Bitcoin and The Banks

Over the last few weeks Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive of J.P. Morgan, has been leading the charge against bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.  Given that J.P Morgan had revenues of over 90 billion dollars last year, it at first seemed odd to me that Dimon would be so vocal in his opposition. Yet he has repeatedly gone out of his way over the past few months to trash bitcoin, even going so far as saying it should be banned. Dimon is no fool. He knows bitcoin has the potential to upend the banking industry. This is precisely why he is trying to kill it before it gets even close.

Banks work as a depository of information. In order to open an account, you have to go to a bank and give them the requisite information. Once that’s done, the bank is able to track all of the transactions that you conduct. For example, when I buy gas at Shell Oil, Shell’s computer system talks to JP Morgan’s computer system and verifies my information. It, Morgan, verifies that I have sufficient funds in my account to approve the transaction in question.

Governments like banks because of this central ledger system. It allows government as well to go to one “location” to track all of an individual’s transactions. So, if the I.R.S. wants to freeze my accounts and garnish my wages, all they have to do is go to the bank and direct the bank to do so.  The courts love it as well because in bankruptcy cases and civil judgements  there is an easy mechanism for freezing and seizing assets.

Enter bitcoin and its not so easy. Allow me to explain.

The underlying software behind bitcoin is called “block chain technology” which is a radical breakthrough in software technology. Information is spread out and stored in various locations.  To conduct a trade in bitcoin requires the use of a “distributive ledger” as opposed to banks which operate with one central ledger. Obtaining information via bitcoin requires accessing multiple distributive ledgers.

Picture a wall full of books with a single book at the center of the wall. All of the other books around it support each other and are linked to each other. If I were to remove that one book, every other book around it would be impacted and would have to agree to the move. It is the same way with bitcoin. When I pay someone in bitcoin, a signal gets sent out to all of these ledgers that have to agree that I actually own this bitcoin. Once verified, I am able to “send” this bitcoin to where the transaction is verified and another “block” is built…which is verified by all of the other ledgers.

An additional benefit of bitcoin is that the individual’s  identity is masked. There are no name associated with the amount of bitcoin you own. If someone were to look at a bitcoin transaction, all they would be able to see is “xys456 paid 26xgjky.” Without names, neither you nor anyone else can determine who owns these bitcoins.

Given 1) anonymity and  2) a distributive ledger bitcoin ownership has exploded. The fact is bitcoin and the block chain technology are going to move ahead with or without approval of the U.S. government with the banking industry exposed to  the potential of being left behind. Think internet in the 1990’s: banning it would have been pointless and not getting on board would have made you the equivalent of a technological dinosaur.

What most people don’t realize is that the U.S. has the most to lose with the advent of bitcoin because we have, by far, the deepest and strongest capital markets which force people to use the U.S. dollar. In addition, all commodity transactions are priced in dollars with the most important one being oil.  Given the enormity of these markets, there is always a demand for dollars as well as government bonds. Our economy literally “sucks in” dollars from all over the world and our power is based on the fact that we are the reserve currency of the world.

Because there is such a demand for U.S. dollars we have the ability, through banking sanctions, to cut off countries from those dollars. Those central ledgers that banks control have allowed the U.S. to act as the global policeman. Look at Cuba. It was shut off from the global economy with debilitating result.

Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and block chain technology have the ability to upend the global banking system and U.S. dominance of it. This is why Jamie Dimon is bashing bitcoin.  Its worth noting that Goldman Sachs, one of J.P. Morgan’s biggest competitors, has seen the light of this new technology and now employs more people in its technology department than Linkedin or Twitter.

Block-Chain technology will change and impact our lives  in ways not yet imagined. Bitcoin offers an economy outside and irrespective of the U.S. dollar. It ends U.S. dominance of the world economy. This is the banking sectors greatest fear…and the terror of those who have disproportionately profited from that system.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

The Answer

Want to know why you’re fed up and feeling lost?

In what will surely be known as the Age of Data Collection, we know virtually nothing about the Las Vegas shooter.  The Clinton’s got away with their “Foundation” profiting to the tune of $145,000,000 in donations from Russian sources while Secretary Clinton approved the sale of 1/4 of the U.S. uranium supply to Russia. Sex trafficking in children is at an all-time high and some of the worst perpetrators are here in the U.S.  Pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies are the monthly purveyors of millions of illegal opioids while Americans grow more and more addicted. Then there is Harvey Weinstein and all of those complicit and silent, for decades, in Hollywood’s sordid saga.

We are not a dying a culture. We are a dead one.

