Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Signs Are Everywhere - Part 2

You can access part one here.

Logical fallacies
The reason why there's a 97% consensus is because of the many lines of evidence that humans are causing global warming. Human fingerprints are being observed in heat escaping out to space, in the structure of the atmosphere and even in the changing seasons. Another denialist technique used to counter the weight of evidence is the logical fallacy.

The most common fallacious argument is that current climate change must be natural because climate has changed naturally in the past. This myth commits the logical fallacy of jumping to conclusions. It's like finding a dead body with a knife sticking out of its back, and arguing that the person must have died of natural causes because humans have died of natural causes in the past. The premise does not lead to the conclusion.

The Signs Are Everywhere

It is only the ideologically blind who refuse to see the signs. Whether we live on the West Coast, Central Canada, or the East Coast, we are being affected by climate change, More protracted droughts. More wildfires. More oppressive heatwaves. Or unseasonably cool conditions.

Of protracted winters I will not even speak.

So what is to be done about the obdurate climate-change denier? Other than ignoring them, we can confront them with the facts they so willfully dismiss. We do that by first recognizing their sleazy and unscientific tactics. Here is how we do it:

One of the deniers' favorite strategies is to invoke fake experts.
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming. This has been found independently in a number of studies, including surveys of Earth scientists, analysis of public statements about climate change and analysis of peer-reviewed scientific papers. How might one cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus? One technique is the use of fake experts.

We see this in online petitions such as the Global Warming Petition Project, which features more than 31,000 scientists claiming humans aren't disrupting our climate. How can there be 97% consensus when 31,000 scientists disagree? It turns out 99.9% of the petition's signatories aren't climate scientists. They include computer scientists, mechanical engineers and medical scientists but few climate scientists. The Global Warming Petition Project is fake experts in bulk.

More to come.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It May Be Dry Out West, But It's Raining Pork In Alberta

Desperate times require desperate measures, and there is definitely a whiff of desperation coming from the Conservative camp these days. With the majority of polls showing their fortunes in decline, it would seem that Pierre Poilievre's giddy and fatuous Christmas in July bribe stunt was but the opening salvo in preventing voters from falling into apostasy.

Targeting those whose vote can be easily bought may pick up some extra support going into the October election, but the Harper regime still knows that its base is its real strength, and one not to be taken lightly lest some choose not to vote, a real possibility given that their man has proven to have betrayed almost all the principles upon which he had campaigned when first vying for power: Senate reform, transparency, accountability, etc. etc.

Take the regime's efforts during its latest western foray.
In Calgary, Defence Minister Jason Kenney announced that the federal government would be funding Calgary’s light rail transit expansion to the tune of $1.53 billion. Yes … that’s billion.

Kenney, MP for Calgary Southeast, made sure to point out that the money was “the single largest federal infrastructure investment” in the history of Calgary.
Disavowing any connection with the impending election, Kenney described the timing as 'coincidental.'
But Kent Hehr the Liberal candidate in Calgary Centre who according to some polls is running well ahead of Conservative MP Joan Crockatt, said the notion that the timing is a coincidence is “absurd” given how long Calgary has been asking for federal support for public transit.
But wait! There's more! With citizen tax revenue at their disposal, money is no object:
The Conservatives were also showering money on local community groups. According to The Calgary Herald, qualifying associations had only a month to apply for a funding program that was part of a $46-million Western Diversification initiative.

And even though the money — such as the $45,000 given to the Lake Bonavista Community Association in Calgary for upgrading its suburban facility — won’t arrive until next year, Conservative MPs are busy making the announcements this summer.
Lest those who live west of Alberta feel they were not worthy of the Tory touch, there was this moral support to the beleaguered and brave fighters of forest fires:

Infonews reported the following with this headline: Man in blue suit thanks firefighters
For a second straight day, firefighting efforts at the Westside Road fire were the backdrop for political photo ops.

