Friday, February 29, 2008

Jack Layton becoming Irrelevant?

Is Jack Layton is becoming increasingly irrelevant? With the Green Party taking on more popularity, especially in the 18-24 age group--the area from where the NDP draw most of their votes--I wonder about the future of the party. I subscribe to all of the party's mailing lists. I like to hear what everyone is saying and get a full circle perspective. Jack Layton's Mantra is "corporate tax giveaways." It seems that York University Political Science department fails to require anyone to take an economics class. NDPers cry foul when there are layoffs and moan about jobs leaving our Canada, but don't see the connection with inflated union-wages and how it is unable to stimulating business growth, to create Canadian jobs, with tax incentives to keep a business in a province or our country. It appears, my own MP Dalton McGuinty doesn't understand this either.

"Sheer intellectual laziness of dismissing opponents as hate-mongering, totalitarian buffoons"

This is yet another example how "student" unions do not represent the students, but instead their own one-sided agenda:

I will not go into this history today (though I may at some future point) except to say that this is nothing short of an attack on the university as a place for the free exchange of ideas. Even Heather Kere, a Ryerson Students’ Union executive who hasn’t exactly distinguished herself as a moderate, tried to amend the CFS motion so that it would only apply to anti-abortion groups that harassed students. An even-handed and grounded amendment that was promptly rejected.

And why did they reject it? Well, Shelley Melanson, CFS national women’s representative, told the Eyeopener, “You wouldn’t take public money to put in an organization that moves to take away people’s rights; you wouldn’t fund the KKK.”

Similarly, Sandy Hudson, CFS-Ontario women’s rep, also thinks anti-abortion groups are comparable to fascists. As the University of Western Ontario Gazette reported: “When asked whether Ryerson students should be exposed to both sides of the abortion issue, Hudson said allowing an anti-choice group would be like allowing a white supremacist group on campus.”

There you have it: if you do not agree with the CFS position on abortion you are no better than a member of the Klu Klux Klan or a white supremacist.

Apart from the sheer intellectual laziness of dismissing opponents as hate-mongering, totalitarian buffoons, the CFS just might be revealing its own intolerant tendencies. Let’s see who else might qualify as a white supremacist because of their position on abortion? Well Catholics come to mind. So do Hindus. And religious Jews and Muslims. (Full disclosure: I am a lapsed Catholic.)

Another example: My alma mater, Trent University and the uproar over f*ck Harper buttons. The "non-partisan" Trent Central STudent Association continues to sell these buttons as a "fundraiser" (As if the $43.32 per student these two student unions (TCSA and CFS) receive in levy fees is not enough...)

Let me be clear, this isn't a conservative-minded person whining about all the lefties around me. It is just a demonstration that it is not "conservative" voices that are not only not heard, but rather it is opposing viewpoints that are not allowed to be heard. Yup, the university institution, where open-mindedness is as hard to come by as chasity and straight-edge culture.

I get really irritated when the word "anti" is used. Anti-war, anti-choice, anti-gay, etc... Let's consider this "anti-choice" for a moment. Could someone from the other side of the spectrum please explain to me how banning pro-life groups from being allowed to form on university campuses contributes to offering more choice to women? Because apparently pro-life groups are "anti-choice", but I really am not seeing it. Could also a pro-choice person explain how a person can be against abortion because the fetus does not have a right to life or is not a 'person' but when a drunk driver or crazed lover kills a pregnant woman, they want two counts of murder/manslaughter instead of one. You can't have it both ways!

Full disclose for myself, I do not generally support abortion; however, being a woman who has never been in the situation, I cannot say that I would never consider it.

Do some pro-life groups do wacky things like burn abortion places, or humiliate woman who face such an awful choice? Of course! But certainly, the anti-war or anti-globalizations haven't been golden peaceful protesters either! The difference is, when you're anti-war or anti-globalization, it's hip, trendy, and cool. At least that's how is portrayed on university campuses. But isn't banning military recruiters, or banning pro-life groups more anti-choice than anything else? (Both UVic and Carleton have overturned their decisions, but Lakehead has not.

