Trump and the Nukes

We’re so focused on Donald Trump’s race-baiting rhetoric that we’ve almost forgotten that if elected this man will have the nuclear codes at the tips of his stubby little fingers.

This is a serious concern for 50 Republican security officials who signed a letter saying Trump does not have the temperament to be president and commander in chief.

The former heads of the CIA, NSA, Homeland Security and countless other agencies say Trump can’t tell the difference between truth and falsehood, doesn’t encourage conflicting views, lacks self-control, is impetuous and can’t tolerate personal criticism.  They say “all of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be president and commander in chief, with command of the US nuclear arsenal.”

No kidding!

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Donald Trump’s stubby little finger

And yet some military advisors downplay the concern.   They’re confident that the “institutions” surrounding the presidency will prevent a lunatic president from lobbing 925 nuclear warheads at a real or perceived enemy.

Institutions

Thomas Karako, a senior fellow with the International Security Program and Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says Americans (indeed the world) should have faith in the institutions that are “larger than any man or women” who occupies the Oval Office.

What institutions?

The President does not need the approval of Congress to order a nuclear strike.  The only “institutions” standing between him and the metaphorical Big Red Button are the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Both of these individuals are appointed by the President.

The chain of command goes from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The Secretary of Defense can authentic a nuclear strike order but he can’t veto it.

No need to worry says Thomas Karako.  The military (ie. the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) is not obligated to carry out an order unless it is lawfully given.

Lawful orders

One of the many principals established at the Nuremberg trials was that military personnel have a duty to refuse to carry out illegal orders.

This, like many lofty principles, turned to dust 22 years later at My Lai, Vietnam.

On Mar 16, 1968, Second Lieutenant William Calley led the men of Charlie Company on a sweep through several hamlets searching for enemy soldiers.  They came upon elderly men, women and children preparing for market day and slaughtered them—before and after a lunch break.  An estimated 350 to 500 civilians were murdered.

Many of Calley’s men said they were just following orders.

However Huey helicopter pilot Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson and his crew refused.

Thompson landed his helicopter three times to stop the carnage.  The first time he confronted Lieutenant Calley who refused to back down.  The second time he landed his helicopter between the soldiers and Vietnamese civilians to block the soldiers’ line of fire and pick up the wounded.  The third time he plucked a small child out of a ditch.

Thompson reported what he’d seen up the chain of command and received a medal. He also received death threats and dead animals on his lawn from soldiers who said he was disloyal.

The massacre was only fully investigated after another soldier, Specialist Ronald Ridenhour, wrote to 30 members of Congress—all but three ignored his letter.

The duty to disobey an unlawful order was overridden in the field by the duty to follow orders and not rat on your fellow soldiers.

Catch 22

Do “institutions” have more integrity then men in battle?

Under Thomas Karako’s scenario if a lunatic president gives a nuclear strike order, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will assess its lawfulness.

If the Secretary of Defense decides the order is illegal he can resign and the decision will fall to his second-in-command and so on down the line.

If someone lower down in the food chain cracks and relays the order to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the Chairman will have a few minutes to mull it over.  If he decides the order is “unlawful” he can raise his concern up the chain of command, not to the Secretary of State who just quit but the lunatic president himself.

It’s the perfect Catch 22.

But all this is moot.  If the president believes he’s protecting the US against an actual or imminent attack and orders a nuclear strike, he’s made a constitutional order.  The military must obey or stage a military coup.

A piece of advice  

John Noonan is a Republican, a former Air Force missile launch officer and national security adviser to two Republican presidential campaigns.  He says instead of worrying about whether an attack on the US is real or Trump is grandstanding Americans should ensure he doesn’t assume power.

Excellent advice. Because when Trump says the military is “not gonna refuse me” he’s probably right.

Sources: Military Ethics Course offered by FutureLearn

http://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2016/8/3/12367996/donald-trump-nuclear-codes

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/06/2016-donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-missiles-nukes-button-launch-foreign-policy-213955

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/05/science/donald-trump-nuclear-codes.html?_r=1

Posted in Politics, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

The K-Bro Linen Flap

Would someone snap a wet towel at the Opposition please?

The Opposition is upset because Sarah Hoffman, the Health Minister, wants to see a business case on alternatives before she agrees to outsource the province’s healthcare laundry services to K-Bro Linen Inc.

K-Bro started as an Edmonton-based diaper laundry service in the 1950s.  It moved into healthcare and hospitality laundry services in the 1980s and now it’s the largest owner and operator of laundry services in the country.

