Category Archives: Politics

Thanks for blocking me, dude!

Thanking my conservative friend for blocking me from his Facebook page

On of my conservative friends blocked me, for a second time, on Facebook a few months ago and I’m just writing about it now. This time he says it is “permanent” because of the Michael Moore quote I posted in response to the “fake news” item he had posted.

In a way I’m relieved this has happened and had kind of expected it. My conservative friend is a nice guy in person and is a “family man” who posts good rock videos and some other content that is often amusing. He also likes Nickelback, and that could be forgiven as harmless though in poor taste. We used to work at the same company and he has solid technical skills and understands hardware and software issues very well. There is a lot to like about the guy.

But with the 2016 election in the States things began to get a bit tense all over and especially on Facebook. I am a fairly left-leaning person and most of my friends have similar ideologies. We disagree over issues like Israel and government spending but rarely do huge disagreements erupt. (In fact, to some of them I probably seem to be more right wing: I often vote Liberal rather than NDP…..Oh well).

I realized in 2016 I had two or three right wing American Facebook friends and one of them I wound up un-friending after he called Hillary a “bitch” for the second or third time. He was offensive and stupid. My #2 conservative friend would never use such language; he sounds reasonable as he posts links to anti-climate change articles and others that called Clinton a criminal. He was originally a supporter of Cruz and then fell behind Trump when he won the nomination.

My friend and I had disagreed over many things but I believe the idiot/narcissist Trump is on another level. In one post he said both Clinton and Trump were “despicable” but he wanted a conservative supreme court judge so he was going with Trump. Throughout the campaign he refused to criticize anything Trump said regarding beating up protesters, grabbing women by the pussy, pretending not to know who David Duke was or anything really. I do believe that Trump cannot read past a grade 5 level.

We fell into a rhythm: he would post ridiculous and reductive posts from the internet: like the “fact” that Clinton had defended a rapist and laughed about it. Not true. She did not want to defend a rapist but didn’t have a choice and it was a big moral deal. It is ridiculous how easily many of these stupid statements (with offensive pictures) could be disproven. He would post more and cite conservative websites to back him up. I started to complain about many of his posts and prove them wrong but then he would say that the “fact checkers” like Snopes and Politico were biased. I would respond that they may have a bias, but they actually checked statements and described their research whereas Trump just lied about everything, every day. Things got heated towards the end he blocked me. Oh well, life went on and at the time I felt safe because Nate Silver told me Trump could never win.

Oops, I guess Nate just said the likelihood of Trump’s winning was less that the likelihood of his losing. OK.

After the election he unblocked me again and I thought the USA had committed a huge mistake but I kept hoping there would be some evidence of Trump’s earlier, and more liberal, self come to light. When he said he was not going to pursue criminal charges against Hillary I thought that was a good sign.

Pretty soon Trump began reverting back to his previous form and even got worse (probably as he realized on some level how unprepared he was for the job of President). My friend unblocked me and I could not help responding again to the lies and misrepresentations. Here are a couple of examples: he posted a link demonstrating how the MSM create “fake news”. It was to an ABC print article about the Russian ship off the US coast (about which Trump had joked that if he shot at it he would be very popular). The article showed a stock photo of a ship and the shore and seemed well researched and straightforward. It discussed the potential threat from the ship and quoted experts from the navy and the lawyers. I could not understand how this constituted “fake news” so I had to ask, why? My friend’s answer was that the picture and caption were misleading. They implied the ship was -much- closer than the 20+ miles the article discussed. I was really astounded this was the “fake” part because the article itself contained only researched facts. He was complaining about the use of a stock photo which happens all the time. I explained that “fake news” was when the president tweeted about three million people committing voter fraud with absolutely no evidence. His response: “how do you know there is not that amount of fraud”? Really? That position is either stupidity or willful ignorance.

My friend’s main claim was that Trump “is doing exactly what he said he would do” and that was admirable. In fact, mostly what is was doing was issuing unconstitutional executive orders and staffing some positions with people unfit to serve and leaving may other positions open. My “friend” barely acknowledged the steady stream of lies, the berating of friends like Australia, the increasing violence caused by right wing nut jobs, the rumours of ties to Russia that won’t go away, the undying support of white supremacists, the truly stupid and tragic banning of immigration and travel from countries that have produced virtually no terror on American soil (while it is business as usual for Saudi Arabia). And so much more. It is one thing to sell your soul for a supreme court vote. It is another to turn your back on so many acts of petty despotism and genuine white rage.

And as time progresses it is more obvious how woefully unprepared Trump was for the job and he is making the USA simply fodder for cartoons and ridicule.

But what really hurts is the sustained insults to common sense and logic. The refusal to understand that CNN, the “failing” New York Times, Washington Post and others employ full time journalists who have won awards, studied ethics and usually try to do a good job of research while so many of the other sites post articles that are based on supposition and often have -no- byline to identify the vacuous source.

