Posts from our progressive community

They're Even Advertising It Now

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 06/21/2015 - 08:10

"It" is the blatant affront to the laws of war practised by Israel and now known as "Dahiyeh".  It's a war crime that has become central to Israeli tactics against Lebanon, Gaza and presumably anywhere else lacking the means to retaliate in kind against Israeli non-combatants, civilians.

Israel, with the complete backing of Canada and our political leadership, knows full well it can deliberately and relentlessly slaughter civilians and get away with it. So cocksure has Israel become that it's now openly threatening to visit Dahiyeh on the people of Lebanon if another conflict breaks out.


The laws of war absolutely prohibit the deliberate targeting of civilians and their infrastructure - power plants, sewage and water plants, hospitals, schools and such.  Yet this is precisely what Israel visits on those territories it attacks.

The Israeli army will show ‘no restraint’ in attacking civilian centers in south Lebanon and Beirut should another war break out with Hezbollah, a senior Israeli military official told the German Die Zeit newspaper.

Israeli Air Force chief Major-General Amir Eshel warned Hezbollahin a recent interview picked up by The Jerusalem Post Saturday thatIsrael would not hesitate to attack military command centers situated in civilian buildings in Lebanon.

"[The Israeli Army] would not show restraint due to the immoral war tactics of our enemies,” he noted.

Dahiyeh, Lebanon - Before and After
Israel does it because it has just enough support to get away with it.  Israel counts on the open arm embrace of Canada's political leaders and that ever crucial UN Security Council veto that America never hesitates to deliver.  So for every woman or child they slaughter, every hospital they rocket, every school they destroy, we deserve our fair share of the credit.
Know what would stop this?  The threat of intervention by a country capable of inflicting retaliatory strikes against Israeli infrastructure - its power plants, its sewage plants, its water plants including its desalination plants.  No hospitals, no schools, no targeting of residential neighbourhoods.  What would also stop this is for Israel's political and military leadership to be made to stand trial for their war crimes.  Put thugs like Netanyahu and his top generals behind bars for life without parole.  
Know what would be a good place to start?  We could start by breaking all ties with any ally that thinks it can flout international and humanitarian law and the laws of war.  When we don't, what they do is on us.




He Knows An Easy Mark

Northern Reflections - Sun, 06/21/2015 - 05:05


Opposition to the Prime Minister is building. But Stephen Harper has always known that more voters despise him than support him. That's why the Fair Elections Act -- with its truly Orwellian title -- is now law. Linda McQuaig writes:

Stephen Harper's re-election strategy depends on a lot of you not voting. And if you mess with his plan by showing up at the polling station on Election Day, he's prepared for that, too: he's made it a lot harder for you to vote.

The prime minister has made it so much harder that "many tens of thousands" of Canadians may be denied their constitutional right to cast a ballot in the upcoming federal election, according to Harry Neufeld, former chief electoral officer for British Columbia. 
When Harper spouts his line about Conservative values being Canadian values, he knows that what he's saying is patently false . But he's been very good at rigging the game in his favour. That's because he's very good at a very old type of fraud -- bait and switch:

The Conservatives put the new election laws in place ostensibly in response to the national outcry over the robocall scandal, in which party operatives were accused of using automated phone calls to direct non-Conservative voters to the wrong polling stations on election day. The misleading calls were reported in ridings across the country and appeared to be targeted based on information from closely guarded Conservative party data.

In the end, only one person, Conservative staffer Michael Sona, who worked on a local campaign in Guelph, was convicted and jailed. However, in his verdict, Judge Gary Hearn wrote that "the evidence indicates he did not likely act alone."

The scandal raised the extremely serious question of whether the governing party had deliberately undermined the legitimacy of election results. Surely what was needed was a thorough investigation and a tightening of the election laws to ensure no such thing ever threatened our democracy again.

What we got instead was a bait-and-switch that the Conservatives have turned to their advantage. They overhauled the election laws all right, but the new laws did nothing to prevent the sort of treachery involved in the robocall scandal. If anything, they make it tougher to uncover robocall-style deception in the future by preventing the release of details about investigations conducted by Elections Canada.
He's a con man of considerable talent. And he knows an easy mark when he sees one.


my feminism includes trans people. all women need to listen to each other.

we move to canada - Sun, 06/21/2015 - 05:00
The continuing liberation of transgender people is a marvel to behold. We are witnessing history, as trans people and their issues become part of the mainstream. From Chelsea Manning to "Transparent" to Laverne Cox, and of course Caitlyn Jenner, transgender people and issues have never been so front and centre. I don't do celebrity gossip so I don't know anything about the lurid lead-up to Jenner's coming out, but when the woman who cuts my hair asks me what I think about transgender people, I know something big is going on. There is more than one out trans person in the larger circle of my own life, something most of us never could have said throughout human history.