This isn’t about politics. Politics is the distraction. It’s the “look over here so I can keep you from looking over there.” No thinking person can conclude that any politician, regardless of party, can or will save us. Politicians have been corrupt as far back as recorded history. This includes the politicians who disguise themselves as religious leaders and attempt to control and enslave millions in the name of God.

For as long as I can remember, I have instinctively known that you cannot legislate morality. Morals and ethics are internal commitments by individuals who have a conscience and a sense of higher purpose. Such knowing cannot be externally imposed and it certainly cannot be forced upon others through legal enactments. Morals and ethics may be discussed intellectually, laws can be passed in an attempt to express a society’s opposition to certain behavior, but in the end it is individuals acting voluntarily in accordance with a personal commitment to higher principles that define a culture.

Our culture, in the second decade of the twenty first century, is experiencing the ugly truth that it is devoid of such principles.

A society’s culture is a complex adaptive system that needs tending to. Because each of us is a contributor and functional part of that system, our individual actions matter and affect the whole.  Each of us needs to be aware when we are out of balance and take the necessary steps in returning toward equilibrium. Make no mistake. For too long, we have turned a collective blind eye to deceit, corruption, abuse, and limitless greed. Like an untreated bacteria or virus, we allowed these pathogens to infect us and go untreated. They have made our culture toxic. They have eaten away at our foundation and left us wandering and lost in the void.

What matters now is what we do about it. There is little time to waste and less time than that to beat our chests wailing “woe is me.” Energy abhors a vacuum. Something is going to fill the void. Blame is not helpful. We are all at fault, each in our own way. If we cannot face how we’ve abdicated free will and personal responsibility then we are surely doomed. We must reclaim both and use them wisely. If not, the fear mongers who live off of the pathogens, will prevail.

Each of us has the power of creation at our fingertips. All that is needed is to reach out and claim it. This is accomplished by the realization that, like morals and ethics, all wisdom resides within. No one and nothing external to you is the source. Your power is the wisdom within you combined with trust that you are directly connected to the highest Source there Is in order to be the best you can be. It is really the essential message of all true religions…once you strip them of their politics and politicians.

No one wants to hear that “it all rest on you.” But the truth is there is only one of us and so it does. We are united in our hearts if temporarily at war within our minds. What can provide comfort as we seek to find our way out of the void is the oldest message in the universe: the heart prevails.

Be the light, shine your light and watch what happens to the darkness. Something is going to fill the void. What will your contribution be?

Carole contact@carolegold.com

 

 

 

The Much Needed Opioid Conversation

A much needed conversation has emerged from the tragedy in Las Vegas. It’s about opioids, prescription drugs (in particular anti-depressants), addiction and withdrawal. It’s a topic I can speak to with authority as I tried to commit suicide at age 23 after coming off of prescription anti-depressants.

I have spoken much and often on this topic over the decades since. I have gone into high schools and spoken on depression and suicide. I have been interviewed for both print and radio on the topic as well. In fact, following the overdose of actor Heath Ledger (of “The Dark Knight” fame) in 2008, I did an extensive national radio interview sharing my thoughts on all aspects of this national epidemic.

While it is unlikely that addiction and withdrawal to/from prescription (or illegal) drugs was the sole cause of the detailed planning and execution of the Las Vegas shooting, awareness of the perpetrator’s apparent reliance upon such drugs at least brings to the forefront, once again, a national nightmare that continues to grow due to our refusal to address it head on.

We have been over-medicating our population for decades. More accurate to say we have been willing participants in over-medicating ourselves for at least that long.  While it’s easy to blame either pharmaceutical manufacturers or physicians, we have a responsibility to behave not as sheep but rather thinking, free-willed humans.

No one forces us to go the route of popping a pill for every discomfort or ailment. No one makes us medicate our children similarly. We choose to follow that option rather than looking into and applying our efforts to slower and less facile remedies.  We want to be numbed, sedated, narcotized and relieved instantly of anything that is an inconvenience or causes pain.

But pain is meant to bring us present. Whether emotional or physical…it’s an indication that we are out of balance in either our emotional, physical and some would say spiritual selves. We are lacking something we need or overindulging in something we do not. Deaden the pain and lose the opportunity to know the root cause.

Part of our preference for instant pain killers evolved along with our desire for instant everything: news, success, fame internet, access…every form of gratification. We have lost the ability to just be with ourselves and work through the challenging situations that life presents. We have lost all semblance of patience. Which brings us to where we are: “safe spaces” demanded so as to not even rattle one’s minutest sensibilities.

But here’s the thing. Life is uncomfortable, at times unsafe and periodically painful. All efforts to avoid this messy fact ultimately leave us deadened to life itself.

Walking and deadened.

