Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When History Is Rewritten The Truth Is Lost

Somewhere between fake news and the passing of time in a world where being politically correct trumps honesty is the place where we are slowly rewriting history. We often get it wrong or later are told we did, so no wonder we are confused. The fascinating chart below shows how beliefs morph or can shift over time. It seems that when speaking of who defeated Hitler the answer depends not whom, but rather when you ask. This change of view reflects how over the years and decades a subtle campaign to convince people America was largely responsible for defeating Hitler in World War II  has been effective in overshadowing the role Russia played.

Views and Opinions Morph Over Time as History Is Bent And Rewritten
The vivid example above shows that following the war a storing majority of the people of France credited Russia for defeating Hitler and the German war machine. Russia was indeed a key factor even though the Soviets didn’t play much of a role in France’s liberation, relative to the US and Britain. By 1995 and 2004, however, the French had changed their minds and were crediting the US as the biggest contributor to victory in Europe according to survey data from the French Institute of Public Opinion. The reason for this is probably due to Russia having a diminished role in the world compared to the influence America wields.

The Truth Can Be Both Ugly And Harsh
The removal of Civil War statues across the nation is in a way a reflection and symbol of the movement to rewrite history. A favorite example of mine concerns the economy and whether the policies of President Franklin Roosevelt brought the Great Depression to an end or if the onset of war was really the catalyst for growth. Another issue is how history views individuals such as Edward Snowden and whether they are labeled as a hero or goat. How we look back and catalog the past is a most curious thing. Often it is a case of the truth be damned, let us not look too closely to facts but redefine the images to fit our liking. Thanksgiving in America gives the impression the Indians welcomed the white man to his land.

How we remember the past is not carved in stone. Betamax was a technology that was superior to the VHS that resulted in its demise, VHS has since been sent to its grave by DVDs. The reason I bring up the often forgotten Betamax technology is that most people now assume VHS was the best viewing system and that is what won the consumer over and as time goes by this idea will solidify. This is another example where history as  George Orwell reminds us, is written by those who claim victory and truth is often cast aside in an effort to give the impression of righteousness. This is a popular skeptical viewpoint about history that has been expressed several different ways:
       What is history but a fable agreed upon?
 History is a set of lies agreed upon.
     History is a set of lies that people have agreed upon.
These cynical adages have been linked to several major figures but more important is we try to remember the message they convey. The gap between reality and perception can at times be very large. The fact people see and hear what they want to only adds to this problem, and it is a problem that seems to be occurring with greater frequency. That is the logic behind the saying, "be careful or reality will bite you in the ass." When we ignore reality we create a situation where we can be blindsided and caught totally off guard.

This leads us to the question of motives and whether someone lurks behind the curtain pulling our strings. To paraphrase the comment of a reader on another blog; There are, of course, good conspiracy analysts and bad conspiracy analysts, just as there are good and bad historians or practitioners of any discipline. The bad conspiracy analyst tends to make two kinds of mistakes, which indeed leave him open to the Establishment charge of "paranoia." Secondly, the bad conspiracy analyst seems to have a compulsion to wrap up all the conspiracies, all the bad guy power blocs, into one giant conspiracy.

While attitudes and views change over time the idea "truth is fungible" can be disturbing and bends the definition of truth beyond recognition but in a world of fake news truth often is placed behind perception. It would be wise to question everything assuming there are several power blocs trying to gain control and influence both government and society. The efforts of those struggling for our hearts and minds may sometimes be in conflict with other such groups and sometimes working in alliance. Whether the intent is sinister or not when history is rewritten something important is lost and that is the truth. When future generations reflect upon the economics and politics of today it will be interesting to see their take on events.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

No Tents Put Up For Fathers Day, Says It All!

Crystal, crystal, crystal-ball who's the fairest of them all? No tent for Fathers Day says it all! While children old and young will go about throwing out accolades and praising their fathers the day pales when placed up against its rival which is mothers day. Sure Fathers everywhere will get calls from children who they may seldom see, some will call out of love, some out of respect, some out of guilt, and a slew of other reasons and others will not call at all.

Mothers Day Even Includes Special Breakfast Outings 
Mothers Day is an occasion that by far garners much more attention than the tribute to fathers. More money is spent on gifts and flowers for mothers. Extra attention tends to be showered on those who generally were more responsible for raising us during our early years. The fact is in many ways this is the way it should be and the way many men prefer. In truth, a child is fortunate to have either parent or someone to care for them and very very lucky if they have both.

