News for progressives

Syrian War Report – March 12, 2018: Militants’ Defense Collapsed In Eastern Ghouta Last weekend a defense of militant groups operating in Eastern Ghouta collapsed under pressure of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies and the militant-held pocket was cut
Categories: News for progressives

Theresa May Makes A "45 Minutes" Claim

Today the British government made some dubious assertions about Saddam's chemical weapons the poisoning of its double agent Sergej Skripal. bigger The British Prime Minister Theresa May claimed (saved tweet) in Parliament that: Sergej Skripal and his daughter were poisoned...
Categories: News for progressives

Reader mail: ‘I am more dangerous than a Russian!’

by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog (and for those, shall we say, cognitively challenged the following is a satire; the Saker) As a daily journalist covering a wide range
Categories: News for progressives

9/11 and the Green Scare: It’s High Time for a Paradigm Shift

By: Amir Nour[1] for The Saker Blog   “War: A massacre of people who don’t know each other for the profit of people who know each other but don’t massacre each
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Moderators needed (friends in Russia and Australia, please read this!)

Dear friends, The Saker blog needs a moderator for Sat/Sun from 10am-2pm (EST) the current person covering this time slot has a big professional commitment coming on and will be
Categories: News for progressives

Ontario PC insiders must be sickened by the choice of Doug Ford as new leader

Rabble News - Mon, 2018-03-12 14:08
March 12, 2018Politics in CanadaOntario PC choice of Doug Ford as leader shows need for principled conservative divisionEven from a progressive perspective, Canadian political discourse needs a conservative alternative. It doesn't need a dangerous clown like Doug Ford.Doug FordProgressive Conservative Party of OntarioOntario election 2018
Categories: News for progressives

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-10

Mar 6 - The New Yorker Attempts But Fails To Boost The Steele Dossier This hyping of Steele as an honest man who only did his duty is pretty disgusting. What was Jane Mayer paid for writing such an inaccurate...
Categories: News for progressives

Syria - The Fall Of Two Cities

The Turkish proxy Takfiris have nearly encircled the Kurdish held city of Afrin. The water supply to the city is cut off. It will fall within a few days. Map by Syrian Civil War Map - bigger This is the...
Categories: News for progressives

The most important part of Putin’s March 1st speech

by Miles for the Saker Blog If you look at western press and punditry as of late in regards to Russia or Putin (which, for some reason is basically the
Categories: News for progressives

Pinning the Trail on the Donkey

by Norman Ball for the Saker Blog By Norman Ball Lamenting Germany’s WW1 defeat at the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, Joseph Goebbels acknowledges a hard lesson learned: “While the enemy states
Categories: News for progressives

Trump Threatens Peace In Korea

The mainstream commentariat: Then: Trump is a madman who wants to lead us into war against North Korea. Now: Trump is a madman who wants to lead us towards peace with North Korea. Rory Yeomans I welcome the announced meeting...
Categories: News for progressives

Open letter in support of mediation not sanctions in Venezuela

Rabble News - Sat, 2018-03-10 00:35
Raul Burbano

We urge the United States and Canadian governments to immediately remove their illegal* sanctions against Venezuela and to support efforts at mediation between the government of Venezuela and the nonviolent segments of the political opposition.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals in the U.S. and Canada, support hemispheric relations based on respect for the sovereignty of all peoples of the Americas. We are deeply concerned by the use of illegal sanctions, whose effect falls most heavily on the poorest and most marginal sectors of society, to coerce political and economic change in a sister democracy.

Polls in Venezuela show that the large majority of Venezuelans oppose sanctions, regardless of their opinion of the Maduro government. Sanctions merely complicate efforts by the Vatican, Dominican Republic, and other international actors to mediate a resolution to the deep polarization in Venezuela. Moreover, sanctions undermine efforts of the democratically elected government and Constituent Assembly to address critical economic issues and determine their own political destiny.

Despite the high-minded rhetoric of officials in Washington and Ottawa, it is not a genuine concern for democracy, human rights, and social justice that drives the belligerent interventionist posture towards Caracas. From former U.S. president Obama’s admittedly untrue presidential decree that Venezuela represents a national security threat to the United States, to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s declaration that Venezuela is "an increasingly violent narco-state" that threatens the world, the use of hyperbole in diplomatic situations seldom contributes to peaceful solutions on the world stage.

