The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Plates: What Am I Missing?

Shul was very crowded this morning (Rosh Chodesh; why it's more crowded on Rosh Chodesh, I don't get, but I digress) and, running a couple of minutes late, I had to park quite a bit away.

I passed a bunch of cars, including one that had licence plates that had "PSY" running vertically on the side, and another that said "RX".

This distracted my entire davening.

All I could think of all davening was "Why would someone bother putting 'PSY' or 'RX' on his plates" (it has to be a "his"; no woman would bother with this narishkeit)? Is it a 'I'm not a doctor but I'm just as important' ego thing? It can't be that they expect to avoid a ticket by telling the cop, "sorry, officer, I was speeding because I'm a psychologist and my patient was about to jump off the roof", or, "sorry, officer, I really have to fill this prescription". Yeah, that'll work.

Like, who cares that your a psychologist?

I'm a lawyer. Do I go around with JD plates?

Help me out with this one, people.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rant of the Year

Rick Santelli Rocks!


Friday, February 20, 2009


Yes, it's true that the market is cr*pping out and Citi's stock isn't worth the paper it's written on, but, on the other hand, pitchers and catchers reported this week.

Let's keep everything in perspective. A guten Shabbos.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nice New Old CD

Last motsai Shabbos, my holy chaver Danny dropped off a CD by Shuly Rand, the actor from the movie Ushpizin.

I've been listening to it all week and really like it. Very Israeli style but, unlike much of the post-Carlebach Israeli Chassidic music, very melodic. Some very original stuff and very fine arrangements.

I particularly like the first and last songs but many of the others are growing on me.

Being oblivious, I thought the CD was new but wghen I googled it, I realized that it's been out since the summer.

Well worth the investment.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Unintended Consequences: Pay Restrictions

Does Congress understand that, without its help, Wall Street pay got hammered this year, is going to get hammered next year (and probably in 2010 as well) and that imposing idiotic pay restrictions (that no one can figure out) is going to backfire.

I don't have time to explain just how stupid it is, for so many reasons, to formulaicly limit incentive pay. There will be huge unintended consequences unless this is fixed or refined.

I'm all for taking a hard look at comp on Wall Street. It was clearly broken. But guess what? The banks are figuring that out all by themselves.



Speaking about enough, enough already with the A-Roid stuff. Who cares? Seriously. Get over yourselves, reporters. The guy took roids, he didn't kill anyone. Time to move on.


Enough With The Sushi Already

Last night OYD and I had a lovely pre-Knicks game dinner at one of my favorite places, Olympic Pita.

I like Olympic because the food (Mediterranean grill type stuff) is good, it's fast and it's reasonable. And their laffa bread is ridiculously good.

So, we sat down to eat and were handed two menus. A regular menu and A sushi menu! A sushi menu at a Mediterranean grill? What's up with that?

Ich kenesht.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Donald UPDATED

One of the more amazing things about this country is its fascination with Donald Trump. The Donald has cratered his company at least three times, yet people still lend him money and, worse, view him as some kind of business icon. It really is bizarre.

Last night the Donald filed Trump Entertainment yet again. Two things strike me as funny. The first major workout I worked on involved the Donald. In 1990, I was put on a swat team for Citi and spent about six months on the restructuring. (I still have a signed copy of his book, "Surviving at the Top", which I got when we closed the restructuring).

The second is that the law firm that represented us on that deal is now representing him.

Is this a great country or what?

When is the business world finally going to fire the Donald?

UPDATE. This just in:

“Some time ago, I made an offer to buy the company in the hopes that I might be able to reverse its fortunes, but the bondholders turned me down. Now I will study and watch as the horrible and outrageous fees being paid to lawyers and consultants will suck the blood from the company,” the New York Times quoted Donald Trump today as saying.


A Very Important Post

By Rabbi Horowitz


Monday, February 16, 2009

Tough Decisions

The nature of my job requires that I make quick decisions. I make many decisions every day, some more important than others but some that are very important. And, I am blessed with pretty good instincts and the confidence to make those decisions on the fly without any hesitation.

Except when it comes to things like dressing the Vance.

This morning I did the early shift on the treadmill so when it was time to dress the Vance, MHW was on the spin bike. Yikes.

I picked out a grey sweater, a white, long sleaved undershirt, a grey skirt and very cute patterned grey tights. But, totally lacking confidence in what I had picked, I called OOD upstairs to take a look at my selections.

"Nice job, Dad. You just have to go with your instincts."

I guess.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Random Thoughts Roundup

1. My 401(k) is substantially in cash and investment grade bonds. That's what I think of the stock market for the next couple of years. I think we are in for a prolonged slump, particularly on Wall Street and real estate. The stimulus bill will be useless. Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be ugly.

2. The impact of this economic downturn will have an incredibly profound impact on the observant Jewish community. There are countless numbers of people who may never make as much money annually as they did in 2006. Or, if they are lucky, it may take them years to get back to making as much. It will force us all to change how we look at things, how we do things and on our expectations. Think Pesach, summer camp, school tuition, the kollel system, etc.

3. Many of these changes will be for the good, albeit painful. Things will have to be rationalized, schools and other charitable organizations are going to have to be much more careful with money, and people may actually begin to behave in a more tzniusdik way. Also, aliyah will increase substantially. If you are unemployed, you might as well look for work in Israel; it's a lot less painful if you don't have to pay tuition.


