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Richard Branson and think tank also trade barbs over "global warming spending" and greenwashing accusations

What might have been a comment from a top tech executive aimed at stemming rebellious shareholders has quickly devolved into the latest hypersensitive reaction from those who feel global warming "deniers" are endangering the planet.
 
I. Investor Unhappy With Apple’s Social, Political Efforts
 
The incident began last week at Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) annual shareholder meeting when The National Center for Public Policy Research -- which has invested some of its funding in Apple shares -- put for a proposal calling on Apple to be "more transparent" about how it spends money on political or environmental issues.

Tim Cook
Tim Cook found himself in the crosshairs of one investor over his company's political and "green" efforts. [Image Source: Getty Images]

In a letter the National Center writes:

Our  Proposal  highlights  an  area  of  concern  to  all  shareholders:  Company affiliations that may  primarily advance social or environmental causes  rather  than  promoting shareholder  value.
   
We  are  asking  the  Company  to  be  transparent  about  its  membership  in,  and payments  to,  trade  groups  and  outside  organizations  that  are  actively promoting top-­down  environmentalism  rather  than  working  to  advance  shareholder  value.

The letter clearly wasn't aimed solely at Apple's environmental efforts.  The company's top executives spent $128,000+ USD on wooing President Barack Hussein Obama (D) and Republican challenger Willard Mitt Romney [source].  This was among the policies that the National Center was unhappy with, as the libertarian leaning think-tank found both candidates to represent the bloated spending ideology that's come to dominate the neoconservative/neoliberal Republican and Democratic parties.

epeat award
Apple has bragged of its products' "greeness" in recent years.

But the group also wasn't pleased with the spending on global warming efforts, such as trying to make Apple a "carbon neutral" company.

The National Center's mission statement describes the group as:

A conservative think tank and policy institute covering Congress, insider political information, global warming and the environment, legal reform, Social Security, and campaign reform.

The focus of the rather broad amendment, though, quickly narrowed in on the "global warming..." part of the think-tank's mission statement.
 
II. Green or Greenwashing?
 
Apple long paid no mind to global warming or the environment. But given that its rise to dominance in the electronics industry was driven by a counterculture, rebellious image, it quickly became the prime target of environmentalists with a bone to pick over manufacturing practices.  In recent years Apple has done its best to please these groups, even if that cuts into profits a bit.
 
After getting knocked by environmental advocacy group Greenpeace in 2012, Apple looked to prove itself, expanding its global alternative energy portfolio aggressively over the last year. Currently, 75 percent of Apple's power comes from renewable sources.  The company says on one of its publicity pages that it plans to reach 100 percent in years to come.

Apple green energy
Apple is backing up its renewable energy promises. [Image Source: Apple]

Apple currently offers no such accounting to shareholders, lumping such unmentioned expenditures into its operating expenses.  Shareholders like the National Center were pushing to get line-item style accounting of political or environmental spending.
 
But other shareholders were opposed to the move or felt it unnecessary.  Profits haven't seemed to suffer much, given Apple's trademark ability to squeeze record amounts of productivity out of workers in China and elsewhere for the lowest cost.  On the other end, its expertise at squeezing carriers just as hard for fees to carry the iPad and iPhone, have also helped the cause.
 
CEO Tim Cook had remarked on his company's cash pile in 2012, "It's more than we need to run the company."
 
But rather than get aggressive about increasing shareholder incentives such as stock repurchasing and dividends, he's instead moved to spend money on things like a 50 percent hiring binge and a pricey new "spaceship" headquarters, which has suffered delays and budget overruns.
 
III. Applied, Applied, Denied
 
At the annual shareholder meeting Tim Cook announced that Apple's CFO Peter Oppenheimer would be retiring after a decade with the company. Luca Maestri -- former CFO of General Motors Comp. (GM) Europe – will be installed as the new financial face of Apple.  Mr. Maestri's global credentials drew relatively positive reactions, but did not quell investor anxiety over Apple's sizeable $160B USD cash pile.

Luca Maestri
Luca Maestri is Apple's new CFO. [Image Source: Reuters]

But Mr. Cook beat back the proposal of Justin Danhof, a general counsel for the National Center.  In a vote, only 2.95 percent of shareholders supported the proposal, with the majority of major shareholders voting in opposition.