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Sarah Hoffman Health Minister

Edmonton and Calgary outsourced hospital laundry services to K-Bro in the 1990s.  The Opposition says Hoffman is balking at giving K-Bro the rest of the province because of “ideology”.  They say she’s going to waste $54 to $200 million replacing inadequate AHS laundry facilities in order to save a paltry 130 to 140 jobs.

Really?

As they say in the media, let’s “unpack” the Opposition’s arguments.

“Everyone is doing it!”

The Opposition says other provinces have outsourced laundry services and we should too.

Leaving aside the fact that “everyone is doing it” is a childish argument, this is a broad overstatement.

The only province to completely outsource healthcare laundry services is Saskatchewan which signed a contract with K-Bro last year (more on this below).

Some provinces toyed with outsourcing but the number of hospitals involved is not high.  Only 40 out of 226 hospitals in BC and only 3 out of 473 hospitals in Ontario (down from a high of 16 in 2006) have privatized laundry services.*

K-Bro recognizes that its dependence on the public sector is a significant business risk because “many large Canadian cities currently process all or a portion of their linens through public sector central laundries or on-premise laundries located within public sector facilities”.

K-Bro is optimistic that the trend to outsourcing will continue, but acknowledges that hospitals and health authorities “continually assess and review their outsourcing strategy”…which is exactly what Hoffman is doing notwithstanding the objections raised by the Opposition.

“We’ll save money!”

The Opposition argues it costs millions to do laundry in-house and this money would be better spent on patient care, salaries and critical infrastructure.

Fair point.  But the Opposition is ignoring the fact it also costs millions to do laundry out-house.

K-Bro’s 2015 consolidated financial statements identify Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver as its biggest customers.  Last year these three cities produced $62 million in revenue.  K-Bro doesn’t break this down per customer but if we assume that all three customers spent the same amount on laundry services Edmonton and Calgary would have generated $40 million in revenue for K-Bros.  Multiply that by 10 and the ballpark cost to taxpayers to outsource laundry services under the existing 10 year contracts is roughly $400 million…and that’s before we add in associated costs which are not K-Bro’s responsibility.

For example, K-Bro’s contract to provide laundry services for hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary required it to move its facilities to newly upgraded leasehold space.

The move to leased facilities was such a coup that when K-Bro announced the Edmonton contract it told its shareholders any concessions K-Bro had made on price and the additional carrying costs for associated debt would be directly offset by the efficiencies it would reap from moving into the upgraded leased buildings.  Presumably the cost of maintaining these facilities is borne by AHS as owner, not K-Bro as lessee.**

Compare this to the 10 year province-wide contract Saskatchewan signed with K-Bro.

The Saskatchewan contract didn’t allow K-Bro to lease space.  Instead K-Bro was required to build a state of the art facility in Regina and two distribution centres in Saskatoon and Prince Alberta (valued at $22 million) so the costs of maintaining the facility falls on K-Bro not the Saskatchewan government.***

Bottom line:  a good chunk of the cost savings Alberta should have received from outsourcing laundry services to K-Bro appear to be flowing to K-Bro and its shareholders, not AHS and Alberta’s taxpayers and Hoffman is wise not to press ahead with outsourcing without asking for a business case on all the options available.

 “For-profits are more efficient and cost effective”

Former Liberal MLA Kevin Taft is a strong supporter of publicly funded and publicly delivered healthcare, but even he concedes that contracting out non-clinical functions such as laundry services isn’t a bad idea if there are several qualified bidders in competition for a contract.  Why shouldn’t a hospital benefit from market forces he asks?****

Indeed.

Sadly the Opposition isn’t trying to engage market forces by putting laundry services out to public tender.  It’s demanding Sarah Hoffman stop fussing and give it all to K-Bro on a silver platter.

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Drew Barnes WR Shadow Health Minister

Nothing would please K-Bro more than the government making it the only game in town—this furthers its growth strategy by expanding existing markets.  It also puts AHS behind the 8-ball when the Calgary and Edmonton contracts end in 2018 and 2023, because AHS would not have a credible alternative service provider (itself) ready to take over if K-Bro is unreasonable.

Excuse me, your ideology is slipping

Hoffman blames the shabby state of AHS laundry facilities on the previous PC government who forced AHS to privatize linen services by starving it of capital.  She’s prepared to support linen services but wants to assess how such projects stack up against competing demands for other healthcare infrastructure.

And that’s why she’s asked AHS to provide a business case supporting a number of options.

