Category Archives: Non-Economics

Boris Johnson and Watermelon Smiles

Former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman once worried aloud that he’d be cooked in a pot of boiling water if he were to travel to Mombasa while in Kenya supporting the city’s losing 2008 Olympics bid. Politically, Megacity Mel didn’t rise up out of Toronto.

Boris Johnson is now the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary.

Exhibit quote: Each morning they walk past the wall of smiles into the factories. Every step, gesture, word is recorded.

Last Day Metanoia

Lynn Hutchinson Lee

Lynn Hutchinson Lee

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20 was the last day of artist Lynn Hutchinson Lee’s Metanoia exhibit at Hamilton, Ontario’s Workers Arts and Heritage Centre. The WAHC opened in 1996 at 51 Stuart Street as a place where worker’s history could be celebrated. The museum and gallery space provides exhibitions, educational programs and meeting space in partnership with unions and community groups. The building, designed by architects Frederick J. Rastrick and Frederick P. Rubridge, first served as Custom House when it opened in 1860.

Lynn’s show was on display from September 12. A mix of previous series, according to the official overview, Metanoia

charts the insinuation of social madness into our daily lives and bodies, and registers our gestures of resistance. The project, a series of drawings and paintings, takes its name from ‘the spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn.’ Expanding the phenomenon of madness from the individual to the state, with its apparatus of globalized exploitation, surveillance, and devastation of lands and waters, Metanoia is an exploration of outrages.

Exhibit quote: For generations, the villagers have planted the seeds and gathered the harvest.

Exhibit quote: For generations, the villagers have planted the seeds and gathered the harvest.

One series, created in 2003, was a commentary on Mexico’s Mequiladora economy, in pictures and words too. Previously the series showed in several Mexican cities. Mequiladoras are a product of the global economy. Set up and operated at border sites, corporations are encouraged to offer employment with exceptions from national labour laws.

Exhibit quote: On a quiet dark night a truck comes over the hill. Soldiers burn down the village.

Exhibit quote: On a quiet dark night a truck comes over the hill. Soldiers burn down the village.

When I asked Lynn for an update on the situation in Mexico, she said the companies had mostly moved to China. Mexico can’t compete any more. It’s a race to the bottom.

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Canadian is as Canadian trades

SELLING OFF CANADIAN industry is an ongoing theme in Canadian business literature. In the 1970s, two of the more successful books were Kari Levitt’s Silent Surrender: The Multinational Corporation in Canada and Sellout: The Giveaway of Canada’s Energy Resources by Philip Sykes. Silent Surrender was published by St. Martins’s Press and Sellout by Hurtig Publishers.


Cst. Ross Tylor of the Parliament Hill Detachment may be as Canadian as it gets.

Both books were approved by a consensus of teacher reviewers hired by the Ontario provincial government to determine their applicability to the Canadian high school curriculum. The Conservative government of the day discarded its own convention to censor the books. Bill Davis was Minister of Education. The government’s rationale for rejecting Sellout  was its “offensive cover,” that its content was a “diatribe” and that comments against government were “unfair.” The paid reviewers, hired to place decision making in the hands of capable and more impartial hands, didn’t see it that way. Four of seven (4/7) approved the book.

When Canadian isn't Canadian.

When Canadian isn’t Canadian.

Selling out from one perspective is the big pay day. As an investor your capital has returned something or as a corporate builder your hard work (over years or decades) paid off. You’re rich and liquid. As an employee there are headcount reductions to start obsessing over.

And then there’s the consumer. From the new owner’s perspective, and if the product or service is doing well, it would be better if  the consumer did not think much about new ownership. Nothing to see here; carry on. If a product or service derives part of its brand identity by peeling off endearing traits from its country of origin, should consumers disassociate the symbolism when profits begin moving offshore? DM



Bad Ass President

unscripted. No secret service rush. No taser. Just humour.

Does Plagiarism Matter?

