Donald Trump Press Conference Regarding The DNC Emails

 

This video is our analysis of the press conference Donald Trump gave regarding the DNC email scandal. Although his comments were flippant, his point was a valid one. Our American institutions have failed us; how is it possible the F.B.I does not have the missing emails written by Americans at the DNC but Russian hackers do?

Liquidity is Drying Up In The Bond Market

After the financial crisis in 2008, our benevolent leaders gave us the Dodd-Frank Bill, which as they said would clean up the banking system once and for all.

liquidity crisis

One of the main changes Dodd-Frank implemented was that banks would no longer be able to take risk. In short, banks would no longer be able to use depositors’ funds for bank risk-taking activities. Before the law was passed, banks were the facilitators of trade and acted as warehouses for all of the financial instruments that needed to be bought, sold and exchanged. For the most part, banks did a fantastic job at that because they had the credit lines and expertise to analyze all forms of financial instruments.

For example, if a hedge fund collapsed and needed to be liquidated, the banks would go in and buy off the assets and then sell off the pieces to other investors. In many ways, they acted like clean up crews…clearing the debris thus allowing the markets to function once again.

Now, with changes in the law, banks are not allowed to warehouse financial instruments. If they are asked to buy a bond, they can no longer hold it on their books. By law, they have to sell it right away. If the banks cannot immediately find a ready and willing buyer , the trade doesn’t happen. Even in cases where the seller offers discounts of over 25%, the banks cannot buy if there is not another buyer on the other side.

To many, this might seem to be a welcome safeguard to protect the financial system. In reality, this safeguard is causing a major logjam of financial instruments that need to be sold but can’t. The same way beavers can cause major damage to rivers and streams by clogging up the flow of water…lack of liquidity in the financial markets can do the same thing.

The real problem is in the bond market where bonds are held in both ETF’s and mutual funds that offer daily liquidity.

What happens when investors want to sell their funds and get their money back?  The banks are no longer there to provide liquidity.  The Wall Street Journal recently conducted a simple survey of several major bond funds run by institutional investors like Blackrock, Dodge & Cox, and Vanguard. It found plenty of examples of these funds holding bonds that no one can sell right now and some that will take nearly a year to sell.

So, on one side, we have investors who have been told, and are proceeding on the presumption, that they can get their money out in a few days time. However, professional bond investors know that, for many bonds, it will take over a year to liquidate those instruments to pay back their investors.

Something is going to give.

The U.S. population is so accustomed to getting our funds whenever we want them that we no longer have any idea or understanding of how and where liquidity occurs. Investors who have mutual funds believe they can sell theirs assets and get paid within three days.  Right now, while you can still sell your mutual funds and get cash out because the markets can handle nominal redemptions, we are heading for a moment when any type of significant turn of events, financial or otherwise, that will affect the the bond market will make it impossible to liquidate and get your cash.

Think I’m crazy? Mutual funds are already beginning to offer discounts to investors for immediate cash. U.K.-based fund Aberdeen Asset Management, is taking a different approach. It’s allowing investors to redeem their cash from the 3.4 billion-pound U.K.-property fund with just one catch: You take a 17% haircut.”

This whole turn of events has me deeply concerned. I could even say depressed.

What disgusts me most about this whole situation, and the upcoming financial calamity that will ensue, is that people actually believed Senator Dodd and Congressman Frank when they enacted the law.  Lawmakers are neither kings nor gods…although they often see themselves that way.  Just because they create a law to stop something doesn’t mean it will work. The forces of nature, like the forces of the financial markets, are always greater than the laws and regulations their overseers like to create.

Part of the problem is the financial media, especially CNBC, which allows buffoons like Barney Frank to have a platform on their network. Had the network performed their duties, their due diligence, their research as serious journalists should…and challenged Frank on the stupidity of his proposal, maybe the bill would never have been enacted into law.

Once again, our lawmakers have created greater risk in the financial markets than existed prior to 2008 and certainly more risk and weakness than need be. Protect yourself and build up a cash reserve that will help you overcome this liquidity crunch that will, certainly, eventually surface.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

The Message From “Fields Of Fire”

Rights and responsibilities. These are the themes of James Webb’s book, “Fields of Fire.”

