Why the environmental movement will fail, and how you can make money off of it.

Why the environmental movement will fail, and how you can make money on it
 Martin Westerman / ©2022

If you had let environmental groups pick your stocks since the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, instead of paying high-priced “gurus” to pick them, you’d have long-ago made your fortune. Why? Because the environmental groups’ villains included aircraft, chemical, fossil fuel, pharmaceutical, tourism and other bedrock enterprises of the New York Stock Exchange, S&P 500 and mutual funds. Environmentalists would have picked you a winning portfolio at a bargain price.

More than 50 years after Earth Day #1, every country in the world still depends on fossil fuels to power its economy – from energy generation and leaf blowers to transportation and wars (currently, U.S. vs. “drugs” and Russia vs. Ukraine), all supplied by such climate change deniers as Shell, Exxon, BP and Gazprom. As the price of fossil fuels rises, economies decline; as they fall, economies rise.

Today’s Americans have bigger things to think about than the environment. As former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson asked Exxon shareholders on May 29, 2013: “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

One might find that statement ironic. Without a planet, there would be no humanity, hence indeed no suffering. And thus all human potential forever gone.

Economists in the early 1990s conservatively valued the environment’s benefits and savings (ecosystem services) at $33 trillion a year (Robert Costanza et al.), a number that dwarfed the $28 trillion generated by the world’s economies. But ecosystem services do not show up on any public or private entity’s balance sheets. No accounting standard (GASB or GAAP), or budgets or financial statements assess or account for oxygen production, carbon sink, erosion control, stormwater management, public health, property value enhancement, extreme weather moderation and more that the environment provides for free. In 2022 dollars, the $54 trillion value of Earth’s ecosystems still dwarfs all value that enterprises create (E-commerce? Only $5.5 trillion).

While irony informs environmentalists, it doesn’t inform investors. Even though the scale of “soft” green assets (the environment) dwarfs the scale of hard “grey” ones (built infrastructure), investments in “grey” assets dwarf those in green. Successful enterprises operate “in the black,” unsuccessful ones “in the red.” None operate “in the green.”

Following Rachel Carson’s 1962 expose book Silent Spring, the U.S. banned DDT, which major U.S. chemical companies had been producing. Yet, the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) includes an exemption for DDT, where its benefits to control insect-borne illnesses “outweigh (human) health and environmental risks.” Where humans benefit, harming the planet and its life forms is an acceptable trade-off.

Americans’ balanced portfolios and wealth building are based on investments in enterprises that create more negative than positive impacts on the environment: the real estate, agribusiness, aircraft, automotive, asphalt, beauty, building materials, cement, chemical, clothing, coatings and paints, construction, defense, electrical and electronics, fast food, fossil fuels, furniture, glass, government, grocery, health care, hospitality, marine, medical, metals, mining, pharmaceuticals, plastics, tourism, treated wood and waste management industries.

Besides stuffing landfills, North America’s investment sweethearts have also created “forever chemicals” and substances that either do not, or take decades or centuries to break down in the environment: DDT, heat- and oil-resistant poly- and per-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), flame retardants (PBDEs), insulation liquids (PCBs), lethal radioactive waste (from the energy, military and medical establishments), and micro-plastics, phosgene, cyanide, herbicides (e.g., DuPont’s Agent Orange and Monsanto’s glyphosate), roadway paint, vehicle tire and rail brake dust, lead, arsenic, asbestos and mercury. Most of these products are now found in and harm humans, other fauna, flora, air, land and water. The U.S. is also the world’s #1 plastic waste contributor, and a chief contributor to the 50 million tons of electronic waste dumped every year worldwide.

“This isn’t personal; it’s business,” goes the saying. People can afford to be moral or immoral. Money is amoral. And survival of for-profits, non-profits, governments and economies depends on money.

Environmentalists have made the moral case, showing human impacts on polar bears and other animal s. But they have failed to get the monetary impacts incorporated into business and government balance sheets (via GASB and GAAP). They have come close with Ecosystem Service Valuation (ESV) – incorporating ES monetary values in nature restoration projects, and with Transfers of Development Rights (TDR) – land swaps between suburban and exurban landowners. The exurb retains a pastoral landscape by selling development rights to parties who add development density in other urban or suburban locations.

But the specialization inherent in capitalist economies challenges environmentalists. It has unwittingly separated end users, intermediaries and producers from the environment that provides the resources for their products and their survival on Earth.

One way to help reduce that separation is to extend private property rights to their end point: any material mined or produced on private property remains the property of the mining or producing company. Thus, any transfer through monetary exchange to intermediaries and end users would make possession of that property a limited-term lease, so the originator and/or its assigns would be responsible for the material’s ultimate disposition. This would internalize costs, and stop the transferring of disposal responsibility to others. But the opposite occurs.

Externalizing environmental costs has changed the planet’s weather patterns, as well as the migration and growth patterns of marine and land animals and plants. Rare bomb cyclones, heat domes, atmospheric rivers, thermal inversions, and wildfire seasons are now becoming common. The resulting destruction and dislocation costs are astronomical. But the U.S. economy regards payments for fire-fighting, damage recovery and resettlement, medical care, increased use of fuels and electric power for mitigation of heat waves (air conditioning) and cold snaps (heating), and even increased insurance premiums – as credits, not debits on the U.S. GDP. Our accounting systems are obviously flawed.

Thus, human commerce and exploration have unwittingly spread invasive species and diseases worldwide. Europeans since 1634 have brought smallpox, Yellow Fever, cholera, scarlet fever, and Spanish flu to the Americas. Also, polio, Asian flu, HIV-AIDS, SARS, Swine Flu, ZIKA, Ebola, H1N1, Norovirus, MERS and COVID. Likely next epidemics: monkeypox and avian flu. They have proliferated plant diseases, too: blights that killed the American chestnut, corn species, boxwood and other flora; fungus infections that killed oaks and larches; rusts and borer insects that are killing madronas, birches and other trees. All these diseases have generated widespread deaths, massive impacts to world economies, and profitable activities for chemical, pharmaceutical and bio-tech companies.

