Archive for June 2007

SICKO

June 30, 2007

I walked out of Michael Moore’s latest docudrama feeling both elated and saddened.  Elated because of the triumph of the human spirit over the most dreadful situations.  Saddened because so often that spirit is crushed by outside forces – politicans, big business, lobby groups – that should know better.

        The central theme of this savage indictment of the American health system is that health is not the primary concern of the system.  Profit is. And these huge and rising profits are piled up on the backs of the sick and the dying.

         To my surprise, Sicko deals not with the nearly 50 million people in the U.S. who do not have health care.  It deals with the 250 million people who do have health care.  In this whole equation, the insurance companies are king.  For starters, the health conditions that these companies will NOT cover are as long as your arm and then some. 

         Secondly, the obscene profits made by these companies are not made by providing health care but by denying it.  Did you know that when an American citizen needs a medical procedure or a referral to a specialist, the green light for these procedures is not provided by the patient’s doctor (if he or she has one) but by an insurance ecompany employee holed up in a small office perhaps a thousand miles away?  I am assuming the decision is made by a medical professionl, a doctor.  But here’s the rub.  The salary raises and promotions of these doctors is dependent, not on the number of  procedures they approve but on the number they deny.

       That’s logical of course.  Every procedure the medical adjuster approves, costs the insurance company money.  Every procedure he denies, saves them money.

        The United States is the only country in the western world that does not have universal health care.  Why do American citizens supinely accept this dreadful state of affairs?  Because, it would seem, their politicians and big business insurance companies have sold a bill of goods to Americans i.e.  that the health systems that work so well in France, England and Canada (all discussed in Psycho) are socialized medicine.   The fear of socialized medicine kills univeral health care in the U.S the way that the bogus word “amnesty” killed the immigration bill last week in the Senate.  So what the Americans have is unbridled capitalism in their health care system.  Interestingly, though he touches on the system here in Canada, Moore does not point out that Canadians pay nine per cent of GNP for our “socialized” health care system in Canada, the Americans pay 14 per cent of GNP for theirs.

      When will Americans crawl out from under the bugaboo of so-called “socialized” medicine and demand a univeral health c are system that works.  What they have now under brutal capitalism (the profit motive) is broken.  And in Psycho Michael Moore does a brilliant job of saying so.

NATIVE PROTEST

June 29, 2007

If you were travelling from Montreal to Ontario today by train, you either cancelled or grabbed a bus. Via Rail cancelled all trains to Ontario because of the Native Day of protest and fear of the kind of violence that occurred on the tracks near Kingston.

       The natives are protesting chronic proverty on the reserves.  No one doubts this depth of poverty despite millions of dollars being spent by governments to try to reduce it. But the question is will protests and rail stoppages do anything to alleviate this poverty.  Scarcely.  Such public protests will merely turn off the Canadian taxpayer public.

    However, it is ironic in the extreme that today in New York at the UN the Harper government is voting against a declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  I wonder how many Canadians are aware that last year only Canada and Russia voted against the same declaration.  This is shameful and so is the situation on most of Canada’s native reserves marked by poverty, suicides and alcoholism.  Our native reserves are a scandal at home and a blot on our international reputation.

     Perhaps the natives have no other recourse to bring this home than to engage in public protests.

CONRAD BLACK

June 28, 2007

Today in Chicago the jury in the Conrad Black criminal trial began its second day of deliberations. Legal commentators, lawyers and others are taking bets on how long the jury will be out and whether Black will walk.     Unlike my wife, Catharine, who thinks the predominantly female jury will convict Black, I think he will walk.  True, even the defense concedes, the newspaper tycoon is arrogant, greedy, flaunts his conspicuous consumption and has contempt for the shareholders of his own companies but none of these is a crime.   The fact is the high priced prosecution team had to convict Black beyond a reasonable doubt of all or one of mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and racketeering. In my view the prosecution failed on all counts.

TONY BLAIR

June 27, 2007

Today at noon London time Prime Minister Tony Blair snapped shut his binder, stepped away from the despatch box and ended his last time at the Prime Minister’s question period.  Presently he rode in his limousine up the Mall to Buckingham Palace where he submitted hisresignation as prime minister to the Queen.  Shortly thereafter, the monarch asked Gordon Brown to form a government and Tony Blair became plain Mr. Blair, leaving his limousine to carry Prime Minister Brown back to 10 Downing street.

       It is a bitter-sweet day.  When he became prime minister in 1997, Tony Blair was fresh-faced, enthusiastic and full of promise.  Subsequently, he won three majority governments, a feat unequalled by any previous labour leader.

     His greates triumph , in my view, was to lead the way to peace in northern Ireland. His greatest failure was his support of Bush in the Iraq war.  That one decision will forever keep Tony Blair out of the ranks of Britain’ greatest prime ministers.   But along with Bill Clinton, I thought Tony Blair was the smartest politician and the greatest orator of his generation.

