Seriously… isn’t it time the investment community stopped listening to the rating agencies?
Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P– these are the usual suspects who completely missed the boat on the US sub-prime debacle. Back in 2005, they gave pristine credit ratings to risky mortgage portfolios stuffed full of borrowers who are notorious for not paying.
The recent debt crisis in Dubai underscores their irrelevance once again.
As I discussed earlier this week, Dubai’s flagship holding company announced that it had run out of cash and put a temporary stalemate on all debt payments. The announcement sent markets reeling and once again caught the rating agencies with their pants down.
It’s mystifying how these three groups, each with a long tradition of getting it completely wrong, are still considered relevant by the financial community.
Meanwhile, amid Comrade Bernanke’s reconfirmation hearings, the job summit, the estate tax extension, and the Afghanistan rollout, it has been quite a week.
These four events underscore some significant problems that are faced the United States: reckless monetary policy, inappropriate fiscal stimulus, a government budget crisis, and a disastrous war effort.
As I mentioned in this week’s letter on the conflict in Afghanistan, though, nothing will actually be accomplished other than more summits, hearings, and motivational speeches.
Sure, it would be nice to affect the system, but is it really worth spending one’s life fighting against a corrupt bureaucracy? Especially when so many ‘fellow citizens’ embrace the status quo, and most others are too uninformed to care? Ssssh… American Idol is on.
I’ve spent a great deal of time setting up a system that keeps me largely free of these headaches. I still close my eyes and shake my head on occasion, but it’s mostly like watching a bad sitcom. With a multiple flags approach, you have the ability to pick up the remote and change the channel.
On the subject, I received several questions from a letter I wrote earlier this week, outlining my top picks for Asia and Latin America (Chile, Panama, Colombia; and Malaysia, Philippines, and China).
The biggest question– why weren’t Uruguay and Thailand included on the list?
Thailand is a fantastic country, and I will be spending more time there next year. The problem is that it is difficult to reside in Thailand for the short-term and long-term.
Neighboring Malaysia gives 90-day, extendable tourist visas upon entry; Thailand is good for 15 to 30. Malaysia makes it easy to establish residency; Thailand only issues 100 permanent residency permits each year.
The property market in Thailand is also quite cumbersome, with significant restrictions on foreign ownership and a lot of sharks who will take advantage of foreigners.
Overall Thailand is a wonderful place, and there are ways around these challenges. But comparing price and hassle, I think Malaysia is a better value.
Uruguay is also great country and would probably be #4 on my list. I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from buying property or living there. In terms of value, available services, and lifestyle, though, I would pick Chile, Panama, or Colombia, mostly because Uruguay can be exceptionally sleepy.
And although I did not mention it in the original letter, I really like Ecuador as well.
The country is poor… very poor, but its local agriculture is spectacular– “all natural” is the only way they know how to produce.
This is of vital importance to me; I’m very careful about what I put in my body and think that the poison and hormone-filled foods in North America significantly contribute to poor health… and health, after all, is our most important asset.
We’re fortunate that world class physicians are available in places like Panama and Thailand for the price of a steak dinner, but as someone who has a natural aversion to doctors and hospitals, I tend to focus more on staying healthy. To me, this has a lot to do with food.
Aside from Ecuador, I’ve also noticed that Laos, Chile, New Zealand, and surprisingly China have a vast stock of organic and all-natural food products. Meanwhile I’m highly suspect of foods in Buenos Aires and Eastern Europe, especially at restaurants.
Of course, the hardest place to have a restaurant meal that isn’t served with a side of poison is in the US– probably the impact of corporate chains.
I recently bought an e-book though, for the whopping price of $29.95, that is the most comprehensive guide I’ve ever seen for all-natural restaurants in the US. I was really impressed, especially given the price– about 200 pages of listings, reviews, and pricing of just about every place you would want to eat, coast-to-coast.
If you travel frequently or just want to eat some good, poison-free food, you should check it out… as far as I can tell, the information simply isn’t available anywhere else– www.healthyeatshere.com