Poor @ProtonMail – smeared by its dodgy users

A side issue raised by the Cambridge Analytica exposé is the revelation that the subterranean dirty political operators use a feature of end-to-end encrypted email service ProtonMail – expiring messages (sometimes called ‘self-destructing’ messages, no doubt in homage to TV show Mission: Impossible and its classic line, “This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds.”)

Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix has been ‘suspended’, as a part of damage control arising from his revelations to Channel 4’s hidden camera reporter.

A quirky detail is his instructions to his supposed new client to ‘Set up a ProtonMail account‘ (“Nobody knows we have it,” Nix said, in a worthy entry in Famous Last Words) and his description of how CA use ProtonMail with settings to make the encrypted email messages ‘disappear’ after two hours.

So, how do you suppose ProtonMail might be responding to all this inadvertent worldwide product placement?

I asked. Not that happy, they say.

Then saw this comment on Reddit:

This seems entirely reasonable.

For the record, if you’re involved in dirty politics and you rely on this sort of tactic to cover your tracks, well, it’s going to come out sooner or later.

– P

Soo busted. Cambridge Analytica’s extensive dirty tricks shopping list exposed

Cambridge Analytica’s Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global and CEO Alexander Nix filmed in a hidden camera sting, in which Nix was secretly recorded describing in detail how his operatives have operated hidden camera stings.

Good god. This is devastating. And, at another level, deeply ironic.

Watch below. 19 minutes of your time well-spent.

And to think we used to regard Crosby Textor as ratbags, huh? Just goes to show.

This exposé also puts into context our local wannabe political activists highlighted in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics — remember his account of Cameron Slater sniffing around for ‘dirt’ on politicians and journalists, even asking a former prostitute friend to check with her mates working in brothels for salacious details? And Slater Jnr sending his apprentice Jordan Williams down to a pub in Wellington late at night on a wild goose chase – futilely looking to get a photo of a senior politician worse-for-wear? Pfft.

I reckon Dirty Politics just scratched the surface, and it sounds like this Cambridge Analytica crowd would fit right in.

Into the bloodstream

There’s a lot notable in the video, including that line from Mark Turnbull about feeding weaponised information “into the bloodstream of the internet” – and doing it in such a way that it’s not recognised for what it is — and doesn’t trigger a reaction of: ‘That’s propaganda’.
Because the next question is, ‘Who put it out?’

As we’ve seen, there’s a lot of hidden action in this dirty politics/dirty PR/attack PR world.

Nice to have the lid lifted a bit.

– P

This is worth a listen too:

Goosebumps! Morgan James slam dunks another big song

Wow. Again. I remember being struck by this talented vocal artist Morgan James, and her wonderful self-awareness when I bought her album Hunter (we used do that, remember? Before streaming).

I posted a nice video (which still works!) at this post: Wow. The talented and likeable Morgan James. The last line she speaks in the ‘Hunter Extended cut’ video (spoiler, but too bad) is: “My name is Morgan James, and I don’t look like soul singer, but I AM a soul singer.”

Boy, look at her prove it again here:

So gutsy. I love her.

– P

Making a pig of it. Jordan Williams has been tardy with his financial reporting obligations

It appears the PR attack machine operated by New Zealand’s most defamed man Jordan Williams (the value of whose reputation has been under review) and his ‘co-founder’, long time National Party political activist David Farrar, has been delinquent in its financial reporting obligations since the end of January this year.

The ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ incorporated society has failed to file up-to-date financial reports at the Incorporated Societies office, as it is required to, and (as I write this) it has failed to rectify the breach despite it being drawn to its attention.

Some might see that as ironic, given the PR attack machine’s loud focus on holding other, actual real public bodies ‘to account’ in the name of ‘transparency’. (vomit)


Since its first appearance, like a verruca, in 2013, the ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ PR attack machine has operated as an incorporated society. I listed the original 15 people who were part of the March 2013 ‘Application to incorporate as a society’ in this earlier post: On the ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ PR attack machine in July last year.

