts in sponsoring the compromise immigration bill, which his Republican mates destroyed, and then used to attack him in the primaries. He outsmarted them though, because not only was he right about immigration, he needed to distance himself from the knuckle walkers, and he did. He was smart enough to stake out the middle ground, figuring he would still hold the right. It was enough to beat Romney, Huckabee and Giuliani for the nomination. But it will not be enough to take the big one.

But I are the Top 10 Reasons I am Voting for Obama:

10. He already defeated the strongest opponent.

9. I apply a "Law of Beholdency". I ask "Who will this candidate be beholden to?" If you ask this about W, you see a big part of the problem. I am sick of his beholdencies. Obama is not a typical African-American candidate because he is not beholden to that community. If he were, he would be un-electable. No, he has realized from the start that he did not have to espouse a "black agenda", he would have community support without doing that. Instead, he garnered support from a cross-section of Democrats, and his "beholdencies" are THERE, in a cross section of Americans. Kinda different, kinda nice.

8. He has inspired a lot of people to work for him, raised a ton of money from a huge number of contributors, and convinced people who the "experts" said could not be convinced. There is a perfect word to describe this.....LEADERSHIP.

7. He has already shown superb judgment under enormous pressure. The primaries and this election have been going on a long time. It has taken turns and thrown him curveballs. The "Pastor Wright scandal" would have stopped a lesser candidate. He has handled everything without a bobble. Strikes me as WAY harder than "being a Senator" or "governor of A-lass-ka".

6. McCain displayed an enormous, unforgiveable error in judgment in selecting Sarah Palin.

5. There is something to be said for a real "family man" in the White House. Obama seems like the real deal in that regard.

4. I give a lot of weight to who I want nominating the next few Supreme Court Justices. I want Obama's choices sitting there.....not the Neanderthals McCain has pandered to.

3. I know it may be a character flaw to "care what other people think", but frankly, I am embarrassed by what the rest of the world must think of us Americans, after electing W twice. It feels better thinking of how we'll appear as a country when we elect Obama.

2. Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, and a constitutional law professor at University of Chicago Law School. There is no question he got these on merit. As a lawyer, lemme tell you what those two accomplishments say about him......He is REALLY, REALLY SMART. We need that.

1. I want a President who will be open minded, strong, and exercise good judgment. Someone who will seek out top advisors and be able not only to listen to them, but sometimes not listen to them. I want a President who will be decisive, but also flexible. Someone who will lead by example. Someone who has the energy and intelligence to lead our great Country. Barack Obama is that person.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quick Funny Story (Police at My Door)

Wow - I haven't blogged in awhile. That's mostly from being very busy at work. It's also because SO much is happening in the world, and I want to comment on it, but I either don't feel up to the challenge, or new things happen and make my half-composed new posting seem dated. Trust me....I want to write about the financial crisis, the election, and the second annual demise of the Mets, and I will. So, to break the ice, a quick funny (true) story...

Last Thursday night (Friday morning) at 3:15 AM, I was awakened by loud knocking at my door. Actually, the knocking did not wake me, Dovie barking like a lunatic got me up, and then I heard the loud, continuous knocking. I should have realized WHO knocks like this, but I had to ask...."Who is it?" Of course, the answer was...


My first thought was....."ditch the drugs", which only proves what I have said for years "If you woke me up suddenly and screamed in my face 'how old are you?', the answer would be '17'". I then realized that I would not need to ditch my blood pressure pills, so I said "Let me put some pants on.".....which is what people always say on "COPS".

When I opened the door there were two uniformed officers from our modern NYCPD, a chubby Jewish guy and an African-American woman. I would have preferred Officers Reed and Molloy .

I wanted to say something witty, but chickened out with "What's the problem officers?"

"We need you to move your car.", said Officer Chubby.

"I thought that spot was legal, but wouldn't a ticket have been sufficient?"

"No, no, there's a gas leak, and the fire department needs your car moved so they can check it out." said Officer Chubby's partner.

So, I took a one block ride in the back of the police car, and got to see their big computer screen with MY name and address on it. How cool is that?

When we arrived at my car there were three fire engines in the vicinity, with their lights flashing. There were 15 bored looking firemen sitting near my car. One of them said, "You have to move your car.", prompting me to say,

"Is it dangerous?"

The friendly fireman then said....."Yeah, it's about to blow, that's why we're all sitting here."

I think Officer Chubby's partner realized that although this was kinda funny, it wasn't very com-mu-ni-ty friendly, and that if I turned and walked home they'd have to arrest me (and do all kinds of paperwork), so she said,

"I'll move the car, give me the keys."

I let the firemen sit near the undangerous gas leak, and moved across the street so my car could be moved.

The Officers thanked me, and I then had to look for another parking spot. My car STUNK of gas. Question, if I had lit up a cigarette and exploded myself, would the City be liable?

Next post: Top 10 reasons I'm voting for Obama

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Law & Pizza (Part 3)

The Peruvians agreed to pay Mohammed $1000 per month for 5 years. Mohammed asked me if I would collect the payments, for which he offered to pay me $50 (cash!!) each time. I would go at lunch time so I could get a free “two slices and a coke”. At first, Marco had the cash waiting for me. As time went on, there were times they didn’t have all the money, and would get the rest out of the register. I always felt bad when that happened.

We would go in the back to count the money. One day as we were counting a mouse ran between our feet.

I said “Marco….a mouse!!!”
He said, “He's not my mouse, he comes from the supermarket next door.”

I skipped my slices that day.

After about two years of this, I got a call from Marco’s lawyer.

He said, “You and your client are going to be happy….Marco is selling the pizzeria and he will pay off his balance to Mohammed.”

“Cool, who’s buying it?”



"No, two guys from Afghanistan. "

It was true. We had a closing. Marco sold to the Afghans, and Mohammed was paid. I was done with my All-America pizzeria. It had come full circle…..Albanian to Egyptian to Peruvian to Afghan.

Elias Sports Bureau advises it’s the only time in history THAT has ever happened.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Law and Pizza (Part 2)

I didn't know exactly what kind of papers I could make, but I had a sense all the players would play ball. The Albanian would play because he wanted to get paid, the landlord would play because he wanted to get paid, and the creditors would play because they wanted to get paid. I also figured the landlord and creditors would prefer happy Egyptian to shrugging Albanian.

I was mostly right. Mohammed arranged some "private financing". In the military they call this "don't ask, don't tell". He had enough money to do what the landlord five months back rent and accept an assignment of the old lease. I actually negotiated a five year extension for Mohammed, conditioned upon him paying the first years rent on time, which he actually did.

The creditors were a little harder. I told Mohammed to try to negotiate with them, but if any of them gave a big problem, to have them call me. One call went like this......

"Counselor, I understand you represent the Egyptian pizza guy on Jamaica Avenue. My name is Vincent. I represent the Scarola Flour Company."
"Oh, are you their attorney?"
"No, let's just say I take care of business for them."

