Saturday, May 12, 2012

Caroline Legion salutes women in the military


Photos and story by Helge Nome

The Caroline Legion Branch 177 honoured local women who have served in Canada's armed forces in years past at it's weekly pot-luck supper on May 11. Terry McGuire gave a history of women in the military and Darlene Houlton introduced the invited guests, some of whom have served in Canada's armed forces and others representing family members who served in the past. JoAnne Pope gave a snapshot of military life.

Darlene Houlton introduced the invited guests
Local ladies that have served in the military that were recognized at the celebration are as follows:
Eileen Wilson - Canadian Women's Army Corps during WWII, represented by her daughter, Karen Wilson. Pearl Howe - Royal Canadian Navy as W.R.E.N. during WWII, represented by her daughter Debbie Howe. Wanda McLean - Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII, represented by daughter-in-law Teresa McLean. Melba Davidson - Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII, represented by niece Debbie Nelson. Gertrude (Gertie) Rhodes - Canadian Military during WWII. Elizabeth (Elsie) Bowden - British Army during WWII, represented by grand daughter Val Brown. Pearl Nickelson - Canadian Women's Army Corps during WWII (anyone with knowledge of Pearl's background, please contact Darlene Houlton). Barb Hirtle - Royal Canadian Air Force as Teletype Operator, June 1952 - March 1954. Rita Stewart - Royal canadian Air Force as Radar Technician, 1954 - '57. Kirsten Collison - 746 Communications Squadron, Calgary, 1992 - '97. Marie Henry - Royal Canadian Air Force as FCO, 1960 - 61. Dolly Moore - Royal Canadian Air Force as FCO Data Processor, 1960 - '65. Audrey Joudrey - Royal Canadian Air Force as FCO Data Processor, 1957 - '63. Elise Labbe' - Canadian Armed Forces as Avionic Technician, 1982 - '88. Nadine Powell - Canadian Military as YTEP, 1986 - '97. JoAnne Pope - Canadian Armewd Forces as Radio Technician, 1981 - '90.

In his address, Terry McGuire noted: "Throughout their long service to this country these ladies have, at home and abroad, shrouded themselves in honour, loyalty, dedication and valour, and unfortunately sacrifice, as just recently we have lost the first woman in a combat role, to enemy action, Capt. Nicola Goddard, in Afghanistan.

This small community has been blessed by having a goodly number of these ladies among its citizenry, and we gather here tonight to honour and pay them a swell overdue homage."



Guests of Honour: Elise Labbe', Barb Hirtle, Teresa McLean, Rita Stewart, Debbie Howe, Nadine Powell,  Val Brown, Debbie Nelson, JoAnne Pope, Karen Wilson.

Nadine Powell,  corporal

Barb Hirtle


Canadian Legion poster

Ed was present at the celebration

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shell hosts community meeting in Crammond Hall



Photos by Helge Nome

Steven Craig - Gave historical notes on the Shell Caroline Gas Plant


Train 1 of the gas plant is getting mothballed

Glen Sine - Shell's Foothills Development Manager gave an overview of future operations




Alice Murray - Sharing a merry moment with the audience

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Speakers from the floor at Hardinell Hall on April 11

Clearwater County Council Reeve Pat Alexander defended his council's decision to re-designate a quarter of land from "agricultural" to "country residential"


Rob Dewling hammered home his points about arbitrary council decision making and the adverse public perceptions of council, created because of this.


Ken Qually expressed his frustration with what he considers to be a complete disregard of its own rules, by the Clearwater County Council.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Newly declared Vimy Ridge Day recognized at the Caroline Legion

On April 9, 1917 – Easter Monday – at 5:28 am the battle was engaged.


Caroline Legion members Bobbi Jo Noirot and Terry McGuire made a presentation to other members and guests.

Photos and story by Helge Nome

The popular Friday night supper at the Caroline Legion on April 6 was combined with the recognition of the significance of the April 9 date in Canadian history:

"On the morning of April 9, 1917 the Canadian Corps attacked the German stronghold position at Vimy Ridge. The ridge, located about 10 kilometres to the north of Arras in Northern France and just south of the mines and factories of Lens and Lille, was a high ground that commanded the entire sector.

The Canadian Corps, comprising of the Canadian 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Divisions united for the first time – over 100,000 men - was attempting to do what the British and French forces had tried from 1914 to 1916. Their attacks had gained little other than 130,000 casualties."
For more details, check out this website

Veteran UN peacekeeper, Terry McGuire, made the following presentation to the audience:

" Ladies and Gentlemen, may I please have your attention for a few minutes. Tonight is not only the Legion's weekly Friday night supper, but is also the Eve of a remarkable event in our country's history.

Allow me to take you back for a while. The place is Northern France and the time is April 1917.

Canada's Declaration of War has been signed for us, in 1914, by the British Government, as she is only a British colony, and her troops are disbursed amongst established British regiments upon their arrival in Europe.

To date, the war has denigrated into a stagnant, trench warfare system, with the allied advances measured in feet and inches, with a great number of casualties.

One of the major stumbling blocks is the 7 mile long stretch of high ground overlooking the Arras valley of France, with its major fortification being the heavily armed and reinforced old French fort of Vimy Ridge, which has been in German hands since the beginning of the war.

Successive attacks by both the French and British armies have met with repeated failures, having amassed 130,000 casualties.

It is noteworthy to point out that about this time, Lt Col John McCrea of the Canadian Army Medical Corps pens his famoius poem: "In Flanders Fields".

So to the Canadians, from falling hands, the torch was thrown: Take Vimy Ridge.

This is the first time in the War that the 4 Divisions of the Canadian Army will fight together in major action.

Employing newly developed and wholly Canadian tactics, on April 9 1917, the Canadians launch their assault. In three days of fighting, they take and hold Vimy Ridge, and in the following weeks also take the surrounding high ground, including Hill 70.

Because of this feat; The Canadians are given the honour of being identified as "Shock Troops", an honour that still applies to this day, as it identifies to the world that the Canadians are capable of handling the worst of situations.

The Canadian Army, from this point on, fights as its own unit, and never loses any major action that it is involved in.

It further elevates Canada from the level of just a British Colony, to that of Dominion, and eventually to that of an independent and sovereign country.

It has often been said that Canada's sons left their homes as young Colonials but returned as Canadians.

So, in recognition of the sacrifices and bravery of our 1st World War Veterans, the Canadian government has decreed that every 09 April will be a day of Remembrance called Vimy Ridge Day, and that all institutions that fly the Canadian flag should lower them to half-mast from sunrise to sunset.

To show our respect and remembrance of these Veterans, I ask you to rise and recite with us "In Flanders Fields" (This was done)

Should any of you wish further information on this, or any of Canada's military history, please talk to any of the Legionnaires, and visit our Memorial Room, where we have put on a special display particular to the First World War, and have memorabilia to that time period for purchase by one and all (See photos below article)

On behalf of the President, and Membership of the Branch, I thank you, and please enjoy yourselves throughout the rest of the evening".


The Caroline Legion will honor the women that have served in Canada's Armed Forces following the Friday night supper on May 11.




Newspaper clipping displayed at the Caroline Legion


Portable and folding lantern used by WWI troops (reproduction). It folds and fits into the metal container on the right. On display at the Caroline Legion.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

SPOG hydraulic fracturing public meeting speakers

Clive Mountford from NAL Resources suggested that there are minimal risks to groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing operations because of depth of oil/gas operations of some 2000 meters as compared to ground water wells at depths of 100 meters or less. He did however, acknowledge that interwell communications are a problem, with old wells in the area of fracking operations: 5 incidents have been reported to the ERCB lately, who has issued a directive to oil producers to sharpen up on pre-frack planning

Christa Seaman from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (who is also an employee of Shell) explained the role of her organization and acknowledged a comment from the audience claiming that a number of producers are not members of CAPP.



