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Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 02/14/2015 - 08:36
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Cameron Dearlove laments the fact that Canada is failing to recognize and replicate other countries' successes in using the social determinants of health to shape public policy:
Today we know that social and financial inequities — particularly the experience of poverty — has a greater impact on our health than our healthcare system, genetics, even lifestyle choices. For a society facing spiking healthcare costs, the social determinants of health (things like housing, food security, social inclusion, early childhood development, employment, and working conditions) arguably present the greatest public policy opportunity since the creation of our social safety net, after the Second World War. While Canada is at the forefront of research in the social determinants of health, we are laggards in turning this research into healthy public policy — while Finnish babies benefit from sleeping in their care-filled boxes, Canadian children rest outside the box.

If the social determinants of health hold such promise, what are we doing locally, provincially, and nationally to apply these ideas? How do we rewrite conventional wisdom so that governments, institutions and communities are using the powerful social determinants framework to encourage longer, healthier, happier lives?- Meanwhile, Donald Hirsch writes about the changing - and sadly spreading - shape of child poverty in the UK. And Barbara Howard offers a moment of perspective on how the disasters which some people can easily brush off cause far more problems for the working poor.

- Paul Krugman notes that the Republicans' tax policy continues to reflect little more than bare class warfare by other names in cutting taxes on the rich while raising them for everybody else.

- Heather Mallick traces the demise of Sun News to its constant bullying, while Christopher Waddell sees it as having been based largely on a failed attempt to game Canada's broadcasting system.

As an aside, others are asking how it is that a network seemingly set up to further the Cons' interests didn't actually get enough preferential treatment to survive despite its lack of merit. But I'll note that the government isn't the only force which could have kept the network afloat - and given the massive amount of money put into corporate communications, it's telling also that Canada's plutocrats didn't have any interest in footing the bill for a media outlet which seemed to fit their political interests.

- Finally, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach offer a detailed look at the contents of the Cons' terror bill. Thomas Walkom - who deserves plenty of blame as the media originator of the theory that no opposition party would oppose C-51 - is finally beginning to recognize that the NDP is in fact standing up for civil rights against the Cons' fearmongering. Stephen Maher talks to a former CSIS officer and finds even more reason for concern with what the Cons are trying to pull. And Don Lenihan writes that he sees the Cons primarily as having made Canadian politics more authoritarian rather than more conservative - though I'm not sure it's an either-or proposition.

A Definitive Rejection Of Bill C-51

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 02/14/2015 - 06:29

It is only human nature, I suppose, that when crisis strikes, our immediate reaction is that we would do almost anything to protect ourselves and our loved ones. When Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measure Act in 1970 as a response to the FLQ crisis, the vast majority went along with the measure, I suspect, for that reason.

The world we live in today is vastly different. Thanks to grisly images on the Internet and crass manipulation by 'democratic' governments, many perceive us as being in a perpetual war that threatens all of us. A war without end. A war in which many consider the surrender of certain rights and freedoms as the cost of confronting an 'enemy' that "hates us because of our freedoms." Such jingoistic crap can be pretty compelling when the coin of the realm is fear.

Those able to achieve perspective and resist the demagoguery of their political overlords recognize that these are indeed dangerous times, the greatest peril coming not from external threats, but from those posed within in the guise of protective and proactive measures. Hence Bill C-51.

Two individuals able to see through the fog of hysteria perpetrated by the ruling class are Ed Boadbent, the former leader of the federal NDP, and Roy Romanow, the former premier of Saskatchewan who also served as a member of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee.

A joint essay in The Globe and Mail makes clear their adamant opposition to Stephen Harper's latest legislative initiative to promote conformist thinking and quell dissent within our country. They call for its immediate withdrawal:
Terrorism is designed to provoke governments into making damaging mistakes. It is conducted through brutality and rooted in the belief that killing ordinary citizens will cause nations to abandon their most basic commitments.

Terrorism demands a sustained and effective response. Resources must be allocated to enable police and intelligence agencies to find its perpetrators and to discover potential terrorists. Those who are guilty of offences must then be brought to justice.

Canada already has mechanisms, practices and laws necessary for dealing with terrorism. These include surveillance, immigration controls, preventative detention and incarceration for criminal activity.The authors cite a lack of resources and funding for our police and security forces as the real problem, but that, of course, is not something that galvanizes people or gives Mr. Harper the political wedge he is always seeking.
The bill attacks the civil rights of all Canadians, and places the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under the shadow of wider powers to interfere with lawful and legitimate conduct.

