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"You're too Nice." -- Really?

Showtime’s series, “Billions,” is a smart, wild journey in the world of finance, legal tightwires, investor manipulation, shady deals dressed in big money, deceit, and a style of living only a few ever really experience.
Half the time I have no idea what they are talking about. The financial sophistication and the language of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), the justice department, the FBI, and the office of the US attorney in New York City is baffling.
But, the storylines, the characters, and so much of the dialogue is so captivating and even instructive that I enjoy it. Anyone in business or law would find this series illuminating.
Mostly, though, the series is a shocking look at how a lot of life goes on in our country. Particularly how we operate in our careers, our jobs, and our relationships both in and out of work.
Even though this is a fictional series, I think it hits close to home for many viewers. Not that we know the life of high finance and a New York City luxur…
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Is There a Cure for Cynicism Today?

I fight like crazy these days to refrain from cynicism. I am by nature a pretty pleasant person. I want to see good in everyone. I love to laugh, to feel joy, to delight in life. I try to manage my anger, take a deep breath, and stay calm. It doesn’t always work.
For instance, I’m thinking now how I would rather watch every tedious moment of the entire Royal Wedding than to have had to watch five seconds of the celebration of moving our American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and listening to Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress pray.
I have thoughts on that. But I’m holding back. They are not kind thoughts. They stir in me that image that Nick Lowe sings about, “The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars.” I’m trying to hold the locks in place.
I have Jewish friends that I cherish. I honor them and their faith. Judaism is a historic system of beautiful beliefs. But what has gone on in Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu is something I find grossly offensive. And our …

A Solemn Warning

War is a bloody, filthy business. It’s a deadly enterprise and mostly wasteful. I think of some lines from the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus:
“They sent forth men to battle,
But no such men return;
And home, to claim their welcome,
Come ashes in an urn.”
We hide that reality, really well. We hide it in flags and snappy uniforms, in patriotic songs and cheering parades. The dead don’t see or hear any it. They are buried and forgotten because what is promoted and endlessly exhibited before us are the supersonic bombers, the giant warships, the sleek nuclear missiles that promise our protection.
Our soldiers are strewn across a battlefield of gross cynicism and lethal greed created by what must be completely soulless politicians, warmongers, psychopaths, killers, puffed up blowhards, and scandalous hustlers who pay our soldiers pennies, use and waste them, and leave them broken, ravished, and demolished.
And we celebrate these atrocities as patriotic?
It’s all a vulgar and malicious demons…

Growing to Full Moral Stature

It is becoming more and more clear every day, for those who didn’t see it the first day, that President Trump is an unruly and unprincipled leader.

He may have a good side buried somewhere beneath the outer impenetrable layer of bravado that defines him. But so far it has not surfaced in any meaningful way.

I know people, friends and acquaintances, who still support and like him. And I try not to talk about the president with them. We simply see things much differently.

I have among my Facebook friends some who have no real issue with Mr. Trump. People who voted for him and will probably vote for him again. I try to be aware of them when I write because in the past I have often been insensitive to those who don’t agree with me about the president.

But whatever good his supporters believe he has accomplished or wants to achieve, I cannot help but think they, too, see the obvious flaws in president Trump. We all have them. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Carter and all the other …

Seeing the Small is Insight

Steinbeck once said he was born lost and had no interest in being found. I think I understand that comment.
I feel that way at times. Well, in the sense that it’s nice now and then to mentally, and if possible, physically, get lost and leave the chaos and the absurdity of the nonsense around us.
The moral and social fabric of our country is in alarming need of repair. One can only stand staring at it for so long before panic sets in and the ground opens up in some yawning gloom of darkness.
I picked up an acorn cap the other day while walking. You know that little textured hat that sits on an acorn? They are elaborately constructed if you take the time to look at them. And they all fit so perfectly on top of the acorn. It’s quite a tiny miracle when you realize that the acorn produces an oak tree.
The ancient mystics wrote, “Seeing the small is insight.” What could we learn from that?
We live in an obsession with bigness. Everything is bigger in Texas, we say. Why is that impressive? We ha…

Trying to Get it Together

Kant, the brilliant German philosopher, wrote, “Wisdom is organized life.”
That is genius. And that is what we are missing today; organized life. Well, genius, too.
Everything is a mess. Our president. Congress. Religion. Education. The economy. The environment. It’s all a disorganized, sloppy jumble of ideas and chaotic priorities. And our own lives reel in the confusion.
We lack wisdom. We are missing any real guiding principles. What do we represent as a people, as a nation, other than angry personal divisions, a shallow obsession with materialism, empty religion, and a contorted political system that only works for affluent, well-connected individuals and corporations?
Our major social platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter can be places of real connection, family photos, invites to fun events, cute videos of pets, helpful news and interesting pieces of art, essays, and great music. But too often these are also places of vitriol, rage, bullying, bigotry, used to stir up…

Was Plato Right?

War. What are we doing still fighting wars into the 21st century? In WWI, 6 million soldiers and civilians were killed. In WWII, the numbers soared to an estimated 50 to 55 million people. During WWII, 6 million Jews were murdered in the Nazi death camps.
In the Vietnam War, more than 5 million North and South Vietnamese civilians were killed. Approximately 250,000 Vietnamese soldiers died. America lost 58,220 soldiers. In the War in Iraq, 4,486 U.S. soldiers died and so far, 2,345 have died in Afghanistan. More than 1 million soldiers were wounded in both wars. Those wars cost America 6 trillion dollars. And in spite of the carnage, Iraq remains entangled in a civil war and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan are still undefeated.
Without even listing the statistics of the fighting in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, and other places, one begins to wonder what has war accomplished?
Japan was bombed into submission with the Hydrogen Bomb and Hitler and the Nazis were defeated. But sin…