Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How to manage a bankruptcy profitably!

Headline: PostMedia Newspapers endorse Harper and the Conservatives!
PostMedia Headline: Jezus, Harper and the Conservatives just lost the election!
The tawdry fall of the Postmedia newspaper empire
By Bruce Livesey in News | November 24th 2015

Left Postmedia newspapers. Right Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey. (Canadian Press)

It was the morning of Friday, June 22, 2012. Murphy, The Province’s long-time staff cartoonist, was meeting with Moriarty in the editor’s office on the fifth floor of the paper’s headquarters on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver. The discussion between Murphy and Moriarty was heated; after all, Moriarty was informing Murphy that an animation the cartoonist had produced was being pulled off the web.

A few hours earlier, The Province had posted a satirical animation created by Murphy that lampooned Enbridge Inc., the Calgary-based oil pipeline company. Murphy had taken one of Enbridge’s commercials promoting the benefits of the Northern Gateway pipeline – with its Day-Glo bucolic depictions of nature and happy families – and altered it with splotches of black ink resembling oil spills and noise effects that sounded like breaking wind.

Animation by Dan Murphy satirizing Enbridge Northern Gateway ad

In his meeting with Moriarty, Murphy says he was told Enbridge had complained to the Toronto head office of The Province’s owner, Postmedia Network Canada Corp., Canada’s largest newspaper chain. He says the order had come down to pull Murphy’s satire off the paper’s website – and that $1-million in Enbridge advertising was at stake.

“I’m going to lose my job if we don’t take it down,” Murphy recalls Moriarty saying.

Moriarty, who is still editor of The Province, strongly disagrees with Murphy’s account, saying it was his decision alone to pull the animation due to worries of infringing on Enbridge’s copyright, and not because of orders from superiors. He says his reasons for pulling it include: “I didn’t like it… I didn’t like that Dan went ahead and [posted] it without any discussion prior to it going up with anybody… [And I didn't like] Dan’s reaction following my discussion with him. And I made a mistake. God Almighty if I could undo it, it was the darkest part of my career.”

Enbridge also says they never complained to Postmedia. But whatever happened in that meeting, no one disputes what followed: after the animation was pulled, the media was tipped off and soon stories appeared, including in The New York Times and on CBC, portraying it as a case of corporate censorship.

Murphy continued to work for the paper and even occasionally poke fun at Enbridge. But five months later, his position as staff cartoonist was eradicated as a cost-cutting measure. He was offered a job on the paper’s web desk. When Murphy asked if he could continue producing graphics, cartoons and animations, his bosses said no, claiming union rules.

Instead, Murphy took a severance package and left the paper – one of more than 2,500 employees who’ve been chopped from the payroll of Postmedia since 2010. Now Murphy believes his redundancy as The Province’s cartoonist – a job he’d held since 1984 – was not entirely accidental. “I think in part it was payback,” he maintains, “but in part there was a greater move to get rid of critical voices within the newspaper because that might piss off advertisers, in my opinion.

Postmedia: a sinking ship embroiled in controversy

Postmedia is a national media giant with nearly 200 papers, magazines and websites. Its dailies reach 6.3 million Canadian readers every week, with some of its best-known papers including the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Regina Leader-Post, Winnipeg Sun, The London Free Press, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette.

But Postmedia is also a ship taking on water, due to both self-inflicted and industry-wide wounds.

Of the self-inflicted variety, Postmedia was pilloried last month in the run-up to the federal election after its Toronto executives ordered 16 of its major daily newspapers to run editorials endorsing Stephen Harper. (Postmedia did the same thing last spring during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories).

In a surprising move, John Honderich, chair of Torstar Corp., which publishes Canada’s largest daily paper, The Toronto Star, devoted an entire op-ed page article two weeks ago heaping scorn on Postmedia’s decision, decrying “the negative impact this affair is having on the newspaper industry in general. At a time when the relevance and impact of newspapers are under attack, this doesn’t help.”

Then there was the stunning resignation of Andrew Coyne as the National Post’s editorials and comments editor. Coyne quit on the eve of the election – although he remains a columnist with the paper – when his superiors told him he was not allowed to publish a column dissenting with their endorsement of Harper. Coyne, who declines to discuss the matter, tweeted his disapproval of the censoring, saying “I don’t see public disagreement as confusing. I see it as honest.”

Andrew Coyne

Even supporters of the Post were shocked at how Coyne was treated. “[Postmedia’s] handling of the Andrew Coyne affair was disgraceful,” says Ken Whyte, the founding editor-in-chief of the National Post, former publisher of Maclean’s magazine and currently senior vice-president of public policy with Rogers Communications Inc. Whyte said that the former owners of the Post, the Asper family, “even in their worst moments would still have allowed Andrew to write a column stating his own views and the Aspers had some pretty bad moments.”

Meanwhile, last week, the editorial board of the Ottawa Citizen suddenly resigned without citing a reason.

The silencing of Coyne was not an isolated incident either. In August, acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood watched as a column she wrote for the National Post criticizing Harper was posted on-line, then removed, and then edited before being reposted with some of her criticisms deleted. “Um, did I just get censored?” Atwood asked afterwards.

