Whistleblowers Fired In B.C.

You may have read the story. Word is that close to 20 civil servants in B.C. have been fired in the context of voicing concerns over public spending. Imagine that. Results from an investigation proceeded and ultimately two individuals were escorted from the legislature.

Let’s think this through:

 We all know that Canadians are over taxed with a top marginal rate in Alberta of 49 per cent income tax.  Yes, that’s just income tax and doesn’t include excise taxes, property taxes, or GST.  In fact, many of your fellow citizens of high net worth leave the maple leaf behind for residence elsewhere due to the excess of Canadian tax.

Now let’s consider our politicians who have done absolutely zilch in decades to materially reduce the personal income tax burden. It hasn’t mattered their stripe because once any politician has achieved office – the best interests of taxpayers have been lost amidst the expanse of bureaucratic largesse. Ralph Klein in Alberta is one noted exception who took on public sector unions and saved the public purse from calamity. Unfortunately, his legacy has been undone.    

How about the receptivity of public officials to your discontentment with the tax burden? It obviously hasn’t translated. For bureaucrats as evidenced by this sequence of events in the B.C. legislature to be  negligent with the treatment of sacred tax dollars to the extent that they would  enact measures of self protection of their behavior through non-disclosure agreements should in my estimation be equivalent to fraud and corruption. Yes, corruption in Canada.  

Nakiska’s Charm

The things I like about Nakiska are mountainous scenes, guaranteed snow (snow making), unrushed morning travel, friendly feel, and affordability.  I’m grateful to be back on some boards that give me better manoeuvrability in the bumps having had my old Head Monster 88’s lifted at COP last winter and then experiencing lesser performing substitutes.  Speaking of Monsters, the Monster Glades is where I tested these refurbished K2 Axis skis yesterday (snap enclosed) given that other bump runs were in quite poor shape.  These skis were acquired thanks to the empathy of ski friend OB having learned of my COP misfortune. Thanks OB!

Not all the kids were absent due to school yesterday (Friday). Canada games trials were taking place for slalom enthusiasts. No, this was not the course they were on (snap) but surprisingly this had been set up on Lower Mapmaker for training. Yes, I veered off course for the photographic moment.

I’m establishing a nice collection of Nakiska photos given my leisurely annual weekday forays and in fact the experience leads me to think about bringing a tripod along one day to step up the seriousness of capturing the beautiful scenery. A “Go Pro” for my helmut perhaps. Stay tuned.  I’m reminded of the esteemed Warren Miller who with his team had taken phenomenal footage of ski terrain throughout the world and inspired youth to take up the sport.

Monster Glades 011119
Decent considering snow pack.
Workshop – Refurbishing skis

Trudeau’s Year Ending News Conference and The Pipeline

 Not that I’m a fan of Justin Trudeau’s politics but he certainly outperformed the journalists posing questions today. I give Trudeau credit for his thoughtfulness, tact and consistency in articulating positions. He is certainly well spoken. Naturally, the security concerns of Canadians travelling abroad are important, but half the question period was unfortunately taken up by short sighted reporters fixated on the news of the day. Certainly, these reporters should have known they wouldn’t have received any more than what Trudeau was able to give on the topic of the Chinese detention of Canadians.  Instead issues of provincial jurisdiction, taxation, military deployments, veteran’s affairs, government debt, social program spending, and the justice system were not covered.

However; the matter of national unity was actually raised because it’s the knee jerk way of responding to real behaviour of politicians more focused on regional interests than the national interest. The prospect of transporting oil from Alberta to the west coast through pipelines is simple businessand simple economics. Certainly, as a first world country with professionals qualified to construct and maintain a pipeline safely inside an industrial regulatory framework established through decades of first world development experience, this should get done now in the spirit of Canada’s national interest with the enthusiastic cooperation of indigenous people. Just as a reminder…the hard working high tax-paying citizens of Canada grant indigenous people with special exemptions through land and tax not available to non-indigenous Canadians.  Your country also has the right to expropriate your land, garnish your wage, and freeze your bank account. Yet, today your federal government is frozen in time with respect to deploying an asset that you now own, namely the Trans Canada Pipeline.

Apparently, there are some sea mammals that must be accommodated out there on the prospective port. I’m thinking that these sea mammal’s interests could be represented while the pipe is being laid. Lawyers…. well they apparently require a lot more hand holding to save them from their naval gazing and obfuscation through technical legal bafflegab. There comes a timewhen common sense, progress, and economic expansion must supersede bureaucratic bungling.          

JP Morgan Chase In Hot Seat Over Precious Metals

It’s been a contentious issue over fifteen years in the investment community. Are precious metals markets rigged? If you’ve never heard of GATA (Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee) I suppose it’s about time they get some credit for quiet behind the scenes research into irregular trading patterns of precious metals on the COMEX and LME. GATA has in fact appeared before U.S. law makers on the topic of market rigging during the period in which this alleged illicit trading was conducted. Did the U.S. government significantly digest claims made by GATA through GATA’s research? How could the U.S. Senate draft a 396 page report entitled “Wall Street Bank Involvement with Physical Commodities” having not discovered any of these trades though which allegedly number in the “thousands”.

