33 ways you’re being tracked online

face-bug

by @iamdylancurran
Images by Anthony Freda

Want to freak yourself out? Consider how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realizing it:

1. Timeline: Google stores your location (if you have it turned on) every time you turn on your phone, from the first day you started using Google on your phone.

2. Locations visited and how long it took you to get from previous one.

3. Google My Activity: Google stores search history across all your devices on a separate database so even if you delete your search history and phone history, Google still stores everything until you go in and delete everything and you have to do this on all devices.

4. Google ads: Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10lbs in one day?) and income.

5. Google stores information on every app and extension you use, how often you use them, where you use them and who you use them to interact with (who do you talk to on Facebook, what countries are you speaking with, what time do you go to sleep?) on Google Permissions.

6. YouTube search history: Google stores all of your YouTube history so they know whether you’re going to be a parent soon, if you’re a conservative, if you’re a progressive, if you’re Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, if you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, if you’re anorexic.

7. Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I’ve requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB-big, which is roughly three million Word documents.

8. Google takeout: This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve bought through Google.

9. Your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you’ve purchased, the Google groups you’re in, the websites you’ve created, the phones you’ve owned, the pages you’ve shared, how many steps you walk in a day…

10. Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information. Mine was roughly 600mb, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents.

11. This includes every message you’ve ever sent or been sent, every file you’ve ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone and all the audio messages you’ve ever sent or been sent.

12. Facebook also stores what it thinks you might be interested in based on the things you’ve liked and what you and your friends talk about (I apparently like the topic ‘Girl’).

13. Somewhat pointlessly, they also store all the stickers you’ve ever sent on Facebook.

14. They also store every time you log into Facebook, where you logged in from, what time and from what device.

15. And they store all the applications you’ve ever had connected to your Facebook account, so they can guess I’m interested in politics and web and graphic design, that I was single between X and Y period with the installation of Tinder and I got an HTC phone in November.

16. Side-note: If you have Windows 10 installed, the privacy options have 16 different sub-menus, which have all of the options enabled by default when you install Windows.

17. They track where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your e-mails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive.

18. The files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to.

19. This is one of the craziest things about the modern age; we would never let the government or a corporation put cameras/microphones in our homes or location trackers on us, but we just went ahead and did it ourselves because “F*ck it, I want to watch cute dog videos.”

20. The Google Takeout document has all my information, with breakdown of all the different ways they get your information.

21. Their search history document, which has 90,000 different entries, even shows the images I downloaded and the websites I accessed.

22. Google Calendar shows all the events I’ve ever added, whether I actually attended them and what time I attended them.

23. Google Drive includes files I explicitly deleted, including my resume, my monthly budget and all the code, files, and websites I’ve ever made and even my PGP private key, which I deleted, which I use to encrypt e-mails.

24. Google Fit, which shows all of the steps I’ve ever taken, any time I walked anywhere, and all the times I’ve recorded any meditation/yoga/workouts I’ve done (I deleted this information and revoked Google Fit’s permissions).

25. All the photos ever taken with my phone, broken down by year and includes metadata of when and where the photos were taken.

26. Every e-mail I’ve ever sent, that’s been sent to me, including the ones I deleted or were categorized as spam.

27. And now my Google Activity; this has thousands of files so I’ll just do a short summary of what they have.

28. Firstly every Google Ad I’ve ever viewed or clicked on, every app I’ve ever launched or used and when I did it, every website I’ve ever visited and what time I did it at and every app I’ve ever installed or searched for.

29. Every image I’ve ever searched for and saved, every location I’ve ever searched for or clicked on, every news article I’ve ever searched for or read, and every single Google search I’ve made since 2009.

30. And then finally, every YouTube video I’ve ever searched for or viewed, since 2008.

31. I’m probably on an FBI watch-list now, so if I die in the next few months, it wasn’t an accident, it was a set-up.

32. This information has millions of nefarious uses and violates multiple human rights. You’re not a terrorist? Then how come you were googling ISIS? Work at Google and you’re suspicious of your wife? Perfect, just look up her location and search history for the last 10 years.

33. Manage to gain access to someone’s Google account? Perfect, you have a chronological diary of everything that person has done for the last 10 years.

Vancouver: the day the media died

truth-in-journalism-rip-not

Will legacy media survive obvious false equivalency?

by Bruce Mason

Blip. Blip. Mainly comatose for ages, that’s the sound of mainstream media in the Lower Mainland. A weak, worrisome flat-line from a sad, deteriorating shadow of its former self.

But the epic failure to properly cover the first First Nation’s Kinder Morgan pipeline protest and Kwekwecnewtxw (watch house) construction was a widely exposed nail in the corporate media coffin. The latest injury, self inflicted, was complicated by a combination of severe circulation loss, ownership quackery and deceitful malpractice.

We’ve learned, by now, local media doesn’t work, especially on weekends and holidays when, supposedly, nothing happens, except sports or rock concerts. So on March 10, it was skeleton crews in newsrooms, in the city and on Burnaby Mountain that screwed up the biggest story in a generation. Even CBC-Radio lost its voice and loyal listeners, having to apologize in a re-vamped story and clarification. Good old Mother Corp. got earfulls from an angry, ongoing chorus.

Compare pictures. On one side: 10,000 protectors, swamping the Lake City Way Skytrain station and rallying at the Trudeau-Notley-Kinder Morgan clear-cut sacrifice zone. On the other side: 100+ out-of-towners, bussed from Alberta, casually shuffling around with other tourists, snapping selfies beneath the now-extinguished Winter Olympic flame.

One hundred to one, given equal time and coverage. The obscenely rich one percent own most of the world’s power and media. But there were more anti-pipeline protestors in Edmonton than imported pro-pipeliners in Vancouver. And many more volunteers at the gates of the Kinder Morgan tank farm than pipe-dreaming visitors downtown.