Three days before the election, Postmedia also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers, direly warning about voting for the Liberals. This action, says Marc Edge, a Richmond, B.C.-based journalism professor and author of the 2014 book, Greatly Exaggerated: The Myth of the Death of Newspapers, suggests Postmedia is “poisoning their brand.”

Indeed, a report released two weeks ago by the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project shows that during both the 2011 and 2015 elections, all of Postmedia’s major dailies endorsed the Tories. “My desk was right beside [The Province’s] editorial page editor's desk and he’d done a number of editorials critical of different aspects of the Harper government,” says Murphy. “I was there [in 2011] when he got word he had to write an editorial in favor of re-electing Harper and getting his majority.”

Postmedia’s reputational hits are stacking up. Last winter, two of its top business columnists, Terence Corcoran and Peter Foster, and the National Post, lost a defamation lawsuit brought by Andrew Weaver, an esteemed climatologist at the University of Victoria and a Green Party MLA in the BC legislature. Corcoran and Foster wrote false information about Weaver, suggesting he exaggerated the dangers of climate change. The judge awarded Weaver $50,000 in damages. The decision is being appealed and Weaver will not discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, last week in a Calgary courtroom – after a seven-year odyssey through the legal system – a defamation lawsuit against Postmedia got underway, scheduled to unfold over the next month. The lawsuit was launched by the journalist and war correspondent Arthur Kent, 61, brother of former Harper cabinet minister Peter Kent. The suit claims that former columnist Don Martin defamed Kent, that Kent was prevented from responding to accusations leveled at him, and that Postmedia failed to preserve evidence and dragged out proceedings. Kent is seeking $4-million in damages, and the case could prove embarrassing for Postmedia’s top brass.

Postmedia’s editorial woes are occurring against the backdrop of gruesome economic realities facing the entire newspaper industry – caused by the web’s omnivorous appetite for advertising dollars, and by a host of innovative digital media competitors.

Since being founded in 2010, Postmedia seems to have bled copious amounts of red ink. In its most recent financial statement, it posted net losses of $263-million for this year alone, on revenues of $750-million, while weighed down with $646-million in long-term debt.

Before it bought the Sun Media chain of newspapers this past year, Postmedia’s revenues had fallen from $899-million in 2011 to $674-million in fiscal 2014 – a plunge of 25 per cent in just three years. Meanwhile, its shares, which rose to $17 in 2011, are now penny stock and no longer actively trading.

This summer the company said it planned to chop $50-million in costs over the next two years; but in its most recent conference call with analysts, management said most of this would be cut in 12 months. Prior to the purchase of Sun Media, the company’s workforce had shrunk to 2,500 employees – from 5,400 five years ago.

Meanwhile, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, the circulation of its papers continues to hemorrhage. Among its 12 leading dailies, paid circulation dropped 179,868 from 2011 to the end of 2014 – from 1.1 million readers down to 964,341, a loss of more than 15 per cent. Now, some experts believe Postmedia is in a death spiral.

“They are basically built on the mass media model of advertising-supported journalism and that's in crisis everywhere,” says Kelly Toughill, a former Deputy Executive Editor of The Toronto Star and Director of Journalism at University of King’s College in Halifax. “I think it's going to be difficult for them to survive.”

Ironically, though, the most serious threat Postmedia faces might be from its owners and debt-holders. The company is controlled primarily by two American hedge funds – GoldenTree Asset Management LP and Silver Point Capital LP. Hedge funds are pools of capital that hunt for investment opportunities, but also have a reputation for being destructive and remorseless sharks within the financial industry.

Indeed, the hedge funds controlling Postmedia specialize in buying so-called distressed-debt companies. For them to profit from faltering businesses, however, often means slashing costs to the bone, sucking out cash flow and selling off assets for scrap to recoup their investment. “Basically that's what they do,” says Martin Langeveld, a former American newspaper publisher and industry expert with Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab. “They take a company, they have different ways of getting their money out even if they don't really fix it… You are cannibalizing, you’re consolidating.”

CEO Paul Godfrey, a Tory powerbroker

“I have nothing but high regard for you and your colleagues, but I’m very concerned we’ve got our feet stuck in cement here,” Conrad Black was saying. It was this past July 9th and Black was participating in a conference call with Postmedia’s top management and Bay Street analysts. But Black was irritated with Postmedia’s executives. As a shareholder and the newspaper chain’s former proprietor, he was unhappy with where it was heading.

“Some of those newspapers have deteriorated a long way from what I remember,” said Black. “Some of it you can’t avoid; some of it, you can. But please build the quality. Otherwise, you’re going to retreat right into your own end zone.”

On one hand, Black’s concerns about the deterioration of Postmedia are ironic, given his notorious disdain for the journalism profession. But few could deny Black had a point: Postmedia had fallen far from its origins.

Postmedia’s roots go back to the Southam Inc. newspaper chain that was founded more than a century ago. In 1996, Black bought the Southam papers and soon created the National Post as its flagship paper. His term as boss would be short-lived, however: pressed by his bankers to chop debt, Black sold the papers to the Asper family’s CanWest Global Communications Corp. in 2000.

