Excited Delirium

Stories about Excited Delirium, the Shock Economy and a little fiction here and there.

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The TMX Takeover and Alternative Business Models

Canada has a basic financial industry that has become very complicated over the last few decades (possibly centuries), largely because of our messed up Constitution.

Because we’ve always tolerated provincial jurisdiction over financial regulation, we’ve never been able to develop a robust financial market compared to similar-sized economies.

The impact of this is that we’ve always been reliant on external providers of capital to fund our economic activities.

Recently, things started to change as demands for a consolidated national regulator have emerged.  The world’s top companies probably woke up to the fact that companies like Potash would be buying them instead of the other way around if we were able to streamline our regulatory environment.  This explains the array of takeovers in recent years.

The London Exchange bid for the Toronto Market Exchange (TMX) Group is just another jump in this direction.

Of course, in the most bizarre state of irony, Canada’s west – represented largely at the federal level by Conservatives – are getting socialism and Canada’s central provinces – dominated by Liberals and the Bloc – are getting fierce capitalism.  I say this because in order to protect votes in the west, the Conservatives are protecting key assets from non-US foreign interests (Potash, the Tar Sands) and letting Ontario go to ‘hell in a hand basket’ by insisting on transaction such as those involving the TMX, Domtar, Dafasco, etc.  All of these actions carve out the base of Ontario’s manufacturing and financial infrastructure, ultimately penalizing those who don’t support the Conservatives.

Socialism for us, capitalism for the rest of you, indeed.

Sorry … that’s a big side-bar discussion that should take place elsewhere.

Getting back to the real story:  I believe that the takeover of the TMX will occur and Canada will lose all of its financial security and industry because people in Toronto simply don’t vote for Conservatives.  This will be a political rather than economic decision and Canada’s blue-blood Bay Street business base will lose as a result.

What’s the good news?  Inevitably, people that want money will demand alternatives.

The even better news?  There are lots of alternatives available.

In any basic market economy, the following are ways that you can organize a business or organization:

  1. Sole proprietorship
  2. Partnership
  3. Incorporation – privately held
  4. Incorporation – publicly traded (ie. on an exchange)
  5. Registered Not-for-profit
  6. Registered Charity
  7. Co-operative Business / Organization

I believe that the vacuum that will be left by the TMX will push demand for nearly every form of organization listed above with the exception of ‘Incorporation – Publicly Traded’.  For many, this may be a bad thing because it means those with big dollars will continue to invest in good ideas and people, but those with relatively few dollars – ie. your basic RRSP holdings – will have nothing to buy in the early stages of growth.

This can be seen as a failure of our capitalist system to encourage efficient use of ALL savings – not just those of the elite – when it comes to investment opportunities.

Arguably, our system has failed most people because we’ve been living that way for some time.  ‘Angel’ and institutional investors absorb a lot of risk with new ventures, but they also reap most of the returns.  Crumbs get thrown to the general public.

What we need to do is figure out the best ways to promote and foster local growth in Canada.  The only way to do that is to look into things like co-ops, non-profits and other organizations like Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).  All of these will materialize more readily if we make it easy to push our personal savings into these organizations.

Here are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Expand the definition of qualifying companies that one can put in their RRSPs.  Investing the market has become a bit of a joke, as we all know the last ones who actually profit from any activity these days are shareholders.  The world has become so packed with insiders manipulating stock prices that Ponzi schemes and gambling are starting to look more attractive.  Adding co-ops, small businesses and other organizations to the list of eligible securities is a great way to make investments AND shelter return on capital.
  2. Make contributions to or support of CSAs tax deductible.  We make music classes and gym attendance tax deductible.  Why not put real, organic, natural and local food on the table with a tax deduction as well?
  3. Expand the deductions that people can make when contributing to qualifying not-for-profits.  NFPs contribute just as much – if not more – to our economy than many of the ‘big business’ magnates pulling for tax rebates and public-paid bonuses.  We need to improve on ways to accelerate getting our funds from our savings into their hands.
  4. No penalty for small business deductions from RRSPs.  If I manage my own small business and I’m fortunate enough to have an RRSP, I should be able to finance my company via RRSP deductions without penalty.  We’ve done this in the past with home ownership loans and we should do it for small businesses.

These are just a few basic ideas, but you get the idea.  Once we start to function without a capital exchange, we’ll come to realize that there are extremely economically viable options out there.

