Tagged: united states

Fair Earth

Showing, I suppose, how flexible Vivian Krause’s method of confirmation bias can be, it has been adapted to fish farming, tar sands oil and now rare earth elements by Sam Reynolds citing Krause’s work, in TechVibes.

The gist:

  1. The Intel Corporation seeks conflict-free tantalum for its products.
  2. The Moore Foundation, founded by one of Intel’s co-founders, has given grants to support reform in mining practices including grants to Canada.

Quicker than you can say ipso facto:

Though it is not conclusively proven, it may be the case that the Moore Foundation’s campaign to “reform” mining in British Columbia—by attempting to sour the political climate to further mining exploration and dragging out environmental assessment processes—is to protect the burgeoning American rare earth elements mining industry.

Yes, er, not “conclusively” proven. Quite the qualifier.

What’s missing…

  1. How these grants prevent expansion of tantalum mining in Canada. Given that their stated purpose is to reform mining practices, not stop it.
  2. How these grants are even related to tantalum mining rather than to mining generally.
  3. If there’s a link between the two beyond the original found (and this is never established), why the Moore Foundation would make it difficult for Intel to achieve its stated corporate strategy.
  4. Why attempt to obliquely thwart Canadian tantalum mining when it would be easier, more effective and lucrative for an American mining company to simply buy Canadian tantalum mines?

Fair questions not asked:

  • Where is tantalum mining centred in Canada? [Hint] [Hint]
  • Are there tantalum mines proposed for British Columbia? [Hint]
  • Is the proposed Blue River mine even in area covered by the grant? Here’s the boreal forest region as described by the Canadian Boreal Initiative.


  • And here’s Blue River:
  • Does Pew fund mining reform in the United States? [Hint]

Other things I might have asked:

  • What’s the difference between a mine and a smelter?
  • Why the existence of the Canadian Boreal Initiative would prevent the construction of tantalum smelters in Canada, given they don’t actually need to be built beside a tantalum mine but could be constructed anywhere. Such as Pompano Beach, Florida or Goslar, Germany. Or outside the boreal forest zone.
  • Pondering the possibility that smelters in Pompano Beach, Florida or Goslar, Germany are smelting Canadian tantalum.
  • Pondering the possibility that Canadian mining companies can own mines in the United States.

Finally, given the above:

  • Why Canadians, and British Columbians in particular, should be concerned about any of this.

An empty suit of armour

The shootings in Newton, Connecticut continue to occupy my thoughts.

In part, it’s the identity of the victims. There is nothing more precious than children of that age – old enough to express themselves coupled with a complete absence of cynicism. Capable of the most hilarious – and often quite insightful – observations. The world is filled with wonder and hope for them, and not the sadness and misery adults too often see. My own child is now past those delightful years, but their memory is still fresh with me. And there was this (which was her school).

So yes, close to home in that way.

But there’s also how moments like this reveal the utter vapid and venal nature of the North American right-wing movement. The National Rifle Association has – wisely – gone into silent running. This is their last tweet:

But that hasn’t stopped others from unintentionally exposing the id. From former conservative blogging bigwig Jeff Goldstein’s primal scream, to CNN talking head Erik Erickson’s “It is not healthy for a nation to come together at tragedy so far removed from God” lament to the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer who…well….who spouted off things like this:

Sublimely eloquent evisceration of Mr. Fischer here. Short form here:


It’s all empty. There are no intellectual underpinnings…just emotionalist outbursts. The closest is Glenn “Instapundit” Harlan who cites an academic study that purports to show “more guns = less crime”. Alas that study is this study. It also doesn’t help that he begins with a quote from William S. Burroughs:

“After a shooting spree,” author William Burroughs once said, “they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.” Burroughs continued: “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”

This is the same William S. Burroughs who shot his wife in the face while playing  a drunk game of William Tell.

The most insightful comment I read yesterday was that the American fascination with fetishization of guns was, in fact, the white American males’ fear of irrelevance. A safety blanket for those who fear they may no longer be top dog in a changing world. Despite the fact they, you know, continue to run things. But then who says fear is rational.

