Why Stuff Happens!

March 6, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell is a terrific author. His books include The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Blink:  The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Outliers:  The Story of Success, and David  and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Mr. Gladwell represents the very popular face of a relative new discipline, behavioral economics. Per Wikipedia (and this definition may be narrow):  “[b]ehavioral economics and the related field, behavioral finance, study the effects of social, cognitive, and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals and institutions and the consequences for market pricesreturns, and the resource

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Five Chiefs by John Paul Stevens

February 27, 2014

John Paul Stevens served as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from December 1975 until June 2010, about 34 and one-half years. During his tenure—the third longest in Supreme Court history[1]—he served with Chief Justices Warren Burger, William Rehnquist and the current Chief, John Roberts.

Five Chiefs is a delightful, 250-ish page memoir of the first 91.5 years of John Paul Stevens’ life. (He’s alive and fast approaching his 94th birthday.) The five Chiefs include, in addition to the three I already mentioned, Fred Vinson (in place when Justice Stevens clerked for Justice Wiley Rutledge) and Earl Warren, before whom he appeared in his only oral argument before the Court. (Non-attorney readers:  an appearance

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February 22, 2014

Almost three years ago, Ms. J–yes, the same Ms. J who serves as my “food foil”–and I took a summer vacation. An unfinished essay about spaces grew out of the trip. Here it is, completed.

Lots of confined spaces. An apartment, just like all of the others in the 10-stack, next to other vertical rows with similar floor plans on either side. A hotel room, tight and small and, as it happens, in the most romantic hotel in America (the Spindrift Inn, in Monterey, CA), according to the 2011 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice Hotel Awards. (That’s what you sometimes get when you get your hotel through Priceline, when you are parked on a side street in Santa Barbara, CA

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Inequality – Part 1

February 22, 2014

Inequality has become the new buzzword.[1] I have plenty to say about this issue. We live in a society that, less and less, aggregates at the mean, which is fancy talk for “the very rich are outdistancing us, as we all run in place.” Expect several posts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, one of the problems with the inequality discussion involves a lack of information, Herewith, some information:

We hear plenty about the middle class, protecting the middle class, building the middle class, the evaporating middle class, etc. So who belongs in the middle class?

Income and wealth get very much blurred in our discourse. But for the lucky few with inherited wealth, wealth is a function

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Founding Fathers … and Claptrap!

February 15, 2014

Everybody minds and pays homage to the Founding Fathers. And the Framers, those Founding Fathers who drafted the Constitution.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s model for deciding cases—original intent—directs justices and judges to determine the intent of the Framers, as it is embodied in the text of the Constitution. Sarah Palin and Mika Brezinski love the Founding Fathers. Ms. Palin says “all of them” are her favorites, and Ms. Brezinski likes Abraham Lincoln, who was born in 1809, 22 years after the nation adopted the Constitution! Speaker Newt Gingrich tells Governor Mitt Romney the Founding Fathers wanted to be sure opportunities existed for the very poor, responding to Governor Romney’s statement that he won’t worry about the poor if he becomes the

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The Robert Caro LBJ Books

February 15, 2014

Are you looking for a little something to read? Maybe a nice little biography suits you? Don’t pick up The Path to Power, Means of Ascent, Master of the Senate, or The Passage of Power, all by Robert Caro! On the other hand, if you want to lose yourself in the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, really understand the inner workings of our government from the 1930s through the 1960s, and appreciate what it takes to obtain and exercise power on a grand scale, dive in!

The Path to Power was first published in 1982. It was a great read, and I knew there would be more volumes. I could not, however, appreciate the fact that

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Strategic Planning Writ Larger

February 9, 2014

I have been actively engaged in the nonprofit/charitable sector for almost 20 years. (I am presently in disengagement mode, planning to take an extended break.) Through my experiences I learned many things, especially about how nonprofits differ from businesses and governmental agencies.

Large business entities—Microsoft, Chase, General Electric, etc.—work off of strategic plans. These organizations expend time and money figuring out where they want to be at given points in time, and how they will get there. The plans are not static, for sure, but they do not function in the “stuff happens, so don’t bother planning” realm.

The nonprofits with which I have been involved are all much, much smaller than the icons of the American economy. Budgets ranged

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Testing, Testing …

February 8, 2014

My Friends, my blog–Mark Rubin Writes–is alive … almost! The site lacks some features, I’m still trying to navigate and understand what seem like they ought to be simple maneuvers, etc., and I have to connect with “my people” about tweeting and other such stuff. (No, this blog does not feature tech guidance.) In the meantime, I’m tired of waiting for perfection.

Please like my new FB page and, as the spirit moves you, comment on individual posts. Also, I really, really want feedback about the blog, the look and feel, subjects, etc. You’ll see law and related topics during the week, food and fun as the week winds down, and opinions and analysis during the weekend. I started with

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March on Washington + 50 Years

August 26, 2013

It’s hard not to choke up listening to clips from the “I Have a Dream” speech. So much promise, so much death during the 60s, and I cannot help but focus on the fact that the many 1960s martyrs had children, my age, and never got to see their kids grow up! As a product of a pretty stable two-parent household, I cannot imagine the challenges these families faced in turbulent times!
Emotions aside, I’m fascinated by how easily anyone can argue for a nearly full or almost empty cup. On the full side? Exhibit A is President Barack Obama. Elected, and re-elected—in a not really very close election—despite a poor economy
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Substantiating a Charitable Donation

February 16, 2013

If you are make charitable gifts, you must play by the rules, and what may seem like substantial compliance won’t satisfy the Internal Revenue Service or the United States Tax Court. That’s the lesson from In re Durden, T.C. Memo.2012-140 (May 17, 2012).

Here are the basic facts. In 2007 David and Veronda Durden gave the Nevertheless Community Church $24,854 in a series of checks, each of which was for more than $250. The church sent an acknowledgment letter that covered every check, and sent it before the the Durdens filed their 2007 federal income tax return. Unfortunately, the church forgot to mention in the letter that the Durdens received no goods or services in return for the contributions.

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