33 ways you’re being tracked online


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


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

John Horgan’s $6 billion LNG giveaway


A bad deal for BC

by Eoin Finn B.Sc., Ph.D., MBA

The announcement – on World Water Day – that the NDP Government is to enact regulations and legislation to “make BC LNG competitive” caught many by surprise. Though the fine-print details are not yet available, the Premier’s announced provisions for all of BC’s wannabe LNG industry include:

  • A 20-year postponement of PST payable on construction materials (PST on these will be a hefty 7% on the 70%-or-so materials portion of the $40 Billion capital expenditure on liquefaction, treatment, storage, port and pipeline components of the project):
  • As an EITE (emissions-intensive and trade–exposed) industry, exemption from future carbon tax increases above the current rate of $30/ tonne all others in BC will be paying. (This is totally the opposite of the Government’s announced policy of “polluter pay”);
  • Elimination of the 3.5% LNG income surtax (already reduced from the 7% royalty rate originally announced in 2015);
  • Application of the BC Hydro industrial rate ($54/ megawatt-hour) for grid electricity service to LNG facilities. (This rate is half the current $110/ MWh residential rate, well below BC Hydro’s $120/ MWh marginal cost of new electricity from Site C and below its breakeven average rate of around $90/ MWh. Giving power away for half-price will make residential customers foot the bill via future BC Hydro rate increases – lest BC Hydro slide further into debt).

These are extraordinary measures for any Government – let alone one recently critical of the previous Clark government’s largesse to well-heeled LNG proponents, many of them large contributors to BC Liberal election coffers. And to an industry which has so far dismally failed to deliver on its promised 100,000 jobs, a debt-free BC and a BC treasury overflowing with a $100 Billion taxation bounty.

All in all- these concessions represent a gift of $6 Billion of taxpayer money – primarily to LNG Canada’s Kitimat project and spread over the expected lifetime of that project. If enacted, it will make all British Columbians, willing or not, silent partners in LNG Canada, a company jointly owned jointly by Shell Canada (50%), Petro China (20%), Korea Gas and Mitsubishi (both 15%).

So what’s the problem?

Simply put, the “deal” is woefully one-sided. We BCers are neither shareholders nor guaranteed creditors of the LNG venture(s) we may so generously give to. We failed to secure any guaranteed dividends or tax payments (as Qatar and Norway both did), there are no minimum employment quotas for British Columbians (Australia got those), there are no guarantees that profits won’t be siphoned off to tax havens via imaginative accounting practices (as happened in Australia, where that Government is suing Chevron to recover over $300 Million in evaded taxes. Woodfibre LNG’s owner, Sukanto Tanoto, appears prominently in both the leaked Panama and Paradise papers that expose the murky world of off-shore finance – this subsequent to his company being convicted and fined $250 Million for evading taxes in Indonesia), nor any guarantees that most of the construction work won’t be offshored to Korea or China and temporary foreign workers brought in to staff the project (as LNG Canada and Woodfibre LNG both plan to do. These LNG proponents are currently lobbying Ottawa and filing in Federal court, appealing for exemption from a 45.8% anti-dumping tariff levied on the Chinese and Korean steel they plan to use to construct their LNG plants there and float them into the BC coast).

Neither do we have assurances that selling our gas to Asia won’t cause supply shortages and a tripling of prices here, as has happened in Australia’s sad LNG experience. Add to those the perils of fracking and polluting First Nations land in Northeast BC and the difficulty this plant – emitting 8-9 million tonnes of GHGs every year – will create for BC’s 2050 commitment of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions (to a total of 12.6 tonnes, which this one plant would commandeer 80% if), and the rottenness of this deal for BCers becomes woefully apparent.

A BC LNG industry would struggle to be profitable (the only operating LNG export plant in the U.S. – Cheniere Energy – lost about $600M in each of the last 5 years). It would be another boom-and-bust industry (the very last experience many BC towns want to repeat), and would, even at its inception, be an industry already in its sunset years as the world transitions away from fossil fuels to avoid the worst of runaway climate change.

