Saturday, March 24, 2018

AggregateIQ and Brexit, the Canadian Connection Partly Explained. Alleged Campaign Expense Violations.

Just what everyone needs. Three or four new names to add to the snowballing cast of characters in the AggregateIQ/Brexit/Cambridge Analytica/Trump campaign scandal. Not only is the volume of names hard to keep track of, you can't tell just yet anyway who may be important and who is just another face.

British electoral law prohibits co-ordination between different campaign organisations, which must all comply with spending limits. If they plan tactics or co-ordinate together, they must have a shared cap on spending. Vote Leave strongly denies any such co-ordination.
Sanni says that after the commission opened an investigation last March, Victoria Woodcock, the operations director for Vote Leave, deleted herself, campaign director Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave’s digital director, Henry de Zoete, from dozens of files on the drive Vote Leave shared with BeLeave to hide the fact of co-ordination. On a blog post on Friday, Cummings said this was “factually wrong and libellous”. Vote Leave say staff acted “ethically, responsibly and legally in deleting any data”. It is not known whether she was acting under instruction.

Most of the £625,000 donation went to a Canadian data company called AggregateIQ, which has links to Cambridge Analytica, the firm that used harvested Facebook data to build a political targeting system in the US. Christopher Wylie, the former CA employee turned whistleblower, said that at the time of the referendum, the Canadian firm was operating “almost as an internal department of Cambridge Analytica”.

AIQ would eventually soak up about a third of all Vote Leave’s official spending, receiving £2.7m from the group in addition to the money that came via BeLeave. The firm also received £100,000 from Veterans for Britain and £32,750 from the DUP. After the referendum, Cummings stated on AIQ’s website: “Without a doubt, the Vote Leave campaign owes a great deal of its success to the work of Aggregate IQ. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The gist of the story is that the Leave campaign used a youth group, BeLeave, to circumvent spending limit laws.

Shahmir Sanni’s central claim concerns a donation of £625,000 that Vote Leave ostensibly made to an independent referendum campaign organisation called BeLeave. He claims the money, channelled to a digital services firm linked to the controversial Cambridge Analytica firm, violated election rules because it was not a genuine donation.
The money was registered by BeLeave with election authorities as a donation from Vote Leave to an independent youth operation. Sanni says BeLeave shared offices with Vote Leave – fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – which in practice offered advice and assistance to the group and helped them to decide where their cash would be spent.
British electoral law prohibits co-ordination between different campaign organisations, which must all comply with spending limits. If they plan tactics or co-ordinate together, they must have a shared cap on spending. Vote Leave strongly denies any such co-ordination.
Sanni says that after the commission opened an investigation last March, Victoria Woodcock, the operations director for Vote Leave, deleted herself, campaign director Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave’s digital director, Henry de Zoete, from dozens of files on the drive Vote Leave shared with BeLeave to hide the fact of co-ordination. On a blog post on Friday, Cummings said this was “factually wrong and libellous”. Vote Leave say staff acted “ethically, responsibly and legally in deleting any data”. It is not known whether she was acting under instruction.
If Leave was using BeLeave as a proxy, a straw man for the purpose of circumventing campaign spending laws, that could undermine the legitimacy of the Brexit vote to leave the EU.

I expect some day this will all make sense to somebody.

Russian Roulette - Conclusion

My impression of "Russian Roulette" is that Michael Isikoff and David Corn have produced a fine book, a worthy read, that happened to get overtaken by events. Had it been released two months earlier, it might have been a must read. If they revise it, rewrite the last seventy pages, to update what we've read and heard the past week, it could be rehabilitated.

The final chapters of Russian Roulette remain to be written. That will include the Mueller investigation and the new revelations emerging from the Cambridge Analytica scandals that may directly entangle Trump, Bannon, Trump's campaign team, even his new national security advisor, John Bolton. Half of this story, probably more, remains to be written.

Journalists covering the chaos also known as the Trump administration are frequently heard to complain that it's a thankless and brutal task in which the story they're working on in the morning gets superseded by something even crazier out of the Trump White House in the afternoon.  Good, important stories get spiked, often replaced by something frivolous yet outrageous. The record goes incomplete. That's the story of the Trump campaign and the Trump administration.

One thing that is clear from Russian Roulette is that everyone from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama to America's national security/intelligence agencies made disastrous calls based on the assumption that Hillary Clinton could not possibly lose to the Mango Mussolini.

Measures were not taken out of fear that, with Hillary a shoo-in, they might be seen as unfair to Trump.  Obama stubbornly refused when urged to act for this reason.

Hillary made her own mistakes, a load of them. In several ways she was the author of at least some of her own misfortune.

So far Mueller has obtained indictments against four of Trump's campaign/transition team: Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, all but Manafort having pleaded guilty. There may be other, unannounced indictments. It's hard to imagine Carter Page not being charged. Steve Bannon has to be worried about what awaits him for his governance of Cambridge Analytica. Then there's the obstruction of justice and Russia collusion issues that have not yet broken the surface.

My conclusion - Russian Roulette is the first half of what could be a good book.

Trump's New Litter - Bolton, Pompeo and Haspel, Three Buckets of Ugly.

That's what you get when you have an addled authoritarian head of state with an incoherent worldview who brings in a stronger guy who has an utterly diabolical worldview.

We'll have to wait and see but John Bolton could blossom into Donald Trump's Lavrentiy Beria, the guy who Joseph Stalin described to Franklin D. Roosevelt as "our Himmler."

Bolton is to aerial bombing campaigns what the NRA is to assault rifles, a shameless advocate. He wants to bomb the hell out of any country he perceives to stand in America's way.

Harvard professor and regular contributor to Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt, offers his take of America's new Dr. Strangelove.
The other shoe dropped. On the heels of his cowardly fire-by-tweet dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump has dismissed National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and replaced him with John Bolton, the hard-line former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Uber-hawk Mike Pompeo is headed from the CIA to the State Department, and Gina Haspel, a CIA loyalist who ran a torture site for George W. Bush and authorized the destruction of videotapes documenting what the CIA was doing, has been picked to replace him. Just how scared should you be?
There seem to be two general reactions to the latest upheaval in Trump’s topsy-turvy. One interpretation is that this latest reshuffle amounts to Trump getting rid of the “grown-ups” who have been trying to manage the tweeter-in-chief for the past year and replacing them with advisors who see the world as he does and will let “Trump be Trump.” In this view, the new team will enable him instead of trying to rein him in, and he’ll become the Trump of 2016, who called U.S. foreign policy a “complete and total disaster” and promised “America First.” Trump himself has encouraged this view by suggesting that he is finally assembling the sort of team he has always wanted. (Which raises an obvious question: Who was the idiot who picked his first team? Or his second? Oh, right.)...
Bolton’s appointment (along with Trump’s other personnel shifts) is not a bold move toward “America First” — if that term means a smarter and more restrained foreign policy that would reduce U.S. overseas burdens, improve the country’s strategic position, and actually make Americans safer and richer.
Instead, whether Trump knows it or not, putting Bolton, Pompeo, and Haspel in key positions looks more like a return to “Cheneyism,” by which I mean a foreign policy that inflates threats, dismisses serious diplomacy, thinks allies are mostly a burden, is contemptuous of institutions, believes that the United States is so powerful that it can just issue ultimatums and expect others to cave, and believes that a lot of thorny foreign-policy problems can be solved by just blowing something up...
I’m not trying to “normalize” this appointment or suggest that it shouldn’t concern you. Rather, I’m suggesting that if you are worried about Bolton, you should ask yourself the following question: What sort of political system allows someone with his views to serve in high office, where he helps talk the country into a disastrous war, never expresses a moment’s regret for his errors, continues to advocate for more of the same for the next decade, and then gets a second chance to make the same mistakes again?
So by all means worry. But the real problem isn’t Bolton — it’s a system that permits people like him to screw up and move up again and again.

