Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Last Day of Teaching - Ever!

Well, never say never. But I've officially retired from KCI, at any rate, where I spent part of my grade 13 year as a student back in '85, then was a student-teacher there just five years later, and then spent 31 years teaching (minus a few maternity leaves). I was invited to the retirement luncheon today, but there was potentially 80-120 people in the library, one of the only air conditioned rooms in the school, with no windows opened, and almost no masks in sight. I can't imagine walking into a room that full of people unmasked right now! Luckily, I could watch it through a google meet. 

My poor friend who drew the short straw and had to give a speech about me hates speaking in front of people, so I offered to make her a video to play instead - she could just get up and push start, and then sit down. That video didn't make the cut, possibly because she was fine with giving a speech after all, or possibly because it's a bit of a bummer near the end and has some swears in it! I wanted a warts and all remembrance! A friend of mine said, "You had to know it couldn't be shown," and I really don't know. Maybe it's just as well that I'm leaving; I could never understanding those kinds of rules. I'd hate for it to go to waste, so I'm glad I can post it here! 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Open Letter to Universities Removing Mask Mandates

Open Letter to Dr. Deborah MacLatchy, PhD, President and Vice-Chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University, president@wlu.ca, and Dr. Vivek Goel, CM, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waterloo, president@uwaterloo.ca  [NOTE: I sent this as a letter to both, without the images.]

RE: Removing mask mandates at your universities.

My daughter and I are both starting university programs in September, and I'm hoping you will reconsider removing mask mandates. I'm wondering about your reasoning for this change in policy in light of recent studies that indicate continued mask-wearing is necessary due to the BA.4 and BA.5 mutations that are predicted to increase cases significantly leading into the fall. I'm newly retired and was ready for my next adventure in grad school, but now I will be spending the next two months considering whether it's worth it to return to school since it now poses a risk to my health. I'm sure anyone immunocompromised is also having to face this same conundrum, which is particularly heartbreaking for students at the very beginning of their schooling who were previously confident in the wisdom of these two world-renowned universities to keep staff and students in masks.

Friday, June 24, 2022

In Conversation with Richard Marsh

After writing about the Klondike Papers originally, my little blog got a ridiculous number of hits very briefly but just long enough for Richard Marsh to notice and fact-check my post. He's the ex-member of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC) that "fixer" David Wallace was tasked with hunting down, creating a paper trail in the process that was given the now-iconic name. Richard and I started chatting, and here's his further explanation about the elusive documents and the nefarious nature of the Brethren. I left the 2-hour video unedited and in full in part because Richard is a very fluid speaker, so there's not a lot of pauses to delete, and in part so it's clearly authentic and untouched. I've time-stamped and summarized sections below to make it easier to jump to a specific segment. Note, once again, I'm just making this information available, and I don't have further evidence to support or disprove any claims made, but we are getting it directly from the horse's mouth, and Richard is very careful with words like allegedly, so I imagine it's pretty accurate!

Listen to some further clarification about what's actually in the Klondike Papers, how the Brethren is a profit-making empire, ways it controls instead of ministering to members, and why Richard finally left. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

And on to LongCovid

Masks are all but gone in my neck of the woods. A couple stores have employees that wear them, but not many, and then very few customers do. The people I know who don't wear masks seem to fall in three camps: The first are people with kids who are beyond their control (too young to be non-conforming mask wearers or rebellious teens), and they're absolutely terrified to the point of having to convince themselves, "We're all going to die of something!" in order to sleep at night. To them, wearing a mask is admitting to themselves that there's something to fear, and that's just not something their psyche can take right now. The second are people who have had a mild version with no lasting effects and are certain, based on their own experience, seeing it with their own eyes, that it's not a big deal. And the third group are people who watch very different media than I follow, and they are very convinced that the pandemic ended. Didn't I get the memo?? They really believe I'm crazy to keep wearing a mask now that it's all over. I might believe them - I'd love for it to be true - if it weren't for so many scientific journal articles that say otherwise. 

It ain't over. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

On Expertise

We've grown to develop an anti-expertise view in society. I imagine it might have something to do with a do-it-yourself mentality born of individualism and capitalism. I can work harder to figure out how to do it myself and then I don't need anyone else's help. I get that. 

