MAKING AMERICA HATE AGAIN: Understanding the Trump phenomenon

Some seventy years after the defeat of fascism in Europe, one of the two major political parties in the United States is promoting a presidential candidate who openly advocates the deportation of millions of immigrants and the tracking of millions of other citizens based on their religion.

How could the nation that responded to the global threat of fascism by proclaiming “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself” give rise to a demagogue who used fear to grow such a large and frightening political movement?

Making America Hate Again
by Elliot Cohen

This brief well documented text analyzes the Trump phenomenon, examining historic similarities between the Trump campaign and earlier fascist movements, exploring the social and political conditions that enabled this ideology of hate to spread, and contemplates what a Trump presidency could mean for the future.

Available on Amazon in print or on Kindle/iphone by download from:

www.amazon.com/dp/B01MCY8T4D

FOR PRINT VERSION GO TO:

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You are invited to get this discussion started. Please leave you thoughts on “Making America Hate Again” here.

WHITE HOUSE AND CONGRESS OFFER MEASURES TO CURTAIL POLICE VIOLENCE IN RESPONSE TO ACTIONS BY FERGUSON POLICE

Political reverberations from the police shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson Missouri police continued to build this week, with a White House announcement that it supports requiring police to wear body cameras and the introduction, the very next day, of a House bill that would limit the transfer of military technology to police.

According to a 9/15/14 report in The Hill, a White House adviser responded to a petition on the White House web site that had acquired 155,000 signatures, stating White House support for requiring police to wear body mounted cameras.

The Hill quoted Roy Austin, a White House adviser on Justice and Urban Affairs, as saying “We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers.” Austin explained the Department of Justice was continuing to research the best practices for implementation of the technology following a recent Justice Department report that concluded that police wearing body-worn cameras interacted “in a more positive manner” with civilians, and that the video captured by the cameras was also useful for training police officers.

The next day The Hill reported that bipartisan legislation sponsored by Tea Party republican Raul Labrador of Idaho and Representative Hank Johnson (D. Ga.) would curtail the Pentagons 1033 program, which arms U.S. police departments with surplus military equipment.

The proposal would bar the transfer of certain military equipment, including high caliber weapons, sound cannons, grenades, grenade launchers and some armored vehicles, and would include reporting requirements to ensure the equipment is not lost, stolen or misappropriated. In what looks to be a promising beginning 17 representatives immediately signed as cosponsors.

FERGUSON FALLOUT: TOP MISSOURI GOP LEADER PREFERS BULLETS TO BALLOTS

On July 17, 2014 NYPD cops used an illegal choke hold on Eric Gardner resulting in a homicide. On February 4, 1999 NYPD cops pumped 41 bullets into Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black male who had just returned home and was entering the apartment building where he lived, and on November 25, 2006 NYPD cops unleashed a barrage of over fifty bullets on Sean Bell, an unarmed black man who was leaving a night club after celebrating his upcoming wedding.

In each of these cases people demanded justice through peaceful protest and lawful means. Time will tell with Eric Gardner, but in other cases where NYPD cops murdered unarmed black men the cops got away with it, and little was done to address NYPD’s systemic problems of brutality and murder.

Within days of the police shooting of Michael Brown some 40 FBI agents launched an investigation, the Ferguson Police were relieved of authority to police the protesters and Democrats and Republicans in congress began efforts to curtail the militarization of police.

Rioting seems counter productive, but, if one objectively looks at the results, one is forced to acknowledge that the rioting in Ferguson did more in days, than years of peaceful activity to curtail NYPD violence have ever accomplished.

Why is it that the NYPD continues to get away with brutality and murder?
One is forced to wonder if riots are the only way to get the federal government to pay attention when police murder and brutalize whole communities. If riots had occurred in New York would 40 FBI agents be investigating that homicide of Eric Gardner?

Deaths at the hands of police are not rare incidents or aberrations, but a national issue. The StolenLives.org project has documented over 2000 murders by police since 1990 alone. Yet police brutality and murder continues to escalate. What can be done about it?

Those in Ferguson seeking peaceful solutions turned to political organizing. They have marched peacefully, discouraged violence, and set up voter registration tables urging people to “register to vote, get on juries and choose your leaders.” Channeling energy into peaceful efforts like voter registration is something we hope everyone would prefer to violence.

