Friday, July 22, 2016

Elizabeth May Calls Out Trudeau on Corexit

Maybe Trudeau and McKenna thought no one would notice. They thought wrong. Almost as soon as Environment Canada quietly announced it had approved Corexit for use as an oil dispersant word began to get around.

You see, there are people who know the name. They also know the history of this horrific chemical. There's a massive wealth of experience that goes from the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound to the Deepwater Horizon fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico. It's literally the equivalent of thalidomide for any marine ecosystem and the people whose livelihoods depend on it. You can watch the videos here - if you've got a strong stomach.

Now Green Party leader Elizabeth May is taking Trudeau - and his laughable promise that his government will follow the science - to task.

"I am deeply disappointed that our current government is continuing the trend of making decisions based on industry recommendations rather than the evidence-based decision making process we so dearly need," said Dr. Lynne Quarmby, Green Party Science Critic, and Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University.

Last month, Environment Canada quietly released regulations that included a list of approved "treating agents" for oil spills. Corexit EC 9500A, which actually sinks oil, was on that list.

"We know from the disastrous cleanup attempts during BP's Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 that solubilizing oil with Corexit allows the toxins in oil to permeate into bodies of humans and marine animals," Dr. Quarmby said. "In one controlled study, toxicity to planktonic organisms was more than 50 times higher when Corexit was added. As we saw in the BP Gulf spill, Corexit causes oil to sink - out of sight, out of mind seems to be the environmentally disastrous plan."

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, added: "Corexit is a highly controversial chemical that doesn't actually disperse ocean oil spills so much as it makes oil sink to the ocean floor, where it is consumed by ocean life," Ms. May said.

"Environment Canada concluded there would be no expected important environmental effects, either positive or negative, by using this toxic chemical, despite growing scientific evidence that Corexit intensifies the toxicity of oil. This government promised to do better by relying on science and evidence-based decision making. This decision falls short and must be reversed," Ms. May said.

There was plenty of reason to suspect that EnviroCan was seriously compromised during the Harper era. Anything affecting pipelines and bitumen export seemed to be whether it was Fisheries & Oceans, the shuttered Coast Guard, Transport Canada and, most of all, the National Energy Board. Harper's National Energy Board was packed with oil industry shills who reached predictable conclusions through a blatantly rigged process. Today, however, it's Trudeau's National Energy Board and it's the same stacked deck only under a Liberal government. That's as inexcusable as it is telling of this prime minister.

A TV Show Goes to Washington

According to a report in The New York Times, Donald Trump plans to abdicate his role as president just as soon as he redecorates the Oval Office to pimp it out.

Trump envisions a new presidency, one in which the duties typically performed by a president are delegated to his vice president. This includes formulating policy, domestic and foreign. While Mike Pence assumes the responsibilities of governing, Trump will focus on "making America great again" whatever that means.

It sounds eerily like Trump's TV show. He figures out what he wants to make America great again and leaves everything else, including the day to day running of the country, to Pence. Perhaps Mike Pence will just be the first in a lengthy line of Trump vice presidents, each dreading the morning they'll be called into Trump's office to be told, "you're fired."

Only a president can't simply fire a vice president. It turns out the veep can only be ditched with a vote in the House and a 2/3rds vote in the Senate. That said, however, a character like Trump might be able to force a veep to "voluntarily" resign. In that event the 25th Amendment comes into play. The Pres gets to pick a new veep but the nomination has to be approved by a simple majority in both the House and the Senate. If ever there was a political football, that's it. It could get messy.

There has been no shortage of pundits in recent months who speculated that Trump didn't want the job. Seems they were half right. He doesn't want the job. It's the office he wants, not the job that goes with it. Oh dear.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ah, Jesus - Not Corexit!!

When it comes to the pipeline giants, prime minister Slick is their boy. His government had no problem giving the sack to a couple of dozen ambassadors appointed by Harper but Slick has taken a "hands off" approach to the industry shills who have effected and continue the political capture of the National Energy Board.

And now word has come out that Trudeau's EnviroCan has approved Corexit as a dispersant for oil spills. What's wrong with that? Think of Corexit as thalidomide for the marine habitat, including the humans in coastal areas.

I'm now going to post two clips about Corexit. The first is a short teaser in which Vice TV founder, Shane Smith, discusses this vile product.  I hope that will whet your appetite for the full report that follows.

