Friday, April 22, 2016

We moved!


is shifting to a more secure platform on a new server at a new home:

You will find old content at the new location but there is a revised system for broad subject groupings (CATEGORIES) and specific content detail (TAGS).

All labels on posts of the old site have been carried to the new place as CATEGORIES and it will take me some time to change more than 2,000 articles to the new indexing system. As I go through old writings, some articles may move to an archive and outdated posts may disappear. Items that remain particularly relevant will be brought to the top.

The new site will be a work in progress, improving as I learn its set of tools. Please let me know, through comments or by email, what you like and what you dislike about the new format.

I will keep similar content at both places for a short while but I prefer you use the new location for reading and commenting.

PS: Thanks to financial supporters who've helped make this upgrade possible.

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The first part of this article was written in November 2009; the addendum added April 2016.

In the days when the Fraser Valley had working forests, my Grandfather was its chief forest ranger, employed by the Province of BC.

An inquisitive child, I asked Grandmother, "Are you rich?"

She said, "No, but we're comfortable."

Still curious, I asked, "Will you get rich?"

Her reply, "No, you don't become rich working for the government, but you can get a small pension and be comfortable."

As time went by, comfortable turned to something else. The old girl lived to be 100, four years longer than her forest ranger. But, this was a time without adjustments or indexing. You opened and ended retirement with the same pension. Life though offered them rewards in other ways. They had unending pride in the land they pioneered. Something about service to the country and making it better for 24 grandchildren.

I imagine that senior public servants in modern days are much the same, happy to build a great land and proud of commendations from the high and mighty. Some may labour for years with little notice. Others are more fortunate.

Lee Doney is one example of a loyal public servant who was noticed. He retired in 2004 after more than 30 years of service and Hon. G. Campbell paid this tribute in the Legislature (Hansard, April 27, 2004):
Today I rise to recognize the many contributions of a career public servant, Lee Doney. He's joined today by his mother and his family.

Lee is retiring this year. Certainly, it will be a great loss to British Columbia's public service. . . . He has, in fact, been an exemplary public servant for the last 30 years.
Mr. Doney worked hard for this province. We hope he remains healthy and isn't forced to take on part time jobs to remain comfortable.


It turned out that the retired public servant was forced to find new employment. Despite the generous pension afforded senior government executives, Doney has eked out a living by working in various suites of offices including those of the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat (President), the Columbia Power Corporation (Chairman) and Western Forest Products Inc. (Chairman). No doubt his part time employment and close relationship with BC Liberals is helpful in WFP's dealings with government.

Here is a recap of government payments to Mr. Doney as reported in Public Accounts.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Careless or captured? (A 2009 repeat)

When you read or listen to resource industry advocates, especially ones masquerading as objective political pundits, compare their concerns in 2009 about burning natural gas to generate peak-demand electricity to their current attitudes toward burning natural gas to liquefy natural gas. The following was first published at Northern Insight on August 4, 2009.

Despite deep cynicism about those backing Gordon Campbell's Liberals, I've long held respect for the writing of Vaughn Palmer. My reservoir of appreciation seems now to have run dry. He has been bright, skilled and articulate, usually worth reading throughout 35 years with the Vancouver Sun.

Now, I don't know. Is he distracted, overburdened, grown careless or captured by his subjects? What can explain Palmer's early reporting about the British Columbia Utilities Commission decision on BC Hydro's 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan.

July 31, on his regular Vancouver radio outing, he led with this:
"I think it means the BC Utilities Commission is out of touch. You know, they said, "We're not persuaded we need all this new green power because you've got the Burrard Thermal Plant sitting out there in Port Moody and it could run full time and take care of your power needs for many years." Which, is completely out of touch. ... the Utility Commission's belief that the Burrard Thermal is the answer to any of the province's power needs for the future just ignores its impact on air quality among other things."
That is not merely weak reporting of the Commission's determination. It is a reprehensible misstatement that totally fails to reflect the actual decision. I can think of only two possibilities. One is that Palmer had not read the report but relied on someone's corrupt précis. The other is that he intentionally misled the audience for some purpose.

Sidekick Keith Baldrey, also of Canwest Global, contributed:
"And, that's why I don't understand why a number of environmental groups who are applauding this decision have remained silent on the fact that Burrard Thermal is to be relied on at an increasing rate because it produces dirty energy. That's a contradictory and hypocritical position and a number of people haven't really squared themselves with that."
No Keith, the BC Utilities Commission simply didn't say that.

