Monthly Archives: September 2006

Maher Arar Gets His Apology

It may be a couple of weeks late and a dollar short, but today, Maher Arar got his apology from the RCMP for telling lies about him, getting his butt shuffled off to Syria for some illegal incarceration and nearly a year of endless terror for his family.  The apologist was RCMP Commissioner Guiliano Zaccardelli:

"I would like to take this opportunity to express to you and your wife and your children how truly sorry I am for whatever part the actions of the RCMP may have contributed to the terrible injustice you experienced and the pain you and your family endured," Zaccardelli said at a House of Commons public safety committee meeting today.

Unfortunately, Zaccardelli did not offer to resign, as he should have.  Naturally, the Public Safety Minister, Stockwell `I banged her too!` Day didn’t` do the honourable thing and fall on his sword either.

This is in keeping with the complete lack of any sense of honour that our elected representatives have shown since, oh, 1966, on either side of the border.  It was taught to us in Civics Class that politicians were honourable people who tried to do their best and when they didn’t`, the British tradition was to resign their seat. 

Today, when caught in a falsehood the politician will say it was:  a) taken out of context  b) being made more of than it really means  c) misquoted by an unscrupulous journalist  d) not current policy  e) pending litigation, so he or she cannot talk about it or  f) a youthful indiscretion.  Even if the falsehood is captured on tape, from four different angles, live, on broadcast TV, of the politico having intimate relations with a barnyard sow, yesterday, the a) thru f) excuses apply.

Resignations are never offered, as that would be the right thing to do.  So would a couple of dismissals of some Foreign Affairs Desk officers who know Arar was in custody but did jack-squat to ensure even his basic rights were even vaguely respected. 

If it were up to me, I`d have the Finance Minister cut Maher Arar and his family a nice cheque, somewhere around 4 or 5 million dollars, then have a courier drive it over to his place tomorrow afternoon.  It wouldn’t` be nearly enough, or even come close to making up for our country and our police force screwing one of our citizen over six ways to Tuesday.  At least we could make sure he never wants for anything in the realm of money.  I wouldn’t` take income tax off it either.

My only hope is still that Maher Arar forgives us.

Bin Laden Dead?

The news is somewhat confusing.  Depending on whom you listen to, Osama Bin Laden is dead from typhoid and has been for a month.  Or isn’t.  None of it has been confirmed but there is enough wild speculation on the various newsies to power a small city. 

Here’s what is known.  Osama Bin Laden is in Pakistan, up near the Afghanistan border, either dead, or deeply unhappy.  We do know he’s six foot six, probably lives in a cave and needs kidney dialysis frequently.  We know Osama Bin Laden has taken credit for the 9/11 bombings as well as stirring up anti-American sentiment. 

The likelihood of Osama Bin Laden showing up at the Lufthansa counter at Frankfurt Airport and buying a ticket to London Stanstead is slim, as his face is almost as well known as Paris Hilton or Mel Gibson.  I suspect that Bin Laden’s Frequent-Flyer miles have expired from non-use, so he’s been staying in the same approximate place for a few years. 

The Terror Trust of Dubya, Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld have had and continue to have the tools available to reach out and touch Osama Bin Laden.  Had the Terror Trust really wanted to get Bin Laden in 2002, the trial would have been over in 2005 and our lives would have been eminently improved since.

The reason they didn’t (and have not) captured or killed Bin Laden is this: To run a war, you need a Demon.  There has to be someone you can point to as "the bad guy":  The Demon. 

Check your history.  World War I, it was the Kaiser and Germans in general.  Berlin, Ontario was renamed Waterloo, Ontario.  German Bay on Big Rideau Lake was immediately renamed Britain-Houghton Bay.  We wanted nothing "German’ in our midst as they were the bad guys. 

World War II, we demonized Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo.  Not that those three weren’t scumbags, but taking sauerkraut off the menu and shipping all residents of Japanese heritage to internment camps are not the actions of a tolerant society.  Interestingly, the belt buckle of some units of the Germany Army had the initials IHR cast into the metal, which loosely translates as With God’s Help, meaning Germany was on God’s Side.  Perhaps God was kidding that day.

In Korea, it was the Godless Communist "Chinee" Hordes swarming over the Yalu River and the 38th parallel to oppress the noble South Koreans under Syngman Rhee.  Rhee was a rabid anti-communist who made Joe McCarthy look like a Socialist florist and part-time window dresser.

Viet Nam?  Ho Chi Minh and black-pajama clad "gooks" sneaking around planting punji sticks on jungle paths.  Never mind that the US used claymore mines and defoliated about half the country, those Godless Communists wanted to unseat whoever the US had propped up on the President’s chair that week.  Even Wikipedia doesn’t have the list.  I think everyone in South Viet Nam took turns being President of South Viet Nam for a week.

The Taliban?  They were Freedom Fighters against the Godless Russian Communist Hordes.  Ask Ollie North and the CIA about that one.  Ooopsie.  Sorry, the Taliban are now bad guys.

Panama had Pineapple Head, Manuel Noriega.  He was obviously in bed with Drug Cartels.  As an aside, Noriega was never, officially, the President of Panama.  He was an ex-CIA punk and was well known as an election fixer, money launderer and founder of the "Dignity Battalions" that executed anyone who dared to oppose his reign.

