There’s no secret as to which companies sponsor which drivers in NASCAR. It’s advertised all over the cars and drivers. NASCAR drivers aren’t bashful when it comes to endorsing their sponsors either, and race fans can easily see the companies that support them. Politicians should be no different. In fact, they should be just as eager to do so at the podium as NASCAR drivers are on victory lane. They should wear the logos of their campaign contributors with pride, stitched into their thousand-dollar suits, and they should proudly thank every one of them in their victory and concession speeches. Like NASCAR drivers, politicians wouldn’t be where they are without their campaign contributors. That’s why I’m proposing the Non-individual And Super-PAC Contributions Advertising Requirement, or N.A.S.C.A.R. Act, to end all that secrecy, and force politicians to reveal who paid for their campaign.


This was originally published at Grandstand Central.


Much has been made of the need for transparency with regards to campaign contributions in American elections, but not much has been done. Sure, there are organizations and journalists reporting from where the “dark money” comes, but few media outlets are reporting those stories and even fewer voters are reading or watching them when they are reported. The result is a record-number of Americans — 36 percent, according to an October 2017 poll by the General Social Survey — being ashamed of the way democracy works in America.

Even if you wanted to know who gave what to whom, the research is time-consuming, relatively un-revealing and you have to trust the number-crunchers and fact-checkers did their jobs. But you still couldn’t determine the amount a super PAC spent on a television advertisement in support of a politician’s specific agenda item like abortion. We’re lucky to have projects like OpenSecrets to reveal campaign contributors to the Americans who discover and believe their research to be accurate, but the American people shouldn’t have to search for that information because major campaign contributors shouldn’t be secrets.

Americans need to see who (and it is “who” since corporations are people by law) is most responsible for electing their elected officials, and the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act would require elected officials to display all non-individual campaign contributions on their person when in view of the public — whether that’s on television, in-person or even on vacation.

Since elected officials are public figures and celebrities of sorts, they are always representative of their office, regardless of whether they’re on the clock or not. When a politician commits sexual assault, he or she doesn’t get a pass because it happened outside the office or during off-duty hours. This form of public shaming would make elected officials think twice about taking money from just anyone or any one organization, and it would make corporations consider the consequences of supporting specific candidates, solving some of America’s campaign finance fiasco.

A majority of Americans support campaign finance reform, according to an August 2017 Ipsos Poll on behalf of the Center for Public Integrity, and almost half of those polled opposed the Citizens United decision that made corporations people and money free speech. “Given the chance to change the campaign finance system, a majority of Americans (57%) would place limits on the amount of money super PACs can raise and spend.” But there already are limits on the amount of money PACs can raise and spend, and super PACs are simply a means for wealthy individuals to give candidates more than the $2,700 limit per election without violating federal law.

PAC stands for Political Action Committee, and it’s how corporations and nonprofit organizations, including churches, funnel millions of dollars into elections without directly contributing to candidates’ campaigns, which would violate federal law. While super PACs cannot contribute directly to a politician’s campaign, they can produce commercials and advertising in support of a particular politician’s platform or agenda, or more commonly, against the platform or agenda of a particular politician’s opponent.

PACs, on the other hand, can contribute directly to politicians’ campaigns, and while that amount is limited, it’s still a means for corporations to buy elections. More than 39 percent of House Democrats’ 2018 election funding came from PACs, 43 percent of House Republicans’ funding came from PACs and more than 32 percent of Senate Republicans’ funding came from PACs.

Toyota, a Japanese company, used its PAC to spend nearly half a million dollars supporting 36 Senate candidates and 155 House representatives in the 2018 federal elections. So are those 191 elected officials inclined to represent the interests of the constituents who made individual donations, or the constituents who voted for them, or do their jobs quite literally depend on them doing as Toyota and their other corporate donors demand?

While the total of individual campaign contributions was more than the total of PAC contributions in the 2018 federal elections, the majority of those individual campaign contributions were made by businessmen and businesswomen on behalf of their respective businesses.

Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager, was the biggest campaign contributor in 2018, supporting Democrats with nearly $30 million. Second in campaign contributions was Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, of U-Line, Inc. They supported Republicans with nearly $27 million. The only actual individual on the list who’s not a representative of a business is Deborah Simon, who is described as a “philanthropist” and made nearly $4.5 million in contributions to Democrats.

The premise of the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act is simple: any campaign contribution to a candidate through a PAC, or any super PAC contribution from which the candidate clearly benefits must be revealed by the candidate, with the largest contributions being most visible on their person when in view of the public.

Instead of Robert Mercer being able to hide his hedge fund firm behind his super PAC supporting Donald Trump, Trump would be required to wear a Renaissance Technologies logo on his chest or higher (so television cameras pick it up) in a size proportional to the $13.5 million in contributions he received from Mercer when compared to the candidate’s total campaign contributions. Whether that would keep Mercer from contributing in the future depends on what he thinks Trump’s actions will cost him and his company by “sponsoring” the candidate. So both the sponsor and the “driver” have to consider the risk their political-business relationship could have on the politician’s ability to keep his job and the sponsor’s ability to sell its product or service.