Mentally Mobilized for War

In August, 2014, a leading German financial paper, Handelsblatt, warned of a dangerous spread of war fever throughout the West.

Even smart people are not immune to controlled bouts of this fever. “This war in all its atrociousness is still a great and wonderful thing. It is an experience worth having“ rejoiced Max Weber in 1914 when the lights went out in Europe. Thomas Mann felt a “cleansing, liberation, and a tremendous amount of hope“.

Newspapers we thought to be all about thoughts and ideas now march in lock-step with politicians in their calls for sanctions against Russia's President Putin. Even the headlines betray an aggressive tension as is usually characteristic of hooligans when they 'support' their respective teams. 
The Tagesspiegel: “Enough talk!“ The FAZ: “Show strength“. The Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Now or never.“ The Spiegel calls for an “End to cowardice“: “Putin's web of lies, propaganda, and deception has been exposed. The wreckage of MH 17 is also the result of a crashed diplomacy.“ 
Western politics and German media agree.

Every reflexive string of accusations results in the same outcome: in no time allegations and counter-allegations become so entangled that the facts become almost completely obscured. Who deceived who first?
And now, this. Enter Cambridge Analytica and Trump's new national security advisor, the insanely bellicose John Bolton.

The political action committee founded by John R. Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica, which it hired specifically to develop psychological profiles of voters with data harvested from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, according to former Cambridge employees and company documents.
Mr. Bolton’s political committee, known as The John Bolton Super PAC, first hired Cambridge in August 2014, months after the political data firm was founded and while it was still harvesting the Facebook data.
...the contract between the political action committee and Cambridge, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, offers more detail on just what Mr. Bolton was buying. The contract broadly describes the services to be delivered by Cambridge as “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging.”...
The Bolton PAC was obsessed with how America was becoming limp wristed and spineless and it wanted research and messaging for national security issues,” Mr. Wylie said.
That really meant making people more militaristic in their worldview,” he added. “That’s what they said they wanted, anyway.”

I Want You to Do Us Both a Favour

Please, read this.

If you've got the time, check this out.


The Cambridge Analytica scandal has buried the news this past week, a lot like an avalanche.  Having followed, and written about, this story for almost a year even I found the white wall of revelation upon revelation overwhelming.

I now feel real pity for two excellent journalists, Michael Isikoff and David Corn, who chose to release their fine book, "Russian Roulette: The inside story of Putin's war on America and the Election of Donald Trump," just days before the CA story exploded last weekend.  Sort of like getting hammered at a level crossing by a freight train.

It's not that the CA scandal doesn't have some hints of Russian skullduggery. It certainly does. It's just that this is like a major war that was fought on fronts: the Russian front, the European (UK) front, and the Home front. The Republicans, or at least the Trump camp, were apparently active on all three.

If all you knew about WWII was the US war against Japan in the Pacific but nothing about Russia or the war in Europe, you wouldn't understand much about the war itself. 

In today's world of increasingly abbreviated attention spans, the world of McNews, the sheer dimension of the Trump story may be too much to keep in perspective. That goes for me too which is why I'm going to give the CA scandal a pass for the next day or two so that I can finish and review Russian Roulette.

That could mean I'll have a lot of catching up to do Monday morning. C'est la vie.

Friday, March 23, 2018

How a Kid From Victoria May Become Trump's Worst Nightmare

If Donald Trump isn't disparaging something as "fake news" does that make it real?

Ordinarily Trump meets scandal head on, denouncing adversaries as liars and media outlets who run their stories as fake news.Yet, when it comes to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Trump seems to have dummied up.

Data wizard, Victoria's Chris Wylie, has turned out to be a whistleblower extraordinaire, a gift that just keeps on giving.

Wylie seems to be implicating a load of big names from Team Trump. Now he's brought Giuliani into the spotlight. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

The Republican National Committee (through CA's Jesse Kamzol), Bannon, the Mercer Twins (Robert and clone daughter), Giuliani, John Bolton, Trump himself (he supposedly met repeatedly with Alexander Nix). This seems to have the makings of a possible criminal enterprise spanning the breadth of the now dominant Trump branch of the Republican Party.

This is not a short story. It is more like a book with many chapters. We can't begin to guess who else will be snared in this web but I'll bet it will make for great reading.

And it does seem that we owe a big debt of gratitude to a young guy from Victoria.

Former Playmate of the Year Dishes on Dirty, Dirty Donnie Trump

Seriously, the 45th president of the United States of America, has the sexual appetites of a goat. He cheated on his first wife with a woman  who became his second. He apparently cheated on his second before he ditched her. He cheated on his third wife, Melania, with a porn star and a Playboy Playmate of the Year just a couple of months after Melania had given birth to their son, Barron.

Stormy Daniels dished the dirt on Donnie Juan several years ago. She even aced a lie detector test that confirmed she not only had sex with the Mango Mussolini but unprotected sex at that. Way to think of Melania, Donnie.

Playmate Karen McDougal says she had sex with Trump dozens of times, once even in the family home in Trump Tower.

Elizabeth May Arrested Over Justin Trudeau's Damned Pipeline

She should be an example to us all. There is a place for civil disobedience. The Kinder-Morgan pipeline is that place.

Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, along with NDP MP, Kennedy Stewart,  have been arrested for joining a Kinder-Morgan protest in Burnaby, BC.

May, the MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands, stood in line with activists at the gate of a Kinder Morgan worksite. She was arrested around noon PT and released within half an hour. 
She said she's been charged with civil contempt for blocking the road. It is not a criminal offence. 
"I have never before put my signature on a line that said 'signature of accused,' but my rights have been read to me and I will return to court on June 14," she told reporters after her release. 
May said she is free to "continue to protest, continue to oppose Kinder Morgan's erroneous permit."

Stewart, who represents the federal riding of Burnaby South, also entered a court-imposed protest-free zone around the property. He was arrested around 12:30 p.m. PT. 
"This is down to Justin Trudeau's broken promises," he said as he walked with RCMP officers.

Cambridge Analytica and Its Cast of Shady Characters

The journos are having a field day with this. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is chock full of shady characters, an odd percentage of them with seeming links to Russia.

There are the better known snakes: Steve Bannon, Robert Mercer and his daughter/clone, Nigel Farage and Trump himself of course.

You can now add to that Trump's pick for his next national security advisor, John Bolton

Bolton’s super PAC has paid Cambridge Analytica more than $1.1 million since 2014 for “research” and “survey research,” a Center for Public Integrityanalysis of campaign finance filings shows.
So far during the 2018 election season, Bolton has announced his super PAC will spend $1 million boosting Republican Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson in Wisconsin. Nicholson is challenging incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat.
Think that won't come up at Bolton's Senate confirmation hearing?

