Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 24 - Presidential Mood

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 23 - Regulate US

I subscribe to a multitude of things, mostly politically motivated.  I get emails from CREDO, MoveOn, Change, GreenPeace, etc.  I had also subscribed to one that I thought was very interesting called Moxy Vote.

If you are unfamiliar with Moxy Vote, I will give you a brief summary.  Corporations are big things with shareholders, chairmen, boards, etc.  The idea is that the shareholders get to, democratically, decide on various things, such as pay increases and I believe appropriations of certain funds and such.  In any event, it is supposed to function like a small Democracy.  Moxy Vote was setup to allow share holders to electronically vote on issues for the company AND allowed outsiders to express their opinion to these companies as well.  The thought, then, is that the board members could follow the votes of their shareholders on all fronts AND take into consideration the people the utilize their services (non-shareholder consumers).

Now, I don't know about you, but to me this seems like a pretty invaluable tool.  Additionally, this was at no cost to the company.  If a company was truly interested in what its shareholders and consumers wanted, they should be praising this little service, right?

Apparently, that isn't the case.  You see, there is no forced requirement that a company needs to disclose items that are up for vote to anybody.  Unlike the Government, companies can keep their voting agendas private and for their shareholders only.  I'm sure there is some mixed feeling on this, but there is never a reason to not be transparent unless you are trying to hide something.  Additionally, I don't think anyone would be shocked to know that board members are not always concerned about the shareholder or consumer's best interests (I'm not saying all companies are like this, just saying there are certainly some).

Well, that is exactly what turned out to be the case.  Most companies told Moxy Vote that they would absolutely not allow a digital shareholder voting system unless the government created and enforced regulation requiring them to publicly release their voting agendas for the company.

This, people, is why regulation is absolutely necessary.  A company is focused on making money, that is how they thrive.  If they don't HAVE to do something they won't.  Many will claim ignorance, ones with vast cash will even buy "scientific" panels to discredit claims (such as food industries, tobacco industries, etc).  This for me was just another sad day in expecting companies to do the right thing without being forced to do it.  Anyway, below is the email I received from Moxy Vote:

Dear Friends of Moxy Vote,

It is with great disappointment today that I announce the closing of Moxy Vote. Our last day of business will be July 31, 2012. At this time, we want to thank all of our clients, friends and business partners that have supported us since our launch in 2009. Although we accomplished a great deal, we leave with a sense of disappointment at not being able to fully realize our vision for Moxy Vote. While we hope to revive Moxy Vote at some point in the future, we must first focus on regulatory change if Moxy Vote, or any individual investor-focused proxy voting platform, is to succeed. 

It is important for us to state that we did not arrive at this decision easily. We recognize that this step is disruptive to our employees, clients and business partners who had committed time and energy to building relationships with us. We entered into many of these relationships with great uncertainty around our product offering and value proposition, and we are forever grateful to all those who took a chance on us. We are not a group of people who walk away from a challenge and appreciate the trust offered to us by many. Moxy Vote fought hard to make its business model a success. In fact, we invested over $4.5 million dollars in our operations since inception – all to advance a mission of engaging individual investors and improving proxy voting. Although the Moxy Vote website,, will be shut down on July 31, 2012, we plan to continue to engage regulators and policy makers in an effort to blaze a trail for future "Moxy Votes."

It seems appropriate at this time to explain our rationale for closing. The simple answer is that we were unable to make any tangible progress on several key barriers to our success. These obstacles have been known for some time. In fact, we documented them very clearly nearly two years ago in our response to the Securities and Exchange Commission's request for public comment on its publication entitled Concept Release on the U.S. Proxy System. For those that are interested, our comments can be read here.

In summary, our efforts thus far lead us to conclude that there are two primary obstacles that will prevent any individual investor-focused proxy voting websites from being successful. They are the following:

  1. Individual shareholders have no legal grounds to compel their brokers to deliver ballots electronically to internet voting platforms. And, unfortunately, many brokerage firms have stated clearly to us that they will send them only when required to do so by regulators.
  2. Proxy distribution/collection agents are presently charging significant fees to internet voting platforms for vote collection – a fee that should be paid by public companies and one that proves substantially more burdensome to individual voters than institutional voters.
We have been working diligently on our business model since 2007 and the same two issues that were identified in our early analysis are still present. The unfortunate conclusion we have recently made is that the mere existence of our site and growth in our user-base is not expediting regulatory change. Rather, it appears that regulatory change can be achieved only through steady plodding over a period of many years. We appreciate the assistance given by many individuals at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in helping us to reach this conclusion. It's not sustainable for Moxy Vote to keep its operations alive while it seeks resolution on these issues, given that both must be addressed to generate the user growth needed to achieve profitability. We are disappointed that we were not able to resolve these issues.