Facebook comments included, “What’s wrong with this picture?… False equivalence, like American-style Sean Spicer BS… CBC is no longer a voice of the people. So sad… Like giving flat-Earthers equal media time during the launch of a spaceship… a boycott of Global is in order… the pro-pipeline event was organized by Albertans. Figures.”

Meanwhile, coverage in Seattle and San Francisco was far superior, being fairer and more accurate. Then again, it took the New York Times to expose BC as the “Wild West of Canadian Politics.” So we leave it to them and the independents and social media to report on the ongoing international story of “Standing Rock, North.”

Blah… blah. Radio? CKNW has transmogrified from “Top Dog” into a Fox News sub-station. The lights are out and no one’s home, let alone being worthy of finding ice for Jack Webster’s scotch or stirring Rafe Mair’s coffee.

Anchors aweigh? There isn’t a TV personality in this town who wouldn’t be light weight on a set next to Tony Parsons. Fade to black. In the words of another former press legend, Allan Fotheringham, “It’s all fuzzifying of the muddification.” Chit-chat.

Current would-be reporters shrink in comparison to those who built the Vancouver Sun and Province, invented talk radio and earned our attention and ratings – the once-proud tradition of fearlessly engaged and competent journalism. From tall shoulders, our contemporary cub-pack of wannabees have tumbled, feeble and spineless.

Know that it wasn’t always this way, or this bad. Bob Hunter co-founded Greenpeace through his Sun column, with publicly raised funds, including a benefit concert featuring two virtual unknowns: Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. It stopped a US nuclear bomb test way up in Alaska!

Essential history: we on the west-coast shouted “No way!” much like today’s “You’ll never build your deadly pipeline or tanker traffic here!” Not in a hard-won Nuclear-Free Zone where 200,000+ people marched in Vancouver’s Walk for Peace and will link arms once again. Likely in larger numbers to shut down yet another greed-driven American assault on life. That’s our real legacy.

I was once a writer for the Vancouver Show, comprised of two hours of live television, five nights a week. How I long to see Grand Chief Stewart Phillip emerge from a green room for more than a few edited seconds. Even if we can’t have inspiration and advocacy, we deserve balanced information that informs and reflects our reality. Hello, that’s the job of journalism. Or it used to be.

Instead, we get shameful “false equivalence,” worthy of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration crowd-size claims, with alt-right-like speculation: protestors, supposedly paid by US agitators, or manipulated by Russian hackers.

Legacy media have all but ignored the corruption and criminal greed that flipped Vancouver into the unaffordability stratosphere. They knowingly and wilfully hid and shilled on BC Hydro, ICBC, Site C boondoggles and so much more. Now, they been caught out, clearly no longer required, or believed.

The last word goes to Hunter S. Thompson: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.”

Support independent media in the days ahead; inform and engage on social media and in-person. Text the word ‘READY’ to #52267 for when and how you can help stop Kinder Morgan and share in the story of our lifetime.

photo montage by Tom Voydh

Money, power, control and democracy

money-door

How money controls democracy and blocks electoral reform

by Jeff and Diana Jewell

In Canada, we’re told we have democracy. But do we?

Lincoln defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Ours works more like ‘government of the people, by the political power-brokers, for their wealthy patrons and themselves.’

Here’s how the real world runs: money + power = control.

So how does this reality trump democracy? After all, we do have ‘free’ elections, don’t we? No! Our elections aren’t ‘free,’ they’re very costly. Money controls who runs and especially who wins. Money controls the winners and what they do with their temporary grip on political power.

Does money control politics through simple corruption? Rarely. It’s mostly money sponsoring those who’ve pledged allegiance to money and they always need more money for their next election.

How does money control politicians? Lobbyists are the ‘guns for hire’ who work on behalf of money, often via backroom deals in the leader’s office.

Canada still suffers under its British colonial electoral system called FPTP (first-past-the-post). Citizens have a single vote for a local representative. Because any vote for a losing candidate is ‘wasted,’ FPTP coerces many voters (about one-third) into voting for a ‘lesser of evils,’ trying to block a party they really don’t want.

The people do not elect ‘their’ government. The government is elected by the Assembly of Representatives, based on the number of seats won by each party, always disproportional to their vote-share. Under FPTP, the government is always a distortion of the ‘will of the people.’ FPTP also produces other distortions and gives the winning party an unfair advantage matched by an unfair disadvantage to losing parties.

The two most undemocratic consequences of FPTP are: (1) the ‘two-party’ system (any number of parties can run, but only two have any chance of winning, the others doomed to the role of ‘spoilers’; (2) FPTP distortions routinely produce ‘false-majority’ governments, more than half the seats and total control with much less than half the votes.

Supreme power still resides in the monarch, but the monarch delegates control to a prime minister or premier. That leader appoints a ‘cabinet,’ a committee of representatives chosen to sit as an executive body, each controlling a department of government. So the leader controls the cabinet and decisions of cabinet become the decisions of government, which are presented for the Legislature’s approval, effectively a ‘rubber stamp’ under majority government.

This is the true system of power and control that operates under the guise of democratic process.

Since FPTP always cheats a large majority of voters, candidates and parties, a call for electoral reform periodically arises, usually when a party that was victimized by FPTP wins. But as winners, they’ve become beneficiaries of FPTP distortions, so a promise of electoral reform becomes an inconvenient conflict of interest. Their usual recourse is a fake (made-to-fail) study and/or referendum process.

The political power-brokers know that most people have no interest in electoral systems and can easily be duped by a negative campaign, run by political pros/lobbyists to exploit public apathy and raise anxiety about changes.

It’s never asked: “Who benefits from preserving the status quo?” The political power-brokers under FPTP’s two-party system are obvious beneficiaries, as FPTP enables their shared stranglehold on power. But those players are only short-term employees of a permanent enterprise: the ‘money-power-control’’ conglomerate, owned and operated by the establishment.’

