Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Posting some version of the Robert Service poem The Cremation of Sam McGee, my favourite poem, has become a sort of Halloween blogging ritual for me.

So, here it is again: Hank Snow's version. Enjoy.


Alberta Suspends H1N1 Vaccination Clinics

This province is run by morans.

Via the CBC:

Alberta health officials said Saturday the province's H1N1 immunization clinics have been suspended immediately because of a national reduction in the number of available vaccine doses.

Officials said they will roll out a plan early next week for targeted H1N1 vaccines, focusing only on those at the greatest risk. Mass immunizations likely will not resume for at least a few weeks.

Targeted recipients are pregnant women, children six months to five years of age, people under 65 with chronic health conditions, people living in remote and isolated communities and health-care workers.

Alberta Health Services' senior medical health officer Dr. Gerry Predy said the details of the targeted immunization clinics will be released Monday.

He said the suspension of mass immunizations is in effect until further notice.

"It is important for the public not to panic and to respect the priorities for vaccination," Predy said.

"Again, we're asking people to be calm. There will be more vaccine and there should be enough vaccine for everybody who wants it."

The announcement comes after H1N1 vaccination clinics in Edmonton and Calgary were overwhelmed Saturday, forcing clinics to close their lineups and turn people away.

Thousands of people showed up looking for vaccines, some lining up as early as 4 a.m.

At the Olympic Oval in Calgary, more than 3,000 people lined up.

By the time the clinic was shut down early Saturday morning, officials said the wait had already reached an estimated eight hours and the lineup stretched about half a kilometre outside the building.
And then they go on to justify not targeting high-risk people first to begin with.

[insert expletive here]

A quote from the Health Minister Moran:

Liepert, meanwhile, said "Albertans are not getting the message" about prioritizing vulnerable patients for the vaccines.

However, he maintained the government is not going into "Soviet Union mode" where they will have people in lineups prove they're in the highrisk category.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Quote du Jour: H1N1 Hysteria

The Tory MLA for Battle River-Wainwright, Doug Griffiths, has been fielding complaints from his constituents after a clinic in Wainwright ran out of vaccine earlier this week.

Griffiths believes both politicians and the public need to settle down.

"This sort of pandemic hysteria is, is — I don't understand why people are doing it. It's the flu," he said.
Gee. Maybe the word "pandemic" and the message from various levels of government that people should be vaccinated has something to do with that - no?

Day 5 of the vaccination program here in Alberta and the handling of the situation is still an absolute mess.

People wanting the swine flu vaccine in Calgary are being turned away as the clinics in Alberta's two biggest cities prepare for an early Friday closure.

Clinics in Calgary and Edmonton have been open every day this week until 8 p.m. But for the next three days, the clinics are set to close at 3:30 p.m. in Calgary and 4 p.m. in Edmonton.

All five of Calgary's H1N1 vaccinations have closed their lines to new people as of noon, Alberta Health Services announced. Those already waiting in line will get the shot.

On Friday morning, new flu assessment clinics opened in Calgary and Edmonton with the aim of easing congestion in hospital emergency rooms.

Before the clinic opened Friday at 8 a.m. in Calgary, about a dozen people shivered in line, eyeing the empty chairs inside the closed building.

"Adding to that frustration is that more than 200 people waiting for the H1N1 vaccine in the very same building are being allowed to wait inside," said CBC News reporter Erin Collins.
What's wrong with this picture?

On top of all of that, Alberta Health minister Liepert is now saying that vaccination clinics may close next week because they're running out of the vaccine.

When I saw my doctor the other day, who was at least able to give me my regular flu shot, he said his office was just placing an order for the vaccine and he held out very little hope that it would actually be delivered. He was not impressed with the government's handling of the situation.

I'm still "high-risk" since I have lupus. Exactly where am I supposed to get the vaccine? And when?

