Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Notes From A Consitutional Crisis Zone

In our system of parliamentary democracy, we do not elect a government; we elect a parliament. The government is formed when a group of members of the parliament can demonstrate that they have the support of the majority of the members to carry on a legislative agenda: to govern.
When the government no longer has the support of the parliament, the government falls and is replaced. The creation of a coalition of opposition parties to defeat and replace a sitting government is not illegitimate; it's how our system is meant to operate.
What it is, of course, is highly unusual in Canadian politics. Nothing like this has been done in the memory of most living Canadians. That doesn't make it illegal.
Canadians did not give Harper's Conservatives a mandate to run the country single-handedly. Canadians may be willing to let Harper sit in the driver's seat for a while, but after two elections they sure don't seem willing to let him have the keys on his own. Harper has spent the last three years forming coalitions; in a minority situation, the survival of his government has depended on it. Not one piece of his legislation could have passed the house without at least some opposition members voting along with the government. Harper may not have formed a formal coalition as the opposition has now done, but every piece of government business he presented to the House necessitated the forming of an ad hoc coalition with one of more opposition parties.
Harper's mistake is the age-old mistake of hubris. With Dion a lame-duck leader of the weakened Liberals, Harper believed he could push through with his damaging agenda, using a crisis to push through ideologically-driven economic measures.
Harper's economic statement originally proposed a three-year ban on the right of civil servants to strike, limits on the ability of women to sue for pay equity and eliminated subsidies for political parties. How does denying pay equity for women help stave off the effects of the worldwide economic meltdown? It doesn't, of course. It's just classic neo-conservative tactics -- use every chance to propel your ideological agenda. It's not about the economy, stupid; it's about using the economy to score every little political point you can.
Harper follows every page of the neo-con text book. He says one thing, but does another. Fixed election dates, anyone? He spent two years (and millions of dollars) on an ad campaign deriding Stephan Dion with personal attacks before the election was even called, despite his previous campaign promises on returning civility to politics. He accuses Dion of sharing power with seperatists, yet he and his party suck up to them in Quebec every chance they get. They have to, because that's the only group where he will get any support from in Quebec. His party has a long history of courting with the seperatists; it was Brian Mulroney's inability to control the seperatists MP in his Tory ranks that resulted in the formation of the Bloc.
In his acceptance speech this year, he said we work with the other parties in the House, yet his first economic announcement includes the cutting of party subsidies. How is this going to return civility to the House? Or more importantly, how does this help stimulate the economy when opposition parties have to lay-off low-level party workers during a recession? This is just petty nastiness.
And he lies, of course. He lies when he says that the coalition agreement was not signed in front of Canadian flags because of the presence of the separatist party (a lie - there were two Canadian flags). He lies when says he would never enter deals to govern the country with separatists. He signed a deal with the BQ to do just that in 2004, and his predecessor Stockwell Day arranged one with the BQ in 2000.
When confronted with criticism, he and his lackeys do not confront the issues, instead they issue personalize attacks on the messenger. How many Harper ads did you hear during the last campaign attacked Dion the person, yet how few did you hear actually debating the merits of Dion's proposals and presenting alternatives?
The crisis here is one of a reckless leader over-reaching for his dubious goals. It is a crisis of agenda, not process. You may argue that the Liberal/NDP coalition (with Bloc support) is fraught with dangers, and it is. They have matches and there's a lot of gasoline pooled about. But even that does not make their proposed actions any less legitimate.
And I'll take that over a leader who gives every indication of his intention to burn down the progressive house that we Canadians have spent 141 years building.

