The Circus of Alberta Politics

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I am sick to fucking death of #Ableg and what passes for politics in this province. It’s like a bad version of the song, “Stuck in the Middle With You”

“Clowns to the left of me,

Jokers to the right…”

“Stuck in the Middle With You” – Stealers Wheels

And what’s in the centre is starting to look like the goo left in the container in my fridge (sorry, Greg Clark, but it is). We have these three candidates all talking and not a single one is listening. It’s like a bad script that the Three Stooges turned down. The only thing missing is the theme song from American Horror Story. Since our beloved leaders insist on acting like refugees from a bad sitcom, then I’ll treat them as such.

Starring:

Rachel Notley as the “Good Girl”

Notley will be that proverbial “good girl” who is always trying to do right. She’s the one with the latest fashions and is always involved in all the groups. A cheerleader by nature, there’s nothing she can’t do (except get a pipeline but, by golly, she’s trying). She can flip from being a geek to being an ally in the blink of an eye. You think she’s everyone’s best friend and confident. However, beneath this sparkly exterior is an interior you should beware of. She makes promises and then half-fulfills them. Said she was going to end poverty and then the bulk of the changes she makes only affects children because adults in poverty don’t make feel good stories. Oh and she’s a member of the Glee Club, too.

Jason Kenney as the “Villain”

Kenney thinks of himself as some kind of Sauron figure who is all-knowing and has a ring of power. The truth is he’s more of a Gollum figure who’s tricksy but not much else. He treats people in the same way Gollum fishes. Grabs them by his bare hands and then smashes them against a rock while singing. He’s forever searching for his Precious but those damn hobbits (the media) keep getting in his way. I’m pretty sure there’s a giant spider out there he’s friends with, too, but that may just be my imagination.

Stephen Mandel as the “Heroic Wannabe”

Mandel has this picture in his mind where he’s a cross between the star quarterback and the nature loving hippie. The truth is that he’s so focused on his image and people’s perceptions of him that he never stops to think that he’s actually doing damage. Everyone loves him and when he saves us we’ll thank him (yeah, I’d still love to thank him for that monstrosity in Edmonton called Roger’s Place Arena). The rest of us peons are too simple to understand the grandiosity of his plans. He’s a member of the Glee Club, too but has trouble staying on key.

I am sick to death of the mockery that has become Alberta politics. I look at my friends and see them hurting because of politicians who don’t really give a damn about the people they’re supposed to be serving. Like my one friend who’s been waiting 3 YEARS for a hip replacement and can barely walk some days. Or my other friend who was working above minimum wage before the increase. Now she’s just making minimum wage and there’s no raise in sight. She works for a small business owner who pays her what they can as it is. Or my other friend who finds himself at the whims in the Alberta Oilsands industry. Not one of them is being heard by the politicians who run around in some horrific slapstick of what the Alberta Legislature is supposed to be. Let’s not even start talking about the reconciliation that’s supposed to be happening or the future of AISH recipients once they age out at 65. None of this even touches on rents skyrocketing in Edmonton or the problems in healthcare. Not one of them has even looked at the base amounts for those on Income Support (which haven’t changed since the late 70s). You want a laugh? Ask any one of them what they think about the Universal Basic Income program.

The only person in all of this who has ever approached me to listen to my fears and frustrations was Greg Clark. A man I supported until Mandel stole the leadership away from him. Am I bitter? Yes. Clark is everything a politician is supposed to be and now he’s relegated to the back seat. I guess that’s what you get for actually caring about your constituents.

I’m done. This whole thing makes me sick.

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Media and Politics

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When I was a 20-something with big dreams, no clue and a broken inner compass, I decided on journalism. As someone with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (although I didn’t know it at the time), journalism was perfect for me. Tell the story, don’t get involved, know all the facts. The rules were clear. I could do this.

Journalism is a weird hybrid, inbred creature. A journalist does not involve themselves in the story. A journalist is merely a tool to help tell the story. I loved being able to chase a story down and then getting that last minute twist that threw everything you thought you knew out the window.