Hmmmm.....Sometimes when your client has financial problems you help them prioritize their debts. Something told me Scarola Flour Company was a priority creditor. Mohammed agreed, and told me Vincent had assured him that if he paid what the Albanian owed ($1200), and if he made his future payments on time, Vincent would not visit him any more. Mohammed adjusted his budget and brought me $1200 for Vincent.
"Will you make a paper with him Mr. Barry?" he asked.
"I don't think Vincent goes for papers, and I don't think we need papers with him."
So, I took care of the business with Vincent, and papers were not needed.

We also got the Albanian to accept three years of notes on the amount he and Mohammed had originally discussed, with payments to start in six months. The Albanian had a lawyer who may have been Croatian. I couldn't tell, between his accent and his grunting. At least he could get the Albanian to talk. At the closing I asked them what language they spoke to each other. The Albanian shrugged, and the lawyer grunted. Mohammed then whispered to me...."Who the fuck cares."

Mohammed seemed to be doing OK as a pizza man. About two years later, he called and told me he was selling the pizzeria to "two Peruvian guys". He said, "This time I want you to make the papers from the beginning."

So, we set out to sell the pizzeria to the Peruvians.

Next.....Law & Pizza (Part 3)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Law & Pizza (Part 1)

(*all stories true, all names fictitious)

Until I started practicing, I didn’t realize how many different things solo practitioners did. Every “small” business has legal business. All these “business people” are always “doing business”. The small business chain is particularly fragile when you sprinkle the human links with some other ingredients. Start with cultural differences, add liberal doses of immorality, greed and stupidity. Stir. You now have the type of case young lawyers often get, the “Purchase or Sale of a Business”.

I got a Yellow Pages call from an Egyptian accountant named Omar Haggag. He lived in Brooklyn, worked in lower Manhattan near my office, and needed me to write his landlord a letter regarding some repairs. I did the letter, the repairs were done, and Omar told me I was a great lawyer. The next week he called and said that although he was a New York State sales tax auditor, he also had a small accounting practice in Brooklyn, with mostly Egyptian clients. Would I be interested in accepting referrals? I thought this would be good opportunity, and it was. Over the years Omar sent me many good clients. After awhile we had a running joke. Omar would call, and in his accented English say “Mr. Barry……a man is going to call you regarding the sale of his shish-kabob cart”. “OK, Omar, what’s the man’s name”.
“Well, his first name is Mohammed”.
And I would say “I know that, from now on just call and give me the last names.”

Most of his referrals were productive, practice builders. Some weren’t so good.

Mohammed Elgazi had purchased a pizzeria in Queens. At least that’s what he said. What he had actually done was give a $20,000 to some Albanian men, have discussions about future payments, and started running the pizzeria. He had also lost all his remaining working capitol in Atlantic City. He was having fun making the pizza, selling it to the school kids, and being a boss. The Albanians never bothered him about the rest of the money, and it soon became apparent why. They had left the store many months behind in rent, owing money to all their suppliers, and delinquent in taxes. Mohammed was finding it hard to take delivery orders when every other call was from a creditor. I had him come to my office. He also brought another man, he’s a blur to me now, except I remember him as “The Albanian”. He never said a word, just shrugged his shoulders. “What about the lease?” Shrug.
“What about the taxes?” Shrug .
“What about the creditors?” Shrug.
I asked Mohammed what he wanted me to do, and he shrugged.
I called upon my years of education, and my four months of experience, and I shrugged. Now we were getting somewhere. Then I took out a yellow pad and pen. This prompted Mohammed to say something I had never heard before, but have heard many times since, “Mr. Barry, maybe you could make some papers to fix this.” ……..

Next……Law & Pizza (Part 2)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mets Fire Willie Randolph

I'm gonna take a day off from blogging about Yom HaShoah.....and say a few words about the firing of Willie Randoph.

As Yogi Berra might say, "when something is ineveitable, it's bound to happen".

In my view, Willie is an OK manager, and can probably be a good manager for the right team. The Mets are a mismatch for his style and persona. As a player he was always the classiest Yankee. As a coach, he learned from Joe Torre and adopted his approach as manager. He treated the players as professionals, and expected them to play that way. Unfortunately, he did not have Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Mariano, or....dare I say it....Paul O'Neil.

He expected Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes and David Wright (yes, him too) to hustle, and lead, and play like professionals, and they let him down. Willie's problem was he did not adjust, he did not take decisive steps when these talented players didn't hustle. Had he been a student of Met history, he'd have followed the example of Gil Hodges in 1969. Here is an exerpt from Cleon Jones' Wikipedia page....

"But the moment most Mets fans of a certain age consider the most memorable, and the turning point in the team's season, came in the third inning of the second game of a July 30 doubleheader against the Houston Astros. When Jones failed to hustle after a ball hit to the outfield, Hodges removed him from the game. But rather than simply signal from the dugout for Jones to come out, or delegate the job to one of his coaches, Hodges left the dugout and slowly, deliberately, walked all the way out to left field to remove Jones, and walk him back to the bench. For the rest of that season, Jones never failed to hustle."

As much as baseball is about statistics, when you watch the games you see way more. Many of the Mets simply don't hustle, and they don't play intensely the whole game. This is unacceptable, and I've seen it many times. Willie would have gained great respect if just once, after Delgado or Wright didn't hustle on a pop-up, he took them out of the game on the spot......and benched them the following game too. Think the team attitude would improve?

A manager is only as good as his players. Willie did not decide to sign injury riddled Moises Alou, but not have a capable back-up. Willie did not decide to start the season with Carlos Delgado at first, with no alternative (When you watch the games, you KNOW he is done). Willie did not give a four year contract to Luis Castillo, who will be lucky to make it through this year (Have you ever seen a worse left-handed swing?) Willie did not decide to keep Aaron Heilman rather than trade him for some parts we could use.

I heard a bit of the Rick Peterson press conference today. I like all his groovy metaphysical ideas about pitching. You can see how he must really connect with Oliver Perez.

There's plenty of blame to go around, so now, Omar can be on the hot seat.

Maybe when the Wilpons let him go, they will treat him with some class. It will be more than he deserves.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Absence From Blogging....Passover and Yom Ha'Shoah

I haven't blogged since Passover. It has not been for lack of thinking about it. What happened was.......I had a BIG idea, something I really wanted to write about......except, when I sat down to write it, I didn't.

Fortunately, I have had some time to mull over my excuses and LEARN. Here's what I learned......

If an idea is uncomfortable and painful, it's worth addressing.

If you think you are unworthy of speaking about something, not only are you wrong, but it's precisely the reason you should speak.

If a project seems too big, break it into smaller pieces and START.

The thing worse than imperfect writing is NO writing.

As stated at the end of my Passover post, what I wanted to write about was the connection between Passover and Yom Ha'Shoah.


