In a struggle to be happy and free

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Picking quarrels

Thirty-seven-year-old Zhang Zhan went to Wuhan from her home in Shanghai on February 1. She performed the role of a citizen reporter and posted interviews with residents and footage of the city to Youtube.

She was detained in mid-May and appeared at her trial last week. Charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” she was sentenced to four years in jail. It’s important to note that as far as I’m aware, what she reported was never disputed.

Welcome to China, where the laws are so ridiculously vague, that if officials want you silenced, they’ll certainly get their way. After all, how they and the government appear is far more important than anything as inconsequential as the truth.

Unknown author, “China jails citizen-journalist for 4 years over Wuhan virus reporting,” CBC News, December 28, 2020

Y Kant Trump Read

I’m watching Trump’s daily news conference and it’s quite astonishing. I’ve never heard him speak for any length of time so this has been an education. I’ve noticed a few things.

© 2020 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

I can’t put it any simpler, but that man doesn’t read very well. He can only digest very short portions of his speech at a time. Since he can’t read ahead and put the appropriate stresses in the right places, sentences sometimes sound like they’re over when they’re not. Like children, much of his performance of written speeches come out as a drone because he’s just reading the words and not instilling any meaning in them. His speechwriters must want to stab themselves in their ears, hearing the mess he makes of their words.

He can’t resist adding his own embellishments. If he suddenly says something that sounds awkward or stupid, he’s added a comment of his own. I recall he said that COVID‑19 is affecting a certain number (I don’t remember the exactly quantity) of countries. He then ad libbed after an awkward pause, “all over the world.” Duh. Where else would they be?

He takes the war-like aspect of the battle with the disease so far that I wonder if he really understands what’s going on. He praised the excellent US Military more than once while I’m not sure he mentioned health-care professionals at all.

Everything is a competition to such an extent that I wonder what personal inadequacies he’s suffering. The most jarring was his saying that they have tested for COVID‑19 more than any other country. Who cares? It’s not a contest. There needs to be as much testing as is required by whatever need they have. The quantity of medical testing isn’t judged by comparing test numbers to another country. Otherwise, any time he mentioned a quantity, the US has or did more. Any time he mentioned anything American, it was better than any other country. It was exhausting and reminded me very strongly of the claims of tin-pot dictators. The truly strong don’t brag about it. They don’t need to.

Add all these failings together, and Trump can’t even hold an audience, much less inspire it. The high-school debate club could far outperform him on their worst day. Never mind that he’s not in the same ballpark as the great political orators – he’s not even playing the same sport.

Trump and the Elephant

On Wednesday (March 29), President Trump took a step farther away from presidential behaviour when he posted a four tweet thread about how his daily White House briefings about the COVID‑19 crisis are TV ratings hits. In the middle of a pandemic, the President is worried about his TV ratings.

Here are his tweets:

President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of “The Bachelor.” Numbers are continuing to rise...
...On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — “Monday Night Football” numbers. Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites, and the audience is expanding. On Monday, Fox News...
...alone attracted 6.2 million viewers for the president’s briefing — an astounding number for a 6 p.m. cable broadcast, more akin to the viewership for a popular prime-time sitcom...
...The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus." Michael M. Grynbaum @NTTimes

The thing is, he totally doesn’t get it.

Many years ago I recall that there was some issue with a science-fiction convention and J. Michael Straczynski told a little story highlighting how the convention owner wasn’t popular for the reasons he thought. Straczynski drew a mental picture of the circus arriving in town back in the day. All the trucks with all the circus folks driving down main street waving at the residents and their waving back. Then the mayor appears, waving to the crowd, riding an elephant. The crowd waves and cheers him on.

But really, who are the cheers for? Are the crowds cheering the mayor because they recognize him as their mayor, or are they cheering him because he’s on an elephant? Of course it’s the latter. Crowds don’t form around him as he walks down the street. He may get a wave, but no one cheers. It’s that he’s on an elephant that draws the cheers. Indeed, all of the children don’t even care about him at all, for them it’s only the elephant.

