Statement: Canada-China Investment Agreement October 26, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada-china trade, china, china trade, elizabeth may, Free Trade, green party, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, trade agreement
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Mr. Speaker, here is your 60 second briefing on the Canada-China investment treaty, the most significant treaty of its kind since NAFTA.
I requested a technical briefing from the Minister of International Trade on September 27. I got it one hour ago, so I can update folks.
It confirms that Chinese state-owned enterprises would have the right to complain and charge for damages for decisions in Canada by municipal, provincial, territorial or federal governments. It confirms this treaty will apply till 2027 for a minimum, and potentially till 2042, and China can complain of anything it feels is arbitrary.
It will be of greater benefit to Chinese investors in Canada than to Canadian investors in China.
No province has been asked if it approved of this agreement.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister asked that members of this place should acquaint themselves with the treaty. I have. It threatens our security, our sovereignty and our democracy. Yet this 60 seconds will be the only briefing this House gets.
IN SEARCH OF ANTANAS MOKUS September 9, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America.
Tags: antanas mokus, Colombia, colombia government, colombia liberal, colombia poitics, gerard coffey, green party, juan manuel santos, roger hollander, sergio fajardo
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The light is green but no-one is moving
Gerard Coffey. Quito 09 September 2010
I was recently in Colombia. I like Bogotá. It’s a big city that seems to have everything. Lots of places to drink good coffee, people who actually want to help you, a mass transit system that seems to function, most of the time. Besides, Colombia is the land of deserts. Heaven for the sweet toothed. But apart from personal vices[i], the visit had other highlights. It was the country’s bicentenary (20th July) as well the period between the Presidential elections and the inauguration of Juan Manuel Santos as the country’s new head of state (August 9th). An interesting time. Not least because of the massive march held by the regime’s opponents the day after the official celebrations[ii] and the friction between Venezuela and Colombia resulting from still President Alvaro Uribe’s accusations that the neighbouring country was sheltering terrorists, more commonly known as the FARC.
Although the visit was not work related, I did have a goal: to interview Antanas Mokus, the Green Party Candidate who lost the Presidential election, but was supported by more than a quarter of Colombian voters, i.e. those that did actually vote[iii]. Despite the loss, there was a sense at the time that something important was happening. The Mokus Green Party campaign was different, a breath of clean air. It offered some sort of hope for a country plagued by the decades of internal violence, drugs and corruption. It could make things happen.
But I was never able to find Sr. Mokus or, what seemed far more surprising, the Green Party. I looked everywhere, I tried all the phone numbers and e-mail addresses I could find, I even found a man who gave me two telephone numbers he said would help, on the condition that I didn’t mention his name. That turned out to be less of a problem than I imagined: neither of the numbers was ever answered. I once even thought I had found the head office. Two people, a local vendor and a security guard assured me that it was close by, just around the corner. And I found it. They were right. It was the party headquarters, of the Polo Democrático. A friend finally suggested that his brother, who apparently lived behind Mokus’ house, was willing to go and knock on his door. But apart from the invasion of privacy issue, by then it was too late. It was time to go back to Quito. So I contented myself with a few books I had bought, and the experiences the stay had brought.
Two months later the whole episode seems more curious than anything else. The world has moved on. Santos has installed a massive majority in the Colombian Congress, appears to have reunited the Liberal Party, has been making comforting noises internationally, heads a government more technocratic than ideological, especially when compared to the previous regime, and has distanced himself from his predecessor. Santos is his own man. And Alvaro Uribe? Well, he appears to have disappeared. Off the map. Into the special house/fortress designed for him in a military sector of the city.
With time the search for Antanas Mokus and the Green Party also seems less puzzling. I’m no longer surprised that I couldn’t locate either. As I now realise, the Green Party doesn’t exist. Never did exist. It was an electoral apparatus. That is not to say that the objectives of the people that participated in, ran, and supported the Mokus- Fajardo campaign were a sham. Far from it. The movement embodied a great deal of sincerity and hope, as well as counting on heavy weight political backers such as Luis Garzón and Enrique Peñalosa, both ex mayors of Bogotá and, of course, on the vice presidential candidate, Sergio Fajardo, himself a popular ex mayor of Medellin. But there was never any infrastructure. And I can’t help asking myself what would have happened if Mokus had won. Perhaps the voters asked themselves the same question.
Perhaps everything would have been taken in stride. After all neither Mokus nor Garzón is a political neophyte. Perhaps if he had won, everything would have seemed normal enough. Perhaps the worst thing, at least in institutional, party political terms, was to lose. If the head of foam that surrounded the campaign in the first round had gone flat by the second, the beer itself has now drained from the glass. The party, such as it is, appears to be in a state of paralysis. Fajardo has gone, dissociating himself from the group after complaining of being treated with a lack of seriousness. The campaign, he has said, lost momentum when he also lost it, after falling from his appropriately green bicycle and fracturing his hip. The statement has the taste of sour grapes, but it does seem evident that he and his group do not fit into whatever plans the party might have.
