Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

25 July 2009

The Healthcare "Debate"?

Let me declare my biases:
  • I'm Canadian

  • I was born to parents whose own parents didn't have "socialized health care" and who regarded it as one of the finest achievements of civilization

  • The Canadian health care system helped, at the very least, to save my life on at least one occasion.

  • So I'm mad when I see the system so mischaracterized by the forces who want to continue screwing US citizens out of their money. Because that's what private-for-profit health "care" does: It rations health care. The very thing it accuses "government-run" or "bureaucratic" or "socialized" health care of.

    Because economics is all about scarcity. The scarcer something is, the higher a premiuim it may command on the open market. Healthy people just aren't good "health consumers."

    It is reckoned that the US pirate-for-profit system costs several billion dollars in lost productivity each year, not counting the $46 bn in direct costs. Yet there are outfits out there who are frantically trying to avoid the Obama health care debate by going to their "consumers" and trying to defend their (the consumers') right to go bankrupt for cancer treatment, their right to pay premiums and have coverage denied anyway, and their right to go entirely without any form of health care. And, purely co-incidentally I'm sure, these organizations end up defending their right to profit off the sick and healthy alike, through fear.

    The US system simply doesn't make sense in a civilized world. Of course, a civilized world would have to be one in which profit might occasionally have to take a back seat to charity, mercy, forbearance. Which doesn't suit insurance companies at all. After all, it takes an especially twisty kind of thinking to take the wrong end of a bet on whether or not you will die, and still make money on the deal.

    The Calgary Herald has today an excellent, simple editorial outlining the fractured thinking going on behind the drive to preserve health as something people who produce nothing and contribute nothing good to the economy should continue making a profit on (I'm speaking specifically of HMOs. Insurance itself is useful, and a vital financial instrument that has to be in place for any kind of market-based economy to thrive).

    Oh, and to any US Avid Fans: If you hear anything from a Doctor Brian Day, ignore it. He's a rotten lousy shill for the health insurance industry. Because up here in "Marxist" Canada, where "rationed" healthcare dictates who gets what, we allow people to see private quacks out of their own pockets if they like. And we allow said quacks to set up clinics so that they can go about the business of gouging money out of the healthy.

    In Canada, doctors are in private practice. But the patient is shielded from predation by drug companies, "health management" companies, and doctors who're so terrified of liability that they send you for unnecessary tests.

    The US can't do it like Canada, exactly. There are too many entrenched interests, too long a history, and possibly too decentralized a government (Although we've steadily been devolving responsibility to the provinces--and it's been a bit of a disaster).

    Now, no system will ever cover everything (there's that scarcity again). But it seems to me that while government provided systems usually have to justify refusing care, all an insurance company has to say is "Sorry--we don't cover that." It's on record: Companies have routinely sent "deny-first" letters to clients hoping they'll simply give up and go away.

    But the US has a chance to step out and show the world. Perhaps a blended private-public system like many of the Scandanavian countries would do it?

    Like the old commercials say: "Two flavour great--No debate!"

    In any case, if they really want an easy way to jump-start the economy, the first thing to do is to get everyone some form of basic health coverage.

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    23 July 2009

    Like Shooting Gefilte Fish

    From one of those rags I don't normally read comes this gem:
    Three city mayors, two state politicians and five rabbis were among 44 people arrested across New Jersey today when federal agents cracked an alleged Sopranos-style crime ring accused of bribery, money laundering and trafficking body parts and counterfeit handbags.
    I just knew I shouldn't have bought that handbag made of human skin, but it was so smooth and silky ... And oy such a deal!

    From the CBC:
    Much stricter controls are needed over the use of Taser stun guns by police in B.C., former judge Thomas Braidwood says in the first phase of findings from his inquiry into stun guns.
    I would just like to say to Justice Braidwood: Bravo. And also WELL DUH

    On CTV we learn that Canadian versions of internationally branded foods tend to be higher, sometimes much higher, in salt:
    A serving of Burger King onion rings has 1,500 milligrams of sodium per serving -- more than 100 per cent of the daily recommended intake. A serving of BK onion rings in the UK has just 500 mg -- even though the serving size in the UK is about 30 per cent larger.
    [...]
    Canada, meanwhile, has some of the highest levels of sodium in our packaged and chain restaurant foods, which might explain why the country has such high rates of high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.
    We're just trying to convince the cannibals to leave us alone. They hate salty food too.