See, here’s the rules; the journalist is unbiased. No matter your own personal beliefs, you tell the story as it comes to you. That’s it. You don’t get an opinion. The story is the telling of facts. You don’t omit or twist facts to get the story you want. A journalist works for their readers. Not the paper or station, not the editor or owner. The audience. A slant is allowed but if the slant breaks the rules, it’s out. You have the option of not telling a story.

That’s how it used to work. Now, the audience new they weren’t getting the whole story sometimes or there were some stories that were buried but the media was trusted to tell the truth. However, in the last couple of decades or so something bizarre has happened in the world of media.

It used to be that the media was owned by various people. In my own city of Edmonton, Alberta, the people that owned The Edmonton Journal were different from those who owned The Edmonton Sun. Now both are owned by Postmedia. These are the same people that own The Calgary Herald, The Calgary Sun and The Daily Herald-Tribune in Grande Prairie. One media company owns all the major daily newspapers (or dailies) in Alberta.

Why is this frightening?

Traditionally the media has been a watchdog of politicians. Watergate never would have been uncovered if it hadn’t been for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. However, lately things have changed and it all has to do with who owns what.

When the media was in the hands of smaller companies, they competed with each other to get the story out. That was journalism. They also competed to ensure they were more trustworthy than the other. Now that the media is owned by a few large corporations there is no drive to keep them trustworthy. A large corporation with a large wallet doesn’t really care about a few small lawsuits. The media is no longer driven by the public’s need to know. Now it’s being driven by a corporation’s need to get information out. More specifically, get the right information out.

Back in May of 2015, The Edmonton Journal acknowledged that Postmedia told them to write a story endorsing Jim Prentice’s bid for Premier of Alberta. Not only did they tell the Journal to do this but they also told The Edmonton Sun, The Calgary Herald and The Calgary Sun to do the same thing.

Are you scared yet?

Now Alberta elected Premier Rachel Notley and we’re now seeing her being vilified in major media. There’s some seepage happening, too. She’s also being demonized in major social media as well. Social media that media outlets are quick to use. Truth be told, Notley could save orphans from a burning building and they’d nail her to a tree saying she didn’t prevent the fire.

And this is happening throughout the western world.

We learned that fake news was happening online and that major media was picking up on those stories. It’s part of how Donald Trump got elected. The same thing is happening here in Canada. Look at the mess that is Doug Ford and if you think he’s content with Ontario, think again.

This isn’t ending. It’s just beginning. I’m not one to cry wolf but I see a furry dog-like creature heading our way and its hungry.

Playing the Victim

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I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I was raped. More than once. I’m sorry that the memory of it sticks with me to this day as a kind of awful background noise that colors everything I say and do. I’m sorry that makes you uncomfortable. I’m sorry that in this era of #MeToo, I am starting to feel like I can finally talk about it. I’m sorry that you want me to shut up. I’m sorry it still hurts and makes me stop during my day to wonder what I did wrong.

I’m sorry I was abused. I’m sorry that my mother was so messed up about my sister suffering severe bullying that she thought handing me over to her was a good idea. I’m sorry that my sister took such pleasure in finding new ways to torment me all in the name of “discipline”. I’m sorry talking about it helps me to put it into perspective. I’m sorry I’ve tried to connect with others like me on the internet to share our stories.

I’m sorry I have Nonverbal Learning Disorder. I’m sorry I haven’t said the right thing or done the right thing or made you feel better or praised you enough or stood in the right spot. I’m sorry I got distracted again. I’m sorry I melted down again. I’m sorry I don’t understand when you’re joking. I’m sorry I don’t know how to organize my clutter.

I’m sorry I’m a woman. I’m sorry that I have to struggle harder than you do just to achieve the same things you do. I’m sorry that I have to point out when you’re being a douche. I’m sorry that I have to go to the bathroom in packs because I’m afraid a man will follow me in and attack me. Again. I’m sorry I carry my keys in my fist. I’m sorry I don’t walk outside at night. I’m sorry that these things make me angry and I want to change them. I’m sorry that I want to make things better for the women coming behind me just as others made it better for me.

I’m sorry I’m fat. I know how that offends you. I’m sorry I have an eating disorder. I’m sorry I have diabetes. I’m sorry I don’t exercise four or five hours a day. I’m sorry I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I’m sorry my anxiety makes me seek out certain foods. I’m sorry I’m not strong enough to be thin. I’m sorry I’m not wise enough to be the person you want me to be.