Yom Ha'Shoah is a "holiday" of relatively recent vintage. Essentially, it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here is the Wikipedic version I never was too aware of it, but during the past few years I have attended Yom HaShoah programs. The last two years I attended programs at the Brandeis Association, a Jewish lawyers group in Queens. Both years they had speakers talking about the dismantling of the German legal system as a prelude to the Holocaust. This year, a professor showed a documentary "Hitler's Courts" documenting how Hitler realized that a vital step in the genocidal process was to eliminate civil rights by co-opting the Courts and the Judges. Fascinating material, and timely, considering that the presentation provoked a spirited discussion about respect for the "rule of law" as it applies to Guantanamo. This was three weeks before the Supreme Court ruling on the legal rights of the Guantanamo prisoners.

Yom HaShoah follows soon after Passover. On Passover we are directed to tell and retell the story of the exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom. There is emphasis on telling the children, and having them tell their children. It seems to have worked. We are still telling, people still know.

The generation of actual Holocaust survivors is ending. There has been some telling, but many of them did not tell....could not tell. A generation later, there are Holocaust deniers. The President of Iran is in the club too

Thankfully, this has all been studied and documented. It should NEVER be trivialized, or relegated to some "pages in history". There is one way for that not to happen. The story should be told and re-told, from generation to generation. The materials should be discussed. The applicability to modern times is "life and death" relevant.

Tomorrow - some re-telling....what I know about my mother as Holocaust escapee/survivor.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Passover's Field of Dreams

The annual telling of the Passover story, an unbroken oral history spanning countless generations, is a marvel. I can safely say I have a 51 year streak. I generally spend Passover with people who have similar streaks, usually going way back on both sides of their family. I blogged a little about this last year.

This year we hosted 17 friends for Seder night one, and 20 family members on night two. For the second straight year, on the second night we had my mother's cousin's and their children. All my Seders growing up were with these cousins, and their parents, all German-Jewish Holocaust escapees. (I will blog tomorrow about the term "escapees" as opposed to "survivors", though niether denotation should diminish the other). At Uncle Max and Aunt Rose's house, and at Gusti & Freddy's, Brian and I were always the little kids. Now, Mom's cousins are my fellow grown-ups, and there are new kids experiencing Passover (though some of the "kids" are in fact adults). They are part of something important, and I know they will come to know that.

My Dad (Manny, of the renowned Weekend With Manny series) was in from Florida and spent both nights with us. He enjoyed spending time with his ex-extended family. He shares a lot of history with them, and if he has an 82 year seder streak, he had at least 20 with them. I arranged the seating so Manny sat next to me, and he did not notice that I placed my Mom's photo behind him,

(Mom in 1986 with grand-daughters Robin and Emilie)

looking out over the festivities. At some point during dinner I looked at him, and Mom's photo over his shoulder, and said,
"I'm sure glad we're sitting here talking, and that if we ever had problems we fixed them. We never had a broken father-son relationship, like in Field of Dreams."
Manny said, "I never saw it."
This surprised me, because he's seen most movies, and we enjoy talking about them.
"Dad, a movie about baseball, fathers, and sons, and you never saw it?"
"I dunno, I've seen parts on TV and it looked stupid, a guy builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield."

Naturally, I had to give him a brief synopsis.....essentially....."An idealistic man and his wife grow up from hippie life and have a farm in Iowa. Things are good, but the man feels some things in his life are not right. One day, he hears a voice, saying 'if you build it, HE will come'. Long story short, he plows under his cornfield and builds a baseball diamond, so the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, and other dead baseball legends, can come to play. Only he and his wife and daughter can see them. Meanwhile, he is not making any money, his brother-in-law thinks he's nuts, and the farm may be foreclosed. He hears more voices, telling him to find a particular writer (who no longer writes) and a baseball player who played one inning in the majors in 1918 (before becoming a doctor in Minnesota) and bring them to Iowa. So he does. As he is driving back to Iowa with the writer, we learn that the man has suffered a great loss, a broken relationship with his father, who died with the relationship unrepaired. During the whole movie the man does not question any of things the voices told him to do, and finally, Shoeless Joe Jackson tells him what it's REALLY about. Note..... if you have never seen Field of Dreams and are inspired to watch it by my synopsis, don't watch this clip. If you have seen it, you know the drill, the thing makes me cry every time "

I made Manny promise to watch the movie with me next time he's in town.

Three of my favorite movie lines are in this clip....
"Is this heaven?" "It's Iowa."
"Heaven is the place dreams come true" He looks at wife and child swinging on porch and says "maybe this IS heaven."
and of course...."Hey Dad, wanna have a catch?"

Field of Dreams is all about connecting with the past and trying to make things right. All the main characters (Ray, Doc Graham and Terrance Mann) have unfinished business, things from their past they need to make right. I am thankful I don't need to plow my cornfield to make things right with my Dad, and grateful to live in freedom with my family (maybe this IS heaven)

On Passover we seek to connect our collective memory chain back to a defining moment of faith and deliverance. We need the next generations to know, and for the story to be told.

Tomorrow....Passover and Yom HaShoah.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Career Day

Last week I spoke at "career day" at Townsend Harris High School. Each career presenter had 30-35 students in their class for three 45 minute periods. My classes were fully booked, though I was not as popular as the guy from Homeland Security. He was decked out with enough equipment and weapons to take over an entire lunchroom.

As the first group filed in, I had a vision of my favorite scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Fortunately, my teaching day went much better than that. I made some notes and had a few themes, as follows:

1. Lawyers are involved in many more things than people realize.
2. For any area of law, there are two sides. When I asked the students to name some areas of law, someone said "medical malpractice", and I noted that for every lawyer representing a person claiming a medical malpractice has occurred, there is a lawyer who represents the doctor or hospital, and "most of those lawyers know more medicine than a lot of doctors".
3. A person considering a career in law should really think about what area they are interested in, and get some exposure to it. As a general practitioner, I noted that its not just about working at the biggest firm for the highest starting salary, in a career, it's important to like it.

I also brought souvenirs......enough New York Law Journals to give one to each of the 100 students. Everyone had a different one, and I showed them around the paper. There is a section of columns by experts in different legal fields, and I asked the students to raise their hand if they found an interesting article. This was very popular, and we had discussions about.......
"proprietary rights on Youtube"
"DNA testing in posthumous paternity issues" (I actually HAVE a case with this issue)
"a trademark claim on some cartoon character I had never heard of....but the kids all had"
"the prisoners at Guantanamo"
"a products liability case involving a collapsing ladder"
"a contested will"

In each class one of the social studies teachers was present, sitting in the back. If the students were not asking questions, the teachers bailed me out by asking good questions. This happened once in each class, and having them there was very helpful.

When I have a rough day of lawyering (in other words......"every day"), I wonder how things would have been if I had gone to a Career Day way back when, and had gone to the session on "teaching". I know lots of miserable lawyers, but few (if any) miserable teachers.

Maybe I should have considered teaching. After all, one of my favorite TV shows as a teenager was "Room 222". Anyone else like that show?

I'm not quitting my day job.....but I did sign up to do another career day, later this month at Russell Sage Junior High School.

