Politics – The Democrats Develop Some Stride

Well, the decision is made and for the next two years we will have a lame duck president while the Democrats will exert significant power in both houses.  Though I would consider myself more of a democrat as they support environmental initiatives and will likely bring a fresh face to international politics, I am concerned about them continuing to shoot themselves in the foot by potentially raising taxes and continuing to support extravagant trial lawyer litigation. 

Our society has become so damn litigious it almost makes me quake with hesitation every time I wish to enter a new venture.  Besides the astronomical increase in insurance rates to protect against potential liability for the most ridiculous of cases, (and increasing insurance is a cost that effects all of us at least indirectly), the fact that our society is so sensitive to potential legality has begun to prevent a lot of great ideas from been implemented, from allowing children to have a tetherball in the playground to letting adults establish a respectable business.  The true root of the problem are certain lawyers who will take any case, regardless of merit of misconduct, and with a no-upfront fee, attempt to ram litigation and briefs through the legal process in the hope of deriving that massive payoff wherein they will receive 40-50% of the settlement. 

Now certainly, as a self-coined ‘consumer advocate’, I do believe the interests of the consumer over big business should be closely watched (this also relates more importantly to the interests of the citizen in our democracy versus the power of corporations in our democracy).  One method of protecting the consumer against corporate malfeasance, as with Enron, is through the courts, as of our governing bodies have not established sufficient laws to protect the consumer/citizen.  And by citizen, I do not refer to the ‘corporate citizen’, which corporations have become as a ‘corporation’ by law has many of the rights of a breathing, emotional, living human. Amazing how a legal entity on a piece of paper can receive the same rights as a living human being! I jest.  In many cases, consumer/citizen laws do not adequately protect citizen interests, or worse, provide poor clarity on consumer rights, thus opening the portal to ‘advantageous’ litigation.

Word to the Dems: If you truly want to be the party of the future,

1) implement significant environmental and clean energy initiatives

2) don’t raise taxes unless we are really in grave danger of fiscal structural deficits

3) stop turning a blind eye to our litigious society

And can someone please reform the campaign financing system!!! 

1) Campaign financing should not be provided by corporations but by the citizenry

2) We should have a cap on available spend amounts for campaigns funded by a public funds

3) Some television and radio airtime should be provided for free in equal share to campaigning groups, mainly because these airwaves are public property

4) And candidates should be required to do more public debates instead of this ridiculous 30 second sound byte ‘let’s throw mud and not say anything of substance’ TV ads.  Let’s have some ultimate fighter verbal debates and not this moderating baloney where one candidate doesn’t have to answer to the tough questions and retorts of their opposition.  It seems our candidates have lost the ability of great leaders to debate as in the Lincoln-Douglas debate circuit (I can say this as I was there… jk).  You want to create more public interest into politics?  Pair up Oprah and Jerry Springer as moderators and let the debates begin.

Add comment November 8th, 2006

The Market – Danger of Selling Short

I read an article today on CNBC that suggests the following:

“There also has been crafty speculation by traders in stock index futures, who bought heavily whenever the indexes turned lower and forced short-sellers to cover. Short-sellers borrow stocks and sell them, hoping to buy the shares later at a lower price and making a profit in the process.

We say “traders buying futures” assuming there is more than one trader making these buys, but some traders are actually talking about a “mysterious buyer” since the force of the buying is so narrowly targeted.”

Though I try to not be too much into conspiracy theories, I could easily see a group of powerful hedge funds playing the market technicals.  The market will definately try to take advantage of short sellers.  This is a good example of another reason why small investors should only stick to the value game. 

Add comment October 31st, 2006

Wine Review – “3 Blind Moose”, Merlot 2003

I usually like merlots, but I found this one too shallow of body and somewhat bitter.  For $8, a cheap wine, but I don’t think I will buy it again as I didn’t really enjoy the texture and taste.

Add comment October 12th, 2006

Environment – Have We Reached a Critical Threshold?

I believe 20 years from now we will look back and see 2006-2007 as the period during which a critical threshold was reached in the environmental and clean energy movement.  A critical mass seems to have been achieved amongst influential people who control a significant portion of the political and financial leverage in our society, including the likes of Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson (Virgin), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Soros, Al Gore, and Elon Musk (PayPal founder) amongst many others.  And unlike the ‘jumping on the green bandwagon in the 1970s that led pretty much led nowhere’, this movement should be much more successful due to the improvement in technology and the heightened belief that we do face an environmental crisis also at a critical threshold. 

