Maybe it's just me, but I wonder if I sense a change in the global warming debate. Perhaps this has been prompted by the sudden dramatic fall in the global temperature - a drop in the last month big enough to wipe out the putative warming of the last century.
A few things have brought this idea to the fore. A survey conducted by a warmist and a skeptic found that 25 percent of bona-fide climate scientists reckon global warming is overdone. A giant of climatology came out of the closet and said she was sceptical of much of the science. A conference of sceptics wasn't ignored by some of the mainstream media. E-day was a flop. A report found that more informed people were more sceptical of global warming. A prominent warmist blogger agreed that the temperature record contained flaws. McIntyre was invited to speak by climatologists at Georgia Tech.
Of course, I could be deluding myself, but something feels different right now. Maybe it's just spring in the air.
Here's something I hadn't heard about before although apparently it's been going on for a couple of years now: Canada is starting to privatise its healthcare system.
Last week, the Quebec government proposed to lift a ban on private health insurance for several elective surgical procedures and announced it would pay for such surgeries at private clinics when waiting times at public facilities were unreasonable.
Now, it would only be fair to point out that Quebec didn't actually start down this road voluntarily - they were forced down the road to reform by the Supreme Court, which said that a ban on private health insurance was illegal when you couldn't actually get the socialised healthcare you'd already paid for. Good for them.
The effect of the decision on the other provinces seems to have been salutory too:
The decision applied directly only to Quebec, but it has generated calls for private clinics and private insurance in several provinces where governments hope to forestall similar court decisions.
Which sounds good to me. Banning private healthcare is absurd, if not outright obscene. It's worth remembering that there are only two other countries where this is the case: Cuba and North Korea. I can't really believe that this is the kind of company the Canadians want to be keeping, despite all the credulous claims of the superiority of Cuban hospitals.
Can you imagine a world so topsy-turvy that medics are forced to operate clinics illegally? Apparently this is what happens in Canada. I can't imagine how anyone in the free world could stand to see someone prosecuted for this. "You have been found guilty of providing hip replacements for the wrong reasons - send him down!"
The article I've cited at the top of this post is from 2006, but it appears that there's been no let up in the pace of reform:
The architect of Quebec's now-overburdened public health-care system is proposing a strong and controversial remedy that includes further privatization and user fees of up to $100 [£50] for people to see their family doctor.
In a 338-page report, former provincial Liberal health minister Claude Castonguay concluded that Quebec can no longer sustain the annual growth in health-care costs. The province currently spends about $24 billion annually on health care, or about 40 per cent of its budget.
It's that second paragraph which gets to the crux of the matter. The problem of the whole "equal but inefficient" approach of socialised medicine is that eventually it's either going to become unaffordable, as in Canada, or, as in the UK where costs are held down, the system decays to the extent that it's more dangerous to be treated than not.
Martin Ivens in the Sunday Times hits the nail pretty squarely on the head on the subject of whether the Conservatives are actually offering alternative NHS policies to Labour.
If Lansley tells an audience of doctors and nurses that the Conservatives will no longer fiddle with the NHS like new Labour, he will get easy applause. Health workers are truly fed up with obtuse management and endless Whitehall directives. But after the clapping has died down he should ask that room whether the NHS should continue as it is...
...David Cameron, you present yourself as the future, the new politics. If you don’t offer the prime minister a challenge on health reform then another decade will be wasted. By not rocking the boat you think you will get more votes. Maybe. But you’ll be passing up a great opportunity and we will all be the losers.
It's not just health policy where the Conservatives are offering a policy of "the same but better". Here's the Shadow Education Secretary, Michael Gove:
Tomorrow, parents across the country will find out if their children have got into their first-choice school. I vividly remember last year when I, like thousands of other parents, faced a nerve-shredding few weeks to see if my daughter had got into her preferred school. She was lucky and now she's enjoying a superb education at a fine state primary. But the experience reinforced my conviction that parents shouldn't have to endure this anxiety and a good state education shouldn't be a matter of chance. It should be a right.
What makes this year's admissions roulette even more tense is the pressure by the Government to micro-manage the process. Schools face new rules and parents new barriers when it comes to exercising choice. Head teachers have been warned not even to talk to parents lest those who are committed to finding out more about a particular school secure an unfair advantage. And the bureaucrat in charge of this process is threatening even more lotteries to come. As someone who believes totally in state education I understand why it's important to do what we can to make opportunity more equal.
If even the Conservatives can't see that it's the "state" bit of "state education" which is the problem, heaven help us.