Well, perhaps not everyone. According to a report on Breitbart.com when Matt Wills, the Executive Director of the Missouri Republican National Committee learned that voter registration tables were being set up in Ferguson he replied ” I think it’s not only disgusting, but completely inappropriate.”

So what, Mr. Wills, is an appropriate response? Do nothing while unarmed black people are shot to death? Riot? Carry firearms to protect ones self from the police? Actually, a Texas group, calling itself “The Huey P. Newton Gun Club” thinks that is precisely what is needed. So, in Texas, about thirty mostly black protesters, marched with shot guns, rifles and signs demanding justice for Michael Brown. Such offers a frightening reminder of Malcom X’s prediction that racial injustice would be resolved by “the ballot or the bullet.”

Why, under these circumstances, does Matt Wills, a high level Missouri Republican National Committee member so oppose the very idea of voter registration that he calls it disgusting and inappropriate? Does he speak for the Republican Party? If not why has he not been fired? Does the Republican Party actually prefer the bullet to the ballot?

If Republican leaders oppose peaceful methods like voter registration and the ballot, what is left? Riots and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club.

REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION TO MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE COST TAX PAYERS BILLIONS

According to a washingtonspectator.org report full time workers for corporate fast food chains are so poorly paid that more than half of them qualify for means-tested, anti-poverty assistance, such as Medicaid or food stamps. As a result tax payers fork out over $7 billion dollars a year in public assistance for that industry alone. In 2013 the fast food industry recorded over $680 billion in profits, which they were able to make as a result of paying dirt-poor wages to full time workers that we, the tax payers, subsidize through public assistance.

Yum Corporation, which includes Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut pays workers an average of $8 an hour, while tax payers kick in $650 million more in public benefits so their underpaid employees can survive.

And fast food workers are only a fraction of the full-time minimum wage employees who rely on social welfare to make ends meet. Large corporations such as Wal-Mart have been exposed in the past for similar policies. By failing to raise the minimum wage House Republicans are keeping millions of people in poverty. Failure to raise the minimum wage benefits greedy corporations at the expense of tax payers, who subsidize minimum wage employment through public subsides, like food stamps, that full time minimum wage workers need to survive.

The result is that for every dollar tax payers shell out to provide public assistance for a minimum wage employee, a dollar that should be a corporate expense for wages, instead becomes, in effect, a dollar transferred from the pocket of a hard working tax payer to money in the bank and profit for a multi-million dollar corporation.

Adding to this irony is the fact that increasing the minimum wage would not only improve the lives of millions of people, but would also be fully deductible as a business expense. The additional spending from increased income would mean better local economies through out the nation, as employees would have more money to spend, and everyone, except the corporate patrons, would be better off.

By raising the minimum wage Capital Hill could ease the budget burden. Funds saved by reducing public assistance subsidizes to minimum wage earners could be spent instead on uses such as paying down the national debt or hiring more doctors and nurses at VA hospitals.

DEMOCRATS WON’T AGREE TO SPEED CHILD DEPORTATIONS

With just days to go before the August recess Republican House members still haven’t come to an agreement on a bill to address the crisis created by the surge of Central American immigrant children entering the country. House Republicans remain divided on what to do, with conservatives opposing any bill that would send Obama money for immigration purposes other the deportation, while other House Republicans recommended amending the 2008 human trafficking law to speed up deportations of Central American immigrant children as part of a $1.5 billion spending package. House Republicans are scheduled to hold a meeting Friday morning to discuss how to proceed.

Because Conservative House members may oppose any bill that gives Obama funding for anything other than deportations House Speaker Boehner will need the support of House Democrats to pass a measure. But regardless of what House Republicans decide it appears House Democrats may not provide the votes needed to speed deportations, despite the fact quicker deportation is something that both Republicans and President Obama agree on.

According to a report in The Hill, a newspaper that covers congress, Democrats are largely in agreement with the due process protections in the 2008 human trafficking law that both Republicans and Obama would like to change.

According to Luis Gutierrez (D. Ill.) “Almost every Democrat I talk to says we should hold the line on laws passed to protect children from sex-trafficking and smugglers.”

According to The Hill, Gutierrez said President Obama was wrong to seek changes in the law. “I understand that people here are used to saying, ‘Oh, but you’re a Democrat, aren’t you going to follow the president? No, if the president’s wrong , the president’s wrong. I don’t think we should change the law.” Gutierrez concluded.

