Monday, August 31, 2009

Pen Meets Paper August 31, 2009

Opinion by Helge Nome
Today I would like to follow up on comments made in last week's column (available on about our financial system and its seeming inability to distribute wealth in an equitable way.
Most people don't have the time or inclination to learn about the mechanics of our financial system, any more than taking the trouble to figure out the internal workings of a digital computer. We use both all the time, but leave the maintenance and upkeep to the experts.
Two years ago I had the misfortune of finding out, the hard way, that our financial system is not a very healthy critter, to say the least, even though most of its attendants keep claiming that it is. Until recently, that is, when denial was no longer possible in face of the facts.
So what is wrong with this animal? The symptoms are obvious: The amount of money, or credit, available to people that want to do something useful, like providing needed goods and services in all sectors in the economy, has been drastically reduced, which is reflected in large increases in unemployment and tightening of budgets all around. Banks are restricting lending to fit in with very rigid criteria involving low risks to themselves.
Most economists agree on the symptoms, but few agree on the nature of the underlying disease and our Queen, Elizabeth II, pointedly asked some repected members of the London School of Economics:
"But didn't you see this coming?" To which they reportedly answered rather sheepishly: "Sorry, ma'am, we didn't".
Being in such good company (with wanna-be economists), I will venture forth some expanations (to be ingested with a pinch of salt):
History is always the best teacher. What has happened before will happen again at some point in time when the same, or similar, circumstances prevail. This is as true of bush fires, when a large volume of dry vegetation is available for ignition by lightening under windy conditions, as it is for problems in the financial system, when its regulatory framework has been altered and rampant speculation has taken hold.
Add to this the fact that our method of allocating financial resources to provide purchasing power to consume the products of our industrial economy is tied to an ever growing interest bearing debt for most people in favor of a financial oligarchy that accumulates power for itself, without regard for the consequences on people or environment.
During the time leading up to October, 1929, the gambling spirit took well and truly hold of our cousins down south, in particular. Lots in huge real estate developments in Florida were flipped over for record amounts of dollars, even though the lots were prime alligator habitat in the marches of that state and no one in their right mind would even park a houseboat there. The economists of the day were beating their chests and the President said: "The good times are here!"
We know what happened.
Today, our financial wizards, working for "investment" banks, etc., didn't even bother to peg out any real estate. They just made up computer based "financial instruments", claiming to have some inherent value, and proceeded to buy and sell them accordingly. More and more people took the hook, and here we are. Sucking on our thumbs because most available credit has been used to buy this worthless junk.

The solution is to re-regulate the system, take the power of credit creation away from the oligarcy, and fix our accounting system so that there is money available to buy the products and services we need without us getting drowned in debt to a bunch of financial manipulators.

Reunited - Shilo School and and former students celebrated 100 years of history.

Please click on this image to enlarge it

Seated, front: Marianne (Stange) Eisentraut, seated behind Marianne: Irene (Stange) Ewan,then Gerd Nanninga, John Stange, Fritz Nanninga, Larry Grieve.
Standing, back: Clara (Black) Mayhew, Myrtle (Buchanan) Martyn, Eisabeth (Stange) Taylor,Faye (Buchanan), Louis Johnson, Richard Montgomery, Ethel Montgomery, Margaret (Staben) Martyniuk, Ken Montgomery, Rosalie (Vandermeer) Jorgensen, Ed Kiem, Esther (Kiem)

Former students, family and friends got together at Shilo School on the weekend of August 22/23 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of a building that has remained on its original foundation and has been maintained by the community. It received a fresh coat of paint just prior to the celebration.
Rosalie (Vandermeer) Jorgensen, whose mother used to be a teacher at the school, presented some of the schools history to those present and noted that, as a matter of interest, a complete school of the same design as the Shilo School, could be ordered out of the Eaton catalogue in 1917 for the sum of $683.63 f.o.b. Winnipeg. The school had a wood heater at the back of the main room and a metal screen was needed to prevent the students at the back from being fried on a cold day. Horse or foot transport was used by most students in the surrounding area, and one young girl living near the school, used to ride a stick with a "horse" head on it (to "keep up with the Joneses"?)
The school proudly displays a diploma awarded by the Department of Education of the Province of Alberta for Best Exhibit of School Work at the School Fair in Caroline on September 5, 1938. The diploma is signed by William Aberhart, Minister of Education.