The key idea humans need to understand about environmental change is that it is not a linear progression but a quickly escalating (potentially exponential) problem once key thresholds are met.  Such thresholds may include small increases in ocean temperature causing a massive release of carbon dioxide stored in the ocean or a change in the course of the ocean heat transfer conveyor belt inducing significant melting of the polar ice caps and a subsequent increase in ocean levels thus threatening entire coastlines and all those beautiful beach houses.  Once these events occur, the ability to restore the balance in the system will be much more difficult than if we act now. 

Strangely, most American’s believe in the concept of taking out financial insurance to protect their family from potential calamity.  The need for better environmental advocacy is the same concept – we should embrace the opportunity to take out insurance against drastic environmental change and as a result protect the future of our family and our planet. 

For investing opportunities in the clean energy sector, take a look at: www.RenewableEnergyStocks.com (TM) (RES) and www.EnvironmentStocks.com.

Various stock indexes that follow green energy include: “WilderHill Clean Energy Index” and “WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index.”

Some clean energy funds include:

1.)    Calvert Large Cap Growth Fund (CLGAX) – Invests in eco-savvy large caps

2.)    New Alternatives Fund (NALFX) – Invests in foreign and domestic alternative energy companies

3.)    Portfolio 21 (PORTX) – Invests in small-cap clean-techs and large-cap companies with sustainability programs

4.)    PowerShares Wilderhill Clean Energy Porftolio (PBW) – Invests in small-cap clean-techs; follows the index mentioned above

5.)    Winslow Green Growth Fund (WGGFX) – Invests in clean-tech and eco-savvy small-cap companies

Add comment October 9th, 2006

The Market’s ‘One – Two Punch’ Hope

The market seems to be hoping for two trends to play out, a slowing economy that won’t slow too much, and falling inflation, due to the slowing economy, thus inducing the Fed to lower rates.  Basically, the Goldilocks scenario. But a disconnect between the Fed and the market currently exists.  The Fed seems to publicly acknowledge that the economy is slowing, but think that it will be mild and thus not enough to lower inflation.  If you listen to recent Fed policy speeches, Fed members are more concerned about the inflation threat than the slowing economy threat.  This suggests we are in a tightrope environment where expectations for a Fed rate cut are overdone.  The Fed may be in a rate holding pattern for some time, and rate cuts in January and March may seem less likely in a few months.

Add comment October 8th, 2006

Halloween and Morbid Thoughts

The future of cemeteries looks grim.  UN population estimates are 6.5 billion living today.  If we assume 50% of people will be buried in a cemetery and use a 4×6 foot plot, then 78 billion square feet of land will be used.  As 27,848,400 square feet are in a mile square, this equates to a little less than 2,800 square miles of land used, almost twice the land area of Rhode Island.  Furthermore, these values only reflect a static population number of 6.5 billion and not an evolving population demographic.  Even in death, we humans have a tremendous impact on this world.

Add comment October 8th, 2006

Joke – “A Child’s Prayer”

One night, a father passed by his son’s room and heard his son praying: “God bless Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma. Ta ta, Grandpa.”

The father didn’t quite know what this meant, but was glad his son was praying. The next morning, they found Grandpa dead on the floor of a heart attack. The father reassured himself that it was just a coincidence, but was still a bit spooked.

The next night, he heard his son praying again: “God bless Mommy and Daddy. Ta ta, Grandma.”

The father was worried, but decided to wait until morning. Sure enough, the next morning Grandma was on the floor, dead of a heart attack.

Really scared now, the father decided to wait outside his son’s door the next night. And sure enough, the boy started to pray: “God bless Mommy. Ta ta, Daddy.”

Now the father was crapping his pants. He stayed up all night, and went to the doctor’s early the next day to make sure his health was fine. When he finally came home, his wife was waiting on the porch. She said, “Thank God you’re here — we could really use your help! We found milkman dead on our porch this morning!”

From the website: www.comedycentral.com

Add comment October 6th, 2006

Space – Marveling at the big picture

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the agonizing minutia of our daily lives, we forget the bigger picture.  That’s when it is a good idea to peruse the fascinating 10 strangest things in space: http://www.space.com/bestimg/?guid=4499b31bec4c9&cat=strangest.

Add comment October 6th, 2006

Art – Justine Wollaston Now On Display At Hermes of Paris

My sister now has her artwork showing at Hermes, a very exclusive clothing and accessories store.  You can see her work at www.houseofjustine.com

Add comment October 5th, 2006

Wine Review- Gala Rouge Pinot Noire 2004

A decent $9 bottle of wine with a nice oak and slightly smoky aroma. Tannin taste a touch high but still a comfortable after-taste.

Add comment October 5th, 2006

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