The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

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FUNDING THE ARTS

Andres Serrano's Piss Christ

The debate over whether the government should use taxpayer money to fund the arts took off seriously in 1989 with the display of Andres Serrano’s photograph of a crucified Christ, submersed in a container that contained Serrano’s urine.  The photo was entitled, “Piss Christ”.  The piece set off a fireball of controversy, not surprisingly much of which came from Christians.  Serrano had received a grant to pursue his photographic art through an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

There was talk in the recent budget negotiations that President Trump wanted to eliminate the NEA from it.  That naturally brought howls from those who support government grants for the arts.  Hollywood came out in force.  “A Great Nation Deserves Great Art” was once again trotted out as the discussions took place.  Honestly, I agree with that slogan. But what are the impacts on art when it is government funded – at least in part?

The Serrano piece is certainly a piece of “art” if we define art to include photographic images.  Some people might think it is brilliant.  In my view it is, at the least offensive and vulgar.  Concerning taste, there can be substantially different views on everything from art to pasta sauce.  Freedom to produce art is as much protected by the First Amendment as is freedom of speech.  We might even define art in some forms, painting and ballet, for example, as non-verbal speech.

The only way to ensure that art may be freely produced is to ensure that the First Amendment guarantee is preserved.  It is remarkable that those who were most upset about the proposed defunding of NEA have cohorts who are, at that same time, trying to narrowly define the First Amendment to restrict the right to speak of those who have views that differ from their own by describing those who dissent from their viewpoint as spewing “hate speech”.

Even if this argument were valid, which I do not believe it is, who is to define what constitutes this sort of speech?  Should the government define rap music as hate speech since many songs use lyrics are filled with vulgarity, the n* word, refer to women as b*tches and advocate for the killing of police?  A government which finds this music and its lyrics objectionable might do just that but for the First Amendment.  But there is a flip side to this coin.

What if a government funds artists – but only those artists who convey a message that they want disseminated?  That’s exactly what happened in the Soviet Union.

Sergei Eisenstein was a Latvian movie director.  He and his mother moved to St. Petersburg when he was young.  Although raised as an Orthodox Christian he became an atheist.  After completing his term of service with the Red Army he decided to study engineering which was his father’s profession.  But he became interested in a new industry – film making and made his mark with the silent film, Battleship Potemkin.

By the late 1930’s the winds of war were howling across Europe.  Stalin was firmly in power in the Soviet Union and he called on Eisenstein in 1938 to make an historical/propaganda film, Alexander Nevsky, a film about the invasion of Mother Russia by the Teutonic Knights which occurred in the 13th century. The monk who accompanies the knights is the very epitome of evil both in appearance and action as he picks up Russian baby after baby, blesses them and throws them on the raging pyre, purging them of their apostasy.  This film was propaganda at it’s finest.  And it was propaganda for which the government paid.

Funding controversial art is part of defending free speech which is currently under assault.  It seems to me that the solution to this problem is simple for those actually seeking a solution.  If you don’t like what someone’s saying, walk out of the lecture.  If you don’t like an artist’s work, don’t look at it or buy a ticket for its performance.   But the arrogant left doesn’t truly want either free speech or art.  They want the Stalinist version of that.

Should the government continue to fund the NEA?  To me, that’s the smallest part of the fight that is ongoing.  The unique characteristic of being able to express ourselves without reservation is the real target.  And if each of us doesn’t rise up, refuse to be silenced and speak out for it, this most precious liberty may well be lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THEY WHO SERVE AND PROTECT

We’ve all heard that the police are here to serve and protect us.  I want to devote this post to the first of those two missions.

Have you ever needed to return something you purchased to a store?  You changed your mind, it’s too big or too small or it doesn’t go with your chartreuse shoes the way you thought it would.  And there you are, annoyed because you have to waste your time going back to the store, waiting in line with all the rest of the customers who are as annoyed as you because they’re doing the same thing.