As a long serving employee of the ERCB, Bob Willard assured the audience that his agency keeps track of all oil and gas wells in Alberta, going right back to the 1950ies.


Questions and answers - Clive Mountford, Christa Seaman and Bob Willard respond the concerns from the audience at the SPOG community meeting.

Return to Alberta West News

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Alberta's Surface Rights Group keeps on trucking

The Alberta Surface Rights Group held it Annual General Meeting in the Innisfail Legion Hall on March 28 with some 50 people in attendance. Outgoing President Don Bester opened the meeting welcoming those present and introducing guests and speakers.
The group advocates for the future of Alberta's land and water and challenges many current land and water use practices in the province. The latest of these on the radar is "hydraulic fracking" which is a highly controversial practice forcing oil and gas out of underground formations using liquids and chemicals under very high pressure.
An important achievement in 2011 was to have the Alberta Court of Appeal direct the ERCB (Energy Resources Conservation Board) to award land owners proper hearing and court cost compensation, keeping the playing field level.
Several speakers dealt with issues encountered and tackled during 2011. Details about activities are available on the group's website







Rob Schwartz did the Year in Review slide presentation, including the image below, which shows a roadside sign used by the Alberta Surface Rights Group to get its message across to the general public.




Popular contrarian Paddy Munroe gave a slide presentation on the dangers of hydraulic fracking noting a glaring contradiction in regulations on his slide below.Paddy has taken the presentation on the road and is reaching a lot of concerned Alberta residents with his message. Just Google his name.








Kevin Niemi spoke about surface lease negotiations with oil and gas companies and his advice is summed up in his slide below:










Sunday, June 5, 2011

Document - Bahrain: Harassment of human rights defenders must end AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PUBLIC STATEMENT

2 June 2011

Index: MDE 11/028/2011

Bahrain: H arassment of human rights defenders must end

Amnesty International is greatly concerned about the continuing harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain despite the lifting yesterday of the state of emergency – termed the State of National Safety – imposed on 15 March at the height of popular protests in the capital, Manama. In recent days, several leading human rights activists have been summoned for questioning by Bahrain’s military prosecutor about their peaceful activities in relation to the February-March protests, which were forcibly suppressed by government forces shortly after the emergency was imposed. Some have been banned from travelling abroad.

On the afternoon of 31 May, police went to the home of Nabeel Rajab, a leading human rights activist and director of the banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and ordered him to report without delay to the office of the military prosecutor where he was then questioned, without the presence of a lawyer, from 6 pm to 11 pm. He was mostly asked about comments he had made in foreign media interviews and messages he had sent by Twitter about human rights violations in Bahrain, and whether he had participated in a peaceful protest march towards the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manama after Saudi Arabian troops were sent into Bahrain the day the state of emergency was declared. No charges were brought against him but he was warned that he could yet face trial before a National Safety Court, a special military court established under the state of emergency and which is continuing to operate even though the state of emergency is no longer in force.

Two days earlier, officials at Manama airport prevented him from taking a flight to Lebanon and told him that the authorities have banned him from leaving the country and travelling abroad but without specifying the reasons or legal basis for this ban.

Prior to this, Nabeel Rajab and his family have come under physical attack on at least two occasions. Tear gas was thrown into his home on 21 May, almost causing his brother, wife and daughter to suffocate before they could be helped to safety. In April, tear gas was thrown into both his and his mother's homes. No-one has been arrested for these attacks, prompting fears that they may have been carried out by members of the security forces or people acting on their behalf.

Three human rights lawyers were also questioned by the military prosecutor on 31 May. Mohammad Ahmad, Hafedh Hafedh and Mohammad al-Jishi, all of whom are currently acting as defence counsel for some of the 21 political leaders and activists currently on trial as alleged ringleaders of the protests, were questioned for several hours and then released, apparently after they were told that they are to face charges of illegal assembly in connection with a peaceful demonstration held outside the Ministry of Justice in March and inciting “hatred against the regime.” The 21 leaders on trial are appearing before a National Safety Court, though they are all civilians. Seven of the 21 are being tried in their absence.

Another human rights defender, ‘Abdullah al-Derazi, secretary general of the independent Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), was summoned to appear before the military prosecutor on 22 May and questioned about a speech he had made at the Pearl Roundabout, the central meeting point of the protests, in March in which he condemned the human rights violations then taking place in Bahrain. He was also questioned about what he had said in foreign media interviews about human rights in Bahrain. He was then released but told that he was being charged with attending a public gathering of more than five people, participating in unauthorized demonstrations and giving anti-government statements to the media. As yet, it is not known when he will face trial. He was suspended pending investigation from his employment as a lecturer in Bahrain University’s English department on 17 April apparently because of his alleged role in the protests. In all, more than 2,000 people are reported to have been suspended or sacked from their jobs in an ongoing purge of those who supported the protests.

‘Essa al-Ghayeb, another BHRS activist, was prevented from boarding a plane to Kuwait, where he was due to participate in a seminar about the death penalty, on 26 May. Officials told him that he has been banned from travelling abroad but gave no reasons for the ban and produced no written order.

Amnesty International is concerned that these individuals are being targeting by the Bahraini authorities on account of their peaceful and legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and because of their role in exposing evidence of human rights violations by the security forces in Bahrain. These actions grossly violate international human rights standards. The UN Declaration on human rights defenders states in Article 12 (2) that “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

Amnesty International is calling for an end to the harassment of human right defenders in Bahrain who must be allowed to pursue their legitimate activities for the promotion and protection of human rights, and for the immediate lifting of the travel bans on Nabeel Rajab, ‘Essa al-Ghayeb and any other human rights defenders who are subject to similar restrictions.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA BY NOBEL PRIZE WINNER ADOLFO PEREZ ESQUIVEL, BUENOS AIRES, MAY 5, 2011:

FROM NOBEL TO NOBEL
Dear Barack,
In addressing you I do it fraternally and, at the same time, to express my concern and indignation after witnessing the destruction and death caused in several nations in the name of “freedom and democracy”, two words that have been twisted and stripped of meaning, and how you end up justifying murder, which was cheered up as if you were talking about a sports event.
My indignation refers to the big celebration of this assassination by North American social sectors, chiefs of state in Europe and other countries…a murder ordered by your administration and the satisfaction in your smiling face while stating that it was “in the name of justice”.
You didn’t intend to seize and judge him for his alleged crimes, which makes us believe that your real intent was to assassinate him.
The dead are mute and fearing that Bin Laden could disclose compromising facts for the USA, you decided to kill him, ensuring his permanent silence, unaware that by doing this you have reinforced our suspicions.
When you were granted the Nobel Prize I sent you a letter which read: “Barack, I am astounded by your having been presented with the Nobel Prize, but now that you have it you must use to promote peace among nations; you have all the possibilities to do it…to end the wars and begin correcting the severe crisis in your own country and the world”.
Unfortunately, you have increased hatred and betrayed the principles you assumed during your electoral campaign, such as ending the invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq; closing the prisons in Guantanamo and Abu Graib, but you haven’t done it, quite to the contrary, you decided to start another war in Libya, backed up by NATO and the shameful resolution by UNO to support you, when this organization, diminished and weak, has lost its path and has been subjugated to the whims and interests of the dominant powers.
The foundational premise of the UNO is to defend and promote peace and dignity among nations. Its Chart begins saying: “Us, the peoples of the world…” currently ignored by this organization.
I would like to recall a mystic and teacher who has meant a great influence in my life: priest Thomas Merton of the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky, who stated: “The greater necessity of our time is to cleanse the enormous mass of mental garbage in our consciousness, which has turned public life into a mass disease. Without this domestic cleansing we will be unable to start seeing… and if we can’t see, we can’t think”.
You were very young, Barack, during the Vietnam war; maybe you don’t remember the huge opposition of the North American people to such war. The dead, injured, and maimed in Vietnam are painful consequences…
Thomas Merton also said while analyzing a mail stamp exhibiting the legend: “el ejército norteamericano es clave para la paz” (The U.S. Army, key to peace”). No country possesses the key to anything other than war…power has nothing to do with peace. The more men are destined to the military, more destruction and violations occur. I have shared with and accompanied Vietnam veterans, in particular Brian Wilson and his mates, all of them victims of that and all wars.
Life is unpredictable and surprising; it possesses the fragrance and beauty God gave us and must protect to ensure a fair and fraternal life for future generations; to reinstate balance in our Mother Earth.
If we don’t react and change the current situation of suicidal pride, dragging the peoples to deep corners where hope is death, it will be very hard to see the light. Mankind deserves a better fate.
You know that hope is like the flower who flourishes in mud and blossoms in all splendor exhibiting its beauty. Leopoldo Marechal, the notorious Argentine writer, used to say that “you get off the maze climbing to the top”.
I believe, Barack, that after erring the way, you find yourself within a maze, unable to find the exit and instead, you submerge deeper and deeper in violence, uncertainty…devoured by the thirst for power; dragged by the huge corporations, and the military, thinking that you possess the might to do whatever you want, and that the world must surrender to the USA, because you have the weaponry and invade countries in total impunity. This is painful reality but there is also the valiant resistance of the people who don’t yield to the greed of the dominant powers.
So huge are the atrocities perpetrated by your country that it could take a long time to discuss them; they are also a challenge to historians who would have to peer deeper to understand the behavior, the politics, the greatness and pettiness which have led North America to dominate the minds of its society preventing them to see other realities.
Bin Laden, alleged author of the attack to the Twin Towers, has been made the Satan who has terrorized the world and the USA propaganda has identified him as the “core of evil” which has served you well to wage the wars so craved by the military industry to merchandise their murderous trinkets.
Did you know that those who have investigated the painful events of September 11 have declared that such attacks were self-inflicted…the crash of a plane against the Pentagon and the evacuation of the Towers the previous day…all of it concocted to justify the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and now against Libya, based on lies and arrogance…that you are entitled to “save the peoples in the name of “freedom and the defense of democracy”, cynically stating that the deaths of women and children are “collateral damage”. I experienced all this in Iraq, in Iran, when you bombarded their cities and hospitals and a shelter for children victimized and deemed “collateral damage”.
Pronouncing a speech void of values and meaning, you dub assassination as “death” and boast that “finally, Bin Laden is “dead”. By no means, am I defending Bin Laden, as I have always been against terrorism by both, armed gangs and the government which your country exerts in several regions of the world, generating violence to maintain your control world-wide, and I wonder: if there is a “core of evil” how would you call it?
Could all of this be the reason for the fear North Americans live in…afraid of the vengeance from those dubbed as the “core of evil”…the superficiality and hypocrisy used to justify the unjustifiable.
Peace is a practice of life; the harmonic relations among peoples; it is a challenge to mankind’s consciousness; its path is difficult but hopeful; a path where people construct their own history. Peace is not something you give away…is something you build…and this is precisely what you don’t have, lad: courage to assume your historical responsibility towards your country and the world.
You cannot live immersed in a labyrinth of fear and control from those who truly rule the USA, ignoring international treaties, conventions and protocols of governments who sign but don’t comply with any agreement and hypocritically speak in the name of freedom and law.
How dare you speak of peace if you don’t want to honor your commitments, except those to benefit the USA?
How dare you talk about freedom when you keep innocent people in your prisons of Guantanamo, USA, Iraq, Abu Graib, and Afghanistan?
How dare you speak of human rights and dignity when you violate them permanently and fight all those who don’t share your ideology and, instead, must endure your abuse?
How dare you send soldiers to Haiti after a devastating earthquake, instead of sending humanitarian aid to that suffering country?
How dare you speak of freedom when you massacre the peoples in the Middle East and foster wars and torture in endless violence which hurt Palestinians and Israeli?
Barack: try to look at the top of the maze…you may find the star that guides you, even knowing you will never reach it,quoting Eduardo Galeano. Try to be consistent with what you say and do…this is the only way to avoid losing the way.
The Nobel Prize is a tool which must be used to serve the peoples, but never for personal vanity. I wish you find the strength and hope, and also wish you find the courage to mend your ways to attain wisdom and peace.


Our appreciation to Patricia Barba Avila for this translation. Also, to Camilo Perez Bustillo, Law professor at UNAM and lead Attorney for the 'International Tribunal of Conscience' Pueblos en Movimiento




Continue reading on Examiner.com: Revolt from US War Criminals: letter from a real Nobel Peace Prize Laureate - National Nonpartisan | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/nonpartisan-in-national/revolt-from-us-war-criminals-letter-from-a-real-nobel-peace-prize-laureate#ixzz1MMDPtP7C

Saturday, April 16, 2011

CR Provision Includes Partial Delisting of Recovered Wolf Populations: An Important First Step

The National Rifle Association today thanked Members of Congress for taking an important step in the right direction for wolf and game species conservation. The continuing resolution FY 2011, scheduled for votes later this week, includes a general provision that delists certain populations of wolves from the Endangered Species Act. Wolf populations in Montana and Idaho as well as portions of Utah, Oregon and Washington would be declared recovered by reinstating the 2009 ruling from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), paving the way for regulated wolf hunting seasons. The NRA would also like to thank the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Boone and Crockett Club, and Safari Club International for joining together in this important effort to place the states in charge of wolf conservation.

“With recovered populations of wolves across the Northwest, this Congressional action sends an important message to anti-hunting extremists -- politics and legal wrangling are not welcome when it comes to conservation,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action. “Hunters are the true conservationists and wolves simply need to be managed through regulated hunting like so many other species. The partial delisting is a good start and we will be focused on a more comprehensive solution moving forward.”

Moose, elk and mule deer populations have been decimated in some areas where wolves are prevalent and the regulated hunting of wolves is long-overdue. The Congressional fix included in the continuing resolution would reinstate the 2009 science-based delisting ruling by FWS. This is an important first step in handing full control of wolf management to the states.

Wolf populations in the Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes region are at least five times larger than the original federal recovery goals according to FWS. Although the general provision in the continuing resolution only deals with a part of the area where wolves are recovered, other states may still propose new wolf management plans. Wyoming officials are currently negotiating with FWS in hopes of getting a new wolf management plan approved. NRA will continue to push for the regulated hunting of wolves where populations have recovered.

America’s rich hunting and conservation heritage depends on wildlife experts and biologists to set guidelines for a particular species. These wildlife experts and biologists have been demanding the regulated hunting of wolves that would result once management responsibility is shifted back to state control. Successful wolf hunting seasons were conducted in Idaho and Montana last year only to be thwarted by anti-hunting extremists in court. “It is time for science and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation to prevail once more and we hope that Congress adopts this critical step forward in state-based wolf management,” concluded Cox.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reflections on the “Inside Job”