Palmer subsequently shifted his attack, all but accusing the BCUC of joining forces with uninformed racists:
"You know, that bit about the First Nations - I mean think about this for a minute - if we go out and get public opinion on First Nations, one of the first things you hear from people is, "You know, they always want a handout from the government, they're always taking government money." You know, here you got a bunch of First Nations in British Columbia - some of the best led native bands in the province - gone out and they've found private partners to develop their own resources on their own traditional territory and the big provincial government regulator has slammed the door on their face. I mean, it's no wonder that they're feeling frustrated."
Baldrey added:
". . . these independent power projects have as economic partners First Nations groups. These are a huge economic development tool for impoverished First Nations and Vaughn and I were reading this morning, from the Sechelt Indian Band, a letter they've written the BC Utilities Commission accusing them of essentially, and I quote, "This appears to us to be nothing less than regulated racism." So you've got First Nations now very much up in arms. With the stroke of a pen, the Utilities Commission has kiboshed what they saw as the number one tool to lift a lot of their people out of fairly extensive poverty and I don't know if the Utilities Commission thought this through properly."
I was interested to note that at 9am July 31, Baldrey and Palmer knew the contents of the Sechelt Band's letter and were even armed with the pointed quote claiming "regulated racism." Yet that letter was still warm from printing, being dated only one day before, July 30. I wonder how it came to be reviewed so promptly and publicly by the Victoria based journalists.

Was the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB) or the Independent Power Producers Association of BC (IPPBC) helping Chief Garry Feschuk and the shishalh First Nation circulate the letter? Were the flacks also providing pre-digested interpretations of the BCUC decision to certain journalists?

Palmer went on to provide a bit of accurate detail, saying the BCUC decision did not reject green power, private power or run of the river facilities and that, primarily, BC Hydro had to rework the scheduling of projects. Mind you, he ignored the BCUC determination that BC Hydro had been either inaccurate or dishonest in its power needs forecasting. That should have been news. At best, Palmer had part of the story correct but his headline material was worse than sloppy.

We cannot though accuse all professional journalists of faulty or inadequate reporting. Mark Hume at the Globe and Mail had no difficulty understanding the entire BCUC decision and writing conclusions based on the Commission's actual findings. He said:
"The commission's ruling made it clear, however, that there is no energy crisis - and that when there are energy shortfalls, such as during droughts or the period of peak demand in December, BC Hydro has a solid backup system in the Burrard Generating Station, an old, mostly idle plant fueled by natural gas.

"The commission is not saying we should run the Burrard plant, or that Burrard is a better source of energy than clean resources," said economist Marvin Shaffer. What the commission determined is that Burrard is valuable as a backup facility, and that in that role it has the capacity of at least 5,000 gigawatt hours, not the 3,000 GWh estimated by BC Hydro.

"By refusing to accept the lower capacity, the commission called into question the need for BC Hydro to purchase backup power from IPPs.

"Had the British Columbia Utilities Commission not intervened, B.C. would have been damming its wild and scenic rivers, not in a noble fight against global warming, but in order to run air conditioners in California."
Contrast that analysis to the one by Keith Baldrey:
"Yes, they (BCUC) just said go and use Burrard Thermal."
One does not need to be a sophisticated media analyst to conclude that Canwest Global's Palmer and Baldrey reported on the BCUC in a manner that is entirely below the standard set by Mark Hume. The Globe and Mail faces the same financial challenges as every newspaper publisher but in the western bureau, they employ and deploy high quality staff, particularly in comparison to the competition.

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Reward without risk for worthless surplus power (2010 Repeat)

Checking up on Government
British Columbia's government believes less in free enterprise than in assisted activities for approved associates. Entrepreneurs saw potential for a private power generation industry in the province but didn't want to risk their own money. Instead, they arranged with the Liberal government for the public to accept all risks and guarantee substantial profits to the schemers.

This was done by designing long term (20-55+ years) power purchase agreements whereby BC Hydro is obliged to purchase power at values well above current market with prices additionally sweetened by annual consumer price index (CPI) escalators. To ensure a need for additional suppliers, BC Hydro was prevented from developing its own new sources. Will McMartin of The Tyee describes irony in the situation:
It is impossible not to see irony in how the City of Edmonton has unleashed its publicly-owned utility, EPCOR (and its subsidiaries) to expand operations and generate profits across North America, while the Province of British Columbia -- under Gordon Campbell's BC Liberal government -- has stunted the growth of our publicly-owned utility, BC Hydro and Power Authority.
(Supporters of independent power production in this province often argue that BC Hydro staff do not have the skills needed to build and operate clean or green energy projects. Can it be true that Edmonton's public-sector possesses the requisite skill-sets, but British Columbia's does not?)

Clearly, Edmonton's elected officials have not been frightened by the financial "risk" associated with public-sector power generation, transmission and distribution -- the risk that Campbell, Jaccard and the IPPBC so loudly decry in our province.

