Alberta Politics Medicine

Tyler Shandro And All That Is Hole-y

Trust dies

but mistrust blossoms


There’s scarcely a canon as packed with simple truth as the First Law of Holes:

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” 

The original version, published in 1911 by The Washington Post, stated it thusly: “Nor would a wise man, seeing that he was in a hole, go to work and blindly dig it deeper.”

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro, by that reckoning, is as acquainted with wisdom as East is with West. 

Mind you, to state that Mr. Shandro dug himself a hole in his dealings with the province’s doctors is to make a mockery of the word “hole”.  So ferociously did he dig, and with such unbridled intensity, that he excavated a crater the size of the Grand Canyon.

Alberta Politics Medicine

“Fight? What Fight?” The Dystopian World of Shantasia

“There’s only two people in your life you should lie to,” Jack Nicholson once said, “The police and your girlfriend.”

He was kidding.  I think.

Were all politicians to begin living by Jack’s creed, it would be a reformation unparalleled among the legions of sinners come to repentance. For too many of that class, lying seems to come as naturally as breathing.

Consider, for instance, the whopper trotted out by Health Minister Tyler Shandro in the Alberta legislature earlier this month: “There was no fight with the Alberta Medical Association.” 

Delivered hard on the heels of the epic battle Mr. Shandro has been waging with Alberta’s doctors, it was a nose-stretcher for the ages — Pinocchio’s schnozz was a dimple by comparison.

Medical ethics Pandemic Vaccines

Covid Vaccines: Fruit of a Poisoned Tree?

The Covid-19 saga is down to a race between virus and vaccine.

The current wave of the disease has been brutal.  Almost as if it knows that vaccines are nipping at its heels, the pandemic coronavirus has turned on the afterburners: far more contagious variants like B.1.1.7, 501Y.V2, and CAL.20C have emerged, sending the number of cases skyrocketing around the world, cramming hospitals and intensive care units as the global death toll rockets well beyond two million.

In reality, the novel coronavirus doesn’t “know” a thing.  Like all viruses, it’s a mindless beast, endlessly mutating via trillions upon trillions of replications as it feasts upon us.

Thus far, thankfully, it appears that the new vaccines against the virus are likely to be effective against the new variants as well.  But the longer the virus runs wild, the higher the chances that new mutations will escape vaccine coverage — in which case we may well be back to the drawing board. 

The pressing need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible can’t be overstated.  Once front-line health-care personnel, long-term care-home workers and everyone over fifty are successfully immunized, this pandemic will essentially be over; the rest of the operation will be mop-up.

Thus far, however, we’re severely constrained by limitations in vaccine supply; and we’re hamstrung in most countries by choppy, disorganized vaccine distribution.  (Israel is the glaring exception; with ample vaccine in hand, thanks to buying her way to the front of the procurement line, that nation is vaccinating with military precision: almost 30 per cent of its population has received a first dose of vaccine, compared with less than 1.5 per cent in Canada.)

Mind you, the mere fact that we have a vaccine to complain about is nothing short of a miracle.  Never before in human history have safe, effective vaccines against a new contagion been engineered with such astonishing speed. 

Pandemic Politics

Oh, To Be A Politician

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

For some, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

I know whereof I speak.

I was barely a teenager before I started casting about in earnest for a career, one that would not only keep me interested but would supply me with ample dough to travel, play, and support a family. (I was arrogant enough, even then, to believe that someone would marry me and bear my children.)

I settled on veterinary medicine as conduit to fulfillment; by the age of twenty-four I was a practicing animal doctor.

Pandemic Politics

Unmasked And Drowning In Nonsense

“Thou shalt not Covid thy neighbour’s life. Wear a mask.”

Church billboard outside Royal Columbia Hospital, New Westminster, British Columbia

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person,” Oscar Wilde once noted.  “Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

The famous playwright died 120 years ago, destitute and alone, three short years after being released from prison.  His sexual orientation had earned him a two-year stint in the slammer.

