Personal Peeve #1 – Modern Weather Terminology

This is the first in a series of posts about stuff that cheeses me off. I don’t seem to get any inspiration to write unless I’m ready to throw blunt objects, so it is only fitting that I write about things that anger or annoy me. It greatly assists in my blogging output (which my fans know has been impressively weak), and serves the dual purpose of protecting my furniture and other possessions, however few and worthless.

Before I begin in earnest, I should also state that although I put a number in the title, that number does not represent any specific order or magnitude of aggravation, but rather simply illustrates that this is the first in a series. With my track record, it may be a while before we see number 2, so the reminder of what number I am at will serve a useful purpose down the road.

Today I want to rant about some annoying weather reporting terminology that has become commonplace. There are few things as consistently irritating to me as hearing that although the temperature is 21 degrees, it actually feels like 30 degrees. I ask the innocent but important question: What ever happened to the term ‘humidex’? Wasn’t that term (and its representative number) contrived as an indicator of something that we, especially in Montreal, already know, that when humidity is high, it seems to be hotter than the actual temperature indicates?

I prefer that 30 is given to me as the humidex reading, as opposed to being told what it ‘feels like’. I mean, do they really know what I’m wearing? Is it not possible, perhaps even likely, that I am suffering from hot flashes or the chills or some other condition that makes the temperature ‘feel like’ something other than it actually is? If I had just run across the street, it might even feel like 40! While I am in a refrigerated trailer, chances are great, barring severe incompetence on the part of the trucking company, that the air will feel much colder.

Actually the media might be more savvy than I give them credit for being. While I complain that the media has reached a new low in appealing to the lowest common denominator in intelligence, I hear people running around the office at work screaming, “Oh my God!!! It’s minus 30!!!”, when in truth the temperature is minus 8, but it happens to be a little windy. Once again, instead of bringing out this ‘windchill factor’ reading honestly (which as an aside I thought was ‘windshield factor’ when I first heard it as a kid: windchill being, I suppose, another contrived weather term that did not occur to my already advanced intellect, whereas a windshield was something I had already heard of – oh how I digress!), we are told that it ‘feels like’ minus 30! How do they know I’m not wearing an Inuit parka? Perhaps I am sitting in a greenhouse, in which case it would actually ‘feel like’ plus 25, no matter what the temperature. Or perhaps I am sleeping next to an exhaust vent of a downtown highrise. It might be minus 8, but it ‘feels like’ plus 8, and after I am finally put into the squad car, plus 25. If I sneak a bite out of the discarded remains of a doughnut on the back seat of the squad car, the temperature may ‘feel’ a degree or two warmer. Of course once in prison it might only ‘feel like’ 15 degrees, depending on the prison, I suppose. If you factor in fear, and the effects of breaking into a cold sweat, it might ‘feel like’ the termperature is off the mercury, that is if these meteorologists indeed use mercury anymore.

I should mention that all of these temperatures are given in degrees Celcuis.

Recently, I witnessed the most extreme manifestation of this problem possible. A CBC Radio newscaster gave the long term highs and lows ONLY using the ‘feels like’ numbers, leaving temperature completely out of the forecast. I would have fired that guy.

If you’re still there, you surely appreciate what I am trying to say. When I seek out information, I want it to be accurate, and most importantly, OBJECTIVE. Stick with the facts, please. Subjective information such as what it ‘feels like’ outside is best left for kindergarten discussions, in my opinion.

I really can’t say whether this development is more indicative of a growing contempt big media (the weather forecasting agencies are equally responsible) has for its audience, or a simple lack of respect for the intelligence of the public. I know very few people incapable of understanding the concepts of humidex and windchill, so it is probably a little of both. I can understand how a 5 year old might benefit from the ‘feels like’ language, but how will this child advance intellectually if we insist on using terms designed for the comprehension of children in newscasts, whose target audience is supposedly adults?

I expect that their real reasons for using these new terminologies are more cynical in nature. Extremes get people’s attention, thusly attracting more viewers, or keeping their attention longer. This is why we never hear about ‘humidex’ in winter, even though there is no doubt in my mind humidity adds a chill in cold in a similar way it creates the impression of exagerrated heat on a hot day. Does not the wind cool us down in the summer? I submit that it does, yet we never hear about the windchill factor on a breezy July evening.

