Compassionate War

We are living in extraordinary times. There isn’t anyone I know who does not feel the profound upheaval and changes we are experiencing both globally and personally. One of the awakenings taking place is the realization that we are free to see, and therefore create, a world of our choosing. We need not be enslaved any longer to someone else’s reality or to the perspective fed us daily by a variety of media outlets and politicians.

IsraelihelpWhich leads me to write about “compassionate war.” I realize the phrase itself seems like an oxymoron. How can you have something as violent and destructive as war and see it in terms of compassion? The answer lies in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.

My focus is not the politics of the conflict nor is it the terrorist designation of Hamas. It’s about Israel and the manner in which it has chosen to prepare for and proceed with this inevitable clash.

In two weeks of fighting, Israel has agreed unilaterally to 4 separate halts in the armed fighting. Two of those were humanitarian requests, one by Hamas itself, which Israel honored and Hamas did not. Israel literally built a hospital at one of the border-crossing check-points to treat any wounded Palestinians who would need treatment. No one has showed up. Israel offered and readied millions of shekels, (Israeli currency is 3.5 :1 as against the US dollar) so at least one million dollars, of medical supplies and equipment to deliver to Gaza but the Palestinian Authority rejected the offer.

Israel has spent millions of dollars building bomb shelters throughout Israel and in these past two weeks, 75% of its population has had to use them. In Gaza, tens of thousands of tons of cement and building supplies intended for schools, office buildings and homes were diverted by Hamas over the past five years to burrow and build elaborate tunnels underground from Gaza to Israel to be used in a mass terror attack scheduled for this coming September 25th, the first night of the Jewish New Year.

Perhaps most astonishingly, Israel has done what no other nation in the history of the world has done. It gives advance warning to Gaza’s citizens where and when they will strike. By way of leaflets dropped by the Israeli Air Force, cell phone text messages and twitter postings, Israel gives the Palestinians every opportunity to flee a known missile launch site before striking. Hamas has deliberately positioned those sites in homes, schools, graveyards, and mosques while ordering Palestinian men, women and children to remain where they are despite certainty of injury or death.

Just today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any lasting truce will require 1) the “demilitarization of Gaza and social and economic relief for the Palestinian people there.”  Even in the midst of war, the Israeli’s are looking out for the well-being of their adversary.

All civilized people who revere life want a world without war. However, as long as there remain uncivilized people who glorify violence and death there will be a need for defensive action.

In the Torah, the Old Testament, it talks about the nation of Israel being a “light unto the Nations.” I think it is fair to say that in a defensive war thrust upon it, Israel has and continues to act in ways that exemplify how even in the darkest of times, honorable men and women can shine a light upon their humanity and reflect for the world our connectedness to one another.

Carole

Tony Dungy and Michael Sam

Tony Dungy, a former NFL coach and current NBC analyst, recently said that given the chance to draft Michael Sam he would have passed. Michael Sam is the first openly gay player to be drafted and was recently picked up by the Rams in the 7th round draft.

Tony Dungy felt that bringing in a player such as Sam would have caused too much distraction given the inevitable media presence that would follow. Dungy followed up with, “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”

Tony-Dungy-Micheal-SamThere are two aspects of this story I find fascinating.

First, Dungy’s comments. In the U.S. Constitution we are granted the right to free speech. On the surface, Dungy’s comments seemed pretty innocuous to me.  Not so to the world of media and social media. Therein, Dungy has been called, a coward, homophobic and worse. I believe the reason why this reaction has been so virulent is because here is a former coach not following the narrative the media, and probably the sport, wants everyone to follow. The narrative being that Michael Sam is a “transformative player” ( not because of his skill but because of his sexual acts) and that we should embrace and support players such as this…regardless of the cost. Because Tony Dungy is not following the narrative he’s being excoriated by the media. Sadly, it is hard to find someone in the media who sill stand up for him. However, if you look at the sports blogs or the comments at the end of the articles about Dungy, there are many people willing to defend and debate the comments he made based upon the merits of his words. The contrast between the media’s reaction and that of the general public is illuminating. Here are just two sample comments that I found:

  • “Let’s face it, political correctness is the primary reason this guy was drafted in the first place. That way the NFL can trumpet how all-inclusive they are. When he gets cut, due to his own inabilities, you’ll see extremists on the left crying discrimination. I don’t blame Tony Dungy in the least. At least he has the courage to voice his opinion.’
  • A coach and team has a “right” to draft players they believe will help them win. As the 249th of 256 players selected, most teams passed on drafting Sam because they believed he was not an NFL quality player. Dungy’s comments related to the disruption the media hype surrounding drafting such a player would be to a team, is probably why many teams chose not to draft a player who most likely would not make their roster. To view Dungy’s comments as discriminatory is a lack of understanding of most teams’ coaching and drafting philosophies

It appears that as much the media is trying to control the narrative, main stream America is not buying or being bullied into it.

