Friday, February 29, 2008

Another Cold

I contend this is the worst cold season ever. I'm now on my second demon-spawned cold in about a month.

I have started, however, to cough and sneeze into my elbow.
If you don't have a tissue handy, you're being asked to do the "sleeve sneeze." When you cough or sneeze into your hand those germs can be transferred onto other surfaces and infect others, so health officials say you should use your shoulder, elbow or forearm to a-choo.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How Not to Reassure Liberals : Media Leaks

Jason Cherniak points us to a Jane Taber article in today's Globe & Mail [Liberal decision comes after long, testy meeting]:

Stéphane Dion followed the script developed by his senior caucus leadership as he announced yesterday that there wasn't enough in the Harper budget to justify an election.

The Liberal Leader, who insiders say wants an election, did not look like a happy man as he emerged from the House of Commons lobby, hand-in-hand with his wife, Janine Krieber, and as per the strategy told reporters that, although he didn't like the budget, the Liberals would allow it to pass.

The fact that his wife was there supporting him shows how difficult this has been.
Do you smell that? Get out the shovel and the rubber boots.

According to the story, in the midst of a crisis in grassroots support for the Liberal party, one that could lead to a leaking of support to the NDP, a story "leaks" of an internal spat among Stéphane Dion's closest advisors about whether or not the Liberal party should call an election.
On one side, we have Stéphane Dion, Ralph Goodale, Michael Ignatieff, "one MP", and "some MPs" - on the other side, Liberal Senators David Smith and Céline Hervieux-Payette and, actually, the entire Liberal Senate.

Did you notice something?

Everyone must come away from this story with the notion that the Liberals that people elect and directly support either by contributions or volunteering passionately want an election. It's the Liberals that people don't elect that do not want to bring down the Conservatives.

Yes, there are nervous nellies (to use Scott's term) within caucus, but none of those are apparently Stéphane Dion's "closest advisors". All of Stéphane Dion's closest elected advisors want an election, his unelected advisors, that he can conveniently blame for the decision not to bring down the government, do not.

This story then leaks. Angry Liberals are then supposed to say, "Well, Stéphane Dion tried - we love him again."

The Liberals, Mr. Dion included, do not want an election now because they believe they would lose or they do not have enough money to fight one. That's far more believable than Mr. Dion and his elected advisors really pushing for an election and then having it vetoed by Senators Smith and Hervieux-Payette.

If Mr. Dion wanted to bring down this government, he would bring it down. The budget vote, being a confidence motion, would be whipped and he'd tell his Senators to take a hike or go sit as Conservatives. Then, he'd get new advisors.

Rest assured, he won't do this - he's doing the worst that he can.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

OHIP Eligibility - Residency Requirement, Part 2

Following this story, two Ontario NDP MPP's have written a letter to the Ontario Minister of Health, George Smitherman, asking that Owen Pallett's health coverage be reinstated.

France Gélinas (Nickel Belt), the NDP Critic for Health and Long-Term Care and Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina) co-authored the letter.

Torontoist has the letter up at their place.

Again, I don't think it was an attempt to deny someone health care, but just someone enforcing what they thought was the letter of the law.

That said, I think the residency requirement is wrong and needs to be changed.

OHIP Eligibility - Residency Requirement

From Torontoist, we hear of an account of an individual denied health benefits under OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) due to residency concerns:

Encounters with government bureaucracy can be stressful ordeals at the best of times; at the worst, when things don’t go your way, they can be incredibly frustrating. Apparently, this is true even if you’re a Polaris Music Prize–winning musician. Former Torontoist contributor Carly Beath pointed us toward Owen Pallett recounting his recent travails with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care on Stillepost. His story is a cautionary tale for bands, musicians, and anyone else who travels frequently.

When renewing his health card, Pallett answered the clerk’s questions openly and honestly only to get burned by it. Although Ontario is his place of residence, his musician’s lifestyle of constant touring and travel to recording studios elsewhere meant Pallett couldn’t satisfy the clerk that he met OHIP’s eligibility requirements, which demand that an applicant to have been "physically present in Ontario for 153 days in any 12-month period." That he couldn't meet the residency requirements seems especially ironic given the degree to which Pallett’s hometown permeates Final Fantasy’s music, with references to the CN Tower, Brad Lamb, and much more.