    There's a massive, beautiful thunder-and-lightning storm outside my window right now. The noise rumbles through the ground like an earthquake. My lights are flickering as the lightning flashes. I hope the rain does the firefighters some good. The big fire in Fintry got worse yesterday.

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    20 July 2009

    It's Been Quiet

    Parliament's out of session so there's not much to rant and rave about, really. Bad copyright legislation coming down the pipe, perhaps a fall election (that'd be nice, although a July election would be nicer).

    So I've been working on a few things around the house, trying to make a mint at poker, and playing Desktop Tower Defence excessively. I finally broke 9,000 points today. I did it once some months ago, and have been trying to repeat the acheivement.

    So I feel good. Hope you do too.

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    15 July 2009

    While Squandering a Perfectly Good Hour

    I was taking a break from my usual hectic schedule (Up at 6:30, make coffee for Mme Metro, retire to computer for rousing game of poker, crack first beer of day ... Just kidding--Honest!).

    But I did take a break from some writing work I'm doing to go play a quick game of Desktop Tower Defence. And this is what I saw:


    And my first thought, I must confess, was:
    "If I looked like that to start with, why the hell would I want a cartoon made of me?"

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    Ripping the Lid Off From Inside the Can

    Understandably, Israel and many of the nations which stand in solidarity with her, such as Canada, have rejected outright accusations of using tactics which violate the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions.

    Most of the time Israel has found it easier, and surely more convenient, to claim that such charges are propaganda, even in the face of photographic evidence and multiple sources of testimony.

    The UN has long recorded a pattern of Israeli Defence Forces targetting its facilities, as well as civillian facilities whose co-ordinates it sends to the IDF for specifically the opposite purpose. Accidents, the IDF says. Although it's an odd accident that hits the same small observation post multiple times while the UN observers inside are on the phone to the IDF commanders.

    But now the reports are coming from a source too close to home to ignore: Israeli veterans.

    From the BBC:
    "A Palestinian neighbour is brought in," he says. "It was procedure. The soldier places his gun barrel on the civilian's shoulder."

    If true, that was a clear breach of the international laws of war - which say soldiers have a duty of care to non-combatants - and of Israeli law.
    [. . .]
    The common thread in the almost 30 testimonies collected by Breaking the Silence is that orders were given to prevent Israeli casualties, whatever the cost in Palestinian lives.
    The IDF says it's investigating the claims. I'd be surprised if they don't find anything. But I wouldn't be surprised if they don't find anything.

    As previous posts about Israel have tended to attract the ire of some people, let me scotch the first arguments here and now: I believe that the state of Israel has a right to exist, and a right to defend itself. I understand that they're fighting a long and difficult war with an enemy who willingly targets civillians. But making the enemy's tactics your own isn't going to win you hearts and minds. There is a strong argument for trying to exemplify your own declared morality in wartime.

    As well, the outright and vehment denials that we're used to seeing from Israel and her supporters do no-one any credit. We all know $#17 happens in wartime. But in the IDF it happens, so it seems, to an extent difficult to believe. It's time for an honest and open admission, and a transparent investigation. Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

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    14 July 2009

    Speaking of Politics ... Which of Course I Never Do ...

    Today is Bastille Day!
    Today in 1789 a group of concerned citizens stormed HM prison le Bastille Saint-Antoine. In honour of which I am having a beer.

    The lesson of the Bastille is threefold:
    1) Sic Semper Tyrannis
    The Bastille's notoriety was due to secrecy rather than based in fact. At the time of its storming, the garrison was mostly pensioned veterans, backed by 30 or so Grenadiers, and the prisoner count was seven.

