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INTRO Here's my semi-annual exercise to see if I remember why I own the stocks I own, and so I can check back and see if their stories have changed. I include the economy and markets to check my perception of the bigger picture. I post in case it helps others too.

Economy & Markets
It is the end of the year, and normally I write this section amidst a great silence. It's New Year's Eve. Who cares about the economy tonight? Welcome to the fiscal cliff. Looks like they reached a solution. Oh goody. I'm not that drawn to the debate because I pay more attention to the decadal trends. Aging populations, radical disruptions in technologies, increasing incredulity towards financial institutions, global climate changes, burdensome debt, unrealistic and ideological debates replacing governance; while on the positive side, continued growth, innovation, shifting public perceptions regarding debt and consuming and pragmatism, and the unstoppable fading of anachronistic institutions as people and technology change. Add it all up and I am optimistic.

I am also witnessing the downside at the other end of the scale. The micro-economics that are my personal finances have been subjected to the harshest year of my life. The mortgage is going unpaid. My job search is more than 16 months old. (I hear, "Sorry, but you're over-qualified." a lot.) My savings are almost all gone. My business is picking up, but has yet to cover my monthly bills. I've met many people who have retreated from the public discourse because ideological debates are useless to someone whose primary debate is whether to eat or stay warm. Two or three jobs aren't even enough in some cases, and these people are leading very frugal lives.

Amidst the resurgent stock market (up more than 100% since the Big Dip), and improving unemployment figures, there are too many working people with cold fingers and grumbling stomachs. There are too many people who are over-qualified, at the same time that we're trying to hire from other countries because we don't have enough qualified people here.

Sound like a rant? A bit. But it also underlines a disconnect within our systems. There will always be inefficiencies in any economy, but if those inefficiencies and inequities become too great, then underlying assumptions are no longer valid. We witnessed major financial institutions fail because of implicit assumptions. I wonder if the Occupy movement is indicative of other assumptions being recognized as invalid. Work hard is not enough for all. If you want a job you can get a job is not working for all. We the people doesn't seem real to someone struggling on their own. We talk about interest rates and debt ceilings, but there are other fundamentals supporting our systems. I wonder if they are healthy enough too.

And for the flip side: I am an optimist, like I said above. We'll find a way through, and many already have. I hope we're heading to an economy and to markets that are sustainable for all.
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