The Wacky Ways of Washington

The reason I haven't posted much is that, once again, I've been crazy busy at work. (This is unlikely to change any time soon). One of the things I've been focused on is a change in the tax code that we've been trying to get put into the stimulus spendulus bill.

(My thoughts on that horrid piece of legislation: It will not help revive the economy but will saddle us and our children with having to pay for wasteful spending for years to come). Oink.

I will spare you the boring details of the amendment save to say that it relates to something called Cancellation of Indebtedness Income tax (CODI) on "deemed exchanges".

A few weeks ago we met in Washington to plead our case with senior Treasury people. While they got the joke, they told us it needed a legislative, not regulatory, fix and recommended that we try the stimulus bill. We wrote to a few key Senators and got some coverage in what's called the "tax press" (can you believe there is such a thing?).

Then the fun began.

The amendment that we were looking for started bouncing in and out of every succeeding version of the Senate bill. On the morning of the Senate vote, it was in. We found out that the version that the Senate voted on later that day did not have the amendment.

We were not happy.

Then, on Thursday, we found out that even though the amendment had not been in the House version nor the Senate version, it ended up in the final version agreed to in the House/Senate Conference. It is now part of the 1000 page bill that Obamarama will sign on Tuesday. I have to admit, I have no idea what happened or why and I don't understand how a provision that wasn't in either bill gets put in in conference. But I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm taking full credit for it.

(The good news is that unlike most of the rest of the bill this amendment actually will help stimulate the economy).

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Holy House for Sale

Countless holy musical gigs have taken place in this place. That alone makes it worth buying. But there's much more.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Oy Bama

Not an auspicious start for the Messiah.

The stimulus plan is like the TSA.

Everyone knows it won't work but they make believe it will because they figure the public will be happy if the politicians do something (i.e., the mindless, easy thing) rather than nothing, and they are unwilling to put in the work to do the right thing.

With a 65% approval rating, Obama could have used the Republicans to craft a really targeted, useful plan but instead let the children, i.e., the House Democrats led by little Nancy Pelosi, loose.

This "plan" is a disaster.

Maybe Obama is not as smart as he thinks he is.


Friday, February 06, 2009

One Day I will Get Myself Arrested

Followers of this blog know that (i) I travel fairly frequently, (ii) I have no patience for the dopey, useless and annoying rules of the TSA, and (iii) I have been "selected" twice in the last three months for "special treatment", including a strip search on my way to Israel last November (by TSA, not El Al).

Last night, on my way to the redeye for my trip home from Los Angeles, I walked to the security gate wheeling a carry on bag on top of which sat my lap top. I was also sporting my knapsack on my back.

The security folks stopped me.

TSA: "You can only bring two carry on items into security."

MoC: "I'm travelling business class".

TSA: "Doesn't matter; that's the rule".

MoC: (As I'm struggling to fit my lap top into my knapsack and my lap top carrying case into my wheelie). "Well, the rule is stupid."

After I squeezed everything into the two bags, I walked though security and said:

"OK? You happy now?"

TSA: "It's the rule"

MoC: "Well, the rule is stupid."

One day, for sure, I'm going to get arrested.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Democrats and Taxes

I finally figured out why Democrats are so quick to raise our taxes.

They apparently don't pay them!

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Time To Get A Life

On my way to the office this morning after an early morning meeing, I passed by the Barnes & Noble on 46th and 5th. There was a line around the corner at 9 a.m. for a 12:30 p.m. book signing by Joe Torre. It was cold and snowy.

What could possibly possess someone to wait in the cold and snow for more than three hours for the opportunity to pay $25 to get a book signed by Joe Torre?

I don't get it.

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Monday, February 02, 2009


Further to below...

After we had put The Vance to sleep on Friday night, MHW, OYD and I were discussing the future. In particular, we were joking around about how old we are to be parenting an almost four year old.

OYD noted that we should feel good because as we begin to shrink from old age, The Vance, who is very tall for her age, will be able to reach the top shelves of the kitchen cabinets.

How reassuring.


Relief, Joy and Profound Sadness

The legal saga surrounding the status of The Vance finally ended in a court hearing on Friday. I am still not at liberty to discuss details. Suffice it to say that, B'Ezras Hashem, we will be in a position to finalize the Vance's adoption within about six months.

MHW and I left the hearing extremely relieved. It did not become clear until the end of the hearing that the result would be positive. It was nervewracking.

We were also, of course, very happy. The Vance has been with us all but the first ten weeks of her life. She is now almost four. We are the only family she has ever known. She is as much a part of our family as each of the other kids, no more, no less. She is one of "the sisters". So, we were full of joy that she will continue to grow up as part of the mishpacha and that all doubts are finally put aside.

Finally, we were profoundly sad. The hearing was, truly, heartbreaking. Our gain was someone else's tragic loss. And, no matter how strongly I feel that this is the right result and in the best interests of The Vance, you have to be heartless not to feel for The Vance's birth mother. This feeling, more than any other, stayed with us through the weekend.

(The birth mother still has visitation rights that were worked out so she will continue to be a part of The Vance's life. Nevertheless...)

So, our gratitude to The One Above is endless. We are also grateful to all the wonderful people at OHEL who guided us (and will continue to guide us) through this journey. Their mesiras nefesh is inspiring.

(Speaking of which, OHEL is always looking for a few good foster families. If you live in the Metro area and are interested, please let me know.)