Sunday, 23 February 2020

Running away from politics.

Running away from politics.
This week I wanted to write about the brain and memory. A fascinating subject that can involve science and spirituality. But, as luck had it, I met a reader who asked me to write about the problem with the pipeline and rail blockades paralyzing the country. Readers often dictate what I write about. This person whom I never met before, wanted my view since she “likes to hear the other side.” I remembered old Buddy telling me years ago that he believed the “news” should expose all sides of an argument.
The rank and file of the first nations, like most Canadians, are very concerned with the issue of pollution and what it is doing to our human civilization. They worry about the costs of doing nothing and repairing the damage. There is a complicated explanation suggesting that there is a transition period in which we must use the old polluting energy until we develop a capacity to replace it with clean, but people not in the energy-producing provinces are only reluctantly willing to tolerate it. They want action now. This time they are confusing the Indian Act rights with the pollution issue.
Back to the strikes. The Trudeau government announced publicly that they will consult with first nations about digging pipelines through their lands but said that “the pipeline will be built.” It’s the equivalent of a boy saying to a girl, you will do what I want, but you have a choice to take a gift and do it willingly, or I can leave you here and you can walk home.
The Wet’suet’en like other BC First Nations have an ancient culture and a self-governing system based on hereditary chiefs similar to other monarchies. They are mostly not living on reserves and do not support the Indian Act way of electing leaders. It didn’t bother us until now when Canada wants to dig an unpopular energy transfer project through their land. We may view it as Germany telling Poland that they will build a pipeline from Russia to Germany and they have permission from a few Polish people living in Germany to cross Polish territory.
The majority of First Nations people in Canada tolerate me and you “the European Colonial invaders” because they signed treaties with us, but they want us to respect the fact that they have their own traditions which are in no way inferior to ours. They also feel that their ownership of their land is just as important as we consider our rights in our yard, where our home sits.
It seems like we have multiple problems. The BC first nations want us to honor their leadership choice, not the one we imposed upon them. Other First Nations are clearly showing us that they stick together and will not tolerate us using force for reconciliation.
Canada is a big country and it would be impossible to guard all our pipelines, railways and roads. We must govern by agreeing on laws, achieving consensus and negotiating favorable outcomes. You can add to it the arrogant approach of Justin Trudeau and wait for an explosion. There are well-known explosions we can observe, like Syria or Kosovo.
Now add another problem to the mix. Most Canadians clearly want their government to curtail emissions, not grow them anywhere in the world. They see the Alberta government beginning to gain support for a pipeline and trying to expand the win to include new bitumen mining up north. They are not blind or stupid. They view the present conflict as an opportunity to practice demonstrating against global warming, so they join the fray. Those are the non-native folks that we see demonstrating.
Most Canadians get their news from credible sources, not from supermarket tabloids or right-wing extremist propaganda like Rebel Media which the Conservative party will not deal with. If we wish to do business, we must all have the same information.
No-one has a solution to our current problem since it is older than we are. First, we can never win by forcing people to conduct their lives by our rules. It will simmer and pop up again. Second, we can’t assume that people aware of a coming worldwide catastrophe will ignore it because we tell them that it's not so.
The Indigenous population, like anyone else, can be bought for a while, but eventually, we must address their deep-seated concerns. There is a line that we can not cross with any human being. There are things that we are willing to die for. We do that, and the outcome will be a disaster for all. There was a British law once that a husband couldn't beat his wife with a stick thicker than his thumb. We changed the law. We must change the law of who we say can speak for the Indigenous people as well.
The other huge issue is our neighbors of all colors do not want pipelines unless we pay a high price, make it safe and declare a deadline for contributing to pollution. We can talk big, but we can’t win. We can try to force our political opponents to build pipelines, but they can’t. In Russia, we could, but here we can’t. We must show them that we understand the problem and work with them to solve it.
I foresaw the present conflict when I first heard our present Premier during the election campaign saying that he will fight Ottawa to get a pipeline built. It was a promise to force his old opponent to fight a war he can not win. It was dangerous and uncanadian in my opinion. Now we have other politicians joining in, risking an end to the Canada we know.
Starting a war of any kind is easy, but it never ends with a win. Those who start it always are not those who fight it. I advocate to stop the game and start playing it right. 
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Monday, 17 February 2020

Progressives? Who are they?

Progressives? Who are they?

These days there is a lot of talk about some people who are “Progressives.” In my life politics comes and goes. Being Canadian, I get a break from politics in between elections. There are Federal elections which are a big deal, Provincial elections every four years, Municipal elections which are not partisan and long breaks between them. Most of my life I listened to the news, scanned the advertisements, and on a given day, went out to cast my ballot. Mostly I made some effort to see which politician I assumed would improve the lives of those close to me and avoided talking politics and religion in polite company. It is much more explosive in our neighbouring country to the south They seem to always have some elections and campaigns going on.

For some reason Canadian news devotes more time to USA politics than to our own. Perhaps because whatever happens in the US has more influence upon our lives than our own. The elephant in the room. Initially, I questioned why we are so engrossed in another country’s politics until I understood. What happens in the US often determines the lives of people here and all over the world more than any local politics.

Canada and especially Alberta have been suffering thanks to changes in the US for a few years now. For a long time, we were supplying them with oil and gas until they discovered new ways to frack fossil fuels and conveniently forgot our early contribution. Now they want our resources for nothing and cause us some internal conflicts.

We accepted the idea that the use of energy which produces smoke will have to change and gave ourselves a deadline by which to convert. In the meantime, we wish to sell our oil on the world market. Out of nowhere sprung strong opposition blocking our efforts.

Here comes the connection to “progressives.” The US is having presidential elections in November this year and they have a very popular progressive candidate inching up to challenge the very unpopular Trump. The progressive guy says it will be expensive to convert to clean power, but nothing compares to doing nothing.

The Progressive movement rose in the beginning of the Twentieth Century in Canada and the US, comprising of farmers and workers. It laid dormant for a long time until recently. Here it was a part of the Progressive Conservative Party and you may see reminders in little towns where there is UFA and in the workers Co-operative movement. In the US it is surging upwards like never before. The Democratic party is quickly developing a very strong Progressive wing.

Now, in the twenty-first Century when we say Progressive it means the voice of the young people although there are many older folks like me supporting it. In the US a 78-year-old determined old man is leading in the poles to challenge Trump, and his strength are new voters who just turned eighteen. He doesn’t accept donations from corporations and raised more money than those who do. Mostly the average donations to his campaign are $18.00 His message is simple. He wants healthcare like in Canada, free higher education, $15.00 Minimum wage and protection against wrecking the planet. Roughly 80% of Canadians agree with the last.

They asked how he is going to pay for it. The health care will save money as ours does. We pay 47% less for ours. The rest will be saved from not fighting everlasting wars and from taxing Wall Street gains made on investments. Amazon and Walmart will pay income tax, and billionaires will pay the same rates as their workers do.

There are always two sides to every story. One side wants a Paradise for billionaires, which they promise will improve all human conditions. Things are great, is the message, stop complaining. Life expectancy is improving, poverty been decreased, we are OK. The Progressive side wants to tax billionaires and make them less powerful.

If bankers and garbage collectors went on strike, who would you legislate back to work? New York couldn’t survive without trash collection for a week while England hardly noticed a six months strike by bankers. The progressives demand a Wealth Tax and Inheritance tax.

If the Progressive in the US win, it will make a huge difference in Canada. It will shift the whole political debate. Our few Far-Right evangelists may cry, but most of us will be happy.

I give my head a shake. I am in Canada. Aside from some fanatics, most Canadians are level-headed and we are ruled by some very good laws. We have some problems, but we are solving them peacefully and patiently one by one. Mostly we need not do more than just educate those of us who panic and show them that comparing to other countries ours is the envy of most nations.

I predict that we will build the infrastructure to sell our oil at market prices soon, right after we decide to pay something to those who let us take it through their domain. I also foresee our governments bow to our wishes and take steps to prepare the country for a future without oil. We have ten to twenty years.

Aside from the oil issue, we don’t need a Progressive movement like our neighbours. Canada is already more progressive due to efforts that were made by our past generations. The new fight between the billionaires and workers is not as fierce here as it is south.

Psychologists claim that gratitude reduces symptoms caused by stress. I do what I can to Cause improvements, but I begin each day with the saying, “thank you Lord.” We are so fortunate to live in a place like this.


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Sunday, 9 February 2020



I take out my money. A $20, a $10, $5, and change. It is fake paper made of plastic and elaborately printed. People work hard for money, cheat and steal money, invest it, give it away, take it as fines or taxes, hoard it for power, attach their worth to it, and buy life with it. The most valuable money is a rare shiny metal called Gold. In some countries you can buy humans for money and do with them whatever you like. The value of things, including “justice” is expressed in money.

Today most money is not even printed. It exists as numbers in a complicated computer somewhere and is moved around by human fingers stroking a keyboard. We create it when you borrow it promising to pay it back. We base most economies on the American money which is issued by the US treasury which is a privately owned organization.

I had a friendly discussion with a very intelligent local whom I would describe as somewhat Far Right in his political views. Jay (not his real name) believes that the Market can solve all human problems. He is a true apostle of the actor who became President Reagan. The “star” who was hired to break the middle class convinced people that “governments don’t solve problems but are the problem.”

We had a way to govern ourselves which was based upon competition which is the foundation of Capitalism. On the one side, the most successful people who started or run corporations were fighting to use our ever-increasing productivity to benefit themselves. On the other about 25% of the workers were organized in unions able to resist and ensure that those workers who produce the wealth would gain a fair share of compensation. The two fought it out under regulations set by a democratically elected government.

People enjoyed a standard of living that in most cases no longer exist. The government used its power to regulate many aspects such as consumer protections, safety regulations and also provided safety nets for the less fortunate. Weekends and vacations, pensions and overtime pay, building codes and anti-harassment laws were some of the results. Governments provided hospitals, schools, universities, policing, emergency services, research facilities, and lots of jobs. The mailman was not ashamed to accept his wages and the driving test guy didn’t consider taking bribes.

Jay doesn’t see it that way. He believes that those who amass the biggest amount of money, regardless of how they obtained it, are the most qualified to dictate how society will run. To prove his point, he names a few of the richest people who gave fortunes to charitable foundations. Zuckerberg from Facebook was mentioned. I checked it out and Mark is a great self-made guy. He and his wife are donating handsomely most notably to education. They also invest in research into using sails in space.

Not to take away any credit from great philanthropists, I don’t trust the existing system. I don’t want to wait and see what some rich person will wake up feeling like supporting. To me the education of our kids is most important and should be controlled by the people through elected representatives and some checks and balances legislated and protected by the courts. Professional educators should draft the laws and include consultation with the users. I don’t want to end up in a situation where oil sellers can educate my kids to believe that oil is a form of energy not harmful to the environment, for example, or anything close to that.

Like Sir Winston Churchill, I believe that democracy is not perfect, but it is the best system we have. We can’t just trust it without vigilantly working to improve it and fighting to preserve its integrity. If money is used to subject the voters to plutocracy, we should use “government” to regulate and provide balance. It is most important to do so when the wellbeing of most of humankind is being threatened.

A good example is the new investment into low yield nuclear weapons and the deregulation that is happening. We jeopardize human existence for the benefit of weapons manufacturers. When governments choose not to tax those who have the most money, to promote investments, I am against.

In my opinion, money is a piece of paper designed to make easy the exchange of goods and work, not the means for controlling the majority of people. When someone has so much of it that they control, they ultimately use that power, a power that is taken from the people.

I don’t want to attract investments; I want to tax obscene wealth and use the money for the good of most people. All people need jobs, safety nets, health care, education, roads, food, shelter, protection, and you can name the rest. A fair distribution of contribution (taxes) should provide it from all people. Some will do better than others and should have more rewards, but not to the point where they become unelected leaders.

I am dead set against Communism as well as against alt-right or Neo-Liberalism. The solution is between the lines. We will always have money in some form or another, but we must regulate how it is used.

The Bible mentioned money off and on. We are told not to charge usury fees, we can’t serve two masters at the same time, money and God. People were sold for money and the Lord was betrayed for a fee. People were not welcome to trade in the Lord’s temple. Workers received wages at times in unfair but acceptable ways. A poor widow gave all the money she had to the Lord. Tax collectors were told not to charge more than laws permitted them. A golden calf was revered as God. Am I missing some other references?

The main point is, we can use money for good or evil. Humans make the choice.


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Sunday, 2 February 2020

Seniors, Rebellions, and Politics.

Seniors, Rebellions, and Politics.