Embedded link mine.

I'm inclined to believe that, if true, this is just an example of a member of the civil service going to extreme lengths to ensure an applicant complies with the letter of the law. That, under the definitions of eligibility, this individual is a "transient".

However, what I find interesting are the requirements to vote in an Ontario election found on the Elections Ontario website.

To be eligible to vote in an Ontario election, the prospective voter must be:

  • 18 years of age or older,
  • a Canadian citizen, and
  • a resident of an electoral district in Ontario.

There are no residency-length requirements to vote as far as I could find.

Further, if you need to prove you are eligible to vote, you can show identification. The combination of documentation allowed is almost infinite, and in this case, I'm sure the OHIP applicant in this story would qualify. The individual mentions having cell phone bills and would likely have a credit card or debit card.

In short, this individual would be legally entitled to vote in Ontario, but technically does not qualify for OHIP. Further, this individual could conceivably vote for a party that promised to make this go away. Funny, that. They could vote to eliminate or improve OHIP, but would be denied coverage.

Even worse - if this applicant had children who travelled with him, they'd be denied coverage as well.

I understand why a government would like to limit public health insurance to an individual based upon their likelihood of not actually residing in the province, but to deny coverage due to a residency-length requirement seems wrong.

There are better conditions for disqualifying someone.

Update: There's an update.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

On Legislative Accomplishments

I was originally a John Edwards supporter - whatever that means being a Canadian - but have since moved to Barack Obama.

Daily Kos has a nice run down of Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments. They are summarized as follows:
Senator Obama has sponsored or co-sponsored 570 bills in the 109th and 110th Congress.

Senator Obama has sponsored or co-sponsored 15 bills that have become LAW since he joined the Senate in 2005.

Senator Obama has also introduced amendments to 50 bills, of which 16 were adopted by the Senate.

In addition, Daily Kos also runs down a comparison of the legislative successes between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton here:

Finally, Obama appears to have a better record last year in the Senate on getting his bills and amendments passed than does Clinton. I've listed everything that passed the Senate for each [of] them at the end in boxes. But check out Thomas.loc.gov for yourself. I may have missed something.

Barack Obama deserves to win the Democratic nomination.

Torontoist Zinger

If you do not read the Torontoist, shame on you.
The highly-respected British science journal Nature has called the Harper government's record on science and the environment "dismal." The PM was unavailable for comment yesterday, as he was in an emergency cabinet meeting called after Wednesday night's lunar eclipse to determine why the moon had disappeared.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Queen West Fire

It is incredible how much smoke is being generated by the fire downtown. The CBC report has the smoke smell hitting east of Yonge, but I could smell it as I was starting to pass St. Lawrence Market at Front and Jarvis.



This shot is from CTV Toronto.

Updated: Torontoist has more photos up from the fire.

Updated x2: Torontoist has launched even more fantastic pictures.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Canada's Position on Kosovo

Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported that Liberal party leader Stéphane Dion has urged the Canadian government to recognize Kosovo's declaration of independence. Further, the CBC adds some additional detail.

"You have here a population requesting its independence unanimously," [Stéphane Dion] added, referring to the Kosovars. "Nobody will contradict that. They have been victims of very, very serious negative attacks from the former state, Serbia."

This declaration of independence was not unanimous [BBC, Kosovo MPs proclaim independence]:

Kosovo's 10 Serbian MPs boycotted the assembly session in protest at the declaration.

Those 10 MP's represent 8% of the assembly. Not much of an influence in the assembly overall, I admit – it does however indicate how much more complicated a situation this is.

Hypothetically, suppose in a similar circumstance, under a Stéphane Dion-led federal government, a majority Parti Québécois government in Quebec declared independence to an empty Quebec National Assembly, when the opposition provincial Liberals and ADQ abstain. Would the Liberals led by M. Dion recognize and accept an independent Quebec? This would be a "unanimous" declaration of independence too.

Of course, the federal Liberals would not - but the precedent for recognizing such a declaration would have been made.

