In which I am a politics geek

I feel that I need to immediately confess that I did not vote in yesterday’s UK election. Voting is something that I love and feel priveliged to do, not just in memory of the brave women who fought to get me the vote but because there are so many places that do not have universal suffrage. Voting is a basic human right, but it is one that many people do not have access to.

However, I do not live in the UK, I do not pay taxes there and I have no intention of returning so I do not feel that it is ethically right for me to vote there. I would effectively be voting for a government that I do not need to live with and that seems wrong to me.

Having cleared that up…

What a fascinating vote! I was up until 2am last night following it and now I’m listening to Radio 5 live at work to keep up with it. The idea of a Conservative government makes me shudder. I’m a child of the eighties, my earliest memories are of poll tax riots and miners’ strikes. That doesn’t give me a good feeling about the Tories. Labour has made mistakes, I’m freely going to admit that, but they’ve also done a lot of good things (minimum wage, hospital waiting lists, repeal of Section 28, civil partnerships to name just a few) and none of them would have happened under a Tory government. In fact, I worry about the future of some of Labour’s good policies with Cameron in power.

I live in Canada. A hung parliament doesn’t frighten me and I’ve seen the NDP get a few things through because of the Conservative minority. The negotiations are going to be fascinating and I’m on tenterhooks waiting for speeches and announcements.

What has come out very clearly is that the first past the post system does not work. It’s insane. The LibDems are not far behind Labour in terms of votes and vote share, yet they currently have 56 seats to Labour’s 255. How is that a fair voting system? I grew up in an area that has not returned a non-Conservative MP since the beginning of the party system. There was a swing in that area from Tory to LibDem that is entirely unrepresented in the results. I know so many people who would stick pins in their eyes before they voted Conservative. Due to the FPTP system, our votes are utterly worthless. It makes no difference what we vote because the Tories will still win. That’s a massive number of votes that are going to anyone except the Tories, but a huge area (and huge number of seats) that is blue and will never change.

If nothing else comes out of this election, the UK needs proportional representation. It isn’t the scary thing that people paint it as, it’s a system that would prevent travesties like last night where the seats in no way reflect the way that people actually voted. FPTP does not guarantee a majority government, Canada has shown that for five years, but it does guarantee that millions of voters don’t get heard.

The debates this year have been fantastic for the election system. All those people who couldn’t vote because the queues were too long? That shouldn’t have been able to happen and needs investigation, but it’s also a sign that voter turn-out has been amazing. However there are still people who don’t vote because their vote won’t have any effect: PR would change that. The two things that I have always felt would counter voter apathy are television and electoral reform. One of them worked – let’s get electoral reform sorted and see what the country truely wants.

Edited to add: Just listened to David Cameron’s speech. Sounds like he’s got his sights fixed on a LibDem coalition and has put up taxes, education, low carbon economy and…electoral reform up for negotation! OK, he hasn’t said anything about PR but even being willing to discuss reform is good. He’s promising an all-party committee to investigate. A Tory-LibDem coalition would have to be better than a Tory minority, the LibDems might get some stuff done this way.

Weighing in on the healthcare debate

I’ve been trying to stay quiet on the American health care reforms/NHS debate because it’s a subject that makes my blood boil so quickly.

Instead, [info]calapine said it for me:

And in the same language that I’m tempting to use πŸ˜€

While the NHS is the most visibly attacked system for most British people, the conservative right is also using the Canadian system as an example of how terrible socialised medicine is. I remember people asking me when I moved, “What are you going to do about health care when you’re in Canada?”

I think this was largely because most people assume that Canada has the same system as the USA. Don’t get me started on the English perception of Canada as either the 51st State or a frozen Arctic wasteland populated by penguins. I’m serious about the penguines, yes. Geography, people. Learn some.

The Canadian system, in many ways, is what I think the USA will be going towards if they ever do get true universal health care. Here all the hospitals, doctors etc. are ‘private’ and the government pays their bills, administered via a couple of large insurance companies. Kind of like government funded health insurance. Some provinces charge a (very small) monthly fee, waived if you’re on benefits, Nova Scotia doesn’t. And if you have permenant residency here (either through PR or citizenship) then you’re entitled to that free care in NS from day 1. Some provinces have a wait period of 30 days when your originating province has to cover you. Slightly more complicated to sort out, but still not costing the user to access health care even during that wait period.

There are a few things it doesn’t cover: dental and drugs (unless you are 11 years old or under), eye care and extras like private physios. Although your doctor can refer you for hospital physio if you can’t afford private physio. Er, so it’s just like the NHS is that respect πŸ™‚

Nova Scotia is also one of the first provinces to bring out a government drug plan. Each year my earnings are assessed and they work out how much I can afford to pay in drug costs. When I reach that ‘cap’, all my drug costs are paid for by the government. So there’s no chance that cancer will bankrupt me even if I need $40,000 of treatment. Oh, and all drugs administered in hospital are paid for no matter what happens. So, basically, a hospital stay won’t cost me a cent.

All the funding for this is administered through private insurers. Doctors and hospitals submit their bills to the insurer and are refunded, the government refunds the insurers. No need to get pre-authorisation for a procedure or drug because the government will always fund it (apart from the above exclusions).

