Happy Socks

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Genesis 18:13

Many of my recent posts have covered serous topics that affect our world, culture and the next generation.  Scripture is full of human emotions, but we often don’t emphasize laughter and joy. Even Sarah and Abraham got the joke when she got pregnant at age 90.

But life isn’t all serious all of the time.  I identify with the picture above, because I have a lot of socks that are colorful and made by a company called “Happysocks”.  

I was delighted to find out they actually have stores where they have a huge selection to choose from. I wear them to church, and people come up to me so see what I have on that day. The colorful socks make a quiet statement that I am not all that serious. 

When it comes to humor, I have always wondered where the name funny bone originated. For one thing, it is not a bone, but something called the ulnar nerve in your elbow. For another, if you are unfortunate enough to strike that nerve, it is anything but funny. It can be very painful.  

In this day and time, when the pandemic has so affected our daily lives and routines, it is hard to maintain a sense of humor. There is a lot of humor in the bible, but much of it is obscured by cultural subtleties and the Hebrew language which don’t translate well. 

Mark Biddle wrote a book several years back called A Time to Laugh: Humor in the Bible which takes a look at six bible characters who did unexpected things. His book breaks through the language and cultural distinctives to show readers how they can actually “get the joke”. 

But we don’t need to look at bible humor to get a laugh.  I believe people need to lighten up and not lose their sense of humor, even when things get difficult.  I interact regularly with people around the world who live in much more difficult life circumstances than I do.  I make a point to try and get them to laugh, even if it is at my own expense.  

On a Zoom call with my friend Sam Sundersingh in Chennai, India, a couple of weeks ago, I asked how he was doing.  He said he was suffering from tennis elbow.  Now, I know Sam well enough to know that he doesn’t play tennis, so I replied: “Stop playing tennis!”. Sam wrote back “I love your sense of humor.”  I made him smile, which made me smile.

There used to be a section in the magazine Reader’s Digest titled “Laughter is the Best Medicine”.  It contained humorous stories – many of them true.  They still have a section devoted to funny and humor.  

I always loved to read their jokes and stories, and am a firm believer that laughter is good medicine for almost every occasion.  Our family get-togethers with kids and grandkids are full of laughter.  It makes life go a lot better. Certainly more fun.

Some of my humor is self-directed at stupid things I’ve done or said or because I  forgot something.  My wife is a great list maker so she can mark off things and not let them slip through the cracks. She actually volunteered to keep a list of things to do for me when I retired.  I declined, of course.

Recently, we went together to the grocery store.  Instead of bringing a list, she turned to me and said we only need to get two things, so “help me remember to get item A and B”. “No problem”, I responded. We got to the grocery store, and quickly found item A and she turned to me and asked me what item B was. 

I totally blanked out and couldn’t remember. We laughed at each other. The result was that we bought a lot of other things hoping we could remember, or if we didn’t remember, we might get it by accident.  We still don’t remember what item B was, and that’s pretty funny to us. Humor is where you find it, even in mundane circumstances.

For the next generation, which has endured a big recession and more recently a pandemic, humor may be hard to come by. Life can be very serious at times, but it is not serious all the time.   Passing on your humor to others can be infectious, even if it means just wearing Happy Socks.

Both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God told them that she would conceive, and she would be the mother of all nations. It’s a good example to all of us.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Life is serious enough, but easier to take with a little humor. Your mentee will appreciate it when you lighten his day.

FURTHER READING:  A Time to Laugh: Humor in the BibleBiddle

WORSHHIP:  I’m Going Free (Jailbreak) -Vertical Church Band

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The Great Reset

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. Romans 8:13

For the past 50 years, there is an annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.  It is the goal of the forum “to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.”

The list of attendees is an annual “who’s-who” in the world – leaders of business, technology, political leaders all mingle and exchange ideas. These are the movers and shakers in the world.  Many are billionaires.

They are the global elite. They are also current day pharisees who were the religious elite in biblical times. Instead of extolling outward religious appearance, the new brand of “pharisees” advocates eliminating fossil fuels in the world. An example is John Kerry, the new Climate Change Envoy of the Biden administration and a speaker at Davos. 

Last month, Kerry was questioned on why he flew his private jet to Iceland to receive a climate change ice sculpture award. He defended emitting 40 times the amount of carbon emissions per person had he flown on a commercial flight, saying he was entitled to fly private jet because he needed to get things done for climate change.  

In other words, rules for thee, but not for me. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites. Reminds me of the saying that if a shoe fits, wear it.

