Author Archive

The 500 Year Flood, One Year Later

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Earlier this summer my old journalist friend, Stephen Johnson, and I had a lot of fun interviewing stormwater engineers up and down the front range for an article for Stormwater Magazine entitled, The 500 Year Flood, One Year Later. If this type of thing interests you, you can find the article here. Stay dry— Bear

Monk Stock Talks

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

      I bought a little bit of SandRidge Permian Trust (PER) this morning at a little over $17.00 a share. It seems to be a solid little oil and gas “trust” company with interest in over 1300 producing wells. The reason I bought today is because it pays (at these prices) a very nice 14% dividend, but also because I’ve been buying big and little pieces of SandRidge over the past year or so and wanted to average my cost a little. (I bought at mostly higher prices–as high as $23.00– but also a little bit at a lower price $16.00)
      So what’s a lay monk doing buying stocks? In these days, it’s a little bit like hoeing the garden, planting an orchard, having a milk cow. Yes, all of our “monk actions” are supposed to be for the love of God (the love of love, the love of truth, beauty and world peace). Yet money is part of God’s creation, too, yes?
     This first “Monk Talks Stocks’ column is not to defend or detail my stock investing but rather to simply let my friends and fellow travelers know that I do intend to (somewhat regularly) write about stocks and investments, theory and practice, hopefully with at least a modicum of compassionate and a holistic frame of reference. I would appreciate comments and feedbacks.
      Very quickly, even though I’m an ex-stockbroker, let me forewarn you that my basic interest is no longer trying/hoping to make money by trading in and out of the market. I’ve finally come to understand that nobody really knows what is going to happen in tomorrow’s market, even though the stats might give a good hint (much like the NFL.) These days, I’m no longer trying to predict the future but rather simply “purchasing current income.” Thus, I’m on the lookout for sound ”current income,” sources, rather than capital gains from buying and selling.
   In other words, rather than hoping to make a killing (or even make a little money) by buying low and selling high I’m much more interested in current dividends and distributions of a company. Thus, I look at silly old things like the fundamentals of the company (net asset value, revenue and income growth, debt level, etc.) their past dividend record, their ability to pay future dividends, their competition, their long-term outlook, and what kind of management is in place, as well as, to a lesser degree (because it tries to predict the future), the supposed long-term outlook for the industry sector.
I would of course love to buy low and sell high, but I’m basically looking for vehicles that provide regular cash income. Once those vehicles are in place, and the income is flowing, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference (theoretically) if the market values these vehicles higher or lower than what I originally paid for them, as long as income is secure. Of course, I prefer to see my stock prices go up, and tend to go uggh when they go down, but with this “purchase income” approach, the ups and downs of the market (e.g., particular daily stock prices) generally don’t have too much influence on my monthly cash flow. The hardest part of this “buy income” strategy is transcending the deeply ingrained emotional attachment to principle, which we have been taught is “absolutely precious.” I’ve learned (somewhat) to let principle fluctuate on a daily basis (which it always will in the stock market) and rely instead on the steady cash flow, seeing it as even more “precious” than so-called principle. It’s called the “sleep easy” method of investing. Where you buy an income stock and let it pay for years and years without trying to time the market, e.g. get in and get out with the highs and lows. I’d rather sleep easy, and let my investments pay regular returns.
   If you’re interested in hearing what I’m doing in the market (my “yay’s” as well as my moans and groans), with no promises about getting rich, and maybe participating in the conversation about how to invest and still stay peaceable with at least a modicum of social responsibility, check back here and/or let me know at bear@beargebhardtcom
Be back at you soon…

How to Stop Smoking in 15 Easy Years

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

  Yay, it’s here!
  After threatening to write this book for many decades, How to Stop Smoking in 15 Easy Years— A Slacker’s Guide to Final Quitting arrived on my doorstep this week. Twenty copies!

  I’m tickled with this book. In all humility, I know it’s different, and easier and fresher and funner than any other stop smoking book on the market. (I think I’ve read them all.) I’m also tickled with it because I know it works. My friends and clients tell me so.
  My publisher says I should give away these first twenty copies to people who might write a review on Amazon (or for the New York Times! Or who are simply willing to tell their friends.) I’m happy to do that. I’d also be happy to give away a few copies to anybody who actually needs a copy to dissolve their own smoking addiction, and truly can’t afford the low cost Amazon and/or Kindle price tag. So if you fit into any of those categories, e-mail me here: I’ll get a copy to you soon.

  I’m tickled. It’s here. Let the fun begin.