It is no secret that Venezuela, unlike Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, is targeted for regime change by the U.S. precisely because of Venezuela’s leadership in resisting U.S. hegemony and the imposition of the neoliberal model in Latin America. And of course, Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves in the world, attracting more unwanted attention from Washington.

The U.S. and Canada tried and failed to use the Organization of American States (OAS) to build a bloc to hypocritically evoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Recently, Luis Almagro, the rogue Secretary General of the OAS, went so far as to publicly support the swearing in of a parallel Supreme Court unconstitutionally appointed by opposition legislators and allowed them to use the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. for their ceremony -- without the approval of any OAS member state. Almagro has thereby delegitimized the OAS, emboldened the most extreme and violent elements of the Venezuelan opposition, and side-lined efforts at mediation.

The U.S.-Canadian sanctions represent a cynical use of coercive economic power to attack a nation that is already dealing with hyperinflation and shortages of basic commodities. While said to be in the name of advancing democracy and freedom, the sanctions violate the Venezuelan peoples' basic human right to sovereignty, as outlined in the UN and OAS Charters.

We call on the political leaders of the United States and Canada to reject overheated rhetoric and to contribute to the search for real solutions to Venezuela’s political and economic problems. We urge the U.S. and Canadian governments to rescind their sanctions and support the mediation efforts pursued by the Chancellor of the Dominican Republic Miguel Vargas, the President of Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Vatican, and supported by a growing number of Latin American nations.

* Chapter 4 Article 19 of the OAS Charter states:

No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.


United States

Noam Chomsky

Danny Glover, Citizen-Artist

Estela Vazquez, Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, Archdiocese of Detroit

Jill Stein, Green Party

Peter Knowlton, General President, United Electrical Workers

Dr. Frederick B. Mills, Department of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Dr. Alfred de Zayas, former Chief, Petitions Dept, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Medea Benjamin, co-founder, Code Pink 

Dan Kovalik, Counsel, United Steelworkers Union

Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local10 (retired)

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, President, National Lawyers Guild

Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice

James Early, Articulation of Afro Descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean

Gloria La Riva, coordinator, Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee

Karen Bernal, Chair, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party

Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, co-directors, Popular Resistance

Chris Bender, Administrator, SEIU 1000, retired

Mary Hanson Harrison, President Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section

Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council

Tamie Dramer, Executive Boardmember, California Democratic Party

Greg Wilpert, journalist

School of Americas Watch (SOAW) Coordinating Collective

Gerry Condon, President, Board of Directors, Veterans for Peace

Tiana Ocasio, President, Connecticut Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Leah Bolger, Coordinator, World Beyond War

Alexander Main, Senior Assoc for Intl Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

Dr. Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Berthony Dupont, Director, Haiti Liberté Newspaper

Marsha Rummel, Adlerperson, City of Madison Common Council, District 6

Monica Moorehead, Workers World Party

Kim Ives, Journalist, Haiti Liberté

Cindy Sheehan, Cindy's Soapbox

Claudia Lucero, Executive Director, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

William Camacaro, Venezuela activist

Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace

David W. Campbell, Secretary-Treasurer, USW Local 675   (Carson, CA)

Alice Bush, retired Northwest Indiana Division Director SEIU Local 73

Teresa Gutierrez, Co-Director International Action Center

Claire Deroche, NY Interfaith Campaign Against Torture

Eva Golinger, journalist and writer

The Cross Border Network (Kansas City)

Antonia Domingo, Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

David Swanson, Director of World Beyond War

Matt Meyer, National Co-chair, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Daniel Dale, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), CLRN Board of Directors

Daniel Chavez, Transnational Institute

Kathleen Desautels, SP (8th Day Center for Justice*)

Michael Eisenscher, National Coord. Emeritus, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Dr. Paul Dordal, Director, Christian Network for Liberation and Equality

Dr. Douglas Friedman, Director International Studies, College of Charleston

Fr. Charles Dahm, Archdiocesan Director of Domestic Violence Outreach

Blase Bonpane,  Director,  Office of the Americas

Larry Birns, Director, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Task Force on the Americas

Dr. Sharat G. Lin, former president, San Jose Peace and Justice Center

Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity

Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator, International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity

National Network on Cuba

Diana Bohn, Co-coordinator, Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Joe Jamison, Queens NY Peace Council

Jerry Harris, National Secretary, Global Studies Association of North America

MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles

Charlie Hardy, author, Cowboy in Caracas

Dan Shea, National Board, Veterans For Peace

Houston Peace and Justice Center

Dr. Christy Thornton, Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University

