The collapse of accountability in Manitoba politics

The death of a homeless man in an ER waiting room last fall, who spent 34 hours waiting for care (and likely was dead for the last 10 of those hours) before medical staff took note of him, is only the most recent outrageous ER death in a series that have occurred under the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.  Despite this, Health Minister Theresa Oswald has a Teflon-like ability to let mismanagement and lack of transparency slide off her.  The failures within the WRHA that led to this, and other, deaths are being investigated and remedied.  Not so for the political and bureaucratic failures within Manitoba Health.  Here’s my argument for why Oswald should resign.

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If abortion is a private choice, why are you and I paying for it?

In the National Post today:

When Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge, new leader of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, suggested there are more laws protecting organ transplants in Canada than fetuses, he gave the abortion debate shock therapy. One predictable outcome was disdain, and a call to focus on important things, namely the economy, in these uncertain times. Yet there is an economic angle to the abortion debate. In Canada today, abortion is available and publicly funded at any stage of pregnancy, for any reason. That’s our tax dollars providing free and timely elective surgery, in spite of the waiting lists and chronic resource shortages that plague our health care system in many other areas. Based on abortion statistics and the cost of the procedure in clinics and hospitals, that translates into $90-million a year, as a conservative estimate.

Read the rest here.

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Lessons learned by the IDF

Commenting on events in the Middle East as they transpire is risky, given that a day’s events can cause drastic change.  On a lot of levels, though, especially in the use of air power and proficient public relations, Israel seems to have learned the lessons of the Second Lebanon War, aka the war against Hezb’Allah, as I write in this column.

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I am not conceding that childcare is a government responsibility …

But if the government does want to put its fingers into this particular thorny mess, there are better and worse ways to do it.  Quebec’s example is one of the poorer approaches to the issue, as borne out by an MIT study that found kids in Quebec’s universal daycare have more physical and psychological problems, their parents become less attentive parents who are more depressed and have more tense marriages, and the whole scheme is a net money loser for the province.  A longer discussion of this is in today’s Winnipeg Free Press.

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An Israeli take on Iran and terror

Some North Americans are aware that the mess in Iran is a generation in the making, but the popular perception is that Iran really became a problem when American and Israeli ambitions put the Persian nose out of joint.  In fact, Israel and the USA once considered Iran a key ally, and the evolution of this relationship is well documented in Ronen Bergman’s The Secret War with Iran, which I review here.  Bergman has a doctorate in politics from Oxford, and has been a respected analyst within Israel for years.  This is his first book to be published in English, and it’s well worth the read.

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Healthcare and IT investment

We’re accustomed to thinking of Canadian healthcare problems in terms of splashy failures and gross inefficiencies - people dying in ER waiting rooms, cancer victims who have to pay for their own chemotherapy, 18 month waits for surgery.  The problems with our healthcare system are pervasive, though, and cause a lot of problems that don’t register on the radar for most of us, but nonetheless cost the system time, money, and sometimes lives.  If all Canadians had an Electronic Health Record - think the medical equivalent of a credit report, with the basic facts easily accessible by anyone you allow to acces it - we’d spend less money, repeat fewer tests, and get treated more safely and effectively.  More on EHRs and the high cost of not investing in our system sensibly here.

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A national disgrace

Last week, a Saskatchewan aboriginal man pled guilty to neglect causing the deaths of his toddlers when he took them out in -50 winds almost naked and they froze to death.  Although he claimed at the time to have been too drunk to dress them, he managed to dress himself in more adequate clothing, and also to get himself to safety while his daughters were dying of exposure.  Right now, two Manitoba natives are on trial for the murder of a 5 year old girl.  Phoenix Sinclair, the woman’s daughter, was treated with a level of sadism and cruelty that is reminiscent of the worst of Abu Ghraib, by her own mother and her mother’s live-in boyfriend.  There are recriminations flying all around about who is to blame for what, but so far nobody is talking very much about the profound dysfunction that lies at the root of both of these criminal cases, as well as the pervasive child abuse, substance abuse, mental illness and teen suicide that plague First Nations: the collapse of the family.  My column on this topic, paired with two other takes on it, is in today’s Winnipeg Free Press.

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War in a post-national world

One of the challenges facing military thinkers in the 21st century has been how to adapt the model of warfighting that has been developed over the past four centuries to a world in which the biggest threats come from groups that aren’t armies, don’t control a specific territory, and owe allegiance to no nation or government. John Robb, a blogger, ex Special Forces soldier, and businessman, has written a thought-provoking book on this subject, which I review for Canadian webzine C2C here.

Introduction:

The diabolical genius of the 9/11 attacks was the way in which a small and loosely organized group of terrorists slipped around the behemoth of the US military and security apparatus, rather than attempting to directly engage it. The greatest threat to American domestic security and the American military abroad turned out to be not another nation or its armed forces, but a determined consortium using only tools that can be cheaply and easily purchased, such as cell phones and box cutters.
John Robb, a technology consultant with an engineering degree from the Air Force Academy, a business degree from Yale, and years of experience in counterterrorism as a special forces operative, sees a parallel here with the decline of Microsoft. For years, that company was the unquestioned leader in computer software, with competitors such as Novell, Corel and Netscape, which quickly lost out whenever they tried to compete with Microsoft head-on. Instead, the most serious challenger to Windows comes from Linux, an open source operating system which is freely distributed, and improved upon by its users. Robb believes that the future of organized violence will be similar: the age of the colossus is past, while agile, adaptable and only loosely hierarchical organizations will dominate from now on.
I recommend both the book and the rest of the C2C website.

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David Frum makes the case for McCain

After a campaign in which he has been one of the louder conservative voices criticizing Sarah Palin, and at best a muted and reticent supporter of McCain, David Frum writes a convincing post about why he’s voting for McCain and why other American voters who value smaller government, increased freedom, national security, small-c conservatism and politicians with integrity should do likewise.  He also addresses the Palin issue, to wit, why Republicans or conservatives who aren’t delighted with her addition to the ticket should still vote McCain-Palin.

His first point:

10) No elected official in American life has contributed more to the security of the nation than John McCain. Latterly, McCain was the most senior and most forceful advocate of the strategy that has saved the day in Iraq. For that reason alone, he deserves your vote.

Read the rest here.

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Aftermath

I’ll take an expanded Conservative minority over a Liberal majority, minority, or coalition, but I can’t summon up the energy to pretend that last week’s election was anything to celebrate.  Why can’t Conservatives win full stop?  Are they still perceived as a western party, simply Reform rebranded?  Gerry Nicholls suggests that this is proof that incrementalism doesn’t work, or at least works only on a geologic time scale, and not one appreciable to humans.  He thinks we’ll be going through the whole circus in about a year’s time.  I think that’s pessimistic; as I write in a column aimed at Americans trying to make sense of our election, Harper can probably govern as if he had a majority, simply because the wrath of all Canadians will fall upon anyone who triggers an election in the near future.

Social conservatism was roundly ignored in 2008, and motivating the base enough to come out and vote Conservative might have made a difference.  It worked in Winnipeg South in 2006 and then again in 2008.  Rod Bruinooge is an example who should be studied by CPC riding associations that lost by narrow margins, as I explain in a column for the Edmonton Journal.

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