I don’t watch TV aside from a bit of news off and on. When I turn on “the Tube” I see great turmoil engulfing the glob looking downright dangerous. What is most obvious is that everywhere people are on the move. Millions of desperate families are migrating, looking for a place to live. Millions of others are demonstrating obviously unhappy with their respective governments. Many others are simply trying to hang on to some rights which are being threatened or taken away from them.

Hong Kong citizens are trying desperately to hang on to the shreds of democracy that China is trampling wholesale. Russians are fighting against all odds to keep Vladimir Putin from becoming dictator for life with the help of Oligarchs. Palestinians running up to get shot by snipers on their imaginary borders. British people desperately attempting to stay in the European Union. Franch people demonstrating against raising their pensionable age. Australians demanding that the ruling party will take steps to curb global catastrophes that cause the whole continent to be on fire. High school students all over the world demanding a reduction in pollution which will make their lives miserable. Americans fighting for publically funded Health Care and higher education. Ontarians fighting to keep some degree of quality in their public schools and we are dealing with trouble in Alberta. I will get back to it shortly.

The list above names only some of the places where people are mostly peacefully demonstrating for change. It doesn’t mention the serious wars around the globe where large numbers of people are getting killed. Look at Syria, for example. Isis was taking over the country and America, Turkey and Russia all entered the fray. The Americans and a few Canadians had air forces involved but for political reasons no “boots on the ground.” They struck a deal with the large minority Kurds to be the ground forces in exchange for protection from the “big guys.” They did their share and now are abandoned to die. Similar stories are happening in many other places but I will stick to Alberta.

Our economy was hurt greatly in 2014 when oil, our main commodity, lost half of its value and we discovered to our great surprise, that we have no way to sell it to anyone but our now main competitor the USA. Immediately we began demanding that the Federal Government will provide a pipeline they are trying to build but can’t do without committing political suicide. Our once-booming economy, based on oil and gas tanked. We watched helplessly as corporations left and the economy seized growing. Other provinces without oil are doing much better than us.

Instead of learning from those who make do without oil, we began an expensive campaign to try to bring oil revenues back and to lower our own standard of living to save money. I watch billions of dollars drained from provincial coffers in exchange for promises to develop more oilsand projects, oil that we can’t get to markets. I fear that I and other middle-class Albertans will be forced to make up the difference, and I am not wrong.

The morning news shows the Mayor of Calgary saying that Provincial election promises have been reversed and the city is suffering a serious blow at all levels. It will cost jobs and services which will affect city tax revenues. I look at my own local tax bill and the mill rate increase is reasonable but properties are being taxed at new rates. Searching more, I see on the Premier’s tweet account that they are actively privatizing surgery units. That means that Pensioners like me will have to wait longer or pay privately while public money will pay in part for the upper-class folks. I am discouraged.

I am hearing from pensioners who support dependants, either mates or grandkids raised by older folks. They will have to find in their budgets money for private insurance. What next? Probably people with company pensions will lose the government Blue Cross coverage for medications, dental and eye care. I never thought that in my retirement age I will have to demonstrate with a sign in front of provincial buildings, but it's coming to it.

I am in good company. I love to be with the nurses, teachers, young mothers who lost daycare and teens who work for less than minimum wage. I don’t mind being on a picket line with AISH recipients and laid-off provincial workers; I want to support them, anyway. I see their faces but I don’t see the promised projects in the far north which I probably wouldn’t enjoy looking at. I don’t see the promised jobs, nor the provincial debt being reduced. Our credit rating is down and we pay higher interest.

Is it all a bleak forecast for the rest of my life? No, there is a silver lining on every cloud. In the US the “Primaries” are coming and the Progressive candidate is leading. That is an old and proven candidate who intends to bring them Health Care and end the “endless wars” which they never win.

In Canada, the Conservative Party is selecting a new leader who may just happen to be the last Progressive Conservative leader in existence. If he wins, and the US turns back to democracy as it used to be, I may have nothing to protest. The political mood will change.

If it doesn’t happen I guess I better look for a place in BC. My son already moved there. They don’t have huge fertile prairies and oil, but they mostly seem to be happy. Their biggest problem is that investors from outside buy all their homes. We cry over our lost pensions and services, lamenting about how great it used to be when we spent, gave away our resources and never saved for the future.


Here is a link to my blog:  Feel free to check other articles and comment.

Big and little bullies.

Big and little bullies. The year was 1958, and the world was changing as it always does. My parents moved from the farm to a new town a...