Webb was a platoon commander during the Vietnam War. His book is required reading for all Marines. It details the struggles of a Marine platoon throughout that war from a participant’s perspective.  Webb has said the book is a fictional account based upon his experiences during that war.

Fields of Fire

Although the book focuses upon a cast of characters, one of the most interesting is about a Marine nicknamed “Senator” who was attending Harvard when he was drafted. Most of his Harvard classmates evaded the draft by way of medical waivers, draft deferments and even fleeing to Canada…but not Senator. He serves with bravery and honor, eventually  wounded in combat and sent back home.

Convalescing at his house, he is visited by one of his Harvard classmates who is a fugitive from the law for having evaded the draft. The meeting is poignant in that his friend is healthy and seems to have made the right decision while Senator, in bed, seems forever scarred by the war. The meeting ends with the police showing up as the Senator’s father has called the police to report his friend’s location..

Senator is stunned by his father’s actions and gets into a lengthy conversation with him about why he called the police. His father was no fan of the war and is greatly saddened by what has happened to his son. However, he is none-the-less honored by his son’s sacrifice. He is also repulsed by the friend’s cowardice.

The father explains to his son, “We all have rights and responsibilities. By being born here in the U.S., many citizens have benefited by the sacrifices our forefathers have made. The liberties and freedoms all Americans enjoy have been paid for by those sacrifices. Your friend was willing to enjoy all of the benefits of society without bearing the responsibilities.”

“If your friend was so against the war, he should have protested and gone to jail for his beliefs. If more Americans had done this instead of fleeing, the politicians might have gotten a better sense of the growing discontent for the war and ended it. But your friend was a coward. He was even unwilling to commit the smallest act of disobedience. He fled like a child.”

In the 1960’s, two of the most iconic heavyweight fighters of all time, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, were both called up for the draft during their athletic prime. Both served and honored their country in different ways. Frazier joined the Army and went to Vietnam while Ali went to jail  as a conscious objector, claiming that killing people violated his religious beliefs. Although the military brass was unhappy with Ali, they never treated him with contempt. They respected what he did. Having served in the Marines, I can tell you that there is complete disdain for people who avoided the draft and fled the country; however, I never once heard a criticism of the stand which Ali took.

I have witnessed firsthand the struggles conscious objectors have to war. My radioman during the First Gulf War was a Jehovah’s Witness who struggled deeply with the decision that he made in going to war. For him, it was a daily struggle to reconcile his faith with his participation in the war. So, I can relate in some small way to that with which Ali struggled.

In retrospect, I think the consensus about the Vietnam War was that it was a wasted effort. There are many historical documents that detail the mistakes made by the U.S. and the tremendous loss of life suffered on both sides. Many Americans lost their lives and many more were left permanently disabled, from which they never recovered. However, at the time, U.S. leaders felt that Vietnam was an important stand to take in order to stop the spread of Communism. Some have discounted that notion, but in Asia it is affirmed.

In the book Asia Rising, the last thirty pages recount various Asian leaders’ views of the potential for Asia and its significance within the global economy. What startled me most was the praise given to the U.S. for its initiative in going into Vietnam thirty years earlier.  They said the threat of Communism was real and engulfing all of Asia. Had the U.S. not decided to engage in Vietnam, many of those leaders felt that most of Asia would have fallen, resulting in the enslavement of millions. I was blown away…as this was the first time I had ever seen documentation from an Asian perspective regarding the threat.

The book goes on to say that U.S. intervention did, in fact, halt the Communist initiative by tying up all their resources in Vietnam which precluded further expansion. The actions of our military saved the life of millions. For many Asians, the sacrifices made by the U.S. soliders was not in vain.

The unfortunate outcome of the Vietnam War here in the U.S. was a breakdown of social order. It has been well documented that the political leaders lied to the American public during the conflict and it left the citizenry skeptical of the government. In many ways, this was the beginning of the decline of our confidence in governmental institutions. It made people less inclined to make the kind of sacrifices for the country that they had made previously. The recent Benghazi tragedy, where Americans were left defenseless and unsupported by the government despite repeated requests for assistance during a thirteen hour attack, only continues to fuel this mistrust and cynicism.