There is another possibility. Could it be that there might be some element of climate alarmism in this choice of terminology? I’m just asking.

So weather editors everywhere, please stop telling us what it ‘feels like’ outside. This information is simply too subjective to be considered as news. Stick with the ‘humidex’ and ‘windchill’ readings.

And while we’re on the subject, let me remind all of you weather reporters out there in radio, television and cyberland, that ‘humidex’ and ‘windchill’ factors are not measured in degrees. They are represented by a standalone number. Temperature is measured in degrees. Please refrain from this most common of errors as it drives me up the walls.

Now excuse me while I get a life.

Charge For Plastic Bags All About Marketing

I was a little bit surprised last Saturday morning when the cashier at the supermarket asked me if I had my ‘green’ bags, failing which I would have to pay five cents for each plastic bag required to carry the stuff I was about to purchase.

Perhaps it was because of the routine I had established at the check out counter, whereby I would start packing the groceries already checked out into the plastic bags while the cashier was scanning the other items. I always felt that this was a great time saver for everybody, especially myself.

This time was different however. As I reflexively reached for the rack of plastic bags, I noticed that they weren’t there. It was then that I was informed of my choices.

I should have expected this. It had been reported on in the news some time ago, that certain supermarket chains would begin charging the nickel in the Montreal area, in order to protect the environment, but in my neighbourhood the local supermarket still values my business enough to give me an option, so I had forgotten about this until recently, when I visited one of those big grocers for the first time since the change.

To the credit of the cashier, she seemed genuinely embarrassed as she informed me, as I was for her. I have worked in similar jobs in the past, and it is never easy informing a customer of some unexpected charge, however small. There is no guarantee that the reaction will be reasonable.

I find this policy totally ridiculous. It does happen from time to time, that busy people stop to shop on their way from work or other activities, and therefore are not in possession of their precious cloth bags. Charging for a bag is, in my view, mean spirited, and ultimately disrespectful towards the customer. Besides, why do they assume I will be ditching the bag in a landfill?

What I find really offensive about this whole exercise is not the 15 cents it cost me to have bags in order to carry the things I just purchased. That is likely just a money grab, and from the number of bags I saw purchased, surely a lucrative one. I, after all, was not going to buy my cloth shopping bags from this particular establishment, no matter how hard they tried to shame me into it. I don’t like being coerced into any kind of purchase, and certainly don’t appreciate being a captive customer of some corporation, whose ultimate motive is always profit, no matter what they tell you.

Were plastic bags not available for purchase I would probably have placed all of my groceries back into the cart and replaced them on the shelves before leaving the store, if only to make my point, the seemingly forgotten but important point that I am a customer who is about to drop 100 dollars at their place of business. I am also skeptical as to whether these companies are that worried about the environment, as I will illustrate a few paragraphs down.

That having been said, I have no doubt that the employees enforcing this policy are doing so with the best of intentions.

I despise this policy on so many levels. Yes I acknowledge that the environment merits our respect, and I do live my lifestyle in such a way that I do not consider myself a threat to the earth. My existence is quite minimalist in many aspects, and I confidently submit that it is way more so than that of the powers that decided to charge me a nickel for a plastic bag.

I guess it’s the element of hypocrisy that gets to me the most. I find it hard to swallow that these big box grocers care about the environment at all, other than as a marketing tool, a campaign to convince the environmentally conscious (coincidentally, everybody!) that they also are conscious.

If these places really were worried about such things, they would make their stores accessible by foot. Instead, the typical large scale grocery store chooses to be situated at driving distance from where people live. Look at the size of the parking lots serving these establishments! I’m sure it would take several thousand plastic bags to equal the destruction wrought (in theory) on the atmosphere that the multitude of cars headed to and from shopping at these places would cause. I do realize that many of these establishments were built years ago, before global warming became an issue, but if you think about it, the plastic bags also were in existence before they became ‘bad’, so the ‘already exists’ defense does not serve as a good excuse in my opinion.

And don’t even get me started on the packaging of most individual items for sale at these places. Apparently that’s a-okay though, since the packaging qualifies as ‘marketing’, as was so astutely noted by someone I work with, and of course companies have the right to ‘advertise’. It is only lowly I who should not have the right to use plastic for my individual carrying pleasure.

