Feb 052016
 
furies

I have a few items this week which seem to me to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

I have left out the water in Flint, MI, because that made such a stir that I expect you are already on to those people.  I have left out the seditious militants because I am confident you are on to them and indeed have already got some action from a grand jury (good going there).  I have also left out the "pharma bro" who seems to be digging his own grave.  Although any or all of these could possibly resurface in the future, they seem for now to be getting handled.

I do want to draw attention to what happened to Melissa Harris-Perry in Iowa.  A journalist with a news-opinion show on MSNBC, a professor of political science at Wake Forest, and an author, she was there, with students, to experience the caucuses.  She was sitting in the hotel lobby, eyes glued to the TV, when suddenly this guy was standing next to her.

When he started he speaking it was like he was picking up in the middle of sentence, finishing a conversation we had begun earlier, but I couldn’t remember ever meeting him.

“…So what is it that you teach?”

“I am a professor of political science.”

“My wife is a professor of communications.”

“Does she teach here in Iowa?”

“What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC.”

I am not sure if it is how he spat the word credentialed, or if it is how he took another half step toward me, or if it is how he didn’t respond to my question, but the hairs on my arm stood on end. I ignored it. Told myself everything was ok.

“Well. It is not exactly a credential…” I began.

“But why you? Why would they pick you?”

Now I know something is wrong. Now his voice is angry. Now a few other people have stopped talking and started staring. Now he is so close I can feel his breath. Before I can answer his unanswerable question of why they picked me, he begins to tell me why he has picked me.

“I just want you to know why I am doing this.”

Oh – there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me. And he is going to tell me why.

She jumped up and put a table between him and her.  Her friend jumped and put herself between them.  They raised their voices, starting to make a fuss.  The man ran out, jumped in a car, and drove off.  They spoke with hotel security, who listened politely, "but this is the Iowa caucus, and I am not a candidate, so they go back to their evening. And we go back to ours." 

This sounds like grudging to me.  Particularly “But why you? Why would they pick you?”  Perhaps, Megaera, you can find this – person – for counseling.  And, if you have time, stop off at Breitbart, who loudly dismissed and mocked her story (Republican not linked).  Thanks much.

Then, Tisiphone, I suspect you will be interested in the management of Tyson Foods in Arkansas.  Tyson comes in for a lot of flack over the way it treats chickens inhumanely, and the way it overfeeds them antibiotics, but this isn't about the chickens.  This is about the workers.

According to an email from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee,

A stunning 91% of surveyed poultry workers reported having no earned sick leave, and almost two-thirds reported working while sick. More than half of these workers said they experienced discrimination, a very troubling statistic for a workforce made up mostly of first- and second-generation immigrants, as well as minority workers from the United States.

 Women, in particular, cited gender discrimination in the way bathroom breaks are withheld by male supervisors. Some have even urinated on themselves because they were not granted breaks when needed.

Well, OK, maybe it is about the chickens too.  That last sentence can't have improved anyone's appetite, even for non-Vegans.  But I primarily was thinking of the vengeful destruction of the human spirit when you make people pee themselves to keep their jobs.  I suspect a lot of these women are mothers, incidentally.  Giving birth can be rough on the sphincters.

The stockholders' meeting was yesterday, and a Twitter/Facebook Thunderclap was planned.  Not being on either, I don't know how it went, but, I hope well.

Finally, Alecto, I don't even know whether there is anything you can really do about the uncea$ing issues of privatization, prisons, and immigrants; although if anyone can, it's you.  ITPI ("In the Public Interest") exists to study and bring to light the specific ills of privatization, which always ends up costing taxpayers more money for less service, while lining the pockets of people rich enough to own an empire to provide the private "service."  Immigration is no exception.  And whenever pri$on is a part of a cycle, and exists to make money, the stakeholders develop a vested interest in keeping people in them to make more and more money.  But, as this graphic shows, there are a lot more people making money from prisons than just prisons.  This contributes more and more to make the cycle never-ending – unceasing.

I think it speaks for itself.  If you need to see it larger to read it you can easily click through.  It does try to distinguish between civil offenders, who are offenders by just being here, and criminal offenders, who have actually committed a crime.  In practice, I don't know.

Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone, and I will be back next time.  Whenever that is.  Meantime, we wish everyone perfect blood pressure.

 

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Feb 052016
 

TGIF!!  I did not get the sleep I needed yesterday, because my helper friend came a day late.  We washed my hospital bed sheets and made the bed.  I need her help, because there is one corner where I cannot place the fritted sheet.  There is no room to get close enough in my chair.  That took up most of my afternoon nap time.  Then I watched the debate, and I won’t take today off, because it may be the last time Bernie and Hillary debate head to head. so I have to report on it.  Jeannie (Shower-Aide) has come and gone.  Arvilla (PT) was due in fifteen minutes  (now gone), and Tracey (OT) comes right after Arvilla!  When I finish blogging, I’m going to hide!  TGIF!!

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:29 (average 5:54).  To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The Jeff Merkley Channel:

Merkley: Stop the wave of dark money in politics

 

Amen Jeff!!  He’s one of the reasons that Oregon leads the way!

From The New Yorker: In a feat that some observers called nothing short of miraculous, the embattled pharmaceuticals C.E.O. Martin Shkreli single-handedly made the American people side with Congress on Thursday morning.

According to polls taken after his appearance before the despised legislative body, Shkreli’s smug, smirking, and utterly douchey performance had the effect of temporarily transforming members of Congress into marginally sympathetic figures.