Indeed, in BC Hydro's most-recent clean energy call, EPCOR and its related companies continue to seek profit-making opportunities in B.C.

On March 11, an EPCOR-related entity, CP Renewable Energy (B.C.) Limited Partnership won a new, long-term energy purchase agreement from BC Hydro for a wind farm near Tumbler Ridge.

BC Liberals distrust the capitalist concept of competitive markets where rewards are associated with risks. Instead, they scrambled to eliminate energy investor downsides. That makes no sense in honest government. Of course, BC Liberal governments have been called many things, but never honest. Perhaps, the methodology is revealed. For some years, we were sold the concept of endless growth causing insatiable appetites for energy, leading to unrestrained demand and ever rising prices.

In 1980, oil was in short supply, line-ups formed at gasoline stations and pumps ran dry. Experts predicted that oil reserves would be exhausted by the turn of the century. Thirty year later, the end of oil is not in sight, except in the eyes of pessimists who have been predicting the demise of oil throughout their careers.

So it is with electricity. We remember frequent brown-outs in the USA although it turned out that the smartest guys in the room were playing games to manipulate prices. Nevertheless, deregulation and dishonesty meant higher prices and uncertain supply. Citizens were programmed to believe that energy prices would rise dramatically and power would always remain scarce.

That consumer conditioning presented a perfect opportunity for profiteers in British Columbia. However, while BC Hydro rushes to contract for more capacity, there is already surplus electricity that cannot be absorbed in the Pacific Northwest.  Two giants, Babcock and Wilcox and Bechtel, have teamed to complete development of a small light water reactor, a modular 125 MW system that might be a power industry game changer in a decade. Another company, Hyperion Power Generation (now Gen4Energy) claims its refrigerator-sized Mini Power Reactor, capable of powering 20,000 homes, will be soon ready to license. Japan and China are involved in advanced small scale nuclear generation programs. The BC Government is foolhardy to make 55+ year purchase agreements with automatic price escalators. The only thing certain about these provincial commitments is that they will create assured profits for the developers.

Today's excess electricity is likely to increase in the short run even without nuclear creating a new market in the USA. Ted Sickinger at The Oregonian writes Too much of a good thing: Growth  in wind power makes life difficult for grid managers:
During the last three years, the building boom spawned by green energy mandates in Oregon, Washington and California doubled the generation capacity of wind farms in the region. By 2013, it's expected to double again.
That seems like great news. Plenty of carbon-free energy with no fuel costs. Jobs. Property taxes.

In the real world, however, the pace and geographic concentration of wind development, coupled with wild swings in its output, are overwhelming the region's electrical grid and outstripping its ability to use the power or send it elsewhere.

BC Liberals assume the grid will take all of the surplus power capacity they plan to bring on stream. Because wind generated or run-of-river electricity cannot be stored, the public will be stuck with high cost off-peak power that has no value. That is the risk the private producers didn't want to take. BC Liberals took it instead and passed it to you and me, leaving the private producers with rewards without risks. The people stuck with the bills have no say.

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Crime (still) in progress (a 2010 article repeated)

News item:
British Columbia Liberals announce the new Clean Energy Act sets the foundation for a new future of electricity self-sufficiency.
Self-sufficiency: The ability to satisfy one’s basic needs without outside help.
News item:
General Electric, the multinational corporation ranked in 2009 by Forbes as the world's largest, invested $727 million in British Columbia's Toba Inlet hydro power project and the first phase of the Dokie Ridge wind farm project in the Peace River.
News item:
Finavera Renewables Inc., a Vancouver company with no revenues, an accumulated deficit of $41.7 million and an overall shareholder deficiency of $5.5 million at the beginning of fiscal year 2010,  was selected by BC Hydro to build four electricity-generating wind farms in northeastern B.C. The projects are expected to cost at least $800 million. General Electric has negotiated the exclusive right to provide 100 per cent financing for Finavera's four wind projects.
I invite readers to consider this statement written by the auditors of Finavera and attached to the 2009 annual financial statements:
The [Energy Purchase Agreements] with B.C. Hydro provide a revenue stream based on a defined price and are the commercial cornerstones of any power project in British Columbia, providing the basis to move forward towards project construction and operation.

Despite all the disingenuous and misleading B.S. issued by Liberal politicians and operatives for private power producers, that single sentence, which is carefully constructed and required by professional audit standards, demonstrates the reason why there is a rush of private power projects.

The applicants do not need money or experience, they simply need political influence with Gordon Campbell and his associates. The energy purchase agreement provided by BC Hydro removes substantially all business risk and the favored ones take the project to the money brokers who readily fund it because the credit worthiness of British Columbia stands behind each EPA. This would be like buying a house you intend to rent to a provincial agency through a 40 year lease at double market rates, with payments guaranteed by the province.

