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Billionaire’s continuous fight to stop Gordie Howe Bridge construction

Posted 4/16/2021
What the hell is the Gordie Howe international Bridge you might ask?

In a nutshell, it’s capitalism at work and at it’s finest. It came to light because of USMCA. Three countries are involved (two directly) and there’s a lot of political posturing and agendas hard at work.

It’s the one of the largest bi-national construction projects in North American history.
As you can imagine, with BILLIONS of dollars at stake, there are a lot of people who want to gorge on that government trough. There are accusations of kickbacks, extortion, threats to national security, discrimination and pretty well any type of underhandedness imaginable.

According to some reports, it’s considered one of the world’s most politically charged yet extensive and innovative infrastructure plans.
There are influential political parties using “Homeland Security” concerns as a way to stop this project.  In conjunction with this, the same parties use political tactics and use “discrimination” or “oppressing minorities” as an argument.

Now it appears that some alleged unbiased tree hugging groups seem to be on the payroll of those opposed to it along with others – but when you dig deeper you realize it’s the same group opposing it.

This type of intrigue is usually reserved for mystery novels. What’s this about you might ask?

It’s the Gordie Howe International Brige project. Once known as Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) or the New International Trade Crossing (NITC). Over 10 years in planning, currently under construction and not expected to be completed before 2024.

This Canadian peninsula dissects into the centre of the US heartland. It’s the only place where Canada is DUE South of the lower-48 US states. As a result, it’s a natural gateway to interstate and international commercial traffic. Every day, approximately $307 million dollars in commodities cross this border point. This amounts to over $120 BILLION in commodity traffic per year. The commodities cut across Canada and transit from the US midwest to the US northeast on their way to the Atlantic shipping ports. The nearest crossing is hundreds of miles away and adds hours to the shipping time.

Taxation and import duties aside, the toll traffic alone amounts to millions of dollars per day.

Now here’s the intrigue: If you controlled the crossing as a monopoly and was making millions of dollars in revenue per day, you would do whatever it takes to delay this project. You would put hurdles in place and use all the financial resources at your disposal to change the public perception.

That’s exactly what’s happening.

There are currently four crossings that span the Detroit river. There is a train tunnel, a truck ferry, an automotive tunnel (with very little commercial traffic) and what the locals call “The Bridge”. It’s a privately owned structure owned by a Michigan-based trucking company billionaire. The Ambassador Bridge has been part of the Detroit river landscape since 1929. Surprisingly, not much has changed across that river since 1930. For over 80 years, NOTHING has changed across this river. I should correct myself and say traffic patterns have changed.
 Unfortunately while the US side connects relatively easily to the Interstate highway system, on the Canadian side, the bridge was built with no real infrastructure in place. As Windsor, (the city on the Canadian side) expanded, the traffic was moved onto city streets that got progressively busier and slower. As the delay increased it lengthened, it had no choice but to extend onto the bridge itself. Tie this in with the border inspection which became more extensive after 9/11 and you are left with a recipe for disaster. In the early years of the new millennium, the border crossing delays could take six hours.

It was making sense for ground shippers to start taking the extra hundred miles detour to bypass the traffic or simply change their shipping practices. Some reverted to air shipments while others began shipping by rail. This international shipping brought millions of dollars to the local economies. It was obvious and apparent to everyone that something needed to be done. The area was in an economic slump already and both sides of the bridge could not endure the loss of shipping revenue. This could result in the additional loss of local jobs. It was estimated that over 100,000 citizens would be further impacted directly or indirectly by this downturn.
While this is taking place, the existing bridge owner hoped to use this downturn in his favour. He quietly increased toll charges citing the considerable loss of traffic. He never acknowledged that his antiquated bridge was at the root of the issue. He argues at public hearings that there is no need for a new crossing. He manipulates the Michigan legislature and used underhanded tactics to have Proposition 6 added to the 2012 election ballot in Michigan. This proposal would have forced a public hearing for any new bridge construction in the state of Michigan. In order to get the question on the ballot in the first place, he needed to gather the signature of 300,000 Michigan residents. There have been accusations that he paid or falsified signatures required to have the question added to the ballot. There were considerable radio and television campaigns in place and a few Facebook sites paid for and devoted by Maroun to oppose the new bridge. When the proposal was promptly defeated, the Facebook sites promptly removed. Go figure.
US federal state and local governments along with the Canadian federal and provincial governments realized the importance of this crossing and not only completed feasibility plans to add a new crossing over the river, but they began construction of a new multi-lane highway on the Canadian side to connect to the new proposed span. It’s obvious to everyone that a new processing facility is required on both sides of the border. This would ensure that traffic continues to flow efficiently. The bridge owner argues that the delicate state of Michigan's economy cannot support this multi-billion dollar initiative and starts yet another campaign to detract or delay the construction. Canada retorts with an offer to pay for the entire bridge and simply collect the tolls as repayment. Moroun retorts again with "bridge owned by foreigners".
 He argues in court that a new crossing isn’t needed since traffic is reportedly down and there isn’t enough traffic to warrant a new crossing. With his wealth, he hires battalions of lawyers on both sides of the border to delay the studies and do what whatever is required to delay the contruction. Since the defeat of Proposition 6 in the Michigan ballot in November 2012, Maroun now argues that the new bridge foundations are at risk because of soil instability due to the proximity of salt mines. The existing 85-year old bridge generates 100s of million of dollars of profit for the owner. The existing bridge is in such a state of disrepair, there is an expectation that Moroun will use this to his advantage arguing that it's a valuable commericial link. I wouldn't be surprise to hear that he might try to get the legislators to pay for the repairs! We'll see.

