What Feminism Was Supposed To Do

How is it that 45 years after the birth of feminism, and its continued growth as a social movement in this country, we discover for all that time we were enmeshed in systemic sexual harassment of girls and women? Why is it that the same girls and women who were fighting for equal pay and the right to dress as they pleased seemed unable, or unwilling, to simultaneously fight for their own physical and emotional safety? Why are the multitude of people who acquiesced, or turned a blind eye, to the sexual harassment and degradation of women now being hailed as “courageous” for merely jumping on the band wagon of what only a very few (e.g. Rose McGowan and Natasha Henstridge) had real courage to expose?

The answer isn’t that feminism was a fraudulent movement so much as it was a misguided one. It had its priorities wrong. In trying to achieve equal respect, promotion parity and wage equality for women, it told women the way to get there was to be like men. Nowhere was the movement’s mantra said better or more succinctly than when leader and spokesperson for the feminist movement, Gloria Steinem, voiced “We’re becoming the men we wanted to marry.” Well, yes. But that created the result 45 years later: 1) there are very few of those men left and 2) an awful lot of people aren’t even sure which gender they, in fact, are.

This isn’t about gender identity. It’s about what it means to be a woman. To be the walking, talking, “Divine Feminine” if you will.  There seems to be a lot of confusion about this term. It’s not a mystical or metaphysical concept. It’s one of two specific creations by the Divine. In Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Let’s not parse words or get theologically bound in minutia. Generally speaking, we can agree that men and women exist and that there are some inherent differences in the way we are wired. Not in whether we would rather play football or dress Barbie… but in how we approach conflict resolution or emotional issues. Scientists studying dissimilarities underlying some of the most important gender distinctions have found distinctions deeply rooted to the days when men were hunters on the savanna and women were gatherers rearing children near camp.

I suggest we women are wired in a particular way, as are men, such that working together, in harmony, we provide a natural balance that is necessary for the continued well-being of the species as well as the planet we inhabit. When imbalance occurs, the species and the planet suffer. In the extreme, our very existence is at stake.

For thousands of years societies, and the planet, have been predominantly administered by Divine male energy. For the most part, and in most places, influence of the Divine feminine has been marginalized, ignored, subjugated or enslaved. This has resulted in profound imbalance and its resulting effects. Because nature, of which we are a part, has the power to rectify imbalance, what we are seeing is a re-emergence of the Divine feminine.

But we must be very careful not to confuse the Divine feminine with feminism.

The Divine feminine has as its inherent quality a countervailing energy to the Divine masculine. It is not the Divine feminine’s role to become the Divine masculine but rather to countervail it. To balance it out.

I don’t countervail a guy whose pants are worn in a way to expose his rear end by in turn dressing to expose my breasts. I do so by dressing modestly thereby showing respect for my physical body. I do not countervail aggressive or violent behavior by acting similarly. I do so by reasoned thought and compassion for someone’s discomfort or pain.

The danger of the #TimesUp movement, or the Oprah Winfrey speech at the Golden Globes, or all those who now think its “women’s turn” is in us becoming a reaction rather than a countervailing force.  Reactions tend to be equal and opposite. We do not need women to now spend decades or centuries…even millennia…reacting to the mess unbalanced male energy has created. This would only bring about more imbalance albeit at the opposite end of the spectrum.

What we need to do now, as the Divine Feminine, is to move with ease and grace into those places where imbalance is evident. In actual practice, this means that both men and women will have to examine their own internal balance and adjust accordingly. It is no longer about one or the other gender being in power. Nor is it about being confused into thinking that men must become women or vice versa. Just as no one politician can solve all of our problems, no one gender can either. Where diversity exists, whether in politics or gender, conflict resolution is a team sport. Successful teams have players who each contribute something of value to the end game. But the success starts with the preparedness of each individual player and their understanding of the contribution they must make to the team.

The Divine feminine is not here to usher in a new era of female dominion over men. We’re here to make the unique contribution only we can make toward fulfilling our part in creating and maintaining the harmony and balance necessary to sustain the world.

Carole (contact@carolegold.com)

 

Thoughts on Social Unrest

In America, hopelessness reigns supreme.

Over the past few years, this sad reality is evidenced by the explosion of social movements.  The rise of Black Lives Matter, the taking a knee to the National Anthem, reemergence of neo-Nazis and, most recently, the “safe space” movements on college campuses which embrace violence to protest conservative speakers.

All of these are symptomatic of an underlying frustration born of a lack of hope. This lack has manifested in race riots in Charlottesville and Baltimore as well as the more radicalized politics of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. At first, both of those candidates were considered so far removed from main stream politics that their supporters were the brunt of jokes and mockery. Yet here we are with Donald Trump as President and Bernie Sanders still supported by a loyal following.

While at first glance these protests seem to be about race, immigration or opposition to Donald Trump, I think they are really about hopelessness fueled by the dire state of our economy.

The U.S. economy has been growing steadily the last eight years. First, slowly under Obama, and now having taken off under Trump. The stock market is booming and job growth has begun. Yet, median incomes remain $60,000 and the average college debt is more than $30,000. The average cost of a house is upwards of $200,000. Even a decent apartment is beyond the financial reach of many.