About eight years ago, I built a reading/writing/painting studio in my backyard all by myself despite not really knowing what I was doing (h/t YouTube videos), and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. But, I hired an electrician to wire it and a window guy to install that huge front window. I know my limitations. From the other side of things, though, as a teacher, it's pretty annoying when non-teachers are confident they could do the job better and offer helpful hints around time management because surely you can finish the day's work by the end of the school day.  "Prep your lessons on PD days," I was told recently. I can't even begin to explain everything wrong with that suggestion. Teachers have a skill set that many well-meaning parents don't have, and it would be amazing if people could believe that and trust us just a little. 

When I posted a little summary of what I understand so far of the Klondike Papers, many asked me for access to the 6,400 pages of documents that were discussed - the corroboration of many of the claims. As far as I know,  those pages were only provided for select journalists chosen by David Wallace. Someone claimed they're all open source, but I haven't seen signs of this elusive file online. But this is where I think we need to understand our limits and when to find an expert. I summarized what I know of this story from watching six hours of interviews and reading a handful of Reddit posts and another handful of news sources. Once I started down that rabbit hole, I spent a day watching and reading and the next day sorting and writing. Sifting through 6,400 pages would be like reading War and Peace FIVE TIMES, and with the chapters and paragraphs all out of order so it's an enormous effort to make sense of it all. I'm not sure how many people asking for a copy are really up for that kind of journey. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Russia's Hunger Plan

 This Timothy Snyder (historian specializing in genocide) thread is unnerving:

"Russia has a hunger plan. Vladimir Putin is preparing to starve much of the developing world as the next stage in his war in Europe. In normal times, Ukraine is a leading exporter of foodstuffs. A Russian naval blockade now prevents Ukraine from exporting grain. If the Russian blockade continues, tens of millions of tons of food will rot in silos, and tens of millions of people in Africa and Asia will starve. The horror of Putin's hunger pan is so great that we have a hard time apprehending it. We also tend to forget how central food is to politics. Some historical examples can help.

The idea that controlling Ukrainian grain can change the world is not new. Both Stalin and Hitler wished to do so. For Stalin, Ukraine's black earth was to be exploited to build an industrial economy for the USSR. In fact, collectivized agriculture killed about four million Ukrainians. Notably, as people began to die in large numbers, Stalin blamed the Ukrainians themselves. Soviet propaganda called those who drew attention to the famine 'Nazis.' Actual Nazis had related ideas. They liked the idea of controlling Ukrainian agriculture. This was in fact Hitler's central war aim. Hitler wished to redirect Ukrainian grain from the Soviet Union to Germany, in the hope of starving millions of Soviet citizens. The Second World War was fought for Ukraine and in considerable measure in Ukraine, between dictators who wanted to control food supplies. 

Russian memory politics prepared the way for a 21st-century hunger plan. Russians are told that Stalin's famine was an accident and that Ukrainians are Nazis. This makes theft and blockade seem acceptable. Putin's hunger plan is, I believe, meant to work on three levels. First, it is part of a large attempt to destroy the Ukrainian state by cutting off its exports. Putin's hunger plan is also meant to generate refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, areas usually fed by Ukraine. This would generate instability in the EU. Finally, and more horribly, a world famine is a necessary backdrop for a Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine. Actual mass death is needed as the backdrop for a propaganda contest. 

When the food riots begin, and as starvation spreads, Russian propaganda will blame Ukraine, and call for Russia's territorial gains in Ukraine to be recognized, and for all sanctions to be lifted. Russia is planning to starve Asians and Africans in order to win its war in Europe. This is a new level of colonialism, and the latest chapter of hunger politics." 