Do I have private medical insurance? Yes, through my work. It pays for nice extras like a private room in a hospital, dental, money towards glasses and alternative therapies such as private physio, accupunture, chiropracty, a great drug plan etc. Nothing that’s essential to my healthcare, but nice-to-haves. The eye care is awesome because that’s just the NHS doesn’t pay and nor do most private insurance plans in the UK. In other words, private insurers aren’t out of business here. And I’m not thousands of dollards out of pocket every time I dislocate a joint, need surgery or get an infection. My family doctor sees me and doesn’t present me with a bill at the end. Same with my specialist. This is despite me having pre-existing conditions.

It’s an excellent system, just as good as the NHS, and that’s why my blood boils every time Republican conservatives scream about the dreadful care, the impossibility of implementing it and the harm it causes. Right now, my uncle is in hospital due to congestive heart failure and a pulmonary embolism. They’re doing an excellent job and there was never any debate about whether he’d be seen. And when he eventually dies, nobody is going to be left with a huge hospital bill to pay.

Bit of a babble

I’m starting to get a handle on the software that I’m using for my new job, although I still have to ask silly questions a couple of times day. The good thing is that one teeny tiny change I’ve made is into testing in
pre-production and I’m actually getting somewhere with the new change request that I was given on Monday. It feels like I’m actually starting to settle into this job.

It’s still slightly unreal and wonderful to see everyone talking about President-Elect Obama. He really did it! Reading my f-list has been wonderful, from the short, jubilant posts through to [info]loneraven‘s account of her election night party. It’s not often that we all agree on something and this an amazing thing to agree on. The next few months are going to be so interesting.

I had thoughts that I was going to relate. Insightful thoughts. There was fandom in them. Er, my brain isn’t working too well. Roll on Friday 4.30pm!

Election follow-up

I should have thoughts about last night, but mostly I’m just stuck at “He actually did it?”

Even yesterday morning, there was a part of me expecting to be disappointed because it still seemed impossible for a black guy with great ideas and a huge amount of hope to actually win. In politics it’s usually the white guy with tired old ideas that wins because he’s familiar and safe. People don’t like to take chances when they vote no matter what they tell the pollsters because that’s scary and if they make a poor choice then they’re stuck with it. Who you vote for can have a huge influence in your life because politicians have the power to make those big changes.

So a large part of me was expecting to be disappointed and praying that I
was wrong.

I am so glad that I’m wrong.

Time will tell whether Obama is a good president, but I have hope that he will be and right now that’s such a strange feeling. The leader of one of the most powerful nations on Earth is someone that I can respect and feel good about for the first time in eight years. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

In other news…

It’s the first Thursday in the month so it must be eat out with the knitters tomorrow night! Apparently we’re going for Mexican at a place across the harbour and the menu looks rather nice. I’m going to meet one of the girls at the bus terminal so that she can shepherd me on and off the right buses and I’m actually quite excited about this. Great food plus knitting plus knitting friends seems like a fantastic night out to me!

Also, I have taken defensive action against the chiller cabinet that is my office. I brought a big fleece jacket with me to huddle in when the cold gets too much. Today I am determined that I will not leave this place chilled to the bone. It takes hours to warm up from that kind of abuse *sigh*

Looking good!

Dear BBC,

I love you. I love that you’re streaming the election program live via the Internet so that I can have fairly rational analysis as the votes come in.

You are an amazing news source.


Also, Obama has Ohio! And Pennsylvania! And 200 votes, which is 76 more than McCain and only 70 off the target. It’s starting to feel like Christmas because tomorrow I’m really starting to believe that I’ll be waking up to fantastic news.

Interesting debate (plus socks and kitties because I am ‘well-rounded’)

I was out at a party for one of the girls that I’ve met through Ravelry on Friday night. I fully intended to get home to see the first presidential debate but it was suddenly quarter to midnight and…well…that wasn’t quite the way I planned things πŸ™‚

So instead I sat down and watched it today through the glories of teh Internets. It’s still amazing to me that I can do that.

It was definitely an interesting debate, but I didn’t feel like one came out the clear winner from the exchanges. My sympathies are firmly with Obama and the debate backed up the reasons for that, but I’m not sure that either one came out really far ahead.

Just checked the wires and it appears that polls over the weekend have declared Obama the winner including getting a lead with the undecideds. So that’s good πŸ™‚

Friday night I had one minor triumph – I turned my first heel on a sock πŸ™‚ Hooray! The rest should be pretty simple and I’m feeling very good about it. Lesley at the Ravelry group was the key, showing me how the pattern’s vague instructions actually worked on the yarn, so I owe her a debt.

My little kittens have already grown, I think. They’re not looking quite so tiny as they did, although other cats still look huge compared to them. Annie is turning out to be the snuggler, but both of them seem to feel that me sitting at the computer is the signal for nap time. They’ll sleep on my lap for hours if I let them! It’s totally adorable.

I am downloading Merlin to see what they do with the second episode when they don’t have to introduce the world and all the characters.

I’m trying to decide whether I sign up for a con in Boston in April. The sign-ups are in a month so I’ll have a better idea on whether I can afford it (both tickets and time). It’s very tempting, but can I really afford to jet off to a con when I’m going back to England in Feb for one already?

Bartlet on Obama

Ever wanted to know what advice Jed Bartlet might give to Obama? Well, now you can find out.

*That* is why I love the West Wing and think Aaron Sorkin is brilliant.

Also, who wants Bartlet out there as a candidate? *holds up hand*