    However, it remained a symbol of the ruling classes, and following the storming it was appropriated as a symbol by the ruling revolutionaries, leading to lesson #2.

    2) Revolutions Poison History (so does everything else)
    The goal of storming the Bastille had nothing to do with releasing the prisoners, until it occured to someone what a fine political gesture it might make. Instead, the concerned citizens, pragmatic pre-Marxists that they were, were attempting to apply Marx' principles a priori to the supplies of weaponry, shot, and powder inside.

    In the aftermath, the prison's governor and several other of the prison staff were murdered, despite surrendering under a truce flag, and their heads cut off and paraded on pikes.

    3) Political Currents Are Profitably Navigable
    After the Revolution, a well-connected impresario named Palloy contracted to demolish the building. As part of the demolition, he sold the rubble to souvenir hunters.

    Here endeth the lessons.

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    More Conservative Economic Genius

    Not content with having deliberately and with malicious, venial, stupidity aforethought spiked the Canadian nuclear medicine industry, increased wait times four-fold or so, and bankrupted the country unto at least 2014, my Conservative government decided to announce yet another delightful "What-the-₤µ©λ-are-you-playing-at-you-@$$#013s?" moment this week.

    Because once you've done such a wonderful number on the economy already, why not top the $#17 sundae with a rancid cherry and kneecap the tourist industry?

    Tourism is a huge part of Canada's economy. People like to come and see things like pristine lakes, airy mountains, and green trees, often because many of these people come from places where such are in short supply, often due to a history of short-sighted, near-criminal, cripplingly stupid and often conservative governments; Like ours.

    So during a recession, when the industry has already taken a number of kicks to the collective crotch (new US passport requirements, "staycations", et al.), the smart thing to do is:

    A) Demote a minister who funded a gay pride parade for $400K (in complete accordance with her mandate and economic sense) which contributes million$ to the Greater Toronto Area.

    B) Introduce new, more stringent travel requirements such as, oh I dunno, how 'bout a visa requirment for Czechs and Mexicans? Preferably without prior notice, so that no-one can prepare for the new rules.

    If you're an idiot, and a Conservative Party Minister (but I repeat myself), you do both.

    The article says that Mexico was the number-one refugee claimant nation. But if Mr. Harper hadn't chosen to allow staffing levels to fall through attrition, or at least had hired replacement workers on a one-for-one basis, at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the backlog wouldn't have been a problem.

    Besides, the Cons ₤µ©λed over ALL immigrants a year or two back by rewriting the rules so that if your claim simply doesn't make it off the pile, you have to go to the foot of the queue and start again.

    (Unless you're a doctor. Then we'll poach you from some third-world hellhole that desperately needs you, and put you to work in the grossly understaffed world of public transportation at minimum wage, but hey--You'll be living in the greatest ... Well, the secon- ... Um ... Hang on a mo' ... the, ah yes, seventeeth greatest country in the world!)

    The changes also made it possible to jump the queue. Whatever the faults of the old system, it was at least fair. But of course "fairness" is one of those words the Conservative party has to grab a dictionary on hearing, along with "compassion" and "empathy".

    There is really nothing more to say than "When the hell are you going to pull the ₤µ©λing trigger Mr. Ignatieff? Would tomorrow work for you? 'Cos I'm busy today, but I could spare the time to vote these turkeys off while I wait for my local hospital to scrounge up some isotopes so I can rejoin the wait list for a test or two.

    We are living under the single stupidest, single worst, uniquely damaging government of Canada in the history of the country. Only Mulroney could ever have claimed to have ₤µ©λed us over more and worse. And he was a Conservative too.

    Co-incidence? I think not.

    I hate these clowns and their bankrupt pathalogy of an ideology more every day. I hope Harper ends his days in a refrigerator box. Or possibly as a 230-lb Native inmate's prison bitch.

    Is there one thing, a single thing, ANYthing, they've managed to do right?

