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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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Donald Trump’s Heaven Clock

donald-trump-in-heavenA man died and went to Heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him.

He asked, ‘What are all those clocks?’

St. Peter answered, ‘Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone who has ever been on earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your clock move.’

‘Oh’, said the man. ‘Whose clock is that?’

‘That’s Mother Teresa’s’, replied St. Peter. ‘The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie.

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Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal Is a Crisis For All Online Companies

There is a crisis at Facebook because of the constant negative media coverage of the Cambridge Analytica scandal causing users to question staying on the product and that has caused Facebook stock drop a truly staggering $70B in value in 11 days.  It’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, owns 28.2% of the company so he has lost $20B personally.facebook-scandal-stock-price-drop-70b-zukerberg$20b-11-days

There is a also crisis being experienced by some Facebook users that have finally realized Facebook and nearly all other ‘free’ online services are harvesting personal data to allow others to micro-target advertising at them.  WHO DIDN’T KNOW THIS ALREADY?  Apparently millions of people thought Facebook was some benevolent do-gooder, that provided a complex service for free because they were nice people.

The saying in the industry holds as true today as it did in the 1999 when it was coined: “You are not the customer; you are the product“.

The only ethically questionable behavior by Facebook in this current crisis, was corrected way back in the spring of 2015.  That issue was the ability of users to share not only their own information, but that of their friends (if those friends had not changed default privacy settings).

Facebook made USD$40B in 2017 and that was another record amount for them.  They did this by monitoring you, figuring out what you might be interested in and then allowing advertisers to target you personally, just like they said they would.

The along came Cambridge Analytica who used a large set of Facebook user data and figured out patterns they could use to apply to other Facebook users.  Cambridge Analytica organized the social media efforts for the Donald Trump Presidential campaign and now it is a political crisis too.

It is important to note that:

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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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You Owe $60,000 – Welcome To Alberta’s Avoidable $100B Debt Crisis

Last week the NDP Alberta Government introduced yet another budget without any cuts in it.  Instead they are relying on growth to balance the budget by 2023 leaving us with colossal debt of about $96B.

Citizens, including me, do not seem to grasp numbers larger than about $10M so some context is key to understanding.  To put that debt in perspective, there are just over 4 million people in Alberta, which makes YOUR personal portion of the Provincial debt $24,000.  Statistics Canada shows that Alberta averages 2.5 people per household.  This means your household will owe $60,000.

The Canadian Tax Payers Federation calculates that the Alberta’s debt is currently increasing at a rate of $315.80 per second.

Let’s contrast that number of other Provinces.

How Much Debt Do BC Citizens Owe?

Both the previous Liberal and current NDP governments in British Columbia have been on similar spending sprees and while certainly not as deep, BC has had many similar economic problems to Alberta in recent years.  Think about BC’s primary industries (Oil collapse, softwood lumber disutes…).  However, in February 2018 their NDP Finance minister announced:

“Government’s direct operating debt is projected to be eliminated in 2018-19, one year earlier than forecast. This will be the first time government has been direct operating debt-free in over 40 years.”

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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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Are Electric Cars Really Less Expensive To Own & Operate?

If you are interested in fully electric cars or plug-in hybrids there is a myriad of misleading information to wade through.  One of the big questions is, ‘Is it is cheaper to run own and operate an electric car vs a gasoline powered car?’.

Before we get into the numbers, you need to be aware of two things:

  1. Most electric vehicles are plugged in at work during the day at no additional cost to the employee
  2. The price of electricity varies from city to city, so it is difficult to say definitively one way or the other

The most accurate, generalized, answer is to say electrified and gasoline vehicles are very competitive with each other and one does not (yet) have a major cost advantage over the other.

I drive a Cadillac ELR with a 60KM+ range (average of 55KM in winter and 65KM range in summer) before my gasoline engine generator kicks in.  Because I used to track my expenses and my kilometers, I can say with certainty that the ELR save me:

  1. about $1700/year in fuel costs. Like many, I seldom plug it in at home and on the rare occasion that I do my solar panels provide about 50% of electricity.  I do 95% of my car charging at work, at no extra cost.
  2. Nearly all electric vehicles have ‘regenerative braking’ which uses the electric motor to slow the car.  The physical brakes are seldom used and I expect that the factory set of brakes will last the life of the car.  That saves a few hundred dollars.
  3. Because the gasoline engine generator in my plug-in hybrid Cadillac ELR is seldom used I will only get an oil change every 18 months or so.  If the car was fully electric, I would never get an oil change.  This saves both money and time… which to me is more money.
  4. For the reasons above, I expect the exhaust system and other consumables (spark plugs, air filters…) will last dramatically longer than a regular car.  All of this saving money.

We have two interesting sets of numbers for you to review.  From the new for 2018 book ThePriceOfCarbon.com comes an interesting info-graphic:

comparison-of-fuel-prices-between-electric-vs-gasoline-vehicles-2018

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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…)
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Facts About “A Tale of Two Cities” A Comparison Between Lacombes & Chestermeres Approach to Hiring a New CAO

Recently it was brought to our attention that a small site took issue with the facts supplied in our article “A Tale Of Two Cities: How Chestermere is Spending $100K More Than Lacombe To Find a New CAO“.   Given the outrageous claims in the article, we felt compelled to provide the facts.

Please note that www.PartisianIssues.com is trying to stay out of Municipal politics.  In Chestermere’s case specifically, we know that the new Council will make mistakes but that those mistakes will be well intentioned and not malicious.

Claim: Chestermere Is In Too Much of a Hurry To Handle Its Own CAO Search:

This is perhaps the strangest claim made in the article so we will deal with it first.  Our original article made three fundamental points;

  1. Lacombe will do their CAO search much faster than Chestermere
  2. Lacombe will do their CAO search for somewhere between $100K and $200K less than Chestermere
  3. Temporary staff, almost by their very definition, will not develop meaningful changes

The simple fact is that even though Lacombe started their CAO search after Chesteremere did, Lacombe has already hired a new CAO. Chestermere is still spending $27,000 on a person (who we are sure is a smart, qualified but temporary CAO) that has not made any notable changes to the city that any other CAO wouldn’t have done.

Beyond this we found it odd to imply that Lacombe isn’t in a hurry to get their CAO work done.  Clearly this is inaccurate; Lacombe is done and Chestermere isn’t.

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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.
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  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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