Sunday, March 18, 2018

Is AggregateIQ Out to Subvert BC's Next Provincial Election?

Think of it as the love child of Chris Wylie and Steve Bannon.  AggregateIQ, a small Victoria company widely thought of as the black magic that led to the upset Leave victory in Britain's Brexit referendum, is reportedly out to fix British Columbia's next provincial elections to return the hopelessly corrupt BC Liberals to power.

AggregateIQ has been the subject of several articles in The Guardian mainly focused on the role it played in the Brexit campaign. The Leave side spent more than half of its budget on AIQ's intervention to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

AIQ's boy genius, Chris Wylie, is the subject of a feature expose in The Guardian this weekend. Wylie describes how he weaponized data mining to throw elections to the highest bidder. It's a story straight out of a Le Carre novel involving AggregateIQ, Cambridge Analytica, far rightwing American billionaire Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, the Brexit Leave campaign, the Trump campaign, even a Russian oligarch tied to Vlad Putin.

Today I stumbled across this item from the Globe and Mail back in January.

A Canadian campaign consulting firm whose role in Britain's Brexit vote is under investigation is operating in the leadership contest to replace former B.C. premier Christy Clark.
 AggregateIQ Data Services Ltd. has been retained by leadership candidate Todd Stone, and is also seeking a contract with the opposition BC Liberals to help the party to return to power in the next provincial election.
The small Victoria-based agency says in its pitch to the BC Liberals that it "launched and supported" the official Leave campaign that persuaded British voters to choose to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum.
 U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is looking into AggregateIQ's role in the campaign after Britain's Electoral Commission revealed that the Vote Leave campaign paid the equivalent of $4.6-million to the Canadian company for political work. The commission is examining funding associated with the referendum.

The Liberals held power for more than 16 years in B.C., but lost ground in the 2017 provincial election, and the NDP formed a minority government with support from the Green Party's three MLAs.

After the election, the BC Liberals invited proposals for a digital fundraising pilot project, and AggragateIQ, which had already worked on three local campaigns for the party, presented a nine-page pitch.

But Ms. Clark resigned as party leader and quit as an MLA in July, and the party has put the decision about the pilot project on hold until after the new leader is chosen on Feb. 3. Six candidates are running for the leadership.
 British Columbia lived under an utterly corrupt government, make that an utterly corrupt Liberal government, for 16 years, a political party that wouldn't hestitate to buy its way back into power through voter manipulation.

John Horgan had damn well better come through with his promise of electoral reform. He and his wobbly NDP had better support the "Yes" campaign. If they subvert the referendum, power in British Columbia will be decided the Liberal way - bought and sold.

And, just in case you have any doubt about how AggregateIQ meddles in elections, look how it inadvertently backfired on Stone's Liberal leadership campaign. I'm sure they won't make the same mistake next time.

A former provincial cabinet minister running to lead the BC Liberal Party has lost nearly 1,400 new memberships ahead of this weekend's convention, after irregularities that were linked to a Canadian company under investigation for its role in helping the Leave side win the Brexit campaign.
Todd Stone's campaign said on Friday that 1,349 party memberships – out of the party's roughly 60,000 registered members – had been disqualified after the party discovered missing e-mail addresses. His campaign confirmed the memberships were connected to consultancy AggregateIQ.
CAmpaign co-chair Peter Fassbender said the memberships involved people whose first language is not English.

"They were having problems in terms of the process," Mr. Fassbender said in a Friday interview with Radio NL in Kamloops.

Mr. Fassbender, who did not respond to requests for an interview, told the radio station that the sign-ups violated party rules and were due to an "individual in the company [AggregateIQ] who was trying to find a method to assist these people."

"Find Chris Wylie" - the Young Canadian from Victoria Who Pulled Britain Out of the EU and Helped Put Donald Trump into the White House.

He's still just 28 and yet he may have been the deciding factor in the Brexit referendum. He also played a role in getting Trump into the White House. He fell in with American rightwing billionaire, Robert Mercer, and Mercer's henchman, Steve Bannon. He's Canadian Chris Wylie.

You may have heard of Cambridge Analytica and the role it played in manipulating "persuadable" voters in the 2016 US elections. You may even have heard of a small company from Victoria, BC, AggregateIQ and the role it played in gaming the Brexit vote for the Leave campaign.  From The Guardian:

He may have played a pivotal role in the momentous political upheavals of 2016. At the very least, he played a consequential role. At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Wylie grew up in British Columbia and as a teenager he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. He left school at 16 without a single qualification. Yet at 17, he was working in the office of the leader of the Canadian opposition; at 18, he went to learn all things data from Obama’s national director of targeting, which he then introduced to Canada for the Liberal party. At 19, he taught himself to code, and in 2010, age 20, he came to London to study law at the London School of Economics.

“Politics is like the mob, though,” he says. “You never really leave. I got a call from the Lib Dems. They wanted to upgrade their databases and voter targeting. So, I combined working for them with studying for my degree.”

“He’s one of the brightest people you will ever meet,” a senior politician who’s known Wylie since he was 20 told me. “Sometimes that’s a blessing and sometimes a curse.”

SCL or How Chris Wylie Got Drawn Into the Machine.

It began when Wylie attempted to help revive Britain's flagging Liberal Democrats in 2013:

“I wanted to know why the Lib Dems sucked at winning elections when they used to run the country up to the end of the 19th century,” Wylie explains. “And I began looking at consumer and demographic data to see what united Lib Dem voters, because apart from bits of Wales and the Shetlands it’s weird, disparate regions. And what I found is there were no strong correlations. There was no signal in the data.

“And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems they’re absent-minded professors and hippies. They’re the early adopters… they’re highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.”

Here was a way for the party to identify potential new voters. The only problem was that the Lib Dems weren’t interested.

From the Lib Dems, Wylie fell in with the mother company of Cambridge Analytica.

Alexander Nix, then CEO of SCL Elections, made Wylie an offer he couldn’t resist. “He said: ‘We’ll give you total freedom. Experiment. Come and test out all your crazy ideas.’”

In the history of bad ideas, this turned out to be one of the worst. The job was research director across the SCL group, a private contractor that has both defence and elections operations. Its defence arm was a contractor to the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the US’s Department of Defense, among others. Its expertise was in “psychological operations” – or psyops – changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance”, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

SCL Elections had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in undeveloped democracies that Wylie would come to realise were unequipped to defend themselves.

Wylie holds a British Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa – a UK work visa given to just 200 people a year. He was working inside government (with the Lib Dems) as a political strategist with advanced data science skills. But no one, least of all him, could have predicted what came next. When he turned up at SCL’s offices in Mayfair, he had no clue that he was walking into the middle of a nexus of defence and intelligence projects, private contractors and cutting-edge cyberweaponry.

“The thing I think about all the time is, what if I’d taken a job at Deloitte instead? They offered me one. I just think if I’d taken literally any other job, Cambridge Analytica wouldn’t exist. You have no idea how much I brood on this.”

A few months later, in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon. At the time, he was editor-in-chief of Breitbart, which he had brought to Britain to support his friend Nigel Farage in his mission to take Britain out of the European Union.

What was he like?