Similarly, Trump is sadly mistaken if he thinks he is a ratings success. People want information about COVID‑19 and what their government is doing about it. He just happens to be the one delivering the information.

How does he not see this? Perhaps the non-narcissists are the only ones who don’t understand how he can’t see it.

This is where I was planning on ending this post for today. I made the point I wanted to make. But before I started writing, I thought I might go look at the article that Trump was citing, but to see if managed to misquote it to his pwn advantage. I found the article, and to my great surprise, Trump’s quote were entirely accurate. Except they’re the definition of ‘out of context.’

The article is about whether networks should be covering daily White House briefings live because Trump talked about many things unrelated, and adds in plenty of his own inaccuracies.

Leave it to Trump to make it all about his success when the article is about his failure.

For your edification, the New York Times article is reproduced in its entirely below, with the parts that Trump tweeted in italics. You can see how he carved around the inconvenient parts to change the message.

Chiropractic indoctrination

A friend from high-school is a chiropractor. He’s got a page on Facebook that’s lousy with ridiculous claims. I investigated one and wrote him about it. The article he linked, “Anti-Vaccine Japan Has World’s Lowest Child Death Rate & Highest Life Expectancy,” is from a web site that claims to be about health and well-being. They’ll even take donations to remain ad-free! The problem is their reporting. It took me no time at all to look up Japan’s vaccination rates and they’re one of the highest in the world, and far above the point required for herd immunity.

I wrote my friend and suggested he look closer into the links he posted because this one is pure click-bait and two minutes of investigation entirely disproved the headline. He thanked me for the concern over his reputation and said he’d be more careful.

Not only did he continue as before, he didn’t even change the link to the article we discussed. After a few days I posted a comment detailing my findings. I thought at least someone should know the truth.

Another link that shows that he’s clearly chasing headlines to win customers is an article titled, “Scientist Explains How Cow’s Milk Leeches Calcium From Your Bones & Makes Them Weaker.” The article links a study, and right there in the study’s conclusion it states, 

Given the observational study designs with the inherent possibility of residual confounding and reverse causation phenomena, a cautious interpretation of the results is recommended

The study said nothing at all about anything leeching calcium from one’s bones. Rather than the cautious interpretation the study called for, the article author went in the entirely opposite direction.

His page is a collection of the worst junk science and he’s comfortable in providing what he surely thinks is healthcare. I don’t know how he sleeps at night.

When one of his sympathizers, who I believe is also a Chiropractor, posted about his frustration with the reputation Chiropractors have, I went ahead and described what Chiropractic would need to do to prove itself to me:

I was hoping for a real discussion. I’m exactly the type of person Glen should want to convince. I told him how he could convince me. The result? I was blocked from the page. I’m not entirely surprised, but I was hoping Glen was genuine in his wanting things to change, and hearing a suggestion from someone who has yet to be convinced.

Even now, more than two months after I wrote my comment, there’s no reply. My friend is still happily parroting that vaccines are bad and spinal adjustments to babies are beneficial.

Welcome to the sidelines

My MP … he’s something else. In case you haven’t been following along, my Parliamentary representative is Rob Nicholson. He was Minister of National Defence until recently, when the Prime Minister assigned him the Minister of Foreign Affairs portfolio. I cringe at the thought that he’s our face to other nations, but I suppose he was given this portfolio because he’s well behaved. All that I’ve seen leads me to believe that he’s an empty shirt as my MP, and while that’s far from ideal for the person in charge of foreign affairs, I suppose it’s better than a bull in a china shop. I’m trying to see the bright side.

Last week, he tweeted something I found astonishing:

It sounds like a call to arms given that the folks in ISIL aren’t the talkative types. Still, I don’t know what the man’s thinking so I asked in reply.

You can guess what happened. Exactly nothing. So Monday, I wrote to him directly, via e‑mail. Receiving no answer, I wrote again today reminding him that I’m waiting for a reply. I also suggested that I thought this would be an easy question. Surely the Minister wouldn’t post such a thing without at least having a course of action in mind.

I’d hate to think it was merely the Twitter equivalent of a sound-bite that he expects will be quickly forgotten.

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