04/16/13

One Day in the US of A

April 15th 2013

Of the 2.5 million Americans who die every year, the approximately 6,850 Americans who died this average day, 45 of them were murdered, 31 of them by gun.

As well, there were 72 deaths attributed to alcohol.

95 were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

105 killed themselves, 50 of them used a gun.

110 deaths by overdose and drug induced.

234 people died in unintentional accidents.

1,580 deaths attributed to cancer, 25% of them lung cancer.

2,150 people died because their hearts gave out, blood pressure was too high or other cardiovascular illnesses, nearly two people every minute.

569, mostly women, were raped or sexually assaulted, about one every minute.  At least those are the reported cases, it is estimated that 63% of all rapes or sexual assaults go unreported, so the actual number is probably much higher and closer to 1,500 women raped each and every day.

 86,575 people injured themselves today someway, somehow………………..

Meanwhile, 3 deaths and 176 injured in bomb attack at the running of the Boston Marathon and the world mourns. While the country screams out for vengeance. Very much unlike their reaction after the Newton massacre last December, of 20 first-grade six year olds and six of their teachers, when many Americans refused to even glance into the mirror. Though in this instance they might have to start.

Postscript;

Father’s Day weekend, June 15th + 16th, 2013, Chicago, Illinois, 7 dead and 31 wounded in over 50 unconnected shootings.

July 4th weekend, 2013, in Chicago,72 people, including children, shot. 12 killed.

Iraq 2003-2011, 4,422 American troops killed. Chicago 2003-2011, 4,265 people murdered.

 

04/8/13

Costs Of Living – Inequalities, Poverty Levels, and the Cost for one Person to live in Victoria BC

“Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and for his family an existence worthy of human dignity”  U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights


 

While we have been busy climbing ladders, wishing we were someone else and purchasing our personalities, the basics of life have become much more than simply the costs of living, and are in fact taking much more from us than just income and capital; it’s taking away the planet we live on as well.

To exist as a biological species we need safe drinking water, food, clothing, a roof over our heads, and sex. To be human we need someone to love, someone to love us, friendship, an individual talent which gives us self worth and the ability or opportunity to question. To keep humanity’s greatest resources, imagination and ingenuity, in proper context, we need what Albert Einstein called “the principles of free and responsible development of the individual so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of mankind.” To keep ourselves mentally healthy is to relish each one of these essentials. But each one of these essentials, especially over the past thirty years, has now become nearly entirely privatized, as we stare like deer caught in the headlights.

Today such basic needs and rights also include education, health care, parks and recreation and freedom of speech, all of which are now packaged into products to be simply bought and sold, with many of these rights easily taken from us. Obtaining them is now based on who can pay the most, because anything good, important, healthy or reliable costs more.

The cost of living before agriculture and civilizations was called life and death. Then about twelve thousand years ago, after seventy thousand years of our current mutation as modern humans; we began to domesticate animals and invented agriculture to feed them, eventually feeding ourselves as well. We also began to live communally in larger numbers, which rose exponentially after such villages became cities. The cost of living became income. At this time the characters bearing psychopathic tendencies, such as “self-esteem derived from personal gain, power, or pleasure; failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behaviour; lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others; lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another; exploitation is a primary means of relating to others; deceit; the use of dominance or intimidation to control others and misrepresentation of the self”, were finally able to rise to the top, feeding on their thirst for power, to control the food source, and demand tithe for doing so. Where once there was enough for everyone slowly became never enough. The seeds of inequality among humans began to quickly sprout and split into the haves and the have-nots.

At the same time, laws were formed by the individuals who controlled the wealth to control the public and soon the populations began to lose the opportunity to be noble or heroic, with everyone’s destiny and position in life laid out for them. Distractions such as literature, theatre and sports quickly followed, becoming the places where we could live out an honorable life, through someone else’s actions.  To further control the masses the elite created capital, usury, then debt, by imposing scarcity on their own populations, and any conquered ones, thus causing inequality which created poverty. To keep at least a wee bit of hope, religion was created.

Eventually the distractions and illusions became what they are today, sports heroes, movie stars, politics, and numerous economic theories that only exist on paper and which keep us focused on anything other than our own lives. Ideas such as GDP, which we base our economic worlds and societal success on, but which have nothing to do with our personal well-being or the planet’s. It operates under the illusion that unlimited growth under free market capitalism, operating on only one delicate and finite planet will work, and that a person’s well-being has all to do with material gain and how much one consumes. As it devours our social and natural environments it has us thinking that money will bring us happiness, where instead life should be doing that.

But we do not live in a world where the economy understands that there are now over seven billion people living on a single and finite planet and concerns itself with the importance of everyone getting along, the welfare of each individual, and having enough for everyone, even future generations, by caring for the earth’s resources. Instead we have an economic system, neo-liberal capitalism, which only generates extreme wealth for a very few individuals and is destroying the planets ecosystems by replacing the earth’s resources with waste, and controls the majority of the human race using nationalism, intolerance and oppression by economic means. For instance, if every country on earth were to consume resources and generate as much waste as the United States, we would need five planet earths.

Meanwhile we are extolled through the corporate government media machine that we should worry about events in far-flung places, rather than what’s happening in our own communities, ignoring the depravity within our own society by watching it happen somewhere else. More often than not, global mainstream media is not the real world; our everyday lives are not filled with horror, crime, and continuous bad news nor are they filled with the need to always exact revenge. Most all news stories are about things we cannot influence, and the daily repetition of such things we cannot do anything about, makes us passive. It is grinding us down and is undoubtedly one of the core reasons for the widespread disease of depression which is ravaging our societies. Media could and should, put life into better perspective though in many instances it is verboten to do so and now simply sticks to peddling the ideology of the corporate state.

We are further led to believe that lavish spending and waste makes one a better person somehow, to be a true human you need stuff, especially stuff you don’t need. That what one is wearing or what vehicle one drives denotes their personality and that money is everything. Even assets and debts are to be carried over, and still to be paid after we die. We are bludgeoned and brow beaten about debt and how much is owed, numbers in the billions and trillions on the national level and which we have no hope of ever relating to. On a more personal level we simply try to ignore the amount we ourselves are amassing.

We are also told that having a distinct personality is imperative to be the most powerful, invincible, admired, sexy and unique, yet our daily lives are interactive and interdependent worlds, as are most all species whether animal, bird or fish. No matter the distraction or how far one buys into it, the underlying questioning of what we are told to do, say, act and buy, goes against the reality of who we are. And it’s confusing the hell out of us.

For generations’ topics such as religion, politics, what one does for a living, inequality and sex were simply not spoken about or brought up. Climate change and the current economic crisis can also be added to this list. Yet these are all things we should be talking about, because they are the causes of the abuse we are doing to ourselves and the planet. We get upset when talking about such issues because it’s taken personally, thus we become emotional and offended. Talk about any other fundamental global issues today and people really get their hairs up and knickers in a twist, and either emotionally expounds their personal world-view at you or simply doesn’t want to talk about it and quickly changes the subject. The main reason for this is because it gets too close to the bone; we are hurt emotionally because our inaction, obedience to the system, and denial are complicit with the digression of our unequal societies and destruction of the earth’s eco-systems.

It is getting harder and harder to differentiate between truth and fiction so we interpret reality through illusion, believe what we want to believe, and are quickly rid of anything unpleasant, instead of learning to cope. Our comfort zones have been separated from reality, with the media working their best for their corporate masters, to ensure that they shall never meet. The paradox today is that people have to be far enough out of touch with reality to function and yet acknowledge reality to survive.

The separation between reality and illusion is a thin veil and is creating so many contradictions in our lives that many people today, especially in the developed countries, simply can’t cope with daily life. Each year the United States and Canada consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants, the bulk of the global cocaine supply and have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. Not to mention deteriorating physical and mental health. There is a reason for this.

We have become a public overwhelmed, numbed, and weary of the stories and realities of climate change, unwinnable wars, whether drugs or terrorists, and the ever worsening global economic recession and the strain it’s putting on our lives. No matter how much one becomes distracted, such issues weigh heavily upon us. For many, worrying about where the next meal will come from creates stress and worry, which affects our health, therefore also becomes one of the costs to live today.

Underlying our human madness is the reality of each day in an individual’s life and the fact that our basic, modern needs, and fundamental requirements to exist as a healthy biological species, along with, income disparity and the lowering of our morals, are all becoming more expensive and much more than we, as well as the planet, can afford.

It is estimated there are billions of people in the world living on less than $2.50 per day. Most are indeed poor, but then again there are also some peoples and places on the earth, where consumerism and capitalism haven’t become a belief system, nor has the surrounding environment been eroded or poisoned. In such places $2.50 a day is all you really need to fulfill one’s daily need for water, food and a roof over your head, with lives which are just as fulfilling, loving, rich and rewarding as anywhere else. But for much of the planet’s populations, one’s life is determined by how much money one makes and what you do with it.

Today the cost of living is based on what is called the “poverty level”, which is the minimum level deemed adequate to afford the essential resources an average human being needs to consume in one year. It is based on a human’s basic food and water requirements necessary to exist.  With food, a human’s health is determined by what’s called “body-mass index”, which is a human’s body shape based on an individual’s weight and height. The minimum “allowed” body-mass index is 16, although the more accurate and real body-fat % number is being used more often as the scale, with the highest percentages being in North America. The BMI is still used globally, with the lowest BMI scores, averaging 19, are found in many of the poorest countries, especially Eritrea, Congo, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, and Southeast Asia. The highest rates are Tonga, Micronesia and Samoa, with an average of 32. As a rule a BMI of over 25 puts one overweight.

Though there is no standard caloric intake list, a person needs a minimum of 1500-2000 calories of food per day. With the actual number of calories each individual needs depending on multiple different factors, including age, gender, height, weight, lifestyle, availability and metabolism, and that not all calories are created equal, so it depends more so on what kinds of calories you eat.

The minimum amount of water our bodies need, in a moderate climate and average activity level, is about 5 litres (1.3 gal) per day, while the minimum water needed for drinking, cooking, bathing and sanitation combined is about 50 litres (13 gal) per day, per person. In perspective, Americans and Canadians use 250-300 litres (65-78 gal) of water per day per person for drinking, cooking, bathing, flushing toilets and watering lawns. In the Netherlands, they use 104 litres (27 gal) per day, while in Gambia, in Africa, they use only 4.5 litres (1.17 gal) per day. The poverty level minimum water needs also states that every person must have safe drinking water available less than 15 minutes away. And although 70% of the earth’s surface is water, less than 2% of it is fresh water, of which only a few hundredths of a per cent is actually drinkable.

As for food and water, these minimums are scary as in many parts of the world they are still not being reached, and in fact are declining, with the supply of these basic needs being the most affected by climate change. The UN estimates that there are 925 million humans with insufficient food, 1 out of every 7 people, with over half of all the children in the world today living in poverty. Global fresh water is dwindling quickly, not so much from drinking, but from growing food, while the acidification and oxygen depletion of the earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers, drought, severe weather, glaciers disappearing and rivers drying up continue unabated.  We whine about what a litre of gasoline costs, yet are paying sometimes twice as much for the same amount of water in a plastic bottle. Heck, in Victoria we are paying fifty-cents to simply put air in our tires.

The poverty level provisions must also include proper sanitation for our biological waste, health care for serious illness, injury and pregnancy, and shelter, where fewer than four people live in each room with at the least a floor and a roof.  Next up is education, where each person is able to read and write, thus learn. Finally, the poverty level includes that everyone should have the modern essentials of having information at hand, whether in books, magazines and news sources, as well as access to services such as further education, health advice and care, legal assistance, social services, and financial services such as credit unions.

While in reality many of these minimum requirements can never be reached by someone actually living at the poverty level; with many of them slowly being erased or priced too high and out of reach for the majority of humanity.

Before we continue I would like to emphasize that I understand very well there will be a wide range of circumstances when further discussing the cost of living, and to some extent income inequality, but I’m just going for an average, ballpark figure of an average Canadian, with the odd comparison to the Americans. I’m not really comparing but generalizing, because there are so many variables, such as where one lives – city, small town or suburb. Are they male or female, single or have a large family, or two people sharing expenses and with a joint income of $40,000 and having a higher standard of living than two individuals living alone on $20,000 each, with all sorts of intangibles in between.

In Canada the after-tax poverty thresholds are $18,421 for one person, $34,829 for a family with two children. One in ten Canadians live at or below these levels; 3.2 million people, of whom 634,000 are children, with British Columbia continuing to have the highest child poverty rate in Canada. In the US the poverty level is $11,344 for one person, and $22,133 for a family with two children, with more than one per six Americans living at and far below these levels.

Such income levels have not changed much over the past 30 years, though the actual costs of living and the income of the top earners have risen dramatically. Consider that in 1982 the median income of an average Canadian was $28,000 annually after taxes, while the income for the top one per cent was $191,600 after taxes, seven times higher. Fast forward to today where our economy has grown twice as large, the richest one per cent now report a median income of $283,400, nearly 10 times higher than the median income of the other 99% of Canadians whose median income has only risen to $28,500.

