Friday, April 28, 2006

NAFTA and Medicare

The proposed softwood lumber agreement is highly instructive. It probably, realisticly, is the best deal we can get from the American's, who support Free Trade to the hilt... As long as it means they come out on top. Actual, real competition is unacceptable.

It may be the case, as many analysts have noted, that American lumber interests in particular are uniquely bloody-minded. That the American lumber industry owns the American government lock stock and wooden barrel.

But as the Toronto Star put it today:

as shown by this deal, Canada cannot rely on the U.S. to be a free and fair trader. It hasn't been so for the last 20 years, and there is no reason to believe it will be so in the future.

The same trade agreement the Americans have so creatively interpreted in the Softwood lumber dispute effectively governs Canadian sovereignty over public healthcare.

The terms of NAFTA are clear; Medicare stays off the table only so long and so far as it stays public, anywhere the private sector enters the healthcare system it is forevermore protected by a trade agreement that would punish Canadians trying to assert sovereignty over this essential service by reversing private sector experiments. The elites calling for private sector experiments like the Third Way tell us we shouldn't be afraid to try new - ie: old - ideas like private health insurance, that what Alberta does with health care has no effect on and is no business of the rest of Canada.

These are knowing, deliberate lies.

The all out corporate media assault on the public system has yet to manufacture the consent necessary to dismantle the public system. Klein jumped the gun on a long range plan, hoping to give one last big gift to the Private sector. He may even have pushed back the time-table by mobilizing opposition. Make no mistake the destruction of Canada's Medicare system is an essential sub-heading in the deep integration agenda.

There are no private healthcare experiments. There are only permanent, irreversible changes, something which should be kept in mind whenever neo-conservative politicians or their media toadies blurble happily about 'innovation' and 'fresh thinking'.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Aon Consulting admits healthcare privatization won't guarantee sustainability.

....and it only cost $1.3 million. Even a private insurance company couldn't claim with a straight face that more private insurance would reduce costs.

They do recite the same chicken little pronouncements of healthcare budget doom we've grown used to in Alberta, but to be fair they're using Alberta Finance's numbers to make their predictions, you know, the same ones that have understated revenues by over $40 billion in the last 15 years.

Garbage in, garbage out.

The whole issue of putting the question of whether private insurance should have a greater role... to a private insurance company, doesn't pass the smell test. At least it may have proved instructive that like many private insurance companies in the States, Aon has paid millions in fraud settlements.

Next: My delayed post on trade agreements effect on public healthcare, I promise!

The Incredibe Shrinking $1200

The government has confirmed that even as they give Canadian parents their $1200 child tax credit they will be taking away the Canada Child Tax Benefit, reducing the amount going to parents, particularly low income parents even more.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dinning or Manning, either way Medicare is in trouble.

A year from now either Jim Dinning or Preston Manning will be the Premier of Alberta. Ted Morton will play king-maker with his social-conservative block in exchange for some kind of nod to intolerance and bigotry, and the other candidates are looking for face time and auditioning for front bench cabinet positions.

Jim Dinning is the consummate inside man, the ultimate power networker with fingers in every pot sweetened by government privatization schemes. Dinning had the leadership race sewn up until Preston dropped the bombshell that he might just possibly maybe be interested in the gig.

Preston Manning vocalized what from anyone else could be dismissed as a blue sky trial balloon. From Manning it was an open recruitment for leadership contest staff and volunteers. The Reform/Alliance machine was built by Manning. He knows where the controls are.

Jim Dinning's been part of the Alberta conservative establishment for years too. He was Provincial Treasurer during the drastic cutbacks of the 90's. He was chair of the rabidly pro privatization Calgary Health Region from 1999 to 2001. He is currently board chair of Western Financial Group, underwriters for Acure Health Corp and among others sits on the board of the Liquor Stores Income Fund, Alberta's largest liquor retailer, an entity that couldn't even exist until the Klein government privatized liquor stores. Dinning was also the point man for the electricity deregulation scheme which has fleeced Albertans on a gigantic scale.

Impact on healthcare? Dinning is likely to recognize that healthcare privatization has achieved it's greatest gains in places it could grow in the shadow of neglect and a blind eye to creeping privatization rather than flashy legislative assaults like the Third Way. Under Dinning, expect the slow erosion to continue, abetted by Alberta's servile media. The erosion will be sped up but with strategic retreats always an option. Recently he's been trying very hard to cast himself as a protector of public healthcare and a respecter of the Canada Health Act. This transparently more about differentiating himself, first from lame duck Klein and then from the Preston Manning factor.

