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We better have turned the damn corner on this cold snap. The week of -40 has well worn out its welcome.

MATLAB Handle Graphics

Let the great mini-thaw begin. More of this please.

Some days I really do wonder about the social fabric of my province.  There is apparently a market for human sized anatomically correct dolls in Calgary (and thus another good reason to believe nothing good comes from there except the road North).

What I’m amazed at is the everyday occurrance tone the article takes, for example…

“The whole thing takes place while the body of the doll hangs from a hook over a tub to catch the water and soap, its head removed, legs bent. 

“The first thing we do is we bring the doll back here and begin our cleaning procedure immediately,” says one of the new service’s co-owners, whom CBC News has agreed not to identify because he feared repercussions at his other job, but who we’ll call Steve. 

“So we disassemble the doll, we take out any removable orifices, we take off the head, then we proceed to do a rinse with hot water to get any surface bacteria or surface solids off.

“Then we begin with our anti-bacterial soap.”

Yep, nothing out of the ordinary here, just our elaborate cleaning procedures necessary to wash the spunk off of our female replica dolls.

“Then there’s the sponge on the medical pincers and more peroxide and more cleaning. 

A similar process happens in a smaller sink for the head and the inserts that fill the orifices. 

“Obviously, this cleaning procedure, no one does this to themselves in the shower, which just proves another point that these are cleaner than any person or escort that you could find,” said Steve.

And yes, there is documentation of the cleaning process. 

But it’s not just about the cleaning, is it?”

It cannot just be me who feels like we’ve merrily skipped into the uncanny valley.

“Beyond just the physical features, like different bodies and hair and even elf ears, each doll comes with its own story and personality. 

Ariana, for example, is a 26-year-old bikini model from Venezuela, while Bella “comes from an Icelandic clan of mushroom forest elves where women are forbidden from refusing sex to their lovers.”

Cameron, the sole male of the bunch, is pretty much up for anything, and while he’s not as popular as the women, Steve says he’s been kept pretty busy. “

Nope, this isn’t harmful fetish fuel at all.

“They’re not just sex dolls, they’re also great for companionship,” he said. 

“They’re someone to talk to, they’re someone to listen to you, they’re someone to cuddle with and, of course, they’re just someone to be there with you in an empty room.”

He also says his business doesn’t exploit anyone, while still providing a sexual service. 

“These are a much safer and legal alternative [to prostitution],” he said. 

“They don’t have any feelings, they can’t be abused. They aren’t real. So there is no objectification.”

Nope, no objectification at all, the backstory of ‘Bella’ proves that completely:  “Bella comes from an Icelandic clan of mushroom forest elves where women are forbidden from refusing sex to their lovers.”

 

Adding another plank to the large raft of evidence of the power that male paraphilia exerts on society. :(

 

 

I, for one, am not looking forward to the social fabric of our province being torn asunder by the austerity crazed UCP government in 2020.

“Speaking of blaming others for Alberta’s ills, 2020 will see the UCP government maintain its pugilistic approach to issues via its Fight Back Strategy that includes the “war room” — officially, the Canadian Energy Centre — the public inquiry into the government’s foreign-funded conspiracy theory, and the “fair deal” panel that is looking into whether Alberta should have, for example, its own police force and pension plan.

These are all tactics designed to keep Alberta on a war footing and keep Albertans angry, frustrated and easily manipulated by a government that equates legitimate opposition with sedition.

The past year ended with some frustrated public sector workers musing about a general strike. That strike never happened and perhaps it never will. But we might see strikes by individual public sector unions in 2020. They are upset by a government that is pressing workers to take wage cuts. The government has made it clear if the unions win wage hikes, they can expect job cuts.”

Good times ahead folks. :(

It would be nice if our current government would start taking responsibility for the mess that they are creating.  Blaming the “Anti-Alberta Conspiracy” for the lacklustre economic performance of the economy reeks of desperation and deceit.  Alberta’s Premier is busily talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to Moody’s Investor Service.