It’s a matter of public record. This is them:
David Peter Farrar
Gabrielle O’Brien
Amanda Richardson
Matthew Stephens
Stephen Leslie Franks
Stephanie Morrison
Hadleigh Pedler
Catharine Mackenzie
Garth Ireland
Bryce Derek Wilkinson
Christopher Edward Westbury
Hamish Gilbert McConnachie
Aimee Sanders
Stephen Whittington
Murray Gibb

Now, one presumes there are all sorts of advantages to be gained by operating in this manner, as an incorporated society – not least that organisers can send out press releases claiming their lobby group/proxy service/PR attack machine is a (cough) ‘grass-roots’ group of Kiwis who care deeply about … yada yada.

But one of the downsides is an obligation to file annual accounts which are made public by the Incorporated Societies office and published on its website: www.societies.govt.nz (part of the Companies office.

The office says filing these reports is ‘important’ … see Why should you file financial statements?: Continue reading →

Farewell Stephen Hawking

What can you say about this hero? Boom!

By his beliefs he has stopped existing now that he is dead. Fair enough.

But few people make the impact he did – those that do, live on in our memory. Their insights ‘live’, recorded in books or other media.

What a shadow he cast.

– P

Thanks to Rod Emmerson whose cartoons are proving so apt. Another legend.

In the news, 1984. Some photographs.

My (endless?) decluttering continues, and with it, blasts from the past rise to the surface.

During 1984, before I trained as a journalist, I set out to create a portfolio of photos of people who interested me – who were ‘In the news’ at the time. As a starting point, I approached figures I’d heard interviewed by Sharon Crosbie on her Nine to Noon National Radio show. Some were regular commentators – and I even asked Crosbie herself.

Most of those I approached were gracious and agreed to be part of the project. Most didn’t know me from a bar of soap, but kindly let a stranger visit them to take some photos. Here are some of the pics I came across recently (with the original slides, which is good even by my own nascent archivist standards).

All the shots were taken on 35mm Kodachrome 64 loaded in one of my Canon SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras, either with natural light or with a portable flash unit bounced into a slivered umbrella set up on location. I had a Canon 100mm f2.8 lens I used for portraits in those days.

In the news, 1984 – pics by Peter Aranyi (click to enlarge)

The subjects are: (Top L-R) Peace campaigner Owen Wilkes, economist Len Bayliss*, then-Mayor of Wellington Ian Lawrence, Victoria University Political scientist Rod Alley, Actor and activist Tungia Baker;
(Bottom L-R) The NZ Film Commission’s Lindsay Shelton, Broadcaster Sharon Crosbie, Victoria University Religious studies lecturer Jim Veitch.

It was very kind of these people to allow me to come and take up their time in this way. It said something to me then, and now, about how open and approachable New Zealand public figures can be. Good on them.

– P

*Len Bayliss died very recently. In his world he was a giant – see Len Bayliss’ courageous voice by Michael Reddell at Newsroom.co.nz
Owen Wilkes passed away in 2005, as did our beloved Tungia Baker. Tempus fuget.

Archive copy of Newsroom article

Jordan Williams and Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance – Putting the ass back into astroturf

click to enlarge

Follow this twisted tale … start with Peter WM …

Oh no! Could Steven’s avatar have been appropriated by a Macedonian teenager’s Twitter-bot-for-hire which then, somehow, mysteriously ended up ‘supporting’  the (cough) Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance? Weeell, maybe.

Continue reading →

Stages of grief after an electoral loss

Don’t let anyone tell you this stuff isn’t real.

Can somebody remind me which stage of grief this is?

It’s absolutely natural to cast around for blame, and then a fresh-faced leader after a not-exactly-unexpected-but-oh-boy-we-got-our-hopes-up election loss/disappointment.

How long before Dr Jonathan Coleman is persuaded to throw his hat in the ring again?
He’ll be getting sweet-talked by now, I reckon.

Pic: Alan Weller, Getty (click)

– P

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. (Betteridge’s law of headlines.)

Almost never a good sign:

It can be unsettling when the political chattering classes start asking leading questions.

Anyone familiar with Betteridge’s law of headlines knows how that works …

Click to read Wikipedia entry

But Bill English says calm down, it’s OK. Well, for him, anyway. (That’s too bad about Paula Bennett, then, eh?)