The University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, which tracks the American people’s attitudes toward the legislative branch, said that after Shkreli’s appearance Congress’s approval rating surged from eleven per cent to fourteen per cent.

Well the guy is an asshole (syn, Republican), but frankly, I think Andy has been smokin' that Wacky tobbacky. The only thing that could make Congress more popular is a Democratic majority!

From FAIR.org: A few months ago, I raised concerns about Washington Post food columnist Tamar Haspel (FAIR.org, 10/28/15) after she admitted taking money from agribusiness interest groups that she covers.

I pointed out that her columns are biased in favor of those industry groups, particularly on the topic of GMOs, even though her column is presented to readers as an unbiased effort to find middle ground in debates about our food system.

My article was met with crickets of silence from Haspel, her Post editor Joe Yonan and the band of biotech promoters who prolifically praise Haspel on Twitter. I figured that, soon enough, Haspel might write another column that would warrant raising the concerns another notch up the pole. She didn’t disappoint.

In her January column (Washington Post, 1/26/16), Haspel offered an investigation (“the surprising truth”) about the food movement—without speaking to anyone in the food movement—concluding that there isn’t much of a food movement after all, and most people don’t really care about labeling genetically engineered foods (GMOs).

Her sources? A two-year-old survey, another survey conducted by a food-industry front group, and consumer research by the agrichemical industry’s public relations firm.  [emphasis original]

Busted!! GMOs must be contained where grown and labeled for consumers. Click though for the rest of this extensive exposé.

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Feb 012016
 

A very light day today, thankfully, but the week ahead is busy.  I spoke with my brother in Toronto this morning.  He and his wife are taking an Alaska cruise leaving from Vancouver in July so they will spend a few days visiting with me and seeing my mother.  This will be good as they haven't seen her for almost 3 years, or is it 4 years.  Tomorrow is physio and teaching but I shant be lingering to do extra tutoring or Costco runs.

Short Takes

Alternet — Oklahoma legislators are trying to pass an expressively cruel bill that would bar depressed LGBT youngsters from seeking gay-affirming counseling at school, Slate reports.

The state House bill, proposed by Republican Sally Kern, is part of a slew of anti-gay legislation she wants to pass, which would sanction discredited gay “conversion” therapy and prevent HIV-positive people from getting married.

I was absolutely sickened by this legislation.  The party of hate strikes yet again, and this time takes aim at children, children with severe mental health issues such as depression.  If this legislation is passed, I hope the courts will deem it unconstitutional!

Huffington Post — Republicans have spent nearly six years promising to repeal Obamacare and, for most of that time, they have refused to acknowledge what that would mean for the millions who would lose their health insurance.

On Saturday afternoon in Iowa, for at least a few minutes, one Republican couldn't get away with it.

It happened at a Ted Cruz campaign event in Hubbard, a small town smack in the middle of the state. According to reports in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, Cruz fielded a question from Mike Valde, a Democratic voter who had come to the event with a story to tell and a simple question to ask.

The story was about his brother-in-law, a barber named Mark. As Valde told it, Mark was a small business owner who worked so hard that he didn’t even take paid days off. But Mark was unable to afford health insurance until the Affordable Care Act became law. When it did, Mark bought insurance and then, when he started feeling ill, saw a physician — who promptly diagnosed him with cancer with no hope for recovery. He died last year.

Good on Valde to confront Cruz and persist in getting an answer.  I think Cruz was flumoxed by Valde, such that he tried not to answer. Obamacare is not perfect but it is a step in the correct direction.  There are still people not covered because many red states have refused Medicaid expansion.  Others because they make too much for Medicaid coverage but still can't afford the premiums.  Republicans only have the Republicare death benefit — die fast, as Rep Alan Grayson coined.  Cruz was caught between a rock and a hard place and had nowhere to go.

CBC — Two parents watching over an awkward child with weight issues that's still living with them isn't really news. Unless the child in question is a king penguin. 

Nero is, well, different than the adult penguins in his life. While mom, dad and the rest of the colony are decked out in their finest black and whites, the only child is big, fluffy and brown.

Did we mention big?

Nero the penguin

Nero, the first king penguin chick born at the Calgary Zoo, stands out with his fluffy appearance. (Ayesha Clough/CBC)

"He's five months, a little over five months, and he weighs around 15 and a half kilos, which means he is the heaviest bird in our colony," said Malu Celli, a curator at the Calgary Zoo. "He's heavier than his mom, who's quite a big, chunky penguin too, and he still has some growing to do."

OK, this is cuteness overload time!  Nero is 5 months old and only one half kilo bigger than my 8 year old cat!  I love watching penguins play, although I don't particularly like seeing them in an artificial environment such as a zoo.  Play away Nero and happy puberty!

Common Dreams"Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct."

This is the damning verdict of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) report released Friday,Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy (pdf). 

Described as "the first in an annual series on enforcement," the 12-page booklet "highlights 20 of the most egregious civil and criminal cases during the past year in which federal settlements failed to require meaningful accountability to deter future wrongdoing and to protect taxpayers and families," according to a press statement from Warren's office.  

"Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but nothing more than a sideways glance at a C.E.O. who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars," Warren said in the op-ed.

This from the report, Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy, prepared by Elizabth Warren's office.  Cllick through for more details.

The failure to punish big corporations or their executives when they break the law undermines the foundations of this great country: If justice means a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but it means nothing more than a sideways glance at a CEO who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars, then the promise of equal justice under the law has turned into a lie. The failure to prosecute big, visible crimes has a corrosive effect on the fabric of democracy and our shared belief that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. 

