Monday, November 28, 2016

The Death of Fidel Castro

Cuba is in mourning these days after the death of their retired dictator, Fidel Castro. 

Love him or hate him, you can't dispute the fact that he was an important figure in 20th century politics here in the Western Hemisphere. 

I recall that before the revolution in Cuba, as a young Cuban revolutionary, Castro was looking for international recognition and support.  The United States, who supported the Batista dictatorship which Fidel was trying to overthrow, rejected him.  Fidel went looking for help elsewhere.  He found it in the U.S.S.R.! 

Then things between the U.S.A. and Cuba went from bad to worse!  You all remember reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world within a hair of nuclear war.  The world, led by the U.S. put trade embargos and sanctions on Cuba.  Those barriers were up for about seven decades!

Over a million Cubans fled to the U.S., mostly to Florida.  Americans were forbidden to go to Cuba or buy Cuban exports.  It just got worse and worse! 

Then, President Obama changed all that.  He went to Cuba and started the thaw in relations, which continues today!  Fidel had long since retired, and his brother Raul now functions as dictator there.  Things are slowly changing in Cuba.  If the Americans can rein in Trump from undoing what President Obama started, those changes will continue, hopefully leading to a more democratic Cuba in the future.  I think Trump's threatened return to trade embargos and sanctions won't work now, any better than they did over the past seventy years!

It is no secret that Fidel was NOT a benevolent dictator!  He was ruthless and despotic!  Thousands of innocent Cubans died, simply because they were in opposition to his government!   Others were tortured and imprisoned.  Fidel hasn't run the country for about a decade, but his legacy still permeates Cuba.  He brought literacy and medical services to all in Cuba.  He purged Cuba of its American influence and brought a sense of forced nationalism to the population.

I felt sorry for our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - the Trudeaus lost a family friend with the death of Fidel.   I thought Trudeau's remarks about Castro's death were those of family friend and not of a statesman and in that context were quite inappropriate. 

I chalk that up to Justin's lack of knowledge of international political protocols.  He's on a steep learning curve here!  He'll learn that in these kind of situations he has to speak from the head and not the heart!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fighting the Giants

You might recall that in the story of Don Quixote, the beleaguered knight was forced to battle giants who were threatening all around.  He took out his trusty (but rusty) sword and went off to battle these giants, along with his trusted companion Sanchez.  

The giants turned out to be windmills.

Now it's my turn to battle the giants, but these giants are hurting others!  I'm talking about the giant wind turbines which are springing up all over the continent providing green power to the grid.  I heard a rumor that it would take 6500 wind turbines to replace one coal fired power plant.  If that is true we might see thousands of these things appear across Alberta.  Before we agree to have these built around here, I suggest that we all travel out to one of the existing wind farms and see these turbines in operation. 

The first thing you notice is the sound.  The "whomp-whomp-whomp" sound is quite loud and very permeating.  Would you like to live close to that?   Many municipalities in Eastern Canada have put guidelines of how far away from a residence these turbines can be built.  That distance ranges from one half a kilometer to five kilometres.

The second thing you'll notice is the dead birds and bats littering the site.  These critters appear to be disoriented by the sounds created by the huge rotors and collide with them.  It is estimated that thousands of bats and songbirds are killed each year by wind turbines.

I am going to be asking that Beiseker Village council create a bylaw prohibiting these large wind turbines within our village limits but I'm concerned about their possible location just outside the village in the county.

I don't know what guidelines the County has for wind turbine construction, but I'm going to find out!  Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Good Town Hall Meeting

We had a good town hall meeting last Monday night.

Our official delegation were two members of the crew busily turning Beiseker into Eden Valley, Minnesota so it can become the backdrop to the third season of the television show Fargo!

They told us of their plan to turn the now-vacant hardware store into a general store along with some other modifications to our village so it can stand in for the U.S. mid-western town of Eden Valley.  Filming will start early in the new year.

Most of the story line for this season's episodes occur around Christmas time, so Beiseker will be decked out for Christmas for most of the winter months!  Those in attendance were very intrigued, and I think the Fargo crew will find Beiseker and its residents easy to work with! 

Questions from the floor on other matters included;
I was most concerned with one resident's comment about the quality of water within our village. She complained that the water at her home faucets was grey in color and smelled bad.

I can find no evidence of this problem elsewhere in the village. Our water is settled and chlorinated at least twice before it reaches our homes. If the chlorine level of the water in our reservoir is lower than provincial standards it will be treated again by our public works staff here in the village.

I urge anyone who is concerned of the quality of water at their homes please have it checked out by a plumber, and then report those findings to the Village office.

I would like to thank all of the residents who came out to our annual fall town hall meeting, and I'm looking forward to to seeing you at our spring meeting in a few months time.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Personal Remembrance

Fred Courtman
My father, Fred Courtman, was a veteran.  He joined the British Royal Air Force as a young man before the Second World War.  He was trained in electronics and avionics.   He spent much of 1938 and 1939 patching up RAF planes broken by over eager student pilots, or later shot at by Germans.  He witnessed the Battle of Britain from the tarmac of airfields around London.

Shortly after that he was sent overseas to Canada to become a part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, or BCATP.  Now he spent his days patching up the brightly painted yellow training aircraft of the training schools around Calgary.  He spent much of his time posted at what is now the Calgary International Airport (YYC).  He told me stories of he and his RAF colleagues marching around the drill hall which is now home to the Hangar Flight Museum (formerly, the Aerospace Museum) .  He met and married my mother while he was stationed here.

He was shipped back shortly after the war ended.  My Mom followed as soon as civilians were permitted to sail.  My Mom told us that she was in the very last convoy to leave Halifax. That makes my Mom a "reverse" War Bride!  She went to Britain, at the same time thousands of British girls were coming here after marrying Canadian soldiers, over there!

Life in Britain was hard after the war.  Factories that would have hired my Dad with his electronics and avionic skills had been bombed into oblivion.  Shortly after my birth my parents decided to return to Canada.  We three sailed back to Canada as part of a shipload of immigrants and refugees.  My Mom loved to say that she was one of the few immigrants to arrive in Canada carrying a Canadian passport!

The rest they say is history.  My parents settled in Calgary after they came to Canada, and Dad worked at the Calgary Brewery on Blackfoot Trail for many years until he retired.  Although he didn't talk about it often, my Dad was always very proud of his eight years in the Royal Air Force.  He wore a poppy every year, and he loved his adopted country.

My Dad passed away sixteen years ago.

I will be attending  the Remembrance Day ceremonies at Acme on Friday morning.  I will be placing a wreath on behalf of the Village of Beiseker, but I will also be thinking about my Dad!