Millions starved during the Holodomor. Russia is bombing fields and storage facilities as Ukrainians are scrambling to save some of their crops. Some commenters suggest that the Ukraine just produces about 10% of the world's grain, so no big deal, we'll all just reroute a bit to help other area, but 10% is huge. In some areas, the smallest drop in access will cost lives. And re-routing a little extra from all other grain-producing areas is a huge undertaking both in terms of changing policies and in terms of will. How much will Canada be willing to export grain to new buyers? And this missing 10% will raise costs here as well, affecting far too many who are just barely scraping by as it is. The war has been bumped out of the new cycle by everything else going on, but it might surpass it all in the effect it has on our immediate future. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Klondike Papers

I'm just getting my head around it all here. But I've watched lots of videos and read lots of threads, and here's what seems to be happening in as brief a nutshell as possible. I don't know what's absolutely true here, but it's a compelling story with lots of supporting documentation available to the media, which mostly isn't biting at this point, except for Press Progress and some small independents like Blackballed and the Dean Blundell Show. This is paraphrased and/or transcribed and re-assembled for brevity and clarity from the sources linked at the bottom in a way that I can understand it, and I believe I haven't misrepresented what was said, although I don't always clarify who said what, so do check out the videos and articles on it! It's fascinating!

ETA (June 16) --> Check out Justin Ling's article. He disproves some of the points below including that Chipeur is NOT a lawyer for the CP or Poilievre. The file has nothing about the convoy or Russian financing or any kind of harm to Trudeau. He questions the credibility and motives of Wallace and Jacobson: "The fact is, both men had burned their professional relationships." The PBCC is about as shady as Scientology, but isn't this powerful or nefarious. I've corrected a few things below in red or crossed out (but visible so you can see what was added and removed) based on Ling's article and Richard-freakin'-March's contact with me to clear up some misconceptions! Gosh! 

ETA a bit more on June 19 --  Press Progress wrote about the problem when "people who have never seen the documents began trying to explain their significance," like me. In my defence, I said from the get go that I'm just trying to make sense of some podcasts, later clarifying (on June 14th) that I don't have the skill set to fact check things like Russian involvement in our politics. I wrote the following disclaimer once I started getting an unusual amount of traffic taking me from about 100 hits on a post to 40,000 on just this one. I'm not here for hits, so I'm not baiting readers, just trying to bring some clarity to what's unclear and unwittingly muddying up the waters in the process! I'm sorry if I misled anyone to believe the claims, when I, myself, wasn't certain of their veracity. I said as much twice in this preamble, but apparently it wasn't enough.   

ETA: Disclaimer: This is just a tiny blog, not a news article with editors and fact checkers. Normally, a handful of people read anything I write here. I'm usually careful with citations anyway, so boy do I regret not citing each specific piece of information below. I took notes in a pile as I watched videos and read articles, with some parts verbatim and some parts paraphrased, without always tracking who said what or where, and then put it together under headings to try to figure it all out, noticing some patterns or connections that may or may not be the case. The post seems to be useful to people, but, really, DO check out the videos and articles yourself to see if you get the same picture from it all. The Reddit post at the end has some recording and verification, but I haven't listened to that or seen any of documents available to the press. I have no idea how much of any of this is true, but it sure is a compelling narrative that could make sense of some things if a media team took some time to unravel it further! 

THE PLAYERS

Long ago I bought in to the idea that Stephen Harper is the puppet-master of all the provincial conservative parties, but that's not quite it. These Klondike Papers show that Harper and most federal and provincial conservatives in power are being run influenced by an outside organization with ties to Russia and the United States: the Universal Business Team (UBT). It's the financial wing of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC), which has congregations all over, a big one being in Grand Prairie, Alberta. They have one in the industrial section of Toronto, all fenced up; they don't do community outreach, but they'll talk to anyone. They are strongly exclusive, only willing to talk to people within the church, run their own schools and businesses in a closed economy, but they do some dealing with hand picked leaders and CEOs to shape the world to their benefit. The church started in 1827 in Ireland, but was radicalise in the 1960s under "Big Jim" Taylor, in Brooklyn. at which point UBT began to become the point of the church in the 2000s - to make big deals and shut out the rest of the world. PBCC is all a front for profits, not prophets, which can be seen if we look at registries, lobby lists, shell corporations, etc. A coherent picture emerges. There is a handful at the top controlling this fascist mafia-type movement. 

Friday, June 10, 2022

On Masks and Narcissism

I was reading a random woman's social media feed as she was considering that an increase in narcissism might be to blame for masking issues, and I nodded along to each of her points. Then she happened across this study that shows that people who don't mask are more prone to narcissism. 