When I didn’t die after my attempted suicide, I made a decision. If I was going to try and live my life then I had to accept all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. I couldn’t spare myself only the parts I wanted to avoid without also costing myself the parts I wanted to enjoy.

They are the flip side of the same coin.

My detailed thoughts on the proliferation of drugs can be heard here in the radio interview I did following Heath Ledger’s death. But in short, we are responsible for the choices we make. Long before we die, we have to choose how autonomously we want to live and then take responsibility for that autonomy. This means we cannot blame anyone else for our decisions…and this includes drug manufacturers and physicians. It means rejecting so-called expert opinions before thinking through and analyzing problems for ourselves. It means accepting that pain has a purpose, as does fear, and when we try and suppress either we wind up missing every opportunity to grow that life has in store for us. And since life is change and change is intended to beget growth, it means missing life. Period.

Carole carolegold8@gmail.com

 

 

Taking The Knee

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” [Emphasis added].  This includes football players “taking the knee” to the national anthem and the President of the United States calling people, who do, “sons of bitches.

The First Amendment addresses freedom of speech. It says nothing about stupidity, arrogance or a total lack of dignity. The last three describe both the players and the President.

Political protest is as old as politics itself. Nothing new here. How such protest manifests itself is as varied, and effective, as human imagination and determination. Lately, in a nation as deliberately divided as ours, professional politicians and moneyed individuals, with their own agendas, have been stoking the fires of political dissent. While their endgames may differ, they have one thing in common: methodology. Theirs is to incite the average citizen who gets his or her news in “10 second or less” snippets and thereby jack them up into rage. When that approach is less than successful….well, then they just pay protestors to show up and rail against what may or may not be fact… and against what the protestors themselves may or may not understand.

What matters is the rebellion and resulting chaos, not the truth of things.

So in a nation now convinced that we are racist, homophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic, gender-phobic and heaven knows what other-phobic, many have reached the point where complaining about a lack of “safe spaces” and taking a knee is the new heroism.

Never mind that the concerned students lacking safe spaces are attending costly universities where they are taught revisionist history, study majors that have no realistic possibility of ever getting them a job sufficient to pay off their student debt and are coddled by parents and faculty alike to stay children for four more, irresponsible years.

As for sports figures earning millions (and often tens of millions) of dollars for throwing and catching a ball (yes, I know they get tackled and suffer concussions but our young men and women serving in the military suffer far worse consequences for a pittance) think the playing field (not the pen and paper or keyboard) is the place for them to make their displeasure known while disrespecting the very country that is making it possible to for them to earn tens of millions of dollars throwing and catching a ball. Such hypocrisy.

At the same time, we have a President of the United States calling those players “sons of bitches.” It’s hard to call such behavior anything but classless and immature. In fact, his choice of words and delivery style inadvertently gave class to the equally classless taking of knees by the very people he was railing against.

What have we come to? Chaos, confusion, division and hatred. We have chosen up sides without stopping to realize that the very act of choosing sides is precisely what we have been manipulated into doing. 

People who know me often hear me say, “There is only one of us.” What I mean by that is we are all connected. Whether it’s a biblical perspective or a genetic one, we all started out from the same place, even if we differ regarding where that “place” was. And like the single-celled amoeba on the ocean floor, it was not likely a safe space. It was likely fraught with dangers and conditions hostile to our survival. None-the-less, in our limited consciousness we moved on and, by joining forces when necessary, figured out how to survive.

Our success at survival has always had two key components: determination and an inherent knowing that we cannot do it alone. Yes, we each bring something unique to the table; but it is in our fundamental connection to others that the many manifests outcomes that transcend the limitation of the individual.

I am a Jew, but there was something really profound in Jesus saying…”Whenever two or more of you are gathered in my name.” I can’t speak to the “in my name” portion. But what he certainly knew is that what can be done in unity and harmony far exceeds what one can do alone. And there is no stopping the power of love.

This is precisely why so few have now set out to divide and cause dissonance among so many. They know the power of unity and harmony and are, if you’ll forgive the pun, “Hell bent” on keeping us at each other’s throats.

So whether it’s a classless and inarticulate President, sports figures taking a knee, or just angry citizens paid to get out and create chaos for the sheer thrill of it …let’s wake up and wise up.

We have real issues to face: the long-term effects of Artificial Intelligence, an escalating Middle East crisis, social media execs spoon feeding us selective information tailored to manipulate and control us, a bogus economy like a ticking time bomb, an opioid epidemic… and that list is not exhaustive. Let’s stop dancing to someone elses tune.