Of course the Vanity Fair cover reflects the reality of most transgender lives the way the Cosby Show reflected most African American lives. This New York Times article is a good wrap-up of where things stand - and where they don't - in the mainstream.

Naturally I consider myself an ally of trans people, as I would for any people asserting their own humanity and equality. For a feminist, a socialist, and someone who identifies as LGBT, this defines "no-brainer". So I find the current clash between different schools of feminist thought and the trans movement very sad - although predictable, and I think, temporary.

Apparently there are people who call themselves feminists who actually believe that trans women are not "real women" and should be excluded from the movement. That attitude is bigoted, offensive, and dangerous. As a general rule, anytime you agree with the anti-woman, anti-abortion, anti-gay crowd, you might want to re-assess.

There are also feminists who feel that some of the language - and the policing of that language - around trans issues denies the reality of their own lives, and denies the struggle of women's own liberation. When they have stated this publicly, they've been accused of transphobia.

Abortion access organizations - small grassroots networks that help low-income women who want abortions - have changed their language to be inclusive to trans people. Instead of referring to "women who need abortions", they now say "people who need abortions". A transgender person in any stage of transition might become pregnant. If that person identifies as a man, he may also be a rape survivor. He deserves care that treats him with dignity and respect.

In the abortion-rights movement, not everyone is comfortable with this. I know from personal conversations that some felt pressured - even bullied - into making this change, rather than educated and supported. That's not the road to inclusion, either.

Katha Pollitt, writing in The Nation, wrote "Who Has Abortions?".
I’m going to argue here that removing “women” from the language of abortion is a mistake. We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people. But we can do that without rendering invisible half of humanity and 99.999 percent of those who get pregnant. I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly. That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong—it’s happened before. “Most of the pressure [to shift language] comes from young people,” said one abortion-fund head I interviewed, whose fund, like many, has “Women” in its name. “The role of people in our generation is to give money and get out of the way.” . . .

From the perspective of providing care, I understand it. “The focus should be on access,” NYAAF board member Rye Young told me over the phone. The primary purpose of abortion funds is to provide immediate financial and other help to individuals in crisis, whom funders usually know only as voices on the phone. If wording on a website makes people feel they can’t make that phone call, that’s not good. We women have had enough experience with being disrespected by healthcare and social-service providers not to wish that on anyone else. Does presenting abortion as gender-neutral need to be part of that welcoming procedure, though? The primary sources of abortion data in the US—the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute—don’t collect information on the gender identity of those who seek abortion, but conversations with abortion providers and others suggest the number of transgender men who want to end a pregnancy is very low. I don’t see how it denies “the existence and humanity of trans people” to use language that describes the vast majority of those who seek to end a pregnancy. Why can’t references to people who don’t identify as women simply be added to references to women? After all, every year over 2,000 men get breast cancer and over 400 die, and no one is calling for “women” to be cut out of breast-cancer language so that men will feel more comfortable seeking treatment. If there was such a call, though, I wonder what would happen. Women have such a long history of minimizing themselves in order not to hurt feelings or seem self-promoting or attention-demanding. We are raised to put ourselves second, and too often, still, we do.The column was vilified as transphobic and hateful. Pollitt was attacked on the internet as if she were Fred Phelps. Did most of the people tweeting and re-tweeting read the column in question? Were they seeing the full context?

This response was more helpful. In "Cisgender Women Aren’t the Only People Who Seek Abortions, and Activists’ Language Should Reflect That", Dr. Cheryl Chastine points out that the claim "99.999 percent of those who get pregnant" are cisgender women is not unlike an era that thought gay people were extremely rare - or, I would add, a culture that claims there are no gay people within it.
Feminists like Pollitt who argue against inclusive language assert that because “99.999 percent of the population” seeking abortions are cis women, it is inaccurate and inappropriate to use gender-inclusive language. So how many trans people are we really talking about? It’s more than 0.001 percent. Suppose you time-traveled back to the 1950s and asked the average physician how many of his or her patients were gay. They would probably respond, “None” or, “Maybe one or two.” It’d be easy to conclude, therefore, that 99.999 percent of all people were straight, so there’d be no need to include any forms of non-heterosexual orientation in language or activism. Assuming the proportion of non-heterosexual people has stayed roughly constant, though, our 1950s physician likely did have a number of gay, lesbian, or bisexual patients. The doctor simply took them to be heterosexual. They may have even presented themselves as such, out of a legitimate fear that the physician would behave prejudicially toward them.Excellent article. Helpful. Calling Katha Pollitt a bigot on Twitter, not helpful. (No need to point out that uninformed bashing on Twitter is the norm. I'm aware.)