Gulf War I:  Saddam who invaded plucky Kuwait was the demon.  We’ll overlook that the CIA supported Iraq in the war with Iran, as Iran was a bad guy at the time.  We’ll also overlook Kuwait executing people in public for things like not wearing a veil correctly, or stealing enough bread to keep from starving to death. 

Kosovo?  Slobodan Milosevic was ethnically cleansing the Serbs, Croatians, Muslims, Christians and everyone else, except Slobodan Milosevic.  Right? 

Rwanda?  Shhhh.  We don’t talk about that one.  Same with Somalia:  Ixnay alkingtay boutay fricaaay.

Gulf War II, Brought to you by Raytheon and Haliburton, saw Saddam as the Demon Again.  This time he was selling Weapons of Mass Destruction to Osama Bin Laden, who was determined to blow up the Wal-Mart in Cooksville, Tennessee. 

With Bin Laden probably dead, nominations for Demon are now open.  Nominees include:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: President of Iran

Kin Jong-Il: Supreme Being of North Korea

Hugo Chavez:  Venezuelan President until the CIA overthrows him (See Salvador Allende & Chile)

Fidel Castro:  Grandfathered in since 1962

Mr. Norris Flegus, 123 Main Street, Anywhere USA.  He has the temerity to question us too much, therefore he’s a card-carrying member of the Evildoers of the Axis of Evil.

Without a Demon of some kind, the Terror Trust can’t keep us all jacked up on Paranoia and Fear.  As soon as you question the Terror Trust for things like "Evidence" or "Reason" or "Rationale" they lose power.  The last time the Terror Trust had evidence, reason and rationale was Osama Bin Laden, just after 9/11.  The rest has been smoke, mirrors, fabrications and outright lying.

The mere fact that Osama Bin Laden has possibly died of natural causes tells me that Dubya, Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld are not serious about catching the bad guys.  They are serious about keeping power at all costs. 

Ted Turner Might Be Right

I think Ted Turner is a bit of an ass, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, as he does have some excellent business credentials. Face it, CNN was a damn fine idea. Turner Classic Movies and colorizing classic films, a very bad idea. Marrying Jane Fonda, a damn fine idea. Owning the Atlanta Braves, a very bad idea.

However, since he has significantly more money that I do, Ted Turner wins in the Global Rock, Scissors, Paper contest with me. Fair enough.

In an interview with Reuters, Ted scored some more points on my scorecard. As you might know, Ted Turner is outspoken. He tends to speak his mind and more than often enough backs it up with some common sense. Other people might not agree, or even like what he has to say, but at least they can say he’s got at least the beginnings of a point.

For instance, the War in Iraq: "It will go down in history, it is already being seen in history, as one of the dumbest moves that was ever made by anybody. A couple of others that come to mind were the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour and the German invasion of Russia," Turner told the forum.

"It literally broke my heart. You don’t start wars just because you don’t like somebody. … I wouldn’t even start a war with Rupert Murdoch," Turner said, referring to his onetime cable network rival.

Iran having nukes: "They’re a sovereign state," Turner said of Iran. "We have 28,000. Why can’t they have 10? We don’t say anything about Israel — they’ve got 100 of them approximately — or India or Pakistan or Russia. And really, nobody should have them. They aren’t usable by any sane person."

The one that put it over the top for me was this quote: "Men should be barred from public office for 100 years in every part of the world. … It would be a much kinder, gentler, more intelligently run world. The men have had millions of years where we’ve been running things. We’ve screwed it up hopelessly. Let’s give it to the women."

I can’t disagree with that one Ted. Testosterone is a powerful drug that makes humans behave like stupid, tribal, chest-beating asses. One good testosterone hit and all sense leaves the brain. The little head takes over from the big head.

Testosterone causes moronic ‘me-too’ behaviors whereby all the males in the village bond together to beat the shit out of someone from another village. Testosterone causes kings, emperors and dictators to come to power, as the drug makes you want power, either societal, sexual or political power.

Mind you, without testosterone, Don LaFountaine wouldn’t have a job. Don is that voice on just about every movie trailer you’ve ever heard. He is what a voice casting director called VOG, the Voice of God. You can see Don on some of the GEICO ads. Without testosterone, Don LaFountaine would sound like a 58 year old bingo-playing, chain-smoking Cape Breton fishwife named Maureen.

Without testosterone, I wouldn’t have hair growing out of my ears, or growing on my back. This might be a good thing too.

To summarize. War in Iraq Bad. Nukes Bad. Testosterone Bad. Ted might be right.

Maher Arar's Journey

Yesterday the O’Connor Commission released its’ findings in the Maher Arar case. Most Canadians and, I suspect, all the Americans reading this wouldn’t know Maher Arar from a case of canned fancy peas. Let me explain a bit of the backstory.

Maher Arar was born in Syria and came to Canada in 1988 to avoid mandatory military service. He applied for citizenship, was duly investigated, processed and welcomed into Canada as a full citizen. On his Canadian passport, it listed his birthplace as Syria, just like mine lists Toronto.