Secondly, is the discounting of free association. To keep the conversation relevant to the story, all 32 teams in the NFL have different corporate “personalities.” The type of players that they draft are different based on the people who run the organizations. For years, the Raiders have loved to take players who were non-conformists, while the Patriots like to take players who are smart, efficient and who can thrive under a system. Each team has a different criteria for the players that they pick because they want players who can succeed with their organizations. Clearly players from the Raiders teams would not do well on the Patriots and viceversa .

Just as the media loves to celebrate Michael Sam’s “choice,” should we not also celebrate and honor other peoples and organizations choices as well?

I think the media exemplifies the motto, “We will only celebrate a choice that fits our narrative.” The fact is Michael Sam is not an individual sportsman. He is not a tennis player or golfer. He is joining a team and an organization. As such, for him to be successful he is going to have to adapt his personality and his talents so that he can strengthen that organization. If his conduct becomes detrimental to the core values of the Rams, he will be cut and rightfully so. The fact is the teams in the NFL have a right to create cultures and chose players who will help them win and if they don’t choose a player for whatever reason, shouldn’t we also be as a society be supportive of that decision?

In the past NFL draft there were over 200 players drafted. If you add another 200 signings, 400 college players will be joining NFL teams in the hopes of making it a career. To date, Michael Sam is the only player drafted to discuss his sexual orientation. Michael Sam will make the NFL based on his merits and whether or not he can help his team win. The Rams picked Michael Sam because of his talent and because of its culture.Similarly, other teams passed on Michael Sam because of different criteria and different culture. Let’s honor the freedom of either choice.

This general move toward conformity of thought and discounting the right to self associate holds the seeds of our destruction.  A society is only as free as its citizen’s freedom to voice their opinions without being attacked. We must be free to join groups who align with our individual or organizational philosophies without public ridicule or condemnation.

Its About Borders

Compassion and reality are not mutually exclusive. Although, when examining the U.S. government’s response together current invasion by illegal aliens and the world’s response to the current war between Israel and Hamas one can only wonder.

ZoneAs a lawyer, there’s a saying I’ve always liked: “Facts are pesky things.” They demand acknowledgement and, in the absence of opposing facts, stand as legal truth. We have some border facts confronting us so let’s give them their due:

1. The U.S. Border is the line of demarcation for identifying those legally residing within its parameters (U.S. citizens) and those living outside those parameters (foreigners).

2. The Constitution of the United States leaves room for interpretation as to who is obligated to enforce the U.S. borders (the Executive branch or the States) but it’s undisputed that it’s one, the other, or both.

3. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) sets forth the legal requirement and process for entering the United States and subsequently obtaining citizenship.

4. With limited and narrowly defined exceptions, people entering the country in violation of the INA commit a crime.

5. The Presidential Oath of Office is explicitly clear that it is the obligation of the President of the United States to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

6. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 created two territories: a homeland for the Jewish People (Israel) and Palestine.

7. Every Arab nation rejected the establishment of the Arab state and refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli state.

8. In 1948, following war between the Arabs and the Jews, the State of Israel formally came into existence

9. Arab nations and Islamic terror groups have been the aggressors and waged repeated wars and terrorist attacks on Israel and its citizens since 1948.

10. In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel was attacked by surprise by 6 Arab nations, prevailed in that war, and subsequently returned to Egypt over 26,000 square miles of territory Israel captured in return for peace with Egypt.

11. Israel subsequently relinquished all sovereignty over the Gaza strip to Palestinians.

12. Arabs and Islamic terrorists have been continuously attacking Israel on a daily basis from both the Sinai and Gaza.

13. Children do not wage war of their own accord nor do they willingly violate borders and should not be used as pawns to further a political agenda.

Let’s temporarily feed, clothe and provide emergency medical attention to the tens of thousands of illegal foreign children crossing the U.S. border. Then as quickly as possibly send them back to their countries of origin.

Israel has a right to defend itself while protecting and maintaining its legal borders. In 1967, then Israeli Prime Minister Gold Meir said, “There will be peace in the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”

Compassion and reality are not mutually exclusive.

Carole

Death and Work

I use to work at a bond shop where seventy percent of the people that worked there are now dead.