Code Pink Houston

Workers Solidarity Action

Rochester Committee on Latin America

Patricio Zamorano, Academic and International Affairs Analyst

Cliff Smith, business manager, Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, Local 36

Michael Bass, Convener, School of the Americas Watch-Oakland/East Bay

Joe Lombardo, Marilyn Levin, Co-Coordinators of United National Antiwar Committee

Dr. Jeb Sprague-Silgado, University of California Santa Barbara

Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)

Dr. Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer Chair in Indigenous Governance Ryerson University

Lee Gloster, Steward IBT 364, Trustee, N. Central IN Labor Chapter, N. IN Area Labor Federation

Celeste Howard, Secretary, WILPF, Portland Branch (Oregon)

Mario Galván, Sacramento Action for Latin America

Hector Gerardo, Executive Director, 1 Freedom for All

Jorge Marin, Venezuela Solidarity Committee

Ricardo Vaz, writer and editor of Investig'Action

Dr. T.M. Scruggs, University of Iowa, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Mike Davis, Dept. of Creative Writing, Univ. of CA, Riverside; editor of the New Left Review

Dr. Lee Artz, Dept of Media Studies; Director, Center for Global Studies, Purdue University Northwest

Dr. Arturo Escobar, Dept. of Anthropology University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Cheri Honkala, Director, Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign

Suren Moodliar, Coordinator, Encuentro5 (Boston)

Dr. Jack Rasmus, Economics Dept., St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California

Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Rich Whitney, Co-chair, Green Party Peace Action Committee

David Bacon, independent photojournalist

Dr. Kim Scipes, Department of Sociology, Purdue University Northwest

Jeff Mackler, National Secretary, Socialist Action

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

Henry Lowendorf,  Co-chair, Greater New Haven Peace Council

Judith Bello, Ed Kinane (founders), Upstate Drone Action

Dr. Daniel Whitesell, Lecturer in the Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese, UCLA

Dr. William I. Robinson, Sociology and Global and International Studies, UC-Santa Barbara

Emmanuel Rozental, Vilma Almendra, Pueblos en Camino, Abya Yala

Ben Manski, President, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution

Frank Pratka, Baltimore-Matanzas Association/Maryland-Cuba Friendship Coalition

Dr. Hilbourne Watson, Emeritus, Department of International Relations, Bucknell University

Dr. Minqi Li, Economics Department, University of Utah

Christina Schiavoni, PhD researcher, Boston

Dr. Robert E. Birt, Department of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Topanga Peace Alliance

Judy Somberg, Susan Scott, Esq., Co-chairs, National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas

Audrey Bomse, Esq., Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee

Daniel Chavez, Transnational Institute

Barby Ulmer, Board President, Our Developing World

Barbara Larcom, Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay; President, Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance

Nick Egnatz, Veterans for Peace

Dr. Marc Becker, Latin American Studies, Truman State University

Dr. John H. Sinnigen, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

Dr. Dale Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Rutgers University

Sulutasen Amador, Co-coordinator, Chukson Water Protectors

Mara Cohen, Communications Hub, Trade Justice Alliance

Dorotea Manuela, Co-Chair Rosa Parks Human Right Committee

Efia Nwangaza, Malcom X Center - WMXP Community Radio

Dr. Chris Chase-Dunn, Sociology, University of California-Riverside

Dr. Nick Nesbitt, Comparative Literature, Princeton

Timeka Drew, coordinator, Global Climate Convergence

Jack Gilroy, Friends of Franz & Ben

Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Social Justice Committee

Victor Wallis, Professor, Liberal Arts, Berkeley College of Music


Jerry Dias, President, UNIFOR

Mike Palecek, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Harvey Bischof, President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation

Mark Hancock National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees

Robyn Benson, National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Stephanie Smith, President of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union

Dr. Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer Chair in Indigenous Governance Ryerson University

Linda McQuaig, journalist and author, Toronto

Raul Burbano, Program Director, Common Frontiers

Miguel Figueroa, President, Canadian Peace Congress

Rights Action (U.S. and Canada)

Joe Emersberger, writer, UNIFOR member

Heide Trampus, Coordinator, Worker to Worker, Canada-Cuba Labour Solidarity Network

Nino Pagliccia, Jorge Arancibia, Marta Palominos, Frente para la Defensa de los Pueblos Hugo Chavez

Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign – Vancouver

The Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War

Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)

