Updates from July, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • hardie karges 7:33 pm on July 29, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: green mutual funds, Portfolio 21, US Bank, Winslow Green Fund   

    ALL GREEN FUNDS AIN’T SO GREEN 

    So maybe you grew up in the sixties and came of age in the seventies. If so then maybe you saw all the immoral destruction and violence that the sixties brought and found it hard to reconcile with all the optimism and hope that you were instilled with in childhood. Maybe you even joined the ‘counter-culture’ in order to work for those constitutional ideals that seemed so lost under a veil of hypocrisy and the exigencies of war, ends supposedly justifying means. Then the seventies came along and the end of the war brought an end to the violence, but it brought no end to the quest for ideals, ethics and morality. The generation that once had ‘taken it to the streets’ was now taking it back to the land, growing it organic and building it green, self-sufficient and socially responsible. The generation gap narrowed as young people skipped a generation to find out what their grandfathers knew, before it was too late. Riots and protests and hard rock and hard drugs gave way to Earth day and crafts fairs and bluegrass festivals and homebrew. The hope and the optimism and the joy came back into everyday American life.

    Much water has passed under the bridge since the sixties and seventies, but if you’re like me you never lost sight of the ideals that that era instilled in you, especially with respect (deep respect) to Nature and the ‘green’ way of life. Giant leaps in technology are not at odds whatsoever with that, if anything offering new possibilities for enhancing it, the ways and means of high civilization available without the smog and congestion of large cities. But meanwhile a new specter has spread over the horizon, runaway global climate change that threatens to undo all the advancements of civilization, destroying people and cultures in its wake. So you probably worked hard and sacrificed much, for your goals and the future. So maybe by now you’ve even been at least moderately successful, have a few bucks to spare and would like to invest in something and somebody who shares your goals and is working and putting money into industries that are clean, green, and not so mean. There are so many companies out there with so many different business plans and mission statements that are so much paper and hot air, how do you know who to trust and most importantly, where do you start? The answer to the first question remains uncertain, but the answer to the first seems easy- green funds.

    That’s what I thought at least. Let the green fund companies pick and choose among the winners and losers, applying criteria both socially and financially responsible in their mix and match of funds. So what if green funds score a point less than the others on bottom-line returns? That’s not the point that matters. The point that matters is DOING SOMETHING GOOD aka MAKING A DIFFERENCE aka SAVING THE PLANET. The kind of cowboy capitalism that has defined the American economy until recently is the problem, not the solution. I don’t want to lose money mind you, and as a small businessman for much of my life, I hold free enterprise sacred, but I’m looking for sustainable growth and development, not the kind of wild speculation that destroys lives and ways of life in its quest for a big bottom line. So last August (2008) I googled ‘green funds’ and eventually settled on Winslow Green Funds as a starter investment, as much because I could apply online as anything else, which suits my highly mobile, frequently international, lifestyle. Who knows what they’ll do anyway? You do the best you can, but ultimately you pay your money and take your chances.

    So no problem, right, I put the money in and watch it do a little dance of ups and downs but ultimately all’s well, right, gaining a few points in the long run? I wish. The first hint that something was wrong was when they asked for ‘proof of residence,’ required under the Patriot Act, they say. Well, they could have mentioned that beforehand, since I HAVE spent most of the last ten years in Thailand, but it shouldn’t be any problem since I continue to pay taxes, maintain an address, and use credit cards, etc., all in the US. But they’re real specific- they want a statement from my employer… or a utility bill. This would be a joke if it weren’t so real, laughable if it weren’t so insulting, excusable if it weren’t so stupid. I mean, do they really ask Bill Gates for this kind of information? I haven’t had an employer in over thirty years, though I’ve frequently BEEN one, and since I was subletting at the time had no utility bill in my name. I would assume many people don’t, since any multi-person household would likely have only one name on the bill. But this is a GREEN FUND, for Christ’s sake; aren’t we trying to get off the grid- with solar, wind, and renewable energy? I once lived five years in the woods without (public) utilities. Does that mean I have no right to invest? I should mention that I have many bank accounts and IRA’s and credit cards without any problem, ever.

    Nevertheless, I’m a nice guy and shy away from confrontation, so I decided to wait to see if a utility bill would be imminent, since my newly immigrated wife and I were trying out different situations at the time. When it became obvious that a utility bill would not be forthcoming, I finally responded to their request explaining that I couldn’t comply and asked that they either waive that particular requirement or allow me to convert the account to a SEP-IRA, of which I have many, or as a last resort, simply give me my money back, and forget the whole thing. They chose the latter option. There’s only one problem. In the meantime, the economy had crashed and my money was worth only some sixty cents on the dollar ON THE DAY THEY CLOSED THE ACCOUNT (a day of their choice, not mine). It seems they invest heavily in foreign currencies (what could be ‘greener’ than that?), and of course those were the first markets to go berserk when the economy crashed, rushing TO the dollar, which means that the Winslow so-called ‘green fund’ was speculating against the dollar. Nice guys, eh?

