Women in Power

This is a repeat from four years ago, but it also makes a great lead-in to something I have been thinking about a lot lately. A time of great change means that we have to cast off the old and give birth to the new – we need reform. How do we achieve that? History has shown us a remarkable way – bringing women to power. Is it because women are the consummate outsiders in a male world? Is it because they have a different perspective that is lacking in traditional power schemes?

Whatever the reasons, history has show that women have been more than great leaders.  Perhaps Sen Warren (D-MA) will continue this tradition, or even Sec. Clinton.  More likely, there will be more that we haven’t heard of yet.  It’s all a very good thing.

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Revisions

This was supposed to be the year that the economy turned the corner, building on the foundation laid in 2013. It isn’t happening. The final revision to first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth came in at a stunning -2.9%. Is it time to panic?

Nearly everyone agrees that it’s a statistical aberration, so the answer appears to be no. But we’re certainly not enjoying the economic growth that was expected this year. The economy is giving mixed signals at best, leading everyone to wonder if maybe we’re really just treading water after all.

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Stability

As the crisis in Iraq worsens nearly daily, a quiet calm seems to have come over US politics. Republicans want to blame Obama for this, but know that they can’t. More to the point, there doesn’t seem to be anything proactive we can do, at least not anything different from what we tried twice before. There is simply far too much blame to go around for it to land squarely on anyone here in the US.

What is different this time? Apart from the horrible loss of life a decade ago, apparently for little gain, there is a big change in the US. Our energy independence makes any arguments based on “strategic resources” much thinner than the blood of American soldiers. Between this crisis and Ukraine it has become clear that we have limits and have to learn to be OK with that.

But there is more to it. It should be obvious by now that US foreign policy can no longer be about control but stability. And that, by itself, should be a pivotal change.

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The Great War

One hundred years ago this June 28th the heirs to the Austrian throne, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, were gunned down on a Sarajevo street. The bullets fired by Serb nationalist Gavril Princip rippled throughout Europe and within four and a half years four empires and the entire order of Europe were ripped apart.

But even more than that fell on that day a century ago. The entire world changed in ways that have not come to a place of any stability since. The two most pressing conflicts in the world, in Ukraine and Syria, are over borders carelessly drawn as both nations came into existence after that terrible war and are still unsettled.

We should mark this anniversary of a century of waves that have crashed the world closer than Franz Ferdinand could have ever imagined.

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Confidence In …. ?

How much faith do you have in the institutions that make up our world? According to a recent poll, people don’t have a tremendous amount of confidence in most of the somewhat organized systems that make up daily life in the US. That dissatisfaction is disturbing if you think about it, but it’s also perfectly natural.

The Barataria line of reasoning is that we are in an economic depression that won’t end until there is a significant restructuring in just about everything that we depend on – and a whole new economy and perhaps social arrangement takes the place of the one that failed. If nothing else, it goes without saying that we are living in a time of tremendous change and something as rigid as an institution or industry often changes much slower than the world around it.

Whatever the case, dissatisfaction points to more upheaval ahead – and perhaps opportunities for entrepreneurs who can re-imagine these institutions for a new world.

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Wealth is How You Feel

With Brazil hosting the World Cup and clearly looking for more from their economy and society, this is a good piece to re-run from last year.

Around the world, two stories have been consistent since 2008 – the developed world is struggling with a depression while the developing world largely charges ahead.  The two worlds have never been so far apart as the careen towards similarity.  But in this hemisphere, three stories have come to show where it all comes together – how “wealthy” is what a nation feels more than how it is.

Forget how Japan and Europe are wallowing in desperation for a while – on this side of the big ponds things are happening.  It may be slower than anyone wants, but change is happening.  The reactions to that change show that my favorite saying is still true – that while people are people, cultures are cultures.  Wealth, or at least the feeling of wealth, is a state of mind.

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Nationhood, the Hard Way

The latest crisis in Iraq has become a grave situation. This spillover from Syria, in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has already become a regional conflict even bigger than the refugee crisis that has spilled over into all of the neighbors of Syria.

What’s less obvious is that ultimately this could become something much more profound if everyone involved manages to do the right thing for once. The odds of that happening are slim, but important steps forward have been taken by the largest group of stateless people in the world, the Kurds. How they play their hand could determine how many wrongs dating back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago are finally righted.

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