Both sides are claiming "discrimination" and dare to use "human rights tribunals" to resolve the matter. It is really sad how 'discrimination' or 'offending' has gone waaaay past the point of common sense.

That's the problem in today's universities. There is only one way of allowed thinking. Not only in the classroom with professors, but the student groups as well. The hypocracy of profs and student representatives who claim to want to challenge status-quo but then limit discussion on topics with which they do not agree is (dare I say) "anti"-democratic.

Certainly this isn't the case in all university classrooms, but from my experience, especially in Sociology, there is only one way of acceptable approaches to social problems. Of course this is the Jack Layton way.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Good Politics and Good Policy -- Harper on Afghanistan

Sorry Jarrett and Brandon, but I completely disagree, I think this is an extremely smart move by Harper. Of course it's good politics, as you agree, but I think it's good policy too.


What this brought to my mind was Stephen Harper's strategic error three years ago (!) now: seeing a Liberal budget which catered to a couple of Conservative priorities, Harper announced he was happy with the Liberal budget. Which, of course, led to the inference that, if even Stephen Harper is happy with Liberal governance, why would anyone vote for Stephen Harper when a vote for the Liberals gave the best of all worlds?

I think this move will differ from the budget one. Harper's image to the public, even to myself, is bully-like. Don't get me wrong, he's really smart politically, and I like that he doesn't make theatrics and yelling in question period like Dion does; however, the public isn't stupid and the media frame his demeanour to be very manipulative and aggressive.

Take a look at this NP article,

It's a bit odd how a usually-defiant Stephen Harper allowed Liberal nemesis Stephane Dion to ghost write his most pressing foreign affairs decision, but that either proves how determined his government is to avoid an Afghanistan referendum wrapped in an election or how laughably far the Liberals have caved to spoon with the Tory position.

He’s showing Canadians that he is capable of compromise wanting to make a minority government work, which makes re-electing the conservatives more appealing. It’s adding to the score of who is making minority government work, without having to go to the NDP or Bloc.


If any of our NATO allies were to take on our burden in Afghanistan, great. Our combat troops would then be in position to leave with honour. But as far as I understand it, the Liberal amendment the PM intends to adopt would end that mission regardless of whether or not that happens. And that, in my humble opinion, "would squander our investment and dishonour our sacrifice"

It is my understanding that this is not an end date for the mission in Afstan, it's an end-date to be in Kandahar and the volatile south end of the country. Actually what will happen in 2011 is still up for interpretation:

The troops and their equipment will either be relocated north into safer provinces or out of the country entirely by the end of 2011. That next destination requires someone to interpret a clause stating there shall be a "redeployment of Canadian Forces troops out of Kandahar" which neglects to clarify if that means all of Afghanistan.

And by 2011:

What makes both motions worth less than the paper they're printed on is that four years represents an eternity in military deployments and minority government lifespans. By the time Canada starts its sixth year in Kandahar in 2011, one of the two national parties could have a majority mandate for the prime minister to do as he or she damn well pleases in military matters.

Good policy is what’s good for the country and the people in it, both in Canada and Afghanistan. Dion wanted troops out immediately, then he wanted by 2009. Now we’re getting until 2011, but with Liberal wording. Good policy is also having our politicians actually agree and compromise instead of the childish partisan bickering that does nothing for our country, and turns people off from politics entirely.

In Canada we can barely get 2/3 of our eligible citizens to vote, most people rather watch American Idol than Question Period, and few people are reading books and reading fluffy celebrity “news”. But yet, we want to transform another country into a democracy, so that they have the same rights and freedoms as us. Don’t get me wrong, having women go to school and a farmers not be terrorized by gangs (Taliban) is a noble cause, it just seems every Canadian has an opinion about what they think we should do if Afghanistan, but they take for granted the rights and freedoms that we’re fighting for over there. Sure, we have that freedom to not care, but contributing to society should include an engaged and informed citizenry. You can’t engage citizenry when politics is full of name-calling theatrics and partisan games.