Income inequality is even more disturbing in the US. In 1980 the average CEO’s annual pay was 42 times more than the average worker. By 2011, their pay was 340 times more, regardless of business performance or shareholder value.  As to income growth over the past 45 years and adjusted for inflation, 90% of Americans annual income, has risen a mere $59 per year, while the top 1% of the top 1%’s annual income has risen to $18.7 million. To put this in perspective, for each dollar that an average household’s income rises, the household incomes of the top 1% of the top 1% rises $311,233 annually.

In Canada the top 100 CEO’s earn an average of $6 million per year, while the average minimum hourly wage in Canada is nine dollars, in the US its $7.25 per hour. The lowest minimum monthly gross income in Canada, working a 40 hour work week, is $1,631 per month. To currently live in Vancouver B.C. an individual needs to earn at least $18.81 per hour and work a 40 hour week. In 2012, the average weekly wage in BC was $860.57 before taxes, with an hourly average wage of $23.53. In a nut shell, more than half of all Canadians are living on less than $25,400 per year after taxes and would need to work one month to make the same amount a top CEO makes in one hour.

Out of the pie, 51.9% of Canadians make $29,299 a year or less, 48% make more than $30,000 per year, and the final 1% makes $169,000 or more a year, with 0.1 % of these individuals making an average of $30 million a year. Breaking it down further, if you make more than $60,000 per year you are in the top 19%; above $120,000 per year you are in the top 5%. As for weekly income, the top 10%, who are mostly just the managers of the top 1%’s industries, governments, corporations and wealth, and who are really just commodities themselves, average $6,000 per week. Their bosses make about $160,000 per week.

The disappearing middle class in BC have individual earnings between $40,000 and $125,000, while in the US their middle class is determined to be those earning $36,000 to $57,657 per year. In both countries it’s becoming blatantly clear, yet readily ignored, that the bulk of the populations of both are below middle class, with a few at the very top.

The latest employment reports show that since the economic downturn in 2008, 60% of all jobs lost during the subsequent recession paid middle income wages, while 60% of jobs gained are low paying jobs in the accommodation or fast food industry. Declining traditional middle class jobs include executive assistants and secretaries, construction laborers, carpenters, bookkeepers, accountants, telephone operators, general maintenance and repairmen, and reporters and correspondents.  With the biggest drops in employment occurring in utilities, public administration and especially manufacturing. Although actual manufacturing sales are rising, the higher paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing quickly, and being replaced with low paying service jobs. Staying stagnant are jobs in business, trade, and information, culture and recreation, while rising employment opportunities are in education, health, and as previously mentioned, the fast food and service industry, which is growing four times the overall rate. People are getting jobs but staying poor, because the increasing low-wage jobs don’t pay enough to live off of.

Besides income disparity, wealth inequality is equally outrageous. The richest 300 people in the world have the same wealth as the poorest 3 billion. In Canada, the top 1% possesses more than 45% of the wealth, while eight out of every 10 working Canadian share 7% of the wealth between them.  As for who actually has the wealth, meaning who has the share of money, gold, real estate, stocks and bonds, not very many. In 2012, Canadians with more than $30 million in assets numbered only 4,922 individuals, with a combined worth of over $148 billion. In 2010 the population of Canada was 43 million people, yet only 164,000 individuals made more than $250,000, while in BC there were only 18,810 individuals making that much, and once again, possessing nearly 45% of the wealth.

In the US, the Walton’s, heirs to the monolith that is Wal-Mart, are worth a combined $110 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42% of Americans combined. If Wal-Mart was a country it would be the 26th largest economy in the world, with yearly sales exceeding $444 billion, $20 billion more than Austria’s GDP.

The problems with such growing inequality are that most of the wealthy do not even invest their wealth back into where they live; instead they move it offshore as quickly as possible. There is no trickle-down effect. Record profits in the private sector haven’t led to an increase in wages, but rather quite the opposite, less wages along with fewer jobs.

After all that, and taking a deep breath, we come back to how much does it really cost for somebody to live. In BC the average working stiffs, putting in 40 hour weeks, with no dental plan and no pension plan, other than what the Canada Pension Plan eventually pays when we are 65 years old, gross median annual incomes, range from the ticketed master carpenter making $50,070, to a construction labourer averaging $36,147, an apartment manager making $32,300, a bartender $23,198, to a waitress making $22,242, while a bookkeeper makes on average about $17.95 per hour,  a pharmacy technician, $15.91 per hour, and someone working in retail/fast food $10.25 gross per hour. Currently, the before taxes, gross median annual income in Canada is $30,800.

The poverty level mentioned earlier, supposedly is the least one needs to survive as a human being in a developed nation. In Canada, as earlier noted, it is $18,421 per year after tax, while one’s actual cost of living is determined by how much of a consumer you are and how much of the bullshit do you buy into. In Canada, in 2012, for every $100 an average Canadian family earned in disposable after-tax income they owed over $164 in market debt.  Why this is so, is in part because many of us are buying stuff we don’t need, and with stagnant wages for the past few decades the basics are costing so much more.

An example; a single male living in Victoria BC in 2012, pulling in $24,000 a year gross, whether $2000 per month salary or working 40 hour weeks for $12.50 per hour, is determined to be on the poverty level.  Off the top goes $3600 (15%) to Federal taxes, $1214 (5.06%) to Provincial taxes, $1080 (4.5%) to Canada Pension Plan, and about $360 (1.5%) for unemployment insurance. Using public transit with a bus pass costs $82 per month ($984/year) and living in a one-bedroom apartment costs an average $830 per month ($9960/year).  Cost of consumables such as food one only makes at home and personal care averages $280 per month ($3000/year). BC Medical (health care) is $55 per month ($660/year), $66.50 per month if you make over $30,000. Some sort of Life insurance, Critical Illness insurance or even savings, will cost at least $40 per month ($480/year), and that’s if you don’t smoke. Though I will not be adding such a cost to total when complete, a pack of cigarettes averages $9.30, a pack a day habit will cost you $279 per month.

Apartment insurance is about $15 per month ($180/year); the average cell phone costs are $71 per month ($852/year), though a basic land-line phone on one’s home runs about $26 per month.  Very basic cable is about $38 per month, including taxes ($456/year), while having an internet connection is about $40 per month ($480/year).  The cost of electricity for an apartment, with free hot water with heat registers, is on average $18 per month ($216/year), if it’s electric heat, $50+ per month. Entertainment is going out for a dinner for two ($50) once a month, grabbing the $10 burger and beer special once a week at the local pub, buying a bottle of cheap wine ($10), a new book ($15) and perhaps going to a movie once a month ($12), will total about $127 per month ($1524/year).

After paying these costs of living, the single person living in Victoria will be left with nothing, in fact they will be in arrears $1046, and still have to cover any clothing expenses, stamps, laundry, newspaper and occasional coffees, and emergencies. While the two week holidays one gets annually, never really includes an actual vacation. Such things as owning a car, paying for its gas, smoking, having a drug problem, eating out and being an obedient consumer is simply not possible. Though many cut corners and/or borrow to do so, a minority steal to do so. With over half of Canadians making less than $30,800 net per year, the poverty level is not so far away for the majority, and it is very true that “most everyone is a couple of paychecks away from being on the street.”

Many people whose income is $60,000 a year are also living paycheck to paycheck. The more you make, the more you spend, most times on frivolous and disposable stuff that has no actual value, and on such things as a bigger car loan or lease, a mortgage, higher credit card debt, purchasing higher end stuff and more of it, such as phones, clothing, TVs and shoes, personal loans, eating out more often, expensive holidays, TFSA’s, RRSP’s and savings, maintenance of home and a higher standard of living. It’s all relative. Though of course, no matter how much a person makes still does not guarantee them happiness.

The proverbial wrenches thrown into the cost of living are the facts of life that drop in and disrupt our lives from time to time, the stuff that happens in between paychecks. One’s mother dies on the other side of the country. Can one afford to fly there and bury her? One breaks their collarbone in an accident at home and has to go on six weeks unpaid leave, or someone has the flu and can’t afford to take the time off work. The car needs new tires, or one who has no dental insurance needs a tooth pulled, a root canal, or heaven forbid needs a crown.  It is estimated that 60% of all the people in the States who go bankrupt each year, have done so because they had a medical crisis and huge medical bills and costs.

As it is, wages have been stagnant for thirty years, which we have compensated with debt. Our society is becoming ever the more insecure, living in fear of losing one’s job, not being able to provide for family and the worry of losing one’s stuff. Stuff which we have been programmed to believe that we simply could not get by without, but which has no value whatsoever. Yet our response to the madness continues to be, think me and mine.

We have been told to do things in our lives that make us feel important, more independent, vital and valued. Interacting in the world of my daily life, I see so much of it, where people have taken what should be self confidence and empathy, and instead have created a profound sense of entitlement and a drone like stare. But no matter the cape one wears, we are all having a hard time of it mentally and emotionally. Though we try to smile and coo that everything is alright, we are actually barely putting up with the arrogance and ignorance of our fellow human beings, including ourselves.  But then this should not be surprising considering its now three generations of people, in Canada, the States, Europe, et al, who have been raised by television, and we are never wrong.  History has also proven that the worse society becomes the more delusional they become.

Ever since television, the powers that be have worked very hard at selecting for us what decisions we make. Forty years on, most of our decisions are already made for us well in advance and the income equality and wealth distribution gaps have widened to a point never seen in all of human history. Meanwhile the majority of us are finding it ever more difficult in bearing the brunt of what the cost of living today is demanding from us.

With any society truly only “three meals away from a revolution,” the trigger point for change in how our economic and social worlds operate is nearing. But when people rise up because their child is starving and they themselves have no prospect of an advancement or job, because as our population grows there will never be enough jobs for everyone, will pharmaceutical drugs and the gods of consumerism replace the most powerful drug we possess, which is hope?

Extreme wealth and social inequality is nothing new, nor is the inability to afford the cost of living. It has happened more than a few times over the course of human history. Each time there was ever worsening of physical and mental health, shorter life spans and more criminal behaviour, especially among the wealthiest, because unfortunately, when life gets hard, living wrong is easier than living right.

But when we cannot feed ourselves or get access to drinkable water anymore, enough will then be enough. And there will be change. Such crises in the past have touched off revolutions, which more often than not are led by middle class, educated leaders, doctors and teachers; though the problem with revolution has always been that they are messy and very violent affairs. For to achieve true change, the system must not only be beheaded, the base has to crushed and swept away as well. Leaving it and just getting a new head, operating within the same system, same rules and regulations or lack thereof, eventually fails as well, because the system is broke, and has never worked. At that time the step will have to be made to cross the great divide between being aware of our current dysfunction yet only standing back and pontificating about it, and start acting on the dialogue about alternatives and solutions to the problems and becoming involved in its reform. It’s why many of the earliest civilizations had laws where wealth would be distributed anew and all debt erased every seven or so years.

Today I fear that I myself am caught up in the current age of myth and capitalism and that as a people we do not have the courage to rescue ourselves from ourselves anymore. It has become too easy to shut out the madness of our corporate governments and oligarchs with sports, movie stars and reality TV. I sit here and peck away on the computer analyzing, researching and giving an opinion about problems that thousands have already and quite often have done so more eloquently and intelligently, but I feel this is all I can do. Of course it is not.

The proof in the pudding will be when enough of us scream “time out”, get up from our couches, step away from our routine distractions, put one foot in front of the other, get out onto the street and make our voices heard, and come up with options and alternatives as to how we currently operate as societies. Instead of future generations cursing our names, we should at least give them the impression that we tried the best we could, and for once stopped thinking about me, myself and I. How can we expect any hope for our children and our children’s children if we do not?

The height of ignorance would be for us to continue to operate on self-denial, excess and self-indulgence and believe it’s all about us, with no thought to our children and grandchildren and what type of world they will be allowed to grow old in. The epitome of ignorance personified is to actually think the ecosystems and weather patterns of the earth, which we have greedily altered, care if we can cope or change our ways, or not.

After forty short years, the reality being proven in most developed countries is that in general, and not through a lack of trying or working hard, but because we are operating within a flawed system and have become distracted, we won’t do better than our parents, and our children will not do better than us. Heaven help our grandchildren.

 

 

 

01/7/13

Idle No More and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence

Right off the bat I’d like to say that I am all for the growing, Idle No More movement, which is protesting environmental and human rights issues, not only with First nations, but all Canadians. The Harper government simply cannot keep going down the road they are leading us, eliminating environmental regulations so that we can whore our natural resources to the highest bidder and create an ever widening gap in equality in Canada, where child poverty, polluted lands and water, and a fragile economy take a back seat to the desires of the irrational and greedy fossil fuels industries and foreign corporations.

Many Canadians have a problem with such things as the Alberta Tar Sands, the proposed Enbridge pipeline and twinning of the Kinder Morgan petroleum lines and we all should be concerned about our personal rights being eroded piecemeal.