We should all admonish our Premier to stop this ill-advised giveaway of taxpayer money. Well-heeled proponents begging for tax concessions to “make them competitive” isn’t how capitalism is supposed to work. Rotten deal, John. Stop it!


Money, power, control and democracy


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:


photo montage by Tom Voydh / door photo © Marilyn Barbone

Zero carbon or bust


The oil and gas sector is our most polluting industry

by Peter McCartney

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have put together a climate plan that phases out coal power and brings in a carbon price. But they’ve done it with the explicit goal of justifying the expansion of our dirtiest industry: oil and gas.

Canada is the world’s fifth largest producer of oil and gas. We export fossil fuels all over the planet, despite knowing the harm they are causing. We hold some of the responsibility for those climate impacts, even if we didn’t burn the product ourselves. Here at home, the oil and gas sector is our most polluting industry. Any climate plan that doesn’t tackle these emissions will fail. And that doesn’t mean allowing the tar sands to expand while producing less carbon per barrel of oil. We need abrupt, absolute reductions in pollution, the kind that can only come from a planned phase-out. This means ending oil and gas exploration, stopping the proposed Teck Frontier tar sands mine and the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Ultimately, we need a plan to wind down the industry and support the workers who are affected.

Alberta has an example of how to transition workers out of a polluting industry. It provides financial support for coal workers to access further education, fund their retirement or relocate for new opportunities. It also funds economic development initiatives in coal communities. Why not expand this, with support from the federal government, to the oil and gas sector? Our leaders clearly see the need to wind down and transition one dirty fossil fuel industry, but not another. Any gains made by winding down the coal industry are lost as long as we plan to increase pollution from oil and gas, which is already 38 times more damaging.

There is simply no future for this industry and workers deserve a plan to deal with the aftermath.

Peter McCartney is the climate campaigner at the Wilderness Committee. Find out more about his work to take on Canada’s fossil fuel industry at wildernesscommittee.org and contact him at peter@wildernesscommittee.org, 604-683-8220, or mail to 46 6th Ave E., Vancouver, BC., V5T 1J4.

Directly Affected: Pipeline Under Pressure


photo by Alex Harris

a film director is arrested

by Zack Embree

Five years ago, I set out on a mission along with my co-director Devyn Brugge: to understand the impacts of the Kinder Morgan pipeline on local communities and give a voice back to those who had been ignored by the National Energy Board process.

I have interviewed residents affected by the 2007 inlet drive spill, and covered the protests on Burnaby Mountain – and journeyed to First Nations communities such as Fort Mackay, Alberta to witness the impacts of fossil fuel extraction, to New Brunswick where many of the energy workers are from, as well as to France for the Paris Climate talks.

What I found was a growing storm of opposition from all walks of life and confusion over Prime Minister Trudeau’s climate plan – how to achieve it while building a major oil pipeline?

Directly Affected: Pipeline Under Pressure – A feature length documentary we produced is screening at The Clutch on April 8th, The Rio Theatre April 22nd, Evergreen Theatre Powell River April 13th, Comox Tuesday April 3rd at North Island College Theatre, The Vic April 28.

For more information go to www.directlyaffected.ca

Government reaping royalties from GM Atlantic salmon

The Canadian government is receiving 10% royalties from sales of the world’s first genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) animal, a GM Atlantic salmon.

“We’re concerned that the government is responsible for regulating this GM fish and also has a stake in its success,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN).

The royalties are part of a 2009 $2.8 million-dollar grant agreement between the company AquaBounty and the federal government Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. The royalties will be paid to the Government of Canada until the grant amount is paid back. If the GM salmon is not a commercial success, there is no requirement for the company to repay the government funds.

“The GM fish was developed with public funds, but without public consultation, and it’s being sold without labels,” said Sharratt. “If Canadians unknowingly buy GM salmon, the government gets 10% of the profit.”

In 2016, Health Canada approved the GM fish for human consumption. In 2013, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change approved GM salmon production at Bay Fortune in Prince Edward Island (PEI) where GM salmon eggs are currently manufactured and then shipped to Panama for growing at a small pilot site.

The company AquaBounty must still seek approval from Environment and Climate Change Canada for commercial scale GM salmon production at their Rollo Bay facility in PEI, now under construction.

