Maryland Senator Mikulski to Retire, Giving Martin O’Malley a Place to Go the Minute Hillary Clinton Announces Her Candidacy

Longtime Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has announced she will not seek re-election in 2016. This opens the door for perpetually ambitious former Governor Martin O’Malley to take her place in the Senate if/when Hillary Clinton finally announces her candidacy for president.  If Clinton doesn’t run, then O’Malley will announce his candidacy less than a week later.  If she does run, he is certainly better off waiting for his next chance while serving in the Senate.

I’m sure he’s looking forward to running against former Governor Bob Ehrlich again, as Erhlich, similarly is in the fringes of contention for his party’s presidential nomination and would also be a lock for his party’s nomination for the Senate seat.

One last thing:  Senator Mikulski, if you vote for “Fast Track” and/or the TPP, you will be retiring in shame.  Lame ducks still need to do their jobs.

Random Review: Balance Bikes, the Easier Way to Learn How to Ride

Learning to ride a bicycle used to be about days of wobbling, crashing, pain, and frustration.  We decided to go in a different direction.   We got the WiseBoy a balance bike last year.  The learning process went a lot smoother than expected and he was pedaling around expertly just a few days after we gave him his real bike.

A balance bike looks just like a regular bike, except it has no pedals.  In fact, some people just take the chain/pedal assembly off a regular bike to convert it to a balance bike.  You’ll find some balance bikes are wooden, but we chose a metal one because it would be most similar to the real bicycle he’d have later.  The purpose was to get him ready for that, and a wooden toy-looking balance bike is just too different.

Start early and be patient.  I noticed different stages as he learned to use the balance bike.

The Reluctant Stage.   We got the balance bike for his 3rd birthday, though I’ve seen younger kids using them.  We didn’t pressure him to use his “motorcycle.”  He still enjoyed his tricycle.  For a couple months, he’d rarely touch the balance bike.

The Pretend Riding Stage.  Eventually, I had the idea to show him how to have fun with the bike.  We would race across the backyard, WiseBoy on foot while I “got on” his balance bike and pushed it along. After a few times back-and-forth, I would begrudgingly give him a turn with the balance bike.  At this stage, kids really just have to get used to moving this machine around (and wearing a helmet).  You have to keep the bike upright, steer it, and it’s between your legs.

Before the next stage, I had him watch some videos of other kids riding balance bikes.  Seeing other kids having fun helped motivate him.

The Sit & Walk Stage.  Next, he learned to sit on the bike and use his legs to make it roll forward, instead of walking above it and pushing it around with his arms.  There’s still not much “balance” going on here, but now he’s moving it around in a seated position.

Balance Bike Beginning

The Sit & Walk With Larger Strides Stage.  Now we start seeing some balancing.  He walked a bit faster, sometimes getting both feet off the ground.  I’m not sure if he really noticed these micro-coasts at first.  Then walk got even faster and the strides longer as he learned to have fun doing this crazy walk.

The Sit, Walk Fast, and Coast Stage.  Now he decides he likes to coast.  The balance bike itself is really fun.  He would build speed by walking fast then pick up his feet to coast for awhile.  At this stage he knew to put his feet down to stop.   Here, the basic balance skill is achieved, so next he’ll work on becoming comfortable balancing for longer distances and at greater speed.

The Coasting Down Hills Stage.  I highly recommend grass hills at first.  At this stage he learns to ride faster than any speed he can generate with his little legs.  I also started to emphasize the hand brake.  We started halfway up a small hill.  I got out my bike too and didn’t use my pedals.  I would push off once with my legs then coast down.  WiseBoy then followed.  He was a bit scared at first but then loved it (as is his way).

Balance Bike on Grass

After we tackled a large grass hill, we worked on steering.   I set up some cones to make a little slalom course.  We made a game where we would use our brakes to stop from going through the last pair of cones.

Next, we tried coasting down hills on a paved path at a park.  That made him go a little bit faster.  He crashed once, but was soon back on the bike.  Later we let him ride in the street in the neighborhood.  This is a good chance to teach traffic safety while his speed is still limited by the balance bike.

Transition to Real Bike

The WiseBoy was ready for a big boy bike a few weeks before he turned 4, so that made an obvious present.  Learning to ride a real bike after a balance bike is so much easier than transitioning from training wheels.  This technique did present some of its own issues.

Launching.  He had trouble getting the bike moving so that he could engage his balance skills, put his feet on the pedals and begin pumping.  That first day I would have to “launch” him.  I think the presence of the pedals made him feel like he couldn’t walk fast then pick up his feet anymore.  It took a little more practice for him to get good launching himself.

Brakes.  The real bike did not have hand brakes like the balance bike, but coaster brakes that require you to pedal backwards to engage.   That is another learning curve that WiseBoy struggled with.  He continued to use his feet as Fred Flinstone brakes.   This caused a lot of wear and tear on his shoes and some nasty looking bruises on his shins where the pedals would hit him.  It took him awhile, but he eventually got used to backpedaling to stop.  I think showing him how fun it is to make skid marks in the dirt helped.