As for the problems that First nation peoples have, there are many very complex issues, and it will take exceptional leadership and empathy, which is seriously lacking in Canada, to remedy over a century of ignorance, greed and sloth.

First Nations Chiefs indeed speak out against the assault on our environment but when it comes to their own tribe, it is another thing altogether. Yes some of them make their concerns known about their people, while others do not because they do not want to rock the boat and would like to keep what they have acquired.

Like I said I’m all for speaking out against the Harper government’s insane and asinine decisions. If you have read some of my posts you pretty well know my feelings as to the rape of Canada. I do worry and have an issue with the Idle No More movement continuing to hang their hat with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

Yes, many First Nations communities live in squalor and poverty, with unsafe housing and water supplies. But a trait they seem to have is that no matter what the chief says or does, no one in the tribe speaks their own voice. Everyone plays the ingrained, I am a victim card. They accept the way things are and refuse to speak out against those who rule over them, not only the Harper government but their own leaders as well.

The Idle No More movement will be in dire difficulties looking for support if they and the corporate media continue to dance with Theresa Spence, treating her as though she is representative of all First Nations people.

Enough bullshit I say. Her faux hunger strike is basically a diet she obviously needs. I could live for years on fish soup, herbs and tea, as well, would be detoxified of all the poisons we ingest each day. As far as her home village of Attawapiskat, it is a typical native community, where there is little or no running water and basic services, multiple health and safety issues, and most of the tribe live in poverty, even though the federal government gave $7.9 billion last year to the Aboriginal Affairs department, which oversees the just over one million First Nations people of Canada. Attawapiskat alone has received over $104 million since 2005.

The community itself has about 300 homes, with a population of 1549 people, one-third of which are under 19 yrs old. They also have their own health authority, school board, power and development corporations, and a corporation to run their hockey rink. They also have an unbelievable, 21 full-time and well-paid band councillors/politicians; one representative for every 71 residents.

In 2006, De Beers, the world’s largest diamond mining corporation moved in nearby. Besides polluting the land and water they pay for the pillaging handsomely. Between the federal government and De Beers, the money pouring into Attawapiskat works out to be about $250,000 per family per year tax free, with $450,000 a month going into the community, in welfare payments alone.

Then we have Chief Spence. In the fall of 2011 she declared a state of emergency for her community. The media were all over it. While the “crisis” was going on, Attawapiskat purchased a new ice cleaner for their hockey rink for $96,000. Today Chief Spence makes about $70,000 a year tax free and drives a $60,000 Escalade. In 2011 the band spent $200,000 on gifts and $36,000 on goose hunting. The same year, acting manager, Wayne Turner was paid more than $68,000 for travel expenses over a two month period. Currently, Chief Spence’s boyfriend, Clayton Kennedy, holds the title of town manager and earns $850 per day tax free, making over $250,000 a year.

As a corporation Attawapiskat is doing very well. While their people keep their lips sealed and heads in the sand, Attawapiskat’s worth consists of over $9 million in stocks in Apple, Disney, and Chinese cell-phone companies. In 2010 they made $2.7 million in profits, while in 2011 profits were $3.1 million.

Very recently the Harper government tried to audit Attawapiskat, to no avail, as over four-fifths of their paperwork was either entered wrong or is missing.

All of this does not surprise me. A native community is just like a non-native community, or rather any human community. It’s all about the money, how to get it, and most importantly how to keep it. And then of course how to spend it. Many leaders of First Nations communities are very similar to Harper’s puppets in parliament. Mum’s the word, so that they can keep what they have, immorally taken from those who they supposedly represent, whether its handouts, salaries or pensions, and pleasantly smile and say everything is all right, yet wishing they could tell us all to just fuck off and mind our own business.

 

10/23/12

The Queen’s award for Ignorance and Intolerance

To honor and commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II ascension to the throne of the British Empire, Canada will be awarding 60,000 “deserving Canadians” the Diamond Jubilee Medal. Each Member of Parliament will be giving 30 medals to their fellow citizens “for their contributions to the country, their province or their region.”

Many of the recipients are receiving their medals for being victims of injustice. Which bodes well considering the Harper government, through multiple omnibus bills, has decided to get tough on crime and to start actually incarcerating repeat offenders.

One of Harper’s underlings, Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, supposedly representing his constituents in Saskatchewan, at least he should be, has chosen two convicted criminals, both repeat offenders, with one currently serving time in Toronto, as recipients of the Diamond Jubilee medal.

Linda Gibbons and Mary Wagner are described by Vellacott as being “heroines of humanity” and “precious women.”  He applauds their “civil disobedience to further a just cause.” He compares them to Martin Luther King Jr. The pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, describes both women as possessing quiet, meek and prayerful natures, so humble that they remind the Coalition of Mother Theresa.

And to what has deemed these two women so honored and appreciated? They attack abortion clinics. As Vellacott proudly announced, Gibbons and Wagner are deserving of the medal for “protecting defenceless, voiceless human beings in the womb from butchery and death.” Seriously I wish I was making this up.

Harper has said numerous times he has no interest in addressing the abortion issue head-on. Personally perhaps not, but I am sure the issue can be addressed just as well through members of his flock. A couple of examples being, Vellacott is also calling for Planned Parenthood’s funding to be taken away, and in June 2012 Canada pledged $1.1 billion to a global initiative on Maternal and Child health for developing countries, though under strict conditions that no funds to be used for abortions.

As to the medal winning Mother Theresa’s, Gibbons and Wagner, Gibbons has been in and out of jail for over ten years for violating injunctions to do with clinics that perform abortions. Arrested repeatedly, she refuses to sign bail orders. The first injunction against her, and others, was in the early 90’s after a clinic in Toronto was firebombed.

Wagner meanwhile is currently serving time in a Toronto jail for mischief and breaching court orders. She has also been arrested repeatedly, most of the time for violations of probation terms. She has been convicted four times since 2000. The present charge of breaching court orders has to do with her last trial where she was found guilty of trespassing and two counts of breach of probation. She appealed but the judge declared her guilty once again. She got time served (88 days) and three years’ probation, which she has just broken. The presiding judge at her appeal felt she has “utter contempt for court orders, lack of respect for the rights of others, and the rule of law.” He also added that she represented “a potential threat and danger to the well being and safety of civil society.”

The question now is will “deserving Canadians” Gibbons and Wagner be allowed to wear their Diamond Jubilee Medals, awarded for “their contributions to the country, their province or their region”, whenever they are incarcerated?

Simply amazing that by entering a legal clinic, which performs legal operations, and harassing, disrupting and upsetting the women and staff there, who are already struggling with a very difficult decision, one could win a medal for “civil disobedience to further a just cause.” Will they now enter a clinic and psychologically damage women further by shoving their medals in the crying women’s faces?

I once used to say, quite often actually, “only in America.” Boy was I wrong. As far as abortion, I feel a woman has the right to choose. And that it is between her, her doctor and those close to her. Not some person, who feels entitled, has zero tolerance of anything beyond what they personally believe and utter lack of respect for the rights of others.

I believe it was the American writer John Irving who recently said, “If you are against abortion, don’t have one.”

 

10/2/12

CAMA? Say it isn’t so Stevie Harper.

Why does the Prime Minister of Canada, Steven Harper hate science so much? I pondered.

Over the past year I’ve written many articles of my opinion or rather confoundedness, over the decisions made by the Harper government of Canada. Besides the ever quickening pace of trying to sell and export our limited natural resources as fast as possible, our government is also picking up the pace as to selling the companies that extract said resources, mostly to China. The government openly panders to the energy corporations, yet hinders working Canadians, all the while chiseling away at our basic human rights and civil liberties, especially women’s and children’s, and specifically dismantling most environmental protections and controls. At the same time our government gets rid of the jobs, shuts down the work and tapes shut the mouths of a world renowned, respected science community, especially in natural resources and environmental science and technologies. From constant barrages of omnibus bills to funding cuts to nearly every government agency that deals with the environment and people or the safety and care of both.

We pull out of the Kyoto agreement yet have no national plan to battle climate change and carbon pollution. Local environmentalists and First Nations are branded foreign radicals, with Greenpeace called a “Multi-issue extremist group.” The charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the governments environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels are threatened to be revoked, while journalists follow the lead of their corporate controlled employers by way of the Prime Minister’s office. Anything to do with safeguarding our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans has been gutted or dismantled, such as the Navigable Waters protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act.

The incredulous concepts that are entering government policy making should be scaring the bejesus out of you, it does me. Each new decision the federal government makes gives an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It has all seemed so confusing. But if you know history it is yet another remake of the chapter we’ve all seen before and which I will name at the end of this article.

We are already degrading our land and creating ever more inequality amongst people, what’s suddenly the big rush? What is taking prestige over reason? Why the desperate maddening pace and disregard for the earth? Why has reform become a dirty word to politicians? Why is the Harper government so adverse to science and rational debate?

But then a couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if I had heard of CAMA, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, no I answered, having no clue. “Check it out”, he replied. And so I did. And the confusion I once felt is gone, now I’m seriously afraid.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, was formed in 1887 by the Canadian evangelical pastor Albert Benjamin Simpson. Simpson, born on Prince Edward Island in 1843, was raised in a strict Calvinistic Scottish Presbyterian and Puritan tradition, though later he converted to Evangelicalism and was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. He served churches in Canada and the United States and by 1880 arrived at the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church, in New York City, where he began to put together doctrine which emphasized global evangelism. Moving to what is known as the New York Tabernacle he began to preach his word and eventually his and others words would transform over the decades to become the Christian and Missionary Alliance. CAMA is based out of New York with a strong base of operations in Alberta. There are about 500,000 members in the States, mostly all Republicans and about 130,000 in Canada, mostly all Conservatives and mostly all living in Alberta. They have about three million members worldwide.

The tenets of CAMA’s gospel are; Jesus our savior, sanctifier, healer and coming king, as well as the “pursuit and promotion of the Higher Christian Life.” Their commitment is to promote a biblically-based world view centered on Jesus Christ.

Their values  include developing their pastoral and lay leadership; where women are strictly not allowed, nurturing the pastoral staff and their families, belief in Biblical conflict resolution, encouraging creativity and innovation in submission of spirit, empowering churches and strategic building of churches in all communities of the world. They also have an Environmental Transformational Plan, which describes their “life zones” or spiritual realities, but the plan has taken ecology completely out of context.

CAMA’s Church Planting Life Zone for instance believes in an environment perpetually growing, where “church planters and church congregations pregnant with new church planting ideas would be welcomed, encouraged and assisted in giving birth”, which means building a new church and finding new members is encouraged and would be supported by CAMA, and of course, “sources of funding would be accessed in order to provide a steady stream of resources for church planting opportunities.”  Further, in each Church Planting Zone, “multiplication-minded leaders are motivated and encouraged by catalytic events designed to expand their thinking and accelerate their passion.” Other life zones include the Global Seamless-Link Life Zone, Leadership Life Zone and Pastoral Health Life Zone, all placing much importance upon the church, its executive and the Second Coming of Christ.

Their core values begin with the authority of the bible, literately every word of it as it is written, and leadership, where they state that they intentionally identify and train “godly” leaders. They uphold biblical justice, minister to the poor and oppressed of only their communities, and encourage and strengthen marriages and families. Divorce is frowned upon and if caught as an adulterer one loses their right to ever remarry.

As far as stewardship of the earth they view “all our resources and possessions as God-owned and we use them with integrity, accountability and maximum effectiveness.” The world was created for them to use as they will, that God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage.

As to prayer they believe, “We do nothing until we pray”. The Canadian members pray for Canada and its government and that “Godly agendas are required through minority rule.” They pray for those “utterly unreached people group-those under the domination of Islam, closed Hindu and Buddhist nations, etc.” All non-believers of their doctrine are considered the “lost people’. They also pray for their church leaders, pastors and executive to receive the spirit of their God in “remarkable new ways” and for them to be “strategic in service.”

CAMA members truly believe the Second Coming is “imminent and will be personal and visible”. Much like the evangelical Jehovah Witnesses have believed that every year is going to be the last one, since 1870; where Jesus Christ will physically appear on earth and will reign for one thousand years and then there will be the Final Judgment. After which time, the universe, including the microscopic parts of heaven and earth, will be renewed to become a new and fresh heaven and earth. They also believe the world to be only 6,000 years old.

To survive the second coming they pray that their churches have the “budgets, decisions and staffing that reflect their kingdoms values.”  Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be born again and “justified, sanctified and granted the gift of eternal life as adopted children of God.”

Fields of flowers, blue clear skies, cold crystal clean water and natural resources will be renewed and the chosen one’s will live on, to use the world to their will and a vicious cycle would seemingly begin anew. I know the Bible well, and unfortunately nowhere does one find a story about a Third Coming.

Other  beliefs of CAMA include that the free market is divinely inspired, with libertarian economics being God’s will and that God is opposed to government regulation or taxation for he created government for limited purposes only and whom should never intervene in the workings of a free market economy. They also oddly enough, though I am sure Charles Darwin isn’t their kind of scientist, seem to believe in the new social Darwinism, where the adage has been changed to the survival of the richest, not the fittest, will somehow benefit society and everyone else are simply lacking the motivation and ambition to help themselves.

Besides not having any regard for the environment and not putting any belief in science, they have utter contempt for homosexual relationships, abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia and the use of marijuana. They demand the complete loyalty of their members to their organization, possess extreme disdain for mainstream media, but then don’t we all in its current state, and believe wholeheartedly in the Dominion Theory, where humans were made to subdue and rule over all of creation. Because when it all collapses, no worries, God will fix it.

Because the Christian and Missionary Alliance do not put any faith in the notion of climate change due to human contribution and don’t think much of science in general, they are closely affiliated to another appendage of themselves in the Cornwall Alliance, a right wing coalition of scholars, evangelicals and economists, many who are Christian Alliance members, and formed in 2000 with the introduction of the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. Their motto is Dominion, Stewardship and Conservation; they “aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals.” Their main threats are science and anything to do with monitoring the environment.  They indeed have a very evangelical biblical view of the planet, but then as do so many other faiths and organizations. It’s why they all despise each other so much, would like very much to rid each other off the planet and to be just left alone, to be the only one left when human endeavor drives off the edge of the cliff. While extremists at both ends of the spectrum seem to have no qualms on creating an Armageddon themselves if they have to, just to prove their points.

Within the Cornwall Declaration are statements that were surreal to read, seemingly out of this world, time and place. I kept looking around, thinking someone was playing a joke on me or perhaps I was even being punk’d. The statements within the declaration include that policies to combat climate change would and are, destroying jobs. Besides, they say the trillions of dollars it would take to combat our affect on the planet would bring “no net benefits.” They also assert that any impediment on economic development such as raising energy prices, would take away the ability of the worlds poor to rise out of poverty, thus “so condemn millions to premature death.” They believe one of the worst things to do would be to continue trying to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, because it will only increase the price of energy and harm the world’s economies. In fact they flat out deny that carbon dioxide is harmful to the planet because it is “essential to all plant growth.” Believing the energy from their God’s planet must be abundant and affordable until the day he soon arrives, they feel fossil and nuclear fuels as being the perfect sources for this. Policies to control global warming they deem, “fruitless and harmful”, because the earth is “self  regulating and self correcting” and besides the earth was made to be used, so that humanity may flourish and display God’s glory.

As far as alternative and renewable forms of energy, they believe that such things as wind and solar power will only be good enough for either “poor or rural peoples.” Going further into the declaration; they do not feel that humanity is only consumers and polluters but instead we are producers and stewards. One of their main goals is to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of both, the earth’s resources and corporations, and if there is to be any collective action it must be taken at the most local level possible. They also wish everyone would just recognize their proper place in their God’s created order.

I began this article asking a few questions about the madness that seems to be enveloping Canada. The denying of science’s role in environmental and social decisions; cutbacks to fading social programs such as unemployment, pensions, health and welfare; the attempt to become a militaristic badass in the world;  the ongoing destruction of our basic human rights; the death of our will to vote; and the insane and desperate need for the status quo to continue.

The outcome of the last federal election, where 39% of those who voted elected a majority Conservative government, brought forth once again, the Harper government. It would seem we Canadians have a democracy problem. According to the Harper government’s agenda and policies, especially at the quickened pace as of late one can only surmise what’s behind such asinine decisions. Well surmise no more.

Yes, kept behind Oz’s curtain, glimpsed at only briefly, with nearly no one knowing, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance for nearly twenty years. He has always been questioned of perhaps having a hidden agenda. He does and it could very well be his God’s agenda, heaven forbid.

Other notable members of CAMA include many TV pastors and healing evangelists such as F.F. Bosworth and Clement Humbard; Billy Graham’s first African-American evangelist, Preston Manning; founder and former leader of the Reform party of Canada, and the now deceased, American Evangelist Billy Graham, who became a member of CAMA in 1933 but who was actually a Democrat and not completely on the religious right, once saying that Jesus did not have a political party.

Another long standing CAMA member is former Canadian Conservative cabinet minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Chuck Strahl, who in June 2012 was proudly given the chairman’s position of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the lone watchdog which oversees Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), by his close friend Stephen Harper. The sounds you should be hearing are the goose bumps bubbling out of your skin.

Is the Prime Minister of Canada really basing his decisions on what Canadians need and want today and tomorrow or instead on what was written by many and then translated dozens of times, two thousand years ago? His positions on research, statistics, protestors, journalists, First Nation’s people, women, children, pipeline opponents and climate change cannot but make one wonder what is exactly going on here. Though with his buddy Strahl now in charge of Canada’s Secret Service we may never know. Heck I could even disappear or be tagged as a radical dissident after this article is posted.

I am not anti-religious, I do believe in spirituality; the spark of energy every living thing on the planet possesses and that we all share. Most organised religions have made a lot of money and gained much power over the millennia trying to control that spark. Usually by making that spark of energy negative and flawed as it were born and the only way to bring light back into it is by sacrifice, devotion and fear of either one god or many gods. On the flip side, whatever belief system a person has to keep them feeling centered, their lives rewarding, fulfilled and honest is right for them, for the Canadian Charter of Rights protects the freedom of religion, but it also protects our rights of freedom from religion. This is one of the reasons Canada is such a diverse place, where no matter one’s personal religion or race, its live and let live.

But if a Republican evangelical belief system enters the Canadian Prime Minister’s office, we Canadians should know about it, and seriously consider “the virtues of democracy over theocracy.” Remember, everyone not within the republican evangelical tribe are the “lost people” or “the others”, especially if you happen to be disabled, elderly, poor or a veteran.

More frequently, the Harper government’s policies are going against most Canadian’s values, with the words irresponsible, unethical, blatant and arrogant being bandied about more than usual. Any programs for promotion of renewable energy and home-energy efficiency have been thrown to the wayside. Yet in reality, investing in renewable energy will create more jobs than the fossil fuel industry ever could and the investment would be highly likely to pay off, it has to, for survival’s sake. Unfortunately the Harper government is continuing to rely on our economics to grow their way out of the problem of climate change and  haven’t realized yet that it will be too little too late and will not work. The earth does not care about economics. Instead of dealing with the causes of climate change it seems the world’s leaders would rather “watch the ice melt and then divide up the spoils.”

The English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was often referred to as the “prince of paradox” for his prolific and diverse published works. He was a true radical, meaning he sought the root or origin of an issue, any issue and eventually became a Catholic to boot. Over seventy years ago he would write, “The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.” He felt government was going to operate in a way where, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected”, quite astute that Gilbert, I do say.

Meanwhile we Canadians have another three years with PM Stephen Harper as our country’s leader. The question of where does his ideas come from, whether from fellow Canadians or from God, needs to be asked. Is policy, especially towards the environment, really being motivated by religious faith over reason? But then whether religion is a factor in government policies or just plain old greed, they are both of the same cloth. It is being proven daily that the diffusion of aggressive social conservatism based on evangelical beliefs is impossible to keep out of politics here or in the States. The difference is in the States they are oblivious to how ignorant they are to their ignorance and in Canada we just don’t hear about it and simply don’t ask. As far as the media and Stephen Harper’s religious affiliation goes it’s been mum’s the word.

The vision of a conservative society, where the privileged few would rule but understand the responsibility that came with such power, of being accountable to all citizens, whether they be poor or not, and who would act only for the common good, was held by many great leaders over the past century. Since killing off some of these great leaders in the late 60’s, the new religion that has become termed “conservatism” has arose, widening even further the inequality of our society, ignorant to any responsibility to the people or the public good, and is ego maniacal, quasi-psychopathic and greedy.

What will our environment and society look like in three years? Will we have sold off most of our resources by then and continue to ignore extreme weather and a ravaged oil soaked land and sea, as our infrastructure crumbles around us, with too high food prices, more starvation and ill health?  Will most social programs once supplied by the government be gone and communities will be more on their own and somehow funding themselves instead? Will homosexuality once again become stigmatized, forbidden and eventually against the law like abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia and protest of any kind could very well be?  Will a new private prison corporation build more prisons to house people who were either caught or even suspected of smoking a joint? Perhaps more fines, impoundments, licence removal and in many cases, jobs lost, because there will be zero tolerance for drinking and driving, with the limit point oh oh. How far shall I go here? Switch over and start reading George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, all over again to verify how much truth and foresight both authors spoke? Especially Orwell’s notion of “doublethink”, which means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, which could be the Harper government’s problem believing in greed and God at the same time.

The Conservative right, on both sides of the border, may have abandoned truth and fact but we must not. The facts are the obligations to the things that matter in our lives, such as our health, meaningful work, family and our environment. One of the reasons our cultures are fracturing apart and decaying is because of our use of disengagement and distraction as an excuse for our ignorance; it is eating away at our souls. We continue to buy what corporate governments sell and lose value in the simple truth. While empathy, which has been taught over the past few decades as being “soft” and which is nearly extinct in many places, is actually as powerful as intelligence and knowing the facts in being a force with which to act. But we have been disengaged for so long we’ve forgotten how to drive standard.

First gear definitely has to be asking if indeed our future is being planned by ourselves and those who represent us or being dictated upon corporate ideology and make believe. Switching gears should be easier after that especially when more and more people realize that they are not alone. There are so many good things being done to better the planet and our lives, by many people, companies and yes, even a few corporations, the world over. Unfortunately the richest corporation’s ravenous quickening pace is leaving a diseased, spoiled wasteland behind.

I’d love to ask Stephen Harper; What if we destroy the ecosystems and non-human species of the planet, change the climate, melt the polar ice caps, acidify the oceans and rivers, use up all the earth’s resources and Jesus Christ does not arrive? No sign at all, no phone call, nothing, what then?

Ending this article as if I had included a drawing I did of Muhammad, I ask what of humanity in the scenario above? Would the laws that would have been put in place by then, which is not so far off as many think, be similar to the laws that became the Nuremberg Laws of Citizenship and Race, released in Germany in 1935, by the degenerate psychopathic Adolf Hitler? The first law of this doctrine is similar to many documents worldwide, though in this case “kindred blood” sort of curls one’s nose hairs. But say the word “Reich”, was replaced with the Harper Conservatives of Canada, if indeed influenced by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the word “German” perhaps replaced with Evangelical. This could be the new Charter of Rights they desperately seek. The Republicans in the States would fit the bill as well and we know what carrot they are blindly following.

“A citizen of the Reich may be only one who is of German or kindred blood, and who through his behaviour, shows that he is both desirous and personally fit to serve loyally the German people and the Reich.”

And so it began. More laws were to be added, starting with the simple banning of homosexuals, Jews and most all religions, foreigners, undesirables, the homeless and poor and elderly, writers, dissidents, thinkers, artists and many other “lost people”, whether man, woman or child. The banning would then become incarceration in work camps, with the final step being the Jewish issue, which was taken care of a few years later when Hitler attached another law, a Conservative Harper, omnibus type bill, which was called the “Final Solution” and after the smoke cleared, more than14 million people, 6 million of them Jews, had faced their Final Judgment and would die, because they were not members of his tribe.

Do we not bring up such past evils and horror; so that we can make sure they never happen again? This time though, the earth will soon be incapable of handling the human drama of our egos, the way we live, think and treat each other and it. We must not continue on being dismissive any longer or go “quietly into the night”. The Second Coming is nearing, but it’s got nothing to do with God and everything to do with us and our actions as a species today.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Further reading;

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/religions-fair-game-if-it-motivates-politics/article4450326/

http://www.macleans.ca/culture/lifestyle/article.jsp?content=20060220_121848_121848

 

08/29/12

Salesmen of Sport

With capitalistic bubbles stretched taut, economies and individuals staggering under debt, infrastructure rapidly falling apart and the legitimate rape of the planet continuing unabated and ignored, one of the distractions in a Canadian’s life, hockey, seems to be heading for another strike. Imagine that, individuals of the top 1 % arguing over how much more of the pie they can take. As of 2012, the average wage of a NHL hockey player for one season was $2.4 million, about $29,000 per game. In the real world $2.4 million equals someone making $48,000 per year for 50 years. Yes, wow.

Comparatively, the other major sports in North America that keep us preoccupied and distracted and who also possess an insatiable thirst for our hard earned dollars, the NBA, MLB and NFL, have combined revenues that are higher than most countries make in a year.

The numbers quoted in this article for any players cited as being one of the richest 100 athletes in the world include player salaries, bonuses, appearance fees, prize money and endorsements and licensing, just like any other corporate entity, because that’s what they are, ask them. These 100 players combined earnings last year was $26 billion.

The National Football League brings in revenue of about $9.5 billion a year and even though they generate the most money of all the pro leagues in the entire world, their players are the least paid at an average wage of $1.9 million a season. And yet as so happens, of the 100 richest athletes in the world, thirty of them are NFL players, the most from any sport.