“Smart,” says Wylie. “Interesting. Really interested in ideas. He’s the only straight man I’ve ever talked to about intersectional feminist theory. He saw its relevance straightaway to the oppressions that conservative, young white men feel.”

Wylie meeting Bannon was the moment petrol was poured on a flickering flame. Wylie lives for ideas. He speaks 19 to the dozen for hours at a time. He had a theory to prove. And at the time, this was a purely intellectual problem. Politics was like fashion, he told Bannon.

How Bannon and Mercer Found Wylie.

When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me what sounds like a tall tale, though it’s one he can back up with an email about how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US air force on a plane. “And the cyberwarfare guy is like, ‘Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.’”

It was Bannon who took this idea to the Mercers: Robert Mercer – the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who used his billions to pursue a rightwing agenda, donating to Republican causes and supporting Republican candidates – and his daughter Rebekah.

Nix and Wylie flew to New York to meet the Mercers in Rebekah’s Manhattan apartment.

“She loved me. She was like, ‘Oh we need more of your type on our side!’”

Your type?

“The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. It’s why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.”

Robert Mercer was a pioneer in AI and machine translation. He helped invent algorithmic trading – which replaced hedge fund managers with computer programs – and he listened to Wylie’s pitch. It was for a new kind of political message-targeting based on an influential and groundbreaking 2014 paperresearched at Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, called: “Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans”.

Wylie and the Russians.

There are other dramatic documents in Wylie’s stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer. In an email dated 17 July 2014, about the US presidential primaries, Nix wrote to Wylie: “We have been asked to write a memo to Lukoil (the Russian oil and gas company) to explain to them how our services are going to apply to the petroleum business. Nix said that “they understand behavioural microtargeting in the context of elections” but that they were “failing to make the connection between voters and their consumers”. The work, he said, would be “shared with the CEO of the business”, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?

Mueller’s investigation traces the first stages of the Russian operation to disrupt the 2016 US election back to 2014, when the Russian state made what appears to be its first concerted efforts to harness the power of America’s social media platforms, including Facebook. And it was in late summer of the same year that Cambridge Analytica presented the Russian oil company with an outline of its datasets, capabilities and methodology. The presentation had little to do with “consumers”. Instead, documents show it focused on election disruption techniques. The first slide illustrates how a “rumour campaign” spread fear in the 2007 Nigerian election – in which the company worked – by spreading the idea that the “election would be rigged”. The final slide, branded with Lukoil’s logo and that of SCL Group and SCL Elections, headlines its “deliverables”: “psychographic messaging”.


Cambridge Analytica is “Chris’s Frankenstein”, says a friend of his. “He created it. It’s his data Frankenmonster. And now he’s trying to put it right.”

Only once has Wylie made the case of pointing out that he was 24 at the time. But he was. He thrilled to the intellectual possibilities of it. He didn’t think of the consequences. And I wonder how much he’s processed his own role or responsibility in it. Instead, he’s determined to go on the record and undo this thing he has created.

Because the past few months have been like watching a tornado gathering force. And when Wylie turns the full force of his attention to something – his strategic brain, his attention to detail, his ability to plan 12 moves ahead – it is sometimes slightly terrifying to behold. Dealing with someone trained in information warfare has its own particular challenges, and his suite of extraordinary talents include the kind of high-level political skills that makes House of Cards look like The Great British Bake Off. And not everyone’s a fan. Any number of ex-colleagues – even the ones who love him – call him “Machiavellian”. Another described the screaming matches he and Nix would have.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Meet the Gay Canadian Vegan Behind AggregateIQ, Who Created Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon's Psychological Warfare Machine.

The Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr finally takes the wraps off the elusive British Columbian who is claimed to have hatched the Cambridge Analytica targeting software.  Meet Chris Wylie, a guy you wouldn't notice if you passed him on the street in Victoria.

The first time I met Christopher Wylie, he didn’t yet have pink hair. That comes later. As does his mission to rewind time. To put the genie back in the bottle.

By the time I met him in person, I’d already been talking to him on a daily basis for hours at a time. On the phone, he was clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.

Two months later, when he arrived in London from Canada, he was all those things in the flesh. And yet the flesh was impossibly young. He was 27 then (he’s 28 now), a fact that has always seemed glaringly at odds with what he has done. He may have played a pivotal role in the momentous political upheavals of 2016. At the very least, he played a consequential role. At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

In 2014, Steve Bannon – then executive chairman of the “alt-right” news network Breitbart – was Wylie’s boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – “information operations” – then turn it on the US electorate.

Former CIA Director Takes a Skinning Knife to the Mango Mussolini

This is language you don't hear every day, or at least most of us don't.  Former CIA director, John Brennan, apparently enraged at the punitive firing of former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, two days before McCabe's scheduled retirement, laid into Trump.

Former CIA Director John Brennan is accusing President Donald Trump of “venality, moral turpitude and political corruption” for rejoicing over the firing of the FBI’s deputy director.

Brennan responded Saturday to a tweet Trump sent hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he had fired Andrew McCabe. Trump has repeatedly accused McCabe of dishonesty.

Brennan tweeted to Trump: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.”

Meanwhile word is out that McCabe, like his former boss, James Comey, memorialized his conversations with Trump. Hmmm, more memos. I expect McCabe, his pension trimmed by Trump's vindictive move, will want those documents aired in public.

McCabe fired back at Trump, blasting the Grifter in Chief for using him as a scapegoat. Vox has McCabe's statement here.

If Trump is succeeding at anything it's wracking up enemies, people in high places. At the moment Trump appears to have the whip hand but he's too stupid and mentally infirm to pull this one off. I don't think Brennan was simply venting.

"Russian Roulette" - an Excerpt

When I buy books, I tend to buy used - on the cheap. At the moment I'm working my way through an autobiography of Frederick Douglas, the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Darwin's "The Origin of Species" and a third century text, a field manual on the proper recruiting, training, equipping and deployment of a Roman legion. A bit obscure, perhaps, but easily had for just a few bucks a volume on the used market.

Breaking with my parsimonious pattern I dipped into my lunch money to buy a copy of Michael Isikoff and David Corn's new book, Russian Roulette, The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.

I've only made it through the first two chapters but, overall, I find the book pretty helpful. By now we've been inundated with leaks and news reports about Donald Trump, Vlad Putin, Obama and Clinton and all the bit players. Isikoff and Corn are rehashing a lot of stuff we've already read but they're presenting it collated, organized chronologically. The authors don't connect the dots so much as they present them in a manner in which the reader, with perhaps a better understanding of their meaning, can then connect for him/herself. What might have been a collection of anecdotal curiosities turns into a coherent narrative. Patterns emerge with somewhat greater clarity.

And then there's information such as the following excerpt that puts Russia's hacking effort into perspective:

"In February 2013, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of Russia's armed forces, published an article in an obscure Russian military journal advocating that Russia adapt its military strategies to the modern world. The piece initially received little attention within the U.S. national security establishment. But after Radio Liberty published a translation, US officials took notice. Here was a Russian military leader proposing a new doctrine that could shape how Russia would engage - and do battle - with the United States.