Full report:


The Green Party is demanding that the Trudeau government reverse the EnviroCan edict.

"I am deeply disappointed that our current government is continuing the trend of making decisions based on industry recommendations rather than the evidence-based decision making process we so dearly need," said Dr. Lynne Quarmby, Green Party Science Critic, and Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University.
"We know from the disastrous cleanup attempts during BP's Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 that solubilizing oil with Corexit allows the toxins in oil to permeate into bodies of humans and marine animals," Dr. Quarmby said. "In one controlled study, toxicity to planktonic organisms was more than 50 times higher when Corexit was added. As we saw in the BP Gulf spill, Corexit causes oil to sink - out of sight, out of mind seems to be the environmentally disastrous plan."

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, added: "Corexit is a highly controversial chemical that doesn't actually disperse ocean oil spills so much as it makes oil sink to the ocean floor, where it is consumed by ocean life," Ms. May said.

"Environment Canada concluded there would be no expected important environmental effects, either positive or negative, by using this toxic chemical, despite growing scientific evidence that Corexit intensifies the toxicity of oil. This government promised to do better by relying on science and evidence-based decision making. This decision falls short and must be reversed," Ms. May said.

H/T Toby for the link.

Howard's Farewell to Elayne

Howard Shapray is widely known as a great guy, a fine lawyer and a devoted father and husband. After a lengthy struggle with incurable disease, Howard's wife, Elayne, ended her life with the assistance of a physician. Elayne Shapray was a witness in the Carter case where, in a 9-0 per curiam decision, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right to physician assisted death.

Howard penned a tribute to Elayne, her good works, her lengthy battles and her death, on her own terms, in her own time. Those who don't understand the Carter decision or who, like the government of the day, can't muster the courage to follow the clear law of our land, need to learn about Elayne and what she and her family went through.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Making Sense of the Republican Fiasco

Like many observers I have watched the Republican presidential race with a combination of astonishment and horror. As Donald Trump won his party's nomination I struggled to make sense of it all. Then it dawned on me. I was watching unfold something I never before imagined could even exist - political incontinence.

The Republican Party truly lost control of its bowels. It crapped its political pants. The worst part is that it's sitting in the corner with a sheepish grin on its face, unsure of what has just happened.

Not all Repugs are happy. Some recoil from the indignity inflicted on their "Party of Lincoln" and wonder how to go ahead in the runup to the November elections. Should they vote for Hillary? Should they stay home, not vote at all? Can they put party ahead of country?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Is Putin Plotting to Scuttle Hillary?

There are various media reports indicating that the Kremlin is preparing a massive leak of Hillary Clinton's unauthorized emails.

The rumour is the Russians intercepted or somehow hacked some 20,000 of Clinton's "other server" emails that the Kremlin may pass along to WikiLeaks. Presumably the Russians don't consider Ms. Clinton's indiscretions as innocuous as she contends.

Putin, Trump? One New York magazine suggests there might be some reason Putin would favour Trump over Clinton.

Donald Trump is not a Russian agent in the sense that Philip and Elizabeth from The Americans are Russian agents. There’s no hidden radio in his laundry room where he transmits secrets to the Kremlin. But his relationship with Russia is disturbing and lends itself to frightening interpretations.

Franklin Foer has detailed the connections between the Republican nominee and the Kremlin. In short, it includes a long series of economic and social ties, which fit the pattern Vladimir Putin has used to infiltrate and undermine governments elsewhere — including in Ukraine, a coup Putin pulled off through Paul Manafort, who is now Trump’s campaign manager. Michael Crowley and Julia Ioffe have both described how the Russian propaganda apparatus has thrown itself behind Trump’s campaign.

The Art of the Deal

Donald Trump likes to mention his book, The Art of the Deal. Only it's not really his book. It was ghost-written by Tony Schwartz who says, if he had a chance to change the title, he'd call it The Sociopath.