Maude Barlow, Chairperson, Council of Canadians

Canadian Network on Cuba

Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) – Vancouver

Dr. William Carroll, University of Victoria, Canada

Andrew Dekany, LL.M, Lawyer

Dr. Leo Panitch, Professor Emeritus, York University, Toronto

Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)

Alma Weinstein,  Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel Toronto

Maria Elena Mesa, Coord, Sunday Poetry and Festival Internacional de Poesia Patria Grande, Toronto

Dr. Radhika Desai, University of Manitoba


Sergio Romero Cuevas, former Mexican Ambassador to Haiti

Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos, Oaxaca, Mexico

Photo: OEA - OAS/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Moveable Feast Cafe 2018/03/09 … Open Thread

2018/03/09 16:00:01Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
Categories: News for progressives

Our society's double standards in the application of due process

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-03-09 21:45
Anti-RacismCivil Liberties WatchPolitics in Canada

We live in a strange era. An era of deep polarization of views. An era of flagrant contradictions. An era of erosion of principles of justice.

My husband, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen born and raised in Syria, faced a public trial in 2002 while he was the victim of extraordinary rendition initiated by U.S. authorities with the complicity of Canadian law enforcement as well as Jordanian and Syrian authorities, official and de facto allies of the U.S. war on terror.

When my husband was given a paper in his U.S. cell stating that he had been arrested because of his alleged association with Al-Qaeda, he didn't get a lawyer or day in court. He was transported in the middle of the night to an airport where a private jet, known as a ghost plane, flew him to Amman, Jordan. But many people in Canada believed that the U.S. couldn't be mistaken, people who included politicians, journalists and regular Canadian citizens.

When former U.S. president George W. Bush infamously said in 2001, "you are either with us or with the terrorists," he knew that many people would fall into the new fault line he created. Indeed, despite many disagreeing with Bush, many also listened to him. He created a clash of civilizations, and in a way he succeeded.

If Twitter and Facebook existed at that time, I have no doubt there would have been campaigns calling my husband a terrorist and demands to keep him in Syria to "rot with the terrorists." Actually, even without social media, those "calls" were relayed by politicians, and journalists and media.

Amidst all this confusion and cacophony, one thing saved my husband: the principle of due process. Not that it was offered to him -- I fought with supporters to bring it back to him.

I kept telling people around me that if my husband was guilty of any wrongdoing, he should be brought back to Canada and face justice. Deporting him to a Syrian prison and keeping him there wouldn't serve any justice.

The notion of due process allowed the most skeptical to listen. Applying the argument of due process to a "suspected terrorist" helped my husband escape a possible death and a very likely life of torture and misery in a Syrian gulag.

There are two direct and serious implications of the 9/11 attacks. The first is the justification of torture as a tool for extracting information from Muslim suspects, with the normalization and "branding" of the ticking bomb scenario by the likes of Alan Dershowitz. The second is the entrenchment of the "war on terror" narrative in public discourse, leading to the disappearance of the principle of due process for Muslim suspects.

From the moment the suspect is arrested until the time he faces the justice system, he has already been tried in the public arena by politicians, journalists and pseudo experts, who most of the time make speculations that are presented as absolute truth. When the time comes for a trial, public opinion has already chosen its side: usually incrimination of the terrorist suspect.

When Hassan Diab, a Canadian citizen suspected of participating in the 1980 bombing of a synagogue in Paris, was arrested in 2006, the notion of due process was not held up for him.

For many, he was already considered guilty. His descent as a Muslim Arab from Lebanon made him a culprit before getting a fair and open trial. Even when a Canadian judge in Ottawa examined the extradition demand from Canada to France, and admitted that the evidence were shaky and flimsy, he still ruled for his extradition. Many blamed it on our extradition laws. They claimed that the judge had his hands tied by the low threshold for extradition in Canada. I concede that point. But not totally. I would argue that the whole anti-Muslim, anti-Arab climate paved the way for such a decision. Why do we gamble with the innocence of someone who has everything working against him, for whom public opinion is shaped by the narrative of terrorism and being "either with us or the terrorists," and judge him guilty or just ignore his plight?

Today, even the #MeToo movement seems affected by this terrorism fault line.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Tariq Ramadan, a prominent, Swiss-born theologian and scholar of Islam, was accused by two French women of rape. Despite going on his own volition to the police and being cooperative with the investigation, he was immediately arrested and put in prison without even visits from his family. Clearly, due process wasn't deemed necessary in this case. In my opinion, his ethnic background and religion stripped him of this legal principle. His legal and media treatment today is very similar to what Muslim terrorist suspects would receive. Even his incarceration in solitary confinement in Fleury-Mérogis prison is highly symbolic since this is a prison where many Muslims suspected of terrorism have been held, including Hassan Diab.