One issue that is noticeably absent from our list is individual investor apathy. For many years, one of the leading arguments for the lack of meaningful participation from individual investors is that they simply do not care. While this statement may have been true historically (and for many good reasons!), the internet is revolutionizing citizen and investor engagement. The internet has enabled individuals to unite and thereby wield enormous influence. For example, one doesn't have to look further than the social activism efforts facilitated by and, among others, to realize that citizen engagement is broad and effective. Moxy Vote brought this same concept to investor engagement and proxy voting. For example, below are a few of Moxy Vote's accomplishments:

  • 197,000 subscribers to Moxy Vote's content e-mails
  • 56 leading advocate organizations posting voting advice on
  • 30,000,000 shares voted (intelligently!) using this advice through
  • 64 "Letters to Management" sent by Moxy Vote readers
  • 275,000 signatures, in aggregate, on the Letters to Management
In summary, we should not blame the individual investors. The investors are ready to engage when the policy makers are ready to give them a fair opportunity.

I want to conclude by reiterating that we are not giving up the fight for individual investors. We plan to continue to engage regulators and policy makers to ensure that individual investors are given the same opportunities as institutional investors. Moreover, given our success in certain areas, we are actively engaged in discussions with outside firms that have shown an interest in continuing various aspects of our service. Many areas of our business model showed positive results but, given our focus on improving proxy voting as a key area of engagement, we do not desire to pursue these other opportunities. 

We encourage the rest of you to continue with your own efforts and to share these key issues with policy makers if given the opportunity. Moreover, if we can be of assistance in helping you overcome similar obstacles, please let us know. Progress is being made, albeit more slowly than many of us would like, and we can all look forward to continued improvements in the future.

Best regards on behalf of the entire Moxy Vote Team,

Mark F. Schlegel
Co-Founder, Moxy Vote LLC

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 22 - "42"

"The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything", calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately no one knows what the question is. Thus, to calculate the Ultimate Question, a special computer the size of a small planet and using organic components was created and named "Earth".
-The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Sometimes in life, interesting things work their way into ordinary situations.  The above quote is, of course from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams .  Note now, if you haven't read this, do it.  In any event, as described, apparently by Douglas Adams, and after much speculation and theory, this number was randomly chosen because of its simplicity... but, in our Universe, the most simplistic things are the most infinitely complex...

Let's examine what I stumbled upon today, coincidentally, while showering (an ordinary and mundane task). I was attempting to define what a "living" thing (Life) is versus something non-living, such as a piece of iron.  I thought about what made them different, besides the obvious chemical structures.  The difference between a complex non-living object versus a complex living object is one basic thing.  It is the fact that all things living have some mechanism to continue the existence of life.

Single cell organisms have different methods, such as basic divide and conquer.  Multicellular organisms, such as us use various forms of reproduction.  An iron ingot simply cannot perform this task and has, as it seems, no desire to do so.

Using this concept, a virus would be alive since it does contain a mechanism for the persistence of life, even though it requires another organism to do so.  This is a key fundamental because, of course, without it life would not exist.  Therefore, it is safe to say that the base purpose of life is the persistence of life.  It is terribly simply and not overly exciting, but we all need a base point for anything, and this is it.

On a side note, I decided that what determines an intelligent organism versus a basic organism is the ability to willfully choose to not persist life.  But perhaps that is for a different discussion...

Moving on, what does this all have to do with "42" and Douglas Adams.  Well, the amazing thing about his book is that it is all around this idea that Earth was created for the purpose of discovery the question to everything, since the answer was found to be "42".  In the end, it boiled down to the fact that the question was inside Arthur Dent's head (one of the last 2 surviving Humans).  The problem with many solutions, especially in a computer system, is that they are answered in the context of their medium and their creator.  In this case, the medium was a Human and their creator, in that particular dimension was a lab rat...and here comes the beautiful part, what is 42 and is unique to a lab rat, that is especially particular to life... the number of chromosomes, yes a lab rat has 42 chromosomes.

Why this is interesting to me is that Douglas Adams wrote the book most likely not knowing this and was most likely interesting in telling a great story, which he did.  However, a main point of his book is exactly what he has provided.  He had the answer, although obscure in his mind and it came out through here.  The number simply needed to be understood from an outside perspective and the puzzle put together, which I believe I have done...

Douglas Adams unknowingly gives us the answer to everything as 42, which happens to be the chromosomal count of the lab rats in his book that created the machine (which is Earth) to determine the question of everything.  Chromosomes are absolutely required for life to be persisted, which is exactly what I am claiming to be the purpose of life.

The question: What is the meaning of life?
The answer: The persistence of life.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 21 - The Human Syndrome

I have been contemplating the post for quite awhile now.  I have been on the border about doing this because of it's message.

It is always important to speak the truth, as my wife often reminds me.  Many times, the truth will bring some pain upfront, but by being honest with each other and ourselves, it will heal the wound, generally, quicker.  However, we also need to understand that when speaking the truth, the outcome is not relevant, the truth must always be told, no matter what the cost...

That brings us to Day 21 - The Human Syndrome.  I suppose I will start by defining what I mean by "The Human Syndrome".  My intent here is simple, we are creatures created through an imperfect process of natural laws and events.  Our existence is not required nor is it scripted.  In any event, we are, in the most basic form, a machine.  As a machine we our privy to certain functions that we can all, mostly, perform to various degrees.  On the simplest form, we can feel emotion, we have specific senses to interact with the world around us, we can reason, create and destroy.  We are very powerful machines because we can perform most of these at will.  (Whether or not the existence of the universe is pre-dictated by simple energetics flow since its existence is beyond the scope of this post and will be left for a different posting :) ).  I would like to focus on the idea of "we can perform most of these at will" and "we can feel emotion", specifically. 

