His personal essay on wilderness canoeing, Solo Challenge, was published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Boundary Waters Journal. A second article, titled Soloing for Solitude, appears in the Spring 2016 issue of the BWJ.
Since 2015, Chris has been a regular contributor to the financial website brokerage-review.com. Here’s a sample of his writing:
Top Five Brokerage Companies in 2015
The top-rated brokerage companies in 2015 all feature lower than average commission rates for stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds, but price only counts for part of the score. These top brokers excel at one or more other services besides low commissions.
With stock and ETF trades costing $7 and mutual fund trades costing $17, Scottrade ranks in the middle of the best brokerages when it comes to commissions. Their options fees are a lower-than-average $7 plus $1.25/contract. Minimum deposits required to open an account are $2,500 for taxable accounts and $0 for IRAs.
Some of the features that put Scottrade at the top of the rankings are no inactivity, account maintenance, or hidden fees, along with no custodian fees for IRAs. They also offer banking services such as savings accounts, CDs, free checking accounts with free ATM withdrawals, a check card, and a free starter set of checks. Scottrade is good for beginning investors thanks to their educational resources, the large number of mutual funds they make available to trade, and a free dividend reinvestment program (DRIP).
OptionsHouse offers the lowest commissions of almost any broker at $4.95 /trade for stocks and ETFs plus a reasonable $20 charge for mutual funds. Options pricing is outstanding at $4.95 + $0.50/contract. Their account minimums are excellent as well, requiring only $2,000 to open a margin account and no minimum required to open a cash account.
OptionsHouse has earned high marks for their no-fee IRAs, and no penalties or fees for account inactivity or maintenance. A plus for beginning investors is a free virtual trading platform along with free streaming quotes. Other nice benefits are free check-writing privileges and free DRIPs, with the requirement that reinvested shares are whole shares only, but that’s a minor quibble. For traders who frequently use margin, OptionsHouse offers some of the lowest margin rates available from online brokers.
One of the top brokers when it comes to commissions, Trade King’s $4.95 stock and ETF fee, coupled with $9.95 for mutual funds, is an attractive lure for active traders. Options are also priced at a competitive $4.95 +$0.65/contract. Initial investment requirements are low at $0 to open a cash account. Only $2,000 is needed to open a margin account. …
None of the best brokerages offers identical commissions, services, or benefits. Beginning traders should consider brokers that offer excellent research and virtual trading practice. Active traders should look for lower commissions and margin interest rates and consider brokers with the best trading tools and platforms. Mutual fund investors should pick from brokers with the lowest mutual fund commissions. To be a successful and profitable investor, individuals must do their homework and find the company that is the best fit for their trading style, budget, and level of sophistication.
Website homepage is: http://www.brokerage-review.com/
Chris has also been providing weekly paid op-ed commentary to a private party since 2015.
Sample Op-Ed Pieces
Is the War on Terrorism the New Normal? (9-22-2016)
With the recent terrorist attacks in the New York City area taking more lives and damaging more property, the question must be asked: Is terrorism here to stay? To answer that, we must ask two other questions. The first is why are terrorists attacking us? The second is can either side prevail in this new type of guerilla warfare?
Terrorists from the Middle East presumably attack Westerners because we imposed ourselves and our will into the middle of their lands without their blessing or permission. We “invaded” mainly to access their cheap oil, and then proceeded to set up arbitrary political boundaries and installed rulers friendly to our interests. Unfortunately, many of these puppet rulers turned out to be the worst sort of despots. All during our “invasion” we paid little heed to Muslim culture, religion, or tribal sovereignty. Is it any wonder radical elements feel the need to fight back? U.S. citizens would most certainly fight back against any foreign invader who declared war on us, or even on an invader who didn’t.
The question of one side winning this war is difficult to answer. How does a sovereign nation declare victory against an unknown, uncountable enemy? Even if we bomb the crap out of the entire Middle East, primarily nations whom we believe have supported terrorists against us, there is no guarantee that rogue elements who still feel disrespected won’t continue attacking Western targets.
Moreover, can a small group of terrorists ever declare victory over the most powerful nation in the world? What if we went so far as to “surrender” and cave in to all the terrorists’ demands? What would that entail? Most importantly, the disbanding of or disintegration of the nation of Israel. Past that, would terrorist victory require a total retreat of everything Western from countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Dubai, and Oman? It is hard to imagine Middle Easterners who have adopted western ways completely giving up what they have become accustomed to in order to return to some sort of tribal existence that characterized Muslim life only a few decades ago. This seems to be an impossible scenario.
What if the United States took a “slightly less radical approach” and essentially pulled out of the Middle East (in effect, taking our toys and going home)? Disgruntled Muslims might still feel slighted and continue to attack us with suicide bombers and localized attacks, just to “teach us a lesson” and make sure we do not try any funny business in the future.
Since the prospect of any of the previous scenarios coming true seems remote, the logical conclusion is that terrorism will continue unabated, with ebbs and flows of intensity depending upon the latest political and diplomatic shenanigans. Since terrorist attacks have literally become main street, mainstream events, it appears that terrorism has indeed become the New Normal.
Should groups like Black Lives Matter emphasize reducing inner-city violence rather than protesting and rioting? (1-4-2016)
In the wake of the recent epidemic of high-profile killings of black young men by white police officers, Black Lives Matters has risen to the top of the soapbox as one of the most influential citizen groups to advocate for solving the problem of white on black violence. They organize protests that get the public’s attention in the media, especially when a peaceful protest devolves into a riot. But is Black Lives Matters railing at the wrong injustice? I think so.
Most inner-city violence is endemic and caused by institutionalized poverty. After several generations were born to this life and were never able to rise above the oppression and inherent racism, those in poverty tried to find another way out by dealing illegal drugs. Illegal activities are inherently dangerous by definition, so when gangs took over the drug dealing, profits soared and sales territory was bitterly fought over, often in a deadly manner. Gang-on-gang violence kills many more minority men than police violence against minority men does, but mainstream media seems to either ignore or downplay that crisis.
But what might happen if illegal drugs were legalized? Based on our national experiment with prohibition in the 1920s, when the motive of lucrative profits from illegal products decreased and aligned with the profitability of legal businesses, violence virtually disappeared. It’s logical to assume a similar outcome would result from legalizing today’s illegal drugs.
Legalization also brings standardized distribution, so turf wars would be fought with advertising and marketing rather than violence. Taxes from newly legalized drugs could be targeted to neighborhoods most affected and harmed by inner-city violence.
Finally, if inner-city residents are mostly engaged in legal activities, police don’t enter those neighborhoods in a suspicious frame of mind. They may not have the gut feeling that every person they see may try to kill them just because they are the law and an automatic adversary.
Legalizing drugs is the first-step solution to solving a myriad of other problems related to racial injustice. Groups like Black Lives Matter might have more effect on reducing violence against young minority men if they focus on the root cause instead of the symptom.