A Looney Tunes Episode Starring (Mike) Duffy Duck

I really don’t understand why the media’s knickers are in a knot over the Mike Duffy incident. As I understand it, the former Canadian senator was abusing the privilege of his office by using government funds (read: taxpayer dollars) to pay for things that really shouldn’t have been billed to the taxpayer. He was audited, and these improper expenses caught out, publicized, and Duffy told to pay back the money owing, about ninety-thousand dollars, and rightfully so. Because Duffy didn’t have the money to pay off his improperly-claimed expenses, a member of the PMOs office, Nigel Wright, cut Duffy a cheque out of his (Wright) own personal funds to cover the debt. Also rightfully, Duffy was suspended from the Senate. He should have been kicked out, but that’s another matter.

The money isn’t the issue, as ninety-thousand dollars really isn’t a whole lot of money in the grand scheme of bureaucratic government. It’s the principle of the matter that counts: Duffy was fudging expense reports to cover items that really had nothing to do with Senate business. He should be penalized for that, and the Senate, by suspending him without pay for two years, did just that, although personally, I think he should have been kicked out. People in leadership positions in government should keep the proverbial clean relative to fiscal matters.

However, I don’t understand the witch hunt lead against the Conservatives over this matter. Wright made a personal loan, with full knowledge that it likely wouldn’t be repaid, to Duffy. Wright used his own. personal. funds. Not public, taxpayer funds, not party funds, but personal funds. How is it unethical, or a conflict of interest, for a person to lend another person money, on a personal level? And why do people even care to the vituperative level of saying that this incident might bring down the Conservatives? I frankly don’t see the relevance of whether the PM knew of this transaction or not. I don’t even see how this whole Duffy incident is an issue given that the money was paid back and that he’s been suspended from the Senate.

Please, explain to me why this incident has escalated to the point of criminal charges and a trial, why the media is gloating over how the PM might have known about Wright lending Duffy money, and why isn’t the relevance of whole institution of the Senate being revisited.* Surely calmer minds should prevail and a look at the need for the Senate be investigated (and I don’t have an answer as to whether that institution should exist or not), but the rest of it seems farcical. Not unlike the song and dance of an episode of Looney Tunes.

Mike Duffy Duck

(apologies for the terrible doctoring, it’s a first attempt)

*and I am serious, please explain to me, as I really would like to comprehend why this whole episode is so relevant.

Premature Pullout?

This headline from CBC have me a good giggle. Not doing Mulcair any favours here, unintentionally or otherwise:

Article: Women’s issues debate called off after Mulcair pulls out
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/women-s-issues-debate-called-off-after-mulcair-pulls-out-1.3202120

Crudites, or, My Two Cents on Oil and the Crisis in the Middle East

Middle East Crisis, oil, sectarian violence between Sunni and ShiaI subscribe to John Stephenson’s blog on strategic investment, and his August 10 posting reminded me of my mother’s words: the power struggles in the Middle East are only about oil, and who controls it.

Stephenson writes, relative to the Iran nuclear deal:

“The agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for easing sanctions is expected to lead to increased oil shipments.  Iran is seeking to produce almost four million barrels a day within seven months of sanctions being removed, expanding to 4.7 million as soon as feasible.  Anticipation that Iran will add to a global glut has been weighing on crude oil prices.  Adding to the pressure on crude oil are leading members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that are pumping oil at record levels to protect market share.”

And there you have it. No wonder the Saudis are so bitterly embroiled in various proxy wars against Iran. They don’t want Iranian oil flooding the market, causing market saturation, and oil prices to thus drop. Screw the Sunni vs. Shia sectarian violence. Maybe it is sectarian on the ground, for the foot soldiers (read: embittered farmers, disenchanted youth, unemployed labour etc…), but for the leadership, it’s about power and oil.

As much as I hate the destruction of all these archeological sites in Iraq and Syria, I do take some consolation in know that they are being looted first, because ISIS’ priority is to make money, and no amount of religious fervour dulls the twinkle of cash in a jihadist’s eye. At last the items are being somewhat preserved. Maybe not oil, but certainly money.

Money. Power. Oil.

Oil runs our world, at least a third of it. The rest is mostly run on coal, with only a smattering of hydro, nuclear, and other. Those who control oil stocks hold a good chunk of the world’s cojones in the palm of their hand, and all they have to do is squeeze those oil stocks ever so gently just to get a rise out of global markets. Crude? You betcha!