By Peter Radford
February 24, 2011

It’s depressing to watch the movie “Inside Job” simply because it is true. Shockingly true. It is also interesting to watch the comments come in from Europe where the movie is just now playing. I wonder whether it will alter public opinion of America. It should.
The American economic policy elite, by which I mean the academics, politicians, and business leaders that comprise it, is shamefully inadequate. In my more extreme moments I would call them irretrievably corrupt. They all shift from one seat to the next. They all intermingle. They all attend the same schools. They all believe the same basic ideas. They are all out to enrich themselves. They all deny any wrongdoing or fault. They all work endlessly in the interests of the system. In fact they are the system.
So, neutering bank reform was essential in order to protect their rent seeking ability. Shifting the focus of debate onto the national debt was essential in order to mask their collective culpability and graft. Imposing austerity on the rest of us was essential in order to avoid paying the consequences of their ineptitude and indifference. In order to protect themselves they had to stand together and spew out platitudes and patronizing homilies about how tough we all need to be in order to dig out from the crisis. A crisis that their ideas, their actions, and their greed caused.
All around the world everyday people are suffering a loss of wealth and, or, income as a direct result of the ability of this small group to impose its own agenda on us. Yet that group has emerged unscathed. They still rotate through the same jobs. They still teach at elite schools. They still control the academic agenda. They still run the same banks. They still staff the Treasury or the Federal Reserve Board. And they still dictate how our national wealth will be divided: 95% for them, 5% for the rest. Just the way it ought to be in a society where democracy has been weakened by decades of free market dogma, slipshod oversight, defunded government, and an extraordinary collapse in ethical standards.
No wonder the Tea Party is up in arms. Our social fabric is beginning to fray. Anger permeates debate. Reason flies out the window. Facts become opinions. Opinions become facts. We stopped being we. Instead we became them versus us. Turned in on ourselves by the needs of the system.
Only one group wins when society turns on itself: the elite in charge. That dark and amorphous group we dare not contest for fear of the unknown. Or at least that is what they tell us.
America is not what it was. It’s political system is horribly corrupted by the flow of money. Rich companies and individuals impose their views simply by dint of their ability to spend. The rest of us, those who object, are muted by the flow of cash that drowns out dissent. Supreme Court justices cavort in private jets and take cash sums for speaking to lobbyist groups. They then ask us to believe they are impartial. Politicians view fund raising as their primary task. They then ask us to believe they are impartial when they vote. Professors write papers supporting the objectives of their sponsors, and then see no conflict of interest. Business leaders pay themselves whether their companies succeed or fail. Boards of directors stand idly by as CEO’s leave with millions – hundreds of millions – even though they are unmitigated failures. Managers stay put even though they are manifestly incompetent. The concept of shareholder control is laughed at: the SEC actively prevents shareholder democracy. It might destabilize the system. So no one owns big business. There is no control. The system just is. It is a mockery of capitalism. It is a mockery of democracy. But especially of democracy. And all the while they preach that this is the land of opportunity.
Their opportunity.
Once America embarked on its great experiment with illusion, back in 1980, it deliberately stepped away from a fact based narrative. It plunged into Hollywood. Or Disneyland. Politicians realized they could cast balm across fears by talking in hopelessly unreal dreamlike terms. They also learned to demonize the opposition and the government. Words were recast with new and derogatory meanings. Alternative ideas and views were systematically eliminated or stifled. Their new way was simplified, black and white, and unrelentingly self regarding. Gradually the great utopians were able to kick away reality. They were able to shut out what Judge Brandeis called the disinfecting capacity of sunlight. In the shadows they constructed a version of laissez faire, updated and outfitted for the modern era.
They have persuaded regular people to vote consistently against their own best interests. They have led the country into decline. They have started wars on a lie and a whim. And they have shifted the national wealth in unprecedented amounts into their own pockets. The crisis did not hurt them at all. It hurt us. It was their mess. It is ours to clean up. And we agree to do this, why?
Because we are told the system must be preserved. The nation is fragile and we must surely understand the need for tough austerity action. We must take our medicine. We must sacrifice those pensions.We must give up those immature dreams of rising wages. This is, we are told, a global economy. We must suffer the consequences of the dreams of the poor who aspire to be like us. Capital is free to shift around the world. Profits are to be found abroad. If that hurts us here, then that’s just the system at work. And we must never disrupt the system. Never, ever, disrupt the system. It is a work of nature just like the oceans or the mountains. The market is an artifact, not of humans, but of the natural world. It is invisible to us. But we are caught in its dehumanizing grip. If the mechanism requires that you accept a lower wage, please do, it makes the model work so much more smoothly.
And the corruption stinks. Yet it exists. The lack of ethics reeks. Yet it persists. Just recently the economics profession failed to come to grips with its ugly lack of ethics. Apparently market forces will impose some form of ethics. So economists don’t need to abide by the same rules that the rest of society seems to think are important.
When you have sunk so far down the free market rabbit hole that you believe it will fix everything, ethics becomes just another exogenous variable to be assumed away. When you assume that all social ends are best met by efficient outcomes from constrained optimization models, ethics is obliterated by the great machinery that guarantees that optimum. And when you become irritated by the niceties of reality and its inexorable muddiness such that you treat it as an unfortunate intrusion into the sublime order of your theory, you have left behind both humanity and the need to balance work with an ethical view. Mad science is mad, however complex or elegant its math. All of this stems from my viewing of that movie. I guess it put me in a bad mood.
My distemper stems from the grim truth the movie tells. It reveals just how far America has lurched from its earlier, more prosperous, trajectory. It tells us how hard it will be to get back, if we can, to a more balanced, less extreme, less unequal state. And economics, at least its orthodox brand, isn’t helping. Indeed it has been co-opted, willingly so, by the system and those who benefit from it. Many of our most renowned economists are guilty of aiding and abetting the gutting of our democracy, and of feeding at the same trough as the bankers who destroyed the economy. There are some, well meaning, that claim economics is apolitical. Possibly. They claim the bourgeois values of capitalism are worthy of protection and nurture. After all we are all so much better off. Perhaps. But they ignore the ease with which orthodox economics has been turned into an ideological exercise. They ignore the inequality. They dismiss social remedies as pathologies eating away at the fine muscle of capitalism. Maybe they are right. But they are not politically neutral.
Democracy and capitalism are in conflict. The one protects the weak by giving them power. The other exploits the weak by concentrating that power in the hands of the wealthy. The two groups fight. Those who deny this struggle deny reality. They would prefer a pleasant world where the rich and poor cohabit in joint interest. Where labor and capital are equals. Utopia. Harmony. Quiet. And not the cacophony of the real world.
I do not seek the supremacy of either democracy or capitalism. Either, in extremis, can be volatile and unhealthy. I seek a balance. And when I watch the “Inside Job” I am reminded of how far from balance we are. Right now it is our democracy that is lost. We have a surfeit of capitalism. We are bloated by the corruption and lack of ethics that it has brought. We need to change.
In my world, that means economics has to change. But you all know that already.
Original article source here

Friday, November 26, 2010

Alberta Social Credit Party Leader's Report for 2010

Delivered at the Annual General Meeting of the party in Innisfail, Alberta on November 20, 2010 by LensSkowronski.

Mr. Chairman, fellow Socreds and most welcome guests,

I am pleased to inform you that “YOU ARE ALL MILLIONAIRES!”

How do we assess our material worth? First, we add-up all our assets that have a definite monetary value such as bank accounts, GICs, RRSPs, stocks and bonds. To this we add the current or estimated value of physical assets that we wholly or partially own, such as our house and its contents, car, land and minerals. Then from this total, we subtract our debts such as bank loans, mortgages and credit card balances to get our net worth.

Except for the minerals under the free-hold lands granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway, the minerals in Alberta are owned by all the citizens of Alberta. All of the oilsands are owned by all Albertans.

There are an estimated 1.5 trillion barrels of oil in our oil sands. At the current base price of $ 80/barrel, the oil sands are worth $120 trillion. The population of Alberta is 3.7 million. Therefore, each Albertan owns a 32 million dollar share of the oilsands!

Now aren’t you glad you came to this meeting. You will leave knowing that you are $32 million richer than you thought you were.

But you should also come away with a strong sense of responsibility to assure that most of this wealth is kept in Alberta and shared equitably amongst all Albertans.

Unfortunately, we are not keeping much of this wealth. If we continue exporting bitumen instead of higher-priced crude oil we could lose $20 trillion of our oilsands wealth.

Currently, 55% of our oil and gas industry is owned by foreigners and is increasing without control. If the current ownership percentage and profit margin of the oil sands companies were projected though the life of the resource, we would ship $10 trillion to foreigners.

In total, we could lose $30 trillion that could have benefited us, our children, grandchildren and their children and grandchildren. Now this is the case at $80/barrel. Analysts predict that oil will double and may even triple the current price. So our loss could be doubled or tripled!

Is this loss of our wealth inevitable? No!