The same goes for Sheldon and Miriam Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who contributed $10 million to Trump’s campaign. Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment contributed $6 million. Co-founder and former CEO of Home Depot, Bernard Marcus, contributed $7 million, and even though he’s retired, Home Depot would still be advertised on Trump’s person given Marcus’s 3.8-percent ownership stake in the company.

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who apologized for comparing NFL players to inmates when discussing the anthem protests with owners and then only regretted the apology because he wasn’t referring to players but NFL office executives, gave $2 million to a pro-Trump super PAC. So the Texans logo would be affixed to Trump’s suit jackets under the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act. He wasn’t the only NFL owner who contributed to Trump either. He and seven other owners donated $7.25 million to Trump’s inauguration fund, but those donations aren’t campaign contributions and wouldn’t apply under the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act.

I have shared this bill, the full text of which you can find below, with multiple Congresspeople and have received no responses. But Harvard Law Professor and author of Republic, Lost, Lawrence Lessig, was most gracious and thanked me for my work “for a functioning republic.”

“I’m afraid I don’t think this brilliant hack would be upheld under the 1st amendment, but maybe,” he told Grandstand Central via email on Wednesday. “But more fundamentally, I think our energy has got to be focused on changing the system, not shaming people who live under the current system. There’s no clean private money way to run for Congress or other lower offices. That means we need to change the money.”

So while it’s unlikely the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act reaches the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives, and even more unlikely it be passed and signed into law, it’s a solution politicians should consider exploiting. Even without the law in place, politicians can commit to the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act as a means of expressing their campaign contribution cleanliness.

Politicians shouldn’t need the N.A.S.C.A.R. Act to become law in order to abide by it. If politicians have their constituents’ interests in mind, they would reveal their non-individual, super PAC and PAC contributors without being required to do so by law.

I am a firm believer, along with Lessig, that very little can change in America until campaign finance changes. The N.A.S.C.A.R. Act doesn’t stop corporations and billionaires from buying elections, but it would reveal to the American public who bought the elections. It’s not victory lane, but it’s at least a fast start from the pole position. America just needs one driver to put on that suit jacket littered with logos and lead the rest of the honest drivers who are proud of their sponsors but know it’s all about the fans in the stands.


The Non-individual And Super-PAC Contributions Advertising Requirement, or N.A.S.C.A.R. Act
A politician’s non-individual, PAC, and super PAC campaign contributions must be visible on his or her person while in view of the public.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE CONGRESS HERE ASSEMBLED THAT:

SECTION 1. Every elected official in service of the United States of America make every non-individual campaign contribution from which they benefited in the previous election or stand to benefit since, visible on his or her person at all times while in view of the public, and proportional in size to indicate the percentage of total campaign contributions for the election cycle. Violators will subject themselves to recall elections if so petitioned by their constituents.

SECTION 2. A non-individual, campaign contribution is either a contribution not from an individual or contributions by an individual in an amount exceeding the $2,700 individual limit per election. This includes donations from political action committees (PACs) and super PACs.

SECTION 3. Campaign contributions made by PACs formed by heads of corporations, LLCs, or nonprofit organizations will be represented on the politician’s person by the logo of the corporation, LLC, or nonprofit organization responsible for the formation of the PAC. The PAC founder need not be an employee of the corporation, LLC, or nonprofit organization, but must simply stand to benefit from the corporation’s, LLC’s, or nonprofit organization’s success resulting from poltical influence.

SECTION 4. The Federal Election Commission will oversee the enforcement of the bill along with the specific enforcement mechanism.

SECTION 5. This law will take effect two weeks after its passage to allow politicians ample time to properly display their non-individual, campaign contributors.

SECTION 6. All laws in conflict with this legislation are hereby declared null and void.

Introduced for Congressional Debate by ______.

Published in Opinion

Before the National Basketball Association (NBA) season began, almost anyone with any awareness of the NBA’s existence felt they knew which teams would be playing in each of the Conference Finals. Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics would meet LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors would play the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Chris Paul in the Western Conference Finals.

That’s exactly how it turned out, minus Irving, who barring injury, would be suiting up against his former teammate in a Conference Final I’d actually watch. Now, I’ll wait to see if Houston can force a Game 7 against Golden State before tuning into the NBA Conference Finals, and it took me betting on Houston to win it all to even have an interest in that series. Basketball’s predictability is the very reason I prefer the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Giant men wearing armor and wielding weapons in their hands and on their feet skate at immense speeds on an ever-changing playing surface chucking a rubber saucer at speeds even faster than their feet can carry them or baseballs are thrown while their opponents do all they can to get in front of that unpredictable projectile. Hockey is a most unpredictable sport, and that’s what holds my interest. The fact it hardly has any stoppages for commercial breaks, provides coaches with just one timeout, and requires live substitutions are all just big bonuses for the sport with the best postseason -- a postseason that can still be improved.