The decline of confidence in American institutions has led to an epidemic of abdicating personal responsibility by a nation once willing to assume it. This comes in tandem with a trend toward narcissism, as evidenced by the Selfie generation.  Absent leadership with integrity, and a populace engaged in shared sacrifice, the future is bleak. The actions it took to secure freedom were accomplished with great effort over time. Relinquishing that same freedom, through inaction, will be an easier and more rapid undoing.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Hope For Veterans

The mind can be friend or foe. For twenty Vets a day, it has become their foe. That’s how many U.S. Veterans per day are committing suicide.

Hope2

I want to address this incomprehensible fact but do so with trepidation and humility as I have never served in the military and, as such, am acutely aware that my understanding of the problem is limited. I tread lightly upon this topic. However, in my early twenties I tried to commit suicide and so bring a personal, if limited, perspective to what drives a Veteran to conclude that taking their own life is a reasonable solution to their suffering.

In fact, suicide is not motivated by reasonableness but rather by misplaced hope and a lack of forgiveness.

For every individual, suffering has its limits. Be it mental, physical, psychological or emotional, pain can reach the intolerable. When it does, without hope that the suffering can end, or at least diminish, a perverse form of reason takes hold and death seems a “logical” even “desirable” option because death holds out the promise of an end to pain. In fact, this conclusion is neither logical nor reasonable but is driven, in the moment of choice, by the void created when one misplaces hope.

Hope holds the promise of a new and better tomorrow. Hope holds the promise of a return to happiness. Hope holds the promise of a life worth living. In its absence, despair fills the void and with it comes the illusion of never-ending suffering. Although it was decades ago, I remember that moment of choice as if it were yesterday. The pain is so intolerable and death so seemingly pain-free, that there can actually be a perverse euphoria in the decision to end one’s own life.

The sights and sounds of war, while beyond my personal experience, are also often beyond the mind’s ability to integrate and make peace with their after effects. I was married to a Vietnam Vet. My current business associate is a Marine Vet who served in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War.  My experience is that some Vets cope better than others, but all are scarred.  While some develop mechanisms that permit them to return to various levels of functionality in their day-to-day lives, I suspect that those who are unable to do so both misplace hope and find it impossible to forgive themselves for having participated in what the mind cannot accept.

When I look back at my attempted suicide, understanding how I had misplaced hope came relatively easily after I survived the attempt and began to live my life in a more positive direction. However, understanding the importance that forgiveness needed to play in my healing took much, much longer.

I truly believe that with renewed heart and a commitment to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday or today, God forgives us everything. It is we who do not forgive ourselves. And in not forgiving ourselves, we suffer again and again each time we replay who we were or what we did.  Living in the past, rather than in the possibility of the moment, is too often repetitive, self-inflicted punishment that adds to our pain.

While we cannot go back and change the past, it is the present that is malleable. It is the present that holds the opportunity to be the best we can be. It is the present in which we can affect the past by taking the knowledge, and even the pain, of our experiences and using the wisdom gained to take action in ways that heal the wounds of that past and the actions that caused them.  So, yes, hope and forgiveness are partners in overcoming despair and judgement.

If you know a Vet, or are one, I would gift this message: You are more than what you have done. You have within you, still, a spark of hope and the will to let go of the past by forgiving yourself. Dedicate today to doing one kind thing, however small, for yourself and for one other person and let the healing begin. You have never stopped being a child of God. You have only temporarily misplaced the knowing that all is forgiven and, because of that, all is still possible.

 

Carole

A Post of Inspiration

The decision by FBI Director James Comey not to prosecute Hillary Clinton was a devastating blow to most of us.  Blatant criminality knows no political bounds and people with integrity, be they Democrat or Republican, were infuriated by the obvious disregard for the rule of law. The initial anger quickly turned to depression for some and hopelessness for others. It seems we have reached a new low in our national life.InspirationRahm Emanuel, former Obama White House Chief-of-Staff and current Mayor of Chicago, in reflecting the views of the father of community organizing, Saul Alinksy, once said “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. Emanuel was known for his ruthless and intimidating tactics and had made the statement within the context of taking advantage of a bad situation to force through what could otherwise not be accomplished by straightforward and transparent means.