Republicans denounce Palin as irrelevant following anti-immigration rant

On ABC’s “This Week” several Republicans commented on Palins’ statement that the unsecured border crisis was  the last straw, and that it’s now time for impeachment.

But the Republicans interviewed all seemed dismissive of Palin and seemed determined disassociate the GOP from their former Vice Presidential candidate.

Ana Navarro, a GOP strategist pointed out that the Central American children were not sneaking across the border as Palin implied, but were instead seeking out border patrol agents and turning themselves in. A statement that exposed Palin’s claim that an “unsecured border” as the source of the current crisis was false with regard to most of the Central American children arriving in the U.S.

Navarros’ comment followed a segment on the same program by House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R. Virginia). Goodlatte, a conservative Republican, ridiculed Palin’s call for impeachment saying impeachment was not being considered because Obama had committed no criminal act that could justify impeachment.

Even Bill Kristol, whose conservative publication “The Weekly Standard,” had once run a glowing profile of Palin to bolster her reputation as a Vice Presidential candidate during the 2008 election campaign, stated that “no responsible Republican official has called for impeachment,” agreeing, in essence, that the Democrats would welcome an effort to impeach because it would be likely to enhance prospects for Democratic candidates in the 2014 congressional races.

Republican strategist Ana Navarro best summed up the mood of Republicans toward Palin saying “Nobody of responsibility, nobody in leadership, nobody of relevance has
talked about impeachment.”

With Palin now declared irrelevant by members of her own party the only question that remains is whether or not tea party types still have enough clout to force GOP to impeach. My guess is they do not.

COMIC RELEIF: Former Republican Governor Implies Republicans are A-Holes

I just couldn’t resist!

Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who Republicans once hoped to run for president against Obama, had a few choice words his colleagues at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Speaking about the failure of Republicans to win the White House Barbour said that Romneys’  entire campaign strategy needed a “brutally honest assessment” and that the Republican Party needs “a very serious proctology exam.”

Considering what a proctologist examines  it says a lot about Barbours opinion some of his fellow Republicans.  Make no mistake about it, this may be good news.

It indicates an opening for bipartisan, since so many Democrats undoubtedly share Barbours assessment…

BITTER TEA: Thank You Tea Party, for Helping Re-elect President Obama

This was a pivotal election that may determine national policy for the next 50 years. It was an uphill fight. Obama could easily have lost. Indeed, no president since FDR had ever been re-elected with this high a jobless rate. And so it is time thank the Tea Party. They deserve the credit. Sure, there were plenty of factors: Romney was an inauthentic candidate; Obama had a better get out the vote effort, but in a very close election, where every vote mattered, the Tea Party pushed a lot of votes toward Obama.

Since the election I’ve been reading Tea Party sites to understand their thinking. Clearly, the tea they drink alters reality more powerfully than the marijuana brownies Colorado and Washington voted to legalize. Let’s examine four major reasons Obama won, and compare them with what  Tea Party Republicans say.

The four voter groups most responsible for re-electing Obama were women, Hispanics, blue collar white voters in states like Ohio, and independent/late deciding voters. I’m not saying other issues/voters did not matter, just that these voters tipped the balance in favor of Obama.

The Republican “war on women” cost Romney big time. Eliminating Planned Parenthood frightens many women, including those who oppose abortion, but rely on Planned Parenthood for pre-natal care, cancer screenings, and birth control.

RedState, a Tea Party site, admits Republicans have a problem, but opposes softening their positions, suggesting Republicans instead improve on the 7% edge Romney had with married women to offset what they call the “free contraception vote.” (RedState, 11/11/12, 21 Thoughts and Observations on the Election, point 9).

Nor was Romney helped by Republican candidates saying things like pregnancy from rape is the will of god, pregnancy of rape victims means the rape was not legitimate.

“Legitimate rape?” “pregnancy by gods will?” “free contraception vote”? What exactly is in that tea they drink?

Romney lost with Hispanic voters because Republicans supported discrimination. The Arizona law targeting Hispanics for harassment was widely embraced by Republicans. That drove Hispanics to the polls delivering to Obama the 49 electoral votes of Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. Historically, Florida Cubans vote overwhelmingly Republican, in this election Romney received less than 50% of Floridas’ Cuban vote!