The Opposition says Hoffman is being “ideological”, but K-Bro would say she’s using good business sense.

*K-Bro SEDAR filings, 2014 statistics from Statista http://www.statista.com/statistics/440923/total-number-of-hospital-establishments-in-canada-by-province/

**http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/k-bro-announces-new-alberta-health-services-contract-510188341.html

***http://www.snl.com/IRWebLinkX/file.aspx?IID=4104834&FID=21224162

****Clear Answers by Kevin Taft & Gillian Steward, p 10

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

PPAs and the Master Narrative in Alberta

The American Press Institute (API) describes pack journalism,” now known as “the master narrative,” as a story line the press corps en masse is telling or repeating.

The API warns that master narratives can become a “trap or rut” and that journalists will pick facts that illustrate the master narrative and ignore other facts.

The leader of the pack

A classic example of “pack journalism” is Postmedia’s coverage of the NDP government’s decision to challenge the right of power companies to back out of their power purchase arrangements (PPAs).

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Hunter S Thompson – the antithesis of pack journalism

Postmedia’s master narrative is that the NDP government screwed up when it introduced policies to reduce carbon emissions because it triggered the early termination clause in the PPAs.

This narrative was supported by stories characterizing the PPAs as contracts and saying the government was suing itself or the power companies in order to renege on a deal its predecessors entered into fair and square in 2000.  None of this is true.

Some (but not all) of the economic data  

The University of Calgary School of Public Policy published a report on the impact of the NDP government’s changes to the regulations on power companies holding PPAs.

The authors, Trevor Tombe and Andrew Leach, concluded that the cancelled PPAs could cost Albertans $600 million, not $2 billion as the NDP alleged.

Postmedia jumped all over this conclusion, saying it seriously undercut the NDP’s claim (whether to the losses or the entire case was unclear) and suggested the NDP was resorting to the standard practice in lawsuits, overstating losses in order to look good when the actual loss turned out to be lower than expected.

Postmedia failed to report the more significant conclusions presented by Tombe and Leach, including:

  • The government’s change to the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER) and the Carbon Competitiveness Regulation (CCR) did not render the PPAs unprofitable (Fig 7, p 11)
  • Falling power prices, in addition to the change to SGER and CCR did render the PPAs more unprofitable (Fig 7)
  • The original intent of the Change of Laws clause was to allow PPAs to be terminated if a change of law made PPAs unprofitable, but not to give PPA holders a way to avoid market-based losses (p 13)
  • The amended Change of Laws clause provided “near-complete downside protection” which is “much broader than protection due to government policy” (p 3)
  • Allowing PPA holders to terminate their PPAs is not necessarily the best outcome for Albertans because it could result in higher electricity prices and increased concentration of control over the marketing of electricity (p 12)

Some journalists like the Globe and Mail’s Justin Giovannetti understood the significance of the U of C report stating that “The power deals would still be profitable after the government’s new carbon taxes, worth only $150 million.  However, plummeting power prices will reduce the value of the contracts by $1.1 billion by 2020.”

The best Postmedia could muster was a comment that the report “shows that neither the companies…nor the government are right to blame one single factor for this unprofitability.”

This is a misstatement as far as it concerns the government—the government is not blaming any “single factor” for unprofitability, it’s simply asking a judge to determine whether the amendment to the Change of Law clause was lawful.

The truth about the facts

The American Press Institute says the value of journalism flows from its purpose which is to provide people with verified information so they can make better decisions.

The API says journalists use a systematic process called the “discipline of verification” to find not just the facts but the “truth about the facts.”

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Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward

One of the three core concepts in the discipline of verification is transparency (the other two are humility and originality).  Transparency requires a journalist not to allow his readers to be deceived by acts of omission.

Postmedia’s failure to report on all of the conclusions contained in the Tombe/Leach report, particularly the conclusion that the NDP government’s changes to SGER and CCR did not render the PPAs unprofitable, places it on the wrong side of transparency.

And while we don’t expect Postmedia to clutch the NDP to its bosom, we do expect it to do a much better job at understanding and managing its biases.

If it can’t bring itself to do that it should do everyone a favour and give free rein to its “inner tabloid.”

Better that than pretend it’s engaged in journalism.

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 38 Comments

The NDP’s Power Play: Myths and Facts

Alberta’s NDP government wants to save Albertans $2 billion and the Wildrose, the Progressive Conservatives and the media are churning up a dust storm of misinformation trying to stop them.

Let’s take it from the top, shall we?

Klein deregulates the power industry

In 2000 Premier Klein boldly went where few had gone before—he deregulated the electricity industry.

