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.

Apartheid, and Israel

Israel has often been accused of apartheid in its dealings with the Palestinians. However, they usually play the Holocaust card and then enlist support from the United States of America.

Trump’s intent to move the US embassy to Palestine has been greeted by Netanyahu as a harbinger of peace. This from the creator of hundreds of settlements, in East Palestine.

Emboldened by America’s attacks on Iran, support for anti-Palestinian moves, and aggressive to take advantage, Israel has decided to

drive African migrants out of Israel. You can read details here.

Apartheid? No no. Not in Israel.

What’s in a Name: part II

Coleman’s mustard bears the label “Coleman’s of Norwich.”

Here you will find out that, that label will now be false, but will continue to be used.

I’ll bet my favourite Worcestershire Sauce isn’t made in Worcestershire. It isn’t, the company (Lea and Perrins) makes it in the USA in a thicker version. That’s the version I am familiar with. But they don’t lie about it, or do they?

Back to Coleman’s. Jobs in a loyal village will be lost. Profit will be chased elsewhere. But the ‘of Norwich’ will remain. I guess truth in advertising isn’t enforced in the UK either.

What’s in a Name?

I will give you the names of four organizations. Then I’ll make snarky comments about them.

  • Canada Standards Association
  • Britain First
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Special Investigations Unit

CSA is a required approval for appliances in Canada. It was started in a garage, but because of its name, became the standard.

Britain First is a radical group. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

Britain First campaigns primarily against multiculturalism and what it sees as the Islamisation of the United Kingdom, and advocates the preservation of traditional British culture. It attracted attention by taking direct action such as its “Christian patrols” and “invasions” of British mosques. It has been noted for its online activism.

They are, apparently, not nice people. However the name makes them sound useful, even patriotic.

Black Lives Matter gained fame by halting the Gay Pride parade in Toronto, Canada. They succeeded in getting the parade to agree NOT to allow police officers to participate in the parade in uniform. It appears that black lives matter a lot more than gay ones. That the police had been invited to participate in this parade meant nothing to BLM.

Special Investigations Unit is the branch of the municipal police tha investigates incidents in which a police officer shoots somebody. Or is suspected of planting evidence. I’m sure you get the picture. They are supposed to be the watchdogs protecting the public from overzealous police actions. Unfortunately, they are mostly ex police officers. Their investigations often are ‘special.’

What’s my point, you ask? In each of the above cases you might be subtly or seriously misled as to the group’s real purpose because of its official (often self-selected) name.

We just witnessed a major piece of legislation in the USA which is touted as Tax Reform. One senator said it really is ‘government for sale.’ It includes these provisions (among others):

  • tax cuts for the rich
  • territorial view of corporation taxes, allowing outside earnings to stay outside of US tax
  • reduction in business taxes overall
  • reduction on the home mortgage interest tax break, with a ceiling on mortgage size
  • permission of oil extraction in previously protected wildlife areas
  • removing of fines for not having health insurance
  • increase in the estate tax loophole

and there is more. This is ‘tax reform.’ Trump can call it that, but it’s a big gift to the rich and rich corporations, and an omnibus bill with other pieces stuffed in.

 

North Korea: some truth, for once

You may be wondering what’s going on between North Korea and the rest of the world, particularly the USA.

Here you can read a CRS report on this. I won’t give any quotes. If you’re interested in this topic, you can read it for yourself. (CRS = Congressional Research Service.)

In this report is a comment that the USA may have (deliberately?) messed up one agreement by attacking a bank that North Korea used. Since almost all banks in Macau had DPRK accounts in them, clearly the USA went after a big one to stampede all the others. You can find this here.

There is no solution. North Korea will continue to develop nuclear warheads and ICBM delivery vehicles. In an earlier round of food sanctions it is estimated that 5-10% of the population died of malnutrition. (That’s a euphemism for starvation.) Do you think the USA has more leverage than starvation?

This is posted under ‘Observation’ because there is no ‘activist’ content here, eh?