Then you get to the desk and find a young lady who is thinking that it’s only another two and a half hours until she can get lunch and she’s had a morning filled with nasty customers who believe that she is responsible because their purchase doesn’t go with their chartreuse shoes.  But you’re confident in your ability to expedite this entire process.  You’re going to be pushy and cranky and demand a refund – no store credit will be acceptable to you.

It’s an immovable object and irresistible force kind of thing.

I would be willing to bet that many of the people who work in customer service entered that line of work because they are “people persons.”  Or at least they once were.  But as they listen to never ending complaints, especially when they are expressed without the civility of a “Please” or “Thank You,” well, it does takes its toll on the human spirit.  Illegitimi non carborundum be damned.  And who are the perpetrators of this destruction of the human spirit?  They are nice, everyday, “normal” people like you and me.

Now let’s consider the police and their mission to serve the public.  On the light end of things, we have those who are assigned to traffic duty.  I’ve known quite a few people who were caught committing a moving violation.  When they’ve explained this experience it is generally done by using rather salty language, thoroughly interspersed with expletives.  I have yet to hear someone describe their arrest by saying, “You know, I had the best morning.  The nicest policeman, an Officer Friendly, pulled me over for doing 65 mph in a 40 mph zone.  I am so grateful to him that he reminded me that by travelling at that speed I was endangering other motorists, pedestrians and myself.  I’m certainly going to take this to heart and stay within the speed limit in the future.”

The prudent motorist while awaiting the arrival of his ticket and the return of his registration and license is probably not cursing out the arresting office aloud.  But I am sure many of those in that circumstance aren’t thinking about buying tickets to the Policeman’s Ball either.  And I’m sure the body language is sufficient for the officer to pick up on their antipathy toward him or her.  And they get that every day, every time they stop another abusive motorist.

But as I said, that’s the light end of the job.  Take those who work in drug details or are assigned to a unit that specializes in trying to track down those who rape children or commit murder.  Dealing with that sort of depravity on a daily basis has to take a toll on a person’s spirit and humanity.  I know that’s a job that I couldn’t handle for very long.

Has any member of the police force ever made a mistake – one perhaps that resulted in an innocent person’s death?  Of course.  We all make mistakes – or there would be no need for a police force or a court system or jails.  But the current narrative that the police are some sort of occupying force whose goal is to beat the citizenry into submission – well, I just don’t see that.

To those who do work on our police forces, I am grateful that they have accepted the responsibility to serve the public generally and me in particular.  And I wish them well and offer a heartfelt, “Thank you.”  Perhaps if more of us took a moment to say those two words to the people we meet, we could help reduce the hostility that seems to have enslaved so many of us.  It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

XENOPHOBES

If it weren’t for the ancient Greeks, we wouldn’t have such wonderful words as xenophobe or xenophobia.   The roots are xenos which means foreign or strange and phobos meaning fear.  You’ve heard that word more in the last three months than you did in your entire previous lifetime – irrespective of your age.  Of course, the modern understanding of the word is that it means not fear but hatred of foreigners.

So why have these words been transformed in the common usage?  We can thank the Greeks once again.  The word meme comes from mimema which means that which is imitated, often with slight variations.  Think of the old game of “telephone” in which a message is passed from one person to the next until it reaches the person who initiated it. When that message gets back to the person who originally made it, it is often distinctly different from what its originator actually said.

But our gratitude to the Greeks shouldn’t end there.  Among other ancient cultures, they gave us people to whom we still refer to by using a single name.   Yes, long before we were blessed with Twiggy and Cher there were people like Demosthenes and Plato, Pythagoras and Socrates – people who actually were important and left their stamp on history and human thinking.

For years, western colleges and universities employed the Socratic method of teaching.  It was a system where open debate between the student, other students and the teacher was encouraged.  A person was welcome to hold any opinion.  He simply needed to explain and defend the logic of that position to others engaged in the debate.  Compare that to today’s American schools where there is no need or permission to engage in debate since everything has already been decided.