What isn’t he saying?

Personally, I don’t think Bill English did enough ‘wrong’ in the last New Zealand General Election to deserve having the skids put under him by ambitious people in his caucus. I think he absolutely blossomed in the campaign – except for his awful, credibility-eviscerating backing of Steven Joyce’s so-called $11-billion-dollar-hole attack. But what practical choice did he have? He had to fudge it, at least.

Oh, and there was English’s ghastly, nauseating complicity in the slippery Todd Barclay police investigation/non-investigation farce. That was very messy. It took the shine off his ‘Honest Bill’ moniker.

But still, I think English did enough to be allowed to leave the National Party leadership on his own terms and timing. That said, the Labour-led Coalition government arrangement – which sees the somewhat-chastened Green Party ‘in power’ for the first time, as well as the triumphant return of Winston Peters to Cabinet, does feel like a generational change.

And then there’s the Jacinda Ardern effect. National has to respond, somehow.

– P


Einstein on simplifying

I wish you well this holiday season.

Go well. If you can, refresh & simplify.

That second aspect, simplifying, is a path I have been on for a little while now. I’m not finding it easy, but I do feel lighter for every bit of baggage I shed. Also: cycles, seasons & timing are real, tangible things.

Best wishes, -P

Tintin in The Matrix – cool

Wouldn’t this be cool?!

via Jean-Phillipe de Tonnac twitter: @inthemoodfortw (click to visit tweet)

h/t to @becs and @CamilleStein

Alec and Sierra ‘Animals’

I loved this couple when they won X-Factor USA.
This is from their 2016 album ‘As Seen On TV’. Cool.

Sadly for fans like me, they announced in September this year that they’ve decided to stop being a group, after ending their romantic relationship some time earlier. Too bad, but one has to respect their decision.

I wish them well.

Visit their website www.alexandsierraofficial.com for more info.

– P

John Key’s flying pig falls to earth

John Key – batted away the truth with… something less than the truth

David Fisher took literally years to shed even a little light on how Teflon John Key misled New Zealanders about a mass surveillance system on our internet his government was commissioning for the Americans.

The whole very carefully, diplomatically written article is worth reading: John Key, mass surveillance and what really happened when Edward Snowden accused him of spyingNZ Herald

Teflon John’s Chief of Staff (and every bit the mafia consigliere) Wayne Eagleson, apparently, “regretted” a terribly misleading misstatement: responding to an Official Information Act request as if the Prime Minister’s office did’t have copies of “sensitive security and intelligence documents” when Oh-dear-Mr-Ombudsmen-we-just-don’t-know-how-we-could-have-accidentally-overlooked-these-ones-in-our-filing-cabinet-until-after-John-Key-had-retired

And there was further information which challenged Key’s set of events although his Chief of Staff Wayne Eagleson initially said it did not exist and then insisted the information that did exist was wrong.
When the Herald sought details of Speargun through the OIA, Eagleson passed the request straight to the GCSB, saying “it is the long-standing practice of this Office not to retain copies of sensitive security and intelligence documents”.
But three years later, after the intervention by the Office of the Ombudsman, Eagleson admitted there were two sensitive security and intelligence documents which had been kept by the Prime Minister’s office.
Eagleson said passing the request to the GCSB to handle meant those documents were overlooked – a fact he said was “regretted”.
When the information was eventually released, it appeared to show the Speargun project was still active when part of a critical briefing given to Key in July 2013.

See, I’m cynical.

– P

PS The Prime Minister’s office under John Key got decidedly slippery. Here’s an example of Wayne Eagleson kicking another OIA request into the long grass with a ‘no records are held’ and, later, an ‘oh dear, that would be so hard for a staff member to do accurately’. Forgive me for being skeptical, eh?

