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Curses! Foiled again! So much for ease of access to accurate information on the compensation your corporate officers are recieving . . . "Due to an accounting loophole for stock options and an eleventh-hour rule change made by securities regulators just before Christmas." Sigh. Read the full story by David Cho and Carrie Johnson here at The Washington Post Online.
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Real Estate Slumps, Sandcastles Practically Worthless
Written by Noah Berkowitz   
The latest report from the National Association of Realtors brought discouraging news this week to many invested in real estate. An alarming report revealed that despite ocean views and beachfront property, sandcastles are practically worthless.

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MBAs Meet SRI
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
Even with the growing presence of corporate social responsibility in the business world and socially responsible investing in the finance world, these are still relatively small issues and niche markets. Business schools, however, are taking the lead and presenting their students with lots of opportunities to explore these emerging fields through classes, specializations, and extra-curriculars. Now comes word that the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley is starting a student-managed SRI fund. Currently there is $250,00 in the fund and investments will begin when $500,00 has been raised, although the goal is to get to $1 million as soon as possible in order to "produce better data on [their] investment criteria and [their] effectiveness."

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Ecomagine That
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
GE has really committed to its 2-year old "ecomagination" program, at least with marketing dollars.  It is hard to watch TV these days without seeing a dancing animal and a light bulb. But according to the Wall Street Journal, it is more than just good PR.  GE's environmentally-friendly products are selling well and are expected to grow 10% annually through 2010. 

However, even with a real commitment to the environment within certain parts of the behemoth, GE has not stopped pursing contradictory income streams, such coal-fired steam turbines and investing in oil-and-gas production.  While GE Chairman Jeffery Immelt backs carbon-limits and supports R&D for forward-looking products, the company still continues to support all projects, including coal-fired plants, "when the economics makes sense."  As Dan Bakal, director of electric-power programs for Ceres, says in the Journal article, "GE is 'looking toward the future but they are not yet giving up all of the past.'" 

GE, like may other multinationals, are attempting to change their core activities in order to be socially responsible, as well as to remain ahead of the curve on issues they predict will be major market movers in the future.  We can only hope the commitment remains and these news products and programs begin to replace the old way of doing business.  Otherwise we simply have more of a good thing . . . and more of a bad.
 
The New York Times Lightens Up
Written by Michelle Haimoff   
The New York Times (NYT) announced today that they are ending "TimesSelect" - the password protected site that only paying subscribers can access. The Op-Ed and news columns dating back to 1987 are now free for all Internet users, and only the complete archives (dating back to the first issue in 1851) are limited to subscribers.

This is good for two reasons:
1) I can cross "write a scathing opinion piece about how the Times charges for information" off my to-do list.
2) Bloggers everywhere can refer to the Times again with links to articles that don't demand payment up front.

The Times writes:
Since we launched TimesSelect, the Web has evolved into an increasingly open environment. Readers find more news in a greater number of places and interact with it in more meaningful ways. This decision enhances the free flow of New York Times reporting and analysis around the world. It will enable everyone, everywhere to read our news and opinion – as well as to share it, link to it and comment on it.
That's right Times, you're not the only game in town anymore. Nevertheless, we're proud to see you reluctantly stumble into the 21st century.
 
Gay Cars: Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
Written by Nina Smith   
“The car has become... an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete.” – Marshall McLuhan

Last weekend as my partner and I picked up our rental car to drive out to the Berkshires, I laughed upon seeing the Subaru (7270) sitting in the stall. Do straight people know that Subarus are considered lesbian cars?
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The Long and Short of SRI
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
If you read enough SRI marketing literature, you will come to recognize that everyone expects market rate returns.  "Obviously," you must be muttering, "who would advertise in any other way?"  Even if some investors are willing to overtly take a cut in returns on their investment in order to invest "responsibly", most are not, or more importantly, don't have the luxury to do so. 
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Why We Can't Eliminate the Penny
Written by Noah Berkowitz   
Every now and then, Congress discusses the need for a change in our currency. Oftentimes, these debates turn political and lead to discussions about whether or not the actor who played Ronald Reagan should be featured on the dime. Recently, a different type of debate has evolved/been intelligently designed in the halls of Washington. Due to an unexpected increase in the price of zinc, some members of Congress insist it is no longer feasible for the United States Treasury to produce the penny. Although pennies have lost much of their flavor since the days I got paid to eat ten for a nickel, I cannot help but point out the importance of this oft neglected coin.

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American Apparel: Fashionably Wrong?
Written by Nina Smith   
“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson

Kristina Dell at Time noted the Real-World Problems of Second Life when shoppers at American Apparel were gunned down by a group called the Second Life Liberation Army last year. The act, albeit it virtual, probably had something to do with dissatisfaction about the site’s increasing commercialization, but Meghan Daum might beg to differ.

