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    Outside the Box, November 2011

    It’s All Very Taxing

    November 29, 2011

    Today's Outside the Box is something a little different for me. Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital Management has produced a most excellent summary of the problems inherent in "all things taxing" in the US. He delves into not only the specifics but also some of the philosophy of taxation. This is a balanced piece in which he tries to present all sides and arguments, giving us a very real picture of the dilemma we face, and leaving us to draw our own conclusions. Whatever we do going forward,...

    Syria, Iran, and the Balance of Power in the Middle East

    November 23, 2011

    Let's peel our eyes away from the eurozone disaster momentarily and take a look at another crisis – one with just as much potential to impact our global financial system.

    As we've discussed in Outside the Box before, Iran's trump card is not its nuclear capability but rather its opportune location next to the very narrow, very important Strait of Hormuz ... through which no less than 40% of the world's seaborne oil passes.

    As the US leaves Iraq, Iran is ready and waiting to fill the...

    Simon Hunt November/December Economic Report

    November 21, 2011

    I have been reading and talking with Simon Hunt for a long time. He is a very thoughtful Brit who spends a lot of time in China and thinks about copper and commodities and cycles. He has enough seasoning to have seen a few cycles himself. This piece summarizes rather well the view that he has expressed for some time. And while I am generally skeptical of relying too much on cycles for specifics (they work until they don't), I think Simon has some very powerful conclusions. From his summary:

    ...

    Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

    November 15, 2011

    What do the “Big Fitz,” the largest ship ever to sail the Great Lakes, and the Eurozone have in common? Hint: the former sank without a trace. Or, as Grant Williams so eloquently puts it, in his Things That Make You Go Hmmm… for Nov. 13 (this week’s Outside the Box), “One can’t help but think … that this week may well have brought us to the wall at the end of the road down which Europe has been kicking the can for quite some time now.”

    Grant inspects the SS Europe from bow to stern and...

    Iran’s Nuclear Program and its Nuclear Option

    November 10, 2011

    Take a minute – and maybe a deep breath too – and imagine the markets at opening bell on a hypothetical morning when live video shows burning oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz (through which 40% of the world's seaborne oil passes). Couple that with the already shaky state of the current global economy and you get ... well, what does chaos in a mosh pit look like?

    Iran is back in the headlines, and once again behaving in a less-than-cooperative fashion regarding its nuclear enrichment...

    It’s All Greek To Me

    November 8, 2011

    Long-time readers will be familiar with Michael Lewitt, one of my favorite thinkers and analysts. He has gone off on his own to write his letter, and I am encouraging him to write even more. I call Michael a thinker because he really does. He reads a lot of thought-provoking tomes and then thinks about them. And then writes, making his readers think. The world needs more Michael Lewitts.

    Today, he roams the world, commenting as he goes, starting of course with Europe. I have permission to...

    Perspectives on the Crisis in Europe

    November 1, 2011

    This week's Outside the Box will be unusual. Rather than one essay, I give you a number of short ones, and links that are representative of the confusion that is Europe, along with a little history. As I noted this weekend, last week's Eurozone announcement was short of details, and very little of the real work had been done. Merkel has to get her own country on board, keep the other nations that are in trouble from demanding haircuts, and keep the markets from trashing Italian and...