If Mr. Wilde were alive today, he’d find the world a more enlightened place, undoubtedly. 

He might also expect to find the world awash in truthfulness, what with all the Covid-generated mask-wearing.  But he’d be disappointed: there’s no pandemic of honesty.  Instead we’re submerged in a toxic soup of misinformation and falsehoods. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m more afraid of drowning in nonsense than I am of dying from Covid-19.


The Dangerous Morbidity Of Covid Denialism

Morbidity, n. — A diseased stat or symptom; ill health.

Merriam Webster Dictionary

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Mark Twain

Under a vast blue mid-November sky, Peter climbed the grain bin to check on its contents — a task he’d completed countless times in thirty-five years of farming Alberta’s prairies.

Halfway to the top his foot slipped on one of the metal rungs. As he struggled to regain his balance, he lost his grip on the ladder and plummeted, landing head-first on the concrete pad below.

Rushed to hospital, he succumbed within hours to catastrophic brain injuries. Dead, at the age of 67 — leaving his wife, four grown children and five young grandchildren to grieve his passing.


The Biggest Problem With Covid-19? The People Who Don’t Die.

Newly married in 1951 and pregnant with anticipation, my folks joined the great post-war exodus from Europe to North America, emigrating by ocean-liner from Holland to Canada in search of opportunity.

Their straight-laced version of Protestant religion crossed the Atlantic with them. Soon they had a brood of children (by 1968 they’d generated an iteration of Cheaper By The Dozen), dutifully shepherding them to church twice each Sunday to be properly schooled in the tenets of the faith.

The church’s Reverend, himself a Dutch immigrant and as fond of cigars as he was of sermonizing, had but a nodding acquaintance with the English language. To get himself through sermons in his adopted tongue he drew heavily on a store of pet phrases committed to memory; there were, to put it mildly, a few slip-ups.


Premier Kenney’s Uncomfortable Bed

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

“Caught between a rock and a hard place.”

There’s no shortage of well-worn clichés to describe the predicament in which Premier Jason Kenney finds himself as Alberta’s COVID numbers skyrocket, filling hospital beds and stuffing intensive care units.

A tsunami of medical misery threatens to crash over Albertans, and the premier’s options to mitigate the coming catastrophe range from crappy to crappier. I (almost) felt sorry for him yesterday evening as he plowed through a press conference announcing a suite of additional restrictions on Albertans’ freedoms — restrictions antithetical to his political soul.

After his presser, predictably, a storm of criticism erupted from all sides: from those who felt that he went too far, to those who felt he didn’t go nearly far enough; from those upset that he didn’t shut down all non-essential businesses and close all the schools (he sent grades 7–12 home), to those angered by further constraints to their lives.


Covid’s Return: We’re Stumbling Instead Of Dancing

We were extremely fortunate in Alberta to suffer only a glancing blow from COVID-19 during the first wave of the virus’ march around the globe. We prepared for a tsunami of cases but encountered barely a ripple.

There were a number of reasons why we were spared, as I discussed in some detail last May in This Pandemic is a Three-Legged Beast. In short — to bluntly oversimplify — it had as much to do with luck as it did with brains; as much to do with simple good fortune as with specific government or public health policies.

Yet we didn’t shrink from taking full credit for our “success” — we nearly broke our arms patting ourselves on the back. And we set Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on a pedestal for steering us expertly through virus-infested waters.

American Politics

Trump is Toppled — and Democracy Trembles

Trumpty Dumpty sat on his wall

Trumpty Dumpty had a great fall

And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Trumpty together again

Tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades.

That’s what it took to clear peaceful protestors from Lafayette Square last June to make way for a presidential photo-op outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

Pesky protesters properly banished, President Trump held a Bible high, waving it about as the cameras rolled. 

It’s a sure bet that the President has little working knowledge of the book he brandished that day.  It contains, for instance, these words spoken by Jesus Himself: “So in everything do to others as you would have them do unto you.”

It may take more than tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades, however, to dislodge the just-defeated President from the Oval Office.