He went to school, eventually earning a couple of degrees in engineering and computer science. Maher married a wonderful woman, Monia Mazigh and they had two children. Monia, by the way, is no slouch either. She is a Ph.d in Finance from McGill University, is from Tunisia originally, but, like Maher, a Canadian citizen.  I’ve met Monia a couple of times.  She is a remarkable person.

If you were to look at a photo of Maher and Monia, you would see two people who are chasing the Canadian dream of making a better life for themselves and their children.

On September 26th, 2002, things went very badly for Maher Arar. On a flight back from Tunisia, where he was taking a vacation, the plane stopped at JFK on its’ way to Montreal.  The passengers got off and went through US Customs. Maher was detained as it was alleged he was an associate of Abdullah Almalki. Abdullah Almalki was suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda.

Maher worked with Almalki’s brother at an Ottawa high-tech company, so yes, Maher knew Abdullah Amalki. Amalki even co-signed a rental lease for Maher Arar in 1997.

This isn’t quite as sinister as it first sounds. New immigrants (Canadian and American) usually have to have someone more financially established co-sign with them for a few years, until they have their financial feet under them. Then, you return the favor, co-signing for someone else just starting out.

The real sinister stuff was just beginning. First of all, why and how did US Immigration have a photocopy of a lease document, signed in Canada? That’s an easy one to answer: The RCMP gave it to them in the wake of 9/11.

Despite being a full Canadian Citizen, Maher Arar was held in detention, without ability to contact the Canadian Consulate in New York. He was held without access to legal services or even so much as being allowed to contact his family to say “I’m in the shit”.

US Customs extradited him to Syria on October the 7th or 8th. The first time Canada heard that one of our citizens was exported to a third country, was on October 10th 2002, when he turned up in a detention center, near Damascus, Syria.

Arar was imprisoned in Syria for 10 1/2 months, during which time he was tortured and forced to sign a false confession which purported that he had trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

He says that he was kept in a 3-foot by 6-foot, dark, underground cell, beaten and threatened with electrocution. He was further traumatized by overhearing other prisoners being tortured. On October 5th 2003, he was released by Syria and got his ass back to Canada right quickly, not taking any flights that went through the US.

After Arar’s release, the controversy continued over his treatment by the US and over the role that Canadian police and government officials may have played in his deportation and interrogation. The United States claimed that the RCMP had provided them with a list of suspicious persons including Maher Arar.

It was also discovered that Canadian consular officials knew that Arar was in custody in the United States but did not believe that he would be deported. The Canadian government maintains that the decision to deport Arar was made by American officials alone. The Canadian Passport meant nothing. Being a Canadian Citizen meant nothing.

On September 25th 2004, the results of an internal RCMP investigation by RCMP Chief Superintendent Brian Garvie were published. Though the version released to the public was censored, the Garvie report documented several instances of impropriety by the RCMP in the Arar case, including breaking into a reporters’ house to look for leaked documents.

A lot of people yelled “bullshit” and “coverup”. So, on February 5th 2004, the Canadian government established a commission of inquiry under Dennis O’Connor, Associate Chief Justice of Ontario to investigate and report on the actions of Canadian officials.

The final report, released yesterday, categorically states that there is no evidence linking Arar to terrorist activity. The O’Connor Commission also said that the RCMP passed false information on to US authorities. Further, that the RCMP leaked untrue information to damage his reputation. The report also confirms that Maher Arar was tortured while in Syria.

As a Canadian, I am ashamed that a citizen of our country was treated this poorly by his government. Nobody will be punished, nobody will lose their jobs, nobody will catch hell for letting Maher Arar down.

I am also ashamed by the RCMP, as the O’Connor Commission report details several incidents where the RCMP did things that no reputable, honest and honourable police force would do.  Again, nobody will be punished, nobody will lose their jobs and nobody will catch hell for this kind of behavior. 

I just hope Maher Arar forgives us for letting him down.



Pretexting, Rendition and Meanings

Words are important things, as they can be illuminative, obscurative, positive or hurtful depending on how you use them. As a writer, I tend to choose words carefully, looking for the word, or combinations of words that convey as precise a meaning as I am trying to communicate.

Others, notably those in the Public Relations Industry use language as a weapon of imprecision. I tend to call those in the PR business, fartcatchers; you can divine my opinion easily. As to what the fartcatchers for Dalton McGuinty, Conrad Black and Paris Hilton may have as an opinion about me, I could care less. My opinions about those three individuals are less than flattering.

Pretexting is one of those obscurative terms. The chairperson of Hewlett-Packard was concerned about leaks coming from the board meetings. She caused a private investigation agency to be hired, who obtained the phone records of all the board members and several journalists.

Telephone records are between you and your phone company, or so we all thought. Unless a subpoena is involved, forcing your phone company to tell the cops what digits you have been calling, or the company supplies the phone, your employers has no right to the data unless you employment contract specifically says “You can ask and find out anything you want about me, any time you feel like it”. I think we both know that not too many people sign that kind of employment contract.

Pretexting is mumbling something about Federal blah blah Investigation on the phone records for Jerimiah Dingobaby. The caller hasn’t actually said they are from the FBI, but are doing everything to give the person on the other end of the call the impression that they are in a position of authority to demand the phone records of Jerimiah Dingobaby.

Faced with what appears to be “the police” the phone company gives up your records. As the pretexter, you are not going to break that illusion, so you dutifully write down the data.