Frank Foesier was part of a band that provided evening entertainment

100 year birthday cake

Shilo School's oldest student, Ethel Montgomery (95), cut the cake

Shilo School was a busy place on its 100th birthday

The Vikings are coming!

It happened at the Danish Museum at Dickson on Sunday, August 23 when the long awaited replica of a Viking ship arrived on the sturdy shoulders viking era affectionados dressed in period clothes.
The arrival was celebrated by several hundred people at the museum who viewed the authentically reconstructed craft named Freydis Johanna, which is called a "Gokstadfaering" and was constructed at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.
Replica tools and methods were used to construct the craft which is fully seaworthy and has a square sail. The ship will remain at the museum over the winter and will likely be displayed in communities in British Columbia next summer.

You don't mess around with this bunch!

True to form, the Vikings got into it!

A More Gentle Side Of The Viking Age

A ladies comb made out of bone, jewelry and dress tells you that it wasn't all rough and tough

Weekend Wanna-be Warrior

This pen pusher has an unfamiliar weapon put into his hand

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deregulation Debacle In Alberta

Press Release by Joe Anglin

Alberta’s deregulation debacle raised its ugly head on Tuesday, once again, when Alberta Energy announced that both ATCO and AltaLink have been granted permission to apply to construct and operate new electric transmission lines between Edmonton and Calgary.

Minister of Energy Mel Knight said the two transmission lines “will facilitate expanded wind-generated power, more low emission co-generation facilities, hydro and next generation clean coal plants,” He further stated, “they will also reduce the losses on existing lines that cost Alberta consumers more than $220 million last year.”

The fact that the Minister doesn’t have the authority to approve the need for the transmission lines until Bill 50 is passed this fall, (what are the odds), and the fact that wind generation north of Calgary is non-existent and there are no plans to remove or stop transmitting over the high-loss existing transmission lines seems just as irrelevant to the Minister’s announcement as the fact that the older thirty and forty year-old coal fired generators will still continue to operate and burn coal, but at an increased capacity.

Alberta Energy’s rules require that a cost benefit analysis be completed before any project is undertaken. The rules further state that industry must contribute to the costs of building the lines, equal to the percentage industry will benefit from the lines. In 2005 the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) admitted it never did a cost benefit analysis on the proposed transmission line. As of this date no one has done a cost benefit analysis to see if this is the right proposal, or to evaluate to what degree industry will benefit. In 2005 Alberta Energy ruled that the public would pay for the transmission line even though transcripts revealed the line was going to transmit an average of 750 MW, which would increased export capacity by 750MW.

This is no small matter! Alberta Energy is proposing over $14 billion in upgrades to Alberta’s transmission system and they are doing it without the benefit of knowing – what they are doing! Without conducting a cost benefit analysis the Minister (and public) doesn’t know if it is more practical or economical to upgrade the grid east to west verses north to south – or how much we should invest in an upgrade. We do know however that Epcor, TransAlta, and TransCanada have all confirmed that if we do not build transmission lines that connect up to the United States, Albertans will have excess capacity and cheap electricity rates. To add fuel to this fire, power deregulation insider David Gray, the former Utilities Consumer Advocate, recently stated in regards to de-regulation, "Power bills will 'crush' consumers."

It is time we evaluated the de-regulation of the electricity industry before we invest in any transmission up-grades. De-regulation has made our electricity system less reliable, less efficient, and more costly. Up to now de-regulation has not worked, and all the evidence suggests that Albertans are poised to get gouged on their electric bills once again. Before we spend a cent we need a full and complete transparent review of what the public needs. We don’t need Bill 50 passed so the government can make decisions unchallenged and in secret.