    First they hassle me to death and then ultimately steal some $3800 that I could really use. They’re “sorry for my loss” of course, but since they “acted in good faith,” see no compelling reason to return my money. But these are people just like me, right, people with families and mortgages? Surely something that calls itself a ‘green fund’ must be a co-operative or at least a credit union, right. No, it’s just another bank, looking at the bottom line. All subsequent communication after the initial application came from US Bank, the same bank behind Portfolio 21 and presumably many others so-called ‘green funds,’ using your money to speculate in the currency markets, something which can have profound- and frequently negative- impacts on developing countries and our own as well. The concepts of speculation and stability are mutually exclusive.

    Though admittedly a gray area, it was a gray area of Winslow’s own making, a problem waiting to happen. Nevertheless the only relevant date involved was the date of initial monetary transfer, not an arbitrary date chosen by them at which my account was at its lowest. So I guess the moral of the story is to be careful with whom you entrust your money and make sure that you know all the details in advance. Or better yet, forego the banks altogether and invest your money in organizations and businesses that directly help people and that engage in activities that are truly part of the solution to global warming and global hunger and global injustice, not just money manipulators pretending to care about the environment and social responsibility. That’s what I’m going to do from now on. For most banks, the color green is simply one thing- the color of money.

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  • hardie karges 8:10 am on July 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Fear of success paralyzes me in mid-step, 

    the thought that I might have to be on call to promote myself at any given moment or that I might have to give up my precious free-and-easy life-style. My life is running in reverse. At my age most men are starting to think about retirement, and getting desperate if they don’t have a nest egg already in the works. Many here in Thailand already are retired or semi-retired, a bar owner or something like that. That’s what I did when I was in my twenties, diddled and fiddled at this and that. Now I’m a reformed workaholic, still in therapy, trying to start a third career. Still true success is elusive, always just around the next corner. Maybe it’s better that way, like a karate kick going through a board rather than merely striking the surface. Maybe success is something better looked back on, than forward to, except as a call to action. Once you have to repeat your success on demand, then you start wondering what true success really is. You’re only as good as your latest work, or so say the pundits. They say lots of things. That’s rather myopic, I’d say, given that sometimes the times have to catch up to the work rather than vice versa. At the very least self-conscious expectations pretend to produce uniformity, not good work.

     
  • hardie karges 7:56 am on July 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    While violence plays in the background, 

    men play in the foreground, defined by their gaming instincts, defined by their undefinability. He follows herds across continents; he follows women across cities. He’s ready to get drunk without regard to reason. She’s ready to reproduce at the drop of underwear, the highest common denominator being the need to abstract. Don’t wallow in the concrete except to sign your initials in the sidewalk. Fame is the price of success, ego’s nemesis coming back to haunt even after the work is done. The lure of fame is a cancer on the face of America, melanoma from the sunlamp, the need for ego fulfillment beyond reasonable expectations. It’s a totally irresponsible situation. It takes some ego to get up in the morning, but it doesn’t have to keep you up all night. Even at its best, fame is fleeting. At its worst, it becomes a substitute for everything that nature used to provide. The most pathetic creature in the world is the man without family nor friends, profession nor place, just ego, to keep him warm on cold nights, to explain the world in all its mystery and complexity, to retro-fit the logic of an illogical world full of people who need it.

     
  • hardie karges 4:48 pm on July 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    The current ascendancy of technology may not be sustainable, 

    at least in its worldwide imperialist form. It’s a house of cards; it can all crumble with the stock market. What’s left would be fragmented at best. The new mysticism will be different from the old mysticism. Withdrawal into medieval Gothic feudal structures probably won’t occur again. Withdrawal into an Internet-based labyrinth of conspiracy and paranoia would be more appropriate. You’ve got to keep abreast. The so-called ‘New Age’ may already be the new mysticism in the making. It could be one of light and science, rather than darkness and ignorance. Remember that the last Dark Age was a heyday for religion, then the new kid on the block in a classical world of law and empire. When the dollar lets you down, you revert to gold. When science and its cities let you down, you revert to religion, mysticism, and the land.

     
  • hardie karges 4:09 pm on July 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Racism begins at home, 

    sins of the fathers handed down to the sons, the hatred concealed in memories, riders attached to appropriations that you can’t live without. We Westerners hate what we’re stuck with, but somehow can’t bring ourselves to love. We love ‘the Other’, the unknown quantity, the imaginary lover, abstractions to distraction. Sibling rivalry becomes team spirit becomes Oedipus in love, complex but clueless, just looking for work. Nationalism becomes racism to underwrite the logic of oppression, since it would be immoral to enslave your equals. Orientals love what they’re stuck with and hate what they don’t know, or what insists on distinction, including the other brother countries. All is domestic bliss, as long as you conform to the majority, but constant jockeying for position with other countries. Orientals would be the most racist people in the world if only they allowed other races. As it is, they settle for being the most nationalistic, a more enviable position. America is the melting pot that just won’t melt.

