Pardon Me, Which Way is Backward?”

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Been quiet on the Jersey shorefront lately. As a faithful fighter for the progressive cause, I’m witness to the same unfolding madness as all of you. We’ve now arrived at, and in relatively short order, an incredible confluence of events. Let’s unpack the largest calamities while also highlighting the noisemakers that distract.

The man in the White House, dis-affectionately Mr. Drumpf, carnival barks to his loyal followers. All unfavorable news is a sham, climate science is a Chinese head fake and he, Drumpf, is victim of such hatred because he’s so damn rich, famous, and well-endowed (hands check, please).

Hillary haters, stay united! Who cares the election was 4-months ago? That campaign was fun! And while we’re at it, all you faithful GOP-ers line up & shut up. Your chance to kiss the ring awaits, but first, show me your obedience. Start with a Fox News interview.

Nearly forgotten are the 2 attempts at legalized discrimination disguised as Executive Orders, a.k.a. The Muslim Ban. Cheers to our federal courts, the one leg of the governmental trilogy that seems firm. The “America first” fakery is called out for its blatant truth: RACISM. So far, we’ve dodged a bullet to the heart of what it means to be the United States of America. Sadly and angrily, we cannot say the same for the plight of individuals, heroes and families trying to escape violence. To music I turn. TY RZA.

The AHCA, also known as TrumpCare or Ryan’s ticket to hell, crashed and burned. From this legislative embarrassment squeaks a hint of good news. America is unwilling to sign up for a plan that blatantly injures the weak while enriching the wealthy. Good on you, America, even the ignorant Drumpf voter gave this idea the heave-ho. TY Jared Bernstein for your take on this trump-ian failure.

Russia, say what? Ignore the blaring signals of collusion. Please, pay no attention to Sauron’s soldiers – names like Flynn, Manafort, Page, Sessions, and now, Kushner – who ploy direct links (and recorded conversations) to various and sundry oligarchs, spies, and ambassadors of Russian borscht. Drumpf leaks now a running stream, pee-like. Turncoats line up at Rep Adam Schiff’s door; take a number.

Drumpf family hubris in a single thought: One by one, they have each confirmed their first-class seat on the speedboat that’s soon to crash on the shores of Guantanamo.

But these are NOT the reasons I write. Nearly sixty days since my last post, my fingers alight over Drumpf’s shamelessly titled, “Energy Independence” executive order. This EO takes direct aim at President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). EPA chief and chief knuckle-dragger Scott Pruitt is now in charge of dismantling, withdrawing, and rewriting the policies of CPP.

From the largest ISS (that’s International Space Station…) peripheral overview, climate is intrinsically linked with the animal and plant world. And for millennia, species-human ruled the land, sea and air. We, collectively, extracted as we pleased. Mama Nature periodically bit back, but never enough to curtail our taking trends.

Over the past few decades, the scales have tipped toward Her. She’s had enough, wants to kick our whiny little asses out to pasture, into extinction. And she can, as she persists.

Drumpf continues to hoodwink the GOP base, while the top 5% of our country (who voted red) are “all-in” on the con. UNDERSTAND THAT HE, AND HIS PROFIT-PIGS AND NIHILISTS, care not a lick about you, me, or the climate. Money and power are their ONLY goal: take more, give less. Your health, wealth, fresh air & clean water get the wink & nod. All the world, and the majority of Americans, know this.

So, what are we – Progressive USA – gonna do about it? Thanks to a number of leaders in Washington D.C., shout-outs to Representative Adam Schiff, my new heroine Sally Yates, and the stalwart media voice of Rachel Maddow, the underpinnings of redirecting our country are taking hold.

And for a serious environmental and climate shout-out, look no further than EnviroNews. They have got our backs, with investigative reporting that calls out the killers and polluters embedded in politics and business.

With each passing day, things are going to get exponentially more difficult before the ship is righted, or “left-ed.” Ya, I’m not looking to give a lick of literal credit to any red-sniveling fool.

Let’s get to work.

‘Nuff said.

Photo credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

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Trump Inaugurates the End of W.M.D.

img_1972Say it with me people, the end of White Male Dominance is nigh. To me, this is our goal. Thanks to #theDTs 60+ million voters – the minority electorate – we ignited a trumpster fire at high noon on the Capitol steps today. Only one way to go from here. Tomorrow, we flip the switch, march and resist, turn the lights on to a new beginning.

It’s going to take some work, and will include a few interim steps backward. Genuine progress is a long-term struggle. Make no mistake, the fight before us is the 21st Century’s version of the Civil Rights movement. Make no mistake, a majority of that trump minority will awaken to their horrendous choice. I’m thinking by the 4th of July 2017. No one can ever state that progress is easy. We just made it exponentially more difficult.

I’ve quietly understood for many years that, between the male and female sexes, the true dominant force is woman. The giver of life, there is no ‘he’ without the ‘she.’ Sure, men deliver seed. Yet, having witnessed the delivery of my children onto this planet, I will forever stand in awe. Sorry, fellas, we need to hand over the keys.

I’ve also studied a few history books, enjoyed a wide range of fiction, non-fiction, and biography, where the narrative and inflection scream patriarchy. At some point, we must close that chapter on our human story. The male sex needs to accept their notch-down status and take a backseat. Trump and his pending board of directors only reinforce my belief. Their billions will be no match for what’s coming. Mother Nature is our ultimate creditor. And we ignore this empirical truth at the peril of our species.

Specifically, the white male dominance (again, W.M.D.) that propagates our American culture must be shrunk from power. For 350 years “they” have had their chance, and they blew it, bigly, ravenously, and murderously. I’m comfortable stating the obvious, because I am begotten of them. I’m holding up the mirror of responsibility. We blew it. Behind the whitewashed story of our nation’s history are whole populations eviscerated, women and children subjugated, and fellow humans of black, red, brown and yellow skin enslaved. Just follow the money, and one will find white male as the power source of suffering.

This. Must. End. And the first step to change is awareness. So, here I am, raising the white flag, for both the woke men ready to yield and the knuckle-draggers clinging to their final false vestiges of power.

It is time for our female warriors to step up, step into, the reign of power. Imagine intuition, smarts and savvy, empathy, fairness and wellbeing as our modus operandi. Imagine conversation and negotiation supplanting guns and the flexing of military braggadocio. Imagine sunlight and relentless wind as our Energy provider. Imagine broccoli over burgers.

And finally, imagine “real men” supporting this new paradigm. Imagine us dudes standing tall, en masse, with our feminine leaders. “Yes, we can” are words of infamy, only recently unfurled upon the American saga. I say we carry them forward and make them ours. Guys, this is our opportunity to truly be great.

‘Nuff said.

High Tide and High Time

The beach in winter is solitude perfect, an opportunity to discover and recognize one’s immense smallness. My largest thoughts will never hold a candle to the Atlantic’s majesty. And I’m a man who knows big thinking – my life goals – which, like the oceans, both humble and sustain me as I forever forge ahead.

My best big thinking pales in comparison to the ideals of another great one – a man like few we’ve ever known. Today we celebrate the limitless legacy of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. I was only 8 years old on the day of his assassination. Yet his message of empowerment, hope, fairness and the relentless pursuit of justice will forever ring true. I am honored to bow to his greatness.

This off-season, my fourth on Jersey’s coast, I time my beach sojourn with low tide. An additional 40 yards of firm sand delivers my imagination beyond the break, where I, too, walk on water. Oftentimes a long lake forms, moat-like, on the shoreline. In Fall and Spring, I wade through, chilling my toes and calves. But Winter is thick-socked and booted, so I must stay ashore until I come upon a narrow rise in the sandy bottom. My entry to the beyond deepens my oceanic bond. Intentions and exaltations rejuvenate, it’s impossible to stay low.

Reality returns quickly, though. My dreams intact, my heart strong, I do battle with the human detritus that relentlessly assaults our oceans. Plastic bag at the ready which, of course, I find on the beach, I walk the high tide mark – mama nature’s rampart. I collect plastic shreds and Styrofoam wedges wind-blown from a thousand garbage cans. I gather bottles and cans that somehow missed the recycle bin, wave-strewn and rejected by the tides. Within a mile of walking, my two arms and ten fingers are weighed down. It’s a solo endeavor, one I take pride in, to actively participate in protecting Her from us.