One last thing, I'm not going to do a full review, but I saw a great movie from last year, which I thought did not get the notice it deserved. It was "Freedom Writers" with Hilary Swank Rent it and let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

August Rush (Movie Review)

A few months ago my 14 year old daughter Rebecca came home from seeing "August Rush" with her friends. She said "Dad, I think this is the kind of movie you like. It's one of those movies where it might not be realistic, but if you buy into the story, it really gets you. I was so blown away that after the movie I was all spaced out." Naturally, I had her tell me the basic idea, and the things she really liked about it. On the surface, it sounded like the quintessential teenaged girl movie. A young hero who was "really cute", an older male lead character who was "even cuter", and a story about a mystical magical quest. I promised her that when it came out on Netflix I'd get it, and we could watch it together.

Last night we watched it. This is destined to be the favorite movie of many teenaged girls. And, uh, ME TOO. It was so beautiful and moving that I have added it to my 100 Favorite Movies List

My list prominently features "suspension of disbelief" movies (It's a Wonderful Life, Groundhogs Day, Fight Club, Defending Your Life, Field of Dreams, Pleasantville). Looking at the little list, I see what they share.....strongly developed, well played lead characters. People you can believe, and believe in, even amidst some "unbelievable" plot elements.

August Rush is about an 11 year old boy (played by Freddie Highmore) in an upstate New York orphanage. He is singularly driven....he wants to find his parents, and believes they want to find him. He can hear music in all things, and he believes the music is his parents reaching out for him.

His mom (Keri Russell) had been a concert cellist, driven by her father to great "success". She doesn't always see it the same way. His dad (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) was a lead guitarist and singer in a rock band, but despite being on the verge of great acclaim, he wanted out.

The two have a chance meeting, and a magical night together, but they part with only their memories. Here's a clip

He doesn't know about his son, and through some crazy circumstances, she thinks her baby died. Their lives go on, and both give up their music.

Meanwhile, young Evan Taylor (he later acquires the name "August Rush") runs away to look for his parents, and follows his musical instincts to New York City. He hears music in everything, and I guarantee you, when you see this movie you will remember "the scene when the boy conducts the sounds of NYC like a symphony".

The boy prodigy comes under the control of a bizarre man (Robin Williams), who "manages" many young musicians/street performers. He's selfish and greedy, BUT he loves and respects music, and he recognizes the boy's gifts. He is a necessary obstacle to the inexorable path of the plot, August finding and re-uniting his parents.

About three quarters through the movie I was so wrapped up in his quest that I said to Rebecca "This better have a happy ending." I knew it had to, and it's not a give-away for me to tell you.....enjoy the ride. Here's a clip where August and his father meet in Washington Square Park, when they don't yet know who they are to each other

This is not a musical, BUT throughout the movie there are superb musical performances by an array of artists in many genres. I am not musically astute enough to know HOW it was done, but there are musical themes woven through many of the songs. When the Mom is playing a classical piece on the cello, she seems to be in sync with the Dad's rock singing and playing, and with the oddly intriguing playing by young August Rush.

Much of the movie takes place in Manhattan, particularly Washington Square and Central Park. Just an added plus.

I'm convinced this movie has universal appeal, and will ultimately attain "classic" status. When I told Manny (my Dad, for first time blog readers) that I had watched a great movie with Rebecca, he asked which one. I was surprised when he told me he had seen it (though I shouldn't have been....movies for $1 in Century Village so they see them all), and shocked when he told me he LOVED it, and cried at the end!! He also pointed out something I should have realized....the Robin Williams character is similar to Fagin in Oliver.

One last clip, with a warning......the clip is kinda long, and it's the last scene in the movie, so watch this AFTER seeing the movie


Friday, March 28, 2008

Random Notes

I am now 15 months and 110 entries into this blog.

Sometimes interesting things happen that seem blog-worthy, but they don't merit their own post. Sometimes they might actually BE blog-worthy, IF I gave them a shot.
Here are a few things.......

I am speaking at career day at Rebecca's high school next Friday. I have spoken to students before, and I like to show them the New York Law Journal, to demonstrate the wide variety of legal careers. I started hoarding back issues, but I knew I would not have enough. So, I called the Law Journal circulation department, told them what I was doing, and asked if they could send me some back issues. They agreed to send me 25 back issues. When I opened the box, I had 25 copies of a recent issue where the headline was "Lawyer Disbarred For a Second Time"!!!

I haven't been talking much about law practice lately, mostly because I have been too busy DOING it. Most "cases" are rooted in "problems" of some sort, and most problems have to do with people. I've had quite a few "dysfunctional family feud" cases lately. It's a challenge to remain detached and do my job, but after 25 years I see that detached is the only way. Would it be wrong for me to put up the following sign in my office......."If you have problems with everyone you have to deal with in your life, have you ever considered that the problem is YOU?"?

I've had Netflix for about two months now. I really enjoy it. If you are not familiar with this, you pay a flat monthly fee (my plan is about $16/mo). They send you 3 DVD's, which you can keep as long as you like. When you are done with one, you mail it back in a pre-paid envelope, and they mail you the next DVD on your prioritized queue. It is very easy to add movies to your queue, and very easy to change the order. When you mail one back, you get your next one 2 days later. It is very easy to search for movies, and you can search by actor, director, genre, and many other ways. All the movies have little synopses, which is very helpful. I try to keep 3 good ones here at all times, with something for everybody. This weekend I am looking forward to watching "August Rush" with Rebecca, a movie she saw in the theatre and loved. One great fringe benefit, for me anyway, is Netflix has drastically cut down on my TV watching. Of course, my TV watching consisted primarily of channel surfing. Watching a good movie, for a block of time, just feels.....healthier.

One thing I HAVE been watching on TV is the NCAA college basketball tournament. Not every game, but enough to make an observation about a particular player. Stephen Curry, a guard for Davidson, is the best college player I have seen in a long time. If you get a chance to watch him play, don't miss it.

One thing about blogging, I have new found respect for anyone who writes a regular column. My virtual hat off to all column writers and bloggers. Even when I don't agree with you, at least you are saying it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack Follows My Advice - Will It Be Enough?

The morning after I suggested that Barack HAD to address the Pastor Wright problem in a direct way, it was announced he was preparing a major address. The next day he gave "the speech on race". Here's a link to it

Under the circumstances, it was as good as anyone could have done. That speech was perfectly written and sincerely delivered. Time will tell whether it will be enough. His speeches accentuate the boobishness of our current President. McCain will be no match for him on form. If it comes down to substance, and the voters make their decisions that way, well, that's the way it should be.

Here's what Barack should do next: He's got to put some "meat on the bones" and talk in SPECIFICS on some of the issues. We've all heard about the need for change, and I suspect most Americans agree.....what we've got has been a disaster. Barack will be able to talk specifics about issues, and he MUST start doing this. It fits his style to do it, and he should not be afraid to do it. When he talks, he's like Einstein compared to Bush, or McCain for that matter.

I he saving it for the general election? Are he and Hillary too similar to talk about these things now? Is she too good a speaker (she IS good too) for him to get specific with?

He can talk about the war, and not in platitudes, not in generalities. I dare say he can even state he understood the thinking behind it....the need to confront terrorists, and state specifically how he would do that.