The role of being a parent is not an easy one and often is cast upon people without much notice or at a time they do not choose. Society does little to prepare the children that are having children for the task before them and it is a shame. Without a doubt as both fathers and mothers mature and look back most harbor regrets because they had not made a greater effort in raising and preparing their young during the important formative years. This extends to issues such as being far too strict or just as bad being far too lenient, in some cases, it simply comes down to not spending more time with a child. 

Tent or no tent relationships between parents and children can be difficult, however, if you have anything positive to say today is the chance to do so and know if not taken that life being unpredictable we never know when that opportunity might be lost. As a footnote, like many kids when young my siblings and I wondered why there was no special day designated as "Kids Day." As an adult I now understand what I was told when I was busy failing to appreciate my good fortune of few responsibilities, every day is kids day.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Polarized America Taking Course Of Least Resistance

brucewilds.blogspot.hk / By: Bruce Wilds

Washington DC Is Where Deadlines Go To Die
A recent article pointing out little is getting done in Washington already needs an update. It honed in on the fact that while the doors are open it seems Washington remains "closed for business" and nobody has seemed to notice or care. It is surprising the lack of moving forward on a positive agenda to address some of the nation's ills has not had a negative impact on markets. Our stock markets have continually made new highs as the economy struggles with multiple issues and faces an uncertain future. Even escalating tensions throughout the world and the threat of war has proven not to matter to markets as much as the flow of newly printed money and the expansion of credit from central banks across the globe.

The gridlock evident in government has done little to slow the advances of stocks on Wall Street because in the eyes of those buying stocks the promise of solutions is proving as good as the real thing. Investors seem oblivious to the reality no intelligent plans has been written or are moving through the halls of Congress. The fact is little progress has been made on healthcare reform and we cannot cut taxes while increasing spending at the same time without exploding an already massive national deficit. Just as remote as a "fix all for healthcare" is the likelihood of a tax plan being signed into law anytime soon that will simplify or solve our budget woes. The odds of getting a complicated tax reform bill through a polarized and divided Congress are nil. 

Expect Congressional Hearings To Produce Diddly-squat
Ironically the one thing both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon is the importance of avoiding the real work of addressing the problems plaguing America. It is difficult to argue with the fact America's capital is locked in a dysfunctional mindset. Anyone who thinks the nightmare known as Obamacare is well on its way to being repealed or replaced by a "better plan" is delusional. Other than a celebration and photo-op when legislation passed the House little of substance is in the works. Sadly, the House bill was declared dead on arrival when handed off to the Senate and it is probably just as well because it did little to halt or resolve the misery caused by the soaring cost of healthcare.

It could be argued a polarized America has joined a polarized world in taking the course of least resistance and that is to do nothing. It appears most of the developed countries across the world are in exactly the same boat. Recently completed and upcoming elections hold little promise that things will be sorted out soon. For all the babbling commentaries of what the elections in France and Britain mean going forward, they simply reflect the fact that much of the world remains polarized. Populations seem split between the struggle to change course or move forward on autopilot. This situation is not new, this is not the first time in history we have faced polarization, however, with events occurring at an increasingly faster rate things seem a bit more pressing and even dire.

Trump Has Rolled-back The Obama Agenda
Thank goodness for the distractions that allow us to take our eyes and minds off the business of making the necessary structural reforms to move forward. The recent testimony of FBI Director James Comey following his being fired by President Trump can be considered one of those distractions. While few Americans were love struck over Comey this has stirred up a hornet's nest and energized Trump's critics. Throw in a bit of outrage over Russia logically wanting to sway our election and you have a real brouhaha. Only so many hours exist in a day and when they are spent or wasted in speculation the bottom-line is if nothing is getting done, Washington might just as well be closed for business. This means events will unfold with little real guidance.

It is difficult to believe the productivity of Washington could drop any lower than it has, however, as our elected officials busy themselves with calling for further investigations and making promises of getting to the bottom of  "this" America moves forward on autopilot. The flavor of the day is same as it was yesterday and the year before, nothing has changed. The politicians and Washington elite continue dithering away their time as well as the money of the American taxpayer and even that of future generations. With matters under control and having completed his strenuous first 100 days in office President Trump continues with his agenda which should result in more of the same. So far President Trump's big accomplishment has been to rollback many of the decisions made by the previous administration and too many voters this is hardly a reason for celebration.

With the days of "Hope and Change" firmly behind us and we are firmly on the path towards making America great again, unfortunately, the message has fallen on deaf ears when it comes to our elected officials in Washington. Tonight I will raise my glass and toast the cynical and skeptical Americans scattered across this great land for again they are well on their way to being right about how nothing really gets done until the last minute and secure in knowing that any time or thing that offers Washington the option of delay will be exercised. A final though as I get ready to post this article, I think many Americans are beginning to realize this may be as good as it gets.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

America Is Still Trapped In The Box Bernanke Built

 brucewilds.blogspot.hk / By: Bruce Wilds

The Economy Is Hooked On Cheap Money
As Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke painted both himself and the Federal Reserve in a corner with a policy of loose and cheap money. Today Yellen and the Federal Reserve with an inflation target of 2% continue to please those gambling that not fighting the Fed guarantees profits. As many Americans are forced to pay higher prices I wish someone would let the Fed Chairman know we are already there. Any thought that inflation is not higher has to be from the false illusion created by lower payments due to low interest rates, this is a one off and will not continue. Today America and the world are boxed in by a policy that is increasingly hard to escape.

Loose Monetary Policies Lead To Poor Decisions
America continues to import around five hundred billion dollars worth of goods from other countries every year than it exports and those who export to us are dependent on America continuing to buy these goods. We have a giant trade deficit, add to that our massive government deficit and it is easy to see that we are living far beyond our means. This means that Janet Yellen and the Fed at some point will have to begin pondering an exit strategy and how they can remove the massive stimulus that the economy has come to expect. Sadly, little has been done to address our structural problems and make America more competitive, growth will be thwarted unless these and other issues are dealt with.

Both Bernanke and Yellen failed to make any serious efforts in pushing the government to take the necessary reforms needed to move the economy forward. What started as a program to support and prop up the economy has morphed into the main driver of economic data. Between the low-interest rates that continue to force investors into high-risk assets in search of a positive return on their money, and money being pumped into the system, the markets have become distorted and disconnected from the economy. The idea that the money will continue to be forced into the sky high equity market is flawed. What was seen as a short term and temporary measure to prop up and boost the economy has become the new normal.

National Debt Exploded Under Obama
The Fed remains trapped in a corner, with higher interest, mortgage rates will rise. The low-interest rates that have discouraged savings and encouraged people to take high risks have also caused people to take on more debt for things such as automobiles. In the end, this does not lead to a healthy economy, but rather a story that will end in tears and regrets. When interest rates rise, as they will have to do at some point, the economy will slow, the value of these risky investments will decline, and these investors will be hurt. Also as a double whammy, interest payments on the public debt will rise, increasing the budget deficit, which exploded during the Obama years. 

If all the money dumped into the economy would suddenly change direction and rush into hard assets, the shift would be devastating to our struggling economy because inflation would soar. This thought also raises other questions, what can we define as a hard asset, what is really available, and in what quantities? This may be where inflation raises its ugly head. An unknown and surprising fact about inflation is how fast it can take root. With such a shift, interest rates would move higher and investors would flee government bonds. The crash of the bond market and what many have called a Bond Bubble will become a reality. Coming up with a plausible exit strategy and making it work are two different things.

Almost a decade ago when Ben Bernanke started us down the path of quantitative easing and artificially low-interest rates a great deal was made of his having studied the great depression era. His claims he had the answers as to how we could avoid a large amount of financial pain and dodge creating a situation such as has played out in Japan and been described as the "lost decades" garnered much support. Central banks across the world have made deflation the bogeyman that allows them to rationally embraced the easy money policy and continued it even though it has not resulted in the economic growth that was promised. It should be noted that cross-border money flows and other such investment vehicles have made this all a bit dicey and forced us to ask if speculative bubbles are being created, keep in mind if you have to ask if it is a bubble it probably is.