According to RedState, Hispanics voted Obama not over discrimination, immigration or citizenship, but because “…most minorities will succumb to the class warfare and insidious identity politics employed by Democrats…” (RedState, 11/11/12 “21 Thoughts and Observations on the Election” point number 6).

Tea Party Republicans say immigrants are free loaders. One Tea Party blogger wrote: “It is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic Party, but the core democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation. (Hot Air “Quotes of the Day” 11/9/12). In other words Hispanics were among the 47% Romney can’t worry about.

The reality is that non-citizen Hispanic voters have friends and family members that vote. Romney basically told these voters their friends and family members should leave the country. Is it any surprise they voted Obama? Some Republicans, even House Speaker Boehner and Sean Hannity of Fox news, recognize this reality, but the Tea Party wants none of it.

I say “go Tea Party” make your point loud and often, immigration reform will happen, and many voters will remember your bigotry, and deliver anti-Republican votes, for years, if not generations.

Now let’s talk about two demographics that Romney won: late deciding independents, and white, blue collar male voters in states like Ohio.  Romney could have prevailed in Ohio, most agreed, if he had received more votes from white, male, blue collar voters. Why didn’t more of them vote for Romney? Simple, they realized they had jobs because of Obamas decision to save the auto industry.

RedState published two articles cataloging over 50 reasons for the loss (11/7/12, “50 Reasons Republicans Lost the Election” and 11/11/12 “21 Thoughts and Observations on the Election”). Did these articles discuss support for the auto industry as an issue in losing Ohio? No. Instead RedState blamed black voters! (point 5, 21 Thoughts and Observations on the Election). True, increased black voter turn out – responding to voter suppression efforts such as voter ID requirements and reduced opportunities for early voting – did increase the black vote, but had more white, blue collar men voted Romney, Obama would not have won Ohio.

Finally, RedState writers found it “stupefying” that Obama won 55-44% among voters who said unemployment was the most important issue. It’s very simple: These voters saw an economy in trouble, a president who saved the auto industry. They remember Obama asking congress for a jobs bill, Republican leaders obstructing that effort, saying their number one priority was make Obama a one term president. This convinced enough late deciding/independent voters Obama had a plan to fix the economy that Republicans torpedoed for purely political reasons.

Romney on the other hand said it is not his job to worry about 47% of the country. Extremist Tea Party rhetoric convinced a lot of  voters re-electing President Obama was the best option. Now let’s see what happens…

BLOOD LIBEL OR NOT, SARAH PALIN IS AN ACCESSORY TO MURDER

Sarah Palins whining that she is being libeled because some are taking her to task for creating the type of political environment that encouraged the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords is nonsense.

When Republican senate candidate Sharron Angle called for using “Second Amendment remedies” to remove liberals from congress Palin did not condemn those comments, instead she decided to endorse Angle.

When people criticized the violent gun-laced shooting metaphors and warned it could lead to the very type of violence that Jared Lougghner engaged in Palin responded “Don’t retreat, instead reload.”

It is moral cowardice for Sarah Palin to now play the victim and deny all responsibility for creating this atmosphere after some wacko took her advice seriously.

Palin is clearly responsible for her deliberate decision to use gun laced metaphors in calling for political action. Plain is responsible for continuing to use such rhetoric even after many people, including Giffords herself, warned Palin of the danger, and Palins’ language, magnified by the national megaphone of FOX TV, certainly engendered an atmosphere of political hatred.

Palins decision to play the victim card is both bizarre and narcissistic when one considers that 9 year old Christina Green and 3 other people are dead,and 16 other people in Tucson were shot.

Under such circumstances Palins’ decision to complain she is being subject to “blood-libel” or any other kind of libel, is especially perverse.

A mentally unstable person acted on the vicious snake oil that Sarah Palin, FOX news, and their supporters deliberately choose to pedal, and while Palin may not be responsible for the shooting itself it is cowardly for her to deny any responsibility for the atmosphere she helped to create.