In other words, you are conducting fraud. Lying. Bullshitting, whatever term you care to use. That the person or organization on the other end of the line is swallowing your story is not your concern and you are obtaining information that you do not have the right to obtain, through fraud.

If a telemarketer does it, PhoneBusters and FraudBusters get involved. If someone saying they are from a Nigerian/Saudi/Iraqi bank sends you an email does it, it is one of those lovely Internet Bank Scams.

This is really easy to understand. Pretexting is Lying to Commit Fraud. Except Pretexting sounds much nicer than Lying.

It is the same with Rendition. Rendition is defined, in law, as the surrender or handing over of persons or property from one jurisdiction or another. Extradition is a rendition, for example, unless you or I try it.

Rendition Flights are the airplane rides that certain CIA detainees have been taking. According to Amnesty International a Rendition flight starts with the stripping of the passenger naked. An adult diaper is affixed appropriately and the detainee is dressed in a disposable overall. Usually the passenger is either hooded or blindfolded, as well as handcuffed and leg shackled. The passenger might ask a few questions, but the answers are usually a billystick to the kidneys.

At some point, especially if there is a likelihood of questions being asked, the passenger is injected with something to make them sleep for several hours. Valium, Talwin and Brietal make a nice cocktail to flatten someone for a few hours: Dentists use it all the time for root canal surgery.

The now soft and floppy passenger is strapped to a gurney and loaded like a sack of turnips. Often a pair of sound-isolating headphones are taped on their heads in case they wake up. A gag is often also part of the safety briefing.

The plane flies to wherever it is going. The passenger is unloaded again on the gurney, loaded into an ambulance and taken to whatever safe house is being used that day for whatever purposes the CIA has in mind.

Using the test of “If you or I did it, what would happen?”, try this. If you scooped a person off the street into your minivan, handcuffed, shackled, blindfolded, deafened and drugged them, there would be a multi-state and province manhunt.

It is called Kidnapping. You might wind up on the 11 pm news as “The Psycho Soccer-Mom Kidnapper”.

Rendition is Kidnapping. Pretexting is Lying. What part of this do the authorities not understand?

The PR fartcatchers and the lawyers are trying to pull one over you and me. Don’t let them.



Cameras That Talk Back

This one from the Daily Mail yesterday, CCTV cameras are now being equipped with loudspeakers.  That made that vein on the side of my head pulse:

Big Brother is not only watching you – now he’s barking orders too. Britain’s first ‘talking’ CCTV cameras have arrived, publicly berating bad behaviour and shaming offenders into acting more responsibly.

The system allows control room operators who spot any anti-social acts – from dropping litter to late-night brawls – to send out a verbal warning: ‘We are watching you’.

Middlesbrough has fitted loudspeakers on seven of its 158 cameras in an experiment already being hailed as a success. Jack Bonner, who manages the system, said: ‘It is one hell of a deterrent. It’s one thing to know that there are CCTV cameras about, but it’s quite another when they loudly point out what you have just done wrong.

‘Most people are so ashamed and embarrassed at being caught they quickly slink off without further trouble."

It is estimated that there are more than 4 million surveillance cameras in Britain. These range from simple store cameras that record the cashier’s area once a second to the full zoom-pan-tilt cameras that the Police use to fight crime.  It is said that the Police CCTV cameras can look into houses in various neighbourhoods in the UK. The only restraint on the UK police is the “We don’t do that” statements of the local authorities.

Four million cameras and 60 million citizens. Orwell was only a couple of decades off.

As an experiment in tit-for-tat, the next time you see the police pulling someone over on the side of the road, why not pull out your video camera and tape the entire exchange?  Even if it is just a simple warning, put it all on tape. 

Do you want to guess how many more charges you’ll be threatened with?  Do you want to guess how fast the cuffs will come out?  Do you want to guess exactly how many times you’ll be picked up by your eyebrows and dumped in the back of a cruiser?

I object to being watched all the time.  But I object more when nobody is watching the watchers.     



Papal Outtakes

We managed to obtain this series of outtakes from the Pope’s Sunday Address.  It sounds like it was a recording off the talkback line between the recording technician and the Pope. 


Papal Address for Sunday, Take 1 in three, two one



Brothers and Sisters, those fucking towel-headed carpet jockeys are messin’ shit up.



Cut!  Your Holiness, you can’t use language like that.  Come on, Your Holiness, we’ve had this talk before….



Sorry Greg, I forgot… Let’s take it again.



Papal Address for Sunday, Take 2 in three, two one



Brothers and Sisters, I speak to you today about the threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism.  Those who embrace a universal view of God know that Mohammed was a putz.



Cut! Your Holiness, you can’t call Mohammed a putz. 



Why not?  He was a putz.  So was his brother Mike.



Your Holiness, putz is a Yiddish term, meaning prick.  You really want to call Mohammed a putz?  I mean, dude, you’re annoying Jews and Muslims in one sentence, can’t you come up with something a little softer?



Oh.  OK…Lemme see….OK.  I think I’ve got it.  Roll it



Papal Address for Sunday Take 3 in three, two one



Brothers and Sisters, I speak to you today about the threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism.  Those who embrace a universal view of God know that God wants his flock to use the peaceful means that He has given his children to reconcile their differences.  Look at the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  Over our thousands of years of existence we’ve only slaughtered a few hundred thousand unbelievers in the Crusades, the Inquisition and, of course, Northern Ireland.