Multinational, multi-industry companies like General Electric are quick to join because they earn giant returns at the capital stage of the project, selling turbines, generators and infrastructure equipment.  As an equity and financing partner, GE guarantees it will provide the hardware. With a guaranteed market and a guaranteed profit, the initial partners can hold shares long term for income or, more likely, dump them into institutional markets for quick capital gains, on which they will barely pay taxes. And that, is ironic because taxpayers are essential elements of the deal.

The whole program of private power production founded on BC Hydro Energy Purchase Agreements allows outrageous enrichment of a small number. The program is facilitated by influence peddling and its government facilitators are either witless or dishonest. One thing I believe about Gordon Campbell is that he is not witless.

Read Will McMartin's outstanding article at The Tyee. BC's Energy Independence? Don't Believe It.
[Energy independence], it's all a sham. British Columbia under Gordon Campbell's BC Liberal government has become increasingly dependent on non-B.C. owned corporations to produce high-priced electricity, which BC Hydro is forced (by government edict) to buy, and in turn sell at inflated prices to captive residential and commercial consumers.
See also McMartin's May 11 piece, General Electric and BC's Private Power Gold Rush.
In February and March, $142,420 was generated through the sale of just over 2.8 million share-warrant units at five cents apiece. A few weeks later, another 10 million shares were sold at six cents each and fetched a total of $600,000.

The former sale appears to have gone to Anchorage Capital Master Offshore Ltd., a New York-based hedge fund founded in 2003 by Kevin Ulrich and Anthony Davis, a pair of alumni from Wall Street's largest investment bank and brokerage, Goldman Sachs.
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Gas sales in new fiscal year begin on a sour note

Stephen Hume
Premier Clark and friends are organizing demonstrations, trying to keep the LNG fantasy alive with voters, at least for another year.

BC Liberals won't admit economic reality but producers have already passed judgment on the future of the BC gas industry. Looking at monthly sales of gas rights, we find the six worst-ever sale results have occurred in the year since April 2015. Three of the four months of 2016 rank in the worst six.

This has nothing to do with First Nations, fossil fuel critics or political opponents of Premier Clark. It has everything to do with international markets and the likelihood of profitably selling BC gas, even gas that benefits from huge subsidies and zero or near zero royalty costs.

Australian LNG producers face price crunch as Asian buyers flex muscle, The Sydney Morning Herald, April 19, 2016
...With the US on track to potentially export 60 million tonnes a year of LNG by 2020, representing nearly a fifth of global supply, Asian buyers will increasingly play hard-ball when existing deals are reworked, according to Citi's New York-based energy analyst Faisel Khan...

"Everything that has been sanctioned and received a construction permit has moved forward," Mr Khan said. "You're going to see one [LNG] train every six months through 2020."

"It's under construction, you can't stop it, its going to happen no matter what. They already have contracts. But the customers of those plants are not obligated to buy the supply. They just hold the capacity, so that gives them a lot of flexibility."

US exports of LNG are set to add to oversupply in world markets, and while the drop in Asian prices means most US exports will probably be shipped to Europe instead, that may change depending on the reaction of Russia, the big pipeline gas supplier into Europe, Mr Burns said.
"The big elephant in the global gas room is Russia and what they do," he said...

"There is quite a scary bearish scenario out there for LNG," Mr Burns said.
$40 Billion LNG Project In Australia Cancelled Amid Low Prices,, a CNBC Partner Site, March 23, 2016
The crash in LNG prices has claimed a major victim. Woodside Petroleum and its partners, which include Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and PetroChina have decided to cancel a massive LNG project in Australia because the economics no longer work...

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Words to ponder

  • "America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.” Paul Krugman
  • Location of Bohemia: "Bordered on the North by hope, work and gaiety, on the South by necessity and courage, on the West and East by slander and the hospital." - French writer Henri Murger. (1822-1861)
  • "A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees." - From Proverbs of Hell by William Blake.
  • "They are pretending to knowledge when, in fact, they are entirely ignorant." - Historian Bettany Hughes speaking about  rulers who executed Socrates, whom Plato called "the world's first ideological martyr."
  • "Tomorrow night is nothing but one long sleepless wrestle with yesterday's omissions and regrets." - William Faulkner
  • "[On poker:] As elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find outside an advertising agency." – Raymond Chandler (from Nigel Rees' Quote Unquote)
  • "These bacon sandwiches are delicious", said Pooh. "Aren't they, Piglet. Piglet?"
  • Failure is not the opposite of success, it's an integral part.
  • "No fim tudo dá certo, e se não deu certo é porque ainda não chegou ao fim."