But there’s an upside to everything, including the ill intentions of the likes of Rahm Emanuel and all the other Progressives, Democrat and Republican alike, intent upon radically transforming the United States of American into something unrecognizable.

In the words of Roy McAvoy, the golf-pro played by Kevin Costner in the movie Tin Cup, “When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment…or the moment defines you.

Comey has given us the defining moment.

It is time to stop being distracted by the upcoming Presidential election. On that front, all is lost. There are as many Democrats who dislike and fear the effects of a Clinton Presidency as there are Republicans who feel the same about Donald Trump. These are two terrible choices.

So how did we get here and what is the way out?

As much as we are taught that politics and faith don’t mix, the reality is that faith is the foundation of any lasting culture. It is surely the saving grace (no pun intended) for those moments in each of our lives when the odds and the circumstances seem to outweigh our ability to go on. Faith is what bridges the gap between where we are and where we want to be. It provides the fuel for how to travel the distance between the two.

We, the people, are momentarily adrift. I say “momentarily” because we are simply experiencing a brief moment within the 4.6 billion years of earth’s total life span to date…a moment within the 6000 years of recorded human history. But brevity does not correspond to inconsequential. A moment, like a light in the darkness, can forever change the outcome.

We are not only adrift, we are plagued by darkness. It is the darkness that envelops a people that has forsaken its principles, values, ethics, morals and its Creator in homage to all things material. In this moment, each of us is being called to perform a specific function. That function is to be the light.

Each of us has been born for this moment. For in the void that we created in banishing ethics and faith from our midst remains a space that each of us can now fill with the spark of light that is found within. The spark of light that is the essence of who we are, not what we’ve allowed ourselves to become through fear and manipulation.

Powerlessness may be real in relation to a corrupt political system. It is false in relationship to Source. When we choose to stand for what is right in the face of what is wrong, we are imbued with the power of God and the effects are exponential and beyond our own capacity. However, we are not asked to take on what is not ours to do. When a Christian Polish woman, who hid Jews in her home just a mile from the Auschwitz concentration camp the Nazi’s had constructed, was asked, “So how did you become righteous?” she replied, “The righteous didn’t just suddenly become righteous. We simply refused to go off the cliff with the others.”

So, back to Director Comey’s decision and the 2016 election. It’s a waste of your time.

What is yours to handle is what is occurring within your own life…your family, your business, your community and your congregation.  It is now our responsibility that each of us stands for time tested principles in relationship to what we encounter personally each day within the boundaries of our own lives.

The same way we got these two, terrible choices for President is the same way we maintain hopelessness within our own lives. We take our attention, and our light, off of the darkness and preoccupy ourselves with inconsequential and material matters. Yes, having enough money to feed, clothe and house ourselves and our loved ones is important…but meaningless if doing so is more important than living and exemplifying honesty, integrity, compassion and diligence.

When we, one person at a time, begin to re-prioritize the use of our intellect, our time, and our energy to first and foremost live ethical lives, the environment in which corruption, deceit and manipulation have grown will no longer be fertile ground for such dis-ease.

Nature is an excellent teacher. It is true that we reap what we sow. We are reaping the diseased crop of the seeds we allowed to be planted under our watch. But one acre at time, we can till the soil and prepare it to receive a new crop of seeds, ones that will grow healthy and strong…imbued with life-affirming nourishment rather than disease.

Victimhood and despair are choices as are empowerment and hope.  We are free willed beings who get to choose not only our state of mind but also our actions and our reactions. Director Comey, taking on what was in front of him and his to decide chose cowardice, darkness and the status quo.  So be it. It is his journey.

You are on your own journey. Take a look around at what stands before you. Then choose. You cannot effect the 2016 election but you can affect each and every person and situation you encounter each and every moment. Its one moment at time.

But what occurs in a moment can change the world.

Carole

Time To Bug Out

“Bug Out” was a derisive term that emerged out of the Korean War after the U.S. Army hastily retreated from it’s holding position during attack. We abandoned our positions and fled en mass as the Chinese overran our positions. They “bugged out” the same way a cockroach flees when the lights are turned on. Weapons, equipment and radios were all left behind in the hasty retreat. That retreat by the U.S. Army left our Marine Corps brethren totally exposed on their right flank, which enabled the Chinese to completely  surround the Marines.