"In the article, Gerasimov explored how social media had fueled the Arab Spring. He noted in the internet-dominated world there were new means for waging war: 'political, economic, informational.'  And these measures could involve 'the protest potential of the population.' In other words, information warfare could be used to weaponize political divisions within another nation. Gerasimov was crafting a doctrine of 'hybrid warfare' - a new form of conflict in which 'frontal engagements' by army battalions and fighter aircraft would become ;a thing of the past,' replaced by hackers and skilled propagandists trained to exploit existing rifts within the ranks of the adversary.

"'The very 'rules of war' have changed,' Gerasimov wrote. 'The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the force of weapons in their effectiveness... Long-distance, contactless actions against the enemy are becoming the main means of achieving combat and operational goals.' Gerasimov did not spell out what 'contactless actions' would replace ground troops. But it was not hard to figure out what he was talking about.

"The Russian intelligence services had become increasingly aggressive and sophisticated in their cyber hacks, penetrating government, business, and media networks all over the world. Russian hackers showed their might in 2007 when they blitzed Estonia. After the Estonian government removed a statue of a Soviet soldier, a massive cyberattack shut down the country's banking system, the sanitation system, and the websites of government agencies and news organizations. The country was paralyzed for days. And in 2008, Russian cyber warriors broke into the computers of the US Central Command - which oversaw US military actions throughout the Middle East - with an ingenious trick. Their operatives seeded bazaars in Kabul, where US soldiers shopped, with thumb drives for sale that were embedded with malware. All it took was one soldier with one infected thumb drive, plugged into a laptop hooked up to the US Central Command network, for the Russians to secretly obtain US military battle plans.

"Russia's cyberattacks were only one page in the Gerasimov playbook. Another was a revival of the old Soviet tactic of dirty tricks. And the Kremlin would soon deploy one against a high-level target: a senior US diplomat."

Interesting stuff and I'm pretty safe in saying it's worth a read.

This Is Real. Boston At Risk of 1.5 Feet of Sea Level Rise by 2050.

A report from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science projects that Boston could receive 1.5 feet of sea level rise (from 1992 levels) by 2050.

The report also shows that the rate of sea level rise isn't a linear constant but is accelerating as predicted by oceanographers and hydrologists years ago.

The data project's release comes amid heightened local focus on climate mitigation and adaptation, as Massachusetts was hit by three damaging nor'easters over the past two weeks.

On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker stood in coastal Scituate — which had flooded during the first of those storms — to announce a climate resiliency bond bill.

Higher sea levels are likely to result in more coastal flooding.

As NOAA put it in an analysis this week, "a sea level rise of 2 feet would more than triple the frequency of coastal flooding across the Northeast, without any change in storms."

In So Many Ways a More Natural Fit - The Pacific Coast Collaborative, Governance for the West Coast

California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. In many ways we have a lot more in common among ourselves than we have with the rest of our respective nations. The states and province have their own group, the decade-old Pacific Coast Collaborative, to deal with problems too important to be entrusted to Washington DC or Ottawa.

The Pacific Coast Collaborative is an agreement between B.C., the state of Washington, the state of Oregon, and the state of California to work together on protecting the environment, boosting their respective economies, and as of this year, responding to the overdose crisis.

Following the leaders' meeting Friday morning, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was particularly vocal about the need for collaboration, given what he sees as a lack of leadership coming from the White House.

"We do not have a federal government that is protective of our state right now," said Inslee.

"On the West Coast, we know that climate change is not a hoax. It doesn't matter what foolishness comes out of the White House, the leaders on the West Coast are united in understanding science," said Inslee.

Inslee also told reporters his government feels very vulnerable right now, which is why it is looking to its neighbours for support.

"We have to recognize a reality that we have a brighter future and a cleaner future, and it's being realized under the leadership of your premier and we stand with him up and down the Pacific Coast," Inslee said, in reference to Premier John Horgan.

In so many ways we're in the same boat. We don't trust our federal governments and for good reason. We see our way forward aligned north and south, not eastward. It's not just climate change. It's also coastal waters and our respective fisheries, forestry, high tech and our unique Pacific culture that is really coming into focus. And, together, we've got plenty of economic clout. The four biggest companies in the world - Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google - are all based in Pacific states.

Our ties with our central governments are fraying. Ottawa and Washington would do well to understand they're the cause.

Facebook Moves to Block Cambridge Analytica. Too Little, Too Late?

Here's the problem in a nutshell:

“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.

“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous."

Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. ...with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves.”

Is it powerful? Yes. Can it manipulate votes? Absolutely. Just ask Chris Wylie and the rest of the gang at a small Victoria, BC company, AggregateIQ. The "Leave" camp in the Brexit referendum used about half their total budget to hire AggregateIQ and the rest is history.

I asked David Banks, Veterans for Britain’s head of communications, why they spent the money with AggregateIQ.

I didn’t find AggegrateIQ. They found us. They rang us up and pitched us. There’s no conspiracy here. They were this Canadian company which was opening an office in London to work in British politics and they were doing stuff that none of the UK companies could offer. Their targeting was based on a set of technologies that hadn’t reached the UK yet. A lot of it was proprietary, they’d found a way of targeting people based on behavioural insights. They approached us.”

What was hatched in Victoria quickly was picked up by a far right American billionaire, Robert Mercer, and his partner, Steve Bannon. Enter Cambridge Analytica.

Who is Chris Wylie?

“He’s the one who brought data and micro-targeting [individualised political messages] to Cambridge Analytica. And he’s from west Canada. It’s only because of him that AggregateIQ exist. They’re his friends. He’s the one who brought them in.”

There wasn’t just a relationship between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, Paul told me. They were intimately entwined, key nodes in Robert Mercer’s distributed empire. “The Canadians were our back office. They built our software for us. They held our database. If AggregateIQ is involved then Cambridge Analytica is involved. And if Cambridge Analytica is involved, then Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon are involved."

Finding “persuadable” voters is key for any campaign and with its treasure trove of data, Cambridge Analytica could target people high in neuroticism, for example, with images of immigrants “swamping” the country. The key is finding emotional triggers for each individual voter.

Cambridge Analytica worked on campaigns in several key states for a Republican political action committee. Its key objective, according to a memo the Observer has seen, was “voter disengagement” and “to persuade Democrat voters to stay at home”: a profoundly disquieting tactic. It has previously been claimed that suppression tactics were used in the campaign, but this document provides the first actual evidence.

Cambridge CEO, Alexander Nix

Tamsin Shaw, an associate professor of philosophy at New York University, helps me understand the context. She has researched the US military’s funding and use of psychological research for use in torture. “The capacity for this science to be used to manipulate emotions is very well established. This is military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy and is being used to sway elections in ways that people can’t even see, don’t even realise is happening to them,” she says. “It’s about exploiting existing phenomenon like nationalism and then using it to manipulate people at the margins. To have so much data in the hands of a bunch of international plutocrats to do with it what they will is absolutely chilling.

And, with elections looming again - the US mid-terms in November, Canada's general election next year, the UK, who knows, anytime - the data crawlers are busy again. 

Facebook’s deputy legal counsel Paul Grewal wrote at length about the decision in a blog post.

"In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr Aleksandr Kogan... violated our platform policies..."

Prof Kogan is said to have created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife”. It was accessed by approximately 270,000 people, Facebook said.

"In so doing, they gave their consent for [Prof] Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it.”