Ask yourself, “When was the last time I personally witnessed racism, homophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia (is there such a thing anyway?), gender-phobia or any other blatantly uncivil behavior. And because I suspect you answer is either 1) never; 2) not for some time; or 3) I can’t recall, then put away the righteous indignation, stop humoring others who feel the need to express theirs in ways that are divisive and get on to living a life based upon what really matters: Love, Unity, & Harmony. Sound a bit too corny? What’s the alternative? Fear, Separation and Discord? How’s that been working out for us?

Step By Step

We were in Quebec and I ordered water in French. You should have seen the shock on my daughters’ faces! They had no idea their father spoke the language. I first learned French in grammar school and then again in high school. I retained enough basic vocabulary to get by in limited situations. But having a rough understanding of French has always gnawed at me because, while I could understand parts of conversations, it wasn’t enough to make me even close to fluent. I was stuck in a sort of “no man’s land” of comprehension. But with the advent of some great apps and programs I knew I could get over that hump.

A few years ago I decided to become a bit more serious about re-acquiring my skills in French. I began practicing five minutes a day on an app called Duolingo. Then, I added an app called  lingvist .  By doing both daily, I have became confident that I can and will master the language. I study 40 words a day and, slowly but surely, I have noticed that I am becoming much more adept at it.

 

Generally speaking, it takes about 500 hours to become fluent in a language.  Since I have a head start because I studied it earlier in life, I know I can cut down that time in order to master French.  Oddly enough, most people who take language in high school never become fluent. Most high schools treat it as a basic requirement but don’t really demand the students learn the language. I can  guarantee you that if high schools required that you had to actually learn a second language sufficient to speak and write it in order to graduate, it would be taken much more seriously.

The reality is that just knowing one other language in my life, Spanish, has helped me immensely. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me their stories of regret for not having learned another language when they hear me speaking Spanish, at which I am fluent. In fact, here in Texas, there are many second and third generation Mexicans who don’t speak Spanish because their parents never taught them! Many of them feel a sense of embarrassment for not having learned their native tongue…especially when it comes to the family gatherings.

What many of those more recent generations of Mexicans don’t realize is how much closer they are to learning the language compared to others. They have been around it for years. They have heard their parents and other family members speak it. Their ears, not to mention their brains, have been trained to what the language should sound like. All that is required now is a formal plan and the discipline to put in the study hours. Nothing more.

When I was in my twenties and hadn’t spoken Spanish in years, I bought some language CD’s and studied them for about a year. It was not a huge time commitment by any stretch; but, I faithfully studied the material for thirty minutes a day. At year’s end, I had become fluent once more! I was again confident in my ability to converse in the language. That skill was a major reason I was successful at being offered a very good job. All from daily practicing Spanish.

Once I saw my success at learning a language, I created daily rituals in other areas of my life for things I wanted to master. Today, I do these things every day without fail. Most of them only take a few minutes. What I love about them is that these daily disciplines tend to “compound” exponentially over time. For example, since I know Spanish, French is actually easier to learn. There are many words in the two languages that share commonality in origin; thus, it is easier to figure out certain words…one from the other.  Just by knowing Spanish, my learning curve for French is less.

Another one of my daily habits is reading. I have Kindle installed in my iPhone.  I literally have a book with me at all times. When waiting at the checkout counter or a Doctor’s office, I use those five or ten minutes (or longer!) to read.  As a result, I read much more quickly now and so acquire knowledge at an ever increasing rate. On average, I read about five books a month. There was no magic secret to my getting to this place…just establishing a daily ritual.  An added bonus: my ever-increasing and deepening  understanding has made me a better husband, father and businessman.

Perhaps you will let this post provide you with the bit of inspiration you need to accomplish some of the things in life you’d like to master.  In case you get hung up and start thinking any one of them is just too big to tackle remember the saying, ” How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

One Simple Act of Love

Yesterday was a bad day. One of my worst.

I heard news that devastated me. It was, quite literally, as if I had been punched in the stomach and couldn’t recover. But, as a parent, I had to carry on. It was teacher conference day at the kid’s school.  As soon as I arrived I knew something was wrong. It turns out I was a day early.

Since I didn’t have my car, I had to wait for my wife to pick me up. I waited and waited but she didn’t come. My phone battery died so I couldn’t call Uber or a taxi.  After waiting as long as I could, I decided to walk home. What I didn’t know was that my younger children were at home and they were getting worried. I had been away for too long and they left their rooms to wait for me by the door.

When I finally arrived home some four hours later tired, depressed and frustrated, I walked in the house to see my four- year-old sound asleep on top of a chair with his head pressed against the window. He had been looking out and waiting for me when, exhausted, he just fell asleep.