Much of the defense of Sarah Palin is built around claims that she can not be held responsible for the actions of a killer who is mentally deranged, and that much may be true, but to the extent that Loughner claims he heard voices telling him to kill, those voices were not hallucinations, they were the very words Palin and her supporters routinely filled the air waves of over the past two years…

Obama's call for nuclear power will not protect risky nuclear investments

Despite President Obama’s call for the development of nuclear power in the State of the Union address, events in Florida, Vermont and as far away Abu Dhabi make clear that the Obama administration can not protect nuclear investors. Even with federal government support, other factors, such as cost overruns, state regulation, nuclear waste storage, decommissioning cost, and the hit portfolios would take in the event of a nuclear accident, combine to make nuclear an awful investment.

Despite the green energy rhetoric the Obama seems to prefer the two most environmentally harmful sources of energy — nuclear and coal.

The Obama administration seems uninterested in the cleanest fossil fuel alternative — natural gas, and are doing only token projects with regard to solar and wind energy. But despite Obama’s  call for building more nuclear power plants those considering investing should be wary.

As recent events summarized below make clear, nuclear power continues to be plagued by problems, and remains a bad investment idea.

Advisory downgrades Florida Power and Light to “sell” after cancellation of nuclear project

The Florida Public Utility Commission rejected Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) request for a major electricity rate increase, which would have paid for the construction of two Toshiba-Westinghouse nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Miami. FPL responded by halting plans to build the two nuclear reactors.

Although state law authorized the Public Utility Commission to bill ratepayers in advance to build nuclear reactors, years before any electricity is actually delivered the Utility Commission decided to refuse FPL’s effort to burden ratepayers with the financial risks. of building new reactors, while offering little to none of the projected profits in return.

Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor facing problems

Radiation levels at least 40 times higher than that permitted for drinking water were found in a monitoring well at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Although no drinking water samples have shown contamination the evidence that radiation has escaped into ground water have endangered not only the health and environment, but efforts to obtain an extension of the plants operating license. The extension may be denied because rising radiation levels indicate radioactive water is leaking and contaminating the soil. The rising radiation levels have so spooked state residents that the state’s health department have been posting updates almost daily on the monitoring efforts.

If Vermont Yankee is denied the extension it will be the first such denial since 1989, when residents of Sacramento voted to close the Rancho Seco nuclear plant owned by a municipal utility in California. Although such decisions are usually decided by the federal government’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission, state agencies have played an increasing role in recent years.

Since Entergy bought Vermont Yankee in 2002, it has shown itself to be incompetent at running nuclear facilities. In 2007 a cooling tower at Vermont Yankee literally collapsed. A vice president for Entergy lied to state officials, telling them the Vermont Yankee plant did not have underground piping that carried radioactive water, when in fact it did. And the likelihood of further yet to be disclosed problems are believed to be the motivating factor in Entergy’s efforts to obtain permission to spin off Vermont Yankee and five other nuclear plants, and thus limit Entergy’s legal liability.

Areva loses an investor and a reactor deal with Abu Dhabi

The French oil company, Total, has canceled plans to invest in Areva after the French nuclear company lost a bid to build two new reactors in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Total’s director general also questioned if EPR – Areva’s flagship new reactor – could be built less expensively without compromising safety following a joint statement by the Finnish, British and French nuclear safety bodies, stating the EPR’s control and safety systems should be changed to avoid both failing at once. Areva has been struggling financially because the EPR nuclear design has been subject to postponement and cancellations in major markets like the U.S. and China because of unsafe design.

Don’t bet your portfolio on nuclear investments

 

With oil prices down significantly from the time when they topped $100 a barrel it is easy to forget the atmosphere in 2005. That year, high energy prices led Congress to add $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear construction to the 2005 energy law.

 There are 104 nuclear reactors operating in the United States. All were ordered before the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. Since that time not a single U.S. nuclear reactor has been built.

Because the lower cost of generating nuclear electricity seems economically advantageous, some investment newsletters, such as Roger Conrad’s  Utility Forecaster,  urge investment in nuclear related stocks. In offering such advice, proponents of nuclear investing have often been negligent in failing to warn investors of potential problems.

In 2005 the business section of the NY Times cautioned “…investors should understand that betting on nuclear entails risk beyond the stock market’s usual shimmies and shakes. Domestic [nuclear] plants have operated without a major incident since Three Mile Island, but another big stumble, in the United States or abroad, could hobble the industry.”

After Three Mile Island, nuclear stocks plunged; it took years for many to recover. Several utilities were not permitted to open and operate completed nuclear plants, meaning the entire cost of construction was lost. The fact that serious talk of building additional nuclear plants was not raised for over 30 years speaks volumes.

