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About those Dispersants: Another Shell Game

May 4, 2010

BP and the US Government have settled on what they think is the most tidy solution to the Gulf Coast oil spill of 2010. They are adding mustard to the oil and water to make this petrocatastrophe look like dressing on a tossed salad. They may as well be adding mustard gas instead, for all the effectiveness the chemical dispersant will likely have in the long run. In a never before tried experiment, BP is injecting the dispersant chemicals near the sea floor level, turning the Gulf into a massive latte petroliono with sprinkles.

The dispersant alters the physical characteristics of the oil, acting to prevent it from reaching the surface, keeping it in emulsion with the ocean as a giant cloud, out of site out of mind, unless one is swimming through it or feeding on those who swim through it.

National Geographic News noted a couple of days ago that 140,000 gallons of dispersant had been used so far, with another 51,000 gallons available.

According to the U.S. National Research Council, oil spill dispersants do not actually reduce the total amount of oil entering the environment. Rather, they change the chemical and physical properties of the oil, making it more likely to mix into the water column than to contaminate the shoreline.

The NRC report says that evaluating the environmental trade-offs associated withdispersant use is “one of the most difficult decisions that oil spill responders and natural resources managers face during a spill.” The reason is the increased oil exposure for fish, as well as for corals and creatures that live in the lowest level of the water, such as oysters, the report said.

“Dispersant only alters the destination of the toxic compounds in the oil,” redirecting its impact from feathered and fur-bearing animals on shore to organisms in the water column itself and on the seafloor, Richard Charter, senior policy adviser for marine programs at the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, said in an email.
“No good answers to a mess this big, only degrees of damage to various life-forms,” Charter said.

The Waterkeepers Alliance has come out in opposition to the Dispersant solution.

“We are adamantly opposed to dispersants being used at the well-head as we believe it adds more toxins and less value to the clean up process,” says Mobile Baykeeper Casi Callaway. “Certain dispersants may be useful at the shore/grassbed line, but we can’t endorse this action until we know what specific dispersants are to be used!” source

The dispersant currently being used by BP is a chemical combination of hydrocarbon solvents and surfactantsmade by the oil industry related company, Nalco Energy Services. According to the Wall St. Journal Nalco’s stocks are soaring. Bully for them.

Hydrocarbon solvents, typically used in the dry cleaning business, can be incredibly toxic depending on which ones are used and the quantities. Themselves byproducts of petroleum, benzene, xylene, tolulene and kerosene come immediately to mind.

For more info on dispersant use for oil spills, here is an article from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited, one could say, the industry point of view.


And just in case you come across anyone saying “we never could have predicted …” Here is a pre-emptive strike against that from a paper in the U.S. EPA’s Oil Program Report in May 2004, titled From the Marshes to Deepwater, Louisiana’s Hydrocarbon Infrastructure is at Risk

The complexity of the site and lack of current response contingency plans puts the Gulf Coast potentially at risk for a major spill event. In the future, plans need to take the freshwater plume created by the discharge of the Mississippi River into account. The occurrence of extreme weather conditions also increases the risk of a spill and may complicate spill response activities. Response planning and understanding of the marine and freshwater environments are essential for the protection of the Gulf Coast.

And that was before Katrina.

69 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    May 4, 2010 9:45 am

    Testing out the image in comments capabilities.

    and adding a link for the MMS, which is worth tracking as this disaster unfolds


    • cometman permalink*
      May 4, 2010 10:03 am

      Great post and thanks for all the info. Maybe they’re thinking that since a large part of the Gulf is already a huge dead zone thanks to runoff from fertilizer and other petroleum products, a little more oil in the waters can’t hurt the ecosysytem much more than it already is.

      I really hope the points you made that plenty of damage will still be done even if the oil doesn’t make it to shore will be emphasized as this disaster continues. Somehow I doubt they will be though.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 4, 2010 11:59 am

      Just got through reading all the links in the post. Even the industry sites seem to recognize the dangers inherent in using these dispersants although the language they use tries to downplay that fact. As one of the links mentions, this clean up method is just an experiment at this point and nobody really knows what the consequences may be.

      Interesting to read the warnings from the EPA website and the unintended consequences of the Oil Pollution Act passed after the Valdez spill:

      Since 1989, the volume of oil spilled in the U.S. as well the number of spills has decreased. Many attribute this to the implementation of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. This trend has had a negative effect on Oil Spill Response Organizations (OSROs). The amount of spending on
      and capital generated by oil spill response activities has been decreasing, creating problems for coastal OSROs.

      Commercial companies can no longer rely solely on emergency response activities for the future growth of their businesses. These companies now have to look to branch out into other fields and diversify their capabilities to remain competitive. Many have expanded their businesses to respond to hurricanes, floods, HazMat, and even international response activities.

      So these for-profit companies couldn’t make a profit when there were fewer spills so they reduced their clean-up capabilities. Seriously, WTF?????? The proper response would seem to be that if these companies wanted to get government contracts, they should be required to have adequate resources for any contingency. If they can’t afford it then give them subsidies. But of course if the government is going to hand out subsidies in order to get private businesses to provide the services that government needs, why doesn’t government just cut out the middleman and provide those services itself? How many more disasters have to occur before government rethinks the “wisdom” of contracting out everything?

  2. artemis54 permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:05 am

    Most excellent post and comprehensive set of links!

