Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preston Manning writes bad Science Fiction

It's 2018 and Canada has answered the call of the professional right wing's fondest wet dreams on healthcare:
It is December, 2018, and at long last Canadian health care has been reformed. Long waiting lines are a thing of the past. Universal coverage has been maintained and expanded. The numbers of doctors and treatment facilities available to serve Canadians has been significantly increased. Health care for the vast majority of Canadians has dramatically improved and at lower cost per capita.
How did they get to this heaven on Earth in Canada's green and pleasant land?  Let Preston guide you along through a future where Wikileaks exposes all the Canadian politicians and opinion makers who condemn private medicine but fly out of the country to use it when its their own health on the line.  On balance, trying to enlist Wikileaks in the cause of Canadian right wing politics is probably better than calling for the murder of it's founder like Manning's fellow Calgary school right wing insider Tom Flanagan - but also far less likely than some right wing western government actually following through on such threats and murdering Julian Assange the way Flanagan wants.

Then there's the finishing blow, after Manning conflates real and imagined courtroom victories against the public system and creates this condescending  final flight of fancy:
 Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, the Standing Committee on Health had invited Dr. Lars Aalborg, Nobel Prize-winner and a world-renowned expert on queuing theory, to propose means of reducing Canada’s health-care waiting lines. Dr. Aalborg said he would do so only on the condition that members of the House of Commons agreed to participate in a scientific experiment. Being near Christmas, the members were in a charitable mood and consented to this unusual request. When Dr. Aalborg arrived he closed all the doors to the House of Commons except one and then asked all 308 members to form a line outside that door. He then asked the members to enter the chamber through that door, one by one, while he timed the process. Approximately one hour and 15 minutes later, all the members had entered the chamber. Dr. Aalborg then opened two more doors to the chamber and divided the members into three uneven lines, one outside each door. Once again the members were instructed to enter while Dr. Aalborg timed the process. This time it took less than 45 minutes for all members to enter the chamber.

Leading members of the Liberal and NDP caucuses – those who could count, tell time, or both –  (This presumably is an example of the classy, gracious civility in politics that Preston Manning claims to support - Cliff ) immediately explained the meaning of the experiment to their bewildered brethren. By establishing three open doors to its health-care system – a public care door, a private not-for-profit door, and a private for-profit door – and with government responsible to ensure that the care available through each met acceptable standards, Quebec ensured that the average waiting time for getting into the health-care system and receiving quality care would be significantly lower than if everyone was forced to wait in a long line behind a single door.
Is it rude to point out the fairly glaring logical fallacy inherent in his snotty little fairytale, that whether entering the room through three doors or one there's still only one pool of doctors, nurses and hospital beds in the room serving all three doors?

In Australia and Sweden, the concrete evidence was that the two tier system created a 'perverse incentive' for doctors to cherry pick the easiest most lucrative patients into the profit door's line, while the more expensive and less lucrative public door's line got longer and longer because those who could afford to pay their way in front of them funneled through the profit door.

Of course to market ideologues like Manning, an inequity like this result isn't a bug in his preferred system it's a feature.

Adapted and expanded from a comment I made on Buckdog's quick out of the gate response to Preston's dribbling.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Like a dog returning to...

Ignatieff returns to the classic Liberal fear-mongering.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says that if an election is called in the coming months, his party is the only true alternative to the Conservatives.

In an interview with CTV's Question Period, Ignatieff says that a vote for Jack Layton's NDP or Gilles Duceppes' Bloc Quebecois is essentially a vote for another Conservative government.

"What I'm saying is, it's time for Canadians to make a choice between two governing parties," Ignatieff said.
They keep telling us we have no choice, that the two neoliberal parties that have been running the country in unofficial coalition the last few years are our only options, and then they wonder why there is so much disenchantment with politics as usual.

