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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Hurricane Irma Relief Funds - some ideas

For those interested in helping with the hurricane relief, there are a number of efforts in place and the best way to support them is with money. The Center for International Disaster information encourages people not to send food, clothing and household items. They say
Sorting clothing - Slave Lake
that it causes problems with transportation and logistics that actually interfere with more urgent needs. 
I know we spent hundreds of man hours sorting clothes in Slave Lake after the 2011 wildfire with very little benefit. In the end, we had truck loads of clothing left over that could not be disposed of in the community. Much was sent to landfill

To donate money, the Hurricane Irma Relief Fund has been endorsed by the New York Times and Newsweek  magazine with a 4/4 star rating from Charity Navigator. Donations first go to the survivor's needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products and shelter. Once those needs have been met, funds will be used toward long-term support for survivors. I would assume this would be to help the rebuilding of infrastructure and homes. Best of all, these long-term efforts will be run by local, vetted organizations. Local equipment owners and operators can often respond more effectively to an emergency situation than a central organization deciding what will be best for them. 
Volunteers needed Cuba
The Centre for International Disaster Information greatly discourages volunteering in areas affected by disaster. However, such is not the case with Cuba. According to Canadian Global Response, volunteers are needed there. If you've developed a special connection with Cuba and want to help, you can phone 1-403-512-5261 for volunteer opportunities or donate towards Hurricane Irma relief. 

Care Canada also provides emergency assistance to Cuba for water, sanitation, hygiene and household supplies. They also have a number of ongoing projects as outlined on their webpage such as promoting sustainable livelihoods, disaster risk and emergency response, (ideas that could be borrowed by the U.S. whose response in the past has been much worse than Cuba's), and learning partnerships.

If you have any other ideas of how to help the victims of Hurricane Irma, please add in the comments. Thanks. 

Havana before Irma
Havana - After

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Hurricane Irma - A rant about CBC's Anna Maria Tremonte and tourists who don't care.

Turks & Caicos Club Med
I heard an interview on CBC’s the current yesterday morning. The host, Anna Maria Tremonte interviewed a woman stuck at a “Club Med” resort in the Turks and Caicos. With Anna Maria’s prompting and encouragement, the woman complained about the Canadian government not acting effectively enough in her favour. An Air Canada plane was sitting on the tarmac waiting to take Canadians out of the country but the local government wouldn’t let them leave. Why wasn’t the Canadian government doing enough to get them out of there?

Turks & Caicos after Irma
That was the story? Really? Was this all that Anna Maria and the woman had to talk about? How rough it was to her having to stay at the Club Med, fed and watered, with little else to do but wait? No mention of the locals and their loss. Nothing about how lucky she and her husband are for having survived a category 5 hurricane relatively unscathed. Just how upset she was at the Canadian government for not getting them out.

What, are we children here? Can we not take responsibility for our own actions? By this woman’s own account, she knew the hurricane was coming before she’d even flown to the resort. She just thought that the storm would die down or change directions. When my wife and I were in an accident in Nairobi, Kenya, the help we received from Canadian High Commission in getting my wife with a freshly broken back on a flight to Edmonton was quite a surprise to us. 

My wife in a Nairobi hospital
Not that we weren’t grateful to the high commission but it wasn’t our fellow Canadians or tourists who saved the day. It was a Kenyan man who’d stopped his flat bed truck to help when all the other white vans filled with foreign tourists refused. Fortunately, our hero spoke English and, with the assistance of other Kenyan bystanders, helped me put my wife on an improvised backboard and then transported her to a local hospital. Once we arrived at a clinic outpost, this Kenyan got me in contact with the Canadian High Commission and from there, the flying doctors were contacted and medical transportation was arranged to Nairobi. 

So, when I visit developing countries, I like to think at least a little about the people who live there. If I was caught in a disaster, I would hope to have some empathy. Put myself in their shoes. After all, they're going to have to deal with loss of life, home and livelihood long after I'm gone. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Nutty Jason Kenney, A History: Part 2

We all like to figure out how other people tick. That's what makes gossip so popular. It confirms or changes our impressions of other people and we come up with responses like, "Typical" or "You wouldn't believe what he did last night." And, if we can't figure people out, we become suspicious of them.

