Friday, July 17, 2009

The real solution to wait times

Private Medicine supporting outgoing CMA President Robert Ouellet deceives on wait times. British wait times that is:

The Canadian Medical Association will be presenting some new ideas on cost-effective health care operations at its annual meeting this fall.

Canada ranked 23rd in a study that compared it with 29 European countries in terms of health-care value for money spent.

Ouellet said what's needed in the long term is to make the kind of changes that have worked in Europe and elsewhere.

Six years ago, England had the same lengthy wait times that many provinces are currently dealing with, but found a solution with a new financing model and incentives for hospitals to treat patients faster, he said.

Yes those policies contributed slightly, but the major single step that had the most effect on all but eliminating wait times in the UK was a major expansion of government funding on long term care creating thousands of new beds, and moving thousands of people out of long stays in hospitals.

And Ouellet knows this, he knows that it was a major expansion of public funding on the public system that fixed wait times in Britain, but is trying to slip in that contention that it was vague new 'financing models' or market friendly financial incentives unchallenged.

Sometimes, the solution really is throwing money at the problem.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pre-Vacation Linkblast July 16

Yeah I know I usually do these on Sundays but on Saturday I'm heading off on my annual rest cure in the woods for the rest of July. Posting will range from intermittent to non-existent. Try to survive without me.

Tory MLA breaks with Caucus on Healthcare

Fort McMurray MLA Guy Boutilier has issued a scathing criticism of the unofficial spending freeze on Healthcare in Alberta over a postponed long term care facility in his city. He's even planning to attend a Friends of Medicare rally.

This a major public crack in the official line that Alberta is actually spending too much on healthcare.
"I personally believe, as I told (Health Minister) Ron Liepert, he made a wrong decision in postponing the long-term care facility in a community of 100,000," said Boutilier, who plans to attend a July 31 rally organized by Friends of Medicare and Public Interest Alberta to highlight the community's frustration about the issue.

In January 2008, as minister of international relations, Boutilier told Fort McMurray residents they would receive a$35-million, 48-bed long-term care facility after waiting more than 20 years. The city currently has 31 long-term care beds in the hospital that were meant to be a temporary solution.

A few months after the infrastructure announcement, Boutilier lost his cabinet post. Now he thinks Liepert is making a mistake by postponing construction during a provincial review of many such projects.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Code Monkey

Jonathan Coulton

All Refugees are Equal...

...But some are more equal than others.

For Mr. Kenney, it wouldn't be necessary to impose visa restrictions to stem the flow of asylum-seekers if false claimants knew before coming that their cases would be heard swiftly and they would be returned home immediately after a decision was made.

"This does underscore the need to reform our asylum system so that it ensures that real victims of persecution get swift relief and protection in Canada, and that economic migrants seeking to abuse our generosity are shown to the door quickly," he said.

Of course systematic economic discrimination against specific ethnic or religious groups is real persecution. But no Conservative or Liberal MP could ever concede that point. For the same reason that Canada is one of the last countries on Earth that hasn't signed on to the the U.N.'s declaration of indigenous rights.

NAFTA, a trade agreement that Canada is a signatory to, has caused massive economic dislocation in the lives of Mexican farmers with indigenous Mexican suffering some the worst of it. Economic persecution is still persecution.

The Roma of Czechoslovakia, crudely known as Gypsies, may not be facing the torch-wielding mobs that make up far too much of Roma history but they are unambiguously situated at the permanent bottom rung of Czechoslovakia's social and economic totem pole.

Today, six million out of the estimated 10 million European Roma live in Central and Eastern Europe.

Up to two million are to be found in Romania, whose established Roma slave markets horrified Western travellers until as late as the 19th Century.

Decades of communism and the recent admission of Eastern countries into the EU seem to have made little difference to their history of exclusion and poverty.

Most Roma families live in small shacks with no electricity or running water, and international institutions calculate that Roma poverty rates are up to 10 times higher than those of the majority population where they live, while their lifespan is 10 or 15 years lower.

I would argue that taken alone economic discrimination on this scale would have to be considered legitimate grounds to claim refugee status, economic persecution is still persecution, But its not the only kind of persecution Roma are subjected to.

At a shelter just outside Toronto, Zaneta Gananova lifted up her shirt to show why she fled the Czech Republic.

Gananova, a young mother of six, revealed two swastikas, purple scars that she says were carved into her body two months ago by a group of skinheads.