But there are alternatives and an increasing number of Canadians know it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Witch-Hunt Exposed

Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, privacy rights trampled, harassment by private investigators and a good man driven to his grave.  Now clearly shown to have been nothing but a vindictive witch-hunt, a clearly political attack by a government with an 'Israel right or wrong' obsession on an arms length agency.
A closed-door parliamentary hearing has been cancelled before MPs got a chance to hear senior board members of Rights and Democracy explain why they spent $400,000 trying to discredit the now-deceased former head of the federally funded agency. Gérard Latulippe, president of Rights and Democracy, laughs as prepares to start his testimony before the Commons foreign affairs committee on April 15. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)After months of ignoring promises to release the findings of a commissioned audit, the Montreal-based organization that promotes human rights has finally handed over the report to the Commons foreign affairs committee.
The agency's new president, Gérard Latulippe, and its chair, Aurel Braun, were to appear before MPs on the committee in an in camera session later Thursday. But the hearing was cancelled because the House of Commons is adjourning for its holiday break at 3 p.m. ET.
A spokesman for Latulippe said the president would not comment on the contents of the report or any in-camera discussions with MPs "as it would be inappropriate to do so."
But the spokesman said Latulippe would recommend to the committee that a redacted version of the report be made public "in the days following the hearing." MPs on the committee are sworn to secrecy about the report's contents, but NDP MP Paul Dewar, who has examined the findings, said there's "nothing there."
"In fact, they went on a witch hunt," Dewar told reporters. "They found nothing."
Nobody in the blogosphere has followed this whole sorry story more closely than Dawg's Blog.  I strongly recommend checking out his posts on the subject.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A life dedicated to attacking the idea of the public good.

Rick Scott, the sleazy gangster who ran a private medical corporation that defrauded the US government out of billions, teamed up with Vancouver private clinic entrepreneur Doctor Brian Day to try to save Americans from public healthcare, who made the rest of his fortune selling surveillance technology to dictatorships around the world including Iran and is now governor of Florida sets his sights on destroying public education - or at least making it a lot easier to rip off.
Conservatives have been plotting for years to blow up the public school system. Now, Florida's incoming governor Rick Scott is poised to light the fuse.
During his campaign, Scott pledged to overhaul the state's schools while simultaneously reducing school property taxes by $1.4 billion. How to accomplish both? Privatization, of course. His plan, which promotes online schooling along with other educational options, may actually pave the way for the elimination of such pesky budget busters as buses, cafeterias, teachers, and, well, school facilities themselves.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Only accused of rape, but guilty of embarrassing powerful men

Naomi Wolf points out that Julian Assange is the only man on Earth accused of rape being pursued, arrested and held in custody with this kind of fervor.
But for all the tens of thousands of women who have been kidnapped and raped, raped at gunpoint, gang-raped, raped with sharp objects, beaten and raped, raped as children, raped by acquaintances -- who are still awaiting the least whisper of justice -- the highly unusual reaction of Sweden and Britain to this situation is a slap in the face.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Police Brutality

DOA were the soundtrack of my youth. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Call to Arms

A 15 year old British kid protesting massive tuition increases putting education out of reach for all but the elite says you can forget any ideas about a post-ideological generation.


Know hope.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Media Right finds its line in the sand

You know,  credit where credit is due: the conservative Canadian media has been surprisingly anti-police brutality of late. 

Sure there are absurd and hateful exceptions and it's been the more left leaning Toronto Star that has really pursued the G20 police riots. But the National Post recently complimented the Star's coverage and said they had changed their minds about the behavior of the police at the G20 and it's been the Ottawa Citizen, which no one will ever mistake for a left of center paper, that really spear-headed the Stacy Bonds case.

Even the Sun chain has broken out of the slavish blue line worship and thrown some elbows at the police.  Sure Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail can't bring herself to ever criticize police for anything but not busting more heads than they are, but who really cares any more?

Maybe the fact that a lot of journalists saw first hand what was happening on the streets during the G20 themselves is part of it, maybe they're finally actually applying the libertarian world view to something other than fiscal conservatism for a change.

I criticize the media in Canada for being out of step with the largely left of center consensus of the Canadian people, being slavishly supportive and unquestioning about the basic assumptions of neo-liberalism and actively suppressing opposing points of view.  When they start actually dong something right, attention should be paid and positive reinforcement promoted.

