Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An open response to Marybeth Hick's parental advice to Occupy protesters

I must admit that I don't routinely follow the writings of Marybeth Hicks - or most ideological columnists for that matter- but two of my friends have recently sent me one of her columns from the Washington Times (Oct. 20) to review. If you are interested, here is a link to her column.

HICKS: Some belated parental advice to protesters - Washington Times

I won't respond in detail, but I would like to offer my opinion that this column seems typical of the way that journalists on both the right and left of the political spectrum tend to demonize and stereotype people who hold differing viewpoints rather than discuss the specific issues. For example, Marybeth characterizes members of the Occupy movement as young, immature, unrealistic, dirty, smelly, lazy, irresponsible etc. and blames them for their lack of success. She then defends those responsible, successful traders that have earned enough money through their "hard-work" on Wall Street to buy houses in the Hamptons.

Unfortunately, reality tends to be more complicated than she admits. From my experience, a typical Occupy camp consists of a wide range of people. I have met idealistic and informed people of all ages from varying backgrounds who are sacrificing their personal safety and comfort to stand against a system that is destroying our environment and funnelling the profits into fewer and fewer pockets. I have also noticed that there are large numbers of homeless people who are attracted to the movement - perhaps because of the free food and relative safety from police harrasment- and some of them bring their addiction and mental health problems into the camp environment. I have been particularly impressed by the way that the more able camp members tend to reach out and try to support those who have been rejected by our current system - however, in some cases this has not been successful and I suspect that many of the conflicts between police and the Occupy movement have been triggered by the chronic homeless. It's also worth noting how MaryBeth characterizes the Wall Street traders as hard-working rather than considering how many of these traders come from rich ivy league families who were able to get them into the "right" schools where they made the "right" connections that opened the "right" doors and so on. It's also worth noting that many of these wealty traders have made their wealth by gambling with other people's money and while it is beyond any doubt that they were responsible for the major economic crisis of 2008 - where millions of people lost their pension earnings, their pensions, their jobs and even their homes- I am not aware of a single Wall Street trader or bank CEO being sent to jail for their dishonest transactions.

Overall, I feel very hopeful that the Occupy Wall Street Movement will help in bringing a positive change to our current system. Hopefully they will be a part of moving our society back to a place where everyone has a fair chance for success and we can start rebuilding our middle class and our natural environment. In the meantime, you can expect that those who are benefitting the most from our current system will fight very hard to maintain the advantages in wealth and power that they now hold. Much of this will be played out in the media where the elite from both sides of the debate will attempt to stereotype and characterize the movement for their own advantage. Certainly you will see alot of negative reporting - this is because the rich and powerful own most of the media outlets - so I would recommend that you go down to the Occupy camps and meetings to visit with the people personally. During our Victoria Peace Colloquy on Oct 22, we had 3 people from Occupy Victoria come and present their ideas to our congregation. It was a very worth-while event.

I also notice that no matter how much bad press is targetted against the Occupy Movement, the Rich and Powerful said the same things and worse about the early Christians and the early Mormons...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mormon Polygamy on Trial: The Final Verdict

After more than 3 months of hearings and 6 months of deliberation, BC Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman has delivered his final decision. In his opinion, Canada's 1890 anti-poligamy law has withstood the constitutional challenge and it is a criminal offense to have a committed relationship with more than one person at a time in Canada. The only exception seems to be for teenage girls who marry older men. In this case, only the man is a criminal.

The objections the Canadian Polyamory Association have been over-ruled, indicating that polygamy poses so much harm to the rest of society that it can not be tolerated.

It is a very lengthy document and I have not had time to read it.

Here is the official link - What do you think about it?

2011 BCSC 1588 Reference re: Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An open reply to a letter from Joe Oliver on the Northern Gateway pipeline

The Hon. Joe Oliver
Minister of Natural Resources
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0E4