Footnote; Allan H. Meltzer, a distinguished monetary economist and historian and a longtime professor of economics at Carnegie-Mellon Institute, died in early May at the age of 89. Meltzer was born in 1928 is viewed by many economists as America’s foremost expert in monetary policy. In recent years his mood has been troubled, he has been quoted as saying “We’re in the biggest mess we’ve been in since the 1930s,” and “We’ve never had a more problematic future.” Below is an article in tribute to Meltzer that presents some of the reasoning behind his concern over current economic policy.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stagflation Most Probable Scenario Going Forward

 brucewilds.blogspot.hk / By: Bruce Wilds

Stagflation Is An Ugly Probability
The odds of stagflation eroding and gradually destroying the buying power of the average consumer in coming years is more likely than many people realize. Too many people little difference exists between stagflation and inflation, however, the distinction or difference is that stagflation is often linked to times of economic slow growth. The idea that inflation cannot exist in a period of slow growth is a myth that many people believe, this may soon be proven false. A great deal of what something is worth is related to where people actually put their wealth. The sectors or areas of the economy that savers and investors deem safe are more important than most people realize.

Price stability or even minor deflation should not be a major problem but due to the fact we seek to move upward and ever higher adds to the idea the 2% inflation target deemed as a desirable rate by most central banks is the economic sweet spot. The concept a little inflation is a good thing appears to be based on the idea it adds to the illusion of overall economic growth. This arbitrary number or target also gives central banks far more flexibility in defending a policy that results in printing fiat money (currency which derives its value from government regulation or law rather than backed by any commodity) as well as deficit government spending.

For years savers have poured a great deal of their savings into paper promises such as pensions, bonds, stocks, and such. Using a slew of faulty methods to compute inflation we are constantly informed consumers are not losing a great deal of buying power, however, these methods often underweight important necessities and overweight the cost of televisions and other electronic gadgets that are falling in price. Even low-interest rates feed into this false narrative. If you want a better picture of what is actually happening focus on the replacement and repair cost that occur following a storm or other natural disaster. 

Venezuela Is Poster-Child Of Economic Chaos
When it comes to economic policy it seems, sustainability is put on the back burner and the goal is just to create growth tomorrow, or in other words, full speed ahead. Our leaders find strong allies with the lobbyist who grease the wheels of commerce. A society where consumers conserve, reducing waste, and any talk of austerity usually conflicts with the goals of lobbyist hell bent on creating growth at any cost. In many cases, austerity measures have been associated with public protest and claims of a significant decline in the standard of living. The argument by contemporary Keynesian economists that budget deficits are appropriate when an economy is in recession encourage governments to try to spend their way out of trouble.

What we should be asking is if current policies are really creating tangible and solid growth and question if they are sustainable over time. Those touting the destructive force of deflation often use Japan as an example of what we should avoid at all cost. It could be argued that the so-called "lost decades" that Japan has experienced is the result of other factors rather than the country not adding enough stimulus. The fact is after its massive bubble burst Japan never really faced its demons and chose to keep alive zombie banks and companies coupled with increased competition from China as it began to export low price goods to America as well as dreadful demographics are all contributors to Japan's problems.

We should remember that Japan's economy is driven by exports this alone makes it a far different animal than our economy. In truth Japan has not fallen off the face of the earth as its real estate and other markets fell back to reasonable levels. Until now because of their low interest rates the yen has been a favorite of those playing the carry trade game and is still seen by many as a safe haven currency. The problem they now face is at some point because of the governments unsustainable deficit the world will at some point declare the yen as worthless and the inflation they have sought for so long will wash over them  taking with it much of their buying power.

Footnote; The articles below link to issues related to this post.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mosul's Transformation Into A Pile of Rubble

brucewilds.blogspot.hk / By: Bruce Wilds

Mosul Has Become A Scene Of Destruction And Carnage
Mosul's transformation into a pile of rubble filled with the bodies of dead civilians nears completion. The destruction of Mosul continues, and as the end nears we are now seeing Mosul back in the news. Several of the news reports center around how victory is near at hand, this may be so we are prepped for the celebration and ready to give credit to those who are bringing ISIS to its knees. Over the Memorial Day Weekend on Face The Nation, Defense Secretary James Mattis made it clear, containment is not enough the goal is total annihilation and humiliation so that nothing will rise from the ashes of ISIS.

Mosul and the surrounding area in northern Iraq had in the past housed about two and a half million people. Since being occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in June of 2014 many people have fled. Knowing that to stay was to risk your life and the lives of those with you the population today has declined to around two hundred thousand.  Adding to the woes of civilians that remain trapped by the fighting or afraid to flee are reports from U.S. based Human Rights Watch that Iraqi Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State have unlawfully destroyed Arab homes in scores of towns and villages in what may amount to a war crime, in short, your potential liberators may not be your friend.

