Meet the New Fund, Same As the Old Fund? Thoughts on Alternative Investments

September 17, 2014

I am headed to New York today to speak at a conference on liquid alternatives. These types of alternative investments are often thought of as hedge funds for the masses; the idea is to take hedge fund-like strategies and wrap them in mutual funds. Ideally, this makes the expertise and money-making capabilities of all those hedge fund wizards available to mom and dad, so we can all get rich.

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The Ties Between Politics and Economics

September 16, 2014

For many, the study of economics goes back to the eighteenth-century urtext, The Wealth of Nations, by Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith. Notably, Smith and his contemporaries did not study economics, but political economy. At the time, there was no notion that economic behavior could be analyzed separately from its context, the political environment. The different governmental structures made the impact of government on human behavior absolutely impossible to separate—the ties between politics and economics were inextricable. To put it another way, it would be like considering the health of the brain while ignoring that of the heart.

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What Will the Central Banks Do? It’s All About the Marios (and Janets)

September 15, 2014

I’ve been listening to satellite radio as I commute to and from the office, coming across songs I haven’t heard in years—and, in some cases, decades—and getting exposed to music I’ve never heard at all. 

One song in particular, “It’s All About the Benjamins,” recently caught my attention. I missed this song in its initial incarnation, but I heard about it during the financial crisis, when it became something of a theme song (at least in my mind) for Benjamin Bernanke’s Federal Reserve intervention. 

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A Mission Without a Clear Goal

September 12, 2014

I got some thoughtful feedback on my post yesterday about the aftermath of 9/11, and what has been accomplished—or not accomplished—since then. I genuinely appreciate the comments, both for the thought and time that went into them and also as prompts for refining my own thinking.

What many took away from yesterday’s post is that I’m against committing troops. That is partially correct, in that I’m against committing troops without a clearly defined American interest in play, a plan to attain that interest, and an exit strategy thereafter. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that any commitment of lives actually have a specific goal.

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13 Years Later, How Much Progress Have We Made?

September 11, 2014

Thirteen years ago, on a bright sunny morning, the world changed. A violent, apocalyptic form of Islam shocked America in a way we hadn’t been shocked since Pearl Harbor. Thousands of deaths, trillions of dollars, and more than a decade later, we remember those who died, both in the 9/11 attacks and in the wars that followed.

Today, the top headline is that the President has authorized expanded military action against an army of extremists terrorizing large parts of the Middle East. ISIS, as it is known, has successfully baited the U.S. back into the tar pit.

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Apple Wants a Slice of the Mobile Payment Business

September 10, 2014

I’m the archetypal Apple customer. Between my wife, my son, and me, we own five Macs (including work computers), three iPhones, at least three iPods, and two iPads. I understand the attraction of the whole Apple experience. That said, I haven’t been a fan of Apple stock.

Why?

I figure my family has already bought pretty much everything we could use from the company’s current product lines. In my mind, Apple is more of a movie studio than a regular company, in that it depends on a stream of hits to grow. Samsung and Android are nipping at Apple’s heels in the phone and tablet space. Google is pushing hard at the laptop space with its Chromebooks. And the desktop market is no longer a growth area.

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Government to Banks: Step Further Back from the Edge

September 09, 2014

One of the real problems Europe faces, in my opinion, is that its banking system has never really acknowledged its problems and raised capital to the extent it should have. 

The U.S. banking system, on the other hand, has raised substantial capital and pretty much restored itself to financial health—as the banks interpret it, anyway.

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Certain sections of this commentary contain forward-looking statements that are based on our reasonable expectations, estimates, projections, and assumptions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets. All indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly into an index.

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