Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Toronto Sun reports cops ordered to stand down during black block rampage

Many suspected, now Paul Warrington confirms in his column: "As downtown Toronto witnessed burning police cars and a small group of thugs on a rampage, a police source tells me the only thing that stopped the officers from doing that was an order telling them not to. They tell me they could have rounded up all, or most of them, in no time."

He goes on to detail mass confusion at the command level, orders changing from engage to don't engage several times before the final order from command HQ not to engage.

"It was awful," said an officer. "There were guys with equipment to do the job, all standing around looking at each other in disbelief ... The Montreal riot guys were livid ... They just wanted to get in there and do the job but were told they are too intimidating." 

Too intimidating? Wouldn't want to intimidate any criminals now would we? Better to save that for the peaceful protesters, innocent bystanders and curiosity seekers who spent their weekend dodging mounted charges, rubber bullets, pepper spray and bizarre roundups by riot police called "kettling".

The people of the city have been lied to. The frontline cops have been lied to. I think it's time for another "riot" only this time with the cops on our side. Let's round up Blair, Miller, McGuinty, Harper and whatever anonymous spook was running this bullshit circus.

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Pressure mounts for inquiry into police conduct

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International, Jack Layton and a Facebook group which has grown to 21,751 in a day are calling for an independent inquiry into the police conduct during the G20. As well, numerous rallies are being planned in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto over the next couple of days, with a nationwide rally scheduled for July 17. The Toronto rally will be at Queen's Park on Canada Day at 5:30 pm.

The CCLA in a preliminary report stated:
"It is the opinion of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that police conduct during the G20 Summit was, at times, disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive. In our view, despite instances of commendable and professional conduct, the policing and security efforts, especially after 5PM on June 26 and June 27, failed to demonstrate commitment to Canada’s constitutional values.

Over the next 36 hours, over 900 people (possibly close to 1000) were arrested by police – the largest mass-arrest in Canadian history. Media, human rights monitors, protestors and passers-by were scooped up off the streets. Detained people were not allowed to speak to a lawyer or to their families. Arbitrary searches occurred in countless locations across the city, in many instances several kilometers from the G20 summit site. Peaceful protests were violently dispersed and force was used. In an effort to locate and disable 100-150 vandals, the police disregarded the constitutional rights of thousands."

Amnesty International calls for public inquiry:
In connection with the G20 leaders summit, the heavy police and security presence that has permeated the city for several days, as well as acts of vandalism and other violence by numbers of individuals, have contributed to an atmosphere of apprehension and fearfulness that has led many individuals to refrain from or limit their involvement in peaceful demonstrations and other activities.

Lessons must be learned from these events. We call on the Canadian government and the government of the province of Ontario to cooperate in launching an independent review of the security measures that were put in place for the G8 and G20 Summits. The review should include opportunities for public input and the results should be released to the public.

NDP Leader Jack Layton on Tuesday called for the Commons public safety committee to be “seized with this matter and require an accountability report on both the spending side and on the operations side” of the billion-dollar-plus meeting of world leaders.

From the Star:  
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair tried to quell the growing uproar by announcing that an internal task force will examine “all aspects” of summit policing by the municipal forces, OPP and RCMP in the G20 Integrated Security Unit. 

But the promise of a police force investigating itself, along with assurances there is a complaint mechanism for those who feel ill-treated by police, seemed unlikely to defuse anger after a weekend that saw riot police use tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters — incidents documented in thousands of photos and videos making the rounds. 

Like this, or this, or this, or this.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blair lies, citizen rights in the toilet

I have no doubt there were plenty of regular police officers who were angered and shamed by the fact that vandals were allowed to rampage for an hour and a half through Toronto on Saturday. I had an earful from one such officer last night, the partner of a close friend of mine. She was furious with me (I assume over what I've suggested about agents provocateurs), and talked about the abuse that police faced: bottles, bricks and even feces thrown, insults hurled, being spat upon etc. This is disgusting, unacceptable behaviour, and clearly intended to be provocative. Ultimately, it was. I know this officer is a fine person, calm under stress, honest to a fault -- an officer of the peace in the true meaning of the words. I have never heard her so angry, our friendship seems to be toast and I'm sorry about that. There are good cops and bad cops, just as there are good protesters and violent protesters. Good people deserve our praise and the violent, on either side deserve our condemnation.

I also spoke to a retired police officer/consultant from Michigan. I wanted to know if there could have been a mobile squad that could detach as needed to pursue these vandals. He said it was absolutely standard operating procedure to have a quick response team in place. I'm going to assume things were planned well enough that there was such a force, and that it simply wasn't deployed. Not only was this a tactical failure, but it's turning into a public relations failure as well.

"The bosses of this police force and other police forces decided to play public relations, and instead of doing their jobs, they let the city burn," said Naomi Klein on Monday.

Yep, show the public just what kind of violent elements there are, and maybe that will justify the massive expense. And in making that decision, a volatile situation was made more so. It was immediately after the vandalism that things got ugly. Decent cops were humiliated and angered, innocent people were rounded up and stripped of  their rights.

And now Bill Blair admits police never had those far-reaching powers, that he was making it all up, re-writing the law on the fly. The problem is, police believed they did have those powers, forcing people to submit to searches, to provide ID or be arrested, preventing journalists from covering arrests, not just within the 5 meters of the security fence, but all over the city. Since there never was such a law in place, all of those actions were illegal. Police were lied to by their own chief.

Don't blame the victims, blame the hidden agenda of our leaders: Harper, for overspending and over-militarizing the city, McGuinty for his secrecy, Blair for his lies, and whoever else was involved in planning and running this debacle.

We need an independent inquiry, and we need it now.

UPDATE: Facebook group demanding inquiry is here.

Thanks to Galloping Beaver for the video link.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Cops attack peaceniks - real perps get away

It's Monday morning and after a weekend spent glued to summit coverage, it now seems like a bad dream. Now that's it all over but the cleanup and the licking of wounds, the dominant image left is that of massive phalanxes of robo-cops pushing peaceful people first this way, then that, banging their shields with batons chanting "move! move!" then charging without warning, a scene that played out dozens of times. There seemed no rhyme or reason beyond a completely arbitrary show of force. This was a spectacle that despite all the high-tech security gear, was utterly primitive and utterly surreal.