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Stephenson’s full text is below, as I couldn’t find a link to the blog online, and if you enjoy, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to his blog:

Crude Reality
August 10, 2015

Oil prices have now fallen to multi-months lows after the weekly inventory data out of the United States showed a small increase in U.S. crude production.  Recent government data showed that production peaked in March before falling slightly in April and May, however, the latest weekly estimate for production showed that output rose by 52,000 barrels a day to 9.5 million barrels per day.  At the same time, President Obama has begun urging lawmakers to support the proposed Iranian nuclear deal.

Crude prices have slumped in recent weeks on concerns that persistently high production in the U.S. and elsewhere could keep the global market oversupplied through the end of the year.  Output remains near multiyear highs in the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  The Iran nuclear deal, if implemented, would lift sanctions on Iranian crude exports, allowing the country to sell more oil onto the already-glutted market.

In a speech at American University, President Obama put his political opponents on notice by warning that the consequences of Congress rejecting the Iran nuclear deal could mean another war in the Middle East.  Mr. Obama said that whether lawmakers approve or reject the Iran deal next month will determine the future of America, which is still recovering from a decade of war in the Middle East.

The deal negotiated between Iran and a six-nation negotiating bloc—the U.S., the U.K., Russia, China, Germany and France—strictly limits Tehran’s nuclear activity for at least a decade in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for easing sanctions is expected to lead to increased oil shipments.  Iran is seeking to produce almost four million barrels a day within seven months of sanctions being removed, expanding to 4.7 million as soon as feasible.  Anticipation that Iran will add to a global glut has been weighing on crude oil prices.  Adding to the pressure on crude oil are leading members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that are pumping oil at record levels to protect market share.

Last month, oil slumped the most since 2008 on signs the global surplus was persisting as the U.S. pumped at the fastest rate in three decades and the largest OPEC opened the spigot. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said recently that the global crude oversupply is running at 2 million barrels a day and storage may be filled by the fall, forcing the market to adjust.

U.S. refineries have been running at the highest rate in years to process the glut of crude oil into petroleum products. But stockpiles of gasoline and other fuels rose last week, which suggests that consumption isn’t high enough to absorb the oversupply in the market.  Gasoline stockpiles were most recently expected to fall by 600,000 over the week yet they rose by 800,000 barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  U.S. crude inventories remain 100 million barrels above the five-year seasonal average—the highest levels since records began.

The oversupply can be seen globally and spans both crude oil and refined fuels such as diesel and gasoline.  Low crude oil prices and a seasonal pick-up in demand for motor fuels have prompted refineries to run flat-out in recent months, which could ultimately lengthen their downtime for maintenance later this quarter.

European inventories in key storages facilities are also at record highs, Singapore stocks of refined fuels are at levels last seen in 2011, and the Saldanha Bay strategic storage hub in South Africa is filling up.

Maintenance closures aside, refiners are bracing for a period of lower margins after a strong first half of the year.  Gasoline has been a superstar performer so far this year but seasonal changes should result in weaker gasoline prices.

Japan’s biggest refiner, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation, has said it will cut the amount of crude it will process in August as refined product stockpiles remain high. Taiwan’s Formosa Petroleum Corp. is also making reductions.  Large volumes of crude destined for Asia have had to find alternate homes recently.  Chinese traders are reselling cargos some Angolan oil has gone into storage, while a tanker of North Sea crude that was sailing to South Korea was abruptly halted off Portugal recently before changing its destination back to the U.K.

While July was a terrible month for oil bulls, they might want to hold on tight for further turbulence.  Oil demand is heading for its seasonal lull as drivers scale down summer road trips, the air conditioning is turned down, and the world’s refineries undergo maintenance ahead of winter, stripping away factors that all lent some support to prices in recent months.

Last month oil plunged as production from OPEC countries rose to record levels while U.S. shale output has continued to prove resilient in the face of lower prices.  Turmoil in Greece, Chinese equity market tumult and a stronger U.S. dollar all combined to add additional pressure to prices.

Some of the factors pressuring oil prices are still resilient U.S. shale oil production and non-OPEC production, such as from Russia while OPEC crude oil output has increased from 30.4 million barrels per day in November 2014 to 31.9 million barrels per day in June 2015.  The lion’s share of this increased OPEC production has come from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  According to Société Générale the increased production from Saudi Arabia and Iraq is “large, significant and bearish” for oil prices because they further delay the global oil market rebalancing.

With oil prices under pressure the logical place where energy investors have pivoted is toward the independent refiners who have managed to whether the storm rather well.  That’s because lower crude oil prices translate into lower feedstock costs for refiners.

But with no end in sight for the pressure to lift on crude and gasoline prices, I for one think the best opportunities for investors lie on the short side of this trade.

An Urban Hike Through Vancouver

I set my heart on getting a dress at a store on the eastern fringes of Gastown, and had been meaning to go there for a few weeks. Yesterday, I had nothing better to do so decided that I’d roll in my daily exercise with the pursuit of a dress, and walk to the store. Round trip, it took my the better part of 4 hours, and just .25km shy of 20km. I live not too far from Lionsgate Bridge, so my route took me across the bridge, through Stanley Park, along the Coal Harbour portion of the Sea Wall, and into Gastown. I returned via Hastings, as far as I could go, then back along the Causeway, through Stanley Park, to Park Royal, and back home. It was a perfect day for walking, about 20 degrees, cloudy, and a nice breeze. It started to rain just as I left Park Royal, but it was warm enough and light enough not to bother me.

The following are some photos of things that I found interesting along the route, and am sharing the vignettes for your amusement (in order as they appeared along the walk):

confederate flag, Vancouver, Lionsgate Bridge

Confederate Flag Finds Safe Harbour in Vancouver

 

 

Taken from the Lionsgate Bridge, east side, north shore. The irony of the three flags, side by side, was lovely.

 

Canada Goose, Stanley Park

Walk like a goose

 

I caught this fellow goose-stepping (not in the SS sense) alongside that Canada goose. He’d stop when it stopped; start up when it would waddle its way forward. Lord only knows why, perhaps the goose made for a better walking companion than anyone else.

oil spill, Vancouver, Pride, Rainbow

Vancouver Rainbow Pride

 

 

Caught this rainbow of a different variety in Coal Harbour. Not quite the usual Vancouver pride.

comic-con, fascinator, cruise ship, Vancouver

Cruise Ship Creature At Large

 

 

 

I don’t usually take photos of eccentric people but this one was a comic-con candidate sans the comic-con. A daily outfit obviously, carefully put together. Loved the touch with the top hat fascinator.

 

 

 

 

Hastings, construction, facade, heritage, DTE

Heads

Hastings, construction, facade, heritage, DTE

Tails

This bit of construction caught my eye as you don’t get to see ‘old’ buildings much in Vancouver. I was appreciative of the fact that they were retaining the old facade as a nod to Vancouver’s heritage. I then caught the tail side of the same scene when I was going back home.

Vancouver, brick, back alley

Brick Alley Staple Of Every Major Metropolitan City

 

 

 

 

This could have been a back alley in London, save for the waste receptacle.

 

 

 

Lionsgate Bridge, Vancouver, First Narrows, tanker

Tanked Under Lionsgate

 

 

Caught a tanker going out, as I was crossing Lionsgate towards the North Shore.

 

Capilano River, Squamish First Nation, salmon fishing, weir

Salmon Fishing the First Nations Way: Weired and Wonderful

Capilano River, Squamish First Nation, salmon fishing, weir

Salmon Fishing the First Nations Way: Weired and Wonderful

Capilano River, Squamish First Nation, salmon fishing, weir

Salmon Fishing the First Nations Way: Weired and Wonderful (note the pool to the bottom left, used to store caught fish)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Capilano River, and the Squamish First Nation Reserve, are right next to Park Royal. I was delighted to see a member of the band fishing on Cap, using traditional rock weirs, just liked I’d seen displayed at the Royal BC Museum when I was a child. Glad that tradition lives on!

Last, but not least, beside the weired site, was this, a very cool collection of seagulls bathing and awaiting fish bits from an caught salmon. I loved the tonality of this photo, and there is something so joyous in seeing a bird bathe.

seagulls, Capilano River

Seagulls and Sea Stones

 

So there you have it, an urban hike complete with wildlife (actual and urban), history (modern), tradition (aboriginal), and current issues (consider the issue flagged!).

Silence after Bombing Troubling

PKK, Turkey, bombing, suicide bombing, Turkish soldiers, Kurdish militantsAfter noting my theory as to the Suruc attacks in a previous post, the latest and greatest in that saga is the alleged suicide bombing by the PKK of Turkish troops near the Iranian border. The BBC article noted that the Turkish military stated that “Two Turkish soldiers have been killed and 31 wounded in a suicide attack by Kurdish PKK militants.” The article goes on to state that “There has been no comment from the PKK so far. AFP news agency said it would be the first time the group was accused of deploying a suicide bomber during recent clashes.”

The silence from the PKK seems akin to the silence from ISIS after the Suruc bombing. I an increasingly wondering whether Turkey is behind all this, just to drum up hatred against the Kurds from within the country. Perhaps the hatred was starting to die off and they needed to rekindle nationalistic fervour against the Kurds. Either way, this incident seems to be dragging Turkey closer to a dangerous brink, methinks.