Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Livin' off the Fatta the Land

If you take a look at the right hand side of this blog you will notice a few sites that I like to follow.  One of them is Sovereignman.com (introduced to me by @Shamrock5000).  Yesterday, Sovereignman posted a link to a Stansberry Research video that sounded like a doomsday "public service announcement."  The video took about an hour to get through and contains important information about the devaluation of the dollar, piling US government debt, and a lengthy teaser advertisement for you to become a Stansberry client (boring).  If you want to take an hour to watch this click here (LINK TO VIDEO), or you can just keep reading and I will sum it up for you.  

The main point is that the US has no way out of its deficit spending and federal debt load - the interest payments on the debt will become too great, thus, the liabilities will grow in such a way that the only solution is for the dollar to be devalued even further (it fell 8% in 2010).  What does devalued really mean?  In a nutshell: your savings will be worth less because the prices of goods and services will become much much higher in the future (see my post below on "The Frog").  Stansberry suggests we can take action to protect ourselves from such events by doing some or all of the following:

-Own physical gold (buy a gold coin or buy stock in PHYS)
-Own physical silver (buy a silver coin or buy stock in PSLV)
-Have access to a rural place (call Aunt Ida on the farm and tell her you have dibs on the extra bedroom)
-Own money in a foreign currency outside the US (this is trickier)
-Own stored food in your basement (twinkies can withstand nuclear holocaust)
-Own land

I want to focus on the last one for a second.  Land.  Maybe Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men had the right idea? I recently contacted a land broker because I am curious about the idea of owning land as a hedge to the aforementioned travesty that some the doomsayers are predicting.  The investment properties of owning land appear to be multifaceted.  First, if real assets appreciate (real assets meaning things you can touch, live on, or drop on your foot and they hurt) due to inflation, then the value of the land should rise.  Second, if you are growing crops on this land and the prices of those crops rise, you stand to gain by selling those crops to the people without land (this can also be achieved by leasing parts of the land to farmers).  Third, you can eat the food grown on the land so the "personal survival" box is checked as well.  If you think about alternative investments, few cover all of these bases.  Sure you can buy food with gold and silver but what happens when you eat all your food and spend all of your gold?  Land appears to be the better hedge.   

Rather than go out and borrow money to buy a massive tract of land, I think the idea of a land collective makes total sense - pool a group of people together to buy a piece of land. There really is power in numbers here.  If you ever NEED this land (and I say this because clearly we all see that the grocery stores are still fully functional and our money still works), you have a group of people that will be farming it with you and protecting it with you.  I will take it a step further.  You want land that has access to freshwater. You need water to grow food no?  If you live in Michigan you are in a great position because you are surrounded by the equivalent of a fresh water ocean.    

I am not saying commit your entire life savings to an idea like this but why not spend 5% of it on a share of farmland that is within 2-3 hours drive from your house.  This should not break the bank.  Others are jumping on the land grab as well.  George Bush just bought 100k acres in South America.  John Malone (telecom magnate) bought an $83million piece of land in New Mexico at around $300/acre.  Bill Gates bought a 500 acre ranch in Wyoming.  Of course these are not small purchases and they have the luxury of private jet escape pods to get them to wherever they need to go, but you can see that the "smart" money is involved in this.

I am curious what people think about this topic.  It is seldom talked about and is clearly not as sexy as investing in AAPL or some high yield bond fund.  But if you were to commit some of the money going into your IRA or 401k (which the government may have some influence on in the near future) to something like this, I think you get closer to whatever a "well rounded investment portfolio" should look like.  If anyone is interested in exploring some kind of land collective/partnership/mutual fund, please let me know.  We already have a few people on board.  Something to ponder for 2011.    

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Take a Splice out of Life

For nearly a decade I was a deer stuck staring into headlights, frozen by the barrage of information coming at me from every corner of Wall St (for the record: none of it was inside information).  The financial software applications that occupied my desktop real estate continuously vomited mountains of information, giving me little time to learn about how the rest of the world was being launched into cyberspace.  Having spent a few months away from the streaming stock quotes, bloomberg terminals, and flickering bid-offers, I have discovered just how powerful (and critical) technology has become to businesses and the everyday user. 