Seven years later, the New York-based hedge fund GoldenTree—co-founded by Steven Shapiro, a former manager with CIBC World Markets—began buying up CanWest’s debt issues. As CanWest floundered, GoldenTree acquired more of its debt. Poorly managed by the Aspers, weighed down by $4-billion in debt and pummeled by the credit crisis, CanWest declared bankruptcy in 2009.

A year later, GoldenTree and 19 other foreign and domestic lenders, mostly hedge funds, paid $1.1-billion for the CanWest papers, created Postmedia and made Paul Godfrey its CEO.

Godfrey was a curious choice to run an ailing newspaper chain facing its worst crisis in generations. By then he was in his 70s—today he is 76—and his reputation was as a Tory political operative, not a digital-age business wunderkind.

Paul Godfrey photo by The Canadian Press

However, Godfrey is a powerful backroom wheeler-dealer. “Godfrey’s influence has touched almost everything in politics and economics in this country,” notes a former reporter who once worked under him.

“In my time in politics he was very much behind the scenes,” adds David Miller, Toronto’s mayor from 2003 to 2010, “and it's fair to say he's been very influential on the conservative side of politics in Toronto for a very long time.”

Son of a prominent Tory activist, Godfrey rose from city alderman in one of Toronto’s northern suburbs to the post of Metro chairman, a role that allowed him to direct development and infrastructure among Toronto’s municipalities. Sociable, diligent and intelligent, Godfrey built a network of movers and shakers in politics and business, helping land the Toronto Blue Jays baseball franchise and get the SkyDome stadium built. He also formed close ties to the development industry: today he is chairman of RioCan, Canada’s largest real estate investment trust company. “It’s all about profit with him,” says a former Toronto Sun journalist.

In 1984, Godfrey became publisher of the Toronto Sun, a right-wing cheeky tabloid notorious for its scantily clad “Sunshine Girls.” Eight years later, he was CEO of the Toronto Sun Publishing Group that controlled a small chain of papers.

It was during his stint as publisher of the Sun chain that Godfrey first demonstrated his willingness to use his newspapers to further his political ambitions, as he’s currently doing at Postmedia.

First, he pressed the Tory provincial government of Mike Harris to amalgamate Toronto’s various boroughs into one big city. Then he helped engineer the election of his friend Mel Lastman as mayor of the new mega-city. During the 1997 Toronto election, Godfrey ensured that only favourable stories or photos about Lastman appeared in the Toronto Sun. When reporter Don Wanagas wrote couple of unflattering pieces about Lastman, Godfrey had him removed as a municipal columnist.

Lastman would go on to preside over one of the most corrupt regimes in Toronto’s history,

highlighted by the MFP Financial Services Ltd. computer leasing and bribery scandal, where a group of city insiders arranged to lease computers to the city that was supposed to cost $43-million - before being inflated to $85-million. Most of the key people in the scandal were Godfrey’s acquaintances or close friends. “There's no question he was very influential with Mayor Lastman,” says Miller, who was elected mayor in 2003 on a platform of cleaning up Toronto’s city hall after Lastman. “I certainly knew as a city councillor that Lastman’s office was in touch with Mr. Godfrey all the time.”
Paul Godfrey (left) with Mel Lastman (centre) and Ted Rogers (right) in 2002). Photo from Maclean's

In 1999, Godfrey arranged the sale of the Sun media assets to Quebecor Inc., pocketing a personal fortune of $28-million. He left the following year to work for Rogers, taking over as president of the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2009, Godfrey was asked by the Aspers to become publisher of the National Post. After CanWest went into receivership that year, he helped assemble the consortium of American hedge funds and other lenders to buy the newspapers and create Postmedia.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The role of Canadians in the weaponization of social media by psychopaths!

Good Day Readers:

There has been much speculation over how French authorities and the global anti-terrorist effort could have been caught so off guard by the recent Paris bombings. Was there no online electronic chatter or digital trail? How were those responsible for planning and coordinating such a large scale operation able to stay off the internet or at least go undetected.

The following is by far the best explanation CyberSmokeBlog has yet found. Notice the Canadian connection.

Clare L. Pieuk
Frightening ISIS encryption methods have surprising Canadian connection

By Sandy Garossino in Opinion | November 23rd 2015
A grave intelligence failure marked multiple catastrophic terrorist attacks in recent weeks in Egypt, Beirut and Paris. Brussels is in lockdown, braced for a Paris-style attack, while a firestorm of controversy blazes over social media's encrypted instant messaging apps. And a Canadian technology company is caught in the crossfire.

Whether those responsible for the ISIS attacks actually used communication by untrackable encrypted instant messaging remains unclear. We know that at least some in Paris didn't. Data on adiscarded cell-phone found in a trash-bin outside the Bataclan led authorities directly to the safe-house where attack leader Abdelhamid Abaaoud met his doom.

Oddly, supporters of blanket encryption apps consider this evidence in their favour, when it actually points to the opposite conclusion. Had the attackers encrypted all their communications, per standard ISIS instructions, Abaaoud and his co-conspirators would still be at large instead of chilling at the morgue.

ISIS won't make that mistake again.

Encryption robs investigators of indispensable wiretap powers

Encryption technology is now so powerful that it can't be unlocked even by the host under court order, and is freely available on a number of smartphone apps that all the kids use. Messenger platforms such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Telegram sprouted up following the well-worn Facebook path of making their owners rich by designing hook-up apps.

The thing is, these apps also inadvertently immunize malicious users like ISIS and child predators from lawful investigation. Authorities have now been robbed of indispensable wiretap powers that they've possessed since the invention of the telephone.

That's not a good thing, because we have nothing to replace it. There's simply no investigative substitute for the ability to intercept extremist communications in real-time as attacks are planned. Increasingly, authorities are seeing subjects "go dark," meaning they've accessed encryption messaging software and their communications can no longer be tracked.

What authorities seek is that encrypted messaging apps code in a "key" that allows police (operating under warrant) to intercept communications and track militant extremists and terrorists in a manner similar to tapping a phone.

If we don't master this, we'll turn police into 19th century London bobbies, while ISIS roams the Internet virtually at will.

Kik: the Canadian connection

Terrorists also love Kik, Canada's sparkling billion-dollar messaging baby incubated at the University of Waterloo that boasts over 240 million users worldwide. The FBI has identified Kik as among the Internet's top jihadi social media recruiting and fundraising tools, although no evidence ties it to recent attacks.

In one now depressingly familiar example, three American teenagers, two brothers and a sister aged 16 to 19, were recently caught by the FBI at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago attempting to travel to Syria via Turkey, after being radicalized and groomed on Twitter and Kik.

Pictured below, another recruit coming to join ISIS in Syria through Turkey seeks border crossing advice, providing his Kik handle for direct, encrypted messages.

Recruit seeks border passage advice on, seeks to take private conversation to Kik (not Chicago teens from above example)

And less than a month ago, an enterprising reporter for the Mail on Sunday set up a sting operation and captured ISIS in the act, using Kik to coordinate a donation pick-up. Below, another ISIS Twitter account solicits donations through Kik. (All images care of, altered for emphasis by National Observer).

ISIS fundraising post solicits encrypted contact through Kik

​Kik's special offering goes beyond encryption technology; designed to target teens without their own mobile account, and doesn't require registration to a cell-phone number. No registration is required beyond setting up a user name in a manner similar to an email account. The Middle East Media Research Institute reports,

Anyone can now communicate securely via an untraceable throwaway smartphone, purchased online, including on Amazon. Installing an encrypted messaging app such as Kik... takes a few moments, and after that, chatting securely and secretly with an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter... is one click away.

Reached for comment on the above, Kik media representative Rod McLeod said that Kik cooperates with law enforcement, and is able to assist authorities identify the most recent location of a specific user. Further, Kik will de-activate accounts when appropriate.

Disagreeing that the username model creates a system vulnerability, Mcleod said "A lot of people look at that as kind of a bad feature, especially law enforcement, but we’ve received a lot of feedback saying that having a username instead of giving a phone number makes you feel safer."

Especially if you're a terrorist.

McLeod says the app's vulnerability to terrorists affects all the social media apps that offer encrypted communications. This, however, seems to be the "everyone else is doing it" defence. How useful the law enforcement cooperation can be if users can't be identified and messages aren't stored is doubtful.

The problem with the Internet's get-rich-quick world is that, like Kik, Google and Facebook, social media apps are generally created by young middle-class "geeks" with no real-world experience of threat or insecurity. Kik's market differentiator makes it a perfect design for unlawful uses, like terrorism.

Putting it bluntly, in terms of safety and security, most software designers are wet-behind-the ears amateurs. As McLeod said of Kik founder Ted Livingston and the Waterloo cohort,

"Kik is kind of built in a way where the people that built the technology and the people that founded it—they wouldn’t want people to be able to read their messages so that’s one of the reasons why messages are encrypted and they aren’t stored on our servers."

And so a new ISIS weapon was born.

Organized psychopaths have weaponized social media designed for teenagers

In something as powerful as Internet software, security should never be the afterthought it almost invariably is. Rather, it should be built into the design protocol from the get-go. Organized psychopaths so easily co-opted and weaponized a social media industry designed for teens and gamers, it was like stealing candy from a baby.

Speaking of babies, how come you can't sell a crib in this country without proving it's safe, but you can build a secure end-to-end encryption system that lets ISIS jihadists chat with teens in their rooms, easy-peasy?​

Sample Twitter ID of ISIS fighter gives Kik username for encrypted messaging

In ISIS we face an entirely new kind of foe and this is a new kind of war. Violent conflict could be transformed as radically as military aviation revolutionized war in the 20th century.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, picture ISIS drones. ​

So now, after way too many horses have left the barn, we're finally having the civil rights debate over encryption we should have had years ago in calmer times. Because in this debate, we can finally confront the intractable inner contradictions underpinning the foundations of the Internet itself.

In the founding utopian myth of the Internet, cyberspace is the New World dream made manifest at last; its constitution a Declaration of Independence from nasty earthbound laws and regulatory tentacles.

But cyberspace isn't an imaginary Neverland (where boys never have to grow up). It's right here, in the room where you're reading this. It's in Brussels, Paris, Beirut and Cairo. It's on your bus and in your car and your children's classrooms and bedrooms. It dominates your life.