We eat unwittingly – more meat per capita today than in 1970, even as global bovine flatulence (methane) from the livestock and dairy industries adds more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere than cars, aircraft, trains, ships and all other modes of transport. Meanwhile, U.S. factory farming of beef, pork and poultry generate more waste than local disposal systems can manage.

We drink and irrigate unwittingly. The U.S. Forest Service reports that half of our 204 freshwater basins cannot keep up with demand, and within the next 50 years, many parts of the U.S. could see their freshwater supplies shrink by two-thirds. Consumption-encouraging water agreements and government policies ignored potential extreme weather impacts, and the time, snow pack and rainfall required to replenish water supplies. Americans are boosting GDP in their search for more drinking and irrigation water – digging more wells, and building energy-intensive desalination plants, which deliver filtered water at about twice the price of fresh, but at 99.4% less than the cost of bottled. About 80% of their power comes from fossil fuels, 11% from renewables, and 9% from deadly-waste nuclear.

And we live unwittingly. Environmentalists assert that urban areas are the most ecological places to live. Today, nearly half of the world lives in them. But they present downsides: heat island effect, income inequity, economic and governance challenges, traffic congestion, poor air and water quality, aging infrastructure, supply chain issues, elimination of green spaces, commercially delivered invasive species, high living costs, increased homelessness and slum growth, drinking water and waste-disposal challenges, high energy consumption, high resident and worker stress, faster disease spreads, shorter lifespans.

Meanwhile, a population the size of Florida – about 21.5 million, is roaming the planet as “climate refugees” (U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)). By 2050, a population the size of China – 1.5 billion, may be out there. The wrong perspectives here are (a) expecting humans will adjust to climate changes, and (b) viewing refugees as potential customers for housing, clothing, food and entertainment.

Environmentalists have succeeded since Earth Day 1970 in passing laws and creating agencies that have made significant progress in both addressing environmental problems, and improving human product efficiencies. But politics trumps the environment. Right-wing U.S. politicians and conservative justices, financed by the U.S. commercial, fossil fuel and agribusiness industries are now working through the North American administrative, judicial and legislative systems now to dismantle those agencies and laws.

All of this reminds me of a scene from the television series Battlestar Galactica (Episode #206), where the Cylon Symbiant whispers into her partner’s ear, “There’s one thing we know about human beings with certainty: they are masters of self-destruction.”

Art imitates life. In Sapiens, Yuval Harari notes that, “The moment the first hunter-gatherer set foot on an Australian beach (from Africa) was the moment that Homo Sapiens climbed to the top rung of the food chain on a particular landmass and therefore became the deadliest species in the annals of planet Earth.”

Most ironically, homo sapiens is the last of five hominid species that once walked the Earth. But its record of driving animal and plant species to extinction is second only to the meteor that hit Earth 66 million years ago and wiped out 97% of all life. While humans consider themselves uniquely intelligent, all Earth’s plant and animal species display intelligence – from basic instinct to near-human reasoning. Yet humans rarely recognize or communicate with those intelligences, and instead have asserted their own primacy, and exploited “lesser species” for their protein, ritual value and other assets. Often, groups of humans do not recognize the intelligence of other humans, or communicate with them if their belief systems or color differ from their own.

Humans should have long ago mastered the challenge of “Saving the Earth.” But polarized politics, stymied governments, patterns of commerce, land development, travel and conflict show that humans have little interest in or political will to change their habits.

The economy is providing well for them, and all welfare and progress depend on healthy economies. So the environmental movement will fail, but we’ll all make money on it — until the environment fails us.

Replacement Theory-Cancel Culture- Martin Westerman 5/28/22

Why the environmental movement will fail, and how you can make money on it

Since Earth Day in 1971, if you had paid $10 a year to join the Sierra Club and Greenpeace instead of shelling out thousands a year to financial gurus for the “best” stock picks, you’d be rich now. Why? Because those groups’ “environmental villains” list included most of the fossil fuel, pharmaceutical, commercial and agribusiness “bad actors” that underlie the S&P 500. So basically, the environmental movement would have picked a winning portfolio for you at a bargain price.

More than 60 years after Rachel Carson alerted us to the dangers of DDT, it’s still the pesticide of choice for eradicating mosquitoes where mosquito-borne illnesses are prevalent. More than 120 years since Teddy Roosevelt declared, “I’ve been poisoned!” after reading Sinclair Lewis’ meat packing industry expose, The Jungle, meat consumption and land devoted to cattle ranching in the U.S. have increased. Between those bovines and dairy cows, cattle flatulence is now counted as a major contributor to global climate change.

While energy efficiency in all human inventions and buildings has improved, and the EPA was created and laws passed and enforced to reduce pollution in air, water and land, no government has yet valued the environment in monetary terms. Even though its benefits and savings (“ecosystem services”) were valued in the early 1990s at more than $33 trillion a year (about $54 trillion in 2022 dollars — Robert Costanza et al.), no government or enterprise in North America has assessed or accounts for those values in their budgets or financial statements. The only land value they recognize is real estate appraisal. Owners of private timber lands make more money selling their land for subdivisions than by harvesting the trees on it. So residential and commercial land development has continued unabated, millions of acres of trees have been cut, habitats erased and ecosystem services lost.

The “green lifestyle” (living in dense residential areas, taking public transit everywhere, bearing few children, eating organic and vegetarian, etc.), hasn’t become mainstream, despite more than 50 years of marketing, promotion, experimentation and discussion since the first Earth Day. Organic food products cost 2-4 times more than standard products; “ecological” construction and commercial products are also cost significantly more. Many enterprises now practice “sustainable business,” but most of those on the Sierra Club-Greenpeace bad actor list don’t. There are 18.7 billion Google entries under “Going green,” and 1.8 billion under “books on green practice,” yet this massive self-help area has relatively few practitioners.

Recyclable and compostable materials are mixed in most restaurants and commercial enterprises, and end up in landfills. Industries rarely control their end-user waste, or much of their own production waste. Plastic collects in rivers, and in sea and ocean hot spots and gyres; lethal radioactive waste generated by the energy, military and medical establishments since the 1930s has yet to find a re-use or permanent disposal site. The freighters and tankers that carry the world’s globalized fuels and products burn a gallon of sulfurous oil per 150 feet they travel across our oceans. A Los Angeles study found that ocean-going ships berthed at Long Beach docks produce more aggregate air pollution than all five million cars on the LA freeways.