    Have not read them all yet but I’m sure it is mentioned somewhere, probably at Waterkeepers, that if you disperse the goo into the water column it will be that much more quickly and easily taken up by oysters, scallops, etc which reconcentrate it in their bodies. It is quite possible that bottom communities which otherwise would have survived whatever is going on on the surface will be wiped out – or rendered inedible – by the oil dispersed, and possibly the dispersant itself – since everyhing is a trade secret, no one knows what it even is.

    If we found a bomb with mysterious ingedients in it, would “it’s a trade secret” be a reasonable response from the manufacturers to the public or govt agencies trying to figure out what they were dealing with?


    o/t: TOday will be most intersting in BC. The Get Out Migration hits Nanaimo, by far the largest city so far – 90,000 maybe? in the city itself.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 4, 2010 11:38 am

      Interesting to think of all these dispersants going into the water in conjunction with the articles we talked about a week or so ago about microbial mats and how deep sea vents are repopulated after one of the smokers erupts.

      The dead zones in the Gulf due to runoff are already well noted and as you mentioned dumping all this other crap to the ocean floor isn’t going to help the organisms that currently live there. But I doubt anything people do will wipe out all life. As those articles mentioned, it appears that among the millions and millions of species living in microbial mats, some of them are just laying in wait for more opportune conditions to arise before they start to settle in and reproduce more widely. It strikes me that the new ocean floor humans are creating with all this pollution may present just the right conditions for some of this microbial life to survive and adapt. Of course organisms that thrive in an environment that is toxic to most other life may not be very beneficial to human beings. We may not like what comes out of the Gulf some day.

  3. artemis54 permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:11 am

    Also read somewhere that as of a couple days ago, BP had bought up a third of the total world supply of dispersant. They mar simply use all there is.

    Investment opportunity!

  4. Stemella permalink*
    May 4, 2010 10:20 am

    Related to the Swanson comment on the other thread, here is a series of videos of the teach in they did with Kucinich, Scahill etc

    Teach-In on Capitol Hill on Ending U.S. Wars

    • cometman permalink*
      May 5, 2010 7:46 am

      That looks good. Note to self to watch it later.

  5. Stemella permalink*
    May 4, 2010 10:27 am

    I’ve got to get some work done for a while, but before signing out for a bit, I noted that the markets are again going apeshit with the VIX (volatility index) way up over 20% today and the Dow down 200+ points. Apparently Europe is doing the mudslide again with the Spanish and Portuguese first in line now that Greece has been sufficiently whipped into submission.

    Spanish, Portuguese CDS spreads soar on debt fears

    I guess their diseases are contagious. The $ is skyrocketing. I’m sure the Zedgers are all over this.


  6. artemis54 permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:33 am

    The nightmare in the Gulf has not gone unnoticed in BC. This writer is referring to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from the tar sands to the open Pacific:

    I would like the press and the opposition parties to ask Premier Gordon Campbell if he still supports this proposal and what contingency plans he has for the kind of disaster we are witnessing.

    If the Governator can come to his senses – and good on him for doing so – why not Campbell?

  7. cometman permalink*
    May 4, 2010 12:12 pm

    Turns out the Times Square suspect was not a middle aged white guy and was caught trying to get to Dubai. Guess the Dubai-ans (Dubai-ese?) can look forward to the flocks of Predator drones arriving during their summer migration.

    One thing stuck out from that article:

    Shahzad, 30, had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan, where he had a wife, according to law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation into the failed car bombing. [emphasis added – cman]

    Maybe this writer was just trying a little sloppy or trying to make the tenses of his verbs match, but it seems odd that they would use the word ‘had’ instead of ‘has’. Did she move from Pakistan? Is she no longer extant? May be nothing at all, but I’m interested to see if maybe this guy’s wife being in the past tense had something to do with his deciding to blow shit up.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 4, 2010 1:25 pm

      Here’s more on his background. This piece says he is married with 2 kids and that they may be in Pakistan. It also says JP Morgan foreclosed on him last year.

      Shahzad worked for about three years as a junior financial analyst in the Norwalk, Connecticut, office of the Affinion Group, a marketing and consulting business, the company said. He left the company in June 2009.

      * JPMorgan Chase’s mortgage unit sued Shahzad in September last year to foreclose on his three bedroom home in Shelton, Connecticut, court documents and county records show.

      * Shahzad is married with two children, sources said, and his wife and children are believed to be living in Pakistan.

      This more recent article says he’s now been charged as have several of his friends and relatives in Pakistan.

      • cometman permalink*
        May 4, 2010 1:58 pm

        Thanks for that. Not sure whether to laugh or cry at things like this:

        “Which group he may have belonged to and how he became radicalized, we don’t know yet,” said the source.

        You don’t know how he may have become ‘radicalized’?!?!? Maybe because he pays attention to something other than Faux News? Maybe because he’s aware that the US rains down death on innocent people all over the region, people who he or his relatives may have known?

        I’m no expert but his claims to have acted alone seem reasonable to me despite what the unnamed sources think:

        “Based on our collective experience it’s hard to really believe that this is something someone would do on their own. It seems hard to pull off alone. There’s a lot we don’t know yet,” the source said.