Realizing that most Americans need more money in their pockets, the Trump Administration passed the new tax law which should help many Americans. Yet it sparked outrage among the Left. I think their reaction to the tax plan is based upon fear. With so many people living on the government dole, there is a general concern that since taxpayers will now be paying less taxes, less money will be going to fund these government dependency programs and that is the heart of the Left’s base. However, we are twenty trillion dollars in debt, with no solution in sight as private and public debt soar, so its beyond perplexing that the Left is worried about a new tax law rather than the massive amount of debt that hangs over all of our heads.

Not only is there little outrage over this massive debt, but there is virtually no outrage over the fact that Social Security is run as a Ponzi scheme. Everyone knows this. There are no segregated accounts and younger people pay for elderly peoples’ retirements. This farce could only be maintained in the public sector. Try to run a Ponzi scheme in the private sector, the way the government has run Social Security, and you’d likely wind up in prison.

Oh, right. Charles Ponzi did.

While the U.S. economy as a whole is not run as a Ponzi scheme, there have been many other schemes run on an unassuming and unaware public in order to keep the economy chugging along. These schemes have created massive advantages to the players who knew when, and how, the levers of profitability were being pulled. For example, the main beneficiaries of our economy have been people who had access to capital. Most recently, the wealthy have been able to benefit from the rise in the housing, stock markets and hard assets like gold. Those who cannot afford to play on the fields of banking, borrowing and investment, salaried employees who live on fixed wages, have (to the contrary) seen their purchasing power eroded at the same time those select few have been amassing fortunes.

The irony is that we are a nation with amazing economic numbers to be envied; yet, only a few have benefited from the boom.

It’s hard to wrap your brain around the reality that as asset prices soar so many are struggling and getting poorer. Even the mainstream media has a hard time understanding this paradox and, consequently, seems unable to accurately report it. So much so that when they cover the protests they report on the event (such as a Blacks Lives Matter march) as if in an intellectual vacuum while failing to report of the frustration that fuels the event.

Many years ago, I took a course on counter-terrorism presented by a British Royal Marine instructor who talked about how the British kept Northern Ireland in check. During one of the discussions, a senior U.S. Marine Officer made an observation about how U.S. Inner cities had become like war zones (think: downtown Detroit and parts of Baltimore). He  remarked on the steps our government took to make these places safer. One of things he cited was the role of the U.S. Post Office. It was, essentially, a jobs program for the underclass. The Post Office provided middle income jobs for people who really had no other economic alternatives. Those jobs acted as a stabilizing effect in the troubled cities.

The Officer’s comment bothered me. It was the first time I had grasped this notion: the U.S. government actually implemented jobs’ programs to pay off its citizens. What this Officer was really saying was that there would always be two economies: one for the poor and disenfranchised (who needed to be “paid off”) and one for everyone else.

Now twenty years later, as I reflect on his comments, the unrest and riots are getting worse.

I have often lived on the fringes of urban housing and substandard areas. As a result, I am intimately familiar with the frustration and rage that exists in those neighborhoods. Imagine how you would feel if you could look across the street and see your neighbors living the life of luxury while you knew your economic situation would never change. Many thought urban housing would provide a respite for families living in areas where typical housing was beyond their financial reality. However, all the project and subsidized housing did was assure that those who moved in stayed, or were stuck there, for generations. Like Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, government largess creates more poverty.

What the U.S. economy really needs is a reality check and a return to normalcy. There are really only a few ways to do that and one is more likely that all the others. With twenty trillion dollars in debt resting on the backs of those least able to afford it, massive default is the probable outcome.

If you don’t think that causes hopelessness you’re just not paying attention.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Cut Out The Middleman If You Dare

We are living during an economic revolution wherein the “middleman” is being eliminated. In most cases this is good news. If you need a cab you now call Uber where both the driver and the passenger benefit. Cab companies no longer have a monopoly on who can drive and, most importantly, who can obtain a license (medallion) to do so. Uber opened the industry to millions of people who wanted to drive a cab and earn some money on the side but for whom obtaining a license was cost prohibitive and oftentimes a political impossibility.

Airbnb is another example of a company that has so benefited. Historically, if you needed a place to stay in a town you were unfamiliar with you had to go through a hotel booking site. No longer. Airbnb opened that market by allowing homeowners to rent out rooms and, in many cases, their whole house.

There are many other such examples but its not always the case.

Within the field of institutional finance it has been a disaster. Investment banks use to act as the middleman when it came to clearing transactions; but, with the advent of Dodd-Frank and the elimination of investment banks, there are no middlemen to clear trades. Nowhere is this more disastrous than in the bond market.

In life, the things we know are dwarfed by the things we don’t.  The bond market is boring to most people as they feel it has little consequence in their lives. In fact, the bond market greatly affects all of our lives. In 2008, it was the collapse of bond market that almost precipitated the entire destruction of our financial system. Therefore, its safe to say the bond market is something we should definitely try to understand.

Let’s do a basic primer.

The bond market is really the main determinate of what sets the rate for money.  Any time you need to buy a car, a house or apply for a credit card, the rate that applies is determined by current bond market rates. Thus the speed, quality and efficiency of the bond market affects all consumers in a variety of economic activities.