He can talk in some detail about the mortgage crisis. He should talk in a way that we would know he would be "on it" when the time came.

He can talk about the importance of the Supreme Court. Harvard Law Review is not a lightweight credential, and the importance of HIS Presidency on the future of the Court should be on the table.

Got a plan for health insurance? Let's hear something specific, and some proof that the plan will not cause a tax increase. How will it work, actually.

This Pastor Wright thing was not the way Barack drew it up, but it may be the way he breaks through to moving beyond the generalities and telling us all why he will be the best President. Being different is not enough. If he's really got the goods, he's got to get positive and show it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thoughts on Barack

Since I've been calling Senator Clinton "Hillary", I have decided to be even handed and fair and refer to Senator Obama as "Barack".

The first time I heard the full Reverend Wright recordings I was driving back from court, listening to Rush Limbaugh. Now, to all my liberal friends, I urge you not to commit "guilt by association" and condemn me for listening to Rush. I've gone on record as saying you have to leave your brain at the door to listen to Rush, or Sean Hannity. Here's a link to the best of Reverend Wright (incidentally, transcripts do not do it justice, these should be seen and heard)

In case you were wondering, that silence you have noticed lately is Hillary NOT talking about this. Mr. Clinton is muzzled too. This was the miracle Hill & Bill have prayed for. She hasn't been able to touch him. Every attack has backfired. This is the unforced error they needed, and they are letting Barack twist in the wind.

The other silence is McCain saying zero about this.....for now. My guess is they are pulling for wounded Barack to fight his way to the nomination, so they can Willie Horton their way into the White House. Remember this? Will that work? Well, if you want the Democrats to win, it ain't gonna help.

Barack's response to all of this has been tentative and unconvincing. Here's a column that says it well

Media coverage on the Pastor Wright story has been surprisingly light. You don't think so? Ask yourself this question.....How would the coverage have been if ANY Republican candidate had attended a church for 20 years where the leader had said racist, incendiary, anti-American things? He might get the nomination, but the media would beat the drums and ensure his defeat in the general election.

One place where this story will not be lightly covered.....the Democratic convention. Particularly among the Super Delegates. The real politicians. The ones who know what it takes to get elected, or heaven forbid, be.......UN-ELECTABLE.

How ironic, if Barack becomes viewed by his own party as un-electable, and not because of his race. He'll be perceived as un-electable because the majority of Americans will know that a fair standard has been applied, and that a real LEADER, a UNITER of ALL Americans, would NOT have stayed with this Pastor.

Oh, and Barack, you have one way to salvage this thing. CONDEMN your Pastor's words as WRONG, as NOT your beliefs, and say it like you believe it.

Keep saying he's your embarassing uncle, and the real embarassment will begin.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Weekend With Manny Part 4

This is the last installment of "Weekend With Manny"......I promise.

We went back to the Pompano casino, with a game plan of simulcasting/poker, buffet dinner, then simulcasting/poker. Actually, I didn't play poker before dinner, we bet on simulcast horse racing from all over the country. I insisted that Manny find a nice seat, because I suspected if I didn't remind him to do this, he'd stand the whole time. I think Manny thought we'd eat dinner at around 5, but we lost track of time and didn't think of it till 7. I hit two nice winners at the Meadowlands (something cool about betting a New Jersey track in Florida), and was ahead a few dollars.

We walked over to the buffet and there was a long line.

"Oh shit", my Daddy said.
"Don't worry Dad, it's a buffet, it will move fast because people want to eat and get back to gambling."

I saw people walking by with plates piled high with shrimps, crablegs, and other "high end buffet" stuff. The wait wasn't too bad, and the way it works pay, you are admitted, and you eat as much as you want. It's self-serve, except a waitress brings you drinks and coffee. Our entrance tab came to $54.

"Oh shit", my Daddy said.
"Don't worry Dad. First of all, I'm on vacation. Second, I'm ahead exactly $54 from horse racing. Third, let's enjoy some good food."

We split up to load our plates. I loaded up with shrimps and cocktail sauce. Also some brisket, some lasagna, and some fresh turkey with cranberries. And some salad.

I waited awhile for Manny to return, and started eating.

He then came over, and sat down with what looked like a cup of consomme.

I said, "What the fuck is that? A $54 cup of consomme?"

After he stopped laughing, and after I stopped laughing, he explained that he likes to check everything out first, have a cup of soup and THEN get his food. Who could argue?

He didn't eat that much, but then I realized why. He was saving room for desert. Fact is, the desert choice was extensive. While I picked at my rice pudding, he came back loaded with an impressive variety of cakes and pies. When he was almost done, we saw a woman walk by with an ice cream cone. Manny said "That looks good. I'd like to have an ice cream cone."
"So get one."
"I didn't see any."
"Dad, that lady had an ice cream cone, so they have it. You want me to get you one?"
"Yeah, vanilla.....with the kind of cone she had."
I brought back two ice cream cones. I can't remember ever enjoying one so much.

After that, I played poker for a few hours. Manny played horses, and assured me he was "taking it easy", and I believed him. He came over to the poker tables at around 11:30, and it wasn't busy, so nobody had a problem with him hanging out and watching. When it's busy that's frowned upon. I know he got a kick out of watching me play poker with "MEN", and I got a kick out of watching him watch. He hung out with me till about 1 AM. We drove home and reviewed the rules of the game he had just watched for two hours (Omaha hi-lo 8 or better). He had a pretty good idea, and we also reviewed some of the better hands. He really liked it when I stuck it to a nasty guy across the table and took down a big pot. I wasn't sure at the time if he had noticed that, but he had. He commented "That guy was a prick, everyone at the table was happy when you beat him."

We got home at 1:30!!!! I think we both felt like teenagers.

Next morning....what to do for breakfast....
I knew....."Pop, we're going to John G's, the place that Joan was raving about."
"But we don't know how to get there."
I just looked at him.
He said, "I guess you'll find out"

We had a great breakfast at John G's Great food, good coffee, right on the ocean.

Back at the ranch, we rested till it was time for me to go. As you may recall, I finished the weekend by flying home during the Super Bowl.

Start to finish, it was a weekend that will be hard to beat.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My Weekend With Manny Part 3

After my mechanical triumph I told Manny I'd like to relax and read by the pool. I had never been to the Century Village pool, so I asked him to either come with me or show me where it was. Turns out there are about five pools in Century Village, a main pool and four "satellites". He recommended the nearest satellite pool, so off we went.

On the way there we met one of his neighbors. The conversation went like this.....

Manny: "Lucille, this is my son Barry."
Lucille: "The horse racing guy?"
Manny: "No, my other son."
Lucille: "Oh, nice to meet you."

A little background is in order. My brother, Brian Seidel, has been a harness racing trainer and driver for the past 30 years. I know, all across the Midwest my blog readers are thinking, "What kind of career is this for a Jewish boy from Queens?" It's not the usual, that's for sure. Here are some harness racing pictures from my archives.........