I'm interested, has anybody else has been struck by the same thing?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Strange Case against Julian Assange

Julian Assange is in jail in UK facing deportation to Sweden on charges of rape.  Many people, otherwise sympathetic to Assange and Wikileaks find this troubling and understandably so.

But the details are even more troubling.

Assange is accused of rape by deceit.  Violence and coercion are not alleged, just that by sleeping with one woman only a few days after sleeping with another he was committing deceit, and therefore a sex crime.  Yes, really.  Some reports state that he has two accusers, in fact there is only one as the second accuser withdrew her initial accusation - seemingly because she began to get the impression she was being used.

Which brings us to the now sole accuser - normally it would be appalling to even consider discussing her, in this case an even more appalling injustice may arise from not examining her background.
Swedish bloggers uncovered the full story in a few hours. The complaint was lodged by a radical feminist Anna Ardin, 30, a one-time intern in the Swedish Foreign Service. She’s spokeswoman for Broderskapsrörelsen, the liberation theology-like Christian organization affiliated with Sweden's Social Democratic Party. She had invited Julian Assange to a crayfish party, and they had enjoyed some quality time together. When Ardin discovered that Julian shared a similar experience with a 20-year-old woman a day or two later, she obtained the younger woman’s cooperation in declaring before the police that changing partners in so rapid a manner constituted a sort of deceit. And deceit is a sort of rape. The prosecutor immediately issued an arrest warrant, and the press was duly notified. Once the facts were examined in the cold light of day, the charge of rape seemed ludicrous and was immediately dropped. In the meantime the younger woman, perhaps realizing how she had been used, withdrew her report, leaving the vengeful Anna Ardin standing alone.

However, before we absolve the Swedish police as unwitting, if zealous, dupes, please note that Swedish law strictly forbids police and prosecutors to release to the media the details of any rape-connected complaint. The Expressen had all the details of the case, including the names of the accused and the complainant, within a matter of minutes. Please note further that the right-wing tabloid Expressen belongs to the Bonnier family, the biggest media owners in Sweden, who are not only pro-American but very much pro-Israel, too. As you know, the pro-Israeli lobby is warmly supportive of America’s Middle Eastern wars, while Assange and his WikiLeaks have the potential to undermine America’s weakening support for the war.
(Note Dec 8:  I will agree with Olberman in re: the above quote: "If the author of that article is a holocaust denier, I repudiate him and what he wrote, and apologize for retweeting the link."  There are enough reasons to be suspicious and critical of the Swedish prosecutions without the reinforcement of this one article.)

Then there's the disturbing reports that Ardin published a revenge how to guide on her blog in January, around the time of the alleged incident, specifically...:
...describing how to commit a complete character assassination to legally destroy a person who “should be punished for what he did”. If the offence was of a sexual nature, the revenge also must also be sex-related, she wrote.
All of this is disturbing enough, when you factor in her links to government and military including NATO otherwise rational cynical people might be reaching for a tinfoil hat.

The details of the accusation, the timing, the way Swedish confidentiality laws were almost instantly broken and a conservative western leaning news outlet was trumpeting them immediately and the highly disturbing writings of the accuser make the whole case against Assange deeply suspect.

UPDATE: Naomi Wolfe, who no one will ever accuse of being a pawn of the patriarchy pours scorn on the Interpol 'Dating police' - hat tip Le Daro

UPDATE 2: 'Sex by Surprise'  No allegations of force, one woman unhappy that a condom broke, another that he seemed to pay more attention to his computer than her on the trip to her apartment.  If EVERYTHING that can be legitimately verified to be part of the complaints actually happened -  he comes off as a bit of a jerk and a bit of a horndog - but by no stretch of the imagination a rapist.

Final Update, couldn't put it better myself category:

Monday, December 06, 2010

Kiss of Death

The media do the Conservative Party the great dis-service of reporting that they are in striking distance of a majority. 
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are headed toward a majority government without the help of Quebec, a new national poll suggests.

The Nanos end-of-year survey is significant, revealing an emerging Tory strategy in which the governing party is concentrating on winning groups of riding with focused issues. And it appears to be bearing fruit for the Prime Minister.