Every country in the world uses some fossil fuel to power its economy, from coal-fired power plants to leaf blowers to weapons systems. When the price of fossil fuels goes up, the economy goes down. Humans keep mindlessly boosting their carbon output, blanketing the earth in dust and greenhouse gases, and ignoring that egregious carbon producer, war. Most of it does not get mitigated in carbon offsets.

Let’s also add the long-term effects of toxins that have been released into the environment over the centuries – from early millennia lead and mercury to current DDT, PCBs and methane. None are being fully addressed or mitigated. Chemical flame retardants (PBDE’s) for example, harm human nervous systems, hormonal functions and reproductive organs, and cause cancers. They vaporize when heated, or simply rub off of products where they’ve been applied, and rise into the air as dust that can travel great distances. They take decades to break down. Many countries in the world, but not the U.S., have outlawed them. Manufacturers have replaced them with other flame retardants, and these chemicals are also sparsely regulated in the U.S.

Diseases have also been globalized since the Spanish flu and cholera epidemics appeared around 1918. Following on, we have seen polio, Asian flu, HIV-AIDS, SARS, Swine Flu, ZIKA, Ebola, H1N1, MERS and COVID, with more to likely appear. COVID has been the deadliest virus in the U.S. since Spanish flu.

As humans produce harmful products, lurch from crisis to crisis, dig themselves out of wars, natural disasters and vast man-made catastrophes at fabulous costs in lives, resources and treasure, I’m reminded of a scene on the tv series Battlestar Galactica, where the alien symbiont whispers into her partner’s ear: “One thing we know about humans: they are masters of self-destruction.”

We created this mess. How do we dig ourselves out of it and save the Earth? The question seems ridiculous, since this is the only place in the universe where we can survive. Of course humans would mobilize to save themselves. Yet, they don’t. Between polarized politics and stoking the economy with purchases of goods and services, commercial and residential development on former forest and farm lands, travel, uses of non-recyclable and non compostable materials that are simply investments in long term landfill development, and driving billions of fossil-fueled miles in millions of vehicles, they exhibit no interest in or political will to change their habits. The economy is providing well for them.

All welfare and progress depend on a healthy economy, and sustainable business is a more expensive and less economical proposition than standard practice. People have bigger things to think about than the environment – jobs, homes, families, prestige, entertainment, politics. So the environmental movement is failing, but we’re all making money on it.

What Biden Could Have Said….

Martin Westerman,(4/1/2022)

What Biden could have said:

My fellow Americans, 90 years ago a madman in Europe threatened to destroy the world if Europe did not give him a piece of Czechoslovakia. So Europe capitulated, and gave Adolf Hitler that piece of Czechoslovakia. But then he wanted all of Czechoslovakia, as well as Austria and Poland. After that, he wanted the rest of Europe. The United States and allies around the world went to war to stop that madman, and decades of peace and prosperity have followed.

A great historian once said, if we don’t learn the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat them. Today, another madman is threatening to destroy the world if he doesn’t get a piece of Ukraine. The world gave him Crimea in eastern Ukraine, but now Vladimir Putin wants all of Ukraine. And then he will want Latvia, Estonia and Albania, and Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and half of Germany. He seems to think that he can recreate the Soviet Union, or Russia of the czars. He cannot. Time has moved on. And if he doesn’t move with it, history will leave him and Russia behind.

But Mr. Putin has not gotten the message of history yet. Instead, he has activated his nuclear arsenal and threatens a global catastrophe if he doesn’t get his way. If the world does not give him Ukraine, he says he will destroy us all.

So we will now be clear. First, the United States does not abide authoritarian government here at home, and it does not abide authoritarian governments attacking sovereign states abroad.

We went to war 90 years ago to prevent a madman from imposing his violent, authoritarian rule over Europe. The United States supports the will of people in every country to choose the government they want. Putin is not giving Ukraine that choice.

This unprovoked attack on Ukraine is partly the fault of the previous American administration. It gave Mr. Putin the impression that the United States is weak and that it will not act to prevent naked aggression against a peaceful, sovereign state. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States economy is the strongest in the world, and we are using it to support the people of Ukraine, so they can determine their own future. It is up to them, not Russia, to choose their future.

The United States military is unequaled in the world. We choose when and where to engage for the greatest possible effect. We and our European allies warn Mr. Putin that he does not want to invite our combined military force into the Eastern European theatre to act on Ukraine’s behalf. The leader of Russia may also have forgotten that no state has ever acted on a nuclear threat, thanks to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. Russia’s nuclear arsenal is one third the size of the United States. So what the Russian leader is telling us is that he is willing to risk nuclear warfare, and to sacrifice all of Russia to get Ukraine. That kind of thinking is illogical, and it can only make sense to a madman.

In the card game of poker, a player without the winning cards may pretend that he has them anyway. We call that a bluff. We are confident that Mr. Putin is bluffing, and he does not hold the winning cards.

So I now urge all world leaders who support self-determination for every country, to warn the Russian leader that he must cease his country’s aggressive actions, and pull all Russian and Russian proxy forces out of Ukraine. Otherwise, he and his country will face immediate and severe, global diplomatic and economic consequences.

The Russian leader has said that economic sanctions against Russia are an act of war. This is almost humorous coming from a man who is waging unprovoked war against a peaceful neighboring state.

Next, the United States will continue its diplomatic and economic sanctions against the aggressor until its war operations cease and it removes its forces from Ukraine. In addition to those actions, I am ordering US forces Europe to DEFCON 2, and I am authorizing US commanders, and requesting NATO commanders to alert their Russian counterparts that US and NATO air forces will begin enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine at 1200 hours local time February 6, 2022. I am also authorizing US forces to respond appropriately to aggressive behavior by Russian military ships and planes at sea and in the air. Until now, US naval and air forces have exercised enormous restraint and grace in the face of provocative and unwarranted acts by their Russian counterparts. Our naval and air forces no longer need to exercise that restraint.