Users who downloaded it were told they were taking a personality prediction test that was part of a "research app used by psychologists”.

While that was initially true - Prof Kogan is a psychologist - Facebook said the data was then kept and sold on to third-parties including Cambridge Analytica and its parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories. Another recipient was said to be an employee at Eunoia Technologies.

Facebook says it has been assured by Cambridge Analytica that it has deleted all the data they received from Kogan.  Yeah, sure.


Here's more on how Cambridge Analytica operates, from

Nix candidly explains how his company does this. First, Cambridge Analytica buys personal data from a range of different sources, like land registries, automotive data, shopping data, bonus cards, club memberships, what magazines you read, what churches you attend. Nix displays the logos of globally active data brokers like Acxiom and Experian—in the US, almost all personal data is for sale. For example, if you want to know where Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information, phone numbers included. Now Cambridge Analytica aggregates this data with the electoral rolls of the Republican party and online data and calculates a Big Five personality profile. Digital footprints suddenly become real people with fears, needs, interests, and residential addresses.

The methodology looks quite similar to the one that Michal Kosinski once developed. Cambridge Analytica also uses, Nix told us, "surveys on social media" and Facebook data. And the company does exactly what Kosinski warned of: "We have profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people," Nix boasts.

Psychometric profiles of the personality of "every adult in the United States of America"? Sounds crazy, eh? It's not. It's a nation allowing its own people to be manipulated, brainwashed. Yep, it sure is.

And it's not just the Republicans who are undermining the American people. Everyone who stands to benefit can do the same thing - and that includes Team Putin.

Well, Kids, Uncle Donnie Has Plans for Your Future and They Involve a Lot of Carbon

Is Donald Trump about to unleash a fossil energy disaster on the world? CBC News reports that Trump is after nothing less than "energy dominance" and he's not talking renewables either.

Fuelled by technological breakthroughs and cuts to taxes and regulation, the United States is on target to become the world's biggest producer of crude oil in the next five years.

Let that sink in. The U.S will be bigger than Russia and Saudi Arabia.

It would be a remarkable feat and significant, too. It could clear the way for America to redefine its relationship with the world, minus a reliance on overseas oil.

The implications are huge, if hard to predict.

Might it bring chaos if the U.S. chooses to exit the Middle East? Or will it spur Washington to try to broaden its influence? Could Canada, Mexico and America forge an alliance to influence oil prices?

Such questions were purely academic a decade ago.

Now they're part of a broad debate around the potential for American energy self-sufficiency or, in the words of U.S. President Donald Trump, a new "energy dominance."

In fairness, this is a CBC "business" story but the decidedly fossil fuel friendly Broadcasting Corporation's discussion of "implications" are all trade and market oriented, complete with commentary from the Cato Institute. There'll be no whiny tree-huggers in this story.

It's hard to argue the claim that "the implications are huge" but they're not all that "hard to predict."

There's already a glut of oil on the market. Another giant producer feeding that same market will shift the supply/demand curve and potentially drop world prices.

When the price of fossil fuels goes down, usage increases. Another implication is the extent to which fossil prices impact the alternative, clean energy markets globally.

Anything that might worsen the glut and negatively impact world energy prices also worsens the economic viability of the Athabasca Tar Sands, the highest cost ersatz oil on the planet.

The biggest impact, however, is also the most certain. Increasing production and consumption of fossil fuels means sabotaging hopes for a low carbon/no carbon future on which depends our dwindling chances of averting runaway global warming.

Not for nothing did Hans Joachim Schellnhuber warn the delegates at the 2015 Paris climate summit that our hope for a survivable future depended on an "induced implosion" of the fossil energy giants. What he was calling for was prompt government action to speed up the transition to clean energy and shut off most fossil energy production.  Donald Trump seems intent on putting paid to that idea.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Is This the Face of "Deep State" Canada and Has It Corrupted the Prime Minister?

Canada's energy barons corrupted BC premier Christy Clark with massive cheques for campaign expenses. And she delivered. After what we witnessed here on the coast it's hard not to ask if this same bunch did something similar to our prime minister.

Trudeau rode to power on promises to our First Nations, on lofty talk about "social licence" and cleaning up a rigged National Energy Board, among other things. Then, once in power, it was like a someone flipped his switch.

What, Now It's Mattis In the Cross Hairs?

I thought if there was one individual in Trump's White House who was as unimpeachable as Caesar's wife it was Defense Secretary James Mattis. Of course until just now I had no idea that Mattis was a player in the Theranos scandal.

It seems that, once he retired from the US military, Mattis was on the Theranos board of directors.

Basically, their biotech startup was founded on the promise of faster, cheaper, painless blood tests. But their technology was fake.

Mattis not only served on Theranos’s board during some of the years it was perpetrating the fraud after he retired from US military service, but he earlier served as a key advocate of putting the company’s technology (technology that was, to be clear, fake) to use inside the military while he was still serving as a general. [CEO Elizabeth] Holmes is settling the case, paying a $500,000 fee and accepting various other penalties, while Balwani is fighting it out in court.

Nobody on the board is being directly charged with doing anything. But accepting six-figure checks to serve as a frontman for a con operation is the kind of thing that would normally count as a liability in American politics.

But nobody wants to talk about it. Not just Trump and his co-partisans in Congress; the Democratic Party opposition is also inclined to give Mattis a pass. Everyone in Washington is more or less convinced that his presence in the Pentagon is the only thing standing between us and possible nuclear Armageddon.

A Big, Fat, Stinkin' "YES"

That's how I'll be voting this November when the BC government holds a referendum on electoral reform. And then it will be time for all of us to turn on Justin Trudeau and tell him to pull his thumb out.

The Globe's Gary Mason previews what we can expect, especially from the now "barely clinging to power" NDP.

Those resistant to change offer mostly flimsy arguments to bolster their positions. Why fix what’s not broken, they insist. (Except the current system is broken). Or the detractors will trot out Italy, and the chaos witnessed in its parliament because of PR. Yes, Italian politics boasts many parties and is filled with much emotion and drama, but that’s Italy, and that’s its people, not necessarily the voting system it uses. For the most part, countries using PR are governed extremely well, in some cases far better than those using a majority-rules structure.

In British Columbia, you have die-hard New Democrats arguing against electoral reform because they believe it’s not in the party’s best interests because it will forever prevent the NDP from forming a majority government. And you have die-hard BC Liberals making precisely the same argument about their party’s electoral chances under PR. Their positions are not based on what’s best for democracy, but what’s best for their parties.

And if that isn’t a good reason for changing the status quo, I don’t know what is.

BC’s NDP government is inching closer to unveiling what the question (or questions) on the mail-in referendum ballot this November will be. Once that is settled, the two sides of this fight will engage in what is likely to be a loud and nasty dialogue. It always is when power is at stake.

Of course, British Columbians have voted on electoral reform twice before. In 2005, 58 per cent marked their ballots in favour; unfortunately the threshold set by the Liberal government of the day was 60 per cent. Four years later, there was less enthusiasm for change, with only 39 per cent voting in favour of it. This time around, the NDP has set the bar for reform at 50 per cent plus one, which scares those who want to keep things as they are.

I’m not sure there is a huge appetite to upgrade the current system. That might change once the Yes and No sides launch their respective campaigns, and rancour ensues.