Today, several federal politicians stood around waiting, occasionally wiping dirt from their clothing while sweaty, ash-covered, exhausted-looking firefighters surrounded them for the tightly controlled photo opportunity. Helicopters carrying empty buckets buzzed overhead and a steady stream of wildfire fighting aircraft circled prior to the event.

Provinces fund their own firefighting. It’s not a federal responsibility.

After more than an hour wait, the press conference was over after less than five minutes. The Prime Minister would not take questions about why he was there, how much time the photo opportunity took from firefighters or what resources were used in the photo effort.

A federal election is less than three months away.
And it was with withering derision that the satirical site THE LAPINE treated the Harper entourage:

The selected firefighters were so tired and annoyed that they just silently watched Harper as he waved his arms around like a conductor and tried to get them to sing along with him in a rousing chorus of O Canada.

None of the group sang or even hummed along.

And none of them accepted the “Canada’s Better With Harper” t-shirts that the PM’s bodyguards were handing out.
Said one fatigued smoke jumper with an honesty that rarely finds its way into print:
“Shit man, we’d all been out there for 12 hours or so and suddenly we’re hauled out, lined up in a parking lot, left standing for an hour, and then expected to sing O Canada so Harper can get a picture?” front-line firefighter Ted McKinley told local radio station AM 1150.

“That’s complete bullshit. Harper just wanted a picture as quickly as he could get one…he still smelled like garlic from whatever he had for lunch,” said the 37-year-old father of two.
Yet the man in the blue suit proved indefatigable in his lyrical leanings:
Immediately following receiving the silent treatment from the firefighters, Harper over-compensated for the snub by waving wildly for the cameras and singing ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’ as he boarded a helicopter with Premier Clark to return to Kelowna for a scheduled beach-side fundraiser event.
Contemptuous mockery. That is all Harper and his gang deserve until they meet their day of reckoning in October.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Sunday Scrum

Harper's moratorium on Senate appointments (the program's start). The likelihood of a federal deficit (10 minute mark). The increased universal child-care benefit (13 minute mark). A possible NDP-Liberal coalition (15 minute mark). Maclean's Magazine's Martin Patriquin and The Chronicle Herald's Dan Leger discuss these issues on yesterday's Sunday Scrum. You can access each topic at the respective time marks indicated above in parentheses.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

More On Pharmacare

The other day I wrote about an article in the Globe that called into question support for the notion of a national pharmacare program that would see drugs paid for by the government as a fitting and necessary complement to our universal healthcare. I examined the methodology and bias involved in the author's claims that people are not really keen on such a program.

In my view, what 'the people' want is rarely a consideration in public policy-making, unless there are crass political gains to be made. It is one of the reasons I like to read letters to the editor, which offer a more direct insight into people's views on issues. I am therefore reproducing three letters from today's Star on the topic of national drug coverage, two of which support the notions for economic, social and reasons:

Pharmacare to fill the gap, Editorial July 19
The demand for a national plan covering prescription drug costs in Canada has now turned into a flood – with our citizens’ backing for the pharmacare concept rising to over 90 per cent.

Studies published in leading journals indicate that medications save lives by keeping people healthy and that Canada would be saving around $9 billion annually by instituting a national pharmacare plan covering prescription drugs costs – and resorting to logical initiatives such as bulk-buying of drugs.

Despite the weight of evidence, and the push provided by provinces such as Ontario, bold federal leadership in this area has been lacking thus far. We are the only country globally that does not cover the cost of prescription medicine despite Canada’s well established and very successful universal health care system.

It is hoped that the upcoming federal elections will spur heated debates about the need for pharmacare to cover the cost of prescription medicine for Canadians, leading to healthy outcomes for patients and taxpayers alike.

It is time for our federal government to get started – as the key to success in this key health-care area is staring in Canada’s face. Stephen Harper would do well to heed Mark Twain’s sage advice: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Rudy Fernandes, Mississauga

Surely this study could have picked a better example than Lipitor at “more than $811 a year.” Generic forms of Lipitor and other statin drugs have been available for several years at about $125 for a year’s supply.