Investment newsletters promoting nuclear do a disservice to investors who need to understand the potential risk, along with the potential upside. This article examines several recent developments investors should consider before contaminating their portfolio with stocks in nuclear companies.

DWINDLING GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

The nuclear industry relies heavily on government subsidies to be profitable, and it is becoming abundantly clear that government support for the nuclear industry is fading fast, with federal support evaporating on everything from loan guarantees, to design approvals, to nuclear waste disposal.

  • President Obama’s removal of $50 billion in further loan guarantees from his stimulus bill signals the new administration may be having second thoughts on nuclear expansion.
  • Funding to open the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste facility has been cut to a level that assures it will not be opening in the foreseeable future.
  • Industry hopes that approval of standardized designs to speed up construction and result in significant cost savings have been disappointed, with the Nuclear Regulator Commission yet to approve two design proposals. (An advanced design submitted by Westinghouse, and another design by Areva).
  • At the state government level, the industry succeeded in having regulators in the states of Georgia and Florida raise electric rates so consumers pay for construction before it begins, but when Missouri refused a pre-construction rate increase, Ameren UE abandoned plans to build a new nuclear plant
  • In Maryland, Constellation Energy may be facing a 10% rate cut to compensate consumers for the Utilities proposed nuclear power venture.

COST OVERRUNS, DELAYS AND CANCELLATIONS

Nor is lack of government support the only problem. Cost overruns and construction delays continue to plague the industry.

  • Exelon canceled plans to build a new nuclear plant in Texas.
  • Ontario Providence in Canada has suspended plans to build new nuclear reactors
  • Ameren UE suspended plans to build a plant in Missouri.

Indeed, of 45 nuclear plants being built around the world, 22 have encountered construction delays.

Recently Areva learned how damaging nuclear development projects could be, when construction problems with a Finland nuclear reactor not only caused a steep drop in company earnings, but had a cascading effect, both undermining Areva’s efforts to get Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval for the reactor design in the U.S., and in leading to the cancellation of a nuclear reactor of the same design in France.

Cancellations can be worse than delays, especially if construction has begun or been completed. In such cases regulators may not allow investors to recover the cost of a project that does not go on-line. In this regard it is important to remember that although it is extremely rare for a regulated utility to undergo bankruptcy, one of the few such bankruptcies on record is that of WHOOPS, a Washington State utility that went out of business because of the high cost of nuclear power. The high cost of construction, operation, caring for the nuclear reactor once it ceases to operate, and on-site storage of nuclear waste can all negatively impact profitability.

STILL NO STORAGE SOLUTION FOR NUCLEAR WASTE

The U.S. Department of Energy was to begin accepting spent fuel at the Yucca Mountain repository in January, 1998. Now, after over a decade of delay, it appears the Obama administration is getting ready to kill the project . In March the Obama Administration fulfilled a campaign promise by proposing to cut most funds for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project. In July, the U.S. Senate went even further, reducing Obama’s proposed $56 million in funding for a Yucca Mountain study to $29 million, sapping the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of funds needed for review of the application to approve the waste repository.

Energy Department officials have confirmed it’s the administration’s policy that Yucca Mountain never be used. “I’m convinced that for the foreseeable future, for the next 50 to 100 years, we’ll simply store the spent fuel rods on site,”  Senator Reid told reporters. That would pose a severe problem for the nuclear industry, which must bear the cost of monitoring, maintenance and operation of the steel-lined pools and steel concrete casks near the reactors, where the waste has been accumulating for decades.

Considering that there are so many other good investment ideas, is it really wise to contaminate your portfolio with nuclear?

 Below is a partial list of companies that build nuclear reactors:

  • Areva
  • General Electric
  • Toshiba (through it’s Westinghouse division)


The following utilities use nuclear power to generate electricity:

  • Ameren (AEE)
  • CEG
  • CenterPoint Energy (CNP)
  • Central Vt. Pub Service (CV)
  • Dominion (D)
  • Duke (DUK)
  • Entergy (ETR)
  • Exelon (EXC)
  • FirstEnergy (FE)
  • FPL
  • Progress Energy (PGN)
  • Public Service Enterprise Group (PEG)
  • Pinnacle West (PNW)
  • SCANA (SGC)
  • Southern Company ((SO)
  • Westar Energy (WO)
  • Xcel (XEL)
  • Elec de France (ECIFF)
  • ENEL (Italy)
  • RWE (Bulgaria)

Pipelines to profit: Investing in high-yielding Master Limited Partnerships

Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) are high yielding exchange-traded instruments. As partnerships, they must return all earnings to the partners each year, resulting in a much bigger pay out than most dividend bearing stocks. The yields are called “distributions” not “dividends” and instead of owning “shares” you own “units.” To become a partner you simply purchase units like any other stock through your discount broker (it makes no sense for the average investor to use anything but a discount broker).