So, this Brit Decides to Go Diving Off the Coast of Bali

And look what he found:

But, hey, did you see that ray? Pretty cool, huh?

Or you can just grab your board and go surfing.

With Everything Else, This We Don't Need.

New developments in mind control, yippee! Coming soon to a device near you. And you thought Facebook was a problem.

When John F. Kennedy was cut down in Dealy Plaza he was en route to the Trade Center to deliver a speech. This is a passage from the speech Kennedy never gave:

"In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason, or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality, and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

That ring any bells?

The thing is you can now watch Kennedy deliver that speech almost as though he didn't die that day.  From The Guardian:

You can only hear them now thanks to audio technology developed by a British company, CereProc. Fragments of his voice have been taken from other speeches and public appearances, spliced and put back together, with neural networks employed to mimic his natural intonation.

The result is pretty convincing, although there’s a machine-like ring to some of the syllables, a synthetic stutter. Enough to recognise, if you already know, that this is a feat of technology, not oratory.

But if you didn’t know? Perhaps you’d be fooled. And that’s why this breezy exercise has a darker side.

The problem is that these technologies, that can be used to help us, can also be used against us.

“Dual use” of technology is not a new problem. Nuclear physics gave us both energy and bombs. What is new is the democratisation of advanced IT, the fact that anyone with a computer can now engage in the weaponisation of information; 2016 was the year we woke up to the power of fake news, with internet conspiracy theories and lies used to bolster the case for both Brexit and Donald Trump. We may, however, look back on it as a kind of phoney war, when photoshopping and video manipulation were still easily detectable. That window is closing fast. A program developed at Stanford University allows users to convincingly put words into politicians’ mouths. Celebrities can be inserted into porn videos. Quite soon it will be all but impossible for ordinary people to tell what’s real and what’s not.

The potential for an “information apocalypse” is beginning to be taken seriously. The problem is we have no idea what a world in which all words and images are suspect will look like, so it’s hard to come up with solutions. Perhaps not very much will change – perhaps we will develop a sixth sense for bullshit and propaganda, in the same way that it has become easy to distinguish sales calls from genuine inquiries, and scam emails with fake bank logos from the real thing. But there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to defend ourselves from the onslaught, and society could start to change in unpredictable ways as a result.

Like the generation JFK was addressing in his speech, we are on the cusp of a new and scary age. Rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, are becoming difficult to separate. We await a figure of Kennedy’s stature to help us find a way through. Until then, we must at the very least face up to the scale of the coming challenge.

Jeebus, where did I put that Soma?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hey Donnie, It's the Ides of March

What's that sound I hear? Oh yeah, it's the sound of knives being sharpened.

I was struck when I watched Rex Tillerson give his farewell press briefing yesterday after being fired by Twitter, the ultimate humiliation for the former CEO of ExxonMobil. He wasn't speaking in his usual calm, assured cadence. His voice was shaky and it was hard to tell if he was struggling to control anger or shock.

The impression I was left with was this is a powerful man who probably has many powerful and loyal friends, none of whom are apt to forget Trump's slight anytime soon. I expect Tillerson et al will see to it that Trump's indignity is paid back.

Meanwhile in the Big Apple you've got Gary Cohn, Mr. Goldman Sachs, and his coterie who are probably also honing their daggers.

With Kelly and McMaster rumoured to be next in line to walk the plank and the FBI and the CIA still reeling from Trump's nut punch, the Mango Mussolini has few allies within the military/national security apparatus to race to his defence.

Oh yeah, and we can't forget the Congressional Republicans who are coming to see Trump as a major electoral liability. This president's political capital is nearing overdraught.

With a special prosecutor breathing down his neck and at least half of his children considered in some legal jeopardy, Trump has put himself in a terrible position. There's something he can genuinely take credit for.

How Trump Picked Up a Sharp Stick and Poked America in the Eye.

No one knows how this will end. When Trump decided to slap hefty tariffs on steel and aluminium imports he dragged out the "national security" claim to justify his actions. When he did that he ignorantly broke a long-standing taboo that may set off trade wildfires around the world. He has inadvertently undermined, "one of the pillars of the global trading system that's been in place since the end of WWII."

Since the United States helped cobble together a global trading system out of the ruins of World War II, countries have been been guided by a latticework of rules that determine what measures they can take and what they can’t. There’s one single part of the global trade rulebook, though, that’s essentially left to countries to decide for themselves: When to invoke the so-called national security exception. The exception gives countries an escape clause for any trade measures “necessary for the protection of its essential security interests.”

Most of the times countries have invoked the exception, which was included in the old 1940s-era global trade agreements and the World Trade Organization since 1994, there’s been a clear link of some kind to national security.


But the Trump administration has publicly gone even further. One senior White House official defended the tariffs by arguing that economic vitality is synonymous with national security and cannot be understood solely in the narrow context of defense needs.

We’ve gone rogue,” says one congressional aide who works on trade issues.
This gun’s been lying on the table since Act One. No one’s picked it up for a very good reason. Because it sets off a whole chain of things that you can’t control afterwards.”

The obvious risk is that other countries can now seize on the national security exception to justify pretty much any restrictive trade measure — and the World Trade Organization and its members have no clear grounds to challenge it. The WTO is considering whether to review Qatar’s complaint about other Gulf states, which would be the first time the organization has ever weighed in on a matter that was deliberately left to countries to decide for themselves. The WTO has already expressed concern with the U.S. tariff plan and its justification.

India, for example, has long bridled at international efforts to persuade it to end food subsidies and other economic policies that distort agricultural trade, arguing that food security is an existential concern. Blanchard and other experts worry that other countries could now brandish their own national security exceptions to limit U.S. agricultural exports, one of the healthiest U.S. export sectors, worth more than $130 billion annually in recent years. Indeed, China has already hinted that $15 billion in U.S. soybean exports are in its crosshairs in reprisal for other recent Trump administration trade actions.

This is what you get when you wind up with an old, mentally infirm president whose own Secretary of State calls "a fucking moron."

You Can't Squander Fifty Years and Expect to Emerge Unscathed

How long have you understood, I mean really accepted, climate change as an immediate, existential threat? For me I can only guess, 20 years perhaps?

Twenty years. It was a different world back then. The change over just two decades has been fairly dramatic. The signposts are easy to spot. The retreat of glaciers. The melting of ice caps. The loss of Arctic sea ice and the warming of the Arctic Ocean. The increase in severe weather events. The Polar Vortex and freakishly warm temperatures in the midst of the Arctic dark winter. The steady migration of species, especially marine life.

We've come to take it all in our stride. Many of us simply tune it out even though there really is no "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" option on this one. Even today there are many in the corporate and political communities who dispute the reality of climate change.

In today's Guardian, the executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, Richard Wiles, reminds us that the warning bell of the danger of climate change was first sounded 50 years ago when researchers from Stanford laid it all out to the American Petroleum Institute.

The report, unearthed by researchers at the Center for International Environmental Law, is one of the earliest attempts by the industry to grapple with the impacts of rising CO2 levels, which Stanford’s researchers warned if left unabated “could bring about climatic changes” like temperature increases, melting of ice caps and sea level rise.

The year was 1968, and the term “global warming” would not appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal until 1975. Famed Nasa scientist James Hansen would not testify before Congress that “global warming has begun” for another 20 years. And the US would not enter into – only to later pull out of – the Paris climate accord for nearly half a century.

The Way We Were -

At the time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere stood about 323ppm. The planet was warming but was still well within the historical norm. Sea levels had risen by about 4in compared with 1880 levels. The report, however, cautioned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the Earth” and that “significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000”.

Those predictions proved to be correct: by the turn of the century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen to 369ppm, causing a temperature increase of nearly half a degree over pre-industrial averages. Today, virtually all climate scientists agree there is little or no chance the world can stay within the goal of 1.5C, the limit of what scientists believe to be safe.

The Attack of the Fossil Fuelers - 

To counter and slow down that effort to address climate change, the fossil fuel industry began its long and powerful strategy of climate denial and obstructionism. Even though they knew the science, they also realized that attempts to control emissions could seriously damage their bottom lines.

In 1998, as the first global attempt to rein in climate pollution, the Kyoto protocol, was headed to the Senate for ratification, API circulated what has come to be known as the Victory Memo, a detailed road map to undermining science and promoting denial of climate change. According to API’s top strategists: “Victory will be achieved when: those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality.”

Governments Failed to Protect the Public, the Energy Giants Won - 

API’s strategic deception campaign was a success, which is why we now stand at the brink of the highest global temperature considered safe. Just what it will mean to cross that line remains an ongoing question for atmospheric scientists, but we’ve already started to get a glimpse and it doesn’t look good.

The damage is all around us, from hurricanes on steroids – scientists attribute 15-40% (8in-24in) of the epic rain of Hurricane Harvey to climate change – to California’s deadly wildfires which were set up by five years of drought, followed by record snowfall, then record heat that turned huge areas of the state into tinderboxes. In 2017 there were 16 separate billion-dollar disasters in the US, resulting in a total of $306bn of damages, nearly $100bn more than the second highest year 2005 (Katrina). While technically climate change did not “cause” these disasters, most of the carnage was aggravated in some way by climate change and the fossil fuel emissions that cause it in the first place.

Other impacts are more long-term and irreparable. Anyone born after 1985 has never experienced a month with average temperatures that fall below the historical norm and, without action, probably never will. Mass coral bleaching events due to warming waters and ocean acidification have rendered large swaths of some of the ocean’s most diverse ecosystems lifeless. The vanishing Arctic ice cap appears already to be affecting global weather patterns, and the loss of ice in Antarctica may have reached a tipping point that many now view as irreversible, a development that will require tough and costly decisions for coastal cities.

The Price We Pay For the Betrayal By Our Governments - 

It never had to be this way. But with each decade of delay and denial the impacts and costs of climate change have continued to mount. Now taxpayers are left holding the bill for a literal rising tide of impacts that pose the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Meeting that challenge must begin with accountability on the part of climate polluters, and justice for citizens who did nothing to cause the problem other than drive to work and heat their homes when they had no other alternatives.

We can’t turn back the clock, but we can turn off the fossil fuel firehose that’s been pumping CO2 into our atmosphere and demand that those who left it running help foot the bill for the cleanup. Already we’ve seen cities like New York, San Francisco, and other coastal cities file lawsuits against climate polluters, seeking to recover costs associated with planning for and adapting to a warming world. With massive costs facing hundreds more cities and no remedy in sight, more litigation will follow.

The Fossil Fuelers have known for half a century the misery and loss they were going to inflict on us for the sake of carbon profits. They have treated us, our kids and our grandchildren, as their lawful prey and they've done it with the collaboration of our very own governments. Justin Trudeau is collaborating with them right now to extract and export as much of the world's filthiest, highest cost, highest carbon fossil sludge as conceivably possible. That's not a prime minister or a government anyone should be proud of. 

With Trump, Everyone Is a Screw-ee.

He can't help himself, not at his age. Donald Trump is a sociopath. He has an uncontrollable impulse to screw everybody. Facts, truth have no relevance to his modus operandi. His impulses are fueled by dishonesty, outright lies and an incredible talent for getting people to accept them.

His supporters, the Gullibillies? He might throw them a bone now and then but he'll tell them it's a Porterhouse steak with all the fixings and he knows they'll believe it. It's astonishing.

One way to help keep his con game running is chaos. He's a master of it. Chaos is Trump's default operating system. When the machine starts to sputter, scapegoat somebody and then fire their sorry ass out the door.

CBS News reports this morning of a major purge said to be looming. Targeted are Trump's chief of staff, his national security advisor and up to three cabinet secretaries. That would really spin up the revolving door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A shake-up that some at the White House are preemptively calling a purge is coming. It could take down a chief of staff, a national security adviser, and up to three Cabinet secretaries, reports CBS News correspondent Major Garrett. It all depends on President Trump's volatile mood and available, willing replacements.

"We're coming back and doing it more so than we've ever done before. We're setting records," Mr. Trump said Wednesday in St. Louis, touting what he called record-setting economic progress.

But the turnover of top aides at his White House has also made history. So far, in the 14 months of his presidency, more than 20 senior administration staffers have either been fired, resigned or reassigned.

The next to go could be National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, expected to be replaced by former Bush administration official and frequent Fox News analyst John Bolton. Bolton is a hawk on Iran and North Korea, like new Secretary of State nominee and current CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

The man brought in last summer to impose order in the White House, Chief of Staff John Kelly, may also be on the way out, according to congressional and administration sources. 

With Pompeo taking over at the State Department and Bolton expected to take over the NSA, the hawks - the real claw and fang crew - are moving in. Absent Kelly and McMaster that will only leave Def Sec Mattis to restrain Trump's puerile urges. Lots of people are likely to be screwed, some of them screwed out of their lives.

Trump seems to revel in his role as ScrewMeister. At a major fundraiser in Missouri yesterday Trump boasted to the crowd how he screwed with Justin Trudeau when they met to discuss trade. Trudeau assured Trump that the US actually has a balance of trade surplus with Canada. Trump told the crowd he had no idea but simply insisted that America was in a trade deficit. Facts don't matter when your goal is merely to screw everyone.

And then there's the small matter of this year's White House "Economic Report of the President" that Trump had the cameras gathered to record him signing with his customary, puerile flourish. Trump's own report, validated by his signature, confirmed that the US does indeed run a modest balance of trade surplus with Canada.

With Trump there are no "win-win" deals which makes facts inconsequential. He's not out for fairness. What he's after is to ensure that everyone else loses.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

And the Arsehole of the Day Award Goes to - Deron Bilous

He's Rachel Notley's minister of economic development and trade, "Bilious Daren" Bilous.

Minister Bilous wins the Arsehole of the Day Award for referring to his fellow NDP legislators in British Columbia as "a bunch of shitheads" during a meeting with municipal politicians in Edmonton.

Bilous says he ought to have used "more diplomatic" language. Actually, what he ought to have done is pound salt straight up his backside.

"Quite frankly, ideally, we need to be more collaborative with the provinces on either side of us, although B.C. is being a bunch of s--theads," Bilous said, according to a report in the Edmonton Journal. "But we're going to do what we can to get the pipeline built."

The report said members of the audience laughed and applauded loudly.