The news….JP Morgan appears (a plea at minimum so far) to be guilty of conducting illicit futures trades in precious metals as reported by CNBC on December 13, 2018 and in fact there is a reference in the article to the trades by an employee of the firm as being conducted with the consent and direct knowledge of his immediate supervisors. A class action law suit is underway representing those who traded the futures precious metals markets between 2009 and 2015.

Chris Powell of GATA speculates in his December 18, 2018 article whether gold mining companies who have reason to trade futures in order to hedge production will participate. Mr. Powell goes on to elaborate why the gold mining industry has been reluctant to postulate about market rigging. Austrian economists could expound greatly on motives for the suppression of the gold price.    

Not surprisingly, we’ve seen the gold price rise to a six month high today. The big question will become…how far up the chain of command will we discover complicity in the conduct of this bank employee?     w

All This Hatred

I woke up this morning to a USA Today headline “The man is pathetic”: Giuliani attacks Cohen. My gut tells me that those spewing such vitriolic comments likely have ethical dilemmas themselves which brew underneath a bravado like facade.  This seems to be the new normal in politics. In an era past when differences of opinion could be debated with intelligence and unwritten rules of conduct, it’s now all out unfiltered attack based on emotionally planted self centred ego driven applause seeking irrationality.

It’s quite obvious to the bystander that Trump’s ex lawyer Cohen succumbed to heat applied by Trump during tenuous transactions arising from Trump’s business and personal conduct. In the remote chance you haven’t been witnessing Trump’s bully like conduct and visceral need to react intensely to any slight against him through his twitter account, never mind his propensity to litigate contractors in business, you can easily formulate through a “paint by numbers” like puzzle that this seems to be a man who takes every occasion to wield financial power regardless of ethical implications. Now, he is facing the music as he deserves. I had actually seen enough simply through his conduct in the election campaign that this was a man unfit for office. In spite of nepotism rules, Trump somehow determined that his daughter and son in law despite their youth and inexperience in governmental affairs would be apt “Advisers to the President”. I actually believe the man has some merit and humanity behind his veil which has unfortunately been voided by aberration.  

I suggest that Mr. Giuliani’s propensity to defend thePresident has more to do with his own need to have his ego stroked than anymisplaced loyalty. There are men who reach their twilight years and still donot discover the means to bypass this ego laden short circuitingmechanism. 

Upon posting, I thought this might go in my blog categorization of “personal development”.  Wink.

Loss Of Objectivity in Public Policy

Upon reading the Calgary Herald’s online comments to Rachel Notley’s letter to the editor today, I can’t help but feel dismayed by people’s vitriol. To preface this piece, I’m fiscally conservative and did not vote for Rachel Notley in our last provincial election and nor would I vote for her today. She has failed to act prudently with the public purse and public sector unions just as I had suspected. However; I do give her credit for adjusting somewhat when she took office to the market reality facing the oil and gas industry.

British Columbia has failed to honour its role in support of Canada’s industrial development. This mere fact underlies the basis which prevents the construction of increased pipeline capacity to the west coast. Ms. Notley has been an advocate of new pipeline construction. In fact, the taxpayer has now been exposed to the capital costs associated with preliminary pipeline construction because of British Columbia’s obfuscation and environmental idealism.

Unfortunately, when the electorate is exposed to politicians who have abused the public purse for their own benefit or witness politicians grand stand for social causes beyond the scope of their mandate, cynicism infiltrates objective debate thereby interfering with good decision making. People become so dug into their positions based on emotion as opposed to logic that coherent public policy is jeopardized.  The elicitation of a civil society is predicated by sound minds exchanging ideas, sourcing problems, contending with various interests, and ultimately planning and executing solutions. Canada in its size, its regional disparities, and its desire for satisfying everyone may in the end lose in global competitiveness. As a nation, we “stand on guard for thee” on Remembrance Day and on Canada Day, but do we do the same when critical industrial projects are on the precipice of deployment? Will we continue to operate from the premise that natural resources form the lifeblood of Canadian economic development or will we be naive enough to believe that service industries, computer gadgets, and the public sector will carry us all forward?

Could it be that your national government is simply reticent to thrust itself into a potential constitutional crisis over the jurisdictional rights of petroleum transport? Now that Canada’s federal government has taken an ownership stake in the Trans Mountain Pipeline, I ponder how it plans to illicit the benefits of such in the face of a provincial government which has been uncooperative. Wasn’t it Mr. Trudeau’s father who was last seen addressing elements particular to our constitution? May he have missed something?                 

Tears In Oshawa

I’m going to say the unpopular because that’s what I do. I simply say what other people are thinking because without the voice of reason, society is destined for continued mediocrity.