That scene of him asleep on top of the chair broke my heart but in so doing it made it bigger.  I have a friend who likes to say “there’s more room in a broken heart” and now I know what she means.

All day I had been wallowing in my problems feeling super depressed about my current predicament and the bad news I had received. Then, I was confronted with that expression of my son’s love for me. My absence had troubled him so much that he feel asleep looking out a window.

When I asked my nine year old daughter why they were waiting downstairs for me she said, “We could tell you were really upset and were very worried about you.” I was blown away. I had tried to mask my situation from my kids but they had sensed something was wrong and showed their concern in the only way they could… by waiting at the front door for me. So with iPhones, iPads and computers at their disposal to pass the time or distract them from their anxiety, they had abandoned all of it to sit and wait for their Dad.

Children are amazing. I have been blessed with six. We even wanted more but my wife had a few miscarriages along the way.  So even though raising them is time consuming and makes no economic sense, I wanted more. Children have the ability to reach us and connect us in ways adults simply cannot. There is something magical about a child’s love and innocence. About their awe for things we adults tend to miss or dismiss. They have the ability to inspire.

So, even after a day when I felt like a total failure, my children reminded me of my value and importance. They let me know that no matter what, I am worthy of love and consideration and they showed it by waiting for me at the front door…and falling asleep with a head pressed up against a window.

Thank you, Lee and Amelia, for thinking of me. Right back at you.

Dad

sleeclark@gmail.com

Drowning in Content

There is a famous story in Hollywood about a young director who approached a seasoned Hollywood producer for advice on how to complete a movie he was working on. The producer said, “Live for ten years and then do the movie.”

Most young people have no stories to tell. They have no context to shape stories and no depth to give them life. How could they? They haven’t lived long enough. Are there exceptions? Sure.  Wendy Shalit, who wrote her seminal book “A Return to Modesty” about sexuality, is impressive given that she was in her early twenties when she wrote the book. Or, Ryan Holliday who, at age 20, wrote his expose on the media in, Trust me I’m Lying. Its insight into the tricks used by the media to manipulates the public. However, Shalit and Holliday are the exceptions not the rule.

Generally speaking, lasting creativity require years of living and introspection to mature. Steve Martin’s autobiography “Born Standing Up” provides great insight into the journey of a comic and how Martin became a master of his craft. He spent years living in motel rooms while doing stand-up routines all over the country. He reworked and refined his jokes while performing in thousands of venues before he finally made it. When the public finally heard of Steve Martin, they called him an “overnight sensation” after appearing on Saturday Night Live. What they did not see were all the years of dedication, trial and error to hone his craft.

Most great work and analysis takes time. Yet, given the advent of the web, there is an increased demand for content the likes of which we have never before seen. Newspapers, blogs, media sites must produce insightful and relevant content for eyeballs, clicks and advertising dollars. I suspect that the administrators of these sites are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content they need to come up with on a daily basis. Combine this with an educational system that focuses more on political correctness than facts… and you have a recipe for disaster. An insatiable  demand for content, a Left leaning educational system and a lack of general history is the baseline for the content we see.

The pressure and rush to create content sublimates the need for truthfulness and accuracy. It does irreparable damage and is making us a less civil society.  Check out these three reports that got it wrong:

Story 1

A  few years ago, CNN reporter Erin Burnett did a huge story on the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage and the resultant decrease in church attendance as a result. Burnett’s position was that people like her would never join the church, and its former members would never return to the church, unless it became more modern and adapted to the prevailing culture. I guess in CNN’s mind it was a valid viewpoint and worth the resources to develop.

But Catholics with any religious foundation understood the juvenile approach to Burnett’s perspective. The Church does not endorse gay marriage because it believes marriage is a sacrament where a man and woman are joined in matrimony for the creation of life. It’s that simple. The Church has taught this for over 2000 years and continues to do so. Erin Burnett thought she had hit upon what reforms the Church needed to enact to become more relevant. Instead, what she displayed was a total lack of understanding of the Catholic Church. The Church does not care about change. It cares about teaching the Word of God. For the Church, the truth is not determined by polls or popular opinion, it is self-evident and found in Scripture.

Story 2

The last eight years was filled with reporting on the “do-nothing” Congress under former President Obama. The story was highlighted every day, ad nauseam, how handicapped Obama was due to Congress’ obstructionism. The obstruction got so bad that Obama’s only real piece of legislation, Obamacare, was passed only when he had control over both houses. Even then, the bill was never reconciled in the Senate.

To those who prefer to forget, Scott Brown was elected Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts solely for his promise to cast the one vote that would stop reconciliation of the bill. But Brown was never given the chance. Obama passed the bill by circumventing the legislative process.

