Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Private Regina surgical clinic now booking dental and knee surgeries

Private Regina surgical clinic now booking dental and knee surgeries

Of course, the ideological opponents to any form of private health service provision believe that this is the sign of the Beast, and that this will lead to privatization, but I have a really good question for those people:

If the public is still footing the bill for the whole amount, what's the difference?

One of the things that caught my eye when I was reading about the opening of this private surgical clinic is this:

So far, the surgical initiative appears it will result in lower per-procedure costs for the health region.

Knee surgeries at Omni run approximately $1,500 each, representing a savings of $179, or 11 per cent, from the in-hospital cost. Dental surgeries cost $965, $76 less than at a hospital.

What caught my eye? The fact that it costs LESS to the provincial treasury to have a private service provider do the surgery than it costs in the health region's hospital.

Why does it cost less, you might ask? It's because a private clinic has a self-interest in reducing costs and minimizing overhead. There are no layers of bureaucracy, there is no promotion of the incompetent. The owners of the clinic have a direct interest in the clinic succeeding through controlled costs and working more efficiently, and the only constraint the owners have when determining how much money to invest is what their return on investment will be - a concept that public health care providers never have to be concerned with.

In the end, the only reason why private clinics might be considered a bad thing is because it would reduce the massive government health bureaucracy to one simple process - receive requests for payment and write cheques. One can only hope it gets that far.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Omar Khadr Was Not Tortured

Omar Khadr Was Not Tortured

In the end, because Khadr would not testify concerning the affidavit’s contents, it was rebutted by virtually all of the evidence that was provided to the Commission, and since the defense did not explain how the affidavit came into existence in the first place, the judge gave little weight to Khadr’s torture claims.

One of Khadr’s claims involved a routine weighing session. U.S. servicemen are required to weigh the detainees held at Gitmo and other detention facilities regularly for various health-related reasons. Khadr did not cooperate, and he later claimed that he was abused while having his weight taken. Unfortunately for the defense, the session was recorded. Judge Parrish found:

The accused alleged in his affidavit that he was mistreated while he was being weighed. The videotape of the accused being weighed…clearly shows the accused was not abused or mistreated in any way by any of the guards.


Potash belongs to Sask., says prof

Potash belongs to Sask., says prof

With all due respect to the professor, this statement:

"We the people own the potash. The Potash Corporation does not own the potash, it's ours," he said from his campus office. "It is appropriate for us to use the instruments that are available to make sure that those resources are used for what is best for us." It's up to the government of Saskatchewan, he added, to ensure Saskatonians benefit from the mining and processing of the potash that lies beneath our feet.

Isn't entirely correct.

You see, in economic terms, the resources which are still in the ground and untapped, don't really belong to anyone. They aren't the government's. They aren't the possession of anyone by accident of their birthplace or migration patterns.

The resources, in a realistic sense, belongs only to those people who put up the capital, whether human, intellectual or monetary in order to extract the minerals and make them useful. Any unit of resource represents the effort required to extract the resource. If nobody makes the effort to extract the resources, then they are of no benefit to anyone.

That's why I discount the words of anyone who says that the "people" should get their fair share of the resources. So let's illustrate what happens when someone decides they want to extract minerals.

First, they go to the government and give it money for the option to explore an area for minerals. This is done via auction so as to extract the maximum money for "the people". Then the company must pay rent to the actual owners of the property in order to explore on the land. The land is studied and explored to determine whether there are minerals in sufficient quantity to extract to make the extraction feasible. If the company determines that they aren't in sufficient quantity, then this is where it stops, with the company having to outlay money for no gain. If the resources ARE in sufficient quantity, then the company permanently leases the land from the land owner (depending on the resource and the method of extraction, possibly purchasing the land from the owner), and gets to work setting up a mine or extraction site. It, of course, must get the permission of the government to set up the site, and get the proper environmental permissions to ensure that not only does the extraction get done in as environmentally friendly a manner as possible, but that the costs of restoring the site after the extraction is done is covered off.

After this comes the easy part - the extraction begins, and all the company has to do is tell the government how much they took out, and send the government a percentage (before expenses, mind you) of whatever gross revenue the extraction generates. The government then, not content with receiving these royalties, also takes a chunk of the wages paid to maintain the site or extract the minerals, as well as a percentage of the net income of the project as well.