The last thing that has me concerned is – Stephen Harper having remade the Progressive Conservative Party of my father into the Republican Party – that dynamic is happening here. What is the public good in having the long-gun registry destroyed? What is the public policy purpose in reclassifying assault weapons of the type used in Newtown from “prohibited” (you can’t buy them) to “restricted” (you can buy them). American gun advocates at least attempt to couch it that an armed populace deters the government from behaving despotically. But not so here in Canuckistan. I suppose, like the long-form census, there is some mumbo-jumbo of it being “intrusive” that cites no constitutional or philosophical principle. But then there’s no problem with other irrational and likely unconstitutional intrusions. There certainly isn’t any statistical supporting evidence from the United States. Thus it seems to stem from, and designed to appeal to, the white male id and their fears of increasing irrelevance. So is clever play on the CPC’s part? Well, obviously it’s popular with a certain demographic but ultimately I don’t think the men of the CPC are that clever. I think they institute policies that appeal to insecure white men because they are insecure white men.

It’s not an original observation to say that – despite some lingering philosophical pretensions – the “conservative” movement exists solely to serve entrenched and privileged interests, both protecting directly as well as proactively targeting any group that might hypothetically challenge those interests. Example both there and, as mentioned above, here.

It looks ferocious, powerful and intimidating, but it’s  at moments like this that it is crystal clear it’s an empty shell of armour – intellectually and morally bankrupt.

UPDATE: Billmon

Greenwashing-ton: More U.S. interference in Canadian affairs

Leaving aside whether it’s fair to compare a fundraising dinner to a grant, and leaving aside whether $200,000 is indeed “the average grant” from U.S. based environmental foundations – especially since the Foundation Center reports “nearly half of family foundations (of the kind Krause like to target) reported less than $50,000 in giving in 2010“, and leaving aside whether the average size of U.S. environmental grants to Canadian based groups approaches the overall average, and leaving aside whether the Vancouver Aquarium is in some sort of fundraising difficulty…well there’s this….

In 2010 the Vancouver Aquarium’s top donor – of more than $500,000 – was the  Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

That’s the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation of New York City.

Why is a U.S. based philanthropic organization funding a Canadian aquarium? Surely that’s a fair question?

Wheels within wheels, my friends…wheels within wheels…

Why are foreigners attempting to influence Canadian driving laws?

Formed in 1989, registered Canadian charity Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada is the sister organization of Mothers Against Drunk Driving USA. Since it’s inception, this “charity” has been attempting to influence the debate on Canada’s drinking and driving laws. After dogged research, I have uncovered circumstantial evidence that MADD Canada may be receiving funds that originate from the United States.

Unless you looked on their public website, you would never know that one of the chief sponsors of MADD Canada is the Allstate Insurance Corporation – the second-largest personal lines insurer in the United States. Why is this American insurance company attempting to sway opinion in Canada, you may ask? It’s clear that reducing the motor vehicle accident rate caused by drinking and driving brings financial benefits to Allstate in the form of reduced insurance payouts. Where do these savings go? No one knows. While true it’s the Canadian subsidiary of the American company, given the clear links between the two can we really be sure funds are not passed from the United States to Canada, funds that might end up in the coffers of MADD Canada?

It’s very suggestive of my belief they are acting out of a sense of patriotism to advance the American interest in Canada.

I want to be clear, I have nothing against drunk driving laws. But I think it’s very important that this debate around the costs and benefits of drunk driving is conducted by Canadians, and Canadians only.

Don’t you?

UPDATE: 30 seconds ago I emailed Allstate Canada CEO Michael J. Donoghue a set of fair questions asking if he could account for the apparent links between Allstate Canada and Allstate USA, whether he would submit to a forensic audit to determine if any monies from the American organization have come to Canada, and if those monies were then passed on to MADD Canada.

Tellingly, I have yet to receive a response.

Roboconned – The cancer that will destroy the Conservative Party of Canada

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the attempt to suppress the Liberal/NDP vote through deceptive and/or harassing phone calls in the last Federal election was not isolated. The Sixth Estate is building a list of affected ridings and the number is up to 42. RossK mines the comment threads of his past posts to remind us that in the immediate aftermath of the election there were already questions being raised about strange phones calls and the adoption of voter suppression tactics used by the Republicans in the United States.