It’s high time that we devote our mindsets to cleanup and conservation. Land and sea has given our species much, yet we continually strive to take more. We collectively suck her dry, and the day will come when Mother Nature says, “ENOUGH!” Until we reverse the leveraging of earth’s resources, and become protectors all, our species’ survival is on a countdown. Earth will live on and thrive without us, after She swats us away like an annoying cluster of gnats.

‘Nuff said.

 

Who Ya Gonna Call in Hoosick Falls?

14666135030_9b5ba88c80_zHere’s an update to my November post, Not My Tap:

 

 

The residents of Hoosick Falls, NY and the surrounding region might soon have no one to call, not even ghostbusters. While the decision on a federal class action law suit is pending, a settlement agreement between the town and the poisoners is on the table. And it’s not friendly. Thanks to Brendan J. Lyons (@brendan_lyonstu) for great reporting throughout the ordeal.

This is not a national story, but it is a local calamity oft-repeated around the country. Companies are forced to defend their existence and profits, while the little man suffers ill health, premature death, or financial ruin without recourse. In the middle are politicians, state and federal regulators, and corporate soldiers following orders. Alas, it is a story well-worn, beaten down.

And it’s a scenario that is NOT going away any time soon, possibly coming to your neighborhood, if not already gurgling in your water supply. So, pay attention.

A few years ago, lethally high levels of PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) were found to have contaminated the water supply of Hoosick Falls, a sleepy hamlet 30-miles north of Albany. The culprit was a local factory that provided decades of good jobs and economic stability, as a manufacturer of Teflon-coated cookware and other plastics. Unfortunately, we all know where this story goes. Only after billions of pots, pans and spatulas are sold do we learn that PFOA will kill you. Slowly.

It’s critical to point out that this discovery came at the hand of a local citizen – not the county or state DEP, not the EPA – who lost his father to cancer. He sent a water sample to an independent lab. And BAM!

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs seek unspecified damages to pay for early detection monitoring, primarily blood tests, as well as the future costs of illness linked to the water contamination. Already dozens of people, including children, have tested positive for toxic levels of PFOA in their bloodstreams. Additionally, the plaintiffs seek monetary compensation for their severely diminished property values. Considering that local banks have suspended issuing home mortgages, and the EPA has recently designated a number of locations in the region, including the factory, as Superfund sites, I would say that beef is legitimate, too.

The defendants in this case, Saint Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell, Inc., seek a dismissal of the case altogether, mainly on the strength of legal-ese. Distinguishing between the legal definition of “exposure” and “injury” will likely determine how the health risk portion of the suit is decided. Under current NY State law, companies are only responsible to pay for damages caused by injury. As for property values, the argument from the defense relies on the fact that PFOA does not cause physical harm to “wells, pipes, taps, or showerheads.” Sure, they got that going for them.

Notice how there is NO ARGUMENT that PFOA has infiltrated the bodies and homes of the plaintiffs. Isn’t that kind of like saying, “tough shit, Hoosick Falls, you’re on your own?”

It’s safe to believe that a decision favorable to the plaintiffs could run in the millions, if not tens of millions of dollars. Sounds about right, possibly even fair. Well, keep your eyes in their eye sockets, the defendants have offered to settle for $850,000. And part of this agreement includes no future legal recourse from the plaintiffs.

Not far from all sides of this human debacle lingers state regulators, politicians, and the EPA. The finger of blame is being pointed in multiple directions, with “not my fault” as the supportive argument. It’s a timeless defense. Reminds me of when I was a kid, no more than 8 years old. My best buddy and I got nabbed for “leaking” non-potable fluids in the backyard. And when his mom asked me, “Why’d you do that?” I only had one response, repeated multiple times, “well, Chris did it, too.” Deflect blame to escape responsibility.

At the end of the day, where does this leave the harmed citizens of Hoosick, today or 30-years from now? Let’s assume that they do not agree to the settlement. Even if the judge rules for the plaintiffs, unending appeals can delay or drastically shrink the final damages (see Exxon, Chris Christie, and NJ). Meanwhile, human beings will suffer, either with actual sickness, or the outsized fear of developing cancer hovering over their daily lives.

Let me be clear. Are you ready to find out, decades after the fact, that your water supply is poisoned?  The unfortunate truth is this, too, could be you. Overnight, kiss goodbye the value of home and property. Wonder and worry about your health, or the wellbeing of your loved ones. Every sniffle will send a cancer shiver down your spine.