Step 1: Arrest the INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS Filmakers

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

(This is another recent post I wrote for my DAMMM website)
      One needed response that the U.S. should offer to the firestorms erupting in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bangladesh and other predominately Muslim countries is to arrest the Los Angeles filmmakers of The Innocence of Muslims for violation of the Hate Crimes Laws, as well as fraud perpetrated against the actors used in it. This is an obvious response. But first…
    Our prayers and deep condolences go out to the families, friends and colleagues of the four Americans who died this week at the American Embassy in Libya. Sudden, violent and unexpected deaths such as these are always the hardest for those of us left behind. It is the least attractive way to learn, again, and be reminded, that love itself does not die.
     The fiery uprising in Libya that resulted in that vicious bombing and gun battle was a continuation of the horrors unleashed by ingrained cultural ignorance and superstition, not only in the Middle East but right here in Middle Street, Any City, USA. For example:
     “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate in a city we helped save from destruction,” asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. What? How could this have happened? As if she didn’t know. Violence always— always—only perpetrates more violence. Less than a week earlier, Naji Barakat, the Health Minister of Libya’s National Transitional Council conceded that at least 30,000 people had been killed in the U.S. supported “war of liberation,” with another 50,000 wounded. Might there be some hard feelings about this violence still simmering?
        And what might touch off— reignite— those hard feelings? The Innocence of Muslims is a low-budget, hate-filled, anti-Muslim screed put together by a few right-wing Christian extremists who produced it to further their own political and financial interests while mouthing ancient and ignorant bigotry, prejudice and religious intolerance. In the processes of making the film they lied to the mostly un-paid actors, dubbed in voice-overs for the script and hid the true intent of the production. Relative to Islam, it would be as if a film was made by Muslims extremists depicting Jesus as a greedy war hawk congressman taking bribes from lobbyists while diddling his interns. Although absolutely no truth to such a portrayal, such a film might make some Christians uneasy.
      Added to the film’s blatant, intentional blasphemy is the fact that in Islam there’s a long, admittedly somewhat superstitious tradition that any portrayal of the Prophet, be it good, bad or indifferent, is a crime against the faith. So to make this film—even if it were to portray Mohammed in respectful, glowing terms, which is certainly did not — was poking at a hornet’s nest. To make such an ignorant, hate-filled, intentionally provocative and dishonest film aimed at a particular religious group easily falls under both Federal and State “Hate Crimes Acts.”
         So the U.S. government should start by arresting the filmmakers and charging them under hate-crime statutes. And then, for good measure, the U.S. government should renounce all further violent intervention in foreign affairs. Rather than sending more Marines to Tripoli, and two new aircraft carriers to the surrounding waters — which is the current response — we should immediately begin pull out of all U.S. armed services.That’s only if we want to take steps toward lasting peace in the Middle East.
     It’s a new millennium. Time for a new approach to foreign affairs, outgrowing the cave-man military response to every incident. Maybe somebody could make a movie…

Let’s DON’T Help the Syrian Rebels

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

(This is a recent post I wrote for my DAMMM website)

    Let’s help the Syrian people instead.

    And simultaneously bring a stimulus to the U.S. economy.
    What we do is drop into Syria a billion dollars’ worth of I-phones and Androids, another billion or two of the 2011 cars not yet sold by Ford and General Motors, and a half a billion or so each of Dell and the Hewlett Packard computers. We could also drop a billion dollars or so worth of grain and food surpluses from Cargill, Con-Agra and Kraft. We also drop a half a billion bucks worth of the about to be outdated Windows software from Microsoft. We could make it an international effort by buying up several Walmart distribution centers and dropping the whole lot of Chinese made products.
   All of this would be much less expensive, and much more practical and compassionate than if we were to offer military aid to the Syrian rebels, particularly the disorganized ragamuffins who call themselves the Free Syrian Army. Aiding any group that is taking up arms against the obviously heartless, bloody and ruthless Assad regime would only intensify and prolong the killing, prolong the bloodshed. Such military aid would be both impractical and unethical, immoral, as opposed to the more humane approach offered above.

    We’re only half joking here. And we are not being naïve. We desperately want to help others in bringing a quick end to the horrors ongoing in Syria, where over 18,000 men, women and children have died at a result of the uprising, and over a million people displaced from their homes. How best to do this?

    Hilary Clinton has promised $25 million in “non-lethal” communication gear to the rebels, which can only increase the violence. (What else are the rebels going to communicate about?)

    Although not mentioned much in the mainstream press, there is a widespread urge toward non-violent resistance amongst the Syrian people that Ms. Clinton’s offer does little to support. One of the most dramatic expressions of this urge toward non-violence happened earlier this year when a young female Syrian refugee worker, Rima Dali stood outside the Syrian parliament with a banner that read, ‘Stop the killing, we want to build a country for all Syrians.” She poured red and white paint over her body. Arrested and released four days later, she continues to be a spokesperson for the non-violence movement.

    “The government wanted to push people into violence because that’s their game and they don’t know how to deal with nonviolence,” Ms. Dali said.

    Military aid to the Syrian rebels is currently being offered by very non-democratic governments such as Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and outside religious groups hoping to make Syria the next battleground. “The situation is no longer in the hands of Syrians. We are pawns in a big game,” said Youssef Abdelke, a leading Syrian artist.

    The U.S. has a long history of playing such games, and attempting to apply military solutions to the world’s human problems. In this new millennium we need more and more voices speaking out to break that sad direction in U.S. foreign policy. Let’s don’t supply military aid to Syrian rebels. Let’s offer real aid, and real hope for an end to the bloodshed, to the Syrian people.