Meghan Daum writes a fantastic column at the Los Angeles Times and recently opined on the ick factor of American Apparel. She writes:

I’ve been looking at American Apparel’s advertisements for years now, and I’m still not sure what I think about them. My feelings are another story. I loathe them -- and not just because the super-hip, low-fi, can’t-be-bothered-to-look-professional-because-that’s-so-uncool aesthetic is emblematic of everything that’s irritating about a certain segment of contemporary urban youth culture. I loathe them because I believe they’re meant to evoke pornography, sometimes even child pornography. The fact that a) this cannot be proved, and b) you can’t say it without sounding like a prudish old biddy, drives me crazy.
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The Money Warrior is here to kill you some money
Written by Tom Hart   
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The Money Warrior is here to kill you some money.
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Countrywide: Married vs. Partnered
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Written by Nina Smith   
“The superior man seeks what is right; the inferior one, what is profitable.” – Confucius

Much has been written about Countrywide (CFC) over the last couple of weeks, including the comprehensive coverage provided by Gretchen Morgenson at The New York Times in Inside the Countrywide Lending Spree.

She writes, “Few companies benefited more from the mortgage mania than Countrywide, among the most aggressive home lenders in the nation. As such, the company is Exhibit A for the lax and, until recently, highly lucrative lending that has turned a once-hot business ice cold and has touched off a housing crisis of historic proportions.”

But this post isn’t about shoddy lending practices and the subprime mortgage debacle. There's no use flogging a dead horse. Rather, this is a story about a lesbian couple just trying to keep their home. It has nothing to do with adjustable-rates or using equity like cash from the ATM machine.
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China Celebrates Labor Day
Written by Noah Berkowitz   
Citizens of the People's Republic of China are celebrating Labor Day today throughout their country. To mark Labor Day celebrations in China, millions of Chinese people will be working.
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Sustainable Banking with the Big Guns
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
Recently I wrote about banking within your own community as a way to be a socially responsible investor.  If that doesn't suit you, here are some major banks which are known for their work in sustainable banking.
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Investing in Your Own Backyard
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
The push towards "local" is mostly viewed through consumer eyes.  Whether shopping at local stores rather than national chains, or eating local foods rather than those shipped from thousands of miles away, being local is emerging as vital to the sustainable development movement. 

Socially responsible investors can get in on the act as well.  Supporting community development financial institutions (CDFIs) is a great way to make your money work for your community.
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The T in LGBT: Gender Identity Policies at U.S. Companies
Written by Nina Smith   
Over the years, a record number of U.S. companies have expanded benefits and protections for their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), “More and more companies are including LGBT people in their non-discrimination policies and offering benefits to employees’ domestic partners.”
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Vinod Khosla, Ethanol Mogul
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Written by Richard Reiss   
Related links:

http://www.khoslaventures.com/resources.html

http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-6202328.html

http://www.greenbiz.com/news/columns_third.cfm?NewsID=35798


Burning Man and Greentech:

Apparently one can look for venture capital at Burning Man:
http://newenergytimes.com/SR/Planktos/BurningManGreentech.htm

Vinod Khosla, ethanol mogul:
http://www.khoslaventures.com/resources.html
 
Whole and Wild: Buying Local Foods and Oats
Written by Nina Smith   
Photo:Elizabeth Thomsen, Creative Commons, Flickr
“In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it’s unenvironmental it is uneconomical. That is the rule of nature.” – Mollie Beattie

I admit that I’m a newbie to the sustainable living movement. Only since the beginning of Queercents have I honed in on ways to save money by reducing our household consumption. Most of these ideas have come through the weekly posts submitted at the Festival of Frugality. Yet even now, the topic of sustainability is daunting. I’m not alone. Jeanine, my partner, has a hard time getting through her bimonthly issue of E Magazine (E as in environmental), a subscription deposited as a stocking stuffer last Christmas. That said, we continue to give it the old college girl try.
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If He Can Like Wal-Mart, Can You?
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
For those of us interested in sustainable community development, Wal-Mart (WMT) is a hard company to like, let alone love.  Even with its move toward more energy-efficient stores and selling more environmentally-friendly and organic products, it is a reflex for many of us to be Wal-Mart haters.  But given the enormity of the company, is dismissing Wal-Mart offhand worse than engaging with it seriously?

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Saving Ourselves from Ourselves
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
Most Americans inherently believe in the power of free markets.  It is ingrained in us along with our sense of individualism.  Even those who believe in "big government" are not necessarily in favor of elected officials telling citizens how to live their lives. 

Yet with the growing awareness of how individual choices affect society as a whole, more and more legislation has been coming out that limits individual choice for the benefit of the larger public.  Indoor smoking and trans-fat bans are just two examples.  These bans met fierce opposition from many corners, particularly restaurants, since their businesses would be most affected.  But the smoking ban, at least, has been a success for patrons, and there has yet to be a flood of restaurants going out of business because of it.