I cannot pronounce this more urgently: LEARN where your water comes from, what’s in it, and who is responsible for its quality and delivery. INVEST in water filtration, or start a petition in your neighborhood to promote the crazy idea that filters must be distributed by your water treatment provider. Do something, be proactive. The sad truth is we must fight to protect our water and our health. Delay or ignore is now at your own peril.

‘Nuff said.

Photo credit: iLoveMountains.org

2017: Sink or Swim

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My dear friends, I believe our forward path is that simple. We either sink into oblivion, or swim together to safe, smart, progressive shores. I believe #theDTs and #climatechange are the two most significant issues we face. Many others I hold dear, but they wither away, as do we, if we don’t STOP #PEOTUS and START addressing global warming.

My trump-lover acquaintances will bloviate, “c’mon dude, give the guy a chance.” Sorry, can’t. Not after learning his nominations for the U.S. Board of Directors. At EVERY level – Education, Environment, Energy, Health, Justice, Labor, State, Treasury, to name eight – the trump-ian kleptocracy can and will take hold, and we lose.

To quadruple down on the bad news, our climate has been screaming at us for years. The national consciousness has collectively responded with a sigh (and snowballs in Congress) to the severity and consistency of catastrophic storms. Our new normal is to wonder “how bad is it gonna be this year?” Let’s query the folks of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, or Toms River, NJ, or Fort McMurray in Alberta, or Joplin, MO. And guaranteed that many from these neighborhoods voted red. It’s more important to believe a frothing hair monster that “he alone…blah, blah, blah.” Makes me sick.

Exhale. Reboot to #hope and #change. I strongly suggest learning about our climate, it’s more than the 5-day weather forecast. And I vehemently recommend this interview posted today in Scientific American. Annie Sneed (@aisneed) asks incisive questions of Friederike Otto (@FrediOtto) about the growing field of “attribution science.” Until about 2-hours ago, I hadn’t heard of this discipline. Doesn’t make me a loser, and now I’m more informed.

Another doozy of a wakeup call comes from the mouth of Noam Chomsky. Have a read or a listen to his speech and the discussion with the unshakeable Amy Goodman of @democracynow.

I guess my biggest suggestions, no, I’m begging you, to please learn something today, then do something about what you’ve learned.  I do this all the time, and it feels good. And yes, I will continue to pick up other people’s garbage on my beach walks. It’s no longer gross; in fact, it’s gross to not keep manmade crap out of the ocean. Better in my hands than in the Atlantic, or a seagull’s gullet.

I’ll close today’s post with the prophetic 1964 lyrics of Bob Dylan:

“…and admit that the waters around you have grown / And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone / If your time to you is worth savin’ / then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone…”

‘Nuff said.

Photo Credit: Gillfoto, “Mendenhall Glacier Melting,” March 3, 2014 https://www.flickr.com/photos/gillfoto/

What He Said, Say What?

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A friend of mine works for the public utilities in my county. He commented on one of my recent blog posts, paraphrasing, “Dude, until folks get over the desire for the perfect green lawn, washed & buffed car, or flushing old meds, our water is gonna suck.”

I said, “Say what?” And of course, I then hunkered down for some research.

Hats off to Neil. And I love learning new terminology. Today’s goal: WATER IS NOT BORING. Give me your eyeballs for 3-minutes and 400-words, I promise you will come away water-smarter.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, our focus on water and air pollution was for the most part non- existent. Global population was low, and the majority of humans lived in accordance and alignment with Nature’s bounty. Not too much taking going on. Ah, the good ol’ days, but for war, rape, pillage, disease, slavery, indigenous annihilation, we enjoyed a good earthly gig with seemingly endless supplies of stuff.

As we continued to explode and modernize our position on the planet, the balance started tilting. This tilt has never really re-balanced…at all. And Mama Nature is giving us the high sign. Enough. We as a species are now at a tipping point. And I guarantee you, if we do not engage change, on the commercial, industrial AND individual levels, Earth wins. And we’re T-Rex toast.

First, learn something new. Second, think change. Third, do it.