And those nasty laws and regulations? They brought us safe cars and planes, safe medicine, buildings and food. It's called the rule of law, and it's the bedrock of modern civilization.

Should anyone—whether it's the police, Apple, Snapchat, Kik, or ISIS—be above the law just because they're on-line?

That's the Internet's kryptonite question.

Make no mistake: what's shaping up is a titanic power struggle between the state and the technology sector, now the world's largest and most powerful industry.

Tim Cook rights talk hews absolutist line close to the NRA

“Like many of you,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told an industry audience last summer, "we at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security. We can, and we must provide both in equal measure. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy. The American people demand it, the constitution demands it and morality demands it.”

Yet for all Cook's rhetoric about privacy rights, his absolutism hews much closer to the NRA than to Thomas Jefferson. And it was no coincidence that he mentioned customers first.

In a free and democratic society, no rights are absolute. All are circumscribed by reasonable limitations in the interests of the greater good. Determining the delicate balance in protecting both belongs to the judiciary, not corporate CEOs.

Of course, the spectre hovering over all the sound and fury is the off-stage presence of Edward Snowden. Almost to a person (including the New York Times editorial board), opponents of government efforts to break encryption mistakenly equate it with mass surveillance and a police state.
NSA can't keep their hands off the data cookie jar

As Snowden heroically demonstrated at enormous personal risk and sacrifice, the NSA couldn't keep its hands off the data cookie jar.

By engaging in profoundly intrusive and arbitrary mass data collection, and then lying about it, U.S. authorities poisoned the debate and destroyed public trust. Every reasonable person is or should be suspicious of the NSA's ultimate aims.

Yet police access to encryption keys, granted under warrant based on reasonable and probable grounds, permitting targeted surveillance of suspected criminals is the very antithesis of indiscriminate warrantless mass surveillance.

Stripped of all the high-falutin' jargon, the argument against government access to encryption is really an argument for placing the tech sector, including all the starry-eyed youngsters coding next year's whiz-bang app, above the law.

In that bargain with the devil, the price will be paid in souls.

In this debate, the deep and undisclosed hypocrisy and conflict of interest of tech libertarians must not be ignored.

For all its present hyperventilation, it was the tech industry itself that created the security risk that now threatens us, and they got richer than kings doing it.

Tech industry has built a massive uncontrolled surveillance state of its own

Apple, Google, and Facebook, the biggest dogs in the tech yard, all offer encrypted messaging and have a combined value of almost $1.5 trillion dollars.

All of them purport to "protect" the public from government scrutiny, yet profit spectacularly from the market in highly invasive private information in the form of "meta-data." This information is sold to undisclosed data brokers for unknown uses—mainly marketing.

According to Marc Goodman, technology expert and author of Future Crimes, the private sector has constructed its own for-profit invisible surveillance state, which generates $156 billion a year in revenues, more than double the annual U.S. intelligence budget. Every site we visit, every page we click, they silently track us and sell us.

They track our facial recognition data, our children's facial data, our movements and location. Google even scans and monetizes email content, claiming in a recent lawsuit that “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties." Meaning Google.

If we're talking about warrantless mass surveillance, the NSA can't hold a candle to private enterprise.

Brussels in lockdown needs answers now

Brussels is at a standstill, while the world converges on Paris in a week.

The tech sector needs to climb down from its over-the-top sense of entitlement and step up.

Something's seriously wrong when a business sector that indiscriminately hosts terrorist accounts lectures democratically elected leaders about public safety, then shovels its own cash to off-shore tax havens.

We've got a problem here and we've got to fix it fast. There's an urgent global imperative to solve this crisis and find a middle ground between a police state of mass surveillance and giving ISIS killers their own private communications network.

In fact we already have the solution. Like Dorothy's red shoes, we've always had it. It's called a wiretap warrant. Law enforcement has to be given the time-tested powers it needs to protect the public.

Give them the keys.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why the Canadian Judicial Council has a serious credibility issue!

Good Day Readers:

The other day the CJC released its findings into the alleged misconduct of Quebec federally appointed Judge Michel Girouard who while a lawyer stands accused of buying cocaine from a video store owner and convicted drug dealer.

But first the players.
This shinny face belongs to Independent Counsel Marie Cossette from Montreal BigLaw Lavery Lawyers. Lots of experience with public inquiries most notably the now concluded Charbonneau Commission that investigated corruption in La Belle Province. Mon Dieu there's corruption there?

 Judge Michel "Don't Call Me Mr." Girouard (Soon to be ex?) with a penchant for renting videos.

The Honourable Richard J. F. Chartier Chief Justice of Manitoba's Court of Appeal and only member of the panel who wrote a dissenting decision CyberSmokeBlog found to be beyond comprehensible in its naivete. But more about that later.. "J. F." gave every possible benefit of the doubt and far beyond to "Mr. Giouard." At one point in the proceedings he even sternly corrected "Shinny Face" Cossette for referring to Justice Girouard as "Mr. Girouard."

"Mr." Girouard, "Mr." Girouard, "Mr." Girouard. Jezus that felt good!