Was Egypt’s Gentle Coup an American Takeover?

Gee … I can’t imagine what life under a dictator would be like (maybe Canada could do with a little regime change?), but I know this:  life under the military will likely be harder for Egyptians.

The “Walk Like an Egyptian” campaign staged by hundreds of thousands of people seems to be subsiding, but let’s repeat who’s in charge now:  The military.

In most circles, a transition of power from the leader (regardless of how he or she got there) is called a coup d’etat.  As defined by Wikipedia:

A coup d’etat is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military — to replace the deposed government with another body; either civil or military. A coup d’état succeeds if the usurpers establish their dominance when the seated government fails to disallow their consolidation of power.

In the case of Egypt, I would call it a gentle coup.  The military waited and they seemed to get what they wanted.  Not to sound cold, but few people died in the transition and right now, it actually seems like a responsible host of military leaders will help Egypt emerge from dictatorship.

Or will they?

In Egypt, we need to know to whom the military is beholden.  Are they representatives of Egyptians or an extension of the American military?

Don’t forget that Egypt is America’s second largest recipient of financial and military support – after Israel.  That kind of funding has to generate some kind of internal connections.

Did the turnover in Egypt occur because Hosni Mubarak wasn’t buying billions in new hardware?  In December, Wikileaks showed that the US made repeated attempts to encourage Mubarak’s regime to upgrade their military.  Substantial investments didn’t occur, resulting in Council of Foreign Relations expert Steven Cook to say this:

The cables reveal a military deeply reluctant to take part in regional counterterrorism efforts, and the focus on weapons necessary for desert battle is a reflection of that.  The Egyptian military is not good at or interested in, quite frankly, projecting power. It is there to ensure the survival of the regime and protect the country’s borders.

Not to defend Mubarak, but shouldn’t that be the priority of any government?

We also see that Israel was worried about Egypt’s commitments in the Middle East:

Meanwhile, Israel remains worried about Egypt’s current appetite for weapons. A July 2009 cable from Tel Aviv paraphrased political military chief Amos Gilad as saying “the Egyptian military led by Defense Minister [Mohamed] Tantawi continues to train and exercise as if ‘Israel was its only enemy.’ He added that … [Egypt’s] peace with Israel ‘is too thin, too superficial.’ ”

Looking at this information, one can’t help but wonder what was behind the activities for the last three weeks.  Was it a a pissed off Egyptian populace or an even more irate US industrial-military machine that was no longer getting support in Egypt’s upper echelons?  If bills weren’t being paid and hardware wasn’t being upgraded, could this have provided enough of a spark to overthrow Mubarak?

Other issues are at stake here, particularly the Suez Canal and the Gaza Strip.  The Suez is the most important oil asset to Europe and Gaza represents some of the most important real estate for Israel.  What happens next with these two locations will also reveal clues to why things happened the way they did in Egypt.

To sum up, as the military takes control, who they report to – the US or Egypt – will tell the full story.  Big, gluttonous upgrades and changes in real estate ownership will be the first sign to everyone that this had nothing to do with the will of the people.

Canada’s Media Future: Just Make Stuff Up

In a recent interview with Media Matters, a Fox insider admitted that they would routinely ‘make stuff up’ in the wake of mounting pressure from managers and owners, but also to cope with rising costs associated with actually investigating and reporting on a story before making it public.

Media activities and publishing or broadcasting in Canada face the same future.

With the prospect of the CRTC approving the ability for journalists to essentially lie to the Canadian public, we’ll get more stories like this:

For the first few years it was let’s take the conservative take on things. And then after a few years it evolved into, well it’s not just the conservative take on things, we’re going to take the Republican take on things which is not necessarily in lock step with the conservative point of view.

“And then two, three, five years into that it was, we’re taking the Bush line on things, which was different than the GOP. We were a Stalin-esque mouthpiece.  It was just what Bush says goes on our channel. And by that point it was just totally dangerous.  Hopefully most people understand how dangerous it is for a media outfit to be a straight, unfiltered mouthpiece for an unchecked president.”

Imagine a future in Canada where Stephen Harper has a station like Sun TV to repeat everything that they say, verbatim.  Lies will be spread about the evils of women working, the sins and depravity of homosexuality and the top 10 reasons why we should kill anyone that describes themselves as a socialist.

Intolerance will be the future of this country.

Stop the CRTC now and do what you can to demand truth in journalism.