Who are ‘the establishment?’ Formerly called ‘the oligarchy,’ it began with kings and the aristocracy, later adding the landed gentry and the moneyed class. In our day, it’s dominated by leaders of the banking/financial institutions and great corporations. They, not the politicians, control the nations and their economies. They hire the lobbyists who do their backroom deals.

Their perpetual control is facilitated by FPTP with its false-majority governments, but would be impeded by PR under its minority governments.

As to a referendum on proportional representation (PR), the public is oblivious to these realities. But the money-power-control gang(sters) are vitally concerned and determined to protect their interests. So what are the chances that a referendum on PR would somehow be sabotaged?

What are the chances that a YES campaign might be infiltrated by a Trojan horse using an ancient strategy of duplicity? Without dirty tricks, the YES campaign might inconveniently serve up an alternative that the NO campaign could not defeat!

Considering what’s at stake for the money-power-control cabal, can you really expect a PR referendum campaign to be an honest exercise in democracy – or covertly manipulated in the interests of money and power to preserve their control?

Jeff and Diana Jewell are long-time activists, with a special commitment to electoral reform. Jeff is a retired computer systems manager who worked for the City of Burnaby and a former Councillor in the District of Mission. Please send any questions or comments to:

info@ElectoralJusticeNow.ca
www.ElectoralJusticeNow.ca

photo montage by Tom Voydh / door photo © Marilyn Barbone

First-past-the-post system vulnerable

thumbs-up-down

Cambridge Analytica targets voters to influence election outcomes

Revelations late last month about Cambridge Analytica’s use of psychographic targeting to influence elections should be of special concern to Canadians because of our first-past-the-post electoral system and the way it amplifies minor swings in electoral preferences. This makes us especially vulnerable to the sort of targeted manipulation of the electoral process that brought Donald Trump to power in the US.

In Canada, a few thousand votes in a handful of swing ridings can make the difference between one party or another forming government. Seats in swing ridings can swing on a dime and governments can rise or fall from grace based on the smallest of changes. Some stark examples:

In 2011, Stephen Harper’s majority government was won by a total of just 6,201 votes in 14 highly contested swing ridings.

In 2014, the Ontario Liberal Party went from minority status to a strong majority position after increasing its share of the vote from 37.7% to 38.7%.

In 2017, the BC NDP went from opposition status with 39.7% of the vote to forming government with 40.3% of the vote. Had they lost the Courtenay-Comox riding, which they won by only 189 votes, the Liberals would have formed a majority government instead!

This is standard fare under first-past-the-post in one way or another. And not just in Canada. The UK faces the same problem, as does the US.

It stands in contrast with proportional systems, where an increase from 1% increase in a party’s share of the vote leads to a 1% change in its share of seats and it takes hundreds of thousands or millions of votes to significantly influence the result.

The sensitivity of our first-past-the-post system to small shifts in voter preferences leads to the sort of hyper-partisan behaviour we have come to expect in Canada and increases the incentives to engage in dirty tricks and wedge politics. While we have come to expect this, modern social media technology is taking the dangers of our electoral system to new levels.

The stage is set for a perfect storm when politicians’ all-consuming passion to win under first-past-the-post is buttressed by companies like Cambridge Analytica, which is capable of manipulating key segments of the voting population with misinformation and scaremongering tactics targeted at vulnerable segments of the population.

Cambridge Analytica’s website boasts of involvement in more than 100 elections around the world. One should add to this their involvement in the continent-shaking Brexit referendum.

Could the same thing happen in Canada? According to Fair Vote Canada’s President Réal Lavergne, “Canadians have every reason to be worried because of the ease with which results can be manipulated under our our winner-take-all electoral system. It’s time for Canadians and politicians to wake up to the fact that our antiquated electoral system is not just excruciatingly unfair to voters. It is downright dangerous!”

Source: Fair Vote Canada, fairvote.ca

Editor’s note: From the Cambridge Analytica website – “Cambridge Analytica uses data to change audience behavior. Visit our Commercial or Political divisions to see how we can help you.”

Science betrayed: the crime of denial

by Elizabeth Woodworth and Dr. Peter Carter

Climate change denial has been led by industry disinformation, which, according to Merriam-Webster, is “false information deliberately and often covertly spread in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.”

A crime against humanity is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “a deliberate act, typically as part of a systematic campaign that causes human suffering or death on a large scale.”

A brief look at the origins of denialism

unprecedented crime book coverIn 2010, a landmark book, Merchants of Doubt, showed how a small group of prominent scientists with connections to politics and industry led disinformation campaigns denying established scientific knowledge about smoking, acid rain, DDT, the ozone layer and global warming.

Written by Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Harvard science historian, and NASA historian Erik Conway, Merchants was reviewed by Bill Buchanan of The Christian Science Monitor as “the most important book of 2010” and by The Guardian’s Robin McKie as “the best science book of the year.” It was followed by the 2014 documentary of the same name, also widely seen and reviewed.

The research showed how the disinformation tactics of the tobacco companies in the 1960s to undermine the scientific link between smoking and lung cancer served as a model for subsequent oil company tactics suppressing climate change science.

Following the U.S. Surgeon General’s landmark report on smoking and lung cancer in 1964, the government legislated warning labels on cigarette packages. But a tobacco company executive from Brown & Williamson had a brainwave: people still wanted to smoke and doubt about the science would give them a ready excuse.

His infamous 1969 memo read: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

Tobacco industry executives never directly denied the mounting evidence that cigarettes were linked to lung cancer. Instead, they stated publicly that the science was controversial. In this way they managed to delay regulation and lawsuits until the 1990s.

When the global warming science began to emerge in the 1980s, the oil industry employed the same deceptions. The whole focus was now on creating doubt in the minds of the politicians, the media and the public about whether we really know for sure that climate change is a problem. Doubt, as the tobacco industry had learned so profitably, delays action.

When the IPCC was formed in 1988 and began documenting and publicizing the impacts of climate change, the climate disinformation campaign grew more intense. Big Oil employed the same tactics, arguments, vocabulary and PR firms that the tobacco companies had used to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking 25 years earlier.

The American Petroleum Institute convened a Global Climate Science Communications Team in 1998 to devise a plan targeting the media, schools, government officials, Congress and other influential groups.

The team’s mission, exposed in a leaked 1998 memo, was to initiate “a national media relations programme to inform the media about uncertainties in climate science; to generate national, regional and local media on the scientific uncertainties and thereby educate and inform the public, stimulating them to raise questions with policymakers.” They said victory would be achieved when:

  • Average citizens understand (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the “conventional wisdom.”
  • Media “understands” (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science.
  • Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current “conventional wisdom.”
  • Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy.
  • Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extent science appears [sic] to be out of touch with reality.

A 2009-2014 study shows that climate change deniers promoting these uncertainties were prominently featured on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, ABC, CBS, and PBS in a striking number of TV appearances – indeed three years after the publication of Merchants of Doubt. These deniers included the non-climate scientists:

  • Marc Morano (Bachelor PoliSci) from Climate Depot, 30 TV appearances.
  • Tim Phillips (Bachelor PoliSci) from Americans for Prosperity, 7 appearances.
  • Fred Singer (physicist) from the Science and Environmental Policy Project, 8 appearances.
  • James Taylor (lawyer), from the Heartland Institute, 8 appearances.

Although these men lack credentials in climate science and have been widely exposed as imposters, the major cable TV and networks still give them credibility on their free media platforms.

The corporate media has thus given a relatively small group of science deniers with financial connections to the fossil fuel industry immense influence in sowing doubt on the scientific consensus of human-made climate change.

Climate denial propaganda & influence continue to rise

In 2016, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that “an in-depth analysis of eight leading fossil fuel companies finds that none of them has made a clean break from disinformation on climate science and policy.” The companies included were ArchCoal, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Consol Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody and Shell. The industry has responded to the spotlight by intensifying propaganda through the agents below.

The Heartland Institute: In March 2017, the Heartland Institute began targeting the nation’s 200,000 science teachers by mailing each a copy of its new book and DVD, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming. The slick package stated that, even if climate change were real, “it would probably not be harmful, because many areas of the world would benefit from or adjust to climate change.”

The Koch Brothers: The multibillionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are two of the most powerful people in the global oil industry, owning Koch Industries, a $100-billion conglomerate employing 100,000 people in 60 countries. They control 1-2 million acres of Alberta’s tar sands. The Kochs, bigger than either of the Democratic or Republican parties, manipulate both. A major focus of Koch money has been to ensure that no legislation is passed to curb the burning of fossil fuels. The brothers have gained pledges from 170 members of Congress that they will never support a tax on carbon. While attacking legitimate climate scientists, the Kochs were funding prominent pseudo-climate-scientists.

ExxonMobil: In 2015, we learned from its own research that Exxon has known since 1980 that global warming is real. Kert Davies, former research Director of Greenpeace USA, revealed through ExxonSecrets.org that, meanwhile, ExxonMobil’s climate change denial funding totaled at least $33 million during the period 1997-2016. “At least $33 million” because much of the funding has been channeled through dark identity scrubbing groups such as Donors Trust and Donors Capital.

Secret funding by coal companies: In April 2017, Peabody Energy, the country’s largest investor-owned coal company, declared bankruptcy, following Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources. In all three cases, court-ordered disclosures revealed creditors well known as climate science deniers. These included Chris Horner, who regularly disparages climate science on Fox News and has called for investigations of IPCC and NASA scientists.

As Dr. James Hansen had observed in 2012, this is “not an accident. There is a very concerted effort by people who would prefer to see business continue as usual.”

Whitehouse was one of the first in Congress to propose a civil case, similar to the racketeering suit Bill Clinton brought against the tobacco industry, against fossil-fuel companies for deliberately misleading the public on climate science.

Dr. Michael Mann sums it up: “The gulf between scientific opinion and public opinion has been bought with hundreds of millions of dollars of special interest money… The number of lives that will be lost because of the damaging impacts of climate change is in the hundreds of millions; to me, it’s not just a crime against humanity; it’s a crime against the planet.”

Climate change denial as a crime against humanity

As cited earlier, a crime against humanity is “a deliberate act, typically as part of a systematic campaign that causes human suffering or death on a large scale.”

We have established that the decades-long blocking and lying about scientific evidence on the dangers of human-caused global warming has been deliberate. So the question arises, how many people have been, or will be, hurt or killed by climate change?

Many studies have been done over time. To cite a few:

“Climate change is increasing the global burden of disease and in the year 2000 was responsible for more than 150,000 deaths worldwide. Of this disease burden, 88% fell upon children.”

According to a March 2017 report from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, “a quarter of Americans can name one way in which climate change is affecting their health. This is seen by physicians across the country.”

A 15-author 2016 report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program warns that people suffering chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental illness and obesity are being threatened by climate change.

A global estimate was supplied by an independent report commissioned by 20 countries in 2012 to study the human and economic costs of climate change. The DARA study wrote that it linked 400,000 deaths worldwide to climate change each year, projecting deaths to increase to over 600,000 per year by 2030… Heat waves kill many, to be sure, but global warming also devastates food security, nutrition and water safety. Since mosquitoes and other pests thrive in hot, humid weather, scientists expect diseases like malaria and dengue fever to rise. Floods threaten to contaminate drinking water with bacteria and pollution.

When the report looked at the added health consequences from burning fossil fuels – aside from climate change – the number of deaths jumps from 400,000 to almost five million per year. Carbon-intensive economies see deaths linked to outdoor air pollution, indoor smoke from poor ventilation, occupational hazards and skin cancer.

When disinformation known to be false is systematically used to deny dangerous realities that harm public health and kill millions of people, the deception clearly crosses the line to become a crime against humanity.

Conclusion

The 2014 IPCC 5th assessment Summary for Policy Makers, along with previous IPCC assessments, is solid proof of the unprecedented crime represented by today’s level and rate of increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas pollution. It is definite because policy makers representing all world governments sit on the IPCC Panel and before the assessment can be published, they scrutinize the assessment line-by-line for government approval.

As governments from high-emitting countries continue – against the will of their own citizens and of the nations most vulnerable to climate change – to allow the global climate catastrophe to unfold, they simply cannot say that they did not know. Participation in formulating the IPCC summaries makes the large GHG-polluting national governments undeniably culpable for their continued lack of action to bring about a rapid decline in global emissions.

Not only have they betrayed the IPCC science. While doing so, they have pampered the lucrative fossil fuel industry with trillions of dollars in subsidies worldwide. But worst of all they have failed to protect their citizens – now and for future generations. This is the crime of all time.

Excerpted with permission from Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival by Elizabeth Woodworth and Dr. Peter Carter (Clarity Press). Elizabeth Woodworth is a writer on climate change science and activism, co-author of Unprecedented Climate Mobilization and co-producer of the COP21 video A Climate Revolution for All. Dr. Peter Carter is founder of the Climate Emergency Institute. He served as an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth climate change assessment in 2014. He is a former family and emergency medicine practitioner.

Calling All Coffee Lovers

Level Ground Trading

“We have one goal: to alleviate poverty through trade.”
– Stacey Toews, co-founder of Level Ground Trading

It all started in 1997. Four families in Victoria, BC came together with the idea of improving the lives of disadvantaged farmers through trade. They were inspired by groups like Ten Thousand Villages and set out to be fair and direct with small-scale producers of everyday consumables.

Their first relationship was with small-scale coffee farmers in Colombia. The social impact portion of their purchase price has been funding education for farmers’ children since Level Ground’s inception. For them, it’s been rewarding to see children go to school, become educated, and return to their communities to work as Doctors, Agronomists, and Social Workers. Level Ground’s work didn’t stop there: soon other Fair Trade relationships followed. Today, they import the annual harvest of 5000 farmers in 10 countries trading coffee, tea, dried fruit, sugar, spices, rice, vanilla beans and coconut oil.

Storytelling has always been foundational for Level Ground. Their stories start right on the package. On each package, you will find a farmer face and name. Each farmer is paid for the use of their photo. For Level Ground, it’s one more way they can provide transparency.

But, what does this practice of Fair Trade mean for consumers? It’s simple: quality. When you pay farmers a fair price, they save the best for you. Level Ground goes directly to the source, cultivates relationships, and receives the highest quality products in return.

Level Ground is proud to celebrate 20 years of partnering with small-scale farmers in developing countries. It is their mission to trade fairly and directly, offering consumers ethical choices. To learn more about Level Ground, its products and farmers, or purchase online, visit levelground.com

Visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LevelGroundTrading/

Free your vote 2.0

vote

by Paul George

“Your input will help shape the future of our democracy,” declares a November 17 BC government press release. The release announces the BC government has introduced legislation to hold a referendum in the fall of 2018 through a mail-in vote that will ask voters to decide whether BC should keep our current voting system (First-Past-the-Post) or move to a system of Proportional Representation. engage.gov.bc.ca/howwevote/

It also introduced a public engagement process with feedback via an online questionnaire to help shape the referendum. Public input ends on February 28, 2018 at 4PM, after which the input will be compiled into a report by the Ministry of Attorney General and made public.

But before the government’s process was even launched, the BC Liberals were vigorously fighting against any electoral reform. Why? Why not give the process and ultimate proposal a fair hearing?

The Liberals had a different tack after they won the 2001general election. That election blatantly illustrated the unfair results that a first-past-the-post voting system can deliver in multi-party democracies. The Liberals, with 57% of the popular vote, elected 77 MLAs, a whooping 97.5% of the seats in the legislature. The NDP, with 21.5% of the vote, won just two seats (Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan). The upstart Green Party, with 12.4% of the popular vote, got no seats, no representation and no chance to present its ideas in the legislature for debate.

Nearly everyone, including Campbell, realized election results like that aren’t good for democracy and so he created the Citizens’ Assembly On Electoral Reform to come up with a fairer voting system to put to the electorate for a vote.

Unfortunately, the Citizen’s Assembly did not deliver an alternative that voters supported. Under the tutelage of two political scientists who were experts in a system called Single Transferable Vote (STV), a system used only in Malta, Ireland and certain jurisdictions in Australia, the Assembly voted to adopt STV and worked to craft a tailor-made version suitable for BC.

STV systems are inherently complicated. They are characterized by multi-member ridings, with voters ranking their candidate preferences and a ballot tallying system that redistributes an elector’s votes when their more preferred choices meet defeat. Computers are used to determine who is elected in a timely way.

BC’s 2005 provincial election included the first “Yes” or “No” referendum question on STV: “Should British Columbia change to the BC-STV electoral system as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform?” 57.7% of the voters said yes, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to overcome the 60% super majority passage imposed by the BC Liberal government at the onset of the Assembly.

The voters at the time truly did support the Citizens Assembly. It was an innovative and exciting process involving people just like them. But there was no way they could have understood the system they voted “yes” for. There were no details. The made-in-BC STV system had not yet been designed.

To their credit, the Liberal government gave BC voters another chance to adopt the STV system in the 2009 provincial election. Between the two elections, the made-in-BC STV system was developed and a map of the proposed new ridings was circulated.

In the 2009 STV referendum, voter support plummeted. Why? Most political pundits figure it was because the devil was in the details. It was a complicated system. Electoral districts had varied numbers of MLAs. Some had seven; others (in the north) only two. Voter choice and the chance for representation varied as to where a person lived, which some perceived as not entirely fair. Some BC voters did not like the idea of ranking a long list of candidates. Some didn’t understand how voters got “transferred” and didn’t like having to trust a computer to tell them the results. This time, voters soundly rejected the Citizens Assembly’s recommendation. Only 39% voted for BC STV.

But the rejection of STV did not necessarily mean voters didn’t support electoral reform and a fairer voting system for BC.

What the Citizens of the Assembly proposed and what BC voters wanted were at odds. This was even known by some Assembly members before they decided on STV.

Prior to choosing which electoral system to propose for BC, the Citizen’s Assembly had narrowed their options to STV and one other proportional representation system: Mixed Member Prepositional (MMP). Used in Germany and New Zealand, MMP systems give voters two votes: one for a local representative for their riding, just as we do today in BC and a second vote for their party of choice. After the votes are tallied, if a party does not get its fair share of seats through the vote for local representatives, the party’s seats are “topped up” so the percentage of the popular vote that a party gets equals its share of seats. The method to “top up” seats varies. It is most commonly from a ranked list of candidates provided by each party, but it could be based on the top “vote-getters” that didn’t get elected from each party.

Interestingly, one of the Assembly members independently went out on the street to test sample ballots representing the two different voting systems. He found that people overwhelmingly liked the MMP ballot better.

When the Citizen’s Assembly held meetings in 50 communities around the province seeking public input on a new voting system for BC, more than 80% of all those who showed up expressed their preference for a MMP system.

In the light of this, why did the Citizens Assembly choose STV?

One of the professors assured Assembly members they could decide independently of public input because they themselves were a random sample representation of the whole province. He also implied they could ignore much of the public input because it was “politically” initiated. Although Adriane Carr, then Leader of the BC Green Party, in the year prior to Campbell establishing the Citizen’s Assembly, had previously personally sponsored an Initiative under the BC Recall and Initiative Act to hold a referendum on whether or not to adopt an MMP system, it was apolitical. Her Initiative garnered almost 100,000 signatures, not enough to be a success, but enough to widely educate the public.

I believe that what BC voters want and will readily adopt is a simple, easy-to-understand, inexpensive-to-implement and familiar-way-to-count-vote electoral system where a party’s percentage of popular vote translates into the same percentage of seats in the legislature and the vast majority of electors’ votes end up actually electing MLAs to the BC legislature – a made-in-BC MMP system.

I’ve improved on the system originally proposed by Adriane Carr (now a Vancouver City Councilor) in her Citizen’s Initiative, making it simpler and removing some elements, like a party “top-up” list, that were controversial in her 2002 Initiative bid.

  1. Electoral Districts (ridings) stay the same – in number and geography – as they are today. No need for redistribution.
  2. Voting for MLAs to represent electoral districts is carried out exactly as it is done today through the familiar first-past-the-post system.
  3. A second vote for “Which BC political party do you support?” is made from a list of registered BC political parties printed on the ballot. This vote is counted province-wide to determine each political party’s popular support.
  4. To be eligible to have representation in the legislature, a party must exceed a threshold of 5% of the popular vote. This is the same as in New Zealand and Germany.
  5. Up to 15 extra MLAs are added to the legislature to achieve as close as possible a fair proportional representation for those parties that exceed the 5% threshold of support required, but elect less than their fair share of MLAs based on their party’s percentage of popular vote.
  6. The 15 “top up” MLAs (or less) as needed to most fairly adjust to achieve proportionality are selected from that party’s unsuccessful candidates in that provincial election ranked by the candidates’ vote, from highest vote to lowest. (Note: many candidates who don’t win achieve a very near-to-winning vote in an electoral district.)

While having only 15 extra MLAs – easier to accommodate in BC’s current legislature chambers – will not always result in a fully proportional Legislature, almost all the time it will. I can only think of one election that was so skewed, that 15 extra MLAs wouldn’t be enough to correct the imbalance and that was the 2001 election, which started the whole process of considering a Proportional Representation voting system for BC.

Paul George is a Canadian environmentalist living in Gibsons, BC. He is married to Adriane Carr, former leader of the Green Party of British Columbia. He cofounded the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and was the first recipient of the BC Spaces for Nature Wild Earth Award. He is the author of Big Trees, Not Big Stumps, a history of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

Complicit – 2017’s “Word of the Year” defines our future

complicit

For the vast majority, the future isn’t what it used to be. The inevitable reckoning and consequences, still unscripted, will be Shakespearean in scope and proportion. “To be, or not to be” really “is the question” right now.

And ‘’All the world’s a stage… all the men and women merely players” is a fact of daily life, and death. We all have new roles and lines to learn for this looming, real-life epic. There are no exceptions and for better, or for worse, very few choices.

Warning: Canadian Microsoft researchers recently determined people now lose concentration after eight seconds, down from 12 since 2000 when our digitalized lifestyle began. The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds.

Keep KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) in mind and a single Word of the Year (WOTY) in hand to help clean up our act. Dictionary.com has selected: “Complicit” as this year’s WOTY. It is defined as “Choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing… to be responsible, at some level, even if “indirectly” [emphasis added].

In last December/January’s issue, Common Ground focused on Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 WOTY “Post-truth.” It has stood up and stood out in the interim, ubiquitous on its own, and in synonyms such as “fake news” and “lies.” In fact, Collins Dictionary just recently put “fake news” on top for 2017.

But “complicit” is more significant in reflecting the ethos and capturing the zeitgeist of our time, attracting more interest and provoking much conversation. In 2017, we looked complicit up, on-line, at a rate of 10,000% more than the previous year.

The first spike in searches was on March 12, the day after a Saturday Night Live satirical ad featured an Ivanka Trump look-alike hawking “Complicit, the fragrance “for the woman who could stop all this, but won’t.” In a glittery gold dress, the fake first daughter was tagged: “She’s beautiful, she’s powerful, she’s complicit.”

