Putin Losing the Real War

The devastation continues in Ukraine as the civil war shows no signs of ending. As many as 3,700 people have been killed as human rights abuses have been alleged on both sides of the conflict. Eastern Ukraine is in ruins.

But the real loser in this conflict may yet be Russia. Wars these days are fought not just with gunpowder but with money, and while Putin has generously given weapons to his allies in Ukraine he is sitting on a very weak nation that has been sealed off from the West. We can expect him to keep fighting, as would be his style, in both ways – but this could be an extremely long Winter for both nations.

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Credit Card System: Fail

As we head into the holiday shopping season, one thing that everyone is looking forward to is the flash of plastic sliding out of wallets all across America. It’s the make or break time for retailers everywhere and season for dedicated shoppers to show their prowess for hunting down bargains. All of it is fueled by credit cards, both online and in person.

But before you whip out the card is there someone waiting to give the term “swipe a card” a different meaning? You may think you can trust a retailer, but can you be sure that they aren’t already a victim of a hacker? The short answer is no, you can’t be sure of anything this year. And a series of high profile hacks throughout 2014 have shown us that the entire credit card system needs to be judged as insecure by everyone.

And hardly anyone in the mainstream media is talking in these terms, probably to avoid the reasonable panic that would ensue.

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Shia vs Sunni

There are many conflicts that have seized the attention of the world today – Ukraine vs Russia, Gaza vs Israel, even Hong Kong vs China. There is also an Ebola epidemic and a general failure of the world’s economy to gain traction.

But there is one conflict simmering just below these headlines which has the potential to affect the entire world more profoundly than any of them – the growing conflict between Sunni and Shia Moslems, now stretching across the Middle East.

It has taken many forms on many fronts, but they all point to a potential for a much wider and nastier war than we have ever seen. And the US, as usual, has a position that might only encourage instability and ultimately make us one of the great losers if things get much worse.

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Senate Shakedown

Will the Senate go Republican? Nearly everyone believes it is likely, and has for a long time. It’s hard to see how that will be any different from today, given the ability to filibuster absolutely anything in that body.

Beyond Democrats and Republicans, there is a third option that is growing – some kind of independent fueled chaos and perhaps a heavy dose of Joe Biden in the works. The possibilities are absolutely delicious for many reasons. Not only would it give us all something to write about, a Senate in chaos would probably more accurately reflect the mood of the nation. Here’s how it goes.

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The Time of The Doctor

If you are a fan of the BBC Series Doctor Who, you are probably enjoying the eighth season since the reboot, now starring Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. If you aren’t, I’d rather you didn’t read this piece, since you may want to alert the authorities about my mental stability.

This is a work of fandom. I’ve been a fan of the show since 1978 and have passed this affliction, er, passion, on to my kids now.

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Up is Down, Until It’s Just Up

It’s been one week since Barataria made the prediction that if good news came in on jobs the stock market would tank. The good news came in, with the headline unemployment number slipping below 6% for the first time since 2008. Immediately, the market proved Barataria to be wrong. Then right. Then wrong. Then right, again.

It’s been a roller-coaster of a week. How does that stack up with any prediction at all?

It’s probably time to make another prediction. Let’s stick with the first one, that the stock market is due for a decent but not horrific “correction” that re-affirms that we’re really still in a secular bear market. But with the focus on Fed action we are also entering a time when the logic of the market finally turns rightside up – and good news will once again become unalloyed good news.

We just have to get through the ride before we know what’s up – literally up.

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Paralyzed

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt

One of the key features of the time we live in is paralysis.  Uncertainty creates risk aversion, since risk is much more difficult to calculate.   After a few years living like this and people start to live day to day.  It eventually becomes “survival mode” when tomorrow becomes very difficult to imagine.  The result is nothing – and that often comes even when one person is calling the shots, let alone a system based on consensus among many.

The evidence is all around us that something unusual is happening.  Change is coming faster and in ways that are not often talked about adequately.  The economy is not simply recovering the way it has after any other post-war recession.  What should we do?  FDR had it right – try something and see if it works.  If that goes against every instinct you have right now, you’re not alone.  But let’s see if we can convince you that there are, in fact, some things that point to very different actions than we’re all used to.
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