Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: So Thirsty!

California drought

The Fish Wrap: a spasmodic caboodle of captivating bits and bobs, loosely grouped by subject matter around personal finance, investing, news, and maybe the odd rant or recipe. "Whiskey is for drinkin', water is for fightin'" ~ Mark Twain Well, this is what happens when you live under a self-placed rock, you miss the story of California's ongoing drought. Not that I'm a stranger to this topic, having canvassed door-to-door for a Bay Area environmental group back in college years (hey, I needed the work, starving student and all that...). "Cadillac Desert" by Marc Reisner was almost required reading, as training material for the squads of earnest young people who would cadge donations from enviro-shamed affluent … [Read more...]

Political Corner: Hear what they’re really saying

"The land is harrowed after the plowing. Tractors are coming in rapidly but four to eight horse teams are still widely used for this purpose."

(taking a break from gardening, stocks and travel.  Time for a mini-rant) In the past 40 years, the United States lost more than a million farmers and fathers. Many of our farmers are aging.  Today, only nine percent of family farm income comes from farming, and more and more of our farmers are looking elsewhere for their primary source of income." ~ Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture. Now that, is probably a statement of fact. I came across this quote on  the quote while writing this weeks earlier article on Limoneira.  Tom Vilsack is the ex-governor of Iowa, now ag czar for the whole country.  Safe to assume he probably knows a thing or two about farming.  If not necessarily doing it, certainly about pandering to … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: Long Live the King

New Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and their daughters wave to the crowd Tuesday from the balcony of the royal palace in Amsterdam. (There are oranges on the balcony wreath. Because orange is the Dutch national color, see?)

 The Fish Wrap: an occasional grouping of interesting links, mostly centered around finance topics, largely from personal finance blogs. A carnival of sorts, this time nicely arranged by topics, and curated with inconsistent editorial standards.   Back from the Netherlands, where the Dutch had a hell of a party last Tuesday, and woke up with a hangover and a new King. Queen Beatrix (now back to a mere Princess) decided she'd had enough of shaking hands with visiting nobility and other assorted heads of state, cutting ribbons and having to look interested at children spelling bees.  Beatrix handed the keys to the kingdom to Junior, and said good riddance, I'm retired.   Not that every Dutch person is enamored … [Read more...]

Von Mises and Rothbard, Who Dat? NPR’s Planet Money Whiffs It…

Assistant Secretary, U.S. Treasury, Harry Dexter White (left) and John Maynard Keynes, honorary advisor to the U.K. Treasury at the inaugural meeting of the International Monetary Fund's Board of Governors in Savannah, Georgia, U.S., March 8, 1946 (image by wikimedia).

A mid-year resolution to walk/run/workout at least an hour a day opens up all kinds of podcast-listening options. While the choices are many, the winners are few. A consistently well-produced show is NPR's Planet Money. A touch ironical for a quasi-state media outfit, PM is at its best when it pokes fun at the absurdities of incompetent government - city, state or federal, take your pick... In a rare miss, PM's latest episode #398, the podcast follows the mainstream media tendency towards blinkered disassociation from glaringly obvious facts, only evidenced when talking about libertarians and Austrian economics. "Obama, Ryan and Two Dead Economists" is a lengthy interview with Nicholas Wapshott (great British last name, by the … [Read more...]

All Things Japan

Himeji Castle, Himeji, Hyogo, Japan.

We're off on vacation.  Post scheduling is awesome! This article is automatically published while I'm relaxing in the Florence hills,  quaffing vino and eating much too much cheese. Internet and email access will be spotty at best.  Although comments are hugely welcome, I will be slow in responding. Thanks you for reading.   In contrarian investing circles, Japan is frequently cited as a symbol of imminent global financial ruin, th its 200% debt-to-GDP ratio and a stagnant economy over the last twenty years. Even noted collapsologist (*) Jared Diamond, writing on Bloomberg, weighs in with three crucial reasons why Japan's economic pain is getting worse (demographics, immigration and lack of resources), and bound to get a *lot* … [Read more...]

Politics As Unusual, and Good Posts from Last Week

Because politics can be dry cheerless subject, pictures of puppies is a much better visual

  With the Republican nomination long ago buttoned up by Mitt (heave) Romney, and the winding down of Ron Paul's campaign, a little attention thrown the other candidates can't hurt. Dan Carlin recently interviewed both the Independent and the Libertarian candidates on his podcast Common Sense.   Both interviews are well worth a listen. Buddy Roemer, the Independent candidate, I admit I hadn't heard of.  Frankly, his campaign's landing page could use a better slogan than "Roementum across the nation".  Let's ask Joe Lieberman how well this uniquely witty catchphrase worked for him in '04.   In the interview however, he comes across as very believable in his focus on his number one issue, campaign finance reform.   … [Read more...]

Geopolitical Rivalries and Random Links from Last Week

Street of a Chinese Village  (photo by Stougard - Wikimedia)

  Geopolitics Jim Rogers, a widely-quoted commodities investment guru, moved to Singapore and is teaching his young daughters Mandarin because the future is in Asia.  The Chinese economy rolls on and on with high growth rates.   And yet, there's reasons to be skeptical about the economic boom that is heralded to come. This week's exhibit A comes from an article by Dr. Brahma Chellaney in the Singapore Straits Times: "The Resistible Rise of Asia" A favourite theme in international debate nowadays is whether Asia's rise signifies the West's decline. But the current focus on economic malaise in Europe and the United States is distracting attention from the many serious challenges that call into question Asia's continued … [Read more...]

Letter to the Editor

President Obama State of the Union Speech

  ( what follows is a guest post of sorts, filed under Politics and Current Events ) Earlier this year, reader Carlos left a great series of comments on a post by Fred Carach. ("Kiss Real Estate Goodbye - An Appraiser's Viewpoint"). I emailed Carlos to thank him for his readership and commentary. In the course of the email exchange, Carlos lamented how in this modern age, his letters to the editor of his local paper kept going unpublished. While this blog has a minuscule readership compared to the Letters section of the mighty Miami Herald, Carlos' letter is so passionately eloquent that it deserves *some* exposure. Carlos doesn't (yet) have a blog of his own, so I'm glad to lend him mine for a bit. I should say that while … [Read more...]

Shocker: Nutella Is *NOT* A Health Food!

mmm-mmm good (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

What the hell is the world coming to? I’m sure that when Zeus lounges back in his throne, just pooped out from all that hurtling of thunderbolts from the crown of Olympus, he reaches for a Nutella sandwich. They are that good. Out-of-control prison riots have been becalmed with the promise of extra Nutella rations. And today, here’s  news of a certified Mother-of-the-Year, who is suing Ferrero, maker of that most delectable nectar of the gods,  because she was misled to think that that Nutella was “healthy” .... Nutella sets aside $3 mn for US class action Athena Hohenberg, the mother of a preschooler in San Diego, California, launched the class action lawsuit early last year, alleging that Ferrero has pitched … [Read more...]

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain (plus, an odd post link or two)

We lead off this weekend with news that the Argentines are still pissed off about Spain winning the World Cup last year, and by golly, finally doing something about it.  . Last week the Argentine government moved to nationalise the country's biggest oil company, YPF, by seizing the majority ownership (now formerly) held by Spain's own national oil company, Repsol. The Spaniards won't take this lying down though. This from the BBC: YPF Oil: Spain Threatens Retaliation Against Argentina Spain has threatened retaliation against Argentina over the forced nationalisation of oil firm YPF, raising the prospects of a trade war between the nations. YPF's controlling stake, owned by Spain's Repsol, was seized by President Cristina … [Read more...]