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Queer Eye for the Financial Guy
Written by Nina Smith   
Photo:Bob The Lomond, Creative Commons, Flickr
David Neubert invited me to write for The Panelist after I forwarded a post from Queercents about the Economics of Burning Man. A few days earlier, I had asked one of our contributing writers to tackle the topic since I’ve never ventured out on the playa. I figured someone should find the answers to my burning questions about money and the Burning Man experience. 

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Bottled Water Scam Exposed: Yeah, I Tapped That!
Written by Noah Berkowitz   
Photo:micaht2000, Creative Commons, Flickr
Beverage giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are reeling this week from backlash to the news that their bottled water products are a total sham.

Pepsi's Aquafina brand tap water announced last week that it would change the PWS logo printed on its bottles to a more descriptive ‘Public Water Source’. Company spokeswoman Debra Spencer said "Obviously, it has always been tap water. Our customers are idiots. Are you forgetting that we introduced Crystal Pepsi?"

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Brooklyn Tornado
Written by Jack Hudson   
A picture worth a thousand words. A tornado strikes Brooklyn, leaving police officers to use chain saws to free a blocked Land Rover, one of a class of vehicles seen as a prime contributor to climate change, among the effects of which are expected to be flukish weather extremes, like tornados in Brooklyn.
 
The Advent of Sustainable Investing
Written by Casson Rosenblatt   
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) has joined the lexicon of many investors.  John Keefe thinks that needs to change.  He advocates for a shift to "Sustainable Investing," meaning "the full integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into financial analysis and decision-making."  He contends that only with this change can the industry have the impact on corporate behavior and capital markets that it desires.

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Intervention Held for Erratic Dow Jones
Written by Noah Berkowitz   
After a particularly reckless week, the closest friends and family of Dow Jones staged an intervention in an attempt to stabilize her erratic swings. Jones, largely known for her promiscuity, is famous for being filled by thirty large organizations at the same time. The scrutiny of being a public figure with a promiscuous reputation has led Jones to struggles with severe highs and lows and stints in rehab. Following her largest surge in nearly five years, Jones was confronted about her lack of stability.
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This Week in Citizen Joe (7/30/07)
Written by Citizen Joe   
Photo:jcolman, Creative Commons, Flickr
The Senate gets to its SCHIP plans this week, voting to beef up the health care program which covers low income kids and their families. The five year $35b pricetag would be paid for by a 61 cent tax on cigarettes.

The House verges on hyperactivity this week possibly voting on (deep breath):

  • its own SCHIP bill, which would add $50b to the program, along with a measure that would keep doctors' Medicare fees from dipping for the next two years;

  • letting employees sue for wage discrimination after each pay check that gets cut (reversing a recent Supreme Court case);

  • two final '08 budget bills - $460b for defense and $91b for agriculture. Although the defense bill doesn't include $142b that's expected to cover the wars, it will come with more battles over Iraq amendments; one that would start a drawdown in 60 days, others about required training and downtime for troops and one that would close Gitmo.

  • a package of energy measures that are pretty slim on their own, but that may come with amendments to - increase gas mileage standards, push utilities to use renewable sources for 20% of their output, and boost biofuel production; and

  • a measure that would make it easier for companies to divest from Iran and Sudan.

Both chambers will also try to polish off a long lingering lobby reform bill - that could possibly expose lobbyists' habit of "bundling" contributions - as well as a $20b water projects bill.

 
Marketing in the Big Green
Written by Ryan Babenzien   
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the luxury car market and its Green-ness. Yes, I made that word up. It's a very clever thing these car companies do; they use the power of words to evoke a sense of environmental responsibility. Here are a few of my favorite phrases in the marketing material (you'll get a prize if you guess which slogan goes with which car company):

"With power comes responsibility"
"Progressive performance"
"Co2 Champion"
"Efficient dynamics"
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This Week in Citizen Joe (7/23/2007)
Written by ThePanelist   
The Senate starts the week topping off college legislation with a bill that would keep an eye on tuition spikes and keep a leash on sweet deals between lenders and financial aid officers. Next up, senators will vote on their first '08 spending bill, a $38 billion Homeland Security measure, S 1644. If there's time left, senators may also beef up SCHIP, a program that covers health insurance for low income kids and their families; the going plan would add $35 billion to SCHIP over the next five years, paid for by a 61 cent tax on cigarettes.

The House sticks with budgeting in the first half of the week - with votes on a $104 billion transportation and housing bill, HR 3074, and a $54 billion bill, HR 3093, covering commerce, justice and science funding - before it dives into reauthorizing the massive farm bill.

Citizen Joe
Photo:acidcookie, Creative Commons, Flickr
 
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