Bob and weave, duck and dive. Wayne Eagleson’s contribution to Official Information Act obfuscation history will be legend in the corridors of power. Forget any revisionist descriptions claiming the Key administration ushered in a new era of ‘transparency’. Lol

Of course, we now know, thanks to David Fisher and the Ombudsman, that “does not exist” and “cannot be found” are not perfect nor final states in the Prime Minister’s office on Planet Key. Full document here (PDF 222kb)

Murky PR update: ‘The Bloggers Club’

The Bloggers Club – influencer marketing and digital talent management agency. “Authentic”

Alex Casey at The Spinoff had some emails leaked to her which revealed a behind-the-scenes attempt at opinion manipulation via news media. See ‘Mum’s the word’: The online influencers secretly paid to go on 1News

Two prominent online “influencers” appeared in a 1News story about Kmart without having disclosed payments from a PR company acting for the retailer, The Spinoff has learned. News of the secret payment, which came to light in emails leaked to The Spinoff, has prompted TVNZ to remove the story from its online archive and pledge a review of its processes, saying it had on this occasion been “duped”.

… Both [Melissa] Jack and [Maria] Foy have made strong statements about the importance of disclosing commercial relationships with brands they write about. Foy specifically stated this year that she has never been paid by Kmart.
In an email obtained by The Spinoff, an account manager from Undertow Media set out the terms for the appearance. “Kmart is keen to move forward with both Maria and Melissa for tomorrow from 3.45pm to 4.45pm for the One News x Kmart interview opp,” she wrote. “As discussed, each blogger will receive $250 cash payment (as invoiced via The Bloggers Club) and $250 Kmart store credit (provided via gift cards tomorrow onsite) for their involvement in the opportunity and also to repost the One News video link across their socials.”

Oh dear. It reminded me of that time on Media3 when Russell Brown got Cameron Slater to admit pretty much the same thing: Dirty PR — see my post ‘As playful as he is psychotic’. Slater Jnr tried to justify it as him being paid to present his own political opinions. Lol. (Follow that ‘psychotic’ link and listen to the 1′ 30″ audio. It’s priceless.)

This was in 2012, well before Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics (also based on leaked emails) lifted the lid on Slater Jnr, Carrick Graham and Cathy Odgers in the chapters ‘Cash for Comment’ and ‘Chaos and Mayhem Limited’.

Some things seem to not change, really.

I’d never heard of ‘The Bloggers Club‘ until now. I’m not a member, obvs. If this marketing firm is like a clearing house for subterranean payments to “influencers” seeking to monetise their following through deceit like this, as Alex Casey’s story implies, well, bleurgh.

“Mum’s the word on the remuneration.”

Like we need more of that.

– P


Archive copy of Alex Casey’s article ‘Mum’s the word’: The online influencers secretly paid to go on 1News from The Spinoff (PDF 2MB)
I recommend you click through to their site and watch their 7 min video documentary on ‘Influencer’ marketing, also sweetly posted to youtube. Highlight: a likeable man from ‘The Social Club’ talking about the age-old question: ‘What defines a commercial relationship?’ (Hint: apparently “It’s a really grey area at the moment”. Oh really?)

Facebook is not the devil

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I have been terribly troubled by Facebook’s ‘surveillance economy’ model: the way it tracks and analyses its users’ social graph and extrapolates a map of their ‘interests’ and demographic information before delivering them (the users) and their privacy up like lambs to the slaughter on the altar of commerce and, it turns out, to political campaigns.

The flaw with Facebook is in its DNA, or perhaps better put, in the at-base dishonesty and untrustworthiness of its founder, the deceitful Mark Zuckerberg. For instance, I have always taken this exchange at face value, reproduced in 2010 by Business Insider:

According to SAI sources, the following exchange is between a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and a friend shortly after Mark launched The Facebook in his dorm room:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask.
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don’t know why.
Zuck: They “trust me”
Zuck: Dumb fucks.

Leave aside the clear evidence of Zuckerberg’s duplicity dealing with the Winklevoss twins and the outcome:

They are known for co-founding HarvardConnection (later renamed ConnectU) along with Harvard University classmate Divya Narendra. In 2004, the Winklevoss brothers sued Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, claiming he stole their ConnectU idea to create the popular social networking site, and ultimately received $65 million.

The many and varied intrusions Facebook makes into its users’ privacy over the years, the overreach the site routinely makes, and the exploitative, cynical attitude Facebook seems to operate with – these have put me off using the service for personal interactions except superficially. Continue reading →