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Uber

Uber And The False Hopes Of A Sharing Economy

At its inception, Uber touted itself as a shining example of the “sharing economy” described by Jeremy Rifkin, in this now famous book, The Third Industrial Revolution. As time has passed the reality has been radically at odds with a sharing economy.  Among the many issues that have emerged has been the legacy of Uber’s ugly corporate culture, secret apps used to confound regulators, and to intimidate journalists, a Justice Department investigation of illegal practices, including 200 Uber employees conspiring together to attack Lyft’s operations. The proverbial chickens have come home to roost, as municipalities around the world have begun to regain control of transportation policy within their jurisdictions, and the inflated valuations of these unicorns begin to deflate.

Espionage

Harvey Weinstein Hired Israeli ex-Mossad Agent to Intimidate Women Accusers And Journalists

In an extraordinary revelation today by Ronan Farrow, son of Woody Allen and the writer for The New Yorker who broke this story, it was revealed that Harvey Weinstein hired a female Israeli ex-Mossad agent via a private firm, Black Cube, and who used false identities and secret recording devices to intimidate Rose MacGowan and other female accusers of Harvey Weinstein.  Mr. Farrow appeared tonight on PBS Newshour in an interview by Judy Woodruff to detail his investigative findings. This has also now been reported by the Washington Post and other journals. 

Silicon Valley Culture

Silicon Valley Is Suffering From A Lack of Humanity

The genius of Steve Jobs lies in his hippie period and with his time at Reed College, the pre-eminent Liberal Arts college in North America. To his understanding of technology, Jobs brought an immersion in popular culture. In his 20s, he dated Joan Baez; Ella Fitzgerald sang at his 30th birthday party. His worldview was shaped by the ’60s counterculture in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had grown up, the adopted son of a Silicon Valley machinist. When he graduated from high school in Cupertino in 1972, he said, “the very strong scent of the 1960s was still there. After dropping out of Reed College, a stronghold of liberal thought in Portland, Ore., in 1972, Mr. Jobs led a countercultural lifestyle himself. He told a reporter that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life. He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even people who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand.

Wikileaks

Does the U.S. have a case against Julian Assange?

UPDATE: This mayo615 post from October 2016, discusses the legal complexities of a potential espionage or conspiracy charge against Julian Assange by the United States. My reading that such a charge was likely and possibly imminent, is now fact. Ecuador’s newly elected government insistence that it will continue to provide Assange with diplomatic protection is becoming very thin. It is more likely that time and diplomatic pressure will force Ecuador to give up Assange and cause his extradition to the United States by Great Britain. The increased likelihood of moving against Assange has been heightened in my opinion, by two factors: Obama’s announcement on October 7th that the United States officially holds Russia responsible for the cyber theft of the Democratic National Committee documents released by Wikileaks, and Assange’s own statements of his intent to harm the United States, most recently in a video interview with Bill Maher, which are now coming back to haunt him.

Silicon Valley Culture

Jerks And The Start-ups They Ruin

Perhaps the premiere of Season 4 of “Silicon Valley” twigged me to share this post. but despite the title, the HBO series only connection may be the now viral “mean jerk time algorithm.” The real “Silicon Valley jerk” has been around for decades, buried with all the other dirty laundry. Uber’s Travis Kalanick has only brought it front and center at this moment. It is something of a conundrum as some of the jerks are also the most successful. We all now know about the “bad” Steve Jobs. Oracle for years had a very bad reputation that came directly from Larry Ellison himself. Microsoft was long known as a “sweatshop” with a highly negative culture led by Steve Ballmer. Even venture capitalists themselves have caught the disease as evidenced by Reid Hoffman and the late Tom Perkins of KPCB. The best assessment I have heard is that these aggressive unrestrained corporate cultures destroy their own goals. Or better yet, the saying that “culture trumps strategy.”

Vancouver

British Columbia: The ‘Wild West’ of Canadian Political Cash – NYTimes.com

British Columbia has no limits on political donations, leading critics to say the provincial government has become a lucrative business dominated by special interests. As the premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark is on the public payroll, pulling down a salary of 195,000 Canadian dollars in taxpayer money. But if that were not enough, she also gets an annual stipend of up to 50,000 Canadian dollars — nearly $40,000 — from her party, financed by political contributions. Personal enrichment from the handouts of wealthy donors, some of whom have paid tens of thousands of dollars to meet with her at private party fund-raisers? No conflict of interest here, according to a pair of rulings last year by the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner — whose son works for Ms. Clark.

Vancouver

Canada’s Open Door to Tax Fraud, Money Laundering

How many shell companies exist in Canada? How many legal trusts? Who are the beneficial owners protected by such unnecessary veils of secrecy? No one knows because in most cases there is no legal requirement to disclose actual ownership even to regulators. In fact, more information is required to get a library card than to set up a company in most jurisdictions in Canada. What we do know is that Canada ranks near the bottom among our OECD partners in terms of corporate disclosure requirements to fight money laundering and tax evasion. A recent report from Transparency International detailed the dismal situation and why our country has become a haven for dubious offshore property speculation.

Tax havens

The Rules of Sewage

This is a metaphorical essay on personal ethics, worthy of a serious read and contemplation. When I saw the title I was intrigued but suspected it had something to do with Andy Grove’s adage, “sewage flows downhill,” which means “if anything bad happens it will eventually flow down to you.” This is about ethics. The points made here are particularly apt in light of the huge number and sheer scale of recent business frauds: the Volkswagen fraud, LIBOR, Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme, Conrad Black in Canada, Olympus in Japan, Bernie Ebbers and Worldcom, Tyco International, stretching back all the way to Enron, Michael Milken’s junk bonds, and the 1980’s savings & loan debacle.

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