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...]

Sallie Mae, What A Tramp…

Me Top Dog.  You... not.

Whilst Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) are languishing in  penny-stock purgatory, SLM Corporation (Nasdaq: SLM), or Sallie Mae as it's commonly known, is doing just fine, thank you very much. A former government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), SLM Corporation enjoys tidy profits of over 12% on yearly revenue of around $6 billion, reasonable returns on equity,  and a nice little 2.97% yield (for you dividend hounds). On the face of it, SLM appears to be a decent good place to invest  (more on that later, things are not what they seem). Sallie Mae, Flying Low Under The Radar Chances are most people have only heard of Sallie Mae in the context of Freddie Mac, Farmer Mac,  and Ginnie Mae, fuzzycute monikers for grossly inefficient … [Read more...]

Political Entrepreneurship, or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Obamacare (Part II)

Top Accident and Health Insurers

  Continuing on with a two-part series on what defensive strategies to take in dealing with the new or modified reality of Obamacare. Part 1 can be found here. Definition of political entrepreneurship, by author Thomas DiLorenzo as quoted on Wikipedia: "a political entrepreneur succeeds primarily by influencing government to subsidize his business or industry, or to enact legislation or regulation that harms his competitors." He says, in contrast, the "market entrepreneur succeeds financially by selling a newer, better, or less expensive product on the free market without any government subsidies, direct or indirect." Cui Bono? In the context of political entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurship alone, it's just about the … [Read more...]

Investing In Fatties, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Obamacare (Part 1)

"Doctor's Visit" - Jan Steen, 1663  (not that we'll ever see house calls ever coming back)

Obamacare is on its way, no two ways about it. In fact, let's just stop calling it Obamacare, and call it for what it is, GovCare.  Purported conservatives in the political swamp are learning to defend this provision or that measure or this footnote within this mammoth thousand-page (or two-thousand page, whatever it is) piece of ordure legislation, cherry-picking as it suits.  And for good reason, from the logical perspective  of the politician.  Whatever the majority of the people want, give it to 'em:  shovel out the pork and bacon drippings with both hands, lard it up, baby! And people do want it, apparently.  Maybe not all of it, maybe only this bit or that bit, but in the end, it's like getting only a selective part of a … [Read more...]

How to Profit From Pond Scum… Or Not

Chlorella regularis, not be confused with Chlorella Vulgaris, the ruder, ill-mannered cousin of Regularis

  Green crude sure sounds sexy enough, in a renewable energy kind of way. What's not to love about it?  Grow a bunch of algae from sunlight and CO2, harvest it, and presto-change-O, you've got "green" bio-diesel. Enough to get save-the-planet folks and environment reporters all hot in the pants. The best laid plans of blog topics sometimes take a backseat to chasing down rabbit holes.  The plan was to write a post on auto insurance today, but in the course of looking up a web reference, came across instead this story from MIT's Technology Review: In Race to Algae Fuel, Sapphire Scores Point for Open Ponds Sapphire Energy starts farming algae at New Mexico demo plant using an open pond design, which it says is the only … [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...]

A Little bit of Geopolitics, a Little Bit of Potash

"Dhow" - James Welsh, 1830

I like history. I like travel. I like politics. And I like travel books. Wrap those all together, and you've a Robert D. Kaplan book.  "Monsoon - The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power" is the latest book from this globe-trotting author.  From the inside dust jacket: On the world maps common in America, the Indian Ocean all but disappears. The Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region is relegated to the edges, split up along the maps' outer reaches. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, for it was in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters that the great wars of that era were lost and won.  Thus, many Americans are barely aware of the Indian … [Read more...]

Juicy 6% Bond Yields? (Italy Financial Tips, Part Two)

The Duomo Cathedral in Prato, Italy

The good news, I've got a hot tip on some awesome sovereign bonds now yielding more than 6 percent a year (6.63% on a ten-year bond, to be precise). The bad news, they're issued by the latest failed government (in a long series of failed governments),  led by a slicked-back former media tycoon who can't keep his lecherous hands off pretty young gals. Oh, and he's as corrupt as the day is long. If you're moderately risk averse and looking for a place to stash retirement cash, then perhaps these bonds are not for you. First Iceland, then Ireland, now Greece, tomorrow Italy and its other PIGgish pals, Portugal and Spain. I hope most people realize than when the notion of Italy's collapse is bandied about, it's really a tale of two … [Read more...]

Blog Action Day 2011 – FOOD

The topic for this year's Blog Action Day is Food. More than two thousand blogs around the world have signed to raise awareness on the topic of food: favorites, scarcity, recipes, hunger, and vegetarianism. In their own words: Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all. For 2011, our Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day, so our topic of discussion for this year will be food. Take the first step now and sign-up your blog to Blog Action Day and then look at our suggested topics for some food flavoured inspiration to discuss. Our Goal First … [Read more...]

Caffe’ Corto: Yemeni Clerics and Free Newsletters

Angelo Moriondo

The contents of my inbox this morning prompted me to signal to readers some of the excellent information that is offered for free, just for the asking.  Case in point is the recent one from Stratfor: Yemen: Fall-Out From the Al-Awlaki Airstrike U.S.-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an ideologue and spokesman for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen, was killed in a Sept. 30 airstrike directed against a motorcade near the town of Khashef in Yemen’s al-Jawf province. The strike, which occurred at 9:55 a.m. local time, reportedly was conducted by a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and may have also involved fixed-wing naval aircraft. Three other men were killed in the strike, one of whom was … [Read more...]