    "In the end everything works out, and if it does not work, it is because we have not come to an end."

    - Fernando Sabino, via the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
  • "Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed." - Mwai Kibaki
  • “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” - Plato
  • "A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation." - James Clarke
  • "...the smell of big money is in the air. The time has long passed for being apologists for the folks who are determined to help others get control of our best provincial asset and the business monopoly that is attached." - Erik Andersen
  • "One of the reasons farm salmon are in net pens is to make sure no one has to deal with the manure.... it all flows out of the pens... and they choose spots where the current will prevent build-up under the pens. So [in a disease outbreak] there is no such thing as a quarantine - an observer exclusion zone perhaps..." - Alexandra Morton, registered professional biologist
  • "Fascism is capitalism in decay" - Vladimir Lenin
  • "Conservatism... offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future." - Benjamin Disraeli
  • "But a dictatorship may be a necessary system for a transitional period. [...] Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism..." - Economist Friedrich A. von Hayek, using 'liberal' to mean laissez-faire capitalism.
  • British Labour MP Dennis Skinner once said in the Commons, "Half the members opposite are liars." Told by the Speaker to withdraw the remark, he said, "I'm very sorry. Half the members opposite are not liars."
  • "Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger: a walking smear campaign." - MLA and NDP House Leader John Horgan
  • Ha Quan Truong ignored written orders to shut down his unsafe composting facility at a Langley mushroom farm. A subsequent incident left two men with permanent brain injuries and three men dead. Truong told a coroner's inquest that he was also a casualty. Speaking in front of the victims' relatives, Truong said:

    "They lost their family members, but I lost my money too."
  • “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” - Albert Einstein
  • The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. - William Arthur Ward, author
  • Celebrity psychic Derek Acorah has called on Jimmy Carr to apologise for the ‘needless and hurtful’ joke he is going to make at the Derby Assembly Rooms in early 2013. - NewsBiscuit
  • "Snapper? Tilapia? Who gives a shit, that's what the ketchup's for." Lewis Black, on species substitution fraud in the fish trade.
  • "Without fixing Congress it is doubtful anybody can be truly successful... If we don’t fix Congress we could make Mickey Mouse president and it likely wouldn’t make that much of a difference." Rob Enderle
  • According to conclusions drawn by scholars at the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, repealing the ban on women drivers would provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, divorce and the loss of all virgins within a decade. The report was described as scientific. - Daily Mail Foreign Service
  • "Creativity is the residue of time wasted." ~ Albert Einstein
  • "Road to Serfdom is littered with discarded books by Ayn Rand." - Rebel Capitalist
  • According to a recent survey, two-thirds of British Columbians do not approve of Premier Photo Op's performance as Premier. The other one-third does not follow politics.
  • "I took economics courses in college for four years, and everything I was taught was wrong." - Frankllin D. Roosevelt
  • "The Smithsonian has a video game exhibit. There’s even a tour guide who yells at you for not being outside on such a nice day." - Conan O'Brien via Roger Ebert tweet
  • "People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them." - Dave Barry
  • "According to Israel, there's only one way to stop a war with Iran and that's to start a war with Iran." - British comedian Jimmy Carr
  • They hang the man and flog the woman
    Who steals the goose from off the common
    But leave the greater villain loose
    Who steals the common from off the goose. - Anonymous
  • "A man who does not think for himself does not think at all." - Oscar Wilde
  • "It is much more difficult to measure nonperformance than performance." - Harold S. Geneen
  • "The strong do what they have to do and the weak accept what they have to accept." - Thucydides
  • "Do cosmetic procedures make us look younger? Or just weirder?" - Julia Sommerfeld
  • "Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1906
  • "If you never ever talk to people and you meet all of your needs on the Internet, you wake up one day and your're the unabomber." Author Ann Patchett
  • "Political journalism, of course, is supposed to be adversarial in nature." - David Sirota
  • "Great abundance of riches cannot be gathered and kept by any man without sin." - Desiderius Erasmus
  • "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." - Frederick Douglass
  • "The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion." - Frederick Douglass, extraordinary author, orator and civil rights campaigner, born a slave.
  • "Never argue with people who buy ink by the barrel." - Source uncertain
  • "The oil can is mightier than the sword." - Everett Dirksen
  • "I get speaker's fees from time to time, but not very much." - Mr. One-Percent Mitt Romney attaching little importance to the $374,000 he earned in speaker's fees last year.
  • "Throughout history, traditional marriage has meant powerful men doing whatever the f*%k they want, whenever the f*%k they want to." - John Oliver, Senior Correspondent, The Daily Show, speaking on Newt Gingrich
  • "The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be." - Socrates
  • "An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out." - Will Rogers
  • "Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers." - Aristotle
  • "Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist." - George Carlin
  • "A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation." - Adlai E. Stevenson
  • "People do not believe lies because they have to, but because they want to." - Malcolm Muggeridge
  • "Britain's bankers are set to receive annual bonuses that could total over £7 billion. [Royal Bank of Scotland] boss Steve Hester is in line for a £2.4 million bonus. If that's difficult to visualize, just imagine the average yearly bonus of a nurse and add £2.4 million and hand that to an undeserving shit." - Jimmy Carr (February 2011)
  • "I failed at Leeds University due to the outbreak of the Second World War, which was 16 years before but upset me very deeply." - Barry Cryer
  • “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” ― George Carlin
  • “Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source.” — Rick Perry, speaking in Clarinda, Iowa
  • "Les habiles tyrans ne sont jamais punis." (Clever tyrants are never punished.) - Voltaire
  • "It is never too late to give up your prejudices." - Henry David Thoreau
  • Q. What plastics can I recycle?

    A. We only recycle plastic bottles. If unsure, ask yourself two questions:
              1. - Is the item plastic?
              2. - Is the item a bottle?
          If the answer to both questions is 'yes' then you can recycle it.

    - Helpful article from The Basingstoke and Deane Council Magazine
  • For outsiders, free speech is bread and butter; for insiders, indigestion. - Russell Jacoby
  • Scan not a friend with a microscopic glass.
    You know his faults, now let the foibles pass.
    Life is one long enigma, my friend.
    So read on, read on, the answer's at the end...

    - George Harrison, 'The Answer's At The End'
  • " society generally we should encourage every nuisance we can find. Indeed, we should pay homage to them, for theirs is every bit as noble a calling as is Caesar's. They are the people in our midst who draw attention to abuses of authority, wherever they occur. They are the little boy who insists that the emperor has no clothes on. They are Socrates, Antigone, Gallileo, Milton, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Thomas Jefferson, William Lyon Mackenzie, John Stuart Mill, John Diefenbaker, Eugene Forsey and so on. It is a long and distinguished tradition."

    - John Wilson, Professor, University of Waterloo

    I'll add Rafe Mair and Alexandra Morton to the list as well. - Norm
  • "Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state." - Noam Chomsky
  • "Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake." - W. C. Fields
  • "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." - Steve Jobs
  • William Wordsworth (1807):
    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
  • French 19th-century novelist Victor Hugo, who — when he wanted to know how Les Misérables was selling — reportedly telegraphed his publisher with the simple inquiry "?" and received the expressive reply "!" - Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Gotham Books, 2003
  • By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth. - George Carlin
  • "A professor is someone who talks in someone else's sleep." - W. H. Auden
  • "I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it." - Groucho Marx
  • "Since light travels faster than sound, isn't that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?" - Steven Wright
  • "Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust to them for light." - Thomas Jefferson
  • "I mean, it is an extraordinary thing that a large proportion of your country and my country, of the citizens, never see a wild creature from dawn 'til dusk, unless it's a pigeon, which isn't really wild, which might come and settle near them." - David Attenborough
  • "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost." - John Quincy Adams
  • "It's not the tools that you have faith in - tools are just tools. They work, or they don't work. It's people you have faith in or not." - Steve Jobs
  • "Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear." - Mohandas Gandhi
  • "Few of the many wise apothegms which have been uttered have prevented a single foolish action." - Thomas B. Macaulay
  • My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the hell she is. - Ellen DeGeneres
  • "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." - James A. Baldwin
  • "Lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance of the law is not punished." - Jeremy Bentham
  • During QI, after Stephen Fry asks, Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Sandy Toksvig tells an old joke. "Chicken and Egg have just made love. They're lying together having a smoke and Chicken says, "Well, that answers that old question."
  • Older people shouldn't eat health food, they need all the preservatives they can get. - Robert Orben
  • KABUL, AFGHANISTAN—Recently deployed to participate in counterinsurgency operations outside of Kabul, 19-year-old Pvt. Robert Welsh told reporters Monday that for as long as he can remember, he has wanted to serve his country by fighting in Afghanistan. Welsh went on to say that while he doesn't want to get his hopes up, he remains cautiously optimistic that his own children will one day follow in his footsteps by fighting in Afghanistan. - The Onion
  • A half truth, like half a brick, is always more forcible as an argument than a whole one. It carries better. - Stephen Leacock
  • Winston Churchill was renown for not washing his hands after visiting the toilet. He was reprimanded by an old Etonian who said, "At Eton, they taught us to wash our hands after after using the lavatory." To which Churchill replied, "At Harrow, they taught us not to piss on our hands." - Winston Churchill
  • "All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
  • "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important." - Steve Jobs
  • "Frugality is founded on the principal that all riches have limits." - Edmund Burke
  • “People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought, which they avoid.” - Soren Kierkegaard
  • "Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid." - Heinrich Heine
  • A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. - George Bernard Shaw
  • "The economy is so bad that Exxon Mobil laid off 25 congressmen." - Newfoundland Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie.
  • A new study found that happy people live 35% longer. Yeah, but unhappy people's lives seem longer. - Stephen Colbert
  • I have tried to know absolutely nothing about a great many things, and I have succeeded fairly well. - Robert Benchley
  • A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both. - Dwight David Eisenhower
  • Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out. - Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • New Rule: If you buy the new $6,000 Kohler toilet with the touch-screen remote and I-Pod dock, the Occupy Wall Street protesters get to come into your house and shit in it. - Bill Maher