Apparently the mission of our schools today is to infuse and genetically bond into its student body the “truths” that have been revealed to tenured faculty and make sure that when they hand over that diploma, the student has been thoroughly indoctrinated into this wisdom and be able to cite it, chapter and verse.  We used to refer to this not as educating but as memorizing and, in its most extreme form, brainwashing.

Returning to xenophobia, the word has been used exclusively to accuse and deride those who the memists deride as the “alt-right”.  As justification for their view they cite the effort by President Trump and conservatives to provide a secure border, enforce existing laws on immigration and remove from the country those who are already here illegally and have demonstrated violent behavior.  They attribute racism to those who support those goals as the vast majority of people who are here illegally come from Mexico and Central America.  Yet the very same people who cry xenophobe the loudest are perhaps its strongest proponent.  Take the case of Russia.

From near and far, high and low, those on the left who represent their districts and states in Congress to the masked mobsters who roam the streets wherever there is an opportunity to demonstrate, the word is out that, “Russia interfered with our election and there is an as yet unseen trail leading to President Trump and his staff who purportedly facilitated this subversion.”  So I am confused (which happens more often than I would like to admit).

Aren’t Russians foreign people?  Whatever our political posture in this age of divisiveness I think we can at least agree on that.  So wouldn’t that suggest that the true xenophobes are those who oppose Russian interference – not the right?  Why should the Russians who aren’t even here be expected or compelled to follow the laws of the United States any more than the illegal immigrants who are here and in some fairly large percentage ignore them – well, technically all of them?

We need not reach all the way back to classical Greece to find an accurate description of this sort of behavior.  Groucho Marx hit the nail on the head with this memorable song from his best movie, “Horse Feathers.”

IS AMERICA A GREAT COUNTRY, OR WHAT? (JUST ASK WEIGHT WATCHERS)

Some come to rallies or protests with bull horns.  Others show up armed with brass knuckles and soda cans filled with concrete.  America’s detractors.  The vocal “progressives” throughout the country who sing a song of cacophonous discord.  Their vision of America is that of a country filled with hateful people who are racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and who espouse more phobias than would be needed to fill all five boroughs of New York City’s phone books.

Now it is rather remarkable that these same people are anxious to see America filled with an extensive group of new immigrants from the highways and byways of the world.  The thought occurs to me rather naturally, are these progressives sadists?  Why would they want more people to be subjected to living in the dreadful environment which they describe today’s America to be? And, despite the widespread dissemination of news, are people who believe America to be a cesspool and still want to come here completely insane?  We do not need to import more lunatics to this country.  We already have enough of our own.

For all those who share this view of our country, I have a two word rejoinder.  Weight Watchers.  Let me put that in context.

Back in the ’60’s there were two stocks that traded on the NYSE which were blazing white hot.  The first was Xerox which had developed plain paper copying.  The second was Mead, Johnson  which manufactured a meal replacement product called Metrecal.   Making a Xerox was interchangeable with making a copy.  And having a Metrecal was interchangeable with being on a diet.  But there was one significant difference between Xerox’s achievement and in Mead, Johnson’s.

While Xerox effectively put the smudgy carbon paper industry out of business, Mead, Johnson gave serious impetus to the existence of a brand new industry – the diet industry.

Among the list of the Seven Deadly sins is gluttony.  But gluttony can only exist in an environment where there are the necessities to fulfill it.  In other words, it’s hard to overeat if there’s no food to consume.  The Protestant Reformation in part came into being by criticizing the “cloistered virtue” of Roman Catholic religious orders for depriving their members of the right to exercise free will by removing the temptations that the laity faced and had to deal with on a daily basis.

In America we have no lack of food – and no lack of people who are consciously or otherwise willing to take advantage of that fact.  Inevitably, that has resulted in a fair amount of tummy bulge leading us now to the point where we are “achieving” obesity rates that dwarf those in every other country worldwide.  This is not a new phenomenon – but it seems to be accelerating it’s pace.