"It was very bad. I didn't want to go out," she said. "I was afraid for my children, and for my life. I thought they would kill me."

Marek Polak, 24, said he no longer worries when he heads outside to take a walk in his new home in Hamilton. When he was 17 and was out for a walk in Prague, he said, his life changed.

"And I turn around and I saw four skinheads, like around me," he said. "They started to say to me, 'Hey Gypsy, today you will die,'" Polak said, using a once-common term for a Rom.

Polak said the men threw him to the ground, then punched him and kicked him, all the while yelling racial slurs. He ended up in hospital for a week. His mother, Anna Polakova, decided to move her family to Canada two months ago.

"It was a very hard decision for us. We had our life in the Czech Republic," she said. "But when they beat my son, and the continued attacks in the years that followed, I knew we had to leave."
These are the people Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says aren't discriminated against in Chekoslovakia. That they are just 'economic migrants seeking to abuse our generosity'.

. . .

This seems to me to be an essential misunderstanding of the meaning of the word 'generosity'.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More on Darth Cheney's Death Squad

It's never a good idea to dismiss Sy Hersh, even when he says things like 'Dick Cheney ran a secret kill team out of his office and kept it secret from Congress.'

Various right wing meat puppets denigrated and mocked Hersh's claim - just like they did when he said American Forces in Vietnam had massacred a village called My Lai and just like when he revealed some of the torture going on in Guantanamo Bay.

You'd think they'd have learned to trust his grasp of the facts by now.
Reporting legend Seymour Hersh raised eyebrows back in March when he told an audience at the University of Minnesota that Dick Cheney ran a secret hit squad that he kept hidden from Congressional oversight.
"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on," Hersh said at the time. He added: "Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us."
"I said what I said, they can always say what they say," Hersh told The Daily Beast. "The last time they said the government doesn’t torture, this time it's the government doesn’t assassinate."
Some observers accused him of rumor-mongering and a top former military official threw cold water on the story, but with the recent news that the CIA allegedly kept Congress in the dark on a covert program, Hersh's words suddenly look more and more prescient. Yesterday, the New York Times reported the hidden program in question was a death squad authorized by Dick Cheney without Congressional approval—almost exactly what he described.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cheney's Secrets

First there were the stories about the JSOC wetwork team reporting directly to the Vice President - now there's evidence that Cheney was running his own intelligence task force out of his office with the CIA and lying about it to congress.
The head of the CIA has accused former US Vice-President Dick Cheney of concealing an intelligence programme from Congress, a top US senator says.
The existence of the programme, set up after 9/11, was hidden for eight years and its precise nature remains unclear.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein confirmed that CIA chief Leon Panetta told Congressional committees he had abandoned the project on hearing of it.
He said that Mr Cheney was behind the secrecy, Sen Feinstein said.
There has been no comment from Mr Cheney.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Yoshida Brothers
You may remember snatches of this from the Nintendo Wii commercials

Alberta seeks to gag health workers ahead of coming wave of irresponsible cutbacks.

Premier Stelmach swears not to raise taxes and Conservative ministers gibber happily about non-existent savings in the millions, to be found in Alberta's already severely underfunded health system. Alberta's Tories are about to deliberately sabotage healthcare in this province rather than even consider funding the system through responsible revenue collection.

And sabotage is easier if the people on the front lines aren't allowed to report it.

CALGARY - Doctors, nurses and opposition parties are voicing concern with Alberta Health Services' new employee code of conduct, arguing the superboard is enforcing unreasonable protocols and muzzling employees from speaking out.

The recently adopted employee standards threaten health-care professionals with termination if they speak publicly about perceived mismanagement within the agency at a time when spending cuts could be on the horizon, critics say.

The code warns employees they must refer all media inquiries about Alberta Health Services' practices and operations to the agency's communications department. It also reminds health professionals to "exercise caution at all times and to choose your words carefully when engaging in any form of public speaking."

Failure to abide by the rules, or engaging in conduct that "adversely affects the interests of Alberta Health Services," could result in disciplinary action or termination, according to the guidelines.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mourning Cycles

In Shia Islam a traditional mourning cycle of the 3rd, 7th and 40th day after a death is the pattern behind the latest surge of protest in Iran, as martyrs to freedom like Neda are remembered in the streets. In 1978 and 1979 similar escalating mourning cycles produced escalating protests which led to crackdowns and deaths causing more cycles of martyrdom.

