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Satire, Fake News and Bias

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A recent piece of satire from a The Out And Abouter is called Concerned, But Not Wanting To Offend, Canada Quietly Plants Privacy Hedge Along Entire U.S. Border.

“And we’re happy to pay for it,” say a united front of Canadian premiers, national leaders, mayors, citizens, and casual acquaintances, of the newly planted hedge that has sprung up seemingly overnight, running unbroken for 6,416 kilometers, along the world’s longest undefended border.
– The Out and Abouter, January 2017 –

Snopes, the fact checking site, has clarified that the story is False but points out that the Author of the site clearly states that he/she writes Satirical Commentary.

The Message from the Queen – Revoking American Independence was satire too, though the name of the original author remains elusive.

…the aim of satire shouldn’t be about fooling people; it should be about making them laugh. “We’re always looking at our headlines and thinking, ‘Could someone actually believe this?’” he says. “And if it does [seem believable], then we haven’t done our job properly.”
– Rhodri Marsden, Independent, July 2015 –

Worldnewsdailyreport.com is a bit different duck, in that it looks like a real news site. You have to read their entire disclaimer (on a separate page) to discover the fictional nature of the content. The headline “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is getting prepared to accommodate nearly 250,000 American refugees if Donald Trump is to be elected US president in November” is entirely fictional.

(The ‘immigration truth’ is – Canada accepted the most Americans during the Vietnam war (it is estimated that more than 400,000 Americans took up Canadian residency between 1968 and 1978).

CNBC,  in a round-up of Fake News Stories in 2016, pointed to these untrue headlines: “Pope Francis Endorses Donald Trump for President” and “Ireland is now officially accepting Trump refugees from America”. Politifact determined that this story was false: “Thousands of people at a Donald Trump rally in Manhattan chanted, “We hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back.”

Of course, Donald Trump himself was the source of many falsehoods, most of which he repeatedly refused to be embarrassed about. He knew that his most ardent supporters would accept him, and understand him – in the same way they would support a friend who sometimes says things without having facts to back up what they are saying. (Politifact and other fact checking sites  have lists of falsehoods made by Barack Obama, Donald Trump and other politicians.)

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has undoubtedly uttered a few falsehoods too, though it is hard to classify what his sweet-sounding praise of Fidel Castro was, or how his government tripled the projected deficit once in power…

But if we’ve come to expect and even joke about office-seekers who seem truth averse (“How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving”), many of us have given little thought to our own fibs and to how they compare with politicians’ deceits. What if PolitiFact looked at what we say to our spouses, friends and bosses?
– New York Post, April 2016 –

Here in Canada, Federal politicians are investigating ‘false news’ as part of a broader study by the Federal Heritage Committee into the impact of digital technology on journalism. While various sections of Canada’s CRTC regulations prohibit the broadcasting of “false or misleading news” by radio and television licensees, it obviously can’t control or regulate news that is broadcast from the USA or is delivered through the internet.

So if you spot someone sharing something that you know is outlandish, strike a blow for truth and let them know. But be nice about it. After all, we’ve all had our moments of gullibility, and we certainly haven’t had our last.
– Rhodri Marsden, Independent, July 2015 –

How do we, as citizens of our respective countries, respond to this web of falsehoods? Some people speak or write mean, spiteful, horrid things about President Trump, his family, and other politicians. Does that achieve anything? If you have ridiculed, shamed, hated, scorned, or belittled someone, does that make you a better person than they are?

But every time someone quips like Donald Trump does…they reveal a streak of that same character in themselves. You tumble closer to the bottom of the pit where Trump resides. And by signaling your comfort in saying it, you give tacit permission to others to do the same. Quickly, we all find ourselves lower than before.
– Nate Hopper, Time, October 2016 –

There are many ways to express your opinions without being abusive. First, though, you should make sure your opinions are NOT based on, or propped up by Fake News.

How do you fact check? Do you know which news outlets are satirical, which ones are make up fake stories, which ones have strong bias either left or right? (This site has some good lists to get you started – Media Bias/Fact  Check.)

My list of Government/Political quotations is at The Quippery – Politics and Government.

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The Political Temper Tantrum – Needless Violence in the Wake of the Trump Election

November marked my 7th Anniversary of blogging. This is my 556th post. It has turned out to be one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. I’m mesmerized by the American election, and can’t seem to move on until I’ve digested what happened!

