Sunday, 27 May 2018

Community Newspapers.


 The Simple Raven’s Post.


Community Newspapers.


I think that community Newspapers are important and that expressing opinions in them is vital. This is what is meant by saying Grassroots. It is the base of Democracy. If you follow the Mass Media, you see huge numbers of people bunched together made to look like one unit. I remember hearing someone on the CBC stating that Southern Alberta is the Wildrose bastion. Yet when you read individual little town papers, you see that many people in southern Alberta are not supporting the political Right for very explicit reasons. It is not in their best interest.


Last week I was having tea with a friend at Stone Throws Cafe and entered a conversation with two intelligent looking local teen girls less than a third my age. Most people would say, kids, and expect them to talk about hair and makeup. Not these two. One of them told me that she is going to spend this summer doing an internship at Premier Notley’s office. That is the Premier of our Province!  Here we have a situation where none of our local politicians are able to get any attention from the Provincial Government, since we are viewed as a bastion of the right, by a government that is slightly on the Left, and this teenage girl is going to be chatting with the premier every day. How much would the rich lobbyists pay for an opportunity like that?



Years ago before the internet, I wanted to know about the community my wife comes from, which is situated seven hours north of Calgary. I subscribed to the local paper, Smoky River News, and kept the subscription up for some years. Eventually, I was getting the paper in the mail but rarely read any of it, and I stopped. They had news about kids baseball games and High School Grads, talked about local businesses and honey production, but there was no content that was interesting to read. The events were too ordinary for this century. People like to know about community happenings but seek information about how the community fits into the big picture. A paper that is truly non-political is like a dish that got all the major food groups but cooked without spices, salt and pepper.


A community newspaper is an asset, but it faces a challenge. The job is to report, accurately at all times, local news that interests the community. Unfortunately, a lot of little communities don’t have much news. The advertisers pay for the operation since the people in the community assumingly read the paper Stop the press here is a problem. If the paper is not interesting, it starts competing with advertising pamphlets and brochures, and it is going to lose. The local paper doesn’t have the resources that the big marketing firms do. Brochures have more pictures, better color and expensive paper.  The only edge of a local newspaper is that people read it for local news and often to get a glimpse of what others in the community think. All people in our community are not extreme right unquestioning sheep, they have their own beliefs and look for expression in the community newspaper. Since I have been writing this column, I have been getting a lot of comments, and all but one were complimentary.


Unfortunately, or fortunately, many little communities don’t have much news, to report and Council meetings are often not interesting enough to many residents. People want to know what is happening in their community but expect more than just that. The expectation is that the Paper will report and the columnists will offer opinions. Controversy can be good if it stimulates discussion.


Years ago, when I was looking for a place to eventually retire to, I noted that the Crowsnest Pass had two local papers. I met an old guy who was driving a green SUV with the word “Press” on it and inquired about his function. He was such a professional Reporter that I placed a check mark by Blairmore as a potential place to spend my later years at. The Pass was a place that had a tradition of free thinking and rebellion in its blood, and old Buddy proudly pointed it out. I went to the Frank Slide Interpretive Center and saw an old movie highlighting the women of the Pass singing, “I will stand right beside you,” on a picket line. I moved to the Pass.  This was a community that historically rebelled if things went wrong. It was like moving amongst my people.


When I was here to stay, I assumed that the population would be engaged in local affairs. I talked with neighbors and others and discovered that it was no longer the case. My neighbor said, ”we don’t get the local papers since there is nothing there.” If there is an issue, we buy the paper but not otherwise. What about your political affiliations I asked, and he answered, we are Conservative like all Southern Albertans and there is no-one questioning it. Humm The town that broke prohibition, that harbored Tim Buck and had strikes that shook the nation became uninterested in politics? I wonder.  


Now I am witnessing a unique phenomenon. Some of the people who remember the long and painful struggle of mine workers to feed their families are still around. The people who sang, “I am the working man I am, and I been there underground,” are passing a rich tradition to the new people, the millennials, and the young ones are ready and willing to take the torch. Girls with their cell phones are taking the tradition of fighting for the middle class, and the word is spreading through the Social Media and Community Papers, like this one. We have what Calgary and Edmonton don’t, an independent Newspaper that supports real journalism. Thanks, Buddy. Your portrait should be hanging in the Civic Hall.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

The American Dream before it moved to Canada.