Corporate criminals like Jamie Dimon and Don Blankenship need to be held criminally  accountable for the actions of their corporations.  Federal agencies need to conduct robust investigations and see that all charges and penalties are pursued.  Further, corporations should not be able to write-off penalties from a tax perspective.  That is just plain wrong.

My Universe — 

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Dance til you drop!

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Jan 292016
 

I’m running quite late today.  Yesterday afternoon, my helper friend and I made six meals.  Last night I filled two barf bags, trash can, my coffee cup, my shirt pocket, and George.  Today Jeannie (shower-aide) left me with soft shiny fur.  Arvilla (PT) gave me a hard workout including a toilet transfer with my quad-cane, without using the disabled rails.  Then I walked around 225 ft. with my walker.  That’s almost double my previous best.  Then I did exercises, and maneuvered from the sink, paste the range, past the counter, to the refrigerator and back without my chair or my walker, using the surfaces for support.  I’m pooped!!  TGIF!!

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 4:19 (average 5:41).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: The FBI has released video tonight of the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum to dispel any rumors that he had “had his hands up” and was trying to surrender to police. The FBI’s Special Agent in Charge Gregory T. Bretzing held a press conference to explain the events surrounding the arrest of Ammon Bundy (and others), along with the fatal shooting of LaVoy Finicum. Finicum can be seen running from the initial stop in his pick-up truck, with passengers Ryan Payne, Shawna Cox and a woman the FBI declined to identify. The video was captured by aerial camera and shows Finicum driving into a snow back, barely missing a law enforcement officer. He immediately jumped from the vehicle, at first with his hands up as he yelled at law enforcement, but then clearly reaching into his pocket multiple times, where the FBI says he did have a gun (update: a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.)

Here us a shortened, edited clip instead of the 26 minute clip included with the article. No significant parts were removed.

I have no doubt that the Republican terrorist was going for his gun, based on his previous statements and the loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol in the pocket. The officer was fully justified in shooting him. However, I would like to have seen a faster response time to try to save his life, if possible, after he was down.

From Media Matters: Student loan debt in America has reached a staggering $1.3 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt. But right-wing media figures have criticized efforts to combat student loan debt by pushing misinformation and blaming students for pursuing higher education…

…Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America’s skyrocketing student debt burden.

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Students should be able to pay for their education with their choice of military, national, or community service.

From NY Times: WHILE presidential candidates from both parties feverishly pitch their legislative agendas, voters should also consider what presidents can do without Congress. Agency rules, executive actions and decisions about how vigorously to enforce certain laws will have an impact on every American, without a single new bill introduced in Congress.

The Obama administration has a substantial track record on agency rules and executive actions. It has used these tools to protect retirement savings, expand overtime pay, prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T. employees who work for the government and federal contractors, and rein in carbon pollution. These accomplishments matter.

Whether the next president will build on them, or reverse them, is a central issue in the 2016 election. But the administration’s record on enforcement falls short — and federal enforcement of laws that already exist has received far too little attention on the campaign trail.

I just released a report examining 20 of the worst federal enforcement failures in 2015. Its conclusion: “Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct.”

Amen! Click through for the rest of this fine editorial by American National Treasure. Elizabeth Warren, and be sure to read her report.

Cartoon:

0129Cartoon

Republicans want to take your money and give it to the 0.1%

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Jan 122016
 

I enjoyed time with my mother on Sunday afternoon and evening.  It was great to see her eat so well.  Seeing my mother often leaves me exhausted, and last night was no exception.  As a result, I was late getting up for physio, even though I set my alarm.  I think I set a record for speediness today as I was out the door in 30 minutes, and that included a shower!  Tomorrow, I have to take my mother to a specialist so that will be a bit of work, and then there is a meeting at her care home.  There is always something going on.

Short Takes

BBC — India's greatest leader had moved to a village called Segaon two years earlier. He had renamed it Sevagram or a village of service. He built an ashram, a commune which was home to "many a fateful decision which affected the destiny of India". Gandhi had moved in with his wife, Kasturba, and some followers. There was also a steady stream of guests.

Mahatma Gandhi

Kanu Gandhi, a callow young man in his 20s and a grand nephew of the Mahatma, was also there. Armed with a Rolleiflex camera, he was taking pictures of the leader.

He had wanted to become a doctor, but his parents had goaded him to join Gandhi's personal staff doing clerical work, looking after accounts and writing letters at the ashram.

Kanu Gandhi had developed an interest in photography, but Gandhi had told him there was no money to buy him a camera.

The nephew did not relent. Finally, Gandhi asked businessman Ghanshyam Das Birla to gift 100 rupees ($1.49; £1.00) to Kanu so that he could buy the camera and a roll of film.

But the leader imposed three conditions on the photographer: he forbade him from using flash and asking him to pose; and made it clear that the ashram would not pay for his photography.

Click through for some of these photographs and the stories behind them.  I have been influenced by Mahatma Gandhi like so many others.  I have always said that he is the most Christ like person I know of, and he was not Christian.  This is one of my favourite attributions: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Globe and Mail — ‘That,” we tell ourselves, “is just the way the Americans are.” We say it every time some firearms horror strikes a movie theatre or school or workplace. We say it when the U.S. President, reduced to tears, tries to use his limited powers to make minimal changes to laws that allow almost anyone to purchase and use an assault rifle.

After all, hasn’t it always been this way? Americans have always believed that they have a right to own and carry guns, we think. Strict gun control has never been an American option. That’s just the way they are.

