Thank You, Alberta

In a sign that maybe the world won’t go to hell in a handbasket just yet, a slate of liberal candidates just swept into office in Alberta, Canada. See:

In Blow to Tar Sands Industry, Liberal Party Sweeps Alberta Elections

Alberta, heart of Canada’s oil industry, elects socialist-leaning government

I don’t think this election will have any discernible impact on our XL Pipeline debate, unfortunately. We’ll see.

Pinch Me! Am I dreaming? Canada’s ‘Most Conservative’ Province Elects an NDP Majority

Notley’s campaign has made possible an Alberta that is more like the rest of Canada — more humane, more inclusive, more respectful, more democratic, and therefore more prone to healthy changes of government from time to time.

The hard work for the NDP will start today — or, at least, tomorrow, when the hangovers wear off.

Yes, Notley has an inexperienced caucus, some members of which never imagined they would be MLAs when they agreed to run. But, seriously people, how could they do worse than the experienced clowns that made up the last PC government?

Yes, once they recover from yesterday’s shock, the right-wing opposition will go wild. It is not unreasonable to assume that some elements of the business community will go as far as trying to sabotage the economy, as happened when Bob Rae was premier of Ontario.

Yes, the right-wing press will start by telling us immediately this election result really means Albertans want more conservatism, which it manifestly does not.

Yes, some of Notley’s strongest supporters will be disappointed and bitter when the realities of politics, which is the art of the possible after all, mean they cannot have their wish list instantly fulfilled.

And, yes, even though it’s springtime in Alberta, it’ll probably snow today.

Well, it’s still Canada.

Keystone Cop-outs

Along with dynamic scoring, aka fantasy budgeting, another issue to be pushed by congressional Republicans is approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. There’s a nice op ed in The Hill explaining why Keystone XL is not in our national interest. The main points.

It’s not much of a jobs-creator. “The pipeline company, TransCanada, told the U.S. State Department the pipeline would create 35 permanent U.S. jobs. That’s about half as many workers as it takes to run a McDonald’s.” Further, it will create fewer than 2,000 temporary constructions jobs, and if those are such great jobs why don’t we spend some money and put people to work fixing public infrastructure, hmm?

For that matter, remember when righties cheered when Gov. Chris Christie killed the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) rail tunnel that would have gone under the Hudson River and provided better connections between New Jersey and midtown Manhattan?

The project would have eased overcrowding in Penn Station by building a new rail station at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue on the West Side of Manhattan, and it would have generated 5,700 construction jobs and 44,000 permanent jobs, and increased home values in towns that would now have one-seat service to Manhattan, the study noted.

Yes it cost money, buckets of which the feds had already handed over for the project, and much of which Christie had to hand back. It would have been good for the economies of both New Jersey and New York City and added a lot of value to a lot of businesses. Not to mention lightened the aggravation factor of trying to commute into Manhattan, which half of New Jersey seems to do every day.

And keep in mind that New Jersey under Christie has had terrible job growth numbers. Under Christie, New Jersey jobs growth has been among the slowest in the nation. I’m pretty sure New Jersey beats Kansas, but not many other states. Most damning is that New Jersey has lagged way behind all its neighboring states in jobs growth, especially Delaware and New York.

But we’re talking about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Noting that a lot of the same people who applauded Christie’s killing of the tunnel project are now claiming that Keystone XL is needed to provide jobs, let’s go on to the next point.

The Keystone XL oil is not going to provide more gas for U.S. cars. The oil isn’t for us; it’s meant to be refined and shipped overseas. I think most of the people who support it have some notion that as soon as the pipeline is built all kinds of cheap gas will show up at the local Shell station. It won’t.

If something goes wrong, it could go really really awful bad wrong and cause long-term disaster. The tar sands oil is really dirty oil, the article says, and if it spills or leaks it’s even harder to clean up than most oil. The pipeline is intended to go through many critical wetlands and agricultural areas, and a leak or spill could do huge amounts of damage that no doubt would cost U.S. taxpayers dearly to clean up.

In Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the pipeline would run within a mile of more than 3,000 wells that provide drinking and irrigation water. It would also cross 1,073 rivers, lakes and streams — from the Yellowstone River in Montana to the Platte River in Nebraska — along with tens of thousands of acres of wetlands. Pipeline blowouts are not rare events, and the transport of tar sands oil threatens all those resources. Between 1994 and late 2014, there were nearly 6,000 pipeline blowouts or other serious incidents, spilling a cumulative 100 million gallons of oil and other hazardous liquids. A spill of tar sands crude, which has proven more damaging and difficult to clean up than conventional oil, would make matters worse.

Bottom line, it’s a hugely risky project that would provide very little benefit to the United States and its citizens. Note that a many Canadians want to stop the tar sands oil extraction because it’s doing a lot of environmental damage in Canada.

A pro-pipeline article argues that absent a pipeline, the crude oil is being transferred by train, which (it argues) is even less secure than a pipeline. Also making the oil available on the world’s oil economy would stop OPEC from messing with prices. And, of course, the real long-term answer to that is to learn to be less dependent on fossil fuel, period. Between the deep ocean drilling that caused the contamination of the Gulf of Mexico that still hasn’t been cleaned up properly to the Keystone disaster-in-the-making, we’re basically tearing our planet apart trying to wring every last bit of fossil fuel out of it already. Is there anyone out there foolish enough to think this isn’t going to have to stop sometime, somewhere?

Well, yes, unfortunately. I guess there are.

O Canada

Canadian flagABC News reports that the Number of Americans Moving to Canada in 2006 Hit a 30-Year High:

The number of U.S. citizens who moved to Canada last year hit a 30-year high, with a 20 percent increase over the previous year and almost double the number who moved in 2000.

In 2006, 10,942 Americans went to Canada, compared with 9,262 in 2005 and 5,828 in 2000, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies.

Of course, those numbers are still outweighed by the number of Canadians going the other way. Yet, that imbalance is shrinking. Last year, 23,913 Canadians moved to the United States, a significant decrease from 29,930 in 2005.

“Those who are coming have the highest level of education — these aren’t people who can’t get a job in the states,” he says. “They’re coming because many of them don’t like the politics, the Iraq War and the security situation in the U.S. By comparison, Canada is a tension-free place. People feel safer.”

As a frequent traveler to Canada in the 70s and 80s, I still remember the noticable feeling of safety in a Canadian city. I’m glad to finally see some hard numbers on emigration, which corroborate my anecdotal, gut-level feeling: I can now name several acquantainces or e-buddies who moved in recent years, in specific response to the way things are going in the USA.

My advice to those who are thinking of moving (and this includes me): leave as soon as you can, before this trickle becomes a flood, before the borders close or an "exit tax" is imposed, or before Canada’s entrance requirements are raised considerably because of this flood. I’ve studied the various ways to emigrate, and have noticed various legal services set up in Canada to assist would-be emigres. Simply google Canada immigration.

Beyond the process of getting into another country, the issue of whether to stay or go (assuming you are able to leave) is an interesting one. Some feel compelled to stick things out here, in order to fight to change them. They have a sense of obligation or even patriotism. Moreover, there’s the sense of unique privilege we have as American citizens, that unlike the rest of the world, which is affected by the policies of our government, we at least have the right as citizens to try and change these globally impacting policies. Billions on this planet have no such say whatsoever. I felt this very strongly in the 2000 and 2004 elections, and cast my votes with a heavier sense of responsibility than ever before.

Beyond that, it comes down to where is the best place for you, as an individual, to express your life in the years to come, to make your stand. My grandparents came here from Russia, fleeing their native land before the Bolshevik Revolution. Those Jews who escaped Nazi Germany were similarly lucky. America is still a shining star for many, especially the third world. For some first world Australians, America is the Big Time, and I recently met one who emigrated here for this very reason. Each person’s reasons for staying or going are unique. But being the freedom loving guy that I am, I sure as hell don’t want to be stuck here against my wishes when the borders close and It’s Too Late.