The NBA is also looking to improve its postseason, thankfully. Commissioner Adam Silver floated the idea of eliminating the conferences for the postseason and simply seeding the top 16 teams based on record. This would result in less chance of a lopsided NBA Finals series. For instance, the series most of us believe to be the actual championship series between Houston and Golden State would actually be played for the championship. Houston and Golden State would be the first- and second-ranked NBA playoff teams, respectively, and would only meet in the NBA Finals under the proposed postseason alteration.

While travel concerns and the fact that the seeding of Eastern Conference teams would be skewed based on them playing half as many games against the more dominant, deeper Western Conference might thwart the NBA’s efforts to improve the postseason. But they shouldn’t. As long as there are no back-to-back games scheduled in the NBA Playoffs, travel shouldn’t be a concern. And the seeding of teams from different conferences could be based on their play against similar opponents. For instance, if an Eastern Conference team finished the regular season with a better record than a Western Conference team but lost both games to that Western Conference team, the Eastern Conference team could be seeded behind the Western Conference team based on its performance in head-to-head matchups.

The dominance and depth of the NBA’s Western Conference is forcing Silver to find a way to remedy the lack of intrigue in his sport’s predictable playoffs. A lack of competitiveness results in a loss of fans, which is exactly what has happened with elections due to partisan gerrymandering. Because elections have become so uncompetitive, fewer people vote, thinking their vote doesn’t matter, which, of course, is the intent of partisan gerrymandering.

The same is true of American capitalism. “Free” markets work for the consumer when there’s competition. But businesses want markets working for them. It’s why six companies own the majority of media in America or the means to deliver media messages. Hollywood called this “vertical integration” until the Supreme Court eventually forced movie studios to divest their interest in theaters.

But it’s happening again, and on a much more massive scale. Not only do media moguls own the media produced but the means of distribution. Comcast owns the “movies” it makes and the “theaters” that distribute them. The theaters are the cable, internet and mobile data arms of Comcast, so not only are they pulling revenue from ad sales of their shows, but they’re making two trips to the bank on just about every customer by being either one of two or the sole provider of cable, internet or wireless data in that customer’s area.

The increasingly deregulated capitalistic markets reward monopolistic businesses at the expense of the consumer. Mergers are great for big business, but they aren’t good for consumers. Sprint merging with T-Mobile would result in one less competitor in the mobile data and mobile phone markets, and with each fallen competitor the price for those services increases.

If you live in rural America you’re probably familiar with the price gouging that occurs because of a lack of competition, especially in the cable, satellite, internet service and mobile data industries. Verizon actually kicked Eastern Montana customers off their data plans because they used too much data. Many of those customers don’t have access to internet otherwise, so Verizon knows they’ll have to come back, and will pay more to do so.

So I don’t watch the NBA Playoffs for the same reason I despise American capitalism: a lack of competitiveness that results from monopolistic mergers, like Durant going to Golden State. Maybe when my Timberwolves actually win a playoff series I’ll give the NBA Playoffs my divided attention. But even with my Minnesota Wild eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I have and will continue to watch the NHL postseason, because there’s no telling what could happen.

Published in Sports

Sure, a business card will remind a potential customer who you are, how to contact you and what your business does, but you can be sure most people will never look at that business card again unless they absolutely need your services. And even then, they’ll probably have a hard time remembering where they stashed it. I know I have multiple stacks of business cards on my desk and bookshelf in the office that were organized in a certain manner I can no longer remember.

 

Even the nicest business cards get lost in the literal shuffle. Your business needs more than just business cards to convert potential customers into paying customers. If you really want to make a good first impression, you need to leave potential customers with promotional items they love so much they won’t even consider them advertisements. They’re just cool things they want, or even need. So here are the best promotional items to advertise your business and turn potential customers into paying customers.

The Best Promotional Items

5) Clever T-shirts

While more expensive than your typical promotional item, a clever t-shirt worn by a loyal customer is the best walking billboard in which you can invest. Not only do you have ample space to let people know what makes your products or services unique, but you have an ambassador who can pay lip service to your company’s quality, too.

 

T-shirts are an especially effective investment for nonprofit organizations because their supporters are much more likely to represent the organization on their backs, or even pay for the t-shirt to represent their favorite nonprofits. Nonprofit supporters associate themselves with their nonprofits of choice like sports fans associate themselves with their favorite teams. They aren’t just consumers or spectators -- they have a real effect on the game. Some nonprofit fans even get in on the marketing efforts by designing t-shirts for their favorite nonprofits. That’s the case for the Marijuana Policy Project, which holds a t-shirt design competition annually.

 

You can save some money by printing your own t-shirts. Here’s a video on how to do just that. Personally, I can attest to how difficult it is to make great looking t-shirts, not because making the t-shirt is difficult. The problem is never applying the ink to the shirt, but properly exposing your silk screen. If you mess it up, you’re out at least $50 -- $25 for the screen you ruined and $25 for the new screen you’ll have to buy. The best screens we’ve worked with we built ourselves rather than buying at the arts and crafts store. They still work to this day despite bottles upon bottles of ink going through them.

 

Building and exposing your own screens might not be worth your time given the many options to design custom t-shirts online for around $3 to $6 per shirt, depending on quantity. But if you intend to print a ton of t-shirts over a long period of time, having a means to print them yourself whenever you need them would be a wise investment.