Except that it isn’t. The American gun crisis, and the attitudes and laws that make it possible, are very new. The broad idea of a right to own firearms, along with the phenomenon of mass shootings, did not exist a generation ago; the legal basis for this right did not exist a decade ago.

Until 2002, every U.S. president and government had declared that the Constitution’s Second Amendment did not provide any individual right for ordinary citizens to own firearms. Rather, it meant what its text clearly states: that firearms shall be held by “the People” – a collective, not individual right – insofar as they are in the service of “a well-regulated militia.”

In another Globe and Mail article, the author says "In a prime-time, televised town hall meeting, Obama defended his support for the constitutional right to gun ownership while arguing it was consistent with his efforts to curb violence and mass shootings. "  Even constitutional lawyers can disagree as to whether the individual has the right to bear arms.  How is it that after 230+ years, with one stroke of the pen, Scalia can render the majority decision changing legal presedence of 230+ years?

Alternet — The air was hazy from distant wildfires on August 29 when a gift arrived on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeast Montana. Carvers from the Lummi Tribe in Washington state brought a totem pole as a sign of support for those fighting the Otter Creek project, a proposed strip mine and rail spur on the Northern Cheyenne Tribe’s traditional lands. 

At a ceremony marking the pole’s arrival, ranchers, whose families have been on the land for generations, and tribal members, whose families go back even further, joined together to speak of the sacredness of the land and water, and of their duty to protect this inheritance for generations to come.

The new mine would extract around 1.3 billion tons of coal. Arch Coal and its partners would blast a new rail spur through hills, across ranches, and along the Tongue River to connect the mine to the Burlington Northern main line. Open train cars would carry coal to a proposed export terminal to be built on the Lummi Tribe’s traditional lands. From there, the coal could be shipped to Asia; burning it would emit billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

These are the power grabs of corporations as they act like petulant children when they don't get their way.  Don't get me wrong, contaminated water and air, the degradation of forests and oceans, crops spoiled by unusual weather . . . these are all very serious.  But corporations that put profits before people will be the death of us all.

My Universe — 0028_zps8d769739

 

 

 

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Jan 082016
 

I started out doing a short take for today's Squatch's Open Thread about TransCanada's NAFTA challenge, but things rather mushroomed.  TC covered TransCanada in his lead article while I chose to take a broader approach.

There are two actions that TransCanada Corp has announced it is taking in regards to the Keystone XL rejection:  

  1. a challenge under NAFTA against the US Government; and
  2. a lawsuit filed in US federal court in Houston, Texas.

National Post — TransCanada Corp. said Wednesday it intends to file a challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seeking US$15-billion in damages from the United States government over President Barack Obama’s denial of the Keystone XL pipeline.  

In a 27-page notice of intent to pursue the NAFTA challenge, the Calgary-based pipeline company said Obama’s denial was politically driven, directly contrary to the conclusions of own administration’s studies, and in violation of U.S. obligations under the agreement.

From the Globe and Mail

Toronto trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said … 

“I’ve thought for some time that that this was a politicized issue, and there are good arguments that decisions affecting Keystone were based on political considerations. To the degree that that is so, TransCanada has a viable if not a strong case.”

Continuing from the National Post

In addition, the Calgary-based company filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court in Houston claiming Obama’s decision to deny construction of Keystone XL exceeded his power under the U.S. Constitution.  

The lawsuit in Texas does not seek damages, but a declaration that the permit denial is without legal merit and that construction of the pipeline can proceed without further presidential action.  

TransCanada has pondered a NAFTA challenge for some time, but the Texas lawsuit — it names U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell — was not expected.

Some might remember that from the beginning, the Keystone XL and TransCanada Corp have been the focus of much talk, and not just over the water cooler.  Here are some of the Politics Plus articles going back to 2011: Keystone XL WOULD Increase Carbon PollutionKeystone XL DefeatedObama Rejects Keystone XL PipelineNew Keystone XL InvestigationDeck stacked for Keystone XLKeystone DelayedThe Keystone Debacle.

TransCanada has admitted in the past that it substantially inflated employment numbers in the US.  During the 2012 election campaign, Republicans were pushing the "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" and invoked TransCanada as a jobs creator saying that there were tens of thousands of jobs.  Ib fact there would be a couple thousand temporary construction jobs and less than 100 permanent jobs.  Take into account that the EIS at one point was arranged and paid for by TransCanada.  Shame on TransCanada for trying to hide that conflict and on the State Department for allowing it. Here's a record of TransCanada's lobbying through the first half of 2013 . . . big money.

In Canada, former PM Stephen Harper and the Conservatives backed the Keystone XL.  DeSmog reported:

In October 2013 the Liberal party backed the Keystone XL pipeline and won confidence from oil industry supporters when Trudeau told the Calgary Petroleum Club, “Let me be clear: I support Keystone XL.”

But Trudeau also added, “Perhaps the greatest indictment of the [Conservative] government is this: it has had the better part of a decade to remove the barriers preventing the U.S. from approving this project.”

“The [Conservative government] poked and prodded, annoyed and irritated the Obama administration at every turn. Largely, I suspect, because they don’t know how to work with people who don’t share their ideology.”

 Both Dion and Trudeau indicated that although they support the Keystone XL, they respect the decision-making authority of the Obama administration — something the Harper government continuously strained diplomatic relations by failing to do. During his years of lobbying for the pipeline, Harper forcefully said he wouldn’t “take no for an answer” and called its approval a “no brainer.”

So both Canadian governments ultimately support the pipeline, the former government being more forceful, less respectful.