The general tenor of the bill is to expand the definition of threats to national security and add to the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Any interference with financial or economic stability could now be considered to violate national security. Such activities are a daily occurrence and in truth could include just about anything.Who potentially, could now be considered fair targets under this legislation?
Any interference with financial or economic stability could now be considered to violate national security. Such activities are a daily occurrence and in truth could include just about anything.

Other new national security offences include influencing any government in Canada by unlawful means or “interfering with infrastructure.” Neither of these is a rare practice. Neither is necessarily connected to terrorism.

And now persons can be held in custody as a preventative matter if officers believe that a terrorist activity “may” occur. This makes detention a matter for the purely subjective views of security officials.One cannot help but remember Joe Oliver's chilling references to "environmentalists and other radical groups".

Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that there really is no informed debate being conducted on this bill. One hopes that the efforts of people like Broadbent and Romanow will change that.
Recommend this Post

Sanctioned Doctor, Outmoded Abortion Protocol

Dammit Janet - Sat, 02/14/2015 - 05:10
The good news: An incompetent Ontario abortion provider, Dr Michel Prevost, was compelled to resign after documentation of poor practices.

The details (we'll get to the bad news in a minute): Because Health Canada is about 30 years behind the rest of the world in approving the "gold standard" of medical abortion, mifepristone, or RU486, doctors are forced to use the less effective protocol of combined methotrexate and misprostol.

Methotrexate is used not just for abortion but also for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The dosage needs to be calculated.
Methotrexate is given by injection the amount of which is individually calculated by each woman’s weight and height. As the medication takes effect, MTX interferes with folic acid and stops fetal cell duplication, and disrupts pregnancy at the stage of implantation in the uterine wall. When given early in pregnancy, it is effective in ending the pregnancy. (If a pregnancy were to continue after taking this drug, the fetus has a high risk of deformities.)
Which is where Prevost screwed up.
"He displayed a lack of judgment and patients were exposed to harm or injury in his failure to properly screen patients for medical terminations, in his failure to calculate doses of methotrexate on the basis of his patients' respective body surface areas, and in his failure to follow up with patients, including when he was aware that patients had ongoing gestations after the administration of methotrexate," the decision said.Despite Prevost's treatment, two pregnancies went to term with fetal anomalies -- anomalies whose cause(s) were not investigated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Now for the (totally predictable) bad news. The fetus freaks are doing wild happy dances in celebration of "botched" abortions resulting in harm.

See? See? See? they're SHRIEKING. Abortion is terrible.

And people wonder why we oppose RU486.

It's one thing to have an RU486 abortion in a big city. In a remote location, it can carry far greater risks…Two teensy problems there. 1) The drugs used were NOT RU486. 2) The supposed "remoteness" of Almonte, ON (46 km from downtown Ottawa), had nothing to do with the outcomes.

But for the mis- or uninformed, the sanctioning of this doctor will be seen as a blow to medical abortion in general and the as-yet unapproved (and uninvolved) RU486/mifepristone.

In January 2014, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published a commentary, titled "Medical abortion in Canada: behind the times."

In it, the authors specifically address the difference between the method Prevost -- and all other Canadian practitioners -- have no choice but to use and the "gold standard".
Unfortunately, Canadian women who want a medical abortion (assuming they can find a provider) must resort to a more cumbersome method that uses the cytotoxic drug methotrexate, followed 5–7 days later by misoprostol. Although the methotrexate–misoprostol approach provides a nonsurgical option, it is the second-best method. If allowed to take its course, the regimen is as effective as mifepristone and misoprostol for abortions at up to 7 weeks’ gestation, but its time course is longer and less predictable, with some abortions delayed several weeks after administration of methotrexate. Because methotrexate is teratogenic, the World Health Organization does not recommend it for abortion because of its association with serious deformities in the infant if the abortion fails and the pregnancy continues.Takes longer, is less predicable, associated with serious deformities if the abortion fails.

Yup. And in the hands of a lesser practitioner, prone to fucked-up outcomes

On Twitter the other day, I asked Dr. Jen Gunter, Canadian-trained, San Francisco-based OB/GYN, whether such outcomes would be less likely using RU486/mifepristone.

She was a tad busy at the time, dealing with her characterization by Heather Mallick as the dismissible "rural doctor" in The Star's flustercluck over the "dark side" of Gardisil.

She had time for only this reply.

@fernhilldammit WTF???? You don't have mifepristone???!

— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) February 12, 2015

Upshot: Far from being a condemnation of RU486/mifepristone, this sad episode should serve as an incentive for Health Canada to hurry up and approve the 21st-century medical abortion protocol.