Whenever I go to get my GM car fixed in a dealership, I witness indifference to my needs until I bark. I see snooty people without a post secondary education carving out agendas of mini power trips. I see checkout clerks unprofessionally dressed. I’m quoted over priced parts.  I see a laissez- faire modicum of operation. My car’s make and model steering mechanism had been deemed responsible for multiple deaths but its ultimate recall was delayed and only actuated after outrage from interested parties.

Workers in Canadian assembly lines of automobile manufacturing typically require no formal education in order to conduct menial assembly line tasks. Yes, some tasks require dexterity and on the job training, but an individual need not bring a mind equipped with astute analytical skills or a body of knowledge to deploy. Auto plant workers when factoring in benefits and pension plans oftentimes out earn those who have invested much more in professional development. 

The taxpayer has bailed out the automobile industry in the face of hardened union agreements. The Quebec based Bombardier has also benefitted dramatically from public funds.  When market forces and financial crises have struck non-auto, and non-airplane manufacturing sectors, these sectors succumbed to the market. Yet, your federal government has opened your wallet to the aforementioned two groups unabashedly. When other Canadians at times have been hit by unemployment, a system of Employment Insurance could be systematically deployed to their benefit. However; with the news of an Oshawa plant closure, it would appear that politicians are all too eager to expedite the waiting period or elongate the benefit period maximum. 

It’s an event like today with this news when we come to learn exactly where your federal government and opposition politicians stand within the framework of capitalism, individual responsibility, free markets, and the perviousness of the public purse.

My message to auto workers facing layoffs… get registered for the January session at your local community college and learn more about competing in the free enterprise system. Oh yes, you may need to put that boat or cottage up for sale as you invest in yourself.      

       

Shoegaze and Slowdive

Shoegaze music became a shadow or back seat genre of the grunge scene during the 90s. Typically played in the minor keys, the name came from lead guitarists’ fixation on their feet due to the operation of numerous effect pedals daisy chained on stage. Thanks to KEXP radio, I discovered Slowdive which may be the preeminent band associated with the genre. To the band’s surprise upon reuniting in 2014 after a long hiatus due partly to unflattering reviews, audiences hailed them dearly in London and Barcelona. Their return has been invigorated with a hot new album self titled “Slowdive”.

 My characterization of the music is “sombre mood”. If you’re willing to go into the darkness, you’ll shimmy in calm. Just make certain you come out while not over cooking your playlist with it. While the distinction of chord movement is oftentimes muddled given the heavy use of reverb, the unrushed melodies can be impactful and pointed.

Much of my attraction to Slowdive is the modest stage presence and obvious band cohesiveness lead by lead song writer and front man Neal Halstead. What his childhood chum Rachel Goswell lacks in vocal range – she makes up for in musicality on guitar and keyboard.  Her voice tonality is actually fitting to the eclectic ambience illuminating live performances. Critical to the sensitive nature of the genre, the rhythm section has a strong feel for dynamics with Simon Scott intuitively in sync with bassist Nick Chaplin. Christian Savill rounds out the troupe on rhythm guitar.                

Jose James Plays Calgary

It was a show in tribute to jazz icon Bill Withers last night at the Jack Singer. As you can see, I had a choice seat. I got to say that one of my highlights was witnessing the pure joy of an audience in awe of this rising star, Jose James. One particular young woman simply beamed in delight and in fact one memorable moment was our eyes colliding upon intercepting witty stage talk. Tracks “Who Is He”, and “Ain’t No Sunshine” particularly stood out along with the groovy closer which turned a classy looking opera hall into a speakeasy lookalike. This fellow, James, possesses a stage charm inviting onlookers into his act from the outset. His voice is stellar with a wide range and particularly appealing in tenor like phrasing.   

The band was strong with frequent solos from lead man Brad Allen Williams. The only pedal featured that I could see from my quaint corner spot during the evening was a wah brandished in “Grandma’s Hands”. All members had their solo spots. James’ admiration for Bill Withers was genuine and lucky for us all in the end, James encored with one of his own. 

 

       

Wynterland Band Review

With tickets sold out at the Blues Can last night, I headed over to Mikey’s Juke Joint on 12th Ave SW with a friend and enjoyed classic rock from Red Deer’s Wynterland.

This is an energetic cover band that does remarkably well at capturing popular riffs of yesteryear. I stayed for their first two sets and enjoyed classics such from Fleetwood Mac , Boston, April Wine, Pat Benatar, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Toto, and Journey among others less familiar. It’s a fun stage presence hosted by vocalist / guitarist Wynette Johnson. The biggest take away of the evening was song selection. I don’t know if they had kicked in all of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams, “Rhiannon”, and “Go Your Own Way” because of the news of FM’s concert postponement but if so, that was intuitive. Patrons obviously took to the rhythm section filling the dance floor from the outset. “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” from April Wine definitely had me reeling in Nostalgia as these guys delivered on this track pretty much note for note. 

When coming away from such an occasion, I reflect on the hard work that local musicians put into recreating popular songs for our enjoyment and the breadth of commitment required for band members to operate cohesively in this part time endeavour while maintaining full time careers. Although reduced …thankfully, Calgary has venues still available for these gigs. Go out and show your support. These bands need us.