“When Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Alberta’s credit rating this week, Premier Jason Kenney reacted swiftly and decisively — to attack the messenger.He took aim at Moody’s for daring to include environmental risk in its report card.  As Moody’s pointed out: “Alberta’s oil and gas sector is carbon intensive and Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions are the highest among provinces. Alberta is also susceptible to natural disasters including wildfires and floods which could lead to significant mitigation costs by the province.”

Moody’s conclusion was understandable. In a time of climate change, credit rating agencies are taking environmental risk into account.

But Kenney refuses to accept that.

For him, this is just one more example of an anti-Alberta conspiracy.  According to Kenney, financial institutions, including Moody’s, “are buying into the political agenda emanating from Europe, which is trying to stigmatize development of hydrocarbon energy. And I just think they are completely factually wrong.”

Kenney all but accused Moody’s of being part of the foreign-funded conspiracy he claims is out to landlock Alberta’s oil.”

Wait for it…

“The UCP, while in opposition, was happy to accept the conclusions of agencies, including Moody’s, whenever they downgraded the NDP government’s credit rating.

Consider this quote from UCP MLA Jason Nixon back in December of 2017 after the NDP government-of-the-day suffered yet another credit downgrade: “We have a government that is showing no signs of controlling their spending and clearly the credit agencies don’t trust them right now.”

However, as former-premier Ralph Klein was fond of saying, that was then, this is now.

According to the UCP back then, Moody’s was a purveyor of the truth.

According to the UCP now, Moody’s is “completely factually wrong.”

The Moody’s report, of course, put the UCP government in an awkward spot. This is a government that promised to turn the Alberta economy around with jobs and pipelines. Even though the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is forging ahead, significant job creation is stuck in neutral.”

Yeah.  The bullshit is that thick here in Alberta.  It would be nice, for once, to let the facts speak for themselves without the partisan glaze that has become the norm.  The UCP has demonstrated a distinct lack of leadership when it comes to the promises made on the campaign trail – job losses, negative economic growth, and more taxes (user fees) for the people of Alberta.  Nothing like ‘making Alberta open for business, and getting people back to work’.

 

Lessig speaks to the notion that the media divide in American culture lies near the root of many of the countries problems when it comes to their democratic process.

 

“What is the role of education in a democracy? Must the electorate be informed? What happens when we are operating with a different view of reality?

Obviously it’s incredibly important that people understand their democracy. They understand the facts about what’s going on in the world and they begin to use their values in light of the facts to press for one set of policies over another. So we need some level of education. But we have moved from a world where much of a public education about matters of public import was provided by broadcasting and into a world where we can’t rely on that anymore. People are going to be less reliably aware of important issues––at least in a way which is grounded on a common set of understandings or a common set of facts. So it’s going to be harder for us as a people to resolve certain questions when those questions require common judgment.

For example: the question of impeaching the president. If the Congress goes through with the impeachment, and the Senate goes through with trying the President, there will be a very significant proportion of Americans who cannot believe the results, and a significant proportion of Americans who take the results as completely obvious. And that’s true regardless of what the result is. And that’s because we built this world where people live in these separate tribal bubbles and they don’t have an understanding of facts held in common. That’s a product of the media environment.

We’re not going to solve that, in the sense that we’re going to get to a place where we all know the same stuff. We need to think about solving it without trying to get everybody to the right place. We need alternatives to everyone being in the right place. That’s why I talked about things like the civic juries that can help people decide issues. That would enable reflective and informed judgments of the people, as opposed to unreflective judgments of the people. Regularizing that dynamic would be a critical part of what we need to do.

Will the result of the Impeachment hearings also illustrate something about whether our democracy is representative?