It is shocking to see how much influence websites and apps have in changing the way we communicate, make buying decisions, entertain ourselves, educate our children, etc.  Entirely new industries are emerging overnight and staying on top of the countless new outlets is an arduous task to say the least.  Take Groupon for example.  Today, there are apparently some 500 Groupon copycat sites globally and if you gave me a penny for every business I have heard or read about in the past month that aims to be "the Groupon of (INSERT PRODUCT OR SERVICE HERE)," I would have a dollar.  The internet is growing and changing faster than we are able to process it because the content providers are no longer the cartel of tightly knit media elite...the new content providers are (get ready for it).......us!!  And there are a helluva lot more of you and I than there are Rupert Murdoch, Richard Branson, Sumner Redstone et al.   

"User generated content" or "consumer generated media" or whatever you want to call the process of freely posting information on the internet, is changing the way the world interacts as we speak.  It seemed like everyone watched "60 Minutes" with Mark Zuckerberg a couple weeks ago but I gather that few went online to catch "60 Minutes: Overtime" when Lesley Stahl interviewed Chris Cox, Facebook's head of product development. 

I thought this short interview was really thought provoking and it validates why websites like facebook, twitter, groupon, four square, quora, and kiva are in a position to give the power back to the people.  Content that is created by us (particularly by those within our network...i.e. anyone's email address we have) may be richer than content provided by the experts (who we no longer trust?).

The blending of technology and user generated content will create massive opportunity to "splice":  businesses must fuse themselves to the growing stream of information we (as in the collective we) are posting online.  This will allow business to become more competitive, understand their customers, identify new trends early on, innovate, get instant feedback, and the list goes on and on.  I am curious what people think about this short interview.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For the Unemployed Turning Entrepreneur

A good friend sent me an article he pulled out of Worth magazine the other day.  The article summarized the 10 Rules of Successful Entrepreneurship from Bill Murphy Jr.'s new book The Intelligent Entrepreneur.  I enjoyed the piece and thought it would be worthwhile to share.  I am finding a high correlation between articles about how difficult the job market is and new startup business ventures friends and former colleagues are embarking on.  In addition, there are tons of talented "out-of-work" people who are teaming up to start businesses.  These folks gave up looking for the next mindless job... they are going out and creating exciting new careers.  

It is great to talk with enterprising people who are optimistic about the prospects of growth both in the developed and emerging worlds.  Even in Michigan (despite what you may read in the dreaded papers) at a recent entrepreneur's conference held in Dearborn, the halls were buzzing about alternative energy, life sciences, social media, mobile marketing strategies, etc.  I did not even hear the word "automotive" mentioned once.  Who says Detroit cannot reinvent itself?

For those of you who are considering taking the plunge into one of the many entrepreneurial ecosystems, here are the 10 rules that came from Bill Murphy's research and are flushed out in his book (which I am definitely going to buy):

1.)  Successful entrepreneurs commit to entrepreneurship rather than to a specific business.
2.)  Successful entrepreneurs look for market opportunities before creating business solutions.
3.)  Successful entrepreneurs focus on innovation and scale.
4.)  Successful entrepreneurs pick founding teams with a history of working well together.
5.)  Successful entrepreneurs realize that they play the most important role.
6.)  Successful entrepreneurs manage risk.
7.)  Successful entrepreneurs commit themselves to learning management skills.
8.)  Successful entrepreneurs learn to sell.
9.)  Successful entrepreneurs redefine failure.
10.) Successful entrepreneurs aren't in it just for the money.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Frog Inquires: "is it hot in here or is it just me?"

