The Liberal Democratic World Order Is Falling Apart – Democracy is for suckers

A short post by Errol Mendes, Professor, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa. My take-away: democracy is for suckers.
Prof. Mendes proposes three ways for liberal democracies to fight the tide or authoritarianism:

  • “First, they must use all their powers of political, economic, and social persuasion to shine a bright light on the “post-truth” fabrications fuelling [sic] the new authoritarianism;
  • “Second, they must examine their own glasshouses to see how the so-called Washington Consensus liberal order has produced too many losers, too many corporate robber barons, while creating a level of social inequality, job loss, and poverty that begs the title “neo-feudal.”
  • “Finally, progressive leaders, parties, and governments must use the human rights agenda to promote the lives and interests of all.”
Very quaint.  We’re doomed.

http://www.cips-cepi.ca/2017/01/13/the-liberal-democratic-world-order-is-falling-apart/

Source: The Liberal Democratic World Order Is Falling Apart – Centre for International Policy Studies

How Delaware kept America safe for corporate secrecy | Reuters

This lengthy article describes how on politician from the State of Delaware has thwarted national and international programs to prevent bad guys from laundering money in the U.S.

Here’s what the good guys tried to do:

  • In 2006, the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, a group of some three dozen nations formed to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, noted “significant shortcomings” in the United States. The group declared Washington “non-compliant” in four of 40 categories for anti-money-laundering compliance. Among the failures: Authorities could not obtain timely information about a company’s real owners, FATF said.The task force demanded that the United States fix the problem. For Washington, which was pressing allies to crack down on terror financing, it was an embarrassing critique.
  • The same year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress’s auditing arm, concluded that federal law made it too easy for individuals to anonymously form companies. Delaware was a favored destination for such companies, the report said.
  • As anti-secrecy momentum built, Senator Levin and then-Senator Barack Obama joined forces with Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota to make it tougher to register new companies without identifying the owners.

Thanks to the continuing efforts (described in the article) of Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock none of these initiatives has succeeded.

Source: Special Report: How Delaware kept America safe for corporate secrecy | Reuters

Cry me a river: Louisiana residents without flood insurance face uncertainty

Those residents without flood insurance are eligible for up to $33,000 in FEMA individual disaster assistance funds, although most will likely receive less than that, based on payments following other major disasters.

It’s not clear to me why the government should subsidize home owners who choose not to get flood insurance.  They’re home owners.  What about tax payers who don’t own homes? Why should they subsidize home owners?

I think Jesus said it best.

For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”  Matthew 25:29

Source: Louisiana residents without flood insurance face uncertainty

The Puerto Rico crisis, explained – Vox

Here’s a great, timely summary of the financial problems in Puerto Rico.  It looks like things will get pretty messy before the US government steps in to bail-out the Puerto Rican government.  And who will benefit from the bail-out?  The holders of Puerto Rico’s bonds, of course.

Q. Who would be crazy enough to invest in Puerto Rican bonds?

A. “a high-income person living in a high-tax state”

I think the best term for describing this fiasco would be “the Puerto Rican Put”, anomalous to the Greenspan Put that led to the 2008 asset bubble in the U.S.  Investors were assured that Greenspan would keep interest rates low so they could invest in bonds without worrying about rising interest rates.  Another example would be the implicit (but not explicit) backing of FMHA bonds by the US government.   When the security behind the bonds (ie home mortgages) tanked the government bailed out the bond holders (not the home owners).  It’ll happen again in Puerto Rico.

“What’s this business about Puerto Rican bonds and taxes?All municipal bonds are exempt from federal income taxes. In additional, if you buy municipal bonds issued by the place where you live, those bonds are exempt from state and local income taxes as well. Such bonds are known as triple tax exempt, and they’re a big deal for municipal finance and high tax places like New York and California. But Puerto Rico’s bonds are triple tax exempt regardless of where you live.This is not a huge deal for most Americans, but for a high-income person living in a high-tax state it can be a very big deal and it helped fuel a lot of lending to Puerto Rico that wasn’t necessarily thought through in a very serious way.”

via The Puerto Rico crisis, explained – Vox.

Will the real “Smart Water” please stand up?

Coca-Cola has introduced a new beverage: Glaceau Smart Water.  (I’m serious.)  They distill Connecticut spring water and then add minerals into the distillate.  What’s “smart” about that?

A better approach to “smart” water, I think, is that taken by a British firm, SmartWater Technology Ltd.  They make a liquid containing a code that can be read under ultraviolet light. I note that SmartWater Technology Ltd. is aware of the importance of branding:

“We do not take awareness or knowledge of the SmartWater brand for granted, which is why this work continues to be a fundamental component in our ongoing crime-fighting strategy. We are always searching for dynamic new ways to promote our brand to the criminal fraternity and wider communities. Only by doing so will we continue to ensure that SmartWater remains the UK’s most powerful crime deterrent.”

What I don’t know is what Coca-Cola knows about the extent of  the UK firm’s world-wide trademark rights. Bring in the lawyers.

 

“The Coca-Cola Company brings you glacéau smartwater, vapor distilled water with electrolytes. ”

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/brands/glaceau-smartwater

“SmartWater consists of a liquid containing a code that can be read under ultraviolet light. It is intended to be applied to valuable items, so that if they are stolen and later seized by police, their original owner can be determined. Another application is a sprinkler system that sprays a burglar with the (invisible) fluid, which cannot be washed off and lasts for months, to generate evidence that connects a suspect to a specific location.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SmartWater

“Made by a US bottler called Glaceau, Smart Water begins as an artesian spring in Northern Connecticut. After the water is distilled,a balance of Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium is introduced, adding electrolytes. The attractive bullet shaped plastic container with the traditional sport cap reinforces the product’s image. Smart Water is a product for anyone who wants to look and drink their best during tennis, golf,workouts at the gym,or in the school lunch room. Smart Water is just that: smart!”

http://www.aquamaestro.com/innerview.asp?catid=39

 

Hawking, Musk, Wozniak warn of military artificial intelligence arms race – Trending – CBC News

It’s naive of these guys to call for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons.
Countries who adhere to the ban​ would do everything they could to develop proto-autonomous weapons – right up to the fuzzy gray line of what’s proscribed, capable of plug-n-play activation on a moment’s notice.
Countries who don’t adhere to the ban will call the rest of us, “suckers”.
There are some very thoughtful, humorous and stupid comments on this forum https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9955435
“[Similar bans have] worked for things like chemical and biological warfare.”
“I think the Kurds and some Syrians would beg to differ.”

(Stephen Hawking is looking good, by the way.  I think he’s put on a bit of weight.)

Hawking, Musk, Wozniak warn of military artificial intelligence arms race – Trending – CBC News.

The Future of War – Ian Morris

I listened to this twice – it’s pretty dense. It’s premise is inspiring – we’re getting better (fewer fatalities due to violence).  But the forecast is scary.

“On the surface your idea seems deeply counterintuitive, warfare and all of the destruction that comes with it, you think is one of the great engines of human progress.”

Here’s the website for the audiofile and the itune link for the identical podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/thenextdebate/future-war-ian-morris

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/future-war-ian-morris/id976386877?i=346315508&mt=2