Joe Anglin is a political activist in Alberta and can be contacted as follows:

Joe Anglin
Lavesta Area Group
(403) 843-3279

Monday, August 24, 2009

Replica Craftsmanship of 1000 Years Ago

Please click on photo to see details of craftsmanship

Detail of craftsmanship as practiced 1000 years ago in the Norse culture. This 6.5 meter long boat, called a "Gokstadfaering", was used by Norsemen for many purposes during the Viking age.
The boat was on display at the Danish Museum in Dickson, West Central Alberta, on the weekend of August 22/23. It was built with the tools of its time by craftsmen at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, and had just completed a tour across Canada

Pen Meets Paper August 24, 2009

Opinion by Helge Nome
On Sunday, August 24 a replica of a commonly used boat during the Viking age, 1000 years ago, arrived at the grounds of the Danish museum by Dickson, between Caroline and Innisfail. It had been painstakingly built in Denmark by craftsmen using replica tools of 1000 years ago, from a large oak log. Hand forged iron rivets were used to connect the boards together and anchor them to the keel and structural members of the craft. The boat, called a "Gokstadfaering", is a highly functional craft, 6.5 meters long and 1.4 meters in width, with a mast and square sail.
Reflecting on the time and energy it took to build this craft, one cannot but be impressed with the people that did this kind of work one thousand years ago.
Now, let's fast forward to today and consider how long it would take to produce a similar craft with contemporary technology :
What we have is a production line with two or three workers churning out several of these craft in one day with the help of technology and modern building materials, such as fibreglass, etc. The productivity of a worker has likely been multiplied by a factor of one thousand, at least, compared to that of his ancestor of AD 1000. But the families of these folks still managed to feed and clothe themselves and raise families and they had a rich culture to boot.
What does that say about us? On account of technological innovation incorporating mass production techniques and a quantum leap forwards in understanding natural processes and using them to advantage, no one should ever be hungry or penniless today, surely?
Why should individuals work in sweatshops, producing perfectly useless consumer goods, just to be able to put some food on the table for themselves and their families?
In theory, given the incredible productivity of modern society, is there any reason why the basic needs of everyone, and I mean everyone, should not be met? Or are we simply wasting productive capacity on goods that nobody really needs, or even want, in order to preserve a productive system that used to prevail a long time ago? Whose interests are served by keeping this system, this way of doing things, alive?

August Cloud Formation East of Caroline

These mighty clouds form, from time to time, over West Central Alberta in the summer.
They create a sense of space rarely experienced.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pen Meets Paper August 17, 2009

Opinion by Helge Nome
I think the time has come to take another look at what has been dubbed "The Great Recession".
We are now officially 20 months into it and many forecasters are predicting that it is over and that the good times will be back shortly. This is entirely in line with what happened after the stock market crash in 1929 during the subsequent recession that became The Great Depression. People did not want to believe that things could get as bad as they did.
There are some other troubling paralells between the 1920ies and what has happened in the world of finance in the last 10+ years: The rules for how you play with money were progressively removed creating a free-for-all casino like environment where all kinds of tricks were used to create money out of nothing. And the outcomes were entirely predictable with the whole house of make-believe coming down around the ears of its inhabitants.
This is exactly what is happening today and there is no end in sight, contrary to popular opinion.
The main receiver of Canada's exports, the United States, in addition to being in a severe recession, is now beginning to restrict imports from the rest of the world, including Canada. The idea, which makes sense from a local American perspective, is to encourage American industries to take up the slack and so preserve American jobs, which in turn maintains the government's tax base.
China, whose leaders are very shrewd, have for some time encouraged its own consumers to buy Chinese products in order to pick up the slack in sales in the U.S. generated by the U.S. recession.
China also owns vast quantities of U.S. Treasury bonds that have been purchased with U.S.dollars from the sale of Chinese consumer products in the U.S., which has resulted in U.S.dollars being recycled back into the U.S. economy.
All this has resulted in Americans being able to live "high on the hog" for a long time and just print some bonds for the Chinese when they needed a new stash of cash. Besides, following WWII, the U.S. Dollar became the world's reserve currency that everybody wanted. In the process, American industry lost its hitherto considerable edge over industries elsewhere, notably in Asia, because Americans were too busy being consumers, rather than producers.
Now they have been locked out in the cold, and we in Canada are riding on their shirt tails, hoping too be tucked in under the coat with them as the weather turns increasingly cold and ugly.
Don't hold your breath. They would just as soon shake us off into the mud while looking after their own interests. And the sooner we get weaned off the U.S. economy, the better.
Who are our next colonial masters going to be? China gobbling up our natural resources and then spitting us out when she has no more use for us?
Or are we going to grow up and become a Real Nation?

