Tag Archives: politics

Swearing in the House of Commons is news

15 Dec

Environment Minister Peter Kent chides the other parties for not having been in Durban at the recent UN Climate Conference.

This is despite the fact that he is directly responsible for their absence, as he banned them from attending as part of the Canadian contingent (it is not unusual for opposition parties to be included, allowed to attend).

Justin Trudeau swears at Environment Minister Peter Kent then later apologizes.

“And I think the opposition has its back against the wall and doesn’t know what to do,” [University of Ottawa political science expert Michael Behiels] said. “Not a single opposition amendment has been accepted. Everything they try to do is basically laughed at, dismissed. So the opposition MPs have had it, and it’s just pouring out.”

Frustration all around.

Read more here.

Death panels, rationing, and a call to act

15 Dec

Quotable quotes from the outgoing admin of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ address to the annual conference of the Cambridge-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement:

On cynicism:

Cynicism grips Washington. It grips Washington far too much, far too much for a place that could instead remind us continually of the grandeur of democracy. . .

Cynicism diverts energy from the great moral test. It toys with deception, and deception destroys. Let me give you an example: the outrageous rhetoric about “death panels” – the claim, nonsense, fabricated out of nothing but fear and lies, that some plot is afoot to, literally, kill patients under the guise of end-of-life care. That is hogwash. It is purveyed by cynics; it employs deception; and it destroys hope. It is beyond cruelty to have subjected our elders, especially, to groundless fear in the pure service of political agendas.

On “death panels”

If you really want to talk about “death panels,” let’s think about what happens if we cut back programs of needed, life-saving care for Medicaid beneficiaries and other poor people in America. What happens in a nation willing to say a senior citizen of marginal income, “I am sorry you cannot afford your medicines, but you are on your own?” What happens if we choose to defund our nation’s investments in preventive medicine and community health, condemning a generation to avoidable risks and unseen toxins? Maybe a real death panel is a group of people who tell health care insurers that is it OK to take insurance away from people because they are sick or are at risk for becoming sick. Enough of “death panels”! How about all of us – all of us in America – becoming a life panel, unwilling to rest easy, in what is still the wealthiest nation on earth, while a single person within our borders lacks access to the health care they need as a basic human right? Now, that is a conversation worth having.

On rationing

The true rationers are those who impede improvement, who stand in the way of change, and who thereby force choices that we can avoid through better care. It boggles my mind that the same people who cry “foul” about rationing an instant later argue to reduce health care benefits for the needy, to defund crucial programs of care and prevention, and to shift thousands of dollars of annual costs to people – elders, the poor, the disabled – who are least able to bear them.

When the 17 million American children who live in poverty cannot get the immunizations and blood tests they need, that is rationing. When disabled Americans lack the help to keep them out of institutions and in their homes and living independently, that is rationing. When tens of thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries are thrown out of coverage, and when millions of Seniors are threatened with the withdrawal of preventive care or cannot afford their medications, and when every single one of us lives under the sword of Damocles that, if we get sick, we lose health insurance, that is rationing. And it is beneath us as a great nation to allow that to happen.

Our moral duty

And that brings me to the opportunity we now have and a duty. A moral duty: to rescue American health care the only way it can be rescued – by improving it. I have never seen, nor had I dared hope to see, an era in American health care when that is more possible than this very moment. . .We can do this, we who give care. And nobody else can. The buck has stopped. The federal framework is set by the Affordable Care Act and important prior laws, such as the HITECH Act, and, quite frankly, we can’t expect any bold statutory movement with a divided Congress within the next year or more. The buck has stopped; it has stopped with you.

Now comes the choice. To change, or not to change.

Bam.  Dr. Don Berwick = new hero.

Are the tar sands “ethical oil”?

14 Dec

Quotes from David Suzuki’s thoughts on the question: “Can oil be ethical?