So to make a long story short, the government in the resource game takes money to allow you to look for the minerals. Then it takes money for each dollar of resource that is extracted (without doing anything to earn that money, mind you, merely for the privilege of pulling the resource out of the ground), then it takes money from the business for actually earning a profit.

Add all that up, and resource companies may end up sending close to 50% of the gross revenue from the project to the government.

So the question I have to ask those people who want "the people" to get a fair share is, "Is that enough of a share for you, really?"

After all, a resource is only valuable if it is extracted and used. The oil companies over the past 5 decades (and especially over the last 3 years in Saskatchewan and Alberta) that if "the people" want more than what is fair, they always have the option of leaving it in the ground.

Hopefully this is remembered after the PCS offering is resolved.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In other news... the sky is falling!!!!!

'Massive job losses' at FNUC disappointing: U of R faculty association

While one might not like the CBC, at least they put some things in perspective:

Major job cuts were announced at First Nations University of Canada on Thursday, bringing to 46 the total number of staff and faculty positions eliminated in recent months.

The total includes 29 people who were laid off Thursday morning. Another 17 positions have been eliminated over the past few months through vacancies, retirements and resignations, FNUC officials said.

Although officials wouldn't say what percentage of staff and faculty were cut, the 46 positions represent about 22 per cent of the 210 employees that were on the FNUC payroll in February.

Now, let's put things in BETTER perspective:

Approximately 20 per cent of university's 500 students are expected to be affected by the changes.

Even if you take the CBC's number of 824 students, that means that there are still approximately 1 employee of FNUC left for every 5 students.

Now I don't know much about university management, and I'm rather cynical about most things government related, but having a ratio such as this is absolutely excessive. Even if one took the enrollment numbers of 1500 students (this was the estimate in May that I heard), we're still talking about 1 employee for every 10 students.

Now let's be real, I know that it's important for First Nations to educate themselves so that they can be productive members of society. I know that FNUC is a way to achieve that goal (although if truth were known, FNUC only represents 20% of First Nations students - the rest are enrolled in real programs at U of S, U of R, Siast and SIIT). I do have to object to the sense of entitlement that objects to the cutting of fat and the loss of jobs on an institution so poorly run in the past as this one.

I applaud the university's president and support this decision as well as many other decisions that make the university run like a real institution.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Opponents of Stronach payout launch appeal

Opponents of Stronach payout launch appeal

So let's see if I have this right. Magna International reaches an agreement with Frank Stronach to collapse his multi-vote shares which includes his picking up cash and normal shares. A super majority (75%) of the shareholders approve as do the markets (which ultimately increased the share price after the deal was hammered out). A Judge has now also approved, based on these two assertions, and yet some institutional investors (see previous post) still don't agree and want to appeal the judge's decision.

Just a thought - earth to the institutional investors - it doesn't matter how hard you fight, you're STILL going to lose on the basis that it doesn't matter how "fair" you believe this deal to be, there is going to be a premium attached to getting Mr. Stronach to walk away from his company.

Or would you prefer that the company get into a bidding war for the shares which ultimately control the company? I'm sure that Mr. Stronach would be happy to see what he can get on the open market for those shares.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pesticide ban boon to bedbugs

Pesticide ban boon to bedbugs

I couldn't have said it better myself:

So if DDT is the all-around best prevention against malaria and other tropical diseases and is also effective against bedbugs, let's bring it back -- if only to test claims that some bedbug resistance to it now exists, or remains. As Driessen also says: "If not for the economy and mental health of Americans afflicted by bedbugs, then do it for Africa's sick, brain-damaged and dying parents and children."

And of course, reason #45932 for replacing the United Nations with something better:

In 2006, the World Health Organization finally acknowledged that DDT is an unrivaled insecticide that ought not be banned. But in 2009, the United Nations Environmental Program nevertheless announced its intention to rid the world of DDT by 2020.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Will the Real Rough Riders Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Rough Riders Please Stand Up?

Here's a thought, reading through the history of the Ottawa Rough Riders, and by default the Ottawa football scene in general.

If you REALLY want to preserve the colours, preserve the R on the helmet, make a connection to the history of the franchise, name the team the Rangers.