Not all are enamored with the Great Reset. I never thought I would agree with Putin, the President of Russia.  Putin realizes that eliminating fossil fuels will decimate the Russian economy which relies on exports of oil and gas. He spoke at Davos via teleconference and said “not so fast”.

Klaus Schwab, the founder of WEF, says that the goals are to revamp “all aspects of our societies and economies” from “education to social contracts to working conditions.” They avoid using the term socialism”, but to me, rose is still a rose even by another name. 

Increasingly, the agenda has taken on progressive issues like gender equality, inclusivity and climate change. Included in their tasks is what has been called The Great Reset which was adopted in 2020 as a response to COVID 19.

One has to look behind the curtain a bit to see where this is going.  WEF uses terms like “social justice” and changes to our social system to be more “fair, resilient and sustainable”. Sounds good, but let’s look at it from a biblical worldview. 

According to the WEF, climate change requires us “to decarbonize the economy” and to bring human thinking and behavior “into harmony with nature.” The aim is to build “more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies.” 

Under the covers, one can see the move to socialist ideas propounded by Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Cortez, et al, including the Green New Deal Plan.  The latter would cost an estimated $32 trillion in the US alone. Mind you that until 2019, our annual federal budget was $3 trillion.

In order to pay for these grandiose programs, one has to adopt Modern Monetary Theory which has its own flaws.  On top of that, it sets up radical goals including being carbon neutral and using only renewable clean energy in 10 years.

The world cannot run on renewable green energy alone through windmills and solar panels. Texas and California are suffering from over reliance on renewable energy – 25% of Texas electrical production comes from wind turbines in the western part of the state.  Both have mothballed fossil fuel plants that are reliable. 

A series of winter storms has shown the fallacy, and the result is that people are dying in Texas because of power outages. It is a complicated issue, but it is clear that the failure of the system was partly caused by unreliable green energy like wind power. 

When snow covers the solar panels and wind turbines freeze, energy production stops. There is inadequate backup from fossil fuels to fill in the gap. This is happening in Germany, too, where renewables are now 40% of its supply of electricity and they have been closing fossil fuel and nuclear plants. With a harsh winter, they now have rolling blackouts of electricity.

The Davos summit also included thousands of members of the Global Shapers Community who are trained youth from 400 cities around the globe. Many have received training from the Al Gore founded Climate Reality Project.  These are activists like Greta Thornbergwho are well-intentioned but misguided. 

At the January session in Davos,  Xi Jinping called on the world to be “inclusive” and to “uphold the common values of humanity”,  ignoring the fact that China is committing genocide of the Uighurs and people in rural Tibet.  Religious persecution of Christians and other minorities is ongoing in China.  Somehow, the term “inclusivity” doesn’t mean what I thought it did.

The Great Reset is frightening in many ways, not the least of which it is the enemy of capitalism,  personal freedoms and Christian values.  The pandemic is a crisis that was perfect storm for them to advance a radical transformation of our world. As one writer put it, “the consensus has emerged at the annual Davos meetings that the world needs a revolution, and that reforms have taken too long.”

In Romans 8:21, Paul describes a biblical form of reset – a time in the future where creation will be liberated from decay and bondage.  But that will be done by God, not by human hands.  Only He can reset creation as he has promised.

This short post cannot adequately detail how radical the Great Reset is for transforming the world and society. I have provided additional resources below. I would ask that you educate yourself, because many influential leaders in government and business are already advancing the Great Reset agenda on many fronts. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation are very concerned about climate change. They need a dialogue with a mentor to provide reality to aspirational green energy goals which are not realistic.

FURTHER READING: The Great Reset: A Dystopian Future? Williams

The Great Reset for Dummies – Lena 

Stakeholder Capitalism – Rosenwald

From Lockdowns to the Great Reset – Mueller

Introducing the Great Reset: World Leaders Radical Plan to Transform the Economy -MSN

Five Questions Christians Should be Asking About the Great Reset – Gospel Coalition

Church Leaders and the Great Reset – Culture Watch

Texas Freeze Raises Cost of Charging a Tesla to $900

Great Reset? Putin says, “Not so Fast”

WORSHHIP: Awesome God

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The Gold Standard

Divide your means seven ways, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.  
Ecclesiastes 11:1

Gold has been the currency of choice going back to 600 B.C. in what is now modern day Turkey.  Many countries, including the United States have had a gold standard at one time which means that paper currency is backed by gold reserves.  