I submit the charge for plastic bags is the most cynical ‘marketing’ effort yet.

If I were any more paranoid (is this even possible?) I would feel that this policy of charging for bags may even serve a more sinister purpose, which is to demonize anyone who may not be so enamoured with the eco-conformity so many wish to impose upon society. They succeed in doing this via the demonization of the bag itself, which naturally extrapolates to those seen carrying them. This will eventually pave the way for more egregious money (or power) grabs (under the guise of saving the earth) in the years to come, although what exact form these will take remains to be seen.

As such, I have decided, when possible, to forego shopping at all stores that charge me for bags, until such time as everybody charges for them, which I predict will be in the not too distant future, anyway. I realize this decision will be met with derision by many who just can’t be reasonable when it comes to environmental matters, but to me it boils down to a simple matter of personal choice, which is an adjunct to personal liberty, an issue of which I am a strong proponent.

I did not voice the reasons for my decision to try and convince anyone else to do the same, so to those about to express outrage in the comments section, please spare me the venom of your wrath. As with any topic, this issue needs to be discussed with civility, not shouted down. That alone would reduce much of the hot air currently in the atmosphere, and it wouldn’t even cost a nickel.

Facebook Protest Proves More Costly Than Worthwhile

I decided to interrupt work on my latest draft post about Barack Obama’s fiscal policy, a work which was itself begun in interruption of another draft post on outrage fatigue (see my previous post, Half-Assed Blogging Has Its Rewards), to share with you my experience while temporarily deactivating my Facebook account.

It was all so very impulsive, as I have been known to be at times. Impulse is special in that it seems to usually occur when least appropriate. In retrospect this may have been one of those times.

This all began as my forty-somethingth birthday approached recently, which would have been traumatic enough had I not received not once, but twice, email messages from one of Facebook’s applications with specific reference being made to my upcoming birthday, and actions that I can take to celebrate, all using this application I don’t ever recall installing (Causes).

Now before you dismiss my now faded outrage about their using my personal information in order to target advertising towards me, consider how probable it is that all of the other information on Facebook, whether public or not, is also mined in order to target advertising and God knows what else. When I think about these things I often get uncomfortable, especially when taking into account that most Facebook applications are developped by third parties who are not vetted by Facebook, yet have access to all of our information, as well as that of our friends!

Don’t get me wrong now, it’s not as though I trust Facebook to the exclusion of application developers. I am an equal opportunity paranoid.

I’m only singling out Facebook in this case because of the emails I received, and because I don’t really join alot of websites. I would not be surprised, and in fact am virtually certain, that all sites do it to some degree.

So I set out on a mission to show these whizzes exactly how I felt, using that hard-hitting device known as deactivation. I imagined the Facebook team shaking in their crocs as they received notification of my decision.

First thing I noticed is that there is no option for closing the account. I clicked on the ‘deactivate’ button and was promptly shown pictures of friends who were tagged along with me in photos, with captions such as “Suzie Sparks will miss you” and “John Jones will miss you”. I have verified with these friends that indeed Facebook did not take the time to actually confirm with them that they would miss me, which upset me further. I certainly hate being misquoted, as I am sure my friends do. While using this cheap attempt at emotional blackmail, Facebook also implies that it is so cocksure that after I deactivate I will not be able to contact my friends ever again, as if the telephone or email no longer exists. How arrogant!

The deactivation itself was a disappointment, as I soon discovered that the only thing that happens is you disappear from your friends’ friends list. They see their number of friends reduced by one, but they are not informed that someone deactivated their account. I am too much of an emotional survivalist to have inquired whether any of these friends noticed that it was I who had caused the reduction.

It’s funny how Facebook informs everyone of every little change one makes to their profile, except for when the change may reflect poorly on themselves. I was really hoping that the item “Paul Haponovich has deactivated his Facebook account” would appear on the News Feed, but I suppose it makes sense that it did not. I did deactivate after all.

After a week of this, I decided to try to log in to my account to see what kind of message I would receive, but I was able to log in as if nothing had happened. I didn’t even need to reactivate. In fact if I wanted to stay deactivated, I would have to find the option and do it over again.

After catching up on the news feed (I really didn’t miss anything),
I decided to adopt a different approach, which is where my protest really went sour. Instead of keeping my account deactivated, I chose instead to clean up my profile, which was already lacking in detail.