4) Mugs

Ranging from 60 cents to around $2 each, a customized, ceramic mug is something everyone can use and everyone around them can see. Giving your potential customers or even loyal customers a mug is commonplace in many industries. Most of my mugs advertise something: the title company who helped me close on my house, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, New York Air Brakes, Makoshika State Park, Hershey’s Chocolate. In fact, just one of my six mugs lacks advertising.

 

Mugs are always useful and tend to be used in the company of others. People at the office drink coffee or tea from their personal mugs at meetings, and people at parties drink beer from glass mugs. Both of which should be advertising your business.

3) Mobile Phone Wallets

As phones get larger, pocket space gets smaller. Enter the mobile phone wallet -- a silicone wallet to hold identification, credit cards and cash right on the back of your phone. The backs of people’s mobile phones are like billboards for your brand. People are on their phones constantly, so your brand is bound to reach people while giving your potential customer the convenience of carrying less stuff.

 

You can easily design your mobile phone wallet using online software and choose multiple colors so your potential customers are comfortable affixing your promotional item to their precious mobile phone. You can order mobile phone wallets in bulk at less than 70 cents each.  

2) Calendars

Classic car calendars are my personal weakness. Everytime I see a classic car calendar for free I take one. I could have two at home and still find another place to put a third. You can never have enough calendars or pictures of hot cars. It’s cheap wall art as well as a practical item that serves a purpose. But not all calendars provide the same promotional payoff.

 

First of all, don’t bother with the peel and stick calendars that simply have your company logo atop a small, plain calendar capable of nothing more than telling your potential customer the date. There’s no space to write on it, so it’s not likely to get much attention. It also can’t be easily seen nor does it attract the eyes of passersby. If you’re going to give a potential customer a calendar, make it a calendar that draws their eyes as well as the eyes of anyone in the vicinity.

 

The same could be said of desktop calendars. They’re just too small, and while more practical and useful than the peel and stick calendars, you’re not going to catch the eyes of anyone except the person behind the desk.

 

The traditional, spiral-bound, hanging calendar is still king of the calendars. The average price of a customized calendar is less than $1, and you can design one yourself using online software and your own images.

 

Magnetic calendars are starting to catch on because they combine two great marketing materials into one. Most people’s magnets on their refrigerator/freezer were probably free and probably advertise something. Of the eight magnets on my fridge, I paid for one, and that’s because I wanted a momento from The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which is well worth your time and money if you’re in Sin City. While I have no use for a calendar on which I can’t write, a magnet always comes in handy, which brings us to the best promotional item to advertise your business.

1) Magnets

While most calendars have a promotional life of one year, magnets will promote your business for as long as they’re magnetized, so don’t pinch pennies, which is all you’ll be pinching. Most magnets can be had for less than 50 cents each unless you’re going big. While I really like the practicality and convenience of magnetized notepads, they too have a limited promotional life, so stick with a magnet that won’t exhaust its usefulness.

 

Invest in a thick magnet that will stand the test of time and secure a bunch of stuff to the fridge. There’s nothing more annoying than a cheap magnet that struggles to keep my cousin’s holiday, family photo attached to my freezer. But don’t pay the premium for the magnetized paper clips. They don’t allow you to convey any other information about your business besides your logo, which will be lost amongst the many papers the clip will hold.

 

The only real drawback of magnets is the competition. Refrigerators are consumed by children’s drawings, “A+” test papers, grocery lists, to-do lists and all manner of coupons or receipts -- each suspended there by a different magnet likely advertising a different company -- maybe even a competitor of yours. So it’s very important that your magnet stands out from the crowd.  

The Worst Promotional Items

3) Keychains

The only people who see keychains are the owners of said keychains, so you can’t expect your investment in this promotional item to payoff. But I’ve seen variations of this promotional item that keeps it out of last place.

 

After a football game one day, I was handed a keychain that doubled as a windshield scraper. I’ve seen others that serve as flashlights. The best keychain I’ve seen is a bottle opener with a beer brand advertised on it. So if you’re going to go this route, make sure your keychain serves a purpose besides hanging from people’s keys.

2) Hats

People who regularly wear hats tend to have hats they prefer to wear. A cheap, trucker hat with your company’s logo is not likely one of those preferred hats. The only time I wear promotional headgear is when I’m doing construction work outside and don’t want to ruin one of my preferred hats. That’s not going to get your brand noticed.

 

Hats are also expensive promotional materials, especially given the limited return on investment. You can expect to pay about the same amount for a hat as you would a t-shirt, which is just asinine.

1) Pens

Pens are too small to allow others to see what’s advertised on them. And while they’re an affordable investment (less than 40 cents each), the return on investment in terms of lead generation is next to nothing.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl

Published in News & Information

According to the CDP Carbon Majors Report released in July of 2017, “investors in fossil fuel companies carry influence over one fifth of industrial greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” There’s a very good chance your investment portfolio includes the ticker symbols of some of the biggest contributors to climate change, and with the largest greenhouse gas emitter, Saudi Aramco, opening up its initial public offering to foreign investors, it’s time you knew the ramifications of giving these companies your money.