I’m sorry I’m playing the victim just by existing. I’ll try to do better in the future.

Mute and Block

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A while ago I began looking through my social media sites to see who I had blocked. I was curious and made a discovery. The worst of the trolls that I had to use the block button on were temporary or fake accounts that could be linked back to one or two people.

Let me explain what’s going on.

I make a radical statement like women deserve equal pay and the incels come out of the woodwork to bombard me with a barrage of tweets and posts saying that I hate men, I should kill myself, I deserve to be alone and worse. I have had up to 30 or 40 tweets in a couple of hours flood my Twitter feed. There are subjects that are almost as bad. Anything having to do with #MeToo is almost guaranteed to create a furor. #BlackLivesMatter can wind you up in a sticky mess and don’t even get me started on the anti-vaxxers or anti-choice people. #MAGA people are pros at opening the flood gates for something as simple as speaking out against Trump’s racism.

But when I took a closer look at things I was surprised. Now, I didn’t look deeply because I don’t have that much knowledge, time or patience but it seemed to me there were a lot of shady accounts happening. I did a quick Google search and found out there are blogs dedicated to showing you how to create fake accounts.

It should come as no surprise that this is a problem but I don’t think people have thought this through. It’s a bigger problem than anyone has paid attention to and it’s not getting better.

When I talk online about a subject, it’s important to me. There are some biggies I have like poverty and women’s rights but I’m not just flapping my keyboard to keep the pixels moving. There’s a reason I say the things I do and that’s so I can be heard.

It used to be that I had a variety of followers on my various social media. At one time I would chat with those on the right and they would chat with me. Sure we were each convinced the other was wrong but we tipped our hats to each other and gave each other room to breathe.

That’s not happening anymore.

Now when I type something, my mouse starts to smoke with all the blocking I’m having to do or reporting fake accounts. In the midst of all this are people who want to have a real conversation and ask real questions but I can’t respond because I’ve been flooded. My opportunity to connect with someone on the other side has been taken away from me.

However, when you report this flooding to the powers that be, it doesn’t violate their code of conduct and they start telling you to mute or block. Can anyone tell me why it’s up to me to regulate the behaviour of others on social media and not the responsibility of those who run these sites? When someone says I need to be raped, why do I have to shut that down instead of Twitter or Facebook?

People like me are being bombarded by these people in the hopes that the overwhelming amount of vitriol being flung will make me give up and go away. In many cases it’s worked. We are being slowly silenced and our ability to connect is being strangled. It is time that stopped. It is more than time that these social media sites stepped up to the plate and started assuming the mantle of responsibility instead of relying on people to use the mute or block button. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest make too much money to get away with such lazy and complicit behaviour.

Five Pounds

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Dear doctors,

I lost 5 pounds. I know, not a big deal to you but to me it’s a huge event. Because of the circumstances surrounding this event I want you to hear me. Not as a woman who suffers from obesity and diabetes but as a human being. I need you to listen carefully.

Let me tell you my story.

About a year ago I went on Victoza. An insulin that has been shown to help diabetics lose weight. This was an important victory for me because I had to not only fight my government to cover it but I had to fight my doctor to prescribe it.

Why?

My doctor was angry at the government for not covering the drug therefore, he didn’t want to prescribe the drug to those who couldn’t afford it. The poor like me. He initially made the decision to withhold the drug based on my economic status. Let that sink in for a moment.

After I was approved for coverage of the Victoza, my diabetic doctor prescribed a dose of 1.8mg. That’s important to this story. I initially began to lose weight. In part because of my natural eating habits and in part of my love of exercise. However, a large part was due to the Victoza.

In January 2018 I had a slip and fall where I broke my funny bone. Literally. A radial tip fracture left me in pain and severely phobic of slipping and falling again. I sought comfort foods and avoided the outdoors. Yes, I was miserable and gained weight.

After a time I got control of things again and got back to my routine. However, I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t gain but I didn’t lose. In October 2018 I found out why.

