Last week we delved into the uncertainties that face us and that make forecasting for 2010 problematical. Will the government actually increase taxes as much as they say, with unemployment still likely to be at 10%? Or will cooler heads prevail? Would such an increase cause a recession? Will the markets anticipate the effects of such a major increase in advance? How will the mortgage market react when the Fed stops buying mortgage securities at the end of March? There are so many things in the air, and today we explore more of them, as I continue (perhaps foolishly) to try and peer into what is a very cloudy crystal ball.
But first, and far more important, is the tragedy that is unfolding in Haiti. Long-time readers know that several times a year I mention in this letter my very good friend Walt Ratterman, who volunteers his time going all over the world to install solar-power systems for hospitals and clinics, along with other relief efforts. My readers have been very generous over the years to Knightsbridge and their relief efforts. Walt and other members of Knightsbridge literally go into places where if they were caught by the government they would simply be shot (as in Burma). In Afghanistan, before our troops went in, the Taliban put a very hefty price on his head as he brought food and medicine to the northern tribes. Pakistan, Sudan, Darfur, Sri Lanka after the tsunami, in rebel-held territory, to bring medicine when no one else could get through - the hell-holes of the world. He and I talk frequently about the wisdom of taking such risks, and he cheerfully replies that someone has to. There are people dying.
When we talked just a few weeks ago he mentioned he was going to Haiti. At least, I said, that was one place where no one would be shooting at him. He had been there several times. And then we find a different type of uncertainty rearing its head. After all the places he had been where the danger was fellow human beings, this occasion found him in the courtyard of the Hotel Montana, minutes before the earthquake hit. There were teams on the ground the next morning, specifically looking for him, but as of Friday evening he has not been found. We are hopeful, because they are still finding survivors at the hotel.
His friends from Knightsbridge will be going there to assist in the recovery. Medical teams from Knightsbridge are going in early next week, and another experienced team will follow later in the week. These are people who know what to do and how to get it done.
A few of you who have done this type of work may want to contact Ed Artis (see below) to see if you can be of service (especially medical). As I have often written, these are the good guys. They pay their own way and have no office overhead. It is a total volunteer effort. But they do need money for medicines, supplies, etc., and transport to get them there.