In this, the Week of Our Donald, Schwartz has given a tell-all interview to The New Yorker about his experiences with Trump in the preparation of the book. It's kind of chilling. Here are a few teasers:

“I put lipstick on a pig,” [Schwartz] said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

Schwartz had written about Trump before. In 1985, he’d published a piece in New York called “A Different Kind of Donald Trump Story,” which portrayed him not as a brilliant mogul but as a ham-fisted thug who had unsuccessfully tried to evict rent-controlled and rent-stabilized tenants from a building that he had bought on Central Park South. Trump’s efforts—which included a plan to house homeless people in the building in order to harass the tenants—became what Schwartz described as a “fugue of failure, a farce of fumbling and bumbling.” An accompanying cover portrait depicted Trump as unshaven, unpleasant-looking, and shiny with sweat. Yet, to Schwartz’s amazement, Trump loved the article. He hung the cover on a wall of his office, and sent a fan note to Schwartz, on his gold-embossed personal stationery. “Everybody seems to have read it,” Trump enthused in the note, which Schwartz has kept.

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

...Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

...This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.” This is not a matter of hindsight. While working on “The Art of the Deal,” Schwartz kept a journal in which he expressed his amazement at Trump’s personality, writing that Trump seemed driven entirely by a need for public attention. “All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular,” he observed, on October 21, 1986. But, as he noted in the journal a few days later, “the book will be far more successful if Trump is a sympathetic character—even weirdly sympathetic—than if he is just hateful or, worse yet, a one-dimensional blowhard.”

Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true.” Often, Schwartz said, the lies that Trump told him were about money—“how much he had paid for something, or what a building he owned was worth, or how much one of his casinos was earning when it was actually on its way to bankruptcy.” Trump bragged that he paid only eight million dollars for Mar-a-Lago, but omitted that he bought a nearby strip of beach for a record sum.

The New Yorker piece is an important glimpse inside the dangerously hollow man who would be president of the United States. That so many Americans would even consider voting for a man so apparently unhinged should concern us all.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Another Screw-Up for the Big Orange Bloat

Okay, Donald Trump has chosen his running mate, Koch Bros. shill, Mike Pence.

Every campaign team needs a logo and Trump, naturally, has his. It raised a few eyebrows, including a few of my own, when it was unveiled this morning and it didn't take long for the hilarity to ensue.

Here's one animated version:

And, of course, TP conjures references to Toilet Paper and that gives rise to giggles over ass wiping and ass wipes which, to many, seems to aptly describe Donald Trump and his trained monkey, Pence. Let the hilarity ensue. The conference is just two days away.

Turkey, Coup. Army Tosses Erdogan.

At long last the Turkish generals have turned on strongman Recep Erdogan.

Traffic has been stopped from crossing both the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges in Istanbul.

There are reports of gunshots in the capital Ankara.

Other reports said soldiers were inside buildings of the Turkish state broadcaster in Ankara.

Gunfire was also heard outside Istanbul police HQ and tanks are said to be stationed outside Istanbul airport. All flights are cancelled, reports say.

CNN Turk reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was "safe" but did not elaborate.

A statement from the military group read out on NTV television said: "The power in the country has been seized in its entirety." Who represents the group remains uncertain.

All coups can be wild and wooly affairs for the first 24 to 48 hours and this one is a big unknown. It's possible for officers loyal to Erdogan to state a counter-coup but this would be the fourth time the military, which sees itself as the "guardian of [secular] democracy" in that country has overthrown a civilian government.

Erdogan, in a move befitting a dictator, treated himself to a lovely $350-million, 1000-room presidential palace complex built in the midst of a nature preserve.

Those 28 Pages Are Finally Out.

Congress has released the 28 pages redacted from the 9/11 Commission Report.

The 28-page document is a wide-ranging catalog of alleged links between Saudi officials and Qaeda operatives, from contacts that Saudi operatives in Southern California had with the hijackers to a telephone number found on the first Qaeda prisoner in C.I.A. custody that the F.B.I. traced to a corporation managing a Colorado home of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

The document, a section of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks, has been kept secret out of concern that it might fray diplomatic relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Its release marks the end of a yearslong fight by lawmakers and families of the Sept. 11 victims to make public any evidence that the kingdom might have played a role in the attacks.

Former Sen. Bob Graham, who chaired the committee that carried out the investigation and has been pushing the White House to release the pages, said Thursday he was “very pleased” that the documents would be released.

“It is going to increase the questioning of the Saudis’ role supporting the hijackers,” Graham told CNN. “I think of this almost as the 28 pages are sort of the cork in the wine bottle. And once it’s out, hopefully the rest of the wine itself will start to pour out.”

Graham added, “Would the U.S. government have kept information that was just speculation away from American people for 14 years if somebody didn’t think it was going to make a difference?”