The good news is that when the operation began to liberate the city of Mosul and eliminate the last bastion of ISIS in Iraq things were moving faster than many people had anticipated according to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Still, problems continued to surface slowing the advance, such as a wave of car bombs sent by the Islamic State group. Iraqi special forces Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi said, "there are so many civilian cars and any one of them could be a bomb." As Iraqi forces try to advance further into Mosul these suicide car bombs have taken a toll. With Islamic State militants even deploying armed children in Mosul’s Old City as means to bolster the impression they are still in control it is obvious many more civilians will die before this is over.

 Civilians, As Well As ISIS Fighters, Are Being Killed
Clearly, the once great and ancient city of Mosul will be reduced to nothing more than a pile of rubble. Mosul shares this fate with many other cities in the region that have become war zones. Within the slowly shirking kill zone, it is not difficult to imagine 100,000 or more of the innocent people trapped within the city killed as troops seeking to eradicate the last of the estimated four to six thousand ISIS fighters go about their task. Death often occurs rather indiscriminately in such places and is dealt out to both civilians and combatants. In this case, civilians will be used as human shields increasing the toll and carnage. 

As for how those many tens of thousands of civilians who fled fighting near Islamic State-controlled Mosul last week many are now stranded outside the city without basic humanitarian assistance. The situation became so desperate near the end of last year it was reported that army officers began distributing rations meant for their soldiers and buying extra supplies with money out of their own pockets. We have seen this all before, when the smoke begins to clear a campaign will develop to raise massive amounts of money to rebuild and set things right but until then it is suffering and death and nothing we do will change this reality of war.

An article written in the middle of November 2016 pointed out that a matter that merits our attention has become merely a footnote lost in the noise of daily news, these are the events taking place as Iraqi troops and a coalition of anti-ISIS forces try to retake Mosul. Even though they are in different countries both Mosul and Aleppo stood in the path of total destruction destined to be wrecked by the forces of war. Aleppo was of course further down this path as we have seen in the photos that have become far too common. These photos depict the total devastation and death modern warfare brings upon those caught in its way.

It should be noted the Mosul offensive began in mid-October 2016, in the days leading up to the American Presidential election, at the time the offensive was expected to last weeks, if not months. The media reports were spun to let us know a forthcoming victory was in the offing, it seemed this was done to assure voters American foreign policy has not been a dismal failure. The fact is Mosul should never have never fallen. The blood and treasure wasted and spent in Iraq are in many ways a reflection and the legacy of intervening where you don't belong. When this campaign is over victory will be declared but what exactly will we be celebrating?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Catalyst Of Our Economic Demise Yet To Be Determined

brucewilds.blogspot.hk / By: Bruce Wilds

Catalyst Yet To Be Determined!
Time has a way of revealing certain realities but does so at its own choosing. It is important that we remember the power of time, it controls us rather than the other way around. During certain periods of our lives the clocks often seem to be moving at their own pace. As a child the special days like Christmas approached slower than a turtle in peanut-butter, however, vacations had a way of slipping by far too soon. The fact that events seem to advance unevenly reinforces the concept of lag time where the effect is not rapidly apparent and the idea that at times we see life passing before our eyes. Time is a powerful force and will at its leisure remind us we are not in control, all things come to an end and so will this market and the economy it has wrought.

The book that I authored several years ago focused on how mankind has by way of its advancements constructed a world in which we are rapidly moving ever faster into a future that we only partially control. This brings me to the crux of this article and that is the catalyst of our economic demise remains in question. Over the years many articles have been written speculating on what will be our downfall and when we will stumble yet we have bumbled our way forward. A patch here and a patch there has allowed the flawed economic system the world has cobbled together to continue with the help of an emergency action every now and then. But has it been luck, cunning or skill that has brought us to this point?

When it comes to the economy we are not talking about a well-oiled and designed machine and in the end, we may find that it is not really completely under the control of those who have been placed in the driver's seat. At any rate, many scenarios exist as to how one or more missteps may lead to the collapse of this rather fragile contraption. As for taking a hands-off approach and allowing markets to find their own way, that time is long gone and that ship has already sailed. Over the years central banks across the world have become so deeply involved in manipulating and distorting markets they are at a point where true price discovery no longer exist. On occasion, I dust off an article that I feel hit some important cords and do so now.