We certainly have done our fair share in the south region compared to our NATO allies who prefer the less violent/combat regions. It’s time for other countries to step up to the plate. And, we have to be honest with ourselves. Does our Canadian military in its current form have the logistics to carry out this mission to the best of its ability? Coming from a military family on both maternal and paternal side and having spent several years in army cadets, I do not believe I speak ignorantly on this issue. For crying out loud our soldiers first went out there in greens! Over the years of this mission we've gained respect and experience in the region and I know it’s probably not politically correct to say, but had our military had better equipment, could any of the soldier deaths been prevented? That is the elephant in the room.

Good policy admits and accepts that we did the best we can with what we have. Being present in Afghanistan with trained soldiers and good, but not having the enough of right equipment is bad policy. Harper has been good to increase the military spending that was severely cut in the 1990s. But we won’t see many changes for at least five years because it takes time before our contracts delivery equipment like our own helicopters. In addition,

Highlighting the Government’s commitment to rebuilding the military and Canada’s long-standing tradition as a reliable partner and ally in the quest for global security, the Prime Minister announced that the Government has decided to set aside stable and predictable funding for this plan by increasing the automatic annual increase in defence spending from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent, beginning in 2011-12. This increase will be reflected in the fiscal framework.

Who knows who will be in power and if it will be minority/majority in 2011. Sure funding may increase then (that is, if conservatives are still in power), but by the time we can acquire new (I mean already used and hopefully not falling apart) equipment we still won’t see the effects of our rebuilt military until 2015! From what I remember of reading Granatstein’s new book last year, I think he also wants us to withdraw sooner rather than long-term to rebuild until we get to the point where we can really be of assistance (don’t quote me on that though, it’s been almost a year since I read the book).

Canada will have honour and pride when her military does not need to issue an ultimatum to NATO or have the ability without begging her allies to help Canadian citizens out when a war breaks out and our PM uses his own private plan to fly people back to Canada, when we couldn’t charter air and sea transport from other countries fast enough.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Electronic Health Records: Solution or to cause more Problems?

"By 2010, the goal is to have half of the population with an electronic health record," said Richard Alvarez, president and chief executive officer of Canada Health Infoway, an independent, federally funded agency that works with provinces and territories to invest in electronic health-record projects, typically by funding half the cost. By 2016, he wants every Canadian to have one.
Convenience might seem an obvious first benefit, but those who tout electronic health records say the advantages extend far beyond that. By having quick access to medication histories, laboratory test results and images, doctors can provide the right treatment quickly, especially when it comes to dangerous drug interactions.

"Isn't it ironic that I can pay my hydro bill online from Australia," said Dan Strasbourg, Canada Health Infoway's director of corporate communications, "yet if I present at a Toronto ER unconscious, the physician can't even access my medical history housed at my physician's office a few blocks away?"

Think about it, if this succeeds, the next generation may never hear about/understand the figure of speech of "doctor's handwriting."

But this raises concerns over privacy and security. More often we are hearing in the headlines about breaches of “secure” data with stolen company laptops with personal information or hackers getting customer credit card information. Take a look at this scarry chronology of data breaches. This isn't to say that the private sector would not be good enough to handle this, as we know government screw ups happen often enough. But let us consider this for a moment, who would own our health record?

Clearly we would need someone to create the software, so we would need to contract it out to a company or a government department (who will then contract it out through RFP or whatever). I’m going to be really cynical now. I really do not see how this will be possible for half the population to have this by 2010. It will take at least two years before the government(s) and doctors will be able to decide on a format, because of course, in Canada, all provinces and territories would want a say and in typical Canadian fashion, the electronic medical record should be equal to all Canadians, except of course, any 'special' province who will want to do it their own way anyway. And who will have the contract of creating the software (public or private?). You would need it in both official languages. Of course there will be some NGO or special interest group who will insist that the medical record should be available in someone’s mother tongue. As a discussed here, language accommodation for immigrants in medical situations can be a mater of life and death.

What about accessibility? Would I be able to see my health record, but who will have the authority to be able to make edits/changes to it? Would someone be able to pay someone to hack in and change their chart to say their knee for example is much more severe and get knee surgery in one year (ha!) instead of two or three. *sigh* (Is this the Canadian Health Care System we're fighting for?)

