So I stumbled upon this tonight:
Robertson’s links to powerful foreign funders demands full transparency
In the article the author uses a great little rhetorical trick to get us started. See if you can catch it.
Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson says that he wants our city to re-think the transit of oil tankers through our waters. In light of the horrific oil spill in the Gulf, surely every port city should be re-check plans and preparations for mitigating inevitable risks. No matter how well-prepared we are, accidents still happen. So if Mayor Gregor Robertson has Canada’s interests at heart, that’s great. On the other hand, if the Mayor’s recent move is partially to please the U.S. funders of his entourage, Vancouver voters have the right to know.
So she never actually says Robertson is not acting with Canada’s interests at heart, which is what she has set up rhetorically as the positive choice, but she is demanding that if he is doing this to please U.S. funders of his entourage (which is set up as the opposite choice), that he let Vancouver voters know (because she has asserted they have a right to know). That’s awesome. Great command of a rhetorical device.
But, what the hell, I’ll take the bait. Let’s examine her premise.
Premise: Mayor Gregor Robertson is examining oil related transit because of influence of US based, oil-backed interests.
Evidence: 1 contributor to Robertson sits on board of Tides Canada and Tides US. They are big foundations. They give a lot of money to a lot of people. Some of that money comes from Pew and Hewlett. Pew money comes from oil. I’m not sure what the objection is regarding Hewlett, but for the sake of consistency let me add, Hewlett money comes from computers.
So in the immortal words of Deep Throat, “Follow the money.”:
Oil – Pew – Tides US – Tides Canada – Renewal Partners – Strategic Comm. – Robertson.
Six Degrees of Separation? Let’s put aside that social theory, a really fun Bacon-related game, and a pretty great Will Smith film all suggest that anyone can be connected to anyone via six degrees of separation, let’s see if we can connect Robertson to “Big Oil”.
In doing my research I used only the resources and links provided by the author in the story.
In 09 Tides Canda gave no grants to contributors to Robertson listed in this story. No grants in 2008 either.
In 09 Tides US gave Tides Canada no grants, nor did it give any grants to contributors to Robertson listed in this story.
There was $173K in grants to Tides Canada in 08 out of $208M given that yr. (0.08% of giving) I’m going to go way out a limb and suggest that’s insignificant in terms of Tides US granting that year.
The US Center for Consumer Freedom cited as the sole authority and critic of Tides is also a critic of MADD, PETA, and the Centers for Disease Control. It was founded by a DC area lobbyist w/money from Philip Morris. It focuses on making sure that extremist organizations do not infringe on the public ability to do things like smoke in restaurants or eat pharmaceutically treated meat. Seriously, check these guys out. Or better yet, read their own site.
Pew Charitable Trusts was founded with Sun Oil money — in 1948. It would be reasonable to assume therefore that the founding money for Pew is pre-WWII money, since it takes some time to accumulate significant funds (even in war time) and for those funds to pass to a future generation and eventually through probate to establish a major foundation.
Now on to Hewlett.
In 2009 Hewlett made a $50K to Tides Canada out of $235M given that yr. (0.02% of giving). [Remember Tides DID NOT make any grant in 2009 to any group listed in article as donor to Robertson.] Again, I’m going way out a limb here and suggesting that this grant is insignificant to Hewlett based on total giving that year.
At one point the author asks why Hewlett spend so much in Canada rather than in developing countries where the money is so badly needed. I would suggest that it is because this where the NGO’s are. Canada has a long and treasured history of establishing charitable organizations that carry their work out internationally. The author also fails to mention what the charitable focus of the giving from Hewlett to Canada is, or what the charitable focus of Hewlett is worldwide, or the relative global distribution of viable non governmental organziations capable of carrying out the philanthropic goals of Hewlett might be. All three variable I would assume would play a part in examination of the distribution of Hewlett’s charitable giving.
OK, there were a few errors and mislead statements I had to deal with as well.
Error1: The author states:
“In 2008, Hewlett granted $US 3 Million to Tides Canada ‘for reducing the environmental impacts of oil and gas development in Northern Canada.’”
In 2008 Hewlett made a $3M grant to Tides US (not Tides Canada). This is revealed when to click the link provided by the author to the Hewlett website listing grants to Tide US. It is a direct link to this single grant, so there is no confusion. The author either purposefully or accidentially misstates this basic fact.
Misleading statement 1 (the very next sentence):
And in 2009, Hewlett granted a further $US 2 Million.
Well no, actually, since Hewlett didn’t grant the intial $3M, you can’t say they granted a further $2M. Besides, they granted both to Tides US, not Tides Canada. Oh, but wait, let me read on:
“However, this was granted through Tides Foundation (USA), not through Tides Canada Foundation.”
OK, so wait, you either intentially or accidentially misstate the giving from Hewlett to Tides Canada in the first sentence, compound it with a misleading statement in the second sentence, and then withdraw some, but not all of your misstatement in the following sentence? Cool, let me try:
You suck as a writer. And furthermore you stink. However, the stink is coming from that cesspool you’re swimming in, not you.
Cool. That makes what I said OK, right?