Adding insult to injury - after instituting a hiring freeze for nurses not too long ago - the Stelmach government (tone deaf to the core) picked this frenzied time to ask health care workers to take a 2 year wage freeze. Every Conservative government Alberta has had for the past 40 years has inevitably screwed up the province's finances while pandering to Big Oil and the first place they hit for cuts is always health care. Why the boneheaded majority of voters keep electing these fiscally-challenged clowns is beyond me. Then again everybody knows how scary those "socialists" in the opposition are, right? Dog forbid Albertans should actually try a new ideological regime that might actually improve their lives. No. Conservatism is God - no matter how many times it's been proven otherwise. See: Market, Free - Crash.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Minister of Damage Control, John Baird, told concerned opposition members during Friday's QP that his party isn't making this a political issue. That, after weeks - months - of pointing the finger at the Liberal party as if it's the actual party in power in charge of dealing with pandemic preparedness. When all else fails - and it has - send out Mr Pit Bull to provide cover for the Cons.


Temperatures rise as 'flu rage' explodes across Canada

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama's Extrajudicial Executions

"Extrajudicial executions". That's a nasty phrase, isn't it? And to attach the much-loved and vaunted President Obama's name to it? Well, that's almost akin to blasphemy. But, if you refuse to call the US military drone attacks on Pakistani civilians exactly what they are no matter which party you support, you're simply a hypocrite with no sense of justice for innocent civilians being killed by a war machine that refuses to recognize another country's sovereignty. It is as simple as that.

Via the BBC:

US warned on deadly drone attacks

The US has been warned that its use of drones to target suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan may violate international law.

UN human rights investigator Philip Alston said the US should explain the legal basis for attacking individuals with the remote-controlled aircraft.

He said the CIA had to show accountability to international laws which ban arbitrary executions.

Drones have killed about 600 people in north-west Pakistan since August 2008.

Mr Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, told the BBC: "My concern is that these drones, these Predators, are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

"The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions, are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons."
The US, of course, can't prove that executions aren't being carried out because that's exactly what's happening. Any time a drone hits a suspected al Qaeda or Taliban member, the US military boasts about it. And whenever there are reports of civilians being killed, the US military offers its immediate standard denials - labeling them as "militants" or "insurgents" as they have done in Iraq and Afghanistan - while promising to "investigate" further. Those investigations too often result in an eventual admission of guilt that amounts to a correction on page B8 of your local newspaper - if they ever admit fault at all.

Take a look at the numbers if you're in the mood to justify the use of these drones:

LAHORE: Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.
And since then? Back to the BBC:

Increased use

Mr Alston raised the issue in a report to the UN General Assembly's human rights committee on Tuesday.

At a news conference afterwards, he said he had become increasingly concerned at the increase in their use since June, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US told the UN in June that it has a legal framework to respond to unlawful killings. It also said the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have no role in relation to killings during an armed conflict.

But Mr Alston described that response as "simply untenable".
No role? I don't recall the US government using that line about the recent Goldstone report about Israel's Operation Cast Lead that was presented to the UN Human Rights Council (although Obama's government is definitely trying to bury it and congress is set to pass legislation rejecting Goldstone's report ASAP).

And what exactly is that "legal framework to respond to unlawful killings"? That sounds like a holdover policy from the Bush/Cheney/Gonzales administration which assured that no one in the CIA would ever be prosecuted for war crimes or human rights abuses. The Obama administration hasn't exactly embraced the ICC.

And just how much have those drone attack numbers increased? Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman, in the preface to her interview with Philip Alston reports:

Investigative reporter Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine revealed last week the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan has risen dramatically under President Obama. During his first nine-and-a-half months in office, Obama authorized at least forty-one CIA missile strikes in Pakistan, a rate of approximately one bombing a week. That’s as many drone attacks as President Bush sanctioned in his final three years in office. The attacks have killed between 326 and 538 people, that’s according to Jane Mayer. She writes, quote, “there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official US policy.”
More from that interview:

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the legality of the drones. Does it surprise you how many President Obama has used, at least—what is it?—now saying one a week since the beginning of his term?