We were gaining weight back fifty years ago.  And the marketers of Metrecal (available in four equally repugnant flavors) hit on something big.  Americans were obsessed with their appearance and their weight.  And we were obsessed with our God-given right to get what we want and get it as quickly as possible – including weight loss.  Metrecal was the “miracle product” of the day.  Pop a can open and you too could look like Raquel Welch.  Had its manufacturer been able to make it more palatable to the average person’s taste, it might have been the biggest product ever invented..  At least that’s what stock investors hoped would happen.

While people grew tired of Metrecal, they didn’t get tired of trying to achieve the perfect, svelte body.  Diet books were published by the hundreds – often with diametrically opposed advice on the most effective way to lose weight.  But those books required a lot of effort.  First, you had to read them.  And then you had to implement the advice they contained.  That was a lot of work for many of us – far too much.  But the diet industry came up with a solution, Weight Watchers – another child of the early sixties.

Weight Watchers recognized a principle of weight loss that we still accept today.  A person who consumed more calories than he expended was going to gain weight – the converse resulting in weight loss.  But for us Americans who want instantaneous results, seeing a pound or two drop off after a week of self-imposed dietary discipline was discouraging to many.  So Weight Watchers incorporated support meetings to encourage us on our journey – and to console us when we failed to see progress.  And they charged a weekly fee to participate in their version of a seven step program.

No stranger to weight problems herself, Weight Watchers’ current spokesperson is Oprah Winfrey.  She purchased a ten percent interest in the company in 2015.  The company needed a high profile PR person to represent them since they spawned a number of competitors including Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig  – and a host of diet pills which to some is far easier than having to weigh and measure.  Of course, the latest phase of the diet industry is selling portion controlled meals, available in frozen form, which thanks to the invention of the microwave oven seems to be the way the industry may go in the future.

Weight Watchers has no operations in Burkina Faso or Venezuela or Sri Lanka or Somalia.  The reason is obvious.  The vast majority of people in those countries do not have an issue with being overweight.  Their challenge is to find enough food to sustain themselves.  And if you don’t believe that a nearly endless food supply makes America different and great – just ask Weight Watchers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PARDON ME

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton.  For more than twenty-five years I’ve thought of her as the potentially most dangerous politician in America.  Nothing has happened in those two and one half decades which has caused me to change my mind on that subject.

On the contrary, White Water, the cattle trading scheme, Vince Foster – well, those are child’s play compared to her irresponsible handling of national security and the corruption attached to the Clinton Foundation which would be revealed if a truly objective investigation were to be conducted.  Of course, we all know that will never happen under the current administration.

Given my view, you might be surprised that I believe that, if President Obama doesn’t beat him to the punch, President-elect Trump should offer a deal to Ms. Clinton which would include a full presidential pardon.  Shocking, you say?  Maybe not so much.

In defending my position, let me first say that I believe Clinton is guilty as sin – in numerous different matters.  Perhaps that is inherently obvious – otherwise why would we even be talking about pardoning her?  Nor do I believe that she has experienced  any great moment of contrition which would warrant absolution in a moral or religious sense.  I think that if she were to review her past deeds, the only remorse that she might be feeling is that she got caught with an insurmountable amount of evidence suggestive of her guilt, too much to spin or lie away this time.

In an election that was heavily weighted in her favor; the benefits that she inherited as a Democrat because of the electoral map; the one-upsmanship afforded her in her primary contest by the DNC; the adulation of her by the media and the opprobrium heaped on her opponent by them; despite all that, she was up-ended by a political outsider and put the much vaunted expectation of our having our first female president on the back burner – at least for now.

Ms. Clinton proved herself to be an anachronism – and “The Times They Are A-Changing.”  Ms. Clinton, the champion of a higher minimum wage lost to Donald Trump, the champion of unlimited opportunity.  Clinton was supported by virtually all the self-styled elites.  Trump was enthusiastically embraced by people who were struggling to pay their mortgage because their jobs had been lost to Mexico.  Clinton espoused a policy of open borders while Trump promised an administration where law and an orderly immigration process would be restored.