Consider this. We have so much advancement in communication technology in our lives (cellphones, crackbabies, online banking, email, facebook, MSN messenger, digital photos, web forums), yet our communication relationship with a doctor is still done the same old way? Walk in, sit down, sometimes change into a paper dress, doctor listens, sometimes takes notes on your chart, hands out a prescription (sometimes a computer print out nowadays) and sends you on your way. Medicine has made considerable advancements, but very little changes to the way a doctor first interacts with the patient.

But is this a good or bad thing? A paper file does not require a network upgrade or version 2.0 nor will it be subject to a system crash or virus. Then again, not having a family doctor myself since 2000, I've been mulling over the idea of tracking down all of the walk in clinics to which I've visited. I've made some inquiries and it will cost me $25 (for the first three pages) to get my own medical file, and 5$ for each page thereafter. As a woman, I go to the doctor more often a man, and as a student, I've lived in three cities in five years. At a university doctor’s office, I may have one file, I've may have seen five different doctors over my tenure. I will likely cost me over $200 to access all of my records! The record won’t even go to me; it will go to another doctor’s office. While I have nothing to hide or embarrassing in my health records, what about someone who does not want to be discriminated against because of what’s in the medical file?

What concerns me? A wee look over at how Wikipedia defines the Ideal characteristics of an electronic health record (EHR):

The data from an electronic health records system should be able to be used anonymously for statistical reporting for purposes of quality improvement, outcome reporting, resource management, and public health communicable disease surveillance

Just like Facebook right? Sounds innocent enough, especially from a public health perspective. How can you judge how much funding should go for cancer, if you don’t know your population? But there is just something about it that makes me uneasy. Will I have control over who gets my medical information? What about the insurance company? Certainly, this is not as much of a problem in Canada, as it is in the US. Do I trust the state? Do I trust a private company? Do I trust myself? (keys, cellphone, wallet…usually all in the same spot, usually I can find them when I need to).

In Britian this initiative was considered a major IT disaster

This isn’t to say that I don’t think this isn’t a good idea (triple negative?). To be clear, I think this is a terrific idea, but I am uneasy if the costs outweigh the benefits. Should we try it? Absolutely! But after the gun registry fiasco and the headlines about breaches of secure data, I hope Canadians will pay attention and voice their concerns and we carefully consider the research already out there.

In any case, this will be good news at least for Elaine Benes would will finally be able to see her chart.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Indoctrinate U does exist in Canada

I read an interesting post over at Fortress of Knowledge the other day. Here is a snippet:

An interesting article ( a rare one ) by Barbara Kay in today's National Post. As a former political science undergrad and grad student of Ottawa U, I can't say I fully agree with the author or the documentary that she is referring to. While the examples of " left wing " exaggerations or of closed mindedness are deplorable, they are not to be confused with a general decay of intellectual discipline. Professors and faculties have too much to lose --credibility, research funding-- to play indoctrinal games . While it is true that students and student politics on campus is usually more left of centre ( one of my professors once told us that if you aren't a communist when you are 20 you have no heart, but if you are still a communist when you are 40, you have no head ) there are usually a decent amount of fair play on campus, such as various political clubs and opportunities to express oneself about any political issues.
Finally I would caution in using american examples and transporting them to Canada since our politics is less polarized and the so-called " culture wars " in the United States is much less of an issue here in Canada

It may not appear to be an issue in Canada, because Canadians are more left-leaning than Americans. But make no mistake; this is a serious issue in Canadian universities.

Certainly not all professors are taking part in "indoctrinal games", however there is a large number that do. I went to Trent U for my undergrad and I am currently attending Carleton for grad studies. I believe what discipline you choose plays a role with the indoctrinal type of professors you may have. For example, my undergrad was in Sociology at, what I learned to be a very left-wing university. I took a class called Analysis of Social Policy. Bringing up the mere suggestions of questioning whether it was the government's responsibility to provide day care caused me to be tongue lashed by my colleagues and tsk tsked from my prof. Now a little older and wiser I can look back and laugh because this "prof" didn't have a PhD and referred to the author of one the of textbooks, Leslie Pal, as a female. Needless to say, when I did my own research looking into applying to Carleton U for grad school, I was surprised to see the President of the School of Public Policy and Administration have a picture of a man next to it. So much for TrentU being top ranking for "Quality of Education."