        The “collective experience” of US intelligence services isn’t exactly anything to brag about. And the guy didn’t pull it off. There was no big kaboom. Nobody got hurt. If the guy had some help maybe the thing would have actually gone off. I feel bad for his relatives who are probably in some black ops site right now being beaten half to death, however Shahzad must have been aware that this was likely to happen if he got caught. If he did have help, it wasn’t very good.

        • artemis54 permalink
          May 4, 2010 5:32 pm

          Reference in the media yesterday to the possibility of someone being “self-radicalized.” They used the same term about some of us many years ago; I think it translates to “waking up smelling the coffee.”

          Now if we were at some idiot site like dkos I would have to issue a big ole disclaimer for that. Fortunately such things are not necessary among people of some tiny amount of wit.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    May 4, 2010 1:08 pm

    Several unrelated stories of interest

    Here’s more on BP clean up efforts regarding the domes and potential relief well drilling plans

    BP completes first of three containment domes

    US fines Goldman unit over short-sale violations

    Talk about a weak slap on the wrist relative to the crime – chump change to these squid

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s (GS.N) market-making unit has been censured and fined $450,000 after U.S. regulators found hundreds of violations over how it processed customer trades involving short sales of stocks.

    The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and NYSE Regulation said Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing LLP violated emergency requirements adopted in September 2008, two days after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LEHMQ.PK) went bankrupt, to limit naked short selling.

    The Greeks are bloody well pissed at the austerity

    Greek government workers shut down schools and hospitals and disrupted flights as demonstrators occupied the Acropolis in an escalation of protests against 30 billion euros ($40 billion) of additional wage cuts and tax increases unveiled this week.

    The ADEDY union federation, which represents more than 500,000 civil servants having their pensions and pay slashed under measures announced May 2 by Prime Minister George Papandreou, will hold a rally at midday joined by striking teachers. A general strike, the third this year, is planned for tomorrow, with private-sector workers due to participate.

    “Protests will increase,” said Spyros Papaspyros, the head of ADEDY. “Opting for the easy path of cutting wages and pensions can’t be accepted.”

    • cometman permalink*
      May 4, 2010 1:46 pm

      Only going to get worse in Greece. I think Papandreou is well aware that there will be riots.

      Their finances are completely fucked though. One of the tax increases is going to be on the sales tax which is already at 21%. Saw it mentioned in a longer article a couple days ago which I can’t put my finger on right now but this little blurb says the same thing – Greek Finance Minister says top sales tax level to increase from 21 to 23 percent.

      And I was planning on being there right about now until our own government decided I wasn’t worthy of the tax refund I was expecting that was to pay for the trip. I think it would be pretty badass to join the protests and the general strike there, especially since it’s unlikely we’ll have a chance to participate in a strike like that here. Oh well, maybe next year. I’m betting the Greeks will still be plenty pissed off.

      • Stemella permalink*
        May 5, 2010 7:39 am

        It has already gotten dramatically worse overnight. I’m sorry our government prevented you from participating in solidarity with those who also love the calimari, but you are likely correct that this will be going on for a long time.

        Here’s a story with some pretty rad footage of people trying to storm the Parliament building. It looks like what we thought might have happened a year and a half ago is now going to happen, pretty much, open revolution.

        Three killed as Greek austerity protest turns violent

        and here are still photos from the Guardian

        • cometman permalink*
          May 5, 2010 8:18 am


          George Papandreou, the socialist Prime Minister who marks 7 months in power this week, has vowed to keep the IMF-mandated austerity programme in place “without regard to political cost.” However the left-wing parties and the main unions have been equally adamant in civil disobedience, raising serious issues of Greece’s governability in the coming months.

          I don’t think he’ll be Prime Minister very long. I’m assuming these austerity measures will affect the police too. Wonder how long before the police decide they’d rather be on the other side of the protests too.

      • artemis54 permalink
        May 5, 2010 7:48 am

        Hard to explain why, but Corfu is on the short list of places I really want to visit.

        • cometman permalink*
          May 5, 2010 8:20 am

          Is it because of Gerald Durrell’s books? That’s one of the reasons I’d like to go there.

          • artemis54 permalink
            May 5, 2010 9:27 am

            Actually it was another book that I can’t remember. A woman, a cook who was very preoccupied with wild herbs.

            Now this is going to drive me crazy until I track it down.

            • Stemella permalink*
              May 5, 2010 11:16 am

              If you ever make it to Corfu, which is lovely, but very touristy, be sure to check out the near by Paxos and Anti-Paxos, which are tiny and extraordinary. I dove for and ate my very first sea urchins right next to the caves shown in this video.

              that water is to die for

    • cometman permalink*
      May 5, 2010 8:10 am

      Just read that one about the Goldman fine. This topic deserves a lot more scrutiny and I’m not sure the author of the article grasps what is going on. The SEC instituted a temporary ban on shorting financial stocks back in 2008 . This was a ban on a legal practice, one which in my opinion should not have been placed. As the link notes, the ban was to expire on Oct. 2 2008 but the ban was extended until after the bailout went through.

      The ban was not on naked short selling as the Reuters article indicates, it was on regular short selling so the following is simply untrue:

      The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and NYSE Regulation said Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing LLP violated emergency requirements adopted in September 2008, two days after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LEHMQ.PK) went bankrupt, to limit naked short selling.

      Unless that ban was extended again, it had expired by the timeframe of what Goldman was fined for:

      Regulators said that because of a bookkeeping error, the Goldman unit between Dec. 9, 2008, and Jan. 22, 2009, accepted about 385 orders to short stocks where it had not first borrowed or arranged to borrow the securities as collateral.

      Now that last paragraph does describe naked short selling and naked short selling is already illegal and has been for quite a while. That practice is the same as counterfeiting stock and it’s flat out fraud. And yet Goldman in agreeing to pay this pittance was NOT required to admit wrongdoing:

      Goldman agreed to settle without admitting wrongdoing.

      It IS motherfucking wrongdoing!!!!!!!!! It is illegal!!!!!

      It would be a big help if the people writing about this stuff could do their research and get the facts straight. Because to me, this does not appear to be a violation of the SEC ban at all. What it looks like is a blatant and deliberate collusion between Goldman and the SEC to cover up a practice that is highly illegal. Instead of trying to figure out who placed all the naked short bets on Lehman they are brushing the entire thing under the rug!

  9. Stemella permalink*
    May 4, 2010 1:46 pm

    Here we go, I found a story from last week about Nalco’s dispersant and its primary ingredient – – –

    Polyethylene glycol!

    Polyethylene glycol is of course known commonly as an antifreeze. It also kills animals when they drink it. Nice.

    and the trade name of the product is Corexit. Here is the MSDS for Nalco’s Corexit 9580 which says the primary ingredient (60%) is light petroleum distillate. No mention of PEG. Hmmmm.

    but it does state, No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product.



  10. Stemella permalink*
    May 5, 2010 7:40 am

    Recent words of inanity from the Elvin one

    Geithner Says Splitting Up Bank Functions Won’t Aid Stability

  11. cometman permalink*
    May 5, 2010 8:24 am

    Wave of the future? – Virtual schools soon reality in Mass.

    This might be OK on a limited basis and there are some for whom it would probably be a very good program. But in most cases I don’t think you can substitute for having a real live teacher around to help kids learn. Maybe I’m just old fashioned. Guess we’ll see in another generation or two if experiments like this are worth it.

    • artemis54 permalink
      May 5, 2010 8:53 am

      No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no

      • cometman permalink*
        May 5, 2010 9:09 am

        The article mentioned disabled students who might benefit from such a program. Depending on the disability this kind of thing might be OK. But that’s about it.

        Otherwise with no supervision (and there won’t be supervision when the parents are out working) kids aren’t going to learn shit.

        • artemis54 permalink
          May 5, 2010 9:23 am

          As an adjunct, fine. A condiment, a complement. But not a substitute as we know it will be. This is an abdication of responsibility.

          Any tenuous grip I might have on reality I ascribe to the influence of my early teachers, who at the drop of a hat would take us off to a farm auction, a little explore of one of the local creeks, a sheep shearing, or devote a few weeks to putting on a play, to hell with the books but I notice must of us have managed pretty well. Different world I guess.

          • Stemella permalink*
            May 5, 2010 11:10 am

            I agree with both of you. In very limited applications, or as a compliment virtual might be ok.

            I had elementary teachers like you did. They made all the difference. They inspired a love of learning that formed a foundation for everything that came later.

            The future will be all too dystopic with all the cancellation, dehumanization, privatization, and automation of all our basic social responsibilities and services.

            Brave new world here we are.

  12. artemis54 permalink
    May 5, 2010 9:08 am

    Fraser River First Nations Call For Fisheries Minister’s Resignation

    By allowing marine based sport fisheries to continue, the DFO is thumbing its nose at the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. vs. Sparrow which accords the aboriginal fishery a priority second only to conservation and ahead of both the sport and commercial fisheries. And the continued refusal by DFO to put the brakes on marine based sport fisheries for Early Chinook will only serve to drive these fish closer to extinction.

    NB: According to the Supreme Court, first nations are first in line. Yet even while they are imposing a moratoriium on tribal fisheries of their own accord, the government rufuses to rein in any of the other fisheries. All of whose “rights” are a distant second to the first nations’.

    More: First nations act on the salmon crisis — when will Ottawa?

    Sounds like a reasonable proposal to me. First nations are showing the kind of leadership we should expect from our federal government in protecting wild salmon stocks.

    DFO should be shutting these fisheries down right, left and centre for strict conservation reasons. Only as stocks recover former abundance and first nations’ access to traditional food and ceremonial harvests can be satisfied should commercial and recreational fisheries be reactivated.

    And all this is to say nothing of the Cohen commission investigating the disappearance of the Fraser sockeye, which is sure to provide weeks of incendiary headlines.

    Looks like a long hot summer for DFO Minister Gail Shea, should she choose to stick around – but why shouldn’t she, she gets a fat check for doing absolutely nothing.

  13. Stemella permalink*
    May 5, 2010 11:05 am

    Bernie Sanders is wrapping up his spiel on the Senate floor introducing his amendment to the Finance Reform bill to audit the Fed. He said that 33 others have endorsed it.

    Here’s more info about the amendment from his site – Bernie

    “Here is what we want to know is who got trillions of taxpayer dollars, and who was at those early meetings”

    And holy shit, wicked witch of Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchinson just said she supports Bernie’s amendment. I think my cat just mated with my dog! haha

    I’m pretty sure <O is going to do whatever he can to make sure this amendment is rejected.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 6, 2010 12:53 pm

      I think you’re probably right, especially since a good majority of Bernie’s supporters on this one are republicans. If so, it will be lot harder for <O to chastise others with a straight face for shooting down all the Democrats' ideas.

  14. Stemella permalink*
    May 5, 2010 1:26 pm

    Dylan Ratigan just announced that the politician who has received the most contributions from BP, yes British Petroleum BP, is none other than the President <O. Something to the tune of $70 k. (which is far less than he got from goldie sux)

    sweet and crude, Barry

  15. Stemella permalink*
    May 6, 2010 8:57 am

    The New York Times is covering the same story of this post – I beat em by a day! ;)

    In Gulf of Mexico, Chemicals Under Scrutiny

    Even in the best cases, dispersants are applied in what might be termed a lose-lose strategy. Scientists make the calculation that it is better to have the ocean filled with low concentrations of the dispersant chemicals — which are in themselves mild to moderate poisons — than to have dense oil on the surface or washing up onshore, places where it is most likely to harm wildlife.

    And while most environmentalists support the application of dispersants as a necessary evil to limit the damage, some have assailed an industry policy that guards their chemical makeup. Keeping the exact mix secret makes it harder to evaluate the risks to marine ecosystems and to know what side effects to look for as the crisis unfolds.

    What is more, the main dispersants applied so far, from a product line called Corexit, had their approval rescinded in Britain a decade ago because laboratory tests found them harmful to sea life that inhabits rocky shores, like limpets, said Mark Kirby, a scientific adviser to the British government on the testing, use and approval of oil spill treatment options.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 6, 2010 9:10 am

      And here is another MSDS from Nalco that shows that Corexit is indeed made of Polyethylene glycol (PEG) and butoyxyethanol

      2-Butoxyethanol (CAS#) 111-76-2 30.0 – 60.0%
      Organic sulfonic acid salt Proprietary 10.0 – 30.0%
      Propylene Glycol (CAS#) 57-55-6 1.0 – 5.0%

  16. Stemella permalink*
    May 6, 2010 9:01 am

    Call me a masochist, but I’ve been listening to Hank the Spank Squid Sr. testify to the FCIC (The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission ) this morning. Elvin one is set to testify next. I’ve typed up some notes and will summarize a bit later. No great admissions from Paulson, some decent answers, but a lot of hem and haw and stuttering too. There were some decent questions asked. Brooksley Borne is on the Commission.

    I will note now that Paulson had an uneven suntan that strongly resembled a bacterial disorder I’ve seen on goldfish, called Ick. :-D

    • artemis54 permalink
      May 6, 2010 10:03 am

      You’re a masochist. For some reason Geithner makes my blood boil.

      • Stemella permalink*
        May 6, 2010 10:43 am

        I lasted about 10 minutes with Timmeh and then I had to go whack brush for an hour with my machete. I feel much better now. Cannot. fucking, stand. Geithner. :)

  17. artemis54 permalink
    May 6, 2010 10:01 am

    Greenpeace protested the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline at Enridge’s Vancouver hq yesterday, the day Enridge stockholders met in Calgary.

    They also collected signatures against the pipeline. But the really interesting thing is that campaigners were startled to get virtually no pushback or argument from anyone on the streets of Vancouver. It would be interesting to see a sizeable survey on the question. Greenpeace cites a four year old poll, in which three out of four said no to tanker traffic on the coast. That percentage would surely be higher today.

  18. Stemella permalink*
    May 6, 2010 10:45 am

    Here’s Bernie Sanders on the floor again today introducing his amendment, which apparently Obama intends to veto if it passes. Asshole bankster licker.

  19. Stemella permalink*
    May 6, 2010 11:50 am

    Holy shit. I’ve just watched the Dow drop 5o0 points in the last 10-15 minutes. It is down 965 points so far today. It is clearly very volatile as it just bounced back up 200 points. Rock and roll with the black Greek swan boys and girls. I’m afraid to open Zero Hedge. I think there may be heads exploding.

    • artemis54 permalink
      May 6, 2010 12:41 pm

      Never fear, cnbc provides an explanation:

      The gears got stuck

      They might as well pay me to make this shit up.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 6, 2010 1:05 pm

      I caught a little bit of Dylan Ratigan talking about this earlier. He was making quite a bit of sense. Mentioned how Greece was having its day of reckoning because it can’t print its own money while the US continues printing money and cooking the books trying to delay the same from happening here. I’m almost surprised MSNBC hasn’t given him the Donahue treatment yet.

  20. artemis54 permalink
    May 6, 2010 12:47 pm

    I lover the commentator’s shock on hearing that a lot of people don’t pay their taxes in Greece. Visit Italy sometime, honey. Tax avoision is as unremarkable in the Mediterranean as personal hygiene; it’s just something you do, like everyone else you know.

  21. artemis54 permalink
    May 7, 2010 6:58 am


    An open letter in Science today, from 225 members of the National Academy of Sciences. I can never quite get what is open access and what is not, so will reproduce here in its entirety because of its remarkable clarity:

    Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

    We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.
    Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modeling. Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial—scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of “well-established theories” and are often spoken of as “facts.”

    For instance, there is compelling scientific evidence that our planet is about 4.5 billion years old (the theory of the origin of Earth), that our universe was born from a single event about 14 billion years ago (the Big Bang theory), and that today’s organisms evolved from ones living in the past (the theory of evolution). Even as these are overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, fame still awaits anyone who could show these theories to be wrong. Climate change now falls into this category: There is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.

    Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected. But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:

    (i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.

    (ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

    (iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

    (iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.

    (v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

    Much more can be, and has been, said by the world’s scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business-as-usual practices. We urge our policy-makers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the un restrained burning of fossil fuels.

    We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.

    That should be clear enough even for the blithering idiots of the media if we lived in a sane world. But they won’t report it, or read it, because one clumsy email outweighs a library of evidence and undoes twenty years of work by thousands of people.

    • Stemella permalink*
      May 7, 2010 8:56 am

      I google news searched the letter and it has been published in a spattering of papers and blogs


      For example, here’s ABC’s reprint of the original from Reuters
      Scientists Decry “Assaults” on Climate Research

      No one will care but scientists and the few of us left who value science. Integrity is a dying concept throughout all areas of conduct and enterprise, world wide, it appears.

      Welcome to the idiocracy!.

      • artemis54 permalink
        May 7, 2010 2:42 pm

        I see the still-indefatigible A Siegel has covered it at dkos.

        He says 255 signatories and is no doubt correct, I was kind of guesstimating.

  22. cometman permalink*
    May 7, 2010 11:31 am

    The fix to “fix” Social Security is in –Pete Peterson’s Anti-Entitlement Juggernaut Gets Fueled Up by Obama.

    When Obama’s new Deficit Commission gets going, it has plans for “partnering“–in the words of executive director Bruce Reed–with outside groups. Among them will be the foundation run by Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson, who on today is upstaging the president with his own fiscal summit in Washington. Obama insists he is keeping an open mind about how to deal with the deficit and national debt–but he’s already stacked his own commission with people who lean heavily toward one particular solution: cutting entitlements for the old, the sick, the disabled, and the poor. And if that wasn’t enough, he now looks to be working hand-in-glove with a wealthy private organization whose central purpose is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Talk about foregone conclusions.

  23. cometman permalink*
    May 7, 2010 11:47 am

    Ha! McClatchy flips the bird at the Pentagon.

    Good for them!

  24. cometman permalink*
    May 7, 2010 11:50 am

    Tom Englehardt mentions yet another innocent man gunned down by the US in Afghanistan in this article summing up the current zeitgeist – Yawn….

  25. cometman permalink*
    May 7, 2010 12:14 pm

    The Brown/Kaufman amendment to break up the big banks failed yesterday.

    Bernie made a deal on his amendment to audit the Fed. Bernie’s staffers say it’s just a minor adjustment but Ron Paul is calling him a sell out. It would still give some much needed transparency from what I can tell, but the fact that Dodd and <O are on board with it makes me think that Paul may be right and Bernie compromised more than he should have.

    This guy wonders – Did Democrats Just Set a Brilliant Trap … For Themselves? Maybe, but I bet the dithering Dems can manage to water things down a lot more before all is said and done.

    I tend to agree with Simon Johnson from the first link – no matter how much Congress and the banksters try to cover everything up, they’re still on their way to Waterloo.

  26. Stemella permalink*
    May 10, 2010 7:04 am

    <O is about to announce Elena Kagan as his new Supreme pick.

    Given her connections to Hahvahd I was curious about her relations with the Cane Toad. Here’s a blurb from a NJ blog

    Kagan’s connections to Summers are interesting. She was a professor there when Summers arrived from his work at Treasury, under Bill Clinton, to deregulate banks and derivatives to get the gambling moving…guaranteed by the taxpayer. As President Summers of Harvard from 2001 to 2006, Kagan thrived. She was made a full professor, then Summers tapped her to be the Dean of Harvard Law. Her pet peeve there was to keep the American military and ROTC off campus because she disputes the “don’t ask, don’t tell” provisions put in place by Clinton. In 2008, Kagan got money as an advisor to Goldman Sachs global investment house. Meanwhile, she made Cass Sunstein, who is now an advisor to Obama too, a full professor at Harvard. He has suggested the concept of marriage be discontinued. He also has argued that dogs and cats should have “standing” to sue in court.

    Meanwhile, Summers had worked in 2006-2008 for a derivatives firm, D.E. Shaw and was paid some five million dollars. Summers actually testified that the lack of supervisory laws on Wall Street. that he permitted, was outrageous …Then, he went back to “public service” as the chief financial advisor to Obama. He dodged Senate review with this appointive position. With Summers in the White House, Kagen became Solititor General to give her some experience in actual law. Meanwhile, Summers remains a professor at Harvard, too. All in all, our “ruling elites” continue to present bizarre manipulations as they exchange positions and promote one another. It’s a cozy, exclusive club that’s also shadowy. Worse, these jokers have the fate of our world in their shaky hands. source

    So, she has also entangled herself in the tentacles of the big squid.

    Color me jack’s complete lack of surprise

    More on her Goldie Sux employ at Zedge Squid Bucks

    • cometman permalink*
      May 10, 2010 8:25 am

      Greenwald has been making a lot of noise against a Kagan nomination lately. I don’t like the sound of her at all. The ties to Goldman are not ideal but I’m a lot more concerned about the info you dug up about her coziness with Sunstein and Summers. Lots of people have probably gotten paid a few grand to “advise” Goldman but the other stuff shows that we can expect more of the same from her. Plus she’s a fucking Kagan ferchrissakes. Your average person on the street may not be aware of the Kagan pedigree but the whole damn family are a bunch of neocons. I’m not sure if Elena is directly related to patriarch Donald or his egregious spawn, but her views sound pretty damn similar.