At one time banks and nations used to be on the gold standard. If a bank had X amount of gold in its vault then it could lend out X amount of money. If a nation had Y amount of gold in its vaults it could circulate Y amount of currency. Of course, banks and nations no longer keep to this standard and virtually create money out of the air with little backing for their loans or currency. But they would agree that the gold standard is a much more fiscally responsible monetary policy.

We Albertans are fiscally responsible people so let’s keep to a gold standard. If Albertans had $120 trillion dollars worth of gold stored in vaults, no one would question its right to issue $120 trillion dollars through our financial arm, the Alberta Treasury Branch, as loans to Albertans and Alberta-owned corporations. We have $120 trillion dollars in black gold stored in sandy vaults in northern Alberta.

Therefore, we have the capital to mine our oilsands and to build plants that will upgrade all the bitumen produced. We do not need anymore foreign investment! We do not need to send any more of our wealth outside of Alberta!

Also, we do not need to send anymore of our wealth to the banks and mortgage companies. We can provide no-interest mortgages to Albertans. This would leave the average home-owner with hundreds of thousands of dollars now spent on interest to be spent on other needs.

For example, a couple buying their first home will have to take a mortgage of $300,000 or more. At an interest rate of 5% over a 30 year term, they will pay $280,000 in interest to a bank or mortgage company. If we directed the ATB to provide Albertans with no-interest mortgages with an annual administration fee of $1000 then the total cost of the loan would be $30,000, resulting in a saving of $250,000.

Imagine the boon to our economy, if hundreds of thousands of home-owners had this extra money to spend instead of giving it to the rich bankers.

If we Albertans take control of our credits such as the oil sands, we will no longer be in debt to the bankers. The resulting wealth will provide for our social needs: health care, education, seniors’ support, communication, transportation, energy, shelter, food, etc. That’s Social Credit!

By now, you are probably aware that I am deeply concerned about the ravaging of our wealth by the multi-national oil and gas companies and banks. Of the 20 letters and news releases I sent to the media and published on our website since the last AGM, 10 were concerning this issue.

These letters have proven to be a successful no-cost method of publicizing our party. They have been published in many newspapers throughout Alberta. It was because of these letters appearing in the Edmonton newspapers, that disgruntled members of the Alberta Party contacted me when seeking a new political home. As a result, we now have an Edmonton Area Council and three new constituency associations in Edmonton-Calder, Edmonton-Centre and Edmonton-Goldbar. We are fortunate that several of these new members are present.

I am pleased to introduce Charles Relland, former President of the Alberta Party and Bob Whyte, President of the Edmonton Area Council and Secretary of Edmonton-Centre.

I have also been sending out email messages on a regular basis to all members and past members who have email addresses. I have had favourable responses from several recipients.

Through the year, I have done some travelling in Alberta on behalf of the Party. I attended a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Brooks with the generous support of Gordon and Charlene Musgrove. I received good coverage from the local newspapers and radio station. I attended a dinner at Pollockville where the Premier was a guest and alerted him about the dissatisfaction regarding the proposed new riding boundaries. Again, the Musgroves paid for the dinner tickets for Nadie and me. I travelled to Barrhead to attend a constituency association meeting. I attended the presentation of the government’s budget in the Legislature. The board of directors and I served beef on a bun at the Innisfail Horseshoe Tournament.

I have absorbed the transportation costs to these events as well as to the monthly board of directors meetings held in Innisfail. As a result, I was able to attend these events at no cost to the Party.

I would have liked to visit many more constituencies throughout the province but this would have required funds from the party which it doesn’t have. We need to get out and meet the people if we want to build constituency associations. It would be fruitful to have a town-hall meeting in each of the 87 ridings. But we need funds to pay for advertising, hall rental, transportation and accommodation.

Danielle Smith had $250,000 to meet with people throughout the province during the Wildrose Alliance leadership campaign. As a result thousands of memberships were sold which gave the party the boost to become considered a major player in Alberta.

If we are to compete with the other political parties in Alberta, we need funds to do so. Where do we get these funds? Brian Mason, proposed that each member of the NDP donate at least $500 towards the upcoming election campaign. Could we do the same? This shouldn’t be a burden for anybody who is gainfully employed. After the tax credit, the donator is only $200 out of pocket.

There are many more ways to raise funds and I leave this as a challenge to you the members of the Alberta Social Credit Party.

There is a saying “It takes money to make money”. If we are to save trillions of dollars of our wealth, we need to get Socreds into the Legislative Assembly. To elect MLAs, we need money to attract, recruit and support good candidates in the coming election.

In the end, “It’s all about our money!”

Return to Alberta West News

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Should the Alberta government be subsidizing ethanol plants?

By Joe Anglin
The Alberta government has spent tens of millions of taxpayer’s dollars subsidizing bio-mass ethanol plant projects. As a business model, bio-mass ethanol plants are a prime example of corporate welfare that has so far proven to be uneconomical. Most every bio-mass ethanol plant in operation relies heavily on perpetual taxpayer subsidies in one form or another. Now Florida based Dominion Energy Services LLC is proposing to build an ethanol plant in Innisfail, and Aspen Bio-Energy Corp is proposing to build an ethanol plant in Rimbey. What makes them different? Can they change the current model and succeed without continuous government subsidies?

To arrive at an answer it helps to understand how the industry currently operates today. As major investors in ethanol plants, British Petroleum (BP) and Agri-business conglomerates Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill are skilled at obtaining taxpayer subsidies to facilitate structured deals designed to eliminate or reduce their risk in bio-mass ethanol production. Unfortunately risk is never reduced. In these types of deals, risk is transferred from the investor (owner) to the taxpayers and the unsuspecting farmers who are lulled into investing in the plant believing this is a great opportunity to establish a new market.

Typically, structured deals for these ventures consist of leveraging the borrowing capacity of the owner with a large taxpayer cash grant to finance construction and begin operations. It is not uncommon for the plant’s primary owner to demand reimbursement of their equity before any other funds are disbursed or distributed. Deals structured this way generally allow the owner to default on obligations while still drawing a profit. Most all the risk in these types of structured deals is transferred to the unrepresented, uninformed and unsuspecting taxpayers and farmers.

A good example of the transfer of risk recently surfaced in Billings Montana. The bio-mass plant in Billings reportedly failed to pay farmers $1.2 million dollars, while investors enjoyed the protection of $1.9 million dollars in taxpayer grants.

In contrast to BP, Cargill, and ADM who have extremely large balance sheets and lots of experience, Dominion Energy Services and Aspen Bio-Energy have little resources and even less experience to build or manage a bio-mass ethanol plant. Dominion is owned by a Florida based hedge fund and has said it can only proceed if subsidies continue. As a former hedge fund manager, I can say with some confidence, hedge funds have been successful in making money for their hedge fund, but there is little evidence to support they succeed in any other discipline.

Aspen Bio-Energy Corp appears to have less resources and less experience than Dominion. Aspen appears to only have two employees: Onkar Dhaliwal (CEO) and Sandip K. Lalli (VP and CFO). To date they have received a $5 million dollar grant from the province, and another $400,000 from a grant obtained by the town of Rimbey. Rimbey has also contributed an additional $70,000 above the designated $400,000 grant, and has collected over $138,000 in an account called “Investor Contributions”. This account is disturbing because it portrays the town as a broker (the mayor has charged taxpayers over $18,000 in related expenses) for Aspen. Under normal accounting procedures, investor contributions should be listed on Aspen’s balance sheet -- not the town of Rimbey’s. I have formally requested clarification from Rimbey’s town manager, but so far there has been no explanation provided. In summary, Aspen has not disclosed any financial records to the public. I cannot find a prospectus, a website or any evidence that Aspen is actually searching for potential investors, but I am told they are searching.