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things - Like Survival of Our Species

Climate change gonna getcha. Climate change gonna getcha.

The Republican presidential nominee, the Orange Behemoth, Donald Trump, dismisses climate change as a hoax. He doesn't mean it, right? Wrong. He's even chosen far right nutjob, Mike Pence, as his vice presidential running mate. Former attorney/open mouth radio host Pence is also a climate change denier.

Not to be outdone, on the other side of the pond, Britain's freshly minted prime minister, Theresa May, made it her second order of business (the first was appointing Boris Johnson her foreign minister) was to abolish the UK's climate change department.

May’s priorities could not be more clear. The clues are in the titles.

Britain now has a Secretary for Exiting the European Union – a very sensible move if Brexit is inevitable – a Secretary for International Trade and a Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. You wouldn't know it, but the latter will be responsible for dealing with climate change.

The worst thing about developments such as these is that they prove we haven't reached the threshold yet where conditions are so terrible that our leadership will be stampeded into action. However, when they do get about to it, there's a good and steadily worsening chance it will be much too late.

When You Seem to Have Tried Everything

They want us out of their backyards. Maybe that's a good idea. Why should we continue on with a murderous pissing contest that we cannot end?

Sometimes it's best to stop howling and just walk away.

I'm talking to you, Europe. It's time to write this one off. There'll be no good coming your way from the Middle East or even North Africa much longer. Time for what they call a legal separation.

How do you go about that? You could start by breaking your dependency on folks you just can't get along with. Why do you need them anyway? Oh yeah, energy. Oil. Well then how about you stop buying their oil? What better time could there be than to engineer a switch to clean alternative energy? Harness the wind and the sun. You've already shown you know how to do that very successfully. Finish the job.

And both parties will need a restraining order. They'll direct both of you to stay out of each other's territories. That begins with you getting your tanks and your warplanes and your ships out of their world. Then, and only then, can you put your mind to The Wall.

The Chinese understood the need for it. So too did Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Here's the thing. You know you're going to have to mount some perimeter defence sooner or later. Climate change alone will drive mass migrations out of Africa and the Middle East. You don't have enough food in your pantry or chairs at your table to handle that. You're already in "overloaded lifeboat" mode. It's a horrible thought having to repel boarders knowing the fate that awaits them but you can't take them all. You can't even take most.

Back in the closing years of the last century - hey, anybody remember those good old days? - the British magazine, The Economist, had a cover story about Europe's future dealings with the Middle East and Africa. I think the caption was "barbarians at the gate." It envisioned a future in which foreign traders were allowed up to the portcullis, just not inside the castle walls. Trading would be done outside at places of exchange. Goods would flow freely but people would not.

From this bastion of small town Vancouver Island this all sounds surreal. What seemed like a bizarre notion when I read that issue of The Economist now confronts Europe as reality.

The Muslim world is going to have to settle its own hash. Sunni versus Shiite, Arab versus non-Arab, all the little squabbles and long-term resentments, sectarian, ethnic and tribal - we cannot fix that. When we get involved we never come away with the outcomes we sought going in. Then again most of our involvement has been more about securing our perceived interests than fixing theirs. Meanwhile NATO remains in the corner vainly trying to get a winning score on the Whack-a-Mole machine.

So, my Euro friends, get building those wind generators and solar farms. Get busy switching your infrastructure to electricity from fossil fuels. Figure out how much of the E.U. is defensible and establish your frontiers along those borders. Place a moratorium, hopefully temporary, on travel to and from the Middle East and North Africa. Meanwhile at home you've still got a lot of work to do to restore public confidence in liberal democracy. That's going to take some doing.

One more thing. If the terrorism troubles continue, you tell every king, prince, emir and sheikh in the Persian Gulf states that you'll hold them personally responsible. This is their monster. They are our Dr. Frankenstein. Every time you're attacked, send a few cruise missiles to one of those magnificent palaces. Obliterate a few. See if these troubles don't mysteriously stop.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

AK's and Rain Ponchos

The Republican convention in Cleveland is less than a week away. In choosing an Ohio venue, the GOP is taking their pow wow into an "open carry" state. That means it's legal to carry an arsenal slung over your shoulder or tucked in your belt just so you can always prevent a takeover by a tyrannical government.

So, guess who's coming to dinner when the Repugs gather at Payday Loans Coliseum? One group will be the New Black Panthers and, yes, they'll be showing up loaded for bear.