The actual reason President Obama was barely able to pass any bills is because that was how the system was created over two hundred years ago. It had nothing to do with President. The Founding Fathers so mistrusted the political class, and career politicians, that they designed a system that gave all of its power to the people…not the politicians. Anyone with a basic understanding of civics knows this. However, the media did not report it as a systemic fail safe because they wanted Congress to capitulate its role and give in to Obama whose political agenda synced with theirs. For eight years, the media tried to convince the American public that Congress was at fault. To the contrary, under our  Constitution, the Executive branch simply failed to bring along the Legislative branch for consensus.

Story 3

We have seen the complete removal of the Confederate Flag from our national history. Southern war heroes, as well as Confederate solders graves, have been desecrated. The media has a narrative, lacking in subtly, that the Civil War was fought by the North against the South over slavery. Southerners were racist, had slaves and wanted to keep that way of life intact. Northerners were noble, pure and thought the cause was important enough to fight the South to abolish it.

The Civil War occurred between 1861-1865. Slaves in the North were not freed until 1863, or two years after the war had started. If the North thought it was so important, why didn’t they free their slaves prior to the war? The fact is that although slavery was a major issue,  it wasn’t the only issue that drove the Civil War. The South wanted to secede from the North over taxation and other states’ rights issues, including slavery, and the North was not going to let that happen. The Civil War was a manifestation of the ongoing debate over states’ rights versus a centralized government. That debate, which began in the 1700’s, rages on today. The issues affecting the Civil War are complex; but, the false narrative promulgated by the media pushes the narrative of a racist South while never shining a light on the culpability of the North.

Our youth are most vulnerable and easily manipulated because they lack the necessary perspective and critical thinking skills that come from an understanding of history tempered with one’s own life experiences.  When Al Gore tells young people, “There are some things about our world that you know that older people don’t know,” Why would that be? Well in a period of rapid change, the old assumptions sometimes just don’t work anymore because they’re out of date,”  is no different than handing democracy to a nation that has spent hundreds of years or more under dictatorship. You need a period of transition and perspective. Without those, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Such is the damage done by a media driving people to civil unrest through revisionist history and misinformation. We are more connected than at any other time in human history. It is ironic that content for its own sake lacking truthfulness and integrity is doing as much harm, if not more, than when we knew less.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

The Power Of Change

David had blood on his hands and he knew it.

He had gotten his friend, Betty Van Patter, a job as a bookkeeper with the Black Panthers. Betty needed work. Although David had heard rumors that the Panthers were rough and violent, that did not dissuade him. He thought the rumors were just meant to discredit the organization; but he was wrong. The Black Panthers murdered Betty Van Patter over discoveries she made regarding the pilfering of funds by certain members of the Black Panther organization.

That murder took place in 1974. It turned David’s world upside down, causing him to rethink everything he had learned and in which he thought he believed. In the end, he discovered that had been driven by a flawed ideology and that ideology that got his friend killed. As a result, David went through a massive personal crisis and completely changed his life.

David Horowitz tells the complete story of his journey in the book “Radical Son.”

Horowitz re-examined all areas of his life. Raised and ideologically infused by his parents, two card carrying Communists, he had to undo his belief system and his sense of self that was tied to that ideology.  He forged a new identity in the Conservative Movement and became known as someone who had “been there” and truly saw the dark side of the Left’s ideology.  The changes he made cost him everything…his job, friends, reputation and all of his contacts. Even after he forged his new identity, his old enemies from the Conservative side looked at him with disdain. They did not believe that such a person could ever change their stripes.

Change is hard.

Not everyone goes through such cataclysmic change in their lives as did David Horowitz. However, each of us in our lives is confronted by change and, if up to the task, embraces it. In my own life, I have had to reinvent myself time and time again. When I was in college I ran a t-shirt company and produced a calendar for my university to help finance my studies.  After college, I spent  four years on active duty as a Marine Officer. I changed tracks again leaving the service and started trading commodities. That led me to brokering bonds followed by trading bonds. Now, full circle, I am again an entrepreneur

Each change required massive effort to learn new skills. Many times I was on my own in a new city or country with no contacts or resources. I had to figure it out all on my own.  In each of those endeavors I was, at first, a failure.

Along the way I learned Aikdio. It taught me the most valuable lesson of all. To get good at anything you first have to be really bad at it.  The only way to get good at Aikido, or anything new for that matter,  is to be able to endure how bad you are going to be in the beginning. I take that lesson everywhere in my life because I know it is part of a process. Most people are not open to being so vulnerable because there is no denying it can be embarrassing.