Prior to the bond market collapse of 2007-2008, investment banks would act as an intermediary for all bond transactions. When the market was selling off, bond traders at investment banks would come in and buy the bonds and act as a stabilizing effect on the markets. They did so because the market would reward them for assuming this risk.

However, after the collapse of 2008, investment banks ceased to exist, They were transformed into commercial banks. Under regulatory oversight and applicable law, commercial banks can’t use depositors’ monies for speculative purposes. In addition, the banks were further prohibited from taking speculative positions and could only transact when they had an available buyer and available seller on the other side.

Since these changes have been implemented, very little secondary trading takes place. Mutual funds and pension funds now know that when they buy a bond there is a good chance they will have to hold that instrument until maturity. They know it will be very hard to sell their bond holdings. These investment funds have very little turnover in their portfolios and are assuming greater and greater risk as a result.

Currently, with low volatility and low yields, nobody seems to be worried too much about this problem; but, crisis always hits the financial markets and what’s ahead will be no different. Although there has not been a financial crisis since 2008,  during the previous ten years there were four major shocks to the system: dot com bust in 2000; the Russian crisis in 1998; Long Term Capital bust in 1998, and the Asian crisis in 1997. The fact is: booms and busts are part of, and natural to, the credit cycle.

We have already seen a glimpse of what is to come with the collapse of the Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund in 2015. Given the problems the fund endured, it had to unwind. However, it took over two years to get the investors their money back. Why? Because the investors were trapped. There were no ready and willing buyers to buy those distressed assets. The fund was not huge. It had about five billion in assets. Imagine the problems that will come when a much larger funds needs to be liquidated. Now think about those investors who could not get their money out and had to raise liquidity to meet their own obligations in other ways.

What happens when you cut out the middleman out of the bond market is that panic ensues.

Here in the U.S., we have been quick to embrace many of the new technologies that eliminated the need for a middleman. But let’s be clear. Investment banks did very well for years clearing bond trades. Now that mechanism no longer exists. We are entering uncharted territory and this lack of a middleman should worry us all. What happens when a large pension fund is forced to sell off some of its assets and isn’t able to meet its redemption needs?  Are we going to tell the retirees to wait two years for their liquidity?

The technocrats point to Uber and Airbnb as companies that have benefited us all by cutting out the middleman. But, uh oh!, very few if any of these companies are making any money. The bet on these companies is that one day they will make money. Even titans like Amazon, Netflix and Tesla have struggled to make money because they have had to spend a fortune on growth. Such companies could only exist in an environment like the current one… where the financial markets are so distorted they can borrow unlimited amounts of money to fuel their growth.

Before the markets become rational again, and they will, there will be blood on the streets. Then, once again, markets will reward companies that make money and punish those that don’t. This is the way it has always been during rational times. We will again see the value of companies based upon the merits of their ideas and the profits those ideas generate. We will even see the error of government regulators in taking away the role of investment banks to naturally provide liquidity in the financial markets. Until then, buckle up.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Intel’s Bug is a Plague

This week it was revealed that Intel, the largest manufacturer of computer processors has, since 1995, been producing processors with an inherent bug. The bug provides a way to hack every computer and mobile device that has one of those processors. This translates into an incomprehensible amount of computers and mobile devises that can be hacked for the most private, and mistakenly believed, protected data.

We will inevitably lose our identities as we have lost our privacy.

While I am a lawyer, I am also a natural intuitive. Psychic, if you will. As a result of that inherent dichotomy in the way I am wired, I have always had two sets of nearly incompatible friends. One set is my left-brain, logical-rational friends and the other my right-brain, creative-intuitive friends. Most of the latter are psychics. People whose intuition is highly developed and who believe in concepts that make my left-brain friends roll their eyes in condescension and disbelief…concepts such as past lives, bi-location, astral projection and for purposes of this post, the lost continent of Atlantis.

It is human nature that when we encounter people whose world view is radically different than our own to see those people as either ignorant or crazy. After all, how else does one continue to put stock, not to mention faith, in one’s ideas and beliefs if not by negating those which present a direct challenge to our status quo? The latest example of this is how many people dismiss, even hate, Donald Trump…and none more than the hard core politicians and agenda driven individuals who have been running this country their way for a hundred years. But this is just one example.

Here’s another.

My psychic friends and I believe that Atlantis (and perhaps Lemuria) were civilizations that had advanced technologically to the point, or beyond, to which we have now arrived. As a result of misusing that advanced technology, combined with a corresponding lack of ethical and moral development, that civilization destroyed itself. Further, add to that historical perspective the concept of reincarnation and we believe that many of us alive today were also alive then, in Atlantis. We are, so to speak, “back.” It is our opportunity to “get it right” this time by not allowing the technology to control or destroy humanity.

Which brings me back to the Intel bug. We are most likely going to make the same mistakes again that were made in Atlantis. We are headed for destruction in several ways thanks to the proliferation of technological development alongside a dearth of moral, ethical, and social development of equal measure.

We are all addicted to the technology. You know it and I know it and anyone who says otherwise is in denial. From the couples and families who dine together while texting, to the waiting rooms at hospitals and public spaces filled with people all on their cell phones, to the internet shopping, to the manipulated news we allow to control our thinking, to the social media that is a vacuous substitute for real life…we are all addicted.

