Random Cats and Neglected Social Issues*

Attempting to get ‘normal’ pictures of our cats only reinforces the notion they are not normal. Not surprising since the world itself is far from normal.

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Her name is Boots

I could go on at length about the world situation right now, but to what end? In over half a century no one has listened to my opinions despite my being proven right repeatedly. So, random thoughts. (The words aren’t important: it’s about the cats. It’s always about the cats.)

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His name is Hannibal

And just like that, suddenly Colin Kaepernick was right.

Until it’s no longer fashionable to be anti-racist, that is. Then it will be business as usual again.

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Her name is Squeak

If you want to end racism you have to execute people of a certain kind.
The problem will not respond to any other methodology. Sensitivity training isn’t going to do it, and as long as their type are around (never mind in power) nothing changes. I’ve seen vast improvements in social conditions in my lifetime, and then saw them all but vanish in a few years. Why? Because the people who benefit from the hate were still there, lurking in the shadows and awaiting the opportunity to take advantage of fear. All they needed was a champion. No, not a champion but a figurehead; a symbol of authority to put the official stamp of approval on reprehensible behaviour. Even if that approval was only implied and not blatant.
If you’re not willing to end the lives of the people whose very existence causes everyone else trouble, you’re not serious about tackling the issues. We’ve fought wars over this.
Remember: they are perfectly willing (and indeed eager) to kill you to advance their cause.

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Boots, as normal as she gets

The prevalent economic system in the world today isn’t capitalism, it’s anti-socialism. All forms of government are some type of socialism. All forms of socialism involve equitable distribution of resources for the common good. Anti-socialism involves inequitable distribution for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. That’s why feudal systems and dictatorships inevitably fail. You can see the signs of anti-socialism in CEO’s having their compensation cut to a mere $5.8 million during the pandemic when the people who actually did the work of the company are having to survive on a $2,000 per month government handout (that the government can’t afford to pay).

Remember that “socialism” and “society” have the same root word. If you don’t have one you don’t have the other; you have chaos and anarchy.

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Hannibal, sleeping as normal

57 police officers resigned in support of their comrades who beat up a 70+-year-old-man. That’s 57 job openings welcome. It also shows that every law enforcement agency (and indeed legislative body) needs to be vetted for these bullies, whether racist or just power-crazed, so that they can be permanently removed and given restricted social standing. Yes, let them feel what it’s like to be a minimum-wage slave for a change. Bar them from voting too, so they can’t build a political power base of abuse. Again.

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Squeak, who normally sleeps under the covers

Lessons from the pandemic include:

All false medical practices need to be stopped and outlawed.

People who actually do work are more valuable than unskilled and interchangeable executives who earn lots of money for contributing nothing to the company.

Symbolic gestures are just as useless and damaging as riots.

Gasoline that cost $1.38/L before the lockdown still generated a profit at $0.89/L. Because the law of supply and demand is based on greed, not some magic ability for more money to make a product appear out of thin air in an instant. Same goes for PPE.

Reality is not a matter of public opinion to be voted on.

Politicians are least able to deal with crises because they are the least qualified in any given field, yet are put in charge of everything.

No country should allow itself to become dependent on another country for essential goods of any kind.

The ecology actually is important. A lot of businesses are not.

If you are wounded, look for a man with scars.

Don’t do business with anyone who doesn’t share your ethical nature.

The current crises will all blow over and everyone will go back to doing things the same as before. Oh wait: that’s not a lesson from the pandemic, it’s a lesson from a long life.

I’m too old to deal with this stuff, to fight the battles, to try and educate the young. So I’m just reverting to my “selfish” lifestyle and I don’t care what anyone thinks of me, my life, or my opinions.

*The title is an adaptation of Edward Gorey’s “Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses”

Going Viral

If it weren’t for the coincidental circumstances, I wouldn’t have thought about it at all. But almost exactly two weeks from the day my wife got back from England I found myself suffering from flu-like symptoms: dry cough, fatigue, aches and pains. Now admittedly this is my normal for daily life, so it makes it a bit difficult to determine whether there’s actually something more wrong or I’m just having a downside to the cycle. When the fever spiked I knew it was beyond the usual muscular whatever.