Even with my children, I notice at an early age that they are scared to try new things because they don’t want to be embarrassed. My youngest daughter plays on a club team and is considered to be quite talented for her age. The coach always likes to play her in only one position as it gives the team the best chance to win. I always battle with him and ask him to play her in a variety of positions because she still needs to learn much more about the game. The coach is always reluctant to play her in other spots because as he puts it “She just is not as good in other positions.” I agree with him. She isn’t as good in other positions. There’s the conundrum: in order to be good at another position you have to first let her be bad for a while. Many coaches nowadays specialize too much and focus too much on winning such that they lose sight of the bigger picture that all things in life take time to flourish.

If we only gravitate to what we are good at then we will never really know what we are capable of. In my own life, in my own small way, I challenge myself with the material I read. I usually have one book that I am reading that is easy and one that is hard so that the material requires real effort on my part. One of the books I finished in the last few years was called The Prize, which is a masterpiece that chronicles the history of oil. It was grueling to read! I was lucky to read ten pages a day. Yet, the book left me with a much deeper appreciation for the history of economics that I never would have had if I had not challenged myself. The result was that this incremental improvement in my understanding of the oil markets has opened up a new business opportunity for me.

So even within the confines of what we do know, there are deeper levels of understanding that one gets only by change and challenge. Frank Shamrock, the legendary fighter, say that his recipe for success is to train with someone better than you so that they can teach you, someone who is at your same skill level so that they can challenge you, and someone beneath you so that you can teach them. This recipe will always be challenging your abilities and changing the way that you fight.

William Pollard, Quaker writer and minister, said “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” Most of the change that I’ve encountered in my life was thrust upon me. However, as I get older, I actively seek out and explore new experiences that will challenge and cause me to grow.  The only real certainty in life is change so its best to embrace it rather than resist it.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

Houston: Tragedy and Opportunity

I believe in God. If that offends you, or makes you question my sanity, read no further. But if you’re open to the possibility, or you already get it, then it’s worth hearing me out.

People who know me will tell you that for at least six months I have been saying “We are about to experience a natural disaster.” Why? Because I find the Bible instructive, if not literally then figuratively, as a means for understanding how the world works. This includes people as well as nature.  So, as I observed the disintegration of our values and confusion amid our priorities it seemed to me that God, in the form of nature, was about to intervene.

When we humans so lose our way that a return to our highest selves appears to be almost an impossibility, nature has a way of grabbing us by the throat and screaming, “Yo!”

Enter Hurricane Harvey.

Believe me, this is not to make light of the tragedy that continues to occur in Houston. I live in Austin, just outside the range of devastation and havoc wreaked by this storm. My heart is pained by the suffering and loss of both human and animal life. I cannot imagine the horror of trying to, literally, stay afloat as water rises waist high and beyond or the terror felt by those who are incapacitated or elderly and reliant upon rescue.

Now think about Confederate flags and statues.

How much time, energy and resources have been spent on issues that divide us? How long have the Democrats and Republicans been battling it out? How long has the news media been manipulating you and reporting lies as truth? How angry and violent have a sufficient amount of extremists become, on both ends of the spectrum, to have actually engendered talk of a civil war? How many hours do you spend on your iPhone, iPad or computer? How much of your life is lived on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? How hard are you working to make ends meet at the expense of time spent with your family or cultivating human relationships?

Disintegrating values and confused priorities.

Pharaoh had a similar problem as did the Israelites. So did Noah’s neighbors, residents of Lot and the builders of Babel. The lesson we are to learn from those “stories” is that when we humans get so far off track that we are no longer willing to find our way home, God steps in and uses one of the many tools at His disposal. Plagues, locusts, darkness, pestilence, blood, hail, fire. These and others are the means by which we become focused and redirected back to the path we are intended to travel. It’s the path of compassion, sacrifice, service, and love.

Such is the opportunity presented us in Houston. It is the moment when we are turned back to our highest selves. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t painless. It’s just necessary.

Look at and read about the individual acts of heroism. The selfless acts of giving. The outpouring of love and compassion that we are hardwired to perform. They all reminds us, albeit by way of suffering, that we are in this together and without one another we do not survive.

This week, the petty political agendas and false idols (media) have been exposed to reveal themselves for their malice and the divisions that they foster. Houston can and may be a turning point if, and only if, we realize that hurricanes are but one example of what God is capable of when we devolve into our lower selves and abdicate living lives that exemplify our oneness.

God began with turning the Nile into blood but it was only the beginning. It took nine more acts of nature to get everyone’s focused attention. Let’s not go there.

Should Mnuchin Resign?