PHILIP ALSTON: Right. Well, the frequency doesn’t surprise me, because if you’re a Defense Department person, it’s a very attractive proposition. One can use the Predators without putting US servicemen in any harm. They are very effective. They can kill very significant numbers of people. And one reads very clearly that the likelihood of their usage is going to grow, I think, exponentially, in fact. So Jane Mayer’s figure of one a week is probably only just the beginning of a real expansion of the program.

AMY GOODMAN: You feel it’s illegal?

PHILIP ALSTON: There are circumstances under which it could be legal. In other words, if you are definitely in an armed conflict situation, if you ascertain that there is no other way in which you can capture the combatant that you’re trying to target, and you take all of the relevant precautions to make sure that civilians are not killed, in accordance with the relevant international rules, then it may be legitimate.

The problem is that we have no real information on this program. What Jane Mayer exposed in her New Yorker piece is probably the most detailed information we have. She herself said that the CIA provides no information. It’s extraordinary that it’s the Central Intelligence Agency which is actually operating a missile program, which is actually deciding who to kill, when and where. There’s no accountability for it. There’s no indication of the rules that they use. So, I said before, there are rules, that it’s possible to justify a particular killing, but the CIA has never tried to do that. They have simply issued a general assurance: “No, no, everything’s fine. We really follow the rules, and we’re very careful.” Well, if Israel or some other country that we’re scrutinizing says that, we say, “Sorry, guys, it’s not enough. We need to get the details.”

AMY GOODMAN: You’re calling for a special prosecutor to investigate?

PHILIP ALSTON: No, I’m calling for the government to make clear the details of the program; the legal basis, under US law, on which they are relying; the rules that they have put in place which govern the CIA actions, assuming there are rules; and what sort of accountability mechanisms they have. Do they review what they’ve done? They identify an individual. Often these identifications are very vague. But they say, “OK, we’ve got X in our sights.” Did they actually kill X? Did they kill someone else? How many other civilians did they kill? There’s never any accounting of that. And we need that sort of retrospective analysis, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Jane Mayer writes in her New Yorker piece that in exchange for being able to carry out these drone attacks in Pakistan, the CIA has added some of Pakistan’s enemies to the hit list.

PHILIP ALSTON: Right. Well, that’s one of the problems. It’s a slippery slope, of course, because you start off—it’s always the same. You start off saying, “Look, we’ve got to get someone like Osama bin Laden.” You’ve some big guy at the top. Then you get rid of the big guys, and then you start killing lower-level people. Then you get a few additional people put on the list. And who knows? Maybe we’ll be getting opium lords and various others. And then the locals are able to nominate a few of their friends that they’d like to see out of action. Unless the program is very strictly controlled, the opportunities for abuse are immense.
And, no doubt, the fact that congress just tripled its aid to Pakistan adds to this cozy deal.

Can we expect Obama's CIA/Pentagon to come clean about its drone program? Extremely unlikely. They can hide behind the standard "national security concerns" excuse and it was clear when Obama spoke to CIA employees last spring that he plans to protect them every step of the way.

So what's the big deal about a few extrajudicial executions anyway? Those civilians should have stayed out of the way - obviously.


Jane Mayer, The New Yorker - The Predator War

Chris Floyd - Depraved Indifference: Drone Wars, Whack Jobs and Imperial Terror

CBS Pro-Drone Propaganda

Mother Jones - Google Finds Drones in Pakistan

And, finally, the latest from Hillary, speaking in Pakistan on Thursday:

Although Clinton said she was making a priority of engaging frankly and openly on her visit, she declined to talk about a subject that has stirred some of the strongest feelings of anti-Americanism here — U.S. drone aircraft attacks against extremist targets on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border.

The Obama administration routinely refuses to acknowledge publicly that the attacks are taking place.