The other dominant image, and I suspect the one that will live on as Steve-o's billion dollar photo op, is that of a burning police cruiser, left unattended to burn.

Here's the thing. Cops were deployed to do something they didn't need to do. The main builk of demonstrators on Saturday had their peaceful march and had returned to Queens Park, the designated protest zone. There was no need at any point for riot formations. Ludicrous.  And no need to clear the area, that had been set aside for the use of demonstrators.

Meanwhile, the only real lawbreaking was allowed to take place without a single cop in sight. While the best-equipped police that a billion bucks can buy attacked the peaceful demonstrators, the real criminals were allowed to smash and burn unchecked. There was a chance to apprehend them in the act, as their rampage went on for over 40 minutes. I wonder, would police have let real terrorists get away so easily? It's a pretty significant tactical blunder not to allow yourself the option of detaching part of your force to meet any immediate opportunities, ie perps in the act. It shows that they were completely unprepared to deal with any real threat. Bill Blair has some explaining to do.

As it is, the closest thing Toronto came to terror was at the hands of police: random arrests, beatings, pepper spraying people who were sitting down, and of course their little game of push me pull you. Activists were arrested before the fact. An innocent man was awoken in the night with a police gun pointed at his face. Young people were arrested merely for having gas masks. Others were arrested when they were unable, due to being surrounded on all sides by riot cops, to disperse. Journalists were beaten and arrested. Rights were suspended, not just within the 5 meters of the security zone, but all over the city.

And the real bad guys? The so-called Black Bloc? They were allowed to rampage with impunity. 20,000 cops could not or would not stop them.


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Gee Steve - thanks for inviting your thug parade to our city

A billion dollars spent, and for what?

Shock and awe

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

I would simply like to ask why

Why did no police follow the "black bloc" when they split off from the main group?

Why were vandals allowed to rampage for 43 minutes with not a cop in sight?

Why were police cars left unattended 4 times during the day?

Why did police stand half a block away en masse and simply watch the fires?

Why did it take Toronto Fire Department over 30 minutes to respond?

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Toronto police have some explaining to do - updated

After allowing "Black Bloc" vandals free reign to set police cruisers afire and smash store windows on Yonge St., police chief Bill Blair said he knew who those people were and that many were subsequently arrested while trying to hide in the peaceful crowd at Queens Park.

The video shows some of those arrests. Isn't it convenient for police that everyone they needed to grab was standing around at the edges of the crowd? The video ends when they took down the cameraman, who was wearing official G20 press credentials.

Later in the day, cops punched out a reporter for the Guardian and arrested peaceful protesters outside the Novotel according to eyewitness Steve Paikin, who tweeted this last night.

Today the arrests continue outside Guantanamo North the detention center on Eastern Avenue, on downtown streets and at the U of T.

"There were a group of kids walking eastbound and three vans were following them," said a man who watched the takedown on Edward St. "They weren't doing anything and they just came and took them down."

Update: thanks to Antonia Zerbasias who has been closely following events, here's a link to journalist Terry Burrows' site and his take on the "black bloc" wearing the same shoes as the police.

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Why do these vandals have the same shoes as the police?

Why were vandals allowed to smash windows on Yonge St unchecked, with no police anywhere near?

Why were police cars abandoned on Queen St W?

Why were the police cars on Queen St W. allowed to burn for almost 20 minutes before the fire dept. arrived?

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Charlie Veitch: My G20 Toronto Arrest Statement - Minutes After Release

Note: a lot of YouTube videos about the summit are being taken down within 24 hours after posting, so it's a good idea to download anything you want to save right away. Here's a useful tool to help you do that.

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Sarkozy takes dig at summit costs

Calling the accommodations "extremely sufficient and extremely reasonable", but nothing sumptuous, the French President said the upcoming French G8/20 will cost ten times less than Harper is spending. Oh snap!

The Globe comments that this "bold declaration could come back to haunt him". Really? Let's do a little simple math.

Last year's summit in London cost $30 million. This year's summits in Canada cost $1.3 billion. Now, that little .3 at the end is actually $300 million - 10 times what London spent - with a billion bucks thrown in on top.

To be fair Canada is hosting both the G8 and G20 (in two separate locations for some  reason). So, double London's cost and add another $20 million to each for inflation. That's $100 million. That is what the total should be, but Harper is spending 13 times as much.

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Hey Toronto - we can do this thing

Friday night, full moon, day one of summit down, done and in the books. Officially summer babies. Time to kick back with a tune and chill. 

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Friday, June 25, 2010

You know those civil rights you thought you had?

You don't anymore.

Apparently the Ontario Government can take them away by stealth whenever they want. Oh sure, sure it's only for the summit weekend they say. How does that change the reality that this law was enacted without any debate in the legislature, with no public scrutiny and kept secret until last night? Oh right, it doesn't.

"The public has nothing to fear with this legislation and the way the police will use this legislation. It really comes down to a case of common sense and officer discretion." -- Sgt. Tim Burrows of the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit

Exactly Tim. Officer discretion. That's the problem.

From the Canadian Civil Liberties website:

CCLA has just learned that streets and sidewalks within the perimeter of security zone have been designated under the Public Works Protection Act.  Importantly, this Act gives dire powers to the “guards” of the public work:  power to search without warrants, obligation of visitors to state name and purpose of the visit, power to deny entry. Most of these powers contradict current constitutional safeguards.  The Regulation which was not announced and has appeared on e-laws and will be published in its regular form on July 3rd 2010. One person has already been arrested under the Act, which provides:

A guard or peace officer,
(a) may require any person entering or attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto to furnish his or her name and address, to identify himself or herself and to state the purpose for which he or she desires to enter the public work, in writing or otherwise;

(b) may search, without warrant, any person entering or attempting to enter a public work or a vehicle in the charge or under the control of any such person or which has recently been or is suspected of having been in the charge or under the control of any such person or in which any such person is a passenger; and

(c) may refuse permission to any person to enter a public work and use such force as is necessary to prevent any such person from so entering.