Cut! Your Holiness, are you sure you want to mention the Crusades, the Inquisition and Ireland in the same sentence?  I mean, these are not the best examples of Catholic and Christian tolerance are they?



Hey are you the Pope or am I?  Dammit Greg, you want me to talk about tolerance and peace when these shitpokes are blowing up stuff all over the place?  I mean, really man.  You’re stomping on my creativity here.



Sorry Your Holiness.  It’s just that all the stuff you brought up at that University address in Regensberg is causing all kinds of mad shit with the Muslims.  They are some pissed at you and that means they’re pissed at me, man.  Can’t you do something to chill’em out?



Whaddya want me to do to chill them out?  We tried that in 1938 in Poland and see what that got us?  Bunch of fuckers…worse than goddam Presbyterians with a wild hair up their ass…



I don’t know, Your Holiness…um…how about an apology?



I am the fucking Pope you asshole!  I am infallible for shitsakes.  The Pope doesn’t apologize to nobody for nothing and don’t you forget it or you’ll be recording sermons for the Jesuits in Tierra del Fuego next week.






You should be.



It’s just, well, you know, tolerance.  I mean we’re all talking about the same God right?



Yeah, yeah, yeah…there is but one God and so and so is his prophet.  We bicker over who speaks for God but there is only one God.



What I mean is, it kinda doesn’t matter which prophet you use, Mohammed, Luke, Mark, John, or the crazy guy on the street corner right?



I’m following.  Go on…



Well if it doesn’t matter which particular spokesman you believe in, the really important thing is believing in the whole thing.  Like Bono said to me once, “You gotta believe in the whole album, not all the songs in the album”



OK I get it.  Like on their Atomic Bomb album, that cut, Original of the Species, sucks shit, but the album is really sharp.  Some good chops in there….



Yeah…that`s it.  The album, meaning God, as a whole, is great.  A true iTunes bullet.  But some of the individual tracks, like oh, Mormons, blow monkeys on Sundays. 



Yeah!  That`s a great way to put it man.



So what you gotta do is be like Bono and say that, hey, man, sorry, the album is a killer but this one track, the Muslims, isn`t as good as we wanted it to be. 



So you want me to apologize for the Muslims for being a shit track, is that what you`re saying…



Naw, it`s a little more subtle than that.  Like, what you want to do is to say you`re sorry for saying that one or two tracks ain`t so good.



So I`m not really saying I`m sorry at all that one track or two is fucked up, more like I`m saying I`m sorry for saying it out loud.  Is that it…



Yeah.  Yeah that`s it!



Fuck.  That I can do without wearing a funny hat.  Roll`em Greggy Boy.  We can knock this out in one take.



Papal Address for Sunday Take 4 in three, two one



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The pastoral visit which I recently made to Bavaria was a deep spiritual experience, bringing together personal memories linked to places well known to me and pastoral initiatives towards an effective proclamation of the Gospel for today.

I thank God for the interior joy which he made possible, and I am also grateful to all those who worked hard for the success of this pastoral visit. As is the custom, I will speak more of this during next Wednesday’s general audience.

At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

These in fact were a quotation from a Medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.  Thank You.



We`re clear…good one!



Yeah, that ought to hold the fuckers.  Well, I`m done for the day.  Later Greg.



Later Your Holiness. 

Mobility for Granted II

Not being able to walk in a conventional manner lets you experience things differently and occasionally brings you some insights.  I’m lucky in that my mobility issue is temporary, just a sprained ankle, but the lessons do apply.

Ergonomic question:  How do you sit on the toilet without using both legs?  Try it by standing at the can, pull up one leg and now you figure out how to get your backside positioned appropriately for waste elimination.  You’ll be using the counter, shower rod, shower curtain and anything else in arm’s reach.  Even with crutches, the leverage doesn’t work quite right.  Now, try to get up and pull up your pants while balancing with both arms propped up by crutches.  Remember, you cannot let that one leg touch the ground.  Suddenly you need three arms. 

A shower is just as fraught, as you can’t readily bring crutches into the shower.  You balance on one leg, using the other arm to hold the shower rod, hoping the landlord used sturdy construction mounting it and your shower curtain is very strong.  Falls are a constant threat, but so is the irritation of not being able to wash your hair correctly, or perform ablutions with both hands, as you might be used to.  Of course, balancing on one leg means you can’t always bend the way you want, to rinse off the way you want.  An annoyance, but still something you find out the first time you take a one-legged shower.

Shaving, brushing your teeth and the rest of the morning grooming routine becomes a balancing act.  Using crutches to balance means you develop some new muscles very quickly.  Crutches, even the best adjusted ones with gobs of foam padding, rub your underarms raw.  Your arms, hands and palms get a workout, the muscles around the armpit take a beating, leaving you tired and sore at the end of a day.