I’m not an American, but I have strong ties to both my American friends and a community in Arizona (where I spend the winter.) Then there is the not insignificant influence that the United States has on my country, Canada.  Research associate Simon Palamar  explained this relationship by saying “We’re sleeping next to an elephant, so when they shift in bed, we feel it.”

If I had been an American voter, and a Republican, I don’t know if I could have voted for Donald Trump. Of course, the same thing can be said about the Democrats and Clinton. Neither candidate seemed particularly worthy if you believed everything the media reported.

The QuipperyWatching the election night coverage on three different stations felt a bit like an indoctrination into why I should have got a college education (so I would know how to vote for the right party.) After the election, there were violent protests; the accusations that all Trump supporters are racist, sexist, homophobic bigots; the demand for the immediate suspension of the Electoral College, petitions to secede from the Union, etc. It reminded me of a small child throwing a temper tantrum, not a free society where one side might be unpopular with the other side, but that’s okay.

Would the words have been softer or the backlash less if the Democrats had won? No one can say for sure, though I’m sure there are media pundits who can generate a few thousand words to convince their faithful.

I can finish this post now because of hope. I hope people will start to question the value and veracity of all media. I hope people will look at the world through a lens of optimism instead of the lens of fear. I hope people will remember that a democracy is a political system of free and fair elections, and it is impossible for everyone to achieve everything they want all of the time. I hope Americans will give their President-Elect a fair chance.

Last, but not least, I hope people will be more tolerant. There is more than one religion, more than one political party, more than one way to think about just about anything, more than one way to do just about anything.

What makes your way always right, and the other person’s way always wrong?

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When All the Presidential Candidates Stink – Call Canada!

What could be worse for a creaky, cancerous political system than what the Democratic and Republican parties are brewing up? Nothing really. This is as bad as it gets…
First: Do I even bother to vote?
For those who do cast a ballot, there is the even sadder choice: Which candidate do I loathe the least?
– Ron Fournier, The Atlantic –

The ‘Any One But’ vote – in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll on American voter preferences, nearly half (47 percent) of those who said they’d support Trump said it was because they don’t want Hillary Clinton to win. Nearly half (46 percent) of those who said they’d vote for Clinton said it was because they don’t want Trump to win.

Maybe this will be the year that the American people decide neither of these candidates is fit to be President. There are several alternatives! Here is the link to the My Time to Vote Website. It lists Third Party, Unaffiliated, Write-In and Independent Candidates (in addition to Republican and Democratic Party Candidates other than Clinton and Trump.)

There are hundreds of names listed there, and there is no reason why the list couldn’t provide the American public with a viable  alternative to a simple anti-vote. Of course, SKYWALKER, ANAKIN; GOAT, ANUS THE or THE CLOWN, BIPPY are also on these lists, but really, could any of them be worse than the current front runners?

Another option – you can look to Canada for a new alternative for good government! We offer you – The Canada Party!

Why is The Canada Party such a great choice?

Consider this: “Canadians often point out that while the American constitution promises “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the constitution of Canada–written in the 1860s in England–sets a more modest goal: “Peace, order, and good government.” – Robert Fulford –

304-canada-gooseIf you doubt our abilities to govern, consider the fact that we’ve already moved massive numbers of vocal, though unqualified, candidates into your country. You thought our Canada Goose contingents were just seasonal visitors, but you are now starting to realize they have no plans to leave and they are the masters of ‘friendly fire’ when they have a convention in one of your local parks. If we can be so effective with geese, think what we could do with people!

So, what’s it going to be, America? Are you going to stand up for your country and say “Enough is enough” – or will you just bitch your way through another four years with a President who is either the master of reality television or a woman who displays a determined adherence to political deception?

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Canada’s 2015 Federal Election -First Past the Post is a Savage Place

2015-FederalElection

Red: Liberal Party; Blue: Conservative Party; Orange: New Democratic Party; Light Blue: Bloc Québécois; Green: Green Party

Canada’s 2015 Federal Election just wrapped up. The Liberal Party received the largest number of popular votes – 39.5%. This gave them 54% of the seats in Parliament and a majority government. The Conservative  Party were 7.6% behind that with 31.9% of the popular vote, but it only gave them 29% of the seats. The NDP Party had 19.7% of the popular vote – 13% of the seats. Several other parties took the remaining seats.

