I am a citizen of Toronto, Ontario, and Canada. I am afraid that that statement may become irrelevant, even laughable.

Justin Trudeau, our Prime Minister, just gave himself extraordiary powers to tax and spend while only conferring with his cabinet. Cabinet members are appointed by the PM and thus depend on his goodwill to remain in their posts. Parliament was not involved.

In short, Justin Trudeau has given himself powers that should be illegal in a democracy with an elected parliament.

Doug Ford, my Provincial Premier, has just given himself powers perhaps more extraordinary that his technical master, Mr. Trudeau. These powers will last a long time – much longer than the Covid19 they are supposed to be essential to fight. It is not clear if Ford will run a bill through the legislature to justify his actions.

John Tory, my mayor, has given himself extraordinary powers without the consent of the city council. These powers will last for over a year.

This is not a democracy. The Covid-19 excuse threatens my freedom as a citizen. We start with curfews, the equivalent of martial law, and power collected into the hands of three men. After a period of enjoying the exercise of these powers, which are addictive, will they be able to go ‘cold turkey’ back to normal?

Crash Course

All of this is my opinion. Without prejudice.

There have been two recent and fatal air crashes of a specific model of plane.

Here is what I think is the problem.

The plane was made more efficient (no problem) and similar in cockpit controls to its predecessor (almost no problem.)

So a crew used to the older plane could fly the new one.

Except for one small difference.

When the plane thinks its airspeed is too slow, it dives to avoid a stall.

On the older plane, the pilot (or co-pilot) pulled back on the control and the plane obeyed.

In the newer plane, a switch has to be turned off. Pulling back does not work as the computer overrides the pilot-copilot.


Here’s my point: if the planes are Really Similar, train the pilots about the differences.

I gleaned all of the above from open sources on the Internet. It could be true or not. If the airspeed indicator was malfunctioning, that could explain what happened.

Yes, I’m going to fly on one of these planes. No choice in Canada.

Separation? A History Lesson

London, Montreal, Barcelona. What do they have in common?

London England is in the midst of Brexit. Over 200 financial companies have moved over 900 Billion pounds of investment out of the country. And, deals that can be done through EU subsidiaries will probably go there.

Barcelona. In the middle of a region of some autonomy and trying to separate, the Spanish government made it easier for companies to move their headquarters out of the city. Four did so on the first day, and some 130 in the next month.

Montreal. Was once the banking hub of Canada. Now both Royal Bank and The Bank Of Montreal, have, in effect, their headquarters in Toronto.

Barcelona may not be so obvious, but its region was just significantly richer than Spain in average (GDP per person) before this mess.

What’s my point?

If you are benefiting from a strong financial sector and then threaten political upheaval, you will lose business. Generally that loss is permanent.

Now for the dumb questions.

  • Lenin’s Law: who thought they would benefit? Politics in Barcelona, Politics in Quebec, and Politics in Brexit.
  • Who cleaned up the mess? Nobody. Elizabeth May is getting no help. A saner politician would resign, but she is resigned to doing her best with a bag of dog doo-doo she was stuck with. The other messes have become the status quo already.

Have a nice day.

The EU should, imho, wake up

Brexit was, imho, a bad idea.

Brexit was, imho, manipulated via Facebook via a Canadian company via a free sports lottery.

Brexit is so f…d up I can’t see straight when I read the news. There is a Lot of fear-mongering.

– Brits will run out of food, medicines, et cetera.

Let’s have a serious look at that claim. The EU will suddenly be able to sell, elsewhere, the fresh food and stale medicines it normally sends to the UK?

Why aren’t those EU corporate interests weighing in on the current Brexit negotiations?

Has all of the EU decided this: it is necessary to punish the first exit-or severely as an example?

Remember, this is the EU that imposed crippling sanctions on countries (Greece, for example) so they borrow at absurd interest rates to pay loans they made at absurd interest rates. Germany should, imho, remember that Greece wrote off a lot of their debts after the war. Apparently gratitude is not something Angela Merkel experiences in her political life.

If Greece had its own currency, it could print that and pay its debts and merely experience inflation. Fewer imports, more exports. Internal prices could be stable.

A painful Brexit will signal many messages. Greece might wake up and decide to bail, as it has less to lose then the UK has already lost.

This is, imho, not theoretical. The EU should wake up and give May a decent deal.

