54 & Counting … (slowly)

A very special day requires a very special repeat!

If you have a friend who is funny, talented, and very rich there’s a good chance that you look forward to their birthday party every year.  When there is a friend to everyone born on this day, the leap year, the least we can do is throw a good party every four years.  Today is the 54th birthday* of one of the great talents in music, food, storytelling, pranks, and general fun – Gioachino Rossini.  Though he was born in 1792 in Pesaro, Italy, he is still a good guy to get to know even today – and a good excuse for a party.

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Scary ol’ Populism

The intersection of politics and business is rarely good for anyone. Too much money corrupts governing and too much governing can get awfully expensive – as can haphazard, capricious, and ego-driven governing.

Which is why the question has to be raised now that a certain person appears to be cruising to the Republican nomination – and his name ain’t Cruz. We have a policy at Barataria of never mentioning his name, something like Voldemort, as he gets enough oxygen for being obnoxious (noxygen?) already.

But is his rise part of the reason why markets have been somewhat panicked? It’s hard to tell, but there is reason to believe that markets in general, as well as faith in the US of A from abroad, are starting to react badly to the rising prospects of the greatest nation ever being run as the largest and most powerful ever set for a reality show.

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Be Careful What You … Measure?

Why should the stock market move in tandem with the price of oil? If you’ve never before heard that it has been you may think that the world really has gone crazy. Of course, you might be right.

But the phenom has been so strong and so enduring, lasting nearly two months now, that it’s more than a bizarre intellectual exercise – there’s a lot of money at stake. So what’s so important about oil going up that it drives the market? And how long will this keep up?

There are a few good theories out there for the first question, none of which make a strong case for when this relationship will break and we’ll go back to “cheap oil is good”. But there may be an even simpler way to look at it which tells us that the current situation can’t hold for very long at all.

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Apple and the Good Fight

As iPhones become slimmer, the box that contains the electronics that make it work is tighter every day. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the legal box on Apple and other makers of technology is getting a lot tighter, too.

The recent court order to unlock the iPhone is straight out of a TV crime drama. The suspects in the San Bernadino shooting are dead, and the only possible way we can understand their motivation is to gain access to every piece of otherwise private information on them we can. That includes their iPhone, a device encrypted in a way that no one, even the maker, can unlock. But Apple has never tried to create a “backdoor” for their own reasons, and has outlined exactly why they don’t want such a program to even exist.

But there’s much more to this than a TV show. This is real life, and security concerns have come right up against privacy in a complicated and dramatic way.

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To My Generation, Gen-X

The war of the generations is heating up. The fight for supremacy between Boomers and Millenials in social, economic, and fashion is now the key distinction in the Democratic Party and to a lesser extent the Republican Party as well. Bridging the gap, as usual, are Gen-Xers – now poised to become the glue that holds everything together.

How messed up does the world have to be to have it come to this?

People of my generation, we know that no one can speak for all of us. So let me speak for the Gen-X generation and you can decide for yourself. You don’t have the time to listen to me whine so I’ll be as brief as I can:

It’s up to us, like it or not. We can either start leading or stand around and tell the Millenials to get off our lawn while we wait for the Boomers to die off.

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Market Funk

Watching the stock market on a daily basis is a good way to go insane. If you doubt this, all you have to do is read the various explanations for the daily gyrations – which rarely make much sense. Nevermind them. Since the start of 2016 the market’s been in a serious funk, which is to say it’s had a major urge to get down.

The official explanation is “China”. Something about China, at least. We’ve never bought that here at Barataria, focusing instead on the positive news that surrounds us every day. No, we’re not joking. There is indeed positive news and the market reflects this – sort of, at least.

Like good funk, the story of the stock market today comes with a backbeat and a solid bass line. It’s all about how the vagaries of international finance flow through the news and the market with a beat that so infectious ev’rbody has to dance.

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Just Plain Lazy

Justice Scalia has died. Out of respect for the recently departed I will only say that his service and dedication to the rule of law and the Constitution has been remarkable and that his passing must be a time of great sadness for his family and friends. Bless him for his commitment and bless everyone who mourns him.

With that out of the way, holy hand grenade did everyone get the pleasantries out of the way quickly. His body wasn’t even cool before the empty spot on the bench became a political football, with Sen McConnell (R-KY) saying we should wait for a new President in a year before filling the vacancy.

The politics which make it possible to even suggest such a strange thing goes to the heart of the problems deep at the core of our national dysfunction and disgrace.

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