“The current configuration of national support for the Conservatives suggests that numerically a Tory majority government can be formed without significant breakthrough in the province of Quebec,” pollster Nik Nanos told The Globe. “In this paradigm, the Conservatives narrowcast messages to clusters of ridings on a diversity of issues such as crime, the long-gun registry and social issues that align with their base and which divide the opposition.”

The Nanos poll has the Tories seven points ahead of their rivals, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals – 38.1 per cent support nationally compared to 31.2 per cent. The NDP is at 17.2 per cent; the Green Party has the support of only 3.2 per cent of Canadians and the Bloc is at 10. 2 per cent. About a quarter of respondents, or 25.4 per cent, were undecided.
Nothing is more likely to immediately depress their numbers then these poll results.  You heard it here first, as soon as its reported that the Conservatives are actually polling high enough to possibly win a majority the Canadian people feel the gorge rise in their throats and reconsider the protest vote they were thinking of casting and the Tory numbers immediately crash again - look for a big drop in the next polls, cluster-fuck strategy notwithstanding.

But by all means Tories, if you're feeling your beer muscles please do test these numbers by calling a spring election.  I look forward to the results you'd achieve.

UPDATE Dec 10: barely a week later and fantasies of majority government disappear like a wisp of smoke.  What a surprise

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Uneasy Alliance

One of the most notable elements of the just concluded Alberta Legislature session was that the various opposition parties put aside their (very significant) differences and teamed up for the collective goal of torturing the Tory government over its handling of healthcare.

Certainly called for and frequently entertaining, it also helped lift the veil on the contemptuous dismissal with which the government treats opposition.  Albertans saw how the government responds to legitimate criticism from Raj Sherman, one of their own with banishment and  a whisper campaign to try to destroy him.  The opposition alliance fulfilled the will of the people in expressing the disdain and distrust the government is now held in.

But we shouldn't let this brief concordance of intent and allied opposition to the Stelmach government obscure the very real differences between the opposition parties.  Danielle Smith has very helpfully provided an op-ed for the Calgary Herald where she makes it very clear that the Wildrose alliance's only real problem with the government's approach is that they aren't pushing privatization enough.
In Calgary, we've seen what private deliverers can do when the government gets them involved. Before AHS abruptly terminated their contract, the Health Resource Centre was performing hip and knee replacements at a fraction of the cost and in almost half the time as the public hospitals.
Former premier Ralph Klein, after leaving office, admitted his biggest regret during his 14 years as premier was caving to the special interest groups and letting them derail his plans to reform health care.
Clearly, Stelmach has learned nothing from his predecessor.
If this government won't do what is needed, it is time for a government that will.
Of course the Health Resource Centre she's rapturously praising here, was an expensive boondoggle that went bankrupt under the huge cost over-runs inherent in private healthcare.  Sunk under vast legal bills and gigantic executive compensation that even Alberta Health Services with its  infamously highly overpaid and top heavy administration found excessive, and when she complains that their contract was 'abruptly terminated' she means that despite the pleas of the supposedly 'free market' oriented Wildrose Alliance they weren't bailed out of the expensive hole that is the inevitable result of introducing the profit margin to healthcare delivery at even further huge cost to the Alberta public.  

Smith and I do agree though, that the Health Resource Centre is an excellent example of what private health delivery is capable of.