The reality of today is that any impeachment is going to be conducted in an environment where politicians can see the people and the people can see the politicians––but the people don’t see a common set of facts that the politicians are supposed to be viewed against. That’s because a significant chunk of the people are going to view the facts through the lens of MSNBC and another are going to view the facts through Fox News, and those two realities are going to conflict. They don’t agree; they don’t see the world in the same way. So that conflict is really debilitating, because it’s going to lead to one side believing something deeply unjust has occurred. That kind of recognition or belief is really invidious, poisonous to democracy. It’s something we should recognize as new. When we’ve had impeachments before, either the public was invisible, like with Andrew Johnson, or the public came to a similar judgment, or was driven to a similar judgment, like in the context of Nixon. So this change is very significant.”

This scares me.  Not sharing a common set of facts is essential to functioning society.  What’s worse is that the same phenomena is happening in Canada.  I hazard to guess that the majority of my fellow residents of Alberta do not take the time to reach outside their media bubble and sample the waters of the ‘other’ side.  I hear it in the online debates and talking with my fellow citizens, a decided lack of common ground and lack of agreement on shared facts when it comes to the governance of the province of Alberta.

Talking across the divide is very difficult and often ends in insults and more pertinently no forward movement toward a nuanced understanding of the issues at hand.  And as Lessig says, the lack of common reference, is toxic for democratic societies.

When the economy is down, and the money is tight, and a recession looms in the near future what would be the best course of action for the government of Alberta?  Apparently, firing 6000 people from their jobs is the correct answer according to Jason Kenny and his merry band of right-wing ideologues.   The raging boner the UCP has for austerity and the gutting of the public sector has never been more apparent.

Nearly 6,000 Alberta public-sector jobs could be eliminated as the UCP government tries to cut costs and find efficiencies, the provincial government signalled to Alberta’s largest union in letters released late Friday afternoon.

The union received the letters in advance of bargaining for 2020 collective agreements. The letters are not formal notices of layoffs, but as required under the collective bargaining process, outline cuts the provincial government might make.

The potential cuts would impact 2,500 Government of Alberta positions across several ministries, as well as the following positions at Alberta Health Services:

  • 1,000 to 2,000 housekeepers;
  • 350 administrative support and medical transcription employees;
  • 250 general support staff, such as maintenance employees;
  • 235 laundry and linen operations staff;
  • 200 auxiliary nursing employees, such as licensed practical nurses and health-care aides;
  • 200 home care services staff;
  • 165 foodservice employees.

“The [Government of Alberta] will continue to guarantee employment security until March 30, 2020, for permanent bargaining unit employees using attrition, vacancy management and redeployment to meet employer needs,” states a Thursday letter to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees from Alberta Public Service Commissioner Tim Grant.”

Because having 6000 fewer breaking even, paying their bills without assistance, and supporting the floundering local economy isn’t sound economic policy.

The mass layoffs will put people who have to use our health care system at risk.  Never fear though, these public employee’s may be partially replaced by private workers and companies who will charge more for the same job, while providing inferior service and products.

“If further contracting out initiatives are to be considered in future, we will advise as required,” the letter states.

“AHS will continue to consider all options available to meet our organizational needs including changes to staff mix, service redesign, including changes and repurposing of sites, relocating services, reducing or ceasing the provision of services,” it says.

Notley said it is clear the UCP government intends to further privatize public services.

“Albertans will pay the price for this. And again, it’s entirely unnecessary. This has gone from prudent fiscal management to an extreme ideological vendetta.”

The ‘fuck you, I’ve got mine’ crowd has been crowing about trimming the fat and reducing bloat in the public sector.  They never seem to connect the idea that the people working these jobs: nurses, teachers and those who support them, are more likely that not, providing services that benefit the fat trimmers.

See also the standard neo-liberal ploy of hollowing out public institutions, then decrying said institutions for not being effective, and then turning to privatization as the magical panacea that will fix the systems they just sabotaged.

The problem is that this strategy never works for the benefit of the end users – the public – as they inevitably will be saddled with less efficient, more expensive private services.  Who this benefits, of course, is the businesses and corporations who will make handsome profits while immiserating the populace.

Thank you UCP voters…

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