Yeas ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and poised at the time to be a strong candidate for the French presidency, was accused by a Manhattan hotel worker of sexual assault. Many of his social and political connections stood by him, defended him publicly and claimed that his sexual misconduct (and other later discovered crimes) were a sign of his virility and sex appeal. Later he was acquitted of all accusations of pimping, rape and sexual assault, and now some even speculate about his political comeback.

In 2012, Glen Greenwald, wrote a book entitled With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. In the book, Greenwald focuses on cases of financial fraud, domestic spying and torture in the U.S. and how some corporations and individuals are evading justice and accountability because of their power and money. Today, the same can be seen not only in the U.S. but also around the world when it comes to terrorism or sexual accusations. Your ethnicity, religion and social status will determine whether the same legal principles are applied to you.

Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. In 2008, she published a memoir, Hope and Despair, about her pursuit of justice, and recently, a novel about Muslim women, Mirrors and Mirages. You can follow her on Twitter @MoniaMazigh or on her blog

Photo: Michael Coghlan/flickr

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due processhuman rightssocial justicejustice systemwar on terrorislamophobiaMonia MazighMarch 9, 2018After years of injustice, Canada should bring Hassan Diab homeThis week, a French judge ordered the release of Hassan Diab from jail while an investigation into his case continues. Canada should follow suit and give Diab due process.Kafka's Canada at 15: The secret trials of Mohamed HarkatThe Ottawa resident has never been subjected to examination either in an open court or a closed session. He was back in court in mid-November seeking relaxed conditions and now waits for a verdict.Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim men If the Liberal government is serious about combating Islamophobia, they should award long-denied justice to those in Canada's Muslim communities whose freedoms were sacrificed for the "war on terror."
Categories: News for progressives

We will get universal pharmacare only if Canadians mobilize for it as they did for medicare

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-03-09 20:58
Dennis Gruending

The Liberals promised in the recent federal budget to look into pharmacare and they lured Ontario's health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins away from provincial politics to lead consultations on how to proceed. This may be mostly a ploy to thwart the NDP which, along with the labour movement, has been trying to build support for a universal, publicly financed pharmacare program.

The Liberals under Jean Chretien promised in 1997 to expand medicare to cover prescription drugs. Chretien blithely ignored that promise after being elected. Now Eric Hoskins will consult and then report in the spring of 2019, just in time for the Liberals to make another promise going into the October election.

'Plan' or 'strategy?'

But let's leave politics and talk rather about design. When I heard Finance Minister Bill Morneau's speech, I assumed that he was talking about a national, universal and tax-financed program. But less than 24 hours later, he undercut that idea. Speaking to the Economic Club of Canada, he said that he was looking for a national pharmacare "strategy" but not a national pharmacare "plan." He said that his preferred arrangement would "fill the gaps" left by the existing patchwork of private and public plans.

What Morneau likely has in mind, even before Hoskins consults Canadians, is to have the government subsidize private insurers to arrange drug coverage for those without it, rather than devising a universal plan akin to medicare.

The medicare analogy

The medicare analogy is one relevant to pharmacare. The architects of medicare in Canada include Tommy Douglas, whose CCF created a universal, tax-financed plan for health insurance in Saskatchewan in 1962, and Judge Emmett Hall whose royal commission report on health care in 1964 recommended Saskatchewan-style medicare for all of Canada. Douglas said a public plan for doctor and hospital visits was a good start but that public health insurance should eventually include much more. Hall, in his royal commission report, actually proposed universal pharmacare, vision and dental care.

It is instructive to follow Hall's reasoning. By the 1960s, medical insurance plans, many of them owned by physicians' groups, were providing private health insurance to millions of people, but only to those who could afford it. Hall found, however, that 40 per cent of Canadians either had no health insurance or had plans whose coverage he deemed inadequate.

When he sifted through the evidence, Hall decided it would be far better to have the federal government subsidize provincial health plans for single-payer, universal insurance than it would be to pay for a patchwork of private plans to include people without coverage. Both Hall and Douglas were also opposed to subjecting people to a belittling means test to decide who can and cannot afford to buy insurance.

Savings with pharmacare

In 2017, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) found that there were about 26 million Canadians covered by various drug plans, largely through their employers. About 700,000 people had no drug coverage at all, and another 3.6 million had inadequate coverage. A central question is how best to provide for these 4.3 million people. There are numerous private insurers who will want the government to pay them to do it, and they will therefore oppose a universal, single-payer plan.