I often wonder whether we in the libertarian part of the blogosphere end up just preaching to each other. With this in mind, I've been making doing some outreach work at LabourHome and LibDem Voice which has been lots of fun and much more of an intellectual challenge. (I don't think I've actually converted anyone yet though).
The latest venture here was the comments thread on this post at LibDem voice on the subject of Post Office closures. The point I keep coming back to is this: if you're not going to use economic viability as your criterion to decide if a PO branch should remain open, what are you going to base your decision on? So far this appears to have the Liberal party stumped.
The Green Alliance have issued a report calling for VAT to be replaced with a green goods tax.
Julie Hill, Green Alliance’s waste policy expert, says:
“We have a choice: do we want to continue living with stuff which conflicts with living a low-carbon, low-waste lifestyle or do we want to consume in ways that are smart, pleasurable and sustainable? The market still brings forward products that conflict with the government’s own environmental goals, from appliances that can’t be taken off stand-by to packaging that can’t be recycled. And without the right price signals this pattern is set to continue. Other European countries do it so let’s tax bads - not goods.”
What Julie Hill neglects to say is that this can't actually be done, because VAT is compulsory under EU law. She does actually know about this flaw in her little plan, because it says so in the full report. She just accidentally forgot to mention it in the press release, I suppose.
Lots of traffic coming my way as a result of the "E-day" post. Welcome to everyone who's visiting here for the first time.
While researching the background to E-day, I came across a curious fact: there are lots of Matt Prescotts involved in greenish politics.
We've already met Matt Prescott, PhD (Oxon) in Ecology, head of Ban the Bulb, Planet Relief and E-Day.
Then there's Matt Prescott who runs Carbon Limited, a project trying to make
Carbon Communism Personal Carbon Allowances a workable idea.
And there's a third Matt Prescott who is a spokesman for PETA.
As far as I can tell, these are all entirely different people, but they're all involved in enviroloony causes.
But I suppose I might go off the rails too, if I shared a name with our former Deputy Prime Minister.
Matthew Parris says that holding Gorbals Mick (I thought he was a Jock?) accountable is not the job of the public or the media but of MPs.
I don't think the question of whether Mr Speaker Martin should resign is any business of mine, or yours, or the British media's, or the British public's. I think it's for sitting MPs, and for Mr Martin himself, to consider and decide. And in making that decision I doubt that he or they should take much notice of any of us.
Now this is all very well, but we have also been told in recent days that no sitting MP will risk criticising the speaker for fear of never being called to speak again. All we've had is a chorus of Labour MPs cheering him to the rafters and making vague claims of snobbery.
This one-sidedness is so pronounced, it completely undermines the idea that MPs can hold the speaker to account. So it's pretty much inevitable that the press and the blogs are going to have to do the work for them.
Mind you, if the idea of recall referendums ever takes off, then we might have real public accountability.
Two news stories from recent days could be seen as highlighting a different sense of priorities among the two main parties:
I suppose we should be grateful that some of our elected representatives are still trying.
Lord Mancroft has said that he was appalled by the standards of nursing he received from the NHS:
Lord Mancroft claimed that it was “a miracle” that he was still alive after his experience of filthy wards and “slipshod and lazy” nurses when he was admitted to an NHS hospital in the West Country, believed to be the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
On occasions like this, the standard defence is to adopt the fallacy of composition and pretend that the criticism was being made of the whole industry rather than just particular members of it.
Mr Cameron was swift to act. Aides said he was furious and has asked Lord Strathclyde to rebuke Lord Mancroft. His views were not shared by the Conservative Party, which knew that nurses did a fantastic job, often in difficult circumstances, a spokesman said.
Dave has clearly picked up a lot from studying Labour's modus operandi, but the public sector can still teach him a thing or two. The nurses union claims that Mancroft was bitching about the whole of the female sex!
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said Lord Mancroft’s comments were “grossly unfair on nurses across the UK” and amounted to a “sexist insult about the behaviour of British women.”
Fallacious argument aside, you would have thought they might actually investigate his claims first, before condemning him. It's not as if he's the first person to say things like this about NHS hospitals, and he'll not be the last either.
Longrider Peter Risdonhas his own NHS horror story to relate.
The NHS will never get better if we're not allowed to criticise it.
A europolicywonk called John Palmer is congratulating the EU on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy in order to boost food production.
Although governments have been reluctant to talk publicly about the looming crisis of food inflation and outright food shortages, the European commission has proved quick to make drastic changes in the management of the common agricultural policy (CAP).
It does strike me as a bit sad that when the EU fails to act like a bunch of drunken imbeciles, it's presented as a policy triumph.