Thursday, March 22, 2018

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?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Trudeau's Dirty Double Dealing Explored - Michael Harris, iPolitics.

We all loved Michael Harris when he would sink his teeth into Stephen Harper. Now some of us don't love him quite so much when he calls Justin Trudeau out for the same things.

Among those "things" are the Kinder Morgan pipeline and Trudeau's betrayal of the people of British Columbia.  Harris writes that Trudeau is giving BC a northern 'Standing Rock.'

Last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck granted the U.S. oil company a permanent injunction to keep protesters away from the construction zone.
A day after that, the Mounties moved in and arrested an unlikely group of villains — Indigenous leaders and “water protectors.” These are middle-aged moms and housewives worried about native rights and the environment, and the odd university student. 
Back in 2015, while Trudeau was campaigning for the top job, he said governments may grant permits, but only local communities can give permission. On this, as in many other issues, the ‘Great Promiser’ changes his tune more times than a DJ at a wedding reception. 
The fact is, the prime minister doesn’t have the support of the Musqueam, Squamish or Tsleil-Waututh nations. Nor does he have the support of elements of the Secwepemc nation, who do not want pipelines across their vast, unceded territories in British Columbia. 
As reported in The Guardian, when the original Trans Mountain project was built in 1951, the Secwepemc nation couldn’t oppose because they were firmly under the thumb of the white establishment. First Nations people could neither organize politically, nor hire a lawyer.
But elements of the First Nations are not the only ones against Kinder Morgan. The project is also opposed by the province of British Columbia, the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, Victoria, and 19 other municipalities, as well as 23,000 coast protectors, and a quarter of a million petitioners. That’s a lot of local rejection by anyone’s measure.

But as the late, great Stephen Hawking, scientist extraordinaire and master spirit of reason, might have put it, what is a politician’s fate compared to the destiny of an entire planet?
That is the saddest part of Trudeau’s stand on this project. No matter how he twists the truth, the science is not with him on this desperate role of the dice to save Notley’s political bacon. In fact, the science is not on anyone’s side, as internationally acclaimed Canadian scientist David Schindler wrote last week in the Vancouver Sun.
This is how complete the government’s ignorance is on the question of the impact of a major spill of diluted bitumen on the B.C. coast. 
According to Schindler, no one really knows if the stuff would sink or float. No one knows the actual effect on marine life. No one knows how long it would hang around in the event of a major spill. There is a reason. No one has conducted the ocean research. ...
Trudeau is resolving doubt in favour of a potentially catastrophic product for B.C.’s coast line, marine life and rivers. Because there is no indisputable evidence that a spill of bitumen would spell disaster for the environment, the prime minister is proceeding as if it is safe to do so. It is the oldest con of all.
Ask yourself this. Why hasn't the federal government done the necessary research? Why hasn't the province of Alberta, which stands, supposedly, to gain so much, done the research? Why haven't the Alberta bitumen barons done the research? Why not? They've had twenty years, more, to do that research. They've had all that time to make their case, to assuage the anger and worry of our First Nations and coastal British Columbians.

The "precautionary principle" which is the law of Canada, upheld by the Federal Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada, puts the onus on those forcing this pipeline on us to prove it safe. Trudeau and Notley flout that law and, instead, threaten British Columbia when its premier seeks to do the very research and testing they've shirked.

So, you proud Liberals, tell me something. Why do you think your government and your prime minister (no, he's not my prime minister) can run roughshod over this province, our people, my friends, my family, me? Why do you imagine your prime minister can feed us endless lies and place our environment and our coastal waters in peril for the sake of his political fortunes? Why?

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.