Bug Out

The Marine Corps were able to extract themselves from this precarious situation by doing a retrograde to the Chosin Reservoir and narrowly escaping the Chinese horde. Had it not been for the Marines bravery and resiliency, the outcome would most likely have been a total disaster for them.

The term “bug out” came to mind as I sat watching the Twin Towers come down 0n 9/11/01. Earlier that day, I had been in Tower 5 , one of the buildings connected to the World Financial Center, and was able to escape with my life. Later that same afternoon, my wife and I, joined by friends,  gathered on the lawn opposite the Twin Towers to watch the inferno while trying to gain some understanding of what had just happened.

At the time, we lived in a community in Jersey City populated with many people from Latin America.  These were our friends…Brazilians, Argentinians and Mexicans to name just a few. For the most part, we all worked in the banking sector and our lives were connected by families and jobs. Since I spoke Spanish fluently, most had no idea I was an American or that I had served in the military. They all thought I was an immigrant, like them, who was here under a work visa.

While they were all dismayed and distraught by the events on 9/11, to a person they all had the same plan in mind, to bug out, to leave the country as quickly as possible. The day before they were all happy living and working in the U.S., thrilled that they had high paying jobs and great careers as they had been unable to find these opportunities in their home countries. Yet, on the day of the attacks, they were already beginning to pack their bags and head home to, what they perceived to be, safer venues.

In a sense I could understand their concern. They were foreigners in a foreign land and, consequently, had no horse in the race. The U.S was being attacked and they were not willing to risk their lives as they were not Americans.  They all wanted to leave. I get that…to a point. On the other hand, they were willing to reap all the benefits American society had to offer them as long as they didn’t have to assume any of the responsibilities that citizenship required.

In essence, this is the problem of immigration (illegal and legal). If the only reason people want to come here is to extract benefits, in the case of my neighbors and high paying jobs, how was is that group of people any different from the illegal aliens who come here for free government benefits?  Neither group is here to benefit the country, only themselves.

When I was in the Marines, I had the honor of serving with a Marine from Ireland and one from the Dominican Republic, both of whom had joined the Marines as a path to citizenship. They served with honor and would have paid the ultimate price for this country. However, when I worked in the banking sector I was surrounded by foreigners whose main aim was to make as much money as possible and then “head home.” Hardly any of them had any real interest in understanding the country and the sacrifices people have made to make this country an economic juggernaut.  Admittedly, not all of them were like this; but, the majority was.

There is clearly something awry with an immigration policy that allows in economic “hit-men” (and women) whose sole purpose is to get as much money as possible from the American companies they work for and take it elsewhere.

Part of the reason Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls is his “pro U.S. worker” message. The middle class has felt the economic squeeze via illegal immigration as these immigrants compete with the middle class for jobs. Yet these same immigrants don’t pay any of the taxes for publicly funded programs, such as education and health care. The middle class feels unduly burdened because they are taking the hit and paying for it, too.

The white collar worker has felt the brunt of legal immigration, especially in banking and technology sectors via the HB-1 visa program which now pits Americans against immigrants for these high paying jobs. Many corporations know these immigrants will work for less performing the same job. The recent Disney scandal where American workers were forced to train their foreign replacements as a precondition for receiving termination benefits shows the great lengths to which American employers will go to bring in cheap labor.

The United States was founded on principles of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. Many Americans and countless   families have paid the ultimate price for this great nation’s founding and its existence ever since. Today many people, especially the young, are attracted to the financial structure of socialism..being sold as an alternative to capitalism. But economic socialism is a derivative of a failed political system: Socialism. Capitalism is not. It is a purely economic model…one which has brought more wealth and innovation to the Western world, and more economic relief to the world in general, than any other in human history.

We were not meant to be a system of commerce where each and every transaction is to be judged by its optimal economic return. The immigration policies that the U.S has created, which incentivize illegal immigration by way of free benefits, undermines the ability of capitalism and free markets to self-correct.

Ultimately, the brilliance of the American citizen, and in particular the American worker, is that we are a nation that was built on showing up and staying the course…not bugging out. The path to citizenship should be one that honors that history.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com