So why a pardon for Hillary Clinton?  There are several reasons.

The first is that there really is nothing to gain other than retribution and a warning to others that unlawful behavior will not be tolerated and that nobody is above the law.  That is an important, no, that is the essential foundation of the American experiment and what differentiates us from virtually every other country.  But as you will see if you keep reading, we can make that point in a different way than by appointing a special prosecutor, spending countless hours investigating and arraigning Clinton and then trying and probably convicting her.

The second is that if, and I believe it is, President-elect Trump’s main focus to Make America Great Again, it is best to direct all his and Congress’ attention to getting the ball rolling on doing just that.  Let’s not get distracted by what will undoubtedly be spun as little more than partisan politics – although I believe that is a gross mis-characterization of  Clinton’s actions.

The third has been obvious to anyone who has watched the news on television in the week since the election.  This country is still obviously divided.  President-elect Trump is still being characterized as a “loose cannon,” a misogynist, unstable and hateful.  The presumed basis for the outrage is that he is not a legitimate president-elect as he did not win the popular vote.  If he had won both the popular vote as well as the Electoral College majority vote, I believe you would still have seen these protests.  Pardoning Clinton would go a long way to beginning a healing process, reuniting the nation and defusing the allegations about which these sorely misguided people are purportedly demonstrating.

If President Ronald Reagan was the “Great Communicator,” President-elect Donald J. Trump may well be called the “Great Negotiator.”  And here’s what I would advise him to negotiate with Clinton before giving her a presidential pardon.

First and foremost, Trump should require that in a press conference, she allocute to the real reasons that she chose to maintain an unsecure, private server despite the laws which should have prevented her from doing so.  That she allocute to whether all of the deleted emails were, in fact, personal or whether there were records that were deleted which should be part of the public record.  That she allocute to whether or not any of her decisions as Secretary of State were influenced because of donations to the Clinton Foundation.  Such an honest allocution would carry the same weight as a lengthy legal process and for those who blindly voted for her might give some reason for pause and reflection.

Second, I would ask her and President Clinton to forgo any pensions, Secret Service protection and any other benefits which are currently proffered on former presidents and politicians.  The Clintons have done very well for themselves since they left the White House.  Voluntarily stripping themselves of future benefices will hardly impose a financial hardship on the couple.

In my more Draconian moments, I would like to see Hillary Clinton voluntarily give up her U. S. citizenship and move to a foreign country where she might get a fresh start.  Brazil comes to mind.

By area, Brazil is only moderately smaller than the United States.  It has a multi-racial, multi-cultural population with lots of under served children – and taking care of children is a passion that Clinton maintains has been a focus of hers throughout her life.  Furthermore, it has elected a woman president (currently under indictment) – so if she wanted to revive her political ambitions, what more natural place than Brazil?

Furthermore, it is a welcoming country.  After WWII it took in a significant number of Germans, Japanese and Italians who may or may not have been involved in the Axis war effort.  The Israelis spent a great deal of time in the country ferreting out those who were members of the power structure of the Third Reich. This might be a community with whom Clinton could forge alliances. Whether husband Bill would choose to join her in exile would, of course, be up to the two of them.  Of course, this transplant to South America is more on my wish list than my must have list.

If Brazil doesn’t fill the bill for Clinton, an alternative might be Haiti.  Perhaps if she chose to live in Port au Prince, she might join in the search to find the fifteen million dollars that the Clinton Foundation allegedly gave to assist the earthquake victims there a few years back and which, by all accounts, is still missing.

In my view, this is a reasonable proposal.  But if you have a different view, I hope you’ll accept my apology with a heartfelt, “Pardon me.”

SO, WHO VOTED FOR NIXON?

