Sunday, January 25, 2009

Miccosukee Eats

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians lives alongside Highway 41 across South Florida, and these days they live well in peaceful rural isolation, alongside the River of Grass which looks a bit like this:The Everglades is a huge area of marsh bisected further north by the Interstate I-75, known as Alligator Alley. Down south the old two lane Highway 41 known as Tamiami (Tampa-Miami) Trail still runs east and west to and from Dade and Collier Counties and looks like this in the Miccosukee reservation:In the old days the Indians sat by the side of the road in sheds and sold plastic alligators to passers-by. Nowadays they operate a huge casino at Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail and "gaming" has changed the standard of living for the tribe. They live in rather nice suburban homes, in the modern ranch style shown below, and they have extensive administrative buildings barely visible from the highway:On Tamiami Trail their villages are set back from the Highway hidden by privacy fences with roofs covered by fronds:
The Miccosukee like their privacy and their homes aren't open for public tours so contact with the tribe is through the casino (which I've never visited), or on the Highway itself which is less desirable obviously:Or at their restaurant on Tamiami Trail, in the western reaches of Dade County, which in my opinion is the best of all options: The restaurant is apparently operated by Spanish speaking workers, as it's quite likely the Indians find working at the casino or at the magnificent Tribal Administration building more to their liking. For Bruce and myself a quick bite at the restaurant provided the pause that refreshes in the middle of a motorcycling exploration of the Everglades:Just in case you have any doubt about the area of which I write the Miccosukee provide a handy place mat map:The place mat also offers views of Indian life, where I captured images of an air boat and an alligator wrestler It was a brisk winter day so European tourists felt at home enjoying the great outdoors with their luncheon: Bruce and I were happy to snuggle indoors:I ordered a heavy mug of sweet Miccosukee coffee:The tribal colors are proudly carried on the mugs just like that on the flags flying out front: Those colors are also flown on the door of a tribal truck:We ordered steak sandwiches which came wedged between slices of flat bread. The meat had some fat attached but they filled the spot in an undistinguished kind of way, not particularly Indian. On the other hand I wasn't about to experiment with gator chunks or frog legs so I decided to take a bite out of Indian eats by ordering fry bread with blueberry filling. Bruce lives in Santa Fe and his idea of fry bread is all New Mexican, a puffy piece of pastry frequently sprinkled with powdered sugar. I photographed some at Taos Pueblo for an essay I wrote last year.This Miccosukee version of fry bread was rather greasy and looked in his estimation more like an apple fritter. It was substantial enough to have qualified for lunch all on it's own:
I took a quick walk out back to digest the pythonic lunch while Bruce settled the bill (somewhere south of $30 I think). The Indians have a sense of humor it seems:We saddled up and rode out, warmed by our Indian encounter, after a fashion. I quite enjoyed riding with Bruce, I hope we do it again one day.

Money Supply

I read a column on safehaven.com discussing deflation, the current economic bugbear and it stirred thoughts in my ever active mind. I have never heard of Adam Hamilton, the author of the piece but his comments were worth passing on I thought. He notes that a lot of mainstream economists and commentators are worrying about deflation, a state of affairs where the money supply shrinks and prices rise (the same number of goods being chased by fewer dollars leads to a rise in prices). However Hamilton makes the point, forcefully, that in the current crisis there is no reason to expect deflation.
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Sure, prices are dropping but that's because people and institutions are too scared to spend the money they have. There is no decrease in the supply of money. Conversely Hamilton argues the proper definition of inflation is the measure of the supply of money; when the supply increases one has inflation. Hamilton says the commonly accepted method to measure inflation or deflation by measuring price increases or decreases is not valid.
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The difference seems academic on the face of it, and I had never given the matter much thought. I have long felt that the CPI, Consumer Price Index, has not been an accurate measure of the change in consumer prices, but I never debated the commonly held notion that the CPI measures inflation . Instead I should have been looking at the increase in the money supply as the true measure of inflation. Hamilton does that and he has found massive increases in the money supply over the past few months which he believes heralds, inevitably, massive inflation.
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It's an interesting and provocative essay found on the Implode-o-meter website, and it is persuasively argued for anyone wonky enough to care. These days voices debating conventional wisdom are two-a-penny, but Hamilton (who is selling an investment newsletter) has made a point that will stick with me for a while.