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[This post is for entertainment or educational purposes only and does not offer investment advice of any kind. Investments decisions should be made with careful consideration on an individual basis along with a professional.] PUNDITS AND POLLSTERS will soon begin to argue passionately over their predictions for president in 2020. They usually make emotional cases and use tired, second-hand reasoning on either side–sounding much like sports bums at the beginning of a new season. Everybody loves a fortune teller. But despite the minor blips in the polls, the outrage du jour, and the talk of impeachment (and the expanding list of reasons for it), the best predictor of the election–assuming it’s held on schedule–will be the performance of the stock market over the next year.

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Markets

  MY INTRODUCTION to the concept of gold as an investment began in the late 1980s. I was a young stockbroker in Arizona, and while copper mining dominated the extraction industries then, there was still talk of gold mines and claims on thousands of acres that might translate into billions for lucky investors. After the inflation scare of the late 1970s (shortly after the US abandoned the gold standard), confidence in the financial system had eroded. Gold was seen as a way to preserve purchasing power if a currency kept losing purchasing power (due to inflation). Even as prices were coming down in the late 1980s, investors called in to arrange purchases of gold coins and silver bars. They brought guns and family. Precious metals

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[This piece, taken from the writing collection of the same title, is re-posted as an anniversary tribute. Dad died on August 12, 2013. ] The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder is my favorite book. It is probably also the most underrated novel of the last century. I never merely re-read it; every few years it summons me, and like a somnambulist I turn to the bookshelf and reach for my copy. A novel such as that is a conjurer’s orb: your hands surround and caress it, your eyes peer into its depths and… a voice sounds. The voice wields the kind of authority that dismisses fiction. The images, the characters—the story chronicles a series of events so rife with Truth that they must have occurred,

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Movies

    NOW THAT MERYL STREEP and Nicole Kidman are both starring in the second season of the TV series Big Little Lies, it’s probably safe to say that the bell is  ringing furiously to signal the end of an important socio-cultural era: the great period of feature films that began almost a century ago.  While there are still feature films and movie theaters, it seems as if most of the films are superhero fantasy or animated films. The energy, the talent, and the money is pouring out of “movies” into these TV-based series. We might have a net maintenance of creativity–perhaps even more. Maintenance of quality? Not as easy to say; the productions are very good and getting better as the market heats up. But

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Markets

[NOTE: This material does not represent investment advice in any way. It is for educational purposes only. Investing is personal. See your personal guru before making decisions.] Bulls can live 20 years, but they aren’t much good to the herd after ten. Bull markets are probably the same. This one is ten years’ long in the tooth, but it’s weathered a number of “storms” along the way, so many investors could need to get quite scared before they sell. The scariest thing for me is the global trend toward authoritarianism; you can check a lot of boxes to compare the first part of the last century with today. I could probably list six or seven parallels. Protectionism is a big one. Wealth inequality is another. That

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In my mother’s kitchen, and taped to the door of a cabinet where cups and plates are kept, is a laminated Catholic Diocese card. The card is divided into two distinct sections. The top part is titled The Corporal Works of Mercy. The “works” are ministrations to be made and observations to be kept in caring for –to name some of them–the poor, the sick, and the dead. The lower part describes The Spiritual Works of Mercy. This section addresses, among other items, forgiveness toward the wretched and prayers for the dead.  The Diocese card made it clear that Mercy took the form of both Thought and Deed. Earlier this week, after a spate of cool, damp weather had broken and given way to a

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Movies

Movies are more than entertainment. While film is one of the most powerful mediums for storytelling, movies can inform and inspire. First of all, Movies—the good ones—are part of our culture. Once a movie is established as “good,” it conveys some valid message about the human experience. What people watch is important—just as it is important what they read and listen to.

Movies inspire, too. When I see  an impassioned performance or notice an exceptional display of cinematography, it makes me want to try and create art.  Great stories are there to ask us if we, like the hero and heroine, could rise to become our best selves when a lot was at stake, or when no one else would do the right thing.

So do I watch movies at home?  Yes, but the movie theatre, as Joseph Campbell noted, was like a temple. Moviegoing is a ritual. We go there to receive the potent “myths” of our time, and we hope to walk away slightly charged with purpose or reminded of what it means to be human—which is why we should be seeing movies at the theater, with strangers, humans.

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Markets

The markets are probably more interesting than the movies. After all, every day billions are pilfered in elaborate schemes, the equivalent of warfare takes place in the currency and equity markets, and heroes and villains make the headlines.

Aside from the drama involved, the spectacle of crowds in action is something to behold. The average person sees little more than the change in the value of their stocks or funds at the end of the day. But imagine watching a few bankers at the Federal Reserve change a couple words in their statement, only to add or erase half a trillion dollars in global values of bonds and stock.

Macroeconomics is essential. And the history of markets is priceless—people repeat the same patterns for centuries.

Does it matter that we use computers or smartphones to buy stocks? No.

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…and More

I have taught for about fifteen years now. But I got lucky. I was offered the chance to teach classes in world religions, diversity, economics, finance and Africa—to name a few.  The value for me was to see how those subjects interrelate.

I do not see political parties, or terrorists, or despots or ideologies any more: I see power structures and patterns. History did not have much value for me in high school or college—oh, it was interesting, but I did not see the usefulness. I see it today.

People have not changed in ten thousand years. They were just as smart then as we are today. And when they get together in groups, they do the same things. Over. And over.  Africa, for example, is a study in power structures. First tribes, then empires, then colonial powers, then religious influences, then Cold-War rivalries.

The world is anarchy. In anarchy, power is king. Watch the power. It’s a little like “follow the money.”

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