IN 2005 MY boss, a director of strategy & corporate strategy at a large telecommunications company, went to a business conference. He watched defence contractor Raytheon’s CEO Bill Swanson give an engaging presentation. When he returned to the office he asked me, the company’s corporate librarian, to order a copy of Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management, a collection of 33 rules of wisdom Swanson had apparently amassed over his career. Raytheon was giving them away, perhaps to draw attention to their leadership and investment strategy. All I had to do was request one. I did. It arrived in the mail.

Used copies now going for $35.99 on Amazon.

It was just a little booklet, likely shorter than your hand and fingers. But what excitement it caused. In April 2006, Raytheon announced it would stop distribution. Swanson admitted he had copied some of “his” rules from prior publications by U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and from columnist Dave Barry. Oops.

Bad PR. It was a big story. Swanson lost something like $1 million in compensation that year. But that was basically the extent of the penalty. He wasn’t let go? The story went away. After all Swanson controlled the company. Bill Swanson retired from his position as Raytheon CEO in March 2014. He is still Chairman. Does Plagiarism Matter? DM


Why doesn’t RAYMOND CHO return phone calls?


Councillor I have wondered about you much since I arrived in Scarborough Rouge River from the St. Patrick area downtown. I chose the area, like many people I suppose, because of the great space to price value. But our ward/riding could use more engaged and consistent thinking. I’m not not sure you are the man for the job. (There’s no woman running.) Just looking at the transit issue, and my questions to you about this, you will understand my confusion.
  1. Before I arrived in your ward, you declared your support for a Sheppard subway which wasn’t going to touch your Toronto ward, over a Sheppard LRT which would have.
  2. I called and asked about this, and then you appeared to change your allegiance to the LRT. You might remember at the time you said “I think we can help each other out.”
  3. You confirmed your support in council in the tiring debates of 2012 and 2013, and looked pretty good in your one-on-one with Doug Ford. You had me laughing. And the LRT won, hurrah for dedicated transit (Messrs. Ford: a form of transit that won’t take away car lanes, by the way. You guys know this but you are being coy. LMAO!)
  4. Then you said you were going to run for the PCs with that Hudak character. What? You knew this guy is anti-transit, never mind LRT vs. Subway. Aren’t you supposed to be some education whiz or something. Maybe you should read more about the company you keep. What about our LRT man!
  5. At this point I called in a question, which was fielded by your considerate office receptionist. She is very kind and patient, and said “yes, this is an important issue.” She said. “I’ll make sure Councillor Cho gets the message.”
  6. I never heard back from you on this Councillor Cho? Councillor Cho, are you there? Councillor Cho?
  7. I suspect the reason you didn’t call back is because there is no answer. What can you really say? “Yes, Jeremy I did initially prefer the subway, then I liked the LRT, now I just don’t care. I just want to get elected. It’s just a pay cheque.”
And about that provincial election Councillor Cho. If you lose, do you still get to be Councillor Cho? Do you think that’s fair? Which transit position do you take then? (Sheppard Subway, Sheppard LRT, Bloor-Danforth extension, Scarbourgh LRT) Or, do you have to wait to see who is in charge?
Thanks, JT

Where did the Germans go? Revisionism in the North American core

U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 special tabulation. (Sources: Wikimedia, U.S. Census Bureau)

SOME NORTH AMERICAN ethnicities struggle for survival. We know at some level North America’s first peoples suffered genocide. But it’s not genocide that we necessarily speak of, rather bureaucratic ethnocide. If you were to look at the categories the U.S. Census Bureau reduces us to, at a macro perspective, you would see that North American “Indians” have survived. What is an Indian? (Let’s ask Sterling Holy White Mountain.) If we are willing to reduce ourselves to “Indians” we can find outposts of Indian life-ways in scattered coordinates across Alaska, Canada and the lower 48 states, though more so in the West. The West was only recently “settled” (in President Obama’s inaugural words), the East much longer ago.