Now consider that the Mrs. had been to England, a known hot spot for the media’s darling virus, as well as a couple of large airports full of people traveling hither and yon. Never mind the oriental fellow she sat next to on the flight back who was obviously sick with something; he didn’t even have to be there to make it a possibility. So out of the goodness of my heart and concern for the public good and all that, I decided to contact the health authorities and see what was what.

Public Health Line: (Automated nonsense that takes so long you could get an actual medical degree before they figure out what you’re on about. Another fine example of the failure of artificial intelligence.)

Doctor’s Office: Gosh, we don’t know. You should call the hospital and ask for Sharon. She’s the infectious disease expert there.

Hospital: Sharon isn’t here. Just stay in and don’t go anywhere. We probably don’t even have the ability to test for it.

And there was me thinking the government was actually concerned about the possible spread of this virus and they would be eager to send a public health nurse out to test any potential cases. I guess not. Oh well, whatever. I’d been all over town the day before so everyone is probably infected now anyway. Or not (I’ll explain the virus stuff later).

Hospital calls back: Um, actually we’d like you to put on an N95 mask and come in at a specific time for testing. (Hmm. Seems kind of contrary to what they said before.)

Twenty minutes later, clad in one of my wildfire masks (good thing I still had some, eh?) I walk in to the ER – and get stared at. A nurse in full surgical garb comes out to greet me and quickly usher me past the other patients into what passes for an isolation room at a this ‘cottage’ hospital. From the looks on everyone else’s faces you’d think I was Death walking among them; they all knew damn well what the mask meant.

Usual routine of history, symptoms, and taking vitals. No fever at the moment (I wouldn’t have driven in if there had been) but my blood pressure sure was up. Gee, I wonder why? Anyway the nurse disappears and I start waiting. Fever decides to spike a bit and I try not to dissolve into a puddle on the floor.

In comes my own doctor, unrecognizable because he is in full surgical garb too. Yes they want to take a sample, and since he had to read the instructions on the sampling package I guess this was the first time they’d done it there. They should warn people how it is done, as that alone would prevent anyone from admitting to symptoms. Sort of like having an oil drilling rig shoved through your nose. Okay, my nasal passages aren’t nicely straight and open as they should be. It was painful, and it bled.

Home I go to await the results.

Next day. They were going to call, weren’t they? They didn’t. Okay, I’ve got this on-line access to my medical records; maybe something has turned up there? It had: partial results. In 24 hours they were able to determine it is not influenza A or influenza B. That’s good! Or is it? Because if it’s not either of those, what is it? I mean we are concerned about it being the new and nasty one.

Oh, that test takes longer. How much longer? Well by the time they know if it is you’re either over it or dead from it.

It seems to me there’s room for improvement here. I’ve had a lot of medical tests, and they are all pretty far from Dr. McCoy’s tri-corder scan giving results in seconds. They’re more like: “It could be this; let’s see. (Take sample, run test, get results.) Nope. What else? It could be this; let’s see. (Take sample, run test, get results.) Nope. What else? (Lather, rinse, repeat.)” One test won’t tell you what it is, but will tell you what it isn’t. It’s a slow process of elimination, and there has to be a better way. You could run out of blood before they manage to try every test they’ve got (my record draw is 27 vials in one sitting).

It’s days later now and I’m writing this, with no more knowledge than I had at the start. If I was infectious and deadly I could be blithely spreading it all over as people do since we tend to largely ignore any illness symptoms we may have, overcoming them with willpower as the need to get on with daily life’s demands overrules the need to recover.

Meanwhile the world has gone nuts about this disease. The general information given is often grossly inaccurate, the statistics hyperbole, and the government response a joke. For example on January 26 our provincial government said the risk of the virus here was “low”. Less than two months later we’re over 20 cases, that they know of. Considering the amount of travel between BC and China the risk was obviously high, not low, and it’s only the fact that it is not as easily transmitted as most people think that the results aren’t worse. The federal government is just getting around to creating a task force to deal with it. Can you imagine? First of all, such protocols should have been in place years ago: it’s not like this is the first time we’ve had to deal with disease outbreaks (SARS, H1N1 to name two in recent history). Second, the last thing we need is politicians thinking they are capable of understanding medical issues and dealing with them. Nothing in the history of the world would support that conclusion, right up to Trump’s claim that it will all go away once the weather warms up.