"There is a war going on," she said, and the U.S. wants to help Pakistan be successful.
Hmm...I didn't know the US was at war with Pakistan.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

H1N1 Vaccination Hysteria

For months, governments and the media have been sounding the loud alarm bell over H1N1 flu - urging people to get vaccinated ASAP. So, it's not like this is a surprise. In Calgary though, apparently it is.

The Alberta government, in its usual (cheaply-driven) wisdom, set up only 4 public clinic locations in Calgary for a population of some one million people. It doesn't exactly take a monkey with a calculator to figure out that those sites might then be slightly overwhelmed with vaccine-seeking people after they've been pounded with pandemic fear-mongering messages since last spring.

And that's what happened, of course.

People in line for 6 hours. 6 hours.

Edmontonians didn't fare any better.

"The response is certainly good, and we're glad to see that," said Gerry Predy, senior medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services.

"Now we have to find ways to streamline things if we can."

Eventually that might mean extending the hours of some clinics, getting patients to fill in paperwork while waiting in line, or bringing in more staff, but Predy said it's too soon to tell.

In the meantime, he pleaded for patience and suggested people bring books to read while waiting.
I'll tell you what, Dr Gerry Predy: you try waiting in line reading a book for hours on end when you're one of those high-risk people who are sick and sore to begin with and who should have been given quick, exclusive access to the vaccination before the general public and then we'll talk.

Predy actually had the audacity to chastise Albertans this morning, saying that those who weren't high-risk should have let those who are get the shots first.

That's not how these clinics were advertized by your department, Dr Predy. It was come one, come all.

I have lupus. I'm immune-compromized. I've gone back and forth on getting this shot since it hasn't been fully tested. I couldn't get into Calgary to stand in line in the frigid temps on Monday and I don't know when I'll get my shot. I wouldn't have gone in anyway. It was obvious that with so few clinic locations there would be problems. There is a city where when the first snowfall hits every year, Calgarians act like they've never seen snow before and proceed to panic on the streets resulting in a few hundred fender-benders - every single time, guaranteed. It's not a stretch to believe that attitude would apply to this situation as well - and it has. I'll talk to my doctor (who apparently doesn't have the vaccine to give me) about it when I see him on Wednesday.

In the meantime, who knows how many people will end up with the swine flu who looked at those lineups and walked away, unwilling to wait?

Yeah - that's health care you can count on, isn't it?

And don't even get me started on how Steve and the feds have mishandled this swine flu mess.

Friday, October 23, 2009

When is the Afghanistan war not a war?

When some British immigration judges say it isn't:

Hundreds of Afghans living in Britain face being deported after immigration judges ruled that their home country's bloody conflict did not make the region an unsafe place to return failed asylum-seekers.

The test ruling opens the way for deportation flights to southern parts of the war-torn country where thousands of civilians have lost their lives since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001.

Three judges of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that the level of "indiscriminate violence" was not enough to permit Afghans to claim general humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom. Hundreds of asylum-seekers a year are returned to Afghanistan if they have not convinced a court they are in fear of persecution or that their lives are in danger. The ruling on Wednesday prevents them from arguing that the country is a dangerous place.

Peter Kessler, the UN Refugee Agency's senior external affairs officer in the UK, said: "We are in disagreement with the conclusion that there can be returns during the winter months. The UNHCR has consistently advised that returns should not take place over the winter months (mid-October to 31 March), and only individuals from Kabul with family or other support structures may be returned."

The judges said: "Nobody is suggesting that the situation in Afghanistan is anything but a very long way short of ideal but... the numbers of civilians killed by indiscriminate violence turns out to be a great deal less than might otherwise have been expected."

Turning down an asylum claim by a Afghan man, 20, from Nangarhar, the court ruled that civilian casualty figures were not high enough to warrant protection under European law.
It's a war zone. Not that difficult to understand, is it?