Two days after he was appointed federal environment minister, Peter Kent […] trumpe[d] Alberta’s tar sands as “ethical oil“. We rightly criticize oil-producing countries that support or indulge in violence, murder, oppression of minority groups and women, and so on. But because Canada does not overtly support or indulge in such practices, does that mean our oil is more ethical? Levant acknowledges that exploiting and using fossil fuels has environmental impacts. Does that mean there is a hierarchy of ethical practices or that one ethical practice cancels out other unethical activities?

The application of ethical standards in our purchase and use of products should be applied universally and not selectively. Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol, which became international law. When Jean Chrétien signed the document, he did so not as a Liberal but as the prime minister of Canada. This meant that, as a nation, we were committed to achieving the targets set by the agreement. On becoming leader of a minority government, Harper declared his intention to ignore Canada’s commitment. Is it ethical to ignore an internationally binding legal commitment? This is even more astonishing in light of Prime Minister Harper’s outspoken commitment to law and order.

Canada is one of the highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases. Our rapidly melting permafrost releases massive amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane, amplifying our contribution to the global crisis of climate change. Alberta’s tar sands require enormous amounts of energy and water to extract, further compounding Canada’s already excessive emissions. Is there not an ethical component to our demand for a greater share of the Earth’s atmosphere than most other nations? Rapid exploitation of Canada’s tar sands — by companies from countries including theU.S., Korea, and China — is not crucial for our nation’s survival or even well-being, yet we ignore the impact on the rest of the world. If that isn’t unethical, I don’t know what is.

Stop The Tar Sands

14 Dec

Not surprising but still ultimately sad. The guardian’s take here, which nicely sums up the (non)-repercussions of backing out of Kyoto at this point, and what it would have taken to meet Kyoto (it’s true that by now it was way too late).

From PostNoBills:

The Canadian government currently lead by Prime-Minister Stephen Harper is not gambling with our future, gambling implies that we are unsure of the result, Stephen Harper, his governement and the governemnt of Alberta lead by current premier Alison Redford as well as the various vested buisness interests are plainly and simply destroying our environment. Here are a couple of quick facts: About 90% of the water used to process the Tar Sands ends up in acutely toxic tailing ponds that line the Athabaska River and threaten the health of the whole river basin. For every barrel of oil extracted, six barrels of tailings are produced.  [Steph: For every 1 barrel of oil extracted, 3 barrels of water are used.] According to a recent Environmental Defense report, the ponds are already leaking over 11 million litres a day of contaminated water into the environment. Should proposed projects proceed on schedule, 2012 would see a five-fold increase, to over 25 billion litres a year.

For such a vast and beautiful country, full of boreal forrests and fresh water it is quite sickening that we are also responsible for one of the largest projects that is causing such catastrophic environmental damage to the entire planet. It comes as no surprise that Canada’s current political leaders would be withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocal. When you’re running one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emisions it makes no business sense to have to pay for it, does it? The fight is not about Kyoto now, it is about stopping the tar sands. How much more of the future are we willing to forsake to run the present day. We should be talking about sustainability not profitabilty.


“It’s in the way we live our lives exactly like the double-edge of a cold familiar knife and supremacy weighs heavy on the day it’s never really what you own but what you threw away and how much did you pay?”
Greg Graffin


Today it was announced that Canada will be withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol. It’s not too hard to see why, all one has to do is look towards Alberta and the Oil Sands. “The Alberta Oil Sands Operation are the largest single point source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada” Source, desmogblog.com If current development plans proceed, by 2020 the Tar Sands will release twice as many greenhouse gases as are currently produced by all the cars and trucks in Canada.

The Canadian government currently lead by Prime-Minister Stephen Harper is not gambling with our future, gambling implies that we are unsure of the result, Stephen…

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Get It Done: Revived

10 Dec

If you haven’t yet seen this video of Anjali Appadurai addressing the U.N. Climate Change Conference, you should.

