Wednesday Night #1215

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Photos (slide show) of the evening

Security versus privacy
The concept of – and desire for – privacy has changed since the days when we left our doors and cars unlocked, knew all our neighbours, dropped in unbidden for a visit, and the postman knew from whom we received mail, if not what was in it (not to mention an earlier time when the local switchboard operator knew where everyone was). We were comfortable in that open society because we knew everyone within the community.
With social changes resulting from the move away from long-established communities to suburbs without the same cultural anchors, the high degree of mobility of the nuclear family, the demise of the local services such as Post Office, pharmacy, grocery store, library and police force all staffed by residents, the sense of community has all but disappeared and with it the sense of security, leading to ‘gated communities’ and a siege mentality in many large cities.
Today, without national security, there can be little or no personal security. In times of crisis, one must sometimes sacrifice the latter to enhance the former. However, the invasion of personal privacy can sometimes be addictive to those whose responsibility it is to maintain the integrity of the state.
Monitoring telephone conversations has long been a productive means of identifying individuals and groups constituting a threat to national security, but the sheer volume of such conversations has, on occasion, failed to trigger a timely intervention. It is claimed that had the process been more efficient, the threat to the twin towers might have been identified and thwarted.
Corporations have been monitoring employees’ e-mail and use of the Internet for some time. Now it appears that the latest means for the State to identify persons who are a threat to national security is by conducting the same type of surveillance. Apparently, industrial psychologists have ascertained that individuals attempting to hide something give themselves away in their use of language, such as the use of the passive mood in French.
The fear is that, in order that this may be of value as a statistical tool, its use on a broad scale is essential and when used on an individual basis may lead to erroneous conclusions.
Is the Internet the greatest threat to privacy? Undoubtedly, because interception can be done statistically by computers, and the amount of knowledge about any individual that can be collected by government or security services is simply staggering.
Some suggest that the greatest concern should be blackmail, not by governments, but by individuals. Insofar as governments are concerned, rather than attempting to pass laws prohibiting the accumulation of information, we should encourage openness in government.

The Supreme Court decision on healthcare
As Canadians, we sometimes tend to be rather critical of the motives of our elected representatives while emphasizing the importance of the independence of the judiciary. However, when the courts make decisions that place individual rights above legislation, we sometimes support the legislators whom we might otherwise deride.
Fresh in our minds is the recent Supreme Court’s decision that Québec’s ban on private health insurance for ‘medically necessary’ health services was unconstitutional, which appears to open the door to a two-tier Medicare system in Canada. The ruling provides for private health care for essential medical acts, although the exact implementation of the ruling has yet to be decided. In deciding the implementation, the payer, payee and method of payment have not yet been determined.
Some suggest that if the Supreme Court truly believed that life, liberty and security of the person were threatened by the existing situation, then they should have found a remedy for everyone; it is no answer to say that ‘those who can afford it may guarantee their life, liberty and security of the person’. Or is it really those principles that are denied by long waiting lists? Is timely treatment more appropriately considered a luxury? The Court could not have intervened had the issue not revolved around a Charter issue, ergo the determination regarding the security of the person. In the interests of equitable access to Medicare, the Supreme Court should have ordered the government to deliver the care and raise the taxes as required to pay for it.
Others suggest that it is high time that the debate be public, that we face the reality that some people have always had better access to healthcare, and that we examine all options to improve the system, including major reorganization, and recognizing that throwing more money at the problem may not be the answer. While no-one disputes the urgent need for more doctors and nurses, one component of healthcare costs that requires analysis is the unregulated cost of drugs (pharmaceuticals) which has risen disproportionately.

