Friday, July 30, 2010

BP -- Strong Buy

Surprise, surprise, the oil that had been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico seems to have disappeared. According to the experts, a combination of human and natural forces have led to its near disappearance.

When the leak sprung, BP piped in special dispersant chemicals into the flow. Apparently they have worked as advertised. Second, the oil that rose to the surface of the Gulf was further dissolved by the combination of warm water and hot sun. After clean-up efforts got underway, a lot of oil was skimmed off the surface of the water. Meanwhile, the water currents in the Gulf have carried much of the oil out to the Atlantic Ocean.

Some oil reached shore areas. But able-bodied citizens were there and waiting, scooping up every blob that hit land.

Thus the question of damages needs a major revision. It looks like the immediate damage to the water and shore is close to ZERO. The harsh dispersant chemicals and the oil itself may have harmed or killed some sea life. But the new question is how long will it take for the effects of the chemicals to dissipate?

When can fishermen, crabbers and oystermen resume their work?

Hard to say. But, it's now clear the total cost of the clean-up and compensating the fishermen and resort owners will fall far below the figure of $20 billion concocted by hysterics claiming the oil leak was Doomsday for the Gulf.

What's ahead for BP?

The company will make good on its obligations to pay for the clean up and maintaining the income of the people hurt by the interruption to their livelihoods. After the company and the injured parties settle on a figure, the company will restart its dividend. It's important to remember that BP stock is the Widows and Orphans stock of Great Britain. A lot of people and mutual funds expect to collect hefty dividends from this stalwart organization.

When the dividend is reinstated, the stock will rise. If oil stays around its current price, the company will continue to enjoy enormous cash flow, which suggests the stock price will return to its pre-leak levels -- $60.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dead Volt -- Electric Edsel

Government Motors a.k.a. GM says it will introduce the Chevy Volt in November. Pardon us if we do not hold our breath. The company plans to build 10,000 the first year, which may well be the last year. Yeah, sure, the first 10,000 will sell. They'll sell because speculators want to buy them and store them in garages till the middle of the century, then sell them to collectors.

How will things go? Straight to the Automobile Graveyard. A car that goes 40 miles and then stops? Oh yeah, it has an on-board generator that can recharge the battery while you wait, if you don't mind waiting a couple of hours. Or, it seems you can run the generator while you're driving, which is similar to actually powering the car with the gasoline engine that is running the generator.

And sell it for $41,000. Can't miss. It's a sure thing. A big winner.

GM sets $41,000 price for electric Chevy Volt

Tue Jul 27, 2010

* GM to offer $350/month lease in select markets

* Volt priced slightly higher than GM had telegraphed

* Net price will be closer to $33,500 after tax credit (Adds details on presidential visit, IPO, Tesla)

DETROIT, July 27 (Reuters) - General Motors on Tuesday set a price of $41,000 for its electric Chevrolet Volt -- $8,000 more than its nearest competitor, the Nissan Leaf.

GM GM.UL said on Tuesday it has begun taking orders for the Volt and would offer a $350 per month lease option for the much-anticipated vehicle as it launches in a handful of U.S. markets starting with California.

The biggest question surrounding the Volt has been its price and profitability given the cost of the lithium-ion battery pack supplied by Korea's LG Chem (051910.KS) and the hundreds of millions of dollars that GM devoted to the project over the past four years.

"Every day we've been asked a single question: How much will it cost?" said GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick on a conference call to announce the pricing.

GM executives, including former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, had previously indicated the Volt would be priced near $40,000.

By setting a higher price and restricting Volt production, the automaker -- now majority-owned by the U.S. government -- has taken steps to limit its losses on the plug-in vehicle.

The long-awaited announcement on pricing for the Volt comes three days before President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the Detroit-are plant where the vehicle will be built.

GM is expected to file for an initial public offering as soon as August that would allow the government to reduce its 61-percent stake in the automaker.

GM launched the Volt development project four years ago, in part to shake an association with gas-guzzling trucks and to show it could compete with the likes of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) (TM.N) on hybrid technology.

With a price of $41,000, the Volt will cost as much as some luxury vehicles. The top-selling Cadillac CTS has a price starting at $35,165.

"You have to expect you're going to pay a premium for this kind of technology," said Erich Merkle, an auto analyst and consultant at

But the $350 lease payment on the Volt also makes it competitive with the upcoming Leaf, which has a lease offer of $349 per month.

U.S. taxpayers who buy a Volt will qualify for a federal tax credit of $7,500. Some states, such as California, are offering additional tax incentives.


Ewanick said GM marketing would portray the Volt "as a real car," attempting to draw a sharp distinction from pure electric vehicles like the Leaf, which lack a backup source of power once the battery is spent. "People don't want to be stranded on the way home from work," he said.

The Volt is designed to be recharged overnight for about 40 miles of electric driving, depending on driving conditions. The car will also have a small gas engine expected to give the vehicle a total range of about 340 miles.

Nissan Motor Co's (7201.T) battery-powered Leaf claims a driving range of 100 miles (161 kilometers). It has a U.S. retail price of $32,780.

Tesla Motors (TSLA.O), a Silicon Valley start-up that went public in June, has the only highway-ready electric car now on U.S. roads with the $109,000 Roadster.

About 600 Chevy dealers in California, Michigan, Washington, D.C., Texas and New York will sell the initial limited production run. GM expects to produce 10,000 Volts for the 2011 model year and about 30,000 for 2012.

Jesse Toprak, an analyst at industry-tracking Web site TrueCar, said the Volt will sell out, leaving GM with the challenge of managing a waiting list.

In the meantime, he said, the Volt gives GM the chance to win over better-educated and wealthier car shoppers in markets like California who would never have considered a Chevy.

"The Volt is a halo car for GM, and it's real importance is in bringing people into showrooms," he said.

Ewanick said it was uncertain how quickly GM could bring down the price of the Volt in future model years, saying that depends on still-uncertain reductions in battery costs.

"There's a lot of technology that has to happen for us to lower prices," he said.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cuba Libre. The Day is Coming

The Castro brothers are old. And out of touch. The Cuban economy is sinking, something the two old incompetent Marxists can do nothing about.

Maybe Raul will release enough of his political prisoners to convince the US it's time to drop the embargo. Given Obama's desire to appease the world's dictators, it should take very little to satisfy our president. But, then the Cubans living in the US would protest his weakness.

What does a weak president do? Nothing. Too bad for everyone. Too bad for American tourists; too bad for Major League Baseball; and most of all, too bad for the citizens of Cuba.

In Cuba, Revolution Day Without Castro at Podium

Raúl Castro attended a Revolution Day event Monday in Santa Clara but chose not to address the crowd. He delegated the task to his vice president.

Published: July 26, 2010

SANTA CLARA, Cuba — Raúl Castro is known among Cubans as a pragmatist, not an orator. But the Cuban president surprised even those accustomed to his reticence on Monday, when he chose not to address an expectant crowd gathered to celebrate Revolution Day in this university town.