Last night I was talking to Frond about a friend of his from the India Fellowship, who had taken ideas from her year in India and was applying it to a new clothing line she was starting, with a business model based on developing the local economy of Detroit.  I thought about my roommate’s sister who went from International Development into Jewelry Making (“metal-smithing” she calls it), and makes amazing pieces that are out of this world.  I thought that it would be nice to have a passion that was more whimsical, that was more creative, and less emotionally draining than some “cause” like Climate Change.  In response, Frond told me about the advice he was given back when he wanted to go into music and philosophy.  Basically, not to do it.  That unless he found an academic position, he’d be another artist working hard in music, pouring their passions in, and having to scrape by.  Or having to accept struggling to find students to teach music to, in order to make a living out of their passions.

I can see how any passion can be draining, just as much as it drives you.  So although Anjali Appadurai is preaching to the choir when it comes to people like me, it is so invigorating to see someone so angrily, eloquently, and – there’s no other word for it – passionately express why you were drawn to this passion in the first place.

The transcript:

CHAIRPERSON: I’d now like to give the floor to Miss Anjali Appadurai with College of the Atlantic, who will speak on behalf of youth non-governmental organizations. Miss Appadurai, you have the floor.

ANJALI APPADURAI: I speak for more than half the world’s population. We are the silent majority. You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not on the table. What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money? You’ve been negotiating all my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises. But you’ve heard this all before.

We’re in Africa, home to communities on the front line of climate change. The world’s poorest countries need funding for adaptation now. The Horn of Africa and those nearby in KwaMashu needed it yesterday. But as 2012 dawns, our Green Climate Fund remains empty. The International Energy Agency tells us we have five years until the window to avoid irreversible climate change closes. The science tells us that we have five years maximum. You’re saying, “Give us 10.”

The most stark betrayal of your generation’s responsibility to ours is that you call this “ambition.” Where is the courage in these rooms? Now is not the time for incremental action. In the long run, these will be seen as the defining moments of an era in which narrow self-interest prevailed over science, reason and common compassion.

There is real ambition in this room, but it’s been dismissed as radical, deemed not politically possible. Stand with Africa. Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation, and to condemn millions to death by climate change. What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach. 2011 was the year in which the silent majority found their voice, the year when the bottom shook the top. 2011 was the year when the radical became reality.

Common, but differentiated, and historical responsibility are not up for debate. Respect the foundational principles of this convention. Respect the integral values of humanity. Respect the future of your descendants. Mandela said, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.” So, distinguished delegates and governments around the world, governments of the developed world, deep cuts now. Get it done.

Mic check!

PEOPLE’S MIC: Mic check!


PEOPLE’S MIC: Mic check!


PEOPLE’S MIC: Equity now!


PEOPLE’S MIC: Equity now!

ANJALI APPADURAI: You’ve run out of excuses!

PEOPLE’S MIC: You’ve run out of excuses!

ANJALI APPADURAI: We’re running out of time!

PEOPLE’S MIC: We’re running out of time!


PEOPLE’S MIC: Get it done!


PEOPLE’S MIC: Get it done!


PEOPLE’S MIC: Get it done!

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Miss Appadurai, who was speaking on behalf of half of the world’s population, I think she said at the beginning. And on a purely personal note, I wonder why we let not speak half of the world’s population first in this conference, but only last.

The Bill

14 Oct


My first reaction after reading this was to wonder whether there was some way to build a scientific argument against denying women the right to abortions.  I felt frustrated by how spiritual beliefs so often trump scientific facts.  Then I felt kind of funny for feeling that way.  It’s just that these arguments seem so desperate sometimes.

Best/worst quote from Virginia Foxx, Republican congresswoman from North Carolina and supporter of the bill:

For my colleagues across the aisle who say that this is a misogynist bill, nobody has ever fought more for the rights of women than I have. Fifty percent of the unborn babies that are being aborted are females. So the misogyny comes from those that promote the killing of unborn babies.