In addition, if international powers decided to recognize an independent Quebec, like say Serbia and Russia in retaliation for recognizing Kosovo, then what?

There is no question that Kosovo has suffered greatly at the hands of Serbian governmental policy, so it should come as no surprise that the province would seek independence. I also agree that the circumstances behind this declaration are different than a similar one in Canada.

As I said, this is a complicated issue.

A better Canadian position might be a conditional recognition of Kosovo independence itself dependent upon:

  • continued UN or European Union governance for the time being;
  • negotiating terms of settlement with the Serbian government (per UN rules on creating independent states); and
  • a referendum with a "clear question" being conducted in all 30 municipalities within Kosovo to indicate support or opposition to this declaration. Those municipalities opposing the declaration could choose to remain within Serbia.

At the very least, a municipality-by-municipality referendum would confirm that the people of Kosovo want independence - thereby weakening Russia's opposition. Or, it would confirm which parts of Kosovo want independence and which wish to remain a part of Serbia - perhaps suggesting that partitioning the province is a better idea.

This would clear and reconcile our position on declarations of independence, both domestically and internationally.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Randy Hillier for Ontario PC Leader?

Who could have known that Randy Hillier would be the first out of the gate to openly criticize John Tory [Ottawa Citizen, Landowners set to challenge PC leader's remake of party]:

A large block of rural delegates will attend an Ontario Progressive Conservative convention in just more than a week, says the group's co-founder, Randy Hillier, a move that adds intrigue to a showdown between party leader John Tory and his detractors.

Members of the Ontario Landowners Association, a libertarian group that rails against excessive government interference, will assert their agenda by involving themselves in the party's policy process, says president Jack MacLaren.

At a minimum, the group will challenge Mr. Tory's moderate remake of the party. "I think the party has to come out and define itself as a Conservative alternative to the Liberals," said Mr. Hillier.

[H/T, Warren Kinsella]

Who could have guessed that there were MPP's with significant support and backing already in the legislature that you'd need to overcome or incorporate into your support base. Not me, that's for sure.

Low Calorie Sweeteners May Make You Gain Weight

As someone who has recently shed a few pounds, I would like to offer some anecdotal evidence for this story [CBC, Rats! Low-calorie sweeteners linked to weight gain, not loss: study]:

Psychologists at Purdue University have discovered in rat experiments that heavy use of no-calorie sweeteners can actually make it harder to shed extra pounds. The thinking is that the sweeteners make it more difficult to control food intake and body weight.
I think diet-based or low/zero calorie foods psychologically, or maybe physiologically as the study suggests, give the consumer the belief that they can then increase their calorie intake either during or immediately after the meal. So, for instance, if I go to a restaurant and I order a diet pop, I subconciously convince myself that I have now made more room for dinner. It's the old joke when you go to the fast food place, you order the double cheese and bacon burger plus the extra large fries, but then add a Diet Coke because you're on a diet.

Secondly, whenever I had a diet pop on its own, I got hungry almost immediately afterwards. I attributed this to the fact that my body knew I was consuming something, but it had no calories in it. It then ramped up wanting more calories, so I would grab a snack - usually starchy (like bread) or highish fat (peanut butter or cheese). That's bad, so I try not to drink diet pop all alone.

I think consuming the chemicals in these products needs to be subject to the same "portion control" that you would give to food with calorie contents. Someone needs to figure out the ratio of consumption of aspartame or saccharin versus the slow down in calorie burn.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What it Means to Me

Via Canadian Cynic, we learn that a commenter at a conservative blog asks:
Tell me what - in the left's mind -the conservative government has done that has NOT earned your respect.

Well, I certainly do not consider myself a "lefty" - others may disagree - but, I'd still like to comment on the question. First, let me reprint the comments where I share the same opinion as the commenter about why the Conservatives have lost my respect.

CC:

Let's recall Harper's reneging on a clear and unambiguous campaign promise -- a patient wait times guarantee. And let's recall how that guarantee magically disappeared when no one was looking.

M@:

Michael Fortier.

Grog:

Income trusts.

To this, I'll add my own reasons. These are in no particular order.