I’m used to having my computers in a wheeled bag that I drag behind me when I go into the office, or a client location.  My bag weighs about 20 pounds.  You can’t have a wheeled bag and use two crutches at the same time.  So I swapped most of my gear over to a shoulder bag.  I now have 20 pounds hanging off one shoulder and around my hip, carrying my laptops like an old fashioned newspaper bag.  Every step with the crutch would bang into the laptops, until I swung the bag around back, resting over the small of my back, to give me room to swing the crutches.  Now, I’m off balance, backwards.

Hallways are fun.  Inside my apartment there is only one and it isn’t that long, but using the crutches means you take up the whole hallway, side to side.  At work, there’s room, and in the common areas of the apartment building, there is just about enough room.  In an older house?  You might not be able to get around.  Stairways would be interesting, but I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to navigate any. 

Getting into the car was as fraught as getting onto the toilet.  Balance on one leg, squat, swing, drag and use other things to pull you around.  Now try to thread the crutches into the car.  Fortunately I drive an automatic and my right leg is fine, so locomotion wasn’t a problem. 

Parking is another issue.  I could have obtained a temporary handicapped sticker for the car.  If I had broken something, I certainly would have.  Invariably the parking I could get was several dozen yards from where I needed to go, so you reverse the process of getting out of the car.  Much like getting off the toilet, you balance, push, pull and cajole your body into standing upright, then organize things so you can get to the store.  

Shopping in the store is somewhat normal, except you have no hands free to carry things, or cradle a shopping basket.  Shopping carts are pushed forward, then you catch up and push the cart forward again.  It takes forever to do.

At least bringing stuff up from the car is easier, as you hang your shopping bags off the crutch handles.  Each doorway is a time consuming effort of swapping bags, balancing, putting in the key, or swinging the hydraulic door out of the way, then scooting through before the closer slams the door closed on your head, arm or crutch.  I have a new-found appreciation of the handicapped accessible electric doors into stores. 

Putting things away when you get the groceries home is easy enough, as you can bounce around on one leg, using the counter for support.  Cooking is easy enough, but you do have to make sure you don’t grab at the stove for support.  From a wheeling position, things are much different, as you are at the element level and I can see how easy it would be to burn yourself on a daily basis. 

Getting into bed, at least from the office chair, is easy enough.  Fall out and roll.  From a standing position there is the same contortionist act like getting into the car, or onto the can.  Getting out of bed, is again, more pulling, pushing and cajoling body parts without enough leverage.

Overall, learning crutches, even for a short while, means relearning how to move, as the gait is unfamiliar, more of a clopping than walking.  Keeping the crutches in sync with your bad leg is an exercise in dancing but I suffer from that affliction known as White Boy Disease:  I’m so fabulously uncoordinated that I can’t dance.  This means that every seventh or eighth step you are out of sync and put all your weight on your bad leg, resulting in muttered curses. 

Last week I was needed in Regina for a meeting, which meant flying to Saskatchewan deliberately.  I decided to use all facilities available, so my car went into the valet parking at the airport:  It means I didn’t have to cane it as far.  After clearing security I took full advantage of those golf carts in the concourse.  There is a certain desire to do the Queen Elizabeth Royal Wave as you roll by the walking customers.  I didn’t but I was sorely tempted.  I did enjoy responding to the “those who need more time to board” early call for the flight.

Of course, Air Canada, wanting to pack as many humans into as small a space as possible meant that once I was seated, that was it for the duration.  There isn’t enough room to put your leg in a comfortable position.  I was in a fair amount of pain by the time we landed, but after gobbling a couple of Advil, I was able to do what needed to be done on the work side of things.  Flying back was just as nasty, painful and exhausting.

Today (September 16th) I’m on a cane and have been for close to a week.  The ankle takes some weight for reasonable periods of time, but it is still swollen enough to preclude wearing dress shoes.  That means wearing dress pants, dress shirt and a pair of running shoes to meetings. 

I feel like I spent half my time apologizing or explaining, but that is to be expected.  I just wish I had sprained it while having sex with a van full of Tahitian bisexual women on a trampoline.  That would be a much more interesting story than falling over a riser due to personal stupidity. Oh well.

So what does it mean in the grand scale of things.  First, I do not park in handicapped spaces.  I never have, but those spaces are for those who need them, not you or I as able-bodied folks who just want to “dash into the store for a second”.  Stay the hell out of the handicapped parking. 

Second.  Hold the doors for folks on crutches, wheels, or canes.  They don’t have the mobility or velocity that you or I take for granted and doors, even with electric openers are difficult to navigate.  Show some patience as they can’t move quite as fast as you or I do.  A simple “take your time” is much appreciated.

Third.  Offer, politely, to help with packages or purchases for someone with mobility issues, as they could use the help.  Canes or crutches mean you need an extra arm or two to perform simple retail tasks.  But do be sensitive enough to accept if the person doesn’t want help.  They’re grown ups and for some people, it is an issue of personal achievement or pride to not accept help.  I can appreciate that too.

Fourth.  Showering, going to the can or navigating stairs on crutches or with a cane is an exercise in balance and logistics as well as very tiring. 

In another week or so, I’ll be fine and the crutches and cane will go into storage.  The lessons, however, I will keep in mind.  If you can too, then, thanks.

Mobility for Granted

On August 31st of this year, around noon, I was at the company annual offsite meeting being the loyal company employee.  Walking to lunch, I managed to trip over a four inch riser in the atrium of the venue and went down like a sack of bricks.  I heard and felt some fascinating things in that microsecond as I saw a slate floor come up to meet my face. 