It's intersting to note that this is the only privately owned crossing along the Canadian/US border and the only privately owned international bridge in the world!

He quietly bought up properties on the Canadian side and expropriates a Detroit-city park, posts “No Trespassing” signs and begins to build approaches for a new bridge. A new bridge? This doesn’t make any sense. He argues that a new span isn’t needed then starts construction without a hearing? Luckily his tactics are noted by various governments and recently the US Coast guard disallowed any further construction without further site survey and testing. What was particularly distressing is that the bridge owner actually hired armed guards to keep local residents from using the public park that he took control over. He was hoping to show the City of Detroit that the land wasn’t used anyway and isn’t properly maintained. After almost NINE years, a judge ordered that he vacate the property known as "Riverside Park"

As construction got underway and as late as 2018, the current bridge owner continues to go to court in an attempt to stop construction.

On the US side of his new approach he illegally builds a duty free shop and a gas station (selling gas well below retail) which is subsequently ordered to be dismantled by a US federal judge. The bridge owner sues citing discrimination.

The new bridge construction is underway and once completed in 2024, completely takes the Ambassador bridge out of the equation. It includes a new six lane span with massive truck processing facilities and direct links to the US and Canadian highway systems.

The bridge owner isn’t done yet. He argues that the new project cuts through “environmentally sensitive” areas on the Canadian side. An environmental group files a complaint petition the exact same day as the bridge owner. The group claim that they are acting alone but the fact that the complaint was filed the same day as the bridge owners’ bring completely different optics to the table.

I will leave it to you to decide. If you want to keep up to date with the progress of construction check out this website.
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The Truth About Gasoline Pricing...

Posted 4/11/2020

As I regularly travel outside the Toronto area by car, I am totally blown away by 15 cents per litre gas disparity pricing between the GTA and “the boonies”. We're told that the prices in Toronto and other major Canadian cities are greatly not influenced by the world price but merely by competition. Clearly when a gas station 30km from the nearest station has lower prices than Toronto, you know something’s up. It contravenes common sense; the complete opposite from what happens in the real world. No competition means lower gas prices? C’mon.

An oil industry insider told me that the few wholesalers and refiners in Canada have agreed to break up the country into regions and each refiner is free to dictate the price in their region. In Toronto, I’m told the pricing is controlled by Imperial Oil. I guess the outskirts are a free market since their pricing seems to remain relatively consistent just like those in the US. Systematically (and almost like clockwork on every long weekend), the prices all shoot up to exactly the same price at midnight. If you were in any other business, you’d drop the price by a 1/10 of a cent to get the business. No one does that in the GTA anymore. You simply wait until 430pm every weekday and you will be told what tomorrow’s gas price will be! NO COLLUSION. Yeah? A federal government MP soon figured out their calculation scheme and set up a website which was promptly and forcibly shut down.  Others soon figured out the formula and promptly posted that information online.

Don’t get me wrong, while I don’t like paying more for gas than the next guy, it irks me to no end to be at the mercy of 21st century coal barons (if you don’t know what I mean, then you really need to brush up on your history). Why not agree on a price and keep it there for a few weeks? Just like the good old days - or the rest of the world.

Maybe to get some mileage (pun intended) with the masses and improve the optics with the consumer, why not introduce pre-paid gas cards that dispense fuel based on litres NOT cash? That way we can all play speculators. I can give the petroleum folks a large chunk of change when the prices are low and use it whenever I feel the need? Makes too much sense to me – but then again, I don’t have a MBA from a prestigious English school. I would openly promote any gas company that did that! There's a challenge, but don't hold your breath.