Instead, he delegated the task to the 79-year old vice president, José Ramón Machado Ventura, who appealed for discipline and patience as Cuba tackles economic reforms and condemned the United States for its economic isolation of the island as Mr. Castro applauded from his seat.

“We will go forward, step by step, with a sense of responsibility at our own rhythm, without improvising and without haste,” Mr. Machado said.

Mr. Castro’s choice to not to speak at one of the most important fixtures on the Cuban calendar disappointed some in this central Cuban city. Cubans and officials interviewed Monday said they could not recall an occasion when either Mr. Castro, 79, or his brother, Fidel, 83, did not speak on July 26, when Cubans commemorate the 1953 rebel assault on the Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an event often celebrated here as the birth of the revolution against President Fulgencio Batista.

The decision puzzled Cuba analysts, who thought Mr. Castro might use the occasion to reassert his leadership after his brother’s recent re-emergence into the public sphere after years of seclusion due to illness. Fidel Castro made a separate appearance on Monday in Havana, where he laid a wreath at a memorial for the national hero José Martí.

Some suggested that Raúl Castro, who took over as president in 2008, might be waiting to announce new economic reforms in the more formal setting of the National Assembly, Cuba’s Parliament, when it meets on Sunday.

Cubans weaned on Fidel Castro’s oratorical marathons say they appreciate the terse style of his brother, but many complain that reforms have been slow and say they want to be kept in the loop.

“It’s true he is very practical, but he should give us an idea of where we are going,” Luis Piloto, a theater technician, said after the two-hour, early morning event in a square with a vast monument to Ernesto (Che) Guevara.

The president has made cutting fat from the public sector and increasing agricultural output central to reforms since he succeeded his brother.

The government has leased thousands of hectares of state-held land to private farmers, raised prices paid for produce and agreed to let farmers buy their own supplies instead of having them allocated by the state.

But it has yet to make good on a pledge to cut the agricultural sector’s huge bureaucracy, and problems with distribution and supplies of fertilizer have led to a fall in output this year. Cuba is facing rice shortages and is expecting this year’s sugar crop to be the lowest in more than 100 years, according to state media.

Analysts said Mr. Castro now has to balance the unpopular task of cutting public-sector jobs with creating more opportunities for private enterprise. The Cuban leader has turned some barber shops over to workers and allowed more private taxis.

“Raúl’s message about reform is, ‘This is about becoming more efficient, but making changes in a way that doesn’t cause unrest,’ ” said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas.

Philip Peters, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a research group in Virginia, said the government could allow retailers to buy supplies wholesale, rather than from expensive state-owned shops, as “a sign of acceptance that these people are part of our economy and we want them to succeed.”

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Obama the Job Killer

In ObamaLand, some jobs are more equal than others. Green Jobs, for example, especially green jobs in companies that depend on massive government subsidies -- taxpayer subsidies -- to survive. High-paying jobs in the oil industry don't count. They are bad jobs. Those jobs -- oilfield service jobs -- are bad because they give consumers what THEY want, rather than what Green Lobbyists have decided they SHOULD want.

Oilfield Service workers -- oil rig workers, onshore and offshore -- do their part to keep America moving. Sounds trite, but it's true. The oil industry powers our transportation industry moving and it gives some velocity to the money moving through our economy. That's the way things should work. With a minimum of government intrusion.

Let's focus on offshore rig safety, but let's focus while we expand the domestic oil drilling industry. We already know that some drilling techniques are better than others. We do not need to start fresh. Meanwhile, we already know how to extract oil from the North Slope of Alaska without destroying the surrounding environment.

Meanwhile, our president has proven himself a danger to job creation. There's no evidence any of his programs have created a single job worth creating. Moreover, any jobs that have been created have been financed by taxpayers. Not by economic growth.

The oil & gas industry in the US is set to expand -- if only the government would get out of the way. But while we have a president who believes America should import oil from muslim enemies, we have a problem.

Thousands protest drilling moratorium at rally

Published: Jul 21, 2010

LAFAYETTE — Thousands attended a rally in Lafayette Wednesday aimed at convincing the Obama administration to lift the federal offshore drilling moratorium, which officials said could further endanger the state through the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

The “Rally for Economic Survival” was held at the Cajundome and drew about 11,000 people, some dressed in their oil industry uniforms, others in shirts bearing messages of “Drill Baby Drill” and “No Moratorium.”

The event attracted national media attention and featured elected leaders from the local, state and federal level.

Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle served as master of ceremonies and fired up an already lively crowd, proclaiming that “it is time to quit punishing innocent American workers to achieve some unrealistic political agenda.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of 12 speakers at the two-hour event, pleaded with President Barack Obama to “let our people work.”

The rally was in opposition to the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to temporarily block deep-water drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

“We’re in the middle of a war to defend our way of life,” Jindal said, adding that the state and its people shouldn’t also have to fight the federal government.

He said the moratorium is bad for the country’s energy security and bad for the economy.

Angelle said the state has a long and strong history of fueling the country and daily sends it people out to “begin the tough work of exploring, producing, processing, storing, refining and transporting the fuel to energize the great United States of America.”

“And while we too support the use of renewable and alternative energies, let’s keep the conversation real: America is not yet ready to get all of its fuel from the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees,” Angelle said to loud laughter and applause.

Angelle added that a 50 cent increase per gallon of gas at the pump costs the economy $1.3 billion a week.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Client Directed Voting -- Stockholder Revolt II

It's often said that if stockholders are unhappy with management, they can vote with their wallets and sell their stock. Or, if they like what they see, they can buy shares and get in on the action.

That's not good enough. As the owners of public companies, stockholders need a mechanism that enables them to operate like owners. Client Directed Voting gives them that power. CDV takes a cumbersome, difficult process that has always allowed managements to operate free from worries that stockholders might revolt against them and makes it possible for true shareholder democracy to arise.

An Open Proposal for Client Directed Voting

Posted by James McRitchie,, on Wednesday July 14, 2010 at 9:08 am

Tags: client directed voting,, James, proxy plumbing

Editor’s Note: James McRitchie is the publisher of

According to the SEC, “client directed voting” will be included in a forthcoming concept release on “proxy plumbing” issues and SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro now indicates review by the Commission is forthcoming (see this post on the Forum). It is critical that shareowners become familiar with this term. The SEC can shape their concept release to facilitate entrenchment, by essentially reestablishing a limited form of broker voting, or their framework can further the interests of shareowners and the larger society through an open and competitive system.


Historically, most retail shareowners toss their proxies. During the first year under the “notice and access” method for Internet delivery of proxy materials, less than 6% voted. This contrasts with almost all institutional investors voting, since they have a fiduciary duty to do so. “Client directed voting” (CDV), a term coined by Stephen Norman, is seen by many as a solution for getting more retail shareowners to vote, ensuring companies get a quorum, and helping management recapture a good portion of the broker-votes cast in their favor that evaporated with recent reforms. An open form of CDV, could result in similar impacts but would also create much more thoughtful and robust corporate elections.