This is by no means an isolated incident. I have previously blogged about one wacky professor I had who managed to bring up George W. Bush in each and every class. I have one of these "special" professors this semester too, but thankfully he isn't as crazy as the last one about which I blogged. I really don't understand the professor obsession to bring GWB up in each and every single class.

My partner, also a Conservative, has had a lot more trouble than I have taking Political Science in school. A little less confident in my beliefs (still developing in my early 20s), I often bite my tongue in class which lets me enjoy friends and future letter of reference from profs. If I didn't, I may be subject to what my partner goes through, which is a reputation in the department. He had trouble with two instructors in particular. I call them instructors because, they did not have PhDs and they were just contract professors (a growing troubling part of universities). We found out later that both of these instructors shared an office and both went to York U.

He took a "Causes of War" course. Based on the description in the academic calendar, I was excited about it, and was going to sit in on a few lectures, just out of personal interest. Unfortunately, the course didn't study any wars. It was an anti-white-man-pro-feminist-war-is-only-started-by-men-and-masculinization. One assignment was a film review on "Why We Fight" which was basically a Michael Moore type film. The film opened with speeches from previous American presidents. My partner looked up each of the speeches and noticed that the "film maker" manipulated the speeches taking words out of context. Noting this in his review, he proceeded to critique the rest of the film balance the strengths and weaknesses etc... He received a C-

Again, not an isolated incident. We both have received failing grades on assignments from these types of professors.

Also at my alma mater of Trent University there was an issue with "F&¢& Harper" Buttons. See the YouTube Video and how the Progressive Conservative club took issue with how the self-proclaimed non-partisan Trent Central Student Association was selling these buttons as a fundraiser. The youtube video is the local news station that did a piece on it. They still sell the buttons.

I have voted in NDP (I wasn't heartless at 20), I have voted Liberal (I did buy into the Harper is scary) and I have voted Conservative (for now I am happy with this party). I believe that I am fair minded enough to be able to assess, without bias, that conservatives aren't allowed a voice in Canadian universities.

For all of the above reasons please join me tonight (For those of you in Ottawa) Please go see Indoctrinate U at the National Archives/Library of Canada 395 Wellington Street 7-9pm 6$ put on by the Free Thinking Film Society

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Free Copy of Suze Orman's Women and Money

Until 8pm tonight you can download a free copy of Suze Orman's Women and Money from Oprah's website.

To keep a copy for yourself: Click on the PDF website link on the Oprah website. Right click on the link "download a free copy" and select Save Target As. Choose a place on your coputer to save it. Alternatively, you can open the PDF link and click File, Save As, to save it to your computer.

This is a legitimate offer but copywright laws still apply.

For anyone who wants to stop living in debt and gain control of their own finances I also recommend YNAB Pro (You Need a Budget). Very easy user-friendly software better than any of the MS Money etc...budget programs.

PDF links will expire at 8pm EST

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"A cotton swab in the ear can kill"

Not my quote or headline but you may now add cotton swabs with the list of things that could kill you (uuuuh...everything?).

I wonder what they are going to ban on planes next...Q-tips...on a plane...Certainly the danger of a Q-tip being used as a weapon is greater than my toothpaste!

The Quebec coroner's office says cotton swab manufacturers should warn consumers about putting their product in their ears after a man died from related complications.

"I think we should go one step further, and maybe have a pictogram on the package, with a little ear and a red X mark," Quebec coroner Dr. Jacques Ramsay suggested.

In a report released Tuesday, Ramsay said using a cotton swab even once to clean inside ears can lead to fatal consequences.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Obesity and Smokers Cost Health Care System Less in the Long Run

An interesting new study on the costs of health care. I've done a little more research and I have linked the think tank and the study to which they are referring.

LONDON — Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn't save money, researchers reported Monday.

It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

“It was a small surprise,” said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the Netherlands' National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, who led the study. “But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more.”

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers.