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The big short

With my daughter working as a new media journalist for Thompson Reuters in New York City, I have taken a special interest in films depicting the crash of 2008. Young people don’t read anymore. They get all their information from TV, computer and movies screens, so live content is more important than ever.

Seniors helping seniors in 'village' system

Attention all seniors over 55. Self-help is on the way!

Lamorinda Village in Contra Costa County has now opened its doors to establish a resource for people who want to grow old without having to leave their homes. The "business model" calls for seniors helping each other as much as possible in what amounts to a closely-knit support group -- like a club. Beyond volunteer efforts, the village operates as a social center and clearing house for negotiating costs and providing services to facilitate in-home living.

The invisible hand and the risk premium

Some great terminology arises out of the turmoil of financial markets -- starting with "dead cat bounce" -- a brief uptick in an otherwise falling market. "Where are the customers' yachts" is a reference to the fact that brokers all have yachts, but at the expense of their customers. And so on. ...

More to the point is 1770s era economist Adam Smith's word craftsmanship when he coined the term "invisible hand" to describe the way free markets allow individuals to pursue their own interests which, thanks to an unintended consequence, improve society as a whole.

Who's looking out for the little guy?

One of the more shameful events in California financial history occurred as recently as 2009 and 2010 when the state hired consultants to meet with small businessmen who were owed money at the height of the Great Recession. Sort of like George Clooney in the movie “Up In the Air,” the job of these hired guns was to tell people who had performed services that California was just not going to pay what the state owed. California to its job-creating businessmen: “Drop Dead!”

The case for public-owned banks

On our return trip from France, the United flight was delayed by a full day for inexcusable reasons, but upon boarding the same aircraft, one of the first announcements by the crew was, “Who left a book yesterday entitled ‘America is Not Broke!’ by Scott Baker?” On the 11-hour return flight I had time to read some of the best parts twice.

New way to thwart high-frequency traders

Ned Johnson III, the former CEO of Fidelity Investments is back in the news with another great idea. He has launched something called Luminex which is a private trading platform that currently has just nine club members. You have to be managing at least a billion dollars to become a member. Its purpose is to thwart the high-frequency traders that have become a scourge in the market costing regular investors like you and me as much as 3 percent per year.

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