Every person who neglects or refuses to comply with a request or direction made under this Act by a guard or peace officer, and every person found upon a public work or any approach thereto without lawful authority, the proof whereof lies on him or her, is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $500 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two months, or to both.

CCLA is obviously extremely concerned about the implications of this measure and will seek to challenge them.   

WARNING : The new designation changes dramatically the advice that lawyers may have been providing to protesters or the general public if they find themselves at the proximity of the fenced area.  Please consult and write to us if you are concerned about this development.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fun stuff to do at the fake lake

Steve-o demonstrates his world famous belly flop.

Shockwell Day takes a spin on his new jet ski. Whoa! Cover your drinks!

Jimbo takes a spin too.Wheeeee! Summits are FUN!

Ezra Levant?? Who let him in? That is just so wrong, on so many levels.

Cute. Too bad that water's only one inch deep.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pride Toronto un-bans "Israel Apartheid"!

Just shows you what can happen when you stand up for your rights.
Full story including Pride Toronto's press release at XTRA!

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Photos of Toronto under seige

Welcome to what used to be called "people city". Have a nice day.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Harper's G20 spending spree - he's trying too hard

Like the unpopular girl who shows up in a fancy dress to the party where everyone else is wearing jeans, Harper's summit is as embarrassingly overdressed as a trout in a top hat, a turkey in a tuxedo, a toad in a tiara.

Consider this: Canada is spending close to $1 billion in security this year and bringing in 4,500 police. Just last year, Pittsburg's security bill was $12.2 million and used 1,000 police. London spent $30 million the same year.

Meanwhile, the head of CSIS has said that terrorism is unlikely, so there goes the "in this post 9/11 world" canard. You have to wonder, how much property damage are the protesters likely to do? Could it be a billion bucks worth? But wait, there will be no compensation for property damage. Oh well.

So, while Harper overcompensates with a massive show of force to impress his G20 "friends" the city has been transformed into what looks like giant prison camp, with helicopters blackening the sky, groups of police at every street corner, and Zodiacs patrolling the harbour. (I hope no one has any ideas of starting a freedom flotilla to bring food to the residents of Toronto Island.)

And will world leaders be impressed? Or will they see it for what it is - an ugly little man trying too hard to look big.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh Iggy

It's taken awhile, but I'm now officially disenchanted with Ignatieff. Not that I was ever really enchanted. When he first showed up to claim the mantle of Liberal leader, the media was all in a tizzy, the kind they reserve for Canadians who've made it elsewhere. Some of us were a little leery of a man who thought he could waltz in after a 30-year absence to claim the top job in the land, (and Harper was quick to read that mood and capitalize on it). Now his Igness has been here for 6 years, but his "here" is not our "here", and the man seems totally out of touch with Canadians.

Take his recent foreign policy announcement. Really? That's the priority? Because if he had happened to read this recent Nanos poll, it's clear that it's not even on the radar for most Canadians, who list healthcare as their top priority, followed by the economy and jobs, the environment, high taxes and education.

The Nanos poll was somewhat unique in that it didn't provide a list of choices, but simply asked people to list their top concern. Nobody even mentioned foreign policy. I don't care if it is his pet project. Being PM is not about indulging your hobbies. And we certainly don't need the Liberals committing to extending the Afghan mission just because his Igness wants a higher profile on the world stage. It distresses me to think that he's more interested in impressing the US and the Brits than he is in addressing Canadian's concerns.

And then yesterday, taking a page out of Nancy Ruth's book, he told his caucus that if they couldn't contribute to victory, they should "shut up". Y'know, it's just so awkward when someone with Iggy's patrician mien tries to talk in an unfamiliar vernacular. It rings false. Not only that, it would seem to signal a willingness to adopt Harper's tight control of message. Jesus, is that what you've learned from the past 6 years Michael? If so, you can count me out.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

How BP has destroyed the Gulf of Mexico

This very long post is an attempt to gather and collate information some of which is being actively suppressed by BP on:
1. How negligence caused the rig explosion and subsequent leak
2. The wrong place to drill?
3. Why top kill failed
4. The effects of toxic dispersants
5. What the real scenario is likely to be

BP's negligence - a tragedy of errors

Mike Williams was on the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded, as chief electronics technician. In an interview with 60 Minutes, he details corners being cut, safety standards set aside to save money, and the cascading effect of bad decisions that culminated in the blowout.

The following is excerpted and/or paraphrased from a letter from Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the congressional committee investigating BP to Tony Hayward and details the many breaches in safety procedures. You can read the full text here.

Well design compromise
time saved: 3 days

Deep water wells are drilled in sections. The basic process involves drilling through rock, installing and cementing casing to secure the well bore, and then drilling deeper and repeating the process. On April 9, 2010, BP finished drilling the last section of the well.

Subcontractor Halliburton recommended hanging a steel tube called a "liner" from a liner hanger on the bottom of the casing already in the well, and then inserting another steel liner tube called a "tieback" on top of the liner hanger. This provides protection from a blowout. Instead BP chose to use the much riskier single string of casing because it was cheaper.

Inadequate number of Centralizers
time saved: 10 hours

Centralizers are attached to the casing as it being lowered into the well to keep it centered in the borehole, prior to cementing it in place. If the casing is not centered then channels can form in the cement which allows highly pressurized gas to flow through any space around the casing. It becomes "difficult, if not impossible, to displace mud effectively from the narrow side of the annulus if casing is poorly centralized. This results in bypassed mud channels and inability to achieve zonal isolation." API Recommended Practice 65

Halliburton's computer analysis showed that 21 centralizers were needed for the job, and that fewer would result in a significant risk of gas channeling. BP elected to use only 6. Halliburton ran another computer model using 7 centralizers and concluded "well is considered to have a SEVERE gas flow problem." BP responded "who cares, it's done, end of story, will probably be fine and we'll get a good cement job."

Cement test skipped
time saved: 9-12 hours

A "cement bond log" is an acoustic test that is conducted by running a tool inside the casing after the cementing is completed. It determines whether the cement has bonded to the casing and surrounding formations (ie the seabed). If a channel that would allow gas flow is found, the casing can be perforated and additional cement injected into the annular space to repair the cement job.

