Our World is Fucked

Our world is fucked. Pure and simple. Let’s not deny it; climate change is real and we have 10 years to do something or it’s going to get a helluva lot worse. Hell, in the past five years, fires and floods have hit our communities. Hundred year heat waves and droughts have ravaged our farm and ranchlands. Our kids are breathing in fumes from the refineries that keep us employed and put food on the table, and our oilsands; which brought us boom after boom are running dry, and the government tells us they don’t know how they will be able to fix the tailings ponds that are even now leaching into the groundwater, poisoning everything downstream.

Who is to blame and who is going to fix this?

Politicians tell us to blame ourselves and those who were in power before; saying we were greedy and shortsighted. They say that we need to trust them, that they can bring oil back to $100/barrel, that they can bring back the boom. But to do this, they say, we must stop caring for each other. Cutback the money for schools, road, and hospitals. Take away the safety nets that protect average people from ending up on the streets and give that money to oil companies in the form of tax breaks and concessions. They want to take the food off our tables and give it to those who have never gone without.

The companies we work for and use everyday don’t talk about who is responsible. Instead they say,

 “Look at this new, shiny product that will clean your floors, entertainment your kids, and save the environment all for the low, low price of your brand loyalty.” We are told not to question, that they have a plan, that if use this app or that product, that if we just keep buying that everything will be okay.

And what about the groups you hear on the news. Soldiers of Odin, Wolves of Odin, Guards, Infidels and bears oh my. The story is always that it is someone else who is responsible. The Muslim, the queer, the non-white, the Jews, feminists, communists, their agenda is the destruction of our heritage and way of life. And the only way to stop this is to get them before they get us. Fuck, we’ve seen this show before. Hell there was a war or two about that.

So if we can’t have faith in the government, our bosses, or the Furries of Oldshit, who should we trust?

Each other. It wasn’t the governments or the bosses who build our communities or raised our kids. It was us. The companies whose names are on all the buildings didn’t lay one brick or pour the foundation. We did. Everyday, average people over weeks, months, years, built the world we live in and it’s time we recognize how powerful we really are. We don’t need to be told what’s best for us, we can do this better ourselves. It’s time to cut out the middleman and become what we always were. People, united.

The History of Gun Control in Canada

The first gun control law passed in Canada was given royal assent in 1886. It applied only to the Territories, inclusive of what is today Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The scope of this legislation would make even Trudeau blush.

Section 101 of the North-West Territories Act made it illegal for anyone to own, use, transport, buy, or sell any firearms or ammunition for any purpose without the express written permission of the government. The law remained in place until 1905 when Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces. The reasoning behind this bill, passed into law by the conservative Macdonald government, was to stamp out all remaining dissent against the Canadian state, especially by the Native and Métis inhabitants of the Territories, who in those days comprised the majority. Even with the leaders of the North-West Rebellion all brutally executed or exiled, the heavily-militarized North-West Mounted Police roaming the countryside, and the majority of the First Nations population corralled onto tiny reserves, the federal government felt the need to fully disarm the wild West. From that year on, the history of gun control in Canada has been a long history of the state disarming the people at the first flash of discontent.

In the years that followed, new laws required that Canadian citizens have permits for pistols and that foreigners acquire a permit before handling any firearm. A firearm registry was established. Even still, the rules governing firearms ownership were much more lax than the totalitarian police-state that ruled in the West in the immediate aftermath of the hanging of Louis Riel. As the Trudeau and Turner governments faced pressure from Quebec separatists and the FLQ demonstrated the lengths that they were willing to go to to break free of Canada, new systems of control were implemented first in 1969 with the omnibus C-150 and again in 1977. These laws introduced the FAC system and classified firearms as non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited.

Today’s system of gun control saw its birth in 1991. A gun-control bill had been passed around for months following the massacre of 14 women in one of Canada’s worst hate crimes in December of 1989 at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. Despite a great deal of public support for the bill, it failed to gain much traction in either the Liberal or Conservative Party.