The first thing I felt was a feeling in the pit of my stomach:  That “Uh-Oh.  This Is Going To Hurt” moment.  I’ve felt that before, notably in a couple of car accidents and a particular one in a racing kart that saw me thinking “The horizon should not be up there and it is not good to be looking down from this high up going this fast in +Z and +X axis, when it normally works only in +Y and -Y axis.” 

That is the joy of “Uh Oh” moments:  Time slows down so you can appreciate what is about to happen.

The second thing I felt, after the Uh Oh, was, “Which particular body part do you want to break, David?”  This internalized dialogue is one you have when you know that if you put out your hands, you will break both wrists, or at least an arm. 

You also realize that you had best accelerate your decision-making processes, as the gap between the floor and you is rapidly closing.  “Hmmm.  A broken arm hurts.  A broken face hurts.  I’ve already done my knees in, so, let’s see if we can dislocate a shoulder and roll across my shoulder, hip and butt like a semi-uncoordinated parachute roll performed by an idiot.”

I turned a bit in the air, but had spent too long debating which particular pain I was willing to go through.  I couldn’t quite turn fast enough to take the fall on my shoulder, hips and butt.  My left ankle resolutely determined to not play along.  “Hey, screw that nonsense, I’m stayin’ put!” 

The ground came up to meet me at that moment.  I managed to wallop my legs, hip, ribs, shoulder and head on the floor.  Birdies, planets and stars were rotating around me.  I gave my head a shake to clear the Warner Brothers animation enough to start the initial assessment.  I am lying on my right side.

Balls?  Fine.  Dick?  Still there.  Whew!  The Important Stuff is intact.

Face?  I’m still wearing glasses, so it must be fine. Skull?  Ouch.  Shoulder?  Not so good, but I’m not feeling bone ends or hearing unique sounds.  Elbow?  Ouch.  Ribs?  I can breathe, so nothing broken.  Hip?  Ouch.  Knee?  Ouch. 

Doing OK so far David, just Ouches, which means bruising; nothing permanent or debilitating.  Right Ankle?  Fine.

Left Ankle?  FuckmeDeloresGodaddmitsonofaBitchCocksuker!  Since my body parts tend not to use that kind of language unless they are injured, I figured I hurt something.

At that moment I was aware that there were a number of people standing over me, probably watching the animated stars, birdies and planets orbiting my head.  One colleague said “Are you OK?”  The snappy cynic in me wanted to say “Oh yes, I just wanted to lie down rapidly on a slate floor, face first.”  I didn’t, but I did ask for a moment to do a quick second assessment.  Yep. Left ankle Not Happy.  The next step is simple enough:  Am I feeling bone ends where I shouldn’t feel bone ends?  Hmmm. 

I rolled on my butt, sitting on the floor, as more people crowded around, offering all kinds of advice.  I’m a first aid guy and have been for years, so I said “Give me just a moment please, I do first aid, but not normally on myself.  Just a sec.”  The animation around my head faded and I took a breath to check the ribs.  Fine. 

“Could you help me up please?”  Two people took me under the arms and lifted me up.  I guarded the left leg, as that was the one that was cussing me out.  I stood momentarily on it.  Whew.  Broken bones don’t take any weight, at all.  Even the slightest weight on a break will make the patient use language that would make a drill sergeant sit up and be impressed. 

However, the ankle was not impressed with me putting weight on it and let me know with a lower-case “Fuck” running up my leg to my brain.  I did manage to edit it to “shit” before it leaped out.  Someone slid a chair under my legs.  I sat down.  A drone from the facility came up, eyes all aglow with adrenaline.

“HelloImsoandsofromthevenueandIdofirstairwhathappendtoyouareyouallrightdidyouhityourhead”   I replied, rather calmly that my name was David, I am a First Responder too, No, I did not hit my head.  No, there was no loss of consciousness.  I have injured my ankle but it takes weight, so it isn’t broken.  But I am a bit diaphoretic and need a moment to collect myself.  She stopped immediately and looked at me like I had grown a second head.  I suppose she wasn’t used to getting an instant diagnosis from a patient. 

I tried standing again, as a couple of people helped me to my feet.  The ankle was taking weight well enough.  I had hurt it, but nothing was broken.  I had dodged the bullet.

Since there was no blood, puking or seizures, the crowd melted away, nothing to see, move along, move along.  In the first aid situations I’ve been in as responder, the thing I always try to do is to get the patient some privacy.  Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable that a bunch of people staring at you, while you’re in pain. 

After another moment, I tried standing again.  Left ankle seemed to take weight and the whack upside the head merely hurt a little.  “I’m ok folks, nothing to see.”  After exchanging data with the facility drone, I limped outside to have a smoke and sit down for a bit.  Lunch occurred, the rest of the presentations occurred and by 4 pm, I was in exquisite agony, limping like an amputee. 

When the afternoon presentations were over, a co worker with me determined that I could not walk.  Pat went to get a facility person.  It was determined, by me, to not bother with such niceties as an ambulance, but I did want to get to my car and get the hell out of there.  Pat got my car to the front door and the facility got a wheelchair to get me to my car.  Pulling on the roof and doorhandles I got into the car and drove home. 