Retail investors are the principals in the principal-agent system of corporate governance. We are the beneficial owners of all equities – in the U.S., 25 to 30 percent via direct purchases, and 70 to 75 percent via our “ownership” of shares in mutual funds, pension funds and other intermediaries. The agents in our corporate governance system include CEOs, boards of directors, institutional investors, proxy advisory firms, compensation consultants, etc. An “Open Proposal” on CDV will improve the accountability of all these agents to the principals by empowering retail investors with better information and voting tools.

Since Stephen Norman coined the phrase in 2006, the concept of CDV is generally attributed to him and his work with NYSE’s Proxy Working Group. Looking back at the origins of the concept, on October 24, 2006, the NYSE filed a proposed rule change with the SEC to eliminate all broker voting in the election of directors. Two months later in December 2006, Steve Norman presented a proposal called Client Directed Voting to an investor communications conference.

The case for CDV was again made on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation by Frank G. Zarb, Jr. and John Endean (available here). Similar to Norman, the voting options presented were severely restricted to the following: (1) in proportion to other retail shareholders; (2) in a manner consistent with the board’s recommendation; or (3) in a manner that is contrary to the board’s recommendation.

John Wilcox’s post several weeks later, Fixing the Problems with Client Directed Voting, helped to expand and popularize the concept beyond Norman’s initial concept with a much more open proposal.

Shareowners and the SEC would be well served to review the work of Mark Latham, a member or the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee, who proposed something similar to CDV at least as far back as the year 2000. See The Internet Will Drive Corporate Monitoring and other papers on the Publications page). In stark contrast to Norman, Latham’s proposed system is open and competitive, using a market-driven framework. This post builds on his work, especially Latham’s recent post, Client Directed Voting Q&A, also found on the site.

How Open CDV Would Work

Open CDV enables retail shareowners to implement a specialization strategy similar to that of institutional investors. Most fund managers do not read the proxy statement and understand the proposals in the context of a company’s particular circumstances. They have specialized staff for that review, some in-house, some out-sourced. Likewise a few retail shareowners will read proxies, but most will not. Those who do not read them can increasingly be informed by those who do and by voting announcements posted on the Internet.

With an Open Proposal, anyone can create a voting feed, just as anyone can now create a blog. One way to create a feed is to remix other feeds, just as blogs often post or link to material from other blogs. A remixed feed can select different source feeds for different stocks or different industries or different categories of voting matters (director elections vs. shareowner proposals etc.). In his article The Internet Will Drive Corporate Monitoring, Latham called remixed feeds “meta-advisors.”

Engagement requires either a fiduciary obligation, which we won’t have for retail shareowners, the perception of value in the process (which may take years to establish) or passion around relevant issues. Of the three, passion around relevant issues will be the easiest to ignite.

Many third-party platforms or voting feeds will be designed around “issues,” rather than harder to understand policies and procedures. That will naturally appeal to a broader base of retail shareowners. More people will choose voting advice around policy concerns, like global climate change, than around procedural concerns, like whether or not the roles of board chair and CEO should be split.

A small but important percentage of retail shareowners will get more involved in helping to determine voting feed reputations. They will compare feed quality and issue/value identification by such means as creating focus lists at See, for example, this page.

Most retail investors will only pay attention to the best-known voting feeds. A small minority of institutional and retail investors, along with writers in the financial media, are likely to become the most influential opinion leaders helping to determine public reputations, and thus which of potentially hundreds of voting feeds deserve to be followed.

Investors should be able to choose voting feeds and instruct our brokers to implement them for our shares. That is powerful because it takes little time, yet can implement intelligent voting based on reputation – just as the reputations of carmakers and computer makers are widely available and influence our purchases.

There is already a healthy base of “brands” developing with Domini, Calvert, Florida SBA, CalSTRS, CalPERS and others announcing a growing number of their votes in advance of annual meetings. In addition, there are plenty of other sources of voting advice besides institutional investors, many of which focus on a limited number of issues and many can already be seen at

Moxy Vote has already built an open CDV platform on a relatively low budget. Proxy Democracy and Transparent Democracy can be readily enhanced to include voting capability if the SEC adopts additional data standardization and if cost reimbursement is forthcoming from issuers. See comments submitted by to the SEC here.

Essential Elements of Open CDV

The key issue in any open CDV system is to let shareowners control where their electronic ballots are delivered. Just as there is no question shareowners can control where hardcopy ballots are delivered, there should be no question they can direct where their electronic ballots are delivered. This simple requirement would insure third-party content providers an opportunity to compete and improve the quality of voting advice.

Additional elements for a more effective CDV system include:

A wide range of voting opinion sources that will eventually cover all issues;
Open access for any new opinion sources to publish their opinions;
Open access for shareowners to choose any opinion source for our standing instructions on voting;
Sufficient funding for professional voting opinion sources that compete for funding allocated by retail shareowner vote (or by beneficial owners of funds that may choose to “pass through” their votes).
Under an Open Proposal, feeds will offer the ability for retail shareowners to essentially build a “voting policy,” just as institutional voters are now able to do. That model will increase participation and voting quality. We shouldn’t ask shareowners to affirm every single pre-filled ballot. That could be a deal breaker for people with stock in many different companies who would rather spend their time on other activities.

Third-party CDV systems, like Moxy Vote, will allow investors to create hierarchies of voting instructions. (Vote like X. If X hasn’t voted the item, vote per Y. If Y hasn’t voted, vote per Z, etc. Eventually, these systems could become very complex. Vote like X on issue A; vote like Y on issue B, also specifying defaults if either X or Y don’t have votes recorded.)

If brokers are required to deliver proxies as directed by their clients, another whole model could emerge around “proxy assignments.” Proxies assigned to organizations or individuals, for example, could give annual meetings a new meaning. See Investor Suffrage Movement by Glyn A. Holton.

In the 1940s and 1950s thousands of shareowners frequently showed up for shareowner meetings because they frequently deliberated issues and some of those in attendance held substantial proxies from others. Lewis Gilbert, for example, was often given unsolicited proxies, which he used to negotiate motions at meetings.

Impact of Open CDV

We are a long way removed from those days and advance notice requirements would preclude much of the activities Gilbert made famous. Voting at meetings is important, but having a say in setting the agenda on what will be voted on is even more powerful. If a significant number of proxies are assigned to others or thousands of shareowners routinely follow specific voting advisors or institutions, leading voices can actually begin to influence how agendas for annual meetings are set.

An Open Proposal will increase both the quantity and the quality of voting by both retail and institutional investors. Ease of voting and the ability to align with valued brands will drive quantity. Increased quality will result from competition between voting opinion sources for reputation in the eyes of investors. Opinion sources will include institutional investors, retail investors, bloggers, activists and professional proxy voting advisors funded by new mechanisms discussed later in this article.

An Open Proposal will cause retail shareowners to engage in proxy voting because it offers several new and powerful ways for us to do so, while respecting our other interests and time constraints.

Additionally, institutional investors will begin to discuss their votes with each other more frequently, as well as with beneficial owners and funds. This is already happening. I have personally initiated such dialogues with several funds and have increasingly been met with a favorable response. As funds learn how and why other funds are voting, many are open to reexamining their own position.