My 2 cents:

1. It’s easier to suppress the vote in the United States than Canada for the simple reason there is no equivalent to Elections Canada down south. Each county is in charge of running the vote in U.S. Federal Elections. There is no national body to connect the dots of systematic fraud. With that in mind I really wonder what they were thinking and how they thought they’d get away with it.

2. It may ultimately be unknowable1 if the results of the 2011 Federal Election actually were affected to a significant result-changing degree. But that doesn’t play to the Conservatives’ advantage – there is no way to definitively prove they weren’t either. Even if they do the right thing and conduct a thorough investigation that leads to hard jail time for the responsible, and even if it is shown this was a “rogue” operation (and that is very much in question)….there is now a permanent taint on the legitimacy of the Conservative majority government. Only a new, closely monitored election can restore legitimacy and they sure as hell aren’t going to call an early one because they’ll lose.

It’s a cancer. They will not be able to enact the big-ticket items on their agenda. Everything will be questioned.

The Harper Government™ is now a very lame duck.

The malaise from the Sponsorship Scandal still affects the Liberal Party of Canada. This – which all signs point to being the biggest, darkest political scandal in Canada’s history – will destroy the Conservatives.

1Although on The Sixth Estate’s list of ridings reporting problems, I count 12 that were close enough that misdirection efforts could have changed the result.

UPDATE: Dan P. Ball has a list of 11 affected ridings where the Tories squeaked to wins.

UPDATE 2: Chantal Hébert asks a good question – Given safe Tory ridings were apparently hit too where’s the underlying strategy?

A Machiavellian mastermind could always have orchestrated fraudulent calls to a host of ridings where such tricks were unlikely to affect the outcome for or against the Conservatives just to throw anyone off the scent of an orchestrated pattern. But that sounds like a high-risk investment for a relatively low yield.

Really? It seems like it would be a “must-do”. Not only does it muddy the waters but it insulates you with your own supporters.

Also, and:



Compare and contrast: Stephen Harper, WMD Supersleuth

Mr. Harper said he has no doubt that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. “There is absolutely no doubt they are lying,” Mr. Harper said, referring to statements by Iran that the nuclear program is for peaceful uses.

“The evidence is just growing overwhelming. This is not, as was the case of Iraq, merely the opinion of allies,” he said.

Stephen Harper, Globe and Mail, Jan 17, 2012

I noted that there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein operates programs to produce weapons of mass destruction. Experience confirms this. British, Canadian and American intelligence leaves no doubt on the matter. Saddam Hussein’s continued non-compliance and non-cooperation with the United Nations only confirms this information.

Stephen Harper, Parliament, 2003

Meanwhile, in the evidence-based universe:

“The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program nor does it have a program about how advanced the programs really are,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call. The official was speaking on background.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has released a report which it says has credible evidence that Iran has carried “out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device”, but has offered no estimate of how long it would take Iran to be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

Though many Iran critics have focused on the report’s claims that Iran continues to participate in activities that indicate interest in building a bomb, the administration chose to focus on the IAEA’s conclusions that a “structured program” to develop a nuclear warhead was halted in 2003.

Update: Other doubters include…Israeli Intelligence:

The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon – or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.

-Haaretz, January 18, 2012

Quid pro quo whoa

Vivian Krause got a lot of [semi]-positive press this week. Of note, yesterday’s Globe article. But I’m going to begin with her January 7th article in the Vancouver Sun. First graf:

According to my analysis of Canadian tax returns, Canadian green groups get nearly $50 million in foreign funding every year.

A number is established – $50 million/yr. Next:

Ducks Unlimited Canada reported $65 million and Tides Canada reported $8.3 million in foreign funding for 2009 and 2010.

I’m not sure how the numbers break down exactly for the 2 years cited, but let’s assume a 50-50 split b/w 2009 and 2010 for Ducks Unlimited. My primitive math skills indicate this is $32.5 million per year. Or, put another way, Ducks Unlimited accounts for 65% of the $50 million of foreign funding of Canadian environmental groups each year. Quack quack!

But that’s just the nitty-gritty details that make it seem completely underwhelming. At heart, it’s this that is at the heart of Krause’s arguments:

The problem that I see with the foreign funding is that it is skewing the public debate because the American foundations are playing favourites, supporting only the Canadians whose position aligns with American interests.