Although a crew from subcontractor Schlumberger was present to carry out the test, it was cancelled at the last minute by BP and the crew sent home.

Incomplete mud circulaton test 
time saved: 12 hours
This procedure called "bottoms up" involves circulating drilling mud from the bottom of the well all the way to the surface. It tests the mud for influxes of gas; it permits a controlled release of gas pockets that may have entered the mud, and it ensures the removal of well cuttings and other debris from the bottom of the well, preventing contamination of the cement.
Instead, to save money BP conducted only a partial circulation of mud.

Lockdown sleeve compromised
When the casing is placed in the wellhead and cemented in place, it is held in place by gravity. In a blowout the casing can be driven up the wellhead creating an opportunity for hydrocarbons to break through the wellhead seal and enter the riser to the surface. To prevent this, a casing hanger lockdown sleeve is installed.

Or not.

On June 8, 2010, after the explosion had occurred, Transocean briefed BP committee staff on its investigation into the potential causes. In the presentation, Transocean listed the lack of a lockdown sleeve as one of its "areas of investigation." Download PDF.

These next points are from the sources appearing after each point.

Faulty blow-out preventer
On at least three occasions, BP records indicate, the blowout preventer was leaking fluid, which the manufacturer of the device has said limits its ability to operate properly. After informing regulators of their struggles, company officials asked for permission to delay their federally mandated test of the blowout preventer, which is supposed to occur every two weeks, until the problems were resolved, BP documents say.

When the blowout preventer was eventually tested again, it was tested at a lower pressure — 6,500 pounds per square inch — than the 10,000-pounds-per-square-inch tests used on the device before the delay. It tested at this lower pressure until the explosion.
Source: New York Times.

Mike Williams, in the 60 Minutes interview above told the reporter that one of the controllers in the BOP was no longer functioning, and also claimed that the blowout preventer was damaged when a crewman accidentally moved a joystick, applying hundreds of thousands of pounds of force. Pieces of rubber were found in the drilling fluid, which he said implied damage to a crucial seal. But a supervisor said it was “not a big deal" and ordered they proceed.

Early removal of drilling mud
Another survivor of the rig explosion said the mud was removed before the well was fully sealed with cement plugs.

In order to properly cap a well, drillers rely on three lines of defense to protect themselves from an explosive blowout: a column of heavy mud in the well itself and in the drilling riser that runs up to the rig; at least two cement plugs that fit in the well with a column of mud between them; and a blowout preventer that is supposed to seal the well if the mud and plugs all fail.

Scott Bickford, a lawyer for a rig worker who survived the explosions, said the mud was being extracted from the riser before the top cement cap was in place, and a statement by cementing contractor Halliburton confirmed the top cap was not installed. Source: Times Picayune

The wrong place to drill?

The well is located in block 252 of the Macondo prospect in the Mississippi Canyon. It has a very challenging geology for drilling. The seabed is composed of turbidite sand bonded with methane hydrates.

Methane hydrates are volatile compounds — natural gas compressed into molecular cages of ice. They are stable in the extreme cold and crushing weight of deepwater, but are extremely dangerous when they build up inside the drill column of a well. If destabilized by heat or a decrease in pressure, methane hydrates can quickly expand to 164 times their volume. 

Scientists are well aware of the awesome power of these strange hydrocarbons. A sudden large scale release of methane hydrates is believed to have caused a mass extinction 55 million years ago. Source: The Guardian


Additionally the hydrate/sand compound has a porosity of 26 - 30 percent. It is not only far more porous than rock, but can fall apart if the methane hydrate holding it together melts, leading to collapses in the seabed. Many believe this is already underway.

Energy and Capital reports "seismic data showed huge pools of methane gas, under tremendous pressure. Some have speculated that the pressure was up to 100,000 psi" -- that's 10 times as much as current technology is capable of handling, even if it had been functioning properly, which it was not. As mentioned above, the BOP was only tested at 6,500 psi presumably because they were afraid to test it at 10,000 psi as is federally mandated.

Anderson and Boulanger's report - PDF.

Why top kill didn't work

Top kill is the process of injecting drilling mud down into the well at high pressure in order to overcome the pressure driving oil and gas up.

It works, but only if there are no other leaks. The fact that it didn't work, and was called off early, is a good indication in itself that there are other leaks. If so, top kill can make them much worse, driving high pressure gas into the surrounding formation, eroding and weakening it further. It's like a leaky garden hose. As long as the nozzle is open, you don't notice the leaks much. But plug the nozzle, and suddenly water starts shooting from the other leaks.

Because the casing was inadequately centered and the cement never tested, it's highly likely that the casing is broken, that gas escaping under pressure from the bore hole is eroding the surrounding sea bed, which as noted above, is very vulnerable to erosion and melting. The geothermal effect of pressure means that the gas coming out of the blown well is 120 - 177 C (250 - 350 F). Methane hydrate melts at 26C (75F) and separates into methane and water. The methane will then bubble to the surface and enter the atmosphere. Methane is a 72 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, so not only is there oil pollution, but also methane pollution.

Here is the much-discussed post on The Oil Drum talking about the top kill failure and a whole lot more.

The effects of BP's toxic dispersant

Corexit 9500 is the dispersant BP is using to mitigate the surface slick - 1.3 million US gallons to date. It has been bannedl in the UK and Europe because it's a known carcinogen, and one the most environmentally enduring toxic chemical dispersants ever created. It is also "capable of killing or depressing the growth of a wide range of aquatic species, ranging from phytoplankton to fish." says Scientific American.

Corexit and other dispersants do not actually get rid of the oil, they only break it into smaller bits, bits that can be injested by marine life such as plankton, jellyfish, and anything that feeds on them. The dispersant itself evaporates, but that doesn't mean it goes away. It falls back to the earth as toxic rain, contaminating crops, livestock, wildlife, reservoirs and yes, us.

A class action suit has been filed in New Orleans federal court against BP and Nalco Holding Company, the manufacturer of Corexit.