Percentage of Canadians who did not vote for Harper's Conservatives in the 2008 election: 62.4%

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Long Recovery - Year Two

Why I'm Not Kayaking Very Much These Days
Two years ago today I fell off my bicycle, and inflicted significant damage to my left arm and shoulder. To recap, I dislocated my arm, broke it in three places, broke a bone in my shoulder and suffered assorted muscle and ligament damage. My two and a half hour surgery stretched to four hours as the doctor found more damage to repair as he implanted a permanent plate and ten pins. I was off work for almost three months and in physio for six. I was out of my kayak for 161 days.
My arm and shoulder continue to recover slowly. Last year, it was still prone to bouts of stiffness and soreness. This continues to be the case; however, these bouts of aching tightness are much less common. Last year, a day did not go by that my shoulder would not remind me through a twinge or an ache or just general stiffness that it had been brutally traumatized. This year, my arm and shoulder often go for days without reminding me.
The mobility in my left arm is still not normal, and likely will never completely recover fully. For the most part it's pretty good, except when I have to reach up over my head, and that occasionally makes loading kayaks onto my van an interesting proposition. It's still not as strong as it used to be as there was a lot of scar tissue and muscle damage, and some muscle had to be used to stabilize my shoulder and arm to repair my shoulder with an Open Bankart repair.
But all in all, after two years, the shoulder works pretty well. I've been back kayaking and bicycling for 18 months now, and my shoulder rarely interferes with either activity.
The irony is that the day before my accident, I took my first kayak rolling lesson, and my instructor was keen to remind us to be careful as rolling improperly could result in a dislocated shoulder. And less than 24 hours later, I did exactly that...and then some. Now I feel secure enough in my shoulder's capabilities to try rolling again. Time to book more pool time!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Morning After the Night Before

At nine thirty this morning, I went to the hospital for my eye surgery.
After getting admitted, I was ushered into pre-op. There,I was under the careful ministrations of a nurse named Ann who put a series of drops in my eye to dilate it.
After about five minutes, they froze my eye. To do this, the nurse applied a gel under each eyelid, then taped it shut. Again, we waited about another five minutes, then I was escorted into the operating room. I lay down on the bad, and another drop was administered.
Then the doctor told me to open my eye wide. He put what looked like a sheet over my eye and stated unfolding it. It was actually like MacTac, with a sticky side that stuck to my face. This covered my good eye and shielded my face from the (I presume) saline that was washed across the other eye during surgery. But the sheet covered my whole face; the doctor still needed to expose my bad eye for the surgery. So he stuck blade through the covering and cut a hole for my eye.
Let me tell ya -- that was the most disconcerting part, being able to only see a knife blade as it wavered in the air seemingly millimetres above my eye, an eye whose eyelids were now fastened down and unable to blink!
A moment later, the surgery began. I didn't feel an incision, and there was a bright light shining in my eye so I couldn't see anything. But I soon felt a pressure in my eye and could feel something moving around in there. A machine had been inserted and it was grinding up my lens and sucking it out. There was an uncomfortable pressure; it didn't hurt per se, but I sure didn't like it any. It was a very bizarre sensation.
After a few minutes, the doctor pulled out the machine and had a look in my eye. He said that most of the lens was out, and he would go after the final scraps, which he did. Then he removed that tool and inserted another which inserted and unrolled my new lens. I could see it slide across in front of the lights and I could see it moving around and he adjusted it.
He removed that tool, and did something to close the small incision in my eye and then shut off the light.
"We're done," he said.
It took, I dunno, ten minutes?
It was almost instantly obvious that my vision was vastly improved. The view out of my right eye was no longer cloudy, but clear. It's unbelievable. What took my father 4 hours of surgery and weeks of recovery four decades ago, took me less than an hour in the hospital.
Afterwards, I stopped at a book store (a natural first stop after eye surgery). The eye was sore and somewhat uncomfortable, and as I type this 10 hours later, these symptoms occasionally return but only momentarily. The only disconcerting thing at this point is that my eye is still dilated, as I would have thought that it would have been back to normal or at least closer to normal at this point.

The big question now is exactly what sort of vision will I end up with, and clearly with my pupil so large, it's hard to make any judgements. Perhaps tomorrow I can give a better guess. I can say that colours are brighter, and details are sharper. I do see some halos, though, and I'm not sure yet if these are a result of the lens or the dilation of the pupil. That result will have to wait.
In the meantime, I can't get my eye wet, I can't lift heavy objects, I have to wear a an eye patch at night, and I have lots of eye drops to take.
But I can see. That's the main thing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Like Father, Like Son