That's right, the Ottawa Rangers. A team that played in the Quebec Rugby Football Union until 1933 when it merged with the Rough Riders. It's a name that isn't being used in football anywhere, let alone in the CFL. Not only that, it's a name that's a heck of a lot cooler than the Ottawa Rush, Renegades, Radicals, Resistance, Royals or any other "R" names that you can use.

Of course, this is just a thought for those trying to resurrect the old franchise...

Hmmm... The Ottawa Resurrection. Catchy.

Neil Patrick Harris to be a dad

CANOE -- JAM! Television: Neil Patrick Harris to be a dad

Just a note to Neil Patrick Harris:

I like you and all buddy, but if one is going to expect privacy for one's soon to arrive family (and children), one really shouldn't tell the whole frickin' world via twitter and then tell the media to stay away.

Just a thought.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hot sauce, moose hats and yoga pants, oh my! | Canadian Taxpayers Federation

SK: Hot sauce, moose hats and yoga pants, oh my! | Canadian Taxpayers Federation

I would like to thank Mr. Craig for unearthing this spending, but I have to slightly disagree with his larger point...

His larger point seems to be that the spending is inappropriate in a year with a deficit.

My point is that some of this spending seems to be inappropriate in ANY year.

Want proof? The Ministry of Health, which holds a complete monopoly over health care services in the province, spent $60,000 on promotion items. Keeping in mind, this isn't the health regions themselves, this is the governing body which really has no specific purpose other than to give money to the health regions.

Or how about Sask Power, which has a monopoly over electrical generation and transmission throughout the province (except for some pockets where another local owned utility has a monopoly) and yet sees the need to spend over $400,000 on promotional items to show the citizens of the province what a great job that government run monopoly is doing. Ditto Sasktel, although given that Sasktel competes in the long distance, cellular, cable and home security markets, it's actually understandable that one.

The one that really gets my goat though, is the Enterprise Saskatchewan bill. Enterprise Saskatchewan is a governing body for 13 Enterprise regions throughout the province. It has no promotional responsibilities that I am aware of. Yet, it felt the need to spend money on promotional items rather than flow more revenue to the regions where it might do more good. I can't wait to see how much is spent during the current fiscal year on promotional items after the funding to the regions was cut by 25% across the board. Granted, $60,000 is a drop in the bucket, but it's still worth about $5,000 in extra funding for each region.

To make a long story short, promotional items are the low hanging fruit - the items that should be reduced or eliminated when the government is in a deficit. I applaud the CTF in bringing this information to light in order to ensure that these organizations tighten their belts as much as the population is expected to.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mistrust of Government Is a Beautiful Thing

Mistrust of Government Is a Beautiful Thing | Penn Jillette | Big Think

But I think that it's forgotten that what everybody is trying to do is help the people that need it. Everybody is trying that and I will say that about every political group and I think that I would love to see people using the word "wrong" more and using the word "evil" less.
He may be a whacky Libertarian, and entertainer, but you have to admit that the man has interesting ideas.

He's absolutely right. Mssrs Harper and Bush aren't "Evil". They actually do genuinely want to help the people that need it, the disagreement (and where the "evil" comes in) is that sometimes the help that people need isn't necessarily compassionate in the short term. It's called tough love, and many conservatives are willing to provide it in answer to a problem in order to ensure that the problem ultimately gets solved.

Whether it is Insite, needle exchanges, condoms to teens, drug laws, immigration policy, what have you, conservatives will usually in favour of denying a benefit or help to those who don't "deserve it". How is the help deserved in a conservative's mind? By trying to help yourself. Helping yourself isn't going to a designated site to shoot up, or to get your clean needle. It isn['t about seeking out a free condom or taking it upon yourself to circumvent laws that prevent you from emigrating. Helping yourself is about actually seeking treatment, knowing that your activity is harmful to yourself or others and seeking to correct that behaviour in yourself. Helping yourself is about taking responsibility for yourself and doing everything legally in your power to correct the situation.

I disagree with Penn on some issues - more often than not the disagreement is in degree and not in fundamentals. Penn (and Teller) tend to be Libertarian to the point where the government has absolutely no role (even in law enforcement or infrastructure). I tend to be Libertarian in that the government has a very limited role. When all is said and done though, the fundamental question still comes down to one thing:

What do you want done at the point of a gun.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

World Peace revealed

Can't really argue with them, other than the fact that free travel and intermarrying between cultures might help, but for both of those to happen, you have to have free trade and globalization.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No public consultation is ever required on whether to respect privacy

No public consultation is ever required on whether to respect privacy

... And all I can say is "Amen", however, I do have a way out of the "controversy" for the Conservatives.

Reinstate the "mandatory long form", and then design a leaflet as part of the "mandatory long form" that states in no uncertain terms that this government will NOT prosecute those who do not fill out the long form survey.

There... problem solved...

Oh wait, that's almost giving people license to fill out the form only if they want to, isn't it? Huh.

New Democrats call on Ottawa to cut Saskatchewan some stimulus slack - Winnipeg Free Press

New Democrats call on Ottawa to cut Saskatchewan some stimulus slack - Winnipeg Free Press

Tell me Jack, which part of "8 months away" isn't understood here?

Realistically, 8 months should be plenty of time to complete any project which is currently underway, regardless of the weather.

I'm sure that the government will review that deadline as it gets closer and if it so happens that projects were started in good faith can't be completed for good reason, then they will extend the deadline for those specific projects. But to give a blanket extension 8 months away from the deadline is stupid. For now, the best advice is the one that is being offered:

"Just get the work done. We'll review the deadlines when the time comes."

It's a civic duty, eh?

On my list of things that are and should be civic duties, I have to admit, telling the government how many bathrooms my condo has is pretty low on the list.

Just so that I'm making myself clear, civic duties ACTUALLY include:

1) Making an informed vote in all elections.
2) Enlisting in a militia during the invasion of Canada.
3) Serving in the military.
4) Volunteering in community minded groups.
5) Supporting justice and the rule of law.

I'm sorry Mr. Garneau, do YOU see "giving more information to the government so that it can further meddle in my life" anywhere on that list?

Thought not. That's because it's not a civic duty. Nice try though.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's not about the nurse...

Nurse makes $250K

It's about the system that allows this.

Seriously, and there is no one person who is completely at fault in a situation such as this...

"I'm working a ridiculous amount of hours because the system is affording me those hours," said Kurt Trapler, one of the top 15 wage earners in the health region in 2009-10.

Mr. Trapler is exactly right - the system is allowing him to work all of those hours and he isn't saying no. Why? Well, would you say "no" to $90/hr?

Many people smarter than I am have been saying that the current state of health care bargaining and health care provision in general is absolutely absurd. Between the different types of shifts allowed, the different requirements of the health district in offering vacated shifts according to the union contract, and the prevalence of usage of sick time and "family days" on short notice, it would be tough to get anyone to fill in a shift without incurring overtime.

Just for fun though, here are a few humble suggestions that health districts could pursue to help them save money in wages and administrative costs:

1) Identify units and/or shifts where abnormal overtime is being incurred.
2) Schedule additional staff to those units and shifts which have been identified.
3) Make sure that those additional staff are scheduled either from casual, part time or new full-time positions. Disqualify any current full time staff from being called in to work overtime.
4) A unit shift would have to be overstaffed more than 100% of the time in order to make this proposal unfeasible in which case return to Step 1 again.

Simple, effective. What it comes down to is that there may be particular patterns which can be identified in order to ensure that the proper number of scheduled people are working a shift. By doing these steps, while you are acknowledging a certain amount overspending, you are also ensuring that overtime rates are minimized, resulting in an overall decrease in salaries and wages being paid. By doing this, you are also removing any incentive inherent in taking family days on short notice due to the availability of additional staff at regular time.

The alternative might be viewed to be more heavy handed - no paid family days without sufficient notice, blackouts on sick days revolving around high absenteeism days without a doctors note. Blackouts on using existing full time staff to staff additional shifts regardless of seniority.

Again, it isn't about a nurse or two earning 2 or 3 times their normal annual salary because of overtime, it's about past concessions from contracts coming back to haunt the health care system. The union and health district both talk a good game - employee's health and family life being the most important things, but in the end, the union makes no concessions to allow for the problem to be fixed, and the health district has no room to correct the problems. I wonder which side will give first.

Monday, August 9, 2010

65 years ago...

You need to install or upgrade Flash Player to view this content, install or upgrade by clicking here.

The dropping of a second atomic bomb ended WWII. I think this video says it all.