"Narcissists are by definition self-absorbed. Grandiose narcissism involves a sense of superiority and entitlement and people who are high in grandiose narcissism are likely to ignore the needs of others and not exhibit reciprocity when someone else does something to benefit them. . . . People high in vulnerable narcissism are likely to be very sensitive to rejection and judgment. Results showed that people high in grandiose narcissism were less likely to wear a mask. . . . Vulnerable narcissism, however, has a more complicated relationship with mask-wearing due to egocentrism being associated with less mask-wearing and sensitivity to criticism being related to more mask-wearing." 

To get grandiose narcissists to wear masks, it says, make the behaviour unique. For vulnerable narcissist, make it popular. Both work better than "emphasizing the greater good" or focusing on helping others, which is pretty much all I've tried so far. Of course I've failed with the only people who argued against masks, likely because I was approaching it all wrong talking about compassion for the vulnerable and all. 

Monday, June 6, 2022

A Bit More on Burnout

I was listening to VoicEd.ca last week (Wednesdays at 8:45 am), and they recommended Lynn Thomas's post on resilience and burnout summarized from a talk by Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe. I agree with much of what she writes, particularly about the number of teachers hitting a wall (70% of teachers are concerned with their own mental health), that too much changed too fact (creating anomic stress), and that the public's negative perception of teachers doesn't help. 

I looked up the speaker, and a blurb that's following Hanley-Dafoe says our "modern conception of resiliency as 'fighting' or being 'tougher' is misguided."  Absolutely. I like Dr. Alok Kanojia's reminder that the opposite of sensitive isn't strong, but INsensitive. Yup. 

But, I have some stoppers with all the resiliencey-speak and with a primary solution geared towards reducing the workload-to-time ratio. I wrote about my concerns with resilience being a scapegoat last January:

"If we train students on resilience-speak, then it makes everything they experience a 'them' problem. They just don't have enough resilience to weather the storm, and they should be working to improve that. . . . . Make no mistake, 'resilience' is the new and improved version of 'grit.' Paul Gorski once referred to grit and growth mindset rhetoric as a 'long line of ways to avoid confronting inequity--desperate attempt to locate the 'problem' in kids, not injustice.' He says that telling people they just need a different mindset or more grit or resilience to do better in school denies, in the most condescending way, the reality that people who are marginalized are often models of resilience and grit. . . . We could pull our bootstraps up to our necks and still be struggling with it all"

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Some Words on Hope

The Narwhal quoted police and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba on her understanding of hope:  

"The idea of hope being a discipline is something I heard from a nun many years ago. The hope that she was talking about was this grounded hope that was practiced every day, that people actually practiced it all the time. . . .  It's less about 'how you feel,' and more about the practice of making a decision every day, that you're still gonna put one foot in front of them other, that you're still going to get up in the morning. And you're still going to struggle, that was what I took away from it. It's work to be hopeful. It's not like a fuzzy feeing. Like, you have to actually put in energy, time, and you have to be clear-eyed, and you have to hold fast to having a vision. 
It's a hard thing to maintain. But it matters to have it, to believe that it's possible to change the world. You know, that we don't live in a predetermined, predestined world where like nothing we do has an impact. No, no, that's not true! . . . I take a long view, understanding full well that I'm just a tiny, little part of a story that already has a huge antecedent and has something that is going to come after that ... my little friggin' thing I'm doing is actually pretty insignificant in world history, but if it's significant to one or two people, I feel good about that. If I'm making my stand in the world and that benefits my particular community of people ... I feel good about that."

Friday, June 3, 2022

Just 1,460 More Days 'Til We Vote Him Out!

They called the election before all the polling places were closed because Ford had that much of a lead. My first thought this morning: 

"Realizing what a bubble I'm in online and in real life. I don't know a single person who would consider voting PC. I'm blown away that cuts to healthcare, profit-driven LTC, no autism services, online ed, paved over farmland, etc. is what Ontario actually wants."

Many were quick to point out that it's not what Ontario wants, but possibly just the 18% of eligible voters who actually voted for Ford. It helps to know that 25% of people voted against Ford, and the big surprise - sort of - is that 57% didn't vote at all. I was all in a tizzy about this one, yet lots and lots of people just stayed home

Can you blame them?