To qualify as a MLP under IRS rules, a business must earn 90% of its income from dividends, interest, real estate or natural resources. The majority of MLPs are in the energy business, with most operating natural gas pipelines. Some of which engage in “midstream services” including gathering, pumping, compressing, and refining petroleum or natural gas, and the separation of natural gas into Natural Gas Liquids, such as propane.

After construction is complete, except for occasional repairs or nominal maintenance costs, operating expenses are minimal. Because pipelines are storage and transportation services, they are profitable regardless of fluctuating commodity prices. Consistent need for energy also means pipelines are a recession-resistant investment, providing a consistent stream of income, year in and out, just like utility companies. In fact, rating agencies value pipelines like fixed income investments. But pipelines have several advantages over fixed income products and utilities, including tax deferred status, potential for growth and increasing yields.

This is not to imply pipelines are risk free. Pipelines are expensive to build. High interest rates can cause delays or loss of profits. And although commodity prices rarely affect MLPs that are primarily involved in storage and transportation, some of them can be affected by market risk associated with fluctuating commodity prices. Oil wells and gas fields have a limited capacity, and when the well or field runs dry, so can the value of the investment. To grow, these businesses must build additional pipelines and make new acquisitions

So how does one know which are good investments? Excessively high yield is often a red flag. Is the company, for example, paying out over 100%? If so, that is obviously not sustainable, and could indicate a distribution cut is on the horizon. I believe in fundamental over technical analysis, but I find financial reports difficult to understand, am not good with numbers and can’t do the analysis myself. But I don’t need to. Professional analysts already rate these companies, so I subscribe to trustworthy newsletters and use their recommendations as a starting point.

Next I compare the opinions of the analysts on brokers’ web sites, each broker usually offering several. It’s not necessary to understand everything. What I look at is if there is general agreement on the quality of the stock, as well as the reasons given for any negative recommendations. In examining the annual report, I pay particular attention to what the report says about capacity of proven reserves, as well as new acquisitions.

Looking at recent news related to the stock can be also be helpful. There is usually a link to such information on the Internet along with the company profile, either on brokers’ web sites or on an Internet site such as Yahoo Finance. When reading about investments it is important to distinguish between factual information versus hype about future projections. This is especially important not only in considering what investments to make, but in considering which newsletters to trust, as well in evaluating the advice. Evaluating investment newsletters though, is a separate topic which I hope to address in a future post…

Some Master Limited Partnerships I like:

UPDATE:  I practice socially responsible investing. As long as most energy generated comes from fossil fuels natural gas has the lowest impact in terms of  both air pollution and carbon footprint. However, as information accumulates it seems clear the new fracking technology used to drill for natural gas poses a serious threat to our water. Under the circumstances I no longer recommend investing in companies that engage in drilling for natural gas.

Furthermore,  the recommendations stated below were made in August of 2009. As I update this entry I note that presently the stock price has increased significantly from the date when the recommendations were made. These particular investments no longer pay the high yields they did when the recommendations were made.  The increased cost of purchasing these companies at today’s prices makes them far less profitable to buy today. Stated simply, even if I were not concerned about the environmental dangers  I would not recommend these stocks at the present higher prices and lower yields, because they simply are not as profitable if you buy them at today’s prices than they were on at the time I originally recommended them. Remember all investing advice is time sensitive in that things change.

Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) currently yielding 7.9% (has growth potential).

Mark West Energy (MWE) currently yielding 12.1% (exposure to greater profits if commodity prices increase).

Terra Nitrogen (TNH) currently yielding 8.2%  (non-energy pipeline transporting liquid fertilizer to agricultural communities). It’s a good one, but I suggest buying at $102 or less.