Director elections in particular will be more closely watched, once shareowners gain a sense of empowerment. Prior to nascent CDV sites, we had little or no basis for voting against or withholding votes from individual directors. Soon we will be able to drill down through recommendations to discover which directors are over-boarded, miss meetings, have potential conflicts of interest, were on compensation committees that overpaid executives, etc. Funds will increasingly provide the reason for their votes, since that will drive more investors to vote with them. When a fund discloses not only their vote, but also the reason for their vote, investors get a better picture of their values and we begin to trust given “brands” as consistent with our own values.


Limiting CDV to only selected situations, like uncontested elections, would only lessen the benefits of CDV, so I don’t recommend imposing any such limits. It would be better not to establish any CDV through regulations that severely limits voting options, since once such systems are enacted they will be difficult to amend, given that those who benefit from such limitations will be in an even stronger position to fight opening up the process.

All matters should be eligible for inclusion in a CDV arrangement. All can be handled the same way, with the retail shareowner voting as per standing instructions to use specified voting feeds. Preferably, systems should allow users the ability to override standing instructions in any given situation. Competition among voting feeds will encourage those who create them to constantly improve their voting quality and reputation. One improvement is to adapt their analysis and voting decisions to the significant variation among proposals on any given matter. Another is to create industry specific analysis. Analysis could also vary by a company’s maturation and/or a great many other factors. Deeper levels of analysis are more likely with open CDV systems that enhance competition.

System Defaults

The default choice should either be whatever the shareowner selects or it should be a “not voted” vote, just like if a voter fails to mark an item on the proxy, that item should be left blank, although it is now often counted in favor of management. (See my petition to the SEC for a rulemaking on “blank votes” here)

Counting a blank vote as anything else would make mounting campaigns to deny companies a quorum much more difficult. Neither brokers nor anyone else should be permitted to vote on any ballot item in the absence of voter instructions (i.e., all items should be considered non-routine matters in NYSE rules).

Brokers/banks should not be forced to take on CDV design responsibilities. Other third-party specialist firms will probably do a better job. The key is to ensure that brokers or their agents deliver ballots to whomever the shareowner directs. Of course, it would also be a plus if brokers and banks would make their clients aware of the available options.

Competition for Funds Would Enhance CDV

I would recommend an ongoing competition open to providers of investor education, which would compete for funding allocated by retail investor vote. This could be limited to education about voting issues (informing CDV, providing voting opinions, organizing voting opinion data feeds, discussing reputations etc.), or voting could be included in a broader retail investor education competition. For more explanation, see Mark Latham’s Voter Funded Investor Education Proposal (November 30, 2009).

This would benefit all retail investors. Since the benefit is shared broadly, it should not be paid by individual retail investors, but rather through funds that we own collectively – corporate funds. There are several possible ways of arranging this. One example is Mark Latham’s Ultimate Proxy Advisor Proposal (June 1, 2010).

Under that proposal, companies pay voting advisors selected by their shareowners. Since there are no “free riders” and the advice is essentially paid for by all shareowners, we can pay much more for proxy research on our companies than current proxy advisors typically allocate. Additionally, the advice we get is less likely to be of a “box ticking” nature, more likely to be industry and company specific.

The SEC should encourage the development of shareowner selected proxy advisors by amending rule 14a-8(i)8 to allow shareowner proposals that would allocate corporate funds to those who undertake to offer proxy voting advice, including advice on director nominees, that is made freely available to all of a company’s shareowners.

In the near term, the entrenched agents in our corporate governance system may try to prevent investors from using our funds to empower ourselves this way, so enabling regulations from the SEC and public funds may be helpful to get started. Public funds earmarked for retail investor education and advocacy could be used for the first such initiatives.


Cost categories for CDV include: (a) creating voting opinion feeds; (b) system development for brokers; (c) vote processing by Broadridge and similar service providers.

If the SEC publicly encourages the development of CDV, many organizations are likely to build the necessary systems. As previously mentioned, voting opinion websites have already started appearing (,, To enhance their quality, public funds earmarked for retail investor education and advocacy could be allocated by investor vote among such competing providers of tools for CDV.

CDV will increase the quality of voting and decrease the quantity and costs of paper mailings. These benefits will outweigh the costs of building CDV systems. Standardized data tagging will likewise streamline the system and reduce costs in the long run, although it will require some up-front investment.

NYSE rules currently require payment by issuers for the cost of voting electronically but issuers may not always be making such payments to CDV platforms like Moxy Vote. See NYSE Rules 450-460 pertaining to proxy distribution, available here. The Rules are actually written for “member organizations” (i.e., brokers) and specify what brokers or their agents (e.g., Broadridge) can charge for distribution and collection of proxy-related items. The rules are clear that Issuers are supposed to pay for all of the distribution (and collection) costs and that brokers can expect to collect from them. These rules should be amended to apply to Issuers when shareowners choose to take delivery of proxies or to vote through sites like Moxy Vote, RiskMetrics, Glass Lewis and ProxyGovernance.

The fees that Broadridge is charging to electronic voting platforms (RiskMetrics, Glass Lewis, ProxyGovernance, Moxy Vote, etc.) should be paid by the issuers as part of the overall collection costs (like postage). The electronic platforms, in this function, are merely an extension of the proxy distribution agent. However, I understand that Broadridge charges on the order of 10X for electronic vote collection from these platforms than it is permitted to charge the issuers.

If Broadridge is offering a “value-added” service to these electronic platforms, where is the “baseline” service that costs less? Perhaps the value-added services revolve around the ability to turn blank vote into votes for management without following the rules that apply to proxies. (See my blog post, Jim Crow “Protections” for Retail Shareowners)

My understanding is that fees are charged to electronic platforms on a “per ballot” basis (generally one fee per position per year) and that electronic platforms are generally passing along these costs to voters. That becomes much more difficult, perhaps impossible, when trying to service retail shareowners with small position sizes and many more per ballot transactions, relative to shares voted.

This is, in effect, becomes a system where the voter is paying to vote, like the old Jim Crow poll tax. It also inhibits progress (i.e., the development of electronic platforms for retail shareowners) because voting through the mail and through the phone is free. Why should retail shareowners have to pay when voting online, which is inherently the least expensive method of voting? Why should services like Moxy Vote have to front such expenses? Without a change, it is hard to see how they can ever turn a profit and it seems even less likely that nonprofits, such as Proxy Democracy, would ever be able to offer users the option of voting on a Proxy Democracy platform. Such costs need to be eliminated or minimized if a robust open CDV system is to mature.

The NYSE should consider forcing Broadridge to direct some of its “paper suppression fees” to firms like that should be sharing in this incentive, since shifting to electronic from paper voting saves money. That would be a simple way of beginning to address the cost issue. The most fundamental point regarding costs is that issuers should bear the actual cost of voting, not shareowners or CDV systems.


