Sunday, 22 July 2018

No more tax cuts. Published as The Simple Raven's Post.

No more tax cuts.

I welcome reasonable taxes, but I want services and regulations in return. “No taxation without representation.” Also, no increase in tax if there is no increase in income.

My friend from Arizona works for their provincial or state government, and he is upset with the waste of taxes. In his office, there are four workers, three who regularly take naps by the desk, play video games and text with friends, all on the taxpayer's dime. He is not highly paid, and he definitely notices the taxes taking a chunk of his income away. His two immediate supervisors are missing from work half of the time, and he is bothered by homeless people and drug addicts all around the building where he works.

Ask him about government waste, and you will get an earful. Tim is very upset about government waste. I told him that it is allowed to happen since the Arizona government is looking for reasons to privatize the services. There is no reason why the government can’t fix the problem, get more work done and save money as well as any private company could. We can demand that government will do its job without privatizing services or selling public assets.

I remember clearly how in 1998 the Alberta provincial government imploded the busiest hospital in Calgary, the General Hospital, which had a new wing under construction. The emergency departments in the other hospitals were immediately slowed down to three days waits, and private emergency clinics appeared to take care of the increased demand. (The land was sold for expensive Condo units.) The opposite also happened. Calgary, for example, hung on to its power company, Enmax, and in Calgary, I paid about half of the taxes that I pay in the Pass taking into account the size of my property and its value. Enmax gives the City many millions of dollars of revenue as utility companies do to their owners.

I don’t know anyone who likes to pay taxes. The money we collect pays for all the essential services that we wouldn’t have without taxes. Roads, schools, hospitals, police, government, fire protection, parks, recreation, libraries, social services, consumer protections, courts, jails, street light, national defense, snow removal, environmental protection, regulated production, and this is just the beginning.

There is an incentive for some to regulate others and get more for themselves. A good example was the bailouts after the last market collapse in 2008. Corporations who received tax reductions before the recession went belly up and received tax money in the form of bailouts. The money they received could have bought many people homes and cars, but socialism for the rich was mandated by the Liberal government in the USA and the Conservative government in Canada. The poor lost their homes, jobs, and savings, just to find themselves later employed for less pay and no benefits. We are practicing socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor and taxes are paying for it.

Now we are facing another tax revolt fueled by energy interest and capitalizing on people’s natural aversion to being taxed. Just about any person today with an elementary education can easily see that the evidence points out that the carbon pollution is threatening the world with grave danger. The whole world voted to take some steps towards reducing the danger. However, political parties managed to build a strong grassroots movements built on resentment to the Carbon Tax. It is proven to be the most effective way to reduce the carbon emissions.

Our modern economic system has been built around the use of mechanical power fulled by fossil energy, and many millions of people can trace their source of livelihood to be dependent on that form of energy. For as long as we can remember progress have been tied up to artificial power obtained by burning things that over millions of years stored the sun’s energy. We all know that an end to it must come, eventually, but we don’t want it to come in our lifetime. Surprisingly I feel the same way, but I must care about future generations.

I look at my surroundings. Mountains, forested hills, streams, lakes and a lot of wildlife and flowers dotting green pastures. I look at my kids, all grown up thanks to great efforts expended by me and our wonderful communities. They now have children of their own, young beautiful and innocent. I am scared that it will all go away. I notice the frequency of fires and floods increasing from year to year. I see an increase in health problems, allergies and more that need cures.

Now, this dependency on fossil energy combined with our knowledge that our tax money is often abused and misused is surfacing and threatening to hinder the tiny steps we are taking to curb the murderous pollution. I go back to the years in which we noticed the disappearing ozone layer and the damaging acid rains. We selected governments that took action and beat both problems. Together we eliminated a lot of the damages caused by cigarette smoking and reduced danger by regulating vehicle speed, disallowing texting while driving and getting people to wear seatbelts. This generation is capable of recognizing problems and activating solutions when we want.  