Manning has openly advocated dismantling the public sector wherever it exists, most particularly in public healthcare which was the bane of his father.
Manning has called for a stealth campaign of re-framing and careful propaganda to continue to erode the public's irritating affection for public care. He has advocated finding telegenic 'victims' of the public system and carefully promoting their 'horror stories' as part of the continuing sub rosa attack on Medicare.

Impact on healthcare? Hard to say. It will be part of the leadership debate, count on that and Manning may have to moderate his public stance if he doesn't want to give the public system's defenders the kind of rallying cry and organizing flash-point the Third Way did. Manning will work on manufacturing consent for the dismantling of Medicare before making as public an assault on it as Klein did.

Either way, expect the unsustainability fairy tale to be heavily promoted, alternative views and real numbers suppressed and the creeping expansion of private care by stealth to continue.

Next: Canadian control over public policy such as healthcare being decided in trade negotiations behind closed doors.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Alberta's next healthcare battles

Premier Klein did an excellent job of unifying opposition to creeping healthcare privatization. painting a nice big poorly defined target called the Third Way, refusing to provide specifics and suggesting changes that experts agreed would have increased both wait times and costs. The Third Way died with Klein's political career, overwhelmingly opposed by Albertans and even the Conservative federal government.

The Alberta healthcare flash-points to come: healthcare premiums and de-listing or never listing new treatments in the first place.

The Alberta healthcare premiums which make up only 3% of government revenues are opposed across the political spectrum, with some of the strongest opposition coming from the right. The premiums do not go towards health costs, they go into general revenues, they would make up only 10% of real healthcare costs. Instead of another rebate give-away the government could instead remove the entirely political premium costs still being charged to working Albertans while corporate Alberta gets over $400 million in tax cuts. Of course eliminating the premiums would undercut the government's 'sky is falling' rhetoric on healthcare costs so...

As to delisting or never-listing, The Mazankowski Report, much cited by King Ralph called for massive de-listing. Purely by coincidence Mazankowki was at the time of the report a board member of the Great-West Life insurance company, which would directly profit from de-listing or failing to list new treatments in the first place. The Senate's Kirby report was also fatally compromised by conflict of interest. Kirby made his de-listing and pro-privatization recommendations while sitting on the board (plus three board committees) of private nursing home giant Extendicare, as well the board of Miza Pharmaceuticals. Drugs and home care are, as it happens two of the most costly profit-making private sector burdens on public health care budgets. Delisting and never-listing is about corporate profit more than it is about public savings, the evidence shows that many de-listing schemes are false economies that actually increase costs.

A solid anti-privatization and pro public healthcare consensus has been created, or more accurately revealed, more by Premier Klein's over-reaching on behalf of his friends in the private insurance industry than anything else. The challenge for groups like Friends of Medicare and the opposition parties is to keep this consensus intact and turn it to the continuing challenge of protecting and expanding the public system. Public healthcare remains the most efficient and most ethical method for providing healthcare.

It's time for those who support public healthcare to go on the offensive and the targets should be the lie of out of control health costs, the entirely political and regressive Healthcare premiums tax and the ongoing efforts by government on behalf of the private insurance lobby to de-list existing medical treatments or to never list new ones in the first place. If Albertans mobilized against healthcare premiums the way they did against the Third Way, they'd be gone tomorrow.

Next post: Preston Manning or Jim Dinning? Either way public healthcare is in trouble.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Jerry Falwell's Canadian Lieutenant

Would you buy a used car from this man?

Charles Mcvety President, Canada Christian College and the Canada Family Action Coalition is probably best known for cyber-squatting on pro gay marriage Liberal MPs names and re-directing them to his own rabidly anti-gay marriage site.

He was vocally disappointed with Harper's hands off policy on gay marriage but it appears the boys have kissed and made up as he is now acting as point man defending the government's decision to tear up the Federal/Provincial deal on childcare.

Mcvety's position seems fairly simple, expanded daycare would give more women the opportunity to enter or re-enter the workforce. Women in workforce bad.

This combined with a visceral aversion to the public sector and the sincere belief that the government wants to somehow indoctrinate their children in soviet style institutional daycare.

