So you want free healthcare?

For all of my American friends, when Canada is used as a shining example of the wonder of free, universal, socialized healthcare, please note that the facts are somewhat different. My wife mentioned a story to me about a couple whose baby was born prematurely in Hamilton, Canada. With no NICU beds anywhere in the province of Ontario, the baby had to be sent to Buffalo, NY.

Mark Steyn weighs in:

Well, it would be unreasonable to expect Hamilton, a city of half-a-million people just down the road from Canada’s largest city (Greater Toronto Area, 5.5 million) in the most densely populated part of Canada’s most populous province (Ontario, 13 million people) to be able to offer the same level of neonatal care as Buffalo, a post-industrial ruin in steep population decline for half a century.

Hot Air comments as well:

But why wasn’t there a NICU bed for the child in the entire nation of Canada?  The government of Canada won’t pay for more.  They don’t exist to expand supply to meet demand; their single-payer system exists to ration care as a cost-saving mechanism.  In a free-market system, supply expands to meet demand, which is why Canada could subcontract out to a US hospital for capacity.  Michael writes that paragraph as if it was mere luck that an NICU bed happened to be open in the US, but that’s a function of the system, and not luck.

Canada’s healthcare system is a series of waitlists. My wife had a car accident a year ago on July 16. She is still waiting to see an orthopedic specialist a year later. And the system isn’t free; he ambulance ride alone cost us $45 out of pocket. And she was charged $35 for a doctor visit because she had forgotten to renew her government-issued health insurance card. The other day she was charged $20 to renew a prescription. Small amounts to be sure, but they do add up.

On the other hand, care for illnesses such as heart attack and cancer are relatively good and won’t bankrupt you. But don’t let your elected representatives fool you. There are substantial problems with the Canadian system, and lack of beds is just one of them.

Solving the right problem.

Malcolm Gladwell gives Chris Anderson a smackdown in the New Yorker over Chris’s new book Free: The Future of a Radical Price.

This example caught my eye: So how does YouTube bring in revenue? Well, it tries to sell advertisements alongside its videos. The problem is that the videos attracted by psychological Free—pirated material, cat videos, and other forms of user-generated content—are not the sort of thing that advertisers want to be associated with. In order to sell advertising, YouTube has had to buy the rights to professionally produced content, such as television shows and movies. Credit Suisse put the cost of those licenses in 2009 at roughly two hundred and sixty million dollars. For Anderson, YouTube illustrates the principle that Free removes the necessity of aesthetic judgment. (As he puts it, YouTube proves that “crap is in the eye of the beholder.”) But, in order to make money, YouTube has been obliged to pay for programs that aren’t

It’s true that YouTube has had trouble monetizing its videos with advertising. However, as Gladwell notes, that is because existing advertisers don’t want to be associated with the content. That’s the advertisers’ problem, not YouTube’s. It doesn’t mean that there are not better ways to monetize, provided they are willing to stray from a path they know best.

Or perhaps find different advertisers. Television shows are increasingly drawing from online clips to build half hour shows; Tosh.0 comes to mind for example. Creating television (or online) shows that appeal to a similar demographic using their clips might be outside their comfort zone, but could provide revenue. Finding more radical advertisers, possibly allowing they to do a revenue split advertising deal on more edgy videos might be another way.

They’ve already created an incredibly large video library. The fact that they haven’t found the right monetization scheme doesn’t mean that “free” doesn’t work.

Because when you assume…

I witnessed a spectacular dose of small-mindedness via Twitter
this morning. Someone (the name isn’t important) Twittered:

"seems like the Kitchener-Waterloo twitterers & bloggers are
different species – or have I just not discovered the cross-over people?"

When asked what that meant, she clarified:

"People who attend real life social networking activities locally
here in K-W. Tweetups vs. Blogger Fests."

When I suggested that this might be because of competition with events
such as StartupCamp/BarCamp and the like (140 characters does limit
lists), I received this response:

"for geeks, maybe. Bloggers I"ve met locally more literary, politically engaged. Nice mix."