But there is also another NAFTA challenge that has been before the tribunal since 2013 — Lone Pine Resources Inc. v. Government of Canada.  From Global Affairs Canada

The claimant alleges that LPRC has contractual interests relating to five contiguous exploration licences for petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs (“exploration licences”) located near Trois-Rivières [see map below]. These interests stem from a farmout agreement signed with the holder of these exploration licences, a Canadian company named Junex Inc. Four of the exploration licences are located on land and one is located in the St. Lawrence River.

The exploration licence located in the St. Lawrence River was revoked following the coming into force, on June 13, 2011, of a Quebec law titled An Act to limit oil and gas activities (“Act”). The Act revokes exploration licences located in the St. Lawrence River and limits the area of those that cross the water’s edge to their land portion.

The Act was passed in response to the findings of a strategic environmental study on hydrocarbon development in the maritime estuary basin and the northwestern Gulf of St. Lawrence, which concludes that this environment is not conducive to hydrocarbon development activities. This study was preceded by numerous other studies that, since 2003, have been analyzing the impact of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities on the biophysical and human environment of the St. Lawrence River.

In addition to studies on hydrocarbon development in the St. Lawrence River, the Government of Quebec devotes considerable resources to documenting and assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the shale gas industry. Since February 2011, reports from Quebec’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (“BAPE”) and studies conducted as part of strategic environmental studies have been establishing the existence of risks to the biophysical and human environment tied to shale gas development activities involving hydraulic fracturing.

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway map 1959.png

One thing to note, the St Lawrence River freezes each winter westward from Québec City, creating additional risks.  You can also review the Lone Pine Resources' challenge at the Council of Canadians website. 

Both of these challenges to the sovereignty of our two nations by corporations need to be put in their place . . . in the dumpster.  Trade agreements like NAFTA, TPP, TTIP, TISA and CETA are nothing more than corporate power grabs.  Where are the people in all these agreements?  . . . slaves to corporations.

See lists of NAFTA challenges at the following sources:

  1. Global Affairs Canada, and
  2. US Department of State.

 

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Jan 012016
 

Well today is one of only twelve times each year that the international date format that I use is the same as the American format that TC uses.  LOL!!! There were certainly extensive fireworks last night, and I swear they were on my balcony, they seemed so loud and close.  But I survived and my babes, Primo, Winnie and Annie, were calm and asleep.  All's well that ends well!

Short Takes

CBC — Natalie Cole, the American pop and blues singer known for hits such as This Will Be, Unforgettable and Our Love, has died at age 65 [on 31/12/2015].

The daughter of Nat King Cole, she won nine Grammy Awards in a career that began in the 1970s. Her Unforgettable… with Love sold 30 million copies and won the Grammy for album of the year.  

"Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived … with dignity, strength and honour. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever," read the statement from her son, Robert Yancy, and sisters Timolin and Casey Cole.

A sad note to start the new year off.  I grew up listening to the mellow tones of Nat King Cole — Unforgettable, Ramblin' Rose are two I especially remember — as my mother would not allow the early rock n' roll into the house (that included the Beatles).  As I aged, I came to appreciate his music very much, and the pieces that Natalie did virtually with her father are exceptional.  Rest in peace Natalie Cole.

Cole wasn't the only death on New Year's  Eve. Actor Wayne Rogers of M*A*S*H* fame passed away 31/12/2015 at age 82 from pneumonia. And special in Vancouver, Dal Richards, orchestra leader and musician who played New Year's Eve for 79 years straight, died of congestive heart failure just minutes before midnight.  His last gig was just before Christmas and he had been scheduled to play on New Year's Eve which would have been his 80th straight year.  RIP Dal and Wayne.

Alternet — Koch brothers exploit criminal justice reform to protect corporate criminals.

People within the prison reform movement had long been skeptical of the Koch brothers sudden interest in the topic. With crime at record lows, a sympathetic president in the White House, and Black Lives Matter changing the conversation around our criminal justice system, the time was right to finally pull back many of the harsh “tough-on-crime” laws that were passed in the 90's under Bush and Clinton.

So why the interest from the right-wing titans? Most of the media simply chalked it up to ideology, after all, the Kochs were libertarians and libertarians don’t like drug laws and state incarceration, right? But like with much of what the billionaire brothers do, it wasn’t so simple. Lee Fang and Dan Froomkin over at The Intercept dug a little deeper and revealed the Koch’s ideology wasn’t the only thing animating their support for criminal justice reform. Firstly, they continued to buy ads for and donate to candidates like Louisiana's David Vitter who supported some of the harshest and most racist drug laws in the country while allocating minimal resources to justice reform. As Fang notes:

Out of 38 federal lobbyists employed by Koch, only one is registered to work on criminal justice issues. Most work on projects important to Koch Industries’ bottom line, such as rolling back Environmental Protection Agency rules.

This wasn’t the only indication the Koch’s were simply piggy-backing off the movement to advance their corporate interests:

Koch “Alliance” on Criminal Justice Reform Exposed as Trojan Horse

So, while the Kochs and the liberal groups used similar language in their critique of the criminal justice system, when it came down to actual legislation, the Kochs were focused on reducing criminal prosecutions of corporations, not people.

Koch and the House Republicans turned out to be pushing a bill that critics describe as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for white-collar criminals.

Members of Washington’s elite media crave stories about bipartisanship, so groups like the pro-Clinton Center for American Progress garnered positive media attention for finding common ground with the Kochs earlier this year.

