Friday, June 1, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: Praying for a New Plane

I’m back.  I’ve been busier of late, so I don’t know that 5 Things' return is necessarily going to be a regular occurrence, but there’s so much going on that I thought maybe we ought to talk about at least some of it.
Let’s get it on!

Pic via Investopedia, which has an
excellent summary of the current
crisis's causes.
Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, effectively blocked two populist parties from forming a government. He judged that a crucial member of their proposed cabinet was intent on having Italy abandon the euro, though they had not explicitly campaigned on that issue.
In doing so, Mr. Mattarella may have laid the groundwork for a new election, one that amounts to a referendum on the euro.
So yeah.  Italy has the third largest economy in Europe; it’s a mess ten times the size of the one in Greece.  And while I’m not personally sure what the long-term effects of an end to the Eurozone might be, it goes without saying that they’ll be phenomenally bad for the global debt and equity markets, at least in the short to medium term.
Of course, it’s a problem anytime an economy the size of Italy’s is super-burdened with debt, and if all that bad debt defaults, well, somebody’s got to take the loss.  But those kinds of massive losses can start chain reactions in the banking system, with creditors whose books looked good suddenly underwater because others, in this case the Italian Government, either can’t or won’t pay even the interest on what they owe.
It’s hard to say how exposed America is to all of this.  I find it hard to believe that American banks hold a huge amount of Italian sovereign debt.  But a legitimate economic crisis could certainly knock 10% or more off the domestic stock market and put us into a recession, and at a minimum, that would change the domestic political landscape in as-yet unforeseen ways.  

For the past year and more, we’ve had the luxury in this country of arguing about chickenshit.  The markets calmed a bit on Wednesday, but the news this week has been a stark reminder that there are actual issues in the current economy, even if most of us are ignoring them in favor of petty ridiculousness.
Authorities in Puerto Rico placed the death toll at 64 after Maria roared through the island Sept. 20, destroying buildings and knocking out power to virtually the entire U.S. territory of more than 3 million people.
Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, surveyed more than 3,000 households on the battered island. By extrapolating those findings, researchers determined that at least 4,645 "excess deaths" occurred during the storm and the weeks that followed.
I think this is more a story about how badly we managed the storm response than it is about a government cover-up of the total death toll.  I mean, the difference here is clearly down to the way these deaths were categorized.
But that doesn’t let anyone off the hook.  This story is God-awful.
De Beers, the diamond giant that for years has promoted gemstones as pricey and precious, said it will begin selling man-made diamonds that cost about a tenth of the price of a mined gem.
The line of pink, blue and white laboratory-grown diamonds, which De Beers will sell under a new brand, Lightbox Jewelry, is designed to persuade shoppers to think of synthetic diamonds as a “fun piece of fashion jewelry” instead of a lifelong investment, executives said. Prices will start at as low as $200…
Artificial diamonds come in many flavors.
A rare piece of good news.
I despise the wedding-industrial complex.  I mean, I hate it.  When you’re trying to start a new life with the person that you love, you really ought to get that done as cheaply as you can.  Spoiler alert: you’re gonna need money later on.  So getting that start with a super-expensive sparkly rock--a freaking rock!--is literally the last thing you ought to want to do.  Add in the wasted cost of a giant ceremony, and bottom line, you’re starting in debt when you should have been trying to save for the down payment on your first mortgage.  Nothing about any of that is smart or good.
Engagement rings made sense when Breach of Promise was a legitimate thing.  When a woman’s “value” was tied to widespread public belief in her virginity, such that a busted engagement meant serious social--and therefore economic--losses.  But that went out with the 1970s, leaving us with clever marketing traditions that've had people acting against their long-term financial interests for generations.
Thankfully, you can now get a nice-looking one carat rock for $800, and no one will know because synthetic diamonds are chemically identical to mined diamonds.  They’re all just diamonds.  That’s a good thing.
“We believe in God for a brand new Falcon 7X so we can go anywhere in the world, one stop,” he told people on “This Week With Jesse,” a regular video broadcast on his website. The video on May 21 carefully mixed the gospel with a few insights into the economics of international aviation.
“Now people say … can’t you go with this one?” he said, pointing to a picture of the plane he uses. “Yes, but I can’t go it one stop. And if I can do it one stop, I can fly it for a lot cheaper, because I have my own fuel farm. And that’s what’s been a blessing of the Lord.”

Sometimes I feel like I maybe got into the wrong business.

But I probably shouldn't be so cynical.  My friend and classmate Joey Odell is an Army chaplain and a legitimate man of God, and he has a new book out.

Here's the link: Faith Is Not Blind.
5. Into the Badlands (Netflix)
My new favorite show is a fantasy kung-fu headtrip.  Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon done in the style of Mad Max with a hint of Dungeons & Dragons thrown on top for good measure.  I’m sure someone pitched it as a martial arts version of Game of Thrones.  I’m not sure that’s right, but it’s certainly been a Hell of a lot of fun.

The first two seasons are on Netflix.  According to Google, there’s a third season airing on AMC.
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Last note: Sally and I bought a pop-up camper last week from some friends.  Now I wanna take it to West Point and camp out at Lake Frederick before a home football game.  
Who’s in?
That’s all I’ve got.  Enjoy the weekend.

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