I am not in favor of increasing taxes to let governments waste money. I sympathize with my friend Tim. On the other hand, I want taxes to reduce costs and improve services as done with Medicare. We pay half of what the Americans do. I am angry at politicians building hate towards the Carbon Tax, (got my first rebate check lately) when they don’t propose a better system. I am against political parties hiring proven public liars and influencing us to vote against a bright and healthy future for future generations.


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Athabasca Glacier Retreat | www.pixshark

There are signs everywhere that Carbon Tax is needed.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Could I be a Feminist?

Could I be a Feminist?
My daughter, a mother of three, doesn’t like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The main reason is that he is prancing around saying “I am a Feminist.” Generations of women before her fought a hard battle to get the right to vote and she is basing her vote on not liking a politician for not being masculine enough for her taste. Her confusion is based on mixing up feminist with being feminine. She also is upset that he showed concern for the environment. Living in oil-rich Alberta, she thinks that his “weakness” can cost us jobs. She wants a government that caters to oil interest not to environmentalists.
I watched the feminist movement fight and win some measure of equality for women in my younger days. When I started my working career, it was legal to exclude females from professional advancement, and women were often paid less for work of equal value. It has changed and now it is forgotten.
When I was barely out of my teen years, it was common to employ women for a fraction of men’s wages (often 40% less) assuming that they were only working for pocket money while men were the providers. Often the women worked harder and longer than men, but were barred from high paying jobs. This was corrected by the fight of Feminists, but there is more left to do. Now a declared feminist politician is not welcomed in large portions of the country where rugged individualism is the norm. People hate him without asking why he is the way he is.
A study was done by the University of Iowa asking the question of “How women react to benevolent sexism.”  They found that women enjoy guys who land them his coat when they are cold, open doors for them and protects them from aggressors. Girls didn’t enjoy people saying that they wouldn’t work for a woman supervisor or trust a female CEO. Some, real “strong men” get satisfaction from physically and emotionally beating women, a few call it love. Tough love it is.
I am a “lefty” by many people’s assessment. I would pay a woman who is shoveling dirt the same wage as I would pay a guy, even if he shovels twice as much dirt. I would pay people who work, enough so they can pay rent, eat and feed their kids regardless of their gender. I wasn’t always like this.
I was a moral person all my life, but I learned a way to overrule moral decisions. My boss took me aside one time and told me. You are in a position financed by taxpayers who expect you to save them money and provide the best service possible. You can live your life as you wish, but make business decisions based on business rules. Your loyalty is to your investors, and they demand that you make business decisions based on finance, not on feelings.
There was a time that I scheduled people for short shifts at work, so they will not become full-time employees and be owed benefits. I had a budget, and I saved by taking advantage of workers to make the budget stretch further. I laid people off so they will not become “permanent employees.”  I hired private companies who didn’t follow safety regulations to do jobs that our regulated union workers couldn’t do for the same price.
One day a young single mother whose car just broke down said to me, “I would do anything to get more hours.” She had tears in her eyes… I found more work for her, and I changed my politics. Business crossed the line! I was helping business and business was becoming abusive towards good people. I guess I am a weak lefty feminist after all. Perhaps I shouldn’t live in a place where rugged males rule letting the economy dictate the rules based on profits for the company, government, municipality or whoever else is employing people only for gains, not for social concerns. Thank God I am now retired and no longer must say, business is business.
At this stage of my life, I have time to reflect on why the world is the way it is and do I like it to continue this way. I have my vote and my pen, or computer in this case. I can tell people why I think the way I do and listen to why they chose another way. Mostly they choose not to talk about it.
My daughter may not vote for a feminist Liberal or for female Democrat. I would not want the responsibility of telling her who to vote for anyway. I just hope that she takes in consideration who may be hurt if she votes for rugged business type individuals. I hope that she considers who really the tough leader is working for and see if it is going to help or worsen the lives of most people around her. If they are young professionals like her, I will hope she will consider where they would have all been if it wasn’t for the progressive movements like feminism that her elders fought for. I am not a feminist by definition but I am old, and I remember. I care, a lot, about those who are placed in impossible situations while others play tough, sometimes for just to show strength.
I am a family man, a Christian, a patriot, in that order. To me the “feminin” is as important as the “masculine”.

The Associated Press, Ottawa citizen news. One woman is standing up to a rugged, strong male in the G7 meeting, June 2018 in Canada. Feminists came a long way in my lifetime.
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Sunday, 8 July 2018

The American dream that became a nightmare.

The American dream that became a nightmare.

I look at empty businesses, and weed covered abandoned factory's parking lots. Unkept apartment blocks and potholed unmaintained roads leading to rusting bridges. Everyone is worried about being cheated or gouged, and the most common phrase is, ”drive safe.” It is dangerous on a road where everyone is competing to get ahead of everyone else.

I was born in what you may call a different world. Not a different planet but a world that had only a small resemblance to the world you see through your window or on your TV screen. The war was over, and the baby boomers arrived with me being one of them. Mom and dad worked hard doing all things by hand. Work meant sweat and sore muscles.  Schools were too small for all of us, and classes were held just about anywhere. The Soviet Union was more advanced in science as well as education, and we were watching the night sky to see Sputnik which was the manned space vehicle the Russian Yury  Gagarin was piloting.

People in my younger life were behaving in a gentleman’s way, communities were tight-knit, and individuals were concerned about each other. The bus would drive slow behind a horse-drawn buggy, and no-one was passing. You may not believe me but talk to one of the old folks still around.

In the fifties, the US learned from the Russians that the base for the success of a nation was a good education for all people. In the sixties, John F. Kenedy came to power and the West, after a struggle, realized that to get ahead we needed to involve all of our people and that we couldn’t win by fighting wars. Korea was the same size as before the war, Vietnam war was lost, and the only “win” was the Suez Canal crisis in Israel in 57.

We fought against racism and apartheid. Canada harbored Vietnam draft dodgers, and Universal Health Care was established, making Canadians the envy of Americans. Our generation changed the dress code, welcomed the electronics revolution and popularized Rock ‘n’ Roll. Canada became truly independent with its own Constitution and bill of rights.

Now came a long period of a new war. The people of my generation focused on using the newly available tools and developed more. Housework became mostly automated, and women became equal partners. People learned to use credit, and higher education was still not out of reach for most.

Gone were the protests, strikes and wars were normalized by a population who watched worst on the screens. It was not the easiest time, but the baby boomers were raising their kids and trying to do it in new ways. The rugged hippy look gave way to office attire, unions were condemned for corruption, and we all turned somewhat into business types. Everyone was testing the little bits of freedom that we gained earlier with a lot of sacrifice and pain.

When the planes hit the twin towers in the early part of the new millennium, we took a new look at the world that we created. It was a scary picture. We, the people who fought for freedom and equality, who worked hard towards a good middle-class life, could not offer it to our children. Our innovation and sweat equity went into the coffers of a small well-off class, and our children saw very little hope for social mobility. They were destined to a life of making payments on the interest of loans and no middle-class status. My children will not have what I have and cannot achieve it in the way I did.  They are told to think positively, to increase freedom for business, but only very few may have the positive results that they should be hoping for. They gave up on possible bright future, and settled for “jobs.”

Just as recently as last Father’s Day, my daughter wrote to me in a card, ”you have made me what I am today.” Yes, I did, and she and her generation are paying for the results. They and we have one major card to play which makes a big difference in our lives. We live in a democratic system, and we can influence events by choosing the type of government that we place over ourselves. My generation witnessed governments like the Alberta Peter Lougheed government that did so much good, and we failed to notice that the Party name remained, but the substance changed.

In came Ronald Raegan and his counterparts, and convinced us to give all the power to the people who took away the future of our children. It was I, and my age group that stripped those behind us from all the defense mechanisms that we have enjoyed. Now my children pretend to be middle class but can’t balance their checkbooks. They are enslaved to student loans, half million dollars mortgages and high-interest credit card debts with hardly a sliver of hope that things will improve. They are told to reduce taxes on those who stripped them of their share in the economy and save the money by giving up their own social security safety net. My own daughter believes that if big business prospers she will have a better life than I did, even while big business motivates our politicians to cut her future pension by making her work well into old age.

Onwards we go, removing restrictions we earlier placed and giving up our protections to increase profits for those who trade the benefits of our productivity for other’s personal gain. It was the Babyboomers who told the millennials that the “marketwould lead them to prosperity, and now they are suffering the outcome. It’s my fault, and there is hardly enough time left to correct it.

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Blairmore Main Street, open for business in 2018.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Waterton the exciting town where nothing ever happens.

Waterton the exciting town where nothing ever happens.

I envy the reporters of large publications who get leads on News as it happens and report a story to inform people of real events that are interesting and affecting their lives. Here I am trying to report on a little town high in the mountains where people come to relax and be away from the stress of the fast-moving world. A teen worker in a pizzeria opens the paper saying, let's see what's new in Waterton. I know that not much ever is.

I visited a few businesses and asked whoever was willing to talk if there is anything new in town. The response was almost funny since people looked surprised at the idea that anything could happen in their paradise Peace Park. I asked a US Customs officer on the dock if we have a problem with people trying to sneak through the border either way, and he laughed at the idea. Not here he said, a person would have to walk a lot of miles in the wilderness if they came this way. Quiet, peaceful and beautiful is this environment, and the only complaint voiced by some younger folks is that its boring but they love it. Big City people don’t apply for jobs here.

I tried to find out who is running the show, who may know what is new and exciting. Nobody knows. We have a Superintendent someone said, but I don’t know who it is. Just tourists are coming in from all over the world, admiring the beauty, taking pictures and going home to show them to others.

An RCMP  officer came to the restaurant and waited patiently for his turn. I am on official duty he said so I got closer, not to miss a possible story. Yes, he had one. A tourist from Texas or somewhere, lost his cell phone, and the world famous police force is trying to find it for him. I am crestfallen. No story here obviously. The RCMP here are using their dress uniforms and diplomatic skills more than in other locations, and potential criminals may talk with them on a friendly basis, but there are no criminals here.

On the hill, by the Prince of Wales hotel, I got into a conversation with a tourist from a southern state who was taking pictures of the tour boat down below. He had an interest in the Canadian Health Care system. His brother lives in Red Deer Alberta. Do you know he said, how lucky you are? I guess we are I said, and he went on. We have many millions of people without health care, he told me, they can’t afford it. Yet, overall the US  spends twice as much on Health Care per capita than Canada. I knew that but didn’t think that they did. I pointed out that we may have longer waits for treatments, but he didn’t buy it. If you are wealthy, he said, you don’t wait, but most people do. His sister in law here in Alberta had a heart attack recently, and she was rushed in and got the best treatment instantly. You are lucky he insisted. You don’t know what you got until you lose it. I am not offering my opinion, but he sure had one. We are here in a Peace Park, and it is the right space for discovering each other’s similarities and differences.

The boat full of tourists finished making a circle of foam on the peaceful lake below us, and new people took a position to take pictures. A bus brought another load of tourists to see how we in Canada live and admire the natural beauty. Now they turned to look the other way, where a mother bear was leading a pair of cubs, and our parks people were cordoning off an area to give the Bruins space.

I packed my camera and notebook thinking. A newspaper here is not useful for telling news since there are none. What the people here need is a forum for discussing ideas. These people live in what most people would consider to be heavenly conditions and they have contact with others from all over our continent and beyond. They can enjoy a local paper, but only if some of them would write in it and express their ideas. You wish to discuss some point of view? Have a story to share? Perhaps you want your writing to be published… Here is your opportunity.

For stories, letters and opinions email:                        <>;

Political “taste” is dangerous.