It's curious that the more British Columbia wants straight answers about this hazmat crud Alberta wants to transport across and out of BC, the more Rachel's Notley Crew turn apoplectic.

This is not a new controversy. The devastation of bitumen spills has been going on for at least 15-years. Alberta and Ottawa who, under the tenets of the Precautionary Principle, bear the burden of proving their dilbit pipeline/supertanker initiative as safe as they claim it to be have done nothing (that we know of) to research the issue. The Royal Society of Canada says they've not answered the fundamental safety questions. Trudeau's own Environment Canada says exactly the same. They've had at least 15 years to do this and yet they come to the table empty-handed.

There's plenty of reason to suspect they know there's nothing safe about this dilbit business and they're keeping that knowledge to themselves. After all, why should they now get indignant when British Columbia wants to get those essential answers? The onus is on them and they aren't meeting it.

BC's Pipeline Vigilance is Backed By Science, Edmonton Journal, 9 Feb., 2018.

The Precautionary Principle is the Law of Canada, the Dragun Corporation, 27 October, 2015.
The Precautionary Principle Recognized as a Norm of Substantive Canadian Law by Federal Court of Canada, 7 Sept., 2015
The Supreme Court of Canada applies the Precautionary Principle, case comment, Castonguay Blasting v. Ontario.

Why Do We Stay In this Clapped Out Confederation?

I was recently asked to explain why British Columbia remains in Confederation. I really had to give it some thought but still haven't come up with a compelling reason.

I encountered this issue when I came to BC 40 years ago. There were a number among my then fellow articled students who thought this province should go it alone, forge its own future. At the time I found that offensive, an affront to my Canadian nationalism.  Fast forward those 40 years and the notion doesn't strike me as offensive at all. I now feel far more a British Columbian than a Canadian and I sense a deepening and irreconcilable chasm between the two.

Prior to his death (October, 2017), our legendary Rafe Mair, former MLA turned journalist and social activist, championed British Columbia independence. He argued that "British Columbians are no longer prepared to do what they're told." Our current prime minister, like his predecessor, goes a long way in making Rafe's point.

I find I no longer come close to sharing the values Canada now stands for – I’m not talking about opinions but a philosophy of life, a set of basic values.

As a core value, I value the environment above the desire of bankers and developers to make money and bought and paid for politicians to support them. I accept the need for societal sustenance but do not accept plunder in the name of progress.

The flashpoint is the Trudeau supported revival of the Alberta Tar Sands and the Prime Minister compelling BC to sacrifice both principle and its environment to the transport and sale of Tar Sands product to places that will be under no constraints as to its use. I believe Canada must accept responsibility for safeguarding water, land and air in places it exports products and services. I cannot be loyal ro a country that has no such values.


I have long felt more British Columbian than Canadian. When BC Minister for constitutional affairs working on amending the BNA Act to become the Constitution, I observed the perpetual second class treatment of BC and saw how no one cared that the Senate was an ongoing, deliberate putdown of my province, observed its woeful lack of representation on federal boards and commissions, lack of BC prime ministers and utter absence oF BC Governors-General, the disgraceful Prussian arrogant treatment of BC’s fishery by the federal government, the unthinking and uncaring expectation that in the 1970 FLQ crisis that it was fine to put BC, which wasn’t involved under martial law (no one would surely suggest that a murder and a kidnapping in BC by BC separatists, would have resulted in Ontario and Quebec being placed on martial law). The put downs seemed endless and started early.

My generation grew up learning that Canadian explorers were Cartier and Champlain, Indians were Iroquois, Algonquin and Huron, and some limey, Sir Isaac Brock was a Canadian hero. I learned about Captains Cook and Vancouver, Quadra and Russian settlements in British History in a private school and about Simon Fraser and David Thompson at UBC. I didn’t read a decent history of BC until from Dr. Walter Sage and Dr. Margaret Ormsby in secohd year UBC and the real history of the land of my birth until I was nearly 70 and interviewed Dr. Jean Barman on her classic, The West Beyond The West. I doubt one in 100 kids of my vintage could name the first BC premier or the rich Victoria merchants, without a suggestion of public support, who sold us out to Ottawa for a mess of potage and a railway to help Ontario grab our resources cheap.

The Meech Lake/Charlottetown Accords disclosed a basic gap between the Central Canadian elite – the people the late Denny Boyd called “Higher Purpose Persons (HPPs)”, who know best, – and those ignorant idiots in BC who refused to accept special powers for one province.

After Elijah Harper killed Meech Lake, BC said next time it won’t be the premiers deciding but the people in referendum and thus it was that The Charlottetown referendum was held and 67.9% of British Columbians said “we’ve had enough of your patronizing crap – get stuffed!”

Then Justin Trudeau decided, cross my heart, hope to die, to give Canadians a better voting system. To do it democratically, we’ll hold cozy neighbourhood meetings around the Country, then the House of Commons will meet, and the Liberal Party will cram through a reformed First Past The Post with a preferential ballot and presto! by an amazing coincidence, The Liberals will have its way and should carry Central Canada forevermore.

HPPs said there mustn’t be a referendum because, er, the people can’t understand these complicared issues and remember what happened when they voted on Charlottetown! In fact the HPPs were right for the wrong reason. Trudeau understood it was a Liberal Party Permanent Election formula he was after and wasn’t going to let those troublemakers in BC spoil it all for the elite, the HPPS as they did with Charlottetown in 1992. It was safer to break your word and lay low.

On British Columbians' values:

I am an environmentalist. When we lose our environment, be it the extinction of a species we’ve never heard of, a valley sustained by its fauna, flora and water or a run of herring it is a huge tragedy. That list, as you know, is endless. Reading reports from Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd breaks the heart.

Does that mean that I oppose all industry and development?

That’s a pretty silly question. We have to work, eat and survive. But to the Canada exemplified by Trudeau, development, without more than cynical word service for the values I care about, trumps everything. Bear in mind throughout the balance of what I have to say that the Precautionary Principle is the law of Canada.

Definition – The precautionary principle (or precautionary approach) to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus (that the action or policy is not harmful), the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking that action.

Start with fish farms. Recently disease spreading from farms to wild salmon was scientifically demonstrated yet another time. The evidence of assaults on our wild salmon by sea lice from fish farms and disease from farmed fish, not to mention damage to other sea life and to the ocean floor, has piled up for 15+ years, is overwhelming yet, in as few words as possible, what was Fisheries Minister and DFO answer to the plethora of evidence generally and to the latest report? “BC, GO FUCK YOURSELVES!”


The Alberta Tar Sands, the world’s biggest natural polluter, producers a tar like substance artificially liquefied, which if spilled, especially on water, is virtually impossible to clean up as it usually sinks too quickly to be dealt with, a spill defined as minor into the Kalamazoo River, in Michigan, in 2010, has not yet been cleaned up and probably never will be. The federal government has approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline to bring this from the Tar Sands through BC to Burrard Inlet (Vancouver Harbour) them taken by tankers across the Salish Sea, through or near the Gulf Islands through the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the Ocean.

The company claims this will “only” add 400 tankers a year but as the Duke of Wellington said to a man on a London street who hailed him ‘Mr. Robinson, I believe’, “Sir, If you believe that, you’ll believe anything!”