Inconvenient Facts

Rightie bloggers are gleefully linking to an item in the Toronto Star that pans Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko. The author of the item, Peter Howell, writes,

We Canucks were taking issue with the large liberties Sicko takes with the facts, with its lavish praise for Canada’s government-funded medicare system compared with America’s for-profit alternative.

While justifiably demonstrating the evils of an American system where dollars are the major determinant of the quality of medicare care a person receives, and where restoring a severed finger could cost an American $60,000 compared to nothing at all for a Canadian, Sicko makes it seem as if Canada’s socialized medicine is flawless and that Canadians are satisfied with the status quo.

Moore makes the eyebrow-raising assertion that Canadians live on average three years longer than Americans because of their superior health care system.

In fact, my painstaking research (5 seconds of googling) revealed that Canadians live on average only 2.5 years longer than Americans because of their superior health care system. However, I would have thought 2.5 years is eye popping, too.

Since I haven’t seen the film I can’t judge how Moore describes the Canadian health care system, which does have some flaws. However, compared to our system the Canadian system is, um, way better.

Last week another Canadian, Liam Lacey of the Globe and Mail, wrote,

As in Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore uses Canada as an example of a more humane social system. When a Canadian reporter suggested the portrait of the Canadian medical system was unduly rosy, and wait times for care were long, Moore asked the reporter if he’d trade in his health card to join the American system.

“No,” said the reporter promptly, earning a laugh from the audience.

Liam Lacey predicts Sicko will be a hit.

Canada Probably Doesn’t Want Us, Anyway

This seems a good time to plug Bill Scher’s new book, Wait! Don’t Move to Canada!. Bill is the very smart guy who runs Liberal Oasis. You might have caught him on Tucker Carlson’s show on MSNBC last night. You probably didn’t, because I can’t imagine many of you actually watch Tucker, but maybe some of you do. (If so, why? I’m sure you could find a Law & Order rerun if you flipped channels.)

In the last post I wrote that it’s time to decide if the nation is salvageable or not. Lots of people have decided it isn’t. As I said, these people may be right. But if you think it’s too late to fight, then please step out of the way. Some of us haven’t given up yet.

Wait! Don’t Move! is a handbook for liberals who want to fight but aren’t sure how. Thankfully, Bill moves beyond cheery little checklists reminding you to write your congressperson. Suggestions for action are presented within a Big Picture framework. It’s not just about defeating Republicans, but about making America safe for liberalism again. Throughout, Bill challenges readers to be clear about what we want. Instead of just reacting to the Republican agenda, we should be showing the nation an alternative way to look at issues. We should fight from a position of clarity and purpose rather than defensiveness. We should not, for example, try to counter the Religious Right with our own public displays of religiosity, but instead promise to preserve religious liberty by keeping government out of religion.

And, anyway, if we cede the U.S. to Republicans, sooner or later they’ll invade Canada. Might as well stop them here.


This is a follow up to “Touching Innocence,” below. A blogger named Russell Roberts writes,

Proponents of single-payer health care reform in the United States have long pointed toward Canada as a model for the US to emulate.

The New York Times reports that the Canadian system is imploding. …

You already know where this is going … the Times report discusses problems with the Canadian system, and says some private health care is rushing in to pick up the slack. Whereupon blogger Russell gloats a bit about how superior the U.S. health care system is, and how fortunate Canadians will be when their public system breaks down entirely and they can have a health care system just like ours.

Russell goes off track with the first sentence — “Proponents of single-payer health care reform in the United States have long pointed toward Canada as a model for the US to emulate.” Although I’ve met such people, in fact the Canadian Model is a bugaboo of the Right. Try to discuss national health care with a rightie, and the first sentence out of his mouth will be, “You mean like in Canada?” Then he will go off on a tirade about the problems with the Canadian system. (Unless you remind them of the underfunded British system, which is the other good “bad” example of a system with problems.)

And, I’m sorry to say, I also run into uninformed lefties who seem to think our only choices are a Canadian-style single-payer or the overblown mess that is the U.S. “system.”