Likewise, the United States and its Allies and supporters have exercised enormous restraint in the face of this Ukraine aggression. We have reached our limit. It is time for the Russian state to cease its aggression, and act as a modern partner with its neighbor nations. It cannot turn back the clock. It cannot rebuild the Soviet Union. It cannot recreate the Russia of the czars. It cannot reverse the tide of history. Any attempt to do those things is not just folly.

What Biden Could Have Said. (Martin Westerman)

What Biden could have said:

My fellow Americans, 90 years ago a madman in Europe threatened to destroy the world if Europe did not give him a piece of Czechoslovakia. So Europe capitulated, and gave Adolf Hitler that piece of Czechoslovakia. But then he wanted all of Czechoslovakia, as well as Austria and Poland. After that, he wanted the rest of Europe. The United States and allies around the world went to war to stop that madman, and decades of peace and prosperity have followed.

A great historian once said, if we don’t learn the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat them. Today, another madman is threatening to destroy the world if he doesn’t get a piece of Ukraine. The world gave him Crimea in eastern Ukraine, but now Vladimir Putin wants all of Ukraine. And then he will want Latvia, Estonia and Albania, and Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and half of Germany. He seems to think that he can recreate the Soviet Union, or Russia of the czars. He cannot. Time has moved on. And if he doesn’t move with it, history will leave him and Russia behind.

But Mr. Putin has not gotten the message of history yet. Instead, he has activated his nuclear arsenal and threatens a global catastrophe if he doesn’t get his way. If the world does not give him Ukraine, he says he will destroy us all.

So we will now be clear. First, the United States does not abide authoritarian government here at home, and it does not abide authoritarian governments attacking sovereign states abroad.

We went to war 90 years ago to prevent a madman from imposing his violent, authoritarian rule over Europe. The United States supports the will of people in every country to choose the government they want. Putin is not giving Ukraine that choice.

This unprovoked attack on Ukraine is partly the fault of the previous American administration. It gave Mr. Putin the impression that the United States is weak and that it will not act to prevent naked aggression against a peaceful, sovereign state. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States economy is the strongest in the world, and we are using it to support the people of Ukraine, so they can determine their own future. It is up to them, not Russia, to choose their future.

The United States military is unequaled in the world. We choose when and where to engage for the greatest possible effect. We and our European allies warn Mr. Putin that he does not want to invite our combined military force into the Eastern European theatre to act on Ukraine’s behalf. The leader of Russia may also have forgotten that no state has ever acted on a nuclear threat, thanks to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. Russia’s nuclear arsenal is one third the size of the United States. So what the Russian leader is telling us is that he is willing to risk nuclear warfare, and to sacrifice all of Russia to get Ukraine. That kind of thinking is illogical, and it can only make sense to a madman.

In the card game of poker, a player without the winning cards may pretend that he has them anyway. We call that a bluff. We are confident that Mr. Putin is bluffing, and he does not hold the winning cards.

So I now urge all world leaders who support self-determination for every country, to warn the Russian leader that he must cease his country’s aggressive actions, and pull all Russian and Russian proxy forces out of Ukraine. Otherwise, he and his country will face immediate and severe, global diplomatic and economic consequences.

The Russian leader has said that economic sanctions against Russia are an act of war. This is almost humorous coming from a man who is waging unprovoked war against a peaceful neighboring state.

Next, the United States will continue its diplomatic and economic sanctions against the aggressor until its war operations cease and it removes its forces from Ukraine. In addition to those actions, I am ordering US forces Europe to DEFCON 2, and I am authorizing US commanders, and requesting NATO commanders to alert their Russian counterparts that US and NATO air forces will begin enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine at 1200 hours local time February 6, 2022. I am also authorizing US forces to respond appropriately to aggressive behavior by Russian military ships and planes at sea and in the air. Until now, US naval and air forces have exercised enormous restraint and grace in the face of provocative and unwarranted acts by their Russian counterparts. Our naval and air forces no longer need to exercise that restraint.

Likewise, the United States and its Allies and supporters have exercised enormous restraint in the face of this Ukraine aggression. We have reached our limit. It is time for the Russian state to cease its aggression, and act as a modern partner with its neighbor nations. It cannot turn back the clock. It cannot rebuild the Soviet Union. It cannot recreate the Russia of the czars. It cannot reverse the tide of history. Any attempt to do those things is not just folly.

Cancel Culture, Martin Westerman (May 18, 2021)

Cancel culture for everybody!

Cancel culture is becoming the new Godwin’s Law. Godwin (1990) said as any online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler becomes more likely. Today, the same applies to “cancel culture.” Reductio ad Hitlerum is now an overblown Reductio ad cancelum.

Cancel culture has been the human norm since the dawn of history. It only appears new today because the phrase was re-invented in 2017 to describe “cancelling” the reputation and accomplishments of someone prominent (like Harvey Weinstein) who had behaved or spoken egregiously. But since then, it has come to include “cancelling” groups (Confederacy sympathizers), monuments and site names (named abusers, criminals and slaveholders), turns of phrase (anything non-PC), and finally, whole culture (white people).

The Neanderthal, Denisovans, Homo Naledi and other homo erectus species have disappeared, some (like Neanderthals) apparently canceled by us homo sapiens, some wipoed out by environmental disasters. Today, we are the last of the homo erectus species (unless Yeti and Sasquatch still walk the Earth).

Sapiens ended up here by overrunning, absorbing and/or killing off the world’s other tribes, cultures and species. The Neanderthal, Denisovans, and Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Nabateans, Babylonians, Spartans, Phoenecians, Visigoths, Sassanids, Çatalhöyük, Cahokia, Angkor, Harappan, Maya, Anasazi, Clovis, and so many more are just memories now. All were actually cancelled.

Generally, current humans stand on the bones and rubble of canceled predecessor cultures, get excited about their pasts, and use past names for present sites, enterprises and sports teams. Why? Would today’s folk really want to recreate those past cultures as places for themselves to live? That seems to be the goal of “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) supporters. Homo sapiens’ success rests on its ability to see what isn’t and imagine what could be. Imagination is the realm of fantasy, belief and creativity; it comes before truth and facts. While most of us grow out of the fantastical world of children as we mature, many of us don’t.

