Category Archives: democracy at risk

Moral Irony

As a moral statement I have chosen to quit using big social media and big tech. The irony is that my tiny boycott against the bigs costs only me.

I have closed all my social media accounts in part because:

  • they spread disinformation and lies for immense profit,
  • they are purposefully addictive (the above works),
  • they are economically way too big and suppress vital competition,
  • they are politically biased (the right embraces lying and conspiracy much more than the left), and
  • they cause great anxiety.

It is ironic that without social media I have no platform to voice my stance. I have less than a handful of followers on this otherwise nifty blog and website. If I want more followers I am advised that I have to use social media to get them.

What you do is important to the cosmos.
What you do and think affects the Cosmos.

It also costs me money to be virtuous. Particularly regarding big tech. Books for instance, of which I buy many, cost more and take longer to get here when I don’t use Amazon. It takes longer and costs more to go to the hardware store for almost anything. Camera supplies and equipment costs more and do not just show up on my step. Supporting and subscribing to print media is expensive.

But if you ask me if it is worth several hundred dollars a year or so along with more time to shop locally my quick reaction is sure. That does not sound like all too much. As a guy who retired too young, and then personally financed Torrey House Press for too long (another moral cause), I don’t have money to spare but I will vote with what I have and spend it locally anyway.

I have to look myself in the mirror even if no one else can see me. Yet, like the falling tree in the forest, am I being moral if no one hears me? If I am merely holding my ground with a small voice in a big void, is that not enough?

The GOP – Liars and Deniers

Utah is turning blue.

Most Republicans, particularly in Utah, have locked themselves inseparably to Trump. I can remember as far back as the 90’s that as a businessman I was disgusted by Trump. He made business people look bad by calling himself one. I have long been a fan of political scientist Fareed Zakaria and completely agreed with him that Trump’s sole qualification for president was that he was a bullshit artist. Now, after suffering as a patriot and American with that conman mobster as president, I believe Trump is the most despicable, immoral person, public or otherwise, that I know of. And Utah Republicans can’t get enough of him. It is costing them.

Contagious thief without a mask. He lies that the Supreme Court rushed appointment is not about politics.

In the Salt Lake Tribune today there is a long article about how many Republicans, particularly in Utah County, refuse to be tested for COVID-19 or to wear a mask. Mike Lee, who inexplicably has finagled his way to the eminent job of U.S. Senator, tested positive to COVID-19 just over a week ago and now is at the rushed hearing to pack the Supreme Court, in person, without a mask. Lee is from Utah County. I don’t know how or why not wearing a mask is allowed by the Republican Senate, particularly for an infected person, but I expect negative consequences for their gross neglect – for Republicans.

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What is the next move?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. It is a fantastic loss to the country. The timing of her loss, of course, could be catastrophic. Evil is often fortunate.

There is no bottom for Republican senators. They will use Republican State AG’s to contest the election, appoint a radical right justice, and decide at the now corrupt Supreme Court to appoint Trump no matter what the legitimate vote count. A power hungry, racist minority will rule and democracy will be dead in the U.S.

How can we counter such a cynical ploy? Will marching in the street be enough?

Butterfly wings and change

It is obvious that one butterfly flapping its wings somewhere on the planet is not going to change the weather. Such a thing is the proverbial gnat fart in a hurricane. That is how I feel when it comes to boycotting the big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google.  What is my tiny effort going to do against their immense wealth and power?

But their immense wealth and power is the problem. Amazon is choking out America’s bookstores, publishers and retailers. Yes, they make lower prices for consumers but thinkers like writer, attorney and professor at Columbia Law School Tim Wu and Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, know that there is more to the dangers of monopoly power than price. This old investment professional is worried that there are only about half as many public small-cap companies as there were twenty years ago. I am worried that Google and Facebook are almost completely choking out journalism and the democratically critical Fourth Estate. Economy like ecology like democracy requires diversity to thrive and survive. We are starting to recognize that all this free and cheap internet service like Google, Facebook and Amazon offer is actually very expensive and diminishing. Continue reading

We are serfs

Screenshot_2020-07-15 iShares Core S P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) Stock Price, Quote, History News - Yahoo Finance

This year-to-date stock index performance chart exemplifies a key aspect to the illness in our country. IXIC is the NASDAQ which is primarily influenced by the household name big tech stocks. SPY is the S&P 500. IJR is a small-cap index. Year-to-date the NASDAQ is up 17 percent, the S&P 500 is flat, and small stocks are down 17%. That is a crazy gap.