Prescription drugs represent the most rapidly rising cost in the health-care system. The PBO reports that Canadians spent $28.5 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2015. The PBO also says that on average Canadians pay 22 per cent more for patented drugs than do people in other countries belonging to the OECD. A universal, publicly financed drug plan would allow for bulk purchasing by federal and provincial health plans, and the PBO estimates that could save between $4 and $11 billion a year. But it would also mean shifting much of the expenditure from individuals and employer plans to the public sector in Ottawa and the provinces.

Mobilize for it

There are billions of dollars at stake in profits for the pharmaceutical companies, and we can expect that they are lobbying aggressively against any a single-payer and universal plan. One of the threats they often make is to move their production elsewhere if they don't get their way.

We will get universal publicly financed pharmacare only if Canadians mobilize for it as they did for medicare and more recently for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

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Photo: International Monetary Fund/flickr

Categories: News for progressives

How to Measure and Monitor Poverty? LIM vs LICO vs MBM.

Progressive economics forum - Fri, 2018-03-09 19:55

The federal government has promised to launch a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy in the coming weeks or months on the basis of now completed consultations with Canadians and the still ongoing deliberations of an advisory committee. As part of this process, there has been discussion about which poverty or low income measure or measures should be used for the purpose of monitoring levels and trends in the incidence of poverty and gauging the impact of poverty reduction policies. At various times, there have been calls for an official Canadian poverty line, as exists in the United States and some other countries, and some have called for poverty reduction targets which would require the specification of a poverty line or lines. (See )

It should first be noted that any poverty line dividing the poor from the non poor at a given level of income and for a given household size is arbitrary and value-based. It explicitly or implicitly involves a judgement as how far below the mainstream people should fall before they are considered to be poor in terms of either their income or their ability to obtain the essentials of life. And any line must be used to tell us not just how many persons are poor at any point in time, but how far the poor fall below the poverty line. (For example, most social assistance recipients live in deep poverty, while most seniors in poverty are clustered just below the poverty line due to receipt of the Guaranteed Income Supplement to Old Age Security.)

The line should also be used to inform us how long the poor remain poor. (For example, social assistance recipients with disabilities tend to remain in low income much longer than the working poor who cycle in and out of poverty.) Finally, a useful poverty line should inform us of the incidence of poverty by age, gender, racial status and aboriginal status, disability status, economic family type, and so on, as well as by province and region.

A single poverty line as called for by some has the merit of being relatively simple and potentially easy to communicate. As well, a clear indicator showing the impact on the incidence and depth of low income of policies such as increased child and senior benefits could help build public support for a poverty reduction strategy.

However, choosing a single measure risks glossing over different concepts of poverty and overly minimizing the complexity of the issue.

Currently, Statscan provides annual data based on three different measures of low income – the LICO AT, the LIM AT and the MBM. (See CANSIM Table 206-0041 for detailed data on poverty using these measures.) LICO estimates are also presented on a pre tax basis but these are seldom used. While the three measures in use today are not described as poverty lines, they are generally used as such, and they all allow for assessment of levels and trends in a disaggregated fashion.

The LICO AT (after tax) tells us that a person or family is spending a much higher than average percentage of its income on the essentials of food, shelter and clothing (based on family size and with account taken of the size of the community in which the household resides.) The LICO line is based on 1992 living costs, so trends tell us how much progress has been made over time in terms of the ability of Canadians to purchase a basic basket of goods at 1992 spending weights..

The poverty rate in 2015 based on this measure was 9.2%, down from a high of 14.0% in 1983, but it can be questioned if poverty has really fallen so significantly. The LICO has fallen into disfavour because it does not tell us how many persons are unable to achieve a basic standard of living in terms of what Canadians are consuming today, as opposed to twenty-five years ago. For example, the LICO basket does not include the cost of internet access. The LICO does, however, give us some sense of the very long-term trend in the living standards of the poor, and tells us that there has been some absolute income growth over time among the poor.

The Market Basket Measure tells us that a household – in after tax terms, adjusted for family size – has insufficient income to purchase a modest basket of goods and services. The MBM was called for by federal and provincial ministers, and the composition of the basket was determined by government officials rather than by Statistics Canada. It has been calculated since 2002 for a reference family in a large number of communities, so it varies with the local price of housing and food. It is more than an extreme bare bones, basic needs budget insofar as it includes child care costs and the cost of a modest vehicle where transit is unavailable.