Abdullah Tokhi, 35, repeatedly pleaded while seeking asylum in Britain that his life was in danger because of a sectarian and political blood feud back home. But the Government at the time decided that Afghanistan was now a safe place thanks to the intervention of Britain and the US, and Mr Tokhi was returned to his village. A year later he was dead, shot while walking in a crowded street in a bazaar.
But it's not like there's a war going on, so no big deal.

Just as a sidebar, I noticed while watching Frontline's 'Obama's War' last week and reading a story in The Independent about Helmand province that Canadian (and other NATO troops) were not even mentioned as being present in the region. It's all British and/or US troops apparently. We may not have the largest numbers but we are there. You'd think these journalists would at least acknowledge that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Newsflash: A Major Liberal Party Strategy Shift?

Appearing on Friday afternoon's CBC Politics, journalist Evan Solomon previewed what may be a major strategy change by Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal party as a result of its (and his) tanking poll numbers.

Solomon said that in an interview for CBC Radio's The House to be run on Saturday, Ignatieff told him that (paraphrasing) he has backed away from a wholesale rejection of the Conservative government to opposing them on an "issue by issue" basis.

Looks like Michael 'your time is up' Ignatieff is history.

How long do you think it will take before the Cons react with the scary NDP-Libs-BQ coalition talking points after this news?

The Liberal party needs a platform, Michael. Why don't you start with that?

Obama's Undeserved Nobel Peace Prize

To say that I was shocked this morning to read the news that Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize is putting it mildly. When I watched his his acceptance speech in which he proclaimed that he wasn't sure that he deserved it, I had to wonder why he actually believed that he did.

U.S. President Barack Obama says he is deeply humbled by the Norwegian Nobel committee for selecting him as the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and will accept it as a "call to action.
He'll have to call it that because he definitely has not shown any actual accomplishments to date that would make him a contender for the prize based on results achieved.

It's not enough to call for an end to nuclear proliferation while you allow your closest Middle East ally, Israel, to continue to hide its nuclear weapons from the rest of the world while pushing for sanctions against a country like Iran which you only think might be developing them.

It's not enough to talk peace while you're racheting up the war in Afghanistan while placing withdrawal from Iraq on the back burner.

It's not enough to say you're going to close Gitmo as prisoners like child soldier Omar Khadr continue to rot away in your secretive gulag while you "study" the issue.

It's not enough to say you're discontinuing oppressive Bush regime policies when you're, in fact, embracing renditions, withholding torture photos, covering for Bush administration and CIA war crimes, supporting the suppression of foreign prisoners' rights, violating Pakistan's sovereignty with continued drone attacks, killing endless numbers of civilians, pumping up AFRICOM  and refusing to demand that the Israeli government end its apartheid against the Palestinian people while propping it up with weapons and billions of dollars.

It's not enough to give speeches with lofty rhetoric about your peaceful aspirations when your actions prove otherwise.

And that record certainly shouldn't have been enough for the Nobel Prize committee to have awarded Obama this honour.

The Nobel Peace Prize (Swedish, Danish and Norwegian: Nobels fredspris) is one of five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel. According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize should be awarded "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
- Wiki
Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

- Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Stockholm, Sweden, December 11, 1964.

I guess I've thrown my lot in with the terrorists. Now who does that remind me of...?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Quote du Jour: Iggy's Face Plant

It's like he [Ignatieff] went from being the messiah to being the village idiot.
- Frank Graves, EKOS president on CBC's Politics

Graves was reacting to his company's latest poll which shows Ignatieff's approval number at 19%.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Quote du Jour: America is the "most screwed up nation in the world"

Am I reading this right?

Was it transcribed correctly?

Did Pakistan's foreign minister actually say this to Wolf Blitzer?

BLITZER: Where is Bin Laden?

QURESHI: Who knows?

BLITZER: Where do you think?

QUERSHI: I don't know.

BLITZER: Why is it so hard to find him?

QURESHI: You tell me.