In this country, where the norm is peaceful transitions of government, the mostly white MAGA people and the politicians who represent them oppose it. Transition is progress, and they fear progress will cancel their way of life. They want to recreate some form of imaginary past America, where whites were not just in the majority, they were the most visible color of human everywhere – in business, government and media. The MAGAs don’t want to see any non-white colors. To them, having to share power means getting their culture eliminated.

That’s ironic. American Indians fought the railroads and the killing of buffalo, because it actually was canceling their way of life. Southern plantation owners fought elimination of slavery, because it cancelled their Antebellum culture. They were right. At the turn of the 20th century, whites who were 2nd or earlier generation immigrants themselves, fought new immigrants whom they feared would take their jobs and cancel their “true American” culture. They were wrong. From the 1860s to today, Blacks have fought embedded racism because it canceled their African culture and is still cancelling their lives.

More ironic are Southern plantation whites in a new insurrectionist form (proof enough to believe in reincarnation?), attacking the U.S. Congress, as it affirmed the peaceful transfer of government power January 6, 2021. They claim Congress was trying to cancel their culture. To any observer, it is clear they don’t know what it means to “cancel” a culture, they haven’t read the U.S. Constitution – even though nearly 150 of the Congresspeople who represent them took an oath to protect and defend it, and they don’t know what America stands for, even though they grew up here.

They don’t balance their fantasies with facts and truth. Besides thinking they’ll “save America” by attacking its Congress and courts, they imagine that COVID is a hoax, science can’t be trusted, Trump won the presidency in 2020, and the U.S. faked the moon landing. They run to “free” women and “save babies” from Planned Parenthood clinics that rarely (< 3%) perform abortions, and attack a pizza parlor that serves pizzas but was rumored to abuse children. The goal is always to intimidate, threaten and kill opponents so they can retain power. And they have formed groups for 150 years to cancel non-white cultures: the Ku Klux Klan, the Know Nothing Party, the American Nazi Party, John Birch Society, QAnon, Proud Boys and white nationalists. These fantastical American “saviors” act mostly like foot-stamping, breath-holding children. William Golding laid out the worst-case scenario of this in his book, Lord of the Flies. It ended with abuse, injuries and death – and the child characters crying out for rescue by adults. Nearly a third of Americans are magical MAGA thinkers, and so are about 25% of the U.S. Congresspeople who represent them – as well as large minorities of leaders in more than 20 U.S. states. While none of these groups is in the majority, most hold power anyway thanks to the electoral privileges of gerrymandering, and control of voting structures. They also use police forces, the levers of government, and denial of access to voting, to public spaces, free speech, public meetings and services, and redress of grievances to intimidate and disempower opponents. Much of this is unconstitutional and illegal. Rep. Devin Nunes, (R-CA), for example, enlisted the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) under Attorney General Bill Barr, to aid him in trying to shut down the Twitter account of a “cow” that posted critical comments about him, and sue the unknown person who created the cow. When the DOJ activity was publicized, the assistant state’s attorney Michael Friedman, who in effect served as Nunes’ personal attorney, refused to comment. Like parenting, corralling and shutting down bullies takes work – especially on a national scale. It requires standing up to them – nationally and in every state, embarrassing them, prosecuting their actions, laughing at them, and educating them. An Nunes-DOJ investigation is underway; a move is afoot to disbar Bill Barr; the Biden DOJ is going after the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrectionists; lawsuits have been filed in every state against Republican legislatures attempting to suppress and restrict voting, as voting rights advocates continue registering voters and supplying them with the means to get mailed ballots and reach the polls despite new state restrictions. And President Biden and Congressional Democrats and Independents are mostly standing up to obstructionist Republicans, and forcing approval of needed legislation that helps block and reverse the bullies’ agendas. American culture is hard at work, and most everyone is participating. It doesn’t look to me as if anything or anyone is getting canceled.

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Bernie Madoff and Trumps’ Big Lie
4/16/21

Trump Madoff With More Than Our Money.

Bill Kaufman

Thoughts of the Madoff scandal seems a world away, only to come back to us now on his lonely death in jail. There are so many parallels with our Trump saga, that do apply to this moment.
Fakery is not an innocent sin, lies about important stuff could break your bank and make you sick.

Madoff, like Trump, was a phenomenal faker. Madoff created a sub-reality that continued to comfort and assure his numerous investors (not unlike Trump followers) with the belief that they needed his “miraculous” skills. None of it was true.

The financial “returns” were faked, as interest or dividends were compounded, merely on paper, for some investors, while some lucky few were paid out monthly to investors who chose not to “re-invest”.

But these dividends and interest did not flow from real investments. They were paid out from funds supplied by new investors. The original investments were quickly gone, in financing the Madoff life style, office expenses, and in attracting new investors, to continue the scam.

You might ask, how can “investors” be so naïve? And surprisingly, his roster included some very wealthy, thought to be sophisticated investors, and their accountants and attorneys who signed off on their ’ investments.

So how could have Madoff attracted and fooled so many smart and successful people? and was Trumps’ success (short though it was) a direct parallel?

Three critical red flags stand out:

1.Madoff paid interest or dividends somewhat above what was readily available in the then current investment market, but not quite high enough to be terribly abnormal. Trumps’ equivalent, reward cronies with posh jobs, acolytes who could possibly (albeit with a generous mental stretch) be considered qualified and therefore “normal”.

2.Recruit select and prestigious investors (such as known personalities) to act as “attractors,” that is, as informal salesmen, “model” believers and promoters, who could persuade others to invest, due to their standing in the public eye. Trumps’ version, give the biggest tax breaks to rich folk voters, to create supporters (or new investors, as it were). And use the concept of “social proof.” That is like Trump saying “look at all the prestigious and famous folks who want to serve under me, who support me, and who will vote for me.” It’s easy to note how Trumps’ very wealthy supporters were vocal and strategic. It is unreasonable to imagine they would have been so, absent the enormous tax benefits that they were rewarded.

3.Get rid of auditors, supervisors, and managers that are not totally compliant to your wishes and who would not be willing to overlook obfuscations and lies. Replace them with believers and cronies.