Picture on the left is Brian's first win as a trainer. Left to right is Manny, Brian, driver Ron Battoni and me. The horse was named "Master Vilas". He was blind in his left eye and raced with a special covering, which can be seen in the picture.

Picture on the right is a horse named Fly Fly Elsie, with Brian driving. In the photo, from the left is Brian's friend Eddie, Brian and Manny. I had put together an ownership group for Fly Fly Elsie, and she won quite a few races.

At the pool Manny introduced me to another acquaintance....

Manny: "Max, this is my son Barry."
Max: "The harness driver?"
Manny: "No, my other son."
Max: "Oh."

After awhile we walked back to the apartment and ran into another neighbor, Walter...

Manny: "Walter, this is my son Barry."
Walter (to me): "Driven any winners lately?"
Barry: "Nah, that's his other son."
Walter: "Oh."

Upstairs I made some sandwiches for us. As we sat down I said, "I'm enjoying this."


"No, being the other son. It's......different. I kinda like it."

Manny said, "Are you sure? I mean, you know how proud I am of you, I just have more opportunities to talk about Brian because people find it interesting."

"Dad, it's totally great. Actually, I'm looking forward to telling Brian about it."
We both laughed till we were coughing.

Then we made our plan for the rest of the day. He wanted to go back to the buffet at Pompano for dinner, followed by more simulcasting and poker. I had one small addition.....we should do simulcasting and poker before dinner too!

Next: My Weekend With Manny Part 4......Buffet dinner and late night at the casino.....

Sunday, March 2, 2008

My Weekend With Manny Part 2

Just prior to going to bed on night one, Joan made the shocking discovery that "the refrigerator light is out....I'll have to call someone to fix it."

Manny was in his pajamas, but said "I'll fix it tomorrow."
Joan said, "I'll have to call someone."
Manny said "I can fix it, but it will have to be tomorrow."
Joan said, "OK".

I was up first the next morning. The fridge light was still out. Joan was up next, went to the refrigerator, and said "I'll have to call someone to fix this."
When Manny came into the kitchen, she said to him, "The light in the refigerator is out, I'll call someone today."

I was expecting him to blow up, but he said nothing. I felt like blowing up, but instead I said, "I'm sure I can fix that." I knew that ACTION was required, so without much ado I placed the contents of the top two shelves on the counter, and quickly removed the top two shelves so I could assess the situation. Manny was amazed at my assertiveness and said "What are you doing?"

My answer shocked him even more....I said "Have you got any tools?"

Putting things in perspective......Manny is pretty handy. However, my main recollections of Dad fixing things involve cursing and nervousness. I hated being around that, especially since I have those tendencies too (genetic? or learned?). I always shied away from any "do it yourself" work. I've often noted my strength area when it comes to repairs is "yellow pages". That being said, I have gained SOME experience and confidence at minor repairs. I take a calm, studied approach, and I know my limitations. Refrigerator light (with cover over the bulb) is in my jurisdiction. Unbeknownst to my hosts I had recently removed "cover of oven light" (a much BIGGER job) at home.

Manny went to get his tools, while Joan said "I'll call someone, you don't need to do this."

But I DID need to do it.

Manny had a big tool kit, but he did not have the adjustable wrench I needed to remove the grating over the bulb. However, he did have my favorite tool, the vice grip. I took it from the box and said "This'll work."
Manny said, "Whoa pal, you sure you know what you're doing?"
Joan said "I really should just call someone."
But they could not stop me, I was in the zone.

The vice grip enabled me to remove the two nuts and take off the cover. The bulb unscrewed and I handed it to Joan and said...."We need one of these." She silently went into the bedroom and brought me the exact bulb.

Neither of them knew how excited I was, and when I screwed the bulb in and it worked I screamed.........."LIGHT!!!!! I HAVE MADE LIGHT!!!!!!!!"

Then, without a word, I screwed the cover back on, put the two shelves back, and put all the food back in the fridge.

Manny then said, "Son, I'm so proud of you. Not because you fixed it, but because you were so calm. It's like you are.....mature."

Joan said, "You guys want scrambled eggs today?" Weekend With Manny Part 3.

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Weekend With Manny

I spent Super Bowl weekend (Thursday thru Sunday) with my Dad in Florida. I went alone. I like going with the whole family, but it's hard to work it all out, and it gets expensive, and what the heck, I wanted to try it this way. After all, as Joan (his companion for the last 25 years) optimistically pointed out...."How much longer has he got?" I hated to admit it, she had a point. The fact is, for 82 he's doing pretty well. His mind is fine, he still drives (though not so much at night....a Florida thing), and we still have fun together. The thought of some day saying "I shoulda" was abhorrent, so I did it.

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale airport on time, got my rented car, and drove up to Century Village in Boca Raton. Manny always seems amazed that I'm able to "work these things out", but we don't dwell on it. I've heard Century Village called "Cemetary Village", but I like to think of it as "college dorm life for old people."

When I arrived Joan made me some bagels and cream cheese. She also offered some creamy herring with onions, which I declined.....though Manny enjoyed it. I proudly showed him my Super Bowl grids and boxes, with the extra copies I had made for him, and he assured me that he "would never understand it".

We then reviewed our itinerary, which we had discussed on the phone the week before. The plan was "to play nine holes of golf on Friday morning, and then see how things go". Manny and I have a common golf background, we both started late in life and we are pretty bad at it. Considering he never played until he was 60, he's actually not bad. It's a tribute to his natural athletic ability. I started in my 30's and have no excuse. I don't keep score, and I am fine with just being out there and taking a zen approach (as an aside, here's an Amazon link to a cool golf book Golf in the Kingdom

We did not golf in the Kingdom, we opted for a nine hole executive course in Margate, Nine holes on an executive (which means smaller and faster playing) course is just right. We had perfect weather, 72 and sunny, and played a relaxing round with two ladies who did not know each other. For any non-golfers, you usually play in groups of four. When you go as two, they hook you up with another two, or with two singles. It's one of the best things about golf. 99% of the time you play with nice people, and this ran true to form. It was a perfect start to the trip, and now we were in "seeing how things go" time.

Next stop was lunch at a restaurant called "Lesters". Manny likes it because "it's like a real diner, which is unusual in Florida".

As soon as we finished our excellent diner burgers, Manny said "I have an idea, let's go to the simulcasting at Pompano, and you can check out their poker room." I suspect this was his plan all along, but he wanted to keep it "between us" until he left the house. I thought this was a great plan, so we drove 10 minutes to Pompano Race Track. The present gambling thing in Florida are casinos that have slots and poker, but no table games. They also have simulcasting of horse racing from all over America. Works for me!!!

This is the place we went to.... VERY nice.

As soon as we got inside, Manny said "Oh, I goofed, we should have eaten here at the lunch buffet. Great food, great prices." I told him not to worry, we had a great lunch. Let's bet some horses and play poker. So we played there for about two hours, and returned to base at dinner time.

