Friday, June 11, 2010

Let the Game Resume

Congress is back from their week long one day holiday and they have wasted no time in adding the Gulf Oil Spill to their list of things to be used to win elections and look pretty.

Right off the top, Nancy Pelosi in her role as Speaker said that BP should not pay the quarterly dividend to their stockholders. Really? Unless she owns BP stock (disclosure - I do not) or is an officer of BP or the SEC, she really has no business even commenting on it. To be accurate and fair, Obama made much the same remarks. That is equally inappropriate.

The dividend is between BP and their stockholders. It is based on earnings last quarter and represents part of the de facto contract between stockholder and company. Whether to pay it is the sole jurisdiction of the BP board. Obama and the false queen Nancy can gripe about it and even condemn the payment, but to suggest it not be paid at all is just out of line.

I am sure that Obama and Pelosi are adapting what they think is a good line against BP. After all, the British Petroleum Corporation is rapidly filling the role of villain these days. BP is the easy target for politicians and fairly so most of the time these days.

I understand and have been fairly clear that BP is a company that has lied, misled, obstructed and otherwise been less than good regarding the oil spill. In fact, it is fairly accurate to say they have been intentionally dishonest. But the dividend is a matter separate from the spill and from the concerted effort by BP executives to lie and mislead.

In fact, BP recently issued a statement saying they had no idea why their stock price has declined so sharply. Really? No idea why? So the open ended liability in the Gulf has nothing to do with it? the prospect of reduced profits or even a loss for the next several quarters not a factor? Seriously? As stupid and obvious a lie as this is, it is between BP and those that still hold their stock.

But for Obama and Pelosi to once again attempt to affect the investors and corporations at the shareholder level only points out their antipathy towards a truly free market. For them to suggest that BP not pay a dividend that shareholders are entitled to is a pretty solid form of proof that these 2 and their minions have zero respect for the marketplace. The decline in BP stock is how the market functions. Punishing the shareholders because the executives lie is just wrong.

And BP execs lie. A lot.

Hayward, Suttles and the rest lie almost automatically every time they speak. That said, they work for the board and the stockholders. Their dishonesty and lack of transparency is an issue that needs to be addressed. One that is best addressed in open, televised Congressional hearings.

In the past, I have been fairly critical of hearings designed for PR sake. And a lot of hearings are just that - huge expensive campaign appearances. However, in some of those hearings, useful and interesting information happens. Usually by accident, but it happens.

Yesterday, Minority Leader John Boehner stepped to the press podium to decry the hearings regarding the oil spill. In fact he pretty much labeled them pointless with a comment about plug the damn leak. Setting aside the fact that Congress is actually not the branch of government that is supposed to do that, this sounds more like the traditional partisan garbage.

Why would Boehner object to the hearings? As I said, I am not a huge fan of endless Congressional inquisitions, but sometimes they have a place and purpose. Perhaps Boehner forgot that in his haste to slap some Democrats around. Perhaps he forgot that his oath of office is to the Constitution and not the party.

Why are hearings needed now? Well, to put it bluntly, BP is doing everything it can to avoid any information getting out. They have dropped a cone of silence on the oil spill and have made a concerted effort to exclude the press and the public from what is going on. The administration has not been exactly transparent either. From estimates of the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf to the wildlife cleanup effort, the press and the public have been excluded as much as possible.

Congressional hearings can help cause transparency. Witnesses and materials can be subpoenaed. Testimony is under oath and questions are asked that must be answered. Since it is obvious that there is no voluntary information flow, then Congress has to get it.

The flow rate of the leaking oil is an example of the lack of honesty and transparency. For weeks we have been told either 5,000 barrels by the government and BP or the more recent 12,000 to 19,000 barrels. Jut a couple of days ago, Obama's "point man," Thad Allen proudly told the press that BP had collected 15,000 barres via the cap. 15,000? That is more than BP or Allen ever admitted to. Anyone that has a television knows that the cap is still allowing a gusher of oil into the Gulf.

When asked, Allen did a little tap dance claiming he wasn't a number person and deferring to the scientists charges with figuring the flow rate out. But the scientists are methodically denied access to any useful information while Thad Allen simply forward BP's lies. Congress can - without long legal battles - simply subpoena the people and information. They can ask why the huge discrepancy.

Congress can enact a relief bill. And fix the laws that are in place that allowed BP to operate with such impunity. First they need to ask what the situation is. Hear what the problems are.

But John Boehner thinks that would be a waste of time. Why? Is he hiding something? Probably not. More likely he is afraid that Congres will act in a bipartisan manner, thereby hurting John Boehner's plans for the upcoming election. See, for him, it is not about the oil spill or the truth. It is about his pathetic little power game.

Same for Obama and Pelosi. All about the game and the people be damned. And that is the problem. The people of the Gulf coast are currently being damned by the oil. And our self proclaimed leaders will only do what makes them look good or forwards their agendas. I think onc the leak is plugged, we should consider new leadership. perhaps some that can actually see beyond their own reflection.

I am offering shirts with this design and will be sending the profits directly to the Plaquemines Parish Fund that is set up to help the folks most hurt by this mess.

I spoke to the good folks at Plaquemines and I have to say that for people living a horror show, they are some of the nicest and most grateful people you would ever want to talk to.

Please help out and get the message out at the same time.

You can order them here:

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