Unfortunately, if the CRTC fails to ignore the public (which it probably will), it will prove yet again that this institution is nothing more than an industry mouthpiece and that it’s useless to the average Canadian citizen.

Canadian Taxpayer Federation Nonsense and Nitpicking

The Canadian Taxpayer Foundation launched their annual ‘Teddy Awards’ yesterday.  This is a program to nitpick and embarrass all levels of public employees.

Where’s the bloated corporate mess of the year award?  We know the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives releases their annual review of corporate salaries, but when we hear about the elaborate waste that goes on in the private sector, in many cases on the public dime?

Like Lockheed-Martin winning an untendered bid for their useless and unnecessary stealth planes bought by the Conservatives for $16 billion (and counting)?

Or the firm(s) that were behind the programming and development of Ontario eHealth, bilking taxpayers for big lunches and broken databases, all at the expense of taxpayers?

Or how about the massive pork-fest that the Cons will likely throw at Quebec for the hockey stadium?  This is good use of public money?

The beneficiaries of these free-for-all spend programs should be up against the wall and not public servants.

Canada’s Financial Industry For Sale

Apparently, Canada is up for sale.

The Toronto Stock Exchange, our biggest (and arguably, only) exchange is up for sale and the folks in London, UK look to be the most likely suitors.

This is out of control.  Venture capital and other fund raising efforts in Canada will face a painful death as decision making gets transferred over to the Brits.

This isn’t protectionism.  It’s just common sense.  Handing over control will result in people in two offices saying which project should we finance.  The answer:  we finance it in the place where people own the exchange.  That would be London, based on the terms released to date.

This country is going to garbage under the rule of the Cons.

What’s next?

Tim Hudak’s Empty Platform

I don’t who’s financing these guys, but a platform based on “Bring Back Buck a Beer is supposed to be treated like serious policy for one of the world’s largest economies?

Are they for real?  Is this everything that Tim Hudak can throw at the McGuinty Liberals?  Is this guy stuck in the 80s?  Does he really think Ontario voters are that stupid?

Is this all they have ‘on tap’?  How about getting some of your smart friends together to ‘draft’ a more creative platform for the people of Ontario.

What’s next?  “Bring Back Two-buck chuck“?

With the multitudes of platform options out there, this is what they come up with?

What an embarrassment for Ontario, but in particular, this province’s Progressive Conservatives.  This has got to be the most cynical treatment of voters I’ve ever experienced in my life.

The Big Huffington post Sell-out

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post has sold out to AOL.

This is a big blow for anyone who saw that independent media could grow and remain independent of mainstream media influence or dollars.  Of course, one might argue that this is something aspire to, but this is like arguing that when Whole Foods sells organic foods, they won’t sell out either (which they did when they caved to Monsanto and said that GE alfalfa is OK).

Adbusters has launched a ‘Huff & Puff It Down’ awareness campaign.  Use the hash tag #huffpuff when telling people about your favourite alternative news and information sites so that you won’t have to rely on rehashed mainstream stuff.

Here are a few alternatives to consider:

http://alternet.org
http://commondreams.org
http://indymedia.org
http://truth-out.org
http://truthdig.org
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree
http://www.rabble.ca
http://www.progressivebloggers.ca
http://www.openfile.ca

Please add your favourites in the comments below.  I’d really like to build a more comprehensive list to share with everyone.

Also, I’ll be starting a stump in Wikipedia titled ‘Canadian Independent Media’ and will let you know when it’s live.

Bell vs TekSavvy Debate on CBC

As I watch this, I have one question:  when is the CBC going to stop subsidizing Kevin O’Leary?  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!  I wonder how much he bilks the Canadian public for so he can say “if you can suck every last cent from users, I’m happy for you.”

What’s not covered in this discussion is the massive conflict of interest that Bell, Rogers and other companies are in when it comes to the delivery of media.

What’s also barely touched on, but is the biggest issue: cost.  According to the TekSavvy rep, it costs $0.01 to $0.03 for a GB of bandwidth.  Charge me that price and I’ll be tickled pink!

Be Warned: Stephen Harper More Like Ronald Reagan Every Day

What’s to love about Ronald Reagan?  Apparently, he was this hard-assed conservative that broke the back of communist Russia, but the reality is this:  Reagan was a chronic tax raiser and vetoed an anti-apartheid act.