BLITZER: You're the foreign minister from Pakistan. Everybody says he's in that disputed, that border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, probably in the Pakistani side.

QURESHI: The United States is the most informed nation, the most screwed up nation in the world.

BLITZER: Did you know what's going on in Pakistan?

QURESHI: So do you. Americans are in the region and you have intelligence, ground intelligence. And you know, a sophisticated intelligence.

CanWest Restructuring - No Tears for the Aspers Here

So, CanWest has filed for court protection - not the same as filing for bankruptcy but a major shakeup, nonetheless.

The filing involves CanWest Media Inc. (CMI), which is the holding company that owns several divisions that make up CanWest. It also includes CanWest Television Limited Partnership, which holds Global Television and cable TV assets MovieTime, DejaView and Fox Sports World.

The National Post newspaper is also included in the filing, but CanWest's newspaper division, CanWest LP, is not part of the filing. The newspaper operation, which includes several large daily papers such as the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and Vancouver Sun, may seek a separate filing of its own, since it is restructuring debt with a different group of bondholders.

The Alliance Atlantis assets, purchased in partnership with Goldman Sachs a few years ago, which include specialty TV channels such as HGTV and the Food Network, are also not included in the filing.

Good to see that HGTV may be safe. Of all of their assets, that's the only one I actually have any use for. The rest of their right-wing/libertarian driven empire could disappear tomorrow, afaic. I'd feel badly if anyone lost their jobs but the writing has been on the wall about this eventual outcome since Izzy died - leaving massive debts - and his son Leonard took over.

Via The Georgia Straight from last December, I'd say that this kind of attitude might have a little something to do with the trouble the Aspers are having now:

The eldest son, David Asper, who is chair of the National Post, was more bombastic: “We own the papers. We have the right to have the papers print whatever the hell we want them to say. And if people don’t like it, they can go to hell. They can leave, get another job. People knew that Conrad [Black] had a much more hands-off policy.”
He can say whatever the hell he wants to say all right. And we can choose whether or not to buy his bullshit. In this case, it looks like the people have spoken.


Canwest CEO Leonard Asper's memo to staff 

Rumours of Liberal Party Turncoats

The Star reports today that three Liberal party members are contemplating crossing the floor - the only actual name mentioned being that of Ruby Dhalla.

The excitable and apparently 12 yr old  (just check out those exclamation points!!!) Dimitri Soudas is working it behind the scenes:

And indeed, Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sent out a mass-distributed email yesterday drawing attention to the Liberals' rebuff of Dhalla's bill [to increase old-age benefits to immigrant seniors.]. "They are voting against the (private member's bill) of MP Ruby Dhalla! Their own bill!" Soudas's email said.

With Dhalla's Nannygate troubles still brewing and after the way the Cons treated here during that scandal, I find it hard to believe that she would join their ranks. But stranger things have happened.

As for these rumours, I'm sure the Cons are feeling quite full of themselves based on their rising poll numbers so perhaps they think that stirring up stories about Liberal party disunity (beyond the real stories of their internal disarray - see: Coderre, Denis) will only work to their benefit.

Liberal party honchos, in the meantime, have denied the rumours calling them "mischief".

Not to worry, it's not like they have any important things to talk about like war. What's a little "mischief" when Canadians are dying overseas?


James Curran notes that Igantieff has given Dhalla a new advisory poistion today.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Canadian Taxpayers Don't Pay for Gov't Advertizing

Newsflash: Canadian taxpayers don't pay for government ads. No, really. Vic Toews said so during Question Period on Monday so it must be true.

The issue: Tories spend 5 times more on ads than H1N1 prevention

The confrontation:

Martha Hall-Findlay (MP-Willowdale): Mr Speaker, I tried last week to get some answers on government advertizing but got no answer - no numbers. So I'll try again and I'm going to ask the President of the Treasury Board because, after all, he is the one responsible for the spending and he should know. So, how much - exactly - have Canadian taxpayers now paid for this partisan, pat yourself on the back advertizing so far?

