Follow the money!!!

 

We have all encountered the statement in the title of this post. Usually the statement comes when discussing something of substance with a person lacking in substance. The aforementioned person will often wink and smirk conspiratorially while stating: “Follow the money.” and then act as if the discussion is now at a close. That statement alone apparently says it all. Read into it what you will.

Now the use of that statement is usually meant to imply that there is an individual or small group of them secretly in control of whatever was the subject of the conversation whether that be in politics, religion, economics or the leadership of the local geranium growing society. Apparently if you follow the money, you will eventually get to the head of whatever nefarious conspiracy is at hand.

When something is difficult to examine or explain, many people simply like to explain it away with a pithy statement rather than explore the issue more deeply. Much like those who love saying “God works in mysterious ways”, many try to close discussion by demanding that one follow the money. Unfortunately these people rarely if ever take their own council and actually follow the path of money or they likely would not fire out that vapid statement so often.

I am going to “follow the money” in a few examples where these statements are common.

The left loves to imply that conservative leaning parties are secretly and massively funded and controlled by evil faceless corporations. Well, if one begins to follow the money through looking at the means of federal political contributions, they will first find that corporations have not been able to donate since 2004. While individuals may contribute up to $1,100 per year federally, it makes it rather tough for an individual to control a national party on that scale does it not?

The entire breakdown for federal contributions can be found here and with only cursory examination it will be found that the federal conservatives are being funded by thousands and thousands of small individual donors. No hidden shadowy figure in control of the party or gross corporate influence. It took me about 3 minutes to google that information though, that is indeed much more effort than would be required in simply saying “follow the money” in a cryptic manner.

Ahh, but what about provincial parties particularly in capitalist Alberta? Corporations can contribute up to $15,000 in Alberta so surely that collection of corporate lackeys within the Wildrose Party is terribly beholden to those faceless organizations! Alas, in following the money it has been found that while the Wildrose Party has been setting new records in fundraising; 75% of those funds still come from individual donors. Assuming that a party acts solely based on where they can raise funds the Wildrose Party is clearly beholden to a large number of individual Albertans rather than those dark-souled corporate interests. People can find all the financial political information in detail here. It is not tough to follow the money in Alberta if a person wants to dedicate a little time to it.

With modern resources, disclosure and transparency it is becoming easier than ever to follow the money indeed. Environmentalist conspiracy theorists often demand that we follow the money when decrying the actions of the productive in industry. What is fun though is turning the gun around and following the money flowing towards our green little friends. When thinking of environmental extremists, the Greenpeace corporation is the first and largest one that comes to mind. Yes, in following the money, it can be found that Greenpeace is a $350 million per year multinational corporation that provides some pretty massive perks to line the pockets of their senior management teams. I mean hey, power to them. Greenpeace need only be accountable to it’s donors. Let’s not try to live under the illusion that Greenpeace is some sort of altruistic organization though. Even the founders of Greenpeace are pointing out how the organization is little more than a well funded corporation with an extreme left-wing agenda (seems almost counter intuitive).

Let’s face it, when we follow the money we find that there are big bucks to be made in the environmentalist industry. Thanks to people following the money, it has been found that Tides Canada has been laundering and filtering some pretty big foreign bucks to some extreme Canadian activist groups. Some of those patchouli scented punks you see at virtually every protest are actually rather well paid to be there. Due to listening to them and following the money though, Tides may (rightly) lose it’s charitable status soon.

Thanks must be given to Vivian Krause who has worked so hard to follow the money and has exposed so many of the rather well heeled fiscal shell games going on under the guise of environmental activism.

But what about those evil corporations in themselves? Who is benefiting from those boardroom monsters? Who are those suited villains really serving? Who really owns those megacorporations?

The answer to the above questions once we follow the money is: ALL OF US!!!!

It is frustrating how quickly people jump up to decry corporations when they won’t actually follow the money and see at least the basics of how these places work. Sure there are some individuals who we read about who have unimaginable amounts of money and assets. These people when added up still only make up a tiny portion of the ownership of large corporations. When looking into corporate ownership, banks, mutual fund groups, financial management, insurance companies and capital companies tend to be predominant. Where do those companies get their money? Well these companies get their funds from pension plans, insurance premiums and private RRSP type investments. Government pension plans are heavily invested in these corporations too.

Do you pay any kind of insurance premium? Well, it is the money made through the investments of your premiums that keeps the premiums within affordability. Do you plan to collect from the Canada Pension Plan when you retire? Well, the CPP is a huge corporate owner (in other words you are). If you are a part of any kind of private pension or savings plan, you are a corporate owner and are benefiting from corporate profits. Do you enjoy the lack of sales tax in Alberta? Well the revenues from investments by the Alberta Heritage Fund are much of what helps keep our taxes low (though there certainly is room to improve there).

