Canadian politics, Conservatives, economics, I got your stimulus right here, right-wing tomfoolery

The Republic for Which it Spams…

Ma Belle Mére, as is her habit, has passed on to me the link to an interesting website, sponsored by the Liberals, which describes the Harper government’s usage of taxpayer funds as vote-buying capital. Not only interesting, but I love the name – kudos to the unidentified staffer who came up with this one. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: The Cheque Republic.

Merci bien, Belle Mére!


On distracted drivers and malingering priests

As an urban father and a (slow) runner, one of the things that I take very seriously is teaching my kids about traffic safety. “Cars can hurt you”, I hear myself saying now and again as I encourage them to look both ways, use crosswalks, etc. “Most drivers are really careful, but sometimes they might not see you.”

Enough cars are being driven by distracted, hurried, or poorly trained people that it is prudent to be wary of all cars, just in case. Throw in cell phones, dashboard GPS’s, and loud stereos, there are a lot of things that can take a person’s mind momentarily off what they are doing. As a pedestrian, not knowing what’s going on inside the car, you sometimes can’t tell whether a car will stop or not, so you play it safe.

Oddly enough, I see a parallel between drivers and priests. In the same way that sometimes drivers are paying attention and sometimes they are not, sometimes priests are pedophiles and sometimes they are not. And what’s more,  often enough from the outside you can’t tell which priest is a pedophile and which isn’t. (That said, who can look at a picture of Raymond Lahey and not see it screaming “pedophile”, at least, now.) I wouldn’t hazard to guess what the percentages are of distracted drivers or malingering priests, but it’s safe to say that there are good ones and there are bad ones in each lot.

That said, have we had enough cases of pedophile priests now to simply assume for the sake of safety that maybe they all are? Just to be on the safe side?

As an aside, there was mention on the radio this morning of Pope Ratzinger’s offer earlier in the week to Anglicans disenchanted with their church’s refusal to punish women or homosexuals as mandated in the Jewish Book of Folk Tales. On hearing this, my wife suggested the Archbishop of Canterbury respond with an offer to Catholics similarly disenchanted with the Mother Church’s treatment of women and gays and their apparent tolerance of pedophilia in their own (diminishing) ranks.

I knew I married the right woman.


Stroke-associated medical costs

Hello to all our friends in the US! This post is for you, especially if you are fence-sitting on the debate over universal health care in your country.

A close personal relative of mine had a stroke last month. This stroke was caused by a blood clot in the brain, and resulted in pretty severe aphasia, which the person is still recovering from. Luckily, the stroke was caught early enough that it could be targetted by clot-busting medicines, and as a result, the patient has recovered quite a bit from the initial onset. The patient was kept in hospital in the stroke ward for two weeks, and then was kept in a rehabilitation facility for two more weeks while recovering vocal and comprehension skills. The patient was recently released from rehab, but will have several follow-up visits with a family doctor, neurologists, occupation therapists, and speech therapists. The patient has been prescribed a series of new drugs, as well as continuing drug treatment for an unrelated condition. They will also need a degree of home care, provided both by the family and at a cost by professionals.

Now that a month has passed since the initial stroke, I’ve had some time to contemplate. I thought to myself, what would’ve happened if this stroke occured absent a comprehensive government health system? Would the response team have been so quick to get the patient a CT scan and determine that a clot-buster (tPA) was the most effective acute treatment, or would they have to wait to call an insurance agent first? Would the treatment even be considered if the patient had no insurance? Would the patient even survive this event without the tPA? If so, how much more diminished would the patient’s quality of life be? A lot of what-ifs.