P R O L O G U E

Given the fearlessness of last Wednesday’s predictions, it seems only fair that we address the issues raised by the Supreme Court decision. Not unlike the EU Referendum question, it takes more than one area of professional and academic expertise to analyze the possible outcomes. We are therefore more than usually delighted to count Julius Grey, our favorite constitutional expert, among tomorrow’s guests, while Martin Dawes reminds us that “Waiting lists require complex solutions. You may remember my new organization called the CNSS – campaign for no simple solutions. Waiting list solutions may only show significant effect after two terms of a government. One factor is having enough family physicians, so that they are not so stressed that they have time to spot the zebra in amongst the herd of antelopes.”
Ron Meisels has returned from his voyage on the Dnieper, filled with observations on the ABCs (ATMs, Banking systems, Communism) of the Ukraine and looking forward to sharing many fascinating snippets of information on Kiev, Odessa, Yalta…. see his Slide show
On the Canadian scene, having successfully predicted that Gilles Duceppe would ‘Just Say No’, we may continue to ponder the awesome twists and turns in the fortunes of political parties. [How many of you noticed that Time Canada has designated John Gomery a true Canadian Hero?] Remember that on WN 1210 a lead quote was: ‘This is a country and a province that is not productivity-oriented’? Will our economists rejoice in the news of our born-again productivity proponent, Ralph Goodale?
Following right along on the born-again theme, who’d uv thunk that Paul Wolfowitz would turn into Bono II, but there he is in Africa, making noises like the head of a small NGO! We particularly liked the story of his waving his magic wand so that the camels would get their medication – sounds more like Veterinaries Without Borders than the World Bank! On the basis of preliminary evidence, we are happy to admit we (Diana) just might have been wrong about him. Still on Africa, the Sheep in Wolf’s clothing also hailed the G-8’s landmark debt relief deal for poor, indebted nations, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa even though His Bank will be writing off much of the debt.
The pot of UN Reform is bubbling away, with some U.S. Congresspersons proposing a somewhat draconian solution and all but two former ambassadors saying that it’s a bad idea. Speaking of bad ideas, John Bolton’s nomination could go to a vote in the Senate this week.
Iran (June 17) and Lebanon (June 19) facing key votes this week.
And in another Middle East-related story: OPEC looks at two-step output rise, but there’s a cautionary note: Any lift in the production quota is also unlikely to calm market fears about tight supplies this winter, and could backfire. Prices could still rise as oil markets will focus on the lack of spare production capacity. At the same time, debate begins today in the U.S. Senate on the $11 billion energy bill which aims to boost long-term domestic oil, natural gas and gasoline production, make the U.S. electric grid more reliable and build more nuclear power plants. (And, not incidentally, damage the Alaska Wildlife Preserve!)
Finally, for the India and China watchers, we recommend highly India, China and the US: Current Realities by Professor M D Nalapat which was forwarded by our wandering Wednesday Nighter Cleo Paskal (she is currently in Bishkek). Cleo profiled Professor Nalapat in Maclean’s recently.
With all of these to consider, Wednesday Night should be busy – and instructive!
Some topical links for your reading pleasure
June 9 The historic decision by the Supreme Court struck down a Quebec prohibition that banned the use of private health insurance and private financing of hospital services to provide medically necessary services. Although the ruling applies only in Quebec, since the prohibition was found to violate Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it could open the door to similar litigation in other provinces.
CMA moves to reassure patients following ‘historic’ medicare ruling. President Albert Schumacher commented “This represents a stinging indictment of the failure of governments to respond to the mountains of studies and years of research with real action [regarding wait times]. In essence, the court has agreed with our fundamental position that Canadians have the right to timely access to health services.” ]
June 14 … the head of the Health Council of Canada … Michael Decter said last week’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada casts new light on the staffing shortage problem his independent advisory agency has highlighted as a key priority to curing medicare’s woes.
Cutting NHS waiting times: Identifying strategies for sustainable reductions
June 14 ” While MediaScout would love to see the army of correspondents and press vans that lined the Santa Maria, California, streets deployed to Africa or some other badly under-represented international hot spot, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. It’s time for the Big Six to return to their station as the adjudicators of what we need to know to get through our day, rather than feeding our baser desires for celebrity scandals best left to Entertainment Tonight.” AMEN!
OTTAWA – After months of dire warnings from the Bank of Canada governor, economists and business groups, the federal Finance Minister acknowledged yesterday that lacklustre productivity growth threatens Canada’s standard of living and said increasing productivity should be a top priority in the years ahead.
[OPEC] will on Wednesday consider a plan for a two-step increase in its official production ceiling in an effort to bring oil prices below $50 a barrel.
Last Wednesday’s thoughtful discussion of the future of the European Union pretty much said it all until there is some official pronouncement from the June 16-17 meeting.
John Gomery has closeted himself with his paperwork and we wish him well.

A few notes:
Wednesday-Night.com says bravo to
Maisonneuve Wins Magazine of the Year!
Maisonneuve takes home two Gold medals at the National Magazine Awards, including one for Sports Writing and another for overall editorial achievement—the prestigious President’s Medal.
Maisonneuve Wins Canadian Newstand Award!
For the second year running, Maisonneuve has won in the small magazines category—for Issue 12, the Money & Power issue.
Tuesday Jun 7, 2005 ts
Sovereignty stirs as Landry departs
The cause of independence among Quebecers was a slumbering issue until last weekend. Despite the huge lead of the sovereignist Bloc Québécois over the federal Liberals in Quebec opinion polls, and the popularity of the Parti Québécois over Liberal Premier Jean Charest`s provincial government, sovereignty or separation was not high on most voters` lists. see Benard Landry on W-N

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