Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Working Too Hard

I've been putting a lot of hours in at work. In the office, on the road, and now even at home. I just can't seem to switch gears. So here it is a work related video on my personal blog. It's 4.5 minutes and it helps explain the problems with the livestock industry in Ontario. Both the cattle and hog industries are shrinking dramatically, breeding cow inventories have shrunk by nearly 20% since 2003 and the breeding herd for pigs is shrinking even faster. Down by more than 20% in less than 3 years. There are plenty of reasons, US trade barriers like Country of Origin Labelling, H1N1, an increasing Canadian dollar, and rising feed costs lead the list.

It's to the point now where there have been massive layoffs in the processing sector and suppliers as well as farmers are going out of business. If the industry falls below a critical mass there could be even less processing capacity causing a descent into a death spiral that does huge damage to the whole economy along the way. Ontario Farmers have put forward an affordable solution for governments. Hopefully you'll take a minute or 4 to watch the video and maybe even learn more about the program at

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Doctors Playing Hard to Get

The headline story from a recent study of Canadians' views on Health Care is, "It's hard to get health care after-hours." That's a very polite assessment, it's hard to get care anytime. The Toronto Sun reports:

Although Canadians take great pride in their country’s health-care system, they have a hard time accessing health care after-hours and are often forced to turn to emergency departments for care when their family doctors are unavailable, according to a new survey.

More than one-third of Canadians surveyed (37%) said it is very difficult to get care in the evenings, on weekends and holidays without going to a hospital emergency department.

And 44% of Canadians said they had visited an emergency department at least once in the last two years — making Canadians the most frequent users of emergency departments of all 11 countries surveyed. Switzerland, Germany, the U.K., Norway, the Netherlands, France, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and the U.S. were all surveyed.

Timing of medical care was also a concern for Canadians. More than 40% said they had to wait more than four weeks to see a specialist after being advised to do so, and only 45% were able to get an appointment on the day or next day when they were sick or in need of medical attention.

I'm just not that concerned that doctors don't work evenings, if you're that sick take off work. The more scandalous news is that 55% of Canadians can't get an appointment with their doctor within 2 days. The survey also doesn't mention wait times at emergency rooms. It's very common for people to try to decide which hospital to go to based on where they think the wait time will be shortest. It's also extremely common for people to go to an emergency room and then decide after 4 or more hours of waiting that they'll just take their chances at the pharmacy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A lot More Green for Electricity

The Ontario government's latest plan to discount electricity rates by 10% is barely going to scratch the surface of the rapid increases we'll see in the next 5 years. The Star notes:
Ontarians will be zapped with a 46 per cent increase in home electricity costs over the next five years to pay for much-needed hydro system upgrades, warns the Liberal government. . .

Duncan conceded the Liberals’ green energy policies account for 56 per cent of the skyrocketing prices with expansion of nuclear and natural gas power plants the reason for the remaining 44 per cent.
Extremely generous subsidies for wind and solar power are costing consumers dearly and (interestingly) drawing criticism from environmentalists for turning farmland to concrete. I haven't given the issue much thought, but given the fact that both natural gas and nuclear power have nearly zero greenhouse gas emissions and are substantially cheaper than these renewable sources, it's probably worth having a debate about whether the subsidies for solar and wind power are just too rich.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mob Funeral

Watching some video of Nicolo Rizzuto's casket being carried out of the funeral at a Montreal church today left me with several questions. I wonder what the homily was like. . . How do you honour the life of a brutal murderer? What would happen if the priest said something unkind? How were those folks carrying the casket feeling knowing they were all vulnerable to an unscrupulous sharp shooter?

It's good that everything went off smoothly today, with a great deal of restraint by all involved.

Still the best word I have to describe this is eerie.

Poppy Protocol

Watching CBC news (involunatrily at the airport). Lots of reporters are still wearing poppies. What's the protocol? I thought that after Nov 11 we were supposed to stop wearing them. Anyone know the right answer?
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smack the US Around a Little Stephen

I feel a little betrayed by Stephen Harper's comments defending Quantitative Easing in the US. The US plan to print an additional $600 Billion can only lead to a further devaluation of the US dollar and continued inflation in commodity prices, which will move through the rest of the economy at an uncomfortably quick speed. The weaker US dollar, gives every US company a competitive advantage against Canadian companies and the impact has been felt for the past several years as the Americans have allowed their dollar to plummet in value.

Stephen Harper reportedly said:

Under the circumstances, the quantitative easing policy is in the short term the only option available for the Federal Reserve and I'm not sure anyone else has provided any compelling argument as to what alternative policy they would pursue, at least in the short term.

Well let's try this alternative. Do nothing. The American government has run up a massive deficit and contributed to a destabilizing of world currency markets by last year's quantitative easing. Stock markets have increased, commodities prices have risen so now it's time to let the American economy adjust gradually rather than start a wave of massive inflation in the medium term and shut down more Canadian businesses in the short term.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Meaning this Remembrance Day

Tim Horton's had a great radio spot today encouraging everyone to wear a poppy to honour all of our soldiers who have fallen and those who continue to serve. I love this tradition, it's something so small that we can all do it. The poppy boxes are almost omni-present and they slide easily from one jacket to another.