Now we are on the verge, through AI, of substituting robots for what is left of relationships. Men will be able to have female bot partners that satisfy their every carnal fantasy with no corresponding emotional demands while women will be able to have partners that satisfy their emotional needs without having to work so hard to make that happen or, in many instances, paying the price of their self-respect in order to even have a partner.  We will purchase our customized partners while human mates be damned. Japanese men have already shown us the future of what happens when you can choose between an emotionally complex (and perceived demanding sexual partner) and one that provides whatever is asked for while asking nothing in return. The Japanese men prefer the bots.

Isn’t that why we like our dogs and cats so much? Unconditional love, even when we neglect or abuse them? We get what we want and need while the “other” be damned. It’s easier that way, right? The problem is that what comes easy is generally unappreciated and undervalued. We find meaning in life from our struggles, from the things we strive, sweat and work for not from what comes easy. It’s one of the most profound lessons of human existence that we all learn, sooner or later. So having everything we want handed to us, or our every want and desire anticipated and satisfied, will not only be empty of meaning it will cripple and enslave us.

So, while it is typical that when most people hear the word psychic, or talk of alternate realities and reincarnation, they take it with a grain of salt…or not at all…those of us who have walked that path for all, or most, of our lives have seen this handwriting on the wall. We are headed for self-destruction. Not of a few individuals, but of the species as we know it.

Why?

Because regardless of how lifelike the bots are, or how advanced the AI becomes, none of it is human. At best these are all man-made substitutes. Only hubris leads us to conclude that we can replicate through technology what God has created. And like all forgeries, what we try and replicate will, in the end, be revealed for the fraud it is.

The Torah, the first Five Book of Moses commonly referred to as the “Old Testament” is instructive. This same hubris led humankind to build a tower to the heavens so that back then they, too, could be as God. The effort resulted in chaos, destruction and separation we still suffer from today.

Laugh at and dismiss the psychics, the intuitives with a sixth sense, if you will. But in your heart you know that we are in trouble and it isn’t Donald Trump, the Republicans or the Democrats that is the source of that trouble. It is us…and the disease that will wipe us out isn’t plague. Its hubris.

Carole (contact@carolegold.com)

Sexual Harassment and Empowerment of Women

The reaction of women to the ongoing revelations of sexual harassment charges is of greater concern to me than the charges themselves. My concern stems from a common misunderstanding of the concept of “empowerment” which leads people to draw incorrect conclusions. Empowerment is not something someone else gives you or takes from you.  Empowerment is something you give yourself and, therefore, is only absent if you relinquish it.

I do not dismiss the importance of shining a bright light on immoral, and too often, criminal behavior. It is wrong to touch, fondle, or make sexually explicit contact with the body of another human being without their consent. Such actions are that much more egregious when they occur in a work related environment and are the quid pro quo for advancing one’s career.

How someone behaves towards you is separate from whether you condone or condemn the behavior and its is definitely unrelated to how you think and feel about yourself.  Certainly young children are vulnerable to developing self-images based upon how they are treated and valued by the adults around them. But, as my father used to say, “You’re 3 times 7 now so think for yourself.” Once we reach a certain age of maturity, we become responsible for what we will tolerate, the decisions we make and the consequences that flow from them.

If women want to know what is empowering the answer is dignity, which is why empowerment is an internally generated process, not a externally gifted one.  No one gives you dignity. You claim it by valuing your divinity and acting accordingly.

I applaud Salma Hayek for her honesty and courage in going public in a New York Times opinion piece this week by sharing her story of suffering under the harassment and emotional abuse perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein. For much of Hayek’s story she stood her ground against Weinstein’s lewd advances and verbal abuse, and by so doing, made her efforts to bring the movie “Frida” to the screen that much more difficult.

But in the end, Hayek compromised herself to get the film made by acquiescing to Weinstein’s demand that she perform a full frontal nudity scene with another female actress. In her own words, Hayek admits that her “vomiting” and literal “nervous breakdown” over Weinstein’s demand stemmed from the fact that she knew she would be performing the scene for Weinstein’s personal pleasure not for any artistic purpose. Dignity is the key to empowerment. Hayek’s relinquishment of her dignity, her acquiescence to what she knew was demeaning and degrading, is the real crime. A crime against self. Its why she never really got over it and why it haunts her.

Assaults to our dignity as the Divine Feminine, as women, happen in large and small ways every day of our personal and professional lives. It is up to us to establish healthy and self-serving boundaries around what we will and will not tolerate. Further we must establish firm boundaries and standards around what price we are willing to pay to gain acceptance, advancement or simply to be “liked.”

As an Intuitive, I do spiritual counseling. Yesterday, a client called for a session over the phone. He began to tell me about a heated encounter he had with a superior. The client was enraged and used profanity after profanity to share the exchange and his lingering anger. I told him that I had the picture and asked him to stop using the profanity. He continued. When I asked him again he said, “That’s how I talk and I am not going to change it for you.” So I told him I don’t engage in that level of dialogue and did not intend to be the object of it. I ended the session much to his displeasure. Following the call, he texted me that he was “just venting” and that his rage wasn’t directed at me. My reply was that regardless of how he described it, I chose to not be on the receiving end of violent language and rage. I may have lost a client but I retained my integrity and my dignity.