    Note for Conservative Party members and other humour-challenged persons. I don't REALLY want Harper to end his days in an appliance box, nor as a big-ass prison inmate's girlfriend (unless he wants to be--Prison can apparently do that to some guys, and I think there's a good chance he and Muldoon might end up there). A simple slow fade into the ignominy he deserves and the designation of "Worst. PM. Thus. Far" will suffice (I'd say "Worst. PM. Evar", but the unfortunate possibility that another Conservative government might get in before he dies still exists, however remote).

    This is what Liberals and other thinking types call "hyperbole". Do feel free to look it up, won't you?

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    12 July 2009

    Life Update: The Office

    No, I haven't found work yet. Not entirely for lack of trying, although perhaps for lackadaisical trying. I am definitely busy though: Thus far this summer I'm:

    Working on a piece for a local magazine
    It pays, quite frankly, crap. But the important word in that sentence is the second one.

    Hosting, Hosting, Hosting
    Last night, a party complete with steel drums. Prior to that, four teen/pre-teen girls and their den mother. Prior to that, unfortunately, Raincoaster.

    Trying to Plan a Summer Holiday of Some Description
    Last year, due to piss-poor communications, Mme and I failed to do any camping. This year, my time comittments are all over the map. Thus far it appears that the second week in August is the soonest we'll manage it.

    Building Mme Metro's Office
    Mme and I have been sharing an office. Unfortunately we're both pack rats in a small space. The result is that we're getting in each others' way, and on each others' nerves, not to mention paying huge interest on bills we lose in the piles of paper which are slowly turning into peat. So I'm converting one room of the house into her office. This has led to some short, hard lessons in:
    1) Plumbing
    2) Electrical wiring
    2a) Electrical workplace safety
    3) Drywall hanging
    4) Insulation
    5) Furnace ducting

    Hopefully nothing I've done thus far will require fixing anytime soon, because this time next month it'll all be behind walls.

    Unfortunately, fixing one room in a house is like polishing one spot on a car--it tends to highlight how dingy the rest of it is. In a way, it's a blessing. The required recarpeting and painting once we've packed Raincoaster home again (Isn't it nice that Air Canada is allowing pets in the cabin nowadays?) won't seem as arduous.

    On top of this, at least two appliances have decided to have little hissy fits--Water all over the floor from the washer, once, may be a blip. Water all over the floor from the washer, several times, accompanied by enough lint to choke a yak, is probably more significant. And water from under the fridge is just plain bad and wrong.

    In the meantime I'm trying to put out a couple of what I think will be pretty hot fiction stories, fix one of my Three-Day Novel contest works up, and try to hit the beach at least once!

    So as you can see, it's an eventful summer chez Metro. But as I've said elsewhere on this blog, I'd generally rather be busy than bored.

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    God Hates School Kids

    It's the comments that get to me. Under this article on a bus rollover that trapped 33 kids inside the bus and injured four people including the driver we find the following rich, albeit gramatically painful, vein of pure asinine:
    A higher power, was watching over these kids and the bus driver. Those who say that He does not exist, have just been proven wrong.
    Where to begin.

    Well first off, how about asking why that lousy higher power didn't miraculously lift the bus back onto its wheels? Why didn't said higher power prevent ALL the injuries? Why didn't this higher power decide to avoid the trauma and suffering of all involved and simply let the bus have an uneventful journey home, for the loving, living, lugubrious liver of Lucifer?

    Remember: With great power comes great responsibility. With a "higher power" must come higher responsibility. What do you think comes with ultimate power?

    Spider-man had it right. And I'd sooner count on Spider-man to save a bunch of kids trapped in a public transportation crisis. At least we've got HIM on video:



    If there were a god, and he was the Ultimate Power, then only he can take responsibility for all that's stupid, wrong, ugly and just generally bad. So the commentor seems to be arguing that his or her "higher power" allowed a preventible accident to happen just for kicks.

    Nice one, God and commentor both. Are there any more like you at home?