     
  • hardie karges 9:19 pm on July 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    A world of words awaits between the pages of experiments, 

    clean and pristine, unsullied by the sordid details of actual flesh and blood, meat and bone, lipstick and powder. You could get lost in there. There’s everything you need: love, war, mystery, drama, and climax, but without all the mess. Modern kids are missing the boat with their video games and its two-dimensional charms. Those are just caricatures of the real thing. Words are pure code; the virtual world can’t compete. Words are life’s shorthand, a shortcut to fulfillment. If you can just get it down on paper, then you hardly have to deal with the real world. Words are mathematical entities, machine language, numbers in disguise, magic formulas disguised as common graffiti.

     
  • hardie karges 3:23 pm on July 7, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    I should have said all that. I should’ve said that life is suffering and death is returning; 

    the world is illusion and your thoughts just confusion. I should’ve said that democracy is the worst of the good and the best of the bad, and you only love what you’ve never really had. I should’ve said to love your neighbor as yourself, and leave your heart up on the shelf. Be sure to turn the other cheek, and leave some spare change for the meek. I should’ve said that the sun was at the center and that the earth was not, that the earth was round and that stars were hot. I should have said ‘I think, therefore I am’, and it’s the clothes that make the man. I should’ve said that all objects fall in a vacuum at the same speed, but you’d be hard pressed to know that you weren’t actually accelerating instead. I should have said that species evolve and nature selects. I should’ve said that light, magnetism, and electricity were just different aspects of the same underlying force. I should’ve said that the more you know about the position of a particle in an atom, the less you know about its velocity, not that you’ll ever really know either, nor that it’s really in any specific place to even really know. I should have said that it ain’t over till it’s over, and that’s usually about the time the fat lady sings. I should’ve said that the smallest units of matter were actually multi-flavored quarks for Muster Mark, not the particles themselves, Hell-bent on destruction at the slightest crack in their armor or the slightest disruption in their traditional way of life. I should’ve said that light comes in discrete units, and that maybe love does, too. Hey, wait! I did say that. All the rest has already been said, for better or worse, after much thought and action. There’s no reason to wish I could say other people’s words or do other people’s work. All I know is what I can see in my own viewfinder. The harder I look, the fuzzier it gets. That’s the human uncertainty principle. Relax and enjoy the ride.

     
  • hardie karges 10:49 am on July 6, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    I’ve spent time with women behind bars, 

    prisons of relativity, inertial frames of reference, cell doors that swing both ways, impossible to know who’s free and who’s locked up, the men or the women. Like American football or Aztec ‘flowery’ wars staged only for the harvest of hearts, these showcase prisons are decorated with flowers and blinking lights, fields tilled till the till is fully filled and it’s time to call it a night. The fields are of oil and the bars line the streets where soldiers guard banks. The cells are birdcages, women singing for their seed and relieving men’s stress. In a reversal of Nature, the women sport the brilliant plumage to attract the opposite sex, and that they do. Culture compensates for Nature’s brilliant mistake. Islam would like to change all that, putting humans back in their place, putting women under the veil and the men behind bars. It’s all a matter of taste and negative space. All the time that I was talking to them and looking at them, I was really talking to myself and looking at myself, reflections of reflections in parallel mirrors. For the price of a drink, you can talk to a real live girl. For the price of a shrink, you can talk all night.

     
  • hardie karges 8:20 am on July 5, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Many people want to know at what age you first had sex, 

    apparently taking great pride in having had sex the first time at an early age, as if that were a badge of honor or something. For others, the first contemplation of suicide was the rite of passage. My life started the night I looked up at the night sky and asked, “How far does it go?” “Infinity,” was the answer. “Then what comes next?” I remember that moment distinctly; it was good. Infinity is better than sex. Infinity is better than almost everything else. Infinity defines our dimension; infinity defines our existence. We’re the infinity animals, contemplating universes and imagining universals as fast and as hard as we can before it all goes away with the same puff of smoke in which it came. We’re the divinity animals, inventing gods and worshiping them with all our might and most of our maybes totally awash in the inner light of self-consciousness.

     
  • hardie karges 1:15 pm on July 3, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Ground yourself! 

    So implore New Age practitioners seeking to keep the individual human being in some state of harmony with the Heavens of astrology. Metaphorically it’s the equivalent of the concept of ‘staying centered’, the metaphors typically coming from meditation, yoga, and other forms of self-development. ‘Grounding’ of course also has electrical metaphorical content, which becomes very apparent to those in cold dry climates who reach for a brass doorknob after shuffling across the carpet. Ungrounded electrical systems are inherently unstable, painfully clear to many people in third world countries without them, positive and negative charges running wild. I can feel the current running through my legs from my laptop computer here in Thailand. It feels like ants crawling on me, Mississippi red ants. You feel a current, albeit a weak one, when you grab your TV set’s rabbit-ear-antennas to adjust them. Lightning is the best example, potentiality looking for a place to occur, an accident waiting to happen. But don’t use the metaphor of femininity, a passive field luring the wrathful sky to its battleground. If you notice really carefully, in slow motion, lightning breaks toward the ground in stages. Before it reaches the ground, a spark will actually leap up to meet it, like a woman extending her cheek to receive a kiss. Sometimes the ground will actually initiate the strike. In any case there is a return of current from ground to cloud that is faster and fiercer than the original.

     
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