It Starts With an Excuse

Through the first decade of Barataria, one theme becomes clear.  There is always hope, there is always a better way if we just figure out how to talk honestly about what’s wrong and how we have to work together.  The exceptions to this theme are the most illuminating.  This post is from January 2010, the low point in the recent Depression.  The distinct lack of hope is a bit chilling.

What would make a recovery sustainable?  If you ask an economist, they’d tell you that what makes any economy grow and prosper is, ultimately, what they call “productivity gains”.  That’s the ability to make more with less that allows a people to propser.  During the 1990s this was given as the reason why interest rates could remain low and we could have one Hell of a party – a sloppy, hazy bender.  We live in the hangover that resulted, but have we really learned how intoxicating this one, simple idea is?

Continue reading

Politics and Interest

Continuing the look back over the first decade of Barataria, this piece is from April 2007. It outlines a disease which has since consumed us – an inability to accept the need to work things out. 

“Politics” is a dirty word.

A common phrase in our world is that we “need to keep politics out” of a given situation. It seems to come from a noble intent, which is the desire to make rational decisions that are best for everyone. But what is it that we are trying to keep out?

Continue reading

Chaos versus Order

There seems to be some greater conflict in the world, Everyone has a theory as to where the batle lines are drawn – liberal versus conservative, white versus non-white, Muslim versus infidel, young versus old. Not all of these can be right at the same time, which brings to mind two questions:

What is the “real” conflict? And why is it not obvious?

The battle, if there is a real one, is primarily a matter of general anxiety. It’s an internal conflict within many people who have lost a sense of hope for a better tomorrow. But outwardly, it manifests itself into a battle between stability and chaos – a conflict between the preservation of what order exists and a desire to wash it away in order to make way for something, anything else.

Continue reading

Syria Degenerates

The US has turned inward. The nooze has become a high-caloried stream of confectionary nonsense from Washingtoon, spiced up with genuine budgetary horrors. The diversions keep coming, keeping everyone’s attention away from the real stories – possible treason and a lot of incompetence.

Meanwhile, Syria has become significantly more dangerous. In the very near future it’s reasonable that the situation will demand genuine leadership and careful negotiation. Given that this is nearly impossible, based on the narcissistic machismo which substitutes for leadership on nearly all sides, the potential for something even more horrible is rising daily.

But it’s hardly being reported at all.

Continue reading

Fake? Maybe. Fattening, Yes.

As a decade of Barataria approaches, the stories from 10 years ago have a strange relevance.  This piece is dated for two reasons – there are still local newspapers of interest and there is yet to be a staggering facebook phenom.  But the principle is the same.  It’s not that the news is fake as much as it is largely irrelevant.  It might as well be fake.  The devolution over the last decade is staggering – yet it could have been predicted.  I didn’t.  But the point still stands.

How many times have we read the really big story on the front of the newspaper with great interest? How often have we talked about it with our friends and colleagues the next day?

Continue reading

JS Bach, Spiritual Guide

The violinist was hired to play Christmas music in the atrium of Capella Tower in Minneapolis over lunch, but he clearly felt he could add a personal touch. He placed it up above the crowd where it echoed off the glass and marble, the light hand on a single violin piercing consciousness with the Prelude from Partita #3 by JS Bach.

I walked over slowly, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to be transformed. For a moment I wasn’t there or any place with earthly cares – there was this tremendous sound, the man whose craft propelled it into the air, and myself. When he was done I quietly, almost apologetically said what I could. “Thank you.” It wasn’t enough, but it was all I had. His response, equally respectful of the moment, said more. “My pleasure.”

This was a meeting not between any two people but between the two of us who, I am sure, share a religion. It is a sense of spirituality that comes from the gut strings of a fiddle and echoes not just through marble halls but through our hearts and minds every moment we can allow it.

Tuesday, March 21, is the 332nd anniversary of his birth in Eisenach, Germany.  That Bach can reach through the centuries is a measure of how profound his presence as a spiritual guide can be for those of us fortunate enough to have him in our hearts.

Continue reading

Yes, Not Again

In celebration of a decade of Barataria, I have to present another repeat.  This is from March 2008.  It’s an interesting time in that it was six months after the stock market peaked and six months before the financial collapse became obvious.  One of the great themes of Barataria since this time has been how we’ve seen it all before and we’re about to see it again.  The real story here isn’t that I called it at this time – it’s that so few people saw what was obvious as it happened around us.

Imagine that a new technology comes along that spawns a whole new industry. Not only is this industry a revolution in how people lead their lives, it’s immensely popular and generates a big pile of cash. The field starts out wide-open with many small entrepreneurs, but gradually they become rich as they are bought out by a few big players. Soon, the industry has consolidated and re-investment slows dramatically. Those who made big money start to put it into real estate, specifically in Midtown Manhattan, Florida, and Los Angeles.

Continue reading