You’ve got bunglers everywhere, people, and they are in charge of everything.

On Billionaire Politicians

I’m not going to name any names here; you know who you are. And to that I think I can say with 100% certainty you are not reading this. Even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. Anyway this is more to enlighten others watching the gong show that politics has become all over the world.

Exactly how much you are worth and by what means it is measured is irrelevant. You have a lot of money. The amounts most of us can’t even fathom well enough to dream about. And for some reason you wish to spend it running for office. Especially, but not limited to, the office of President of the United States of America.

Why?

One would hope it was because you have a sincere desire to make things better for your fellow citizens. No doubt that is the reason espoused to the public. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself it is true. But a critical analysis of facts shows that is a lie, and in all likelihood you know it. Really you want that office to feed your own ego; to win against a fellow wealthy competitor. It’s all one big board game to you people, and the pawns are just there to be slaughtered as needed in order to advance your goal of winning.

For one thing, despite the delusion to the contrary held by some of the holders of that esteemed office, the President doesn’t wield that much power. Within the confines of the Constitution, everything he does is kept in check by the Congress and the Supreme Court. The most autonomy he has is with Executive Orders, and they apply only to existing legal structure; they are not decrees from an absolute ruler. They can in fact be overturned by the Supreme Court. It has happened. Real changes are voted on by Congress and signed into law by the President, and still subject to constitutional review by the Supreme Court if a challenge is made. No law is made by the President alone, so he can neither take credit nor blame for such alterations to the legal structure.

This assumes that the government follows the Constitution. If any branch ignores it and the other branches do not act to correct it then that venerable document is in abeyance. If Americans still had to pass civics exams they would know that their basis of all law has been abused many times over the years, and it seems with increasing regularity and seriousness of offence. Some people in office treat their branch as a personal kingdom, and rule it with power that the Constitution does not grant them.

If all you billionaires want is a chance to sit in on this Machiavellian game of liar’s poker then that just proves my point that the government is no longer functioning as it should. The truth is you have more power to affect change from outside office than from within. What would a truly benevolent billionaire do?

Well he wouldn’t donate the occasional truckload of money to some momentarily popular cause to get his name in the news again and try to massage his ego and appease his conscience over the obscene quantity of his wealth. He would do something real, something effective, something lasting. He would stop being a billionaire, in fact.

Look, it is not logistically possible for anyone to earn a billion dollars. It would require you to work all your life at an average wage of $10,000 an hour. No one has that kind of skill set. It isn’t humanly possible to be worth that much. The only ways to acquire that amount of money are either criminal, unethical, or morally wrong. Accept that. Admit it. Move on to being a better person.

In fact I can show you how to have a decent life on a fraction of what you spend now. It’s all a matter of adjusting your priorities and realizing that having lots of stuff isn’t making you happy. Money tied up in wealth is taken away from the economy, and every $1 million you have in your bank puts one family out on the street. The reality is you’re not happy, and you are making others miserable. Somewhere in your subconscious you know this, and the guilt of it is part of what makes you unhappy.

So what should you do? Just give it away? No, because free money causes indolence. Anything not earned has no value. The purpose of charity is to overcome need, not to supplant ethics. But there are things you can do that will help.

Fund the Team. If the stated goal of your political campaign is to take the seat from the opposition, then understand that one office alone does not rule. You can contribute to campaigns all over, helping to unseat not just one incumbent but dozens. Instead of just you as president, you can help put your party in power. After all, you aver that its position on issues is the right one that will help all of society, don’t you? If not, fund a party that will. The whole point of any society is to look after all its members, not just an elite few. Otherwise you don’t really have a society, just a gang taking advantage of all the other people.

Refinance the Programs. As a member of the opposition, you should take the view that budget cuts made by the current administration are wrong as it takes spending priority away from what you feel is needed. You have billions. You can set up trust funds to provide income to keep these devastated departments going despite the lack of government dollars flowing in. One billion dollars can reasonably provide $50,000,000 per year income, and that can save a lot of lives.