  • I'm 65 and I guess that puts me in with the geriatrics. But if there were fifteen months in every year, I'd only be 48. - James Thurber
  • Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known. - Garrison Keillor
  • After all is said and done, more is said than done. - Aesop
  • Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection: they have many friends and few enemies. - Wendell Phillips, American abolitionist and social reformer
  • If allowed to run free of the social system, capitalism will attempt to corrupt and undermine democracy, which is after all not a natural state. - John Ralston Saul
  • Nothing is more surprising than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few. - David Hume
  • How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. - Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180) and stoic philosopher
  • Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought. - Henri Bergson, French philosopher
  • They don’t have any faith in the corporate systems of power, nor should they. They recognize that electoral politics is a farce; that the judiciary and the press are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state; and that the only way they are going to be heard, both as citizens and as people who care about protecting the planet, is to build a movement, and that’s precisely what they’re doing. - Chris Hedges, American journalist
  • The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected. - Gilbert K. Chesterton
  • A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. - David Hume, Scottish Philosopher
  • No-one working at Disney is allowed to have facial hair. Some years ago, an angry email was sent by Disney's HR department to their employees saying that anyone who described Disney as "Mousewitz" would be fired. Within half an hour the employees started calling Disney "Duckau". - A perhaps apocryphal story repeated by Stephen Fry on BBC panel show QI, Sept. 2011
  • Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere. - Gilbert K. Chesterton
  • An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. - Mohandas Gandhi
  • Politics isn't about left versus right; it's about top versus bottom. - Jim Hightower, American columnist and social activist
  • Rupert Murdoch's empire was damaged and the News of the World brought down a by "a few rotten apples who were letting the side down by engaging in responsible and professional journalism." - Sandi Toksvig, BBC Radio host, The News Quiz.
  • "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson, Nov. 1816
  • Our present "leaders" - the people of wealth and power - do not know what it means to take a place seriously: to think it worthy, for its own sake, of love and study and careful work. They cannot take any place seriously because they must be ready at any moment, by the terms of power and wealth in the modern world, to destroy any place. - American writer Wendell Berry, repeated in Andrew Nikiforuk's dedication in Tar Sands - Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.
  • Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. - Henry David Thoreau
  • "Drinking was never a compulsion for me, but it was part of my lifestyle, sitting around a table after my program was over, arguing and debating. I could go through a bottle a day, a bottle-and-a-half, sometimes two bottles a day and often I wouldn't bother to eat." - Gary Bannerman, Vancouver broadcaster and writer
  • If we do not maintain justice, justice will not maintain us. - Francis Bacon
  • You can observe a lot by just watching. - Yogi Berra
  • Even if you have no belief in the Chinese system of Feng Shui, you can't fail to have noticed that how your furniture is arranged determines your fortune. If your furniture is arranged on the pavement outside, you have been evicted and hard times lie ahead. - Henning Wehn, German comedian in Britain
  • Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it .- Will Rogers
  • To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. - Edward R. Murrow
  • The future is not to be forecast, but created. - Arthur C. Clarke
  • A lie does not consist in the indirect position of words, but in the desire and intention, by false speaking, to deceive and injure...- Jonathan Swift
  • A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary. - Fred Allen, American comedian
  • Happiness is a real, objective phenomenon, scientifically verifiable. That means people and whole societies can now be measured over time and compared accurately with one another. Causes and cures for unhappiness can be quantified. Could a government dare to set out with happiness as its goal? - Polly Toynbee, British Journalist
  • "One fine day a predatory world shall consume itself." - David Mitchell, British actor, comedian, writer, commentator
  • Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities. - Mark Twain
  • Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult. - Charlotte Whitton, feminist and Mayor of Ottawa (1951-56,1960-64)
  • Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it. - Ellen DeGeneres
  • By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth. George Carlin
  • The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them. Mark Twain Notebook 1898
  • The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself. - J. K. Galbraith, Canadian born economist 
  • My neighbour asked if he could use my lawnmower. I told him of course he could, so long as he didn't take it out of my yard.
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Misappropriation of public wealth

Readers may tire of reports on BC Hydro but the more I examine this public utility, the more convinced I am that citizens of BC are victims of massive financial deception.