Of the 30.6 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide of operational and product greenhouse gas emissions from 224 fossil fuel extraction companies, 41 percent are either public- or private-investor owned. While another 59 percent are state-owned, there’s not much you can do about those emitters unless you live in those countries. But you can withhold funding from publicly-traded companies looking to use that money to further sully the Earth, and 20 percent of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions comes from companies owned by public investors, which will grow significantly with the addition of Saudi Aramco as a publicly-traded entity. Saudi Aramco was responsible for 4.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.

The best way you can curb climate change is to not give or loan your money to these carbon-emitting companies. If you can’t afford an electric vehicle, you still have to fill the tank, but perhaps instead of filling your tank at the nearest or cheapest gas station, you fill it at the gas station owned by the company that emits the least carbon, which is likely Conoco in the United States.

According to the CDP report, ConocoPhillips was responsible for 61 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, half the emissions of BP, and emitted 40 percent less carbon dioxide than Chevron in 2015. So buy your fuel at ConocoPhillips’ stations if you can and Chevron if you can’t. If neither are available near you, Shell seems to be working the hardest toward a low-carbon, energy policy globally. Phillips 66 is doing the least.

With enough people boycotting the purchase of shares in corporate carbon emitters, these companies will be forced to change their approaches. So here are the publicly-traded companies to avoid supporting financially.

1) Saudi Aramco (Ticker Symbol To Be Determined)

1,951 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 4.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Saudi Aramco is responsible for almost twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the next biggest emitter in the CDP report. When it comes to polluting the Earth and warming the planet, no one does it like Saudi Aramco.

But even Saudi Aramco is planning for life after oil, investing $20 billion to construct the largest chemicals facility in the world. The move is in tune with the wishes of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who would like to see the country wean off its “dangerous addiction to oil.” Still, investing your money in what is likely to be the biggest initial public offering in history is an investment in the destruction of Earth.

2) Gazprom OAO (OGZPY)

1,138 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 2.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Gazprom is the largest natural gas company in the world and is tasked with providing most of Russia and some countries of the former Soviet Union with natural gas. It controls one quarter of the world's known natural gas reserves and accounts for eight percent of Russia's gross domestic product. But international sanctions have cut into the success of Russian energy companies since the country’s annexation of Crimea, so Gazprom isn’t exactly a safe investment. It certainly isn’t a safe investment for Earth.

3) Coal India (COAL)

1,025 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 2.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Coal combustion is generally more carbon intensive than burning natural gas or petroleum for electricity, which is why Coal India easily makes this list. Although coal accounted for about 70 percent of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector, it represented only about 34 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2015. In India, more than 75 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- up from 67 percent in 2011 and at an all-time high.

India is working its way off coal just as Saudi Arabia is looking to lessen its dependence on oil. Research from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) suggests that India can cut its CO2 emissions by up to 10 percent or 600 million tons after 2030 if renewable energy and batteries become less costly than coal within 10 years. An investment in Coal India is a sucker bet.

4) Shenhua Group Corp. Ltd. (CSUAY)

1,001 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 2.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Shenhua Group is a Chinese coal company, where 72.63 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- down from an all-time high of 80.95 percent in 2007. It’s another sucker bet, as China is ahead of schedule when it comes to curbing carbon emissions.

5) Rosneft OAO (OJSCY)

777 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 1.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Rosneft is a Russian oil and gas company. Again, sanctions have limited the success of Russian energy companies, so you wouldn’t want your money behind them regardless of their damage done to Earth.

6) ExxonMobil (XOM)

577 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 1.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

ExxonMobil is selling itself as an innovator in energy solutions and biofuels, but it also spent almost $31 million supporting organizations that spread climate change denial propaganda between 1998 and 2014. ExxonMobil reportedly spends $27 million annually to oppose climate policy as of 2016. It’s the largest carbon emitter amongst the gasoline companies and that should be all you need to know.

7) Shell (SHLX)

508 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 1.2% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Shell was second to ExxonMobil in dollars spent to oppose climate policy with a $22-million annual budget. It even made a film warning of climate change in 1991 but did not heed its own warning so it could reap the benefits of increased profits. Of the energy giants, though, Shell and Total are the only companies to receive a “D” rating from InfluenceMap when it comes to transitioning to a low-carbon, energy policy globally. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron all received “E-” ratings.

8) British Petroleum (BP or BPMP)

448 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 1.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

We all know BP for spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 people at Deepwater Horizon -- the largest oil spill in history and eight to 31 percent larger than the next largest. In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct, and in July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines -- the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.

9) Peabody (BTU)

397 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Peabody is a coal company based in St. Louis, and as less and less American energy is produced by coal, Peabody’s stock price will fall more and more. Just 34.34 percent of America’s energy production came from coal in 2015 -- down more than five percent over the course of a year.

10) Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras (PETR4.SA)

382 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Petrobras is Brazil’s largest oil and natural gas company and is dirty in more than one way. It paid $2.95 billion to settle a U.S. class action corruption lawsuit at the beginning of 2018 -- the largest settlement paid to the United States by a foreign entity. The settlement was six times more than it has received so far under a Brazilian probe into bribery schemes that involved company executives and government officials.

11) Chevron (CVX)

377 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Shares of Chevron have increased nearly 30 percent in the last six months, so there will be no bargain for buyers of CVX now. Worse yet, its $34-billion project in Western Australia could face tougher emissions curbs, which would increase costs and sink shares.

12) Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas (PNAGF)

340 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Gross profits of the state-run, Malaysian oil and gas company have decreased over the last three years in all divisions -- gas processing, gas transportation, utilities and regasification. And its Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline transporting liquid natural gas sprung a leak on Jan. 10. A 2015 report found that there’s enough natural gas leakage to outweigh the climate benefits of using natural gas instead of coal.

13) Lukoil OAO (LKOH)

328 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Russia’s second-largest oil company expects sanctions to continue for a decade.

14) Glencore PLC (GLEN)

322 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

The Democratic Republic of Congo forced Glencore’s billionaire head of copper into a smaller role after a review raised questions about accounting and management, but Congo’s doubling of taxes on cobalt will hurt Glencore even more.

15) Koch Industries

300 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

How much Koch Industries actually pollutes Earth is difficult to determine, as Koch is privately owned and exempt from risk disclosures required of publicly-traded companies. Multiple estimates have Koch Industries at 300 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, but the Kochs do more to obstruct policy addressing climate change than anyone.

InfluenceMap ranked Koch Industries dead last in its readiness for a transition to a low-carbon policy globally. The Koch Brothers also contribute more to climate-change-denying candidates than anyone else. They budgeted for $889 million in campaign contributions to Conservative candidates in 2016 and are planning to spend up to $400 million during the 2018 midterm elections.

You can avoid giving Koch Industries your money by avoiding the companies it owns, like Vistra Energy Corp. (VST), of which it holds nearly five million shares. Vistra is a Texas energy company.

Dishonorable Mentions:

BHP Billiton Ltd. and PLC (BBL)

317 megatons on CO2 emissions, or 0.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

The Australian-English company is the world’s largest mining company.

Total SA (TOT)

311 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

The French, multinational, “Supermajor” oil and gas company was fined $313,910 for air emissions violations at its Port Arthur refinery in Texas just under a week ago, and this after the Clean Power Plan was mostly repealed.

Arch Coal Inc. (ARCH)

232 megatons of CO2 emissions, or 0.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015

Arch Coal is an American coal mining and processing company. They burn coal.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, USA Prepares, Building America, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense

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With the Republicans’ tax bill set to become law on Jan. 1, you have just a few days left to prepay your 2018 property taxes before the federal cap on your state and local tax deduction goes into effect. The Republicans’ tax bill will cap the state and local tax deductions on federal tax returns at $10,000.

Thomas Mould, a certified public accountant of Valley Accounting and Tax in Apple Valley, Minn., said the $10,000 cap applies to all state taxes, including income tax. So if you pay a combined $10,000 in state and local property taxes and state income taxes, you’ll probably want to prepay your 2018 property taxes today.

Most people don’t have a state and local tax bill over $10,000, but those who do should take advantage of the uncapped deduction for property tax payments one last time. People living in high-tax states like New York and California should be the first to jump at the opportunity. Oregon, Maryland and Minnesota also have high income tax rates, but some states are still sorting out how they’ll handle pre-payment of property taxes and whether they will recognize the deduction.

Some states have made their intentions clear. Oregon, for example, is not allowing or recognizing prepayment of property taxes. However, New Jersey’s Governor just issued an executive order allowing the prepayment and deduction at the State level.

Mould said three of the four counties he contacted in Minnesota will take a prepayment on 2018 property taxes but wouldn’t tell him whether that prepayment would be recognized as income by the County, ensuring deductibility by the IRS. So states are scrambling to find answers for citizens with just days to determine whether prepaying 2018 property taxes will payoff for them next year. Small businesses shouldn’t be as confused, though.

“If the business itself...is subject to taxation, then there’s no limit on the state taxes. But if all the taxes are paid at the personal level, then the $10,000 cap would apply,” Mould informed.

Translation: if your business is taxed as a corporate entity, then the $10,000 state and local tax cap doesn’t apply to you. But if you run a sole proprietorship, then the $10,000 cap on your state and local tax deduction does apply.

So do your due diligence and determine whether prepaying your 2018 property taxes will save you money come tax season next year, and if you intend to start a sole proprietorship in 2018, keep in mind that your state and local tax deduction will be capped at $10,000, and it might be worth paying your 2018 property taxes ahead of time.


 

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl

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So you’ve got an idea that’s going to revolutionize an industry. You’ve got some startup capital to invest in your business, and you’re ready to dedicate yourself to your startup. But before you launch your product or service, there are mistakes you can easily avoid when starting your business that will sink your startup before it starts up.