So if you weren’t aware of it folks, if you’ve attended StartupCamp you
are a geek, and therefore by definition not literary or politically

I attend StartupCamp and BarCamp to help others get started. I also work
with startups – often for free – to help them in the same way others
have helped me. I also enjoy time spent at FoodForThought meetings; an
eclectic mix of people – even artists! – who like to discuss different
ideas and learn from each other. I write articles for The
Industry Standard
. I’m an Optimist Club member; we do service work
to raise money to help children. Many bloggers write about politics. I’m
a member of the Waterloo Voter Support Committee; we run actual debates
with political candidates so that citizens can become more informed. My
friends would probably say I’m ridiculously politically engaged. I’ve
been on the board of the WCAC/Button Factory and a committee member of
Leadership Waterloo Region, and I also volunteer with several other

Perhaps I’m a geek, but I’m certainly one who gets involved in the
community. And I’m sure that many other geeks do, as do many other
"literary, politically engaged people". 

Now ordinarily I wouldn’t waste my time with this. I don’t need to
justify myself to anyone. However, this person often purports to speak
on behalf of Open Text, a company I formerly worked with, and still hold
stock in.

This person would be wise to realize that it is unreasonable to define
individuals based on one simple piece of information. She should also
realized that, since she works for a software company, she depends on
geeks for her livelihood. And in fact, many of her customers may also be
geeks. And clearly, so may her stockholders.

In fact, if not for geeks, there would be neither blogging nor Twitter.

After all, I’d hate to see her end up in an article like "What
Your Vendor’s Corporate Marketing Department Really Thinks About You

The moral:

Rash judgements are never a good idea. Especially when Google lasts forever. 

Sound bites trump science.

This is the president who vowed to "restore science to its rightful place":

"At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air that we breathe."

These sound bites play wonderfully on the media because viewers probably don’t give thought to the meat of the statement, and the lack of actual … uh … science involved.

Carbon isn’t a pollutant. We all exhale it. We add it to flavored sugar water to make soda.

But Obama all too frequently is given a pass my a media that hangs on his every word, so imagine my surprise when the Associated Press called him on it (though they couldn’t leave out the global warming theory):

THE FACTS: Carbon dioxide is not directly harmful to humans’ air and water in the way of traditional pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide or mercury. Carbon dioxide has no direct effect on drinking-water quality, but is likely to affect how much is available. Carbon dioxide in itself is not harmful when inhaled in normal amounts, but increased warming from carbon dioxide increases harmful smog.


But carbon dioxide itself does not taint water or pollute the air.

So when will he be restoring science to its rightful place? When it’s convenient I suppose.

Tip of the hat to small dead animals.


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You can’t buy that here.

Not only can I not buy Ralph Lauren Polo shirts or a decent hot sauce, I also can’t buy current technology in Canada. Generally that’s pretty well hidden, but suddenly Macleans magazine seems to have noticed:

But here’s the thing: you can’t have one. When the Kindle DX goes on sale this summer (for a hefty US$489), it will be available only in the United States, just like earlier versions of the gadget. Amazon has given no indication that it’s headed for Canada any time soon. “We haven’t announced a timeline yet and we are not doing so at this point,” was all an spokesperson would say in an email. The Kindle, which first debuted in the U.S. in 2007, joins a long line of new and potentially groundbreaking technologies that are available in the United States but not in Canada. Whether it’s the hugely popular online video service or ring tunes for the iPhone (another product that Canadians waited months for), we’re out in the cold. While frustrating for consumers, this lag is also a potentially crippling problem for a country with any ambition to be a player in the digital economy. Canada may be a wealthy, wired, well-educated place, but it is also quickly becoming one of the Western world’s technological backwaters.

Strangely, I think I actually used the word "backwater" when describing Canadian technology in Boston the other day.

Canadians are told over and over that we have access to the best technology in the world. And we do, just a year or two after the rest of the world already has it. We deserve better. We must demand better.

Via Michael Geist.


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For $1B, I’ll buy Nortel too.

A group of former Nortel executives want to buy the bankrupt company. There’s just one catch:

Under the group’s plan, Nortel would concentrate on building a high-speed broadband network across Canada after divesting a third of its operations, the CBC report states. It also says politicians have been "lukewarm" to the proposal.

Three members of the group are ex-Nortel President Bob Ferchat; David Patterson, a former Nortel director; and David Mann, a former Nortel vice president. The group has private capital but needs the government to float $1 billion in order to see its plan through, according to the CBC.

Well if the Canadian government wants to give me a billion dollars, I’ll be happy to buy Nortel.But to build a high-speed broadband network across Canada? Don’t we already have that?

Why would we spend a billion dollars to shore up a failed behemoth rather than create a nimble new startup to do the job? Do we want people who made Nortel what is it today running the company?


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