She also indulges in one of the popular hobby horse of the Canadian right by claiming that we should follow the example of Sweden in letting the private sector have more access to public health funding.  Of course, this is actually an example that in no way makes the point she thinks it does.
Sweden pays for about 85 per cent of health expenditures from public sources, in comparison to about 70 per cent in Canada. This includes public coverage not only for hospitals and physicians, but also for drugs and dental care (for kids up to the age of 20 it's free, and for adults it is subsidized).  While a sizable number of Canadians lack drug coverage, Swedes do not. Sweden also has generous sick leave coverage, great parental leave benefits for both mom and dad, a national child allowance until the child is 16 (with larger payments for more children), and even a pension system which counts time spent at home looking after the kids.
Oddly, Sweden has recently become the darling of Canadian commentators wishing to privatize how we fund and deliver health care. The picture they paint is often not recognizable to Swedes.
So, yes, for historical reasons, Swedes may pay user fees when they see the doctor or stay in hospital. These fees are capped and geared to income; computing them does add some administrative costs that Canada can avoid. But, in stark contrast to Canada, these patient fees account for only about four per cent of health-care costs in Sweden. They also have reference-based pricing to control pharmaceutical costs—the B.C. system, which Manitoba probably should adopt as well.
So, to be more like Sweden, we should probably be paying more of the bill publicly, not less.
In terms of delivery, Sweden began with publicly owned and operated hospitals, run by local governments (county councils). In Canada, by contrast, our "public" hospitals are not-for-profit private organizations, with considerably more managerial autonomy (although we do grant that attempts by provincial governments to induce "accountability" within regional health authorities may indeed be moving us closer to de facto public control.)
As the New Public Management movement confirms, publicly run institutions are often seen as cumbersome, and local officials may lack the skills to manage them. (On a visit to Sweden several years ago, one of us recalls complaints from hospital administrators that the county councillors kept coming in to count the sheets.)
Several years ago, some councils experimented with contracting out these services to private hospitals. Although reports are mixed, we note that Swedes were unhappy enough that some of the privatizations were reversed. In 2004, they banned further privatization of hospitals. Instead, the Swedes are seeking to move from the older focus on market-based mechanisms to approaches looking for greater co-operation among providers.
In fact the private sector experiments in Sweden were an unpopular failure, repudiated and rolled back the first opportunity Swedes had to vote on them.  Again, Smith and I agree, an excellent example of the real record of private health experiments, again, probably not in the way she intended.

The Wildrose Alliance joined the NDP and the Liberals in slamming the government purely for reasons of partisan gain, their opposition to the government's healthcare approach is simply that it doesn't go far enough down the road of privatization and this should be remembered.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Double Standards at the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary believes that students who criticize their teachers should be punished.  Teachers who publicly call for someone to be murdered?  Not so much.
Comartin said there are calls for disciplinary action at the University of Calgary where Flanagan teaches political science. He said the government should be very, very clear in denouncing that kind of comment.

University spokesman Grady Semmens indicated Flanagan will not be reprimanded. "At this point, the university is not considering any disciplinary action," Semmens said. Flanagan was representing himself, not the university, when he made the comments and had a right to his opinion, Semmens said.

Comartin said the government should repudiate his comments. "I mean he is . . . he is the prime minister's mentor," Comartin said. "I don't think anybody will deny that and for them, not to stand up and say not only that we do not support that kind of a comment, but we absolutely repudiate it, there has to be some sense that they in fact, are in agreement with him."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Fear in their Eyes

This week, a leaked government policy document suggested the Tories plan to broaden privatized medicine under the public health umbrella. Zwozdesky denies the government will take such steps.

In the midst of the turmoil, the health minister introduced a new five-year plan to cut surgical wait times across the board and bring more beds online.

Opposition NDP Leader Brian Mason said the session was telling.

"Certainly in the 10 years I've been here in this legislature I've never seen the government so disheveled, confused and off balance," he said.

"You could see on the faces across there just a different look in their eyes. One of real fear.

"Change is going to come and I think this government knows it."

Let Bartlet be Bartlet

I'd say it's time for Obama to be Obama, but sadly, I think he already is.

Manufacturing Consent with a Starvation Diet

Stephen Duckett's wife defends him by pointing out that he was dealing with a government intentionally starving public healthcare.
“In Stephen’s first year he was expected to balance the AHS budget by finding $1.3 billion in ‘savings,’” she said.
It's part of a strategy of starving the system of money "so that healthcare becomes so inadequate that electors reluctantly accept paying additional out-of-pocket costs to get decent health care," she said.
At the same time the province throws precious health-care money at building empty hospitals and clinics to make health budgets the villian in ballooning provincial spending, said Jackson.
Alberta can afford to spend more on health-care services, she said.
“Low tax rates and low oil royalties lead to an impoverished public health-care system, which will lead to more people opting out of medicare and the downward spiral of public care."
How many insiders need to say the same thing, that this government has a deliberate and unambiguous policy of undermining public healthcare in order to promote dismantling and privatizing the system before Albertans get it?

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