It was Sunday, November 10, 1968 and earlier that week, Richard Milhaus Nixon had been elected President of the United States, crushing his Democrat opponent, incumbent Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.  I was feeling celebratory and for my postlude at church I played the Toccata from Charles Marie Widor’s Fifth Organ Symphony – an impressive piece which sounds far more difficult than it actually is.  Here is a performance given by James Kennerley, an outstanding young British organist played appropriately on the console at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

 

As an organist, I was used to finishing my final piece, gathering up my music from the music stand and leaving church to find only a small handful of people remaining who had taken the time and had the interest to listen to it.    On this particular Sunday, one of the faithful was a woman who was still praying, tears falling from her eyes.  I knew her.  One of her sons was in my children’s choir.

I walked down the center aisle of the nave, genuflected and joined her on the kneeler on which she was praying.  I turned to her, put my arm around her shoulder and asked her, “Betty, are you all right?”

Betty, through her sobbing, said, “I just don’t understand it.  I voted for Humphrey.  My neighbors all voted for Humphrey.  My relatives all voted for Humphrey.  So, who voted for Nixon?”

Hyde Park in Chicago was a very liberal neighborhood.  And Betty, a white woman who had married a black man in the 1950’s, long before this was either generally accepted not to mention chic, was typical in her mind-set.  She, and many others of my neighbors all exemplified that marvelous statement that William F. Buckley made when he said, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” 

As a young person, many of my friends and neighbors were surprised to find that I was supporting Nixon in that election.  And they were always willing to debate me with the intent of changing my mind and bringing me over to their side.  They failed in that endeavor – but after the many debates in which I engaged, while I could tell that they had a sense of frustration as I would rebut their arguments, we still remained friends, there was no acrimony on either side and we left with the same feeling of respect for each other that we had before we argued our respective positions.  That sense of open and sincere discussion seems to be something that we’ve lost.  And that’s a tragedy.

I must confess to a little confusion that those who identify as “liberals” are so upset that Donald J. Trump will be the United States’ forty-fifth president.  These are the same people who believe that every child, irrespective of performance, should receive a sticker or a trophy.  These are the people who believe that you shouldn’t keep score because it might fatally impair the psyche of those who come out on the short end of the stick.  Remarkably, now that the game is over and we know the result, they want to change the rules under which the game was played to affect the outcome so that their losing team wins.  That’s the sort of behavior that I’ve observed among two-year olds who are throwing a hissy fit so that they can get their way.  And if we deem that sort of behavior unacceptable in toddlers, how much more should we consider it untenable in people who are actually determining the nation’s future in voting in our elections?

One of the arguments advanced in the recent riots over Trump’s victory and the “Not My President” signs is that Hillary Clinton won (barely) the popular vote and should, therefore, be our next president.  That, of course, begins the debate with the assumption that the Electoral College is antiquated, should have been abolished eons ago and we should disregard the Constitution.

Although there are many valid reasons why I believe we should retain the Electoral College, the fact is that under our current system, it exists.  To put it in the way in which many who are Pro-Abortion explain and support the decision in Roe v. Wade, “It’s the law of the land.”

This argument for a popular vote to determine the outcome of presidential elections further makes an unprovable assumption.  That the popular vote, as recorded, would have been the same popular vote the candidates would have received if it, rather than the Electoral College’s vote, determined the winner.  Both the losing Clinton and successful Trump campaigns developed their strategies based on the rules that governed the election – to secure 270 or more electoral votes.  If our system called for the election of the next president based on the popular vote, both campaigns would have run their campaigns differently, camping out in all the large population states. virtually ignoring the rest of the country.  Incidentally, that is the exact reason that the Founders established the Electoral College – so that small states would have a voice in our elections.

If we were to go back in time and rewrite history, (a favorite exercise of those on the left) we would have to crown different World Series winners by determining the victor as that team which got the most hits during the series rather than the most runs.  We would have different Super Bowl victors if we determined the best performance based on which team gained the most yards rather than put up the most points.