Another piece that was trashed as transphobic was Elinor Burkett's essay, "What Makes a Woman" in the New York Times. I can understand that. I was uncomfortable with some of it, too. At the same time, much of that essay resonates with me.
Do women and men have different brains?

Back when Lawrence H. Summers was president of Harvard and suggested that they did, the reaction was swift and merciless. Pundits branded him sexist. Faculty members deemed him a troglodyte. Alumni withheld donations.

But when Bruce Jenner said much the same thing in an April interview with Diane Sawyer, he was lionized for his bravery, even for his progressivism.

“My brain is much more female than it is male,” he told her, explaining how he knew that he was transgender.

This was the prelude to a new photo spread and interview in Vanity Fair that offered us a glimpse into Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman: a cleavage-boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara and the prospect of regular “girls’ nights” of banter about hair and makeup. Ms. Jenner was greeted with even more thunderous applause. ESPN announced it would give Ms. Jenner an award for courage. President Obama also praised her. Not to be outdone, Chelsea Manning hopped on Ms. Jenner’s gender train on Twitter, gushing, “I am so much more aware of my emotions; much more sensitive emotionally (and physically).”

A part of me winced.

I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.

That’s the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries. But the desire to support people like Ms. Jenner and their journey toward their truest selves has strangely and unwittingly brought it back.I, too, feel that much of the discourse around trans issues reinforces gender stereotypes. We've struggled against these stereotypes, and we've spent a lifetime asserting our right to be women and to be people, even as we reject them. So it can hurt to hear women, whether cis or trans, embrace these stereotypes and define their womanhood and their personhood through them. This is what I took from Burkett's article.

Burkett also asserted that Caitlyn Jenner has benefited from male privilege most of her life, and that privilege comes into play now. I agree with that, too.

The fact that some of Burkett's essay resonated with me doesn't make me transphobic. My observations come from my own reality. I've had my own struggles to define myself and accept myself in a sexist world. My journey is different than that of a trans woman, and I'm sure in many ways it has been infinitely easier, but it is still my reality. Any cis woman finds herself agreeing with her essay needs space to assert this, without being accused of a bigotry that isn't (necessarily) there.

Trans people have every right to demand inclusion. But inclusion gained through silencing discussion is not really inclusion at all: it's separatism. At a certain stage in a movement, separatism may be what's needed. But for the road ahead, I hope to see us aim for understanding and solidarity - among all feminists, all LGBT people, and all allies.

These types of conflicts within and among social movements have a long and rich history. The second-wave feminists clashed with the pioneers of gay liberation. Going back further to the earliest days of the women's movement, in the 19th Century when women were fighting for basic civil rights, there were conflicts between feminism and the abolitionist and temperance movements. All movements have growing pains, early conflicts, and questions that can only be settled over time, through people's own lived experiences.

Experiencing these growing pains in the internet era amplifies and escalates the conflict. When someone publishes an essay, and one sentence of that essay ignites a Twitter storm - and it's reasonable to assume that many (most?) people retweeting have not read the essay, merely the offending sentence and the claim of bigotry - then there is no education. There is only noise.

I'm not equating Twitter attacks on Pollitt or Burkett with the struggles of transgender people for full acceptance and equality. I'm not suggesting cis feminists who are uncomfortable replacing the word "women" with "people" are victims.

I am merely suggesting that true inclusion is not about who can generate the most tweets - that is, who can yell the loudest. Feminists of all ages and eras have a lot to learn from this exciting wave of trans liberation. Trans women and their allies may have something to learn from previous waves of feminism. We'll only find out if we listen to each other.