Conservative Christians have always been part of the public dialogue on political and social issues in Canada and fair enough. Being an engaged citizen isn't just for liberals. But Mcvety represents a very new, very American style strain of right wing Evangelical Christianity that we haven't really seen in Canada before. He hangs out with people like Falwell and Ralph Reed and has been heavily funded by far right evangelical groups like Focus on the Family.

He spouts the same victim message as the American Christian Right about Christianity and Christians being under attack. His examples invariably involve Christians being made to stop attacking someone else.

"The term marriage is a Judeo Christian term that comes from the bible and to do this, desecrates it in a way that is outrageous." - Charles Mcvety, June 2003

This would seem to indicate that he believes that no other religious tradition has marriage - not real marriage anyway. How enlightened.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tory's retreat on Third Way

As expected, the two most egregious elements of the Third way were buried by the Tory Caucus today.

Private insurance que jumping and allowing doctors to double dip the public and private system were abandoned in the face of withering, overwhelming public opposition. One has to wonder if that wasn't the plan all along - throw out two over the top, nightmare proposals to act as lightning rods, maybe give the federal Tories a chance to play medicare defenders while the rest of the reform plan sails through.

Klein complained that his proposals failed to get past the public because of misinformation from Third Way critics, which shows a certain amount of contempt for the Alberta public who understood exactly what the proposals meant. That's why we opposed it in such large numbers.

One battle won, the war continues.

Childcare Roundup

Harper challenges the opposition to vote against the government in what Ralph Goodale, the Liberal House Leader quite rightly called a 'phony war'. Nobody objects to the $25 a week giveaway. Almost everybody objects to cancelling the previous governments deal with the provinces on childcare in a year. It's a false dichotomy to suggest it's one or the other, part of a pattern of Harper's distortion of the facts on the issue. We can and should do both.

The exception to that 'almost everybody' is Canada's religious right. Who Harper has turned to in a surprisingly open display of how ideology, rhetoric and fundamentalist religiosity rather than the facts drives Conservative policy on childcare. The Christian Right doesn't approve of women in the workforce, or the public sector - and that's what it boils down to.

Childcare Mythbusters

Excellent Toronto Star article expertly eviscerates the most common child care myths.

Some highlights:

1 Non-parental child care is bad for kids.

More than 30 years of research in many countries, including Canada, have determined that good quality child-care programs have positive short-term and long-term effects on child development, school readiness and school success. These positive effects are even more pronounced with children who are vulnerable or have special needs.

Developing: Standoff in Caledonia

On Wednesday Premier McGuinty said of the Caledonia standoff in question period: ”We will proceed in a responsible fashion, we will be mindful of the public-safety issues and we'll be mindful of the fact that no harm ever comes from sitting down and talking and working together with a determination to resolve it peacefully,”

On Thursday morning the Ontario Provincial Police charged with tear gas and tasers.

As of now, noon MST, Thursday, the police have pulled back after driving out the natives and the natives have re-occupied the site.

Hate to quote Drudge, but Developing...

Mendacity, mendacity.

"We have never contemplated doing something that would compromise our federal health transfers, I'm quite surprised that there was some suggestion that anything we might explore on that vein could violate the Canada Health Act.''- Iris Evans said yesterday, in a breath-taking display of contempt for the intelligence and memories of the people of Alberta.

Apparently bashing the Canada Health Act and openly threatening to violate it didn't go over as well as expected. Badly enough even, for some blithely Orwellian historical revisionism. Here's just two of the many relevant quotes:

"I said before that we will have to weigh the cost of the penalty against the costs of proceeding with the legislation if in fact it's introduced," - Ralph Klein o6/o4/06

"If Ottawa refuses to negotiate significant changes to medicare, we are willing to consider, as a province, going it alone. We are still a long way from that, but it is a consideration," Klein said in February, 2004 at the First Ministers Conference, before abandoning it to go play golf.

And of course this is the very same government that was fined for violating the Act in 1996.

In other words Evans is trying to completely erase a clear and unambiguous history. A history of remarks, policies and clear statements about the government's willingness and intention to break the Canada Health Act.

Don't you go to hell for stuff like this?

Study: The greater the sexual equality the greater the sexual satisfaction.

This one doesn't come as much of a suprise. Mutual respect, mutual desire to please the other and see the other's needs as important? How odd that this would lead to higher sexual satisfaction.

Feminism is a pro-sex movement.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bunker bombs: The science

Flash animation of Pentagon bunker bomb simulations.

And the scary dry drunk gambler in the White House is down enough at the table to make a sweaty, long odds bet.

Berlusconi goes bats#!^ insane

Seriously. I can't decide if he's going to flee the country in the dead of night with bulging briefcases or storm parliament with a bunch of guys he met at the beer hall. His coalition does include the Fascists led by Mussolini's daughter after all.

The nightmare scenario for Berlusconi is the center left coalition being able to overturn the many laws he specifically created to protect himself from various felony charges. One might suspect that the entire Prodi coalition could also get behind some pointed media monopoly laws as well - not that there's anything wrong with an unprincipled demagogue owning 90% of the televised media in the entire country...

Politically, Itlay is now the Miami of Europe.

Unless you own an insurance company...

...the Third Way isn't good for business any more than it is for Alberta's families.

Tomorrow is the Third Way's probable Waterloo. The whole world, or at least Saskatchewan is watching.

Harper's choice for Aboriginal Affairs

Maurice Vellacott, the Conservative MP from Saskatoon-Wanuskewin who defended the officers accused of dumping natives miles outside of Saskatoon, a practice that has caused at least one death.

Vellacott got the Committee Chair position after an unprecedented post election public appeal to Harper for the job.

He also believes that birth control causes cancer and has fought tirelessly to criminalize abortion. He once savagely criticized then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson for sending a "best wishes" message to a newly-married same-sex couple in Toronto and opposed the addition of sexual orientation as a protected category under Canada's hate crimes legislation. He was famous for ten minutes for calling Belinda Stronach a prostitute and has claimed there was no genocide of Armenians by Turks.

So much for seeking the political center Stephen?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Monday, April 17, 2006

No backing down.

I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Dixie Chicks, and I love this song and video a lot. It is in no way about Bush. None at all.

Check it out:

Bush's 'political capital' goes into deficit

Live by the market based metaphor, die by the market based metaphor.

"Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror."
-George Bush, November 2004

What difference a year and a half can bring. A military quagmire, racially tinged incompetant response to a major national disaster and complete failure to advance your centerpiece and extremely unpopular legislative agenda and suddenly you're polling below 40%. For months. Then the far right of your own party picks a fight with one of the fastest growing voting blocs in the United States, politicizing a whole generation of their young people in a specifically anti-Republican fashion.
November is still seven months away, but it looks like it could be a cold season for the GOP.
Git yer schadenfreude on.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Don't count on us in Iran, George."

Tony Blair partially redeems himself.

Now how about a similar signal from Harper? I would also be opposed to our increasingly vague Afghanistan mission being used to free up American troops for an invasion of Iran.

Open Letter on Childcare

I sent this to my MP in Calgary Centre, Lee Richardson, to both his riding and parliament address. If your MP is a Conservative, consider sending something similar.

Mr Richardson,

I am one of your constituents and, like the majority of Albertans, I oppose the cancellation of the federal/provincial child care agreement. Replacing it with $25 a week, or whatever the post tax amount ends up being, is completely insufficient. It will not help a parent find a childcare space - it certainly won't help her pay for a space if she does find it.

Even the Minister responsible has admitted that the proposed tax credits to businesses scheme that failed under Harris will not likely produce any childcare spaces federally either. So the government's increasingly vague promises of over a hundred thousand new childcare spaces seems to be based on nothing more than good intentions.

The government's position in this matter seems to be policy in service to an ideology offended by women in the workforce. It amounts to discrimination against families that can't afford to be single income households, and against single mothers who have no choice. A government so viscerally opposed to the public sector in all forms even to the detriment of the best interests of Canadians. This is how it seems to me, a Calgarian. How does it look to the Central Canadians the Conservatives are so assiduously courting I wonder?

This government should remember that six out of ten Canadians voted for other parties ranging in the main, from center-left to social democrat. This government should consider carefully that even here in blue sweep Alberta across political lines, Albertans oppose the Conservative plan on childcare.

Continuing the federal/provincial agreements is pragmatically, macro-economically and ethically the better decision. The government should re-consider it's stand on this matter.

Cliff Hesby, Calgary Centre

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hammering in the final nail

The end of the Third Way - or at least it's most egregious elements may come as soon as thursday. We shouldn't assume the threat is over however - Iris Evans is off to a pro-private healthcare conference in Washington which ANDP leader Ray Martin describes as a wet dream conference for privatization advocates.