The CEO -- who has seemed a bit on edge of late, as witnessed in his infamous Europe rant -- appeared genuinely angry when Mr. Danhof tried to push his client's issue in the Q&A session.  Tim Cook commented:

When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind.  I don't consider the bloody ROI.  If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.

While Tim Cook gave no hint what part of the proposal he took such umbrage at, MacObserver reportedly initially that he "rejected the group's climate change denial".  Things snowballed from there with most reports ignoring the group's political side of the claim, and the fact that Tim Cook had kept his response purposefully vague in terms of his guiding views on specific environmental topics.

Tim Cook Angry
Tim Cook appeared to get angry at the insistence of the think tank at the annual shareholder meeting. [Image Source: Bloomberg]

Meanwhile the National Center fired up a provocative response, commenting:

I'll be posting that tomorrow after the newspaper in question has a chance to quote from it (if it wants to), but in the meantime, I refer everyone to an article by the British writer Tim Worstall that, we believe, explains what happened -- why Tim Cook got so mad, and why he said a few things that not only were non-responsive to the question, but also not particularly wise things for a corporate CEO to say -- perfectly.

The article: "Apple’s Tim Cook And His Dilemma Over Sustainability And Climate Change."

We'll be saying more tomorrow, but Tim Worstall "gets it."

That's a pretty fiery rebuttal, but the situation was about to grow even hotter.
 
IV. Sir Branson Backs Up Cook
 
At this point things started to get really out of hand, with the founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, writing in his blog in defense of Mr. Cook's (supposed) stand.  The media and airline mogul has prided himself in a green image by trekking through juggles, diving into the oceans, and using biofuels in his airlines, comments:

Enormously impressed with Apple CEO Tim Cook for his strong words on climate change deniers, and demanding business should have benefits for people and the planet, beyond just profit.

Cook also touched upon what should be at the heart of any business – its purpose. “We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive," he said. "We want to leave the world better than we found it." This goes for Virgin too, and should go for every single organisation in the world.

The NCPPR stated there is an “absence of compelling data" on climate change. If 97% of climate scientists agreeing that climate-warming trends over the past century are due to human activities isn’t compelling data, I don’t know what is.

 
Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group chairman, holds up a vial of biofuel. [Image Source: Reuters]

The UK tycoon's remarks will obviously stir up controversy, particularly with the U.S. suffering one of the coldest, snowiest winters on record.
 
And even among the majority of scientists whom believes in global warming, there is a growing contingent that believes that mankind cannot "stop" global warming.  Such critics believe that most global warming "solutions" are basically ineffectual wealth redistribution schemes.  Such people are often lumped in as part of "the consensus", despite the fact that their views are radically different from those who support such questionable solutions (e.g. Al Gore, a "carbon credit billionaire").
 
V. Think Tank Points Finger at Al Gore, Roasts Branson
 
The furor from the Nation Center has been flying back with equal intensity.  In a press release, it characterizes Tim Cook's rebuke as him telling investors to "drop dead" and blaming Al Gore (a major Apple shareholder) for leading the majority to strike down the proposal.  Mr. Danhof claims he was "greeted by boos and hisses from the Al Gore contingency in the room" when he broached the topic.

Al Gore
The think tank accused leading global warming fearmongerer Al Gore of mind-controlling Tim Cook and fellow shareholders. [Image Source: Sodahead]

The PR goes on to quote Mr. Danhof, Esq. as saying:

Here's the bottom line: Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is.  The company's CEO fervently wants investors who care more about return on investments than reducing CO2 emissions to no longer invest in Apple. Maybe they should take him up on that advice.

Although the National Center's proposal did not receive the required votes to pass, millions of Apple shareholders now know that the company is involved with organizations that don't appear to have the best interest of Apple's investors in mind.  Too often investors look at short-term returns and are unaware of corporate policy decisions that may affect long-term financial prospects. After today's meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change. The only remaining question is: how much?

Virgin Airlines

In a brief comment targeting Richard Branson they responded:

"Richard Branson, Jet-Fuel Burner, Criticizes Us on Climate"

Richard Branson, who isn't green, criticizes us for criticizing Apple, which isn't green, either.  Big talk from a guy who got rich burning jet fuel.