The real aim for the Kochs' prison reform was to reduce the liability of white collar criminals, not the largely black, Latino and poor constituency of most prisons. As The Huffington Post reported, the bill being lobbied would make it more difficult to fine executives at corporations liable for financial fraud and environmental pollution. Leftist reformers were predictably upset, with Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, telling the Huffington Post, "there is absolutely no reason for the otherwise laudable criminal justice reform bill to contain any measure to weaken already feeble standards for corporate criminal prosecution.”

Click through for the other four Most Cynical Libertarian Stealth Campaigns of 2015.  I have to say that my first reaction to the Koch's pushing prison reform was to protect themselves from going to prison for corporate crimes, if anyone could get enough information together and had the cajones to charge them.

Mother Jones — This summer, the Wisconsin Supreme Court took up the question of whether to stop the investigation into alleged coordination between Walker's 2012 recall campaign and conservative outside groups that receive unlimited donations from undisclosed donors. The problem was that the election campaigns of two justices on the state's top court hadbenefited significantly from spending by those same groups accused of illegal coordination with Walker. The special prosecutor overseeing the investigation, along with legal ethicists, asked the two justices with conflicts of interest to recuse themselves. But no justices stepped aside.  

But if it does consider a Caperton challenge to the situation in Wisconsin, it could not just determine whether the Wisconsin Supreme Court crossed the line when it came to conflicts of interest, but could help set ethical standards across the country in an era when judicial elections are increasingly fought with millions of dollars in outside spending.

And would the SCOTUS, even though not elected, be subject to ethical standards, standards that the right wing justices seem to think don't apply to them?

My Universe

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Dec 172015
 

Things are a little crazy around here, because my power chair is scheduled to arrive today.  Because I arranged my schedule for it to come a week from now, I’m going to have to do some appointment juggling.

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: A Modesto, California pastor is recovering after being accidentally shot by his firearms-safety instructor during class:

During the course, Rushing was using a training gun, a rubber fake with no firing mechanism, said Heather Graves, Modesto Police Department spokeswoman. But as the class was ending, she said, he removed that prop from his holster and replaced it with his real handgun.

About that time, Graves said, a student asked Rushing to demonstrate what to do if attacked by someone armed with a knife. Smith volunteered to portray the attacker in a role-playing exercise.

“During the scenario, the instructor drew the firearm and it accidentally discharged,” she said. She did not know whether Rushing forgot he replaced the training gun or whether he knew he was drawing the real gun.

Oh those Republican Ammosexuals! If republicans were serious about addressing mental health issues, they’d disarm themselves.

From Upworthy: An amazing new trove of fossil fuel industry documents was released in summer 2015.

Check out this Russia Today segment, featuring Aaron Huertas from the Union of Concerned Scientists. It’s surprisingly zinger-filled for a discussion of corporate memos.

Pro tip: Listen for this phrase “cannot be denied." The part about employees leaking some of these documents starts at 1:48.

 

That’s 34 years of lies and destruction of our planet. Take them down, make them pay, and lock them up!!

From Alternet: I know, I know. You probably haven’t tuned in to MTV recently—unless you’re a big fan of teenage reality shows. But as it turns out, the music-less music television station is working to educate their audience on the racist origins of some commonly used phrases.

 

We’d better not let Republicans find out about these. They’ll use them more.

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Dec 042015
 

Another day, another dollar they say.  TGIF!!!  I have another teaching session and I may have another student, this time a paying student.  I went into my local Persian market and greeted the clerk in Persian (Farsi).  That started a short conversation.  One thing lead to another.  It may not pan out, but I guess my English accent isn't too bad for the few words and phrases I know.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:40 (average 6:02). To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes

CBC — Geoff Regan has been elected House of Commons Speaker at the opening of a new Parliament following the general election on Oct. 19 that saw the Liberals win a majority government.

Members of Parliament each cast a secret ballot on Thursday ranking the candidates by order of preference in their first act of the new Parliament.

This my friends is how the Speaker of the House of Commons is elected in Canada versus the rancorous process in the US which we witnessed not long ago.  Watch the video to see some good natured fun from Geoff Regan, Rona Ambrose (interim leader of the Conservative Party) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  In the video as part of the story, Trudeau actually leads Regan for a moment by his tie.  You can see more about the candidates and the Speaker's role in this CBC article.

NY Times — Donald L. Blankenship, a titan of the nation’s coal industry whose approach to business was scrutinized and scorned after 29 workers were killed at the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, was convicted Thursday of a federal charge of conspiring to violate mine safety standards, part of a case that emerged after the accident, the deadliest in mining in the United States in decades.

The verdict reached by a federal jury here made Mr. Blankenship, 65, the most prominent American coal executive ever to be convicted of a charge connected to the deaths of miners. He had been accused of conspiring to violate mine safety regulations, as well as of deceiving investors and regulators; prosecutors secured a conviction on only one of the three charges. Mr. Blankenship was acquitted of making false statements and securities fraud. He faces a maximum of one year in prison on the misdemeanor conspiracy charge.

On 05/10/2015, I posted the article The Fall of King Coal which documented the abuses of Don Blankenship, a coal industry executive of Massey Energy.  Blankenship went on trial 01/10/2015 and today was acquitted of 2 of 3 charges.  Those charges could have meant 30 years in prison.  Instead, he was convicted of the misdemeanor conspiracy charge and could get a 1 year prison term.  His lawyer will appeal the decision against this well connected Republican.  Were I a member of the family of anyone of the miners killed at the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in 2010, I would be very angry.  Was justice done?  I don't think so, but you decide.

Huffington Post — The Republican-controlled Senate voted on Thursday to demolish President Barack Obama's signature health care law and block Planned Parenthood's federal money, spurring a veto fight the GOP knows it will lose but believes will delight conservative voters in next year's elections.