I would venture to say that the main "benefit" of such a poisonous substance is purely cosmetic. It makes that ugly oil slick on the surface seem to go away. What price PR?

What the real scenario will likely be


On May 26 former Bush energy advisor Matthew Simmons said a giant plume, 22 x 6 miles wide and 3,000 ft thick (BP denies its existence by the way) is probably coming from another leak at the wellhead or from a fissure in the seabed, 5 - 6 miles away.

This jibes with a Russian report prepared by Anatoly Sagalevich of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanography warning that the sea floor above BP's leaking oil reserve has been "fractured beyond all repair". Sagalevich is an expert on Deep Submergence Vehicles who holds the world's record for a 1,637 meter dive.

It should be noted that this story is only at the Before It's News site, and there's no other confirmation as yet. In my attempts to corroborate this story I came across statements that Sagalevich had offered to help BP but been turned down, and conflicting reports that BP asked him to help. The original story is here.

The site reports that Sagalevich said oil is leaking from at least 18 other sites, one almost 11 km from the well bore site, and that currently 2 million gallons of oil per day are flowing into the guif. That's a far cry from the 5,000 barrels BP were citing just weeks ago or even the 60,000 that is being widely cited now.

As I said in this earlier post, if the seabed were to cave in around the well head, and/or elsewhere over the deposit, the entire reservoir of oil could empty into the gulf, through the Loop Current and into the Gulf Stream. No wonder this is being compared to Pandora's Box; humans opening up something that they have no real control over and setting in motion a terrible chain reaction. This certainly has the potential to become a mass extinction event, unseen in human history and the only hope of preventing it is a couple of relief wells, that may or may not work. Not to be alarmist or anything...

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

An open letter to Steve Jobs, Jim Ballsilie and any other visionary who'd like to save the planet

Dudes, here's the plan: develop a better solar cell. Tiny. Powerful.

Four decades ago a computer mainframe filled a large room. Today, that much computing power fits in a shoebox. If integrated circuits can be downsized like this, why not solar cells and the batteries to store that power?

Like this one.

Cars powered by solar cells the size of a dime, storing power in a battery the same size as car batteries are now. Homes heated electrically by solar cells the size of a tv satellite dish, stored in a battery smaller than your water heater. Offices and industry could be powered the same way.

Solar power is abundant, and completely renewable. There is no nuclear waste, no carbon released into the atmosphere, no damming of rivers and no more oil destabilizing our economies and our environment.

It doesn't take an accountant to see the potential income stream would be huge. Or an environmentalist to see the benefits to our planet.

So, who's in?

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Photoshop Follies - June 18, 2010

Fox News North aka STUN TV
Exclusive sneak peek!

It's not a fake lake dammit, it's a "reflecting" pool.
Mirror, mirror on the floor, this is what the money's for.

Tony Clement says it's raining cash!
With a little slush on the side.

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Video proves oil and gas leaking from sea floor

BP denies it. But this video confirms it: oil is leaking from cracks in the sea floor. It could spell the beginning of a far worse catastrophe than anyone expected. If the sea bed fissures and collapses around the well bore, the flood of oil will be of an order of magnitude that the world has never experienced.

The sea floor in this area of the Gulf of Mexico is not solid rock, but rather sand held together by a substance called methane clathrate, or "fire ice", in which methane is trapped within ice crystals. It's the same substance that fouled the "top hat" containment dome BP tried, and forms when methane and water combine under high pressure. It's not exactly dense or stable.

We now learn via Bloomberg that BP was dealing with surging natural gas coming through fissures around the well shaft as early as February -- two months before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. They tried three different types of cement to seal the leaks over the course of a week, which is highly unusual, and ultimately the seal broke down causing the explosion of the rig.

"While gas surges are common in oil drilling, companies have abandoned wells if they determine the risk is too high. When a Gulf well known as Blackbeard threatened to blow out in 2006, Exxon Mobil Corp. shut the project down."

So, what happens if there's a collapse of the unstable seabed over the existing gusher? That depends on the extent of the collapse. As the bore hole continues to erode, eventually the casing will detach and relief wells will become irrelevant. At that point, the entire reservoir of oil -- approximately 2 billion barrels -- could empty over the course of the next few decades.

Various people have been crunching the numbers on this, but mostly they use total volumes of water and assume uniform distribution, and that is not what will happen in the short term.

Initially the oil will move into and concentrate in the ocean currents, which is exactly the same place marine life tends to congregate. We may soon be longing for the simplicity of Exxon Valdez.

See also BP's Spill Plan: what they knew and when they knew it and my post of yesterday: BP's nightmare scenario.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP oil spill nightmare scenario

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be about to get a whole lot worse. There's speculation that the entire well-head and even part of the seabed could collapse before the relief wells can be drilled. This would cause the entire contents of the oil deposit to gush unchecked into the gulf and beyond. The well head seems to already be collapsing, oil is leaking deep under the seabed, and it's now a race against time.

Mother Jones picked up the story via Science Blogs and The Oil Drum, an online hangout for oil industry professionals. A poster there called dougr lays out his theory, and it's chilling reading.

Here's a summary of his comment.
1. The underground pipe is compromised and there are numerous leaks along its length.
2. Oil is flowing outside the pipe and through the surrounding sediment.
3. Top kill did not and cannot work because of these other leaks.
4. Plugging the riser pipe merely increases pressure on the other leaks "down hole" which is why that strategy was abandoned.
5. Impeding the flow of oil in any way at the riser pipe only drives oil into the sediment, weakening it further. This is why the crimp in the riser pipe was cut off.
6. The blow-out preventer is supported by the pipe anchored in the seabed itself, not by the 20 or so feet of silt on the its surface. The BOP weighs about 450 lbs.
7. As the oil pressure and debris erodes the surrounding sediment, the pipe can no longer support the BOP.
8. Once the BOP falls out of the way, the well will be fully open sending 150,000 barrels per day into the gulf.
9. How much oil is in the reservoir, ie how big a spill might we be looking at? Up to 2 million correcton, 2 billion barrels.