An open CDV system improves corporate governance because voting advisors will make it easier for shareowners to meaningfully participate in voting, without having to read through proxies. Open CDV systems do this by allowing shareowners to informally build individualized proxy voting policies, much like formal policies maintained by many institutional investors. Unlike many institutional investors, who may ponder over their voting policies for months, retail shareowners will mostly build default policies based on brand identification. Voting advisors, chosen by shareowners through competitive markets for shared information, will help make agents more accountable and democracy in corporate elections an emerging reality.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stockholder Revolt

It's time to create new stockholder voting rules that let unhappy shareholders boot managements.Democracy goes with capitalism like peanut butter goes with jelly.

SEC eyes changes to shareholder voting system

Wednesday July 14, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Securities regulators on Wednesday weighed whether to change voting in corporate elections, amid calls from companies and some investors to fix a system they consider antiquated.

The Securities and Exchange Commission asked the public to comment on changes to the voting system, including whether companies need more information about the identity of their shareholders.

There are more than 13,000 meetings a year where shareholders can vote in person, via the Internet or by phone, or by mailing in a proxy form.

But much has changed since the last time the SEC reviewed shareholder voting, including advances in technology, changes in proxy distribution services and stock ownership.

"To result in effective governance, the transmission of this communication must be and must be perceived to be timely, accurate, unbiased, and fair," SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said at a public agency meeting.

The SEC issued a discussion paper to examine the accuracy and transparency of the voting process, shareholder participation and the relationship between voting power and economic interest.

The agency is exploring whether rules are needed for proxy advisory firms and how to get more shareholders to participate in the governance of their companies.

Schapiro has said she wants to give shareholders more say in how companies are governed. The SEC has already adopted rules that would bar broker-dealers from voting for corporate directors on behalf of their clients unless told to do so.

Schapiro has also said she soon wants to adopt rules giving shareholders "proxy access" or an easier and cheaper way to nominate corporate board directors.

"Proxy access" has emerged as a priority for activist investors, who want to have some influence on the composition of the board.

Business groups want to have the ability to better track shareholder votes and disseminate shareholder material. Companies want to be able to obtain full lists of their shareholders in order to make it easier to find those who fail to vote.

Institutional investors are pushing for the creation of an audit trail system to show shareholders their votes were correctly cast and counted.

The SEC's discussion paper, also known as a concept release, will be open for a 90-day comment period. A concept release is sometimes the first step in the rule-making process, but does not always lead to new rules


Electric Cars -- Dead Batteries

Some day a battery genius will be born. Maybe he already walks among us. But he has yet to do for batteries what Einstein did for Relativity. However, one day the battery genius will have his moment of insight one of the world's most difficult technical problems will succumb. Till then, hapless consumers are stuck with wildly expensive vehicles that will fail like the Edsel.

When the owner of the hot Tesla decides to zip around some mountain roads on a hot rainy night he will learn that after turning on his air conditioner, headlights, stereo and windshield wipers his battery will discharge in a hurry.

Nevertheless, Tesla claims the car will go 245 miles on a single charge. Nonsense. Obvioulsy it will go farthest on a flat road while moving at a very low speed while the stereo, wipers and air conditioner are off. Why buy a $110,000 Tesla if you have to drive like an old lady?

Electric Cars: All Charged Up, but Still Stuck in First Gear

Nissan's electric-powered Leaf, scheduled to be in showrooms in December, has attracted 16,000 advance orders.

Electric-car fever is rising again.

Battery-powered-sports-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. just launched one of the hottest initial public offerings in years. Nissan Motor Co.'s electric Leaf is generating buzz ahead of its scheduled December debut and has 16,000 advance orders. President Barack Obama plans to visit an electric car battery factory in Michigan Thursday to promote the government's $2.4 billion program of grants to subsidize development of electric-vehicle technology.

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors has sold about 1,000 of its electric Roadsters since it debuted in 2008.
And of course, the catastrophic Gulf oil spill is reviving anxiety over the national addiction to oil.

So, it's all systems go for a future in which most of our driving doesn't depend on fossil fuels, right?

Not so fast.

To appreciate the obstacles standing in the way of the electric-car dream, you don't need to talk to electric-vehicle skeptics or hybrid haters. Instead, you can listen to the people who believe in electric vehicles, and are investing in those beliefs.

Proponents of the technology will tell you that anyone buying an electric vehicle will want to know at least two things: How far can I drive before I have to recharge? And, where can I go to recharge when I am on the road, far from home?

Companies acknowledge that clear answers to those questions aren't yet available—and may not be until a good while after the coming flock of electric cars has hit showrooms.

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors says its Roadster can be driven 245 miles before needing to be recharged.

Tesla Motors outlines as part of its public-offering documents a lengthy recitation of risks to its business. It's sobering reading for electric-vehicle enthusiasts. One of the concerns Tesla raises is that the Environmental Protection Agency is looking at new ways to measure how far electric cars can go before they need to be recharged. The aim is to make the advertised range figures better reflect how people drive their cars in the real world. Some of the new test methods the EPA is considering could require electric-vehicle companies to reduce the advertised range of their vehicles by as much as 30%.

The EPA won't comment on its rule-making. Tesla currently tells people who buy its $101,500 Roadsters that they can expect to drive as many as 245 miles between charges, a figure company officials say is based on existing EPA tests. (Their reasoning is explained here: Tesla has sold about 1,000 Roadsters since 2008.

Nissan has told prospective buyers of the Leaf that they can expect to drive up to 100 miles on a charge. "Up to" is a critical qualifier in the electric-vehicle business, given how cold temperatures, speed, the power drain from air conditioners and other factors can cut into battery life.

If electric-vehicle marketers are forced to scale back their advertised range figures, it could diminish the number of potential buyers. But large numbers of customers getting stuck by the side of the road with a dead battery because they believed exaggerated range claims would be worse.

The best solution would be a consistent, easy-to-understand federal standard that produces range figures that correspond with real-world experience. That could take a while for the EPA and industry to develop. So consumers who jump to buy a Tesla, Leaf or other electric models coming in the next couple of years will likely have to make purchase decisions without the comfort of a clear federal standard.

Then there's the "where-to-charge" issue.

That's a top-of-mind issue for Shai Agassi, a former software executive who founded Better Place, a Palo Alto, Calif., company that is best known for developing a system for rapidly swapping the batteries out of specially designed electric vehicles so that motorists can drive with fresh batteries while the old ones recharge. The system is designed to eliminate the need for vehicle owners on long trips to wait for hours while their batteries charge up.

Better Place also plans to offer recharging stations for electric vehicles that aren't designed for the battery-swapping system. The company earlier this year secured a $350 million fresh round of funding from an investor group led by HSBC Holdings PLC. The company has charging stations in Israel and Denmark and in October 2008 announced a deal to build charging stations in Australia. The company also has agreements with Renault SA and Chinese auto maker Chery Automobile to develop cars that can use the company's battery-swapping systems.

In the U.S., Better Place plans to develop a charging network in Hawaii. It also has announced a plan to develop a $1 billion network of charging stations in California. A company spokeswoman says the first of the charge stations could be up and running later this year.

Mr. Agassi says it would cost between $5 billion and $10 billion to outfit the major travel corridors of the U.S. with Better Place charging and battery-swap stations. That's the equivalent of "one week's worth of gasoline," he says.