We hear he wants to go to the moon or Mars or something now. Solar-powered rocket?

That response seemed pretty funny and tongue in cheek.

VI. Advocacy Then Offers Up Bizarre Nazi Analogy

But it would shortly fire off a far more controversial and inflammatory response, writing "Meet Sir Richard Branson: Concentration Camp Commandant", in which it makes a bizarre analogy likening itself to a holocaust denier and the British media mogul to a commander in the facscist Nazi genocide attempt.  It writes:

I wonder if Sir Richard Branson, when he called us "deniers" in response to our activism at the Apple shareholder meeting (a suggestion that we’re like holocaust deniers), realized that under a scenario in which we are akin to holocaust deniers, he's akin to a concentration camp commandant?

For the record, Richard Branson never brought up the whole "holocaust denier analogy", so at this point the think-tank has effectively likened itself to that -- at least in terms of how it believes others to perceive it as.
 
It goes on to try to justify the questionable and inflammatory analogy by arguing that people accuse global warming "deniers" (as the think tank member writing the post appears to identify themselves) as equivalent to holocaust deniers.  To their credit they do give a lot of examples of such questionable comparisons:

(hereherehereherehereherehere, here, or here)

The comment was likely well intentioned and meant to be clever.  But we're guessing it's an unwise move to liken yourself to a holocaust denier, even if your critics have called you that and even if you meant it to be a tongue-in-cheek assertion.

Sources: The National Center for Public Policy Research, Richard Branson's Blog, Mac Observer, The National Center for Public Policy Research



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RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By marvdmartian on 3/11/2014 7:47:14 AM , Rating: 5
Yep, pretty hard to argue with a climate change disciple, when everything that shows the opposite is happening, they seem to be able to turn into support for their argument (at least, in their minds).

Getting warmer? Proof of manmade global climate change!
Getting colder? Proof of manmade global climate change!
More hurricanes? Proof of manmade global climate change!
Less hurricanes? Proof of manmade global climate change!
More snow and colder winters? Proof of manmade global climate change!
Less snow and warmer winters? Proof of manmade global climate change!
etc, etc, etc....

Then, when you finally get disgusted of arguing with the sycophant, you get their smug looks that says, "See? I'm so much smarter than you!"


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 9:05:19 AM , Rating: 4
"Getting warmer? Proof of manmade global climate change!
Getting colder? Proof of manmade global climate change!
More hurricanes? Proof of manmade global climate change!
Less hurricanes? Proof of manmade global climate change!
More snow and colder winters? Proof of manmade global climate change!
Less snow and warmer winters? Proof of manmade global climate change!
etc, etc, etc...."


LOL... Sadly, that really does sum it up. You cant argue with a climate change disciple. That and the ice measurements taken in the summer... "See, the ice is melting". Uh, yeah... Its summer.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/14, Rating: -1
RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 10:14:04 AM , Rating: 5
I am referring to the well known instances of measuring particular ice sheets to where they were at times in the 80's and 90's. The decades old measurements were taken in the winter and current in the summer then they publish it pressing the alarms as they go "The ice is meling, we are all doomed". Then its back in the winter... That is not scientific, its designed to spread misinformation, and that is what pisses people off. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we don't need to take steps, but potential man-made climate change isn't high on the list. We need to get off oil and go cleaner for alot of reasons...

-The economy. We need to get off of oil so we can stop buying it from countries and people that despise us, that is making them rich and us poorer.

- Politics. We also need to get the hell out of the middle east. Leave it alone, they don't want us there period. We are creating an enemy that doesn't need to exist. Give them back their craphole and leave it alone. Let them go back to killing each other like they have for the past 5000 years.