I've inherited something from my father that I'd hope would skip a generation, but sadly it has not. Tomorrow, I have surgery to deal with the dreaded C-word.
No, thankfully not that C-word. I mean the other one: cataracts.
I'm pretty much blind in my right eye; the world it sees is one of indistinct blurs and overpowering glare.
My left eye (which also has a cataract that so far has not impaired its vision) is taking up all the work of providing details and textures. It's done such a good job so far that my total vision is hardly impaired at all, but my right is another story. In bright conditions, like a sunny day, it's useless.
I walked across a street downtown today and just for fun, I closed my good eye to see what I could see. It wasn't much. I couldn't even tell what colour the traffic light was.
So tomorrow I have surgery on my right. I'll be in the hospital about two hours; the procedure itself only takes about 15 minutes. This is a far cry from my father's day when the surgery took hours, and weeks were spent lying still and recovering. In my father's case, the operations on both his eyes were botched; he went blind in his right eye, and it was a miracle he could see anything out of his left eye. His glasses lens was a quadfocal and seemed to be made from a pound and a half of glass.
As you might imagine, thoughts of my father weigh heavily on me today.
Of course, today's surgical techniques are totally different. Tomorrow, they will cut a small incision in my eye and insert an instrument that will break up my cloudy lens. The same instrument will suck the bits of destroyed lens out of my eye.
At this point, I really will be blind in that eye.
A second instrument will be inserted that will deploy a new plastic lens. Hopefully the lens will seat properly and I will be able to see something afterward. It's hard to predict exactly what my vision will be like afterwords. The odds are that I will need glasses.
And later this year, the left eye will get done.
Chances are everything will go fine; there are no signs of anything else wrong my eyes, so the prognosis is good. I'll know more tomorrow after the surgery.
Tune in then. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Linus' Birthday

Linus would have been 18 today.
He is much missed...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sir Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

The first real science fiction novel I ever read was Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moondust. I've always been a bit of a "bus-spotter" and a "disaster movie" fan so a novel that basically amounts to a moon bus getting buried was right up my alley. And this Clarke guy wrote pretty good.
Then I read Childhood's End. This Clarke guy wrote like a genius.
Then I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. This Clarke guy wrote like a god.
It's my guess that Clarke would bristle if he knew he was being compared to a god, but he most assuredly was a giant of the genre. Now one less giant walks among us.
The last of the so-called "Big Three" of Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke, it was the works of Arthur C. Clarke that I was drawn to. Heinlein may have been the best "pure sf" writer of the three, but no-one could match Clarke for a sense of wonder, and as I hit my Golden Age of Science Fiction (12), Clarke was enjoying a surge of popularity and literary acclaim with Imperial Earth, Rendezvous with Rama, and The Fountains of Paradise.
Clarke was one of the last links to the real Golden Age of sf and the elder statesman of our maligned genre. Never one to shy away from the media spotlight, Clarke would often promote science and space exploration any chance he could get.
He is credited with creating the concept of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbits and these orbits are now referred to as Clarke orbits. (He never patented the idea, prompting a 1965 essay that he subtitled, "How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time.")
He wrote over 100 books, he was nominated for an Academy Award as co-writer of the screenplay for 2001 and he even appears on-screen twice in the sequel, 2010. He first published story was "Loophole" in 1946; this fall, his latest novel, The Last Theorem -- a collaboration with Frederik Pohl, will be published. He won three Hugos and three Nebulas.

I feel like I just got punched in the gut. They hurt. They all hurt. This one hurts a lot.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic."
"The truth, as always, will be far stranger."
"Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering."
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. "
"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean."
-- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Surfing Cat!

I dunno, he doesn't look like he's having fun....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Politically Canuck

According to this CBC story, a prosecutor in Texas is accused of using the word "Canadian" as a racial slur in a 2003 email. The prosecutor wrote in an email, "He overcame a subversively good defense by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."
There were no Canadians on the jury. But there were some African-Americans, and some are claiming the lawyer used the word "Canadian" as a racial slur against them.
The prosecutor defended himself by saying he had been led to believe that were actual Canadians on the jury, suggesting that somehow some Canadian nationals had slipped through the system designed to eliminate non-U.S. citizens as prospective jurors. He also said that other lawyers use the word "Canadians" to describe "liberals."