Mental Illness and The Red Pill

The average age of onset for depression is 14, as diagnosed now, compared to age 45 in the 1960’s. If that statistic doesn’t give us all a moment’s pause in the current national gun control debate nothing will.

The above statistic comes from an article published today in Britain’s “The Telegraph” which cites the results of the largest scientific study ever carried out in Great Britain. The article notes that the results and recommendations of the study have been published in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal and one of the world’s oldest and best known. Perhaps the most astonishing, and disturbing, of those conclusions is this: a million more Britons should be placed on anti-depressants.

Now let’s tie the first two paragraphs of this post together with a personal story.

At age 24, I was being treated for ongoing depression. My doctor had prescribed Triavil. The generic is amitriptyline and perphenazine, a tricyclic antidepressant. Side effect warnings are as follows:

Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself. [emphasis added].

I didn’t report any worsening symptoms. I simply tried to commit suicide, which is not uncommon for people on anti-depressants or those coming off that class of drugs. So imagine my dismay (there’s an understatement!) to read that physicians and scientists in Britain want to put 1 million more people on them.

We humans like quick, simple and generally overreaching solutions. So with mental illness, a definition that encompasses not only depression and anxiety but also a myriad of complicated and diverse conditions, of course…let’s give them all a pill and be done with it. Let’s not be bothered by the annoying and multi-faceted “why” behind the statistic of depression onset falling from age 45 to age 14 in 50 years. After all, that would require inquiry, dialogue and behavior modification, not to mention an assessment of cultural and societal influences.

It’s kind of like saying, “We’ve clearly got an increase in violent behavior by humans so let’s get rid of all the guns.” Never mind that without understanding and addressing the underlying causes of the increase in violent behavior, we humans, being the ingenious creatures that we are, will find other ways to express the violence brewing within us.

Nor do I think that the proliferation of mental illness (as found by the British study and as evident here in the U.S. as it is in Britain) is unrelated to increased violent behavior toward one another. But neither a pill nor gun confiscation will solve either of these because treating the effect without treating the cause is like putting a band aid on a visible sarcoma. You may cover up the unpleasantness you’d rather not see… but the underlying disease continues to metastasize.

Mental illness remains one of the last taboos. We are a culture where you can openly be gay but not openly depressed. Where a parent will stand side-by-side with a daughter who “identifies” as a son, but who will not acknowledge a psychotic child. Where social media revels in shaming but not compassion. Where acceptance of diversity is demanded of racial issues but not encouraged on the battle ground of ideas.

I have some advice for the British scientists and physicians who want to medicate one million more people with synthetic drugs. The only pill any of us should be taking at this point is the red pill not the blue one.  And if you don’t know what that means it’s time you watch “The Matrix”…because we’re in it.    Carole

Animal Farm

I just finished the first season of Fargo and really enjoyed it.The story centers around an out-of-luck insurance salesman, Lester, who is forever being taken advantage of. The antagonist of the show is Lorne Malvo, a hit man, who seeds discord and destruction wherever he goes. Malvo’s modus operandi is based upon his belief that that man is still an animal. Thus, the norms that govern civil society do not apply to him. For him, the laws created by and for humans lack acknowledgment of the animal nature that exists within us.  As Malvo sees it, even though humans have evolved from apes over thousands of years, the internal wiring which made us predators still exists today.  Society tends to suppress that drive but, by so doing, actually cripples the spirit. Malvo is charming and very different from Lester which leads Lester to fall under his sway. Its a path that leads to eventual ruin. As the show progresses, Malvo kills, maims and terrorizes anyone who gets in his way until his own demise. In many ways, he is the ultimate evil character.

Malvo’s predatory nature, and what it represents, is meant to be a caricature of the evil that exists in each of us. The more I thought about the show, the more I thought about the many malicious and cruel ways we humans are capable of acting.  In some ways we are not much better than him. Perhaps its particularly evident in the way we treat industrial farm animals raised for our consumption. I use to visit pig farms when I traded commodities and witnessed the conditions firsthand.

Pig farms are structured in such a way that the animals are raised in a clean and sanitary environment; but, only from a superficial perspective. They are housed in tight quarters with no ability to roam. They are fed solely to grow fat. They get  little exercise and spend endless hours jammed together in pens. Expectant female pigs have it the worst. They are continually inseminated and bred to have more pigs. After birth, within weeks, piglets are separated from their mothers to begin their fattening process. The piglets cry for the mother as the mother mourns the loss of her children; yet, the cycle begins again and she is inseminated to start the process anew. Many of the pens are too small for an expectant mother to sleep on her side and so she spends months in constant pain with no relief. All the while, she endures this painful pregnancy only to have her offspring torn away from her within weeks.

Anybody who has had pets or been around animals can tell you that animals have feelings and emotions. Pigs, like humans, are mammals. They have family structures and protect their young. They evolved, like all other mammals, to live in groups and have a sense of structure. . Pigs, for that matter, are considered highly intelligent creatures. I can only surmise that many of these female pigs likely experience severe depression, even going mad, over the pain and loss they are forced to endure. Yet, this is how we humans breed and raise pigs. They are viewed as commodities without any regard for their emotional well being. To raise and care for them in any other way is not “economically” viable.

According to Charles Darwin, all species evolved over thousands of years. The result of what we see today is the strongest and most viable offspring of thousands of years of evolution. Yet the evolution of pigs (and most farm animals) has ceased.  No longer free to roam, pigs are bred with one end: to feed humans. Similarly, chickens are bred and fed such a point they are barely able to move. For cows who produce milk, their udders can be so large they burst. For these animals their evolutionary journey has ceased. They exist solely for human consumption.

Which leads me back to Malvo.

The way we treat most factory farm animals suggests behavior more in line with Malvo’s rationale. We pride ourselves on not acting like him, but in many ways we are just as inhumane.  In the movie The Cove, filmmakers exposed how a segment of Japanese fisherman kill thousands of dolphins each year in hopes of selling a hand-full to amusement parks for profit. The dolphins are trapped into a tiny area and then clubbed to death with bats. Like pigs, dolphins are treated as a commodity with no value given to their lives beyond the profit motive. Like pigs, dolphins have been shown to be highly advanced mammals with an intricate communication system and seem to be lacking and significant aggressive behavior.

While we tend to scoff at the characters portrayed on TV as “caricatures,” Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of Malvo as a corrupted individual is much closer to reality than most of us would be comfortable admitting. Look at the pornography industry. It is known to have predators much worse than anything writers can create. In the documentary called Hot Girls Wanted, filmmakers  follow aspiring young porn stars in Miami and document the tragedies that befall them. These young girls are exploited and abused to such an extent that the majority of them are finished in the industry in under six months and left with lifelong emotional scars.

There’s a saying that fact is stranger than fiction. If we are honest about who we are and of what we are capable, we’d have to admit that its also crueler. Instead of carrying on about statues of Founding Fathers that “offend us” because they allegedly had slaves, perhaps we should use that same energy to look at how we enslave…whether pigs, chickens, cows or  or aspiring porn stars.

It doesn’t take a village or a President to stop the behavior. It takes each of us, every day, standing for what we know is right and making certain we are not part of the problem.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

The Cowardice of Anonymity

The internet should have made us smarter but instead it made us more cowardly.  Courage has always been one of the least prolific traits in us humans.  It’s why we are so moved by stories of heroism.  While we all wish we could step up in moments of crisis or need and do the right thing, most of us know that it’s likely going to be someone else who does the heavy lifting because, for the most part, we lack the courage of our convictions.