The U.S. went on a gold standard in 1830.  Winston Churchill, in his storied career as Chancellor of the Exchequer, brought England back to the gold standard in 1925. It was controversial and he was widely criticized for his actions.  

Churchill later said that the “world” thought he was the worst Chancellor of the Exchequer ever. Looking back in 1930, he noted that he agreed with them, so “now it is unanimous”.

America printed its first paper currency in 1861.  In 1900, The Gold Standard Act made gold the only metal for redeeming paper currency and gold’s value was set at $20.67 and ounce.  European countries followed suit in the 1870’s printing money which was backed by its value in gold.

When World War I broke out, the U.S. and European countries abandoned the gold standard so they could print enough money to pay for the war cost.  Post-war, countries returned to a modified gold exchange, but when the Great Depression hit, the United States again abandoned the gold standard.

On April 20, 1933, President Roosevelt ordered Americans to turn in their gold (including jewelry) in exchange for dollars in order to prohibit hoarding and the redemption of gold by other countries. My mother was 24 at the time and remembered this event. 

Since America held the majority of the world’s gold,  most countries simply pegged the value of their currency to the dollar instead of gold. President Nixon terminated the ability to convert dollars into gold in 1971 and changed the fixed price of gold.  

Currencies in the post gold standard are now exchanged based on free markets, with the dollar still the primary reserve currency of the world. That may change in the near future.

The departure from the gold standard is important because now countries can print money without the being limited by how much gold reserves they own. 

Fast forward to today where we face what is called MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) which is a supercharged version of government fiat money. This is the new paradigm.

MMT argues that countries can print as much money as they want without concern of consequences.  While governments should have budgets, they don’t worry about debt because there is no limit to how much money they can print.

You have to understand the gold standard in order to see how far “out” the MMT paradigm is.  Sadly, it is upon us, both in the US and in Europe.  The European Union and the US have reacted to the COVID pandemic by enacting trillion-dollar stimulus packages to prop up their economies. They are literally printing fiat money.

The amount of national debt doesn’t seem to concern politicians – either here or abroad. Mind you this is happening during a time of unprecedented low interest rates and low inflation.

But what happens when inflation returns and interest rates increase?  Under normal circumstances, higher interest rates would cause a reduction in other parts of the federal budget.  

MMT advocates like Larry Summers of Harvard suggest that the new paradigm is that we should ignore the federal deficit and that “government borrowing for the right purposes is prudent.”  It assumes low interest rates for a long time in the future.  I am not so sure.

We didn’t foresee 9/11, nor how the world economy would be devastated by COVID.  Higher interest rates will eventually happen and could be a wrecking ball to the world’s economy.

While there are scholarly articles praising MMT, this is an untested economic theory and a departure from Keynesian economics and its effect on the developing world

What should a Christian do in uncertain economic times like this?  The answer comes from Solomon (above):  Diversify, for you don’t know what disaster “may occur on earth”.  For the next generation, some of whom are caught up in the Robinhood stonk frenzy, they need to learn prudent financial habits to survive in changing economic times.

Millennials, in particular, are caught in the crosshairs. They were recovering from the 2008 recession when COVID changed the job markets almost overnight. 

They need to save for retirement more than earlier generations because their social security benefits will not be the same. The Social Security fund is due to run out of money in the next 14 years. They need to plan for greater resources to get them through a longer life expectancy.

Motley Fool  has an abundance of free information about financial planning, retirement and investing basics. It is a great unbiased resource for the next generation to get sensible advice to help make good financial decisions. As mentors, we can be a Nehemiah in their lives helping them fill holes in their financial walls. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   You don’t have to be a professional financial advisor to help your mentee learn to budget and make sound financial decisions.

FURTHER READINGThe Gold Standard – Loudis

What is Modern Monetary Theory – Likos

World Debt Clocks

5 Facts About the National Debt

5 Problems with MMT

The Upside Down World of MMT –Murphy

Addressing Social Security’s Shortfall – Motley Fool

Millennials Need to Save More if they Want to Retire Like their Parents and Grandparents

If I Could Do It Again: Retiree’s Investing Advice for their Younger Selves – Motley Fool

WORSHHIP: Crowns – Hillsong

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God, who delivered me from the teeth of a lion and claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:37

Everyone likes an underdog story, particularly where someone has no chance at succeeding.  Lots of movie and novel plots have been written using this simple storyline.  One of the first such story comes from the Bible where the outmanned Israelites face off against the Philistines.