Here are a few non-scientific terms to discover. I suggest you go deep on these, but I’ll give it to you in 2 bullet points:

  1. Point-source pollution. Think Exxon Valdez or air quality in Beijing or the Gold King Mine. If you haven’t seen images or video of this type of large-scale DIRECT pollution into our oceans, air and rivers, I suggest moving out from under that rock.
  2. Non-point source pollution. The indirect polluting of our surface water and groundwater occurs in tiny doses, over long periods of time, at the hands of millions. That’s you and me. For example, what’s in your shampoo, or cosmetics case, or lawn fertilizer?

Every time it rains or snows, every time we shower or flush, we are adding to non-point source pollution. Think about that for a minute. Notice the website I hyperlink to is from 2002, yet its message remains both prevalent and under-reported. Collectively, we are choking our waters. It’s a slow death, and we’re doing it to ourselves.

I hope I caught your attention, enough to start 2017 with a review of daily routines. Awareness is the key to change. And we need to make some changes.

‘Nuff said.

Photo Credit: “non-point source pollution in Florida,” taken 7.31.2009                               NOAA National Ocean Service’s photo stream https://www.flickr.com/photos/usoceangov/

People Get Ready: Private Profit and The Greater Good

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Can you feel it? Start humming The Impressions 1965 classic, and read on.

“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’”

During my 23-year Wall St career, muni bonds and money markets were known as the staid and steady-eddy divisions of investment banks. We underwrote, sold and traded debt securities to the investor public. This non-exotic system of finance provided cash liquidity to municipalities (and utilities, corporations), which ultimately flushed the toilets and turned on the lights for everyone. Considered a low-risk profit generator, the investment banks nobly served the greater good, with only periodic news flashes of sticky fingers scheming an extra buck.

Sounds almost George Bailey-ian, but my memory is pretty clear. And so is my conscience.

Infrastructure has surged in possibility since 8 November. Suddenly, red and blue politicians are pontificating the need to rebuild the American crumble, the disgusting and feckless 8-year GOP obstruction notwithstanding. NYT journalists Danielle Ivory, Ben Protess and Griff Palmer wrote a great article, “In American Towns, Private Profits From Public Works,” and I highly suggest a thorough reading.

“You don’t need no baggage, just get on board.”

The 20-year estimates for infrastructure spending range from $600 billion to $1 trillion. Those numbers undoubtedly attract the big players of finance, including private equity. Now I believe in the capital markets. I believe in the kinds of investments that support job creation, build things, and deliver results other than the mathematically engineered. We have two sides to an equation that could possibly generate a mutually beneficial outcome.

“All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’”

Problems to this money supply vs. municipal need ratio can and do develop. Most often it’s a very human condition that causes difficulty. Greed vs. Trust. On the one hand are the motivations of the money providers. The insatiable demand for profit is typically hard-wired into the brain of a financier. More is better, so always get more. Our system of law promotes and protects this for-profit behavior. Buyer beware, believe me! On the other hand, municipalities struggle under the weight of faulty planning, insufficient revenue streams, and century-old water mains. And the chances are low that a municipal manager has the financial savvy to understand the finely-tuned language and long-term ramifications of a deal. It’s easier to trust the man or woman in the pinstriped suit, kind of like clicking “Accept” to the terms and conditions of any software upgrade.

“You don’t need no ticket you just thank the Lord.”

Granted, new infrastructure is a positive result. But at what cost, and to whom goes the weighty bulk of these costs? The “C.O.D.B.” often reveals itself years later. Some people (the dealmakers) make a lot of money, and move on to the next deal. And some people (Joe taxpayer) will be foreclosed upon for missing a $500 quarterly payment to the private company managing their water treatment plant.

“The greater good” takes a backseat to short-term profit making in today’s capital markets. It’s the sharks vs. the guppies, the American way. And beginning 20 January 2017, it’s the Trump-ian way. Watch out, losers! #theDTs train is rolling into town.

But I say, DO NOT GIVE UP! The fight is on and awareness is the key. Hope lies in a variety of corners of the financial world. The best example is the premise of the Beneficial Corporation, or “B Corp,” which is a growing platform of companies that adhere to a strictly monitored triple bottom line: generate profit, benefit the environment and create positive social impact. Imagine the possibilities!

‘Nuff Said.

Photo Credit: https://goo.gl/images/ylOKGp