And of course waiting in the wings to become Premier is either Private health insurance executive Jim Dinning, currently casting himself as a defender of public care primarily to differentiate himself from the other lead candidate Preston Manning, who has repeatedly called for complete privatization of health care in Canada.

Public healthcare in Alberta will be at risk for years to come.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Albertans oppose Tory Child Care plans

By a big margin across the geographic, economic and political spectrum.

The stereotype of Albertans as a monolithic bloc of economic and social conservatives keeps bumping up against the facts.

Meanwhile the next person who calls the Harper bribe check a 'childcare plan' has to find me a daycare spot charging $25 a week. The Harper 'pay $100 per month payments to parents of school age children' plan is an insult to the majority of Canadian families that can't afford to be single income households. It's policy based solely on an ideological distaste for the public sector and mothers in the work force.

The Liberals don't get a pass here either, they had years and years of unstoppable majority rule combined with bursting coffers. They finally brought a real healthcare plan forward twelve years after first promising it in a minority parliament as part of a desperate bid to retain power. Never trust a Liberal promising social spending unless he's got a legislative gun pointed at his head.

Well it wouldn't be a real Alberta blog without some Liberal bashing would it?

The Big Lie

The 'health costs are an out of control crisis that will soon eat entire provincial budgets' narrative has been repeated so often and so loudly that it is now largely accepted as fact.

Goebels would be proud.

This excellent Tyee article very effectively demolishes it. The whole Tyee series following Premier Campbell on his tour of healthcare experiments in Europe is worth reading and is linked in the story.

Offering alternatives

Excellent article in Vue. Not only pointing out how parallel private healthcare has been a ruinous failure everywhere it's been tried but offering viable public sector alternatives such as New Zealand's bulk buying pharmaceuticals program which has dramatically reduced costs. You may have to pan down some blank space to get to the article - or maybe Vue only does that to my computer. Worth it though.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's official

The majority of Albertans oppose the Third Way. By a two to one margin.

Even Health Minister Iris Evans acknowledges she has heard from more Albertans who oppose more health-care privatization than who favour it.

The provincial NDP have launched a specific site challenging the Third Way here:

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It should be left to who?

In an otherwise thoughtfull editorial in the Edmonton Journal I found these extraordinary words:

The future of Alberta health care should be left for Alberta's future leader to decide.

Excuse me? I know you meant to say it should be left to the people of Alberta to decide, right? The PCs do not have a mandate from the people of Alberta to make these kind of changes to Alberta's healthcare system. The majority of Albertans voted for someone other than the Torys, all the major parties, including the right wing Alberta Alliance have come out in opposition to the Third Way and other healthcare privatization schemes and so have a lot of Torys.

This is the bottom line, Albertans expressly and overwhelmingly oppose the gradual privatization of healthcare. Our leaders have been told in no uncertain terms: "Make the public system work." Helping out their friends in the insurance industry is going to have to be superseded by a little thing called the will of the people.

Monday, April 10, 2006

More views on Healthcare and the Third Way

It is fashionable to disdain the opinions of organized healthcare workers. In Alberta particularly, they are dismissed as selfish 'special interests' - like the special interest in devoting their lives to the health and life of their fellow citizens presumably. I would suggest that the opinions of those who are closest to the healthcare system on a day to day basis may be worth considering when you are thinking of drastically, and perhaps irreversibly, changing that system.

But what do I know?

T. S. Paulgaard reminds us of when babies died in their mother's arms on the front steps of hospitals. It's worth pointing out it was people of the same ideological stripe opposing bringing in the public system then as want to privatize it now. Even some of the names are the same.

Let the good times roll...

An intense and thoughfull essay on neo-liberal economics. Dense, but worth the read.

Don't spoil your dinner.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse...

It is never safe to dismiss Sy Hersh. This is the guy who broke My Lai and Abu Ghraib. Sure the Pentagon and the White House deny it. They've denied every story he ever wrote.

This is what the doctrine of pre-emption has always been about.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Harper VS Klein

"Dual practice creates conflict of interest for physicians as there would be financial incentive for them to stream patients into the private portion of their practice," Harper said in the letter sent last Friday. "Furthermore, dual practice legitimizes queue-jumping as it provides an approved mechanism for patients to pay to seek treatment at the front of the line. Moreover, such dual practice may be a magnet for rural physicians to migrate to urban centres."