Then there's the original cast of Cambridge Analytica, Chris Wylie's play pals, guys such as Brent Clickard, Tadas Jucikas, Victoras Jucikas, Tobias Kloepper and Jesse Kamzol.
Tadas Jucikas and Brent Clickard, former close colleagues of Chris Wylie, the man who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica, founded Genus AI in May 2016 as an artificial intelligence company that “integrates 3rd party as well as 1st party data sources and applies proprietary insights and algorithms to unlock the value hidden in data,” according to its website. Some of those techniques were ostensibly shaped by their time at Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group, where they, along with Wylie, pioneered practices that would form the basis of the data mining outfit, which is currently under fire.
Tadas Jucikas has a PhD from Cambridge. His LinkedIn page claims he's multi-lingual, fluent in English, German, Lithuanian and Russian. Tadas' bro, Victoras Jucikas, lists himself as a former executive-director at Goldman Sachs, now chairman of Genus AI, studied at Kaunas University, Lithuania, and then Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany. He too claims fluency in the same four languages as Tadas. Tobias Kloepper, educated in Germany, speaks German and English. Rounding out the team is American, Jesse Kamzol, who also has now moved on to GenusAI. Kamzol doesn't seem to have any eastern European connections but he does list three positions he held with the Republican National Committee, RNC: beginning as 'list director' before moving up to 'deputy strategy director' and, finally, RNC chief data officer.  Jesse apparently left the RNC in August, 2017.

What I find remarkable about all these LinkedIn profiles is not how extensive they are - and they are extensive - but how not one of them discloses any involvement with Cambridge Analytica. Not a peep. Not Cambridge Analytica, not Strategic Communications Laboratory, SCL - nada, zilch.

Check out Aaron Banks, British political "bad boy." Just for fun I chose him from the flow chart above to check out. OpenDemocracyUK has a delightful profile on this guy, supposedly a self-made multi-millionaire who threw a good chunk of his fortune at the Brexit campaign.  Trouble is, the folks who wrote Banks' profile can't quite figure out where all that money came from. How did a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, with a Russian wife, get so rich selling losing companies for huge profits?

In September 2013, the man who bought Brexit – Arron Banks – was in trouble.

For the past two years, financial regulators in Gibraltar had been scrutinising his insurance under-writer, Southern Rock. They had discovered it was keeping reserves far below what was needed.
This was a serious problem. Banks claimed he had already provided £40 million to plug the hole. He also told the regulator he would step down as a director, but has since been required to find an eye-watering £60 million in extra funding.

A year later, these financial worries seem to have completely evaporated. Banks had begun buying diamond mines, investing millions into chemical companies and wealth management firms, setting up loss-making political consultancies, and most famous of all – funding the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
 Follow the Money.
If Banks was in such a tight spot in September 2013, how did he manage to be so generous the following year?
It is here the cracks in Banks’ biography start to appear. Banks has claimed he was promoted and rose to lead his own sales team at Norwich Union – now part of Aviva. However, Aviva say they have no record of Banks ever having worked for Norwich Union. He has also claimed to have worked for Warren Buffett around this point in his career. We asked Buffett about this. He replied. "I have no memory of ever hearing of the name Arron Fraser Andrew Banks. He certainly never worked for me." Further checks across the Berkshire Hathaway group, made by Buffett’s office, yielded no evidence he had ever worked for any of his subsidiaries. In a letter delivered by his lawyers, Banks declined to comment on either of these points.
Enter the Lady from Russia.

In 1998, Banks got taken on by a tiny broker focussed on motorcycle insurance run from offices above a shop in the sleepy village of Thornbury. He was granted a 20% shareholding in the fledgling business. In November 2000, he resigned as a director of the firm, and two months later, sold his shares for £251,000.

Shortly afterwards, Banks met the woman who was to become his second wife, a Portsmouth-based Russian called Ekaterina Paderina. According to the Sunday Times, Paderina’s former husband had been interviewed twice by Special Branch because they suspected her of working for the Russian government. Ekaterina moved to join Banks in Bristol but stayed on the electoral roll in Portsmouth until 2008, still registered to a council flat overlooking the naval base. When Portsmouth Council found out she should not have been entitled to the flat because she was living with Banks, council officials reportedly demanded a cash payment be made by the Banks family in recompense.

To Be Continued....

Harper Aide, Bruce Carson, Heading for Another Stretch in the Greybar Hotel

Like where in hell did he get the money to pay for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada?

Bruce Carson has lost an appeal against conviction for influence peddling. He had been acquitted at trial but the Crown appealed and won. Carson took that conviction to the SCC.

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected an appeal by a former top adviser to Stephen Harper, upholding Bruce Carson's influence peddling conviction related to the sale of water treatment systems on First Nations reserves.

The ruling means Carson will return to court for sentencing on the charge, which falls under fraud offences and carries a potential prison term of up to five years.

In an 8-1 decision, the majority of justices adopted a broad interpretation of what constitutes "business relating to the government" under the Criminal Code section on influence peddling.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

McMaster Out, Bolton In. Brace Yourselves.

Last Friday, Trump chief of staff, John Kelly, convened the West Wing staff to assure them there would be no more major staff changes for the foreseeable future.

Here we are, less than a week later, and Trump's national security advisor, General H.R. McMaster, is out, extremely far right hawk, John Bolton, is in. Bolton was one of the most bellicose of the Bush/Cheney era neocons.

John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Thursday.
“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBoltonwill be my new National Security Advisor,” Trump tweeted. “ I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend.”
“There will be an official contact handover on 4/9,” Trump added.
Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration, is known for his hard-line foreign policy views, and has written in support of attacking North Korea
McMaster’s exit is just the latest in a long line of departures from the Trump White House.

More on Bolton from

President Donald Trump’s choice of John Bolton as his national security advisor places a hardline unilateralist and keen advocate of military power at the center of the Trump White House.
Bolton has explicitly called for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, advocates bombing to force regime change in Iran, and wants an open-ended military presence in Afghanistan. He has also called for a much more confrontational stance against China, including stationing U.S. troops in Taiwan.

Bolton shares with the president a disregard for international agreements, and disdain for multilateral organizations like the United Nations and the European Union, and a flair for hurling cutting insults at his many political enemies. In his memoir, John Bolton: Surrender is Not an Option, Bolton repeatedly referred to European Union bureaucrats as “EUroids.” 
His appointment, rumored for weeks, deeply rattled foreign-policy experts from Washington to Berlin who worry that McMaster’s ouster and Bolton’s arrival could set the United States on a path toward multiple conflicts.

“John Bolton strongly supported every war the U.S. has fought, believes there should be no limits how [the] U.S. has fought, and strongly supports starting new regime change wars with Iran and nuclear-armed N[orth] Korea,” tweeted Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Terrifying.”

Think that Doomsday Clock won't be moving up a notch tonight?

We Knew it Was Bad But Sixteen Times Worse Than We Had Thought? How Do You Even Get Your Head Around That?

There's a lot more man-made garbage afloat in the Pacific Ocean than we had thought. Sixteen times more. A patch twice the size of France.