The Conservatives refusal to govern on principle, rather they govern by poll:

Under Stephen Harper's Conservatives, the federal government spent more money on polling and focus groups last year than in any other since it began tracking the total costs of public opinion surveys.

More than $31 million was spent sampling opinions in 2006-07, the first full fiscal year under a Tory government, according to a Public Works and Government Services Canada report.

The Tories outspent all the previous Liberal governments on public opinion research.

The defection of David Emerson from the Liberal party to the Conservatives under largely the same circumstances as Belinda Stronach's defection for which she was criticized.

Ideologically cutting the budget out of the Status of Women stating that they were using the money for advocacy and research, yet taking cash in themselves from the taxpayers to do advocacy and research.

Dumping Garth Turner from caucus.

Dumping Mark Warner as a candidate in Toronto-Centre due to "internal electoral riding association issues", but protecting more publicly controversial candidates like Rob Anders and Rondo Thomas (and others).

The confusion around the handling of Afghanistan detainees best summarized by a Globe editorial today:

For instance, for nearly three months after the military stopped transferring the prisoners to the Afghans over torture concerns, the Canadian government neglected to tell Canadians. When the truth finally came out because of a document in a public court file, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokeswoman said the military had changed the policy without telling the government; a day later she recanted.

The AECL "crisis" best handled and described by JimBobby.

General childish behaviour in Parliament. For example,

CBC, Opposition demands release of alleged Tory 'dirty tricks' manual:

Opposition parties on Friday demanded the Conservative government make public a reported 200-page guidebook on how to create chaos in parliamentary committees.

MPs from all three opposition parties used question period to call on the government to table the alleged document, which was reported in the National Post.

The guidebook, reportedly handed out to selected Conservative MPs, offers advice on how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, obstruct debate and, if needed, storm out of committee meetings.

Or this, Globe & Mail, Van Loan's juvenile slur:

The question from Liberal MP Mark Holland was both obvious and necessary: Will Canadians be informed when and if Canada's military resumes handing over prisoners to the Afghan authorities? The answer from Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan: "What we will not do is what the agent for the Taliban intelligence agency wants us to do over there, which is to release to them information on detailed operations in the field."

Emphasis mine. That last comment, "release to [the Taliban] information on detailed operations in the field" segues nicely into a display of hopefully general incompetence.

Toronto Star, Minister put Dion at risk in war zone, Liberals say:

The Liberals want Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis fired for what they deem an unacceptable breach of security regarding Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's recent visit to Afghanistan.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Dion said Guergis, the secretary of state for foreign affairs, put his security at risk by revealing details publicly of his itinerary in Afghanistan during a visit last weekend.

Appointing political cronies to federal authorities.

I could probably rhyme off some more, but that will do for now.

Updated: Minor wording change.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Totally Irrelevant Post

Am I the only one (about 25 years late) who just realized the connection between Templeton "Faceman" Peck and the Cylon who walks by (45 seconds into the opening)?



Next you'll tell me why one Polka Dot Door host always missed Polkaroo.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Michael Fortier Zinger

Paul Wells, DimitriSoudasGate: Circle the wagons and shoot inward:

I was about to suggest it'll be a rough day for [Michael] Fortier in the House of Commons, but then I remembered he doesn't work there.

In other news, there are 230 signatures in the "Stay Fortier Stay" petition:

To: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister:

We, the undersigned, support your conviction that The Honourable Michael Fortier remain an unelected Cabinet Minister and retain his Senate seat until such time as you deem fit.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned

Insects are Animals

Wikipedia:

Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan becomes fixed as they develop, usually early on in their development as embryos, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile - they can move spontaneously and independently. Animals are heterotrophs - they are dependent on other organisms (e.g. plants) for sustenance.

...

The Ecdysozoa are protostomes, named after the common trait of growth by moulting or ecdysis. The largest animal phylum belongs here, the Arthropoda, including insects, spiders, crabs, and their kin. All these organisms have a body divided into repeating segments, typically with paired appendages. Two smaller phyla, the Onychophora and Tardigrada, are close relatives of the arthropods and share these traits.

Thank you.

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