In the summer of 1990, however, Mohawk warriors in Kanehsatà:ke began defending their land against illegal attempts by the Quebec government to build a golf course over their cemetery. After a police officer was killed in the stand-off, a months-long crisis ensued that threw all major parties into an embarrassing display of colonial racism and civic cowardice. A rising star within Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives, Kim Campbell, brought forward a heavily modified version of the previously unpopular gun control bill, and Bill C-17 (1991) passed through the House of Commons with the approval of both the Conservatives and Liberals. The firearm used to massacre over a dozen women in Quebec two years prior (the Ruger Mini-14) remained non-restricted, while the firearms carried by the Mohawk Warriors – all semi-automatic civilian variants of the AK-47 – were reclassified as prohibited.

Just a few years later, not wanting to be out-done by the Conservatives, the Liberal Party passed even stronger restrictions on firearms. Bill C-68 (1995) was again passed on the rhetoric of École Polytechnique, but nothing in the bill’s language would have prevented any mass shootings. Rather, the language of the bill was targeted at enemies of the state, such as the Shuswap and Secwepemc warriors who had held their ground at Gustafsen Lake just a couple of months before the bill was brought before Parliament.

The Canadian government has long claimed that its efforts to disarm its citizens have been in those citizens’ best interest, even while the RCMP return to their militaristic roots and every day look more and more like an occupying army instead of the familiar Dudley Do-Rights we’ve come to fetishize. When next the government comes to take the shotgun hanging on the mantle or the hunting-rifle in the safe, remember the history of gun control in this country, and think twice about thanking the constable for his service as he robs you in the middle of the day.

On Anniversary of Major American Nuclear Test, Bystanders Still Unrecognized.

On July 16th, 1945 the United States of America successfully detonated its first atomic warhead. Of course such a test came with a considerable amount of preparation: $12 million dollars were spent on a steel container to contain and preserve the plutonium used in event the bomb “fizzled”; extra roads were built into the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range; a 100ft tower was constructed from which to detonate the bomb; troops were stationed in nearby towns in case of a need to evacuate people; the New Mexico Governor was warned of a potential need to declare martial law; press releases and explanations were prepared in the event of disaster and the loss of life. There was no preparation, however, to protect people from the little-understood radioactive fallout.

There was a great deal of atmospheric testing that occurred up until 1963, mostly in the state of Nevada. This arms race and nuclear testing exposed millions of people to radiation due to mining, transportation, and testing fall out. In 1990 the United States Congress ratified the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act which specified compensation amounts for workers and some “downwinders” (people living downwind from the testing grounds and who were exposed to the fallout of the tests). The act only acknowledges downwinders in Arizona, Nevada and Utah; however, and does not acknowledge the people who were exposed in that first test in Nevada.

In an effort to get recognition; community members of the Tularosa Basin have conducted health surveys of current and former residents to prove their area has an above average rate of cancers and have been protesting and meeting with government officials for decades. Members of the community report having high numbers of family members and family members through generations contracting multiple cancers. This means that there are families with multiple members that have had to take time off work or quit their jobs due to battling cancer, putting a larger strain on the remaining healthy members of that family to support or assist their sisters, brothers, parents or children with no financial assistance to help with that burden. And in counties were having health insurance is below the national average.

One health survey conducted describes the immediate aftermath of the bomb test:

“A family reports living in Oscuro, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, along with other families. After the Trinity bomb detonated, their chickens died. The family dog died. The individual’s mother hung bed sheets on the windows and wet them to keep the dust [fallout] out of the house.”

Another response highlights the loss of multiple family members:

“A woman born in September 1930 in Bosquecito, New Mexico, was living in Bingham, New Mexico when the bomb exploded at the Trinity site. She has lived in Socorro for many decades. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2007 at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The same doctor who diagnosed her cancer performed her mastectomy. She later received treatment at the New Mexico Cancer Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She reports losing both parents to cancer each at the age of 65 years. Her oldest sister also had breast cancer, and her younger brother died from pancreatic cancer in 2015.”

The Tularosa county downwinders are asking for New Mexico to be listed as a downwinders area in RECA, and other changes that would allow them to receive compensation for their unknown exposure, but RECA remains unchanged.

Sources

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/2b2028_8e221b260de7468bbcb67cbddc498dbe.pdf

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/2b2028_4222ab657d7c4e4aa07975728329fa66.pdf

https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/trinity-test-1945

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43956.pdf – RECA

The Beast

It’s the end of June, the fields are planted, kids are done school, and for those of us who work industrial, shutdown season is just about at its peak. There’s a little breathing room from the mad dash of the spring and the long days of the fall harvest. Summer is the time for going fishing with the boys, hanging out by the campfire, going camping and enjoying life. At least that’s the plan. But what happens when most of the work we rely on getting done in the spring is disrupted or destroyed by wildfires which seem to be getting worse every year?