The utility companies were allowed to own and operate power plants but had to transfer the right to sell power to middlemen known as Power Purchase Arrangement Buyers (PPA Buyers) at auction.

The PPA Buyers cherry-picked the first batch of PPAs on offer, buying 8 of the 12 at significantly less than the expected value.  The less profitable PPAs went into the Balancing Pool.  The Balancing Pool sells power under these unprofitable PPAs and passes the losses onto Albertans.

The PPA Buyers made $10 billion in profit over 14 years.

Notley increases the emissions levy

The PC government passed the Climate Change and Emissions Act in 2003 and the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER) in 2007.  It set a $15/tonne fee on emissions above target.  Target was 12% above original emissions.

In January the ND government increased the fee to $20/tonne in 2016 and $30/tonne in 2017 and increased the target to 15% above original emissions.

alberta-premier-rachel-notley

Premier Notley

The PPA Buyers say these changes trigger the Change of Law clause in their PPAs and they can dump their “more unprofitable” PPAs back into the Balancing Pool transferring the $2 billion loss to consumers.

The NDs say not so fast and hired Joe Arvay, a top notch constitutional and administrative lawyer, to ask the Court to issue a ruling on the PPAs and the regulations and orders that brought them into existence.

The Opposition parties and the media went nuts.

It’s time to set the record straight.*

Myth #1:  The ND government is refusing to honour a contract

Fact:  PPAs are NOT contracts

Power Purchase Arrangements are not “contracts”, they’re “arrangements.”

Here’s your first clue—they’re not signed.  They don’t need to be executed because they’re statutory instruments that form part of a statutory scheme Premier Klein set up in 2000 to create a fair, efficient and open electricity market.

The NDs are not going to court to “break” a contractual clause.  They’re asking the court to determine whether a clause in a statutory instrument was lawfully enacted in the first place.

Myth #2:  The ND government is suing the PC government of 2000

Fact:  The ND government is NOT suing itself or its predecessor PC government

The ND government isn’t suing anyone.

It’s applying for an order declaring the Alberta Energy Utilities Board (AEUB) had no legislative authority to accept an amendment to the Change of Law clause that allowed PPA Buyers to abandon their PPAs if the government passed a law that made their PPAs “more unprofitable.”

The government is also asking for an order declaring that the regulations that “approved” the amended PPAs are unlawful.

If the Court agrees with the government, PPA Buyers will have a harder time showing that it is the $5/tonne increase in the emissions fee and not poor market conditions or their own imprudent business decisions that made their PPAs unprofitable.

Myth #3:  The NDs should exempt power producers from the increased emissions fee or be blamed for the $2 billion hit to consumers   

Fact: This myth assumes the Enron clause is valid; it’s not

The birth of the Enron clause is cloaked in mystery.  I’m serious!  Who knew that enacting statutory instruments could be so intriguing!   

The Klein government appointed consultants (PwC and Charles River Associates) to develop PPAs and present them to the Alberta Energy Utilities Board.

Cabinet gave the AEUB the power to approve these PPAs or vary them under special circumstances (eg if the consultants were idiots or the PPAs were obviously unreasonable, economically unsound or not in the public interest).

After receiving the PPAs from the consultants the AEUB held a public hearing to consider changes proposed by industry.     

The AEUB rejected industry’s change requests and issued an Order (U2000-190) approving the PPAs pursuant to the statutory power granted to it by Cabinet.       

At this point in time the Change of Law clause allowed PPA Buyers to terminate their PPAs if a change of law made them “unprofitable.”  There was no language allowing them to terminate if the change of law made them “more unprofitable”.

Then things went sideways.

The consultants submitted two more sets of changes to the AEUB after it had approved the PPAs.

Most of the changes corrected mathematical calculations, however buried in the pile of “errata” was a change to the Change of Law clause requested by Enron that amended the language already approved by the AEUB by adding the words “or more unprofitable”.

This was a substantive change because it created a brand new off-ramp in the PPAs, giving PPA Buyers yet another way to terminate their arrangements, thereby increasing the risk that Alberta taxpayers would be left holding the bag (to the tune of $2 billion it turns out).

The AEUB did not have the legislative authority to approve this change but it did so anyway which is why the NDP government is challenging the Enron clause in court.

