Friday, September 16, 2011

Articles 09.16.11

Leadership (RIP August 25, 2009)

August 25, 2009. That is the day when leadership in our country died. Not uncoincidentally, it was also the day that Ted Kennedy died. Regardless of whether you agreed or disagreed with his politics, Ted Kennedy was a powerful leader. He was able to rally Democrats around his causes and forge the alliances with his Republican rivals to achieve significant legislative victories. His death has left a serious power vacuum in Washington. Our country is suffering terribly as a result. This is not either Democratic or Republican issue but a malaise that has infected both parties. Our current crop of politicians are more concerned with making their adversaries look bad than they are with doing right by our country. And as election season gets into full swing it will only get worse. At a time when our country is suffering from a stagnant economy and lack of job growth while fighting two separate wars; and while a number of our allies in Europe are close to economic collapse we need leaders from both parties to step forward and call upon their colleagues to cease the politicking and to get to work to forge the policies necessary to address these numerous crises. Who do we have the blame for this? Only ourselves. We continue to elect and reelect these political hacks. It is time for us to hold our elected representatives accountable and tell them that it is time to stop the nonsense and to start to lead. We can do this by supporting and electing those politicians who have the courage and the foresight to work with members of the opposition to do what is right for our country.

How to Rattle A Company's Cage

We've all suffered from awful experiences with products and services (if any of you have flown recently you know what I am talking about!) Most of us simply get annoyed, mutter to ourselves and go home and kick the family dog, but little else. This article provides a pretty good framework for how to complain effectively and get the results that you desire.

Washington Square Park

Growing up in the city I adored hanging out in Washington Square Park. It was a great refuge from the asphalt jungle and there were always some cute girls to flirt with and interesting activities going on.

Unfortunately, the Park fell into a terrible state of disrepair and became a hangout for derelicts, drug dealers and degenerate chess players. The grassy areas had become bald patches of dirt, the swings and benches were damaged beyond repair and the fountain no longer worked. Worse, the majestic symbol of the park, the Triumphal Arch that would greet you at the end of Fifth Avenue and welcome you into the Park, had become a pockmarked, graffiti covered eyesore. After several years of renovations I am pleased to see that the park is once again a beautiful oasis. It is a great place to hang out and watch kids play in the fountain, listen to musicians perform and to people watch. Take a look.

The Silver Spoon Dilemma

The title of this article says it all.

The Looming Crisis

Government debt, overheated economy, lofty valuations for loan collateral, too many people living in poverty, great disparities in wealth; sound like America circa 2008? No, this is China 2011. Is the largest country on the planet setting itself up for an economic collapse? If so, what does this mean to the United States and the ability of China to continue financing our country through the purchase of our debt?

Adventures in Parking

Are parking garage attendants soon to be obsolete? Take a look at this video "Auto motion Parking".

Speaking of Obsolete

Is our current mail service going the way of the pony express? This summer my 17 year old son worked in my office. He was asked by one of my brokers to address and mail out some flyers for him. My son did so but was shocked when all the envelopes were returned to our offices within the week. The problem… he did not stamp the envelopes. When I asked him why, he admitted to not realizing that stamps were required. He had never physically mailed a letter before!

Social Media and the :-) Face

Texting, Facebook and other forms of social media have now taken the place of verbal conversation as the preferred means of communication particularly among those who grew up with computers and cell phones. While I applaud any technology that allows us better access to each other I wonder if communicating this way is causing us to become emotionally detached. This form of communication does not allow us to communicate well our emotions and feelings. There is a lack of depth to the conversation that results from the lack of the nuance of tone of voice, facial expression and the like. The happy face icon that now seems to punctuate over written communication is a poor substitute for genuine human emotion.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Remembrance

I spent the morning today in Central Park thinking about 9/11. This morning's weather reminded me very much of the weather of that day. Vibrant and clear with a crispness in the air signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall; a perfect September day. Far off in the background I could hear the melancholy tones of bag pipers playing a tribute to those who died. Their somber tones were a sad complement to the feeling of lost that I was experiencing. I felt an overwhelming sense of loss that day. I love my city, New York, very much and felt her pain that day as if I was the one who had suffered a painful and serious injury. Even though I was not close to anybody who died in the attack, I continued to experience a profound sense of loss for weeks, if not months, after the attack. There were constant reminders. Foremost, was the profound change in the city skyline. No longer was downtown dominated by the icon of the Twin Towers. Where once they proudly stood, there was nothing but a gaping hole, the skyline, once a beautiful smile, now permanently marred by the loss of its two front teeth. Then there were the missing person posters with the question "Have you seen this person" written over a photograph of a person missing in the attacks. These posters appeared all over the city, on lampposts, mailboxes and temporary kiosks erected for that purpose. And the photographs on them, typically of a person smiling at the camera often with a child or pet in their arms, gave a very human face to the tragedy we experienced. The victims were not just numbers but were real people that stared out at us from these posters imploring us to find and return them to their families. The hope, but really the despair, expressed in these posters was palpable, and I couldn't but help but think of the families who posted these signs and the all-consuming and always present anguish they were experiencing of not knowing whether a person they loved had perished that day. There were other images that I'll never forget as well. The men and women emerging ghoul like from the mist of the fallen Towers their clothes, hair and faces covered with a fine dusting of soot most with rivulets of blood spreading down their faces like slow trickles of water, not running, but walking heads down in anguished defeat. And then there was the smell. Acrid and vulgar, the smell of loss and destruction. It lingered over the city for many months, an ever present and inescapable reminder of the events of that day.

The city became very quiet the weeks following 9/11. Horns did not honk, once boisterous and loud voices were now replaced with muted and hushed whispers. Bus rides, typically a cacophony of conversations and cell phone calls, became eerily quiet. It was clear; we were a city in morning. Morning the people who worked in the Towers and died in the attack, morning the brave policeman, fireman and other first responders who selflessly sacrificed their lives to help others, morning all those who lost somebody they loved, and morning our lost as a country of our sense of safety and security. Our lives had been forever changed that day.

Our spirit had been tested that day by a horrible evil but through our courage and sheer will our city and country came together as a community and demonstrated to our friends and enemies alike our resolve to emerge from this tragedy better, stronger and wiser. Yet despite this, it is only appropriate that we set aside some time today to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001 and to offer our condolences to all those who suffered a loss on that day.