The Philistine “champion” was named Goliath. He was huge, standing nearly 10 feet tall. His armaments – a spear weighing 15 pounds and body armor weighing 126 pounds – were intimidating.  He was THE man, and he challenged the Israelites to “Give me a man” to fight. He did this for three days.  The Israelites cowered in fear.

Enter David, a shepherd, who left his flocks to visit his brothers in the Israelite army. While there, David took up the challenge but refused body armor. He was armed with a shepherd’s staff, a sling and 5 smooth stones. The battle didn’t last long – just one stone to Goliath’s head and he was done. 

We have a modern day David vs. Goliath story that came up in the investing world. It has surprised many.  The Goliath in this story is Hedge Funds that have used the tactic of shorting stocks – literally betting that the company’s stock value will go down.  These are big entities worth billions of dollars and their investors are limited to the ultra-rich. 

A little background first. In the investing world, taking a short position in a stock is not uncommon.  I won’t describe all the means to do that, but for the normal publicly traded stock, it is not unusual to have a “short position” of 1 to 3% of the total shares outstanding. These are investors who believe the price of the stock will go down, not up.

In a short transaction, an investor “sells” stock he doesn’t own by “borrowing” it from institutions who lend it.  The investor’s plan is to buy back the stock at a lower price, replace his loaned stock, and take a profit.

This short information is tracked.  Enter Robinhood, a no cost way to buy and sell stocks that mimics social media by giving you prompts on its App just like Facebook or Instagram.

Investors who use shorting are sophisticated. But what happens if the stock goes up, not down?  Good question.  It’s called a “short squeeze”. In order to limit losses, the short interest investor has to buy back the stock at higher prices, which, in turn forces the price up more.

When the pandemic hit, people had time on their hands and quickly figured out that investing is fun, particularly in a market that is going up. Robinhood became very popular. Social media also brought another feature – chat rooms and other forums where small retail investors band together and share thoughts about investing.  

Forums appeared on Facebook and Reddit, including WallStreetBets, which quickly grew to a million users. Founded in 2012, the site morphed into a powerful force of amateur investors.  The forum realized hedge funds were predators, often making outsized bets that a certain company will fail. 

One such company was GameStop, a struggling retail store that sold video games. Hedge funds raised the short interest in the company to a staggering 140% of the outstanding shares. Then something happened. A lot of amateur Davids showed up with their sling and started buying the stock, sending the price up by 500%.  

It was a massive-short-squeeze. You could say the hedge funds got caught with their shorts down. One estimate of the damage was around $19 billion in losses just on GameStop alone. Two hedge funds almost collapsed because of the losses.  Small amateur investors took on the hedge funds. 

Not sure where this story will end. Everyone on all sides is pouncing on this – some calling for more regulation (not less). Under pressure, Robinhood stopped the ability to buy GameStop in the middle of the day – you could only sell it. Lawsuits will abound. 

Many of these amateur investors are millennials and Gen Z and their motivations for being involved are varied. Some want to pay off debt, others to make a statement, and still others are in it for the lulz

This story is fascinating to me on many levels.  This is not about investing, by the way.  It is a form of speculation. None of these amateurs looked at the financials on GameStop to see whether it is a good company.  Eventually, GameStop will return to normal trading levels. Some small investors will get hurt

It is also a demonstration of the power of social media and the internet to change institutions in ways never thought possible.  The latest story shows the power of people to band together to cause something to happen. I picture in my mind an image of a large school of small fish in the ocean that collectively can turn on a dime as if they were choreographed.   

The next generation is using “the tools they have to upend the status quo” according to Tim Elmore. They are leveraging the power of numbers against the power of status which they believe needs a day of reckoning. They now have a voice and feel empowered to use it and possibly in things other than stonks.

The challenge is that the next generation may overdo the movement of the crowd. They haven’t learned that the market has its own “gravity”, and the price of a stock will return to a normal after being artificially increased through speculation. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  If your mentee is following the GameStop pack, be sure to caution him to be careful with wagering on the stock market in big amounts which results in big risks. Risk and reward go hand in hand.

FURTHER READING:  WallStreetBets Founder Reckons with Legacy – WSJ

Freewheeling Millennials and Gen Z Are Starting a New Side-Hustle Career – Forbes

What the GameStop Market Surge Teaches Us About Gen Z & Millennials – Elmore

The Real Force Driving the GameStop Revolution – WSJ

A Long Cynical Post – Taibbi (R rated language)

WORSHIP: You Make Me Brave – Amanda Cook

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