I could have stayed on the call. After all, I bill by time. I could have endured the filthy and violent language and made money. But I have learned, through trial and error, what empowers and what makes us victims of our own cowardice. There is not enough money someone could pay me to cause me to relinquish my self-respect.

Thirty years ago I wrote an e-book titled “No More Secrets.” I believed then that we were coming upon a time in human history when the emergence of spiritual Light would prevent the kind of deception and manipulation to continue that had flourished in the shadows of humanity for thousands of years. I believe we have arrived at such times. Its why whether Harvey Weinstein or out-of-control FBI agents…deception will be revealed. This is all for the good. We humans will figure out the next steps in our conscious evolution by learning how to live with one another exhibiting greater integrity and mutual respect. Even if this learning process is painful, we will get there.

It’s why I say that our reactions as women to this now exposed, shameful behavior by certain men is more important than the behavior itself. We women must be careful not to misuse or waste this moment and this opportunity to take back the reigns of controlling our own empowerment by wrongfully shifting the focus on to those who stepped up and took power over us simply because we were remiss in relinquishing it in the first place.

Carole

(contact@carolegold.com)

Corrupt Hollywood Accounting

There’s an old joke in the movie industry about the 1997 movie “Titanic” which was the highest grossing movie ever made.  The joke goes something like this: “Titanic was the first movie in Hollywood to have ever made any money.”

You see, Hollywood movies never make money…at least not on paper or in what is reported to the government.  Of course this must be a mistake since cinema is a multi-billion dollar business. However, for accounting purposes, movies lose money.

Mel Brooks, the famed director and Broadway producer, actually wrote a play about it. “The Producers” follows a Broadway producer whose star is fading. He stumbles onto the fact that a terrible play can actually make more money than a great one and so proceeds to write the worst musical comedy ever.  The scheme fails because his play actually becomes a surprise hit leaving him in financial ruin.

This whole notion is explored in detail in a fascinating book,  “The Hollywood Economist” which delves into the accounting practices of movie making. The write-offs, tax breaks and deals in which everybody gets paid but nobody makes any money is laid out for all to see.  Further, the book explores the political correctness that pervades everything in today’s society. It points out that big business is the only “enemy” that has no lobbyist fighting on its behalf.

Then there’s the irony and paradox: Hollywood loves to make movies about the evils of capitalism and the many ways businesses rob and hurt the little guy. Here is just a tiny sample of famous movies where big business was portrayed by Hollywood as pure evil:

*Wall Street – Michael Douglas plays the ruthlessness of a Wall Street financier.

*Avatar – Sigourney Weaver battles a ruthless corporation that tries to mine minerals on a distant planet.

*Erin Brockovich – Julia Roberts takes on the malfeasance of an energy company and the damage done to the environment.

The “chutzpah” of making of these types of movies is unbelievable! A Hollywood director making a movie about the evils and greed of big business while financing it in such a way that is completely unethical and deceitful… for the purposes of evading income tax obligations.

If you think hedge funds are ruthless, “The Hollywood Economist” cites numerous examples of how Hollywood’s power brokers fleeced many a hedge funds through chicanery. Even these masters of finance were unaware of the depths of corruptions that exist in Hollywood. Yet, these same power brokers make films and TV shows about how hedge funds fleece the American public while they themselves fleece the hedge funds! Most recently, check out “Billions” on Showtime.

This “entertainment economy” reminds me of the famous painter M.C. Escher whose paintings made it hard to distinguish which way is up. In his painting “Relativity” a maze of stairs interconnects, each with a different orientation to gravity. The paths wind and intertwine. There is no “up” or “down.”

Filmmakers making movies about corruption while financing movies in a corrupt manner make it hard to tell which end is up.

Ironically, you would have thought Hollywood to be one of the best places to work given the abundance of films about championing the underdog. For decades, those protectors of women and gays wore their righteous indignation for all to see and applaud; yet, it t urns out Hollywood is engulfed in sexual harassment scandals that objectified women and gays during those same decades. What hypocrisy!

Famed producer Harvey Weinstein, who produced some of the biggest hits in Hollywood, seems to be the poster boy for everything wrong in the industry. For years he was lauded for his contributions to the Democratic Party:  “Party of the Oppressed.”  All the while his disgusting behavior was apparently well known, documented and joked about. The entire industry was complicit.  One of the most powerful actresses of stage and screen , Meryl Steep, once compared Harvey Weinstein to God. Yet she had no problem denouncing Donald Trump for his poor behavior towards a man with disability (later found to be untrue) or rally to support women who allege harassment by him.

In 2013, TV producer Seth McFarlane read the list of female actresses nominated for award recognition and actually joked  (on live T.V.) that the real award was that that “they no longer had to sleep with Harvey Weinstein.”  How do Meryl Streep and other powerful women in the film industry claim they had no knowledge about his predatory ways?  If Streep had real courage she would have spoken about what she surely knew. But she didn’t. Why? Because it would have hurt her career and her income. Rather than take the truly courageous step and expose the abuse she weighed her options, reviewed her finances and remained silent

Good art is meant to challenge us. It serves a purpose by mirroring society in order to challenge conventional wisdom, shine a light upon the oppressed and, hopefully, elevate the human condition. Having been a connoisseur and champion of the arts, I feel saddened by the great lengths members of the film industry have gone to amass their fortunes and cover-up the exploitation of women. The arts (not unlike the press) have their roles as critics of society. When it comes to Hollywood, the claim to have been there fighting the battles all along belies the truth that they were silent and complicit.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran Pastor who sought to bring down Hitler, said “Not to speak is to speak. Not to stand is to stand.”  Hello? Meryl?