I've always worn a poppy, but it took on special significance when my brother joined the army 7 or 8 years ago. One of my proudest moments was when Remembrance day fell on a weekend and we were both able to make it back to the ceremony at the cenotaph in our hometown. When I saw him (and his wife) wearing a their uniforms and standing proudly in front of our friends and neighbours. I just wanted to shout out, "I'm with them!"

This year my brother is serving in Afghanistan. I don't know much about the mission, but he has been able to send regular updates and he believes in his mission and the specific project he's working on. (Although he hasn't told me what it is).

I'm not sure of all the emotions that I'll be feeling at 11:00 tomorrow, but I'm sure pride and thankfulness will be among them.

Tomorrow I will say a prayer of gratitude for everyone who has sacrificed themselves in service of our country. And if there are any present or past members of the armed services reading this. Thank you for all you've done!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Robbing the Robin Hood Legend

"There's no story that isn't made better by the retelling," an Irish relative told me recently. This weekend I found a sad exception to the rule. Hollywood's latest take on Robin Hood was incredibly disappointing. Although the acting was quite good and some twists on the story that seemed somewhat plausible (such as Robin acting as an impostor for a dead nobleman) the plot moved at a glacially slow pace. My much bigger complaint is that the movie is grossly historically inaccurate and completely contradicts earlier versions of the legend (from story books, Disney, Kevin Costner and Mel Brooks) that I've heard. My dismay is driven by 3 major falsehoods:
  • King Ricard's death - In all of those stories I remember King Richard returned from the crusades. Wikipedia also says that King Richard returned, so that's a pretty huge and unnecessary liberty taken by the movie in an early scene that sets the movie off course from the start.
  • An open condemnation of the crusades - Russell Crowe's character states that he was about to kill an innocent woman who looked up an pitied rather than feared him. This made my stomach turn. It's an example of our cultural elites famous 'Western self-loathing' on display. I'm quite certain there was no mention of a saintly Muslim martyr in any earlier variations of the Robin Hood legend. I know also little about the crusades, but I'm certain they must be judged in the context of aggressive moorish expansion throughout southern Europe.
  • Reference to the Divine Right of Kings - In this version of the story, Robin Hood supposedly presented the Magna Carta to King John, but John refuses citing the divine right of Kings. There are at least 2 problems here. The first is that King John actually did sign the Magna Carta. The second is that the doctrine of the divine right of kings did not come about until nearly 400 years after the Magna Carta was signed.
The story was a complete disaster. If you haven't seen this movie count yourself lucky.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Disastrous Arrogance

Barack Obama's disastrous arrogance apparently knows no bounds. Only hours after being handed a nearly unprecedented rebuke in yesterday's congressional elections Obama suggested he would force changes to the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy during the lame duck session of Congress:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday renewed his call for repealing a ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military, voicing hope that action could be taken before a new Congress is sworn in.

Obama said legal wrangling in the courts over the issue had created confusion for the armed forces.

"We need to provide certainty. And it's time for us to move this policy forward," Obama told a news conference.

Speaking a day after his fellow Democrats suffered a major defeat in legislative elections, Obama suggested the law could be changed in the current Congress before a newly-elected Republican majority takes over the House of Representatives in January.

With the Pentagon about to complete a review looking at the effect of lifting the ban, Obama said there was still time to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law in the final weeks of the current Congress.

"There's going to be a review that comes out at the beginning of the month that will have surveyed attitudes and opinions within the armed forces," he said.

"I will look at it very carefully. But that will give us time to act in -- potentially during the lame-duck session to change this policy."

American voters have clearly signalled they want a change from the Democrats' extreme left wing agenda. Now instead of being humbled, it seems the President will deliberately push through as much wrong headed legislation as he can before he faces a new congress that will hold him accountable. Too bad it's still another 2 years before Americans can finally turf this radically arrogant disgrace of a president out.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Mark Steyn in London

I saw Mark Steyn in London last night with a crowd that filled the main floor of Centennial Hall - there were probably 1000 people there. The controversy created by the University of Western Ontario's lack of cooperation and the London Convention Centre's decision to cancel his original booking certainly helped pack the hall.

I didn't really know what to expect from the event, the singing and comedy meant that instead of just hearing a run of the mill political speech, it was actually quality entertainment.

I've been a fan of Mark's for years and I'm very familiar with his thoughts on the decline of the West economically, demographically, and intellectually. But he expanded on a new idea last night. Part of the reason for the economic and social decline of the West is our refusal to work. When university students stay in school until their late twenties or early thirties studying impractical topics women's and multicultural studies and then expect to retire in their 50s, people simply aren't working long enough to drive economic and social development. Combining that with the empty intellectual philosophies like moral relativism and ever declining birth rates our society has already begun to decline and it will be very difficult for most countries to stop.

He made one argument that the pace and significance of technological change over the last 60 years is nothing like the transformational technologies over the previous 60 years despite (and perhaps because of) the fact that people are spending about twice the time in school. I'm not totally convinced, but I'm willing to hear him out on that.

On a purely personal note standing in line to get my first edition copy of America Alone signed, I couldn't help but feel like my inner geek had completely taken over. I was so excited to talk to him, I forgot to mention my name.

My wife was quick to lean over and let Mark know about a conversation we had years ago. She had asked what some of my goals were in life, the first was to have a beer with Mark Steyn. Later in the list came a veiled reference to wanting to spend the rest of my life with her. I didn't get the beer, but a hand shake, a picture, and his autograph will do quite nicely.