Political “taste” is dangerous.
Every creature fights for freedom. It’s a built-in mechanism which a human can’t get rid off. I want something, and I try to get it. I did when I was a baby, and I still do when I am an old man. When I was little, I just screamed, and now I learned that if I want something I have to give something in return. I also learned that I could give things freely and enjoy things that others give unconditionally. That is more or less the Christian view.
How is it determined what I get, and what others receive, is a question that only a few can answer. It is related to the way we are governed. A government policy determines the size of the share of the pie by legislating the rules of the game. Most people assume that governments levy taxes and waste the money but it doesn’t have to be so, it’s a choice the government makes. We may have a leader who spread the wealth to most or all people, or we could have leadership that gives the lion share to a few. They convince us to vote for them simply by marketing their party well and convincing us that a few are blesed and they will share with the less fortunate.
My children and their generation grew up in an environment that provided a comfortable living for the millions of workers and middle-class people. They are too young to remember the big fights, strikes and marches that led us to the world we have today. The generation following me is looking at us and wondering how come they don’t have what we, their parents did, and often sink themselves into debt trying to get things they consider basic needs fast. Try as they may, they are overall slowly sliding back.
The reason is the inability of most younger people to comprehend how politics influence their lives. They assume that they will be screwed equally by all politicians, so they don’t vote. Those who do, often go by “taste” or by the popularity of individual candidates. It’s a big mistake you are making, my younger friends, and you may pay for it dearly.
Political parties have one main goal in mind and that is to be in power. Some try to improve the lives of voting public while others cater to a few who in turn influence a lot of others in various ways. The “choice” position to be in is to keep them guessing since they will give you more before you sign the deal. A community that provides a safe seat for any one party will get less than another which is a swing area. If your community is decisively one party or another, it stands to be punished if your side doesn’t win in the elections. A good example Calgary losing the CFB garrison that moved to Edmonton some years ago, and Fort MacLeod losing the police college a few years after.
Nobody can prove that this kind of things happens, but one can make guesses.  Elections, especially nowadays are unpredictable. Poles prove whatever people wish to read into them and they change fast. One little event can change an election in the last minute if it captures the public’s imagination and sentiments.
I remember talking with an old-timer here, Tino. He met Pierre Trudeau here, I believe around 1971. He told Pierre that the Pass lost the coal mines and now was dwindling to nothing, and Trudeau said he would see what he can do. Tino was not sure how things happened but one after another, things did, and the local economy improved. The Crowsnest Pass didn’t become a ghost town as other places often did. Now we are looking forward to another mine opening and improving our local economy.
I am not a politician nor even have I studied much political science. Yet I have a gut feeling that people should not place all their eggs in one basket. In my opinion, we should not declare that we are a one-party area even if some of us are a hundred percent sure that we know which party will win the next elections.
Our mine is not going to open immediately and there will be an election before it does. When politicians look at Southern Alberta, they should be seeing the potential for winning seats, both on the left and the right. Instead of being a block of one political persuasion, they should be made to compete for our votes and support projects that are important to us.
Alberta has been a guaranteed center for Conservatism for many years until one day it changed. Now about half of us are open to new suggestions, and all political parties are trying to please us. That is a good thing and let's keep it that way.
The small communities in Alberta live in the shadow of two big cities that may cancel each other at election time. Our hope is to be viewed as the potential tiebreakers. For that, we must keep ourselves as possible candidates of both major political forces. A small community should have strong representation so regardless of who wins, we are seen to have the potential for both parties and they will not punish us in order not to hurt their future chances that we may be on their side. Freedom is not a right; it is something that people gain.

The photograph is from the book Trudeau’s Tango by Darryl Raymaker. It shows Pierre Trudeau at a multicultural luncheon in Blairmore July 1971. The original is from the Galt Museum and Archives.

Most interesting conversation with an American on vacation.

Most interesting conversation with an American on vacation.

I was having lunch on the main street in Waterton under a blooming flower basket and found myself talking with a couple who were wearing interesting hats. Soon I discovered that the person talking was an American visitor employed by a company that manufactures the hats. Surprise to me since I believed that this kind of goods was all made in China these days, but it wasn’t.