Start new Initiatives. You can see what’s wrong, develop private programs to correct it. You can get a lot of help from wealthy celebrities who seem to have plenty of time and money to devote to complaining about social problems but do little to make any real advancement. Again this is because they too do not want to give up their lifestyle of excess. It is a paradox that not only do the extremely poor never miss what they haven’t got, but so the ultra-rich do not fathom how much they have – and can’t imagine being without it. You don’t think so? A recent survey showed a majority of people would rather do without food than Internet access. Think about that. Society’s priorities are terribly skewed, and it affects all income levels.

Sue the Bastards. I mentioned the tendency for Constitutional law to be ignored by those whose purposes it does not suit. Ultimately such illegality has to be challenged in court, and that is expensive. How difficult would it be to hire some young lawyers looking to make a difference to do the research on each violation and present the cases? And if it turns out the Supreme Court is politically corrupted then the evidence can be presented to the public. Elected and appointed officials need the occasional reminder that there are three ways they can lose their jobs, and the third one is the least pleasant.

I know this whole article is nothing more than catharsis for myself as it will be seen by few, ignored by all, and never ever noticed by those who need to have it shoved in their faces repeatedly until they learn the lesson. But then I’m having trouble shaking this latest downside cycle I’m in, and the venting may help. Not you or anyone else, just me. For your sake I’m stopping now before I go into extensive details and start getting really snarky about specific people.

This time it’s political

I like reading photography blogs. Seeing others’ perspective on the art and science of it is always good. Some of the blogs I follow for reasons such as their writing style or because they come from a different culture which has a different point of view than my own. It never hurts to broaden your horizons and learn something. Yes, even an old man like me can still learn things. It’s just that I forget them again, very quickly.

A few of the postings are unintentionally funny, such as when people get things wrong. They’ll learn too, eventually. Some are dull to me because they are aimed at learners, but that doesn’t make them less valid and especially not less valuable. Besides I’d be a hypocrite to chastise such writers as a lot of what I do is instructional as well (if you can get through the layers of silliness).

However in my random perusing today I came across a blog written by someone who is in fact the staff photographer for the legislature here. Now I did not comment on the post at all because that would give the wrong impression: I’ve nothing against him. I wish him well. I could argue about his style or quality but that is entirely artistically subjective; he could make just as many, or even more, objections to my work. I do notice he has a lot of really nice (expensive) equipment. I’m not envious of that exactly, except in the form that as a taxpayer I paid for it, so to speak. This brings us to the real problem: the job itself.

Why, in this day and age when everything every member of government says or does is covered by a plethora of media representatives, do we even need a position of Staff Photographer of the Legislature? It seems to me to be an utter waste of taxpayers’ money, and a job that exists only to stroke the already overgrown egos of elected officials.

Now let me give you a little perspective on myself so you’ll understand how this is not envy. I knew a fellow years ago who was Official Staff Photographer at the local college. Was that a waste of money? No. Many events went on at the college that needed official photographic documentation and were unlikely to be covered by the press. If he hadn’t been there firing off his Nikon a fair amount of history would have been lost. I’m not in favour of losing history. For the clincher, my own father was the official photographer (in addition to his main duties as head of Quality Control) at the company he worked for. Again documenting all sorts of events and things that they needed a record of which no one else would have done.

This is not the case with the Legislature. As I said, the news media covers them like scum on a swamp and I doubt there’s anything the official photographer would catch that a dozen other cameras didn’t as well. Frankly the number of images captured by the average citizen with their smartphone probably would have the job covered even if no professionals showed up. We are in the age of cameras everywhere, after all.

Which brings us to the ironic aspect of the job: this man’s artistic talent is clearly being wasted. I seriously doubt the officials he aims to please can tell the difference between the shot taken with a Fujifilm X camera and something caught on a cheap cell phone, never mind if he puts some artistic effort into the composition. I think the best thing that can be said about it is that at least one photographer has a job and gets to pay his bills. I have known several who were not so lucky, despite their talents, and I fear that the latter state is more likely to be the future for photographers everywhere.

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A Winter Scene