* * * * *

Some good reading on this topic:

It's Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women, Tina Vasquez, Bitch Media

On Trans Issues with Feminism and Strengthening the Movement's Gender Analysis, Jos Truitt, Feministing

Trans Women Are Women. Why Do We Have to Keep Saying This?, Leela Ginelle, Bitch Media, an analysis of Burkitt's essay

Who Has Abortions?, Katha Pollitt, The Nation

Cisgender Women Aren’t the Only People Who Seek Abortions, and Activists’ Language Should Reflect That, Cheryl Chastine, RH Reality Check

What Makes A Woman, Elinor Burkett, New York Times

Responses to Burkett's piece published in the Times. I'm using this because it represents multiple points of view.

Stephen Harper Takes On The Russians: The PMO Movie

Montreal Simon - Sun, 06/21/2015 - 03:24


Well I'm sure you remember the day Stephen Harper borrowed a Canadian frigate, the HMCS Fredericton, and went for a spin on the Baltic Sea.

And how the appearance of two Russian frigates on the horizon was hyped by his propaganda machine into sounding like he had faced down Vladimir Putin himself.

With the help of Jason Kenney...



Well now the PMO movie is out, and it turns out to be considerably less dramatic.
Read more »

Stephen Harper, Don Meredith, and the Deathly Bigotry of the Cons

Montreal Simon - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 22:58


It's been two days since senator Don Meredith resigned from the Con caucus after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl. 

And since then the Cons have been desperately trying to distance themselves from yet another of Stephen Harper's stellar appointments.

But they cannot or will not explain why Harper would appoint a man to the Senate who was once rejected as a candidate by Ontario's Progressive Conservatives. 

“We talked to him, we met with him, and we rejected him,” said a provincial Conservative insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to be seen questioning Harper’s judgment.

And with good reason. For it was all about pleasuring his rabid religious base, and all about bigotry. 
Read more »

This is not an Onion story: "white supremacists worried that Charleston shooting makes them look bad"

Cathie from Canada - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 13:43
When I first read a tweet about this article, I thought it had to be an Onion joke:

White supremacists on Thursday quickly tried to distance themselves from the suspect in the mass shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, worried that a white man killing nine people in a black church in South Carolina looked bad for their movement.
But its not -- this is actual reporting!

Stormfront commenters continued to hold out hope Thursday morning that perhaps Roof wasn't motivated by racism -- maybe it was anti-Christian hatred instead -- and their movement could keep what they think of as their good name.
"Lets not jump to conclusions and call him a WN [white nationalist] until there is an indication as such... The fact that he targeted a church gives me an inkling that it was religion-related," wrote WhiteVirginian.
"Yep, bad news for gun rights advocates as well," wrote maththeorylover2008. "Another nail in the coffin for the 2nd Amendment."
Time and again, many Stormfront members emphasized that their online community is one inclined to peace and racial harmony -- albeit segregated.Ridiculous, isn't it.

This kind of pushback began almost at once, though -- when I was watching CNN on the night it happened, the anchors were already questioning the police chief's description of the shooting as a "hate crime" and then of course Fox started right in with the "anti-christian" spin.

So I wonder if anyone is going to start talking about how racism is just "biological wiring."

Dylann Roof and Racist Symbolism

Anti-Racist Canada - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 13:00
We will be posting an article on this horrible tragedy that examines the reaction from Canadian boneheads soon, however we did want to briefly discuss part of Roof's, "manifesto" that had published online prior to the murder of 9 men and women as well as the photographs that were found on a zip file on the website. Unbelievably, despite evidence from Roof's own mouth at the time of the murders that his motivation was racially based and his subsequent confession, there are those who still persisted in the belief that the attack was motivated by some other factor (some on Fox News suggested that it was an attack on Christians primarily). Other claims are even more ridiculous; it was a false flag operation and there wasn't any murders at all, Roof was on drugs; Roof was an FBI/NSA/CIA plant to discredit "White Nationalists," and he was actually an Obama supporter (based on a very poor photoshop of the original picture).

But then there are also the photographs he posted (aside from those where he is wearing the jacket with the Rhodesian and apartheid-era South African flags) that are filled with racist symbolism:


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Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 10:16
Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Roderick Benns reports on Ryan Meili's argument for a basic income:
Dr. Ryan Meili was in Kingston, Ontario, recently to talk to more than 100 people about the importance of the social determinants of health in an event that was hosted by Basic Income Kingston. The social determinants of health influence health outcomes for people and include many components that work together, including income and income distribution, education, unemployment and job security, among others.