While I’m up here on my soapbox, why is it that Canadian stations only display regular and diesel prices? That’s because the prices to premium vary WILDLY from station to station. PROFITS abound!

I started keeping track and checked out prices of 87, 89 and 91 octane fuel. I didn’t bother checking those who sold other grades.

Since almost everyone sells regular at the exact same price in Toronto here’s what I found:

Four to eight cents variance between 87 and 89 octane.

A further four to eight cents variance between 89 and 91 octane.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Jeese, the difference is insignificant between fill ups. True. The clincher for me is that all the sheep (those who simply say “what can I do about it”) participate and donate the difference to the purchase of the marketing VP’s fancy new 108-inch flat screen TVs. In the past year, the price of gasoline has far outpaced ANY commodity. Cocoa is catching up (but I digress). On an average sixty litre fill up, even paying on the higher scale, there’s only really an eight cent difference or merely $5.40 more per fill-up! A fill up per week is only about $280 more per year. But what people sometimes fail to realize is that the overall price continues to go up. Remember it slowly creeps up.

What irks me is that we all lean back and do nothing about it. With every increase, a million people paying on average $250 more each. That’s 250 MILLION DOLLARS that go directly into the coffers of these multi-nationals every time the price is adjusted. Do the math. Don't take my word for it.

So the government has investigated, c’mon why would they be motivated to look a gift horse in the mouth? With the taxes they bring in, never would they bite the arm that feeds them so to speak? As prices inch up, so do the taxes collected.  They claim there is no wrong-doing. No collusion. Hummmph!

A few years ago, if the wind blew slightly the wrong way, the companies would shut down an oil rig and the price would spike on the world market. But when a petroleum conglomerate and it’s suppliers accidentally cause a world catastrophe (like the BP disaster on the US gulf coast), the prices on the world market go DOWN. Is this an attempt to draw attention away from what they’ve done?

I’m always amazed how an increase in world commodity prices are reflected almost immediately at the pumps but significant reductions take “some time to clear the system”. Grrr. I get angry just writing this.

Then there’s the financial disaster of 2008. It’s been repeatedly suggested that it was the petroleum speculators that caused the collapse. They drove virtual petroleum prices through the roof which in turn caused an escalating chain of events. Suppliers cut back on shipping or passed along the shipping costs. You can follow this yourself. Now the unrest in between Russia and Saudi Arabia caused the chain reaction again. During the last petroleum price increases, large retailers  announced they have no choice but to increase food prices on average of 5%.  With the current collapse of oil, food prices haven’t changed.  I still get fuel surcharges on my packages.  Why’s that?

Maybe I’m just making this stuff up. After all, I’m alone in this right?

I for one, am seriously considering getting off my petroleum fix and buying an electric car like the Nissan Leaf. Worse case, I’d even consider buying a Chevy Volt to avoid buying a ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle.  Imagine if only 10% of us did that. As I digress, Nissan’s Leaf sold out before it went into production.  Volvo announced they will soon discontinue petroleum-based vehicles.  That says something doesn’t it? I guess the petroleum companies are buying them up to keep them off the road.  The sad part is with petroleum prices now at record lows, folks might give up the electrification momentum.

Man, I hope I don’t fall off my soapbox anytime soon. If I do, it will be a long way down. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would wish I would fall and break my neck!

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The truth about HDMI CABLES... Can you say profit?

Posted 4/10/2020

So you finally go out and get yourself a ultra high-end flat screen TV display complete with 5.1 audio surround system. You wheel and deal and believe you got the best deal going - we all like to think that right?.  You walk out thinking that  you've  left the store clerk all battered and bruised.   The sad truth is the store replays this saga dozens of times a day and you wonder, how the heck do they stay in business?  Clearly no one got your deal. As you check out you're ready to hear about the "extended warranty" scam and quickly decline their kind offer. Then you're told in a "matter of fact" nature that after spending thousands of dollars on your new system, you'll need high quality video cables. After all, after spending that kind of money, what's a few hundred more?  
THIS is where the stores profits come in. DON'T FALL FOR IT. Truth is, a $5 HDMI cable is in most cases all you really need. 

One of the things that irks me is when companies or corporations use ill-informed consumers for greedy monetary gain. Their approach is simple. They thrive simply by confusing the uninformed or unsuspecting consumer. If they can cast any doubt in the consumers' decision making, chances are they'll win the customer over.
HDMI cables are perfect examples of this. Imagine the scenario. You commit to an expensive entertainment system and are quietly (and matter of factly) told that if you want to maximize the signal quality of your new system, High Quality cables will be required. They just happen to have some that will fit the bill and have been certified by their professionals to be fully compliant. Remember, you already spent a thousand dollars or more and you're anxious to get it set up. What's an extra couple of hundred dollars for superior cables are a no brainer and safe bet. It's a piece of mind.
How do I tell you nicely that you've just been SUCKERED!