Panel Member Federal Court of Canada Chief Judge Paul Crampton.
Finally, panel member Ronald LeBlanc.
Appointed a New Brunswick Provincial Judge in 2002. Prior to that he was Crown prosecutor. Has practiced law for over 35-years.

These are the folks who have spent millions of public dollars (God knows how many?) investigating Mr.(sorry Justice) Girouard. After reading the Judicial Council's report the title of Justice sticks in CyberSmokeBlog's craw.

But this may be far from over. Michel Girouard's expensive taxpayer financed two person legal team could conceivably decide to ask the Supreme Court of Canada for a judicial review of the case and you know what that means More serious
The very troubling decision of Richard Chartier

If you click below there you will find the 52 page report submitted by the panel dated November 18, 2015.


CyberSmokeBlog directs you to Chapter VIII (Chief Justice Chartier's dissenting opinion on the analysis of Justice Giroud's testimony) at page 46 - it's truly remarkable for the wrong reasons.

CyberSmokeBlog's Analysis
Here's a sampling of why CSB found Richard Chartier's decision so incredible in light of the information presented to the panel investigating Justice Girouard's "alleged misconduct." 

[248] at page 46: "..... that the object which Mr Lamontagne slipped to Me Girouard was cocaine. According to these two witnesses, they exchanged a note regarding either movie rentals or Mr Lamontagne’s tax matter ....."

CyberSmokeBlog: Oh really? Now readers, does this look like a run-of-the-mill everyday transaction between Michel Girouard and now convicted drug trafficker Yvon Lamontagne over movie rentals or a tax matter? Everything above board and by the book? Don't think so. They sure have a strange way of conducting business!

[248] at page 46: "..... Of course, there was the video recording. Unfortunately this recording had no sound track. The Absence of a sound track greatly hampered their expat recollection of the exchange ....."

CyberSmokeBlog: Huh?
Mark Twain: "What? your actions are speaking so loudly I can't hear you!"

[249] at page 47: "..... in my opinion, such inaccuracies, when considered separately or as a whole, do not give rise to any concrete doubt about the credibility of Justice Girouard's testimony ....."

CyberSmokeBlog: Giving the accused such overwhelming benefit of the doubt would result in few convictions in courts of law.

[250 at page 47]: "..... In his letter of January 2013 to the Executive Director of the Council (i.e. Norman Sabourin), Justice Girouard wrote that he purchased movies directly from Mr. Lamontagne because he did not want adult movies to appear on his customer file ....."

CyberSmokeBlog: Wonder if Richard Chartrand is aware of the Douglas Inquiry? Presumably, federally appointed Judges and Judges need to watch porno too.

[252 at page 47]: "..... Justice Girouard gave two reasons why he slipped money under the desk pad: the first so that it would not be obvious he was giving money to a trafficker; and second, that he was acting out of habit ....."

CyberSmokeBlog: Surely to God this should have raised a huge, huge red flag for Chief Justice Chartier. Is this the usual way a lawyer and client transact? What's wrong with this picture?

[254 at page 48]: "..... Justice Girouard stated that the note contained two pieces of information: the amount to settle the tax matter and the name of the lender ....."

CyberSmokeBlog: Believe in the tooth fairy ..... eh?

[257 at page 48]: "..... Justice Girouard testified that Mr. Doray's summary (Raymond Doray appointed by the Council to make further confidential inquiries) which was provided to his (Michel Girouard's) counsel (Gerald Tremblay), indicated that Mr. Lamontagne had written on the note, among other things, a message saying (translation) "I'm (Yvon Lamontagne) under surveillance, I'm (Yvon Lamontagne) being bugged." Justice Girouard stated before the Committee that Mr. Doray must have misunderstood him, and that he told him (Mr. Doray) instead, it was Mr. Lamontagne's behaviour which lead him (Michel Girouard) to believe that the latter (Yvon Lamontagne) was under surveillance ....."

CyberSmokeBlog: It matters not. Both parties in this transaction to say the least were behaving in a highly, highly suspicious manner. This is not the usual way lawyers and clients transact. A benefit of the doubt that is not warranted.

[260 at page 49]: ".....Finally, my colleagues find it difficult to believe that Justice Girouard read the first draft of the summary dated May 6, 2013, but that he did not read the August 13, 2013 version. I must admit that I also find it hard to believe this part of his testimony. In my view, Justice Girouard’s explanation on this issue was weak and ambiguous. However, it is plausible that Justice Girouard, as a result of being exhausted and discouraged after finding out that the conduct review process would go forward [168], did not immediately read Me Doray’s summary of their meeting. [261] The fact that Justice Girouard did not read the note: The final suspicious element raised

CyberSmokeBlog: If you found it difficult to believe Michel Girouard did not read the revised version of Mr. Doray's summary and his explanation to be weak and ambiguous then why did you yet again give him the benefit of the doubt?

[261 at page 49]: In my view, a negative inference should not be drawn from the fact that the two men do not recall what they talked about five (5) years ago.

CyberSmokeBlog: Even with a highly, highly suspicious video to refresh their memories?