Myth #4:  The ND government should have known about the Enron clause before it increased the emissions fee to $20/tonne  

Fact:  Cabinet buried the Enron clause so deep no one could find it 

Here comes the cloak and dagger stuff…

The NDP government might have known about the Enron Clause if it hadn’t disappeared in the blink of an eye.

enron_hero_image_1440x805

Now you see it *click* and now you don’t

On Aug 18, 2000 a regulation (Reg 175/2000) was filed with the Registrar of Regulations.  It contained the AEUB’s Order approving the original PPAs plus “errata” letters setting out mathematical changes and the Enron Clause.

This regulation was not supported by a Ministerial Order or an Order in Council—it just materialized out of thin air. 

A month later Cabinet passed a regulation burying Reg 175/2000 (and the Enron clause).  It said Reg 175/2000 was available in printed form to those who wanted it and it was too big to go into the Alberta Gazette.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

Yes, the Reg containing the PPAs and Enron clause can be purchased from the Queen’s Printer for $246 or ferreted out of a legal data base if you have a subscription and an experienced law librarian handy—but you need to know the Enron clause exists in the first place before you can go looking for it and you won’t know it exists because you can’t read about it in the Alberta Gazette or search for it on CanLii, a standard free legal database.

So good luck trying to find it.

It appears the only people who knew about the Enron clause were those who were involved in the PPA auction (including Enron), the AEUB and Klein’s Cabinet (none of whom are in the Legislature today).

Gotcha!

The Wildrose and PCs are having a field day with this file.

While it’s understandable from a political perspective that the PCs want to stop the NDs from exposing the unlawful actions taken by the Klein government in support of its free-market-propped-up-by-corporate-welfare-deregulation strategy, it’s not clear why the Wildrose is standing with the PCs against consumers.

Perhaps it’s a matter of ideology.

Rather than throw their support behind the NDs who want to test the validity of a clause that, left unchallenged, will stick consumers with a $2 billion bill, the Wildrose would prefer to play “Gotcha!”

Seriously??? 

*Sources for this post include two excellent blogs written by Law Prof Nigel Banks which can be found here and here  and the Government’s Originating Application which can be found here.

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 63 Comments

Ack!

Ms Soapbox is under the weather…spent 5 minutes composing this sentence.  Will be back in a day or so.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Trumpism: A Wake Up Call

We can pick apart Donald Trump’s acceptance speech but it won’t get us very far.

Trump is getting smarter in how he presents “the facts”.  For example:

  • He uses anecdotal stories about three children killed by illegal Mexican immigrants (murdered and in car accidents) as proof that illegal immigration is out of control notwithstanding the fact that border crossing statistics show that illegal immigration is at its lowest point since 1969.
  • He cherry picks crime statistics (murders are up by 50% in Washington DC) to demonstrate America is in the middle of a crime wave when America is experiencing its lowest crime rates in 25 years.

He sends contradictory messages to Big Business and wingnuts:

  • He promises to rip up NAFTA and the TPP but his Vice Presidential nominee, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, voted in favour of both
  • He showcased Peter Thiel (the billionaire co-founder of PayPal who went on stage to declare he was proudly gay) but laps up support from evangelical preachers like Jerry Falwell who blamed 9/11 on homosexuals, pro-choice supporters, secular schools and courts
  • He says he’ll bring back off-shored jobs by penalizing corporations who refuse to stop off-shoring while ignoring the reality that corporations that employ Bangladeshi workers will treat the penalty as part of the cost of doing business overseas

And if none of that convinces voters to vote for Trump he’ll just chant USA! USA! USA!

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Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump

The point here is that it really doesn’t matter what Trump says as long as he promises to annihilate Hillary Clinton and destroy those evil interlopers who’ve stolen America’s economy, security and peace of mind.

Only in America?

Many Canadians are watching the rise of Trumpism with a sense of smug superiority, confident that it would never happen here in the land of peace, order and good government.

They may be right—in the short term.

Justin Trudeau swept into power partly because Canadians grew tired of the autocratic “fix the economy/maintain law and order/watch out there’s a terrorist!” policies of Stephen Harper.   Trudeau has a solid majority and the opposition parties are in disarray.

Rachel Notley’s NDP won a majority because Albertans were fed up with the PCs failure to deliver on their promise that unfettered corporate power, particularly in the oilsands, was the key to prosperity.  Rampant cronyism didn’t help.

However, both Trudeau and Notley are vulnerable given the country’s dependence on a strong energy sector.  Economic recovery is years away and Canadians, particularly Albertans, are feeling the strain.

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Premier Notley with Prime Minister Trudeau

And the leaders and potential leaders of the conservative parties know it.