Black Elk Hockey Camp Graduation

Please click on this photo to enlarge it

These young hockey players honed their skills at the Black Elk Hockey Camp held at the Caroline Complex during the week of August 1-7. During the graduation ceremony, Camp Director Dale Roth urged them to stay active during the remainder of the summer in preparation for the upcoming hockey season.
The Black Elk website states: "Established in 1984, we have been dedicated to providing a hockey camp environment that has proven to be challenging, educational, and enjoyable! Our objective is to ensure that each participant has an opportunity to improve their individual skills and leave camp with a game plan for enhanced skills development."
The Black Elk Hockey Camps is an annual event in Caroline and camps are held across Alberta over the summer. The Caroline one draws people from all over the west country. It also ensures that the ice surface at the arena is available for public use early in the season.

Seniors' Farmers Market

These young folks checked out Kay McRae's honey and tomato stand at the Caroline Farmers' Market on Friday, August 7. Seniors got free coffee and a cake at the market. Farmers markets are held every Friday from 12 noon to 3pm in the curling arena at the Caroline Complex.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pen Meets Paper August 10, 2009

Opinion by Helge Nome
The Swine Flu season is rapidly approaching, or so we are being told. In Canada, some 4000 people die every year from various complications involving influenza. And so far only a handful of deaths can be linked to the current strain of the H1N1 virus. So what is all the fuss? There are a thousand other killers out there, working for the "grim reaper".
In 1976 there was an outbreak of swine flu in the US that caused public health officials there to panic and recommend the immunization of the whole population. The program turned into a public relations disaster when it was found that the vaccine killed more people than the flu.
Remember the "millenium bug". Everything was supposed to fall apart at the stroke of midnight, December 31, 1999 because of a presumed crash of all kinds of computers whose dates had not been progammed to go beyond 1999?
Unbelievable as it now seems, officials of all stripes, from police, ambulance, fire and municipal services, just to name a few, bought into the hysteria and made preparations for the doomsday event that never happened.
I listen to my home town radio station in Norway on a regular basis and happened to overhear a debate on the soundness of the national government's decision to buy enough vaccine doses against the H1N1 virus to vaccinate all Norwegians twice: 9 million doses in all. A professor of medical ethics at the University of Oslo, Jan Helge Bakken held that the several hundred million Norwegian Kroner could be much better spent in other areas of health care. And debate on the subject is currently escalating.
Our government in Canada has committed us to buying 60 million doses of the stuff at a cost of some $400 million to the taxpayer. This is a fear based transaction, just like the Norwegian one, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO).
My question is this: Just what are the connections between the people working for the WHO and Big Pharma that literally stands to make a killing out of this whole deal?

Violent Storm Passes Through Caroline Area

A storm front moved through the Caroline area at approximately 12:30 am on the morning of Monday, August 3.
In the Crammond area the storm provided a continuous lighting light show and dropped 3/4inch of rain during its relatively short duration. It was preceded during the previous afternoon by a similar storm which also dropped 3/4 inch of rain in the Crammond area. Evidence of the size of the storm front became evident during a drive on country roads in the Caroline area on the morning after where hail stones, flattened roadside grass and broken trees were observed along a front of several kilometers. Temperatures over the weekend were in the 25-30 degree Celsius

Storm Debris at the Sunset Manor in Caroline

Resident Helen Graham reported the broken tree limbs on her front lawn on Monday morning

Leftover hail stones and roadside gravel

Evidence of the violence of the storm that hit the Caroline area in the early hour of Monday, August 3, was found along the road running due south from Caroline the morning after. A mixture of gravel and hailstones were deposited beside the road