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    10 July 2009

    A Pattern Emerges

    Stephen Harper is not, in the words of Don Corleone, "A man of respect." He fires experts rather than acknowledge their competence, muzzles his own ministers, takes the cheapest of cheap shots, fires off attack ads to "save Canadians" from the threat of another election even when a)no threat of an election exists and b) it's hardly a threat to anyone but him. He's known to be contemptuous of others' ideas and opinions, and only by being close as an oyster has he thus far avoided looking like the nasty, unsympathetic, stringy-souled wretch he is.

    In recent weeks, two incidents have occurred which throw a bit of light on the character of the hapless and uncomfortable man currently holding the national rudder.

    First was Stephen Harper's crackergate. Catholics were scandalized to observe Mister Harper, at a state funeral for former Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc, caught on video apparently taking a communion wafer (about 0:30) and failing to consume it.



    Now this wouldn't be a problem if Harper was not himself an evangelical Protestant Christian, who should reasonably be expected to understand about sacred cows. But moreover, he's the Prime Minister of a country that still divides fairly sharply along the Catholic/Protestant divide.

    Harper's spokesperson complicated matters by absolutely insisting that his boss swallowed the cracker. Which certainly doesn't appear to happen in the few seconds during which Harper is obscured by the priest.

    As an atheist, and one who expressed some concern over a prior incident, I'm of two minds here:

    First: It's a cracker, basically. The priest raising the alarm on this one probably isn't very busy otherwise.

    Second, however: This guy's the PM. He's supposed to know better--In fact I'd bet he can hardly have avoided knowing better. It seems disrespectful at a very fundamental level. He could have waved off the priest. I sometimes attend church with my family and never take communion.

    Perhaps he thought that slipping it into his pocket was better than being seen by the nation's Catholics refusing to accept it?

    But my belief is that it's just part of his disrespect for anyone who isn't him.

    Last April, Harper made my country a laughing stock by turning up late for photos at a conference. In fact the first picture at the last G13 (the G8 plus the G5) meeting didn't include him at all.

    He repeated the stunt last week, after just about everyone at the G8 meeting criticized him for also being absent on climate change. Canada, under the "leadership" of the Harper Tories, has shamefully neglected, avoided, and ducked its environmental responsibilities.

    It's all of a piece: There are the bold and barefaced lies about our environmental policies being sufficient (Harper's plan includes no penalties for excess pollution, resists any scheme to actually, you know, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and is allegedly supposed to produce results starting in 2050--which politically speaking is as close to "never" as dammit).

    There's the consistent lack of consideration and respect for other world leaders--Let me rephrase that: "for world leaders".

    And the apparent disrespect for Catholic traditions. If you don't share that particular superstition it is surely harmless and innocuous to not take the wafer.

    Harper, in terms of establishing meaningful human, international, and intergovernmental relationships, is a washout. Why? Because, it seems, he just doesn't respect anyone who isn't him. Of course, I could simply have called him a Conservative. In Canada these days it seems that that's the shorthand.

    Addendum:
    I have noticed that where Webster Cook's transgression, and PZ Myers' deliberate desecration of the Host produced death threats and howls of outrage at the "hate crime", particularly from those on the Harperite side of the ideological chasm, the PM's absention of a Host appears to have drawn much milder criticism. I'd like to believe that it's because we're Canadian, and we recognize that, in itself, this is a nothing incident.

    As part of Harper's pattern of disrespect, it seems to be more significant.

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    07 July 2009

    Does that Budget Report Come With Assless Chaps?

    Conservatives are well known for a sort of voyeuristic prurience when it comes to sex. Now it turns out that this is their economic policy too:

    For example, it's well known that while decrying sex and all things sexually positive, the "family values" types tend to enjoy their lesiure time at adultery, borderline pederasty, prostitution, anonymous gay encounters, and similar purportedly lib'rul pursuits. While especially true in the US, there is much such in Canada as well. Then they like to pretend it just ain't so.

    In Canada, with regard to the economy, the Conservative Government is behaving exactly like a 17-year-old boy with a purity ring* trying to talk his likewise be-ringed girlfriend into a little back-door action.

