How billionaires fix democratic elections.

Blog No. 127.

I have written many times about the exceptional treatment that my friends and business partners, Harmon and Carolyn Wilfred, have received at the hands of the New Zealand Immigration Department. There is no doubt that their treatment has been exceptionally harsh and represents nothing short of a prolonged and deliberate abuse of their human rights. A fast read of their situation can be seen in this press release or in this Canadian newspaper article Further information on Harmon is available at his website

One has to surmise that at the root of their misfortune is a NZ government decision that the political benefits of treating them so harshly, outweigh the possible negative consequences of the adverse public opinion that such treatment might occasion. In short, the national interest, or, perhaps more accurately in Carolyn’s case, the National Party’s interest, was and still is deemed of greater import than any humanitarian considerations.

The other side of the coin is the exceptionally generous treatment received by President Trump’s close associate, Peter Thiel. In Peter’s case, one has to surmise that this has been because the NZ government regarded the political benefits of treating him so kindly, outweighed any possible negative consequences of adverse public opinion that the exceptionally fast-track treatment of his NZ citizenship request might occasion. (This was long before his rise to fame alongside Donald Trump.) In short, in this instance, as in that of the Wilfreds, the national interest, or, perhaps more accurately, the National Party’s interest, was deemed of greater import than any considerations of possible adverse public reaction. These two hyperlinks give the background to Thiel’s NZ citizenship:

In the NZ Herald article we have mention of Thiel’s involvement with Palantir. In contrast to Harmon, who blew the whistle on CIA fund-raising for its black-ops and whose relationship with the CIA is as sour as you can get, Peter Thiel’s Palantir is a prized contractor to the CIA and to several other agencies in the US intelligence constellation.

I recently came upon Peter’s name again in the lengthy Guardian investigative report, hyperlinked below. The rest of this blog will make little sense unless you take the time to open the hyperlink below and absorb its implications. Somewhere in this Guardian article might be hidden the real reason behind James Comey losing his job as head of the FBI. (Possible Russian involvement in Trump’s election at a far more invidious level to that about which the Democrats have been screaming, but one which, nevertheless, Trump needs to keep out of the public domain.) Also hidden in this article, might be the answer as to who will win the next NZ election?

Here are some widely-spaced extracts:

…she suggested he meet this firm that belonged to someone she knew about through her father.

Who’s her father?

“Eric Schmidt.”

Eric Schmidt – the chairman of Google?

“Yes. And she suggested Alexander should meet this company called Palantir.”

…I had been speaking to former employees of Cambridge Analytica for months and heard dozens of hair-raising stories, but it was still a gob-smacking moment. To anyone concerned about surveillance, Palantir is practically now a trigger word. The data-mining firm has contracts with governments all over the world – including GCHQ and the NSA. It’s owned by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of eBay and PayPal, who became Silicon Valley’s first vocal supporter of Trump….

The extreme-right genius in control of Cambridge Analytica

…How did an obscure Canadian company (AggregateIQ) come to play such a pivotal role in Brexit? It’s a question that Martin Moore, director of the centre for the study of communication, media and power at King’s College London has been asking too. “I went through all the Leave campaign invoices when the Electoral Commission uploaded them to its site in February. And I kept on discovering all these huge amounts going to a company that not only had I never heard of, but that there was practically nothing at all about on the internet. More money was spent with AggregateIQ than with any other company in any other campaign in the entire referendum. All I found, at that time, was a one-page website and that was it. It was an absolute mystery”……Moore contributed to an LSE report published in April that concluded UK’s electoral laws were “weak and helpless” in the face of new forms of digital campaigning. Offshore companies, money poured into databases, unfettered third parties… the caps on spending had come off. The laws that had always underpinned Britain’s electoral laws were no longer fit for purpose. Laws, the report said, that needed “urgently reviewing by parliament”…

…“The capacity for this science to be used to manipulate emotions is very well established. This is military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy and is being used to sway elections in ways that people can’t even see, don’t even realise is happening to them,” she says. “It’s about exploiting existing phenomenon like nationalism and then using it to manipulate people at the margins. To have so much data in the hands of a bunch of international plutocrats to do with it what they will is absolutely chilling.”

“We are in an information war and billionaires are buying up these companies, which are then employed to go to work in the heart of government. That’s a very worrying situation.”…

…What’s been lost in the US coverage of this “data analytics” firm is the understanding of where the firm came from: deep within the military-industrial complex. A weird British corner of it populated, as the military establishment in Britain is, by old-school Tories. Geoffrey Pattie, a former parliamentary under-secretary of state for defence procurement and director of Marconi Defence Systems, used to be on the board, and Lord Marland, David Cameron’s pro-Brexit former trade envoy, a shareholder.

Steve Tatham was the head of psychological operations for British forces in Afghanistan. The Observer has seen letters endorsing him from the UK Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and NATO.

SCL/Cambridge Analytica was not some start-up created by a couple of guys with a Mac PowerBook. It’s effectively part of the British defence establishment. And, now, too, the American defence establishment…

The author of the Guardian article, Carole Cadwalladr, claims that Thiel (and possibly with Russian encouragement) was instrumental in tipping the UK’s Brexit referendum and the recent US presidential campaign in favour of the outcomes most favoured by the extreme right. The article also shows in fair detail how these outcomes were achieved.

The way of the future!

In the case of the Brexit vote, Cadwalladr also shows how a cart and horses were driven through British electoral regulations in regard to the capping of expenditure. This was achieved by using off-shore entities, whose books are not open to inspection by any national electoral commission.

All the above, leaves a question begging to be asked. Was the special treatment granted to Thiel in 2011, by NZ’s National Government, a payment in kind for services rendered, or to be rendered? The answer is probably not. At the time of the award of his citizenship the full technique of using data-mining to sway elections was still at the developmental stage. Two more reasonable questions to ask would be firstly, whether National’s last electoral campaign received a critical boost from the surreptitious involvement of Palantir and other companies within Thiel’s field of influence? Secondly and far more critically, can New Zealanders be assured that such meddling, based on data-mining and now successfully trialed in the Brexit and Trump elections, will not distort the outcome of the coming election?

Out of curiosity I attempted a repeat of Martin Moore, of King’s College London’s exercise, referred to in italics above. I requested from the NZ Electoral Commission information on National Party electoral expenditure in the previous two elections. Unfortunately, in contrast to the UK, this gambit proved a dead-end. In NZ, the Commission only records political party expenditure on advertising – not on consultancies as to how that advertising budget should be spent. In either case, had the quid pro quo not been in NZ dollars but in NZ passports, such figures would have revealed nothing of interest.

My dealings with the current cabinet on behalf of Harmon and Carolyn Wilfred have been marked by an absolute refusal to answer questions as to how their ill-treatment could be justified. The hallmark of the communications has been an arrogance, which one might ascribe to a supreme confidence in their ability to survive the coming election. This would be despite the government’s manifold policy failures and their increasingly authoritarian rule becoming daily more obvious to the electorate. This might be simply a function of their confidence that NZ’s fast failing fourth estate is no longer equipped to hold them to account. Alternatively, such confidence might be derived from knowledge of a master-card up their sleeve.

The question needs to be asked, is New Zealand’s democracy robust enough to survive the onslaught of the billionaires?

Anyone noticed? Could our democracy be under siege?
Something to add? Please leave a comment in the box below

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.