I digress. The main thrust of this post is meant to be the cost of treatment. The total costs that we’ve incurred for the stroke here in Nova Scotia includes the following (so far):

Immediate costs:
Ambulance response: $134.52
Acute care cost: $0
Hospital fees: $250 (for in-room TV hook-up, which is not covered provincially)

Continuing costs:
Co-pay drugs: $30/month
Other drugs, not covered by Pharmacare: $90/month
Homecare costs: unknown, but capped at $224.19/month based on the individual’s income and status

Total costs of the stroke over five years, assuming annual 2.67% interest on the above costs, and no reduction in drug or home-care costs: $22,169

Searching for stroke costs in the US, I turned up this analysis, on the American Heart Association website: Lifetime Cost of Stroke in the United States . The authors developed models that estimate the lifetime costs of strokes based on the age of the patient and the type of stroke suffered. It’s important to note that all of the strokes from their studies occured in 1990. The stroke I’m comparing to occured in 2009, and I’m not sure if tPAs were available for treatment of strokes caused by blood clots back in 1990. At any rate, the cost associated with stroke calculated by the researchers for the same category of stroke and age as the patient in my sphere, minus the costs of control subjects is (I’m using 1.166799 as the exchange rate between US and Canadian dollars in 1990):

Direct costs, year 1: US$14,998 = CAD$17450
Direct costs, year 2: US$3,295 = CAD$3845
Pharmaceuticals (annually): US$355 = CAD$414
Long-term costs (annually): US$4918 = CAD$5738

So, the total equivalent cost over five years in 1990 dollars would be $52055. Inflation since 1990 has averaged 2.67%, so in 2009 dollars that cost rises to $85880.

Yikes. Four times the cost! Our system obviously isn’t perfect (I’d like to see ambulatory services covered, pharmacare covered 100%, and homecare costs covered if prescribed by a doctor), but $60,000 is a lot of change, especially when the illness in question prevents the patient from working and earning at their previous income level. Unless the patient were covered by an insurance plan, and the insurer honoured the claim (which we all know doesn’t always happen).

Edit: Actually, I’ve seriously underestimated the annual rate of inflation for medical costs in the USA. According to Tom’s Inflation Calculator, medical inflation since 1990 would bring the actual 2009 costs up to $126,792. Double yikes. Something tells me that I’m still underestimating the cost of a 2009 hospital admission, 28-day hospital stay, ER drug charges, and diagnostic charges, but I’m only trying to ball-park the figures. Consider $126,792 a bare minimum that an uninsured patient would be paying.


Good news for Halifax

I’m not sure who deserves credit, but it looks like there will be a shiny new downtown library to replace the aging Spring Garden Road main library. This morning the three levels of government announced a funding agreement for the new $55-million dollar facility. Whoever it is, you all have my thanks, provided this actually gets done. I didn’t see any pictures of the announcement, so I don’t know if the federal government presented a Gerald-Keddy approved big cheque or not, but Peter Mackay and John Baird did attend, as nothing with this government can happen without a campaign-ready photo shoot.

I haven’t been following municipal politics as closely as I should lately and I don’t know if the $23.7-million HRM has to pony up has already been approved or whether this can still be torpedoed by suburban councillors upset that some money isn’t being spent widening city roads so they can get their minivans into the city during rush hour.

Is this going to affect any sight lines from Citadel Hill?

business, Conservatives, entertainment, Lying douchebags, media, right-wing tomfoolery, sports


Allow me, for just a moment, a brief episode of schadenfreude

His Bloviatedness, Rush “Pass the Painkillers” Limbaugh, has been dropped from the group bidding for ownership of the St. Louis Rams. Although not available for comment about this event, Mr. Limbaugh characterized the opposition to his potential part-ownership of an NFL franchise thus:

”This is not about the NFL, it’s not about the St. Louis Rams, it’s not about me,” Limbaugh said. ”This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative.

”Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we’re going to have.”


Wow. Whatever medications you’re taking, pass ’em down. It has nothing to do with Liberal/Conservative, Rush; what it has to do with is that some people, make that many people, despite your delusional assertions to the contrary, hate you.

Hate. You.

The fact that the National Football League felt squeamish about letting you be even a minor player in the ownership of a team says something about the integrity of the league – or at least something about their desire to steer clear of unnecessary problems.

And you, sir, are an unnecessary problem.


Canada’s logo: A primer

Dear Gerald Keddy:

This is not Canada’s official logo:

Conservative logo

This is Canada’s official logo:

Canada logo

Any of these are also acceptable:

Banner logos

I hope this helps with any future pork-barrelling. Congrats on buying votes with our tax money.

Cropped image of infrastructure cheque

Here’s a link to the page where one can inquire on Canada’s official logo: