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The Dutch Have Reduced Prison Populations 50% AND Crime 39% in a Decade

In the last decade the Dutch have reduced prison inmate populations by 50% and those sentences average to about 90 days in jail.  Many people expected this drastic reduction of inmates to lead to a notable increase in crime because:dutch-prison-refugees-temporary-housing

  1. Dangerous, proven criminals are being quickly released back onto the street
  2. There is virtually no deterrent effect to being jailed in the Netherlands

Contrary to this expectation the fact is that Dutch system has also reduced crime by nearly 40%.

As you can see in the image to the right, the Dutch now use their old prisons as temporary housing for some refugees.

How can that be?  In simple terms, it turns out that after thousands of years of trying different forms of incarceration and punishment that Europeans have figured out:

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How Killing The Canadian Oil Industry Is a Formula For Environmental Disaster

Today Bloomberg’s Michael Bellusci wrote an article explaining that Canadian oil and gas companies are in deep trouble.  Here is an excerpt:

Canada’s Energy Industry Faces ‘Extinction’ Without M&A, BMO Says

On the same day, Global News reported:

Feds to spend $280k to study why Canada’s oil and gas sector is falling behind

The federal government plans to spend up to $280,000 for a new study on Canada’s competitiveness in the oil and gas industry as investment lags and the United States offers new incentives for companies to move south…iea-world-energy-demand-change-2016-2040
Source: globalnews.ca/news/4123026/oil-and-gas-canada-falling-behind-study/

In general terms the issue is that with low oil prices, oil companies see better places in the world to put their money than Canada.  Oil & Gas “activists” will initially claim a victory here because they have had some impact on making it difficult to get Canadian Oil and Gas to both international and domestic markets.

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Should You Have The Right To Know You Are Talking To An AI Bot?

The US congress now has an Artificial Intelligence “Caucus” considering regulating how Artificial Intelligence (AI).  One the items they are looking into is figuring out if citizens should have a right to know that they are talking / chatting with an Artificially Intelligent piece of software or a human.

Many people feel tricked when they find out that they have been talking or chatting with an AI when the default assumption has been that people are talking or chatting with human representatives of the company in question.  Given the situation today and the obvious fact that AI conversations are going to become more and more human like, it is understandable that governments want to consider the implications.

This 8 minute video covers the FUTURE OF AI ACT that has just been introduced in the US Congress, which focuses on the military and is more broader than our narrow discussion about rights, but it does give you a sense of what is being considered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hTQEqB5y9c

After some careful consideration however, the only scenario we could come up with in which a human really needs to understand that they are not talking to a human representative, was emergency services like 911.  The argument with emergency services is simply that during a crisis (shooting, heart attack…) there may be nuances (tone, slurred speech…) that a human can take from a conversation that AI’s cannot.

We are not suggesting that AI’s can not be very useful in emergency services communications (think about alerts, routing… that can all be done much faster, more accurately and more calmly by an AI than a human).  We are suggesting that in real emergencies human callers should know if they are talking to an AI or another human.

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Bankruptcy of Gun Maker Remington Signifies Nothing For the Anti-Gun Lobby

remington-firearmsToday the United States oldest gun maker Remington Outdoor Company Inc, which owns Remington Arms, filed for Bankruptcy protection.  The anti-gun lobby has taken this as a sign that the guns and gun companies are finally starting to decline.  Unfortunately, Remington’s collapse is only a sign of bad management and will do nothing to stem the tide of easy to find, cheap guns.

Remington expanded production several in the Obama era, especially after Sandy Hook, as Americans feared their misunderstood second amendment rights were going to be taken away, resulting in spiking gun sales.  Then after the flip flopping sometimes NRA supporter Donald Trump became President, all gun manufacturers including Remington found that sales declined because there was little fear of new gun restrictions.

In 2007 high profile private equity firm Cerberus bought Remington and started loading up the debt.  In the end Remington took on nearly 1 Billion (yes, that is a “B”) in debt and was stuck with huge inventories they could not sell to service that debt.

timeline-of-gun-sales-in-america-2000-2017

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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Sends Donald Trump a Cryptic Message

confused-donald-trumpAfter numerous rounds of, “We don’t know if Kim Jong Un is still alive,” Kim Jong Un himself decided to send Donald Trump a letter in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game.

The Donald opened the letter which appeared to contain a single line of coded message, 370HSSV-0773H.

The Donald was baffled, so he e-mailed it to the Secretary of State and his aides who had no clue either, (so that’s why Rex was fired!)

So they sent it to the FBI but none could solve it.

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Anatomy of a Modern Data Breach: The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica Scandal

cambridge-analytica-the-power-of0big-data-in-the-electoral-processNow that much of the dust has settled on Cambridge Analytica‘s misuse of Facebook users data the sad story can now be told.

It is critical to note upfront that Facebook was not hacked and that the information that was misused was provided voluntarily by Facebook Users.  The only breach was a breach of misplaced trust.

Timeline of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica Scandal:

  1. January 2015:  Cambridge University’s Professor Alexander Krogan created ‘ThisIsYourDigitalLife’ personality survey app on Facebook, under his company “Global Science Research”
    • facebook-cambridge-anaytica-kogan-nix-bannon-mercer-connections-theguardian270,000 people responded and at the time it was possible for users of that app to provide limited information on their ‘friends’, if those ‘friends’ Facebook privacy settings allowed it
    • Including the ‘Friends’ moves the number of people that had some limited information sent to the ‘research’ company to about 50 Million
    • Professor Kogan has serious ties to the Russian government
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  2. April 2015: Facebook changed their software to make it impossible for users to share any of their ‘friends’ information
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US Government Again Reduces Bank Oversight, 10 Years After The 2008 Global Financial Collapse

After limited debate the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a further reduction in “Dodd-Frank” banking regulations introduced in 2010 to avoid another 2008 style bank generated economic collapse.

Dodd-Frank‘s primary mechanism for doing this was to require financial institutions that were “too big to fail” to withstand stress tests.  The idea being that if your bank was going to need a government bail out in the event of failure, effectively making you and me the banks insurance company, that such banks need to prove that they can withstand large economic downturns by keeping enough cash (and near cash) on hand to cover their immediate debts.

If banks pass the stress test, and ALL did in June 2017, they can issue dividends and buy back their own stock (financial engineering to raise their own stock price).  If they fail, they can’t.  The results and some key details are published so both the markets and individual investors know which banks are stable and which ones are not.

The principle Dodd-Frank change passed in March 2018, was to increase the threshold needed to be included in the stress test, from $50B to $250B.

Banks and other large financial institutions are not evil corporations but they are run by greedy people just like you and me.  When those people are given massive incentives to bring in large amounts of income to the banks, they are likely to take risks that are absurd in retrospect, just likely they did in the 2000’s.

When the money that is risked belongs only to shareholder, employees, and board members, there is not public issue with those risks; even ‘crazy’ ones.  The problem occurs when the company (bank) in question is so large that if it fails it will bring down the countries (globe’s?) economy.  This is also called “systemic risk“.  Such a failure cannot be allowed to occur, so governments step and transfer your tax money to those companies.

Put simply, if you are ‘too big to fail’, the public has a right to validate your stability.

While laws must be periodically updated to keep up with the products offered for sale and global political / financial environment, the problem with the March 2018 changes is that they are all reductions:

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Should Disposable Single Use Plastic Bags Be Banned?

There has been much talk in the recent decade about banning disposable plastic bags.  The basic argument is that consumer grade disposable single use plastic bags are the root cause widespread environmental damage but have ready alternatives, so why are will still using them?

As is often the case with political issues, there is no simple answer to the question “Should single use plastic bags be banned?”.  Below are some of the facts and you can decide for yourself if this is a crisis or not:

ARGUMENTS AGAINST SINGLE USE PLASTIC BAGS

  • Australian scientists found that 90% of seabirds had plastic in their digestive tract
    • 85% of ‘ocean garbage’ is plastic
    • In March of 2018, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna claimed that there is the equivalent of one full dump truck load of plastic materials being dumped in the ocean every minute of every day
  • Plastic bags are made from non-renewable material
  • Single use plastic bags account cost about $.04 each to buy new and it is estimated the clean up cost is about $.15 per bag, resulting in a total cost to the consumer of more than $80 per year (more…)

How We Know The Trump Campaign Did Not Criminally Collude With the Russian Government

Let me start with the obligatory, I do not particularly like Donald Trump, believe much of what he says or think his campaign was shinny clean.  That being said I do like to listen to both facts and common sense, so let’s go:

How We Know Trump’s Campaign Did Not Collude With the Russian Government:

There are a few key points to consider when thinking about the claims that the Trump Campaign for President of the United States in 2016 was seriously aided by the Russian Government:

  1. It has firmly been established that almost no-one in the 2016 Trump Campaign, including Donald J Trump himself, thought that he had any serious shot at winning until a few days before the election (if then!).  Why would anyone intentionally collude with a foreign power unless they thought they were close to a victory?  The upside is questionable and downside is massive.
    .
  2. Most people assume that large scale ‘attacks’ need co-ordination.  This is false,  From Al Qaeda to political operatives, all that is needed for an effective campaign is a general direction.  Individuals and organizations know what do without centralized organization.  For example, in the US, the Koch brothers do not need to talk to the Trump or Bush campaigns to know their job is to bang on the Democrats and promote the Republicans.  Russia based organizations do not need direction from the Kremlin to know what to do.
    .
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Oil & Gas: Why ‘Keep It In The Ground’ Is A Formula For Environmental Disaster

The environmental lobby has mislead many well intentioned companies and intelligent individuals with the “keep it in the ground movement”.   That logic only applies to “western societies” and has sadly resulted in serious efforts to block even the cleanest Oil & Gas projects for the last decade.  The most recent tactic is to block the infrastructure required to make Oil & Gas functional; in particular pipelines are being opposed at every turn.

These next two points should clearly demonstrate that “keep it in the ground” is both naive and environmentally damaging.

1: OIL & GAS GROWTH THROUGH 2040

The fact is that the most scientificly trustworthy energy industry research body in the world, the International Energy Association (IEA), agrees with dozens of other government and industry analysts that Oil & Gas demand will continue to EXPAND through the year 2040.  2040-2050 is the magic decade when China and India will have moved most of their citizens into the middle class.

Before you start thinking, ‘but wait, that will change if we ‘go electric”, note that the IEA is expecting massive amounts of electrification in the next 20+ years and has already wrapped those expectations into their projections.  If we don’t have substantial electrification (solar, wind, electric cars,…) 2040 will not be the

Keep in mind the word EXPAND.  This means that at about 2040, the world will not have stopped using oil and gas; this means that consumption will have peaked.  After 2040, there will take between 100 to 200 years to cycle out of petroleum based products.

iea-world-energy-demand-change-2016-2040

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Are Pipelines Really The Safest Way To Transport Oil & Gas?

Having worked at a few pipeline companies, I know they take safety and spills very seriously but we see pipeline bursts and their resulting spills with frequency in the news so the question lingers: Are pipelines safe?

pipeline-vs-rail-environmentLet’s start by stating an obvious fact that no-one WANTS a pipeline or any other serious infrastructure (power lines, rail lines, highways…) in their back yard but without such infrastructure our modern world would grind to a halt.  If we can agree on that as a fact, and not an opinion, we can rationally consider pipeline safety.

The factors determining the safety of any pipeline compared to rail or trucking are also obvious and visually undeniable.  Below is a simple chart outlining some of the risk factors that go into transporting liquids and gases:

 

FactorPipelinePipe ScoreTrainTrain Score
Above/Below GroundBurried1Above Ground8
VisibilityVery Low1Very High8
ConnectionsFew1Many8
Human Error LikelihoodNearly Zero1Constant6
Intentional Damage LikelihoodVery Low1Moderate5
Easy of Stopping LeakVery Easy1Very Difficult6
VolumeVery High9Low3
24 Hr MonitoringExcellent1Minimal8
16 52

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VIDEO: Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney Tells US Senate To ‘Thanks It’s Lucky Stars For Canada’ and NAFTA

While testifying on NAFTA in front of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former Canadian Prime Minister told them:

“Canada is privileged to have the United States as a neighbor and friend.  And the United States should thank its lucky stars, everyday, that they have Canada on their northern boarder.

This is is the most successful and peaceful bilateral agreement in world history”

“Canada is privileged to have the United States as a neighbor and friend.  And the United States should thank its lucky stars, everyday, that they have Canada on their northern boarder.

This is is the most successful and peaceful bilateral agreement in world history”

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Why Canada Does Not Need a Dispute Mechanism in NAFTA

One of the most contentious issues between Canada and the United States on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is chapters 11, 19 and 20 the dispute mechanisms.  Chapter 19 is the one most are fired up about:

…binational panel of five arbiters, agreed upon by both parties, who will determine whether or not the duties have merit based on U.S. domestic laws.

Source: macleans.ca/opinion/why-naftas-chapter-19-is-worth-fighting-for/ 

CANADIAN ARGUMENT FOR THE NAFTA DISPUTE MECHANISM:

Canada has politely stated that the United States is a massive economy with leadership that have inflated ego’s which are tied directly to high powered, big money, special interests.  The combination means that without a dispute mechanism, US politicians will frequently bring unfair claims of NAFTA breaches that Canada will not be able to defend against.  Canadian media and politicians (and even some American observers) have gone so far as to call this demand a ‘poison pill‘ using the logic that they know there is no-way Canada will accept a contract without a dispute process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvrzlCFQ8eU

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