My family doctor informed me that to lose weight effectively I had to be on 3.0mg of Victoza. A higher dose than I was on. When I asked my diabetic doctor about it he got angry. Accused me of self-harm and said I was looking for a magic pill.

However, I’ve had time to think about that visit and let my anger simmer for a while. Let me sum up what I know;

  • He saw my fat and not me. He knew nothing about my eating habits, exercise routine or other health concerns. Nor did he care.
  • He deliberately withheld information due to his belief that my weight was solely the result of overeating and his political views. He would see my obesity no other way no matter what I told him or what facts I presented. Obesity had one cause and that was it.
  • He decided that I was incapable of making an informed decision about my own health care. A fat person obviously doesn’t care about their health so just decide for them.

Doctors, you don’t have the right to decide for me what is right for me. It’s your job to work with me to find the right course of action unless doing so would put others at risk. I rely on your information and experience so that I can take an active role in my health care. If you withhold it because of your own prejudices, you put me at risk for the sake of your ego.

I will do my part in my health care but what I won’t do is let you use my health to masturbate your ego. If you have a problem with that then maybe you shouldn’t be taking care of patients. Perhaps you should go into research instead where it won’t be a problem.

Sincerely,
A Fat Patient.

A Toast to the Fallen

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Here it is, New Year’s Eve day and my last blog of the year. It’s been a strange year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights, lessons learned and heartaches.

Feminism

In the past I thought that feminism was merely trying to balance the scales. In this past year I’ve learned that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can’t begin to navigate that iceberg until we start chipping away at the elephant in the room; abuse.

Abuse comes in many forms; domestic, parental, sibling, person in power; but it all boils down to the same thing. One person exercising control over another. Whether that control is physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or a combination thereof doesn’t matter. What matters is the disproportionate amount of women who are at the receiving end. I think 2019 will see me addressing this matter more and more.

Poverty

I’ve been an avid advocate of those who live in poverty. Mainly because I experience it first hand. However, in 2018 I saw how much racism affects poverty and the damage they can do together. There is still a genocidal race going on but it’s been pushed beneath the blankets and has become more insidious.

One note of optimism, though, is the idea of Basic Income. I see this as a brand new hope for those living in poverty and will keep advocating for it wherever I can. I think 2019 will see me continuing to support such efforts as End Poverty Edmonton and Basic Income. I’m a writer and words are cheap. If my words can help then I will spill them freely.

Health

I’m fat and along with that is an awareness of my health that others don’t have. In 2018 I learned that everyone and their god has an opinion about my size, my body, my lifestyle, my health, my eating habits, my exercise routine, my attitude, my ego (or lack), my self respect….. well, you get the idea. Apparently being overweight means that anyone with an internet connection can tell you how to live your life.

So my message in 2019 will be this; not your body, not your rules/business. Okay, that’s been my message all along but I think it’s time to get louder about it. All these well-meaning “health” gurus need to shut up. To sell their crap they bombard us fatties with these shaming messages over and over. They claim concern over our health or our lifestyle. They claim they understand and empathize. The truth is that I’m a dollar sign to them and nothing more and that needs to stop. I don’t care what color bow they put on that package, all that passive-aggressive shit is just a hard sales tactic and that’s it. This year is about loving the body you have and taking care of it which is a conversation between you and your doctor.

Creativity

2018 I began expanding my creative self into the world of art. Okay. So far it looks like it was painted by a drunken 5 year old most of the time. However, I’ll get there. After all, I mastered writing, didn’t I? Okay. Stop giggling.

Lastly, I leave you with this as 2018 comes to a close; it’s been a rough year and we’ve survived. Live, love, laugh, cry and remember to always keep going forward.

War on Poverty

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I’ve been avoiding writing this post. If you read my last post, you’ll remember how I got mansplained about my writing and poverty. The experience has left me a bit shaken and angry (still) while the person who did it still doesn’t have the balls to contact me about it (I sent him a link to my last post). However, I still have something to say and I’m not about to be silenced on the matter. So here we go.

Usually my posts on poverty involve explaining what it’s like to live here. I hope that someone will read it and will gain a bit of understanding and compassion but I realize I’m fighting the wrong battle.

