Thursday, April 14, 2005

Here we go again

I have not been too explicit about the title of the blog. But there are now good reasons to explain it a little - as I knew there would be.
Canada is in the midst of a major scandal concerning the conduct of the government of the last few years, and the current government is trying to dissociate itself, quite unsuccessfully, it appears, from responsibility, though it is the same party in power, if a slightly different faction.
Yesterday, amidst some serious questions about how close the scandal was to the current government, yet another report was issued suggesting that perhaps Canada does not have a perfect medicare system, and that experimenting with private provisioning (we have a single-payer system - the provincial government, subsidized by the federal government, for provincially covered services) might improve efficiency.
The shrieking started immediately. We do not want "American-style" healthcare!! Now what is hilarious about this is that what was really being suggested was more like European-style healthcare. In most European countries there are parallel private and public insurance systems, and a variety of private and public provisioning, and government insurance is the payer of last resort. I will undoubtedly return later to this in this blog, but it is almost impossible to find reported publicly here in Canada the simple fact that our system is the odd one in the world (jokes compare it to Cuba and North Korea - and one need only watch the Oscar-winning The Barbarian Invasions, which you should, to half-believe this).
Another under-reported fact is that we have a profoundly effective medical subsytem in the country; I have never seen a single article in our media about waiting lists, or failures in this subsystem. No movies have highlighted its awfulness. It is entirely privatized, and there are insurers helping people even out the random aspects of medical bad luck. I encountered it recently - my loved one was unwell, and I had an appointment that day for examination (and experience suggests that even without a family doctor, I could have found one that day or the next). Lab results were available the next day, and the diagnosis a little rough. as home care would be needed. This was arranged the same day. Since then the patient has improved, though we know he has a serious kidney problem and are just trying to keep him well, but he seems to be enjoying life, and really looking forward to this summer.
Of course the loved one is my cat.
Why can't we find a way to treat humans so well?
Because that would make us seem like those Americans! What a silly little country!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

All in the Family

If Instapundit can link to a column by my sister, so can I.

Rocket Debris

A forthcoming Titan IV launch over the North Sea has been in the news in Canada a lot lately, as energy companies with rigs in the Hibernia oilfields planning to close down some days before the launch and remove their workers. I had wondered as I listened whether this was the first launch on the trajectory in question. Yahoo News appears to have an answer today

"Meanwhile, operators of the Hibernia project say they'll be forced to shut it down because there's a remote possibility an 11-tonne booster engine jettisoned from the main rocket could fall within 25 kilometres of the oil platform, which sits on the ocean floor.

But such a move seems odd because it's not the first time rockets have been fired over the East Coast oilfields, says Marco Caceres, a senior space analyst for The Teal Group, a U.S. aerospace and defence consulting firm.


Last year alone, two of 13 satellites launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., would have flown north over the area in the North Atlantic, he said."

So what has changed? This has been a problem for years, it seems. I do not recall hearing of it before.

Could it have seomthing to do with the Ballistic Missile Defence program?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Saturday on Sunday

We have a federal-government-funded broadcasting network in Canada - the CBC - funding is through general revenues (not licence fees - I would hate it be per-TV-and-radio in the house and car). Now I don't like this sort of thing - it seems to me it is largely an arrangement in place to assure the self-appointed cultural elite a special level of access to the communications in the country at the expense of the general tax-paying public, who are far less effective at lobbying for government funding. We do also have a large sector more or less in the private sector (subject to all sorts of silly controls) so things are not so bad here.
I suspect nonetheless that some of the programming the CBC provides appeals to me more than to the general public so I think I can view the arrangement as a subsidy to me. (I still do not like it.) One piece of that programming I often listen to on a Sunday morning is a three-hour news show on one of the radio networks. It is a mix of news features and interviews, which vary from inane to insightful. At the worst one learns what the Canadian chattering classes are on about. The interviews can be very annoying, as the host tends to interrupt, ramble on about himself, and either block the interviewee from participating, or simply feed what seem to me softball questions to some partisan interviewee. Today's show finished with one of the latter interviews, about Leo Strauss. But that is not what this is about.
A couple of times in the last few weeks, there has been a substitute host, Robert Harris, who normally hosts an extremely eclectic and interesting show on music - I always feel I learn something from it. And who would have known it - he is a wonderfully effective interviewer, and a pleasure to listen to in the role.
And now I am at the point. A feature today was Robert Harris interviewing Ian McEwan about his novel 'Saturday'. It took me five minutes upon getting home to place my order. It is a delight to listen to two very reflective and intelligent people discussing difficult issues. If you are lucky you may be able to get audio of the interview from the program's web site in a week or two.
So the interview confirmed something that had been in the back of my mind, and I stole the title for this entry from someone whose blog I read daily - go read his entry on the book, which should make you even more eager to read it.
Norm has a lot to teach you as well - about music, politics, how to think.
We are a chatty species and it is wonderful to be able to find so many other people with whom to carry on this enormous worldwide chat.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Feline utility functions, memory

Another lovely day, and the cat wanted out. This was a complex negotiation Wednesday (see blog entry).
The charade required earlier vanished - immediate submission to the harness, and out!
What changed? Does he remember the pointlessness of his bargaining? Does he not care so much about the costs of his limited freedom?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Polley, Nails, Bastiat

This is no new thing but today's Toronto Star delivered yet another round of depressing perspectives.
Note the picture in which the nail manufacturing worker is complaining that local stores are selling only foreign nails, and hardly any nails manufactured in Canada. (apologies if this link does not work as it did not just now for me - in any case it was a very sympathetic article reporting how numerous Canadian filmmakers and actors were troubled that most theatres in Toronto were playing mostly, almost entirely, foreign, i.e. pretty much US, films - this link works today) - OK it is not nails. But if it were why would there be a difference? Would it be a scandal? Would we agree with those who felt the same about our exports overseas?
It is not as if I do not try to watch Canadian movies. It is rarely a satisfying experience (the exceptions being almost all Quebec films).
What I find odd is that articles like this Star article elevate to some sort of serious cause sheer special interest pleading for other people's money to be channeled to the pleaders, regardless of the clearly expressed wishes of the public, when they surely would not make the same case for nail manufacturing. Hmmm, there is a sorry trend now in the textile industry so maybe, horrifyingly, I might be wrong about how silly the world can be.
I yearn for the clarity of Bastiat. (For Star readers and writers, let me warn you that Bastiat could be sarcastic.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

How special we humans are

I have a cat

The weather has become reasonable again and it is time for us to negotiate going out (on a harness). Over several hours now the cat has come down, sniffed at the back door, and then, as I reached for the harness, run back upstairs. Now after several repetitions of this charade, I have attached the harness and he is out exploring his universe.

We have spent this time establishing the price, and now he has agreed to pay. The more I live, the less I see the difference between these creatures and us humans.