Two non-pipeline MLPs that are like utilities:

Amerigas (APU) currently yielding 9.6%, is a buy up to $34.

Suburban Propane (SPH) currently yielding 8.1%, was recently recommended in a newsletter that has always made me money.

NOTE: “currently yielding” refers to the date I wrote this entry. Yields change with market price of the stock, you can check yield at the time of purchase.

How I survived the market collapse and outperformed the professionals

About 2 years ago, I got the upsetting news that my dear uncle had passed away. I was so devastated by the news, that I did not realize until I was in the airport that I had forgotten to put on shoes, and was wearing my slippers as I boarded the flight to attend memorial services. Eventually I learned that he had left me an inheritance.

But I didn’t need a new car. My old car worked just fine and had good gas mileage.
Besides, buying a new car seemed like a celebration of sorts, and I did not feel like celebrating. I was determined not to squander the inheritance and wanted to use it in a way that would somehow honor his memory.

My uncle was a brilliant man. Before going on vacation he would learn the language and study the history of places he was planning to visit. After 20 years as a physician, he wanted new challenges, so went back to school and became a psychotherapist . He had a life-long love of learning, so using the inheritance to learn something new would honor his memory.

That is how I began, for the first time in my life, to learn about investing. Talk about learning something new—before deciding to learn investing I rarely looked at the business section of the newspaper!

My education began with the purchase of “The Bond Book.” My inclination was to invest in bonds because I knew they guaranteed a return of the initial capital, and paid interest. But I learned that most bonds are sold on a secondary market and that the only bonds the average person could buy at face value were those offered by the U.S. Treasury. Although I later learned that a few companies issued bonds for direct purchase, bond investing appeared too complicated, so I continued researching, reading over 30 books before finally deciding to open an on-line account at a discount broker.

I started by buying several different mutual funds. Later I built a portfolio of stocks in socially responsible companies. At first my stocks were doing well, with my overall portfolio usually showing gains of about 15% at the end of each day. Then the market began its decline.

And as the market fell, so did my portfolio, losing 10, 20 and at one point over 30%. I knew the idea was to “buy low, sell high,” so I continued buying as stocks went down, far exceeding the amount I initially planned to invest.

I had no experience and virtually everyone was encouraging me to cut my losses and sell. But although I was beginning to worry, I did not panic and sell. Instead I waited patiently for stocks to return to at least the original purchase price, selling each time the market rallied. Because most stocks I owned were solid companies I knew they would eventually recover, but how long would it take and would they ever come back to their former level? Or would I suffer permanent losses?

I started thinking that despite all my study I had blown it. Then, one evening while watching the news, I learned Warren Buffet’s portfolio was down 30%. That sounded like a bigger loss then I remembered, so I checked my own portfolio. Imagine my surprise at seeing my portfolio was down by only 20%! Now it might have been just good luck, but I figured I was doing something right. It gave me the confidence to stay the course, continuing to sell on rallies, and pouring money back into stocks in solid companies at bargain prices.

Buying as prices went down turned losing investments into profitable ones. One stock I had bought at $110 a share plunged, eventually going low as $27 a share. By continuing to buy as it went down, I reduced my average price. As a result, that stock, on which I was losing thousands, today sits in my portfolio as one of my most profitable investments, despite the fact that the share price is still far less then $110 a share. But I had only so much money, and ran out of investment capital before the market hit the March lows, so I never was able to get the best bargains.

To be sure, I made mistakes. I should have reserved capital and brought heavily during the March bottom, and I missed some big gains by selling too early, sometimes for profits of less then 10%, because I feared they’d go down again. But I lost little, selling very few stocks at a loss, and more than making up for the losses in profits from other trades.

As I write this, my portfolio is showing a 4% gain. But even more fascinating is the comparison with the mutual funds. After all, I bought those funds because they are managed by professionals who supposedly know the market, so how does the 4% gain in my portfolio compare? A 4 star rated emerging market fund I own is down 17%; of two large cap growth funds I own, one with a 5 star rating, is down 9%, another with a 4 star rating, is down 14%.

So there you have it, my story of how someone with no knowledge of stocks outperformed the professionals.

Believe me, I am no genius when it comes to the stock market, I do not devote hours each day to it, and I am horrible at math, but with just a little effort to get good information, I believe most people can do this too. I hope this blog will encourage other people learn and earn more from trading and investing.

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