Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The value of shareholder proxy votes

Today I received a proxy vote solicitation. Since I own many different stock investments I routinely get these and put them almost immediately in the recycling. The proxy votes usually seem futile. Typically they only allow you to vote on a slate of board members and maybe one or two other things like compensation packages or increasing the number of shares or other equally uninspiring questions to vote on. This time I had the idea to take a look, expecting a similar slate of uninspiring propositions and a slate of old white guys in pin striped suits slated to be the next board of directors. This time I was pleasantly surprised to see their recommendation to vote against a measure which would restrict their ability to invest in companies which commit or engage in genocide or crimes against humanity.

Woah, am I glad I looked at this so that I can vote for this measure.

I would prefer that the proxy voting actually made a difference. Supposedly we shareholders are the owners of the company, but we have very little say over the conduct of the companies we own. As I said, the typical proxy vote gives very little room for valuable input. You can vote on board of directors members, but they all seem clones of one another so it seems unimportant which name is actually on the board or not. You can vote on other relatively meaningless proposals. You can't vote on important matters such as the products made by the company, the materials used, ecologically sensitive practices, the disposition of lobbying funds, the nonsensical status of corporations as persons, the award of spouse benefits for same sex domestic partners, etc, etc, etc.

Well maybe we could vote on important issues if only we knew how to get those issues on the ballot. But unlike government elections it is a complete mystery how one gets a measure onto the next proxy vote solicitation, and whether the company will abide by the measure if it passes.

Another question is how the heck do you get onto the list of candidates for board members? Is it completely controlled by a circle of cronies who only select future board members from the circle of cronies? Or is there a way to nominate yourself, and run an open campaign for election to the board?

Supposedly the U.S.A. and certain other modern countries are democratically ruled. Well, government has similar cronyism problems too. But the increasing power of corporations make even the most democratically minded governments powerless. Corporations are run nondemocratically. The employees of a corporation live within what's essentially a dictatorship ruled over by the CEO and management. The actions of corporations have huge impact that are only barely regulated by the government. This leaves the people, the citizens of the country, unable to have democratic influence over the behavior of the corporations.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tolerance rather than hate, loving thy enemies as thyself

Normally I write about technology but the recent murder of Dr. Tiller is on my mind. Since I don't own or watch TV, I get secondhand the things said by various TV news hosts such as Bill O'Reilly. Repeatedly I see them quoted saying the most outlandish hateful untolerant things about specific people. In Why is Tiller's alleged killer doing press conferences? O'Reilly calls Dr. Tiller "Tiller the Killer" and expresses a hope to kill Dr. Tiller. Are those news hosts the primary source of the hatred spewed at people like Dr. Tiller? I think not as the hatred comes from religiously minded hard-liners. People like O'Reilly simply are using controversies for self promotion. I think that instead what we have are religiously minded hard-liners forgetting the teachings of the book and leaders they look to for teaching. Further, there are religiously minded hard-liners of all religions spewing hatred clothed in spiritual teachings, and leading their followers to commit violence in the name of spiritual teachings which universally talk of love, tolerance, acceptance, not violence and hatred.

How can it be that some followers of Jesus see it as being commanded by God that they should spew hatred and murder, that they should pass judgment, etc?

The teaching of Jesus was simple, Love. Love your neighbor, love everything, love, love, love.
Is it love to say hateful things about another, to wish for their murder, and to do so in front of an audience of thousands or millions? Is it love to say hateful things meant to incite violence against another?

The hate talk ascribed to Bill O'Reilly above is really a hallmark of the "Right Wing". There are many hard-liners who spew hatred for anybody who dares live outside their narrowly defined bounds of acceptability. Joan Walsh goes over some of them while asking Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder? Some of the right wing hatred is being aimed at Barak Obama today but they have had other targets at other times. It seems to be a pattern that they focus this hatred on specific people, painting them with rhetoric hoping that some of it sticks.

As another example, How Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories and Fearmongering Led to the Holocaust Memorial Shooting is about a different act of violence by a homegrown domestic terrorist. A man went on a shooting spree at the Holocaust Memorial, and this man was deeply steeped in conspiracy theorizing and had written several books filled with hateful obsession. This article goes on to an excellent description of the behavior patterns here.
Demagogues and conspiracy theorists use the same four “tools of fear." These are 1) dualism; 2) scapegoating; 3) demonization; and 4) apocalyptic aggression. The tools of fear are a connected constellation of frames, narratives, and processes used by demagogues to mobilize resentment and undermine the democratic process.
The basic dynamics remain the same no matter the ideological leanings of the demonizers or the identity of their targets. Meanwhile, our ability to resolve disputes through civic debate and compromise is hobbled. It is the combination of demagogic demonization and widespread scapegoating that is so dangerous. In such circumstances, angry allegations can quickly turn into apocalyptic aggression and violence targeting scapegoated groups like Jews or immigrants.
Note that none the "tools of fear" are about love and acceptance such as taught by Jesus. That is, fear and hate are the opposite of love and acceptance, hence any "tools of fear" would be opposite the teachings of Jesus. Yet many of the homegrown U.S. terrorists claim Jesus as their teacher.

As another example, Right-Wing Violence Will Continue, And Fox News Will Have to Answer For It points to the long running pattern of non-acceptance and hate speech being pushed by some news hosts, by some religious figures, by some political leaders, etc.

We have a pattern in this country of non-acceptance clothed in religious teachings that is eating a hole in the fabric of the country. The political rhetoric, for example, shows gaping divisions in the U.S.A. Divisions which need not exist, especially if those supposedly following the teachings of Jesus were to practice love and acceptance.

A couple years ago I wrote about the abuse of religious teachings Establishing control over a society. What I said then seems more true than ever. We have political, religious and entertainment "leaders" abusing the teachings of Jesus, promoting hate and fear, inciting followers to commit violence.