The sprawling patch of detritus – spanning 1.6m sq km, (617,763 sq miles) more than twice the size of France – contains at least 79,000 tons of plastic, new research published in Nature has found. This mass of waste is up to 16 times larger than previous estimates and provides a sobering challenge to a team that will start an ambitious attempt to clean up the vast swath of the Pacific this summer. 
The analysis, conducted by boat and air surveys taken over two years, found that pollution in the so-called Great Pacific garbage patch is almost exclusively plastic and is “increasing exponentially”. Microplastics, measuring less than 0.5cm (0.2in), make up the bulk of the estimated 1.8tn pieces floating in the garbage patch, which is kept in rough formation by a swirling ocean gyre.

BC's John Horgan Tied for Most Popular Premier in Canada

British Columbia's NDP premier, John Horgan, and his Saskatchewan counterpart, Scott Moe, are tied in popularity at 52 per cent. The wicked witch of the west, Rachel Notley, polled a meagre 33 per cent while Ontario's Wynne cinched last place in the ditch with just 19 per cent.

The good news is that Horgan's numbers are holding up, perhaps even bolstered, by British Columbia's stand against the Notley/Trudeau Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, said Horgan's increased approval shows that the Alberta-B.C. pipeline battle isn't hurting Horgan's approval rate. 
"If anything, it's probably stoked a little bit of enthusiasm for the job Horgan is doing," she said.

The Danger is Enormous But It's Nothing Compared to the Price of Not Fixing It

Paul and Anne Ehrlich created a real stir when their book "The Population Bomb" was released in 1968, half a century ago. It posited an apocalyptic collapse in human civilization, death by starvation for hundreds of millions of humans, by the end of the '70s.

That didn't happen, of course. We came up with parlour tricks, sleight of hand measures such as the Green Revolution.  We mustered all of our weapons - new technologies, new plants, and all manner of agricultural chemicals: fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides - to create a revolution in industrial intensive agriculture. Suddenly there was food seemingly everywhere. India, for example, was freed from cyclical famines to become a major exporter of agricultural commodities.

People scoffed at The Population Bomb and ridiculed the Ehrlichs with their dystopian vision. The Green Revolution helped spread the idea that mankind was omnipotent, omniscient. We were masters of the universe, always ready to solve every threat.

Only that was a lie, a lethal mixture of hubris plus whistling past the graveyard.

With enough water for irrigation and a generous quantity of agri-chems, even marginal farmland could be made very productive. We measured success by harvests with little regard to what was happening below, beneath the surface.

Beneath the fields of verdant crops two things were underway. One, we were pumping groundwater out of the soil at many times its recharge rate. We were draining our aquifers, water built up over centuries. Two, our agri-chemicals were depleting the soil of humus, the soil carbon necessary for microbial life that, in turn, was the foundation of essential crop yields. We all know that rich, black soil is the most fertile. Well, strip out that black stuff and see what you're left with. In some places it's called desert.

Several years ago I explored global food security by taking a couple of online courses. Some of the assigned readings led me to go a bit further where I began finding studies by prominent agronomists about soil degradation.  Then, in 2014, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report warning that the state of soil degradation had become so severe than mankind had but 60 harvests left.  Pretty dystopian stuff, hard-hitting but very true. Yet the trans-national food industry was locking up the best agricultural land in food insecure Third World countries to ensure they would have fresh strawberries on grocery store shelves year round. Nothing pernicious there, eh?

Food security is in peril and our soaring population growth only compounds the problem. That our species could have grown threefold in just one lifetime is vexing.

Growth, growth, growth. In 1900, average longevity for males was 40-years in the US, 42-years in Canada. Then there's this from the CBC in 2014:

In Canada, average life expectancy for males born in 2012 is 80 and for females 84, the agency said in Thursday's report, World Health Statistics 2014. 
In comparison, males born in Canada in 1990 could expect to live to 74 and females to 81 on average. 
For both sexes in Canada, life expectancy increased on average from 77 in 1990 to 82 in 2012. 
Low-income countries have made the most progress, with an average increase in life expectancy by nine years from 1990 to 2012.

So if one individual used to equal 40 years of consumption and now represents 80 years of consumption, that individual's lifetime ecological footprint has doubled just on lifespan alone.

For the sake of argument, let's say you've got three times as many people, each living twice as long. That's a six-fold net increase in a nation's ecological footprint.

But what about consumption? The best data I've found is British. This is what is being called "the Great Acceleration."

Record keeping in Britain has allowed per capita GDP to be charted from today back to 1270. The results are impressive. Per capita GDP first reached 2,000 pounds (adjusted to 2013 sterling) in 1832. By 1900 the Industrial Revolution had swelled that to 4,800 pounds per capita. The 12,000 pound mark fell in 1970. That doubled again to 24,000 pounds per capita GDP in the year 2000, increasing to 28,000 just before the crash of 2008. To make sense of this, the average Briton's production increased from 4,800 pounds in 1900 to close out that century at 24,000 pounds per capital GDP. In the course of one century, the 20th, that's a five fold increase in per capita GDP. In 1900 the global population stood at 1.6 billion. We closed out that century at just over 6 billion and now stand at 7.5 billion. Taking total per capita GDP in 1900 and total population in 1900 we have now grown humanity's ecological footprint by something in the order of 30 to 40 times (especially when you factor in increased longevity). And we're still trapped in perpetual, exponential growth.
Yet we're still chasing perpetual, exponential growth. That's the dominant focus of our prime minister and his predecessors - constant growth.

We now have this benchmark called "Earth Overshoot Day." It is where the red line, consumption, passes the dotted black line, carrying capacity. It's the day each year on which mankind has consumed a quantity of natural resources equal to the amount the Earth can replenish per year. It marks the date on which mankind has exceeded the Earth's ecological carrying capacity. In 2006, EOD fell on October 9th. In 2017 it had advanced to August 2nd. And yet every year we increase our global population and grow our individual consumption.  And, in the context of the graph above, we're still in a positive consumption mode even though we are entering the degraded carrying capacity curve.

The Guardian's  Damien Carrington interviewed Paul Ehrlich to discuss where mankind has gone since The Population Bomb was published 50 years ago and were we stand today.

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.
Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”
Ehrlich has been at Stanford University since 1959 and is also president of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, which works “to reduce the threat of a shattering collapse of civilisation”.

“It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems,” he says. “As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell’.”

It is the combination of high population and high consumption by the rich that is destroying the natural world, he says. Research published by Ehrlich and colleagues in 2017 concluded that this is driving a sixth mass extinction of biodiversity, upon which civilisation depends for clean air, water and food.
He estimates an optimum global population size at roughly 1.5 to two billion, “But the longer humanity pursues business as usual, the smaller the sustainable society is likely to prove to be. We’re continuously harvesting the low-hanging fruit, for example by driving fisheries stocks to extinction.”
Ehrlich is also concerned about chemical pollution, which has already reached the most remote corners of the globe. “The evidence we have is that toxics reduce the intelligence of children, and members of the first heavily influenced generation are now adults.” [cf. "Idiocracy," the Tea Party]
The book’s strength, Ehrlich says, is that it was short, direct and basically correct. “Its weaknesses were not enough on overconsumption and equity issues. It needed more on women’s rights, and explicit countering of racism – which I’ve spent much of my career and activism trying to counter. 
“Too many rich people in the world is a major threat to the human future, and cultural and genetic diversity are great human resources.”
The High Priests and disciples of the Church of Perpetual Exponential Growth, including our very own Justin Trudeau, refuse to accept that we live on a very finite and already overburdened Earth.  We're already deeply into Overshoot and yet they want that consumption curve above to keep growing. Thinking like that is usually associated with lunatics, drug addicts and hopeless drunks.

Trump's Lawyer Bails

The lawyer heading the Mango Mussolini's legal team on the Mueller investigation is hitting the trail.

John Dowd has reportedly had enough. Some say it's because Trump ignores critical advice. Then again, just yesterday Trump blurted out that he needed "top-tier" legal representation  on this one.

It's enough to make a guy like Dowd ask, "what am I, chopped liver?"

From The Atlantic.
On Tuesday, a White House spokesman insisted that was it. “There are going to be no changes to the White House legal team,” Raj Shah said, a statement that is true only in a legalistic sense, since Dowd headed the president’s team of outside lawyers. 
This shows the problem for any lawyer representing Trump: He lies repeatedly, a liability in any client; and furthermore, no lawyer speaking for him can trust that the president won’t undercut or contradict him soon afterward, just as he does to aides. 
Dowd is the second personal lawyer for Trump to leave, after Marc Kasowitz, who resigned in July 2017, following ill-advised and vulgar emails to strangers. (Mark Corrallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, left around the same time, and has reportedly spoken to Mueller since.) Dowd is a veteran, successful lawyer, and his appointment was viewed by experts as a step up from Kasowitz, who had represented Trump in New York but had little experience with a complex Washington investigation like Mueller’s. 
Dowd did make some notable missteps during his tenure. In addition to the changing attribution of his statement to The Daily Beast about firing Mueller, he was also overheard by a Times reporter speaking loudly about the investigation with Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, at a steakhouse in Washington. Dowd also claimed responsibility for a tweet from Trump’s account, which seemed to contradict the president’s earlier statements about the firing of National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and to some observers implied obstruction of justice by Trump.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Trudeau's Jeeps

Taxi, Taxi!

Justin Trudeau has something in common with Donald Trump. They're both bullshitters. That's the term Obama used to describe his successor, "he's just a bullshitter."

But our prime minister is no slouch either when it comes to bullshitting. Electoral reform - pure bullshit. Social licence - bullshit. Purging the corrupt National Energy Board - bullshit. First Nations consultation - bullshit.

When it comes to bullshit it's hard to beat Justin Trudeau's claim that extracting and exporting as much bitumen as possible is the path to a green future for Canada. That's pretty world class bullshit. World class.

Now a bit of early bullshitting is coming back to bite Trudeau, his claim that Canada was selling Saudi Arabia "jeeps." In reality, we're arming Saudi Arabia with nearly a thousand Death Wagons.

354, about 40 per cent of the total, are heavily armoured personnel carriers - I guess a bullshitter might call that a jeep.  The other 60 per cent are much less benign. Some will be fitted with 105mm. cannons. Others sport anti-tank weaponry. Others still will be armed with rapid-fire 30mm. personnel shredders. Just the thing for crowd control, Saudi-style.

When the the country's Shiite minority get restless the Saudis like to show them the latest in Western technology and the LAV6 is just perfect for the job. It's equally ideal for laying waste to Yemeni civilians. Fortunately for this government the Saudis are also consummate bullshitters - very, very reliable.

The actual configuration of these Saudi Death Wagons was only revealed recently when CBC obtained Canadian government documents.

AggregateIQ Falls Under the Scrutiny of Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein wants to know what role Victoria-based psychographics firm, AggregateIQ played in Northern Ireland's Brexit vote.

Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy has written to the Information Commissioner’s Office asking it to look into the DUP’s connection to AggregateIQ. The party paid the firm £32,750 during the 2016 Brexit referendum. 
It has been alleged that AggregateIQ is linked to Cambridge Analytica, the company at the centre of a scandal over the harvesting and storing of social media users’ data. 
Cambridge Analytica was suspended from Facebook last week after it emerged that data on millions of users had not been destroyed as agreed. 
Whistleblower Chris Wylie, a former research director at the UK-based firm, told Channel 4 a so-called data grab had been carried out on more than 50 million profiles in 2014. 
In December, the Information Commissioner’s Office said AggregateIQ was one of several organisations involved in an investigation aimed at providing insight into “how personal information is used in political campaigns”. 
Mr Molloy said: “As details emerge of mass invasions of privacy allegedly carried out by Cambridge Analytica to assist the far-right Donald Trump and Leave campaigns, the DUP have a duty to tell us what they were buying with their money. I have asked the Information Commissioner’s Office to investigate the DUP’s relationship with this firm during the Brexit campaign.”

AggregateIQ, fittingly, is holed up in offices in Victoria's funky old Market Square building.

This Should Shock You. It Won't.

It seems like every week there are two or three new studies that we ought to find jarring - but we don't. 

A report by the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (Easac) finds that global floods and heavy rain events have increased 50 per cent over just the past decade and are four times more prevalent than they were in 1980.

The paper is based on data from the major German re-insurer, MunichRe.

Other extreme climatological events such as storms, droughts and heatwaves have increased by more than a third this decade and are being recorded twice as frequently as in 1980, the paper by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (Easac) says.
The paper, based partly on figures compiled by the German insurance company Munich Re, also shows that climate-related loss and damage events have risen by 92% since 2010.

Prof Michael Norton, Easac’s environmental programme director, said that greenhouse gas emissions were “fundamentally responsible for driving these changes”. 
“Trends towards extremes are continuing,” he said. “People have experienced extreme weather already - big switches [between] warm and cold winters - but the frequency of these shifts may be changing.” 
“Some of the underlying drivers of extreme weather which were speculative four years ago are now looking less speculative and [more like] credible hypotheses. That is the weakening of the Gulf Stream and the meandering behaviour of the jet stream.”
Now you should find that disturbing, enough that you should demand action on climate change - real action - from our federal government. But I'll bet the farm that there'll be no mass outcry, no demand for Ottawa to act.

Then there's climate migration.  A new study from the World Bank in conjunction with the Potsdam Institute and other groups foresees climate change-driven migration in the order of 140-million refugees by 2050.

World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva said the new research provides a wake-up call to countries and development institutions.

"We have a small window now, before the effects of climate change deepen, to prepare the ground for this new reality," Georgieva said. "Steps cities take to cope with the upward trend of arrivals from rural areas and to improve opportunities for education, training and jobs will pay long-term dividends. It's also important to help people make good decisions about whether to stay where they are or move to new locations where they are less vulnerable."

The research team, led by World Bank Lead Environmental Specialist Kanta Kumari Rigaud and including researchers and modelers from CIESIN Columbia University, CUNY Institute of Demographic Research, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research - applied a multi-dimensional modeling approach to estimate the potential scale of internal climate migration across the three regions.

They looked at three potential climate change and development scenarios, comparing the most "pessimistic" (high greenhouse gas emissions and unequal development paths), to "climate friendly" and "more inclusive development" scenarios in which climate and national development action increases in line with the challenge. Across each scenario, they applied demographic, socioeconomic and climate impact data at a 14-square kilometer grid-cell level to model likely shifts in population within countries.

This approach identified major "hotspots" of climate in- and out-migration - areas from which people are expected to move and urban, peri-urban and rural areas to which people will try to move to build new lives and livelihoods.
That got your attention? I didn't think so. They're talking of something in the range of 17-million migrating out of Latin America but that'll be for the Americans to sort out as they militarize their southern borders, eh?

How about this one? More killer heat waves coming your way soon. Man-made climate change is going to bring you more and hotter heat waves starting early in the 2020s.
A study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change finds that the impacts of humanity's carbon footprint may help drive more extreme summer heat as soon as the 2020s. 
"These are the years that the human contributions to climate change will become as important as natural variability in causing heat waves," said lead author and NOAA meteorologist Hosmay Lopez. "Without human influence, half of the extreme heat waves projected to occur during this century wouldn't happen."

The study points out that heat waves are the top cause of weather-related death in the United States, and they've already become more frequent and intense in recent decades. 
The research used climate models to look at four U.S. regions and assess when we can likely say that climate change will become the leading driver of heat waves over the natural variability of the climate. In other words, when we will be able to say "humans caused this heat wave" and have a better than fifty percent chance of that being an accurate statement. 
For much of California, Nevada and the arid parts of Oregon, Utah, Arizona and Idaho, that will be the case in just a few years, according to the study. The same could be true for the Great Lakes region in the 2030s, while the Great Plains have 30-50 years before they're hit as hard with human-caused heat.
This report seems to dovetail neatly with research dating back several years conducted by the University of Hawaii's Camilo Mora.

Mora foresees a major climate shift that he calls "climate departure" sweeping the globe starting in the early 2020s through 2047. It's a process eerily akin to flipping a light switch. There is a 'before' and there is a very different climate 'after.' Once that switch is flipped every year will be hotter than the hottest year before the switch flipped. It will start in equatorial areas and then spread over the following quarter century into what we now consider temperate areas.

The 2047 date for the whole world is based on continually increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gases. If the world manages to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases, that would be pushed to as late as 2069, according to Mora. 
But for now, Mora said, the world is rushing toward the 2047 date.
"One can think of this year as a kind of threshold into a hot new world from which one never goes back," said Carnegie Institution climate scientist Chris Field, who was not part of the study. "This is really dramatic." 
Mora forecasts that the unprecedented heat starts in 2020 with Manokwari, Indonesia. Then Kingston, Jamaica. Within the next two decades, 59 cities will be living in what is essentially a new climate, including Singapore, Havana, Kuala Lumpur and Mexico City.

This map illustrates the region that will be first affected.  Here's a 2013 summary from HuffPost.

I contacted Dr. Mora to see if there's any update to his now five year old report. He said his group has a backlog of subjects awaiting study and there's simply no money for another multi-year study on climate departure.

This stuff should shock you but it won't. All the warnings calling for decisive action now to avert the worst probably won't cut much ice with a guy who would rather build pipelines to flood the world markets with hazmat bitumen. At least that'd be my guess.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Cambridge Analytica - Why Has Trump Fallen Strangely Silent?

It's not like the Mango Mussolini to go mute when something, anything threatens to impugn his reputation. He's always ready to denounce people as liars or unflattering stories as "fake news."

Why hasn't Trump even dismissed the Cambridge Analytica scandal as a "hoax"?  That's one of his all-time favourites.

What's holding him back?

There must be some answer and it's probably a good one. He must be terrified of making an already bad situation worse with his vile nature and loose tongue.

Don Jr., he's clammed up. Bannon may be hunkering down in Europe, Hungary perhaps? Manafort, he's got enough problems. Lewandowski, mute. Kushner, ditto.

Then there's this from

But the effort to tamp down the Cambridge Analytica scandal will likely become increasingly difficult as lawmakers seize on the revelations. 
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Tuesday cited the scandal as he freshly accused Republicans on the panel for prematurely wrapping up its investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia-driven election meddling.
“Glad to see Cambridge Analytica whistleblower is willing to testify,” Schiff tweeted, referencing news that former Cambridge employee Christopher Wylie was willing to speak with the panel’s Democrats.
“Recent revelations about Erik Prince, Roger Stone and Cambridge Analytica illustrate how GOP decision to shut down their investigation abdicated their oversight responsibilities to country. But our work goes on.” 
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she’d like Nix to testify and answer questions about potential Russia connections, which could lead to a public airing of close ties between the Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica. 
The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

This is Awesome - I Think.

The folks at Grist are billing it the Scopes Monkey Trial for the 21st century. Only this time it isn't evolution on trial but climate change.

The trial pits the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against the major oil companies" BP, Conoco, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell. If preliminary indications hold true, the Oil Majors are in for a rough ride. That begins with the judge, William Alsup.

Alsup’s the guy who blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA, taught himself how to use a programming script for a Silicon Valley lawsuit, and, as part of another tech battle, asked two ride-sharing services to give him a tutorial on self-driving cars to make a better-informed ruling.
Alsup’s quest for a well-rounded education means that before this trial moves forward, both parties must give him a two-part, first-of-its-kind tutorial in climate science in no more than two hours each. It’s a highly unusual request from a judge, experts say, and it will give Americans the opportunity to follow along as big polluters finally go on record about climate science and climate denialism.
Judge Alsup has submitted 14 questions for each party in the case to answer, including:
What caused the various ice ages?
What are the main sources of CO2 that account for the incremental buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere?
Why hasn’t plant life turned the higher levels of CO2 back into oxygen? 
Most of the 14 questions could be answered by a precocious fifth grader. But the hearing, according to Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, will be the first time oil companies defend themselves in court against decades of climate science....
[T]he people of California aren’t suing BP and co. for spills, explosions, or other easily traceable disasters. Rather, they’re suing because those companies:
knew about climate change decades ago,
continued doing business as usual, and
engaged in a world-wide public relations campaign to sow confusion over climate science.
California says the companies have been using deception to profit as the planet warms, and they should pay for the infrastructure the state needs to protect itself against rising sea levels.
The trial is set to get underway on Tuesday.

Cambridge Execs - "We Won the Election for Trump."

Don't these people know when to shut up?

Top execs of Cambridge Analytica were supposedly top experts in dirty tricks but they fell for a hidden camera sting.

Britain's Channel 4 News, in conjunction with The Observer, got Cambridge CEO, Alexander Nix, to boast about the company's prowess at manipulating elections, even "honey pot" operations to manufacture incriminating evidence against target politicians.
The company’s head of data, Alex Tayler, added: “When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3m votes but won the electoral college vote that’s down to the data and the research.
“You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on election day. That’s how he won the election.”
Another executive, Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, was recorded saying: “He won by 40,000 votes in three states. The margins were tiny.”
Turnbull took credit for one of the most well known and controversial campaigns of the last presidential campaign, organised by the political action group Make America Number 1. 
“The brand was ‘Defeat Crooked Hillary’. You’ll remember this of course?” he told the undercover reporter. “The zeros, the OO of crooked were a pair of handcuffs ... We made hundreds of different kinds of creative, and we put it online.” 
Turnbull said the company sometimes used “proxy organisations”, including charities and activist groups, to help disseminate the messages – and keep the company’s involvement in the background.
When the undercover reporter expressed worries that American authorities might seize on details of a dirty campaign, Nix said the US had no jurisdiction over Cambridge Analytica, even though the company is American and is registered in Delaware.
CEO Nix Steps In It - Again

Nix also implied that it was possible to mislead authorities by omission, discussing his appearance in front of the House intelligence committee, for its inquiry into possible Russian election meddling.
The Republicans only asked three questions, which took five minutes, he told the reporter. And while the Democrats spent two hours questioning him, he claimed they were so far out of their depths that he didn’t mind responding.

“We have no secrets. They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works,” he said, when asked about whether he was forced to testify.

He went on to describe how political candidates are manipulated.
“They don’t understand because the candidate never, is never involved. He’s told what to do by the campaign team.” The reporter asks if that means the candidate is just a puppet, and Nix replies simply: “Always.”
Cambridge Analytica, meanwhile, is in full-bore damage control mode, announcing it has "suspended" CEO Alexander Nix. Sorry guys, a bit late for that.

To CBC News

I'm astonished at how poorly CBC News is covering the AggregateIA, Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon, Trump story. They don't see the connections. Coming from our state broadcaster, it's embarrassing. It led me to send the following email to Mother Corp:

You still don't get it. Wylie winds up at SCL, a British military contractor. SCL creates Cambridge Analytica with money floated by American billionaire Robert Mercer. Mercer funds and Steve Bannon apparently directs Cambridge Analytica. They use Kogon's data to mine the Facebook profiles of some 50-million Americans without their knowledge of consent. 
Lewandowski, then working for Trump who is about to announce his candidacy, comes to Cambridge Analytica. Bannon is still running Breitbart. Lewandowski comes and goes, replaced by Manafort.  When Manafort trips up, Bannon becomes Trump's campaign manager. 
Cambridge uses the purloined data on a manipulation campaign. It's said the Trump campaign auto-generates tens of thousands of messages every day, each targeted at a slightly different psychographic profile. Wylie describes "information dominance": whereby their messages literally surround the target voter, playing on their fears and anger and other base instincts. 
Wylie adds that he knew something was up when he was required to brief representatives of a Russian energy company on all this Facebook data. What, he asks, does a Russian oil company want with the data on 50-million Facebook users? That company is owned by an oligarch joined at the hip to Vlad Putin. The data goes to Russia. 
Cambridge hacks facebook and other computer media at one end, the Russians do the same from their end. The Russians come in with their hacked emails and funnel them to Wikipedia where Assange sees to their targeted release. It's a coordinated effort. 
Bannon moves from Cambridge to direct the Trump campaign, becoming Trump's chief strategist. As Sam Nunberg later said, "at the time Steve took control the (Trump) campaign was in dire straights."  Bannon later takes credit for Trump's win. He deserves it. Leaves Trump infuriated. 
The hacking is focused on key states Trump needs to win to take the electoral college. It works. Welcome the 45th president of the United States. 
Trump never expected to win. Many believe he never wanted to win. He had other plans. Cambridge and the Russians essentially propelled him into the White House. 
This information is almost a year old. Why didn't you see it?

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Russian Roulette" - Second Excerpt

In my initial post on Isikoff and Corn's new book, "Russian Roulette," I described it as a recapitulation of facts we already knew but placed in a much clearer light by chronological alignment that enhances context.

Now, as I'm well into the second third of the book I'm appreciating it all the more. It really is a good and helpful read. Interspersed with stuff we know is the odd gem we probably haven't previously heard of because it wasn't made public at the time and for good reason. This excerpt deals with one of those.

It relates to a successful Russian effort to hack the White House in the fall of 2014. Nothing new there. Russia and others routinely try to hack the White House. This hack, however, was different.

For years, US officials had been grappling with Russian cyber intrusions. As far back as 1996, Russian hackers penetrated Defense Department networks and stole documents that, if piled up, would be three times the height of the Washington Monument. In the 2000s, the Chinese were perceived as the biggest cyber threat to the United States - they were stealing data from government databases and American companies practically at will, prompting concerns about a massive theft of USA intellectual property. But the Chinese were noise about it. They left readily identifiable fingerprints. Ledgett, though, had long since become convinced that the Russians were the more sophisticated and stealthy adversary. When it came to cyber intrusions, 'the Chinese would break into your house, smash the windows and steal your cutlery,' he later explained. 'The Russians would pick your lock, reset the alarm, and steal the last five checks in your checkbook so you wouldn't even know they were there.'

This latest Russian assault began as a spearphishing operation aimed at State Department computers. A department employee somewhere opened a spoof email and clicked on an attachment embedded with malware. From there, the malware spread to computers throughout the State Department and US embassies. The department had to shut down its non-classified global network, leaving foreign service officers unable to access their emails. Then the malware jumped to the unclassified network of the White House.

...Once into the networks, the Russian attackers had obtained system administrator privileges and begun writing new code to exfiltrate data. They targeted State Department and National Security Council officials dealing with Russia policy, the war in Syria and the Ukraine crisis, including a previous target of Moscow: Victoria Nuland. They stole a tremendous amount of documents. Obama's private schedule was accessed, downloaded, and beamed back to Moscow.

Holed up in an NSA war room dubbed the 'Battleship,' Ledgett and his colleagues worked around the clock to expel the intruders. But it proved far more difficult than before. When NSA cyber defenders cut the links between the Russians' command and control server and the malware in the networks, the invaders kept coming back, inserting more malware and retrieving more data. 'It was hand-to-hand combat,' Ledgett later observed. 'It was like a fencing match - with thrust and counterthrust.' In past cyber-attacks, the hackers usually fled once discovered. This was different.

At the White House, Daniel, too, was struck by the Russians' new aggressiveness - and their noisiness. 'It was almost like they double-dared us,' he recalled. 'They became even more brazen. They didn't care that we could see them. The Russians had made a strategic decision, and they were sending us a signal.'

As soon as he had learned of the breach, Daniel alerted White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. For the next few weeks, Daniel, McDonough, and Lisa Monaco, Obama's homeland security adviser, met repeatedly to formulate a response. Most of the discussion centered on cyber defense. The White House team concluded there was no way to preserve the existing White House computer network. The cyber experts working on the case could never guarantee that the Russians were completely expelled. The only solution was to burn it down.

That meant turning the system off and replacing it - a project that cost several million dollars. White House staffers lost access to their shared drive folders and the memos and notes they had stored. The full story of this cyber battle would be kept secret.

With all the revelations in recent days about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, the Russians and the Trump campaign, Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon and that geeky kid from Victoria, BC, Chris Wylie, I expect Corn and Isikoff are busy preparing a second edition of "Russian Roulette."

The game is afoot.

Wiley Fingers Lewandowski, Bannon and Trump. Russia Too.

Does Chris Wiley not know that people die for saying less?


Projects, a load of them, costing tens of billions of dollars each now to avoid tens of trillions of dollars of losses and suffering for future generations. See the problem?

We live in a culture of "everyday low taxes." The guy who promises bigger tax cuts tends to be the guy we put in office.

So what's this business with a bucket full of projects at ten billion a pop? Think polar. Think ice caps. Think sea ice. There's a proposal to arrest and possibly reverse the ongoing loss of all that white stuff by implementing a variety of multi-billion dollar geoengineering options.