Yes, he said, this factory did move to China at some point, but it came back some time ago. He is optimistic that more and more corporations will do the same sooner or later. The price, he said, is no longer everything, and there is a new feeling of loyalty developing. The American public is willing to spend a little more to support “made in America.” Maybe people already have too much stuff and now they are beginning to consider the well being of their nation ahead of savings. That to me he said, is what America First is all about.

The fellow was the most eloquent hat maker I ever met, but then, I never met a hat maker before. He said that people are buying things off the internet and they favor fast delivery times. If you make it here, you can ship it to them almost as soon as they sign the bill. Also, his much less talkative wife chimed in, we have a lot of things cheaply from China, but we see our towns and cities becoming poor places as we used to see overseas. We are now employed, and we can spend money and afford a holiday like this one.

The hat maker was not concerned about the situation with NAFTA being renegotiated at all. It is a big concern in Canada this days. As far as I am concerned, he said, if we all start to place tariffs on each other’s products, everything will become more expensive and we will all be in the same boat. It will be hard for a while until we adjust. Probably NAFTA was not the best for most of you Canadians in the first place. He leaned closer and said, you and I remember life before NAFTA, and it wasn’t all that bad. Only the big exporters and importers make more money on those deals but us little guys just work for a living. If I buy my things for a higher price, but my neighbor makes the extra buck, he will probably buy my things, and we will both be OK. Now that we are working again and may even have some pension, we can afford a little more.

I am not an economist, but I lived in Canada through the time before the Free Trade deal and right through it. From my narrow point of view, I saw the decimation of little businesses and farms, and people moved towards big industries such as steel. Now we are held hostage and forced to move our factories next door to provide more jobs over the border and less here. If we wish to keep jobs here, we are told to give up the livelihood of most of our farmers and become fully dependent on the US for our food production. The hat maker made more sense than the political leaders.

I was glad that I had the opportunity to talk with this American couple, even without knowing their names or even which State they live in. He left with his wife, both wearing hats such as I have never seen before, but I may try to buy one, free trade or not. What an opportunity to hear the real people’s opinions on a regular Waterton day.

Waterton, where nations and Provinces meet, and you can see it.

Waterton, where nations and Provinces meet, and you can see it.
In the parking lot there are no two cars with license plates from the same place.
It is hard to get “News” in a place so small, peaceful and calm. Perhaps it’s better if there is no news, considering what is going on in the rest of the world. I spent some time looking for locals who can tell me more about Waterton. They are hard to find. The place is full of people to the point where you have to wait to fit in line on the street, but it's all tourists. When you ask people who work in businesses, they are often summer workers or folks from the surrounding area. Eventually, I discovered a local. A wonderful, helpful person in an information booth. She was going out of her way to help, but couldn’t think of “news.”
At the Prince of Wales Hotel, a lady manager asked me if I had more copies of the first edition of the Waterton Herald since their International hotel company requested some for a Montana location. I went downtown, found some from last week and delivered them back to her. She hugged me and thanked me. So Waterton like. She told me that they are gearing up for Christmas in the summer on July 25th and that there will be a Soft Ball tournament between the Company’s Hotels in August. The most interesting part was that their business is up from last year.
A gentleman in a white helmet told me that the new parking lot by the Marina would open for Canada day, but some work will be completed after the summer. From my experience in business, I deduct that more parking spaces will bring more business. Strangely enough, it always happens.
If we get some advertising and continue the paper, I am considering writing about some news that could hypothetically happen in order to highlight the peacefulness of the place. There is no other like it, Canadian scenery that reflects Canadian values of peace and unity. Peace and harmony amongst people who come from all over this conflict-ridden world, and spend a few days together and exchange stories.
The picture is of a girl performer from Waterton Pow Wow. I don’t know her name. Her expression is portraying peace and pride, hope and determination.
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Seniors “just” rant.

  Seniors “just” rant. Safety is very important to seniors and so are leisure activities. I am sitting at my window watching my pond. In...