If the ratio between percent of popular vote to seats won seems odd, it is because Canada uses a first-past-the-post voting system (FPTP). Some people complain about this system because the winning Party rarely receives 50% of the popular vote. The Liberals agree and have promised to change this ‘unfair’ system. Sober second thought might change their mind, as it is this system that usually delivers majority governments in Canada – which winning politicians prefer.

The Leader (Prime Minister) of a majority government often pays a heavy price for this power, though. In this election, as in may previous elections, approximately 60.5% of the voting population of Canada didn’t vote for the party in power. The scapegoat for discontent this election will be Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, as it was for Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper after the last election.

The ‘young, good looking, nice hair’ Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, is already seeing the first ‘hint of what is to come’ in the form of opinion commentaries.
– “The Trudeau manipulation: Behind the most image-conscious campaign in Canadian history.” (National Post).
– “He’ll have an asset in that people will look at him and they’ll have an initially favourable impression of him because he looks like an attractive guy… Beyond that, all bets are off.” Ottawa Citizen
– “The Conservative Party’s loss is to the detriment of its neighbors to the south and the world at large, since the Tory leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was defeated by the unprepared, gaffe-prone but well-coiffed son of a former prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Harper’s fate is all the more shocking when you consider how well Canada weathered the 2008-2009 financial crisis under his watch.” CNN
–  “Trudeau now bears the weight of impossible expectations that he himself largely created… In Trudeau’s case, it won’t be hard for him to keep his most prominent promise — to run a deficit for a few years. Spending more than you earn is always easy.” CBC News
– “Trudeau will be under a harsh spotlight as politicians and voters alike see if their gamble on a young, inexperienced media darling will play out in the policy arena.” TIME

The media attacks on Harper were sometimes so brutal that you could only wonder what kind of people say those kinds of things. It is one thing to disagree with the decisions of the politicians that are in power, but it is quite another thing to attack the personality of the leader with words that are full of hatred. When that kind of emotion is on a roll, facts and reason get trampled. This, to me, is the most disgusting aspect of our ‘always on and instant’ access to the written and spoken word.

Anyone with a keyboard and internet access can push out their opinion – an opinion that is rarely based on logic, research or balance. One self proclaimed ‘critic and journalist’ recently wrote, “I’m glad Justin Trudeau is Canada’s new leader, but only because Harper is gone. And Trudeau will certainly be a different kind of prime minister. He might even improve Canadians’ sense of who we can be: he is young and tattooed and bright-eyed, plus into pot and the very latest in hair cuts.”

Hopefully Trudeau will surpass the low expectations of his detractors, and be exceedingly brighter than some of the people who support him. If not, he is in for a rough ride.

Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened.
– Sir Winston Churchill –

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Politics – The Lighter Side

Canadians and Americans are gearing up for Federal Elections. Canadians will go to the polls on October 19th, 2015 to select the ruling party, and by extension the Prime Minister. Americans will not select their President until a year later – November 8, 2016.

…this (American) presidential campaign is about twice the average gestation period of an orangutan. The 2016 Canadian federal election will have a gestation period between that of a wolf (64 days) and a leopard (94 days). A mere nothing.
– David Shribman, Globe and Mail, August 4, 2015 –

The QuipperyMy take on politics and elections? Get out and vote, but don’t be a gullible voter. For every promise a politician makes, ask:
– How realistic is it that this person/party will actually be able to deliver this outcome?
– How is this person/party going to pay for this?
– What is the opposing person/party really saying about this issue? (Go to their website in addition to reading what the media thinks.)

I said there was a Lighter Side to Politics and Government. I’ve rounded up some famous, and not so famous quotations – some I’m sure will make you laugh!

