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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The story contributed by Harvey Sage is a true one, reported on some of the major TV networks.  He has fictionalized it nicely.  Subsequently, several doctors in the hospital involved were fired.   Can you write stories like this?  The inspiration is there everyday in the newspapers and on TV.  Give it a try.  Also, we're using a substitute alligator this posting.  Do you like it?


When Banks Do What Banks Shouldn’t Be Doing

One of the issues Presidential candidates should be addressing as pointed out by me a few postings back was listed as follows:

 5.  Regulation of Wall Street and the banking industry must be tightened or loosened, depending on where you stand.


The recent loss of several billion dollars by JP Morgan Chase points up the need for such increased regulation.  What this bank did is beyond my comprehension, but let me quote from Bloomberg/Business Week’s May 14 issue (page 10) in order to give you an idea of what was happening:

“Operating much like a hedge fund, the investment office (in JP Morgan Chase’s London operation) built a position that may have totaled $100 billion in a credit-derivative index known as the CDX, which tracks the default risk of a basket of companies.  Although their precise size and purpose aren’t known, the trades generated distortions in a $10 trillion market.  For a while, the price of the index actually diverged from the price of default insurance on the individual companies underlying it.  The skewed values adversely affected investors and others who relied on the instrument to hedge hundreds of billions of dollars of bond holdings.”

Read this over once or twice … or a hundred times if you wish.  It is in English but it might as well be in Sanskrit.  What JP Morgan Chase was involved in was an extremely complex investment ploy which didn’t work out as they had expected. That is why it made headlines.  If banks are continually involved in these kinds of things, and they are (but they don’t make the headlines every day because they don’t lose billions too often), they aren’t banks any longer.  They are investment firms which should be separated from banking as the Glass-Steagall Act back in New Deal days did.  But that was repealed in 1999 during the Clinton years.  The current Dodd-Frank financial regulation laws are lame attempts to restore that separation. 

Banks which engage in such activities should be clearly labeled as investment houses and in no way, shape or form be connected with traditional banks which are in the business of providing checking and savings accounts, CDs, credit cards, automobile loans, home mortgages and loans to businesses.  

                                           Traders at Work.  Is this Banking?
If hedge funds and Wall Street speculators lost money because of these trades, that is the risk they take.  When such trades weaken a “traditional” bank, however, our entire banking system is threatened and the taxpayer put in the position of rescuing such institutions, as occurred in the 2007 financial debacle, again caused by banks doing what banks shouldn’t be doing.  Will we ever learn?  I wonder what President Obama and Mitt Romney think of this.  

                                           Tellers at Work.  Is this Banking?



By Harvey Sage

(This short story is based on a news item which I assume to be accurate, based on an event in Argentina in April 2012. God is still on His throne.)

Analia Reyes collapsed into her husband’s arms, sobbing hysterically. “No, it can’t be”, she told the dog faced doctor. “My baby can’t be dead.” They were in the lime green waiting room. Analia had given birth a few hours ago and was ambulatory. She had been waiting nervously for news of her tiny child. And now, this, a runny nose and teary

“I’m so sorry,” the white coated doctor responded in a mournful tone clutching his clipboard, “but premature babies have a higher incidence of being still born. “ He shrugged his rounded shoulders as he walked away, leaving Analia and her mate, Fabian, grasping each other for comfort. What else could he say? He didn’t know. A heavy set female medical technician entered and handed them a document.

“What’s this,” Analia asked tearfully.

“The death certificate Mrs. Reyes. It’s a legal document you’ll need in order to retrieve the child.”

Analia wailed loudly as Fabian stepped forward to ask “Where is our baby?”

“Downstairs in the cold room where we place the deceased. She’s in a tiny casket. Not to worry. It’s covered by your insurance.”

“Thanks. Thanks a lot!” Fabian controlled himself as he seethed. “Is it too much to ask, may we please see our baby? By the way, is it a boy or a girl?”

Nonplussed by Fabian’s tone the tech contritely said “It’s a girl sir. And yes, you can view her. I’ll call them and arrange things.” Almost as an afterthought she asked “Would you like a priest to be there?”
“Yes,“ he answered, “that would be kind.” It was the first kind thing that had occurred during this harrowing event.

It took a few hours to cut through the bureaucratic red tape before the Reyes’ were allowed into the viewing area where a priest sat. He was a kindly old gentleman, pencil thin and dapper in his black garb and white collar. He rose to hug them in a fatherly way. “I’m Father Puerto. I’m known as the unconventional priest declared to be too radical for the church establishment. . They’ve given me the delicate task of helping mourners who come down here where all hope is lost. But all hope is not lost. Come. Sit. Let’s talk.”

Fabian and Analia were exhausted and in no mood to talk. But they were also too tired to argue. Father Puerto acknowledged their grief. He said “Life is fleeting. We are like the flowers of the field which sprout, grow, propagate, and die. Unfortunately in your daughter’s case her lifetime was ultra short. Sad. Very sad.”

Fabian cried out in anguish. “But why Father. Why? Why would a loving and benevolent God let us carry a child for six months only to take her away from us. Why?”

Searching for comforting words, Father Puerto exclaimed,“ She was three months premature. Maybe God wanted her with Him because she had health problems. I don’t know. You don’t know. Come, let us pray. God is always in control. I know it’s difficult, but pray and have faith that what God wants for us is part of His plan.” So they held hands in a prayer circle and prayed for mercy, patience and His grace.

Then Analia prayed “Lord God, you work miracles. I’m asking that you restore life to my little one. I have faith in Your ability to speak into existence things which we can’t comprehend. Please. Help us.”

Father Puerto had seen many things in his years as a priest. He had never seen dead people come alive. Then again, God did create the universe. Was bringing a baby back to life beyond His ability? He prayed along with the mother, though reluctantly, fearful of putting God to the test and of their being disappointed if their prayers weren’t answered.
When done they went to the table where the tiny casket lay. It was varnished wood, elegant in its simplicity. Fabian told the priest that he was going to open it.
“Why?” Father Puerto asked.

“Because we want to view our child, still born or not. We want to kiss her goodbye.”

The priest signaled for the morgue tech to come and help them open it, which he did. Then the three of them gathered around the little girl. Analia stared down at the sweet and beautiful face of her child. Closing her eyes in fervent prayer Analia took hold of her tiny hand. Suddenly Analia gasped as the little hand closed ever so slightly. Then as Analia opened her eyes she saw the baby’s little mouth open, emitting a cry!

They named the baby Luz Milagros, Miracle Light. This event was broadcast via the internet news around April 11th. Recovering from the near death experience, Milagros is doing well, a testimony to God’s ability to answer the prayers of the faithful.

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Jack Lippman
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