As I wrote earlier today, just about every nation on earth affluent enough for most citizens to own a microwave has some kind of national health care system, with the exception of the United States. And every nation has worked out its own system; it is not true, as the uninformed would have it, that there is only the Canadian Model or ours. People who have looked at the myriad systems on the planet say that Canada’s is not necessarily the model we should be emulating. Other countries (notably France, whose system is ranked #1 in overall performance by the World Health Organization) have mixed public and private systems, with public “universal coverage” supplemented by private insurers and hospitals for those who want to pay for them. This may be where Canada is heading now.

Ezra Klein wrote a series of posts on the health care systems of various other countries. France’s system, he says, is not only more cost-effective than ours, it also provides better care for most people.

France’s health care system bodyslams us on most every metric. Beyond the beds per 1,000 stat mentioned above, France has more doctors per 1,000 people (3.3 vs. 2.4), spends way less, has 3.2 more physician visits per capita (6 in France vs. 2.8 in America, which probably accounts for the better preventive care in France), has a much higher hospital admission rate, and beats us handily on the most important measure: potential years of life lost. American women lose 3,836 years per 100,000, while American men give up 6,648 in the same sample size (yes, we get screwed). In France, the comparable numbers are 2,588 years for the women and 5,610 for the men. Still not great, but quite a bit better.

So France spends less, gets more, and does so through a public-private hybrid that’s heavily, heavily public.


The hospitals offer about 8.4 beds per 1,000 people (America, btw, offers 3.6. Ouch.) The public sector provides 65% of the beds, private hospitals — which operate on a fee-for-service basis — make up the rest, and primarily concentrate on surgeries. French citizens choose which one to go to and get the same reimbursement at either. How’s that for choice? Not good enough? The French also get to choose their physicians, their physicians get to choose where they practice, and there’s patient-client confidentiality.

Everyone I’ve ever met who’s lived in France even a short time sings the praises of the French health-care system. This is not to say that Americans with lots of money or top-notch insurance don’t get as good, or better, care. But, I’m told, if you don’t have lots of money or insurance, try to arrange to have your health problems in France.

The Canadian health care system is slowly breaking down, The New York Times says. The U.S. system, by contrast, is not slowly breaking down. Parts of it are already broken, and what’s left of it is hurtling toward disaster at breakneck speed.

Once again, Jane Bryant Quinn:

America’s health-care “system” looks more like a lottery every year. The winners: the healthy and well insured, with good corporate coverage or Medicare. When they’re ill, they get—as the cliche goes—”the best health care in the world.” The losers: those who rely on shrinking public insurance, such as Medicaid (nearly 45 million of us), or go uninsured (46 million and rising).

To slip from the winners’ circle into the losers’ ranks is a cultural, emotional and financial shock. You discover a world of patchy, minimal health care that feels almost Third World. The uninsured get less primary or preventive care, find it hard to see cardiologists, surgeons and other specialists (waiting times can run up to a year), receive treatment in emergencies, but are more apt to die from chronic or other illnesses than people who pay. That’s your lot if you lose your corporate job and can’t afford a health policy of your own.

Sebastian Mallaby explains why Bush’s health savings accounts will make our system even worse. In another column, Mallaby concludes,

Beyond the imperative of restraining prices, the biggest challenges in health care are to get insurance to everyone and to create incentives for preventive treatment — even though prevention may pay off 30 years later, by which time the patient will have gone through multiple switches in health plans. The most plausible subsidizer of universal insurance is government, and the only entity with a stake in lifelong wellness is the government. Is the administration ready to see that?

See also “Single-Payer Health Would Increase US Competitiveness” by Hale Stewart at BOP News.

This is a huge topic, and this evening I don’t have the time to go into the detail the topic requires. But whenever I see a rightie snicker about the problems of other health care systems, I wonder what it’s going to take to get them to see that our system is a disaster in progress. Corpses in the streets? Oh, wait, we’ve been there already. I’m afraid it’s what Quinn says — the shock of being dumped out of the “winners” rank. Until then, it’ll take major surgery to get their heads out of their butts.