Vic Toews (Treasury Board President): Well, in fact, the Government of Canada does not bill the taxpayer for that kind of advertizing. What the Government of Canada does is get out key messages that reach a large number of Canadians on important issues - and they laugh - H1N1, elder abuse, the home renovation tax credit, Canadian forces recruitment. That's what the role of government is and we will continue to do that.

Martha Hall-Findlay (MP-Willowdale): I'm not exactly sure, Mr Speaker, who the President of the Treasury Board thinks actually pays for government spending if it isn't the Canadian taxpayers. I'm not sure which is worse: the fact that he doesn't have the numbers, he doesn't know them or he's trying to hide something...

When Hall-Findlay once again asked how much the Cons had spent on advertizing for their Economic Action Plan, Toews responded by talking about H1N1 advertizing.


Steve's Ode to the NDP

Maybe Harper is having (momentary) second thoughts about treating the NDP party like a battered spouse every chance he gets. Or maybe this is just a very public thank you to Jack et al for propping up his government.

Whatever it is, it's definitely cringe-worthy (although not as nauseating as watching Tom DeLay on Dancing with the Felons Stars).


Saturday, October 03, 2009

I'm redecorating the blogstead...


Hopefully, nothing unexpected will ensue.

Would you like some fries with that?

Our Canadian military: hard at work and apparently quite hungry:

Investigation launched after military helicopter touches down for burgers

KENORA -- A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Saturday an investigation has been launched after a Canadian Forces helicopter pilot landed in Kenora recently -- apparently to pick up some cheeseburgers.

“The matter is under investigation to determine what happened. As such, I can’t say much more until all the facts are gathered,” wrote Dan Dugas, the minister’s director of communications in an e-mail.

On Thursday, employees at an A&W fast-food restaurant were surprised to see a military pilot walk in and make a takeout order — while his helicopter was parked outside.

Michelle Patterson, who has worked at the restaurant for 16 years, said Friday she was shocked to see flying dust when the helicopter landed on a baseball diamond across from the eatery.

The pilot joked about wanting to go through the drive-thru but apparently said he wasn’t able to fit.

He ordered enough food for six people, and told her he was on his way to refuel at the airport before flying to Thunder Bay, Ont., and eventually back to Quebec, Patterson said.

The minister’s spokesman said there were no public safety concerns surrounding the landing.

“First of all, at no time during the landing or takeoff was there a danger to the public,” he said in the e-mail. “The Forces thank the local police for securing the sports field for the helicopter’s landing.”

He could not comment on how often military pilots touch down in public spaces to get dinner or what protocols need to be in place.

Kenora is 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

To be fair, everybody knows that A&W doesn't offer home delivery.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

As MP Hedy Fry noted during Question Period today, the similarities are striking:

The Conservative party logo:

The Vancouver Olympics logo as rolled out By Hudson's Bay Co. today:

Side note:

All of the athletes' clothing will be made in Canada, but some of the apparel that will be sold to the public is being manufactured overseas.

It's not like Canadian manufacturing companies need the jobs or anything...

“Our orders are down 30 per cent on average, but they're not falling as sharply as they were,” said Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. Weak U.S. demand and little business investment mean “I'm still not seeing any signs of a sustained recovery, based on new orders coming in.”

Stuff a cork in it, Corker

Via the CBC:

U.S. senator slams 'parasitic' Canada over drug prices

An American legislator called Canada "parasitic" on Wednesday for siphoning U.S. dollars to Canada with low prescription drug prices while his country does "all the innovation."

Canada benefits financially from America's role as a world leader in medical advances, Republican Senator Bob Corker charged in an exchange with a Liberal MP as she testified before a U.S. Senate committee.