 

Yesterday I received the following message from someone at my high school:

“To my fellow Riverdale Country School alumni. I am inspired by Yale alumni asking Mnuchin to resign in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and White Supremacy. I believe many of Mnuchin’s fellow Riverdale alumni feel the same. I’m collecting feedback from this post. Looking to see if there is interest–or if anyone has any great ideas on how to get a message through.”

Steve Mnuchin went to my high school and is the current Secretary of the Treasury appointed by President Trump. He also went to Yale and his University is asking him to resign. Now, alumni of our high school are asking him to do the same as a sign of protest over Trump’s comments and lack of response to the Charlottesville violence.

I wanted to post the following on my friend’s timeline: “I must have missed Trumps quote , can you please provide the quote that Trump supported the Nazis and white supremacist groups.” But, before I did, I was stopped by an old friend. He is a very outspoken black conservative radio host in Atlanta. He told me, “Steve, the real crazies are the ones we grew up with back home in NYC (Northeast Liberals). Even I wouldn’t ask that right now. The Left is totally unhinged.”

The argument over Trump’s statements are not that he did not condemn the protestors; but, that he did not do it forcefully enough. Therefore, he must be a racist.

During the same period, ESPN pulled an Asian announcer from one of their  football broadcasts because his name is Robert Lee.  Apparently, ESPN is worried that some people may confuse Robert Lee the football announcer with Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General who has been dead for over 100 years. This is insane. But, it won’t stop. Even NYC Mayor de Blasio has said he may pull down a statue of Christopher Columbus because of his dubious past. Columbus Circle, where the statue stands, is the epicenter of New York City. It stands at the cross roads of Central Park and is at the intersection between the East and West sides of New York.

ESPN, De-Blasio, and others are merely following the same path that the pitchfork mob has set. There is no logic and no reason driving their behavior and it won’t stop until we collectively all stop.

The Left and Progressives are getting on the band wagon to remove our history. The first thing that being assaulted is free speech. The reason I did not comment on the post was because all of the people on that thread would have targeted and called me a Nazi sympathizer for asking a simple question: “Please show me the text of Trump’s comments supporting the Nazi’s and White Supremacists.” The Left marches on….erroneously claiming the high ground while tearing down a public forum for civil debate.

This is not the first time I have experienced this type of silencing.

A few years back I had a similar experience when I  was invited to comment on a friend’s “entertainment lawyer’s” blog regarding the stance of the Catholic Church on contraception. (I was invited because of my understanding on Catholic doctrine so as to foster a robust debate.) What I wrote on that blog was only two sentences long explaining church teachings. Yet, within minutes, I had hundreds of comments and direct messages calling me the most vile names for those two sentences. I literally had to block numerous agitators who would send me threatening messages for weeks on end, all for stating the church’s teachings. The Left did not want to hear the rationale. What they wanted was  to silence and intimidate me.

This whole movement is an exercise in power. Power by the Left to control society.  While free speech may be first, they have larger goals in mind. The destruction and annihilation of our history followed by a new society unconstrained by our Constitution. In a relatively short period of time, the Left has been able to remove the confederate flag, southern iconic statutes and now the desecration of confederate soldiers’ graves.

This is only the beginning.

The Left does not seem to understand that, in the end, all revolutionaries eventually eat their own. There is never anybody remaining who is pure enough. It is a standard no man can meet. Look at what happened to the leaders of the French Revolution. They were killed by same the movement they started.  So what started out as removal of confederate generals’ statues could end up with the removal of the Washington Memorial and worse.

If you are a new reader to this blog you know I work in conjunction with Carole Gold. On the face of it, the Left would immediately label us as two white people who write this blog and thus our opinions don’t count. Yet, Carole is female and Jewish. I am Latino and Catholic with an immigrant mother. By all traditional definitions we are part of that special cabal called “minorities.” Yet in the Leftist world, our opinions have no value since we are “white.”

Pamela Geller, the Conservative activist,  has warned her readers for years about the cultural march by the Left. Geller has warned that our silence in these matters only emboldens the Left. She believes we are in a culture war on the verge of a civil war and that those on the Right will no longer be able to remain silent. In the future we will no longer have that option. We will have to choose sides. So I write this blog and post my articles on Medium so as not to remain silent.

In the end, I opted not to post on my friend’s feed, because the truth of the advice I was given hit home: the Left has become totally and absolutely unhinged. They have lost the ability to reason. They would not have been able to read my comments as thoughtful and provoking but rather as an attempt by another “white nationalist” defending Trump.

The Left has gone insane but marches on. God help us all. Yet as I write that last sentence I know that we must stand for what we believe in and help ourselves or there will be no Divine assistance. God is back-up for the correct use of our Free Will to stand and be heard for what is in the highest good for all humankind and not be intimidated by the violence of a few.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com