I deleted each item individually, which took hours. Of course Facebook does not give the option of mass deletion. I suppose that makes sense. The process allowed me to relive my last two years of Facebook life, which in my case was exaggerated in its simplicity. I deleted everything, not wanting to have to pick and choose from among friends, until my profile resembled a ghost town, with only hints as to its glorious past.

And what was the result of this effort at protest? From Facebook’s perspective, honesty forces my admission that they most likely didn’t notice, whereas from my view, life did change, although probably not for the better. The few people I had mentioned this to thought me anti-social, extremist and just plain out of touch, not to mention one huge spoilsport. They may have a point or two worth examining.

Sadly, If I had expected some to be impressed with my activism, I was horribly mistaken. People seem willing to accept a little loss of privacy and alot of potential security risks in exchange for the convenience an application like Facebook provides. I am left to disagree in shame and silence.

In conclusion, after conducting my personal port mortem on the exercise, I realized that in some cases, you really can’t fight city hall, so to speak, without getting bludgeoned beyond recognition. And although my reduced Facebook presence is somewhat liberating, it has also liberated me from being invited to parties and other fun events, so I have to say, all things considered, that this attempt at protest was certainly a failure, probably an embarrassment, and possibly an indication, but of what I will leave up to you.

Half-Assed Blogging Has Its Rewards

Happy New Year!

I realize it’s February 5th.

It’s funny, because when I started this blog around this time last year, I had every intention of posting on a weekly basis, if not with more frequency.

So why is it that I’ve succeeded at publishing a blog post less than ten times over the course of twelve months?

I’ve given this question some serious thought, and my gut answer always seems to presume some form of perfectionism present in my character. This is problematic, however, after a perusal of my posts. I know exactly what you’re thinking, if not saying out loud. “Paul! You’re nowhere near perfect!”

I won’t argue.

In fact I will fess up to an embarrassing truth, since we’re on the subject. Reality is that I have a collection of draft posts, that, because they took me so long to complete (if indeed they had ever even been completed),  and, due to their subject matter being either commentary on current events, or subjects specific to the time of year, have become highly irrelevant simply because they were not published in a timely manner.

It makes sense. Writing about the news of three weeks ago makes you as relevant as the magazines at your dentist’s office.

Since you need specifics, and I’m not willing to give them, a compromise is in order.

I have chosen as the sole example of my failure my most recent effort (I reserve the right to recycle some of these as they regain pertinence over time). That article was a commentary on the inauguration of Barack Obama, but before I could coherently elaborate my opinion on the matter, it was already the 29th, and the spirit of my commentary was no longer consistent with how I actually felt.

As a bonus example of how bad it’s actually been, immediately prior to the previous example, I started writing about new year’s resolutions, but by the time I got around to it, Obama was swearing in.

You get the picture.

The evidence is overwhelming.

As much as I would like to attribute my failure to publish to my aforesaid perfectionism and/or my striving therefor, I must face the grim reality of the real reasons, laziness and procrastination.

Let’s face it, I could not have been less productive over the last few months even if the weather had been nice.

All is not tragic, however, as the title of this piece courageously states. By not publishing these not-so-interesting exercises in brain farting, I benefit by having more time to dwell on my failure to publish blog posts. In the process, my reputation also gets the tarnishing it so probably deserves.

But the greatest benefit of all probably devolves to you, dear reader, as you were spared so much of my opinion over recent months that you remain the unchanged person you always assumed you would remain.

And as a result of my ever-growing collection of unpublished drafts (I’m not talking beer), I get to publish, one day in the distant future, a collection of all of my unpublished works, after time will have rendered them even less important.

So as you can see, being a half-assed contributor to the blogosphere does indeed have its rewards. You just have to know where to look to find them.

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New Polling Data Implies Canadians Ready To Elect Minority Government

The Paul Haponovich Weblog has released a new poll as the Canadian Federal Election campaign enters its final long weekend before the October 14th vote.

We asked a total of five Canadians, with the participants being from almost half of all provinces and territories, a series of questions about what they feel are the most important issues facing Canadians today, as well as a question on their voting preferences.

The data shows a virtual dead heat among all five major political parties, with the NDP leading the way with 20% of decided voters. The New Democrats were considered to be leading because the poll participant who selected them said that she ‘strongly prefers’ the NDP, while those indicating they would vote for the other parties described their preference as only ‘somewhat strong’.