So why isn't he doing it? Because when he talks to investors about bankrolling a big play in the U.S., they tell him, "let's do Holland," he says. That's because gasoline in the home of the World Cup runner-up team is two to three times the price in the U.S., which makes the electric alternative more attractive.

"The only way to get off oil is with a system that's cheaper than gasoline, and more convenient than gasoline," he says. "I can't raise the investment in the U.S. to put this (Better Place) on the ground."

Auto makers have called on the government to make it easier for utilities and others to build public charging stations. A bill proposed by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) and others proposes spending $10 billion in federal money to boost electric-vehicle adoption, including offering subsidies for public charging stations and $2,000 tax credits for people who install in-home charging systems.

In the current political climate, it's not clear Congress will agree to spend taxpayers' money to make it easier for electric-vehicle early adopters to charge their rides.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gibbs says No Muslim Suicide Bombers going into Space

After the head of NASA told the world how President Obama wanted him to help muslims obtain space technology -- with which they might conduct attacks on the non-muslim world -- the administration realized the cat was out of the bag and quickly began efforts to put animal back into its sack.

Too late, however. Gibbs said NASA head Bolden mis-spoke. More like Bolden gave a mis-speech. The gasbag leader of NASA restated his claim that Obama gave him direct orders to help muslim nations get space technology.

Yeah. Muslims want to explore space just like they want nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Muslim Outreach Not the Job of NASA, White House Says

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden must have misspoken when he told Al Jazeera last month that one of his top priorities is to reach out to Muslim countries.

"That was not his task and that's not the task of NASA," Gibbs said.

Bolden, though, said last month in the interview that it was President Obama who gave him that task. He made a similar claim in February.

The White House also backed up Bolden last week when his remarks first stirred controversy. A White House spokesman last Tuesday said Obama wants NASA to engage with the world's best scientists and that to meet that challenge, NASA must "partner with countries around the world like Russia and Japan, as well as collaboration with Israel and with many Muslim-majority countries."

NASA last week walked back Bolden's claim that Muslim outreach was the "perhaps foremost" plank of his mission, saying that Bolden was merely talking about his "outreach" responsibilities and that space exploration is still NASA's No. 1 job.

But Gibbs on Monday appeared to deny that Bolden was asked to focus on Muslim outreach at all.

Asked whether Bolden misspoke, Gibbs said: "I think so."

He said he wasn't aware of Obama speaking to Bolden about his comments.

The Muslim comments were met with a wall of criticism last week from conservatives and former NASA officials who said that while Muslim-nation outreach is laudable, it should not be a NASA priority.

Bolden said in the interview that Obama told him before he took the job that he wanted him to do three things: inspire children to learn math and science, expand international relationships and "perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering."

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Anwar al-Awlaki Draws Cartoons of Muhammed

Even Anwar al-Awlaki got into the swing. A recent visit from the special muslim goon squad known as the Society for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice went to al-Awlaki's home and turned up some doodlings in his bedroom. Many of the doodles depicted a bomb in the turban on Muhammed's head. Others showed Muhammed's head on a dog's body. Some of the cartoons mixing man and dog showed the creature at a computer connected to the Internet. The dog/man was surfing genealogy sites, checking to see if he was part Jewish.

Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki puts 'Everybody Draw Mohammed' cartoonist Molly Norris on execution hitlist

Monday, July 12th 2010

(AP)Radical American-Yemeni Islamic cleric Imam Anwar al-Awlaki has singled out artist Molly Norris as a "prime target."

A CHARISMATIC terror leader linked to the botched Times Square car bomb has placed the Seattle cartoonist who launched "Everybody Draw Muhammed Day" on an execution hit list.

Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - the radical who has also been cited as inspiring the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre and the plot by two New Jersey men to kill U.S. soldiers - singled out artist Molly Norris as a "prime target," saying her "proper abode is hellfire."

FBI officials have notified Norris and warned her they consider it a "very serious threat."

In an English-language Al Qaeda magazine that calls itself "Inspire," Awlaki damns Norris and eight others for "blasphemous caricatures" of the Prophet Muhammed. The other cartoonists, authors and journalists in Awlaki's cross hairs are Swedish, Dutch and British citizens.

The 67-page terror rag is seen by terrorism experts as a bald new attempt to reach and recruit Muslim youth in the West.

"The medicine prescribed by the Messenger of Allah is the execution of those involved," writes Awlaki, 39, a Las Cruces, N.M.-born American citizen.

"A soul that is so debased, as to enjoy the ridicule of the Messenger of Allah, the mercy to mankind; a soul that is so ungrateful towards its lord that it defames the Prophet of the religion Allah has chosen for his creation does not deserve life, does not deserve to breathe the air."

Awlaki's rant first appeared late last month in "Inspire," which was posted to the Internet by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemeni branch linked to a Christmas Day bombing attempt on a U.S.-bound jet.

Initially, only three Web pages were accessible, leading to speculation it might be fake. But yesterday, the full edition was posted on jihadist Web forums, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

David Gomez, the FBI's assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle, said Norris and others were warned of the "very serious threat."

"We understand the absolute seriousness of a threat from an Al Qaeda-inspired magazine and are attempting to do everything in our power to assist the individuals on that list to effectively protect themselves and change their behavior to make themselves less of a target," Gomez said.

Norris initially grabbed headlines in April when she published a satirical cartoon on her Web site that declared May 20 "Everybody Draw Muhammed Day" as a way to mock Viacom and Comedy Central's decision to censor an episode of "South Park" that showed the Prophet Muhammed dressed in a bear suit.

Soon after, the topic erupted on the Web with the start of a Facebook support group for Norris. In response, Pakistan blocked access to the social networking site as a fiery pro-and-con debate raged worldwide.

Norris eventually backed away from her cartoon and cause.

"I regret that I made my cartoon the way I made it," she told the Seattle-based KING 5 TV.

Norris' neighbor said yesterday he's noticed an increased police presence on the street lined with modest Craftsman-style homes. No one answered the door at her home, where a blue baby swing hung from a tree outside.

Most of the "Inspire" entries are regurgitations of widely available jihadi propaganda, including translated speeches from Osama Bin Laden and tutorials on how to "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom." Still, experts say the goal is clear: to reach a young, impressionable audience.

"It's like Al Qaeda's Tiger Beat," said one senior U.S. counterterrorism official.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Closing the Gulf Oil Leak -- Almost There

It's remarkable the way the Obama administration is demanding BP develop back-up plans for its back-up plans. The government is worried about more failures at BP's leaking oil well. It is right for the government to worry about the success of BP's efforts, and thus fair to expect the company to develop alternative plans should something else go wrong.

Ironically, when crafting emergency plans for the entire nation, the government ignores this piece of clear thinking. Unlike BP, at any time the government can declare success. It does exactly that.

Imagine BP declaring its efforts to cap the leaking well were successful while observers were recording the spreading of the oil slick across the Gulf waters. While tar balls are collecting on beaches. But Joe Biden has repeatedly announced the success of the Obama Stimulus Plan. Really? Even though the economy is in dire straits -- painfully evident to all -- Biden and other members of the Obama Administration are claiming we are on the mend. Please.