Leading the way in the NFL is Peyton Manning who just recently signed with the Denver Broncos for $96 million over 5 years. For signing he was given a $6 million advance. Last season (2011) he did not play because of rehab from neck injury but his team at the time, the Indianapolis Colts still paid him his player’s wage of $32.4 million. Manning also made over $10 million in endorsements, making his combined earnings in 2011 $42.4 million. Manning is listed as the 10th richest athlete in the world, while on average the top ten players in the NFL are making upwards of $20 million per season.

NFL players get 47% of league revenues, but there are 1,696 of them, spread out over 32 teams, playing a 16 game season and perhaps a few playoff games. The NFL has the shortest average career span of the big leagues of only 3.3 years.

The Dallas Cowboys (#1 at $1.8 billion), Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and three other NFL teams are presently, some of the most valuable teams in the world of a combined worth of over $8 billion.

Yes the States has the over-hyped bling, attitude and 2 yard running plays of the NFL, but in Canada a superior game of football is being played, mostly because of a slightly different set of rules and character of player. The Canadian Football League is all about finesse, throwing the ball and the smoothness of the game as it is played out, mainly because a CFL team only has three downs to get 10 yards and a first down so you have to make things happen, while in the NFL they get four kicks at the can to get 10 yards, conveniently allowing lots of time-spots for advertisers. There are only eight teams in the CFL, with 42 players per team, 19 of which may be imports, plus 4 players in reserve, playing 18 games and a few playoff games if lucky and they’ve been working hard. League revenues each year are between $120 and $150 million, with each team having a salary cap of $4.3 million. Playing wages go from league minimum of $43,000 per season to the quarterbacks on each team, who make the most at $250,000 to $400,000 per season. The average CFL player makes about $82,000 per season and the average career span is about three to four years.

Major League Baseball has revenues in the $7.7 billion range, the second richest pro league in the world. With 30 teams and 750 players who play a 162 game season and a few playoff games, the average wage of a player is $3.31 million per season, while the average career span in baseball is about 6 years. Twenty-one baseball players make up the world’s 100 richest athletes, with fourteen of them making more than $20 million per season. And then there is Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.

In 2000 and playing for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez signed the largest sports contract in history, a ten-year deal worth $252 million. In 2004 he was traded to the New York Yankees and in 2007 he opted out of what the Rangers had still been paying him, and what they still owed, by signing a deal with the Yankees for $275 million over ten years and breaking a new record for sports contracts, the record being his previous deal with the Rangers. Since he started playing major league baseball in 1994 Rodriguez has made over $296 million, with his teammate Derek Jeter, playing since 1995, having over $220 million in career earnings. Rodriguez’s current annual playing wage is $30 million. Meanwhile, his team, the Yankees, had a 2012 team payroll of over $198 million and is the third highest valued sports franchise in the world, at $1.7 billion.

Even though they are the second richest pro league in the world, MLB is also the most regional of all major sports and is strictly and truly, America’s game. And lord knows, especially today, they desperately need the distraction and the emotion the game brings to them and are obviously still willing to pay for it.

Though actually attending a pro game is far above what most people can afford because the arenas will soon be filled with corporate boxes, we do have bars and TV. Instead of actually going to a game and spending a hundred or more bucks, if you’re lucky to find a ticket, we can buy a $200 team jersey with someone else’s name on the back, go to the pub and spend another $50 on pints and a burger, with friends.

Over on the hard court, the average wage of a player in the National Basketball League is $5.5 million per season, making them the highest paid players of the major sports leagues. Indeed, only thirteen NBA players are in the top 100 richest because there’s so many of them right behind them. The NBA has only 450 players, on 30 teams which play 82 games and if hope willing, have a long playoffs to endure. The average career in the NBA is about six years.

The average player earns about $67,000 per game. League revenues in 2011 were $3.6 billion, of which nearly 56% went to player salaries. The elite players are earning anywhere from $10 to $15 million per season, Kobe Bryant is the highest paid basketball player at $20 million per season playing for the LA Lakers. He also is paid $32 million from endorsements, making his 2011 income in the $52 million range. Lebron James of the Miami Heat meanwhile made more overall money than Bryant, with $13 million in players’ wages and $40 million in endorsements, totaling $53 million, he also now owns a stake in the English League, Liverpool Soccer Club.

Bryant and James were both on the US Olympic Basketball team, their games as exciting as the Canadian Olympic Women’s Hockey team beating yet another opponent 16-2.

Ah, finally back to the good old game of hockey. There are no NHL players amongst the 100 richest athletes of the world and considering a very recent poll suggesting Canada could support another 3 NHL teams, hockey is truly Canada’s game.

The National Hockey League made $3.2 billion in 2011-12, a 50% increase over the past 7 years. Currently the players receive 57% of revenues, with the owners taking 43%, though as I’m writing this article, the players union and the league are at an impasse at meetings to renew their contract, mainly concerning economic issues. If no deal is made by Sept15th the players will be locked out. The player’s side would like to see an increase of $100 million to $250 million for a subsidy fund which goes to teams who can’t afford to pay their players and are struggling in shitty markets, such as the successful operations in Phoenix, Arizona, two teams in Florida and one in Carolina. To keep these teams and others, competitive, they must be subsidized by the other team owners to do so.

The players union has also said they would be willing to have a hard salary cap in place and are willing to take less than 57% of revenues for 3 years, maybe 54%. The NHL is countering with the players receiving 43% of League revenues and the owners getting a 25% raise. The League would also like to end long-term contracts with their front end loaded deals, such as those being signed over the past few months by their very selves, and that the same amount is paid each season of that contract, which would also have a 5 year cap on its length, forthwith.

Like kids in the sandbox, the owners have the bucket that the players shovel money into and the players who have the shovel are refusing to play any more if they can’t have their share, with the owners wanting a bigger share and if they don’t get it they’ll take both the bucket and the shovel and go home in a pout, it gives me a headache. Collectively the players make more money than all the CEO’s and owners who hire them and individually make far more in one season than what 80% of the planet will make in a lifetime.

As mentioned earlier, the average NHL player’s wage is $2.4 million per season, with thirty teams carrying 690 players, playing 82 regular season games. This year each team has a $59.4 million salary cap. The playoffs are four rounds of best of sevens, with the champion team having to win 16 games, playing a maximum of 42 games over nearly two months to achieve it. The Stanley Cup is mutually agreed upon as being one of the hardest physically and mentally challenging championships to attain in team sports. Yet in North America, out of all the major team sports, NHL hockey is the lowest rated sport. The average career in the NHL is five years, though 50% of all NHL players play less than 100 games.

The two highest paid players this past season, both earning $10 million were Roberto Luongo, currently of the Vancouver Canucks and Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luongo signed a new deal with the Canucks in 2010-11, a 12 year $64 million contract, which paid him $10 million this past season and then pays $6.7 million each year after. Lecavalier signed his front-end loaded deal in 2008, an 11 year $85 million contract. The top NHL players meanwhile, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin each make $9 million a season. Tied for sixth richest contracts in the NHL are Chris Drury and Scott Gomez at $8 million per season each, which is sad considering since signing such huge deals years ago, both have either been injured or inept and ineffective when they have played.

The average NHL franchise’s worth is about $228 million. Toronto, NY Rangers, Canadians, Red Wings, Philly and Boston are all valued at more than $300 million, while Nashville, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Phoenix are valued at $150 million. Two teams, representing both ends of the scale, were sold during the 2011-12 season. Tampa Bay was sold for $93 million; the Canadians were sold for $575 million.

Besides the pro North American sports teams and athletes already mentioned, many of the richest players in the world are in individual sports. The boxer, Floyd Mayweather, is the richest athlete in the world. From June2011 to June 2012 he fought twice. The first fight he made $40 million, the second he pulled in $45 million, for a total of $85 million. I say this with a pure white cat on my lap which I am stroking and a pinkie finger touching the side of my mouth. Total time in the ring for Mayweather was less than an hour. Besides being his own fight promoter and having no need to endorse anybody other than himself he made no outside endorsement money.

The second richest athlete in the world is also a boxer, Manny Pacquaio, who made $56 million fighting and $6 million on endorsements. Number three, surprisingly, is golfer Tiger Woods. He made $4.4 million golfing and $55 million from Nike. The combined, $59.4 million is half of what he made in 2009. He would have made more, but after his wife attacked the car he was driving with a five-iron because he was following his little head around, he lost sponsors Tag Heuer and Gillette. Woods’ net worth as of 2010 is $500 million.

After #4 Lebron James, is the tennis player, Roger Federer, whose total earnings were $52.7 million, $7.7 million in winnings and $45 million on endorsements. #6 is Kobe Bryant, then golfer Phil Mickelson, who made $4.8 million for golfing and another $43 million on endorsements. Eight and nine are the soccer players David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is the highest paid soccer player in the world, but Beckham made more on endorsements. Beckham’s salary to play soccer was $9 million, with endorsements of $37 million. To-date he has made over $260 million in his career. Ronaldo on the other hand was paid $20.5 million to play soccer and made another $22 million on endorsements.

Soccer is actually the world’s third richest pro sport, behind the NFL and MLB. The franchise, Manchester United, is the second most valuable sports team in the world at $1.86 billion, followed closely by Real Madrid and Arsenal, both at over $1 billion each.

The tenth highest paid athlete is Peyton Manning and right behind him is another soccer player, Lionel Messi, with $20 million in playing salary and $19 million on endorsements.

Other notables, who are leading their respective sports in earnings and are included in the top 100 richest include, Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso with total earnings of $32 million, Valentino Rossi earning $30 million racing motorcycles and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the highest paid cricket player in the world earning over $26.5 million. One of only two women players on the list is tennis player, Maria Sharapova, the 26th richest athlete in the world, earning $27.9 overall earnings. The other woman is also a tennis player, Li Na, at #81.

Interestingly enough and at first a surprise, Usain Bolt is one of the richest athletes in the world besides of course being the fastest human on the planet. Bolt is the 63rd richest athlete with only, at least compared to this surreal world we are walking through in this article, $300,000 in prize money, appearance fees etc, but he makes over $20 million in endorsements, Puma pays him $9 million alone.

Basically, the top twenty-five paid athletes in the world are making in excess of $30 million per year, roughly the same as someone making 60 grand a year for 500 years, yes, five hundred years. There are no hockey players on the richest list, though they still make very, very good coin. And there are no rugby players, who average around $50,000 per season, with the top class players making $300,000 per and the elite, $500,000 plus. Also not on the list are the hundreds of millions of people, who are playing for the love of the game, whatever that game may be.

While back on earth, in Aug. 2012, over 20% of the United States population, 66 million Americans and each representing a family of four, made about $28,800 last year. Comparatively, over 80% of working Canadians are making less than $48,000 per year.

There you have it, at least inquisitively. The sheer wealth and the representative numbers so far mentioned makes my head spin. But then athletes are only one part of our distracting celebrity culture and always have been, with the question always being, how much of the integrity of the richest athletes in the world and their ilk, such as corporate CEO’s, movie stars, rappers and rock stars, is left after withstanding the demands, pressures and greed to make even more money. There are many who are wealthy and still show glimpses of empathy, they appreciate what they’ve got and they make an effort to give back, though never as much as they could afford. What they all share is that they understand what they do is strictly business.

Others are taken over by the voices in their head, the whispers in their ears and they simply can’t help themselves. What once was and who they really are is gone, reshaped, forgotten and not even allowed by their status and class, they’ve sold their souls. Enough will never be enough and eventually many simply stop caring.

A celebrity’s job is twofold; they help us endure while our society goes through controlled collapses and the more the situation deteriorates the more grandiose, fictional and contrived the spectacle of the arena becomes, whether in a stadium, boardroom, on a screen or upon a field. Personal dramatics become the agony, the defeat and the winning with tears of joy and chest of pride, while fiction eventually erases what is natural, genuine and spontaneous; and they are the faces and hawkers of goods for corporate society and the gods of consumerism.

We admire our stars because of three things, how much money they make, what they do and we wish it were us. We live our lives through them and the maybe couple of hours we spend watching them we can hopefully forget about the real world, perhaps even hoping for some inspiration. Our celebrities show us that we can triumph and get to the top of the world, often just so we can give a finger to those who thumbed their noses at us or belittled us at one time and we act and are able to extract revenge on something or someone. Or become a hero and save the day by overcoming much pain and hardship. These storylines run through most all that happens on television, in movies, sports, business and politics. But in reality, for a vast majority of people, they never happen.

I’ve coached young hockey players who besides talking their parents into buying them $200 high-tops so that they could be cooler, get them to pay for a $200 stick, which breaks at their next practise, and $400 skates, both believing they’ll make the kid a better hockey player. This is the other side of the celebrity’s job; to be the “human representation of commercial commodities.” Most of the world’s richest athletes make more money from endorsements than from their playing wage, the numbers are obscene. They’ve become salesmen for materials we don’t need or can’t afford and they personally don’t seem to have a problem with that and no matter how much the planet sickens and deteriorates around them they relentlessly ask us to spend more, to support them so that they can make even more money.