"If the BP data correctly or honestly identified four separate reservoirs then a bleed-out might gush less than 2 to 2.5 billion barrels unless the walls -- as it were -- fracture or partially collapse. I am hearing the same dark rumors which suggest fracturing and a complete bleed-out are already underway. Rumors also suggest a massive collapse of the Gulf floor itself is in the making. They are just rumors but it is time for geologists or related experts to end their deafening silence and speak to these possibilities.

All oilmen lie about everything. The stories one hears about the extent to which they will protect themselves are all understatements. BP employees are already taking The Fifth before grand juries, and attorneys are laying a path for company executives to make a run for it."

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is also of the opinion that the well's integrity is blown. I don't know anything about deep-water (or any other kind of) drilling, but I do know this. Governments and corporations have a long history of withholding information. BP has clamped down on its workers, banning any contact with the media and they continue to prevent media access to the beaches and surrounding waters. And the 2 relief wells to be completed by August are by no means a certainty to work, as BP would have us believe.

Have a nice day.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Libby Davies you have my support

I don't have a lot to add to the many bloggers who've covered this story such as Judy Rebick, pogge, Dawg's Blawg, Murray Dobbin, and Creekside, but I do think it's important to add my voice to those supporting Libby Davies, who spoke the truth and was viciously attacked, not only by the Harpercons, but by Liberals and even members of her own party.

What did she say that caused such a chorus demanding her resignation? Merely this, that Israel has occupied Palestine since 1948, the year it was formed. This is a matter of historical record, but it's a historical record that some would like to bury, along with free speech.

I have my doubts about the effectiveness of the Israel lobby. Oh yes, it's very effective with politicians and the media, however among the people I know it's actually acheiving the opposite of what it intends. The paranoia level is so off the charts that it strains belief. True, there are those, such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who do actually want the destruction of Israel, but such voices have no traction and no credibility in the minds of Canadians.

What does have growing credibility is that the treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is a human rights issue, and that Israel is becoming everything its citizens once fled.

Surely we who live in a western democracy have a right to criticize a state's policies without being accused of propagating hate. The attempt by the Israel lobby and its followers such as Stephen Harper to equate criticism of Israel with Nazi-like anti-semitism is, I fear, simply making "anti-semites" out of people who are nothing of the sort, and in so doing is cheapening the meaning of the word. And for someone like Harper to actually compare those who object to Israel's apartheid policies and continued occupation of Palestinian land to the Nazi's is Kafka-esque in the extreme.

Libby Davies dared to speak the truth. Those of us who still care about that kind of thing support her.

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G20 insanity continues: trees uprooted for security reasons

Trees: the latest weapon of choice for protesters. At least that's what the Integrated Security Unit thinks, so they are ripping out all the saplings that line city sidewalks inside the security zone. Does this get any nuttier?

Speaking of nuts, perhaps the real concern was that squirrels might start throwing acorns at world leaders, sparking some sort of international incident. Now that I'd pay to see. Or maybe they think someone will climb the trees for nefarious purposes.

Nope, they're worried protesters will rip out the trees and use them as "a huge bar" according to Constable Wendy Drummond. No report on whether she said this with a straight face or not.

It certainly shows a lot of imagination anyway. Have you ever tried to rip a sapling out of the ground? I have. Every year hundreds of tiny maples sprout in my yard and garden. I try to get them when they're little, because if you wait until they're even a couple of feet tall, there's no way they can be pulled out by hand. Those protesters must have super-human strength.

I wonder if the real trees will be replaced by fake trees?

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Aqsa Parvez: the victim of a deranged sense of "honour"

She just wanted to be an ordinary Canadian teenager. But in the medieval mind of her father and brother, that was a sin punishable by death. And although she tried to escape her repressive family time and time again, she was kidnapped while waiting for a bus, brought back to the family home and murdered.

Both her brother Wasqas and father Muhammad Parvez pled guilty to second degree murder today. Her mother Anwar Jan told police that her husband killed his youngest child because "My community will say, 'You have not been able to control your daughter.' This is my insult. She is making me naked." reports the CBC.

Thus she was put to death, so that her father could avoid potential criticism of his parenting, if you can even use that word in this context. 

The charge of second degree murder carries an automatic life sentence. As a woman, a feminist and a human being, I grieve for Aqsa and all she might have been, and I hope this case sends a message that in Canada, we don't permit the murder of innocent children.

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Deal reached on Afghan torture docs

Above: the government prepares detainee documents.

The Liberals and Bloc Quebecois have signed off on a deal to allow the Conservatives to withhold documents that are matters of "national security", ie whatever they want. A historic ruling by House speaker Peter Milikin said the government was obligated to turn over all documents relating to torture of detainees, but the Libs and Bloc, in their inestimable wisdom, decided to let them off the hook. Only the NDP has refused to support the agreement.

Now, before we get all excited about this apparent show of lofty principals by the NDP, remember that all three opposition parties have been playing tag-team wrestling with the Harper government ever since it was first elected, as in "we'll support this one, you oppose, and then next time we'll oppose and you'll have to support". There are plenty of examples, which, quite frankly I can't be bothered to look up because the whole thing disgusts me.

Come on everyone, let's hear the opposition's battle cry. "We're not ready for an election!"


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Monday, June 14, 2010

Flaherty's mindblowing hypocrisy

Jim Flaherty wants to raise CPP premiums. He says Canadians aren't saving enough. Ironic that it's Flaherty himself who caused pensioners to lose $35 Billion in savings, by killing income trusts in a surprise announcement on October 31, 2006. Less than a year before, the Conservatives had run on a platform that included a promise never to tax income trusts. It took them mere months to break that promise and send the sector into a tailspin.

Income trust investors were villified as the "wealthy" few, making use of a "tax loophole" to justify the move. Nothing could be further from the truth.

An income trust is like a corporation with one major difference. Instead of paying dividends to shareholders once a year, trusts pay out all of their profits to the unit holders on a monthly basis. The rate of return is much higher with trusts, with 10 - 20 percent being the norm. If that sounds like profit sharing, that's exactly what it is.