"We can feel emotion and we can perform most of these at will".  That is The Human Syndrome.

Let's move on to the "So What?"...

Right now, our world is in a turbulent age.  Technology has risen quickly and allowed us to create, truly a global mind (the Internet).  We can communicate across boundaries that prevented us from doing this before.  People in "locked down" regions are able to get their voice to the outside world, where, for the first time, we are listening and ready to spread the word of Freedom.  The Internet itself has created spawned a unique entity of Anonymous individuals ready to fight in the eyes of freedom.  Without a face, without a directive, they are like a phantom in the night, striking when Freedom cries for help.  Their attacks are like death by a thousand stings.  One sting isn't enough to take the beast down, but over time it becomes injured and vulnerable... we'll get back to this...  This is the face (or lack thereof) of Freedom, but has anything really changed...

My blunt, direct, true answer: NO.  Nothing has changed, it has temporarily in some degree.  Over time, yes, freedom has become more prevalent, on the top layer of society.  It is no longer acceptable to raze a village and rape the women (thankfully) directly or openly as in Feudal Times.  I would say that it is not allowed to tax people into poverty, but that is not entirely true.  I would also say that we ended slavery, but again... and let me step lightly because we DO NOT have slavery... however, the impoverished are enslaved to the elite, for life.  Bring up and point, and, on the surface, you might be right, but somewhere, in the shadows, behind a law, behind closed doors, or in some twisted form, it still exists. 

My point?  The Human Syndrome is what perpetuates this.  We can fight for freedom for 1000yrs, hell, for an eternity, and it will not matter.  As long as their are Humans, there are emotions and will.  As long as there are emotions and will, there will be greed.  We can take 50 of the best human beings (and by best I mean, selfless, philanthropists, etc) put them on a rocket, fly them to Planet XYZ to start a new civilization based on Freedom and Love, etc.  In the beginning it will be great, the founders will establish education and benefits of peace and charity.  Over time it will change, it only takes one bad seed to ruin the soil.  One will be born that either wasn't "loved enough" or had sibling rivalry, or was born a little psychotic and will manipulate the system.  Over time, I guarantee their society will develop and degrade into something very, very similar to our own.  The reason is simply The Human Syndrome, for as much good we can bring, there is equal bad...  We will never win the fight of true Freedom, as long as their are Humans.  It will be contorted and twisted to fit the perverse desires of a select view, to give the illusion of freedom, but nothing more.

In the end, it is what it is.  Go back over history, follow the cycles of human suffering and empires, it is all the same.  Perhaps a little more gruesome since it was done out in the open, but nonetheless, the same problems they experienced then, we experience now, in some form.  This cycle will not change in my generation, or the next, or at all, as long as The Human Syndrome exists.  Maybe the next evolution of life, synthetic life, will not have this problem.  Even then, it would be a cold world, lack of emotion..  But, we can't give up the fight because that will only make it worse. 

In the end, it's an uphill battle on the slope of eternity.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 20 - The Dark Side of Rebellion

Considering the recent protests against #PIPA and #SOPA , one thing has become a concern to me, and that is the shadowy workings of politics.  This is my intent in the term "Dark Side" , cloak and dagger tactics to getting what you want...

Lobbyists serve a purpose in DC and that is simply to get what "they" (as in their business) what "they" want and when "they" want it.  Even though their workings are legally shady, it is no secret how they work.  Through things that would be considered bribery if I did it to a police officer to avoid a ticket, they "convince" politicians to swing into their favor.  Again, this is no real secret to society and has become something of a spectacle recently.  Nonetheless, what concerns me is what happens when lobbying no longer works?

My guess is simple, things get shady.  People will begin sliding in pieces of legislation purposefully worded and purposefully brief to go either unnoticed or with such confusion that nobody would both to pay any mind.  This means that us, on the receiving end of the "rights stripping" have to be ever more vigilant and cautious in paying attention to each and ever thing that is sent through our congress.  So, that is manageable, for now, but the process will become sneakier and shadier over time, naturally.  As we develop technologies to expose truths, "they" will develop ways to conceal intent.  I am concerned that we can keep this up as a loose movement of individuals...

What happens if something goes to a corrupt Supreme court that can make ill decisions upon bribery and sheer will with no regard to the law?  (i.e. Citizens United)  Will these acts simply be forced upon us in the end either way?  Do the protests simply force the "powers at be" to take a more direct means in forcing us to do what they want?  In my opinion, if this is the case this will lead to violent outburts and retaliation because we will simply be unable to do it peacefully..

This is more of a curious opinion and consideration item to see how it plays out...  Also, a bit of warning that the mal-intent portions of #PIPA and #SOPA are far from dead, they are simply being reworked and engineered, and will do so infinitely until they can pass through the cracks of our system...