Congress has voted dozens of times to repeal all or parts of the 2010 statute. If the House as expected sends the Senate bill to Obama, the measure will become the first of its kind to reach the White House and be vetoed, an act Republicans say will highlight GOP priorities for voters.

"It's defined by failure," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said of the law, blaming it for rising medical costs and citing problems encountered by Kentuckians. "It's punctuated with hopelessness. And the scale of its many broken promises is matched only by the scale of its defenders' rigid and unfeeling responses to them."

You really have to "love" those Republican legislators.  I certainly hope their working class and middle class base recognise the disservice that the party is doing to them.

My Universe

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Nov 252015
 

I’m getting as much done early as I can, because I expect a very busy day.  Sometime this afternoon my interim prosthetic leg will arrive.  I will use it for about six months, shrink out of it, and have a new cup made.  Today I will take my first baby steps on two feet.  I also expect visits from PT and OT.  OT plans to help me use the shower.  I’ll just have to suffer through that.  Winking smile

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2014 there was a huge increase in sexually transmitted diseases in the United States.

The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new STD infections happen each year in the U.S., with the majority affecting 15 to 24-year-olds.

Reports of gonorrhea and syphilis also increased in 2014. There was a 2.8% increase in chlamydia since 2013, and reports of syphilis, which has three stages, increased for the most infectious stages of the disease by 15.1%.

One of the reasons for this rise in STDs is the war being waged on public health in this country over the last couple of decades.

The increase in STDs is in many ways a result of cuts in funding to public health clinics, Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, told NBC.

“Most recently, there have been significant erosions of state and local STD control programs,” Bolan said. “Most people don’t recognize that the direct clinical care of individuals with sexually transmitted diseases is supported by state and local funds and federal funds.”

This leads to men and women not getting tested and treated early, before further infections occur. As the CDC report notes, it’s not particularly economic to cut our public health and then have to pay it out on the other end.

This is a direct result of the Republican sequester.  Thanks, Republicans!

From The New YorkerIn an announcement on Monday morning, Pfizer, the big drug company, whose headquarters are on East 42nd Street, in Manhattan, said that it is merging with one of its competitors, Allergan PLC. Ian Read, a Scottish-born accountant who is Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, said that the proposed deal, which is valued at a hundred and sixty billion dollars, would “create a leading global pharmaceutical company with the strength to research, discover and deliver more medicines and therapies to more people around the world.”

On Wall Street and in the world of big pharma, that statement will raise chuckles. It is widely acknowledged that the primary impetus for the deal is a financial one. In merging with Allergan, which is based in Dublin, Pfizer intends to move its corporate residency to Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is just 12.5 per cent, compared to thirty-five per cent for a company of its size in the United States. Over the next few years, the merger could save Pfizer billions of dollars in taxes and deprive the U.S. Treasury of the same amount.

Tax-driven deals of this nature are known as “inversions,” and they are becoming increasingly common. Burger King, Liberty Global, and Medtronic are among the U.S. corporations to have carried out mergers that moved their headquarters abroad. Last year, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said that inversions were “wrong,” and that he would try and restrict them. Only last week, the Treasury Department issued some new administrative guidelines in this area. Without actual legislation, though, there isn’t very much the Obama Administration can do to prevent these exercises in corporate tax-dodging, and Republicans on Capitol Hill have displayed little eagerness to coöperate in a crackdown.

It’s simple. If a company wants to do business in our marketplace, they should have to pay taxes here. To make this happen we must flush the Republican Party.

From NY Times: For more than a year, a rare coalition of liberal groups and libertarian-minded conservatives has joined the Obama administration in pushing for the most significant liberalization of America’s criminal justice laws since the beginning of the drug war. That effort has had perhaps no ally more important than Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by a pair of brothers who are well-known conservative billionaires.

Now, as Congress works to turn those goals into legislation, that joint effort is facing its most significant test — over a House bill that Koch Industries says would make the criminal justice system fairer, but that the Justice Department says would make it significantly harder to prosecute corporate polluters, producers of tainted food and other white-collar criminals.

The tension among the unlikely allies emerged over the last week as the House Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support, approved a package of bills intended to simplify the criminal code and reduce unnecessarily severe sentences.

This makes it crystal clear that Republicans really don’t give a damn about sentencing reform. They’re just using it to mask protecting big corporate criminals from responsibility for their crimes.

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Nov 252015
 

Hmmmmmmmmmmm . . . it was an ordinary day with nothing untoward happening.  Something must be wrong! Even the weather was great and no sibling rivalries from the feline side of the family!  I'll celebrate while I can!

Puzzle — Today’s took me 2:42 (average 4:41). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Short Takes

Daily Kos  While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilified for revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his "Outstanding Contributions to Society." 

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay: 

1. A House Bill Would View Corporate Crimes as 'Honest Mistakes' 

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America's greatest criminals deem simply reckless or negligent. The Heritage Foundation attempts to rationalize, saying "someone who simply has an accident by being slightly careless can hardly be said to have acted with a 'guilty mind.'" 

One must wonder, then, what extremes of evil, in the minds of conservatives, led to criminal charges against people apparently aware of their actions: the Ohio woman who took coins from a fountain to buy food; the California man who broke into a church kitchen to find something to eat; and the 90-year-old Florida activist who boldly tried to feed the homeless

Of course, even without the explicit protection of Congress, CEOs are rarely charged for their crimes. Not a single Wall Street executive faced prosecution for the fraud-ridden 2008 financial crisis. 