What about these “German” Americans? According to the Census Bureau it’s the Germans who are dominant in North America. There are 50 million of them if you can believe it. And these are just the ones that self-identify as German. The Bureau reports that nearly one in six Americans self-identified as German.


U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 special tabulation, detail.  (Sources: Wikimedia, U.S. Census Bureau)

You see that large swath of light yellow across the Southeast that looks as if it is quarantining African America? These people are German too, but part way between their appearance in North America and 2000 they re-imagined themselves as American-Americans. They are the real Americans. They will be the first defence if African America gets serious about succession. The second constitutional amendment of 1791 ensures they will. RIP MLK.

“African” America concatenates truncates just as effectively as “Indian American.” In both cases we’re talking about continents of diversity. And these are real continents; much larger and biologically more diverse than that European peninsula jutting out from Asia. British North Americans primarily harvested Africans from the extreme west ports of Africa and down to the west central region, but slaves from the Rift Valley, from Southeast Africa (i.e. German Africa) and Madagascar rounded the Cape of Good Hope to the Americas. Evidence of the Census Bureau’s limitations is available by visiting these African American communities. The residents, in some cases, can provide more details about their ancestry.

There are more anomalies. There are latter day African immigrants and Hispanics and West Indians who, given a choice, would not necessarily identify as African Americans. There would be no benefit for them. Then there are the half-breeds and quadroons and creoles, just like the President. Why can’t Barack Obama be white on some days and black on others? Certainly when he let the Merrill Lynch and Bank of America bankers off the hook he was passing.

Arguably, the greatest census paradox are the German Americans. Although they are the largest ethnic group, and as American as hamburgers, our Germans are not talked about. Where is the German American on film? Where is he on our basketball courts? (Holy cow! Larry Bird was born in West Baden Springs, Indiana.) “German” to the Census is Bureau is in fact German (or part-German) and Austro-Hungarian and Poland. Germans are Jewish is in many cases. Henry Lehman founded Lehman Brothers in the great State of Alabama among the other American Americans.

North Dakota still has its Berlin. Ontario lost its when it was renamed Kitchener in 1916. Kitchener was for the British War Lord Kitchener, often associated with Britain’s South African concentration camps for Boers and Zulus. The camps were of British innovation and not too much different from the Canadian “reserve” for First Nations and American “reservation” for American Indians.

There’s hardly any other way to describe the paradox but to call it revisionism. The culture is choosing to ignore the largest ethnic group in North America. The Census Bureau is playing possum. But let’s not stigmatize revisionism as pejorative. It’s the natural state of affairs. Let’s simply say that the wars are how Germans became invisible in North America.

Where can we go to get to know German Americans. As you can see from the census the top half of North America is German, as is the top half of the South, as is Florida. In 1788 Southern Ontario was divided into four regions: Lunenburg, Macklenburg, Nassau and Hesse, after their German counterparts. There’s also a Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and a Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. German, German, German. Brunswick, as in New Brunswick is translated back into its original as Braunschweig. Today in Germany Brunswick is a region and a city of 250,000.

Way back when, everything was German. Even the King of England was German (George III). What’s amazing about English history, in England and in North America, is that the basics are ignored. Queen Victoria was German by background. Her husband was even more German by background. It was like an alien clan. The clan was German, her husband was from the House of Saxe, Coburg and Gotha. Germany can mean more or less depending which sub-German references the bureau chooses to pack into it.

The Austro-Hungarians have a lot to offer the world. They gave us Hitler after all. Hitler was may have been Ludwig Wittgenstein’s classmate at Realschule in Linz, Austria. The Austro-Hungarians contributed both the atomic bomb and the Governator. As important as remembering, a little recognition would inform. How is it possible the U.S. Census missed the Austro-Hungarians? How did the history books? Where is the rubric for the Austro-Hungarian Empire? The Austro-Hungarian story was gerrymandered out of history. Popular culture remembers Franz Ferdinand but little more. DM