But Flaherty claimed there was "tax leakage", because the trusts' profits were not taxed. Again, that's not true*. The profits were taxed as income to those who actually received them, ie the unit holders. Taxed at the personal rate, which is higher than the corporate rate. So in fact, Revenue Canada was actually netting more from income trusts than it was from regular corporations.

So what's not to like? Ordinary people get to participate in profit sharing. Pensioners receive a monthly income in the form of distributions. More taxes are collected. Everybody's happy.

Well no, not everybody. The big life insurance companies were upset. Retirees were becoming more and more enthusiastic about income trusts, and less so about the Lifecos' products, namely income annuities. I worked briefly selling life insurance. Annuities suck.

But the Lifecos launched a very successful lobbying campaign, easy to do when your CEO's are on the board of the Security and Prosperity Partnership and planning strategy with the Finance Minister.

In the wake of the announcement that trusts would be effectively double-taxed, the sector plummeted overnight, and $35 Billion went up in smoke. There was also a rash of foreign takeovers, predatory leveraged buy-outs by Goldman Sachs and the like, layoffs and the impoverishment of many ordinary Canadians who took the government at their word. So much for trying to provide for your own retirement.

Flaherty's justification was that he didn't want a nation of coupon clippers. No, a nation of Walmart greeters is so much better.
* Requests for proof of tax leakage were fulfilled by the now-familiar blacked-out documents.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

G20: Cops and CSIS targeting protesters

I had my first little taste of summit hysteria on my way out of Fort York around 8 pm last night, after helping some friends set up for a show taking place today. Three security types were manning the exit road leading onto Lakeshore Blvd. We were stopped and questioned about where we were coming from and what was our purpose. They were friendly enough, but I wonder why they were even there, when the summit is still 2 weeks away.

But far more sinister is this news from and the Toronto Star that members of  activist groups that plan to protest at the G20 are being visited by CSIS, not only at home, but in some cases at their workplaces. Police are showing up in groups at meetings, and when asked to leave, they hang around outside en masse. They deny they are intimidating people. Uh-huh, I'd suggest you let your targets be the judge of that. Rabble interviews two Montreal activists who were targeted by CSIS, here, and here and this is another story about the same thing going on in Ottawa.

If CSIS ever come to your door, here's what to do.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Photo Follies

Ezra goes to smarm school

Professional nut case Ezra Levant trying to make a mockery of someone other than himself, and not succeeding.

Harper gets his Bonaparte on

That whole Tim Hortons fuzzy blue sweater is sooooo passe.

John Baird snorts at accusations of pork-barrelling
Mr. Speaker these comments are pure hogwash.
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And the spending spree continues - $16 Billion for fighter jets

It started as $9 billion. Now it's up to $16 billion for 65 F-35 fighter jets. There will be no competition for the contract either. Whoooeeee! Airbus rides again (and these guys have the nerve to bitch about the costs of the long gun registry).

This article in the Globe shows the government is well aware that opening the contract to competitive bids would likely result in lower costs, (ya think?) and create jobs in Canada. Obviously neither is a priority at Versailles on the Rideau.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's a terrorist! Nope. Just a gardener.

On May 26, a man with a strange European accent, a limp and missing fingers bought about 1500 kg of fertilizer from a rural Ontario supplie. The ammonium nitrate contained in fertilizer is one of the ingredients needed to make explosives, and anyone making large purchases is supposed to provide ID. For whatever reason, the store employees failed to take this precaution, but then they got worried and alerted police. The RCMP's counter terrorism squad was called in and immediately swung into high gear

A request was issued for tips and police sketches of the man were widely circulated. He himself contacted the police and they soon determined that there was nothing suspicious about the purchase. "It was a gardening incident" said Toronto Police Staff Supt. Jeff McGuire. A cop with a sense of humour? I like it.

I suppose we should be grateful that the authorities were on top of the situation etc., etc., but as for me, I just see it as another case of paranoid summit hystera. Meanwhile, this non-story gets full coverage in the G&M, and ends with a cautionary paragraph about Timothy McVeigh.

Get a grip people.

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Liberals squander golden opportunity

Dear Liberal Party of Canada

You say Canadians don't want an election. I don't think you realize quite how fervently we do want an election. We are desperate to be rid of Harper. He is dismantling this country bit by bit, subverting everything it stands for.

It's you that doesn't want an election.

But like it or not an election is coming. Harper is delaying on every file for one reason only - to ride out the balance of this parliamentary session before all his government's misdeeds can come to light. He has prorogued twice, he has stalled in every conceivable way (and some that are inconceivable), and he is down to one final option - an election. Probably in the fall.

Do you think you'll get the time to expose him and sweep to power? Think again. He will pull the plug first. Don't you get it? I thought you people understood politics.

Meanwhile, you've squandered a golden opportunity to defeat this dog's breakfast of a budget and give your supporters the hope they so badly need. These are depressing times for those who care about this country. You had the opportunity within your grasp to take him by surprise, to call his bluff for once, to dissolve parliament just when he's about to play host to the G8/G20, and to serve notice that his reign of fear and secrecy is over.

But no.

Granted, not that many people follow or care about such matters. But for those who do, the political junkies, the ones who volunteer, who put up signs, who blog, who vote, who donate, who pay attention, who remember -- we have seen this movie too many times. The absenteeism when it's time to back up your objections with actions. The empty posturing. And then the pathetic sop when you claim you never supported the budget. And you wonder why voter turn-out is so low.

You are what's called enablers.

Instead of boldly seizing this opportunity on behalf of Canadinas, and heading in to the coming election with supporters who are galvanized for the fight, what you've done is to demonstrate to the people who care, that you don't. That you're unable to provide a viable alternative. That you're perfectly willing to stand and do nothing while our beautiful liberal democracy, our Canada, is re-shaped by a man who despises those very notions; a divisive, dangerous bully.

It may be frightening, but it actually feels good to stand up to a bully. You should try it sometime.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What is Pride Toronto so afraid of?

"I cannot be part of the silencing our communities. Our diversity is our strength; our struggles to end war, make peace, justice and freedom ring in every land. We as queers live, love and die in every land and I will not be silenced or stand in silent complicity while others are oppressed and silenced by those wanting corporate trinkets." Faith Nolan on returning her 2009 award to Pride Toronto.

