Leave it to the old sage, Jeremy Grantham, to provide some interesting insights. A few brief excerpts from GMO’s latest quarterly letter – available here.
“The main potential reward, especially in an economy that is having the slowest recovery ever recorded, is in job creation. Job creation turns out to be an incredibly complicated economic issue, depending on the unique circumstances of each project and how it interacts with competing projects. If there were armies of unemployed welders and other construction workers sitting around, one could easily imagine that almost every job needed would draw from the unemployment pool and would be true job creation. But what if there were intense competition for every welder, every oil worker, and most heavy construction workers? Then we would not be in the job creation business but in the job competition business, deciding which potential employer will bid up wages and which will go without workers. A recent Bloomberg article opened with the question, “How high is the demand for welders to work in the shale boom on the U.S. Gulf Coast?” It then answered, “So high that you can take every citizen in the region of Lake Charles between the ages of 5 and 85 and teach them all how to weld and you’re not going to have enough welders,” citing a source from Huntsman Corp. “So high that San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, offers a four-hour welding class in the middle of the night” because the equipment is finally available then.”
“Considering the above, it is clear that the XL Pipeline will not “create” jobs. Every one of its potential workers, almost all of whom already travel widely for jobs, could get a job several times over if given an hour on the telephone. What is happening here is an allocation of limited manpower resources: will we use them to extend chemical plants to capitalize on the incredible U.S. advantage in cheap natural gas; will we extend our fracking of U.S. sweet crude; or will we transport Canadian diluted bitumen, the most dangerous and toxic of all fuels, in order to increase the price for a handful of Canadian Tar Sand producers who currently suffer from constrained delivery capabilities and hence lower local prices? Even ignoring the severe environmental risks, it should be an easy decision on economic grounds alone.”
I don’t really have a strong view about minimum wage – I can sympathize with both sides of the argument and frankly it’s not something I spend much time thinking about. However, I did find this chart to be pretty interesting. It clearly makes the point that minimum wage is much lower in real and relative terms than it used to be.
Source: New York Times
I found this chart to be fascinating.
Source: The Economist via Quartz
This is a fascinating story and reads like a James Bond novel. Moral of the story: if you can avoid it, try not to piss off the Russian security services or the ruling political figures.
Bad Blood: The mysterious life and brutal death of a Russian dissident
Presenting the family tree of systemically important, Too Big To Fail banks. Usually family trees grow up and out – not the case with banks.
We’ve come a long way from the early 1990s when risks were relatively compartmentalized and spread across a few dozen institutions. Sure the risks become more concentrated among fewer institutions but think of all the synergies that will be realized and think of all the shareholder value that will be created!
This reminds me of an old saying about eggs in a basket but I can’t remember how it goes…
Found via The Big Picture
Love these infographics. These are the folks congress is thinking about defaulting on…
Found via The Big Picture
Great commentary from some of the smartest guys around.
Really great article about the NSA’s overreach by The Guardian: Time to tame the NSA behemoth trampling our rights
One of my favorite paragraphs from the piece provides a great teaser:
“We have learned that in pursuit of its bureaucratic mission to obtain signals intelligence in a pervasively networked world, the NSA has mounted a systematic campaign against the foundations of American power: constitutional checks and balances, technological leadership, and market entrepreneurship. The NSA scandal is no longer about privacy, or a particular violation of constitutional or legislative obligations. The American body politic is suffering a severe case of auto-immune disease: our defense system is attacking other critical systems of our body.”
I keep wishing the defenders of our fourth amendment rights were as loud, as well organized, and as well funded as those that defend our second amendment rights. I also can’t help but think about the probability of dying from a terrorist attack as compared to say a car accident, heart disease, or gun violence. It is a minuscule probability at best – so why undermine the constitution over it? (as if there is ever a good reason to undermine the constitution – give me liberty or give me death!) I get angry thinking of all the men and women that have died defending our constitution and how quickly those that have sworn to defend it subvert it.
For a long recap of how the NSA and America’s broader security apparatus have violated our rights see New NSA Revelations Are Breaking Every Day
If reading isn’t your thing there is a great Frontline episode available online called Top Secret America
Both articles were found via The Big Picture
Excerpts from Bob Dylan’s Let Me Die In My Footsteps . This song was written in the early 1960s – seems we’re yet to learn our lesson.
There’s been rumors of war and wars that have been
The meaning of life has been lost in the wind
And some people thinkin’ that the end is close by
“Stead of learnin’ to live they are learning to die.
I don’t know if I’m smart but I think I can see
When someone is pullin’ the wool over me
And if this war comes and death’s all around
Let me die on this land ‘fore I die underground.
There’s always been people that have to cause fear
They’ve been talking of the war now for many long years
I have read all their statements and I’ve not said a word
But now Lawd God, let my poor voice be heard.
If I had rubies and riches and crowns
I’d buy the whole world and change things around
I’d throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea
For they are mistakes of a past history.