That said, there has been a lot of disagreement about the contents of the MBM basket, and many argue that it is a poor measure of the consumption gap between low income Canadians and the mainstream. MBM does not centrally view poverty as being about distance from the mainstream, bur rather as having an income which is insufficient to meet the basic needs of a low income family.

In 2015 the MBM rate at a national level was 12.1%.

The LIM measure (Low Income Measure After Tax) draws a low income line based on 50% of the income of a median household of the same number of persons. It is a purely relative measure with poverty being seen as having an income well below the norm defined as the income of a mid point Canadian family.

In 2015, the national LIM rate was 14.2%. This measure is based only on income relative to the national median income, and is not a measure of basic needs based on consumption.

LIM is very useful in terms of telling us how the bottom of the income distribution is doing compared to the broad middle-class, and how that is changing over time. It is also very useful in terms of international comparisons, telling us that the gap between the bottom and the middle is much wider today in Canada than many European countries, but that low income is much less prevalent in Canada than the United States.

The big problem with the LIM is that it does not take account of large differences in living costs between cities and regions. For example, no account is taken of very large differences in rents between big cities, or the high cost of food in many remote and rural communities.

There is not a great difference between the LIM and MBM measures when it comes to calculating the overall incidence of low income. Over the past five years, the LIM rate has averaged 13.5% compared to 14.2% for the MBM rate. Both rates have remained fairly constant since 2002. (The gap in 2015 – a 14.2% LIM rate compared to a 12.1% MBM rate – was unusually large.)

However, there have been some important differences over time and for some sub populations.

There is a huge difference between the LIM and MBM poverty rates for seniors (14.3% vs 5.1% in 2015.) Also, there have been big changes over time in the LIM based poverty rate for seniors. This fell from 33.1% in 1977 to a low of 3.9% in 1995, before increasing to 14.3% in 2015. The income gap between seniors and other families narrowed initially due mainly to improvements in public and private pensions, but in recent years the incomes of many seniors have been falling behind those of working age families in relative terms. This is not captured in the MBM measure. (As an aside, the LIM poverty rate for seniors would likely not rise if Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement were to be indexed to wage growth and not just inflation.)

The apparent stability of the LIM rate over time also hides a long-term increase in the low income rate for the working age population, especially single persons, and, importantly, a major decline in the low income rate for single parent families headed by women reflecting a significant rise in participation in the labour market.

There is also a big difference between LIM and the MBM when it comes to calculating the incidence of low income in Quebec. The Quebec LIM rate is 16.2% compared to a 10.9% MBM rate. The LIM rate in Quebec is 2.0 percentage points above the national LIM rate, but the Quebec MBM rate is 1.2 percentage points below the national MBM rate. This difference is likely due to low housing costs in Quebec compared to other provinces.

The key point is that the conceptual and measurement differences between LIM and the MBM result in significant differences in rates of low income for important sub populations. It is important to have both measures to account for this complexity.

It is also important to appreciate that the drivers of the LIM rate and the MBM rate are different. The LIM rate reflects changes, not just in the incomes of low income families, but also in median incomes. The LIM rate could rise if median wages began to grow after years of stagnation, and if bottom incomes did not follow suit. By contrast, the MBM rate could fall due to increased income supports which lowered the real cost of living of the poor, even if the gap between the middle and the bottom were to grow. Both measures should register major changes in the labour market and in income transfer programs.

By way of conclusion, the LIM and the MBM are conceptually different measures, both of which provide useful and important information for analysts and policy makers. We need both to get a handle on overall low incomes and trends in different populations.

Categories: News for progressives

Alberta's NDP borrowed more than export-cut threats from Peter Lougheed for throne speech

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-03-09 14:58
David J. Climenhaga

Understandably given the nature of the daily news cycle, reporters covering yesterday's throne speech focused on the threats by Alberta's NDP government to punish British Columbia if that province's NDP government actually tries to block expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Premier Rachel Notley's New Democrats, as journalists on the scene remarked in their stories last night, borrowed a strategy from Premier Peter Lougheed when she said she would cut oil exports to the province next door if Premier John Horgan won't behave.

Indeed, the throne speech made that point explicitly: "In the past, when workers in our energy industry were attacked and when the resources we own were threatened, Premier Peter Lougheed took bold action," Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell read aloud. (Emphasis added, of course.)