Broken trees south of Caroline

Caused by violent winds during the Monday night storm

Security Sting Planned For Caroline
Caroline area residents would do well to shiver in their boots during August, in spite of hot summer weather. The museum is planning a Jail-N-Bail for September 12 in the reconstructed Village Office/Fire Hall/Jail on the museum grounds.
Eligible offenses for jailing include theft of office pens, trafficking in caffeine, operating a tongue without a license, etc. Once in jail, a person has to use a cellphone (smuggled in) to phone somebody that might be willing to post a bail amount from $25-50. Snitchers can enclose $5 with warrants of arrest and send them to "Jail & Bail" c/o Barb, P.O. Box 604 Caroline, or drop off the envelope at
Caroline Supplies. More info is posted on the Post Office notice board.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pen Meets Paper August 3, 2009

Opinion by Helge Nome
There is an old saying: "The Devil is in the details". That is certainly true with respect to legislation proposed by the Stelmach government to amend Alberta's Hydro and Electric Energy Act to over ride the power of the Alberta Utilities Commission in deciding whether an electric transmission line meets the need of Alberta, or is in the public interest.
The proposed legislation, currently sailing under the banner "Bill 050", was introduced into the Alberta Legislature on June 1 and seeks to amend various acts, including the Hydro and Electric energy Act as detailed below:

"Hydro and Electric Energy Act
Amends RSA 2000 cH-16
3(1) The Hydro and Electric Energy Act is amended by this
(2) The following is added before section 14:
Critical transmission infrastructure
13.1(1) In this section, “critical transmission infrastructure”
means critical transmission infrastructure as defined in the
Electric Utilities Act.
(2) The construction, connection and operation of a
transmission line or part of a transmission line that is designated
as critical transmission infrastructure is required to meet the
needs of Alberta and is in the public interest.
(3) Section 19 is amended by adding the following after
subsection (1):
(1.1) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the Commission shall not
refuse an approval of a transmission line or part of a
transmission line designated as critical transmission
infrastructure as defined in the Electric Utilities Act on the basis
that, in its opinion, it does not meet the needs of Alberta or is
not in the public interest."

This last clause above (1.1) is the eye opener. In simple language it states that the impact of a transmission line on Alberta and Albertans does not matter. It is simply irrelevant.
What can one conclude from this kind of proposed legislation. Who on earth is writing this stuff?
Who has something to gain from this? Why are we irrelevant?
Simple: Because some other people think that they are a lot more important than we are. Who are they?
We know that Alberta is big box loaded with potential energy, which is exactly what the world wants right now. It is simply a matter of getting that energy to where it is wanted with a minimum amount of hazzle. We are part of that potential hazzle, so steamrolling us with laws that pave the way for the rape of our province makes perfect sense. Once the laws are enacted by the Stelmach puppies (or energy puppets), our own legal system will prevent us from doing anything about it.
Sweet, isn't it?

Mysterious Mermaid Appears at Burntstick Lake

This mermaid appeared on the beach at Burntstick Lake last week....
Photos by Elaine Nome

.... with the help of these young ladies

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tractor Pull at Leslieville Antique Days

There was a whole lineup of tractors, old and not-so-old, lined up for the tractor pull at the Leslieville Antique days on the August 1-2 weekend.
This was one of a host of activities carried out on the Central Alberta Antique and Model Club's grounds a few kilometers east of Leslieville, which is a hamlet between the City of Red Deer and the Town of Rocky Mountain House in West Central Alberta, where "the women are very pretty and the men are proud of it".
There were many other activities as well, including threshing demos, shingle cutting, log cutting with an "automatic" cross cut saw, bone grinding for chicken feed and last but not least, The Royal Scot steam locomotive, fully operational on its own track, and modelled on its famous cousin in Britain that used to provide passenger service between London and Edinburgh.
For more video from the Leslieville Antique Days, copy and paste the following address into your address bar:
Having watched that video, you can then click on "More From helgenome" to see the others