The Ascension Of Pierre Poilievre

Northern Reflections - Sat, 02/14/2015 - 05:04


Among all the sound and fury over Eve Adams this week, many Canadians probably missed the fact that Pierre Poilivere was promoted to Minister of Labour. Tim Harper writes that Poilievre bears watching:

Poilievre, 35, believes if you keep repeating the same, pithy, bumper sticker message, it will eventually come true. He will beat us into submission with repetition.He tried that in his first big test as a minister with his Fair Elections Act and finally backed down, accepting amendments he tried to spin as something akin to a little scrubbing.A Calgary-born former hockey player and a one time Reform Party worker elected at 25, Poilievre is the political equivalent of the hockey pest, the guy who yaps at you in the faceoff circle and gives you a glove in the face in the corner.
For those who hoped that the prime minister might re-evaluate his policy on the working man, Poilievre's ascension provides the definitive answer. Despite his rhetoric, Stephen Harper has never been the little man's champion. But he chooses little men to do his bidding.
On a personal note, we received word last night from Vancouver that my brother-in-law -- who I've known since high school -- has died. Like me, he was a retired teacher; and he could teach any kid in the school. May he rest in peace.

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 18:21
SkyPatrol - Folding Your Universe

Peter's Porky Pals

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 17:17

One of the perks that comes with being justice minister is the ability to lay on the pork.  Peter MacKay seems to have that well in hand.  Why, just ask his personal friends - the gang who Peter has appointed to the bench in Nova Scotia.

MacKay was appointed attorney general and justice minister in 2013. Since then, he's made provincial Supreme Court justices of:
  • Josh Arnold, a friend who served as best man at MacKay's 2012 wedding. He was also a regular financial donor to the Central Nova Progressive Conservative Association from 2008 to 2010.
  • Cindy Cormier, Arnold's wife and a friend of MacKay's.
  • James Chipman, a past president of the Conservative Party's Halifax West riding association and regular donor to the Central Nova Conservative Association from 2008 to 2010.
  • Ted Scanlan, a past president of the Central Nova riding association and a former campaign manager for Elmer MacKay, Peter MacKay's father.
  • Jeffrey Hunt, former executive vice-president of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Association.​
  • LouAnn Chiasson, a colleague of MacKay's at the Dalhousie Law School. 
MacKay has held the Central Nova seat for the Conservatives since 1997.

Arctic Apples highlight absurdity of GM regulations

Terahertz - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 15:23

Okanagan Specialty Fruits is a small biotech company from central BC. For the past twenty years they have been trying to get their main product to market, jumping regulatory hoop after hoop. All they have been trying to sell is an apple.
But their apples are special.
They don’t brown like a normal apple when sliced because they have been genetically-engineered to not produce the chemical that in most apples oxidises when exposed to air. Because GM techniques were involved, it took nearly 20 years to finally get USDA approval to grow their apples in the US (Canada is expected to grant permission soon).
This means that these are the most scientifically tested apples ever grown by humans.

Much of the GM debate focuses either on unfounded claims about the safety of GM foods or, when those are debunked, the concern that GM tech is being dominated by a few small big-agri companies (argumentum ad Monsantum). But both of these arguments completely miss the fact that small companies are spending absurd amounts of money and time, to an unreasonable degree, the safety of their food and that there is a large amount of public-sector research into GM happening.
So congrats to Arctic Apples on being deregulated in the US (and hopefully soon making it to shelves) and let’s hope their steadfast efforts pave the way for other novel foods to make it forward.

Harper Spokesman Bails

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 13:47

Harper spokesman, Jason MacDonald, is out.  MacDonald is hightailing it to p.r. firm Hill & Knowlton.  17-months on the job, MacDonald is 8th to hold the job since Harper came to power.  He can be added to the other recent departures, John Baird and Eve Adams,  as possible telltales that something is up.

Nicely tucked into the late Friday afternoon news cycle.

Rumours Swirl Around Harper's Head

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 10:12

Interesting opinion/speculation piece from Harry Stirling in this morning's Times Colonist.

Now there is some speculation that, due to the abrupt resignation of Baird, coupled with Adams’ defection, Harper himself might increasingly find his own leadership questioned by normally loyal party members. Even one of the Conservatives’ former MPs, Albertan Myron Thompson, expressed his concern over the prime minister’s lack of commitment to the “values we had back in 1993.”