Let us look at #3 first. Mutual funds, hedge funds, exchange traded funds, money managed funds, all have one thing in common. They all use a professional custodial service. This is typically a trust bank, like the DTC (Deposit Trust Company). Many large banks also offer this service. This involves the trust company taking delivery of the security, such as stock shares, bonds and notes, that are purchased and verifying their “good order”.
Effectively, they serve as objective monitors or overseers. It is a big and important job, and just one of those companies, for example, the DTC (Depository Trust Company), holds 54 trillion dollars worth of securities for the benefit of investors.
Not having a custodian is akin to not having an overseer like a Walter Shaub, past head of the U.S. Government Ethics Office, who described the Trump White House as setting a tone that “ethics does not matter”. Prior to his resignation, Shaub was concerned that the United States would be seen as a kleptocracy. Trump couldn’t wait to get rid of anyone who was a designated overseer, replacing them with a crony.

Interesting to note, the use of a trust custodian, which Madoff also declined, is not illegal.

Now #2. Rich people are respected, often thought smarter than most. They are attractive perspective investment endorsers because they are influencers. How did Madoff attract them? How did Trump attract them? Simple, give them what they desire. Just give them more money. How? Give them invented dividends and interest on their money, more than they could otherwise earn in traditional safe investments, such as bonds and certificates of deposit.

Similar to Madoff, Trump was enabled to “give” the richest Americans money by simply lowering their taxes. The national debt (falling on rich and poor together) created was of no concern, not coming due until long after the Trump era. Like Trump, Madoffs’ only concern was keeping the ponzi scheme going. Obviously, Madoff was creating an ugly future for his investors. But unlike the Madoff investors, the majority of Americans were pulled into the disastrous Trump “investment” program even after voting against him.

Now #1. One of the first principals of investing is that higher returns inevitably involve higher risk. Great money managers often trade risk for higher returns, though in a very measured and educated way. One of the key measures for a money manager is their “risk adjusted return.” This is simply a measure of the fluctuations of their portfolio compared to the return it generates. Even a high return portfolio in the longer term, could be considered inferior to one with a lower return. Put simply, if the high return portfolio fluctuates markedly, it will have a diminished risk adjusted return. Thus, a lower return portfolio, could often be considered superior, if it has less fluctuations.
Consequently, Madoff invented and credited dividends that were too high, and too stable, in light of what “normal” investment portfolio assets might generate.

Effectively, the “return” generated in his portfolio would have been a remarkable achievement since unaccompanied by greater portfolio fluctuations (implying greater risk). The credited dividends were too stable and regular. They were abnormal. It appeared that Madoffs’ program was defying gravity. And those dividends were Madoffs’ largest selling point.

Indeed, if it was just plain old dumb luck, why would anyone bet on that? Many people actually believed Madoff was a genius.

Simply combining that notion with the known reality that there was no custodian, no outside objective due diligence, no accountant public audits, it was really the simplest of calls.

It was a bad intentioned “emperor” who really was naked situation. Who couldn’t see it coming? One really does have to question the common sense of Trump’s endorsers and voters, so similar to Madorf enablers, investors and promoters.

The giant difference, we were all forced to invest with Trump, and we very predictably lost.

Beyond Stupid (Trump & His Minions Mental Misconception) 12/19/20

Beyond Stupid (The one mental misconception of Trumps’ Republican minions)

Bill Kaufman & Martin Westerman.

Why would anyone choose to live in a society among other people? Well, protection comes to mind. When you are asleep, someone else might be awake to alert you to imminent danger. In simple terms, the group can better protect the individuals, than can the individuals protect themselves.

Lately, some of the Republican senators (in particular the “libertarians”) keep stalling on an adequate stimulus bill, by bringing up deficits. And Trump and his collaborators did need this contingent to support him. And this mentality does pervade the whole Republican Party. Like Trump, money going to others, and not to themselves, is not ok. Trump simply needed the higher financial aid figure to firm up his support. After all, it’s not “his money” being given away. The libertarians, on the other hand, can claim to be clinging to “principles”. Now that Trump is gone, the deficit issue still exists.

It is true, our currency is backed by nothing but a promise. And a promise only makes sense as it relates to some future event. Basically, money is valuable only to the extent that it is accepted as a unit of exchange for acquiring goods or services, in place of a direct trade for such.

And frankly, if our dollar did fail (no longer being accepted by other nations, for example) private citizens and businesses would simply go ahead and devise a new currency. Bitcoin comes to mind, not the biggest deal really.

Direct trading once made sense in small communities, but as the geographical range and variety of goods and services in commerce became more complex there was too often a mismatch between those who had something you needed, and what service or goods that you could offer to trade.

Absent actual currency, procurement would be a ridiculous and laborious endeavor. So societies were compelled (necessarily) to all agree on an asset that could be accepted by all members. Thus, currency became one of the universal concepts of modern society. It is so basic an “invention” like cooking, writing, and housing, that no one can conceive of life absent such a concept.

Face Forward: Now think of life three hundred years ago. Without cars, computers, vaccines, printing presses, toilets, plumbing, modern farming, etc., etc.. Suppose all that stuff could have been acquired through a government that, to do so, created “official” currency? Indeed, a government that printed currency. Let us examine the harm created. Do we really need to? One thing, that government would be able to buy or invest in things that everyone needed. (Like an army to protect its inhabitants from foreign invaders, for example). But such a scheme would have one basic requirement, it would, of course, need to have recognized integrity. A country of laws, a constitutional government.

Much of the stuff created by deficits are actually assets, some quite necessary for modern life, these assets, many really tools, have greatly enhanced that life. Things that sustained, facilitated, and nurtured human life (think Medicare and Medicaid for example, and even the internet itself, not to even mention roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, etc.). And what about the space program, without which GPS technology (and so many other inventions) would not have occurred. And in return, of course, citizens would “pay a fee” otherwise called a tax, for the myriad services provided to them. And this fee would address the deficits and the cost of providing the myriad services that are provided to citizens. One might think of it like group buying in volume, and thus, at a discount.