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

The Reality of Jerusalem

One of the most eye-opening lessons of having been a divorce attorney for close to 15 years was the realization that most, if not all, clients know the truth of their relationship even if they choose not to believe it. This means that whatever the reason turned out to be for the failed marriage, the underlying truth of the deficiency was known but ignored. Sometimes the reason “for looking the other way” was financial; sometimes it was because it was easier to stay the course than brave the unknown…but an awareness of the underlying truth was none-the-less present. It made me acutely aware of our propensity to see only what we want to see and only what supports our current belief system.

This propensity isn’t limited to our personal relationships. It’s starkly evident in our politics. You either hate Donald Trump, seeing everything he does as evil, or you love him, believing he can do no harm. Yet, truth is not so clearly defined.

Donald Trump is human and, therefore, flawed. This means that he sometimes makes good decisions and sometime bad ones. It means he can be emotionally arrested at, perhaps, some adolescent stage of development while at the same time being intellectually competent and able to strategize with a high degree of success. There is no incompatibility in the co-existence of such facts even if the combination of them if less than ideal. He is who he is.

I try and make my evaluations of the President’s behavior not within the context of the “love him or hate him model” but rather upon the wisdom, or lack thereof, of each individual action. This allows me to sometimes stand with him and sometimes stand in opposition to him.

This brings me to where I stand on his decision regarding Jerusalem.

As I stated at the outset of this post, we humans have a hard time with reality when it flies in the face of what we prefer to believe. So, the wife who denies that her husband is having an affair, even when all the evidence points to the contrary, has much in common with the person who denies Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, even when all the evidence points to the contrary.

The evidence was factually and succinctly set forth in President Trump’s announcement of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel:

It was 70 years ago that the United States, under President Truman, recognized the State of Israel. Ever since then, Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem — the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government. It is the home of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the official residence of the Prime Minister and the President. It is the headquarters of many government ministries.  For decades, visiting American presidents, secretaries of state, and military leaders have met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem, as I did on my trip to Israel earlier this year.

Facts are pesky things to those who deny their existence. But denial of fact does little to diminish its existence.

As an American Jew, you might think I have a dog in this hunt and maybe I do. But as a lawyer, I can tell you that many a juror has a vested interest in some aspect of a case they may be seated in deciding. But we ask such jurors if “despite your feelings or experience, do you think you can hear the facts of this particular case and make a fair and impartial decision based upon the facts?” When the answer is “yes” we seat that juror.

Having an interest does not necessarily translate into having a bias.

In the instance of Jerusalem I cannot comprehend why any American, especially Jewish Americans, cannot put their political lens aside and simply examine the facts as set forth by the President in his decision-making process. The capital of Israel is Jerusalem whether you are a Democrat or Republican…unless, of course, you are first-and-foremost a single issue, political creature rather than a human who discerns and accepts facts, distinguishing them from agenda or wishful thinking.

My way of analyzing President Trump is a balanced approach which allows me to see the totality of the man while at the same time distinguishing between his weaknesses and his strengths. It allows me to be repulsed by the way he has referred to women or demeaned his opponents; yet, it also allows me to take great comfort and pride in his courage to speak truth to power and stand for what is right by recognizing Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel.

Carole

(contact@carolegold.com)

How To Profit

Last week saw the final step in closing a deal that would have made me a decent amount of money in the short run and, potentially, a great deal of money in the long run. I could have ignored my principles and my gut thereby finalizing the details of the deal. Or, I could have stood on principal, followed my gut and likely caused the deal to crash and burn. I stood my ground.  It crashed and burned. I feel really good. If making money is the measure of success, I failed. But if the measure is what was ethical, legal and honest then I scored big. This deserves an explanation.

I had been in negotiations with the creator of an app.  He was trying to raise seed money; first round investors. Even if you’ve got a great product or service, which this guy seems to have, that first round of fundraising is always a challenge. After all, you’re doing it with no profits or sales to back up your claim of value. And of course, the developer always thinks the value of his product is worth gazillions and the investors always think it’s not. There was a target amount to be raised by a date certain and I was trying to reach that target by that date. One week prior to the deadline I had succeeded in securing an investor willing to put up 50% of the target. Further, I had contacted an additional investor who had an interest and, if terms were agreeable, was willing to put up twice the target amount in addition to the 50% I had already secured.

Terms. The magic word.

You see, from the first presentation that I attended as a potential fundraiser, the terms for potential investors were vague and changeable. In fact, whenever the developer was asked the terms, he repeatedly said, “everything’s negotiable.” Trouble was, what he said and what he did were inconsistent. When it came to terms he was inflexible and demanding. In fact, he was dictatorial in his delivery. Further, he refused to put anything in writing.

I am a lawyer. Terms in writing, even offers to contract that are yet subject to negotiation, need to be in writing. This is not a quirk of mine. This is standard legal and business practice. Further, this developer was refusing to put in writing even the terms that pertained to me as a broker.