He finally banned me because, in response to some post about Ryan Owen’s widow, who Trump turned into a photo opportunity, I posted a couple of paragraphs of Michael Moore’s response which was apparently “too much”.

Ultimately, the blocking is a good thing because that whole exercise of trying to battle blinded ideology and stupidity with logic and reason and facts just goes nowhere. You really cannot change some people’s opinions about certain things (this fact is discussed right at the beginning of How to Win Friends and Influence People). And having a “friend” like that on Facebook is really like a kind of crack addiction: the fact I can click on his name and be instantly submerged in an alternate universe. It is like visiting Mars without needing a spaceship or spacesuit.

The one thing I miss is that my friend’s bizarre postings were strangely reassuring because, in so many ways, he is a “solid citizen” and a sane, hard working guy. It helps me believe that things might eventually be ok if many of Trump’s supporters are decent folks who like good rock music (aside from Nickelback) and take their families on vacations and can talk intelligently about many topics.

Oh well, life goes on and my time is better spent playing guitar/piano etc., hanging out with my family and participating in various community activities. I am trying to engage in positive activities, like music and volunteering with our Neighbourhood Association, and be happy in my life because that is all we can really do! 

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Blatchford, Jack, Massaging the facts and my comment to the Globe

Generally, I like Christy Blatchford’s writing in the Globe and Mail. She’s kind of right wing, like a harsher Margaret Wente, but that’s ok (Margaret is good to read as well). She handles the crime beat with aplomb and manages to convey the misery and suspense of that realm of existence. I like her take on the world and really want to read her book on Oka (Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us).

However, the article “Massaging Jack” that I just read in the Globe was really embarrassing for her as an author. It was kind of an underhanded hatchet job on the new leader of the opposition. Now I’ve never been crazy about Jack Layton either. He’s always so freaking cheerful, talks a lot about families in very vague terms, and what is it with that moustache anyway? Why does a guy who loves to bike to work look so much like a used car salesman? But Jack is a hard worker, learned to speak Mandarin (or maybe it was Cantonese, I don’t remember) and has been vaulted into an amazing position. I guess NDPers can now stop pining for the days of Ed Broadbent and get on with the task of watching over the government.

So I don’t care a great deal about what Jack was doing in the massage parlour (his wife says she’s ok with it) and Blatchford decided it didn’t matter either, but then wrote about a bunch of apparently hypocritical failings of Mr. Layton. I posted my responses to her article on the Globe website, but it will only be one of many so I’ve decided to let the faithful readers of my Blog see my reply as well. So here is what I posted for Christie:

“Ms. Blatchford: I enjoy many of your columns, but this one is ill informed and reflects poorly on you.

#1: I regularly have shiatsu and the amount of clothes you wear depends on your modesty but most should be taken off. It is completely untrue that it “traditionally doesn’t involve the removal of clothes” and it should be embarrassing to your journalistic pride to even write that.

#2: $120,000 is not a tremendous amount for two people to earn living in Toronto. It was legal for them to save money and live in a co op so what is your point exactly? Oh, that’s right, there is no point except a cheap shot.

#3: I too believe in public health care, and I also had hernia surgery at Shouldice clinic. They perform an amazing style of hernia operation which some hospitals are following, but many don’t. Our health care system is a patchwork of public mixed with private plans (dental treatment anyone? Eyeglasses?). Should Jack have checked into a public hospital and undergone an inferior operation just so you would feel happier about it?

I am really disappointed you wrote this article. It is beneath you (I hope). ”

I hope Ms. Blatchford returns to real journalism soon because I miss it already.

Letter to my MP, Peter Braid

Stephen Harper ‘proroged’ parliament (stopped it). Normally everyone would be back to work tomorrow, but now they get an extra month and a half off work, and can see the olympics and saunter in by March. I wrote a letter to my conservative MP Peter Braid.

Here is my original letter:

Peter: I live in downtown Kitchener so I am in your riding and wanted to voice my extreme displeasure with your leader’s action of proroguing parliament. This is an insult to the intelligence of the Canadian voters. I’m most upset that all the committees that are currently meeting are dissolved and legislation is stalled as well. and what kind of example is this to the rest of Canadians who have to WORK during this time?

Ted Parkinson

Here is Peter Braid’s reply:

Dear Mr. Parkinson,
 Thank you for your e-mail. I apologize for the delay in responding.
 
The prorogation of Parliament is a routine part of the parliamentary cycle.  This normal, constitutional event has occurred 104 times in Canadian history, including 4 times under the previous Liberal government.   Prorogation simply means that we start a new session of Parliament, beginning with a Throne Speech that will set a focused agenda for the country.
 