The big tech stocks in the NASDAQ, like Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft are the mega corporations that are wrecking Main Street and its mom and pop retail, that are decimating newspapers and journalism, that are publishing the Russian bots and creating the echo chambers of hate and divide that brings the U.S. to the brink of civil war. It is their massive, mountainous, tectonic market capitalizations that give to the large techs corrupt Citizens United power with assets greater than most countries and our nation’s steering wheel to the oligarchs that own most of their stock.

In my investment management career (ending with the previous century) we talked about performance gaps in basis points. A hundred basis points is one percent. A performance gap of say 80 basis points was notable. No one ever talked about six month gaps of 3,700 basis points. Such a thing never happened. (Today is a good day for small-cap stocks. It was more like 4,000 basis points yesterday.)

If this gap doesn’t close we are all serfs. Ill informed serfs. Chained to our phones, mind numb, and poor. Serfs to un-democratic corporations. Mere zombie consumers to be played.

I post this as a reminder to myself to back off of social media, to buy local, to read print and support my local newspapers. To support Torrey House Press and the power of story to change culture. And vote Democratic like our soul depends on it.

In spite of Trump, the COVID-19 curve is being flattened. And Trump will be re-elected.

Republicans will successfully frame and spin the relatively benign outcome.

Trump, who rarely speaks truth, is right when he says there are a lot of deaths every year from the flu. This season the Center of Disease Control estimates that, as of mid-March, between 29,000 and 59,000 have died due to influenza illnesses. Globally the World Health Organization estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. In comparison, as of April 8, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington forecasts there will be 60,000 deaths caused by (the first wave of ?) the COVID disease in the U.S. In Utah there are 13 deaths so far. Experiencing no more additional deaths than occur in a flu season will be a sort of success compared to how bad it might have been. It will be much worse than necessary, yet Democrats will fail to frame it as such. Continue reading

How Biden could be America’s best prez ever

I am hopeful and confident that Joe Biden can and will win the election this fall. I am gratified he has indicated he will choose a female vice-president. I am concerned, however, at Joe’s age. At almost 64 years old myself, I am not anti-geezer, but Joe will be 82 by a second term and that is getting just too old for the demands of the highest office in the land.

Image result for kamala harris with joe biden

How to gain the first female president.

My wife, Kirsten Johanna Allen, has a great idea that I have not otherwise heard being bantered about. Joe could guide the country through recovery of both our health and wealth for three years and then resign making, say, Kamala Harris president and putting her in place to run in the next election as the incumbent.

In this era of pandemic, with local earthquakes thrown in, the thought almost makes me optimistic. We may just save our democracy yet.

Republicans are Going for Democracy’s Jugular

Trump wants to be the last American president. U.S Attorney General William Barr is paving the way. Republican legislators are all in. For Republicans it is all about power, democracy be damned.

Trump, however, is so unpopular the only way he can win is if Sanders is the Democratic candidate. Sanders is a spoiler, it’s all he has ever been. It is not the time to quibble but to put forward the Democratic candidate most likely to win. If we don’t win now we won’t have a democracy to fight over and improve. The issue is not a progressive agenda but democracy itself. And, thanks to Trump, the opposition to democracy will be fierce.

Image result for michael bloomberg with sierra club
Michael Bloomberg with Sierra Club’s Carl Pope

Bloomberg is by far the most organized, capable, uber-financed candidate who can and would win. He will fight fire with fire, gloves off all the way. He is our best hope. As bespeaks his character, if Bloomberg does not win the Democratic Party nomination, he will still use his vast wealth to fight Trump anyway. I like that he is a proven conservationist, but at this point that is only icing on the cake.

And imagine this: a Michael Bloomberg / Stacey Abrams ticket.

I will be searching for how best for we conservation peons to support Michael Bloomberg.

Defying Trump II

I remember pondering in my excellent high school civics class whether something like Nazism could happen here. The common wisdom and a pervading sense of pride and patriotism was that it could not. But the Germans I knew all seemed like good people. And smart. I look back those forty plus years and give myself credit. With trepidation I thought, sure, it could probably happen here, too.

Sadly, here we are, our constitutional democracy is crumbling under a relentless assault. Republicans today are failing in a similar manner to how decent Germans failed in the 1930’s.

I wrote on these pages after the 2016 election of my three legged plan to defy Trump.  I set out to:

  1. Publish books with progressive ideas promoting love of the land
  2. Promote and support women in leadership
  3. Build a blue oasis in a red, red state

I am doing pretty well on all three. Torrey House Press is having a record year and is building a terrific staff to keep expanding its impact. I plan on raising a cool $1 million to help them further build capacity. The board, besides me, is all women and so is the staff. And to a small but hopefully useful extent I levered my observatory to help the town of Torrey, Utah become an International Dark Association certified dark sky community.

I want to do more.

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