SJ: Enbridge pipeline proposal is not in Canada’s best interest

Dear Mr. Oliver,
Thank you for your detailed reply to my letter of July 19, 2011. I read your letter with interest and after giving serious consideration to your comments, I have come to the conclusion that the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal would be a major mistake for Canada.
In my previous letter, I wrote that the profits and rewards associated with selling Alberta’s bitumen to Asia would only benefit the province and the multi-national corporate partners. You rightly objected to this statement by pointing out that there are benefits to the rest of Canada through royalties, equalization payments, etc. However, after considerable research and analysis I have concluded that while there are some benefits to the rest of Canada, a significantly disproportionate share of the benefits go to Alberta and the multi-national corporations. For example, Alberta collected 7.5 B$ from total oil and gas revenue in 2010. By comparison, the Net Profit from only 3 of the 10 major oil sands producing companies (Suncor, Imperial and Cenovus) totalled over 7.0 B$ in the same year. Economic benefit to the rest of Canada is a very small fraction of these totals.
In terms of employment, you indicated that direct and indirect employment from oil and gas production is estimated at 500,000 jobs. While this is significant, it must be put in context. Stats Canada indicates that there were approximately 17,000,000 jobs in Canada for 2010 and less than 5% of these jobs are connected to the oil and gas industry. Even in the province of Alberta, the oil and gas industry only provides 150,000 out of a total of 2,000,000 jobs (7%) and in British Columbia, this sector creates 35,000 out of 2,300,000 jobs (2%). In contrast, tourism and recreation in British Columbia creates more than 250,000 jobs and many of these jobs could be threatened by the proposed pipeline.
You also wrote of the positive balance of trade surplus that is related to oil and gas exports. While this is certainly true, it must also be noted that these same oil and gas exports are largely responsible for the high value of the Canadian dollar relative to the US currency. Unfortunately, our high value ”petro-dollar” causes considerable hardship for any segment of the economy that relies on export or tourism. This has recently been evident in the loss of 48,000 manufacturing jobs during October 2011 and over the period from 2006 to 2010, the manufacturing sector has lost more than 350,000 jobs (Stats Canada).
In terms of job creation, pipelines that are designed to export raw bitumen are not desirable for Canada. For example, former Alberta Premier Lougheed recently stated "I would prefer...we process the bitumen from the oilsands in Alberta and that would create a lot of jobs and job activity ... That would be a better thing to do than merely send the raw bitumen down the pipeline and they refine it in Texas that means thousands of new jobs in Texas. (CBC, 9/13/11). Lougheed’s statement has been confirmed by US House Speaker John Boehner who indicated that the delay of the keystone pipeline meant that "More than 20,000 new American jobs have just been sacrificed in the name of political expediency”. In addition to shipping jobs out of Canada, the Northern Gateway and Keystone pipelines ship bitumen at $64/barrel out of the country where it is refined and sold at more than $90/barrel (2010 average prices). This represents a major share of the oil sands value that should be benefitting Canadians.
In terms of National Energy Policy, these pipelines are not beneficial to Canada. Canada currently imports more than 55% of our oil requirements from Norway and the Middle East. As oil supplies continue to tighten, Eastern Canada’s oil supply is increasingly vulnerable and at the same time your government is focused on providing a secure oil supply for the US and China. Why is their energy security more important than our own?
The foolishness of this proposal is even more obvious when one considers that it requires 900 km of pipeline and 9000 km by oil tanker to move bitumen to China. Shipping oil from the Middle East to Halifax requires an additional 9500 km. By contrast, shipping bitumen from Edmonton to Southern Ontario would only require a pipeline of 2700 km which is less than the 3000 km required to ship the bitumen to Houston, Tx.
The Northern Gateway Pipeline would be harmful to Canada through decreasing Canada’s energy security. By comparison, refining the bitumen in Canada would create Canadian jobs and improve our economy through value-added industries. And as a bonus, it would also be much safer for the environment.

Keith Hirsche
1161 Chapman Rd.
Cobble Hill, BC
250 929 5586

cc: Prime Minister Harper
Jean Crowder
Elizabeth May
Alison Redford
Christy Clark
Denis Lebel
David Swann

Monday, November 14, 2011

Toronto Firefighters choose to protect First Nation's sacred fire

At 330 AM on Nov. 14, Toronto firefighters were told to extinguish a fire at Occupy Toronto. After determining that it was a First Nation's Sacred Flame, the fire fighters decided to protect the fire from city officials. This was a tremendous show of respect to the First Nations people and a powerful contrast to the unfortunate events that transpired last week at Occupy Vancouver.

If you want to see a very positive interaction under difficult circumstances, check out the video here.

For another take on the story, check out what CTV had to say.