We then went out for dinner with Joan, her daughter Debbie (lives in Florida now) and Debbie's daughter Elisa (visiting from Jersey). We drove to a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, and all things considered, it was enjoyable. Joan did ask, "Why didn't you guys go to the buffet at Pompano.....Manny, why didn't you take him to the buffet?" Oy. Fortunately this didn't go on too long, because she wanted to tell us all about the the outrageous breakfast place they had been to that morning, a place in Lake Worth called "John G's". They talked about it until the name was emblazoned in my cerebral cortex. But nothing a few martinis wouldn't fix.

All in all, a great day.

Tomorrow, more Weekend With Manny.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Super at 36,000 Feet

With all the political developments, I skipped the Super Bowl.

I really needed to say some things about it, because the Super Bowl marks the beginning of the baseball season. Incidentally, once pitchers and catchers report, can we have unanimous consent to stop thinking or talking about Roger Clemens?

OK - I had a unique Super Bowl experience. I had decided to visit my Dad for a long weekend in Florida. He's 82, his mind is good, but I never wanted to have to say "I wish I had visited when we still could", so I made the trip. For a few reasons, I like to fly Jet Blue: Their website is easy to use, their prices are good, and they have TV at every seat. I saw they had a Ft. Lauderdale to LaGuardia flight at 6 PM Super Bowl Sunday, so prior to the Giants-Cowboys game, I booked my trip.

When the Giants made it to the Super Bowl, I considered changing my flight, but decided that watching the game on the plane could be fun. Here's how it went:

On Jet Blue each seat has a TV in the back of the seat in front of you, with 36 channels. You get a free headset. The pilot announced that the game was on Channel 8, and assured us they were not allowed to watch or have it on in the cockpit, but if the flight attendants gave them updates, this would be nice.

I skipped the pre-game, and finished my book (Stuart Woods' "Straw Man".....decent, but not one of my favorites). At kickoff I put on the game, and noticed that 95% of the passengers were watching it. Usually if you walk around during a Jet Blue flight, you notice the variety of things people watch....not this flight. I do admit though, during one commercial, I watched "The Puppy Bowl" for a few minutes.

Another thing I noticed was the aisles were clear, there was very little walking around. About two minutes before halftime I had a brainstorm.....better take a bathroom break NOW. Excellent, no line, no waiting. As soon as the first half ended, there was a LONG bathroom line, like at a football game.

There was not a lot of yelling or overt rooting on the plane. I suspect real die hard fans would not have booked this flight. I did have the feeling that a Florida-NYC flight was pro-Giant, and there was a warm feeling as the game wore on. Anyone who watched that game knows it was played at a high intensity level. I had the enhanced experience of watching THAT game "alone", on my own little screen, with headset, and airline sounds as background.

The plane landed at the end of the third quarter, but I was prepared. I had a transistor radio and headset. When the TV went off, I plugged the knowing nods of a few with less foresight. I gave them updates. I had carry-on only, so I walked to my car and listened to the Giants radio team. Their excitement and anticipation was palpable.

I drove directly to a Super Bowl party at our friends Marla & George's house. This was most excellent, as I chowed down some fantastic food, and then watched football history with good friends.

A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

Next post --- my weekend with Manny

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Immigration Issues in the General Election

I love writing about the Presidential election. Everybody's talking about it, everybody's analyzing. I haven't got much to add to all the blah blah blah. I'll just summarize, so I can jump ahead and talk about immigration.

The Democrats - Obama is giving Hillary a major tussle, making her work much harder for the nomination than she ever expected. She's using money and resources she really hoped to save for the general election. Ultimately she's gonna get the nomination, and her political instincts will tell her that Obama is popular and useful, and she will need him on board in just the right way. She will need him for a big turnout that does not cause a backlash turnout.

The Republicans - McCain cannot be stopped. If Romney seemed like a nice guy, we'd all be feeling sorry for what McCain and Huckabee are doing to him. However, he's basically an unlikeable, rich guy who's kinda creepy, so nobody is rallying behind him. McCain is going to get a lot of Democrats crossing over to him, and his challenge is to get the backbone Republicans to turn out for him. Can he do it?

That's it in a nutshell.

I have promised to analyze the Hispanic voters likely impact on the election. They are not presently galvanized behind one candidate. In case nobody noticed, there WAS a Hispanic candidate on the Democrat side, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson....BILL RICHARDSON!?!?!?

He's not galvanizing anybody.

A better choice would have been Victor Sifuentes.

Actually, the Hispanic influence in the general election is going to be hard to predict, for a few reasons:

1. Will they be motivated for a high turnout?
2. Will they be motivated by any particular issue or candidate to vote in a bloc?
3. Are they concentrated in key contested States?
4. Will either candidate figure out the proper appeal?

Here's a link to an interesting piece in the 2/5/08 Wall Street Journal.

The fascinating premiss of this piece is that the the strident anti-immigrant positions taken by the non-McCain Republicans are not resonating with voters, including Republicans. When I've heard the candidates (and conservative talk-radio hosts) railing about McCain's "amnesty bill", I wondered if voters were buying it. I think they are not, and they will not.

How will the immigration issue play out between McCain and Hillary?

More tomorrow.....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bye-Bye John and Rudy

Yesterday, I promised to blog about Hispanic voters. I'll get back to that. There was too much news today to ignore.

John Edwards drops out. Something about this bothers me. As conservative as I am about some things, I have always liked John Edwards. I think he would make a fine President. When he ran for Vice President, one reason I wanted Kerry to win was to have Edwards in the Presidential loop. This time, his candidacy was doomed from the start. Talk about bad match-ups.....Hillary AND Obama. What's a liberal white male to do? He gave it a shot, the press ignored him, the voters ignored him, and surely he was running out of money. His leaving the race really helps Hillary. It guarantees a first ballot nomination, and avoids a rancorous brokered convention. I don't expect him to endorse Hillary or Obama, just pledge to support the nominee. This is the smart move, and he's smart.

Rudy drops out. He'd have had a better shot if he'd switched parties and run for the Democratic nomination. I can't fault his Florida strategy. The fact is, had he campaigned earlier, he would have lost in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he knew it. Those races went as well as they could have for him, but he was never going to gain traction with most Republicans. I don't know if McCain would take him as Vice President, but I will say this....he's got to consider it. I'd also say that, looking at McCain, his VP choice will be heavily weighed by the voters. He didn't look too hot in the debate least in the four minutes I could stomach watching. His jaw looked so tight, I expected him to say


Next post, a discussion of the anticipated courting of the Hispanic vote.

Hasta la vista.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What is "Electability" Anyway?

Yesterday I posited that Hillary would like to make Obama's electability an issue. She just has to figure out HOW to do it.

"These things have to be

Lest anyone think this is only about race, or only about the Democrats, I will also say that for the Republicans, Huckabee is not electable either. After he won Iowa, he created some worry. Many Republicans like him, but realistically, he can't beat Hillary.

Pollsters run head to head comparisons, and surely the candidates do it too. Lets run some combinations and permutations....