Click through for 4 more signs of a decaying society.  These bring to mind scenes in Detroit where water and sanitation was cut off to thousands because they couldn't pay for water etc, bills usually being a couple hundred dollars.  But some golf courses etc owned and used by the wealthy, with arrears in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, had no water cut offs.  It isn't hard to see who has their priorities screwed up.

Politicususa — Now, it appears that Fox News, the religious right, and conservative pundits have another “war on Christmas” enemy to add to their growing list of atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Wiccans, Heathens, and Muslims who they say hate Christmas. The newest combatant joining the fake war on Christmas went beyond opposing saying Merry Christmas or protesting against Christian Christmas displays on government property and actually assailed the holiday celebration as a farce; likely because he is the supreme leader of the Catholic Church and not involved in conservative America’s silly Christmas outrage.

Pope On War

During a Mass at Casa Santa Maria, Pope Francis quietly committed one of the most heinous sins to American conservatives and religious right fanatics. There have been a world of things this “progressive” Pope has said to incite Republicans, conservatives, and evangelicals to abject anger and outrage, and each and every time it is because he talks like the Christian bible’s humanitarian Jesus. This latest incident is no different and is another signal that on a couple of important issues, Francis is a progressive pope; and an honest-to-dog humanitarian.

Click through for the rest.  I can hear Bill O'Reilly now, totally apoplectic, screaming that the Pope has no idea what he's talking about!  I am not a catholic, but I can definitely get behind him on some issues, and this is one.  I have felt for years that Christmas is about excessive and conspicuous consumption.  The real Christmas comes every day wrapped in plain, unadorned paper.  It is the extended hand to refugees, a kind word, volunteering in a soup kitchen or a food bank so others might have food, holding the hand of someone who is afraid, and many more.

Talking Points Memo — Writing for the 7th Circuit majority, Judge Richard Posner called the contention that the law would protect women's health "nonexistent." He said the law would put more women in danger by increasing the waiting times for abortions, which could push some procedures into the second trimester.

"What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women's health — and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women's health," he wrote.

He also said that a woman who experiences complications from an abortion will go to the nearest hospital, which will treat her regardless of whether her abortion doctor has admitting privileges there.

Click through to read the rest.  Of course the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a Texas case come spring which will affect all states.

My Universe h/t John Gray, Care2

At least this young lady got the kitten's bumb and not claws as was my misfortune when I was the trampoline 7 yearrs ago!

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Nov 242015
 

It has been a busy day, first with physio and then teaching.  All was going well, although I was very tired, until we received a call from from my student's 10 year old son.  His middle school was in lock down because there was one, maybe two men with guns near the school.  That put everybody on edge until it was over and I could get over to the school to pick him up.  That stretched out my day and my planned cat nap had to wait.  But all is well that ends well.  Men with guns, other than police constables, is not something we are used to, thankfully.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:12 (average 5:01). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Fantasy Football

              Points
Rank Team Status W-L-T Pct Stk Waiver For Against
1

Monster MashersMonster Mashers

009

7-3-0 .700 L1 7 1,002.34 748.84
2

BALCO BombersBALCO Bombers

018

7-3-0 .700 W4 9 950.96 793.22
3

Progressive UnderdogsProgressive Underdogs

027

6-4-0 .600 W2 8 1,016.66 906.92
4+1

Lefty HillbilliesLefty Hillbillies

018

6-4-0 .600 W1 6 948.50 844.04
5-1

MittsMagicJockMittsMagicJock

018

6-4-0 .600 W1 5 926.22 796.88
6+2

Purple DemonPurple Demon

018

5-5-0 .500 W3 4 948.16 970.96
7-1

Size 9 StompersSize 9 Stompers

018

5-5-0 .500 L1 3 851.08 851.16
8-1

Playing without a helmetPlaying without a helmet

036

4-6-0 .400 L3 2 824.80 953.40
9

TomCat Teabag TrashersTomCat Teabag Trashers

009

3-7-0 .300 L3 10 884.98 1,059.66
10

endthegopendthegop

009

1-9-0 .100 L9 1 633.20 1,061.82

* Rank change shown is from week 9 – 10

Short Takes

Truth in Mediah/t Lona Goudswaard — In this episode of Truth in Media, Ben Swann explores the origin of ISIS that has already been long forgotten by American media. Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by "inaction" by the United States government or by "direct" action.

Although this video is 8 months old, it bears watching again and again until we get it straight and can hold politicians, no matter the party, accountable.

Alternet — “The Pfizer-Allergan merger would be a disaster for American consumers who already pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said, in a statement issued by his U.S. Senate office. It also would "allow another major American corporation to hide its profits overseas.”

Click through for the rest of the story.  I kept hearing about this proposed sale on the radio as I went about my business.  What makes this deal different from most so far (I'm sure that others will follow) is that Allergan, the Irish company, is making the purchase thereby getting around US laws regarding "inversions".  Bernie is right to call on Obama to squash this.

Think Progress — The mayor of Dallas is pushing back against politicians who say Americans should be skeptical ofSyrian refugees, saying he is “more fearful” of armed white men than people fleeing civil war in the Middle East.

Speaking to MSNBC on Saturday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was asked to discuss the growing anxiety over Syrian refugees entering the United States, purportedly over concerns they could be potential agents for militant groups such as ISIS. Rawlings staunchly rejected the assertion that Syrians are somehow uniquely prone to violence, saying he is more concerned with the rise of white supremacy and the recent flurry of mass shootings committed by white men.

Click through for the rest and a video from the Rachel Maddow Show.  

My Universe — h/t to John Gray, Care2

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