And No one goes to jail.

Here you will find a recent article on Barclay’s and their involvement in the 2008 financial crisis.

I will content myself with a quote or two. Emphasis mine.

The bank did not admit liability.

The US alleged that the bank had misled investors about the quality of loans backing the securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Two former Barclays executives also agreed to pay a total of $2m.

and no one goes to jail.

Poverty Reduction: Ontario (Wynne) versus Toronto (Tory)

Here you will find an article describing the next set of ‘moves’ planned in Toronto.

I think this betrays the usual ‘progress’ we see under our current mayor. The plan is to spend a lot of time discussing what might be done over the next twenty years.

Here’s a quote from that web page, emphasis mine:

It is part of a series of panel discussions the city’s anti-poverty advocate, Councillor Joe Mihevc, hopes will generate bold ideas “to set the stagefor the next phase of Toronto’s 20-year poverty reduction strategy, approved by city council in 2015.

So, in more than two years, the city strategy has hatched a plan to spend time creating a strategy. Vintage Toronto Council, Vintage John Tory: photo ops and not much substance.

In contrast,

Here you will find an article describing what our Premier, Kathleen Wynne, is actually doing about poverty.

Here’s a quote from that web page:

Participants must be:

  • 18 to 64 years old for the duration of the pilot.
  • living in one of the selected test regions for the past at least 12 months or longer (and still live there):
    • Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County
    • Thunder Bay, along with the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, Township of Shuniah, Municipality of Neebing, Township of Conmee, Township of O’Connor, Township of Gillies
    • Lindsay
  • living on a low income (under $34,000 per year if you’re single or under $48,000 per year if you’re a couple)

This pilot is already running and may be expanded. I don’t remember Wynne holding a lot of consultation. The tricky bits were deciding on the dollar numbers to use as thresholds, caps, and clawbacks.

How come Toronto doesn’t offer to co-fund an expansion to here?

Now for the dumber questions.

Suppose Doug Ford became leader of the Provincial Progressive Conservatives. (He did.) Suppose he becomes premier of Ontario. (He could.)

Which thing to you think he will do first?

  • Drive all the progressives out of the party?
  • Cancel the provincial guaranteed income program?
  • Speed up the discussions on poverty in Toronto?

I’m betting on: close to success in the first bullet, gerrymandering to un-fund the second bullet, and pointing out that the Scarborough Subway needs money more than the poor, who often don’t vote.

Is that cynical enough? That’s the final dumb question.

Trump’s Deficit

Donald Trump is complaining about constant USA trade deficits. This is a valid concern. If you check countries, you’ll find that Germany’s trade surplus is greater than that of the EU overall. The USA has always had a deficit overall, as has Canada.

Why are there trade deficits? Clearly, the USA as a whole buys more (in dollar terms) than it sells. How did this happen?

The book, Information Feudalism, is mentioned in the References pages of this website. I leave you to navigate there at your leisure. I will summarize a few points from that book.

  • The USTR and the DOHA round of trade negotiations focused on making copyright and patent rights enforced all over the world.
  • A company like Apple (no special reason to pick them, but I have the figures we need in mind) can sell an item for $3x and keep $2x of that for itself. Patent licensees build the product, acquire the necessary components and materials, pay their workers and various bills, on the remaining $x.
  • The jobs to do this are in the countries where the patents etc are licensed.
  • One third of the gross price goes to those same countries. This money may not come back to the USA as purchases.
  • Two thirds of the gross price comes back to the US parent, assuming they don’t launder or tax evade (not a good conclusion overall, eh?).
  • What does come back goes to the elites: Company executives, board members, stock option holders, and shareholders. It does not come back to the man in the street.
  • It is entirely possible for a company to decide where to license a patent and thus where to manufacture or assemble a product. American companies do not choose to do this in the USA if it can be done cheaper elsewhere. Hong Kong and Bangladesh, Japan and Korea, etc etc. There are few patriotic decisions made in board rooms.

The president who campaigned on cleaning up the swamp has a White House team composed pretty much entirely of swamp denizens and swam owners. They want their constant flows of income. Those flows are based on free trade and patent and copyright protection.

Therefore the USA will always have a trade imbalance.

Do you think the POTUS can override corporate self-interest? Did he try to buy this with his (imho disastrous) corporate tax cuts? Will anyone bought stay bought?