The New Black Panther Party, a "black power" movement, will carry firearms for self-defense during rallies in Cleveland ahead of next week's Republican convention, if allowed under Ohio law, the group's chairman said.

The plan by the group this weekend comes as police in Cleveland brace for an influx of groups that plan demonstrations before and during the presidential nominating convention.

During the attack last week in Dallas that killed five police officers, law enforcement officials said demonstrators carrying rifles led them to initially believe they were under attack by multiple shooters.

Several other groups, including some supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have said they will carry weapons in Cleveland.

"If it is an open state to carry, we will exercise our second amendment rights because there are other groups threatening to be there that are threatening to do harm to us," Hashim Nzinga, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

...Officials in Ohio have said it will be legal for protesters to carry weapons at demonstrations outside the convention under that state’s "open carry" law, which allows civilians to carry guns in public.

...The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate group watchdog, describes the New Black Panther Party as “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers."

The Home Team?

Sounds like the Republicans have all the makings to stage a "shoot-out at the Payday Loans Corral." Black Panthers armed to the teeth squaring off against members of Trump's loyal White Trash Tea Party movement. Throw in a hot day, a few cases of cheap beer, and there's no telling what could happen.


As the nutjobs descend on Cleveland, The New Republic reports that the city and its police force, now under federal oversight, are bracing for disaster.

Many have noted that Cleveland will be the first city to host a national political convention while its police force is under federal oversight for past bad acts. But that observation alone undersells how radically your world has been pulled inside-out if you wear a blue uniform. The [12-year old Tamir]Rice shooting and consent decree triggered a complete rewiring of a police department that’s operated with little oversight and few consequences for more than 50 years. Under the federal decree, the Cleveland PD is gradually changing its policies and practices after generations of engaging in racist behavior, producing sloppy internal investigations, and escalating routine police work into matters of life and death. It’s slow, painful surgery that will continue into the 2020s. And now, with its hoped-for transformation far from complete, the Cleveland PD is about to come under the hot lights of intense national media scrutiny.

The stakes and pressure couldn’t be cranked higher for the city’s troubled cops as they face the ultimate daunting task—refereeing a roughhouse political melee featuring a polarizing candidate, potential convention floor drama, guerilla clown protestors, Brexit anti-heroes, gun-toting white supremacists, gun-toting black militants, “patriotic” bikers, and an estimated 50,000 more. And we don’t know which Cleveland Police Department we’ll be getting if the 2016 RNC becomes a black-eye ideological thunderdome a la Chicago in 1968—the old, or the new?

As I said, what could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Sportscaster Gets the Final Word on the Dallas Tragedy

I've got my take on it. You've got yours. Chris Hedges has his. Sarah Palin, Ditto. But maybe it takes a TV jock to get it right, Dale Hansen.

Sanctions Time

This time it matters. The issue is the deadly business that could lurk behind China's refusal to accept the judgment of the international tribunal of The Hague over claims to territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea.

None of the fiercely disputed Spratly Islands, the UN body found, were “capable of generating extended maritime zones … [and] having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the tribunal found that it could — without delimiting a boundary — declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”

The tribunal found that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, constructing artificial islands and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone. At Scarborough Shoal, where it said fishermen from the Philippines and China had traditional fishing rights, it said China had restricted these rights. It added that China had created a serious risk of collision when its patrol boats had physically obstructed Philippine fishing vessels.

The tribunal also condemned China’s land reclamation projects and its construction of artificial islands at seven features in the Spratly Islands, concluding that it had caused “severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species”.

Why sanctions? Well, it's a lot better than inching ever closer to war in the South China Sea. The military buildup there - Chinese, American as well as most of the nation states of the Asia-Pacific region is massive. Even the city state of Singapore is acquiring a fleet of modern attack subs. The region has already witnessed many incidents of provocation including China's construction of artificial islands on reefs complete with air strips and missile defence batteries. In Japan, Abe's recent victory in both houses has observers suspecting Japan will soon restore its full military capability, constitutionally muzzled since Japan's surrender in WWII. 

Canada has a direct interest in this. China has already said that it is entitled to Arctic Ocean seabed resources and says that the rules of the law of the sea are of no application to Arctic waters. China has also declared that it intends to maintain a permanent and substantial military presence in the Arctic. There's something that needs to be nipped in the bud.