If this misrepresentation is the best example that the Pharmacare2020 study can find, what are we to make of the rest of its conclusions? If in fact there are further bulk discounts available, it would be best accomplished through provincial cooperation in the buying process, not by introducing another wasteful level of bureaucracy at the federal level.

This is just another veiled attempt to shake more dollars out of the federal government for something that is the responsibility of the provinces – the delivery of health care services.

Don Mustill, Markham

Thanks for drawing attention to yet another well researched study, Pharmacare 2020, that demonstrates that a national pharmacare plan covering drug costs for all Canadians is not only sorely needed but is economically feasible. All that remains is political will.

Perhaps if we all asked candidates who come knocking on our doors in the coming federal election what their party will do for the millions of Canadians who do not have their prescriptions dispensed for financial reasons, the message might get through.

Bill Wensley, Cobourg

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Harper Under Seige

Once more, editorial cartoonist Graeme MacKay scores a solid bullseye.

As does Corrigan over at The Star:

And let's not forget Star readers:
Since the post-2008 Great Recession, Stephen Harper’s primary focus on energy (oil/gas) economic action strategies have painted our economic flexibilities into a corner. Now we find our transnational economic drivers near exhausted.

Interest rates are now .05 per cent. We are on the precipice of falling financially/economically into quicksand recessionary territory.

In hindsight, consider what if we had developed multi-faceted strategies for dynamic, clean-energy manufacturing 21st century technologies in critical mass in construction, science, industry and commerce? Would we be so constrained now with lowest possible oil/gas commodity prices? Would our “loonie” be so vulnerable? Would our frivolousness with tax dollars tied to ineffective foreign policies be so committed to 20th century industrial, free market strategic imbecilities?

Harper’s single-minded chess tactics with much of what he mismanages is fast becoming an economically unmanoeuvreable position now on a precarious global stage. And now with Iran’s economic sanctions lifting as result of the deal with the Western powers, there’s no promise of recovery ever being tied to those “triple-digit” commodity prices that Canada’s oil producers followed our PM so recklessly on.

Brian McLaughlin, Saint John, NB

I’ll have to agree with Mr. Goodale’s take on Harper’s economic record. What’s Mr. Harper’s experience in economics, again? None in the private sector that I could find. I think Canadians know who is really in over their head.

Geoffrey Allen, Markham
And one more reminder from MacKay of Mr. Harper's fiscal ineptitude:

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Tale To Frighten Children (And Uninformed Canadians)

Well, the Globe and Mail is up to its usual agenda of promoting the neocon vision. Not content to let Canadians ruminate on ideas unimpeded by thinly-disguised corporate ideology and scaremongering, it is attempting to sow doubt about a plan that would potentially benefit all Canadians, national pharmacare, whose time has surely come.

For a small primer on the concept, you could check out a post I wrote about two years ago, or conduct a Google search, which will yield some compelling links, including this one:
Canada is the only industrialized country with universal health insurance that does not offer universal prescription drug coverage, and statistics show one in 10 Canadians cannot afford to pay for their medications.
From an economic viewpoint, there is a compelling case to be made for pharmacare. Consider this report, entitled Pharmacare 2020 — The Future of Drug Coverage in Canada, an analysis of which conducted by The Star yielded these conclusions:
Not only would a national pharmacare program ensure that all Canadians have access to drugs they need, it would save billions of dollars. Authored by six health policy experts, the study was published by the Pharmaceutical Policy Research Collaboration at the University of British Columbia.
Pharmacare is the answer. Potential savings from bulk-buying through a single system are substantial. The study’s authors cited the example of Lipitor. A year’s supply of this brand name cholesterol-lowering drug costs at least $811 in Canada, according to the report. In New Zealand, where a public authority negotiates prices for the entire country, it’s $15. “In terms of drug prices, Canada’s multi-payer system is among the most expensive in the world,” they conclude.
Because the arguments in favour of a universal drug plan are compelling, and because it is enjoying a certain momentum, the reactionary right is now starting a smear campaign to undermine enthusiasm, one based on manipulative polling, lies, and half-truths.