Politicians are no different. In order to feel comfortable with them, we have to be able to understand them. Americans got to know Donald Trump on fourteen seasons of "The Apprentice." Even if they didn't get to know the real guy, they got to know a pretty well established persona. By the time he hit the campaign trail, he knew his audience and they knew or at least thought they knew the Donald.

It's not any different for Canadian audiences. Albertans loved Ralph Klein as the guy you could go out with for a beer. Even when he fucked up, he'd apologize and nearly everyone would forgive him. Like the time he walked into the homeless shelter and yelled at the residents to get a job and threw money at their feet. Later, he admitted to a drinking problem and Albertans forgave him. We understood the guy.
Grant Notley & family

I think most Albertans understand Rachel Notley. Her father, Grant, served as leader of the NDP in the legislature from 1971 until his tragic death in a plane crash in 1984.  Rachel was born in Edmonton, trained as a lawyer, practiced labour law before being elected to the legislature as a member of the NDP in 2008. It's no surprise she’d support some form of democratic socialism that protects the worker and the less fortunate. 

Stephen Harper's father was an accountant. He grew up in Toronto, moved to Edmonton, earned a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Calgary in 1991. He worked as policy chief for the Reform party before being elected to parliament in 1993. As a policy wonk trained in economics, he eventually became leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of Canada. Maybe not the most likeable guy but a guy most Canadians could understand. 

Justin under the arm of his father
Justin Trudeau had the unique experience of being the son of a long-serving Canadian prime minister. He attended public school and rode the bus with all the other kids while his RCMP body guards rode in a squad car behind. After high school, he continued life as an ordinary guy completing degrees in literature and education, working as a substitute teacher,  a bouncer at a B.C. bar, a snowboarding instructor and taught French and drama at Sir Winston Churchill public school. His celebrity existence returned when he gave a eulogy for his father, Pierre, in 2000. Elected to the House of Commons in 2008, he became prime minister in 2015. Justin's ability to relate with the common person and his celebrity status have combined to create a persona that everyone understands or, at least, think they do. 

Wilcox, Sask.
Jason's not so lucky as these other politicians. His formative years were spent isolated in a small Saskatchewan town of 339 attending a Catholic boarding school where his dad was president. (Now, that must have come with a few expectations.) For post-secondary, he attended the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. Then, he was removed or quit after he'd objected to the university's lax enforcement of the Pope's directives. 

As a result, Jason redirected his energy from religion to politics, "not qua [for the sake of] politics but…as a promotion of the message of the gospel of life.” And his anger and limited world view provided an energy and focus that would serve him in his new life. 

Jason began his new calling as an assistant to Ralph Goodale who was leader of the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan and the only member from that party in the province’s legislature. Unfortunately, Ralph lost his seat in the next election which caused Jason to pronounce that, “to be a Liberal on the prairies in the 1980s was a contrarian position.”

So, he moved to Calgary to become executive director of the Association of Alberta Taxpayers and became renowned for 16-hour work days. He confronted Ralph Klein in the halls of the Alberta legislature regarding what he called a "gold plated" pension for MLAs. According to Jason, Ralph invited him out for a beer. Now, Jason likes to compare himself to Ralph however I cannot think of two individuals more different. 

After one year in Alberta, Jason moved to Ottawa to become president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. He impressed Reform Leader Preston Manning when he placed 242 pink pigs on parliament hill as a protest against MP pensions. Preston encouraged him to run as a Reform candidate which he did. He ran for the riding of Calgary Southeast in 1997 and won. 

The Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance Party in 2000 and then united with the PC Party in 2003 to create the Conservative Party of Canada. In 2004, Stephen Harper was elected to lead a very divided Conservative Party, one part economically conservative, the other socially conservative.

Because the social conservatives didn’t trust him, Mr. Harper needed someone to mend the divide. To accomplish that task, he chose Jason. As past president of both the Alberta and Canadian Taxpayers Association, his credentials as a fiscal conservative were bonafide. As a social conservative, Ted Byfield of the Alberta Report would vouch that Jason was a true protector of social conservatism and not a “nice-guy Christian."

Jason with a "visible minority." 
In 2006, the new Conservative party formed a minority government in Ottawa. At first Jason was relegated to the position of parliamentary secretary but, in 2008, Stephen Harper selected Jason as Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Immigration. Coming from a background far outside that experienced by a regular Canadians, he was comfortable in the company of immigrants. As a result, he managed to gain the support of many which is considered instrumental to the Conservative Party winning a majority government in 2011. 