"One of the things that has troubled me greatly about our system is the fact that we pay more for pharmaceuticals and devices than other countries, and yet it's not really our country so much that's the problem, it's the parasitic relationship that Canada and France and other countries have towards us," the Tennessee lawmaker told Carolyn Bennett.

"Meaning that you set prices and unfortunately all the innovation, all the technological breakthroughs, just about, take place in our country .… You benefit from us, and we pay for that, and I resent that."

Bennett, a family doctor and one-time minister of state for public health, was one of five people testifying before the Senate special committee on aging. The panel, chaired by Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl and including newly minted Sen. Al Franken, was examining how successful health-care systems keep their costs low while maintaining quality care.

She seemed puzzled by Corker's remarks, reminding him that drug pricing was a global concern, not part of a plot by Canada.

"It's the drug companies, sir, and they're multinational — it's nothing about the United States of America," she told him.

If Corker wants to know why American drug prices are so high, maybe he should talk to some of his health care industry/pharma manufacturing campaign donors - not to mention his fellow senators who are also on the take.

While he's at it, he might want to learn about about how Big Pharma actually spends its money:

marcia angell
Former editor in chief, The New England Journal of Medicine

[The pharmaceutical companies'] R&D costs are very high, in absolute terms. But they're quite small relative to their other expenditures and profits. The drug companies spend on average, by their own figures, last year, 15 to 17 percent on R&D. And that's a lot of money. But their profits are higher. Their profits are 18.5 percent. And what's really interesting is what they spend on marketing and administration, by their own figures, is on average 35 percent. That's over twice as much as what they spend on R&D. So if they point to their R&D costs as some sort of justification for the high prices, what on earth can they say about their marketing costs, which are over twice that much? ...


Companies argue it's important to keep this a largely private market to protect innovation, and that's why drug companies in other countries are less innovative. Over half of all drugs are produced here.

This is like Holy Roman Empire: It's not holy, it's not Roman, it's not an empire. This question has many of the same problems. Almost every element of what you just said is wrong. Let's look at the big drug companies first. Of the 10 top drug companies, five are European and five are American. Their innovation is much the same. Their turnout of new drugs is much the same. Their marketing budgets are much the same. Their profits are much the same. This, in fact, is a global industry.

All of them have the lion's share of their sales here, because prices are so much higher in the United States than they are in Europe and Canada. So it's sort of good public relations to portray themselves as quintessentially American businesses. They're not. Even in countries where there are price controls, these companies are doing extremely well. So that's the first thing that's wrong with your question.

The second is the implication that these are innovative businesses. They are not innovative businesses. They are giant marketing and PR machines that turn out predominantly "me too" drugs, and whose truly innovative drugs are based mainly on taxpayer-funded work. So they are not innovative. ...

What is going on here, when the pharmaceutical industry insists that they should be essentially left alone, is a threat. It's a threat to the American public. They are saying, "Don't mess with us. Do nothing about our obscene profits. Do nothing about these unsustainable increases in prices, or else we will not give you your miracle cures." Well, guess what? They're not getting them the miracle cures in the first place. But that is their very successful PR pitch. "We are the source of all miracles. Don't mess with us." ...


One argument [is that] he Canadians don't invent the drugs. They're parasitic on our R&D. It's unfair.

In fact, the pharmaceutical industry is what's parasitic on publicly funded research. The pharmaceutical industry likes to depict itself as a research-based industry, as the source of innovative drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is their incredible PR and their nerve.

In fact, if you look at where the original research comes from on which new drugs are based, it tends to be from the NIH [National Institutes of Health], from the academic medical centers, and from foreign academic medical centers. Studies of this, looking at the seminal research on which drug patents are based, have found that about 15 percent of the basic research papers, reporting the basic research, came from industry. That's just 15 percent.

The other 85 percent came from NIH-supported work carried out in American academic medical centers. In one study, 30 percent came from foreign academic medical centers. So what we know about the numbers indicates that the foreign academic medical centers are responsible for more new drug discoveries than the industry itself.

- Frontline