The survey indicated that if Canadians were to head to the polls today, the NDP would obtain 20% of the national vote, followed by the Conservative Party with 20%. The Liberals were chosen by 20% of respondents, and were neck and neck with the Green Party, also chosen by 20% of those surveyed. The Bloc Québecois was polling in fifth place with 20 percent of decided voters.

The data clearly shows that Canadians are prepared to elect another minority government, although it remains unclear which party would get to lead it.

The survey also showed that the New Democrats were favoured by 100 percent of art students, while 100% percent of all corporate CEO’s indicated they would vote for the Conservatives. All Quebeckers surveyed indicated the Bloc Québecois as their party of choice, while 100% of bicycle mechanics chose the Greens. Also, if the election were held today, 100 percent of all comatose hospital patients would vote for the Liberal Party.

The poll reveals that Canadians are divided about which issues they feel are most important, with 20 percent believing that art subsidization is the biggest issue, followed by CEO compensation (20%), automobile emissions (20%), and when I receive my next welfare cheque from the Quebec government (20%). Twenty percent of respondents did not indicate a preference.

The poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 50%, 1 time out of 10 million.

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A Non-Non Partisan Beginner’s Guide To The Canadian General Election

If you live in Canada, and if you have any vision, hearing, or especially a sense of smell, you already know that a federal election campaign is on.

Mugshots of wannabes with beady eyes and disfigured expressions appear all over, imploring you with their catchy slogans and pretty colours, but also politely reminding you that a vote for them is what’s best for you.

Naturally, those of us who are already decided or are dedicated to a particular party or ideology have our own take on what is right and who to vote for.

But what about those of you who don’t follow politics, yet want a basic enough overview of the federal parties to know which candidate best represents your ideas and beliefs? You should not have to sift through policy papers, listen to speeches, or even more boring, watch television just to fulfill your (arguably) civic duty.

I have decided to provide you, as a public service, with a summary of what the five major federal parties stand for, in order of their current popularity, so that you may mark your X with a clear conscience, and not tie up the lines at the voting booth by tossing coins, rolling dice, or asking scrutineers to pick a number.

All of the following is, of course, my own humble opinion.

As an additional disclaimer, please remember that what I write below does not represent the actual platforms of the parties, but rather reflects the reputations they have developed over time.

The Conservative Party

The Conservative Party is the hybrid child of big business, law and order sociopaths, social prudes and redneck racists. Born of the merger of the Canadian Alliance, intolerant of anyone who is different from them, and the Progressive Conservative Party, intolerant of anyone poorer than them, the Conservative Party consolidated these two parties into one under which all intolerance could congregate. They are sometimes accused of having a hidden agenda, but this has been difficult to ascertain as only a handful of party members are actually allowed to speak.

The Liberal Party

Known by many as the ‘Natural Governing Party of Canada’, the Liberals are exactly that, the party of the the Canadian political elite. Like all political parties, their main purpose is to gain power and feed at the public trough, although the Liberals have been far more sucessful at it than any other party in Canada’s history. In keeping with the traditions of political elitism, many working class families have been voting exclusively Liberal for generations now, regardless of policy and even if it might be against their own interests. Due to this phenomenon, Liberals continue to get elected no matter how badly they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

The New Democratic Party

The NDP could have easily been called the Umbrella Party, as it attracts members from a vastly diverse collection of special interests and ideologies, almost all progressive to a degree. Traditionally the home of the unions and the working class, the New Democrats have expanded their coalition to include virtually everyone, including many who would be considered extremists in the other major parties, such as pot activists, gay rights activists, women’s rights activists, and just plain activists. Because the NDP has never won a national election, it is not known for certain whether an NDP government would spend the country into bankruptcy, but they would certainly be expected to not go down without trying.

The Green Party

The Green Party is where you go when the NDP rejects you. Green Party members really are the most environmentally conscious, and as such more likely to wear flowers or actually drive a car running on olive oil or some other biofuel, if they are not angrily anti-motorist. They would impose their rigid environmental standards on all, ultimately affecting our dietary, reading and personal grooming choices. Of the five major parties, Green Party members are the most likely to get tasered in a demonstration, closely followed by their kindred souls, the New Democrats. Many people who vote for this party only do so because the word Green appears in the name.

