Archive for November, 2015

John Arnold and his wife Laura are targeting contrarian, underappreciated causes, things like research integrity, drug-sentencing reform, organ donations and broken pension systems, an especially radioactive issue.

When John Arnold was a trader, he had a serene – some would say bloodless – way of seeing the world. He wanted the truth, the cold, hard truth, and embraced the power of an idea no one else was seeing. Then he bet nearly everything he had on it.

In 2006, Arnold’s hedge fund, Centaurus Advisors, took a huge contrarian position on natural gas prices and made a fortune. In 2008, it anticipated the commodities crash.

Three years ago, at the tender age of 38, married with three children and $US4 billion richer, Arnold shut his fund and decided to spend the rest of his professional life giving away his money as counterintuitively as he had earned it.

He had made millions at Enron and billions at Centaurus, zigging when others zagged. Now, that rare person who grows less popular the more he gives away, he is focusing on dilemmas dragging down the nation that no one else wants to confront.
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Sitting in the Houston offices of his foundation, he explained, “I was troubled when I was trading that it’s hard to make that direct tie between the financial industry and the greater good. My life was 100 per cent trying to make money in the first phase, then 100 per cent trying to do good in the second.”
Contrarian causes

Arnold and his wife, Laura, a former corporate attorney, are targeting contrarian, underappreciated causes, things like research integrity, drug-sentencing reform, organ donations and broken pension systems, an especially radioactive issue. This is partly, they say, because while a billion dollars sounds like a lot, it isn’t when applied to a multitrillion-dollar conundrum.

“I try to look at it from supply and demand,” Arnold said. “Where is the need being met today, and where is there unmet demand?”

Of cultural facilities, research universities and hospitals that raise money briskly, he said, “I’m not saying those are bad things to fund, I just think the value of an incremental dollar to these is lower than other avenues.”

Arnold is a private man who doesn’t engage in a lot of pleasantries. He has grown a beard that disguises a trademark boyishness. He chooses his words deliberately and folds his hands together.

Pension reform appealed to Arnold the moment he first read about it. The problem is complex, seemingly unsolvable, and just about no one else was willing to get involved.

And Arnold, a moderate Democrat who believes a rich country like the US should provide a high safety net for its citizens, sees the stakes as being no smaller than the survival of the very governments that provide that net.
Quality of life

“The financial health of a city or a state is directly attributable to outcomes in education and outcomes in public safety and quality of life,” Arnold said. “This isn’t just an accounting problem. It directly leads into all the things people care about.”

Pensions work like this: every year, employees and the government both pay into a fund, and when the employees retire the government uses that fund to pay them until they die. There are decades between the pay-in and the pay-out, so the government can invest the fund and make sure the money is there.

But problems have arisen. While employees’ contributions are taken directly out of pay cheques, mayors and governors have routinely not paid their share into the system, arguing (often wrongly) that they will get a higher return than predicted. In addition, the market crash of 2008 wiped more than $US1 trillion off pension funds’ assets.

A study of more than 150 state and local pensions found the total unfunded liability between $US1.1 trillion and $US3.1 trillion.
Fixing pensions

This is not a problem most philanthropists have had any interest in solving.

“Fixing” pensions means, almost by definition, cutting payments to people who need and were promised them, raising retirement ages, reducing cost of living adjustments, introducing defined contribution plans for new workers and increasing how much employees must put into their retirement. The Arnolds argue that despite the pain caused, without the changes both governments and pensioners have no future.

They don’t recommend specific changes, only present states and municipalities with options. Through their advocacy organisation, they support candidates and ballot initiatives, sometimes providing the vast majority of the donations in places including Phoenix and San Jose. They include legal work to defend the changes from court challenge. The Arnolds supported the overhaul of the Rhode Island pension system led by state Treasurer Gina Raimondo who they later backed in her successful gubernatorial run.

Critics say pension reform is a euphemism for denying workers what they have been promised and paid for. One Rolling Stone writer called Arnold a “ubiquitous young right-wing kingmaker.”

Bailey Childers, president of the National Public Pension Coalition, a union-backed group set up in part to help counter Arnold’s influence, said, “There’s not this crisis that they want you to believe there is in states that are doing what they’re supposed to do. This is an attack on workers who have played by the rules.”

Arnold, who grew used to being unpopular as an investor, says the pension work has been worth all the criticism. He acknowledges that policy is a squishier realm than the metrics-oriented world of financial markets. Failure is a frequent, even elemental, part of success. But he finds inspiration from the recent and sudden surge of gay rights, a once unpopular cause.

“Things seem to be happening very quickly now, but only because there was 10 or 20 years of work done on these issues when progress was frustratingly slow,” he said. He hopes the same will hold true for his work on pensions, that groundwork now will yield results in a decade. By finding what he calls “leverage points in the system,” he figures he has “higher potential for value added.”

Bloomberg

Henry Sapiecha

THE PRICE OF COMPLACENCY IS ANNIHILATION-BE WARNED

A German’s View on Islam – worth reading.
  Hard to argue with this:

A German’s View on Islam – worth reading. This is one of the best explanations of the Muslim terrorist situation I have ever read. His references to past history are accurate and clear. Not long, easy to understand, and well worth the read. The author of this email is Dr. Emanuel Tanya, a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist.    A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and  estates.. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.  

‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come.’  

‘My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’  

‘We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.’ 

‘The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march.  It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.’


‘The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent majority,’ is cowed and  extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China ‘s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.’

‘The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet. And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?   
‘History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, We often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: peace-loving Muslims Have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our Enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world Will have begun.’ ‘Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.’   

‘Now Islamic prayers have been introduced in Toronto and other public schools in Ontario, and, yes, in  Ottawa,  too, while the Lord’s Prayer was removed (due to being so offensive?). The  Islamic way may be peaceful for the time being in our country until the  fanatics move in.’


‘In Australia, and indeed in many countries around the world, many of the most commonly consumed food items have the halal emblem on them. Just look at the back of some of the most popular chocolate bars, and at other food items in your local supermarket. Food on aircraft have the halal emblem just to appease the privileged minority who are now rapidly expanding within the nation’s shores.’ 
‘In the U.K, the Muslim communities refuse to integrate and there are now dozens of “no-go” zones within major cities across the country that the police force dare not  intrude upon. Sharia law prevails there, because the Muslim community in those areas refuse to acknowledge British law.’   ‘As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts – the fanatics who threaten our way of life.’ 

Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on, is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand.

 
  Extend yourself a bit and send this on. Let us hope that thousands world-wide read this, think about it,  and send it on before it’s too late, and we are silenced because we were silent!!
 
Henry Sapiecha