[262 at page 49]: "I wish to make it very clear that what I saw on the video recording of September 17 seems shady to me. Even Justice Girouard acknowledged it in his testimony: what is shown on the video looks [translation) “suspicious.” ..... "I cannot conclude that his explanations are false. The fact remains that the independent counsel was unable to provide the Committee with clear and conclusive evidence regarding the object that was exchanged and, therefore, the true nature of the transaction that was recorded on video. Although it is true that there are some inaccuracies in Justice Girouard’s testimony, it is important to make a distinction between a version of the facts that is disbelieved and one that is deliberately fabricated. As the Court of Appeal of Quebec stated in Bureautique Nouvelle-Beauce inc. versus. Compagnie d’assurance Guardian du Canada (translation) […] what is untrue is not necessarily deceitful.”

CyberSmokeBlog: Case law notwithstanding, many would call "the transaction" both untrue and deceitful.


CSB could go on and on and on ..... but you can read the full report for yourselves. It's time now for you who will pay for this investigation to indicate what you saw. A normal transaction between a lawyer and his client or something much, much more sinister? Should Michel Girouard be allowed to remain on the bench?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to stay off the grid!

Good Day Readers:

Like many upon hearing of the recent Paris attacks they appeared to have caught the world's counter terrorist intelligence community completely by surprise, CyberSmokeBlog also wondered how could this have happened? Surely, such a co-ordinated, simultaneous,multi-site operation involving several individuals must have involved considerable planning and communication. Why didn't anyone pick up "electronic chatter? It didn't take much research to explain why.

Here are some techniques for staying off the grid.

Clare L. Pieuk
How to stay off the government's grid

1. Live for free. Earn so little as to be exempt from paying taxes (and consider freeganism to survive). Squat for somewhere to live. Alternatively, Live in the Wilderness or Survive in the Woods. Make sure you are paid in cash, or cryptocurrency like bitcoin.

To be continued .....

Monday, November 16, 2015

No Keystone XL Pipeline ..... eh?

"She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes ... Toot! Toot! ....."
Canadian oil trains to US to reach "staggering" levels

By Mychaylo Prystupa in News, Energy | November 12th 2015

Lac Megantic oil train explosion in Quebec. (Canadian Press photo)

Some call them bomb trains. Oil trains — loaded with explosive Canadian and Bakken fuels — are expected to roll into U.S. communities in “staggering" numbers, says a new study released Thursday by a Seattle sustainability think tank.

Sightline Institute says oil shipped by rail into Washington and Oregon states alone will reach one million barrels per day by the year 2018, quadrupling current levels. The cancelation last week of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, to boost Canadian oil exports, is only expected to worsen this trend, the report states.

The analysis comes amid opposition to oil trains from cities and towns in these states. On Thursday, the City of Portland passed a resolution opposing oil by rail expansion, and directed city staff to investigate the health, safety and climate impacts.

The controversial issue has been gaining steam since 2012, when the region's first crude oil rail terminal was installed to load oil tankers.

"If there were an oil train explosion ... we’d all be vaporized"

“If there were an oil train explosion here or near my house — we’d all be vaporized,” said Annie Christensen, a resident near Rainier, Oregon, population 1,800, in a YouTube video last year. “I live a third of a mile from these tracks.”

“The tracks run literally right through the center of Rainier. In order to back out of your parking place, you have to back up over the tracks,” she says in the video.

After the video was posted, Christensen told National Observer this week that the state has begun upgrading the rails, and realigning the town's car parking for safety. But, she said, far more needs to be done. America’s bridges, roads and communities are not ready for the Canadian oil train surge.

"You don't have to be an environmentalist to not want to be incinerated,” she wrote in an e-mail Thursday.

"There is significant anger and frustration regarding the danger of the oil trains and the lack of real action from those in positions to help us be safe."

There are now seven oil-by-rail terminals in the region, moving 250,000 barrels of oil per day. A total of 14 facilities are in the works.

“The capacity that the industry is trying to build right now is staggering,” said Sightline’s policy director, Eric de Place, on Thursday from Seattle.

"People are largely unaware of it, except when the trains derail and explode. Then they become painfully aware."

Canadian oil still growing, despite Keystone XL rejection

And while environmentalists across North America celebrated President Obama’s nixing of the giant Keystone XL pipeline last Friday, Canadian oil production itself is still growing — even with very low oil prices.

“Even without the [Keystone XL] pipeline, Canadian crude has always found its way down to the U.S. — and this is by rail,” said U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) economist Lejla Villar on Wednesday from Washington, D.C.

The U.S. government forecasts Canadian oil production will expand by 60,000 barrels per day this year, and an additional 90,000 barrels per day in 2016.

Oil train protest in Grays Haror near Seattle in October 2015. (Photo by Natalie Jamerson, Washington Environmental Council)

Rail will be now be the "sole driver" of new growth in Alberta's oil sands exports, says the Sightline study.

“The Kinder Morgan [pipeline] expansion in B.C. would be a 590,000 barrels per day increase. But we’re talking about almost double that much in rail capacity for oil trains — it’s a lot.”

The greenhouse gas from the oil train surge in the Pacific Northwest is equal to the pollution of adding nine to 22 million cars, says the Sightline report.