As if this realization, and fact, isn’t dismaying enough, enter the potentiality of the internet. With the advent of social media, it became possible for cowards to wreak havoc from the quiet and safety of their own personal space…be that their office or their mother’s basement.  Name calling, shaming, outing, verbally assaulting, accusing and spreading known falsehoods, (formerly called lying and recently identified as fake news) have become the coward’s creed. It’s all done without attribution; hence, anonymously.

Wanting and taking no credit, wanting and taking no responsibility cowards wreak havoc on a culture already vulnerable and fragile.  We have become a nation of wizards, behind the figurative curtain, powerless in our own lives but still able to turn enough wheels, ring enough bells and generally make enough noise to delude ourselves that we are powerful in our own way and able to make a difference.

The only difference such people make is that with each anonymous attack or dissemination of knowing falsehood, they move us closer to the destruction of everything good and decent that we are capable of achieving.  They feed their own inadequacies and insecurities by telling themselves they matter. After all, look at all the chaos they are able to create. As if negatively creating is the same as effecting positive change. As if there is no difference between evil and good.

I heard a true story about a visitor to Auschwitz, the German concentration camp, who spoke with an elderly woman who lived in one of the surrounding towns while the Nazi’s were cremating Jews within shouting distance.  This particular woman had helped feed and hide Jews. When the visitor asked her “How did you suddenly become righteous in the midst of all the chaos” she replied, “Oh, the righteous didn’t suddenly become righteous. They just refused to go over the cliff with everybody else.”

Recently, I have been the object of falsehoods published about me at the community in which I live. The Board of Directors took it upon themselves to publish those falsehoods in an email to all the residents. Its their response to a difference of opinion. The statements are false and I have proof of it and so I will take appropriate action. After all, I’m a lawyer.

It is unlikely that twenty years ago, or maybe even ten, people would have been so quick to think you can just make facts up, or twist the ones that exist, and then publicly spread the lies. But, sadly, too many of have devolved into our lower selves. Conditioned by social media, we have taken up the banner of anonymity cloaking ourselves in a false sense of power and importance.

Our culture of anonymity is doomed to self-destruct.  The Wizard of Oz is instructive. Eventually the curtains will be lifted, and the impotent cowards will be exposed for who they are.  But in order for that to happen, we will need to reach a tipping point where enough of us refuse to go over the cliff with everybody else.

I’m standing securely on the edge watching the many go off the cliff. Where are you?

Carole

 

 

A Day In The Park

“You were at the park? Wow! I haven’t been to the park in fifteen years.” To which I replied, “I haven’t stopped going for twenty.”

My friend who made the comment has two kids, ages 16 and 18. He was obviously shocked that I still go to the park. When he was younger he had taken his kids, as toddlers, but as they had gotten older he stopped going. To the contrary, I have six kids ages 6 to 19 and I take my kids out into nature every day. If I don’t, they can become unbearable…to themselves as well as me!

These outdoor excursions have given me the opportunity to meet many people, learn important lessons and make some observations. Admittedly, its now a little strange to encounter people fifteen years my junior with kids the same age as my youngest. I began raising my kids in the playgrounds of New York City. Later we moved to Texas where I have been raising my two youngest. The parenting and lifestyle contrast between New Yorkers and Texans couldn’t be more profound.

When I first started going to the playground in NYC I was, by far, the youngest parent there. The majority of parents were in the early forties, learning to parent for the first time. It was not uncommon to see multiple sets of twins (usually a sign of genetically-enhanced pregnancy) and kids with disabilities. For most parents, they had waited too long and had resorted to fertilization methods to get pregnant. While the lucky ones had twins, the unfortunate ones had children with disabilities. (I am not dismissing the joy experienced or wisdom learned from raising a disabled child; I am only addressing here the practical consequences of decision making). Those older parents always looked out of breath and out of shape to me. They treated their babies like precious cargo which was, of course, understandable. For many of them, having those children had been a long shot that had cost them a great deal.