Who you gonna believe? The Obama Administration or your lying eyes?

BP Sets New Spill Target

Aims to Cap Well by July 27 Earnings; Backup Plans as Obama, Cameron Meet

BP PLC is pushing to fix its runaway Gulf oil well by July 27, possibly weeks before the deadline the company is discussing publicly, in a bid to show investors it has capped its ballooning financial liabilities, according to company officials.

At the same time, BP is readying a series of backup plans in case its current operations go awry. These include connecting the rogue well to existing pipelines in two nearby underwater gas and oil fields, according to company and administration officials.

Much of the additional planning has been pushed by the U.S. government, which has urged BP to develop what one official called the "backup to the backup plan." Both BP and the federal government are concentrating on their next steps, particularly because of uncertainty caused by the imminent hurricane season and the protracted political and financial damage caused by the endless spill.

Both BP and the Coast Guard continue to state publicly they're aiming to have a fix in place in early to mid-August. BP has discussed its backup plans only with administration officials, who in turn have briefed President Barack Obama.

The July 27 target date is the day the company is expected to report second-quarter earnings and will speak to investors. BP also wants to show progress by July 20, the day U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled to visit the White House.

"In a perfect world with no interruptions, it's possible to be ready to stop the well between July 20 and July 27," said the head of BP's Gulf Coast restoration unit, managing director Bob Dudley, in an interview. He added that this "perfect case" is threatened by the hurricane season and is "unlikely."

On Wednesday, on a visit to the Discoverer Enterprise, the ship that's collecting oil from the well, Mr. Dudley got word of a nine-day period of clear weather starting Friday, a period that could prove critical to the effort.

BP is drilling two relief wells through which it will pump material designed to seal the leaking well. One is now 12 feet horizontally and 300 feet vertically from the target spot.

Billy Brown, president of Blackhawk Specialty Tools, a BP contractor helping with the relief-well process, said Wednesday the effort is progressing ahead of schedule.

Mindful of prior snafus, BP has quietly crafted backup plans. The first would force spewing oil to a depleted gas field on the ocean floor two miles away. The second would move the oil to an existing underwater oil field nine miles away. Both require laying flow lines, either flexible or hard steel piping, to connect the leaking well to existing wellheads on these older sites.

The engineers described their plans at a seven-hour meeting last week featuring BP engineers and Energy Secretary Steve Chu, held at BP's Houston crisis center. Mr. Chu said he told them: "Force yourself to think each one will fail." In an interview, he added: "We're in new territory full of perils, and nothing is a slam dunk."

BP's Mr. Dudley reviewed Wednesday the company's engineering work with retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who heads the Obama administration's effort.

Flying by helicopter to the ship collecting oil, the two men discussed the backup options. All around the ship, 43 miles offshore, the ocean was tinged orange.

The stakes are huge for BP, which has lost nearly half of its market capitalization since the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig April 20.

The company's board is setting up a "Gulf of Mexico" committee for a few directors to delve deeply into the disaster's safety and financial implications.

When they announce earnings July 27, BP officials hope to provide investors with more information on the estimated liabilities from the Gulf spill.

One official said the company wants to be able to describe the oil spill as finite, not infinite, a moment that would allow it to start calculating the total potential liabilities under U.S. law.

To prepare Prime Minister Cameron to speak with Mr. Obama about one of the U.K.'s largest companies, British Ambassador to the U.S. Nigel Sheinwald last Friday attended BP briefings in Houston and New Orleans and then toured the damaged Florida coast. He also met Coast Guard officials.

Support ships are seen near the Discoverer Enterprise drilling rig, right, as they continue the effort to recover oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill site on July 3, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

At Wednesday's trip to the spill site, Mr. Dudley and Adm. Allen evaluated a prospect for controlling the spill—a newly designed cap to replace the leaky one currently directing oil to ships on the surface.

The risk: removing the old cap could exacerbate the spill in the short run.

At the administration's prodding, BP created a new device called an "autonomous subsea dispersant system." Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson told BP to create such a capability to monitor and measure chemicals used underwater to break up the oil. The large volume of dispersants used has concerned scientists and some government officials.

House Panel Notes Gaps In Cleanup Research. Access thousands of business sources not available on the free web. Learn More .In recent days, the company has installed new battery-powered equipment on the ocean floor that will inject dispersant into the flowing well. Typically, the dispersants are controlled by ships on the surface, but they may have to move if storms hit.

Separately, the BP-dominated consortium that operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co, said Chief Executive Kevin Hostler will retire in September.

Mr. Hostler, a former senior BP executive, had faced accusations from U.S. lawmakers that efforts to cut costs put the integrity of the pipeline at risk.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Treason in Space -- Obama's in Orbit

Our president is out to destroy America. How? By giving muslim terrorists the technology they need to attack any nation on the planet.

Did we learn nothing from 9/11? Muslim terrorists, funded by muslim "moderates", attacked the US after working secretly in the mountains of Afghanistan. Since then, America has had a tough time identifying the enemy. Sure, we were quick to identify Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda gang. But they have been working on behalf of hundreds of millions of muslims around the world. On behalf of individuals and on behalf of muslim nations. Secretly. Behind the scenes. One way or another muslims have donated money and support to the al Qaeda cause. They have given money and support to other muslim terrorists and their causes.

The muslims were smart enough to know that when the American military strikes, it strikes against nations. Thus, muslim terrorists rightly figured the US would have a lot of trouble striking back against groups with no legitimate connection to sovereign nations. The strategy is clever in its simplicity.

As muslims saw, as the world saw when we rescued Kuwait in 1991 and invaded Iraq in 2003, US forces can destroy muslim national militaries in days. Thus, muslims learned their most effective tactic is to rely on their old practice of causing death by a thousand cuts. Thus, to avoid annihilation, muslim fighters avoid head-to-head fights.

Apparently President Obama is opposed to the lopsided outcomes of these direct battles, and apparently he wants terrorists to have a new platform for launching their attacks. If death by a thousand cuts works, then death by a hundred cuts is better. Hence, he wants to help them build rockets. He wants to help them build better versions of the small rockets Hamas has used against Israel.

Obama wants the US to inspire muslim children to study science and math. He believes if they can join us in exploring space they will collect huge psychological benefits. If muslims behave in their usual manner -- which includes turning technologies that advance humanity into instruments of terror -- how long will it take for muslim terrorists to acquire missile technology and start firing warheads over long distances?

The announcement that NASA is going to teach muslims how to build missiles must have sent a billion muslims to their prayer mats thanking Allah for his help in their war against the infidels.

NASA Chief: Next Frontier Better Relations With Muslim World

Published July 05, 2010

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his "foremost" mission as the head of America's space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world.

Though international diplomacy would seem well outside NASA's orbit, Bolden said in an interview with Al Jazeera that strengthening those ties was among the top tasks President Obama assigned him. He said better interaction with the Muslim world would ultimately advance space travel.

"When I became the NASA administrator -- or before I became the NASA administrator -- he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering," Bolden said in the interview.