I do understand how shocked those on the left were as the results rolled in on election night.  I myself was startled at the outcome – and had made a sojourn to my local liquor store to buy a very large bottle of my favorite Scotch to drown my sorrow as I awaited the announcement that Hillary Clinton was going to be our next president.

It took me forty-six years of voting before I ever cast a ballot for someone who actually won his race for the House of Representatives.  So I had a lot of sucking up and disappointment in many, many elections.  But I never felt either the urge or need  to go out and express my displeasure by lighting trash cans on fire or vandalizing parked cars. My father had a simple piece of advice for handling the disappointments which he knew would come my way in life.  “Deal with it – and learn from it.”  But I suspect the left’s concern and need to find safe spaces may merely be in its infancy.

Despite the firm predictions that the Dems would regain the Senate and pick up twenty or so seats in the House, (not to mention installing one of their own in the White House), those predictions from such moral and mental geniuses as Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid, did not come to pass.  For the first time in eighty-eight years we now have a Republican president, a Republican controlled House and a Republican dominated Senate.  And that is good for the American people.

Members of both parties have hidden behind the excuse that nothing gets done because of “divided government.”  That excuse no longer is available.  Legislators on both sides of the aisle and President-elect Trump will be judged by what they accomplish – or fail to accomplish.  I’m betting my money that Trump’s rhetoric is not merely a bunch of words – but are born from a sincere and earnest, heartfelt love of this nation and a belief that we can and should be doing better for all our citizens.  We will see.

But if I am correct and if Donald Trump is half as talented and driven as I believe him to be, the liberal left may be in for bigger headaches two years from now.  In the mid-term election, they will be defending twenty-five Senate seats, twelve of which are in deep red states.  If they think their position now is tenuous, they may be looking at a Republican Senate super majority two years hence.  But, as this is America, there is reason for them to be optimistic.

Instead of concocting excuses for their failed results at the ballot boxes across the nation, they can choose to, “Deal with it – and learn from it.”  Whether they do that or not is any body’s guess.  But in the real world, we don’t hand out stickers or trophies to the loser.  Instead, they generally wind up sporting a black eye.

THE LYRE

On a balmy night in July, 64 A.D., the great city of Rome with its magnificent structures began to burn.  The fire lasted two days before it was contained and according to a number of the extant records written at the time, the Emperor Nero ordered the fire and calmly played his lyre as he watched the devastation grow and the fire consumed more of the great city.

There are several theories as to why this happened.  The first is that Nero was insane.  The second that he was quite sane and needed a scapegoat to blame for the decline of the Roman Empire under his and his predecessors’ rule – and he found it in the growing Christian community that he viewed as a threat.

In politics, despite the span of several millennia, it’s apparent that some things really don’t change.

Over the past thirty years, there have been more “fires” associated with Bill and Hillary Clinton than any other politicians in all of  U. S. history. Naturally, the Clintons dismiss these as nothing more than right wing fabricated conspiracies intended to undermine this sordid couple and their personal ambitions.  There is an alternate theory to this explanation.

If ten arsons were set and there was one commonality to all of them – that the same person was present at each blaze – the reasonable assumption would be that person might be the arsonist and his or her connection to these blazes should be investigated.  That’s what any intelligent law enforcement official would do.  And, perhaps, despite years of evasion, the time for that investigation has come to the Clintons.

We will certainly not know the conclusion to the FBI’s re-opening the case into Secretary Clinton’s use of an unsecure server, the contents of most of the emails that were deleted apparently in defiance of and after a Congressional subpoena for all her emails was issued or the “pay for play” allegations that are swirling in an every growing eddy around the Clinton Foundation by the time we cast our ballots on November 8th.  But for those few voters who are still undecided, there is something they might want to consider.

The financial services industry is one of the most highly regulated businesses at both a federal and state level.  Most people who deal either in providing investment advice or in the sale of securities are required to pass the Series 7 examination and to take regularly scheduled continuing education exams to make sure they are current on the latest regulations.

Virtually every training course for the exam begins with the same sentence which the applicant is supposed to consider paramount in her or his career should they pass the exam.  It boils down to the simple sentence, “Know your customer.” Here’s what that means.