Entitled The risks that come with a national pharmacare program, the author of this Globe article, Yanick Labrie (more about him shortly), refers to a recent Angus Reid poll which
found that 91 per cent of Canadians support “the concept of a national ‘pharmacare’ in Canada, that would provide universal access to prescription drugs ...” But they may not be ready to pick up the tab. The survey also found that 70 per cent are against increasing the GST to 6 per cent – from the current 5 per cent – to pay for the program. If you’re not willing to pay for something you want, that may be a sign you don’t really want it that badly.
What Labrie omits here is also the finding that the majority would prefer that it be paid through an increase in corporate taxes, a not unreasonable preference, in my view.

Next, the writer warns of what we might be giving up if we embrace pharmacare:
Canadians should be wary of replacing our mixed system with something like what exists in the U.K. or New Zealand. Socializing a larger part of drug spending through a single-payer pharmacare plan would give more power to government and its bureaucrats to make decisions on behalf of the insured. Policies that restrict access to new medicines would be applied across the board and would penalize all Canadians in the same way.
The implication that this would be tantamount to allowing a 'death-panel' bureaucrat to determine your fate is clearly there. What Labrie doesn't mention is that the decisions on adding new drugs to provincial drug formularies are already made for costly drugs, most of which are not covered by private plans anyway. The case of the cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco is instructional in this regard. The final decision in that case saw Ontario deciding to fund it.

The above also demonstrates a strategy commonly used by the right: absolutism. There is nothing in any concept of pharmacare that I have ever read that would preclude any of us from still carrying private insurance. Yet read the following assertion by Labrie:
According to a recent online survey conducted by Abacus Data for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, 80 per cent of respondents support the idea of a national prescription-drug program. But only 31 per cent favour replacing our current mixed public-private systems, managed by the provinces, with a national, government-run pharmacare monopoly.
Monopoly? Who said anything about a monopoly? As well, take a look at the Abacus online survey he refers to.

A patently manipulative push poll commissioned by pharmacists, consider the biases built into the following questions:
While many Canadians want enhanced access to medications, many Canadians are also concerned about the cost of a national pharmacare program, losing their private drug plans, and the ability of governments to administrate drug plans effectively.

Which approach to pharmacare comes closest to your view?
The result?
Overall, a plurality of Canadians believed that pharmacare should only cover those Canadians who are not currently covered through some other existing government or private plan.
Here's another:
To what extent are you concerned about the following issues related to a national pharmacare program?

Replacing your current private prescription drug plan with a public plan that would have fewer choices

Increased cost to governments if patients use more prescription drugs than they do now

The ability of governments to administer the plan efficiently and effectively
The result?
Although Canadians were supportive of the proposed national pharmacare plan, most said they would be concerned if a national pharmacare program replaced their current plan with a public plan that had fewer options, if it increased costs to governments because patients use more prescription drugs than they do now, and of the ability of governments to administer the plan efficiently and effectively.
I could go on, but I would encourage you to visit the poll results to see more of the questions asked that guarantee the results the pharmacists sought.

I promised at the start that I would say more about the author of this article, Yanick Labrie, who is described as an economist at the Montreal Economic Institute. A visit to the website will tell you all you need to know about its ideological and economic leanings, as will as a list of present and former executive members, which includes former Harper favourite Maxime Bernier and right-wing commentator and analyst Tasha Kheiriddin. The vice president is currently Jasmin Guénette, former director of public affairs who came back after spending two years at the Institute for Humane Studies in Virginia, an organization that can most charitably be described as an American libertarian outfit.

By all means, let us have a national debate about pharmacare. But let it be an honest one that leaves aside the demagoguery and distortions that currently abound on this issue.