Let the chips fall where they may is a figure of speech which means, "What happens happens" or "Let the imminent events unfold." This metaphoric term dates back to the 1800s and alludes to chopping wood,  "chips" refers to chips of wood. This phrase uses the image of a person chopping wood and letting the chips fly everywhere instead of trying to be neat and chop on one side so they'll fall in a pile. It implies the woodcutter should pay attention to the main task of cutting logs and not worry about small chips. It is often joined to a statement that one should do what is right, such as, "No matter what the consequences, I'm going, to tell the truth about what happened and let things and events unfold as they may.

A Huge Number Of Chips
It has become abundantly clear that when it comes to the "economic chips" the powers that be have no intention of letting them fall where they may. However, several factors determine just how much influence can be applied to the how current economic policies unfold. Continuing with the metaphor of "falling chips." Things like the size of the chips, the rate or speed at which they fall, and the number of chips in the air may make them uncontrollable. My point is we could find ourselves up to our neck in chips in a blink of an eye and in the middle of an economic tsunami, all bets are off as to how successful efforts to stem a catastrophe might be. We should expect that during the final stage of a global shakedown events will be uncontrolled and become very wild.

Many people have come to accept the fact the world might soon witness a major shift in the value of one investment over another as investors seek firmer ground. Derivatives, currencies, plunging stock prices, air rushing out of a bond market bubble, how debts are structured, and the timing or direction from which problems arise are all factors that must be considered. Investors are constantly reminded that investing involves risk, investing in foreign markets is subject to additional risk including currency fluctuations. This means we face the loss of principal or capital, however, year after year of climbing markets tends to make people complacent. What many people don't realize is no matter what they invest in or how safely they think they have salted away their wealth or savings risk is always lurking.

The question remains how best to prepare for a economic meltdown. Values constantly change and the unfortunate situation of having your wealth in the wrong place at the wrong time can be devastating, the inability to access your funds can make the situation even more dire. It could be said that in some ways all of us are involved and playing this game whether we are aware of it or even want to be included. Another concern is the economic overlords have the power to change the rules and when this happens it generally is not to benefit you or me. During times of economic chaos, you can only hope you will not be one of those thrown under the bus. With much of the world facing down a road paved in promises that are economically unsustainable, it is likely many will be broken. Pensions and other payments granted to us in our later years are the kinds of promises that are at risk of not materializing or being cut.

How Will The Dominoes Fall?
Much of how things play out revolves around the issue of debt a subject of great importance to both lenders and borrowers, and again timing can mean everything when determining whether a creditor will totally default or force a lender to suffer a major write-down of their expectations. Debt is generally set to be paid over time and a balloon payment coming due at a time when money is difficult to borrow can be the kiss of doom. Inflation or deflation, as well as a big shift in interest rates, may determine the true winners or losers in this brutal game.

I contend the amount of money and free currency (able to move around and be deployed) actually standing or remaining after the next major economic meltdown begins will be the determining factor of whether inflation or deflation is indeed the flavor of the day. A person may think they are wealthy or have real wealth, but will they be able to tap into it and move it about? Often "paper wealth" is merely a promise of future value. Many people would be shocked at just how little in the way of tangible assets many very wealthy people own and to find much of the wealth people own is on paper, and this is full of risk. What is often missing or overlooked is tangible fully paid for items and things that are likely to hold their value and in the direct possession of the owner. People tend to avoid tangible assets in their control because they are often inconvenient or need to be insured.

Going forward we find the size of the chips, and the order in which they fall is both unpredictable and does matter in determining how an individual's wealth is affected. The story of the gold miner who labored for years then gave up and walked away set things up for the next young lad who started in to hit gold in days and strike it rich highlights that being right is not always enough, the value of tenacity should not be underestimated, and timing is crucial. A bit of luck is also helpful in a world that has become a giant casino and our economic future often a game of chance, at stake, is just how much of our wealth we as individuals can protect. When we talk about contagion it is easy to imagine the dominoes falling, but have no doubt the direction they fall often determines which if any will remain standing. Expect both luck and caution to play a big role on our individual fortunes as we move through the financially violent period before us.