This from Stephen Harper, the man who in 1997, said that Canada "should scrap the Canada Health Act." Somebody really want's to take the political center and appeal to central Canada. That said, give him credit; Stephen Harper made as unequivacable a message that he opposed the Third Way as any Prime Minister could without handing Klein a westerners vs the big bad feds PR win.

While Dinning's anti-Third Way stand is begining to look like a way to differentiate himself from Preston Manning.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The message begins to sink in

Dinning's figured it out. The reaction from Albertans is over-whelmingly negative. Now we just have Ralph's steadfast determination to help out his cronies in the insurance industry.

Hopefully the trench warfare of the leadership fight will stop this unpleasant old man from irrepairably damaging our healthcare system in the time he has left.


The fecal matter hits the rotating blades.

....and then the scandal hit critical mass...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Bottom Line

The Parkland Institute has released a book about the real costs of public and private healthcare.

Most interesting point: The numbers show that the biggest cost increases in the public healthcare system come from it's private sector components:
But if the government truly wants to control costs, Fuller said, the answer is to lessen the role of the private sector in health care, not increase it. The part of the health care system that has been stable is physicians and hospital costs, which are the costs covered by Medicare, she said. Meanwhile, the proportion of national income spent on pharmaceutical drugs has more than doubled since 1980, and rates for supplementary private insurance are increasing at more than double the rate of inflation.

The so called 'reforms' called for by Premier Klein and the rest of the neo-conservative elites are policy in service to right wing ideology and a blind hatred for the public sector among the free market fanatics of the right. The rich are used to getting everything first and best, a system based on the idea that no one should be able to buy their way to the front of the line offends them on a pathological level.

More than anything else the Third Way is about enriching the already rich on the backs of the rest of us.

If the easily verifiable facts and numbers supported the idea that privatizing healthcare would improve it, I'd support it. They show the exact opposite.

We can only hope that the Third Way died with Ralph Klein's political career - and keep an eye on whoever his successor is to make sure they don't try the same thing.

Monday, April 03, 2006

We're living in a science fiction world

Every once and a while we take a vertiginous lurch into the future. Something happens that reminds us that the world is changing faster than ever before.

Logically I knew that implantable cloned organs were coming sooner or later, probably sooner - but it fascinates me the things science fiction gets right - and the way it usually gets them wrong. Hundreds of science fiction writers wrote about man walking on the moon before it happened. None of them predicted it would be televised.

In 1968 Larry Niven wrote A Gift From Earth about a human colony plunged into revolution after the arrival of a pod containing organ cloning technology - which completely upends a society that has a justice system based on keeping the organ banks full of spare parts for the elites - much like China today.

In other words Niven has a future where human colonies in other star systems are only just discovering cloned organs. Today the human race still lives soley on planet Earth, but seven people are walking around today with genetically engineered bladders implanted in their bodies.

I still don't have my jet-pack - and I'm quite annoyed about that by the way - but I have most of human knowledge at my fingertips through the global computer network my personal computer is connected too. Most SF writers never saw computers becoming a fairly standard household appliance.

A single Blackberry has more computer power than NASA had when they first put man on the moon - on the other hand we haven't left low Earth orbit for decades, barely touching the edge of space. And as powerfull and omni-present as computers have become none has achieved self awareness as thousands of SF novels and movies predicted they would and very likely none ever will.

I wonder what assumptions today's science fiction make about the future will prove right, and at the same time wrong?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The joys of schadenfreude

So Ralph Klein dropped from 97% support at the last tory leadership review - to only 55% at last nights vote.

Although he theoretically only needed 50% + 1 most agree that 55% was a crippling blow. Klein claims he needs a few days to consider his options. In reality the leadership race has now begun in earnest.

Partly it was simply a rejection of a two year leadership race, partly it was a sense, still left over from the last election that Ralph has been running on auto-pilot - when he threw a book at the head of a teenage girl in the legislature that was more a glimpse of the old Ralph then an anomaly.

I suspect that rural Tories rejecting Klein's Third Way healthcare sell out plans were a bigger component of this vote upset than any pundit will admit. Rural Albertans already have a doctor shortage - plans that will give doctors even more incentive to decamp for the big cities were never going to sell any better outside of big cities than they were inside them.

Klein's agenda - including the Third Way Healthcare 'reforms' are now in doubt. We can only hope the plan is now as dead as Ralph's political career.

The Tories are looking more like the Socreds circa 1970 every day. Almost time for one of those seismic political shifts that Alberta is famous for...

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