The battle over free speech at Toronto's Gay Pride parade is heating up. Over 20 current and former honorees have returned their awards to Pride Toronto, along with an award of their own to the committee: the first ever Shame Award. And what was Pride Toronto's response? Well, they kept a low profile, as in their office was locked and they were nowhere to be found, although they did manage to call the police to say they were worried about acts of vandalism to their office. Oh please.

Why is Tracey Sandilands and the 4 members of Pride Toronto who supported censorship so afraid of the community they purport to represent? Why are they afraid of the very backbone of the community, the people who are largely responsible for the existence of Gay Pride? And why did they attempt to frame the symbolic gesture of returning the awards as something that could lead to violence?

I met a member of the committee at a party this past weekend. Because it was a social setting and because I was sure she'd had more than her fill of talking about this issue, I didn't bring it up. But when one of the honorees joined us, they soon got into it and for them the over-riding issue was that of censorship. Censorship has been fundamental to suppressing minorities since basically forever, and the fact that the Pride Toronto committee embraced it, without even putting up a fight was both chilling and extremely depressing to both. As it is to me.

Pride's executive director Tracey Sandilands has said that funding was in jeopardy putting the whole event in question. She's referring to a Toronto city council motion put forward by Giorgio Mammoliti to make the city's funding contingent on banning the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA). The motion was referred to executive committee. It has not even been adopted, and in fact there was a good likelihood that it would not have been. But Sandilands and other members of the board decided to take pre-emptive action, and in a 4-3 vote, they banned QuAIA and introduced censorship.

At a meeting prior to returning the honours, Jane Farrow said that all performers at Pride Toronto (notice how the word gay is not even part of the name anymore) must sign an agreement promising not to say anything offensive or political. I guess being queer is just a lifestyle choice now, and the decades of political struggle are something that needs to be shoved under the rug, or into the closet.

Below is a video of most of the meeting, or you can watch and read more at Xtra! who have been covering this issue in depth. QuAIA has a complete list of all the honorees who returned their awards, with statements from each. There are so many trailblazers there, so many who defied the homophobia of the times to get us to where we are today. It's a shame that where we are is in denial.

Watch live streaming video from xtraonline at


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Spineless. Liberals duck the budget vote. Again.

Congratulations Michael Ignatieff and the pathetic excuse for an opposition party you lead. Your Dion-era shenanigans of ducking the budget vote like it's some kind of freaking strategy, while you cower in fear of an election is about the only thing in Ottawa these days that is actually transparent. Utterly so in fact.

And just so you know - Harper's going to call an election this fall anyway. Why else do you think it's been raining cash? So you see, you've staved off nothing. You've achieved nothing. You've stood for nothing.

I did not vote Liberal in the last election because I wanted someone who would look away while Harper was beating the shit out of democracy, or due process, or women's groups, or Afghan detainees or any of the other CRAP you spineless enablers allow to continue. I voted for someone who would do everything within his power to put a stop to that megalomaniac.

Oh yes, Mr Ignatieff, you're so very articulate in your faux outrage about "abuse of power", but when it comes time to follow words with actions, your party does sweet fuck all. Forgive me if I'm not quite so articulate as you, but I can assure you that my words will be followed up by action. The kind of action made by marking a ballot.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Harper's fake lake a (belly) flop

Well, I snuck into the fake lake site today, and who did I see but our Glorious and All-Powerful Leader diving into the water! I'm a bit surprised he chose to do a giant belly flop instead of simply walking over it, but then it occurred to me that maybe the Church of the Holy Nutbars hasn't conferred those powers on him yet. I'm pretty sure the Armageddon calendar lists the dates when the various super-powers are bestowed on the idiots who believe that crap believers, but I don't have my copy yet.

Anyway, I wonder who left that unauthorized ducky in the water? Don't tell me they let Flaherty into the pool first!
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Some advice for Harper at his $2 Billion Photo-op

Try not to lock yourself in the toilet this time, okay?

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Toronto rolls up its sidewalks for the G20

Overheard: one side of a phone conversation taking place just outside Toronto City Hall. Sounded like an advance man for some US media outlet. Let's listen in....

"Wow, the G20 summit is shaping up to be a real showcase for this city. I mean you can't buy that kinda publicity! ......... Sorry, what? Two billion? Yeah, that is a lotta coin."

"Well anyway, it'll be a fantastic showcase for all the business and culture stuff. We could cover that big art gallery and the theatre district, and your stock exchange, not to mention you are the capital of Ontario and there's those historic legislature buildings and all."

"They're what? They're closed? All of them? Geeze, well, okay, I guess there's always the Blue Jays stadium, or what about the Royal Ontario Museum? I hear they fixed up the dinosaur exhibit."

"Closed too huh? Crap. Wait, I know! Union Station - a ride on the GO Train…."

"My god, is there anything open that we could cover?"

"Oh, okay, yeah that could work, but where's Scarborough?"

"I guess, but I gotta tell ya, the guys are getting kinda bored with Hooters."
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Lake Wattawaistawampum

Who can place a value on the Canadian wilderness experience? Sitting around the shores of an indoor lake, gathered around a painted fire pretending to roast sushi on a stick, while singing "Eat the Poor"? It's who we are. And if you don't get that, then I guess you're not a Real Canadian.

This magical experience will send the world's press corps home with hearts aglow, and the wonderful words they'll write about their Canadian experience will generate millions in tourist dollars, especially from Japan, where they are sure to marvel at the blackfly nano-robots.

The average person may want to point out that there's a REAL lake a stone's throw from the fake one, a little pool we call Lake Ontario. What? Where's the money in that? This is why you people need the guiding hand of someone who understands economics. Someone like Stephen Harper who, in the midst of a recession, has the boldness, the vision, to pour over a billion dollars into the ultimate photo-op. He understands that true fiscal restraint can never be achieved until there is no money left in the kitty.

That's why million dollar bogus lakes, gazebos in the middle of nowhere and a security deployment that surpasses our military presence in Afghanistan is good for the country. Try to get with the program, eh?
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