Polar Vortex

It’s polar vortex day across much of the United States. Temperatures are plunging well below zero, close to the point where going metric doesn’t change a thing. It’s a day to stay inside and huddle, a day to not only be glad you’re still alive but wonder why you live where the air hurts your face.

It is not, however, a day to talk about climate change. These things just happen on a big continent with interesting geography. The same forces that water it and keep it green also create nasty weather patterns that can kill us all. It’s a big part of the North American experience, and it’s why people tend to migrate freely in this part of the world and have since humans first arrived.

So let’s talk about the Jet Stream again, and why this is just one of those things.

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What Next?

With the federal government open again, there’s a little less uncertainty in the economy. Things are back to normal and everyone is happy again. Right?

Unfortunately, the effects of the record shutdown are still hard to predict. As with any economic data, we won’t know until the quarter is over just what happened. We do have a few clues, however, and a few things that we can watch to know just where it’s going.

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What is a Bear Market?

We recently stated that this is a “Bear Market.” So what does that mean?

It’s not all that scary, at least not once the market really settles into bear territory. In fact, it can be a great time of opportunity for many investors, particularly away from stocks. It’s worth spending a moment contemplating what a bear market is and why it’s important.

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2019 Predictions!

A new year means a new start. Resolutions are made and we all hope to be better people. it’s also a time for predictions, which shrewd people can write in a way to not look bad in another 363 days. It’s not just about making them vague and easily attained, no – a good prediction can be an excuse for not being a better person.

That’s my way of saying that we can expect a lot of ugly in 2019, but we shouldn’t let that get us down. here’s what I see happening in the year ahead. Bookmark this and make fun of me if you want.

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Reacting vs Planning

Good decision making comes from experience, and experience comes from bad decision making. This has been one Hell of a year, but what did we learn?

If you are shivering and exhausted after being blasted by a firehose of news and information, you are far from alone. That’s the nature of our world, and generally you have two choices: do your best to take it all in and make sense of it, or unplug and have a good life.

But like Buddha’s choice between hedonism and asceticism, either choice has to leave you wondering: isn’t there a third, middle way? And there is. It’s about planning and learning, about enjoying the here and now without a lot of noise but staying on top, perhaps even above, the world.

If we have learned one thing from this year I would hope that it is that a series of reactions is never a substitute for an actual strategy.

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Endgame?

The endgame is approaching. The truth about Trump is being revealed. After disastrous midterm elections he is weak and has the stench of a loser attached to him. The most recent revelations are going to be the the last straw, and his part will finally abandon him. This week showed us why.

Of course, this has nothing to do with what’s been said in court. Nevermind that his longtime lawyer has completely turned on him, or the man who buried his secrets for decades. The Republican Party doesn’t care about illegal activities now any more than they did before the election – when it was just about as obvious as it is today, as chronicled here.

It’s the steep decline in the stock market that is the unforgivable sin.

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GM & the National Industrial Model

The layoff notices came right after Thanksgiving. GM, a symbol of American industry, was going to close four US plants and can over 14,000 workers. Despite the relatively low numbers of people involved, the symbolic value is tremendous. The company was once the symbol of American manufacturing might. Besides, after a bankruptcy and government bailout the company surely has had what it needs to bounce back, right?

Yet there is much more to the story than this. Automobile manufacturing is in a period of massive, completely disruptive change. GM has been in trouble for a very long time simply because it cannot possibly change, and there are reasons to believe that everything is only going to be worse.

Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, has been trying to explain the situation to members of Congress this week. It’s unlikely that she can, especially since the very fact that she is obliged to do so points to the real problem. The national industrial model is dead, and it is being replaced with a global market model. GM’s problem is that it simply has not adapted to this reality in any important way.

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