The cycle became a multiplying fractal effect ultimately contributing to the fall of the Shah.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Chuckwagon horse slaughter continues

It's never a matter of if any horses will die during the Stampede Chuckwagon races. The only question, year in and year out is how many. Twenty-two in the last decade.


Twenty-two beautiful majestic animals dead to cater to the juvenile ego of idiots showing off how big their balls are.

One so far this year. Driven by macho idiots to terrified, exhausted death by heart attack.

A horse has died of a heart attack after completing a race at the Calgary Stampede.

Stampede officials said the horse died on Sunday night after the first heat of the GMC Rangeland Derby chuckwagon race, an event where teams of horses pull wagons around a dirt track.

The animal was returning to the barn when it collapsed.

How many more before this murderous idiocy is finally over?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Saskatchewan Party seeks to legalize bigotry

The Saskatchewan Party government is proposing legislation that would allow marriage commissioners to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
In a news release Friday, the provincial government said the proposed law would ensure there are other marriage commissioners available to fill in if someone refused to perform the service because it violated his or her religious beliefs.
Provincial Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan said he'll ask the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for an opinion on whether the proposed legislation would conform with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The previous NDP government told marriage commissioners that they had to marry same-sex couples, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.


Provincial Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan said he'll ask the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for an opinion on whether the proposed legislation would conform with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Alberta went through the same mind numbingly moronic debate a few years ago. I'll make essentially the same points I made then:

  • Marriage Commissioner is a government licensed position relating to civil marriage not religious ceremonies. Churches still have the right, which nobody contests, to refuse to perform religious marriage ceremonies that go against their beliefs.

  • There are people out there who believe interracial marriage is an affront against their own idiosyncratic interpretation of the will of God. The arguments against gay marriage are an exact replay of the arguments against striking down miscegenation laws that made interracial marriages illegal in some parts of North America up until only a few decades ago. Do proponents of this law also believe government licensed civil marriage commissioners should be allowed to refuse to marry two people of different races or faiths if the commissioners disagree with such unions?

  • As Civil Marriage Commissioner is a government licensed position I can save the government of Saskatchewan some time and legal bills. Yes, such a law would unambiguously violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, inevitably lead to divisive, expensive court cases which would result in an inevitable loss for the government.

  • Do the citizens of Saskatchewan approve of their government spending at a minimum hundreds of thousands of dollars on a quixotic legal defense of a bigoted, hateful law purely to cater to the most intolerant elements of their base? Is this even an issue that has a crying need to be opened again? Do the leaders of the Saskatchewan Party really want to open the Tom Lukiwski can of worms again for example? Don't doubt that it will.

  • Why are we still wasting time on this hateful stupid horse shit?

US Senator supports military coup

In Honduras at least, although don't be too sure he wouldn't relish the same at home.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has come out in support of the military coup in Honduras, chastising President Obama in a statement for what he calls "a slap in the face to the people" of that country.

From his statement:

"The people of Honduras have struggled too long to have their hard-won democracy stolen from them by a Chavez-style dictator. The Honduran Congress, the Honduran Supreme Court, and the Honduran military have acted in accordance to the Honduran constitution and the rule of law. [...]

"I am hopeful that as President Obama grows in office, he will eventually turn away from despots like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, and Zelaya, and give the United States' full-throated support to the people of any country who are fighting for the same values we cherish and defend in America. The people fighting for freedom around the world, in Iran and Honduras, should never have to wonder which side America will choose between freedom and tyranny.

"President Obama's call for the reinstatement of Zelaya is a slap in the face to the people of Honduras. And the resolution written by the Organization of American States tramples over the hopes and dreams of a free and democratic people.

"The rule of law is working in Honduras. President Obama should not undermine the democratic institutions that guarantee freedom by forcing an illegitimate President back into power.

The rule of law DeMint is referring to? This is what it looks like:
On Sunday morning, a battalion of soldiers rammed their way into the Presidential Palace in Honduras. They surrounded the bed where the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was sleeping, and jabbed their machine guns to his chest. They ordered him to get up and marched him onto a military plane. They dumped him in his pyjamas on a landing strip in Costa Rica and told him never to return to the country that freely chose him as their head of state.

Back home, the generals locked down the phone networks, the internet, and international TV channels, and announced their people were in charge now. Only sweet, empty music plays on the radio. Government ministers have been arrested and beaten. If you leave your home after 9pm, the population have been told, you risk being shot. Tanks and tear-gas are ranged against the protesters who have thronged onto the streets.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Defining the terms of the debate

Dr Stephen Murgatroyd's Troy Media column of July 2nd Reinventing government in Alberta featured this quote:
" 1)Lay out the next 25 to 50 years of expenditure on a no-change basis, pegging oil prices at current prices and gas drilling at current prices and show Albertans what would happen. For example, if revenues remain roughly on a par with the current projections but health care continues to increase at 13% annually, at what stage does Alberta become unable to pay for health care?

2) Rethink how we manage and fund health, schools (K-12) and care for the elderly. These three items are large expenditures, with the care for the elderly a growing issue for all developed societies. No one is ever happy talking about changes to these three services, but change is inevitable. It is time to engage in a serious discussion about user pay for these services – health care premiums, a higher level of educational taxes and a means tested provision for elder care."
A 13% annual increase sounds like a terrifying thing that might even justify such Dickensian policies as Murgatroyd suggests, but like most of those using this number, or others like it, Dr Murgatroyd inexplicably omits just what exactly healthcare is increasing at 13% of annually. It's not new hospital beds and basic healthcare infrastructure, this government has been far more enthusiastic about blowing up hospitals than constructing new ones, or opening them when they are constructed. It's not percentage of GDP, of the economy as a whole, that number the simplest, most useful measurement of any public expenditure has been almost completely static for years. Lets repeat that: Healthcare expenditure as a percentage of provincial GDP has not increased significantly in literally decades, in fact it's down since the early 90's.

No the 13% Murgatroyed seems to be referring to, is the percentage of the provincial budget devoted to healthcare. A number that is explicitly political, that is dependent on the government in power's ideological approach to revenue collection and the public sector, a number easily distorted by past political decisions by the government in charge. For example the Alberta healthcare system is still recovering from the irresponsible budget cuts of the 90's and that recovery unsurprisingly, took the form of spending increases. Repairing extensive vandalism is usually expensive.

It should be clearly understood by all, that the argument against a sufficiently funded public health system has absolutely nothing to do with fiscal responsibility or real sustainability and never has. It is, and always has been an explicitly ideological argument based on a visceral objection to the public sector in any form. And the argument that increasing costs should be off-loaded onto those least able to pay and most likely to suffer from the policies suggested by Dr Murgatroyd among others, is also purely an ideological prescription.

All that is happening is that the public system supported and cherished by the majority of Albertans is now bumping against the leading edge of the Conservative fetish with diminishing the public sector, transferring public wealth to private hands and reducing the contribution of upper income Albertans to the social contract. These endless entirely artificial healthcare funding 'crisis situations' are as predictable as the tides. They will continue either until the government manufactures sufficient consent for throwing the health care of Albertans into the waiting hands of the insurance industry or until the public says no and makes it stick.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Dead Last in the G8 and fighting to preserve the status quo

Canada's role in the great public policy challenge of our era? Fighting against efforts to protect our fragile eco-system on behalf of big oil.

London Canada and Japan were blocking a possible deal on climate change at the Copenhagen summit, Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Adviser, warned yesterday.

Speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists, Sir David said that the two countries had stepped into the breach left by the Bush Administration, which had strongly resisted cutting CO2 emissions.

“Copenhagen is faltering at the moment,” said Sir David. “The Americans are now fully engaged. But several countries are blocking the process.”

Governments previously were able to hide behind the US’s intransigence on climate change, he said, but the pro-climate policies being launched by the Obama administration means this is no longer possible. “The time has come for people to reveal their cards,” he told delegates.

Gordon Brown has said he will be pushing for an agreement at Copenhagen in December which pegs global warming to 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, a widely agreed target among climate scientists. He has committed to cut emissions in the UK by 80 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

Canada’s position is widely believed to be driven by its powerful industry lobby, which is keen to exploit oil reserves in the country’s tar sands. “These people are very outspoken, aggressive lobbyists,” said Dr Robert Falkner, a specialist in international relations at the London School of Economics. “They are gung-ho about rising oil prices and want to exploit that.”

The low profile of science in the Canadian and Japanese governments — both countries have recently scrapped the role of chief scientist — is also contributing to their stances, according to Sir David.

There's a role on the public stage to be proud of: stepping up to the plate to represent the Bush approach now that he's gone.

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