Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18

This is not the type of thing I usually write about, but...

This is one the few photos of my dad that I have, standing outside the Alberta Legislature in his RCAF uniform. Hard to say what the year is, or how old he is. I barely had any time with my father, and never got to know him at all. On a blistering cold December 18th day he died, and that was it. The memory images of that day are bizarre and frightening and come around now and again.

I think about him all the time, and more so at this time of year. Not that it would help, but I know next to nothing about what he did as a young man or what he was like. And none my elders who knew my father have ever shared anything. And of course I often think about what our lives would have been like if our families had been better or luckier.

As you can imagine, it's not hard for me to understand why many find this time of year full of mixed emotions. Please recommend this post

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life is Bigger than Politics

News was released today that former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is a horrible disease that has no cure and robs the body and brain of oxygen. It doesn't have good outcomes.

It got me thinking about people in politics, their legacy, and the way political biases sometimes get in the way of appreciating simple issues of life and death and family and loss.

When Richard Holbrook died my Twitter stream lit up with many comments. It was very polarized. Detractors were glad Holbrook was dead, accusing him of being a party to genocide and so on. People who liked Holbrook idolized him. Both sides were exaggerating and posturing. Politics as usual, and certainly an example of free speech that many elsewhere do not have. But the historical debate about Holbrook's effect on world events is not going anywhere. It will still be here next week.

My thoughts about Holbrook were not really political, just that he had a family who was devastated by his unexpected death. And to have to deal with that in the context of a furious public discussion seemed horrible to me. There are no relevant politics in the immediacy of death. Yet there is an unlimited future down the road to analyse and debate. Patience may be a virtue at these times.

Back to Klein. Premier Stelmach said some nice words about Klein. But he also said:

It is a wonderful time to reflect on Ralph’s wonderful accomplishments.

Actually, Mr. Stelmach, no it isn't. It's not a time for politics at all. And believe me that would be a highly charged, polarized reflection.

It's hard for me to refrain from saying something negative about Klein right now, but to be honest it's not all that important in the broader scheme of life and health.(I've written about Klein many times in the past. I was rarely very nice.)

There will be decades and decades to talk and argue about Klein's legacy. Maybe that time is not right now. Life is bigger than politics. Families and their grieving are important, and we should think about them too. Please recommend this post

Friday, December 10, 2010

Consequences in Lala Land

When I read stuff like this, I fill with despair and even fear.

These men crave followers and attention so they offer cures for everything, but with next to no professional skill or credentials to deal with mental health problems. To make it worse, emotionally incapacitated people are taught not to question the Church's authority, and to believe in miraculous cures that never occur. It's malpractice, but they get away with it because no one wants to persecute a Church.

And if you happen to be gay AND depressed you'll be thrown into an indescribable hell hole.

I put them in the same category as those who think you can cure depression with vitamins, reiki, magnets, or countless other quackeries. They can do great harm, up to and including suicide.

Becky's story is doubly tragic. First she lost her father, who probably believed he could pray his illness away. If only I had stronger faith, he probably told himself, right up until the end. The second tragedy is she doesn't seem to get it. At all.

Jesus doesn't cure depression.
Prayer doesn't cure depression.
There are no miracle cures for serious illness.
Depression is not caused by sin or lack of faith.

A family physician knows the proper protocols and tests to figure out your physical and mental condition. And they know the treatments that are most likely to be effective.

Trust me on this, Elmer Gantry can't help you. Please recommend this post

Friday, December 03, 2010

Open Letter to Dr. Elizabeth Cannon

Please consider faxing or emailing this open letter to University of Calgary President Dr. Elizabeth Cannon. This is regarding Dr. Flanagan's comments on CBC re Julian Assange.

I recommend including your own cover letter with your own thoughts to minimise the perception of spamming.

Also, please be respectful, she is not responsible for Dr. Flanagan's comments.

Contact Info:

Fax: 403-289-6800
Country code: +1
Email Elizabeth Cannon: president @ Please recommend this post

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Flanigan: Diminished Expectations

I'm still taking in the Tom Flanagan's comments about assassinating Julian Assange. What amazed me about the comments was how casual and glib they were - as if another man's sub-judicial, illegal killing was academic. The snicker chilled me.

He apologized the next day for his glibness and said the right things about the rule of law, due process and so on, but these things sometimes take on a life of their own, even after apologies.

There are some angry people out there on social media and I believe their anger is justified. It makes me happy to know this isn't going away quietly. But what should the consequences be? There are a number of people who would have the University of Calgary fire Dr. Flanagan. Others propose censure or reprimand. (See Kris Kotarski's Facebook group here, which proposes censure.)

I doubt requests to fire will succeed for a number of reasons. Among them, academic freedom (see screen shot), his tenure, that the comments were not made as part of his academic duties, and that political correctness will likely prevail at the University.

Nonetheless I think the University should hear from its Students and alumni on this issue. Also, the general public. A University's values should reflect the community, which is generally open minded and progressive.

Right wing academics and culture warriors have been peddling the idea for years that universities are just full of corrupt lefties ruining the minds of young people, stifling free discussion, and are a general menace to society.

Yet when University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill published a somewhat inflammatory explanation of the 9-11 attacks, the University accused him of academic misconduct and went to great lengths to have him fired. This kind of thing was quite common in the Bush era.

I wonder how establishment Calgary would handle an academic going on the CBC and glibly suggesting the Pope be assassinated because of his birth control policies in Africa. I think that would set off a nuclear bomb of pious outrage.

The end result of this incident is more diminished expectations about public discourse. And that's something that Preston Manning, the founder of the Reform movement kept warning us about, which is also full of fabulously rich irony.

Update: Dec 2, 2010, 11:50 am MST - change some wording for clarity.
Update: Dec 2, 2010, 15:00 pm MST - grammar edits.
Please recommend this post