The old adage says that if you throw a frog in boiling water he will quickly jump out. But if you place the frog in cold water and raise the heat ever so slightly to boiling, he will lay still and cook to death.  Replace the frog with “the American taxpayer” and make the water temperature the “level of prices” and you have a metaphor for the current US monetary policy.  It would most certainly not be in the best interests of politicians, or central bankers alike, to turn the inflation switch on overnight.  That would result in nothing short of riots.  In light of that, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the only way out from under the mountainous pile of government debt is through moderate price inflation and erosion of purchasing power over time.  The other alternatives would result in a US government default or debt restructuring and we can be sure that no President, Democrat or Republican, would concede to that under his or her watch.
Some economists will contest claims of higher price levels and lower purchasing power with the sagging level of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) relative to historical inflationary periods.  Contrary to some beliefs, one can argue that CPI is a manufactured index that is used as a benchmark for keeping wages, benefits, and cost of living indices in check, and fails to depict an accurate basket of goods.  While deflationists are constantly pointing toward the multitude of retail discounts and dollar menu offerings they come across during trips to the mall, they fail to mention rising prices in things like beverages, clothing, pharmaceutical drugs, utilities, transportation, college tuition, and most importantly, inputs like metals (hard commodities) and agriculture (soft commodities).
There appears to be a disconnect between where actual commodity prices are going, and where consumers expect the prices of goods made from these commodities are going.  Is it reasonable to think that the things we need to buy (food, clothes, cars, etc.) will miraculously become cheaper even though the inputs used to produce them are skyrocketing?  NO!  Some simple facts: corn is up 43% this year, soybeans are up 30%, wheat is up 34%, coffee is up 52%, cotton is up 100%.  Food and clothes will become more expensive unless the labor to make these items becomes much cheaper. Fortunately, East Asia is already under pressure to improve working conditions so do not expect labor to become less costly.  On the metal front: copper is up 18% year-to-date, silver is up 62%, platinum is up 20%, palladium is up 77%, and gold is up 28%.  ‘Nuff said? 
The laymen frequently combat these statistics with the “wealth” they are accumulating in their stock portfolios and retirement accounts.  “If the stock market is up, my portfolio rises, and I am getting richer,” they quip. It appears as if American taxpayers forget that they will lose if the dollar wins the race to zero.  After applauding the recent strong performance in the stock market, most Americans show no angst from the 13% decline in the dollar over the past 4 months.  “So we won’t go to Europe for vacation this year!” some might crack.  Unfortunately it is not that simple.  The US operates at a trade deficit and we consume many goods from other countries so cutting out vacations abroad will only alleviate part of the pain caused by the weaker purchasing power of the dollar.
To my fellow frogs I fear we must be realistic and face the facts that life will become more expensive. It could get a lot pricier should the Government and the Fed not perfectly thread the needle of igniting an economic recovery while giving our foreign lenders some semblance of confidence in the dollar.  We should prepare for higher prices domestically or find a way to denominate our assets in other stores of value to avoid getting cooked (buy some land or some Chinese yuan…or take my grandpa’s advice and buy 4 boxes of cereal before the price goes up!).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vegas Musings

Vegas is hilarious to me.  I think it is pretty awesome that people come from all over the world to experience all of the different things Vegas has to offer.  I was in Vegas last weekend visiting friends and doing some due diligence on a few casino stocks I own (hat tip J and Z) and I noticed some items worth sharing:

1.)  Cab drivers are giving stock tips again? I was surprised to be questioned by my cab driver why I owned WYNN (traded on Nasdaq) when the better play, in his expert opinion, was the WYNN Macau stock that trades in Hong Kong (ticker: 1128.hk).  When cab drivers are giving away investment tips I tend to get nervous.

2.)  Vegas is still hurting.  Steve Wynn said things will not get much worse but you can tell they are reaching to squeeze every ounce from the public.  I was annoyed to find out that I could not get Wi-Fi in my room unless I paid the resort fee of $30 a day.  That was not as bad as the $1.50 extra charge for bleu cheese olives in my martini.  Lastly, table service at the club must be down a good amount.  I got far too many cordial texts from the VIP guy at the WYNN asking me when will I arrive at the club.  Back in the bull market, they used to drop your reservation if you did not show by midnight.  Now they text you until 2 a.m. begging for your business.

3.)  People are really serious about risks from the 'Death Ray' at the new Vdara hotel.  If you are not familiar, the sun's reflection off the south face of the hotel is so strong that "if you're at the hotel's swimming pool at the wrong time of day -- it can singe your hair and melt your plastic drink cups and shopping bags."  Check out one artist's rendering of the giant sized "ant and the microscope" catastrophe at the Vdara below.  This is pure genius:

4.)  The slot machine industry is mocking its own customers by putting new ridiculous games on casino floors.  I came across a slot machine at the Palazzo that I had to take a quick snap of.  Below, I compare a traditional slot machine (on the left) to one of the new "win on multiple lines" games (on the right).  Are you kidding me?  It is bad enough that people don't have to use the hand crank anymore but now they get to follow not 1 or 2 more lines....but 100 lines! 