What the “American interests” are and how they deviate from Canadian interests is never, of course, mentioned. Another way you could – accurately – phrase the above is this:

The problem that I see with environmental funding is that it is skewing the public debate because the Environmental foundations are playing favourites, supporting only the Environmental groups whose position aligns with Environmental interests.

But that’s no fun. Switching to the Globe article, there’s this:

Ms. Krause said she’d ultimately like to see the Gateway pipeline succeed, but after decisions made by Canadians alone.

Could it be Krause started with a conclusion and is working backwards? You see, I believe a lot of Vivian Krause’s objection flows from an assumption – that the objections to the Northern Gateway pipeline or fish farming are in part phoney-baloney. A cover for U.S. economic interests. This is never demonstrated, only implied.

Nor has she ever established a quid pro quo: that Canadian environmental groups held Position X before receiving U.S. based funding, and Position Y after. That would be a skewing of the debate. Instead, the simplest and most plausible explanation is ignored – that environmental groups hold their positions for environmental reasons. And, of course, foreign corporate interests interfering in the debate – whether they be Norwegian fishing conglomerates or Chinese oil companies – are never explored. (A very telling passage of her testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources starts here)

She (and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver) won’t, and can’t, argue on the merits of the science. So they attack from the sides.

At least she tries to distance herself from Ezra Levant’s “Ethical Oil” clown show.

The graphs #Occupy should have on display at every site

50 years of data. No cherry-picking here.

And to the #Occupiers – this comes from the New York Times. Yes, some of the mainstream media bashes you unfairly – but good reporters still exist. Not everyone is Fox or Sun News.

Occupied with #OccupyVancouver

What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached.

Paul Krugman

They broke it, we fixed it, and now they are doing their darnest to break it again – in the name of their own narrow greed (while patronizing us that we simply couldn’t understand the complexities of macroeconomics). But if there’s a silver lining it seems a light bulb seems to have gone on in the collective consciousness of the American public: The growing realization that they have been governed for the greater benefit of the wealthiest few and that “a rising tide floats all boats” line they’ve been sold for 30+ years is snake oil. And thus #OccupyWallStreet and We Are The 99% was born.

They’re trying to ignore it. They’re trying to ridicule it. They’d love to co-opt it.

And now it’s coming to Vancouver.

But I’m not sure it’s going to have the same resonance it has down south.

We didn’t bail out the banks here. Well, we did…but stealthily. Unemployment is…well, not exceptionally high by Canadian standards. We’re not as unequal in the distribution of national wealth as other countries – though in Harper’s Canada we are catching up fast.

The beauty of the American movement is that is seems to be broadly based. It’s not just the “usual suspects” who come out to protests. Will it happen here? I have my doubts. I’ve been following the discussions, if they can be called that, between the organizers of #occupyvancouver and…well…the purer than you usual suspects. The following captures the essence of that discussion:

It’s ashame. This…

…is a lot more emotionally and intellectually compelling to the public at large than this…

So why not bend your standards a bit to attract a broader audience? Ack…who knows who’s going to show up and what’s going to happen. And perhaps I’m feeling a bit cynical at the moment, but what’s supposed to happen? What’s supposed to change and what will make Stephen Harper, Christie Clark, Gregor Robertson and Howe Street agree to it? #occupyvancouver could be 110% successful in getting out boots on the ground…but so what? What price do the aforementioned pay? As Ian Welsh depressingly puts it:

[M]odern elites are trained to think in terms of cost-benefit analyses.  If the cost to them of not giving in is less than the cost of not giving in, they won’t give in.

Occupying the grounds of the Arts Gallery costs them nothing. Engaging in Black Bloc style violence turns off the general public and provides an excuse to unleash the police…and costs them nothing (you’re doing them a favour in fact).

Only nonviolent, prolonged civil disobedience would make a dent in that cost-benefit analyses. But we’re a long way, I think, from Tahrir Square.

Chart of the day: We are so overtaxed!

Oh…oh…maybe not. The chart is geared for Americans, but as you can clearly see Canada is in the bottom half. And, as Paul Krugman also wryly notes, the EU crisis point countries are also low tax regimes. Look elsewhere than the “welfare state” for the root of the trouble!