Give Thanks

We call them “terrorists” because their goal is to inflict terror. Fear – a blinding fear that overcomes us and makes us set aside everything we value.

When we surrender to terror we surrender to the terrorists. Victory comes when we reach inside ourselves and develop bravery. That is what happens when resolve matches fear. Such bravery has defined us and given us everything we have – and is something for which we must be truly thankful.

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Rising Again?

The best bet for economic growth in the US comes from simply looking around the world. Japan is in a recession, Europe appears hopeless, and China is struggling. Where else can you put your money?

The answer appears to be the developing world, or emerging markets. Granted, whenever someone talks about “emerging markets” they usually wind up focusing on China – which definitely carries a lot of risk in terms of both currency value (fixed by the still communist government) and slowing growth. But throughout the rest of the planet there is opportunity. Lots of it, in fact.

While the US still looks great as a “safe haven” there is plenty of reason for cash to start flowing back to the developing world. But that investment is almost certainly going to be led by US investors given the strength of the US dollar.

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All Politics is … Stupid?

Syrian refugee resettlement in the US has created the political cause of the moment. Dozens of governors immediately lined up to say, “Not in my state” causing many others to say, “We welcome refugees”.  Nevermind that they don’t actually get a say.  Social media has lit up with memes and statements arguing the morality, legality, and practicality of all positions.

This has all the markings of a classic modern American political issue that could actually last into the next election in some form. It’s purely emotional and, more importantly, has absolutely no basis in anything that is actually important in the world.

The question of Syria, long ignored while it burned, has come to us as a feeble cartoon now that there’s the possibility that the situation might vaguely inconvenience us. And that’s all we’ve ever cared about.

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Money Down a Hole

It’s long been Barataria’s position that energy independence, followed closely by a decrease in reliance on limited resources, is a very wise policy. The key question is resilience, which is to say the economy’s ability to weather any storm and still provide basic services. Food and energy should not become expensive overnight because of political concerns or currency shifts.

Getting to this point is a bit more controversial, however. Even the paltry $29B spent in 2013 as subsidies for renewable energies has become a political football. That amount comes to $236 per household, which is to say about 5% of what we spend on defense. Nevermind, it seems like a lot.

But according to a new study by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), that’s almost exactly what we spend in subsidy to fossil fuels. And by global standards we’re actually doing far more than our share.

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Black Friday

This poem is an old favorite from 2011.  Enjoy!

‘Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems,
That the holiday season was crafted from dreams.
There were visions of friendship and light through the land
As if darkness itself had been thoroughly banned.
But the times closed around as the blackness enveloped
And the victory of dark very slowly developed.

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Not so Fast …

It’s been week since a blowout jobs report set fire to financial markets and signaled that everything is about to change. Barataria predicted a good report, if very timidly, and gave everything a week to shake out. So where do we stand a week from the first clear signal liftoff is occurring?

The short answer is that markets have absorbed the reality of a rising Fed Funds Rate. The long answer is that it sure doesn’t look like it for a lot of reasons which are complicated and confusing. In an increasingly smaller world there is nothing that confines money to one “market”, meaning that pressure is on from all directions.

The upshot is that after an initial spike there is reason to believe a rise in interest rates by the Fed may yet trigger a net medium-term fall in interest rates paid by consumers, as predicted. It’s worth explaining further.

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Curtain Rises on Kashkari

Who is the man behind the curtain? The selection of Neel Kashkari as the new President of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve is fascinating for a lot of reasons. It’s especially important to those of us who live in the district, of course, but this is not any ordinary position. Kaskkari is taking over for Kocherlakota, the outgoing President who resigned last June – leaving the Fed with one less relentlessly “dovish” member of the Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC).

Who is this new guy? How was he chosen?

The whole process gives us a peak behind the curtain and raises a series of questions about the new, more politically active Fed. Kashkari also brings a new personality and well documented series of biases as an data-loving engineer who is, by all accounts, a genuinely nice if hard-driving guy.

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