So many people howl about corporations yet never give a second thought to how their investments grow. What makes your RRSP (hopefully) get bigger? It is not a magical fairy out there that makes your money grow when it is out of your hands, it is corporate profits and you are a beneficiary of them.

Just for a little more fun in following the money, I always love exposing union hypocrisy. While unions love to claim solidarity forever and supposedly support each other, that goes out the window when it comes to padding their own pockets. Follow the money to the Ontario Teacher’s Union pension plan.  Worth over $117 billion dollars, the OTPP is a major corporate player. The Ontario Teacher’s Union plan investments read like a who’s who of apparent evil corporate interests. The union invests billions in oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks and some very anti-union type organizations.

When one has over $100 billion in leverage, one could very easily control the actions of the company that one invests in. Why does the Ontario Teacher’s Union not wield that power for good? Why won’t the union come down on those vile corporations and make them clean up their ethical act? The answer is very simple; to do so would impact return on their investment. To put it in one word: hypocrisy

Yes, I finally listened to the left and followed the money. I think they may not like the conclusions. The next time somebody tells you to follow the money, may I suggest that you respond with another overused cliche: Be careful what you wish for…..

 

So what will the next excuse be?

Yesterday I drove down to Olympic Plaza to make a point and I made that point in spades. Mayor Nenshi claimed that the squatters in Olympic Plaza could not be charged under our city bylaws because they were protected by the Charter of Rights and they were expressing themselves. Nenshi also said that the city does not have the authority to move and arrest people simply based on bylaw infractions. I proved both of those statements utterly wrong in short order.

I did my research. I made sure to park my vehicle in a safe spot where there would be no damage to the park and even put a pan underneath as the truck leaks the odd drop of transmission fluid and I did not want to stain the pavement. I did make sure that I was breaking a bylaw under the same act as those tenting in the park.

I screwed a few signs to the box-liner of my truck with some random and purposely inane demands. I wanted my parallel to the “occupiers” to be as complete as possible. Many have been scratching their heads over the ever changing and increasingly bizarre laundry list of demands being made by the occupiers. It was pretty clear that for a person to be considered as expressing themselves in order to qualify for this apparent Charter protection that a rational goal or demand is not really required. I had my demands and it is not the place of law enforcement to consider whether these were valid demands or not.

Within half an hour bylaw enforcement officers confronted me and demanded that I leave the park. I politely refused to and said that I was exercising my charter right of expression. The officers took my drivers license and registration and went back to their vehicle. They returned to warn me again that I would be charged for a bylaw infraction if I remained. Again I refused to move. They returned to their truck for some period of time then where doubtless many phone calls were made.

Next a couple officers from the Calgary Police Service approached me. They repeated their request that I leave or be charged with bylaw violation. I again refused to leave and stated that I was excersizing my charter right of expression. This pattern continued in a repetitive way for some time as an increasing number of police and bylaw vehicles appeared on the site.

The police finally approached me after this had gone on for perhaps a couple hours to let me know that a towtruck was on the way and that I would have to leave my vehicle in order for it to be towed. I asked the officer to clearly tell me what would happen if I refused to leave my vehicle. He made it very clear that I would be forcibly removed and arrested if I did not leave my truck.

At this point I decided to leave my truck. I had made my point and saw no need to further force the hand of the police nor increase the number of fines that I was getting.

Again to summarize. The Charter of Rights does not prevent the city from enforcing bylaws in Olympic Plaza against protesters. The city of Calgary does have the means and authority to have protesters arrested and removed by force from Olympic Plaza.

Some have been trying to claim that my removal was due to safety reasons and such. That simply is not true or I would have been fined for such. I was fined for incorrectly parking in a park. Some may claim that the reason for the law against that sort of parking is based on safety. Well to that I counter that the law against tenting in the city parks has some basis in safety as well.

A fellow blogger who attended the event did a great summary on his blog and took an excellent photo to make a point.

One of the shots shows the sign in the park that very clearly states that habitation and camping within the park is against the city bylaws. There is even a graphic depiction of a tent with a line through it in case a person may be unable to read or not speak English.  Another shot shows the tents illegally surrounding one of those signs.

Another item of note down there is that the squatters are settling in even more deeply for the winter. A larger structure has been added to their collection of tents and things such as wooden pallets are being piled up. This simply means more damage will be added to the already estimated $40,000 and I see a great deal more safety issues here as the sqatters either freeze body parts off or burn things to stay warm.

This farce has gone on long enough. Calgary city hall has allowed itself to be bullied by a collection of squatters and their bluff for non-enforcement has been called.

Do we have two sets of laws in Calgary? If the City of Calgary continues to refuse to enforce the laws on these squatters while they did not hesitate to charge myself I think that the answer is pretty clear.