Meili described a basic income guarantee as “an exciting opportunity” and a kind of “social investment to counter inequality,” pointing out that getting people out of poverty is the first social determinant of health on the list for good reason. While there are many models for implementing a basic income guarantee, he says the most important thing is to begin the process and invest in society.
...
Tackling the common question of whether or not a basic income would create a work disincentive, Meili says most people want to be productive members of society.

“But when we give people just barely enough to get by,” he says, citing social assistance models, it doesn’t have the same kind of positive impact, either for that person or for society. He points out that in a bare bones welfare model, someone might not have enough money left over each month to be able to take a train ride to explore new employment opportunities, as an example.

One audience member pointed out that a parent may need to quit their job to obtain the social assistance benefit of getting their child reading glasses, calling the choices that need to be made “dehumanizing.”- And Nick Hanauer and David Rolf discuss how the loss of economic security is resulting in wider damage to the U.S.' working class, while proposing another set of intriguing policy ideas to reverse the trend:
Economic security is what frees us from the fear that one job loss, one illness—one economic downturn amidst a business cycle guaranteed to produce economic downturns—could cost us our home, our car, our family, and our social status. It’s what grants us permission to invest in ourselves and in our children, and to purchase the non-subsistence goods and experiences that make our lives healthier, happier, and more fulfilling. It gives us the confidence to live our lives with the realistic expectation of a more prosperous and stable economic future, and to take the entrepreneurial risks that are the lifeblood of a vibrant market economy. A secure middle class is the cause of growth, not its effect; in fact, our economy cannot reach its full potential without it. And a middle class that lives in constant fear of falling out of the middle class isn’t truly middle class at all.
...
We believe that seeing growth as a consequence of including more people in a secure middle class not only accurately describes the real economy; it can unite progressives in a new and important way. Across the broader progressive agenda—on immigration, on education, on civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality, health care, pay equity, the minimum wage, and on many other issues—the one thing that our policies all have in common is that they are fundamentally inclusive. For decades, we have promoted this agenda largely as a matter of fairness, but middle-out economics explains why our policies are also inherently pro-growth. It is through this theory of economic inclusion, this message that growth and fairness go hand in hand, that the various elements of the broad progressive coalition—social justice and labor, along with Silicon Valley and business interests—can unite behind a single, coherent, pro-growth economic narrative that puts us squarely on the side of the middle class. And crucially, this narrative will appeal to voters beyond the progressive coalition—independent and swing voters, many of whom value the promise of growth and employment over the ideal of economic fairness.

We must do more than just offer voters a new economic theory—we must draw a sharp contrast with conservatives by proposing bold new policies predicated on the economic primacy of the middle class. The Shared Security System is one such proposal. But more than just demonstrating an innovative solution to providing economic security that is adapted to the sharing economy, a bold new proposal like the Shared Security System would demonstrate progressives’ unwavering and unequivocal commitment to the middle class—to the proposition that growth and prosperity come not from tax cuts for the rich, but from inclusive policies focused on creating a secure middle class. - DIW Berlin finds that in Germany like elsewhere, a job is no guarantee of escaping poverty. And Josh Hoxie reports on Ecuador's creative plan to turn large estates into a social benefit for everybody.

- John Perry discusses how needed investments in social housing can reduce the cost of offering other social supports. But the ONS points out that the current trend is in the opposite direction, as the increasing cost of home ownership is forcing more and more people into overcrowded private rental units.

- Seumas Milne writes that there's no reason for the people who stand to suffer to meekly accept decrees of austerity from out-of-touch governments. And Sarah Lazare reports on a growing movement of UK citizens who agree entirely and are taking to the streets.

- Finally, Ethan Cox interviews Bill McKibben about the Cons' obsession with enriching the dirty oil industry at the expense of our economy and our planet alike. And Lizzie Dearden writes about Pope Francis' call for a change from a culture of di

Government travel

Trashy's World - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 08:56
Just a short note to express my displeasure in seeing a whole lot of attention being paid to, what are really, fairly reasonable travel expenses.  I get that there needs to be oversight and that MPs need to be conscious and prudent because they are, after all, expensing public dollars. I’m a public servant and […]

Government travel

Trashy's World - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 08:55
Just a short note to express my displeasure in seeing a whole lot of attention being paid to, what are really, fairly reasonable travel expenses.  I get that there needs to be oversight and that MPs need to be conscious and prudent because they are, after all, expensing public dollars. I’m a public servant and […]

On The Dyspeptic Rona Ambrose

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 05:56


In a post last week, I explained the basis for my outrage over Health Minister Rona Ambrose's manufactured rant at the Supreme Court's decision permitting medical marijuana users to ingest their medicine in any form they wish. Reading this morning's Star letters to the editor, I was pleased to see that I am not alone in my reaction to Ms Ambrose and the regime she is a mouthpiece for.

Here are but a few of many excellent missives:

Re: Chill out, minister, Editorial June 14
How ironic is this? Rona Ambrose, health minister in the Harper government, infamous for their disdain for science, invokes science in her rejection of the Supreme Court decision on medical marijuana.

While I happen to agree that much of the medical use of marijuana is not evidence based, the Harper government shows their cynicism in challenging medical marijuana. It’s not a good fit with their popular tough-on-crime agenda, which the evidence shows is expensive, ineffective and cruel.

When this government revitalizes StatsCan, environmental research and protection and evidence based justice then they can legitimately pronounce on marijuana use.

Peter Crosby, Toronto

Kudos to the Supreme Court for legalizing the use of medical marijuana through oils and foods; it is a common-sense decision that will benefit patients across Canada, and have a profound effect on the lives of individuals with the most extreme forms of epilepsy.

For years, too many of our members have been unable to control their seizures with conventional therapies. Medical marijuana has provided seizure control for adults and children, some of whom have gone from having dozens of seizures every day to none. While more research is needed, these anecdotal cases are having a real impact on the lives of many people with epilepsy.

Providing families with the option to use oils and foods to take their medical marijuana instead of being forced to smoke or inhale it gives individuals already living with medical challenges an easier and more sensible way of getting the medication they need.

Drew Woodley, Director of Communications, Epilepsy Toronto

Perhaps Health Minister Rona Ambrose’s sense of outrage about the Supreme Court decision regarding medical marijuana could have been better directed at her boss. If she had done her homework she would have discovered that the Harper government itself cancelled the research component of the medical marijuana program shortly after he took office.

Since he wasn’t able to obliterate the program entirely he quickly began the process of enacting barriers and demonizing users. Ironically if he had known then that he would later learn to muzzle scientific communications at will, he could have let the research go on, comfortable that any unwanted positive findings would never be heard.

It is so like this government to be so easily outraged when frustrated, much like a toddler.

Steven Gaber, Toronto

Health Minister Rona Ambrose is “outraged” that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that marijuana can be legally consumed in forms other than smoking. “This is not a drug,” she said. “This is not medicine.”

Such breathtakingly ill-informed statements coming out of the mouth of a so-called health minister is appalling. I wonder if she would be willing to repeat such canards to all of the children with debilitating forms of epilepsy who are helped through the ingestion of small amounts of various cannabis preparations? Perhaps she could embrace one of these children in her motherly arms as they suffer yet another seizure, maybe offer them a joint?

Strains of low or no THC marijuana that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) have been developed and have proven remarkably effective at controlling not only seizures, but providing relief from neuropathic pain, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, and nausea as a result of chemotherapy, to name but a few. The loving minister, however, appears to be wantonly ignorant of such developments to the point of unmitigated callousness.

Ambrose goes on to say “There’s very harmful effects of marijuana, especially on our youth.” Really? Would the good madame care to list them?

I applaud the Supreme Court and the wisdom of its decision. If only such sage reasoning could be instilled elsewhere, beginning with the health minister’s office.

Walter Ross, West Richland, Wash.Recommend this Post

Not With A Bang

Northern Reflections - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 05:13


James Moore left yesterday. And Don Meredith was booted from the Conservative Senate caucus earlier in the week. It looks like things are falling apart in Harperland. And, as she travels the country, Chantal Hebert writes that she's picking up on that vibe, too:

In Ontario and British Columbia, the NDP has been on the move in the polls while Conservative support has stalled or declined. Ditto in Atlantic Canada The NDP and the Liberals have long been communicating vessels for opposition votes but there is more than the usual opposition arithmetic at play behind the deficit in support of the Conservatives.By all indications, a sizeable proportion of the 2011 supporters that they expected to come home as disenchantment with the Liberals set in are keeping their options open and/or are checking out the New Democrats.
It was not supposed to be this way. The budget and Bill C-51 were supposed to put the opposition parties on the ropes. But, instead, the Harperites have fewer and fewer defenders:
But perhaps what struck me most was how few people were willing to speak up in defence of the government. As opposition to Harper has become more vocal, support for his re-election has become more discreet.That stands in stark contrast with the immediate lead-up to the last campaign when even non-Conservative voters would often readily concede that they felt Harper had managed the global economic crisis with competence. That sentiment was omnipresent in Ontario — where he subsequently won his majority.
Four years later, many die-hard Conservatives privately admit that they expected more from their party’s first majority government in almost two decades. They are underwhelmed by the sum of Harper’s third mandate.More than a few of them find it hard to take pride in a team that has chosen to dumb itself down by making ultra-partisan MPs such as Pierre Poilièvre and Paul Calandra its poster boys in the House of Commons.
It may all come to and end, as Eliot wrote, not with a bang but a whimper.

Stephen Harper's Monstrous Plan to Steal the Election

Montreal Simon - Sat, 06/20/2015 - 04:36


After four years and 24 days of being slowly strangled by Stephen Harper, the 41st Parliament has finally groaned its last, and given up the ghost.

And although that bestial leader must have enjoyed savaging the traditions and values of the country he hates with a passion only he can muster.

He can hardly be celebrating. Because his depraved behaviour has finally caught up with him.

And it is, as Chantal Hébert writes, his season of discontent.
Read more »

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 17:37
Electrostatic - Eliminate Me

Friday Afternoon Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 16:09
Assorted content to end your week.

- Sam Becker discusses the economic harm done by growing inequality, while Alexandra Zeevalkink previews Katharine Round's upcoming documentary on the issue. And Carol Goar argues that Canadians are eager for leadership to ensure that everybody shares in our country's wealth.

- Meanwhile, Laura Cattari points out the importance of giving people living in poverty a voice in policy decisions. And Erik Loomis highlights the consequences of failing to do so, as an imbalance in political influence has resulted in U.S. corporations being able to use poor areas both domestic and foreign as dumping grounds for toxic substances.

- Karri Munn-Venn reminds us of the high cost of tax slashing:
Tax cuts in recent decades have been sold to the public under the false pretense that lower taxes benefit everyone.  The truth is, cutting government spending has a detrimental impact in terms of lost programs and investments that will impact us all – both now and in the future.

Provincial and federal governments have made significant changes to Canada’s tax system over the past two decades, reducing the level of taxation on corporations and high income individuals.  Deep tax cuts have reduced the amount of revenue available to governments.  They also make the tax system itself less progressive, shifting the responsibility for financing public services onto middle and lower income families.

Canadians deserve to be told what spending cuts will cost them.  Reducing taxes without an open and honest debate about consequences does not meet the criteria of transparent and accountable decision-making.  And it hurts us all.

When government tells citizens that it can’t afford to invest in the programs and services that people in Canada need and rely on, we must remember that the tax policies of these same governments have put us in this predicament in the first place.  Every year since 2006, a range of tax cuts have resulted in foregone revenues of $45 billion.

And yet, millions of people in Canada continue to live in poverty, climate change and growing greenhouse gas emissions take a toll on our environment, and refugees are being turned away and denied essential healthcare.  So while some of us may have a few more dollars in our pockets, those on the margins of society pay with their well-being.- Thomas Walkom discusses why Canadian federal politicians (outside the NDP) are so rarely inclined to talk about health care even when it's a top-of-mind issue for a large number of voters. And Kathleen O'Grady and Noralou Roos comment that the media also does far too little to highlight health policy issues for the public.

- Finally, Michael Harris sees C-51 as remaking Canada in Stephen Harper's own paranoid and controlling image, while Michael Geist argues that the Libs' excuses for falling in line behind Harper's power grab are no more plausible now than they've ever been. And Karl Nerenberg rightly slams the Cons for crying terrorism every time anybody questions their abuses of power.

The Con Clown James Moore Jumps Off the Harper Ship

Montreal Simon - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 14:45


Well the last time we saw James Moore he was bobbing up and down in English Bay claiming that the Con's pathetic oil recovery effort was "world class."

But now I'm delighted to report, the Con beluga has spouted his last blast of hot air, slipped below the surface.

And become the latest high-profile Con to abandon Stephen Harper.
Read more »

The Down Side: Prenatal Testing and Its Consequences

Dammit Janet - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 13:30
As a long-time observer of the totally insane USian anti-abortion scene, I really really thought there was nothing left they could do that would shock me.

Of course I was wrong.
A bill banning abortions in cases where a test or diagnosis indicates Down Syndrome has cleared an Ohio House panel.