CP24- Fire crews allow Occupy Toronto fire to burn

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More evidence for a major recession in 2012

During November 2009 I wrote a blog posting offering my opinion -based on oil supply limitations and economic growth projections- that we would be facing another major economic downturn in 2010 or 2011. Over the past 2 years, we have not seen the hoped-for economic recovery, but we haven't exactly seen another major downturn either.

About a month ago, I reviewed the latest IEA data and made a guess that the next major recession would occur in 2012 - once again based on projected oil supply and demand predictions. Here is one more article that supports this possibility.

Unfortunately, I can't see any way to avoid the current climate of economic uncertainty as long as Canada and the US remain completely dependent on easy access to low priced supplies of oil and gas to fuel economic growth. As soon as the economies begin to grow, the growth is stifled by an immediate rise in oil prices - which in turn causes price increases for everything from agriculture to transportation.

There is no way to escape this trap until the US and Canadian governments are willing to make major investments to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation systems and in the expansion of alternative energy generation and the corresponding infrastructure. And as long as our elected officials insist on serving and promoting the demands of the oil companies - I don't see any hope.

BBC News - Oil prices are in 'danger zone', warns the IEA

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy Vancouver and the First nation's sacred fire - Truth and the media

We arrived at Occupy Vancouver on Sunday afternoon. The camp was relatively quiet except for the large number of city workers and VFD firefighters who were walking around the camp. As we asked around, we learned that the First Nations people were leading a march past the various mining companies that are guilty of mining of their land without proper permission or compensation. While I waited, I had a long conversation with a First Nations elder from Northern Ontario who told me that they were in conversations with the fire department about the possibility of lighting a sacred flame in the centre of the camp. Not long afterward, a group of demonstrators led by First nation elders returned to the camp.

We returned to the Occupy site on Monday afternoon. Returning to the First nations elder's tent, we learned that an agreement had been reached to light a sacred flame. Soon preparations were underway to clear a large area in the centre of the site. Once a major tent structure was removed, sand bags were brought to the central location and broken to build a large sand basin to form a base for the flame. All of this was done by First Nation people in direct consultation with firefighters.

Once the site was prepared, people were invited to form a circle around the central location and a First nation elder described the dedication ceremony for the flame. Another elder worked his way around the circle to smudge each participant. Soon the other elder began prayers to dedicate the site and the fire that would follow. This was an event of major significance, particularly for the members of the BC First Nations as the site was on the front lawn of the historic BC court house where so many of their rights had been taken away. This ceremony would mark the first time a sacred flame was lit on the site in more than 100 years.

About this time, Jan and I realized that we had to leave to catch our ferry.

Imagine our surprize the next day as we read the press reports about “The city went to court for an injunction to remove the tents on the site after a brawl broke out on Monday night between the police and firefighters trying to extinguish a barrel fire and some protesters who wanted to keep it alight.”

I find it very difficult to believe that the police and firefighters did not know the significance of the fire – especially after witnessing the elaborate site preparation and dedication ceremony. It certainly seemed to me that they were actively involved in the entire process over the previous 24 hours and it leaves me wondering what happened.

Was there a shift change and no communication about what was going on? Did someone over-rule the decisions made by the on-site firefighters and was this not passed on to the First Nations people? Or was it all an elaborate trap to discredit Occupy Vancouver?

And finally, why have none of the media reports even mentioned the First Nations ceremony or even their involvement in the camp?

After reading and watching the media version of these events, I am very grateful that I took photos of the ceremony or I might not believe it even happened.

First - here are two independent accounts that closely parallel what I personally witnessed:

Occupy Vancouver Media Blog

Fire Department Official Sparks Conflict at Occupy Vancouver | Vancouver Media Co-op

Now the main-stream media spin

Occupy Vancouver protest wins overnight reprieve - British Columbia - CBC News

Court grants Occupy Vancouver 1-week reprieve - British Columbia - CBC News

Occupy Vancouver protesters told to leave after police officers bitten, ammunition stolen - The Globe and Mail

Occupy Vancouver site little changed leading up to fire hazard deadline

And lastly, I attach a link to one of the most offensive, racist and least informed articles I have ever read in a newspaper. I was at Occupy Vancouver for 2 days following Ashlie's death and I can't imagine any characterization that is further from the truth than this column by Stewart Brinton.