      Here’s one from Greenwald with a bunch of links on Kagan and here’s a new one from today –Obama’s natural choice of Kagan.

      I expect the following to be true unfortunately:

      …the vast majority of progressives and Democrats will get behind anyone, no matter who it is, chosen by Obama. That’s just how things work. They’ll ignore most of the substantive concerns that have been raised about her, cling to appeals to authority, seize on personal testimonials from her Good Progressive friends, and try to cobble together blurry little snippets to assure themselves that she’s a fine pick. In reality, no matter what they know about her (and, more to the point, don’t know), they’ll support her because she’s now Obama’s choice, which means, by definition, that she’s a good addition to the Supreme Court. Our politics is nothing if not tribal, and the duty of Every Good Democrat is now to favor Kagan’s confirmation.

      I’d love to see Kagan practice what she preached however I expect she’ll conveniently forget she ever said the following:

      … in 1995, Kagan condemned the Supreme Court confirmation process as “a vapid and hollow charade” and an “embarrassment,” arguing that Senators should “insist that any nominee reveal what kind of Justice she would make, by disclosing her views on important legal issues.”

  27. Stemella permalink*
    May 10, 2010 7:24 am

    In case you missed this

    Since spill, feds have given 27 waivers to oil companies in gulf

    Another fantastic example of hopeless status quo

    • cometman permalink*
      May 10, 2010 8:27 am

      I had missed that. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    • artemis54 permalink
      May 10, 2010 10:27 am

      This is why we needed Grivalva at Interior in the first place. Salazar and Obama are pushing the same old categorical exclusions of the Bush crowd. There’s no difference, it is every bit as wrong as it ever was, only now no one criticizes it. What the hell good are any guidelines at all if you grant these sweeping exemptions. “Rules sitting on the shelf,” as Darren Blaney said with reference to the salmon farms.

      • cometman permalink*
        May 10, 2010 12:09 pm

        Barry and Salazar ought to just let the rest of us know how large a corporation’s value has to be before they are exempt from having to follow any of those pesky laws. The sole purpose politicians seem to serve these days is to create loopholes for big companies and to decide who doesn’t have to obey the goddamned law.

  28. Stemella permalink*
    May 10, 2010 7:38 am

    It appears that exactly the wrong lesson was learned from last week’s market plunge.

    Exchanges Seek Faster Circuit Breakers After May 6 Stock Plunge

    oh joys

    • cometman permalink*
      May 10, 2010 8:43 am

      Sounds pretty wrong to me. I’ve never liked the idea of having mechanisms that shut down trading on certain stocks or the market as a whole just because the markets fall too fast for some people’s liking. Last week it looks like it was a glitch that caused at least part of the tumble but if what I’ve heard is really what happened, a trade was placed to sell more shares than the company had outstanding. Seems to me that it wouldn’t take an exchange-wide circuit breaker to fix a problem like that. A trade for more shares than a company even has should simply be rejected as it’s obviously a mistake. And even if a trader was trying to sell just a big block of shares, they shouldn’t be allowed to sell more than they actually own even if the amount is less than the total shares outstanding. Pretty sure I couldn’t sell more shares than I actually owned on an e-trade account so I’m not sure how this trader was able to do so, even accidentally.

      As the article mentions:

      During the 1987 crash, most trading in U.S. stocks was handled by human beings and the NYSE was dominated by firms that conducted share auctions to match buyers and sellers.

      Computers are a great tool but much like with voting, I don’t see why people feel the need to rely on them for everything. Computerized high frequency trading seems to benefit primarily the insiders and speculators at the expense of all the rest of the investors. I’m not saying do away with them completely in the markets, but there has to be a happy medium somewhere and from what I’ve seen we are no where near that and it’s only getting worse.

  29. Stemella permalink*
    May 10, 2010 8:12 am

    Greenwald on Kagan, Obama’s Natural Choice

    Nothing is a better fit for this White House than a blank slate, institution-loyal, seemingly principle-free careerist who spent the last 15 months as the Obama administration’s lawyer vigorously defending every one of his assertions of extremely broad executive authority. The Obama administration is filled to the brim with exactly such individuals — as is reflected by its actions and policies — and this is just one more to add to the pile.

  30. artemis54 permalink
    May 10, 2010 9:59 am

    The Get Out Migration culminated in a rally in front of the legislataive assembly. Crowd estimates range from 1000 (which is clearly bullshit_ to 10,000, with the organizers themselves saying 5000, which seems reasonable.

    Rafe Mair, ally and rough old cob generally, comments:

    Calling numbers in a crowd any time is difficult so perhaps it should be left to Vicky Husband, a veteran environmentalist and activist, who holds an Order of Canada, who said it was the biggest environmental gathering that she had ever seen and very likely the biggest in BC history.

    It was a simply grand day for Alex who has taken an enormous amount of crap since she started this fight over 8 years ago and to see her so honoured by so many brought tears to many eyes, including mine.

    To see her, once again, insulted by the mainstream media saddens all of us fighting this battle but makes us all realize that in some cases, this certainly being one, it’s high praise indeed to be ill judged by your enemies.