I grew up watching my father, a successful entrepreneur, make many a deal on a handshake or someone’s word. I am “of that school” even though I am also a trained attorney. So, in this particular instance, sharing some common cultural background with the developer and wanting to believe the best of him, I was proceeding as if on a handshake.

But things started to not feel good in that “gut” I spoke of earlier. I call it intuition but it’s the same thing. It’s an internal instinct and “caution” light that goes on which says, “Pay attention. Something is out of alignment and doesn’t feel good.” It was the developer’s continuing refusal to commit to writing along with his increasing disrespect towards me and my investor’s rights the more certain he was that the investor was on board and the closer we got to closing the deal.

Three days before the target deadline, the developer sent me an email with terms. They were not the terms repeatedly discussed and those which were there were woefully inadequate and poorly defined. The email closed with a “take it or leave it” directive and a demand that I not respond with any counter-offer or other terms. I was to reply simply “Yes” or “No.”

Well, there’s the kiss of death to a lawyer. Under the best of circumstances I am unlikely to not have something to add! And these were definitely not the best of circumstances. So I replied with a detailed explanation of terms as my investor believed them to be based upon representations made to him (and me). Further, I set forth in detail why those terms were in everyone’s financial interest.

I received no direct reply. However, three days later, on the target date deadline, I received a call from a third party involved in the fundraising who informed me that the developer’s “team” had advised him to accept the terms as I had forwarded them. However, I was also told he was in another city that day trying to raise other money.

Well, we were at a deadline set up by the developer, not me. He had not replied to my email of three days prior. My investor was calling me to ask why there was no contract to sign as this was the target date. So, I sent an email and text to the developer at 5PM stating that if I did not have confirmation in writing by 6PM of an agreement to terms and proof of the remaining 50% of funds raised as per the budget that my investor’s offer would have to be renegotiated once the 6PM deadline passed. At 6:35PM I received a scathing email from the developer who suggested that his lawyer contact a third party in the fundraising and attempt to negotiate the close of the deal. The last sentence of the email was , “But I am completely okay with us not doing business.”

We did not do business.

I could have let the refusal to commit to writing go; I could have ignored the ever changing terms; I could have disregarded the firm deadline; I could have overlooked the increasing disrespect; I could have seen grey everywhere instead of seeing black and white. After all, a lot of money was potentially in my future. A lot! As in similar to owning early shares of Apple or Uber.

But I think letting all that go is one of the primary ways this country got itself into the economic mess it’s in. Without principles we are lost. Without principles, it’s impossible to know when to leave the room…or the deal. Without principles money isn’t our means of transaction, it’s our god.

The terms should have been set forth, committed to writing and respectfully negotiated back and forth until the point of mutual agreement. The deadline, set by the developer, should have been able to be counted on and honored by all sides. The manner in which communication was exchanged should have been respectful and not demeaning.

I feel sorry for people who do not know the core principles that form the basis for their existence. These are my principles. So when they were not met, it was easy to know when to leave the room and the deal. I do not have the money that was a part of that opportunity but I have my self-respect and I have not added to the decline of values and principles that so many in our nation bemoan the loss of. I am not part of the problem I am part of the solution. It’s a different kind of profit that I made on the deal…but profit none-the-less.

Carole (contact@carolegold.com)

What Binds Us

The other day I was listening to the Bill Simmons podcast where he talked about an old  skit on Saturday Night Live. It was about the Brady Bunch meeting the Partridge Family. He remarked how funny it was back then and how that same skit could never work today because, as a society, we no longer have common cultural experiences. In other words, not enough people would get the jokes. He theorized that in our current society there is no one thing that we all share and understand. A mere thirty years ago, everyone in my generation watched those two shows, knew the characters and “got” the inside jokes.

Today, there are no longer common cultural events and national traditions which bind us together. With the advent of cable T.V, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon there are no longer shows we all watch and, therefore, experience together. Today T.V shows, books and movies are created to target niche consumers.  There are few cultural events, aside from sports or politics, where we have a reference point that helps us understand the culture at large.

The ongoing scandal within the NFL where players are “taking a knee” highlights for me the disparate views of what I clearly thought was a cultural norm: standing out of respect for the American flag. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on my current thoughts about the NFL and its players kneeling.  I argued they should stand. The response I got blew me away. Some people loved the post while others called mea plantation owner for harboring such thoughts.” The vitriol spewed my way was eye opening.

Part of what shocked me was the divide. There was no consensus. We have come to the point where, as a nation, we are no longer able to agree that standing for the national anthem is the right thing to do.  Perhaps it is the result of growing and entrenched regional biases. I actually understand this possibility better than most. I grew up in the liberal northeast and now live in Texas. The opinions of these two regional groups of people could not be more different. With few exceptions, I can generally gauge in advance where each will stand on most issues. Yet, this prospect saddens and depresses me as I watch this divide grow with passing time.

These divisions are slowly ripping our nation apart. Ironically, I believe many of the problems that we now suffer are similar to the dissolution of a marriage.