Here's to the people that plug into slot machines until they have to be woken by security...without you gentle folks, the casino's would be forced to charge Angelo Mozilo and the other sunbathers extra, when exposing them to magnified gamma rays like those at the Vdara. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Monetary Walk of Shame

Photo: PacificCoastNewsOnline.com
Preceding this week’s highly anticipated midterm elections and two-day Federal Reserve meeting, PIMCO'S Bill Gross published his monthly investment outlook containing some shift in sentiment toward the very system that he advocated just over a year ago.  Gross, PIMCO'S longtime Co-chief investment officer, has long been lauded as the “Bond King” and stands at the rarified investment pulpit with the likes of Warren Buffett, Jack Bogle, and Benjamin Graham.  His investment outlooks are considered must-reads for anyone in financial services,  as they provide insight into what the investment elite are pondering.   In this piece entitled “Run, Turkey, Run,” (LINK) Gross predicts that the upcoming Fed meeting: “will likely signify the end of a great 30-year bull market in bonds and the necessity for bond managers and, yes, equity managers to adjust to a new environment.”
Is Gross crafting PIMCO'S own obituary with a statement like this or does this signify PIMCO’s entrance into the equity world as he surrenders to fewer return opportunities in the bond market?  Or is the “Oracle of Orange County” taking the first step in a monetary walk of shame, conceding that policies which made sense before have become runaway fiat freight trains that he jubilantly rode?
While Gross has always appeared to have an anti-big-government bend to his commentaries, he was not afraid to partner with the government and even imitate the Fed in 2009 when the United States was peering into the economic abyss. In his January 2009 outlook he wrote, “PIMCO’s view is simple: shake hands with the government; make them your partner by acknowledging that their checkbook represents the largest and most potent source of buying power in 2009 and beyond...For now, our Ponzi-style economy and its policy remedies encourage bond investors to mimic Uncle Sam and its global compatriots. Buy what they buy, but get there first.” (LINK) At the time, it was perfectly acceptable to run the printing press in support of our great nation as managers were desperately seeking refuge from the crisis of 2008.  (In other words, "it seemed like a good idea at the time but i do remember having a few too many drinks.") 
In his February 2009 outlook, Gross congratulated the Fed and showed optimism towards the unprecedented efforts at a time when markets were particularly fragile.  He applauded the Commercial Paper Funding Facility and the Fed’s purchase program for agency backed mortgages opining that these two programs “have been the major policy successes to date…because they have supported and increased asset prices whose decline has been the major deflationary thrust behind the real economy. Stop asset prices from going down and with a 12-month lag, unemployment will stop going up, and President Obama’s targeted three million new jobs will have a fighting chance of being achieved” (LINK).
Today, Gross feels that the Fed and government which he admittedly partnered with in 2009 have gone too far.  In his most recent note he says, “Check writing in the trillions is not a bondholder’s friend; it is in fact inflationary, and, if truth be told, somewhat of a Ponzi scheme…Now, however, it seems the Fed has taken Charles Ponzi one step further.”  Even though the idea that developed nation’s public debt being a Ponzi scheme is not new, Gross has reached his own proverbial tipping point (in other words Gross has been sleeping with the enemy).
So why the sudden change of heart? When did we transform from the collective supporting of asset prices to what he now calls a “Sammy Scheme” (Uncle Sam’s version of a Ponzi scheme that has been orchestrated by politicians and subsequently enabled by the voters that elected them)?  Maybe this is the way it always was and no one wanted to admit it?  Gross is coming to grips with the reality that the Federal Reserve, despite its alleged independence, is a highly politicized tool used not only to support asset prices and provide liquidity, but fuel deficits, and rather large ones at that.  I would not want to wake up and rollover to that realization either. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exit the "Knowledge Economy"...Enter the "Creative Economy"

I recently heard Gary Hamel speak at the Ross School of Business (University of Michigan) in Ann Arbor.  I had never heard of Gary before walking into the auditorium, and after listening to him for 45 minutes, I wanted to know everything about him.  This guy is good! (http://www.garyhamel.com/)

I took some interesting notes during his talk.  Gary is an expert corporate strategist who specializes in the topic of management, specifically how to "reinvent" management.  The point that resonated most with me was a slide he posted called "Gary's Hierarchy:"

Essentially, Gary argues that intelligence is pretty much par for the course in today's economy and the real way to differentiate is through creative ability.  You can outsource all of the technical skills we were told would take us deep into the 21st century (programming, engineering, finance, etc.).  He believes that business is more turbulent today and companies are not able to mitigate the turbulence fast enough.  Modern management styles are no longer modern (most taught management styles are from the beginning of the 20th century). Couple this with a faster business cycle and you too may see the need for more agility and creativity from leadership.