It is difficult to believe that Dominion and Aspen can succeed where BP, Cargill, and ADM have not. After all BP, Cargill, and ADM employ thousands of scientists and engineers that can research these matters. Confidence is further shattered when Rimbey’s officials claim Aspen’s new secret technology will allow them to succeed without perpetual taxpayer subsidies. Ironically this claim is being made about a company that appears to be solely capitalized by government grants, and has its investor contributions posted to a municipality’s balance sheet.

Bio-mass ethanol plants may work or may not work without massive government subsidies. There seems to be no end to the debate surrounding this matter and little in the way of answers. Without answers it would be wise to transparently structure the deals for a bio-mass ethanol plant to advance the interests of the true risk takers – the taxpayers and farmers. Then again, we might be even wiser if the government directed its subsidies to invest in research and development in the sciences at the university level, rather than giving millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies that are skilled at filling out grant applications.

Joe Anglin
(403) 843-3279
Rimbey, AB

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grad Tea speech

by Pam Wright
To the young women here - I am deeply humbled for the opportunity to address you today. I am grateful to your families who pushed you and believed in you; thank you so much. I am thrilled and so honored to be here to help celebrate our extraordinary young women of the class of 2010.

Let us take a moment to thank your moms – those unsung heroines who advocated for and believed in you, those moms who gave up weekends to attend sports competitions and celebrations, who put up with your bad moods, your friends, your over-the-top emotional drama queen moments- the moms who took those late night phone calls even when you were just calling to ask for money, the moms whose love sustains you every single day. Today is their day, too.

As your time at Caroline School comes to a close, the beginning of a new world awaits. Whether that world remains here in the familiar community of Caroline, or whether it means that you spread your wings on journeys to other distinctly different settings, it will be a time of anticipation, hope, and anxiety. Although my graduation year is well behind me, my school experience set the course for all future endeavors.

Allow me to illustrate in a social, emotional and historical context the pop-culture scene of the time. Unprecedented political change was taking place around the world, the war in Viet Nam, poverty and destruction in Bangladesh, the horror of the Jamestown Massacre, powerful religious movements to the right and to the left, the Ku Klux Klan and the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of feminism- the women’s movement -the birth control pill; new democratic leadership in the United States, anti-establishmentarianism, anti-Semitism, peace, love, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Young people pushed for freedoms that had never been experienced before, and willingly confronted everything that hinted of authority.

Speaking of a cultural revolution, these years also witnessed young women hitch-hiking all over Canada, the US and Europe with nothing more promising than a Mountain Equipment pack strapped to our backs and a mere $100 in our pockets. We astounded our parents and frightened ourselves when we stepped out of our comfort zone and saw what the rest of the world looked like. But we liked the exhilaration of owning our future and we enthusiastically embraced realms well beyond the security and predictability of home.

Those of us who were ready for these challenges became responsible and ‘more worldly’. We came to believe that we were in charge of our future. This was a new age for women and found us in significant numbers entering university and college programs that had for all time, been the domain of young men. Departments of law, science, religious studies, engineering, carpentry, welding, plumbing, management, leadership – these programs and many more attracted and challenged young women to fields traditionally intended for our male counterparts. We felt empowered, and I wanted to be part of the change. I needed to make a decision about my future. The problem was- I had no idea.

In my confusion, I did know some things. For example, I knew that I needed to go to post-secondary if I was going to make something of myself. I knew that I loved to learn, and I sensed that I was meant to contribute. I just wasn’t sure what I was meant to learn or how I was meant to contribute and I desperately needed guidance. I looked to God for direction, and on one dark winter night in Jasper, I received His help. My confusion began to ebb during a moment of serendipity, unquestionably led by God. Let me tell you about it.

I cut across the yard of the elementary school in Jasper one very late bitterly cold and windy winter night on my way to pick up a few things at the local corner store. I was angry at the ridiculous hardship that the cold weather demanded- bundling up in a bulky parka, struggling with snow-pants that nearly swallowed me up, big clunky boots that were difficult to put on and take off feet that were often more cold than warm. My toque was uncomfortable and itchy and made my hair an absolute mess, and no matter how many layers of mittens I had on my hands, the cold chill never seemed to lessen. On this very late night, I resented the cold; I resented the wind; and I resented the fact that against my wishes, I had to be outside.

As I plodded on through the schoolyard with my angry little self, I noticed a light on inside one of the classrooms. This light somehow drew me closer and I began to forget how uncomfortable I was. I approached the window curiously and stopped in the crunching snow. As I peered inside, I saw a young woman standing at the chalk-board. Her slender back was toward me, so I knew she couldn’t have seen me watching her. She was writing notes on the board for her morning class of youngsters. I watched for only a few moments, but the image of her in that classroom that late night has never left me. In those few treasured moments, my world stood still. I became entranced. My heart stopped beating, I no longer felt cold, I no longer felt anger, and I no longer felt unsure about my future. I was mesmerized. I felt transformed and I realized I was changed. A reckoning came over me as I slowly and quietly backed away from the window to continue my errands. My heart quickened, my shoulders straightened, and a deep sense of awe and comfort overcame me as I realized the importance of what I’d witnessed. I applied to the University of Lethbridge in the Bachelor of Education program that spring.

I guess I must have completed my errands that dark wintery night, but life was never the same for me from that time onward. I do remember that I kept this awe-inspiring experience to myself for a long time. Finally, when I shared my story with a close friend, we realized that I had experienced an epiphany. God had spoken to me that night. He had brought clarity to my future when he laid his hands on my shoulders. He wrapped himself around me and led me to begin my life’s work. I no longer had any fear about the future; I have no fear of anything really. I really understand that I am God’s child and that He has guided me through everything that has come to pass since that miraculous night and will continue to be there for me until the end.

According to Wickipedia, an epiphany is the sudden realization or comprehension of the larger essence or meaning of something. For me, this was the meaning of life. I had been given a puzzle piece, and I could now see a whole picture for myself. I had a deeper foundational frame of reference for what needed to be done.

Fired up and moving forward on my conviction to complete a Bachelor of Education, I knew deep inside that I was going to receive my convocation through God’s blessing. I was driven to complete a demanding four year program in three years and achieved an honors standing. As I left the university on the last day of class to begin my first teaching assignment, I knew God’s hand had been guiding me the entire time. Years later, and with God leading the way, I applied and was accepted into a Masters Program. Upon receiving honors with distinction in this study, I was recommended to the Doctorate Program to complete a PhD. Was God with me? Yes!

Students, you have worked so hard and invested so much of yourselves. During your time at Caroline School, your teachers have become mentors; your classmates have become lifelong friends. You have taken this school and made it your own. Go forward to learn with hope in your hearts and faith in your God-given potential. When you think of how far you’ve come and how far our school has come, it just once again reminds you that God is good.

You now have opportunities that you never could have imagined before. The journey hasn’t been easy. It was your internal drive that kept you focused, kept you out of trouble, and will earn you admission into the next phase of your life. You dug deep; you stepped up your game. Now, a new set of challenges awaits you. Challenge isn’t easy- and I know it can be frustrating- particularly for young people who have been raised in a popular culture that doesn’t always value hard work and commitment, glorifies easy answers and instant gratification, the fast food, the instant messaging, the easy credit.

Your generation has come of age in a culture that celebrates fleeting reality TV fame rather than the hard labors of lasting success. It’s a culture that elevates today’s celebrity gossip over the serious issues that will shape our future for decades to come. It’s a culture that tells us that our lives should be easy- that suffering and struggle should be avoided at all costs, and that we can have everything we want without a whole lot of effort. But we all know that life really doesn’t work that way.

So graduates, I’d like to suggest that – contrary to what you might see on TV or in the tabloids- few things worth achieving happen in an instant, and there’s often great value in great struggle. It’s only by embracing, rather than shrinking from challenges; it’s only by setting and striving for our own ambitious bars that we become what we are truly meant to be.