Hillary - McCain
Hillary - Romney
Hillary - Giuliani
Hillary - Huckabee

Obama - McCain
Obama - Romney
Obama - Giuliani
Obama - Huckabee

The way I see it.....
Hillary against McCain is the most likely result, and would be close.
Hillary against Romney or Giuliani is a dogfight.
Hillary against Huckabee is a romp for Hillary (Huckabee lacks electablility against Hillary)

Obama v Huckabee would be fun, and I will grant they have electability against each other.
Obama v Romney or Giuliani......Obama loses but it's a contest.....maybe
Obama v McCain is a romp for McCain (Obama lacks electability against McCain)

The more McCain strengthens, the less electable Obama appears, and conflicted Democrats are less likely to vote for him. It should be taken as a given that African American Democrats will vote overwhelmingly for Obama, and with a high turnout. He is a strong candidate, and actually electable, in four or eight years. Is fear of McCain enough to spur a strong white turnout for Hillary? He's such an odd candidate that many nominal Democrats will vote for him in the general election. Hillary better hope that white Democrats don't turn out and vote for Obama, in a backhanded assist for McCain. Oops, did I actually say that? and why the Hispanic vote will ultimately decide the election.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The "E" Word

Poor Hillary. She should be getting the nomination easily, but it's not happening that way.

Ironically, the best analogy for her situation comes from the world of sports. Sometimes in sports, one team seems much stronger than the other, but for some reason the weaker team presents a "bad match-up". The strong team could roll over anyone else in the league, even teams way stronger than the bad match-up team, but THAT team gives the strong team fits.

Why is Obama such a bad match-up for Hillary?

It's starts with a basic premiss. The Democrats are the ultimate party of political correctness. It's what much of the country hates about them. When you value political correctness, you de-value genuine-ness. You seem like a POLITICIAN. Note to the Clintons....this is not a good thing.

Obama is a bad match-up for Hillary because it is politically incorrect to critisize him. She knows this, she has known it from the start. And every time she tries, it bites her back double. It's probably politically incorrect for me to even say these things, but hey, I'm not a politician. Nor am I a Democrat, though I am registered that way. I've voted for lots of Democrats too, and lots of Republicans. If I cannot be labeled, I'm proud. I am also proud to be an American who despises political correctness.

There is something even more politically incorrect, something about the match-up, that Hillary knows. A card she wants to play, the BIG explosive card, the one everyone knows but they are not talking about.....yet. She is going to play this card, it is the winning card, unless she plays it wrong. The card is the "E" word.








I'm not worried about being politically incorrect, so I'll just say it.

Obama is not ELECTABLE.

That is the big card. This is the thing that most Democrats know, but are afraid to say. It's what Hillary wants and needs them to say, but she can't say it. Bill can't say it either, not publicly. But the card WILL be played. Democratic voters on Super Tuesday will be thinking about this, and maybe whispering about this, and ultimately, will vote this way. They will vote with the realization that Obama is not electable, and Hillary will get the nomination. If they stay politically correct in the voting booth, and are worried about how it will look if they reject Obama and his "message of change" or whatever, the Democrats will be hoisted on their own petard (I always wanted to say that.....I researched the reference )

Hoisted how? Be honest. How will McCain/Obama turn out?

Tomorrow.....more about the big "E"

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Alternate Universe

Did you know we are frequently interacting with an alternate universe?

I'm talking about "hip-hop" or "rap" or whatever title is given to the culture/lifestyle that exists unto itself. I am not judging it, not the music (I was tempted to type that as "music", but that would be judgmental), not the promotion and manipulation, not the individual participants.

The vast majority of society is remotely aware that there is this "thing", that has something to do with a style of music that most people reject and ignore. That is a right, and most will accept the rights of others to accept and reject as they please. Most also respect the rights of others to participate and enjoy, and so an alternate universe grows. An alternate universe also grows as it is spurned, rejected or ignored by the majority. Was the growth of rock music and the 60's counterculture any different? Perhaps, and I will address the similarities and differences in a future post.

What I'm referring to is knowing more about what we don't know, and being aware when the alternate universe is interacting.

What I'm talking about here is Souljah Boy, and the song Crank Dat. Don't know it? If you go to any Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or any junior high or high school dance, you have heard it. There is a dance that goes with it. The tune is kinda catchy, it gets in your head. There's something in the song about Superman, but the words are hard to understand.

I asked Rebecca (my 14 year old daughter) if the song is about "bitches and ho's". She said she didn't know, and I suspect she did not know, as she doesn't listen to rap (her choice, and she has told me there are songs she likes, but it's not her interest musically). I googled for it, and as a public service I print the time you are at a party you can think about them as you watch your pre-teen daughters dancing and laughing to it....

I like the part where he "super soaks that hoe", but hey....maybe the song is about gardening, or something.

Here's a bonus link....

Have fun at the Bar Mitzvahs, and hey, remember to never ask your kids about the alternate universe.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rudy and the Strategy

He's sitting it out until Florida.
I heard some "pundits" say, authoritatively, that Rudy has made a huge mistake, since "no Republican has ever won without participating in Iowa and New Hampshire". I can't agree, as they say in Latin....."logicus non convinsus"

Rudy took a calculated gamble that may work. It would not have made sense to blow his war chest in these small States. He would not have jumped out to a huge lead no matter what, and if he had campaigned and finished second or third, the press would have pronounced him "in trouble". If he shows strongly in Florida, and then on Super Tuesday, he's right in the thick of it, and he has not wasted his money too early.

The early results were optimal for Rudy. Huckabee gets into the race and beats Romney in Iowa. McCain beats Romney in New Hampshire. Romney wins in Michigan, where he should, but at least McCain is not on a roll. Rudy is taking the long view, he wants to be in serious contention at the convention, he wants to preserve money as the campaign wears on, he wants to be the candidate gaining momentum rather than losing it.

When Rudy is involved, things are more interesting.

Personally, I think he should not talk about 9/11. Everyone knows he showed extraordinary LEADERSHIP. It goes without saying, and he should not let the others paint him as "the guy who talks about 9/11". Most New Yorkers know he was a great mayor before 9/11. I know my liberal friends will say he was "insensitive" and "heavy handed". He may be, but he was elected to lead a City in big trouble, and he took decisive actions, and led the City to unprecedented improvement. He did this despite being a Republican mayor in a Democrat controlled City. The City Counsel and the Borough Presidents were Democrats. The fact is, he was able to impose his will and move the City forward.

As I recall, the first memorable thing Rudy did was arrest all the squeegee men. It seems silly now, but at the time it was a big deal. New Yorkers all know this, but here's the way it happened........when driving into Manhattan, cars were besieged by squeegee men, who would wash your windshield with a dirty rag, and then demand money. Drivers hated this, but it was a growing phenomenon, and what people hated even more than squeegeeing, was the perceived government condonement, and a concern for "squeegiers rights". Within a few days of becoming Mayor of NYC, Rudy Giuliani solved the problem. He had ALL the squeegie men ARRESTED, and stated that we were no longer going to tolerate these assaults on quality of life, we were no longer going to tolerate things that were a blight on the City. The squeegie men never came back.

Can any other Presidential candidate point to a concrete accomplishment like that?