Scientists have outlined plans to build a series of mammoth engineering projects in Greenland and Antarctica to help slow down the disintegration of the planet’s main glaciers. The controversial proposals include underwater walls, artificial islands and huge pumping stations that would channel cold water into the bases of glaciers to stop them from melting and sliding into the sea.
The researchers say the work – costing tens of billions of dollars a time – is urgently needed to prevent polar glaciers melting and raising sea levels. That would lead to major inundations of low-lying, densely populated areas, such as parts of Bangladesh, Japan and the Netherlands.
Only it's not so much to fix everything. It's more about buying time.

“We think that geoengineering of glaciers could delay much of Greenland and Antarctica’s grounded ice from reaching the sea for centuries, buying time to address global warming,” the scientists write in the current issue of Nature. “Geoengineering of glaciers has received little attention in journals. Most people assume that it is unfeasible and environmentally undesirable. We disagree.”
Ideas put forward by the group specifically target the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic because these will contribute more to sea rise this century than any other source, they say. Their proposals include:
 Building a 100-metre high wall on the seabed across a 5km wide fjord at the end of the Jakobshavn glacier in western Greenland. This would reduce influxes of warming sea water which are eroding the glacier’s base; 
 Constructing artificial islands in front of glaciers in Antarctica in order to buttress them and limit their collapse as their ice melts due to global warming; 
 Circulating cooled brine underneath glaciers such as the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica – in order to prevent their bases from melting and sliding towards the sea.
I'm sure Donald Trump can't wait to put ten or twenty billion dollars a year into the plate, right? Maybe Justin would like to put all that pipeline money aside as Canada's chip-in.

Yeah, right.

Coming Soon to Your Nightly News

There are some 600,000 of them, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, huddled across very steep and very bare slopes in an area of Bangledesh called the Kutupalong-Balukhali settlements. They're huddled close together, living in bamboo huts covered in tarps, waiting for the coming monsoons and maybe a cyclone or two that may kill them off en masse.

Before the Rohingya started crossing into Bangladesh from Myanmar in large numbers in the summer, fleeing attacks on their villages by the army and allied mobs, the hills were dotted with forest.

But then, in a matter of weeks, as refugees poured in by the tens of thousands, trees were hacked away. Canals were dug. Bamboo-and-tarp shacks went up. More trees were cut as refugees scrambled to find firewood.

The hills, where elephants recently roamed, are now bare. Even the roots have been pulled out, leaving nothing to hold the parched soil together as rainwater washes downhill, potentially taking tents and people with it and quickly inundating low-lying settlements. The United Nations says 100,000 refugees are at acute risk from landslides and floods.

Meanwhile the race is on to find available level ground to relocate refugees from the most vulnerable hillside settlements before the Monsoons arrive.

A Monsoon disaster waiting to happen.

A Modest Proposal - A Way Forward for the Kinder Morgan Pipeline?

Most British Columbians oppose the Notley/Trudeau/Big Tar Kinder Morgan pipeline.

We oppose it because of the devastating environmental harm that can be caused by pipeline ruptures and, yes, the record on that score speaks loud and clear.

We oppose it primarily because of the threat to our coastline of severe and lasting environmental calamity when, not if but when, we are hit by a supertanker sinking. This is a threat of decadal, even generational duration.

We oppose it because dilbit, diluted bitumen, is laced with hazardous, hazmat, materials from carcinogens and acids, to pet coke, to various toxins and heavy metals, really persistent stuff that can contaminate our coastal waters perhaps for generations.

We oppose it because no one - not the pipeline companies, not the energy companies, not the province of Alberta and, especially, not the federal government, none of them - has demonstrated that a dilbit spill from a sunken supertanker can and will be effectively cleaned up.  To the contrary, they have admitted they cannot by approving the highly toxic product Corexit as an "oil dispersant" when it really operates to sink oil to the seabed rather than disperse it.

We oppose it because, contrary to the law of Canada, the precautionary principle has not been met. This principle, upheld by the Federal Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada, holds that, when an objection is taken to an apparently hazardous environmental threat, the burden falls on those wishing to pursue those measures to show that it is safe. They have never met this burden. They have never attempted to meet this burden. They have no intention of ever attempting to meet the burden imposed on them.

We oppose it for its pointlessness. It will do no good. Unlike Norway, which has amassed the world's largest sovereign wealth fund from oil production considerably less than Alberta's, Alberta has instead chosen, as that province's favourite bumper sticker notes, to simply "piss it all away." That's the story of Alberta, massive oil wealth simply pissed away.

We oppose it because this high cost, high carbon bitumen, the filthiest ersatz oil on the planet, will be burned somewhere, will create massive greenhouse gas emissions somewhere, and, as the top scientists from around the world have warned, will prevent the world from ever reaching its Paris Climate Accord target of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have been put on notice, this will wreck our climate.

We oppose it because its sponsors, Trudeau and Notley, are so insistently pushing this pipeline not for the good of the planet, not for the good of British Columbia, but in their own partisan political interests. They're selling us out for their political advantage. They are petro-pols, we are petro-pawns denied a voice in the "national interest."

Yet, in the spirit of compromise, there are steps that can be taken to ameliorate our objections.

First let's stop the lying. Trudeau says they've "done the science." They haven't. The Royal Society says it hasn't been done. Environment Canada says it hasn't been done. David Shindler, the University of Alberta's world renowned ecologist says it hasn't been done.

Do the science. Do the research. Do it openly, transparently. Show us how safe it is. Prove it. Don't expect us to take Trudeau's word. His word means nothing. And if the pro-pipeline's plans aren't safe we'll know what they need to do to make it safe.

If you can find a way to do this safely, put every measure necessary for that purpose in place before that expanded pipeline goes into operation. We've seen how Notley and her predecessors have done with those inland lakes, the tailing ponds of Athabasca, visible to the naked eye from space. They've once again allowed the bitumen producers to put that on the "never, never" tab and will doubtless be left holding the bag when the bitumen market goes bust. No more "never, never."

Alberta must agree to take responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with bitumen. Not just the extraction and transportation associated with dilbit but the emissions from foreign refining, including the secondary burning of pet coke, the highest carbon coal on the planet.

Alberta should give British Columbia control of half and, for Ottawa, all royalties from the bitumen trade to be used, not on behalf of BC, but on behalf of Alberta and Canada. Let the province bearing the risk prescribe how that money shall be used for environmental purposes both within Alberta and across Canada. Once Alberta and Ottawa get those revenues into their general treasury, they're gone and the problems associated with those activities will be kicked down the road for future governments and future generations of Albertans and Canadians to confront.

Trudeau tells us that this bitumen trafficking is the key to a greener future for Canada. Not only is that wildly counter-intuitive but he's never even suggested a link between bitumen royalties and meaningful, effective action on climate change adaptation and remediation. This disconnect is Trudeau's way of saying, I'm lying right into your face - again. He's pulling this right out of his ass.

So, yeah. It won't be our money. We won't get to keep the money. We'll just manage it to help achieve that greener future for Alberta and for Canada that Trudeau keeps harping about. We will allocate all that money to those very purposes.  Because if we don't do it, it will never be done.

So let's get those researchers hired. Let's build their laboratories. Let's get this ball rolling. Eh, Justin? Eh, Rachel?