Lessons I’ve learned from my experiences allow me to pass on some advice to you. I know for sure that all along the way, God is with you. You may not know this, you may not ask Him, you may not turn to Him, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t with you. He will reach out to you before you reach out to Him. When you get discouraged- and you will, when you start to lose heart and want to give up- and you will, I want you to think about all those who have supported you through your journey. You will come to realize that once you overcome one obstacle, another challenge will push your goal a step further. Pulling through these challenges will help build you up. It’s your stamina that serves Him every single day. You can all be strong- you can all achieve. Declare a testament that sacrifices and fights for goals that will make you stronger.

Your life experiences will become a source of grace for you. It will guide you in developing your sense of self and give you purpose as you discover where you fit in this vast world that God has created for you. Good Luck and God Bless.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It Is Time Alberta Takes The Lead!

On December 19, 2007 the CEO of TransCanada was asked whether he expected public opinion in Alberta to be against the construction of new facilities - potentially including a nuclear plant - that would produce power for export into the United States. "That kind of thinking is very short-sighted and ill-founded," he said.

The issues relating to the production of electricity from nuclear energy are complex and numerous, but to label the public’s concern as short-sightedness, in view of the frugal common sense of the average informed Albertan, these comments are condescending at best.

To promote the development of nuclear power, the industry claims that nearly 44 million kilowatt-hours of electricity can be produced from one tonne of uranium. In comparison, the same amount of electrical power produced from coal or natural gas requires the burning of over 20,000 tonnes of coal, or 8.5 million cubic metres of natural gas. This visibly pro-nuclear comparison is deceptively accurate, but it is definitely misleading if one considers that it takes approximately 20,000 tonnes of high-grade uranium ore to produce enough enriched uranium fuel to operate a 1000 MW nuclear power reactor each year. These comparisons may appear confusing, so the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) simplified the comparison and displays on its website that electricity produced from nuclear cost $30 per megawatt versus $29.10 per megawatt for coal. However the NRC study footnotes reveal that their nuclear reactor costs do not reflect federal subsidies, decommissioning costs, capital costs, waste containment costs, and transmission costs.

It should also be noted that the comparison is based on the availability of high-grade uranium ore, and the availability of this ore is a major concern for the industry as the world’s inventory is consumed. Presently the world’s inventory of high-grade ore sits at 5.5 million tonnes. This is expected to grow as exploration continues however, at the current rate of consumption (65,000 tonnes annually) the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency (IAEA-NEA) estimates that the world’s supply is expected to only last 200 years. Further, as the world consumes and depletes its inventory of the high-grade uranium ore, the number of tonnes of low-grade uranium ore required to produce 1-tonne of enriched fuel is expected to rise exponentially, forcing up the cost of electricity. Ironically, in anticipation of the depletion this inventory, research is underway to develop a process to extract uranium from coal ash. It is almost comical to think we would burn coal, to create ash, in order to extract uranium, so that we would not need to burn coal to produce electricity.

The economic business model supporting the development of nuclear power in Alberta is significantly flawed. On a cost per fuel basis the nuclear power industry has to deceptively manipulate the cost of uranium to even be in the same league as coal or natural gas. Add to that the associated costs of safety and environmental risks, and electricity produced from nuclear energy is completely uneconomical. In support of this finding, Bruce Power, the company proposing to build a nuclear power plant in Peace River has just announced they will need a subsidy from Alberta’s government before they can build a nuclear power plant.

Without even considering the environmental or safety issues (costs) associated with a nuclear power plant, it is economically inconceivable to build a nuclear power plant in Peace River unless the public subsidizes the project with tens of billions of dollars worth of transmission line infrastructure. In summary, if the private sector was required to build the infrastructure they would categorize such an investment as foolishly uneconomical! Why then does our government think this is a good investment for the public?

What should Albertans do when we have over 400 years worth of coal and over 200 years worth of natural gas (including shale gas) at our disposal? For a fraction of the $16.6 billion transmission line upgrades proposed by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), Albertans should invest in transmission lines connecting Alberta to B.C. and Manitoba. Rather than building transmission lines from north to south (for export) to subsidize coal and nuclear generators, an east west transmission line policy would provide access to the abundant supply of cheap hydro-power, and provide western Canada with energy security. If we had a truly progressive government we could adopt an accelerated policy to decommission the coal generators and replace them with gas fired generators. Gas generators are cleaner burning and far more efficient than coal and nuclear because gas generators can actually be turned off when not in use. Nuclear and coal must run continuously whether or not the electricity is being used, creating a scenario whereby nearly 50% of all electricity produced is wasted.

A rapid transition to natural gas electricity generation, supplemented with the development of electric hydro power would stimulate Alberta’s economy, particularly the gas drilling sector. This could create thousands of jobs and catapult Alberta from being one of the worst emitters of CO2 to exceeding the Kyoto protocols on climate change. This in turn would reduce the need for carbon capture technology saving the public billions of tax dollars previously set aside for CCS. Add to this a feed-in-tariff policy for clean renewable energy and Alberta could find itself the world’s leader in the development of clean renewable energies in the matter of a few years.

In summary, Albertans need to stop asking what we should do, and starting acting on what we can do! It is time we lead by example!

Joe Anglin
Rimbey AB
(403) 843-3279

Monday, March 29, 2010

THE VALUE OF LIFE

By Joe Anglin

Oscar Wilde once said, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”. These words may never be more accurate or prophetic if one employs them to describe the Alberta Government’s on-going efforts to deregulate and commoditize water. This is why we should be questioning the common-sense, or lack thereof, of privatizing water before blindly racing to create a market for all of Alberta’s water. Albertans understand the value of water more than most, because we live in an arid province. In southern Alberta alone last year, 10 counties declared a state of emergency due to drought.

The economic theory driving the commoditization of water can be traced to the published works of economist Milton Friedman and his disciples at the Chicago School of Economics. The theory simply adheres to the prescribed doctrine of privatization, meaning everything should be bought and sold freely because the market knows best. One of Friedman’s more famous protégés, economist Gary Becker, not only promotes the economic theory to privatize water, he also advocates for a free market in human organs. He justifies his belief in these economic tenants on the premise the public welfare would increase if the rich were able to pay the poor for their kidneys or water rights.

This is essentially an ideological position, but it is not difficult to comprehend what could happen to the quality of life in rural Alberta, if the fundamental ingredients of life were priced and made available for sale to the highest bidder. The privatization of water would be the death knells for the family farm and many small rural communities, because they simply will not be able to compete with industry's thirst for water. While some farmers may choose to quit farming and profit in the near-term by selling their water rights, industrial forces [corporations] seeking to monopolize water have already laid down the legislative framework in Alberta to, [in effect], steal water rights by simply purchasing the aquifer out from under them. The Land Stewardship Act creates the framework that could remove water rights altogether or just deny rural communities and property owners fair compensation for their water rights. For example: section 19 of the Act states, “No person has the right to compensation by reason of this Act”. This is not to say the public will not receive compensation, but if the Land Stewardship Act is applied to help facilitate a water market, it does affect and over-rule 26 other pieces of legislation, including the Water Act and the Municipal Government Act.

Free market principles have their zealots and skeptics, but rarely does anyone ever question or debate whether the value of something can be truly expressed in monetary terms. Without water nothing lives; in effect water is one of the foundations of life. The value a corporation would place on human life or water may always be expressible in monetary terms, but does that truly correspond to the value humans place on life? If we privatize water, will the public be price makers or price takers on our own lives? It is a valid question we should be asking before Alberta’s government privatizes water, lest we forget the immoral example of Ford Motor Company’s decision to continue producing the Pinto because the average cost of $200,725 per death settlement, resulting from a gas leak, was cheaper than a $12 fix per vehicle. The Ford example is not isolated; there are many examples of corporations placing profits over human life.

The seriousness of this issue cannot be understated. Whoever controls the water in this province -- controls life! The value of water is priceless, and it is why it should remain regulated in the public domain!