To underscore this article, I’d like to end it with a paragraph listing some of the corporations who gave the aforementioned richest athletes millions of dollars to sell their products for them. They predominately target people that have money or credit, children, those whose religious belief leans toward consumerism, those who believe there is no such thing as climate change and those who smile and say everything will be all right as long as everyone sticks to the status quo. The list is what our heroes and our children’s heroes want us to purchase, even though in reality none of these products define us, or at least they shouldn’t. Materialism is never ending, never enough, like allowing the voices in our heads to go on and on and on, like the band on the Titanic, until we eventually slip beneath the waves.

Nike, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Haagen-Dazs, Hennessy, Hewlett-Packard, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, State Farm Insurance, Rolex, the Nike Jordan brand (over $1 billion in sales each year),Wilson, Credit Suisse, Exxon, Amgen/Pfizer (pharmaceuticals), Burger King, Samsung, Castrol, Reebok, Sony, Wheaties, DirectTV, Gatorade, PepsiCo, Dolce, AT@T, Adidas, Kia Motors, Bacardi, Quaker State, Rawlings, Range Rover, Toyota, Shell, Kraft Foods, Tag Heuer, Verizon Wireless, Gillette, General Electric, Head and Shoulders, Pepperidge Farms, Vita CoCo, Ford, Goodyear, Subway, RBC, Polo/Ralph Lauren, MusclePharm, EA Sports, Jeep, Pennzoil and Toshiba.

 

 

Highest-Paid Athletes 2012 – World’s Richest Athletes ‹ The Richest People In The World 2012

 

 

08/11/12

Dazed and Confused

“There must be some kinda way out of here.

Said the joker to the thief.

There’s too much confusion.

I can’t get no relief”

All Along the Watchtower – lyrics by Bob Dylan

After writing the four Oh Canada, where art thou going articles I felt drained, perhaps confused. Maybe it was the weight of too much information. Or the fact that the current political system in most capitalistic/democratic countries, including my own, is truly broken, with the world now being run rough-shod by a shockingly small number of transnational corporations and few hundred individuals doing what they will with the planet and its inhabitants. While at the same time many of us plead ignorance. The confusion I felt, altered something in me and made me remember what mostly affects our lives happens at the community level and not on the other side of the planet. But then I realized, holy cow, my community and more specifically my tribe is just as confused as I am.

On the federal level in Canada and after an election, we have no more say in any decisions made by that government, basically the same at the provincial level, who also make their own decisions without any public consultation, with their often times wrong and misguided decisions felt by all except themselves. While on the community level is where we live our daily lives.

On our streets, in our homes, at our workplace, where we buy our food, raise our children, where we meet with friends and where we share our lives with a loved one is what is important to our lives. What affects us the most is the environment, how clean the water is out of the tap, what are the conditions of our communities’ infrastructure and how safe are our streets, most all of our needs are met within the community we live in.

Politics on the community level, in most cases is working. If a municipal’s council comes up with something that many in the community feels strongly about, the town or city hall fills up pretty quick at the next week’s meeting. But reality dictates that councils are also often influenced by the local business community, small groups of usually retired teachers and other very politically correct individuals. Citizens who believe it is their civic duty to make their community safer but perform with such fervor that this type of over the top justified involvement most often becomes invasive involvement. They become hall monitors and snitches, always on the lookout for that one small thing a fellow citizen does that the police or city council might be interested in.

Technology seems to be opening up transparency and on the whole, at least at the town or city level there is still a degree of accountability. We live in the same community with those elected; their kids go to the same school as our kids. We get people into government by voting for them, supposedly to speak on our behalf. And only at the community level can you speak your behalf to the elected member of your community face to face and personal.

Of course this all breaks down the bigger the community, town or city is because those on council are humans and once they believe they have power over others and are becoming increasingly wealthy compared to their neighbours, they will move away and their kids will attend private schools. Scientific American and Psychological Science have both shown and have proven that the wealthier a person becomes the less empathy they have for people unlike themselves. They become much more focused on self and that such a level of self interest of course promotes wrongdoing and unethical behaviour. While the true psychopaths, if defined as individuals whose brains do not register stressful feelings when they observe harms on others, who are most likely to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain and who represent less than one per-cent of humanity while possessing more net worth than the bottom 90% combined, are the puppet masters and running the show.

So anyways, I’ve decided to focus my articles more on the community level. This came about because of two things: a community project I assisted with and the fact I just took a week off and travelled through some very cool little communities around nearby Puget Sound in the States. With an open mind, a willingness to always talk and with a friendly and inquisitive nature I’ve met many people over the past week. And you know what? Most people do know the current way of things is askew and wrong on many levels, but their lives take up all their time and though realized or not, the simple human interaction we have within our tribes, the thirty to forty people we come into contact with daily or at least once a week face to face, is what makes up nearly every moment of our lives. For this is where humanness resides.

The community project needed a dozen people to volunteer to work as a team, by using each one of our specific traits and experience to bring the project to fulfilment. Many in the group had obviously stepped out of their routine and you know what? They craved it, egos were not evident, and everyone was engaged in the moment and enjoyed the feeling of being a part of something far bigger than they themselves individually. It made us happy.

Happy is a funny thing. We consume, earn and spend, often times even when we can’t even afford it, forever chasing down some false and misguided happiness. Yet within our individual worlds, deep down, the level of respect and admiration from friends, families, peers and communities determines a human’s happiness, not wealth, economic status or overall success, while food, sex and water simply keep us alive.

We each would hope to be an engaged, trusted, generous and accepted member of our individual groups. Indeed within our local hierarchies the individuals with such traits hold a higher status among the group. And if truth were to be told, where we stand with those whom we live our lives alongside and the acceptance and respect earned from them makes us happier, regardless of our wealth or fame.

Volumes of reports and studies on happiness all clearly show that feeling respected and admired as a human can cause our happiness to increase and being happier makes those around you happier, thus overall happiness increases. Meanwhile, it’s also been proven time after time and over the eons that just feeling rich or feeling above others, one’s feeling of happiness does not increase. We should know this, you think?

Seriously I don’t see much happy these days. The smiles are there but the eyes aren’t smiling. There are days lately where I feel I’m either going nuts or I’m just noticing we’re all nuts. It seems everyone is questioning, whether it be our lives, relationships or jobs. There’s also a lot of denial out there, even with reality gobsmacking us in the face. We are all agog with far too much information, looking more zombie-like with a thousand yard stare and either a stupid little grin stuck on our face or in most cases just a permanent scowl, with everyone seemingly so pissed off.

Personally, I get excited when I sense change in the air. But lately it’s getting rather thick, with information exponentially increasing in speed and volume it is now far more than we can absorb.  It’s not even subtle anymore, this struggle we are having over our subjectivity, our inner reality, and how we define our needs.  If change is dealt with an honest apprehension of one’s situation and without cynicism, it can only be proactive, but our avoidance of doing so will only create tragedy.

Communities are being affected by change the hardest because it is where we actually live and because of the trickle-down effect from the top of greed, oily slime and the oppressive nature of capitalism and consumerism. Yes capitalism creates new ideas, but its goal is to intensify consumerism, even when it is no longer affordable for the average humanoid, and it does so with no ecological or moral principles. Advertisers have shaped our attitudes, what we taste, see, hear, smell and feel. Our car and clothes we are told are what defines us. And yes we have unlimited information and technology at hand, because it’s been put there before us to purchase to keep us busy and entertained, while we lose control of the world out on our streets. This happens oddly enough because we think we have freedom, no rights, but we say we are free and safe. We’ve given up far too much just to think we live in a safe and wonderful environment. Our idea of what normal is and what is sane, decent and patriotic has sucked our soul’s dry, while each day we desperately try not to notice that the systems running our societies outside our front doors are terribly broken. It’s like we don’t trust ourselves anymore. The weathers fine, no it is not. Equal rights, excuse me? There will always be jobs for anyone willing to work we are told, nope not no more, because there are simply too many of us. Our senses are numbed daily by a myriad of means, we are all self medicating in some way.

Most of us are seeing the same things, the same stories, yet we are coming to different interpretations. Everything that is said or done is becoming being taken the wrong way. People are offended very easily these days, always “put out”. Trying to prove their point is whatever they say it is by their level of indignation. Trust and respect seems to have been replaced with fear and blame. Any truths and realities are argued and often denied because of a two minute sound bite of only a few dozen words announced on any mainstream news stream that they had heard, seen or read. So much of what we say amongst others is misinterpreted and questioned. We are realizing the deteriorating situation of our lives, individual world-views and the planet, and it is scaring the hell out of us. The scariest is the realization that things have gotten so out of hand yet we allowed ourselves to be distracted while it went on and we are confused by the realization that many aspects of our lives have somehow become beyond our control. It seems all that is left is denial and rage.

Grasping reality can sometimes be painful but rarely does anyone die or lose an eye over it and a change in behaviour does not necessarily always mean mental illness, but could be perceived as a type of societal shell shock. It’s as though one doesn’t know what to believe anymore. Not knowing if one should accept the reality of our lives; where not everyone is a drunk driver, murder (at least here in Canada) is rare, there is no such thing as the perfect family, we all have mental illnesses, and the majority of the population will experience violence only on the screen, thousands of times and all different ways. Or we can keep acknowledging and swallowing the steady stream of propaganda shoved down our throats and which assault on our senses on a daily basis.

Changes are happening that are far too fast for the mind to comprehend and weigh their implications, because reflection has been ignored and tossed aside when the television entered our worlds and became the center of our universes. The people that are getting off of their addiction to the aptly nick-named boob tube are often times awakening to find themselves embarrassed for their blindness and ignorance. I was.

But then that is what a capitalistic system creates, class stratification; along with racism, prejudice and feelings amongst the majority of people of powerlessness, unfocussed rage and shame. These frustrations are then controlled by developed compulsions and self indulgences which displace such frustrations. While the majority slave away at their lives the few at the top snicker away that so many have fallen for the propaganda. They do not snicker fearlessly though for they dread and pray the majority do not become pissed off and develop such insolence as standing up and saying enough is enough.

The less people who instead of simply stepping outside and being aware of what the environment is doing, are told what the weather and other people’s lives are doing via a seemingly drunk on caffeine and themselves, boob tube personality with a painted on smile, the better. The less people who still think the world is gumdrops and lollipops the better as well.

Nearly everyone I know is questioning something in their lives. What was once right or wrong doesn’t necessarily mean right or wrong anymore. We seem to have been programmed but are now trying to shake the cobwebs out. Whether because of our parents, peers or mainstream media, what we once believed good is now bad and vice versa. People are not dealing with their shattered dream so well I fear. One of the reasons for this is that too many of us are still living in the past and so very scared of the future, with many of us still hung up over things that happened years and decades ago. Yet all it takes to create positive change in one’s life is relentless struggle to keep a greater self awareness of the present. Most mistakes I have made and continue to make, happen whenever I’m not listening or not aware of the moment nor focused on the task at hand.

It seems ladies and gentlemen we have also somehow lost our empathy, equal rights and traditions. If we were electrical, which in part we are, we’re blowing fuses, experiencing black and brown outs, and disconnecting all over the place. The promise of more open communication through texting and tweetering is actually creating the opposite. Someone once said our generation has at hand, more information and technology than at any time in history, yet we have somehow become the stupidest.

It does not have to continue. All it takes is taking one step forward instead of leaning out of a sofa for the remote. Stepping away from mundane routine and habitual thought that keep us away from taking such a step, for the majority of folk, seems to be the scariest part. It is but being engaged in your world. It’s hard work being aware of each moment and is sometimes forgotten or ignored for hours or days at a time, but it must never be given up on. The only place the ego does not dwell or like, is when their host is living in the present moment. This is where true change happens.

Another step forward could be finally finding out your neighbours name and taking some pride in your community. Not so proud? Do something about it and get others to help you. It’s like if you want a responsible, trusted, smart and goofy child, you as a parent should be responsible, trusted, smart and goofy. You don’t agree to how we’re ravaging the planet and ourselves, speak up, create change and better yourself. Go to a municipal council meeting one night. Once a year spend the fifteen minutes or so and vote. Know who you are voting for. The community you live in is not your living room or house, its outside on the street. The people you meet each day are your community and this is where we can make a difference for the better. Don’ be intimidated by the media and corporate propaganda, no one owns the Earth. At the same time we must stop fouling our own nests, the rest of the animal kingdom are shaking their heads in disgust laughing at us and crying at the same time.

Let us not be souls who instead of dying peacefully, aware and grateful, it will be the tragic; sitting up from one’s deathbed after your life had just flashed before your eyes and very sadly gasping “Oh shit”. Overwhelmed with regret and guilt, thinking of all the things one should of, would of and could have done. Rueing all the differences in one’s life, in other’s lives and in their own worlds, that could have been made. And then slowly laying your head back down upon the pillow and allowing your last breath to escape from within. With finality perhaps asking ourselves if we had made a difference that we had lived or we had never made a difference and it was of no concern to anyone whether we had lived at all.