The House Community and Family Advancement Committee passed the measure Tuesday. Its next stop would be the House floor.

It's part of Ohio Right to Life's legislative agenda this session, as the anti-abortion group tries to continue a streak of legislative successes in Ohio's Republican-led Legislature.

The bill prohibits a person from performing, inducing or attempting an abortion on a pregnant woman because Down Syndrome is indicated.Let that sink in a minute.



Caught your breath?

The state would force a woman to carry a defective pregnancy to term.

I took crap on Twitter the other day for calling Down Syndrome a defect, admonished rather to use the term "different."

Well, let's have a look at some facts.
Down syndrome (DS or DNS) or Down's syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental age of an 8- or 9-year-old child, but this varies widely.Go to the link for a long list of what else Down Syndrome entails: heart, hearing, vision, and thyroid problems, just to hit the highlights.

Of course I understand that all pregnancies pose various risks -- to the parent's health and life, ditto on the fetus.

And the Big Question: What sort of child will this pregnancy produce?

But pregnancy and child-rearing also represent huge investments.

Human beings are wired to try to minimize risk. So, of course there are all kinds of prenatal tests for things parents would like NOT to pass on to offspring.

Down Syndrome, being genetic, has had a lot of attention from scientists* trying to devise good tests. And they've been pretty successful.

Cell-free fetal DNA is non-invasive, can be done quite early, and has few false positives.

From Wiki: "Guidelines recommend screening for Down syndrome to be offered to all pregnant women, regardless of age."

So what happens when women get bad news?

They opt for termination.
About 92% of pregnancies in Europe with a diagnosis of Down syndrome are terminated. In the United States, termination rates are around 67%, but this varies significantly depending upon the population evaluated. When nonpregnant people are asked if they would have a termination if their fetus tested positive, 23–33% said yes, when high-risk pregnant women were asked, 46–86% said yes, and when women who screened positive are asked, 89–97% say yes.Those numbers are pretty clear evidence that most people faced with this diagnosis say: No fucking way am I going through with this.

Here's a recent story from Britain:
More women than ever are choosing to abort babies with genetic abnormalities after the introduction of new blood tests that allow the conditions to be more easily detected during pregnancy.

An investigation into figures published by the Department of Health reveals the number of abortions carried out because babies were found to have Down’s syndrome or other serious disabilities has increased by 34 per cent in just three years since 2011.This, of course, is what is prompting the SHRIEEEKING and the proposed law in Ohio.

Creepy Dominionist Mike Schouten goes Godwin at LieSite.

And here's a recent piece from the Washington Post, by Renate Lindeman, a "spokesperson for Dutch parent group Downpride."

She claims that Down Syndrome screening is about "eliminating a group of people."

No, it's not. It's individual parents and families, offered tests, given results, thinking it over, and making individual decisions based on their own desires and capacities.

In other words, people taking advantage of technological ingenuity to get information in order to make their own choices about their own families.

It doesn't get more human than this.

It's not evil, it's not genocide, and it certainly is not Nazi.

And the state has no fucking business in it. At. All.

Note to commenters: Yes. I know Down Syndrome people can be lovely, joyful people. And to people who choose to birth and bring up these children, good on you. But your saintliness gives you no right to shit on people who choose not to.


*When I was looking into prenatal testing for Down Syndrome, I found an interesting side story. Dr Jérôme Lejeune, the "discoverer" of the chromosomal anomaly, is considered by fetus freaks to be a hero. There's an institute named after him. Pope John Paul II wanted to make him president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. But sadly, Dr. Lejeune died before that could happen.

Well, funny story. Dr Lejeune actually stole the work of another researcher, a woman named Marthe Gautier.

At the time, the laboratories at the Armand-Trousseau hospital did not have a microscope capable of capturing images of the slides. Gautier entrusted her slides to Jérôme Lejeune, an intern at CNRS, who offered to take pictures in another laboratory better equipped for this task. In August 1958 the photographs identified the supernumerary chromosome in Down syndrome patients. However Lejeune did not return the slides, but instead reported the discovery as his own.
Ah, well, ç'est la vie, eh?

This Justin

Dawg's Blawg - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 09:58
The emperor has no clothes. Only the most Liberal-intoxicated refuse to acknowledge it. Son chien est mort. Like the famous parrot, he’s no more. He has ceased to be. Emerging after weeks of absence, Justin Trudeau could do no better... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

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