- Environment. Not the climate change, but the air quality. Anyone anywhere near a large city sees the smog layer. Breathing it in cant possibly be a good thing for us or our children.

potential man-made climate change is somewhere way down the list, maybe. That is plenty reason enough, climate change or not, we need to ween off it.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/14, Rating: -1
RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 11:40:45 AM , Rating: 2
"Pretty neat and tidy to be able to whitewash research by thousands of scientists with a single stroke"

Stop... Chew your food. Read slowly and comprehend and take your angry child hat off BS. Try to follow the point. That was an example that was all over the place a few years ago, but do your own search, the point is there is alot of conflicting info and there are many reasons to take smart steps having nothing to do with climate change. I would rather we get off oil and buring fossil fuels for the reasons above, they are plenty good enough. You can add climate change on top of it.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/2014 12:06:37 PM , Rating: 1
Same old retro. Patronizing his critics to allow his ridiculous initial statements to pass unchallenged.

quote:
You cant argue with a climate change disciple. That and the ice measurements taken in the summer... "See, the ice is melting". Uh, yeah... Its summer.


quote:
I am referring to the well known instances of measuring particular ice sheets to where they were at times in the 80's and 90's. The decades old measurements were taken in the winter and current in the summer then they publish it pressing the alarms as they go "The ice is meling, we are all doomed". Then its back in the winter... That is not scientific, its designed to spread misinformation, and that is what pisses people off. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we don't need to take steps, but potential man-made climate change isn't high on the list. We need to get off oil and go cleaner for alot of reasons...


The argument is climate change. And whether there are "well-known" sources of misinformation. Sources you obviously believe exist so long as I go looking for it.

Sorry donkey, that's now how an argument works. If you premise your position with "well-known instances of fraud", you don't get to tangent into oil and politics without defending that statement.

But again, you play the middle after you make a ridiculous statement.. One reclaimer is secretly jerking off to.

My favorites are when you tell everyone how Apple or Mircosoft could be "better" companies" as you defend a stance on how godlike google is.. Love those posts ;)


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 12:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously? You are such a child. You are so pissed off all the time you cant even see that we don't even fundamentally disagree. We both want off fossil fuels, we both see the negatives and you keep going on about the minor non important details. Again, there are conflicting details ALL OVER THE PLACE, but that is NOT THE POINT I am making.

THE POINT:

-The economy. We need to get off of oil so we can stop buying it from countries and people that despise us, that is making them rich and us poorer.

- Politics. We also need to get the hell out of the middle east. Leave it alone, they don't want us there period. We are creating an enemy that doesn't need to exist. Give them back their craphole and leave it alone. Let them go back to killing each other like they have for the past 5000 years.

- Environment. Not the climate change, but the air quality. Anyone anywhere near a large city sees the smog layer. Breathing it in cant possibly be a good thing for us or our children.

You cant possibly disagree with any of that.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/2014 12:19:05 PM , Rating: 1
Yawn. Still

quote:
Again, there are conflicting details ALL OVER THE PLACE, but that is NOT THE POINT I am making.


You stated:

quote:
That is not scientific, its designed to spread misinformation, and that is what pisses people off.


Please, enlighten us with this misinformation. No?? No proof??

YOU repeatedly ranting that something is TRUE, DOES NOT MAKE IT SO!!!


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 12:22:57 PM , Rating: 2
THE POINT:

-The economy. We need to get off of oil so we can stop buying it from countries and people that despise us, that is making them rich and us poorer.

- Politics. We also need to get the hell out of the middle east. Leave it alone, they don't want us there period. We are creating an enemy that doesn't need to exist. Give them back their craphole and leave it alone. Let them go back to killing each other like they have for the past 5000 years.

- Environment. Not the climate change, but the air quality. Anyone anywhere near a large city sees the smog layer. Breathing it in cant possibly be a good thing for us or our children.

You cant possibly disagree with any of that.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By Spuke on 3/11/2014 12:36:37 PM , Rating: 4
Wow, you are a child. I thought people were just being insulting before.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 12:41:27 PM , Rating: 4
I know . WTF ?

He even more angry about this than he is about Apple not being the best . LOL.

#doesntworkandplaywellwithothers


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/14, Rating: 0
RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 1:24:50 PM , Rating: 1
OK, I give. You are way to hopeless to have a simple conversation about a real issue with. In your mind, you have me fighting a fight I am not even fighting in reality. Enjoy the rest of your day, or whatever it is in your world.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/2014 12:46:15 PM , Rating: 2
#onlylikespeoplewhoagreewithhim

#callseveryoneelsechildish


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/2014 12:30:25 PM , Rating: 2
You patronizing proponents of climate change by appealing to their take on the supposed associated topics, politics/economy/blah blah does not give you a pass on your prior BS statements about misinformation.

Your, "I agree, we should fix the environment for my reasons. Because scientists are just lying or spreading misinformation and climate change cannot be proven."