To paraphrase the humanist and writer, Eckhart Tolle, “The greatest achievement of humanity is not art, science or technology, but will be the recognition of its own dysfunction, our collective madness,” and dealing with it.

 

 

07/24/12

The Garage Sale of Canada

I’m minding my own business, inquisitively searching the web for information pertaining to community instead of the sheer madness and reeking greed happening at the top. Have been thinking about my daily life and not the “big picture”, more about the community in which I reside and those who make up my circle of friends and loved ones. Writing the last few articles made me turn my head a bit and I saw what appeared to be a trail running alongside the road my writing takes me.

After ducking under a couple of low slung limbs of Fir and squeezing past some bushes, I took its path and for a week, met and encountered people and places, wrote and loved a lot of moments, each one fully engaged. It is a path I’ll stay on for awhile for it’s got a good vibe to it. It’s all about community; because this is where changes can be made of things that affect us the most. The following path will be less taken for awhile.

But suddenly, because no matter how hard you need to get out, something sucks you back in. I ran across an article about another foreign corporation buying off another piece of Canada and thought wow, is there going to be anything left? And how much have we already sold off? As it is, thirty-six sectors of the Canadian economy is majority foreign owned, including the chemical industry, rubber industry, computer industry and the petroleum industry. Zero sectors in US are majority foreign owned. The following is but a smattering of what I found.

July 2012. A Chinese government controlled corporation, The China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC Ltd.), purchases the Calgary-based oil and gas firm Nexen Inc. (Canada’s 12th largest energy company) for $15.1 billion US cash. If the deal goes through it will be the largest foreign transaction that the Chinese government has ever made. The Canadian government and Nexen’s shareholders will have to approve the deal, by deciding whether the deal will be a “net benefit” to Canada. Interestingly enough, Nexen’s CEO, Marvin Romanow and executive vice-president Gary Nieuwenburg, stepped down from their positions in January.

Last year, CNOOC Ltd. bought the oil sands development company, OPTI Canada, which was under credit protection, for $2.1 billion. OPTI owned the other third of the Long Lake oil sands project that Nexen didn’t.

Since 2005, CNOOC has invested over $2.8 billion in various Canadian projects, including stakes in MEG Energy Inc. and a 60 per cent interest in Northern Cross (Yukon) Ltd. and have a firm foothold in the oil sands, also owning interests in Syncrude, Athabasca Oil Sands and Penn West Energy corporations.

July 2012. Calgary-based Talisman Energy sells a 49 per cent interest in its UK division to the Chinese state-controlled Sinopec Corp. for $1.5 billion. Sinopec is the same corporation which paid $2 billion last year, to buy the Alberta oil and gas firm Daylight Energy and back in Sept 2008, as the bubble burst in most democratic countries, they purchased Vancouver/Calgary based Tanganyika Oil for another $2 billion. They are also one of the biggest investors in the Enbridge pipeline.

July 2012. Swiss-based Glencore International PLC pays $6.1 billion to take over Viterra Inc., a Regina-based agribusiness. Deal to be completed after a review by regulators in China, Australia and New Zealand, where Viterra has operations.

June 2012. Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company, Petronas, offers $5.5 billion to buy out Progress Energy Resource Corp., their Canadian partner in northeastern BC gas fields.

The natural gas facilities in Kitimat, to be completed by 2017, are owned by Dutch Shell, Korea Gas Corp. and PetroChina Co. Ltd.

February 2011. PetroChina, the state-owned international oil and gas, corporation, buys 50% partnership with Encana Corporation, in deep shale gas development in northeastern BC and northwest Alberta.

In the last two years over 77 Canadian technology firms have been sold to foreign companies, mostly American. Because, as entrepreneur John Philip Green says, although there are “a lot of great stories to be told, a lot of people working really hard, really smart people doing world beater stuff, the biggest obstacle to being the next RIM (Research In Motion) is just that people sell out so quickly.”

San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, a leader in business software, purchased the Canadian companies Goinstant, the Toronto software company, Rypple and Fredericton-based Radian6, which specializes in digital marketing. Larger U.S. companies acquired Vancouver’s Singular Software, Ottawa’s Headwall Software and Halifax’s GoInstant. Toronto’s Scriptlance was bought out by the largest company in its field, the outsourcing and crowd-sourcing marketplace, Freelancer.com, which is based in Australia.

Brazilian mining giant Vale acquires Toronto-based Inco, the world’s second-largest nickel producer company, for $19.4 billion in 2007.

U.K.’s Rio Tinto takes over mining and aluminum company Alcan in a $38-billion US deal in 2007

Swiss company Xstrata acquires Toronto-based copper and nickel mining company Falconbridge in a 2006 deal that values the company at approximately $24.1 billion.

US Steel Corp. takes over Canadian steel-maker Stelco in 2007. The federal government sued US Steel after it said the company failed to live up to promise it made to maintain investment in Canada. A settlement was reached in December 2011 under which US Steel will maintain Canadian operations until at least 2015 and make a further investment of $40.7 million.

Graphics chipmaker, ATI Technologies based in Markham, Ont., is acquired by the US company, Advanced Micro Devices, in October 2006 in a deal valued at $5.6 billion US.

The Caterpillar Inc. takeover of locomotive builder Electro-Motive in London, Ont., in 2010 is questioned when Caterpillar closes the plant permanently in February 2012, after failing to obtain demands workers accept pay cuts as deep as 50 per cent.

Besides being the biggest purchaser at Canada’s garage sale, China is also our second biggest trading partner, behind the US. In 2011 Canada exported $16.3 billion worth of merchandise to China and imported more than $48 billion. We export commodities and natural resources, such as raw logs, and paper products, with 25% of what we export being the minerals nickel, copper and potash. And of course we will soon be exporting fantastic amounts of oil and natural gas.

We import from China more than three times what we export because of our thirst for appliances, electrical equipment, toys, clothing, rubber and plastics. Selling our natural resources for manufactured goods in return makes the trade relationship between China and Canada highly unusual says Gordon Betcherman, a professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. “It’s a weird trade pattern. It’s exactly the pattern you would expect to see between a rich, developed country and a much poorer developing country – except it’s exactly flipped.”

 

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/06/19/f-canada-china-trade.html

 

06/19/12

1st Period of Oh Canada, where art thou going?

There was so much relative information researched for this article it nearly overwhelmed me. Reading it may very well overwhelm you. Verbose it would have been. So because it is about Canada and I am a Canadian I will treat it like a hockey game and I will release it one period at a time.

We are on one bench while on the other is Harper and his yes-men, at least the ones that can skate. He seems to be their best player, while many of his teammates appear to be playing through multiple concussions, do not speak, and just nod a lot. Many of their friends have flown in from overseas to watch and be pampered in the luxury boxes. Most all of the filled arena is rooting for us, but not all seem happy, as it’s very noticeable that our team has too many self entitled players on it. They either stay out too long on their shift, hogging up ice time, are always trying the same fancy pants pretty move trying to score the perfect goal or are cocky to their teammates, thinking their skates or stick is the best, because it costs more and therefore they are a better player. Some of our players are even going out and just looking to throw the big check or immediately wanting to drop the gloves. We lose three players to this in the first period alone. As a whole we know we will probably lose, but a few of us are still giving our best. Going into the corners, outracing an opponent to the puck, getting to the ugly spots in front of their net, playing for the love of the game, while a few on the team feel that if they are going to lose they hope they at least look good doing it.

We are a team of typical humans, overwhelmed by peer pressure, too much information and share a primitive instinct, which is the same impulse for birds to flock, cows to herd and insects to swarm. An inbred impulse that takes in information and then responds to such information without being aware of why we act in such a way. While most all of us tend to be oblivious to the impact of decisions made by those around us, yet we are powerfully affected by what is influencing us, which many times we do not even recognize. We just do it. As we will, because we are a team.

The Harper team owns the referees, timekeepers and the arena, as it is, they dropped the puck when we were still getting prepared in the dressing room. So the game starts and we are already behind six goals, all scored by Harper. But we are Canadian and we’ve got game, playing our game. The period will end 12 to 2, our two goals given to us because the Harper team thought it’d prevent us from throwing our sticks away in disgust, leaving the ice surface and getting undressed and going for a beer because, well we have to work tomorrow. Wise move on their part, hell most of us still think we are in the game, even though for most of the first period we have had a minimum of one player in the penalty box for one mandatory infraction after another.  Though both the crowd and our team do not believe their eyes and ears, we go through the motions, only focusing on getting the game over with and hopefully with no one getting hurt. The game continued.

The Harper Government is under the misguided notion that all Canadians worry about are jobs and the economy. Forgetting that we also care about the democratic process, protecting the environment, social justice and accountability, international co-operation and taking care of the poor and most disadvantaged.  While corporate sponsored media tries to keep us distracted with stories in which nightmares are made of and we find are hard to contemplate, we often times lose our perspective. Most of the programming from the media, especially TV, is not normal; in fact most of us go about our lives in civilized, peaceful ways. What we are often seeing on the news is not the norm in our lives and is actually very rare in society.

No matter what PM Harper thinks, the fundamental facts are; the economy will do what the economy will do regardless of whether the government is Conservative or Liberal and yes, what happens beyond our borders does dictate our economic fate and with a voting system that allows 40 per cent of the 60 per cent who voted, or 24 per cent of eligible voters to decide on a government, who get the majority of seats, including a Senate which panders to their wishes, with the country run mostly by one man in the Prime Minister’s office, is not a democratic country at all.

There has been, and will be, much change in how things will be done in Canada. But it is being fed piecemeal to us in a gradual repression. Sort of like baby steps. For many of us, each new bit of information appears, and after first wondering if it be true or false, builds up upon the last one. And after time it can and does wear us down, as we are busy enough handling our own day to day worlds and making them count hopefully. Any person who stands and walks can certainly stride faster than little baby steps, unfortunately the banking and financial world’s baby steps are quickening, but with the global web so are we. We are on their tail knowing where they are headed and yet they are frantically tossing out chafe and shiny things to keep us distracted. Much of the population is buying in to the ruse but then at the same time I feel, many are not.

Distraction comes from many directions; the childlike awe we have for celebrity, the fear of being overwhelmed by either communism, Mexican drug lords, numerous crazed Arabs, the war on drugs or our neighbours, the multiple murderer or molester of the week, and to be someone one, one must purchase stuff.  Many are stressing out about how they are constantly reminded that they must be consumers yet reality makes this not possible anymore. Distraction keeps us from thinking too much about what we are really stressing about, what we’ve always stressed about; clean water, food and sex and where can we get it. For instance, in 2006 pornography revenues topped $97 billion, annual sales in the United States was $10 billion alone.  The $97 billion was more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, e-bay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink combined.

And finally, on many levels, faith and reason seem to be shaking the living daylights out of the celebration of life, with too many disconnects going off for us to handle. As far as reason goes, it is dangerously lacking and so very desperately needed, because reason is mindfulness, reflection, introspection, contemplation, and musing, pondering, rhetorical and literary ways of thinking. But we do not have the time for such things as thinking.

But hark the herald angels sing; let’s get back to the game and what’s happening in Canada, my home and native land.

Actions listed below are baby steps of the Canadian government, decisions that are being made “for all Canadians” and starting just after Mr. Harper was first elected in 2006. The folly seems a continuous stream, because it is, it’s all connected.

The top polluters in North America and the World, in 2006, were fossil fuel power plants, oil and gas extraction operations, primary metal manufacturing, metal mining and chemicals manufacturing. These industries were responsible for 72% of the 5.7 billion kilograms in toxic pollution that was released into the North American environment at that time. Of this total amount Canada was the source of about 37 % of it. Alberta and Toronto accounted for 8 of the top 10 emitters of pollution in Canada, including the Vale Inco Copper Cliff smelter complex in Sudbury Ontario, the Nanticoke coal-fired power generating station in Ontario and two oil-sands facilities in Alberta, Syncrude and Suncor. Five waste-water facilities in Ontario were among the top ten sources of surface water pollution, along with two municipal facilities in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Edmonton.

2008. The Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was passed by the UN General Assembly, 143 to 4. Against were the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The province of British Columbia’s 2008 budget included the rising of subsides paid to oil and gas companies, $50 million to $327 million, with oil, gas, aluminum and cement producers exempt from any Carbon tax. The $220 million of Capitol Tax paid by financial institutions was also eliminated. Meanwhile BC’s child poverty rate is the worst in Canada, the forests and wild salmon stocks are in crisis and the manufacturing sector is disappearing.  BC does not export so much lumber, chairs and tables anymore; they simply export the whole tree itself, raw.

April 2009. Federal government spends $14 million on trying to find out what ex-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did with $225,000.

From 2009 to the present day; the continuing deregulation of food inspection, especially for meat, with cuts to number of inspectors of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, an ongoing operation.

Before the financial meltdown in Sept. 2008, 22,674 federal public servants received more than $100,000 per year; by Sept 2010 it had nearly doubled to 42,050 public servants making more than $100,000 per year.