1. Write a business plan before doing anything else

You might be thinking, “But I don’t need any funding,” or “I’m bootstrapping this business,” or “I have to be first to market.” And none of that matters. A business plan isn’t just a way to entice investors to provide funding for your startup. It’s a way for you to get to get to know your business intimately.

Most startups that fail do so because the CEO provided a product or service that didn’t solve a problem. Don’t try to solve a problem people don’t know they have; solve a problem they know they have. Writing a business plan is the best way to determine whether your business is solving a problem people know they have.

A business plan will also help prepare content for your website. You’ll nail down your company’s mission and answer key questions customers will have about your business. You’ll likely realize where a section of your business plan fits on your website while you’re writing it.

Most importantly, a business plan will help you prepare for each phase of your startup process, both operationally and financially. You’ll know how much startup capital you’ll need to start your business and have a budget so you don’t overextend yourself. You’ll also know who you’ll need to help start your business, and the list is probably longer than you imagined.

2. Invest in people before your product or service

The most important assets a company has is its employees, and it’s no different for a startup. Before you invest in a prototype or technology, surrounding yourself with the right people can help you avoid a failed launch of your business.

The first people you need are potential customers. You’re not selling them at this point, but their needs should dictate yours and that of your company. They can provide valuable feedback about your product or service that will help you perfect it prior to launch. Talk to at least 15 people you think would have an interest in your product or service. Let them know what you intend to offer and how they would improve it.

One of the best investments you can make in your business is in public relations. You might think you can do this work yourself, especially after writing a business plan. After all, you know your business better than anyone else. But journalists and editors of newspapers, magazines and websites are more apt to publish something about your business when it comes from a PR person or firm with whom they’re familiar. A press release received from an email address that contains the same business name as the press release doesn’t exactly scream “trust me.” A third party writing about your business, though, does have some validity, even though you’re paying that party.

You’ll likely pay more than you think, too, according to Tom Hogan and Carol Broadbent’s new book, The Ultimate Start-up Guide: Marketing Lessons, War Stories, and Hard-won Advice from Leading Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors. Hogan and Broadbent recommend you never have a PR firm work on your account part-time and to hire a local firm where available. You should also seek out a PR firm that has contacts with media members who publish to your target market. And when you set the initial meeting, request that the people who will be actually working on your account are at the meeting. Some firms will send principal members of the firm who will never actually work on your account. Don’t allow them to pull the “bait-and-switch.”

Once you’ve chosen a PR firm to spread the word about your company, set regular updates and weekly meetings to keep everyone on the same page and make sure your goals are being accomplished. Also be sure that your public relations team is fulfilling your agreed-upon reporting style.

Another place new business owners attempt to save money is by not hiring a social media manager. Don’t do this unless you are a social media wizard that understands how to read Facebook Insights and analytics and where to best invest your social media advertising dollars. If your target market is Millenials, the majority, if not all of your advertising budget should be spent online.

3. Don’t do business with family

If you have a family member with money to invest in your startup, don’t allow them to do so unless they’re aware they could lose every penny and you know it won’t alter your relationship.

If your big brother is a social media wizard, think twice about hiring him as a social media manager. How will your big brother handle taking orders from you? Believe me, I know what it’s like to work with family. I made my senior film a family affair and ended up being ordered around by my elders despite being the writer, producer, assistant director and assistant editor of the film. While I didn’t follow their orders, it wasn’t pleasant for anyone else on set.

4. Don’t go it alone

You need a partner. While no one likes to give up equity in their company, investors like to see at least two people working together to start a business. It shows that both are capable of working with others. If you go it alone you don’t give that impression.

Having a partner also allows you to get a different perspective to make more well-informed decisions early in the startup process. Working within your own bubble puts your business in a bubble that will burst. Be open to new ideas and different perspectives because your business can benefit.

5. Find a mentor

You can find business executives that will give you free advice through SCORE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small business get their start. Just enter your zip code and find business mentors near you. They’ll give you tips on your business plan, sales, advertising, operations management, etc.

There are also other tools available through SCORE. There are templates for business forms, webinars that will answer your immediate questions, and you can even register for a workshop in your area our schedule time with a business counselor. Even if you’re confident in your business plan, run it by a mentor to see what you and your partner are missing.

6. Stick to a timeline for launch and expansion

Whether you’re planning a soft launch or a massive grand opening, your launch is the first impression potential customers get of your business. Don’t screw it up too badly because it can sink your startup before is starts. Plan every part of your launch (and expansion) meticulously and stick to that timeline. Set goals that you want to reach within a certain period of time and then meet those short-term goals. If you say you’re going to launch on a certain date in press releases and advertisements, the worst thing you could do is push back your launch date because you’re behind schedule.

You’ll also want to set goals for expanding your company and meet those goals within a certain timeframe. If you say you want to open a new store within three years of launch, make sure you do your damndest to be in a position to do so. Meeting your goals gives you a lot to brag about as a company and CEO.

These are the easiest and most common mistakes you can avoid when starting your business, so don’t let one of them sink your startup before it starts.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl

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Amazon is attempting to monopolize retailing with its acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. While Amazon started as a business unreliant upon brick-and-mortar locations, it is now realizing the products and services the company can offer is limited to the locations of its warehouses. The company even has actual bookstores now.  