Well, simply, that statement is garbage.

Akin to:

"I should wipe my ass because retro says its good for the smell in the aisle at work, people like clean asses, etc.. The fact that not doing so cannot be "really" proven to cause infectious diseases."

This is assuming anyone would be stupid enough to believe that infectious disease does not exist. After all the same % of Americans who oppose medical treatment probably rival the same % of climate scientists who disagree with the global warming trend.

But hey, if you like being that 3%. Props bro. There is no HIV there is no Herpes. Bad things happen to people because God wills it. ;)


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 12:45:31 PM , Rating: 2
"Your, "I agree, we should fix the environment for my reasons. Because scientists are just lying or spreading misinformation and climate change cannot be proven."

Not at all what I said. I did imply that alot of it is bunk and alot is inconclusive. Is there overall less ice than 30 years ago? Yes. Did we cause it? Inconclusive... I really don't know as there is no real proof of any of it and there is conflicting science all over the place. I assert we proceed as if we did cause it for many other good reason and benefits. REally not sure why you find that so offensive other than your own anger management issues. Again, we dont even fundamentally disagree, as I assume as a "global warming panic" subscriber, you must want us off oil correct?

Bah, maniac.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/2014 12:50:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Bah, maniac


Only because I disagree with your assumptions. Assumptions you have no credible reference to prove/disprove.

Inconclusive?? To whom?? Give us the scientific evidence that contradicts the majority of scientists working on this issue.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/11/2014 1:16:03 PM , Rating: 1
"Only because I disagree with your assumptions."

Lets be clear here... I call you a maniac because you constantly fly off the handle of the littlest things, then you show you are unable to get past your anger and listen to reason.

" Assumptions you have no credible reference to prove/disprove."

I am not making "assumptions" as there is conflicting data all over the place. Much of which shows the last several years having increasing ice levels all over the globe. Not to where it was 30 years ago, but increasing nonetheless. You are making the "assumption" that everything the panic button crowd says is true. I am not going to show you how to do a web search, its out there if you search for it all over the place, 1000's and 1000's of links to both sides of hte fence that I dont even care about. How about you show me the piece that proves scientifically that it is caused by manmade emissions? Again, not the point. I think we agree we need to do better as a society for many reasons, yours may be differnet than mine.

Does it really make that much of a difference to you if we do the right thing for political, economic, air/water quality, or climate change as the reason?


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By spamreader1 on 3/11/2014 9:40:27 AM , Rating: 2
This is the reason so many people classify the global warming alarmists as having their own cult like religion.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By BSMonitor on 3/11/2014 9:59:33 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
having their own cult like religion.


1) All religions are cults.

2) Global warming alarmists with just 1 tiny shred of proven fact have infinitely more credibility than any religion and it's dogma.

The difference, if the alarmists are wrong, we spent some money cleaning up disgusting environmental contaminants. If the religious folks are wrong, we murdered multiple hundreds of millions of people for nothing.

Just a tad bit of difference.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By Dorkyman on 3/11/2014 11:30:59 PM , Rating: 2
Your air of superiority is showing.

A lot of smart people have been religious. It's simply an attempt to try to understand the most basic questions of existence. You have your POV, fine, but no need to ridicule others for their equally-valid POVs.

As for alarmists and spending money, I see it as spending trillions of dollars to make a trivial difference in global temperature. Disgusting contaminants? Hah, shoulda been living back in the 1960s in L.A. THAT was smog. Order of magnitude cleaner now. It's all relative.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By FITCamaro on 3/12/2014 8:47:35 AM , Rating: 2
Where exactly did "we" (whoever "we" is...) murder hundreds of millions of people if those who are religious are wrong?

The vast majority of the killing that happens in the world is done in the name of brutal dictators using religion as a club to justify their lust for power(if they mention religion at all). Not in the name of actual religion.

There hasn't been a war in which God let his presence be officially known in thousands of years.


RE: Stop promulgating ignorance
By retrospooty on 3/12/2014 11:36:53 AM , Rating: 1
"There hasn't been a war in which God let his presence be officially known in thousands of years"

Well, that is what some primitive people wrote down in some books, later canonized by some church leaders as they picked and chose what to put in the current book we see today have decided you should believe anyhow.


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher














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