As an advisor or broker, a licensee is supposed to put the best interest of the customer first and to tailor any advice specifically to meet the needs of that customer using what is known as “the prudent man rule.”  In other words, would a prudent man make a recommendation for a customer to purchase a specific security after analyzing their financial objectives and particular circumstances.

As an example, a sixty-five year old widow with a two hundred thousand nest egg and whose sole income other than return on investments is Social Security would normally be directed toward an allocation of conservative investments such as blue chip dividend paying stocks and government bonds.  After all, with a life expectancy of nearly twenty years, conservation of principal is critical.

On the other hand, a thirty year old who happens to win twenty million in a lottery payout would most likely be directed into a more aggressive investment strategy which would, in part, include higher risk assets in order to grow the portfolio in the long term to maximize the likelihood of wealth accumulation.  Among those high risk assets might be taking small interests in various “private placement” offerings which, among other things, might include participation in oil and gas drilling ventures.  These sorts of ventures have existed for well over a century.

Now using the prudent man rule, it would be imprudent if the advisor suggested putting the new millionaire’s entire fortune into one or even several of these placements.  After all, despite the improvement in technology, it is possible for a particular oil and gas syndicate to drill five or ten wells and have them all come up dry and for the investors in them to lose their entire investment.  But to advise an investment allocation of perhaps five percent of the lottery winner’s fortune and spread that between ten or twenty exploration ventures would most likely be viewed as conforming to the prudent man rule as the allocation into these risky ventures is small and by spreading the risk over a number of such ventures the investors chance of getting what might be a significant return would increase.  Diversification reduces risk – even in the case of inherently risky ventures.  At least that’s the case on the surface – but let’s add some additional facts to the equation.

First, the advisor most likely will earn a commission by directing investors into the ventures he recommends.  That is in complete conformity with accepted financial services guidelines.  But the question about this recommendation becomes hazier if the syndicates planning on doing the oil and gas exploration happen to be directed by the advisor’s brother-in-law – particularly if the advisor fails to disclose that fact to the investor.  And, of course, it becomes an outright scam and punishable by fines and jail time if the syndicates never plan on actually doing any drilling but are simply reporting back to the investors that they drilled nothing but dry holes and pocketing their money.  Sadly, there are people who are perfectly capable of engaging in just such behavior – hence the need for regulation – and where warranted, prosecution.

I feel confident in saying that Hillary Clinton is familiar with these regulations.  The basis for my statement is based on three historical facts.  The first, Ms. Clinton demonstrated a remarkable understanding of financial markets when she was able to turn a one thousand dollar investment in cattle futures into a one hundred thousand dollar account – a return of 10,000%.   The second, continuing with the narrative of her stellar financial acumen, the Clintons claimed that they were “dead broke” when they left the White House – and yet, starting with nothing, have managed to accumulate well more than one hundred million in wealth.  The third, of course, is that Wall Street clearly understands Ms. Clinton’s unique insights into money and has recognized her talents by paying her $225,000 to share her wisdom with them in each of four separate one hour speeches.

Forgive me if, given the profound understanding that Ms. Clinton has of the way things work, not only in financial markets but political arenas as well, how she mishandled a few small but disturbing aspects of her job as Secretary of State.

The first, of course, is how she felt comfortable having an unsecured server on which she conducted official and personal business in violation of State Department rules;

The second is how a woman of her perspicacity could have confused the “c” in the header of emails she received, meaning “classified:”, with “cookie recipe”.

But the  most disturbing thing to me about candidate Clinton is, how did she come to develop such a misanthropic and disdainful view of people and on what basis has she come to accept her obviously imperious view of the world.

I can see only one posible benefit coming from the election of Hillary Clinton to the presidency of the United States.  She will create a tremendous demand for new jobs for music teachers.  All of us will have to learn to play the lyre as we watch the liar that is Hillary Clinton set America ablaze.

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