The American Dream before it moved to Canada.

I was mowing the lawn first time this year. It occurred to me that I am living the American dream. The idea of an American dream was originated in the early thirties but took shape after the Second World war. American and Canadian boys were coming back from the war and settling down for life of peace. The duty to the country was done, and now it was time for the rewards.

What was the American dream? Most men were going to marry their sweethearts, buy a house, often with a front lawn, have a garage, a family car and a job that would take them into retirement. The girls who worked during the war in men’s industries, were quite happy to have and raise kids, look after the family and enjoy the freedom granted by new appliances that performed the traditional women's duties with electricity instead of muscle power. Guys worked in industry during the week, cut the lawn and waxed the automobile on the weekends. On Sunday the family dressed up and went to church. Most people found ways to enjoy their holidays. TV became common and people began watching sports, soaps, and news. With that came tempting commercials.

Most of the boys, GI’s they called them, had “free” healthcare and the ability to obtain “free” college education, as a reward for their service. Roosevelt’s New Deal provided a new infrastructure, new access to electricity, roads, rail, and schools, hospitals and other amenities that didn’t exist for the masses during the prior great depression.  In other words, people had jobs and money, sold and purchased things, and the economy roled well right till the seventies or early eighties. This was the great America that people today are dreaming about getting back. Colored people were mostly excluded from the dream, and some blame them for the loss of the American dream.

Inflation threatened to change the balance, but a combination of unionized workers and government regulations kept the relationship between those with capital and the majority of workers healthy. Still, people had jobs, pensions, homes with garages and lawns and a chicken in every pot. Americans, even while paying for wars and starting to include minorities into the American dream, were on top of the world. In 1981 President Reagan was elected in the US and in 1984 Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister of Canada.

People had to work for what they had, strikes were happening and the Cold War was a constant reminder that if the many millions of workers don’t do well, revolutions may happen. There was a healthy fear of Communism in the air. At the end of the eighties, the Soviet Union was collapsing and people were sold on the idea of Supply-Demand economics or Reaganism, as many prefer to call it. Now it is known as the Trickle-down Economics.

Another notable change was the invention of credit cards which gave the masses the ability to purchase more then they could afford. The average people began to improve the American dream without saving. Now people were looking for ways to afford more, and the idea of “fly now pay later” became common. Folks who traditionally were reasonable about expectations looked at their credit limits as the new ceiling of their buying power.

The new ideas were causing people to view the success of big business as the savior of the working class, which it wasn’t. All efforts shifted from protecting the working public and consumers towards making “big business” prosper, waiting for the wealth to spill down upon the rest. Taxes on big businesses were reduced, bringing a decline in services and infrastructure, wages remained stagnant and the corporations took their incentives and capitalized on new opportunities. They move manufacturing to countries with lower labor costs. For many millions of Americans, the American Dream became more of a dream and less a reality.

Banking institutions took advantage of new freedom from regulations and reduced healthy competition by amalgamating. In 2008 the big crush caused millions of Americans to lose their homes and jobs. Canada was spared due to brilliant action by Jim Flaherty the finance minister of the time and the economist Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


I watched an interview with Scott Gilmore, a Canadian diplomate who studies statistics. As it stands, here is the latest. College graduates in the US are 46% and in Canada 59%. Home ownership in the US is 63% and in Canada 68%. Life expectancy 78.7 years and in Canada 81.2. Canadians enjoy more vacations, don’t go bankrupt for being sick and have better access to education. The best feature is the fact that here there is better social mobility. In Canada, your chances of improving your social status in one lifetime are twice as good as in the US.

People in America do not enjoy the equal opportunity that we do and often work two jobs. They view us as a socialist country, but in their case, they have more socialism for the rich and less for the average people. The huge army is protecting corporate interests all over the world; energy corporations get incentives, banks and industries get bailouts and so on, while social services, education, and medical programs are being cut. The latest was just announced, a cut in the program that provides food stamps.


All together I am glad to cut the lawn in the spring here, which is later than spring in most States, and know that we are doing something right. I don’t gloat in our success but hope that people who believe that our neighbors have a better system will take a long second look. The American dream moved north and Americans are trying to get it back by force instead of following what we do.

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

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Letter to US friend

Published to Pass Herald The Simple Raven's Blog May 2 2018

A letter to a US friend.

I have a friend in Arizona who spent a couple of years in Montreal in the early seventies. He went back to the US and I stayed here. Now, my friend Tim is watching Canadian news and often compares what happened in the US and Canada. In his words, Canada is a Heaven in comparison to the USA today. In self-defence, Tim tries to find some things that Canada is doing wrong. Here is his letter from last week.  It is dealing with journalism which in the US is treated more like marketing.

Hi Avner,

I've been watching The National for several weeks (possibly even a few months) and I've noticed almost no coverage of any story in Quebec.  Quebec has a quarter of Canada's population. First Nations peoples represent only 4% of the Canadian population. The Maritime Provinces have tiny populations.  Yet, when three children are killed by a drunk driver in a First Nations community, people mourn for days on television.  And when an isolated community in New Brunswick flood, and The National covers it.


I mention this because tonight The National covered two stories (May Day riots in Montreal, and a court ruling against a Mohawk requirement that people who marry outside of the community leave the community).  Both stories together totaled 50 seconds.  It was the most coverage of Quebec that I've seen since I started watching - and most of it was dedicated to the Mohawk ruling, which was really a First Nations story.


One would think that 25% of the Canadian stories reported would be about Quebec.  But it seems that possibly less than 1% of Canadians stories are about Quebec.  Do Canadians believe that Quebec is unimportant or just uninteresting?  Is Canada one country or not?


Just wondering from down here, where we've got plenty of our own problems.




Here is my reply.

“There is so much in this letter Tim. First, we must remember that the Prime Minister of Canada is from Quebec.


I have been watching the Canadian news including The National for fifty years, and I would estimate that overall more airtime has been devoted to Quebec than any other province. Each time when there was a danger of separation we heard nothing but Quebec on the news. We heard about people from the West going to Quebec to tell them that we love them. Another time we heard about farmers in Quebec filling a train up with hay for drought-stricken Albertans. We don’t treat news coverage as a commodity but as a way to let people know what is happening.  Each region and major city here has a CBC station that deals with issues close to home.


 I been listening to CBC Calgary for years. When the local station has something of national interest, usually it appears on the National. If it needs translating it may takes a little longer.

We have an ongoing war against drunk driving, so an issue involving a multiple killing by a drunk driver will surface on national news. It could be anywhere in Canada.


There is news, hockey, arts and entertainment all in French available to every Canadian where ever they live both on radio and TV. Many of us listen to our favorite French singers all the time.



Quebecers are not very volatile at large. A year ago some white supremacist (who adores Trump) murdered a number of people praying in a mosque. We had it on the news constantly. Now with the nut-case who drove a van over people in the street of Toronto it makes headlines all over Canada. The accident that killed 15 young hockey players touched all of our hearts. The news covered every funeral and talked to every family. When a train derailed in the Quebec town Lac Megantic five years ago, it was the same. To this day we often talk about the accident. Most of us care much about each other.


You probably noticed on our news yesterday a case where the last government handed an innocent Muslim Doctor Hassan Diab, an Ottawa University Professor to France with false evidence. The French courts have eventually determined that he was innocent after he spent three years in jail. This was not the only case of that government acting against our laws towards people of a minority group and one of the reasons they lost the elections. They lost the support of many minorities and even decedents of minorities. Doctor Diab was a French-speaking Muslim. He doesn’t want to sue the people of Canada.


We have an element of tribalism here in Canada, but it's not dominant and most of us, in our own quiet Canadian way, fight against it. Since Trump was elected, in your country, I have not yet met one Canadian who openly says that he or she supports Trump, and I reside in our Conservative bastion, Alberta. Canada is one country Tim, and most Canadians value all other Canadians. Our Conservatives are mostly people with a different economic view but not a trace of what I call the Nazi attitude, and most celebrate differences and don’t wish to subdue minorities. We exist free because we are able to live peacefully with each other. Canada is a mosaic, not a melting pot.”


Being an American, my friend Tim envies Canada but fails to understand the real difference between our two nations. We are more concerned with the plight of “our people” while they try to make people more useful at the lowest possible cost. This is why we have a brain drain. We educate and they lure our educated people.

I would venture to say that in 2018 most Canadians feel proud and have hope, while next door its no longer true. The difference is rooted in our news media. Canadians still feel that they are informed while Americans know that they are being sold on something.

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