"Your government has been clear," the speech went on, presumably deliberately not mentioning Lougheed's political affiliation, "every option is on the table."

In 1980, the Lougheed government resisted the National Energy Program of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau by restricting the natural gas that could be shipped out of Alberta and ceasing to issue natural gas export permits.

"We will not hesitate to invoke similar legislation if it becomes necessary owing to the extreme and illegal actions on the part of the B.C. government to stop the pipeline," the Lieutenant Governor read, channelling the premier, as vice-regal personages are supposed to do on these occasions when a government's legislative agenda is publicly set out.

Of course, how extreme the B.C. government's actions to date have been is a matter of perspective. And how illegal they are is a matter of opinion until settled by a court. But no one can accuse Notley's government, as the Conservative Opposition was wont to do in the past, of not standing up for the interests of Alberta's principal resource industry.

That much said, if you look closely at the throne speech, you'll see the threat directed at B.C. wasn't the only idea borrowed from the strategies associated with Lougheed, whose Progressive Conservative government was elected in 1971 and stayed that way under a string of premiers until Notley toppled the dynasty on May 5, 2015.

Times have changed since 1971, of course. Lougheed, who died in 2012 at the age of 84, might not have made gender parity in cabinet a goal -- as the NDP did, and then surpassed with more women than men, as was noted with justified pride in this International Women's Day speech from the throne.

Nor, I expect, would a concept like LGBTQ2S have rolled off Lougheed's tongue any more easily than it did off Mitchell's in the Legislature yesterday.

But in addition to the strategy for asserting Alberta's trading rights, he certainly would have recognized his legacy in the NDP government's Keynesian approach to dealing with an economic downturn, its government-led effort to diversify the economy in general and the energy sector in particular, its (too cautious) efforts to smooth out the province's typical boom and bust economic cycles, its strategy to bring the most harmful features of energy deregulation under control, and its generally upbeat tone.

Conservatives and New Democrats alike will probably take issue with me on this, but this was, in philosophy and concept, a good, traditional progressive conservative throne speech.

It sets out the roadmap, therefore, for the good, traditional, post-recession progressive conservative budget that I expect Finance Minister Joe Ceci will deliver on March 22.

It is probably not all that different, truth be told, than the throne speech that would have been written for Jim Prentice's government about now -- had Alberta's last PC premier not foolishly called an election a year earlier than he needed to, to the obvious displeasure of a great many Albertans.

This is true right down to the speech's rural crime strategy and its repeated invocation of the name of the Deity in its closing lines.

It is a mark of how radicalized Canada's conservative movement became during the decade Stephen Harper ruled in Ottawa and Jason Kenney was his minion that such modestly progressive conservative policies as Notley's can be assailed as extremist, ideological and even communistic by the United Conservative Party Opposition that Kenney, after taking his seat yesterday, can now lead from inside the Legislature.

Were it not for the name of the party in power, it is said here, the Notley government's re-election in Alberta on a program like the one set out yesterday would be uncontroversial.

So we can expect Lougheed's name to be invoked more than once again in the lead-up to the general election expected in the spring of 2019.

One could argue the anticipated tone was set yesterday afternoon, after the vice-regal party had left the building and this throne speech was already receding into history.

As Margaret McQuaig-Boyd, minister of energy, observed as she introduced the government's Bill 1, the Energy Diversification Act, to the Chamber: "We are acting, Mr. Speaker, in the proud tradition of Peter Lougheed, who believed that government can, and government should, help foster the next generation of technology in our energy sector."

Well, "conservatives" nowadays advocate radical market fundamentalism, and social democrats implement policies that are as conservative as they are progressive. It's a funny old world!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog,

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Salt needs to be taken more seriously

Rabble News - Fri, 2018-03-09 14:58
March 9, 2018Food & HealthHealth Canada takes on sodium, but are Canadians hooked on salt?Voluntary guidelines for reduced sodium in food have been a failure. The government is now working on better labelling. The real problem may be that we have become hooked on salt.healthSALT
Categories: News for progressives

Newly revealed Russian weapons systems: political implications

[This analysis was written for the Unz Review] For those interested in the military implications of the recent revelations by Vladimir Putin about new Russian weapon systems I would recommend
Categories: News for progressives

Spy Poisons Spy And The Anti-Trump Campaign

On Sunday a former British-Russian double agent and his daughter were seriously injured in a mysterious incident in Salisbury, England. The British government says that both were hurt due to "exposure to a nerve agent". Speculative media reports talk of...
Categories: News for progressives


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