Stephen Harper and other Conservatives trip over themselves to describe what a hero he was, but when you look at his legacy, he was no better than the commies he broke:

1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser. As governor of California, Reagan “signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then.” Meanwhile, state spending nearly doubled. As president, Reagan “raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office,” including four times in just two years. As former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who called Reagan “a dear friend,” told NPR, “Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration — I was there.” “Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s memoir. Reagan the anti-tax zealot is “false mythology,” Brinkley said.

2. Reagan nearly tripled the federal budget deficit. During the Reagan years, the debt increased to nearly $3 trillion, “roughly three times as much as the first 80 years of the century had done altogether.” Reagan enacted a major tax cut his first year in office and government revenue dropped off precipitously. Despite the conservative myth that tax cuts somehow increase revenue, the government went deeper into debt and Reagan had to raise taxes just a year after he enacted his tax cut. Despite ten more tax hikes on everything from gasoline to corporate income, Reagan was never able to get the deficit under control.

3. Unemployment soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. Unemployment jumped to 10.8 percent after Reagan enacted his much-touted tax cut, and it took years for the rate to get back down to its previous level. Meanwhile, income inequality exploded. Despite the myth that Reagan presided over an era of unmatched economic boom for all Americans, Reagan disproportionately taxed the poor and middle class, but the economic growth of the 1980′s did little help them. “Since 1980, median household income has risen only 30 percent, adjusted for inflation, while average incomes at the top have tripled or quadrupled,” the New York Times’ David Leonhardt noted.

4. Reagan grew the size of the federal government tremendously. Reagan promised “to move boldly, decisively, and quickly to control the runaway growth of federal spending,” but federal spending “ballooned” under Reagan. He bailed out Social Security in 1983 after attempting to privatize it, and set up a progressive taxation system to keep it funded into the future. He promised to cut government agencies like the Department of Energy and Education but ended up adding one of the largest — the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which today has a budget of nearly $90 billion and close to 300,000 employees. He also hiked defense spending by over $100 billion a year to a level not seen since the height of the Vietnam war.

5. Reagan did little to fight a woman’s right to choose. As governor of California in 1967, Reagan signed a bill to liberalize the state’s abortion laws that “resulted in more than a million abortions.” When Reagan ran for president, he advocated a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, but once in office, he “never seriously pursued” curbing choice.

6. Reagan was a “bellicose peacenik.” He wrote in his memoirs that “[m]y dream…became a world free of nuclear weapons.” “This vision stemmed from the president’s belief that the biblical account of Armageddon prophesied nuclear war — and that apocalypse could be averted if everyone, especially the Soviets, eliminated nuclear weapons,” the Washington Monthly noted. And Reagan’s military buildup was meant to crush the Soviet Union, but “also to put the United States in a stronger position from which to establish effective arms control” for the the entire world — a vision acted out by Regean’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, when he became president.

7. Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Reagan signed into law a bill that made any immigrant who had entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty. The bill was sold as a crackdown, but its tough sanctions on employers who hired undocumented immigrants were removed before final passage. The bill helped 3 million people and millions more family members gain American residency. It has since become a source of major embarrassment for conservatives.

8. Reagan illegally funneled weapons to Iran. Reagan and other senior U.S. officials secretly sold arms to officials in Iran, which was subject to a an arms embargo at the time, in exchange for American hostages. Some funds from the illegal arms sales also went to fund anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua — something Congress had already prohibited the administration from doing. When the deals went public, the Iran-Contra Affair, as it came to be know, was an enormous political scandal that forced several senior administration officials to resign.

9. Reagan vetoed a comprehensive anti-Apartheid act. which placed sanctions on South Africa and cut off all American trade with the country. Reagan’s veto was overridden by the Republican-controlled Senate. Reagan responded by saying “I deeply regret that Congress has seen fit to override my veto,” saying that the law “will not solve the serious problems that plague that country.”

10. Reagan helped create the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Reagan fought a proxy war with the Soviet Union by training, arming, equipping, and funding Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan. Reagan funneled billions of dollars, along with top-secret intelligence and sophisticated weaponry to these fighters through the Pakistani intelligence service. The Talbian and Osama Bin Laden — a prominent mujahidin commander — emerged from these mujahidin groups Reagan helped create, and U.S. policy towards Pakistan remains strained because of the intelligence services’ close relations to these fighters. In fact, Reagan’s decision to continue the proxy war after the Soviets were willing to retreat played a direct role in Bin Laden’s ascendancy.