Most people when they fight poverty come from a bottom up tactic. That is, they address all the issues that people living in poverty have to struggle with; homelessness, food security, health care, etc. So, they try to come up with solutions to that will fix these problems with the mistaken belief that it will cure poverty. Poverty isn’t a disease and we can’t treat it that way.

I have to admit I’ve been guilty of this as well but it’s a never-ending fight. You put out one fire only to have three more crop up in its place which requires more solutions and  fixes and more resources and more people to run them and… and… and… From this perspective, it seems hopeless.

Then someone asked me a question. “What do you do if the homeless guy is happy being homeless?” I dismissed it as being silly. After all, who wants to be homeless and fighting for survival all the time? Then I remembered, not all homelessness is the person sleeping in alleys and in doorways.

Alberta is oil country. There are a lot of people who work in rig camps and earn a very good living that way. Usually this is a switch schedule. So, someone might work three weeks up in a camp and have one week off. During that week they don’t live in the camps so they come to the city. Usually Edmonton. Financially it doesn’t make sense to rent an apartment or buy a house if you’re only going to be there for one week out of every month. So they live in hotels or couch surf. Technically they’re homeless but they’re not poor.

But going back to the question, what do you do with the person who’s content to live in the back of a camper or van? What do you say to the person who doesn’t want to be tied down to rent or utilities. They’re out there. Do you force them to live a lifestyle you don’t want just because their current way of living makes you uncomfortable?

It was this question that made me realize that I’m fighting the wrong war. As Jesus once said, “the poor you have with you always.” (Matt 26:11) but that didn’t mean that something couldn’t be done about poverty. The problem isn’t poverty. Running around putting out brush fires makes no sense especially when you’re using methods established decades or even centuries earlier.

The problem is wealth.

I’ve made this point before; Canada is a resource wealthy country. How is it that we have all these resources and still have people starving? How is it we have all this space and still have people living in squalid conditions? Conditions that we wouldn’t let a dog live in let alone a person. How is it that these resources are only making their way to Canada’s top 1% or 2%?

A study was begun in Ontario setting up some people with a basic income. In the short time it ran, it changed their lives. Then Doug Ford, who will forever be known as Captain Shortpants, pulled the rug out and stopped it. No notice and only the flimsiest of excuses. If that doesn’t disgust you then you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

I’ve heard the arguments against basic income. People will squander it, addicts will spend it all on drugs, women will get pregnant just to get more, the list goes on. What it comes down to is those in the “Have” column of life believe that those living in the “Have Not” column are too stupid and too lazy to be allowed more than the minimum needed to survive. Oh they’ve got lots of reasoning for this. I’ve heard that, too. It’s a “keep ’em hungry” mentality. The belief that a poor person will work harder to get what they need if they’re kept poor.

Let’s dump that shit for what it is.

The rate of urban development here in Edmonton is mind boggling. Yet, it’s not areas devoted to helping the poor at all. Downtown alone has seen the rise of luxury highrises at a phenomenal rate in the past few years. Couple that with the building of an arena that still leaves me with bile in my mouth and you have a serious problem.

Forget for a moment that all this development of the downtown area displaces the poor and homeless. For all their hand wringing, Don Iveson and his crew are still NIMBY people. Yes, let’s build the low-income housing. Just not where the good folk can see it or be bothered by it.

All this development does is drive up housing costs which, in turn, drives up rents. Edmonton rents are out of control as it is and there’s been absolutely no attempt to curtail them. Instead we get more urban development and luxury highrises. The thinking is that if the upper crust is happy then they’ll sprinkle their money downward and we’ll be happy that they’re pissing their blessings on us.

Enough is enough.

It is time that we demanded that our politicians start a serious redistribution of wealth in this country. Starting with basic income. We should be flooding Captain Shortpants’ phones, emails, Twitter feed and everything else with the demand that he reinstate it. We should be marching in the streets demanding basic income.

Stop putting out brush fires and start putting your resources where they’ll do the most good. Opening a food bank so the poor can eat for another week solves that problem for that week. Basic income solves a lot of problems over a long term. Canada is a disgustingly resource rich country. Far too rich for this to keep going on.

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