    Canada to Young Stephen Harper:
    "I don't know ... I mean, it looks like it might be uncomfortable."

    Young Stephen Harper to Canada:
    "Oh come on, honey ... It's really not that big. In fact it doesn't even exist."

    Canda:
    "You're wrong--I can see it, and it looks scary."

    SH: "What ... This ol' thing? Naw, it's just a little bump. You'll even enjoy it."

    C: "But I'm afraid it's going to hurt!"

    SH: "Well it might hurt, just a little, going in. But you'll enjoy it--it's a wonderful opportunity. Hell, in 2012 it'll be nothing but fantastic."

    C: "Look, we need a little lubrication at least."

    SH: "No we don't!"

    C: "Are you nuts? Look at the size of that thing. It's big enough to wreck General Motors!"

    SH: "Oh, okay, if you insist. Crybaby."

    C: "OW! Sweet Jesus! It's big, really big, and it hurts! You never told me it'd be this bad."

    SH: "Well, uh ... I didn't know. Yeah, that's it ..."

    Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer: "Um, Master Harper ... You knew. You clearly knew. But you've been lying about it for at least a year. Sorry, sir, it's my job to call bullshit on you."

    SH: Uh, okay. I lied then, but I wasn't really lying ... and if I was it was Ignatieff's fault, or the Previous Liberal Government's ...

    Und so weiter.



    Note:
    *A purity ring is a ring, often inscribed with the name "Jesus" which is supposed to indicate a comittment to chastity until marriage. In fact, at least fifty percent of such "pledged" virgins fall by the wayside, possibly not including the ones who get married out of desperation and divorce later, and particularly not including the ones who eat/blow each other and have anal sex to "preserve" their virginity. As Dan Savage says: "I've been prserving the $#17 out of my boyfriend's virginity for 14 years now!"

    In fact, as I see it, purity rings should be a reliable indicator of a teenage girl who's into Saddlebacking. Which is why Christian Conservatives love them, I guess.

    Update: I tried to find the video, but it's "Restricted for people in your region". One comedian commented on the topic of a 16-year-old who wanted to wear her virginity bling in school:
    "I say if she wants to wear a ring that signifies that she's not having sex--Let her get married like everyone else!"

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    02 July 2009

    Walk, Man, Walk On

    Thirty years ago next Christmas or so, my sister managed to get her grasping hooks on a Sony Walkman, courtesy of Father Christmas (known in these modern times as Non-Specified, Irreligious, Entirely Commercial Holiday Figure). NSIECHF had received word that the immature zygote considered it the ultimate in desiderata.

    It was the hottest thing since Betamax (O Avid Fan children, ask your Avid Fan parents what Betamax was). It was going to be bigger than the laser disc player (O Avid Fan children, ask your Avid Fan parents what a laser disc player was), while being smaller than a boombox (O Avid Fan children, ask your Avid Fan parents what a boombox was).

    To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Walkman, the BBC convinced a thirteen-year-old to use one for a week. His perceptions are astoundingly deep and sagacious, for such a young man, sprinkled with amusing generational misunderstandings:
    From a practical point of view, the Walkman is rather cumbersome, and it is certainly not pocket-sized, unless you have large pockets. It comes with a handy belt clip screwed on to the back, yet the weight of the unit is enough to haul down a low-slung pair of combats.
    What the young man fails to understand, of course, is that pockets in trousers of the day were nonfunctional, as the pants they were sewn to were so tight as to prohibit the insertion of anything thicker than a quarter for bus fare (O Avid Fan children, ask your Avid Fan parents what a quarter was, and when it could have last been used for bus fare). That same tightness guaranteed that they could not be pulled down by a three-pound Walkman, or in many cases by a 230-pound centre-forward (That, O Avid Fans young and old, is the real reason for the rise in teen pregnancies--Pants you can remove in a Volkswagen).

    However, the BBC seems to have locked on to one of the few thirteen-year-olds who can't cope with technology:
    It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made.
    Read about the rest of them here.

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