U Turn in Montreal (or, a Tale of Two Cities)

Those of us who are unhappy in Toronto should google ‘Montreal corruption.’ Either their media are much more savvy, or our politicians are not quite as venal.

However, weird things do happen in Montreal, similar to Toronto’s undying one-stop subway to Scarborough, known to be much more expensive and much less useful than the paid for LRT (which would have been running by now, if we didn’t have our Mayor and city council manoeuvering.)

There is a road that crosses Mount Royal. It isn’t particularly straight, it was I think recovered from some rail route. (Steel rail trains with few locomotives have serious limitations in climbable slopes, so the route is chosen watching slope as well as length.)

A cyclist was (regrettably) killed on this road by an illegal U-turning motor vehicle. What do you think Montreal’s proposed solution is?

To close the road at the middle to all but buses. What will that do?

Make everyone U-turn.

In Toronto we put up signs against turns. In Montreal they just close the way forward.

There is one additional similarity between our two cities: in Toronto, the subway debate and Metrolinx stations etc etc are based on ignoring planning decisions. Instead we have delays delays delays.

It appears that Montreal will now endure some sort of ‘consultation process.’ Then the road will be closed anyway.

Dumb question?

Want to bet that I’m wrong here?

At least in heaven there’s food

Bashar Assad is killing his own people. The Russian five-hour-daily cease-fire for humanitarian aid and civilian exit is just hot air.

(The advice given to the Honduran Contras attacking Nicaragua was, go for soft targets. Markets, schools, and hospitals. This ‘strategy’ is a gift of Richard Nixon and Oliver North. It is now standard practice.)

The Syrian regime is bombing hospitals, homes, whatever in Eastern Ghouta.

You can google the title phrase of this post. Or you can click here and scroll down to the ‘disturbing’ video.

Not Fine

Companies that make mistakes merely pay fines.

Here you will find that an ejection seat failure in a UK Red Arrow Air Force plane merely resulted in a fine (plus a death.) This cost over a million pounds.

He said: “Martin-Baker were aware of the defect more than 20 years ago, and it took Sean’s death for the issue to come to light.

“We can only hope they have learned a lesson and that no-one else goes through this hell because of faulty equipment.”

Here you will find that (among many other drug companies) GlaxoSmithKline paid a fine for promoting drugs for unapproved uses.

No individuals have been charged in any of the cases. Even so, the Justice Department contends the prosecutions are well worth the effort — reaping more than $15 in recoveries for every $1 it spends, by one estimate.

But critics argue that even large fines are not enough to deter drug companies from unlawful behavior. Only when prosecutors single out individual executives for punishment, they say, will practices begin to change.

Not merely to urinate on British companies, here‘s your US giant Pfizer:

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) on Tuesday said it has reached a $486 million settlement of litigation accusing it of causing big losses for shareholders by concealing safety risks associated with its Celebrex and Bextra pain-relieving drugs.

Remember the exploding airbags? Here you will find out what happened to Takata.

 Last year, Takata agreed to plead guilty and pay a $1bn criminal penalty in the US for fraud. Numerous carmakers have reached their own settlements over claims linked to the Takata recall.

Not to forget Volkswagen, here you will find out about the diesel emissions scandal.

As of December 21, 2016, Volkswagen reached a second settlement with the roughly 78,000 owners and lessees of 3.0-liter diesel models. In late January 2017, Volkswagen announced a $1.2 billion program that differs substantially from the $10 billion program for 2.0-liter diesel models. Judge Breyer approved the final settlement amount on May 11, 2017. Currently, only owners of 2009–2012 Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touareg models with the Generation 1 engine are eligible for buybacks between $24,755 and $57,157. This is because Volkswagen cannot repair them to be emissions compliant. Generation 1 lessees of 2012 vehicles can receive between $5001 and $6615 for terminating their leases early. Generation 1 owners who do not sell their cars back to Volkswagen can receive $7755 to $13,880. For complete details, see the court’s handy executive summary.

Let me summarize.

There was public citizen damage in each case above:

  • a pilot died.
  • drugs were improperly marketed.
  • safety risks were concealed – and only stockholders seemed to care.
  • dangerous airbags were put in front of citizens as safety devices.
  • polluting cars were sold for years.

Nobody went to jail. This not fine. It is a disgrace.