I've unpacked the car and am now sitting by a screened window overlooking Lake Ontario. As I vacation on my native side of the border, I am going to try to keep the Canadian content to a minimum. But I do recommend that you take a look at the Internet editions of some of the Canadian papers (you'll find the Financial Post, which I write for, here) before bursting into rhapsodies over the health-care system here. It's plunging into collapse. The NewYorker's Malcolm Gladwell, another of the incognito Canadians in America, wrote a piece a few years ago noting that there were more CAT scanners in the Washington metropolitan area than in all of Canada. Nor is it just advanced technology that is lacking: anesthetic in childbirth, nursing care in non-emergency wards, and our best specialists are all quietly disappearing from the country.
The common joke up here is that in the States some people lack insurance but everybody gets care; here the insurance is universal, but the care is not. Defenders of the system argue that the blame for the tumbling standards should be pinned on the cutbacks in spending of the past decade; but of course, the reason for the cutbacks in spending is that the system as originally conceived was completely unaffordable. Canadians pay a combined federal-provincial marginal tax rate of between 47% and 54% (depending on the province in which they live) on incomes as low as US$50,000. They pay federal-provincial sales taxes that rise in some provinces as high as 15% on almost everything they buy. And they still have to wait six months for hip surgery.
As for gossip: the rabbis do indeed frown up spreading hurtful rumors. Perhaps Clinton should consider inviting his friend Susan McDougal's rabbi to the White House for a chat, as a kind of Ozark Baruch Korff. Alas for the president, however, the rabbis take an even harsher view of bearing false witness, adultery, and the corruption of justice than they do of gossip. And come to think of it, the people who back James Carville and who leaked Linda Tripp's FBI file are not exactly strangers to the practice of defaming perceived enemies.
Time to go gather the driftwood for tonight's bonfire: the Canadian regulatory authorities do not permit us to receive MS-NBC, and without Keith Olberman to watch, we're cast upon our own resources in the evenings.