Listening to Gary, I immediately took pity on the millions of Americans who are making one of the various paths through higher education their own.  It seems like an all too common solution for the current recession we are in is to go back to school...and universities know this so school is not getting cheaper anytime soon.  Is all of the money spent on tuition to get a certificate and get "smart" worth it when the more applicable skills come from unlocking creative ability?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Neighborhood Watch is Back

Crowded gun show in Michigan this past weekend (courtesy of Chad Hines)

I am starting to wonder what the end game for gun ownership in America looks like.  More frequently we hear "gold" and "guns" uttered in the same breath.  In fact, last year when talking to my accountant about owning gold and silver his first question was: "How many bullets to do own?"  I did not own a gun at that time so my response was "zero." With a smirk his follow up remark was: "Your gold is worth nothing if you can't protect it."  So is there more value in owning the gold or owning the guns?  Some take the conversation a step further by saying that organic seeds (not your round-up ready seed varieties from Monsanto) would be most valuable because if the world blows up, people will need self-sustaining food sources in order to exist past what little they can store in their basements.  Again, this thought brings me back to my accountant's comment: "Your (INSERT ANYTHING HERE) is worth nothing if you can't protect it."

Gun ownership is controversial in its own right and is something I never paid much mind toward.  Why should anyone NEED a gun?  We pay taxes so that our local governments can staff an operational police department armed with enough weapons to protect the community.  Right?  Well, what happens when those local governments run into financial difficulty and can no longer support the boys in blue to the extent they were able to in the past?  We get situations like in Ashtabula County (Ashta-who??) where a judge told citizens to "arm yourselves" (LINK).   Earlier this year in Colorado Springs, the police department was forced to downsize and raise cash by selling off their helicopters (LINK).  I cannot imagine that engenders much of a sense of security in that community.  We are seeing more and more evidence that Americans are taking their safety into their own hands.  Suddenly, the Neighborhood Watch Program is not for the old retiree who likes to ride his or her bike around the block at dusk.

Over the weekend there were two articles I came across about weapons.  One was on the cover of the FT about a law in Kennesaw, Georgia that makes gun ownership compulsory (i did a double-take when I first read that but found that the law is not enforced so only 50% of the town's inhabitants are gun owners...50% is still a big number) (LINK). The other was in the Daily News, which stated permits for the right to carry concealed weapons (CCW) are on the rise among celebrities in NYC (LINK). I do not know many celebrities but I do know at least three people who have gotten their CCW permit in the past couple years (one was in NY and 2 were in Michigan). 

What should we takeaway from this?  There may be some kind of self fulfilling prophecy here.  People assume they are less safe (national violent crime and homicide rates have actually fallen over the past 5 years according to the FBI) because the country is on hard economic times and traditional means of protections appear to be less reliable.    I can see how the inclination is to go out and get armed.  You think your safety may be at risk (though on the whole, crime is little changed)...your neighbors are doing it...your friends and colleagues are thinking of doing it...so now you feel like you may want to consider it.  Maybe it is the general level of fear going up, or maybe it is just a simple herd mentality, or maybe it is about keeping the playing field level?  I suppose I wouldn't want to be the only Olympic sprinter NOT juicing and getting away with it if everyone else was.  People assume they are unsafe and go out to get armed - does that make all of the unarmed people unsafe?