 

For instance, While Amazon’s Prime Pantry service allows customers to purchase non-perishables online and have them delivered to their front doors, Amazon does not have the ability to connect customers with fresh food, which is where the more than 400 Whole Foods stores comes in.

Food Prices will Fall

Amazon’s price war with Wal-mart just got a steroid injection. The only revenue Amazon was yielding to Wal-mart was on fresh food purchases. That’s no longer the case. Amazon will likely change little in Whole Foods stores to start, simply absorbing the revenue already created at those locations from the customers who would shop there regardless. But it won’t be long before Amazon updates its online catalogs with Whole Foods products that can be delivered to your door the same day you order.

 

Food delivery has to be the way Amazon intends to cut into Wal-mart’s grocery market share. A service that started as a way for the elderly to get their food and evolved into a means for donated food to find its way to people lacking transportation is going to make a comeback on a massive scale. Since the grocery business is such a low margin industry, Amazon can charge a premium to the customers who are already Whole Foods shoppers to not come to the store. All they’ll have to do is go online, pick their food products and wait for them to arrive at their door later that day or the next. Whether Amazon closes the Whole Foods stores entirely and turns them into order processing warehouses for their fresh food is unknown, but it’s a pretty safe bet Amazon is looking to beat Wal-mart into the food delivery market.

 

Wal-mart is currently the top provider of food in the nation, and by large margin because of all its locations, so there’s plenty of market share to be had by Amazon. It’s already shown an interest in catering to the low- and moderate-income American by lowering its Prime membership (which includes Prime Pantry access) to $5.99 monthly for those utilizing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). That’s a pretty good indication of what Amazon intends to do.

 

Amazon has basically exhausted its retail market share for all demographics but one -- the poor. But when Amazon starts enticing the low-income Wal-mart shopper to forego the taxi or bus ride down to the closest store for an online order they can have delivered to their door, there will be little market share for Amazon to gain and no place for prices to move. Until that day, you can expect prices on food to fall. This includes packaged foods like General Mills and Kraft Heinz offerings that have been forced to interior shelves inside grocery stores as Americans have become more conscious and cautious of what they’re eating.

The Acquisition Could Slow Inflation

While it’s unlikely the growth of inflation will come to a dead stop due to Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, there will be a slight effect felt. Consider that Whole Foods private label, 365 brand, comes along with Whole Foods, and now that Amazon owns a private-label food brand, you can bet that label is going to be well-represented online. Amazon has been selling private-label perishables for about a year. Available food is cheaper food, and the 365 brand being available to consumers online could put Amazon in a position to compete with other private labels.

 

So while the effect on inflation might not be to the point that the Fed decides against acting to reach its two-percent growth target in 2018, cheaper food will certainly curtail inflation growth. Even considering real estate and rents increasing in cost, steady fuel prices that are relatively low given recent history help counteract living expenses. And with companies attempting to create an emissions-free semi-truck to change the way food is delivered to Wal-mart and Whole Foods, the cost of food could be falling ever further in the near future. You can do more than hope, though. Here are a few more ways you can save on food.

You’ll Never Have to Stand in the Line at the Store Again

The biggest value the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods has for you, the consumer, is all the time you’ll save not standing in line at the store. We hear it all the time in America: “Time is money.” Well, companies are going to do their best to save you time like Amazon has done with its acquisition of Whole Foods because they can only cut prices so much, and making your purchase easier or more enjoyable is cheaper in the long run. If you don’t have to drive to the grocery store anymore, that’s likely an hour or so per week you have to do literally anything else. That’s four hours per week, and even if you make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that’s almost $350 you’ll save annually. So if it costs you $6 per month for a Prime membership as a SNAP member, you’re still ahead $276.12, and you get streaming video at home. If you’re paying the full-price for Prime ($99 annually), you’re up almost $250 if you work for the country’s lowest wage.  Also keep in mind that Amazon will now be able to accept SNAP and WIC benefits.

 

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will have long-ranging impacts on the fresh food market and grocery market. It makes Wal-mart’s monopoly over low- and moderate-income Americans’ dollars vulnerable to the influence of Amazon. When my brother-in-law saw people getting out of cabs to go grocery shopping at Wal-mart he was stunned. “Why would you do that?’ he asked. “Well, people without transportation gotta eat, too,” I said. “And they’re not going to take a bus and haul groceries home everyday.” Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will be good for the average American, but it could change the lives of low- and moderate-income Americans. There never seems to be access to fresh food in low-income areas. That’s why people eat so much fast food -- because it’s there. Well, now Amazon is there.

 

Editor's Note: An update follows.

 

Amazon’s next task is to apparently undermine Wal-mart's clothing sales by offering something called Wardrobe Prime, which allows online shoppers to have clothes delivered to their home to try on, and they can return what they don't like or what doesn't fit. You can sign up for when it goes live here. You'll get 10 percent off for keeping three or more items and 20 percent off for keeping five items or more.

 

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, What’s Cookin Today

 

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