When I moved to NY in 1994, I worked at at bond brokerage shop. For those unfamiliar with the business of brokering bonds, here is a brief primer. The major banks trade bonds all over the world with their clients, and if they can’t find a counterpart for their trades they will use bond brokers to sell or buy bonds for them. The business is very lucrative, but it is very demanding and stressful. A mistake at work can cost you your job and it can cost you lots of money.

trading pitI worked with a collection of characters that made each day an adventure. Frank M., my boss, was brilliant. He had been taught by some of the most brilliant minds in finance. Aside from that, he talked to himself all day long and would think nothing of suddenly breaking into an array of Broadway tunes. Rich C., a recovering alcoholic, was Frank’s partner. He was  so paranoid and manipulative that the two of them would literally have fist fights every few weeks.  In his previous career, Rich had worked on a cruise ship and as he put it, he was “the male companion for all of the older lady’s on the cruise.” Joe K., a repo broker  who used to print money all day long, could talk non-stop for hours. He had 5 kids and loved his family dearly. Antonio R., from Italy, spoke as if he had marbles in his mouth. Nobody could ever understand a word he said and he used to jet set every weekend to someplace new. He was rumored to have been super wealthy with a ton of money stashed away in the Caribbean. Rob W., so fat he would break a chair every week because the chairs couldn’t withstand his weight, would eat all day long nibbling on donuts and coffee that inevitably left stains all over his shirt. John S., a non nonsense tough guy from the Bronx, used to have such great relationships with his clients they would bend over backwards to give him business. Finally there was “Jimmy the Fish.” Jimmy was the youngest guy on the desk. He gambled all day long and was always  hung over and had a  disheveled look about him.

They each died young. And tragically. I have always maintained that desk was cursed and by the grace of God the curse passed me by. Most of them died as a result of the attacks of 9/11 as the majority of them worked at brokerage shops in the World Trade Center. After the attacks happened I knew that could have been my fate had I stayed in that business.

In 1996, I left the bond brokerage business of my own accord, even as I left a lot of money on the table as I knew the business would have killed me. In order to be good in the bond brokerage business, I had to go out five times a week. Many times I would have to play golf on the weekends with my clients (even though I don’t like the game and I am not very good at it). After 2 years I became so run down physically and spiritually I knew I had to get out. The tipping point came when I ran into a colleague of mine who worked at a different company. He proceeded to tell me that he had not spent a single night at home in three years as a result of all the entertaining he was doing to secure business. The guy looked like the walking dead and he knew it; but he was so hooked on the money he could not give it up. Tragically, he committed suicide about 10 years later. He walked into the woods in winter, took some sleeping pills and froze to death.

The other reason I left that business was that I knew the bond brokerage business would eventually have the margins squeezed out of them and the business would become primarily electronic. I don’t know how I knew but I did and for that I am grateful.

The lives of those with whom I formerly worked who still survived have been a mixed bag. Sean M., a fast talking Floridian who went bankrupt and got divorced, had to start over. Fred A. and Lisa A. have not worked in years. Wanda L., became a Jehovah’s witness. The rest of we lucky few moved on and have been able to find our own definition of happiness in life.

When I mentioned to my colleague Gil , who worked with me on that desk, about the “cursed” he looked at me with awe and terror. It seems he had never really looked at the brokerage desk in quite that way. When I mentioned that besides the tragedy of 9/11,  two of  our colleagues died after 9/11 (Jimmy the Fish died in his sleep at 34 while Bobby W. died in a hospital from obesity) Gil said he had never analyzed all the tragedy that had befallen our co-workers and was genuinely shook by my analysis. I  do believe I was blessed with a certain intuition that I followed. Perhaps my surviving colleagues would feel the same if asked.

As for now, I am in a new phase in my life. I’ve learned the importance of listening to and following the promptings of my gut. I am walking proof those messages are given for our protection and well being. All we need do is open to the possibility and trust in the guidance.

Steve Clark

Rights For All: Equals Rights For None

In fiance we use to joke how all clients wanted insurance on their investments. However, in a world where everything gets insured nothing can be. For example in insurance, people essentially pool their resources together so that when one person gets their car stolen, there has been enough paid in premiums by the total number of participants in the pool to pay for the new car.  Its apparent that if all the insurance owners all had their cars stolen on the same day, there would not be enough in that pool to cover everyone’s loss. In fact, the insurance company would be out of business.

alone-in-crowdWe are experiencing this principle here in the U.S. with an ever expanding definition of rights. Instead of excepting the premise “that all men are created equal” it seems that every class of citizen needs a special class of protection of its rights. We began with homosexual, then further expanded to include gay and lesbian, then bisexual, transsexual, transgender (don’t ask me the difference because I don’t know), transvestite… and the list goes on. The question is “Where does it end?”

To me this is madness. It is one thing to be free to express ones sexuality in the bedroom and not to be harassed for it. Its quite another to be given special rights based upon your sex acts.