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, The Council of Canadians, Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society are calling on the government to halt any further assessments of the GM salmon until it takes steps to increase transparency in the regulatory process and marketplace, including by establishing mandatory labelling of GM foods.

“We’re concerned about the next steps for environmental assessment because future repayment of the federal funds partly relies on the government approving the company’s next GM fish plant,” said Mark Butler of Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia, referring to the planned Rollo Bay site in PEI. “In this case, increased sales mean increased production and increased risk to wild Atlantic salmon.”

In Canada, there are no public consultations before a new genetically modified food, crop or animal is approved and no mandatory labelling of GM foods. “At the very least, consumers should know when they buy salmon just what they’re getting,” said Karen Wristen of Living Oceans Society.

AquaBounty is a majority owned subsidiary of the US biotechnology company Intrexon.

Source: Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), www.cban.ca The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) brings together 16 groups to research, monitor and raise awareness about issues relating to genetic engineering in food and farming. The Ecology Action Centre is an environmental charity based in Nova Scotia. Living Oceans Society has been a leader in the effort to protect Canada’s oceans since forming in 1998.

The real message in the bottle


Break the silence – plastic is poison

by Bruce Mason

Nothing is forever, except maybe plastic. And despite the well-funded, deliberate, universal misconception, it’s anything but disposable. Virtually every one of the innumerable pieces we’ve ever made is still with us, somewhere. The amount we are currently producing each year equals the total weight of humanity.

It’s truly and totally ubiquitous, everywhere and in everything, including the broken-down microscopic filaments in our drinking water, sea salt and beer. It finds its way into the bellies of anything alive in the ocean, the guts of 90 percent of birds, and finally, ourselves.

In line with the credo of every con-artist – “There’s a sucker” – or, make that customer – “born every minute” – plastic is one of the biggest, deadliest scams in history, especially single-use plastic. Manufactured in mere seconds, it struts its brief life in myriad ways: in an indispensable smart phone, computer, appliance or automobile. And most often, its raison d’etre is only momentary – as a package wrapper, for instance. It is the very stuff of advertiser’s dreams and a planetary nightmare, the raw material of our addiction to what we are told we want and need. It is the ultimate human invention, at once so necessary, yet unnecessary, tough, pliable, lightweight and eternal.

Take the plastic water bottle (please). Despite millions of dollars spent annually to convince you otherwise, bottled water is no better or safer than most municipal tap water, which is precisely where two-thirds of it comes from in the first place. Too much of it is also mined for a pittance of what it’s sold for, by companies such as Nestle, whose CEO is on record saying water is not a human right. Siphoned from a source we have held in common, since humans first crawled out of water onto land, bottled water is the poster child of corporate and government corruption and free-market, neo-liberal snake-oil salesmen.

Also of interest: the energy used to produce a plastic water bottle is equivalent to one-quarter of the volume of its contents. Non-profit Pacific Institute researchers also determined that the manufacture of one pound of PET – polyethylene terephthalate – plastic releases up to three pounds of carbon dioxide.

So, once again, it’s down to fossil fools. No surprise then that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals recently glad-handed $35 million tax dollars to a chemical company that makes plastic resins, the day before he promised to use Canada’s G7 presidency to encourage other nations to commit to reducing or phasing out single-use plastics.

You read that right. Part of our federal government’s five-year, $1.26-billion, Strategic Innovation Fund, unveiled in last year’s federal budget, is earmarked for Nova Chemicals’ $2.2-billion expansion plan in Sarnia, Ontario, to enable the production of 431,000 additional tonnes of polyethylene, annually.

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist for Greenpeace Canada, is among those who are having difficulty swallowing Canada’s commitment to reducing ocean plastics when it’s also providing multimillion-dollar grants to the companies that make them.

“So limiting single-use plastics gets tweets and producing more of them gets $35 million,” says Stewart. “We really should be trying to ban the use of disposable plastics and find better alternatives.”

It’s part of our Justin’s murderous mantra to build more pipelines to somehow combat climate collapse. Could be why John Horgan is so high on LNG, made possible by fracking the bejusus out of BC, while destroying obscene amounts of precious water and releasing deadly methane. Even as we have been warned, the drilling goes on, deep in every direction into the dangerous San Andreas Fault, in defiance of the ‘Big One.’ It is most certainly why, in shale-gas glutted Trump-land, plastic production is being hiked by a whopping 40 percent.

Everybody sing: “Oil… what’s it good for?” For the same thing as shale gas: to make more plastic. The shillers who are leading the chorus bring to mind actor Rip Torn, straddling a nuclear bomb, riding it out of the chute of an airplane, while shouting “Yee, Haw!” in the final scene of the iconic movie, Dr. Strangelove. And some may remember the 50’s folksong, Plastic Jesus: “I don’t care if it rains or freezes/As long as I’ve got my Plastic Jesus/Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car.” Hell, even the dashboard is plastic, these days.

In honour of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, The Guardian, one of a handful of still-worthy newspapers, asked Margaret Atwood which institution she would change. She called for a “Plastics Reformation.”

“Are plastics an institution? Not in the sense of having a pope, or even a small cabal of leaders. But they are surely the modern equivalent of a universal religion. We worship them, whether we admit it or not. Their centre is whatever you happen to be doing, their circumference is everywhere; they’re as essential to our modern lives as the air we breathe, and they’re killing us. They must be stopped,” she wrote.

Don’t be a sucker. Don’t be lulled into stupefying complacency, fooling yourself into the cognitive dissonance that you can’t do anything about the madness. Stop treating plastics as disposable. Real friends don’t let their friends drive while drinking or texting, or eat farmed salmon. And perhaps most importantly, they don’t let them drink water from a plastic bottle. In recent weeks the world has awakened to the nightmare: one study quantifies water in plastic bottles as currently more popular than soda pop, another, that more than 90% of bottled water contains deadly microplastics.

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

First-past-the-post system vulnerable


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.”

Truth and lies

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

I’ll never tell a lie. I’ll never make a misleading statement. I’ll never betray the confidence that any of you had in me. – Jimmy Carter, former president of the US.

Why is it so hard to be truthful? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every marriage or commitment ceremony included those same promises that Jimmy Carter made?

Yes, there is a difference between a tactful sparing of feelings, for example, by not commenting on how much weight your friend has gained and a lie that is meant to deceive or mislead. People lie because they have something to hide, they feel guilty or they want to avoid confrontation. In other words, they do not want to own up to or deal with something they have said or done.

In my work as a psychotherapist, it seems the most damage done to relationships is by lying. Children hurt when a parent consistently does not follow through on a commitment. They are more hurt by the fact that a parent promised to show up and didn’t than by the fact they missed an outing. If you cannot trust a parent, who can you trust?

It is also deeply painful to find out you have been deceived.

Even in poker, eventually the bluff is revealed when all the cards are on the table. Those who lie to others bank on the hope the true cards will never be shown. Good luck with that.

We know how a lie affects the one lied to, but what about the liar? If you can lie to another, what does that say about you and how you value others?

To lie splits you into two people: the one others think you are and who you really are. This can only be comfortable for someone who sees life as a game and who is in it for himself, or for the one who loves and wants to keep their partner, but still wants more from outside the relationship.

Lying to someone you love impacts trust and can shake the foundation of a relationship. Many relationships don’t survive a lie, especially one that involves sex outside the relationship.

One of the worst things about lying is that it takes the choice away from the deceived person, which often leaves them feeling humiliated. They have been going along under one assumption about what is happening in the relationship only to suddenly realize they’ve been wrong. In addition to simply feeling hurt, they often feel naive or downright stupid.

Lies about fidelity and money are the two most common lies that affect couples. It is almost impossible for the one lied to to ever feel real trust again in the relationship. If lying is a consistent pattern, it would be hard to ever establish trust again. The partner can never relax in the relationship, but instead just waits for ‘the other shoe to drop.’

Can relationships survive lies? Only if the person lying has the strength and commitment to put an end to all of their lies. First, however, it is important for both people to understand why the lies happened. Couples’ therapy is the best way to go on this, as the process can be very difficult and may increase the pain.

Ultimately, the real healing comes when there is mutual understanding and empathy about why the lie happened.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.