The Beast taught us that the communities that took decades to build can be wiped out in days. That someone’s reckless actions in the bush would be responsible for two deaths, billions of dollars of fire related damage, and the evacuation of multiple cities, towns, and communities. This person probably didn’t think about how their actions would hurt others but who hasn’t done something stupid and lived to regret it?

Now that person didn’t start the fire that became the Beast, all they did was make a dangerous situation that much worse. And happens every day. Every day, we make choices good, bad, or whatever, that we don’t know will affect others. But what does this have to do with farming, campfires, and good times?

We live with rules and routines every day, when we get up, which side of the road we drive on, and more importantly, how we are supposed to treat others and the world around us. Some of these are laws, some of these are traditions, and some are just common sense. Like not lighting a fire in an area that is in the middle of a drought and as dry as tinder. Now many of these rules are there to keep things running smoothly, so that infrastructure and communities, and in some cases people are not harmed by others actions, because the theory is, if you follow the rules, you won’t get harmed.

And that makes sense, to an extent. Now we won’t talk today about laws and workplace rules and all that, but about those unwritten rules.[clarify this earlier on] Those behaviours and traditions that have passed down from one generation to the next, with some changes here or there. Now this is where we start having problems, unwritten rules or traditions don’t tend to be reviewed, they don’t tend to change with the times and most times, the reason for them are forgotten. The practice of women walking to the inside of the sidewalk and the men with them to the outside, for example.

While some people think that the reason was to be gentlemanly and that it showed chivalry and good manners, it started because before there was indoor plumbing people would often dump their bedpans and chamber pots right into the street. As anyone who has tossed a bucket of water can tell you, it doesn’t go straight down, there’s an arc there and so people closer to the street were more likely to get splashed (that’s also why shops tended to have awnings over windows, but that’s another story). Women were kept to the inside because it was seen as good courting to do this, as well as the amount of clothes women of the time wore meant that it took them longer to get dressed then the men. So, since no one throws shit pout the window anymore why do we do this? Tradition.

So that’s a quaint tradition, but what about other traditions? Like staying quiet when your buddy has a few too many and decides to drive his wife and kids home. Or when we hide behind politeness when we are asked why we don’t like the Chinese family that runs the grocery store. We can talk for hours on end about how the government likes to screw us over and our boss is bleeding us for all we are worth but we still show up to work and we still vote blue because that’s what we’ve always done.

The problem with this type of thinking is that it doesn’t work. Our jobs are going away, our government is selling us off bit by bit to the highest bidder and no one stands up to them, no one does anything because that’s the way it has always been and someone will always try to screw us. And to organize a union or challenge the government, well that’s what socialists do and we can’t be that.

Going back to the fire, what would have happened if we had done nothing? If the thousands of people organizing convoys, donating, money, time, and resources to helping out those affected and supporting those combating the fire, had simply said that’s the way it is and stayed home? Well, for starters, this would be a different article. But we don’t do that when it comes to natural disasters because that would make no sense. Of course, we would band together and help out. It’s what we do. Because we know we can make a difference and that it matters; so shouldn’t we start thinking about where else we can make a difference? This matters.

What would happen if the next time your buddy got drunk and loud and started bitchin’ about immigrants, you told him to shut the fuck up? Bet he would stop saying shit around you. What would happen if next time the dishes piled up, you did it instead of waiting for your wife to finish putting the kids to bed? Bet you’d have a happier marriage. What would happen if the next time your MLA took a selfie with the local hate group, you stopped by his office to give him a piece of your mind? Bet he’d think twice next time. What would happen if the next time your boss laid off half your shift, you walked out with them? Bet you’d sleep better at night knowing your coworkers would do the same for you. Its time for Albertans to revive old traditions and invent new ones. Traditions of pride and solidarity, of friendship and responsibility, and of standing up for our values against hatred and ignorance

Why the Orange Was Crushed

The 2019 Alberta General Election concluded with the Notley government relegated to a the city of Edmonton and a few scattered ridings in the Calgary area. Optimistic hopes among the centrist New Democrats that the crowded field of right wing candidates might swing the vote were swept aside as the province’s right wing rallied behind Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party, with very few votes going to Alberta Independence, Alberta Advantage, or the Alberta Party. Jason Kenney marched into office in full control of the legislature, the next five years of Alberta politics his to command.