Aren’t our very lives really assets in themselves? To whom? To others. Our children eventually grow up to look after us, as we looked after them. So many lives pave a path that make life better for everyone and those that follow. Think Jonas Salk, Newton, Einstein, the list goes on and on, and will continue to grow throughout human existence.

Today, you hold in your pocket, your phone, which is more powerful than the computers that cost a million dollars barely 20 years ago. And that same phone has access to super computers that are equivalent to thousands or millions of those earlier computers. How can you measure that wealth, when compared to the deficits extant in modern societies? It is on a whole different scale.

We talk about deficits creating inflation (an idea that seems to appeal to “common sense.”) Not true if we invest two cents and get a thousand dollars of value. That is actually dis-inflation.

We need to be measuring value, and not cost. Indeed, we are so wealthy, how can we even entertain the notion that we cannot afford the money to address the crisis caused by the coronavirus? Helping making lives better, sustaining the life, health and well-being of our planetary population is an investment, and not a cost, an investment that ensures the success of that population and their descendants, to the end of time. Can one say what is more important?

What really has more value?

TO BE CONTINUED……

The Trump Rally Truth 10/29/20

We can’t help noticing the huge crowds at Trump rallies. People obviously travel for miles around to be there. Meaning that they are not all representative of local populations. Surely some are just curiosity seekers.

Most are extreme partisans who are stuck in a psychological conundrum. Should they pay any attention to the obvious Trump failures and lies? or go with the premise that their original decision to back Trump couldn’t be wrong now? Heavens forbid, were they wrong?

I remember, reading as a financial advisor, when investors were defrauded by a Ponzi scheme, their initial impulse was to deny the existence of the scheme altogether. No one wants to believe or admit to being suckered.

I bet many Trump attendees go around to more than one rally. Reminds one of the recent super spreader motor cycle rally event.

But the key is this, as far as I can tell: for Trump, the rally’s are not about the attendees, they are about getting views of the crowds on TV. Social proof, one of Trumps timeworn tactics. Basically implying “look at all the folks crazy about loving Trump, shouldn’t you join them? “

so it is not about the actual rally, that mere thousands attend, it’s about getting shots showing the “huge” crowds on TV, so that “everyone can see”.

Which is millions. Smart tactic, basically borrowed from Hitler and even more effective due the wide embrace of modern media, such as TV and internet, which generously gives Trump millions of dollars worth of free publicity.

We didn’t understand the tactic at first, and now, in the final days, the light came on for us.
Trump surely knows that his rallies are superspreaders. He could care less. He hates the idea of packing and moving. And he grasped at the easiest, Most effortless non-solution for the epidemic, herd immunity. We know that it isn’t being well thought out. Hundreds of thousands of caronvirus cases will be created, and he hasn’t even mentioned expanding hospital capacity. If he wins the coming election, the real nightmare begins.

The End Of Trump, Martin Westerman 10/28/20

2020: The End Of Trump & The Administration Full Of People Who Just Don’t Get It
By Martin Westerman / Oct 2020

America’s wealthy class today feel not just entitled but anointed. The Wilbur Rosses and Betsy DeVos’s and Eric Princes and Louis DeJoys and Donald Trumps and Jeff Bezos’s and Larry Ellisons and Billy Grahams and megachurch pastors, and so many more multi-millionaires and billionaires think it’s God’s will that they’ve arrived at wealth. They take literally the Protestant interpretation of the Torah’s (aka The Old Testament) Deuteronomy 8:18: “…remember the Lord thy God who gives you power to get wealth.” They believe that God has not only favored them above all other creatures on Earth; He has given them license to do as they please. At the top of the white racial heap, they embody George Herbert’s 1640 “Outlandish Proverb” – “Living well is the best revenge” – on everyone not like them. And by a sort of Divine Right, they work to bend others and the environment to their wills.

The U.S. Administration’s current crop of annointeds ignores Herbert’s dictum: “Every one is a master and servant.” And they ignore the second half of 8:18: God gives us power for wealth “to establish the covenant He swore unto your fathers…” In other words, says Josie Silver of Kehila News, those who attain wealth must be both masters and servants, and become examples of valor and virtue beyond their economic might. As Victory Life Ministries International says (Oct 7, 2019); “You need to know the purpose for wealth, so that when God takes you to that level .. you will be able to appropriate it well.”

All those named above (except Hebert) are staunch Republicans. In Impostors, Steve Bannon describes how contemporary Republicans have quit governing and become a “post-policy party.” At war with expertise, evidence and data, they only focus on pursuing and maintaining power. They’ve basically embraced nihilism, gaslighting, and bait-and-switch scams to fool people into voting for them. In office, they work to benefit their wealthy supporters, transfer public money into private pockets, pack federal courts with creationist-theocratic, anti-woman, pro-corporate judges, and inject Christian theocracy into military and civilian affairs.

Acting only as masters, never as (public) servants, DeVos bends the Dept. of Education toward eliminating public schools and privatizing what’s left; Ross bends the Dept. of Commerce toward opening the world for plunder; DeJoy bends the USPS to shrink public postal delivery and expand private delivery by firms he’s invested in. The Grahams (& many U.S. Senators, Representatives, and some Supreme Court Justices) work to convert America into a Christian nation, under Puritan (aka sharia) law, as Prince supplies private armies for billionaires and despots to create a modern version of Middle Ages monarchies. And Trump wants to be king of one, if not all of them.

The wealthy struggle with empathy. Higher social class and higher income are associated with higher mental performance, but these people struggle to understand emotional cues and empathize with others. It may be because they operate more independently than “lower-class individuals,” who have greater levels of cultural inter-dependence, and unlike higher-class individuals, appraise others as more relevant to their goals and well-being. Study authors Dietze and Knowles note that their conclusion runs against the conventional wisdom that “lower class” people show neurocognitive deficits. As George Packer observed in The Atlantic (June 2020), “The only way for a poor person to find out whether he-she has Corona is to sneeze in a rich person’s face.”

Another study, in the July 2019 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, shows how being wealthy can lead to harmful psychological behaviors and personal habits. Its authors found that individuals from affluent backgrounds would often deny their class privilege by “increasing their claims of personal hardships and hard work, to cover [their] privilege in a veneer of meritocracy.” Evidence of privilege “threatens recipients’ self-regard by calling into question whether they deserve their successes,” the authors wrote. “Evidence of class privilege demonstrates that many life outcomes are determined by factors not attributable to individuals’ efforts alone, but are caused in part by systemic inequities that privilege some over others.” As Herbert says: “The Rich knows not who is his friend.”