    • cometman permalink*
      May 10, 2010 12:13 pm

      If the media is just going to ignore this and the government doesn’t do anything either, I really hope Morton takes this to another level. If nobody listens to her asking the farms to get the hell out, there are plenty of ways to take them out.

      • artemis54 permalink
        May 10, 2010 1:06 pm

        We shall see. It is obvious that she isn’t going to quit as long as she can draw breath.

        They didn’t take Ghandi’s Salt March seriously either, and look how that turned out.

  31. cometman permalink*
    May 10, 2010 12:19 pm

    Looks like <O has found another civil liberty he doesn't think we really need anymore. Now Holder wants to change the Miranda laws. But it will only be for “certain situations” involving brown people. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

  32. cometman permalink*
    May 10, 2010 12:36 pm

    Fannie and Freddie are coming to the US taxpayer with hat in hand again. Gretchen Morgenson reports that Freddie needs another $10 bil or so while Fannie needs about $8 billion. Motherfuckers. And does anybody think this will be the last time? From Morgenson’s article:

    Serious delinquencies in Freddie’s single-family conventional loan portfolio — those more than 90 days late — came in at 4.13 percent, up from 2.41 percent for the period a year earlier. Delinquencies in the company’s Alt-A book, one step up from subprime loans, totaled 12.84 percent, while delinquencies on interest-only mortgages were 18.5 percent. Delinquencies on its small portfolio of option-adjustable rate loans totaled 19.8 percent.

    The company’s inventory of foreclosed properties rose from 29,145 units at the end of March 2009 to almost 54,000 units this year. Perhaps most troubling, Freddie’s nonperforming assets almost doubled, rising to $115 billion from $62 billion.

    When Freddie sells properties, either before or after foreclosure, it generates losses of 39 percent, on average.

    There is a bright spot: new delinquencies were fewer in number than in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

    Freddie Mac said the main reason for its disastrous quarter was an accounting change that required it to bring back onto its books $1.5 trillion in assets and liabilities that it had been keeping off of its balance sheet.

    For fuck sake, we would have all been better off if the government just handed every man, woman, and child in the country $10,000 to make their mortgage payments or otherwise stimulate the economy than with all this bailout bullshit.

    • artemis54 permalink
      May 10, 2010 1:20 pm

      Horrors! You might have given it to someone who didn’t deserve it!

  33. cometman permalink*
    May 10, 2010 1:04 pm

    Didn’t read too much news the last few days as I took some time to get some stuff done around the house. I probably shouldn’t have looked at all today either because everything I read is really pissing me off.

    I really hope the old adage that “As Maine goes so goes the nation” is no longer applicable because Maine is going all batshit insane teabaggery.

    An overwhelming majority of delegates to the Maine Republican convention tonight voted to scrap the the proposed party platform and replace it with a document created by a group of Tea Party activists.

    The official platform for the Republican Party of Maine is now a mix of right-wing fringe policies, libertarian buzzwords and outright conspiracy theories.

    The document calls for the elimination of the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve, demands an investigation of “collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth,” suggests the adoption of “Austrian Economics,” declares that “‘Freedom of Religion’ does not mean ‘freedom from religion'” (which I guess makes atheism illegal), insists that “healthcare is not a right,” calls for the abrogation of the “UN Treaty on Rights of the Child” and the “Law Of The Sea Treaty” and declares that we must resist “efforts to create a one world government.”

    And it isn’t just the less educated working class that’s buying into this bullshit. Went to the dentist last week and had a brief conversation with the hygienist about health care. This is a woman whose family has a decent enough income to put their kid through a $60,000 per year college. Yet even from her I heard how illegal immigrants are getting free health care and how we desperately need tort reform, among other bullshit Faux news talking points. I tried to raise a protest but it was bit difficult with her holding sharp dental implements in my mouth at the time.

    It’s hard not to become increasingly frustrated at the continuing polarization of the political discourse. At this point it sure seems to be dipshit teabaggers on one side who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about, and on the other side a bunch of Obama cheerleaders who approve everything <O does even if it's the same bullshit that these same people protested for 8 years when Bush was pulling it. Try to tell people that both sides are wrong and you just get looked at like you're crazy.

  34. cometman permalink*
    May 10, 2010 1:16 pm

    Another good one from Chris Hedges – After Religion Fizzles, We’re Stuck With Nietzsche.

    Nietzsche had his doubts. He suspected that this new secular faith might prefigure an endless middle-class charade. Nietzsche feared the deadening effects of the constant search for material possessions and personal hedonism. Science and technology might rather bring about a new, distorted character Nietzsche called “the Last Man.” The Last Man, Nietzsche feared, would engage in the worst kinds of provincialism, believing he had nothing to learn from history. The Last Man would wallow and revel in his ignorance and quest for personal fulfillment. He would be satisfied with everything that he had done and become, and would seek to become nothing more. He would be intellectually and morally stagnant, incapable of growth, and become part of an easily manipulated herd. The Last Man would mistake cynicism for knowledge.

    “The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars,” Nietzsche wrote about the Last Man in the prologue of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” “Alas! The time of the most contemptible man is coming, the man who can no longer despise himself.”

    Looking around at all the crooks in high places without one scintilla of shame, looks like Nietzsche was absolutely right.

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