The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Ancient Rome’

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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(NOT YET) FAMOUS QUOTES – XIV

In this series I have tried to post original quotations.  But sometimes something that has been said by another is so important that it should be remembered – even if it has been overlooked by us.  And that is the case with today’s quotation – given to us by an ancient Roman statesman and philosopher.

“Live among men as if God beheld you; speak to God as if men were listening.”

– Seneca

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