Some New Democrats have chosen to hide their heads in the sand, believing that their ability to hold on to a measly few ridings in the capital city is a moral victory, if not a real one, or taking solace in the fact that they continue to be the official opposition. Others are simply dumbfounded that their party lost, after all the effort that Rachel Notley put in to appeal to the working Albertan – the farmers, truckers, rig pigs, and ditch diggers that form the backbone of our economy. The Notley government fought tooth and nail to drag pipelines to the sea. There was no royalty review. The minimum wage hike was modest and was taken slow so as not to hurt business. The Alberta New Democrats were pro-oil, pro-pipelines, anti-Indian, and anti-environment, everything that the CBC and Toronto bigwigs claimed that Albertans wanted. So why did they lose?

What New Democrats should be asking is . . . how did they possibly hang on to so many ridings? The NDP, both in their governance and in their campaign advertised themselves as nothing more than Orange Tories. Every policy put forward by the Notley government was just a slightly more moderate, slightly-more gay-friendly version of good, old-fashioned conservative policies. Albertans voted for the NDP in 2014 because they wanted a change from the old ways of the Progressive Conservative Party, but they just got more of the same. When every party advocates for the exact same policies, only the most convincing party will win. And the NDP, while certainly willing to rip land from under the feet of the First Peoples and willing to dredge the bitumen from deep underground and pipe it out of our province at a premium, they were nowhere near as convincing in their desire to do so as the United Conservative Party. Albertan workers saw that Notley would do it, but Kenney would do it with a smile.

So of course Kenney won. The NDP had no real policies of their own. Pipelines became the central issue of the election because the New Democrats couldn’t offer a single alternative. Why not refine and use the bitumen that we extract right here in Alberta? Why not build a trans-Alberta rail line from Lethbridge to Fort Mac to quickly, cleanly, safely, and cheaply transport thousands of passengers a day? Why not promote manufacturing in the cities? Why not survey farmers to build a proposal for comprehensive land reform to revitalize struggling rural areas? Why not build hospitals and schools in underserved areas? Why not introduce electoral reform to ensure more voices are heard and more proposals considered? Why not convert used-up old oil wells into geothermal vents? None of these options found their way into the NDP’s platform. Instead, the few progressive policies that the NDP even considered were modest, small, and poorly thought-out. Most policies that were raised were simply more moderate versions of what the United Conservative Party was proposing. After forty years of PC government, the first round of changes was so milquetoast and lacklustre that it barely seemed like anything changed at all. Why bother putting on a fresh coat of paint when the house is on fire? Albertans are not moderates who crave compromise and slow, incremental reform.

Those left in the cold by the disappointing change had nobody to vote for. The NDP have proved themselves to be nothing more than Tories unimpressed with the crass rhetoric and xenophobia of their less cultured and cosmopolitan counterparts. A kinder conservatism. A keener conservatism. One dressed up in academic jargon and sneering elitism. And still the NDP asks how they failed to appeal! In the absence of any choice reflective of their interests, the Alberta left wing stayed home on election night. Those whose jobs were on the line begrudgingly dragged their feet to the polls, casting their ballots as an act of survival.

Alberta politics cannot abide the NDP for long. A party which has no policies and no flagship platform cannot last amidst the fire and brimstone politics of Alberta. Where has the handwringing, compromise, and neoliberal hemming and hawing of the New Democrats landed us? The hard-fought-for minimum wage, the highest in the country, may soon become the lowest. Nurses and librarians have lost their jobs, and teachers are soon to follow. Gay-Straight Alliances in our schools are being shut down, and LGBTQ2+ students are being outed. Unions are preparing to be busted. First Nations are readying to fight the long battles to preserve their land and water. And if you think you’re not under threat, that you’re safe, that Kenney is the Premier that works for you, just wait until he comes for your job or your land or your rights. At least we can drink in the parks now, I guess.