They’ve augmented their “low taxes, less government” message with a message of loss.  Jason Kenney’s slogan “Working to Bring Back the Alberta Advantage” isn’t that different from Trump’s “Make America Great Again”.  Both yearn for something that was there in the Father Knows Best years before the progressives snuck into power.

So here’s the problem.  When a government, especially a progressive government, fails to meet the economic expectations of the people it becomes unstable even if those expectations are unreasonable.  The Liberals and the NDP really can’t increase oil prices.

History Prof Margaret MacMillan says we may be entering “a period of destabilization” which started with 9/11 and continued through the “war on terror” and the invasion of Iraq.  It was exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis which proved to the little people that the bright lights running the economy were in it for themselves.

MacMillan says destabilization creates a dangerous mood in the population and when things go wrong they go wrong very quickly.

MacMillan’s comments were made in the global context but they apply equally well at the national and provincial level.

Canadians and Albertans are fortunate to have a prime minister and a premier who preach hope not fear, however the current climate of uncertainty could see both of them out the door if an opportunistic politician exploits the destabilization created by economic and political forces beyond their control.

This presents Canadians and Albertans with a unique opportunity to demonstrate that Trumpism will never gain a foothold north of the 49th parallel.

Go ahead, earn the right to be smugly superior!     

Posted in Disasters, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Stampede!

“Sometimes you need a little break”—Ms Soapbox’s Mom

The fun started when Ms Soapbox’s sister Roz and her husband Jay came to town.

They flew in from Vancouver where it rains 168 days a year–to spend a week in Calgary enjoying the rain, thunder, lightning, more thunder and rain.

Ms Soapbox and Roz risked a short walk to the store, got caught in a downpour and returned home looking like drowned rats.  This started a selfie war with their sister Elle who heartlessly responded to the “drowned rat” selfie with a selfie of herself and our baby sister basking in the Victoria sunshine.  Booyah!  she said.  We don’t know what that means but we think it’s a taunt.

Yesterday we went to the Calgary Stampede.  Four of us had free passes and zipped through the fast lane.  Mini worked her way through the paying line while Jay and I made bets on which gate she’d come through.  We both lost and Mini refused to go back and do it again.

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Spin Out?  No thanks!

We’re too old for the Spin Out 360 degree rotating claw and upchuck machine (thank god) and headed straight for the agricultural barns where we learned some remarkable things like:

  • How to make pearl barley
  • Dr Oz is wrong. Canola oil is way better for you than coconut oil
  • The agency that regulates manure production has a sense of humour. Its table top display of a miniature feedlot included dinosaurs as well as cattle
  • The Soapbox family, Roz and Jay weigh 1018 lbs, that’s as much as a two year old cow
  • If you’re a human the cattle squeeze contraption isn’t soothing, it’s noisy and unsettling

It was pouring rain when we left the agriculture barn (surprise).  We popped open two ridiculously small umbrellas and headed straight for the International exhibit where absolutely nothing was happening.  We staked out a table and Mini and Ms Soapbox squeezed themselves under a sodden umbrella and went back outside in search of perogies (2 traditional, 1 teryaki), deep fried oreos and chocolate covered strawberries.

After lunch we splashed our way over to Indian Village to sample bannock with homemade Saskatoon berry jam and wandered down the midway looking for chocolate dipped ice cream bars on a stick.  We found chocolate dipped cheesecake and bananas but no ice creams (boo) and settled for pretzels and mini donuts.

Photo Credit: Bill Marsh / Calgary Stampede

Indian Village

That evening Mr Soapbox barbequed jalapeno hamburgers in honour of Stampede.  It was raining so we ate indoors (surprise).

We tried to teach ourselves line dancing from a YouTube video but the Cupid Shuffle proved to be too difficult and we got sidetracked by John Travolta (Staying Alive) and Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) which led us to articles about Jennifer Grey’s nose (the internet really is a sink hole).

Today we walked over to Village Ice Cream in Marda Loop.  We were armed with two umbrellas which came in handy when the skies opened and it started to hail.

We’ve had a terrific visit.  My hairdresser taught us the Cadillac Ranch (sorta).  We played Checkers and Rummikub.  Jay showed Ms Soapbox how to find Netflix using the new DVD player and we crushed Elle in the selfie war–shots of us in cowboy hats, clinging to each other on the cattle scale and saying hi to a bull beat people sitting in the sunlight any day of the week.

Roz and Jay fly home tomorrow.  They think our weather is fantastic.  Booyah!!

Posted in Celebrations, Culture, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged | 28 Comments