Everything about Francis I, is different. He has foresaken the Papal residence in the Vatican for a humble apartment that resembles a barracks. He held a televised Easter service that showcased the Shroud of Turin for the first time in a very, very long time. He also opts to wear simple white garb in lieu of the traditionally ostentacious Papal vestments. I, myself am not Catholic, but there's something endearing about this man. He's very humble…a man of the people who champions the poor. His hands-on approach makes me believe that perhaps he's better suited to address global poverty than Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank. Keep in mind, that everything the new Pope has done has been in the first two months of his Papacy. The cultured, western Europeans, and even some Brazilians and Argentinians, are quick to label Americans as naive when it comes to global affairs, and even devoid of a sense of empathy as it pertains to wage/class disparities, but it's been my experience that Americans are very in-tune with the global market as well as culturally significant subject matter. The troubling statistic is that for every worldly, intelligent American, there are ten “Larry the Cable Guys” and “Kim Kardashians”. It's that kind of misrepresentation that has pigeonholed our country as a mere reflection of Miami, New York, or L.A. We are greater than the sum of our parts. How does the latter half of this tie in to the new pope? Well, during the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, Catholicism experienced a very corrupt and troubling period that sought to expunge scientific ideas from being disseminated. Those people like Newton, Galileo, and other brilliant minds, were branded heretics and in opposition to the church. If you fast-forward to Francis I, you can see a shining example of how the office of the Pope too, is more than the mere sum of its parts. I may not see eye-to-eye with the new ultra-conservative Pope on every moral issue, but I do believe him to be a truly decent man whose presence in the Vatican is a breath of fresh air for Catholics and humanists alike.
I'm not saying that this was a bad move at all. It's a good acquisition, but it deviates from the formula that's made Mr. Buffett the investment Demi-God that he is. Keep in mind this is the same guy who invested in the tobacco industry because he said that they cost a penny to produce, could be sold for a dollar, and were addictive. What can you really do with a ketchup company besides make ketchup? Perhaps partner with a really good french fry company? Maybe promote your brand and try to get it in every restaurant possible? It's a good marriage for 3G because they just paid 3 billion for Burger King, and looking ahead, can use the Heinz and Burger King acquisitions to increase their footprint on the global food service industry. They're looking at this move, not just as acquiring a product, but a distribution network as well, which is definitely a commendable way to think of it. After the acquisition, it's important to mention that stock shares of Heinz jumped 12.02 at closing. Score one for Mr. Buffett, but he is undoubtedly the public face of this deal. This is really a giant leap forward for 3G and a win for globalization as a whole.
Let’s Get Political
Forget abortions, forget gay marriage, and the legalization of marijuana. The nation's economy and its lack of perceived upswing will be at the heart of the political discussion this election year, as it should be. What Mr. Romney will have you believe is that he has a solution. I promise you that he does not. He's not an economist by trade, he just happened to be at the right place at the right time with Bain Capital. Even an economist doesn't have all the answers. They utilize incentives and observe trends and then quantify those patterns and illustrate the results graphically.
It's no secret that every party tries to seize the upper hand and claim that they have the solution to the other party's short-comings. The focus has been on the national debt, which is entirely too high. Let me point out that in the mid 90's the debt was well under control and then a certain cowboy, who shall remain nameless, galloped into the nation's capital with grand ideas, but only succeeded in getting us into not one, but two decade long wars that were an incredible drain on the economy.
So here's the political conundrum: There are over 500 congressmen on the national level; what are the odds that they would arrive at some kind of universally beneficial consensus instead of favoring the constituency that keeps them in political office and paying them a 6 figure salary? The President, regardless of who it may be, is going to be nothing more than a figure head, a powerless monarch until Congress does some housekeeping and decides they would like to make progress instead of collecting a paycheck under the guise of having the best interest of the people at heart. Let's not forget, Congress has A LOT of authority, and passing bills and new legislation into law is their responsibility.
As for the question of whether or not inflation and printing more money is killing the country's economy, the answer is not YET. Right now, the world bank accepts payment in the form of US dollars. This gives us some international pull because we can run up all of our debts, pay our creditors, issue bonds, and it's all kind of like xeroxing Monopoly money. If it never existed in the first place, how can you pay for something? However, this is the system that's used day in and day out, and for now it works. If they ever demanded payment in something other than dollars, we would be in a world of hurt, but for now, we can breathe easy.
I could go on and on about these issues and more (and probably will at a later time), but I'll stop for now in anticipation of all the feedback I'm bound to get. As always, thanks for reading.
For many countries, hosting the Olympics is not just a source of pride, but a shot in the arm economically. This, however, also incurs a hefty cost in the construction of infrastructure and employment of security personnel, etc… China spent 40 billion dollars on the 2008 games. If you look at most of the venues familiar to many from those games now, they look dilapidated, vacant, and are a constant eyesore in central Beijing.
This got me thinking, how many former sites still have pristine facilities that take advantage of the quality workmanship that is associated with international competition. Does Atlanta's Olympic Park still have the same draw that it once did, or is it too in shambles? Do the Olympics offer the financial boon they once did, or is it merely a money pit, that gives your nation international exposure? Food for thought.
For those of you who haven't seen the photo before, there is a picture taken in 2012 of the baseball stadium facilities that once stood in central Beijing. They were constructed 4 years ago specifically for the games, and now seem deserted and occupied by stray dogs.
When I was skiing in the Andes, I stayed virtually in the middle of nowhere, outside a town called Uspallata. It cost me 270 pesos for 3 nights lodging (50 dollars American). Breakfast was free every morning, there were bike rentals, horseback riding in the mountains, BBQ every night. Hostels seem to have the lowdown on all the activities around the area.
As I write this, I'm staying in a very posh hostel in the nice area of Buenos Aires called Recoleta. I pay about 14 dollars per day to stay here and I'm very impressed. We have a pool table, a large screen TV, a bar downstairs, a music room, a lounge, a kitchen, and more. The front desk has organized an international meet and greet tonight that includes libations, food, etc… all for just 20 dollars.
In short, hostelling is a great way to get to know other travelers around the world and experience the area without breaking the bank. I will be home from South America in two days, and I look forward to warmer weather. Ciao for now.