NYC is such a competitive environment. I knew what many of those parents had gone through. They had worked hard to establish a career and make money because in Manhattan you need money…lots of it… to survive. They had sacrificed precious years only to find themselves aging and alone with no family. Many of them married in their late thirties and gave birth shortly thereafter.  For those, it was literally their last hope for a mate and a family. For some, when their bodies could not produce the children they wanted, they turned to pharmaceuticals to engineer their kids. And when they finally had their children, those parents looked old and worn out.

Many of those New Yorkers had done their best to “plan” out their lives. They had methodically gone to the best schools, found the best jobs, planned it all out so that when they decided to marry and have a family it would happen on schedule… like all of their other plans. But it never works out that way. The biggest thing I learned from those excursions was that time marches on…irrespective of our having a plan or not. Genetic time clocks tick ever onward.

The exhaustion on their faces showed in everything they did. The pregnancy, the marriage and the kids had been other items on the checklist of their planned lives. Yet, the conversations I had with many of them evidenced regret. They had waited too long to get married and start a family. Time had marched on without them. They had mistakenly believed they could manage life and their management plan had been vanquished. On multiple occasions, I met couples who had married simply because they felt out of options. They were motivated by fear that if they did not marry their current partner, they might never marry at all.

The saddest to observe were the parents of the disabled children. There is nothing more painful for a parent than to see their child suffer. These parents clearly suffered along with their children. Anybody who has had a child can tell you that the risks of birth defects are greater as you age. Statistics bear it out. Yet, these brave parents had risked everything to have a child and accepted the consequences.  They had finally gotten the family they desired and it cost them dearly. The parents in NYC made a Faustian bargain that failed them. They had their kids but found they did not have the energy or time needed to do it right. Sadly, the realization came after the fact.

In Texas, the contrast is startling. The first thing I observed was that the parents were younger. They had gotten married in their twenties and had more children. They seemed to understand that if they wanted kids, family and career it had to be properly prioritized. They were willing to make the career sacrifices to have the family.  For the most part, they seem happier. They made peace with the idea that if you want a family it is best to begin building it while still young.

There are multiple reasons for these two, very different scenarios. One that stands out in my mind is how the media and the Feminist movement promote the notion that women can have it all. They trot out people like Angelina Jolie with her brood of kids and great career as an example to us all that it can, in fact, be had. Even the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote a book called Lean In about how women can have everything their heart desires…family, career, success, etc.  Sandberg is an avowed Feminist who wants to transform the role of women in the workplace.  She is also incredibly wealthy. Her wealth, and the wealth of others like Jolie, makes it possible for them to have it all because they are able to pay for it all. The nanny, the cook, the housekeeper and the tutor.  For the vast majority of women, those chores and necessities must be accomplished by themselves while simultaneously earning a living and trying to raise a family. Further, decisions have to be made and priorities set for which there are real consequences. So while the Jolies, Sandbergs and Feminist movement claim you can have it all, those tired and often sad parents I observed in NYC know its not true.

Children need attention and, most importantly, time. Especially in their formative years. Time from their parents. To think otherwise is foolish, delusional and ultimately destructive to a healthy family life. You can have all the money in the world but it can’t buy time. We all have to live by the same ticking clock.

Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had a great perspective on child rearing: ” If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” In the midst of all her wealth, fame and power Kennedy Onassis figured out what Sheryl Sandberg has yet to learn. The most important thing we do is wisely prioritize our values and put our children at the very top of that list.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

What Feminism Was Supposed To Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carole (contact@carolegold.com)

 

Thoughts on Social Unrest

In America, hopelessness reigns supreme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, right. Charles Ponzi did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Cut Out The Middleman If You Dare

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s do a basic primer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Intel’s Bug is a Plague

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

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

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

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

Here’s another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

Carole (contact@carolegold.com)

Sexual Harassment and Empowerment of Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carole

(contact@carolegold.com)

Corrupt Hollywood Accounting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com