Joe Anglin
(403) 843-3279
Rimbey AB

Monday, March 1, 2010

Asbestos

"400,000 Miles of Drinking Water Pipes
May Have Been Made With The Deadly Substance" by Barbara Robson


The prospect is chilling: by best estimates, about 20 million people have had significant exposure to cancer causing asbestos on the job. Three hundred thousand Americans are expected to die of asbestos related cancer in the next twenty to thirty years. Now, the deadly substance is contaminating drinking water around the continent.

Asbestos is one of the most potent carcinogens known to man. Cancer now claims at least one life an hour among people who inhaled it on the job. As many as 200,000 wives and children of asbestos workers will also grow ill merely from washing asbestos laden clothes or being exposed at their homes.

The American Congress passed legislation in 1984 to control asbestos hazards in the building materials of 31,000 schools attended by some 13 million children. And asbestos is present in millions of houses, apartments and buildings.

Now, alarming levels of invisible, needle like fibers of asbestos have been discovered in tap water. Much of it comes from an estimated 400,000 miles of asbestos cement water pipe. Enough to circle the globe sixteen times. Buried beneath hundreds of North American cities.

Yet scientists and government officials can not agree on how serious this hazard actually is, or even on what levels are acceptable. "We believe asbestos breathed is a definite carcinogen", says Dave Ryan, a press officer for the Environmental Protection Agency, "but as far as asbestos in water, the jury is still out".

The people of Woodstock NY know the worry first hand. In late 1985, so much asbestos was in the tap water that it clogged the town's pipes. Health officials warned citizens not to drink the water, to limit showers and to keep asbestos contaminated water out of humidifiers.

Tara Roberts, a thirty one year old business woman and mother, is the leader of the citizen's group Asbestos Free Woodstock. When she first heard Woodstock's health warning, she thought of her one year old daughter, who had had a cold. On her pediatricians advice she'd covered the crib and put a vaporizer beside it.

"I realized that the vaporizer was probably putting asbestos into the air she breathed," Robers grimly recalls. "I was horrified." For over a year, she has hauled gallons of clean water home, taken dirty clothes to a laundromat that uses well water and showered at the houses of friends with safe water.

Roberts states the 1980s message from the famous town of Woodstock: "Any community with asbestos cement pipe either has a problem or will soon have one."

In the past decade, asbestos contamination in drinking water has been discovered in communities throughout North America. In 1982, Department of Health and Human Services survey of 538 US cities showed sixty five percent of them had some asbestos in their water. Almost nine percent had levels that health experts say should have signaled concern.

In Connecticut, a state that banned installing new asbestos pipes seven years ago, 900 miles of asbestos laden pipe is still in the ground, supplying drinking water for over 600,000 people. The Detroit News informed 4 million water drinkers that 1100 miles of the pipe that lay beneath them showed more than 3 million fibers in a quart of tap water.

Asbestos cement water pipes may be anywhere in North American, from Winnipeg Canada to Texas, and, depending on its condition may cause people to swallow from a few hundred to hundreds of millions of fibers every day.

Dr. Philip Landrigan is the director of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "Houses built between 1950 and 1980, when asbestos cement pipe was in vogue have a good chance of using water from these pipes, but on one is certain as developers records are imperfect and good data is incomplete."

Unfortunately all too little is being done. Water utilities typically deny any risk for fear of liability. Occasionally the utilities even deny they used asbestos cement pipe. Two decades ago, asbestos cement pipe producers, including former industry giant Johns-Manville, attempted to fix the problem. With Food and Drug Administration approval, they sprayed a vinyl liner inside asbestos pipe and subsequently sold miles of treated pipe throughout New England. A few years ago, tetrachloroethylene, a chemical known to produce cancer in test animals was found to be leaching from the vinyl lining into the water. By 1980 when Manville finally took its vinyl lined asbestos pipe off the market, 1000 miles were buried in New England and New York.

Asbestos cement pipe producers paid for reports that advised water utilities to treat highly acidic water flowing through their pipes. Acidic water can cause the cement to disintegrate, which can result in the release of asbestos fibers.

On almost all fronts denial of the asbestos hazard in tap water seems to run deep. In ostrich like fashion city officials seem to be pretending that because they can't see the asbestos fibers in the water, little need be done. Winnipeg, a prairie city of over 600,00 is a case in point.

Sixteen years ago, Dr. Francis Konopasek, a physics professor at the University of Manitoba studying asbestos levels in wine and beer wondered if the deadly mineral might be making its way into Winnipeg's drinking water. Upon inquiring he was told, incorrectly, that asbestos pipe was only used to carry sewage, not water. In 1979, a Canadian government report showed that Winnipeg's drinking water was indeed tainted by asbestos. The city had almost 400 miles of asbestos cement pipe in the ground for nearly half a century. Over the next few years Winnipeg tested asbestos levels in its drinking water. In 1983, the year before sampling was stopped, a quart of Winnipeg drinking water contained 12 million fibers

In the winter of 1986, facing public outcry, the city finally banned further installation of asbestos cement water pipe. But it also brought in Joseph Cotruvo, director of criteria and standards in the EPA's office who gave a different view of the risk. "A multi million dollar study found the weight of evidence is slight that ingested asbestos causes cancer". Not surprisingly, environmentalists were unconvinced.

Unfortunately industry and government officials have been able to hide behind the fact that no adequate studies exist to measure the debilitating effects of drinking asbestos contaminated water. Dr. Irving Selikoff, the world's leading expert on asbestos related disease says that there are sound scientific reasons to suspect a cancer risk from asbestos in drinking water.

In November of 1985 the EPA proposed a nationwide standard for asbestos in drinking water. It stated that consumer protection was needed only when more than 7 million fibers per quart were found, and only when those fibers were long, which means longer than ten microns. In other words the EPA was assuring everyone that hundreds of millions of fibers shorter than ten microns were dandy to swallow!

To get to that dubious position the EPA shunted aside its own 1980 estimate of risk, as well as the advice of its own science advisory board and the opinion of the National Research Council. Instead it turned to a single animal study showing that asbestos Feb. in pellet form to rats was barely carcinogenic.

The author of that study, Ernest McConnell of the National Toxicology Program has acknowledged his surprise. "We would never regulate fibers longer than ten microns, based on my asbestos findings".

According to Mount Sinai's Dr. Landrigan, the EPA is misguided in its attempt to pretend that the short fibers are benign. Furthermore, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group of scientists and lawyers with a strong track record in fighting for clean water supplies, charges that the EPA is allowing a risk 10,000 times greater than is prudent.

Also in November 1985, the EPA officially conceded that humidifiers could add to the hazard posed by asbestos contaminated water.

In drinking water the cancer risk seems to depend on the amount of asbestos swallowed. When you take a little asbestos and send it out to other parts of the body no one site is going to have very much, therefore the risk theoretically should be low. Asbestos has however, one very dangerous quality, as it accumulates in the body; the microscopic fibers lodged in tissues can remain like little time bombs and cause cancer years later. Since asbestos exposure is cumulative, young people are in particular need of protection. "Adults have three or four decades to develop cancer after exposure", says Dr. Landrigan. "The kids have six or seven. this means that a smaller dose of a carcinogen is as dangerous to the kids as a larger dose of it is to adults".

Controlling asbestos so that standards are met is critical. In Woodstock, pipes crumbled so badly that the proposed standard was exceeded. In one 1985 sample, 300 million fibers of every length were found per quart.

As thousands of other North Americans become suspicious of what level of asbestos may be in their drinking water, the big question is how to take preventive measures. At the very least, water districts should be required by law to tell consumers what type of pipe transports their precious commodity and before major problems erupt they should be required to test their water. If necessary districts should be required by law to quickly remove the pipe, just as schools have been required to remove asbestos pipe and insulation/tiles. Failure to do so dooms millions of people to become test animals in a massive biological experiment involving a known carcinogen.

: Barbara Robson was a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press in Canada when this investigative report was first written and published in U.S February 1987