In the US, abortion is a liberty but it isn’t a right.  That means that it’s legal and the government won’t step in to stop you from having an abortion, but it won’t take part in helping you get a safe abortion.   This bill is taking it to an extreme, using money as the barrier.  Essentially, it’s a liberty but only if you are so rich you pay for insurance completely out of pocket and you use hospitals that don’t accept any government funding.  I.e. it’s no longer a liberty.

I guess my frustration is from how the supporters of this bill think abortion is just wrong and go so far as to advocate that the death of the woman is justified, no matter what the reason.  Let alone the fact that making abortions impossible to get legally won’t stop abortions from happening.  It will only stop legal abortions from happening.  Women will get abortions but more of them will die because they will be turning to “clothes hanger abortionists”.

My understanding is that supporters of the bill assume that the fetus must be protected because it is life and didn’t do anything to “deserve” to die, but the woman (who is also life, a fact not often discussed) who dies because of the un-aborted pregnancy is responsible for her pregnancy and therefore it’s okay if she dies, it was her doing in the first place.

We treat people who are responsible for their conditions all the time.  ALL THE TIME.  We treat smokers who in this day and age are fully responsible for their lungs digesting themselves into a cancer, their heart failing, not to mention who are also responsible for the deaths of their families and friends around them who inhale the carcinogens from the cigarette that they chose to light up.  The motorcyclist who refuses to wear a helmet or the student who continues to binge drink.  The diabetic who doesn’t bother with their diet, or the 1 out of 6 Americans who is going to die of heart disease but still doesn’t think it’s worth eating better or exercising more.  We definitely don’t treat them any different (in fact the industry probably treats them better) than people who are arguably less responsible for their poor heart health.  That is the person who maybe isn’t able to afford eating better (fresh food is more expensive in poorer communities than in richer communities) nor able to exercise more (difficult when you have to commute 2 hours each way on public transit that is shoddy and underfunded, raise enough money to raise a child on your own, and also have time to raise that child).

Who cares if a woman is responsible for her pregnancy.  Why should she have to die for it?  It comes down to individuals (including some women) having a hard time letting go of the idea that women need to be looked after and their actions policed.  That they for one stupid reason or another, shouldn’t have the full capacity to decide for themselves what to happen to themselves.  That women’s decisions can be allowed to be made and the consequences of those decisions allowed to go forward without a ridiculous debate where the majority of the voices are men and women who don’t represent the women that this legislation will most affect.  Women’s choices impact societies immensely, but it should not be up to a society that largely excludes women to decide how these choices will be made, not through legislation, not through “women’s magazines”, not through gender roles for men, not through wedding reality shows, not through pink clothes for baby girls, not through she’s a bitch or stay young forever!  

This debate is a debate over the weight of a women’s choice and opinion, and it is sickening that it is a discussion that is still going on.

Selected Facts on Induced Abortion from the Guttmacher Institute

  • At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.
  • About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.
  • The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.
  •  Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.
  • Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children).
  • Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients say they would have liked to have had their abortion earlier. Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money.



10 Oct

Frond sent me a link last week about the releasing of 2 American hikers from an Iranian jail after 2 years.  They were held on charges of spying.  The article was really interesting.  It talked about how the hikers were talking about their experience and reflections on their imprisonment.  They said the worst part was the solitary confinement.  But more interestingly, they talked about conversations they had with their guards about politics, imprisonment, and public perceptions of one’s own government.  Their guards talked to them about Guantanamo where prisoners are held without trial, about invasions of other countries, all well known parts of American history (and current).  It was interesting to see one of the first things the hikers were talking about was jailing without trial across the world, particularly by American institutions.

I went to look at the article again (http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/09/26/iran) but the link directs you to the news page on Iran.  The top article has a much different tone than the one the link originally linked to, from a commentary on the unsavory actions of all governments across the world, to a focus strictly on the Iranian government: “How can we forgive the Iranian government when it continues to imprison so many other innocent people.”

Maybe the article was censored, rescinded, maybe deleted.  Maybe moved and I just can’t find it.  But it’s weird, no?

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