Democracy is an interesting, even laudable, notion and there is no question but that when compared to communism, which is too dull, or Facism, which is too exciting, it emerges as the most palatable form of government. This is not to say that it is without its drawbacks – chief among them being its regrettable tendency to encourage people in the belief that all men are created equal. And although the vast majority need only take a quick look around the room to see that this is hardly the case, a great many remain utterly convinced.
– Fran Lebowitz –

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
– Winston Churchill –

The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.
– Ronald Reagan –

More Quotations about Politics and Government: The Quippery – Politics

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Rockyview Motorsports Sidelined

The Rockyview Motorsports Park project north east of Airdrie was unanimously defeated by the Rocky View County Council at a hearing in Calgary on January 27, 2015.  Council’s decision was based on the objectives of the Rocky View County Plan, which includes guidelines for the preservation of agricultural land.

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac –

County Councillor Greg Boehlke, who made the motion to refuse the motorsports application, acknowledged the County engaged in haphazard development approvals until recent times. “I will say that before the County Plan, there was a map on the wall and a dart board,” he said. Today, however, the County Plan provides a framework for development, while protecting the County’s rural nature and agriculture landbase.

Motorsports enthusiasts were extremely disappointed by the decision. One of them wondered why “there is that much opposition to paving over gopher holed barren tundra… “ Others were more aware of the actual location of the proposal and the nature of the section of crop producing land.  That didn’t stop them, though, from lamenting that mototsports enthusiasts need a place to play. Another fan, believing farmers had no good reason to oppose this development, said, “Sadly there will always be those miserable people in life that aren’t happy unless they are making life miserable for others.” Another fan, acknowledging the possibility that noise might make area residents miserable, said, “I’d buy a house with this in my back yard! Just pay a little extra for sound-proof windows and central air.”

Rockyview Motorsports has not given up on the project entirely, and are looking at alternative properties that hopefully will not subject Rocky View County farmers to another round of opposition misery.

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.
– Dwight David Eisenhower –

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Rockyview Motorsports – Decision Just Days Away

Rocky View County wraps itself around the east, north and west sides of the City of Calgary, Alberta. With almost a million acres of land, the County is a prime target for developers. One of these is Rockyview Motorsports (RMP), a consortium of private investors who hope to build a Motorsports Park in Rocky View County. The County Council will meet next Tuesday, January 27th, to consider the merits of the project and give it a yea or nay.

When RMP announced the intended location of the project, and submitted their request for approval to Rocky View County, many area residents voiced their disapproval. They weren’t critical of the project itself really – just the location. Some objected to having their agricultural community, and way of life, taken from them. Others objected to having a motorsports park just a half a mile away from the city limits of Airdrie.

In retrospect, it is easy to see how a group of city businessmen thought they had found the ideal location for their motorsports park.

The section of land they chose has an undulating topography that appealed to them, and the owner was willing to sell.

According to the developer, few people even ‘live nearby’! That observation was probably RMP’s first error. In the city, people measure distance between houses in feet. In the country, ‘nearby’ is measured in miles.  RMP should have counted, and then consulted with, the residents who were in a 3 to 4 mile radius around the project. But RMP didn’t and the people in this zone (which includes rural residential communities in the City of Airdrie) were blindsided by the proposal. They immediately started to speculate about how they might be impacted by  what RMP described as a “regional destination for tourism and commerce”.

RMP’s location choice also meant the developer had to scale back their original vision in order to reduce the possibility of noise concerns.  A drag strip, oval, grandstands and events that go with these facilities were axed from the plan they submitted, though these facilities appear in the documents that went to investors. Supporters of the project hoped that these items could be added at some future date. Those in opposition feared that could be true.

In preparation for the Hearing on Tuesday, Rocky View County Administration did an in depth review of the RMP Master Site Development Plan.  Administration’s summary was “The proposal does not meet the agricultural and business development policies of the County Plan. Administration recommends refusal…”

The City of Airdrie submitted comments and concerns about the project, and in general they felt “The document contains a number of potentially contradictory statements and contains little in the way of actual development commitments…The City’s concern is the extent to which the project could change over time and the resulting off – site impacts that may occur as a result.”

One of Rockyview Motorsports supporters lamented on RMP’s Facebook page that Unfortunately there will be opposition… has it shown it’s ugly head in any meaningful way?” In reply to that, the We Say NO Rockyview Motorsports group has spent the past 10 months gathering information and preparing for the Hearing on January 27th. They think their opposition is as meaningful as their chosen occupation is. They think the preservation of their lives and community is meaningful. What isn’t meaningful to them is a Motorsports Park.

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