HILLARY CLINTON

June 26, 2007

Hillary Clinton is taking flack these days because for her campaign theme song she has chosen a song written by a Canadian, sung by a Canadian (Celine Dion) for Air Canada.  The song,  “You and I” has soaring lyrics:  “So come with me/And you will feel/That we’re soaring/That we’re floating up so high.”  The Globe and Mail suggests these lines will provoke the drug-enforcement authorities.

      Oh, I don’t know.  I think Hilary has made a good choice.  And that video she and Bill made spoofing the end of the Sopranos got a lot of publicity whi,le using humour to disarm her netroots enemies on their own turf.

      I am aware that Hillary has a lot of enemies.  The Gazette had an article on that very subj3ect this morning. But she must be doing something right..  She is steadily pulling away from Senator Obama in the polls.  I predict she will win the nomination, will choose Obama as her running mate (he is only 48 and has lots of time to run again) and that powerful Democratic ticket will swamp the slimy Rudy Guiliani and the Republicans.

GAYS & ANGLICANS

June 25, 2007

At their meeting this week-end in Winnipeg,  the Anglican church of Canada first voted that blessing gay marriages did not contradict the church’s core beliefs, then turned around and, by a narrow margin, voted against blessing gay marriages.

      What in the world is going on here?  For 10 years the church has been debating this subject in the context of its view of homosexuality.   Now with this rejection of same sex blessings, many gay people and their supporters are preparing to leave the church.

       How did homosexuality become such a deal breaker?  Are Anglican bishops in Canada knuckling under to their benighted counterparts in Africa who view homosexuality as a grave sin?  Grave enough to break up a church that has existed for 500 years.

       If homosexuality is that serious wouldn’t you think that Jesus would have mentioned it in his public ministry?  Wouldn’t he have condemned it the way he condemned adultery?  In fact, so far as I am aware he never once mentioned homosexuality.  Certainly he never condemned it.

     Furthermore the view of some Anglican bishops (and the church of Rome) that a loving God created upwards of five per cent of the human race as intrinsically perverted is absurd.  If Jesus was to return to earth today would he exclude even active homosexuals from a church blessing?  Hardly. Jesus’ whole ministry was inclusive, not exclusive.  Isn’t it high time Anglican bishops recognized this and gave up their tub-thumping on sin  to please the bishops in Nigeria?

LA FETE NATIONALE

June 24, 2007

Presently I will take the metro and head out for a look at the St. John Baptiste parade. Despite the lovely sunny weather and all the fleur des lis fluttering in the wind, this 2007 version cannot be a happy time for die-hard separatists.

    The Bloc Quebecois in more irrelevant by the day and its leader has never recovered from his aborted attempt to run for the P.Q. leadership.  The P.Q. is in third place in the National Assembly.  Its raison d’etre, independence, is in the tank.  A poll last week showed that 81% of French Quebeckers do not think there will be a seperate Quebec in the next 10 years.  The hoary beards like Parizeau and Landry are well over the hill and young Quebeckers are focussed on their careers while enjoying the best economic times in the province in the last 30 years within the federal system.

    There is also some anecdotal evidence that, even in solidly French areas, separatism is on the wane. I have just come back from my first visit to the Gaspe.  Would you believe there are more Canadian flags flying there than there are Catholic churches.  And almost always the maple leaf is given pride of place over the fleur des lis.  I found it both astonishing and heartening. 

     It’s true that Quebec Liberals, unless they change their leader, will lose the next election.  In my view, the ADQ and the P.Q. have an equal chance of winning and forming the next government.  However, if Pauline Marois were to win her main platform would be to provide good government, not to push separation.

       It’s also true there will always be a separatist element in the province.  Happily that element is at low ebb and destined to stay that way for the foreseeable future. 

BUTTERMILK

June 23, 2007

Today in his column in The Gazette, Josh Freed lists the large number of choices in milk. “You c an choose 1%, 2%m skim milk, cow milk, soy milk, rice milk or organic chai-flavoured Vitamin D-enhanced lactose-free milk.”  Freed does not mention buttermilk.  Understandably.  The last decent glass of buttermilk, ice-cold, swimming in butter, lightly salted, that I had was almost 30 years ago half way up a mountain in Bavaria.   The equivalent does not seem to exist today.  Pity.

TONY BLAIR A CATHOLIC?

June 23, 2007

According to reports in the Daily Telegraph this morning, Tony Blair will announce after he leaves office next week that he will convert from Anglican to Roman Catholic.  No surpise there.  He has been attending Mass with his family (who are all Catholic) for years.  In fact, Pope John Paul 11, gave him communion at a private mass at the Vatican.  I guess the Vatican thinks that is ok for the high and the mighty but nor for the hoi polloi.

     Perhaps Benedict will make Blair a lay Cardinal and appoint him a roving ambassador for the Church.  Stranger things have happened.