What is the end game here?  Are citizens capable of policing themselves?  Will this new found need for protection be turned into local military offensives and militias, should the "mob" decide they have a better plan for how to be governed?  Who knows?  I know this much:  I own firearms the same way I own term life insurance and teeny puts on the S&P 500.  I am hoping I never actually need any of them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Recovery Begins....Next Week

A friend of mine said he wants to open a wine bar and told me there were "tons" of vacant store fronts in my neighborhood.  I did not recall "tons" of space for rent so I paid attention when walking up Hudson St. in the West Village yesterday and was surprised to find just that.  These pictures were taken in the 6 block stretch between Barrow St and Bank St. I understand this is just a small sample, but I find it somewhat odd that "recovery" looks like. I would add that last week I had lunch with a friend who works in commercial real estate in New York and he was very optimistic and said everything was great in the city...I am no expert and I am sure he has much better information than me, but I found that these pictures tell a slightly different story.

Hudson St in Manhattan's West Village

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Asia to the USA: "We've got you by the b@lls!"

A friendly Asian tourist shows onlookers who's the boss near Wall St this afternoon 

Who is really in the position of power here:  Asia or the US?  There are a number of arguments one can make about which party has "hand" - to use a Seinfeldism.  Asian export economies have surely felt some pain as the American consumption engine has slowed.  At the same time Asian countries (namely China and Japan, but do not forget about Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore) hold over $2 trillion in US treasuries.  Based on the current strategy, that number is set to grow quite a bit over the next decade so we need to keep the tap running.  China is particularly important because as of July they were the biggest holder of our debt, with $850 billion in treasury bonds on the book.  As this position grows, China becomes increasingly concerned about the Administration's largess and its impact on the value of the dollar.  To make matters worse, Washington continues to whine to Chinese Premier Wen (1 point Laruso for alliteration!), pressuring him to do his part in accelerating the appreciation of the yuan so the US can gain a competitive advantage via exporting goods of its own.  (I will not even get into protectionism here but that is another variable that makes this game of chicken even more dangerous...some interesting thoughts on free trade by my buddy Ken Monahan - LINK).         

If the US wants to slay the dragon (if that is even possible) it has to get back to work and find ways to participate in the next bull market which will be driven by the emerging world. Some food for thought from a recent Huffington Post article: "Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside of our national borders, but only one percent of American businesses sell to them. We're in a global race with China, Japan and Korea to enter and corner key markets of fast-rising Asian economies. If we want to grow our economy, we need to go where the growth is. One billion people will join the global middle class in the coming decade. That's a billion worldwide consumers buying cars, traveling on planes, consuming electricity and purchasing better medical care. That's one billion new opportunities for American businesses." (LINK)  I tend to agree......

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

America the Naïve

Sep 21st NY Post Cover (LINK)
The cover of this morning's NY Post pretty much sums it up for me.  A distressed Obama supporter, Velma Hart, is losing faith.  She said to the President in a town hall meeting: "I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.  I have two children in private school. The financial recession has taken an enormous toll on my family.  My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs-and-beans era of our lives. But, quite frankly, it is starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we are headed again.  Quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?"

Short answer:  YES.  I am confused about what Mrs. Hart really thought would happen.  I will admit that I voted for Obama but my vote was calculated using the process of elimination and not about delusions of grandeur.  Did Americans like Mrs. Hart believe that by injecting Barack Obama into office would magically create new opportunity and wealth for America?  This is a dangerous kind of faith to have in a political leader and one that epitomizes the kind of entitlement state people have become accustomed to.  Obama vowed to bring change to the country and he did.  How people choose to interpret and rely on these changes for their personal lives is up to them.  However, I would err on the side of caution.  Depending too much on the institution (private or public) is exactly what got us into this mess.  

The United States of America needs a change of mindset.  This is not something one leader is capable of achieving overnight. First, what the middle class needs is a reality check.  It appears that there is a negative correlation between our economy and our expectations – as the financial condition of our country deteriorates the citizens of our nation come to expect more from politicians.  This is a dangerous proposition because it encourages the perpetual blame game.  The accountability of our actions gets pushed on some other party.  Is this really what we have become?  Blame everyone else for our problems and then expect our leaders to fix them?  

The United States of America needs to convert toward thinking less about what it is entitled to and more about what it can do to create value: whether that means halting the exploitation of the dollar, or becoming more competitive globally through technology and innovation, or catering to an emerging world that is experiencing significant growth and wealth creation.  My concern is that there is an entire middle class that may have incorrectly perceived Obama’s call of duty as one that would change lives overnight.  If this is a case then we should prepare for more public displays of disappointment like the one from Mrs. Hart.  Let’s just hope that everyone will be as peaceful as she was.