Le Bloc Québecois

The Bloc Québecois is the choice party of the Quebec independence movement. The Bloc insists on participating in the Canadian Federal System, even though they purportedly want to break it apart. Although they claim to represent the interests of Quebeckers, it is more likely they represent the interests of collecting their healthy pensions, as they win uncontested in many regions of Quebec only because they have the word Québecois in their name. The Liberals can learn from this, and reclaim many lost votes in the process, by renaming their party the Liberal Party of Les Canadiens de Montréal, and change their logo to a big ‘C’ with an ‘L’ inside.

There you have it! I have managed to offend everyone, even myself! Whew! I’m feeling a bit queasy right now. I should get some air.

So if after reading this you still can’t decide who to vote for, abstinence may be for you. I’m of course referring to abstaining from voting, but you knew that already.

And if indeed I have been able to contribute in the smallest way to your reaching a decision, I accept your thanks in advance, and wish you happy voting.

Finally, for those of you livid with anger at the moment, or offended at all, please understand that this post was intended as humour, so please try to laugh at it, or laugh it off. It really wasn’t meant for you personally, and besides, you are the exception to these stereotypes anyway, right?

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Conspiracy Theories Are Fun, But Only If You Believe Them

I have been accused on many occasions of being a conspiracy theorist. It is rarely meant as a compliment.

Many people love good conspiracy theories. They are interesting, exciting, maddening, usually plausible and always highly entertaining. They suggest great secret crimes commited against society that, if true, would have everyone seething, but are seen to be so beyond the pale that a vast majority of humans refuse to believe anyone could be so depraved as one would have to be to carry them out.

There is also a large subsection of humanity that deplores the people who espouse conspiracy theories, insisting on marginalizing their ideas, and calling them freaks, idiots, and worse.

Those who rail against the skeptics are usually influenced by a media that does not allow discussion beyond a certain accepted narrative. It does not matter whether the narrative is true or not. It cannot be challenged. It is taboo.

Conspiracy theories always break that acceptable narrative, which is why they are attacked so vociferously by a certain type from the pool of humanity which is Joe Public. They can’t help it.

What really perplexes me is why these narratives exist to begin with and are so taboo to question. The best reason I could fathom is because indeed they are untrue, and powerful elites (who are almost always the subjects of these accusations, anyway) must, at all costs, never allow a rationalization other than the one created to serve whatever agenda they have.

This is all, of course, purely theoretical.

Lately I have seen (mostly on the internet, of course, where else do all we nutjobs congregate?) very compelling evidence proving that, among others, Lee Harvey Oswald did not shoot John F. Kennedy, and that the 9-11 terrorist attacks were an inside job and the Twin Towers brought down with explosives.

Compelling, however, does not mean conclusive. Still, without going into detail, much of this evidence seems highly probable when taken at face value.

But how can we really know for certain whether photos aren’t touched up, videos are edited or documents are doctored? Our belief in the truth surrounding these conspiracies boils down to faith, in a similar fashion that belief in the official version of events does.

I suppose that where one stands on this depends largely on whether there is a tolerance for thinking outside of what is known and comfortable. People who cannot challenge orthodoxy are unable to enjoy conspiracies simply because they challenge truths that are accepted as basic ones. These disruptions of normalcy can affect the happiness, even sanity, of many.

People also do not like to admit to being suckers.

But is it really so inconceiveable that people who govern do not necessarily do so in our interests? Is it really so unbelieveable that people so accustomed to great wealth and power will do anything to maintain or increase it, conscience be damned?

If I were that repulsive (and rich and important), I would certainly do everything in my power to hide my true nature.

As an aside, I have just now educated myself on why some people are wealthy and powerful, while I rarely rise above being horny, hungry or thoughtful.

Although I am extremely skeptical of many things, like all of you I would rather keep faith in the goodness of humanity and give the benefit of the doubt. I often pray that my suspiscions are wrong.

But with the way the U.S. financial system has been unravelling over recent weeks, seriously hurting the well being of millions of people around the world, I believe that the time is nigh when even some the most diehard defenders of the establishment, as they watch their standard of living go down the proverbial drain, turn on their masters and accept more and more of these so called conspiracy theories as anything but theoretical.

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