Adding to the uncertainty swirling around the issue of Harper’s future prospects, there are rumours that this month, Harper might indicate his intention to step down as leader and supposedly is considering calling a leadership vote by early spring to prepare for the coming election.

While such a rumour might simply be intended to rally the troops around the prime minister at a difficult time or might merely be the product of wishful thinking, the period ahead could be just as unpredictable as recent weeks with totally unforeseeable implications for all parties.

Hard to tell if there's anything to Stirling's speculation.  I spoke with my best Ottawa Tory pal the other night.  He's been waiting to tell me something but he said he can't yet.  
One thing I have been told is that evidence that will be adduced in the Duffy trial will leave no doubt that Harper, quite deliberately and repeatedly, lied in the House about his involvement in the Wright-Duffy affair.  Seemingly, for Stephen Harper, the Duffy trial will be "brutal."

The Sun Has Set on Sun News

LeDaro - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 09:06

That was abrupt, but people weren't watching so not surprising. I guess folks aren't interested in Ezra Levant's angry rants.

Photo via CBC, you can read more here.

The Invisible Backhand of the Marketplace

Rusty Idols - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 08:56
The holy market has spoken: There is insufficient audience in Canada to sustain a far right TV network - unsurprising as there was insufficient audience even in Alberta to sustain the far right Alberta Report magazine.
If we follow the logic of the political and economic right the judgment of the market on these media outlets is a judgment on the literal value of what they were selling.
Call it the Invisible backhand across the face of Ezra Levant.

Is Netanyahu Being Targeted for Regime Change - By the White House?

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 08:16

Barack Obama may have had enough of Benjamin Netanyahu's stunts.  It might just be time for Bibi to go.  Foreign Policy's Aaron David Miller writes that Obama is pursuing regime change in the upcoming Israeli elections.

Welcome to regime change, Obama-style. There are few opportunities to change the mullahcracy in Tehran. But Jerusalem may be another story. By accepting Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress — now widely seen as a real bungle — the prime minister has given the Obama administration an opening. And you can bet the White House is taking advantage to make it unmistakably clear that Bibi is bad for the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

The White House has already made clear there will no meeting with President Obama, assuming that Netanyahu sticks to his word and actually shows up in early March. The good news for Netanyahu is that the two won’t have another bad meeting. The not-so-good news is that the White House door will be closed to a sitting Israeli prime minister — that doesn’t happen often. While White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said that the reason is that we’re too close to an Israeli election, that’s a stretch. Trust me: If Obama and Bibi were buddies, they’d be hugging in the Oval Office. Just look at former President Bill Clinton’s efforts to sway the 1996 election in Shimon Peres’s favor, which included seeing him at the White House. This close to an Israeli election, a freeze-out can't help the incumbent.

Meanwhile, the administration wasted little time in backgrounding the press on how angry it was at Israel’s ambassador, Ron Dermer, who was apparently the architect of the congressional invitation. A senior administration official said that Dermer had put Netanyahu’s political aspirations ahead of the U.S.-Israel relationship. And let’s be clear: An attack on Dermer is an attack on Netanyahu. It’s rare to get that personal. Now, Dermer — like his boss — is getting a cold shoulder in Washington, another orchestrated signal of a dysfunctional U.S.-Israeli relationship. Indeed, U.S. Amb. Dan Shapiro had a tough meeting with Israeli officials last week. There will ultimately be a price for this, he was quoted as saying.

Vice President Joe Biden won’t be attending Netanyahu’s Washington speech either. That such a pro-Israeli stalwart will be missing from Congress during Bibi’s address gives other Democrats cover not to attend. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has already indicated he won’t attend, as have others. And that list will likely grow. There’s no other way to read Biden’s absence than an orchestrated signal from Washington that something is very wrong in the relationship with Israel — and that the White House is working to deny Netanyahu any gains from the speech.

...There are many variables in determining the outcome of the March 17 elections. And clearly Barack Obama isn’t the key issue in the campaign. Indeed, Obama isn’t nearly as beloved as Clinton in Israel: A January 2014 poll indicated that only one in five trusted the president on Iran and a full 50 percent worried about his views on Israel. In any event, Israelis know that he’ll only occupy the White House for a couple of more years. But they also deeply understand that the U.S.-Israel relationship is important, particularly with the region melting down. In a close election, the perception that the incumbent has made hash of it might very well have an impact.

And you’d better believe that the White House is aware of that fact. Both Obama and Kerry would love to see Netanyahu out and Labor’s duo of Herzog and Tzipi Livni in. And they’re doing everything they reasonably can — short of running campaign ads — to bring that about.


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