Canada's oil lobby group says oil by train is a reality as the industry struggles to get the approval of giant pipelines.

"Low world oil prices are causing a slower pace of oil development throughout North America. Even with this slower pace, additional transportation capacity will be required over time,” wrote Matthew O'Connor of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in Calgary.

"The industry has several pipelines (new and expansions of existing) currently in the regulator process ... Rail is one component of that transportation network and currently makes up about five per cent of that total capacity,” he added.

One of the industry's next anticipated projects is Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion between Alberta and B.C.'s coast. However, the $5.4-billion project is facing uncertain delays with a new government in Ottawa pledging to overhaul Canada's environmental review of pipelines.

As of August, Canada provided 45 per cent of all crude oil imports to the United States, almost three times as much as all Persian Gulf countries combined, says the U.S. EIA.

An environmentalist report on oil trains also released this month — co-produced by Waterkeeper Alliance, Riverkeeper and ForestEthics — used 250 citizen investigators to survey bridges used by oil trains in 15 U.S. states. They photographed bridges cracking and in an apparent bad state of repair, though they admitted they were not engineers.

The report also chronicled a growing list of U.S. oil train accidents, where derailments have spilled oil into rivers and other watersheds.

Map of proposed and existing oil-by-train infrastructure. (Source: Sightline Institute)

Unplugged, disconnected and off the grid?

Good Day Readers:

What's hard to fathom about last Friday's Paris terrorist attack is how it seemed to catch authorities by complete surprise. An operation involving up to 8-terrorists operating simultaneously at multiple locations must have involved significant planning and co-ordation. Did international anti-terrorist organizations not pick up any "chatter?" Are you to believe those responsible did not use their smart phones and stayed completely off the grid? Add to this a report German authorities are investigating claims that an Algerian man warned fellow migrants last week of an imminent attack in Paris and the mystery deepens.

What does this say about the state of international anti-terrorist intelligence gathering?

Clare L. Pieuk
Belgian jihadi Abdelhamid Abaaoud identified as mastermind of Paris attacks

Associated Press
Monday, November 16, 2015
This undated image talen from a militant website on Monday, November 16, 2015 showing Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a French official says Abdelhamid Abaaoud is the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks was also linked to the thwarted train and church attacks. (militant video via AP)

BRUSSELS — Once a happy-go-lucky student at one of Brussels' most prestigious high schools, Saint-Pierre d'Uccle, Abdelhamid Abaaoud morphed into Belgium's most notorious jihadi, a zealot so devoted to the cause of holy war that he recruited his 13-year-old brother to join him in Syria.

The child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital's scruffy and multiethnic Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood, the fugitive, in his late 20s, was identified by French authorities on Monday as the presumed mastermind of the attacks last Friday in Paris that killed 129 people and injured hundreds.

What's more, one French official told The Associated Press, Abaaoud is believed to have links to earlier terror attacks that were thwarted: one against a Paris-bound high-speed train that was foiled by three young Americans in August, and the other against a church in the French capital's suburbs.

"All my life, I have seen the blood of Muslims flow," Abaaoud said in a video made public in 2014. "I pray that Allah will break the backs of those who oppose him, his soldiers and his admirers, and that he will exterminate them."

Belgian authorities suspect him of also helping organize and finance a terror cell in the eastern city of Verviers that was broken up in an armed police raid on Jan. 15, in which two of his presumed accomplices were killed.

The following month, Abaaoud was quoted by the Islamic State group's English-language magazine, Dabiq, as saying that he had secretly returned to Belgium to lead the terror cell and then escaped to Syria in the aftermath of the raid despite having his picture broadcast across the news.

"I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance!" Abaaoud boasted.

There was no official comment from the Belgian federal prosecutor's office about Abaaoud's reported role in the Paris attacks, but Belgian police over the weekend announced the arrest of three suspects in Molenbeek, his old neighborhood, and were carrying out numerous searches there Monday.

The hardscrabble area in the west of Brussels has long been considered a focal point of Islamic radicalism and recruitment of foreign fighters to go to Iraq and Syria.

Abaaoud's image became even grimmer after independent journalists Etienne Huver and Guillaume Lhotellier, visiting the Turkish-Syrian frontier, obtained photos and video last year of Abaaoud's exploits across Syria. The material included footage of him and his friends loading a pickup truck and a makeshift trailer with a mound of bloodied corpses.

Before driving off, a grinning Abaaoud tells the camera: "Before we towed jet skis, motorcycles, quad bikes, big trailers filled with gifts for vacation in Morocco. Now, thank God, following God's path, we're towing apostates, infidels who are fighting us."

Huver told The Associated Press Monday the video was too fragmentary to say much about Abaaoud's character, but that he detected some signs the Belgian was moving into a leadership role.

"On the one hand I'm surprised," Huver said of Abaaoud's prominence. "On the other hand, I saw that there were beginnings of something . You can see that he's giving orders. You can feel a charismatic guy who's going up in the world ... You can see a combatant who's ready to climb the ranks."

Satter reported from Paris. Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bee power!

Taxes what taxes?

The car-hailing phenom is viewed by many as the model for the 21st century corporation. You should see how state-of-the-art it is when it comes to minimizing its tax bill.