In the Catholic faith, when a couple gets married, the priest utters a line that says “…and the two shall became one.”  On a physical plane it is impossible for two peoples’ bodies to morph into one, so the church is referring to something deeper that happens on the spiritual plane where souls merge. A few years ago a friend of mine got divorced. He told me that he experienced such trauma over the issue that he was in immense pain for quite some time. He prayed about it and had a dream where he saw a sword cutting apart he and his former wife with whom he had been “joined.” The sword was cutting the one body into two separate beings. The pain that he was suffering was due to the trauma of cutting away one’s flesh.

Nationally, we find ourselves divorced from the principles on which the nation was founded. How else can you justify the candidacy of Bernie Sanders who campaigned on a socialist platform while living in a capitalist country? Our culture no longer has any shared values. Blue states believe in one America while red states believe in another. There is no common ground.  This post began identifying how even in our expression of entertainment we no longer share a common culture.  Today, the majority of skits on “Saturday Night Live” are focused on politics (always a divisive issue) precisely because there are so few subject matter skits that an entire audience would get.

Sadly, I realize that I no longer live in the same country as my fellow Americans. The country founded upon a document declaring we have unalienable rights from our creator co-exists with one which believes there is no God.  We have become a country where a significant amount of people believe there is no such thing as a man or woman; there is no objective truth; only that with which we “identify” or what gives credence to our preferences. Babies aren’t babies they’re tissue and the definition of marriage is dependent upon what a legislature decides.  The ever changing tide of popular opinion is now what defines and moves our nation, not principals.

If you believe everything is fine and the things I’ve cited here are no big deal I wish I could experience your delusion. I wish I could crawl into that bubble with you… but I can’t. The forces shaping our country are leading us to ruin. We no longer have sufficient commonality to bind us in a meaningful way.  We are a collection of isolated states that happen to occupy a piece of land called America.  We are no longer united.

Over 2000 years ago the Greek storyteller, Aesop, said it best: “United we stand, divided we fall.” If that’s too far back in history for you, then turn over that dollar bill in your wallet.  “E pluribis unum“, adopted by the Founders in 1782, translates as “out of many, One.”  So whether 2000+ years ago or 235…we have turned this principle of standing united on its head. The current mantra of the United States of America is best expressed as “out of One, many.”  Since the past is often instructive, perhaps its worth more than a moment’s reflection on Aesop’s warning: divided we fall.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

The Dead End of Justified Means

In a recent conversation about AI, a business acquaintance told me why, in his opinion, Elon Musk will not succeed. “It’s because Musk allows his beliefs and ethics to enter into his business,” he said. “Musk doesn’t like AI and so he is not pursuing its implementation to the extent he should.” My reply was that as I understood it, it isn’t that Musk doesn’t like AI but rather doesn’t trust it given the insufficient moral parameters being established around its development and implementation. His response? “Well, when consumers see the benefits and ease of products and services that utilize AI they won’t ask or care about the morality or ethics.”

That’s when I decided to end the discussion.

Convincing a 39 year old businessman otherwise, who actually thinks that ethics and morals are irrelevant to AI or should be, is more energy that I wanted to expend. After all, he’s pretty cooked at his age. It doesn’t mean I was not surprised and slightly appalled by his perspective. It just means that if you don’t understand the connection between a culture lacking  ethics in business that has also run amok with sexual harassment in the workplace… you’re probably way down the road of no return on the relationship between ethics and AI. In fact, his final words to me on the subject were “AI will be our slaves.” To which I replied, “Or we will be theirs.”

Perhaps I come from an old school. I am willing to own that accusation. I remember a world where everything wasn’t instant, people didn’t have tech sex with virtual strangers and where they actually cared what others thought about how they behaved and the consequences of their actions. Maybe I am a cultural dinosaur. But I am not alone. I talk to plenty of other creatures from that “cultural  Jurrasic period” where values and principles mattered and people sought out and knew how to have personal relationships.

What is so disturbing is that people like the entrepreneur I spoke with about Elon Musk are in the majority not the minority. Ethics be damned. They slow things down. They get in the way of progress. Think of how high that tower could be…why it could go all the way to the sky…if we didn’t have to consider the consequences of building it in the first place. Oops. We did that one, didn’t we?

I like that Elon Musk is bothered by the potential of an AI world absent ethical and moral considerations. I am bothered by the fact that Google isn’t.  Large tech giants like Facebook and Google have already proven themselves not to be beyond crossing all sorts of ethical lines…or at least not past using mind control and preference mapping…to reach their profit driven ends. At least Musk has a conscience and isn’t afraid to make that known or stand by what he believes in.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s what is all comes down to. Belief.

We seem to have stopped believing in anything beyond self-satisfaction. Don’t misunderstand me. I think we humans are in charge of our own destiny and can choose to find joy even in the hard times. We deserve to be happy. But in satisfying one self, a total disregard for our connection to all living things and especially to a higher power that is essentially good, self-satisfaction soon morphs into self-absorption which, in an AI-virtual world, ends in addiction and enslavement: if not to a government then to a machine that anticipates our every need and fulfills our every desire.

Live long enough and you learn, hopefully, that joy and satisfaction come as much from living within certain ethical and moral parameters as from hard work, patience and forgiveness. Absent those parameters anything goes. Given our human propensity to abuse power and self-destruct in the doing, we are more likely to devolve then evolve. If memory serves me, we’ve done that before as well. I wonder why we can’t seem to get this one right?

Carole (contact@carolegold.com)