In the June 2019 Nature Communications, another study argued that consumption patterns of the affluent are so egregiously unsustainable that only a concerted effort by the wealthy to consume less can prevent catastrophes like global warming, pollution and biodiversity loss. The world’s top 10% of income earners cause between 25% and 43% of environmental impact, while the world’s bottom 10% of income earners exert around 3% to 5%. By inciting “consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive markets,” wealthy societies, economies and cultures “inhibit necessary societal change.” The authors advocate “a global and rapid decoupling of detrimental impacts from economic activity.”

Human brains seem to be full of iron filings that get magnetized by powerful and rich people. The masses follow, pay obeisance, even heap adulation on the wealthy and powerful – until they become disgusted, demagnetize, and go in search of new attractors. While they are magnetized, humans allow the wealthy and powerful to think their money and its power can perpetually protect them from accountability. When demagnetized, however, humans can explode into revolutions and civil wars – the worst ways to hold leaders accountable. So we’re begging two questions here: how to manage money, and how to manage change without revolution.

What is money? It’s not the root of all evil. It isn’t moral or immoral. It’s amoral. And we know that the more that money gets spread around, the less evil gets done.

Money is a medium of exchange. It flows through our dynamic society as we exchange it for goods and services, pay bills and save for “rainy days” and retirement. It provides the power to get food, clothing and shelter; to buy land for hunting and growing food; the power to isolate and hire private security to protect yourself and those you favor from those you don’t. It’s bestows power to protect from environmental, legal and political harm; to buy materiel and invest in enterprises; and to pay or force people to do your bidding.

We know money has no intrinsic value. It can’t be eaten, drunk or planted, fashioned into clothing or shelter, or used to make babies. It can’t express non-monetary values, such as health, family, community, education, leisure or faith. And its buying power changes with supply and demand, and levels of enterprise.

But where we spend money tells us what’s important to us. The world’s economic systems have helped smooth out the distribution of world resources and opportunities, so food, water, shelter, health care and mobility have never been more widely accessible. But we funnel too much to the top of the wealth and power heaps, too much to the military, and waste too much. The distribution of resources and money is still inequitable. The power elite controlling those systems are mostly unaccountable. And it has ever been this way, though we thought America and Western democracies would be exceptions. We’ve let them suck the money out of America, so our infrastructure and institutions are crumbling. Throughout history, unaccountable and ruthless leaders have brought empires down – from Persia and Rome to Spain, the Ottomans and maybe now, the USA.

How would the world look without money? It could be made up of hunter-gatherer societies. They’re self-sufficient, independent, and environmentally sound. But that only works for small bands of humans on a wide-open planet. And it requires huge amounts of time and labor to secure food, make clothing and shelter, raise young, tend domestic animals and migrate. And humanity today has leapt far away from there:

(1) Trading has evolved beyond the local tribe, into regional and transcontinental commerce – between kingdoms, city states and empires. We had to create new means of pricing and trading, where a product or service couldn’t be offered for barter. So we invented “money” to represent the values of all the quantities of items we trade — from livestock and artifacts, to precious stones and metals.
(2) We’re perennially unwilling to part with money, even as all our religions and charities ask us to give it away for the common good. But we’re driven by fears of scarcity.
(3) We’ve made it possible to make money on money, through “debt instruments” (e.g., mortgages, stocks, bonds), creating new mediums of exchange (e.g., platinum, taxes, carbon credits), and serving as transfer agents for money, goods and services. This ability has enabled money manipulators to repeatedly torpedo world economies,
(4) Amassing exchange mediums can make us comfortable and even powerful. It has spawned monumental deceits and mayhem, and prodigious catastrophes for societies and ecosystems. It has also spawned endless legal and taxation efforts to reign in hoarders and manipulators, and re-distribute their wealth.

So, how can we manage change without civil war or revolution?

If today’s “golden rule” is, “Those with the gold make the rules,” we must install as our leaders those with gold, or those immune to its attraction, who live by the master & servant mentality. Then urge or force them to create smarter structures for holding leaders accountable, and managing the flow of money. We got ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out of it.

There are basics:
• Enforce and create structures to hold the wealthy and powerful accountable
• Redistribute wealth, so infrastructure and basic services can be funded, and opportunities created for all Americans
• Stop calling money “speech.” It’s an exchange medium. In politics, its flow must be equitably managed
• Stop calling corporations “people.” They’re business entities. If they don’t live up to the principles in their charters, chartering authorities must dissolve them
• Amend laws governing lending, education and living spaces so they apply equitably to all Americans
• Account for the value of our environment on our economies’ books. Nature produces more than $55 trillion in benefits and savings for us every year. Take note.

COVID-19 has helped speed our society toward running cashless. Can we go money-less? Can we create a national barter and exchange system, rather like carbon credit trading, using current financial and accounting frameworks? Could we manage it through national syndicates or utilities, so resources, goods and services would be consumed, offered and traded first locally, then regionally, nationally, and internationally? The system would boost local self-reliance, and free us to innovate and create opportunities, without agonizing over what we could afford. It would change the natures of “fortunes”, “wealth” and “riches,” but we’d all stay well-fed and healthy. And we’d judge each based on our contributions, not our money.

Naw, that wouldn’t work. Accomplishing the basics list above will be enough of a shock to our systems. Maybe once things settle out from that, we can re-imagine ways to structure money and commercial exchange.

So keep the faith. The rich and powerful, and those less so can ascribe their successes to a Deity or any other factors. It’s important to know there’s something bigger than us in the world. But the Constitution’s First Amendment says no matter how rich or powerful you are, you can’t impose your faith on or through the U.S. government. “Church” and state must stay separate.

And as the 2020 sun appears to set on partisan and disastrous local, state and national Republican administrations, we can take heart from the prescient George Herbert: “He that trusts in a lie, shall perish in truth.” Let’s get ready to live in reality, as the new era dawns.