Pluralistic: 27 Jan 2021

Today's links

Casino mogul steals First Nation's vaccine (permalink)

Every billionaire is a policy failure. Nearly every millionaire is a policy failure. Every casino industry millionaire, though?

Definitely a policy failure.

Take Rodney Baker, who made $10.6m in 2019 as the CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, a national racetrack and casino operator. Baker resigned on Sunday, because he did something despicable even by the standards of the casino industry.

Baker and his wife, the actor Ekaterina Baker, chartered a small plane and flew to Beaver Creek, a tiny First Nations community, where they defrauded their way into getting covid vaccinations intended for elders in the White River First Nation.

The Bakers did not quarantine on arrival. Rather, they presented themselves at the remote Yukon community – a community whose isolation has offered some protection from the pandemic – as workers at a local motel. In so doing, they recklessly endangered the whole community.

Then they asked for a ride to the airport, which tipped off clinic workers. Officials caught them in Whitehorse and charged them under the Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act. They were fined $1150 each.

The White River First Nation has asked Yukon authorities to "pursue a more just punishment" (the Act provides for prison sentences of up to six months for violations); they fear that without meaningful penalties, other wealthy sociopaths will follow the Bakers' example.

I've been thinking about this all day, looking for a bright side. There is none. These millionaires will not go to jail. They won't face social sanction. They'll be invited to private islands and exclusive parties, wooed by charities and flattered by university fundraisers.

They are part of a long Canadian tradition of depraved, inhuman conduct towards First Nations people. The nation's money is slathered in pictures of people who did far worse, after all.

These evil, irredeemable people were just upholding a long Canadian tradition.

Facebook champions (its own) privacy (permalink)

According to their Twitter bio, the mission of the UK's Information Commissioner's Office is to "uphold[] information rights in the public interest, promotes openness by public bodies & data privacy for individuals."

Great values, but actions speak louder than words. ICO chief Elizabeth Denham has told Parliament that she can't divulge the status of her office's audit of Facebook's app, which was triggered by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

She told Welsh Labour MP Kevin Brennan that she couldn't discuss the audit in public because her office had entered into a confidentiality agreement with Facebook whose terms couldn't be known by the public.

The ICO settled with FB after the toxic social media giant got a tribunal to agree to consider "allegations of bias" within the regulator against the company (in other words, FB whinged that the referee didn't like it and the tribunal bought it).

FBI got off with a slap on the wrist: a £500k fine, no admission of wrongdoing, and, it seems, a gag order for a regulator whose mission features "openness."

The settlement was reached in 2018, but this is news today because FB and the ICO hid the gag order's existence until the issue came up in Parliament.

Commissioner Denham also disclosed that FB got to keep the ICO's internal files – interviews with whistleblowers and files seized from Cambridge Analytica – indefinitely, to help the company's own internal investigation into Cambridge Analytica.

While the ICO and Zuckerberg did not mention the gag order or the document handover in 2018, they did trumpet an "app audit" that was meant to root out other "sketchy apps" engaged in abuse similar to Cambridge Analytica's.

This audit has never reported in. Facebook won't tell us what became of it, and the ICO can't.

Goldman CEO gets $17.5m reward for $4.5b fraud (permalink)

In 1997, Fair Wayne Bryan was convicted of stealing a pair of hedge-clippers. He was given a life-sentence because of other minor thefts. He was paroled from Angola prison in late 2020.

In 2015, a conspiracy involving the Malaysian "tabloid party boy" Jho Low and a clutch of Goldman Sachs bankers stole and laundered $4.5b from the country's 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund (1MDB).

The multibillion dollar crime toppled the Malaysian government, but Goldman Sachs maintained that this was the result of a couple of rogue elements, despite evidence that the rot went all the way to the top.

Goldman Sachs is a repeat offender. It played a key role in the mass financial fraud that triggered 2008's Great Financial Crisis, then used bailout money to pay giant bonuses to the top execs that presided over the fraud.

The company has a long history of manipulating stock prices with bribes and kickbacks. Its frauds led to the collapse of the Greek economy. It underwrote California state bonds, advised its clients to short those same bonds, and made a fortune.

Goldman's CEO since 2018 has been David Solomon. His base compensation (which only accounts for a fraction of his total take-home) is $27.5m.

This week, the board cut Solomon's base pay to $17.5m.

The cut was triggered by a $3b fine over 1MDB. Solomon's "leadership" was part of a string of multibillion-dollar thefts and frauds that cost his employe $3b and his punishment is a $17.5m payday.

Fair Wayne Bryan served 23 years in a federal pen for stealing a pair of hedge clippers. He is still a convicted felon, on parole for his life sentence.

Goldman Sachs is still in business and its C-suite have been punished with multimillion-dollar payouts.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago PirateBox: anonymous, stand-alone wireless filesharing node

#15yrsago World of Warcraft: Don’t tell anyone you’re queer

#10yrsago Police sergeant: 16 year old girl probably saw penises before I showed her mine, NBD

#5yrsago Shootout in Oregon: one terrorist killed, eight arrested

#5yrsago Man gasps dying words into officer’s bodycam: “They’re killing me right now… I can’t breathe.”

#5yrsago All your booze comes from a handful of titanic global corporations

#5yrsago Chinese snatch-squads roam the globe, kidnapping dissidents and critics

#1yrago One of the CIA’s waterboarding torturers called himself “The Preacher” and shouted religious nonsense while performing executions

#1yrago Why I won’t buy an Ipad: ten years later

#1yrago Climate denial has destroyed the libertarian movement

#1yrago Amazon threatened to fire two tech workers who spoke about climate and Amazon’s business, then 357 more workers joined them

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Kottke (, Slashdot (, Late Stage Capitalism (

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 500 words (103599 total).

  • A short story, "Jeffty is Five," for The Last Dangerous Visions. Yesterday's progress: 265 words (1632 total).

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

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