Hobbling out of the underground parking it took about twenty minutes to get to the apartment.  My thought was that some RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) and I’d be fine in a day or two.  I gobbled some Tylenol and got undressed.  I had a lump on my head and a lovely collection of bruises on my elbow, shoulder and hip.  I had even managed to rip a couple of square inches of skin off the top of my knee.  The ankle:  Swelling up like an erection on a Mormon Wedding Night.

The Tylenol kicked in and I slept for several hours.  The next morning?  No weight on that ankle thanks.  However, I do have a rolling chair as part of my ‘home office’.  Guess where I spent the day?  Rolling around like a seven year old.  Roll to the kitchen, roll to the living room, roll to the bathroom and even roll to the bedroom. Wheeee!  More Tylenol.  More Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Friday, when the ankle wouldn’t take any weight at all.  I figured I was in a world of Shiite and it was actually broken.  I don’t have crutches.  I don’t have a cane.  I have an ankle that won’t take weight.  I can’t get to my car to get to a doctor.  I’m not going to call an ambulance for a sprained ankle.  I called a drug store and ordered some crutches, then had the drug store put the crutches in a cab for delivery.  Fortunately I had some cash on hand. 

The short form, after seeing a doctor at a walk in clinic, who referred me to the local hospital and waiting for a couple of hours, I got an Xray that confirmed that, yep, no breaks.  Sprained like a rat mother, but no breaks.  Yippee!  No plaster for me.

In the next post, I’ll cover off some observations on mobility.

Ford drinks Kool-Aid

The Ford Motor Company has said today that they’re going to fire about 30% of their salaried workforce and 75,000 union workers worldwide.  To save the patient, Ford will now cut off a leg and a hand, is the short form.

On the same webpage ( there was a link to another automotive story.  Toyota is hiring 2,000 workers over the next couple of years to work at their Woodstock and Cambridge plants, building the Matrix, RAV4, Corolla and a Lexus SUV here in Ontario.

One automaker is hiring, another firing.  This tells me more than first might appear.  I am sorry that anyone is getting the axe, as it hurts individuals, families and communities with the strain that losing the income puts on people.  I’m even a bit pro-union in this situation, as the Canadian Auto Workers have cut good, rational, business driven deals with the automakers over the years.  CAW is one of those sensible unions who go out of their way to protect their people and still be realistic about their demands. 

Given a choice I am a Ford Guy, as I have a lick of sense, unlike Chevy owners or those who have gone over to the Insane Clowns and drive Dodge or Chrysler products.  Remember, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Chevys. 

Having said that, the last car I bought was a Nissan Sentra.  When I moved to Toronto, I knew that my driving was going to be primarily urban and mostly downtown.  Ideally I wanted a Toyota Prius or a Honda Civic Hybrid, as I prefer to leave as small a carbon footprint as I can.  An automatic was mandatory, as there is no way in hell I will drive a stick in stop and go traffic.  No hybrids from any manufacturer were available at a price I could afford, in the timeline I had.  So, the Sentra is as fuel efficient as I can get but has A/C, a radio and an automatic trans. 

Ford has a hybrid:  A hulking Expedition SUV that comes loaded with all options including the latte maker, for $35,000.  No thanks.  Ford has small cars too, except the quality on them is so bad as to make one long for the Yugo or the Lada.  Ford’s small cars last about three years.   When the gas tank is empty or the ashtray is full, throw them away.  Ford pickups and performance cars?  Great pieces of go-fast and haul-lots.

Which explains why Ford is laying off that many people:  The products suck.  Someone in the big building in Dearborn made very, very, bad choices despite having all kinds of expensive market intelligence to hand. 

The best type of market intelligence I’ve seen for cars, is to go to a Wal-Mart and walk around the parking lot looking at brands that people have actually put money on the counter to buy.  If your brand isn’t there in proportion to your market share, then your product mix is wrong.  It doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to figure that one out. 

The sorry part of it is that the executives responsible for Ford abandoning the small and medium sized car market will have their jobs in 2008.  They’ll probably even get a big bonus and more plush carpets in the office as the company is now profitable. 

The poor yob in Windsor working at the Essex Engine Plant who gets laid off next month with two weeks’ severance and a ‘thanks for your nineteen years of service’ will be working at Wal-Mart in 2008 for $6.95 an hour.  I doubt he or she will buy another Ford.  Ever.  He or She will probably go out of their way to tell all their friends and relations to never buy another Ford and I can’t say I blame them. 

The argument that Ford, or any of the Big Three, can’t build profitable small and medium cars is complete nonsense.  Toyota and Honda, both in Ontario, do a very good job at building small and medium sized cars.  Toyota and Honda compensate comparably to CAW rates, including benefits.  Toyota and Honda still pay for electricity and water and taxes, just like Ford, or GM or Chrysler.  Toyota and Honda buy subsystems from Magna, Lear-Siegler, Dana, Goodyear and the rest, just like Ford, GM and Chrysler. 

Where Toyota and Honda excel is in the engineering, design and marketing.  Ford, GM and Daimler-Chrysler don’t.  Toyota and Honda both turn a nice profit. 

Perhaps if the product planners would spend a few hours walking around in a parking lot, that would change.  I’m not holding my breath.