Overall, I’d say the balance bike is a superior way to learn how to ride.  It seemed much less painless and terrifying than the “traditional” way.  So forget training wheels.  They are a huge waste of time.


Here are some videos of balance bikes in action.

Disaster Investing: Climate Change Denial and the Stock Market

A lot of people are still insisting on being wrong about climate change. Their opinions seep into how certain companies are valued on the stock markets. This is a good example of how the efficient market hypothesis is seriously flawed. The information is available (scientific consensus), yet people are not acting rationally. Of course, they are not entirely to blame, because there are a great deal of opinion leaders pushing climate change denialism for their own short-term political and economic interests.

Climate Change Denial



Because of Denialism, Market Pricing Does Not Fully Reflect Climate Change Facts

The market is not accurately reflecting the probability of the effects of climate change because public opinion is lagging behind. The imbalance is caused, in part, by folks spreading misinformation because it serves their short term interests (profits) to impede efforts to combat climate change.  Therefore, some stocks will be undervalued due to significant climate change denialism. Yes, you can bet that eventually facts will win out.

“Does human activity cause climate change?”

Yes, but that’s not the right question. The point of that question is to give us a sense of agency and responsibility: we did it, we should fix it, we can undo it. I have no faith in the 3rd part. Well, we have the technical ability to slow or reverse it. It’s just unreasonable to expect the level of global coordination and consensus necessary to make it happen. Right now there are so many powerful interests that benefit from stopping any such effort. We would need a benevolent, competent, worldwide dictator to get it done. (Yes, some on the fringes are actually counting on the return of Jesus to take care of this, so why bother changing light bulbs.)

Climate change is real and its effects are inevitable

So, we’re all doomed, you say?  Well, I don’t know. We humans are a resilient bunch. In the context of investing, I say we should ignore the worst case scenario, because if that happens, the status of your portfolio is not going to be a priority. So assume the effects of climate change won’t be the end of civilization, but it will be extremely costly.  What we now consider extreme weather events will be much more common.

Hurricanes, Droughts, and Snowmageddons

I’m not going to tell you which stocks to buy today. I’m not professional at that so you probably shouldn’t listen to me anyway. I will tell you that this is a unique type of growth sector one should look into. Knowing what types of companies could benefit from our failure to prevent global climate change is different from telling you specifically which companies among them offer the best investment. I think that requires a different analysis, looking at the fundamental value of that particular company.

What I can do is give you some hints that could nudge your own thought process in the right direction. Now, big storms are coming more often. What do people buy to get ready or rebuild? Where do they buy it? What types of services are in higher demand surrounding these crises? You can look to similar past events to get a clue to which companies profit from cleaning up the mess we’ve made of our planet. Find where the prep and recovery money went, because a lot more is on the way.

I intend to do some research to follow the money to see exactly where the government relief funds went in response to, for example, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. I expect to share some insights here, so stay tuned.

Costly Severe Storms Katrina Sandy

Will the Net Neutrality Victory Be Wiped Out by the TPP?

FCC Chairman Wheeler’s announcement about net neutrality is a great win for everybody that doesn’t own a broadband provider. Of course, the more corporate your news source, the more negative the reaction you’ll see to the announcement. The FCC’s move is a step in the right direction for securing the most internet freedom for the most people.

However, it’s possible that defeat could be snatched from the jaws of victory if a new trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), passes Congress. According to leaks from the secret negotiations, the TPP would allow multinational corporations to easily challenge all regulations that impact its profit. Yes, this is an attack on our sovereignty and the Constitution.

So any future consumer-friendly regulation of the Internet providers by the FCC could be overturned if the TPP is passed. Here’s a great description of the part that could be used to upend net neutrality:

Just one example of this is the “investor-state dispute settlements” provision, which I have called “corporate courts.” This part of “NAFTA-style” trade agreements, including TPP, allows corporations to sue governments that pass laws and regulations that interfere with profits. Similar clauses in trade agreements around the world have, for example, enabled tobacco companies to sue governments for trying to protect the health of their citizens. Under TPP these suits will be adjudicated by corporate attorneys, not democratically constituted courts.

Most people have never even heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, perhaps only being vaguely aware that Obama’s pushing for some kind of trade deal. The TPP is extremely important, yet it continues to get almost no coverage in the corporate, mainstream media:

Over The Past 18 Months, Network Evening News Completely Ignored The TPP. A Media Matters transcript search of the CBS Evening News, ABC’s World News Tonight, and NBC’s Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through January 31, 2015, found no mention of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. By contrast, PBS NewsHour mentioned the TPP on during eight broadcasts, most of which were substantive discussions of the trade agreement.

Media Coverage of TPP

So, the public is left to fend for themselves and seek out information about the TPP from smaller media sources. Try the ones below for a good overview of the issue, then contact your Congresscritter.

The Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP, in Only 4 Sentences

How the TPP Would Impact You

Tea Party and Unions Team Up Against Obama Fast-Track Trade Authority

Take a Minute to Understand the TPP

TPP secrecy