Nevertheless, the guy who'd attended St. Ignatius Institute 20 years previously hadn’t suddenly disappeared and become filled with tolerance and compassion.  As part of a newly elected majority government, Jason froze applications from parents and grandparents of children living in Canada unless those children could afford to buy a year’s worth of health insurance. Suffice it to say, many could not. Then he blockaded two freighters with Tamils escaping a bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. These people were herded into detention centres in the Fraser Valley where they were interrogated as potential terrorists.

Jobbik paramilitary 
Roma citizens from Hungary who sought refuge in Canada were also discouraged from coming. Even though they suffered firebombings, beatings and even murder at the hands of paramilitary gangs associated with the fascist Jobbik party, Jason still proclaimed their applications bogus. He figured they just wanted to abuse the Canada’s safety net and so he initiated a billboard campaign to discourage them from applying. In 2012, 1511 Hungarians submitted refugee claims to enter Canada, rejected. Only 232 were accepted.

Jason preferred the idea of granting 400,000 temporary work visas to provide employers with indentured workers. It was supposed to be a program for employers who couldn’t find Canadians to fill job vacancies. However, it ran into trouble when news got out that the Royal Bank was laying off staff to make room for Indian foreign workers at a cost savings of 15%. Jason had to backtrack killing the 15% wage differential for temporary workers and requiring employers to try harder to hire Canadians.

In 2011, Jason introduced a bill banning candidates from wearing face coverings like niqabs while taking their citizenship oaths. It became law but was later overturned by a Federal Court after being challenged by Zunera Ishaq, a former high school teacher.

The ban became a campaign issue in federal election in 2015. In response to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi ‘s objection to the ban, Jason responded, “I don’t think this should be an issue of contention” despite the fact that he’d earlier said that the niqab “reflects a misogynistic view of women which is grounded in medieval tribal culture.” Jason may mix well with the immigrant community however his tolerance and understanding may be somewhat lacking. 

When the  Conservatives lost the election and Stephen Harper resigned, many considered Jason to be the leading candidate to replace him. However, Jason saw a purpose elsewhere. Alberta had newly elected the NDP socialist menace in Alberta and he saw his new mission in saving the province from this travesty. Politics were getting ugly, just right for the self-described “attack dog” to play the role of saviour. 

Rachel as golf ball target
George Clark attempted a “Kudutah” (coup d’├ętat) to overthrow the Notley government by gathering signatures that he planned to present to Lois Mitchell, the lieutenant- governor. He gathered support and funding by driving around the province in a bright pickup truck, a tactic that Jason would copy except his pickup would be Tory blue. The campaign fizzled as did George's presence on the Alberta political scene. 

The Oilmen in Brooks used an enlarged photo of Ms. Notley’s face as a target at their annual golf tournament June of 2016. Misogynists on twitter posted their very best epithets against Ms. Notley calling her a “f—king bitch,” “an ugly whore,” “a twat”, a “no-good stupid piece of sh—“, and my favourite, the “fricken devil I seen in my nightmares.” Worst though, have been the death threats of which, I’ve included examples of a few.

Now, I’m sure Jason would disapprove of the tweets however he'd relate to the anger. These malcontents want a return to an Alberta run by men where oil prices are over $100 a barrel and a journeyman working in the oil patch can earn a six-figure annual income with the little lady at home taking care of the kids and a man’s home is still his castle. 

Like any individual whose life has been spent in the realm of the religious and ideological, Jason's answers for Alberta's problems have come in the form of the ideological: lower corporate taxes, bring back a flat-tax, decrease minimum wages, get rid of the carbon tax and most of the environmental regulations, and drastically reduce government spending.

In the movie, "Field of Dreams," a voice told Ray Kinsella that "If you build it, he will come." And so, Ray built a baseball field. When it was completed, Shoeless Joe and the members of the disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox team appeared as if by magic through the corn field to play on Ray's field. 

Likewise, a voice has told Jason and his followers that, if they return to a mythic conservative fiscal and social policy of Ralph Klein, good times will come again. The oil companies and their investment money will return and we'll all be rich again. I wonder if Jason envisions himself cutting a "prosperity bonus" just like his hero. 

And so, like the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the money will return.