OK, some more misleading statements:
“…the Tides Foundation, a deep-pocketed American organization that has received at least $US 140 Million from the Pew Charitable Trusts…”
It would be clearer to add this was over 15 years. In 2007 it appears from the US Federal Tax returns that Pew posts on their website for anyone to read, that they gave away $159Million. One can only imagine what the total giving is over 15 years. I’ll go way out a limb again and suggest that for a foundation as massive at Pew, $140Million over 15 years is insignificant. That’s scary and crazy, but probably true.
Oh, and check out this rhetorical trick ( love this one, guilt by association):
“ Hewlett also granted at least $US 7 Million to the Natural Resources Defense Council – which Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Chief of Staff, Michael Magee, visited in April of 2010.”
Did you see what she did there? Robertson visited a recipient of $7M Hewlett gift. Citation needed, none given for this particular gift. One is led to believe by this association, that a) the Natural Resources Defense Council operates outside the interests of Canada in general and Vancouver specifically, and; b) Robertson’s visit was either because he already believes and supports whatever their agenda is (it is never stated), or; c) Robertson was naively tricked by the pod people at the NRDC and now is “one of them” (screeee!). It never does say when this visit happened, so I’m not sure at what point Robertson was replaced with a pod person.
Also, can I just add something? I assume Robertson also visits a number of local gas stations. Should one assume Robertson is also under sway of Petro Canada?
Oh, and by the way, that $7M gift to the NRDC was over seven years. I think I’m out of limbs to go way out on…
Then there is is kinda long section I’m calling the “red herring” section because it talks about how Hewlett funded a number of initiatives to address the potential hazards of farmed salmon on the ecology of the Pacific Northwest in general and the native salmon stocks in particular. It’s kind of hard to make people fighting the effects of sea lice look bad, but the author sure tries. In the end, the section is unrelated and irrelevant to the premise.
Got another error for you. Error 2:
“And Tides Canada Foundation – of which Solomon is the Vice-Chair, has been paid at least $US 7 Million to “address” Canada’s oil and gas.” (sic)
I went through all the data linked by the author and I only counted $4,820,000 to ”address” oil & gas, not $7M. This money came from Hewlett (not Pew or Tides US) and the amount was paid over 7 years. It was also dwarfed by the amount received to assist aboriginal tribes and the amount received related to rainforest management.
Here’s another rhetorical trick for you (I know you love ‘em):
“…Tides Foundation, a deep-pocketed American organization that has received at least $US 140 Million from the Pew Charitable Trusts, another huge American foundation created with funds from U.S. oil interests.”
OK, so we’ve already covered the fact that this Tides Foundation got $140M from Pew. Over 15 years. Which is like a drop in the bucket for a huge foundation like Pew. We’ve also covered that the Pew money is old money, like pre-WWII money. Oil money to be sure, but real old oil money, not the current nasty old BP kind of money, the nasty old “There will be Blood” mind of oil money.
So what’s my beef this time? Well, when you use the word “another” that word is supposed to refer to the prior thing that you were talking about, anther action, or another actor. In this case, it refers to another actor — Pew Charitable Truts. The problem is, the author previously established that Pew was established by oil interests, so the reader (me) defaulted back to the next actor in line, Tides US. The way this is written is either clever or poor. I’m going with poor. This statement, as it pertains to Tides US, is not proven within the article, nor is it necessarily true.
Let’s review: Donor to Robertson sits on Board of Tides US & Tides Canada. Tides US and Tides Canada made no grants to this donor’s companies or Robertsons campaign during 2008 or 2009.
Premise = Fail.
While there have been gifts from Pew to Tides US, and Pew was founded on Pre-WWII era oil inheritances, these gifts are insignificant compared to overall giving of Pew over the last 15 yrs. There is no such connection between Pew and Tides Canada. There is relatively insignificant giving from Tides US to Tides Canada (in terms of total funds given by Tides US). There are relatively insigificant gifts (in terms of total giving) from Hewlett, founded on computer inheritances (not oil)for oil-based initiatives by Tides Canada over the past 7 years.
There is no conncetion made between Pew funding of Tides US and Tides Canada grants. There is no connection made between Tides US or Tides Canada and the donors to Robertson’s campaign. There is no apparent taint on the source of Hewlett funding (computers). There is no apparent connection between Hewlett funding of Tides Canada oil-related projects and funds going into the Robertson campaign.
The author entirely FAILS to prove her premise and moreover fails to even conclude with her initial premise, rather, she calls on Tides Canada (not Mr. Robertson) for more transparency in the transmigration of funds from US donors through to Canadian charities.
We can either believe that Mayor Robertson is under the sway of a donor who sits on a foundation that makes grants to other organizations who do work in oil-related environmental areas, or we can believe that Mayor Robertson took one look at the largest oil spill disaster in American history and thought “Shit, I better make sure that doesn’t happen here” and got off his ass to do something about it.
Now, personally I like the third option, which is the “NRDC Pod People” option, but I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggestion that’s probably not the case.
So read the story yourself and if you like, come back with a saw and start on those limbs I’ve climbed out on.