As to the war on terror and because it is supposed to be one of our perceived fears, how’s it going anyways?  Since 2002, 158 Canadian Forces personnel have died in Afghanistan, all just doing their jobs. The majority were caused by road side explosives, then direct fire and suicide attacks. There have also been 1859 wounded, 1244 of which were non-battle injuries.

In 2011, Canada’s post-9/11 bill reached $92 billion, of which $11 billion has been spent on Afghanistan. Since 9/11 Canadian Military expenditures have doubled. The current Defense budget is $21 billion, with expected military spending of $60 billion on jets and a further $32 billion on warships over the next few years. Since by that time Canada will be out of Afghanistan and will have to find somewhere else to spend their money and expend Canadian lives. $71.3 million was spent in 2010 to “mitigate the potential threat of terrorism” during the two weeks of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games alone. Other than that not much has happened on the war on terror, whoever and whatever that is.

The horn goes. Well, off to the dressing room.

 

 

06/22/12

2nd Period of Oh Canada, where art thou going?

We have just been advised we can head out onto the ice for the 2nd period. As we all stood, one of the defensemen did a Mel Gibson in Braveheart and screamed at the top of his lungs, “FREEDOM!” We all chuckled and headed on out, all pumped up.

As we got to the bench the crowd was quiet. A few kids and our parents and wives clapped and cheered but most of the crowd was engrossed in the latest episode of Big Brother which was being shown on the JumboTron, while at the same time wolfing back $8 drinks, $15 hot dogs and proudly wearing their new $200 Canadian jerseys, with somebody else’s name on the back.

Once on the ice, it felt odd. The ice I mean. It seemed to be slanted ever so slightly down towards our end. One of the trainers, who had spent the game so far, squeezing a tennis ball to death, nonchalantly went over to the boards and dropped the ball onto the ice. Sure enough the ball rolled, quite quickly I might add, down to our end.

I skated over to Harper’s bench and was surprised to see him sitting on his own chair, separate from the bench; it looked like a throne of some kind, weird. Anyways I yelled at him “Fine. You want to play that way?” He didn’t answer but Canada’s Defense minister gave me the finger. So play we did.

The first few minutes went quite well considering there was excessive obstruction and interference. Not by Harper’s team, because he spent a lot of time standing in front of his bench, berating his team for one thing or another, but by the officials, who now numbered six and had sticks in their hands, so they kind of played us since Harper was busy. We actually scored a couple of goals to make it 12-4. Well on our way up the comeback trail. We cheered and patted each other on the ass.

Feb 2010. In preparation for submission of a pipeline proposal, Federal Fisheries officials and Enbridge Inc., meet to discuss any issues pertaining to the responsibilities of protecting fish habitat. The pipeline proposal will be crossing over 900 waterways. Meetings do not go well. Enbridge had no care for avoidance of sensitive areas and wanted most all streams designated Low Risk, while federal fisheries were deeming many to be medium or high risk. Enbridge had no hesitation crossing spawning channels or for wildlife species listed under the Federal government’s Species at Risk Act or under the BC government’s endangered species list. The exchange ended later in 2010 when Enbridge filed its application to the joint National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, who are now considering the project.

June 2010. Just as Enbridge prepares to file its pipeline application, the BC government begins to seek regulatory approval for the Site C dam on the Peace River. Site C will be the third dam on the river, with one of the others being the W.A.C Bennett dam. Costing an estimated $8 billion dollars, the lake formed by Site C would be 100 kilometres long and cover over 9000 hectares, including over 5000 acres of one of the richest, fertile agricultural areas in BC. Much of the power generated by Site C is slated to be sold for a cut rate, to Enbridge Inc., so that their pump stations would be able to keep pushing that oil along and to the LNG producers and their liquefied natural gas plants, for the process of liquefied natural gas compression.

The TransCanada Corporation out of Calgary, will be building, owning and operating the natural gas pipeline that will run 700 Km (435 miles) from north-eastern BC to the same port as Enbridge is planning , Kitimat BC. Cost is expected to be $4 billion and create 2000- 2500 jobs for the initial construction stage, not many afterwards. The natural gas facilities in Kitimat, to be completed by 2017, are owned by Dutch Shell, Korea Gas Corp. and PetroChina Co. Ltd. The pipeline will carry 1.7 billion cubic ft of natural gas per day. One of the ways the natural gas will be extracted will be by fracking.

Ten years ago, Hydraulic fracturing was introduced, which uses huge amounts of water mixed with sand and dozens of chemicals like benzene, which is all injected under extreme pressure to shatter the underground rock reservoir and release gas trapped in the rock pores. One of the offshoots of fracking is tremors and earthquakes. Fracking operations in northeastern BC are currently removing as much as 135 billion litres (35 billion gallons) of freshwater per year, with daily withdrawal an estimated 227 million litres (60+ million gallons), from 540 creeks, rivers and lakes, and then afterwards the left over toxic sludge mixture contaminates groundwater and natural aquifers.

Because we are running out of traditional supplies elsewhere, we now have to get oil and gas from harder to get places, thus oil sands and fracking. Fracking in Arkansas is attributed to causing more than 600 earthquakes in 2010, nearly equaling all of Arkansas’ quakes for the past 100 years. In October 2010 alone they had over one hundred quakes. Quakes happen because fracking changes the fluid pressure beneath the plates that make up the earth’s fault lines. The areas of BC and Alberta, where much fracking occurs, happens to be in the major geological structure referred to as the Peace River Arch, which extends from High Prairie, Alberta to Fort St.John, BC. The area has been deemed a serious earthquake risk area. In April 2001, northeastern BC and northwestern Alberta shook from a quake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale. The quake was centered 40 kilometres from Dawson Creek, which lies within the Montney Shale field. Also in the area is the W.A.C Bennett dam, with no damage reported. In another area of fracking operations, the Horn River area near Fort Nelson, there has been more than 30 earthquakes since 2009.

Alberta meanwhile, reports with a straight face that they have drilled 167,000 fracking wells and report not one documented case of toxic leakage into groundwater and that there has not been a single report of any quakes related to fracking.

June 2010. With Enbridge’ s pipeline proposal and the BC government’s hydroelectric dam proposal both rearing their heads, British Columbia’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Blair Lekstrom, who represented and is from the Peace River, resigns. Reason given publicly was issues with BC’s tax policy. He leaves both Cabinet and caucus, but still sits as an independent. “When I was elected, I promised myself, my family and my constituents that I would not change who I am to do this job, and I have reached a point where my beliefs and values no longer align with my government. If I was to stay, it wouldn’t be who I am. I didn’t do this to slight anybody or hurt anybody and I never went into this job to climb any ladders. My priority is to listen to the public and that’s my view on why I was elected and I’m going to follow through on that.”

July 2010. One of Enbridge’s pipelines running from Alberta through Michigan, in the States, springs a leak. Over 3.7 million litres (one million gallons) of oil sands crude spills out into Talmadge Creek, that flows into the Kalamazoo River. A 35 mile stretch of the river is still closed to this day, with cleanup costs to-date of $585 million. In reality, it is a fact that Enbridge’s pipelines leak more than once a week on average.

In 2012, Industry figures show at least 3.4 million litres (898,000 gallons) of hydrocarbons have leaked from pipelines in Alberta every year since 2005, while Sean Kheraj, an assistant professor at York University in Toronto, calculates that the oil and gas industry has spilled over 27.6 million litres (7.3 million gallons) in Alberta alone, between 2006-2010. Since then, several major incidents have upped that number significantly, including a 4.1 million litre (1.1 million-gallon) spill near Little Buffalo, N.W.T and two ruptures in 2012 that totaled at least 946,000 litres, a quarter million gallons. As of late, Enbridge Inc., had a spill near Elk Lake Alberta of 230,000 litres (61,000 gallons) and a pipeline owned by Plains Midstream Canada, leaked up to 475,000 litres (125,000 gallons) of oil into the Red Deer River in central Alberta and flowed into the Gleniffer lake reservoir. In fact, a spokesman for Alberta’s energy regulator admits that the province’s pipelines averaged two failures per day in 2010. While Alberta’s Premier Alison Redford states that while pipeline risks are real, they remain minimal.

In November 2010, the Harper government begins to impose strict rules on when and how its researchers can publically discuss their work to us, the funders of their work. Canada’s science community is being filtered through the Ministers office, with most often information disappearing in the translation. Reason being, research is getting in the way of government policy decisions, which are not science based and so the obligations science proposes are dismissed. Science is seen as a problem that needs to be managed rather than a source of data to be used. Yet the reality of science is that it is based on criticism and then finding answers.

Because of such a gag order on Government scientists to not to speak to media under any circumstances without permission from Harper, scientists en-mass are leaving Canada, while non-government scientists working at universities muzzle themselves fearing loss of funding or other forms of reprisals.

Gagged scientists lately have included; June 2011 Biology researcher who tried speaking about the report she had just completed about viral infections may be linked to higher salmon mortality on the West Coast; Apr.2011 Scientist gagged over his comment, “Dangerous 2 degree increase in global temps may be unavoidable by 2100; After the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant in Japan, in 2011, the experts who are in charge of the radiation monitors on Canada’s west coast, run by Health Canada, are strictly banned from any interviews.

February 2011.  PetroChina, the state-owned international oil and gas, corporation buys 50% partnership with Encana Corporation, in deep shale gas development in northeastern BC and northwest Alberta. Making 15% of BC’s land base now leased to energy companies that develop deep shale gas, mostly by fracking.

Aug. 2011. Two Search and rescue centres, in Quebec City and St.John’s are closed. Reason being the Harper government could save about $2 million a year. Meanwhile at Canadian Armed Forces Base, Base Borden, in Borden, Ontario gets $77 million to build four new kitchen and dining facilities, providing 415 short time job opportunities to the community.

Dec. 2011. Canada withdraws from Kyoto Treaty.

We must remember that such policies are not laws of nature but are laws created by the processes and institutions that engender them and which all can be changed. But changing cultural, social and institutional processes will simply be not allowed to happen. We do not have the political will to make a difference and hold anyone accountable, especially when too many of us are not even holding ourselves accountable. For true national sovereignty is the right of a country to have no one interfere in its life and the right of a people to choose whatever form of government and way of life that it suits. A country’s will is where the people decide whether a government changes or not. This has a snowballs chance in hell to happen if a country does not have its own economy. If it is penetrated by foreign capitol then it is not free. A country cannot make its will prevail if it clashes with the foreign country or corporation which dominates the economy. The power of transnational corporations and banks will make political power obsolete and eventually non-existent.

How has our political will been so far? Other than ridding ourselves of our natural resources and poisoning the environment in which we live to accomplish it, did someone say the East Coast cod fishery? The East Coast of Canada’s fishing grounds was one of the world’s most amazing fishing grounds ever, but by 1992 it collapsed and the cod fishery closes. The West Coast wild Pacific salmon fishery will not last long and within the decade will follow the cod and the Dodo bird.

The Alberta oil sands, also known as the most destructive project on earth, will soon deplete the Athabasca River, the only source of water in the area. Chemicals mix in the river and carry its toxic brew of cancers and pollution downstream. There are now areas where there is an increase of cancer and disease in populations and where even the wildlife has become too toxic to eat. Gigantic lakes, called tailings ponds are so toxic that birds die when they land on the surface. When it rains in Alberta and Saskatchewan it is toxic, what was once called acid rain. Ontario has the same problem. Meanwhile huge areas of the boreal forest are disappearing every day and eventually Southern Alberta will be transformed into a desert and Northern Alberta a treeless, toxic swamp, both not very habitable for children and their children, or for anybody else for that matter. This is not fantasy, it is real and it is happening. Just like the horn going off to end the 2nd period of the game.

We are a pretty tired bunch, legs are throbbing and lungs are gasping, from skating and pushing the puck uphill all period, with extended periods of time stuck down in the deep end. But as in society, when has it ever been a level playing field?

Strange thing happened half way through the period. Harper was called for a vicious cross check into the back of one of our players. He went directly to the penalty box but you could tell he was pissed. Once there, he took off his full cage visor and helmet with neck brace and someone immediately handed him a phone. The game was delayed for 40 minutes, after which time new officials skated onto the ice, eight of them this time, instead of the six. The six original refs were escorted out of the building, thrown into black unmarked vans and driven away by the police. When Harper’s penalty was over, four of the new officials ran picks for his numerous end to end rushes. He scored another 4 goals, but we were credited with two goals ourselves, though in actual fact they were both Harpers’ Finance minister’s fault, for twice, he accidentally shot the puck into his own net.

With one period to go we were down 16-6. As we headed off the ice the arena was pretty quiet with many still sitting but enrapt in their I-Phones, with heads down and thumbs a-tapping. Just as many were crowded up in the concourse watching World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw” on the thousands of televisions that circled the arena, even though it was Tuesday.

We just need to get to the dressing room and regroup we felt. We know we have heart but jeez Louise, no matter how hard we work we just can’t seem to get ahead.