The next spike on April 5, up more than 11,000%, followed a TV interview with the real Ivanka Trump. When asked if she and husband Jared Kushner were complicit in her father’s actions, she responded, “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit.”

A few days later, the mother of all spikes occurred, when an outed, Ivy-league-educated, Ivanka, mouthed, “I don’t know what it means to be complicit.”

This 2017 WOTY had many other moments, including US Senator Jeff Flake’s unexpected retirement. “I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit,” he explained, citing a “flagrant disregard for truth or decency,” adding, “It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.”

We have been complicit in speech and action and also when we remained silent. The cultural and political landscape – and the very landscape itself – demanded answers to not only what complicit means, but also what it means to be complicit.

And we turned to dictionaries. No one knows definitively what sends us looking for word meaning, but lexicographers report it’s a combination of seeking definition and searching for inspiration and emotional reinforcement. These quests, online, now show up in ongoing, digitally trending big data.

Complicity hit every hot button, globally. Touching everything from Russian collusion, to mass murder, opioids, Site C, Syria, the evil oil industry. extreme weather, humanity’s role in planetary implosion, obscene growth in inequity, normalized hate speech and groups and myriad other results, enabled through the collective ‘turning a blind eye.’

“Our choice for Word of the Year is as much about what is visible as it is about what is not,” explains dictionary.com’s Jane Solomon.”It’s a word that reminds us even inaction is a type of action. The silent acceptance of wrongdoing is how we’ve gotten to this point.”

Refusing was “a grounding force of 2017.” Five million stood in the worldwide Women’s March. Dozens of professional athletes knelt in anthemic protest against systemic injustice. The most impactful, far-reaching F**k You ever. Personal stories of sexual harassment and assault with the hashtag #metoo, finally gaining traction against age-old foundations of white male hierarchy, right down to micro-fiefdoms.

What does it mean to be complicit? Silent? Processing our current, globally existential question requires questioning our own behaviour, including co-dependency. Who knew what, when? Could I have spoken out? Did I go along because it was the path of least resistance?

Some silence, of course, is essential to self-preservation. And sometimes speaking out is a privilege unto itself. Not everyone’s voice is heard, after all. But refusals to accept the reprehensible, the repugnant and the questionable, transform apocalypse fatigue into action.

How tragic, absurdly comic or happy we make 2018 is down to us – most definitely down to our resistance. Last word on this most useful 2017 WOTY, to dictionary.com lexicographer Solomon: “We must not let this continue to be the norm. If we do, then we are all complicit.”

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

At mid-term: a Justin Trudeau report card

Justin Trudeau observing eclipse

It’s two years since he swept to power, high-fiving with one hand, promises for “Real Change” in the other. So right now, on the post-honeymoon anniversary of his election to majority government, halfway through his mandate, it’s time to take a full, accurate measure of our 23rd Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

The TrudeauMeter offers a starting point and an ongoing gauge.

This non-partisan, collaborative citizen initiative is specifically designed to track performance on his platform. It lists 226 promises, spelled out in Liberal literature, speech-ified and selfie-fied during the federal campaign.

Check off 59 promises made good, but also note well: work hasn’t yet begun on precisely the same number: 59. There are 72 works in progress.

A useful word, going forward, is “porkies.” According to dictionaries, it’s cockney slang for shaded white “lies” as in, “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been telling ‘porkies’ again.” According to the TrudeauMeter, he has flat-out broken, and downright abandoned, a whopping 36 promises to millions of Canadians, who took him at his word and got him in (and Stephen Harper out) by, in many cases, voting strategically.

The biggest fish he hooked, reeled in, used as bait or chucked overboard were electoral reformers, the environmentally inclined, the awakened millennials and First Nations.

Justin Trudeau, in the Canadian cliché, “campaigns on the left, governs on the right.” The run-up to power takes place in a less-bloodied kettle of fish. Also swimming, circling Parliament, are schools of lobbyists, assorted sharks, bottom feeders and bureaucrats, entrenched in the old power game of government.

Full marks for electoral showmanship, possibly gleaned from his part-time job teaching drama. Most unfortunately, Justin Trudeau, like far too many victorious politicians, in a post-campaign role, is now dancing with those ‘who brung him,’ the greedy elites who hold the real strings – the purse strings – and select and play the tunes.

The rest of us, the vast majority, are mere sidelined wallflowers, Still, a number of grateful Canadians would likely give the Libs a passing grade, another whirl, just for erasing “Harper” from the national dance-card. Perhaps enough, two years hence, for a nod to stay on as a minority prom-king. Some will continue to hold their noses while pointing south to the stench of a madman and his company of conspirators, fleecing and disassembling all remaining reason, resources and democracy below the border. To be fair, in context, the worsening dystopia of Donald J. Trump was beyond even our former prime minister, who trumpeted, “Nice hair, but Justin’s not ready.” Few, if any, were fully prepared.

Canada still looks good in comparison, while charting a best-course scenario through the unforeseen, current tsunamis of dangerously troubled waters, rippling and ripping northward. Endangered are trade, the economy, border security, immigration and foreign policy, etc., as well as life itself, through climate implosion or nuclear explosion.

Notable among Justin’s 59 check marks for jobs done: finally bringing 40,000 Syrian refugees to this privileged country, releasing unprecedented, public ministerial mandate letters, unmuzzling government scientists, restoring the mandatory long-form census, persuading provinces to impose low-hanging carbon tax, establishing protocols for decriminalizing medically assisted death, the Canada Child Benefit and an equal number of women and men in Cabinet. When asked “Why?” regarding the latter, Trudeau answered, “Because it’s 2015!” That went viral and global, along with the announcement in Paris during the woefully inadequate international climate accord, that “Canada is Back.”

Voters must also not forget his assurances on election night: “We are committed to ensuring this will be the last federal election using first-past-the-post” and “Meaningful ‘nation to nation’ engagement with Indigenous peoples to secure free, prior and informed consent.”

Surely “Real Change” is really just empty promise and stage-craft, unless it plays out in real-life. And we’re now nearing 2018.

There are more than enough disappointing failures to reverse many Harper initiatives and broken promises for us to take issue with: pay equity legislation; marijuana legislation; a plodding, infuriating national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women; the $15 billion Canada received to provide armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, while there are still no funds for the 100+ indigenous communities that lack potable water; forecasted $10 billion deficits, now $23b, projected to soon tally $28.5-billion; the outed, tax-evading Finance Minister and his suspect two budgets; increasing lack of free access to information (Canada now ranked 46th, between Peru and Bulgaria); big buck infrastructure work, being doled out from the Commons to private predators – ad infinitum.

In arguing for a mid-course correction, Elizabeth May has posted detailed, teacher-like, subject-to-subject second year Liberal letter grades on the Green Party website. From a purely west-coast perspective, let’s give the federal Liberals a generous, encouraging C-minus; their leader, a hard and fast D-plus, with lots of room to roll up his sleeves for needed improvement.

In two years, Canada’s cautious optimism has churned and morphed into brick-like cynicism. Justin Trudeau has squandered his, and our, potential. He’s out-of-touch and tone-deaf to the growing chorus of Canadians struggling for a living wage to pay rent, let alone save up for a down payment on a house, post-secondary training or decent childcare.

“Canadians do not expect us to be perfect; they expect us to be honest, open and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest,” Trudeau opined.

To paraphrase time-honoured report cards, “Justin gets along well with others, but must apply himself to important subjects such as environment, electoral reform and Indigenous rights.”

Trudeau, the second, has two years until finals, to cut to the chase, pull up his designer socks and cut down on selfies and play-acting. And above all, cut out the porkies.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

Unlimited growth increases the divide

Unlimited growth at the Delmar Hotel

by Bruce Mason

The wisest words on Vancouver’s streets, “Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide” offer a strong medicine for healing the obscene growth for growth’s sake that’s killing us, our economy and the environment.

The seven-inch copper letters are artfully emblazoned across the front of the humble, 30-room Del Mar Hotel and tiny art gallery at 553 Hamilton Street, next to the skyscraper headquarters of BC Hydro.

In fact, the Del Mar credo did fundamentally alter the path of BC Hydro, in David and Goliath fashion. It’s a story that bears repeating in order to find workable alternatives to big developers’ vision for Vancouver and BC, a vision that saps our resources, robs our commons and prevent honest, affordable housing.

George Riste, former owner of the unassuming Del Mar, said, “I love watching people debate the meaning of “Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide.” But in her 1990 artist’s statement, Kathryn Walter clearly spelled out the intention: “It is directed at those who operate our free-market economy in their own interests, while excluding those interests that would be responsive to the needs of the community.”

In 1981, Hydro began their attempts at acquiring the property, the only domino still standing on the city-block of demolished ruins, on which to raise their edifice. Turning down hundreds of offers and a fortune in increasingly desperate bids, Riste said, “We’ve decided to keep this property for low-cost housing, and BC Hydro thinks we’re silly. But I really believe that we should try to put something back into society.”

And so, for once, the crown corporation had to modify and reluctantly re-design its grandiose plans, a victory for the integrity and mission the Riste family carries forward.

In stark contrast, a few blocks away, another building tells a much different story with “T-R-U-M-P” spelled out in large, gaudy, chrome letters, branding the 63-storey International Hotel and Tower.

Riste never forgot his childhood poverty in the Fraser Valley. Unlike ‘The Donald,’ George provided affordable rooms a few blocks from hellish skid row hovels. Riste explained, “We used to lease buildings, but we found the landlords were terrible people. So we went to the bank and managed to buy our own hotel. This is my life; this is what I love doing.”

One wonders what he would think of the recent count of 3,605 homeless in Vancouver, up 30 percent since 2014. Half have lived here for 10 years or more before becoming homeless. The numbers, like unemployment stats, don’t really add up. They don’t factor in borderline impoverishment, people in inadequate slums, squatting in structures, parks, and doorways, never intended for housing, couch-surfing with friends and family, sharing studio apartments and huge rents. The frequently reno-victed reluctantly flee the city of their birth, or choice, and its interminable housing crisis and near-zero vacancy rate. In May, the average price for a detached house in Vancouver reached a record $1,830,956, among the most unaffordable in the world.

Riste, who died in 2010, at age 89 would be appalled at the new luxury condos for “super cars” in Richmond. The 2,500 square-foot units boast options of luxury furnishings and decoration packages, featuring a mezzanine level, from which to guzzle something high-priced and choke back a hand-rolled Cuban stogie. Due for completion in 2019, two-thirds of the 45 units are already sold. Similarly, all condos in the 45 digs have been scooped up.

And if you search online for best deals for the ultra-rich, rooms at the Trump Tower are often fully booked, boasting that their ‘hyperbolic paraboloid’ triangular tower is the “premier luxury hotel,” featuring Canada’s first Mar-a-Lago brand, a 6,000 square-foot spa by Ivanka Trump.

Hyperbolic, indeed.

“Never settle,” the Trumps post. But for the 10,000 locals who applied to serve, massage and clean up those for whom the “Sweet-tastic experience” is chump change, the advice is irrelevant.

As Trump is unhinged and Site C and Kinder Morgan are exposed for what they really are – in courts of law or through public opinion – what we need to know is “Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide.”

The check-out bill for the rich is overdue and it’s time for a stop-payment on Site C. Put the money into job-rich renewables and for-purpose social housing. While we’re at it, take down the T-R-U-M-P sign as the public did in Toronto. “Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide” must now be the litmus test to take to politicians at every level of government, and the street.

Del Mar’s motto provides the inspiration and awareness to Stop Site C and other highly questionable anti-social projects. Better to build the Commons on common sense, insight and wisdom. More Riste-like, not Ritz-like, within reach of those who do the actual work.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.