Some unethical vendors and manufacturers confuse you with terms that my electronic engineering colleagues don't even use.

"Copper is an analog delivery format", "Oxygen-free" cables, Ultra High-speed or high-resolution HDMI cables. Terms that mean absolutely nothing to 99% of consumers. Remember let these experts tell you what you need! Just like the old snake oil salesmen, rest assured these vendors will take care of you (and your wallet).
The sad part is that electronics by their very nature are ever-evolving. We all know that as soon as you pick up your new unit, something better is waiting in the wings. Retailers are constantly balancing stock with demand and missing the hottest trend can cost them a bundle. They rely on consumables and accessories to pad their coffers. Cabling is a very lucrative and profitable undertaking for them. For some while the electronic product gets you in the store, the real profit is the "add-ons" like cabling.
For example, most High Definition consumer products are connected together using High Definition Media Interface (HDMI) cables. A simple HDMI cable typically carries multi-channel audio and HD video all through one simple 19-pin connector. The information or data that flows through these cables is transmitted in a digital format. In digital transmission, binary "zeros" or "ones" travel the length of the cable and decoded on the other end. It's that simple. This permits superior and unsurpassed quality since interference cannot be introduced. Colour fluctuations or ghosting are a thing of the past. The signal either gets to the receiver or it doesn't. There's NO in-between. While older analog signals suffered from colour loss over long cable runs, interference was possible from external power sources like vacuum motors or flourescent light fixtures. In those situations, shielded cables were further impacted directly or indirectly by this downturn.
You're expected to get confused by complicated terms such as ultra high-speed (clearly better than high-speed right?) shielded, 1.3, 1.4 or 2.1 specifications cable.  What's Ultra High-speed cables?
Some tidbits to ponder:

HDMI connectors typically have 19 pins and are made with a variety of products ranging from tin, steel, silver or gold-plating. While the manufacturing process can be different, 99.9% of the HDMI-compliant cables are identical. This is where the confusion comes in.

HDMI-compliance outlines specifications that must be adhered to during the manufacturing process.  M
anufacturers are realizing that the consumers have been scouring the Internet to understand these differences and are shifting their marketing to point out their "high quality" connections and "superior nitrogen-filled-by-non-child-laborers" gobblygook. You'll now hear that they cater to a clientele who expect the best. If you have to ask what their cable costs, it's not for you. See the marketing here? A WANT is not a NEED!

A new HDMI specification has been introduced that supports video resolutions such as 8K, 4K, 1080p/60 video signals but also adds support for Gigabit ethernet transmission through the cable and high-end Dolby Atmos or DTS-HD high bandwidth audio. These HDMI 2.1 spec. cables are also referred to as Ultra-High speed.

While the specifications are important to remember, the price differences are inconsequential.
A 1.3 compliant cable will support a signal with up to 1600 horizontal lines of resolution. It will also support 3D signals up to 1080i/60 (but NOT 3D 1080p/60) signals. These are known as the older Standard 1.3 (Category 1) cables.

There are newer cables that support 8K60 or 4K120 signals. These are known as Ultra High-speed 2.1 cables. You now see where the terms come into play.  The fact is, if you have a 4K or HD (either 720p or 1080i) display, pretty well ANY HDMI cable will work.
Admittedly some devices like set-top boxes or Blu-ray players provide output of 2160p so specialized cables are required. 
You're expected to get confused by complicated terms such as ultra high-speed (clearly better than high-speed right?) shielded, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1, or whatever specifications cable.  What's ultra high-speed cables?

If you spend a few minutes surfing the Internet, you can find inexpensive (not low quality) six or eight foot HDMI cables for less than $5 at many online retailers. What surprises me is many of these cables come from the same suppliers that provide the stock to many big box electronic stores.

I have used both and to purchase these inexpensive but high-quality cables. 

If you keep an eye out, you can sometimes see these cables on sale at department or dollar stores. It's an odd place to find them but they are slowly appearing at these outlets.

In closing, remember, that you don't need to spend a lot of money for high-quality cables. I'm always reminded of the report on this subject that appeared on Canada's CBC network Marketplace program and has perpetuated all over the 'net. Here you see what the retailers are up to but more importantly, you see that one of their high-markup product lines are unwarranted.

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