Spills are inevitable. So are tanker collisions and serious ones. Great damage will be done to our precious sea life, lives will be lost. And for what?


Many things make up a nation but in my view shared values outrank all the rest combined. These aren’t political quarrels I have with Canada, though I have lots of them. No, these are fundamental values I can’t live without and Justin Trudeau can’t live with. None of these values destroy industry but put it, and what we are deeply committed to in British Columbia, on a level playing field where he who would impact the very essence of our homeland has the onus of proving he will do no harm or none which we whose home it is will not accept.
British Columbia, my home, has been pushed around the 85+ years I have lived, worked, served, loved and, yes, loafed in her. To be called a bad Canadian because I want to protect her wild life and their habitat and don’t want to assist uncaring capitalists and their captive governments to spread ruin here and elsewhere has finally become too much.

I hope you understand but that’s irrelevant, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

May God bless Cascadia, a land of values.

Western Water Warnings

In 2005, former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed wrote a lengthy op-ed in the Globe and Mail on Canadian water security.  The final line was nothing if not prescient: "The reality is that fresh water is more valuable than crude oil."

Memo to Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney, truer words were never spoken and you would do well to bear that in mind when you try to beat up British Columbia over dilbit pipelines.

Lougheed, as possibly the last really intelligent politician to come out of the Wild Rose province, was focused on a potential American grab on Canadian fresh water resources. Hey, it was 2005 and climate change really wasn't on the political horizon. Lougheed was particularly concerned that BC might pursue large scale bulk water sales, water that Lougheed thought Alberta might come to desperately need.

That never happened, of course, but that other threat to freshwater almost everywhere in the world, climate change, certainly has. And now parts of Canada, also known as Alberta and Saskatchewan, are facing the risk of dire, long-term water shortages.

The risk that changing weather patterns pose for water supplies is one reason Canadian researcher John Pomeroy is braving frigid winter temperatures to climb a metal observation tower in the shadow of Alberta's Fortress Mountain.


"We have been getting rain events even in the winter."

Pomeroy, the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change, has been studying the snowpack in this area for nearly 15 years in an attempt to project both floods and droughts before they happen.

He points out that the snow in the Rockies provides everything from drinking water to irrigation for tens of millions of people across North America.

"The water from this mountain range flow into the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific and the Atlantic, so what happens here matters for the whole continent."


Pomeroy says a warming climate means the mountain snowpack is melting faster and earlier. As a result, the water is moving through river basins more quickly than in the past and leaving them parched by the end of summer.

It's a situation that, if prolonged, could lead to the kind of water shortages being seen in Cape Town and parts of California in recent years.

"That kind of extreme water shortage hasn't happened here, but it's not impossible that it can," he says, noting that the shortages facing Cape Town today were once unimaginable.

...Pomeroy brushes the snow off an instrument buried under half a metre of snow. Amidst all this snow, it's hard to believe that this part of the world actually gets less annual precipitation than Cape Town.

Pomeroy says that fact makes it all the more important to start preparing for future water shortages in Canada.

"I think Cape Town is a terrible event for that city and for Africa, but it can be a wake-up call for the rest of the developed world that we can have severe water shortages."

It's not as though the West doesn't have options.  Snowpacks are becoming less reliable but the annual precipitation isn't, at least not to the west of the Rockies. The mountain ranges that form the natural border between British Columbia and the Prairies are a major rain catcher. Moisture-laden clouds off the Pacific drop much of that as precipitation, rain, on the British Columbia side. That's the water Peter Lougheed wanted protected for Alberta's future needs.

Alberta, with Ottawa's collusion, is attempting to strongarm British Columbia now. It's probably a good time for them to rethink that on a long-term, strategic basis.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tillerson's Firing Isn't the Problem. It's His Replacement That's the Scary Part.

They're changing the guard at Trump's state department. Rex Tillerson got the boot this morning in a manner befitting the Mango Mussolini's notion of presidential propriety. He read about it, like everyone else, in a Trump early morning tweet.  When it comes to assholery, Trump never ceases to amaze.

Rex Tillerson never set the international relations community on fire. He never set anything on fire. America and the world might not be so lucky when his successor takes the helm at State.

Mike Pompeo, an extremely intelligent but even more extremely messed up man. First in his class at West Point and a law degree from Harvard. A cavalry officer, then lawyer, then entrepreneur, then congressman, Pompeo lists a net worth of a curiously minuscule $345,000.

Here are a few of his more worrisome attitudes, courtesy of WikiPedia:

On personal privacy and government surveillance:

Pompeo stated that "Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed. That includes Presidential Policy Directive-28, which bestows privacy rights on foreigners and imposes burdensome requirements to justify data collection.

On terrorism, prisons and interrogations:

Pompeo opposes closing Guantanamo Bay detention camp. After a 2013 visit to the prison, Pompeo said, of the prisoners who were on hunger strike, "It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight."

Pompeo criticized the Obama administration's decision to end secret prisons and its requirement that all interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws.

On Edward Snowden:

In February 2016, Pompeo said Edward Snowden "should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence".

On the environment and climate change:

Speaking about climate change in 2013, Pompeo said: "There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There's some who think we're warming, there's some who think we're cooling, there's some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment."

Pompeo has stated, "Federal policy should be about the American family, not worshipping a radical environmental agenda." He has referred to the Obama administration's environment and climate change plans as "damaging" and "radical". He opposes the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the United States, and supports eliminating the United States federal register of greenhouse gas emissions.

Pompeo signed the No Climate Tax pledge of Americans for Prosperity.

He has called for the permanent elimination of wind power production tax credits, calling them an "enormous government handout".

In December 2015, as a member of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Pompeo voted for two resolutions disapproving of the Clean Power Plan implemented by the United States Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration.

On Social Conservatism:

Pompeo has stated that life begins at conception and believes that abortions should be allowed only when necessary to save the life of the mother.[61] In 2011, Pompeo voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would have banned federal health coverage that includes abortion. Also in 2011, he voted for a prohibition on funding the United Nations Population Fund.

Pompeo opposed same-sex marriage and had sponsored bills to let states prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

On Religion:

Pompeo is an evangelical Presbyterian. John Knox must be rolling in his grave.

Pompeo is a Christian religious conservative whose beliefs inform his politics. He spoke at length of how religion informs his political ideals on video at the Summit Church God and Country Rally 2015. In that speech he approvingly quoted the Robert Russell/Joseph Wright prayer which contained "We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle." In his own words, he said "We are engaged in a struggle against radical Islam, the kind of struggle that this country has not faced since its great wars."

Then there's the little matter of Korea, North Korea that is, whose leader, Kim Jong Un is supposed to sit down for a chin wag with the Cheeto Benito. Trump's choice of Pompeo as America's top diplomat might just have thrown a wrench into those gears.

Pompeo desires regime change in North Korea. In July 2017, Pompeo said "It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is most dangerous about it is the character who holds the control over them today."

Chances are Kim knows about Pompeo and it's hard to imagine he'll be encouraged to make concessions to Trump after this appointment.

At Foreign Policy, they summed up Pompeo's appointment with eloquent brevity:

"When it comes to Trump’s foreign policy, things will get worse before they get better."