The NASA administrator was in the Middle East last month marking the one-year anniversary since Obama delivered an address to Muslim nations in Cairo. Bolden spoke in June at the American University in Cairo -- in his interview with Al Jazeera, he described space travel as an international collaboration of which Muslim nations must be a part.

"It is a matter of trying to reach out and get the best of all worlds, if you will, and there is much to be gained by drawing in the contributions that are possible from the Muslim (nations)," he said. He held up the International Space Station as a model, praising the contributions there from the Russians and the Chinese.

However, Bolden denied the suggestion that he was on a diplomatic mission -- in a distinctly non-diplomatic role.

"Not at all. It's not a diplomatic anything," he said.

He said the United States is not going to travel beyond low-Earth orbit on its own and that no country is going to make it to Mars without international help.

Bolden has faced criticism this year for overseeing the cancellation of the agency's Constellation program, which was building new rockets and spaceships capable of returning astronauts to the moon. Stressing the importance of international cooperation in future missions, Bolden told Al Jazeera that the moon, Mars and asteroids are still planned destinations for NASA.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Freedom, Liberty and Justice for All

Declaration of Independence

(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

The Unanimous Declaration
of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

--Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Barack Petroleum – Oil Stays on Gulf Waters


Why Is the Gulf Cleanup So Slow?

There are obvious actions to speed things up, but the government oddly resists taking them.

As the oil spill continues and the cleanup lags, we must begin to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions. There does not seem to be much that anyone can do to stop the spill except dig a relief well, not due until August. But the cleanup is a different story. The press and Internet are full of straightforward suggestions for easy ways of improving the cleanup, but the federal government is resisting these remedies.

First, the Environmental Protection Agency can relax restrictions on the amount of oil in discharged water, currently limited to 15 parts per million. In normal times, this rule sensibly controls the amount of pollution that can be added to relatively clean ocean water. But this is not a normal time.

Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations.

Next, the Obama administration can waive the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from operating in U.S. coastal waters. Many foreign countries (such as the Netherlands and Belgium) have ships and technologies that would greatly advance the cleanup. So far, the U.S. has refused to waive the restrictions of this law and allow these ships to participate in the effort.

The combination of these two regulations is delaying and may even prevent the world's largest skimmer, the Taiwanese owned "A Whale," from deploying. This 10-story high ship can remove almost as much oil in a day as has been removed in total—roughly 500,000 barrels of oily water per day. The tanker is steaming towards the Gulf, hoping it will receive Coast Guard and EPA approval before it arrives.

In addition, the federal government can free American-based skimmers. Of the 2,000 skimmers in the U.S. (not subject to the Jones Act or other restrictions), only 400 have been sent to the Gulf. Federal barriers have kept the others on stations elsewhere in case of other oil spills, despite the magnitude of the current crisis. The Coast Guard and the EPA issued a joint temporary rule suspending the regulation on June 29—more than 70 days after the spill.

The Obama administration can also permit more state and local initiatives. The media endlessly report stories of county and state officials applying federal permits to perform various actions, such as building sand berms around the Louisiana coast. In some cases, they were forbidden from acting. In others there have been extensive delays in obtaining permission.

As the government fails to implement such simple and straightforward remedies, one must ask why.

One possibility is sheer incompetence. Many critics of the president are fond of pointing out that he had no administrative or executive experience before taking office. But the government is full of competent people, and the military and Coast Guard can accomplish an assigned mission. In any case, several remedies require nothing more than getting out of the way.

Another possibility is that the administration places a higher priority on interests other than the fate of the Gulf, such as placating organized labor, which vigorously defends the Jones Act.

Finally there is the most pessimistic explanation—that the oil spill may be viewed as an opportunity, the way White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said back in February 2009, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Many administration supporters are opposed to offshore oil drilling and are already employing the spill as a tool for achieving other goals. The websites of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, for example, all feature the oil spill as an argument for forbidding any further offshore drilling or for any use of fossil fuels at all. None mention the Jones Act.

To these organizations and perhaps to some in the administration, the oil spill may be a strategic justification in a larger battle. President Obama has already tried to severely limit drilling in the Gulf, using his Oval Office address on June 16 to demand that we "embrace a clean energy future." In the meantime, how about a cleaner Gulf?

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Cuba Libre

We're getting closer. The best way to destroy the Castro regime is to flood the island with Americans bringing good cheer and their capitalist impulses. If Americans are tramping all over the island, Cubans hoping to earn money from them will begin to violate Fidel's communist dictums day and night. No secret police will have the manpower to watch everyone, and the police themselves will fall for the "corrupting" powers of Yankee capitalism.

We would defeat Fidel, Raul and there Marxist state without firing a shot.

Moreover, in Cuba there is a goldmine of untapped baseball talent. Major League Baseball is ready for them. Imagine a big-league stadium in Havana. Considering the daytime temperatures there, the best bet would be a domed stadium.

House panel backs ending travel ban on Cuba

WASHINGTON – A congressional panel voted on Wednesday to lift a decades-old ban on travel to Cuba and remove other hurdles to food sales to the Caribbean island.

The 25-20 vote in the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee sets the stage for a potentially blistering debate this year in both the full House and the Senate.

"We have tried isolating Cuba for more than fifty years and it has not worked," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said. "Today's vote demonstrates that Congress is ready to change our nation's approach on this issue."

A broad coalition of farm, business and human rights group have backed the bipartisan bill as an important step toward ending the almost five-decade-old embargo on communist-led Cuba and promoting positive change on the island.

"By increasing food exports and repealing the travel ban, this legislation will provide more jobs for Americans and Cubans," said Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, an advocacy group.

But opponents, who say Washington must keep pressure on Cuba's communist government to force democratic change, vowed to use every tool available to keep it from becoming law.

Representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican, called the bill the latest U.S. government bailout program.

"Only this time we'd be bailing out a brutal dictatorship on the brink of collapsing," Rooney said.

Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said he would filibuster any attempt to pass the bill in the Senate.

"The big corporate interests behind this bill couldn't care less about whether the Cuban people are free or not. They only care about padding their profits," Menendez, whose parents where Cuban immigrants, said.

Proposals to lift the ban have died in Congress over the last decade due to concerns about human rights abuses in the one-party state built since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

President Barack Obama has taken some steps to improve relations with Havana, such as allowing unlimited family travel and remittances and greater telecommunications links.

But Washington says the Cuban government has failed to reciprocate, making it politically difficult for the White House to move further in easing the Cold War-era embargo.

Cuban officials have encouraged recent U.S. trade delegations visiting Havana to work to abolish the travel ban because the arrival of more American tourists would give the government more money to buy U.S. goods.

Congress exempted farm sales from the long-standing U.S. embargo on Cuba in 2000 as long as Havana paid in cash and money transfers were handled by a third-country bank.

President George W. Bush's administration angered many farm-state lawmakers by interpreting the cash payment rule narrowly, insisting on payment before shipment.

The bill addresses that issue.

U.S. farm exports to Cuba reached a record $710 million in 2008, before dropping to $528 million in 2009 in the midst of the global financial crisis.

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