I learned something interesting today (Jan 21, 2017)

David Rosenberg, in the Saturday Globe and Mail, pointed out that Trump is “juggling way too many balls at the same time” and ignoring the most important one. The most important one relates to the fact that the average American is a few bricks short of a load when it comes to math and science, while the average Chinese is on top.

So if Trump (who ranks right down there with Warren G. Harding when it comes to intelligence), wants to mess with China, perhaps he should start with the U.S. public school system. And if he wants to help all the underemployed in the Rust Belt deal with the automated assembly lines that have taken away their jobs, perhaps he should, yeah, once again, start with the U.S. public school system.




The Indian Act (Canada) as seen from the eyes of a politically incorrect white guy

I had gone through several decades of life seeing aboriginal Canadians either as inspiring cultural and spiritual icons (eg, characters in Carlos Castenada books)…


…or as unfortunate victims in northern hovels with non-existent insulation and undrinkable water.


So, knowing that the former impression is sometimes realistic (see Wikipedia entry on the “Native American Church”), and that the latter impression is often realistic, I decided (like the bored middle-class white guy that I am) to Google something. But what?

I had always wondered why so many reserves seemed to have been neglected, and I suspected that the situation wasn’t that much different than the neglect we often see in rental units in any typical Canadian town or city. The people don’t own their home, so they rely on an absentee landlord to fix things and improve things.

So I googled “canadian indian act” and “land ownership”. What I found was a lively debate between some folks (notably Tom Flanagan of previous Reform Party fame) who would like to see First Nations people be able to own their own land, and some other folks (often in reply to Flanagan’s 2010 book on the subject) who think that communal non-ownership and (implicitly) throwing more money at the status quo will somehow solve the issues.

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good comes to mind. And I wonder if any kind of Shangri-la is possible in those isolated reserves where economic opportunities are next to nil. And it should be noted that the Nisgaa of B.C. have already tried Flanagan’s approach on a few individual lots, and they seem to like it.

One person who doesn’t like it is Pamela Palmeter, a Mi’kmaq lawyer based in Toronto, who wrote a critical review of Flanagan’s book here.  She praises the traditional notion of communal ownership. However it is something which tends not to work very well in a global culture of individualism. And even if communitarianism (something I’m a HUGE fan of) was to somehow overturn the current paradigm of global greed, it would still need localized, private ownership and a stable economic base.

Palmeter is also concerned about the possibility of private lots on reserves gradually being sold to non-natives. Perhaps that is a valid concern (and I’m not a big fan of casinos anywhere, let alone on reserves), but such a concern pales in comparison to what is happening on far too many reserves in the 21st century.


Wake up Alberta!

So we’re all weeping and moaning (or celebrating) about the fact that the price of oil is only lately in the $50 range. At that price, we’ll never make a buck! Right?

Except for the fact that for most of the last century, oil was priced way below $50.  Have a look at the graph below.


Now quit bellyaching. ‘Cause if we had only invested our oil wealth like Peter Lougheed advised us to (and like Norway actually did), we’d be in fine shape now.

But it seems that now we can’t even make a decent living (never mind that pie-in-the-sky stuff about saving a bit for a rainy day).  So what gives? Certainly we should still be making out like King Midas, right?

OK, have a look at another graph, and then put 2 and 2 together.


Were you able to figure that out?  Let me help: conventional oil is easy to pull out of the ground. Bitumen (ie, oilsands or tar sands) is not easy to pull out of the ground.  And it’s also harder to refine into something useful.  That’s why we’re not pulling in the money like we used to.  That’s why the stupid people in society are looking around for scapegoats.

The concept EROI (energy return on investment) explains it all.  Essentially, it states what I just told you: conventional oil is easy to pull out of the ground. Bitumen is not easy to pull out of the ground.


What do we do now? Well, the first step is admitting that we have a problem. The second step is filling our brain with useful information, not useless information (so quit spending all your time on facebook!).  Here’s some useful information: The Future of the Canadian Oil Sands