With these new rights enhanced by the litigious Nation in which we live…heaven forbid you cross the “gay mafia.” Catholic orphanages are shutting down all over the US because… well…they discriminate. Based on Catholic teaching, orphanages try to place children with married  couples– even a married couple has to be defined now (1 man and 1 woman). Because the orphanages won’t place children with gay couples, the gay mafia and their minions of lawyers are shutting down catholic charities. In trying to look out for our most vulnerable members of society, it seems more  important to make sure the gay community is placated. We have thousands of years of data from a multitude of cultures that a child does best with one woman and one man in the household. But now we have decided to throw out this common sense again to placate the gay community. So, instead of having gay couples adopt children from other orphanages and leaving the Catholic orphanages to their belief, the gay community demands all resistance be annihilated ( see story) and the Catholic charities destroyed in the process.

This is where the downfall begins.  Previously, Catholic orphanages had rights based on the First Amendment of the Constitution which establishes the free exercise of religion for all citizens. Instead of the courts enforcing the law, thus allowing the Catholic charities to proceed in adoption placement consistent with their religious beliefs, the opposite is now occurring. It appears that in 2014 we have new rights extended to the gay community that now supersede those rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.

That is the slippery slope of change and how it begins. As we create more and more minorities and sub-classes of human behavior, more and more laws need to be written. In the process of making every sub-group special, we end up annihilating the rights of all people. Its here that I’ll restate my original premise: When everybody has insurance no one has insurance. When everyone has special rights no one has rights.

The French celebrate Bastille Day. It was a day when a thousand armed Parisians stormed the Bastille, savagely murdered a half-dozen guards, defaced their corpses and stuck their heads on pikes. The founders of the French Revolution all died violently killed by the violence they themselves spawned. Ultimately, those Founders were not deemed pure enough, holy enough and so were killed.

The same fate awaits us here at home as we erode and destroy the rights granted us in our Constitution. In the end, there are never enough laws for a corrupt society. Those who pervert the system and inflame the uprising for the sake of special status, those who cry Social Justice as they advance, will inevitably be the victims of the monster they themselves created.

 

Steve Clark

Return That Call!

The quality of my life is dependent on the commitments I make.  Seems pretty simple right? And it all starts when we return that call and actually have that luncheon with our friend… like we said we would.

I used to market a mutual fund that had a billion dollars under management.  I communicated weekly with the portfolio manager to get updates.  Whenever I asked for an update I would get it. When I needed a conference call to happen he would be on the line. If I called him and he was overseas he would call me back as soon as he was able. I didn’t know at the time that he was one of the most senior people at the firm, which to this day is one of the largest money managers in the world.  In fact, if you watch Bloomberg news he is frequently on TV as an expert.

Its reasonable to think that if you are working together managing a billion dollars that a portfolio manager should return your phone calls. However, when we did experience a huge downturn in the fund (unrelated to his performance which eventually terminated the fund) even then his attitude never changed. He would always honor and stand by his word. He did what he said he would do. keep your word  Apart from being super smart and talented, by far his most admirable virtue was his integrity and reliability.

In looking back on my own life and assessing my many failings and foibles, by far my worst errors occurred when I failed to live up to what I said I would do. People rely upon your word and when you don’t keep it it creates chaos.

I do believe the reason the US seems in such a downward spiral is that we no longer honor our word. For example when selling health care to the country, President Obama made a commitment when he said ” if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” We now know what he knew then. The statement was a lie. Worst yet, nothing was done by the President to honor that commitment. The President then went on to restate the lie (and I paraphrase): “You can keep your doctor only if you were not in a substandard plan.”

The tragedy is that as a country there is no outrage, no shock as we all come to expect and accept the lies. This has become the culture we live in and tacitly accept. The media, the Democrats and the Progressives have each defended the President and his lie. This is a testament to their own corruption.

The unfortunate fact is that all of our major institutions have failed us. The Department of Defense should be called the Department of War; the IRS instead of collecting taxes harasses citizens they don’t like; the Department of Education has collectively made all of us more stupid, and the media only reports the stories that fit their world view. All of these institutions now do the opposite of what they were intended to do. But lest we forget, or abdicate responsibility,  these institutions are populated by us, our fellow citizens. These institutions are just a reflection of who we have become. We can no longer see the truth for what it is. Instead, we are all content to focus on the white lies that are everywhere and cast the first stone outward. But these same little lies are tearing us apart and ruining the fabric of this country

When I met my co-host Carole Gold at a meeting, one of the tenants of the meeting was that if you met someone at the event, you had to commit to meeting them afterward for either lunch or coffee. Because Carole and I both honored this agreement, we now have a podcast together and hopefully more fruitful business ventures on the horizon. This is the power of honoring the agreements we make. I have come to the point in my life where I only agree to do things when I am certain I can honor the commitment.

In the end that is what I believe will solve many of the problems that ail us. I can’t change the masses but I can change myself to make this world a better place. As the saying goes, when a butterfly flaps its wings in Austin…sooner or later… wind patterns change in Japan.

Collectively,  if we each agree and honor the things we said we will do, real change will come to this country and beyond.

Steve Clark