In 20 years leading up to 1996, BC Hydro's average annual revenue from trading in North American electricity markets was $115 million. In three years ended March 2003, the utility realized gross trading revenue of  $11.25 billion, although that sum was tempered by the $1 billion or so BC Hydro paid to end a subsequent lawsuit by California.

Although the American power market had been manipulated by Enron and other criminal fixers, Gordon Campbell and his colleagues believed that British Columbia could become a permanent power supplier to the western USA. Liberals wanted the electricity to be created by private operators, but it was soon clear that private entrepreneurs were not prepared to take significant financial risks.

The provincial government was determined to proceed so it decided that BC Hydro would sign long-term contracts to purchase power produced by independents at prices that made projects attractive to investors. This effectively transferred all business risks from private operators to the public. While dumb, it's a fairly common occurrence today when governments are keen to be seen as business-friendly.

Compounding the situation was the Liberals' misjudgment of future markets because they didn't anticipate improved technologies and growing availability and affordability of alternative power. Consumption efficiencies, declining heavy industries and falling costs of solar and wind permanently changed the energy industries.

BC Hydro has contracted with independent power producers for increasing quantities at prices adjusted upwards each year for inflation. But, domestic demand has been flat for a decade and the export market in the last five years has returned only 2.8¢ per KWh, a fraction of the 22.8¢ gained in the heyday of 2001.

Because it is buying each KWh from IPPs at over 9¢ but has no need for the total it must buy, BC Hydro is left with two choices. One is to generate less power in its own facilities and the other is to dump power outside the province at prices less than 1/3 of the amount IPPs are paid. BC Hydro is doing both.

I've had utility defenders argue the company has never reduced its own output to accommodate private power so I reviewed sources of power reports for more than two decades. Here is a chart showing the last five years under Premier Clark' leadership and the five years between 1996 and 2001.

The situation is not improving. In FY 2015, BC Hydro facilities generated 41,443 GWh of electricity. In FY 2001, those very same sites produced 49,940 GWh, which is 20% more.

However, here's a vital point. In 2001, BC Hydro had assets of $12.6 billion. In 2015, assets had grown to $27.8 billion. The company has been spending heavily, allegedly to make the system more efficient. In fact, what is continuing is misappropriation of public wealth for the benefit of suppliers, contractors and other BC Liberal friends.

Some people believe the government intention is to privatize BC Hydro. However, I believe the present situation, with another $10 billion of public funds being thrown at Site C, is working just fine for Christy Clark, her cabinet colleagues and their sponsors.

Citizens should be asking for explanations, from politicians and the pro-media journalists who choose to ignore these facts.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

The doctor prescribes

Few people have led lives more unique than Dr. Mike Webster. After success as a pro football player, Iron Mike earned a place in the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame. He then practiced as a clinical psychologist and worked frequently with police services. After Webster criticized its leadership, the RCMP first threatened, then dissociated him.

That did not stop the psychologist from providing private services to police officers and it most certainly did not end his criticism of RCMP brass. Much of it is published at but Dr. Webster's advice is valuable to anyone in a position of leadership. He speaks to individual managers:
  • You remind your team of the purpose of their work,
  • You act as a role model i.e. you demonstrate integrity at every opportunity,
  • You hold high expectations of your team members, but
  • You walk the walk; you hold yourself to the same standards.
Webster lists the qualities of a great leader:
  • first and foremost, a model of equity,
  • one who sets clear and attainable goals,
  • one who holds high expectations of self and others,
  • one who encourages others,
  • one who provides support and recognition of goal attainment,
  • one who is able to stir the emotions of followers,
  • one who is able to get others to look outside themselves,
  • one who can inspire others to reach beyond their grasp.
Those qualities seem obvious but careful observers know they are in dreadfully short supply, particularly in politics. Leaders are subject to so many competing interests that remaining true to fundamental principles becomes a task too large for most. This failure appears to be happening with Canada's prime minister where principles offered during Trudeau's earliest days are dissolving in a miasma of expediency.

In British Columbia, principles have never guided the current Premier. Christy Clark learned as a young adult how to be seen and heard in an overcrowded place and she has excelled at what marketing experts call positioning. To her, the only realities that count are myths she can plant in the minds of uninformed voters. Lucky for her, unfortunately for British Columbia, there are plenty of those to be found.

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