In the interim, all MPs will have the opportunity to consult more extensively with constituents in preparation for the budget that will be tabled on March 4th. I will be making effective use of this time in the riding, meeting with constituents, businesses and community groups. This is one of my most important responsibilities.
 
Over the past year, Canada’s Economic Action Plan has accomplished a great deal, and has placed our country on the road to recovery. In the upcoming session, the government’s economic priorities will be: completing the implementation of the Economic Action Plan, returning the federal budget to balance once the economy has recovered, and building the economy of the future.
Thank you for writing.
 
Sincerely,
 
Peter Braid, MP
Kitchener-Waterloo

Here is my final letter:

Peter: thank you for your reply. It sounds like it was cut and pasted from the Office of the Prime Minister. Despite the fact the prorogation is an available option, and has been used previously, Stephen Harper’s use of it in this case is  NOT ‘routine’ as you say.  If you maintain that position you are ignoring not only the opposition, but most of the editorials in our newspapers and several political scientists. You are also ignoring the thousands of Canadians who protested this action yesterday at rallys across the country.
 
I attended the anti-prorogation rally in waterloo yesterday and the organizers said they had sent invitations to the 4 conservative MPs representing our ridings and not one of you attended. I guess you were too busy ‘ meeting with constituents, businesses and community groups’ and could not find the time to address the 300 or more people who where there.
 
36 pieces of legislation died because of your leader’s action. Some had been debated for hours, others had been debated for days. All that time has been lost. It is interesting you are taking credit for the Economic Action Plan, a plan that would not have existed if the opposition hadn’t threatened to kick the conservatives out.
 
I hardly need to remind you that you won this riding by only 18 votes. Think of that margin as you continue to blindly follow your leader’s orders and use his rhetoric.
 
Ted Parkinson

I am also attaching a photo of me at the rally in downtown Waterloo.

Medical Care Debate in U.S.A.

I travel to the States a great deal (2 or 3 times a month) and have several American friends. I’ve been surprised by the intensity of the health care debate. There are many reasons for this rancor and they have been discussed, but I’d like to add my own perspective.

1) Many republications are seething from their recent loss and are re-trenching on the far right, and oppose almost anything Obama proposes. Their ads, especially the ones depicting British and Canadian health care systems, have been shown to be full of lies. But nothing has stopped them, and the Obama group have been a little slow off the mark in rebutting their vicious attacks. Grandparents forced into euthanasia? Come off it!

2) Choice. This is the word I hear so often in the debates. People are afraid Obama will take away their “choice” of health care provider. This word is a charged signifier because underneath it are a load of other words like “capitalism”, “free market”, “independence” etc. For a Canadian like myself, this word was confusing. I have a choice of doctor (if my area is well-serviced, some are not). I can usually get a second opinion on surgery (been there, done that) and most diagnoses. But then I just go to a hospital and they take care of me.

I believe that the U.S.A, with its mainly “for profit” system, has sold its citizens the myth that paying hundreds of dollars a month for something that most industrialized countries provide for everyone from general tax revenues, is a good thing because they have “choice”. This implies that you can shop around for the best plan. Of course you have to have a pretty good job to do this, and your employer has to contribute. I think the number is 47 million (?) Americans who have no choice at all (actually, they have the choice to wait until they get really sick and then go to emergency where they usually cannot be turned away). My friends in New York had a “choice” when they changed plans so they would only be paying $300 per month each and their new plan was so “cheap” because it had a $10,000 deductible!

So “choice” ignores the working poor and even the working lower-middle-class. But it has become a buzzword for everything that is wrong with Obama’s plan. From a Canadian perspective this just seems a bit crazy, but Americans have been sold this “free-enterprise is good, government is bad” line for so long that it is kind of a religion. Even after banks have collapsed and corporations have poisoned the environment, government can still be portrayed as the “bad option”.

But if we took away the illusion of choice, then what would be left? Only the realization that the USA is out of step with other capitalist countries like Canada, Britain, Germany, France, etc. in not providing basic health care for its citizens. It’s really a “rouge state” in regards to this element of human necessities.The American Dream is to prosper in a land of opportunities, just don’t get sick before you’ve achieved your goals or you could be out on the street.

I don’t mean to imply that everything is great in Canada and elsewhere regarding health care. We have doctor shortages which will probably become worse with the aging population. We have long waits for some elective surgery (although things that are important, like CAT scans after an accident, or cancer surgery, can happen very quickly). We have increasing debt and some people believe costs cannot continue to rise and we need to have a “two-tiered” system where you would be able to purchase some services. In fact, anyone who has enough money to jump the queue can, for example, go to the MAYO clinic in the USA or even travel to India which offers excellent value in medical tourism.

So anyway, the viciousness of the debate does surprise me, as well as all the hidden meanings. In this blog post I’ve talked about “choice”, perhaps in a future post I’ll get into the “socialism” word!