For the moment at least, those plans are a matter of guesswork. The papers are full reports painting Mokus as a mayoralty candidate for Bogotá in 2011, or on the other hand that, he is not a candidate, that his wife, Adriana Córdoba is a mayoralty candidate, or that she is not a candidate, that Gustavo Petro, the presidential candidate for the Polo Democrático, and one of the few losers that came out smelling of roses, has been invited to join the Greens now that the smell of flowers has become too rich for the other members of the Polo, or, that he has not signaled a desire to join, or that he supports the mayoralty candidature of Mokus’ wife, of course, should she actually be a candidate. In practice the only solid evidence of movement is the appointment of Garzón as Party President and spokesperson.
A lot of the sense of confusion and loss of direction could be press manipulation, not of the facts, but rather what is printed and what is not. The mainstream media in Colombia is heavily Santified and in large part falls under the influence of his family, and Juan Manuel is probably not too keen to see the Green Party and its people pick up an opposition mantle that is presently lying over a puddle in the road. It all seems such a shame, such a deception. Perhaps Mokus is right when he says that decisions must be timely but not hasty. Perhaps under Garzón the Party will be able to shake off the slightly Wizard of Ozzish image it has recently acquired. Perhaps by the time of the municipal elections in 2011 the Greens will be able to take on the role that so many hoped they would. Perhaps I won’t have to write any more articles like this. That would be nice.
A final anecdote: one that in other circumstances might be considered hilarious, but in the present situation strikes a somewhat sadder, although quite telling, note. The writer cum political analyst Daniel Samper Pizano, brother of ex President Samper and columnist for El Tiempo, tells that Antanas Mokus was to have attended a recent international meeting of Green Parties in Europe, but unpacked his bags on learning that most of them were full of environmentalists and left wingers.[iv]
[i] And without wanting to ignore in any way the very serious problems of poverty and violence the city suffers from.
[ii] Judging from the banners most of the marchers were from rural areas and while no literature or information was available about the organizers, or the demands, the mere size of the march, and its open hostility to Santos/Uribe was impressive. The march must have been at least ten thousand strong, but did not receive major coverage. El Tiempo mainly commented on accusations of damage created by the marchers, although this observer saw no violence. The march was in fact heavily patrolled by its own marshals.
[iii] The election was marked by extremely high levels abstention. In the first round only 42.9% voted, while in the second 44.41%. However, this is not a record. For example, when Ernesto Samper was elected in 1994 only 34% of the voting population found their way to the booth.
Health Care Activists Lament Single-Payer Snub May 30, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: ama, baucus 13, california nurses, green party, health, health care, health care reform, health insurance, health insurance industry, health system, healthcare, insurance industry, max baucus, medicare, national health plan, National Health Program, obama administration, pelosi, pharmaceutical industry, private health insurance, progressive democrats, reform, roger hollander, russell mokhiber, senage finance, single payer, single payer action, single payer now, universal health care, universal healthcare, victoria colliver
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Frustrated by the exclusion of government-financed medical care from the debate to revamp the nation’s troubled health system, advocates of a “single-payer” plan are increasingly turning to demonstrations and civil disobedience as a way to get their message across.
During Senate Finance Committee hearings May 5 and 12 on health reform, 13 doctors, nurses, lawyers and activists stood up to complain that no single-payer proponent had been invited to take part and were arrested for disrupting the proceedings.On Friday in San Francisco, about 200 single-payer proponents held a rally in front of the Federal Building and headed in small groups to Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office to urge the speaker of the House, who was in China, to back single-payer legislation and give its supporters a seat at the table of the health reform debate. The public appeals were part of a series of demonstrations being held in more than 50 U.S. cities over the next few days to encourage lawmakers to enact a single-payer plan.
Some advocates of a nationalized health plan are calling for activists to become even more militant.
“It’s the only way – direct confrontation with the people who are blocking what the majority of the American people want,” said Russell Mokhiber, the founder of the newly formed Single Payer Action.
“It’s about getting in people’s faces and being serious about the fact that 60 Americans are dying every day because of lack of health insurance,” said Mokhiber, who was arrested at the May 5 hearing and arraigned earlier this week in Washington.
Single payer unlikely
Reforming health care has become a focus of the Obama administration, with the president urging Congress to get legislation to his desk by the end of the year that would cover most of the nation’s 47 million uninsured. Whether that will happen remains to be seen, but whatever Congress passes is not likely to come in the form of a single-payer plan.
In a single-payer system, as envisioned by most advocates, the federal government would pay for basic medical care delivered by public and private health professionals. The money would come from taxes, and medical bills would go directly to a government insurance plan, similar to Medicare.
President Obama and lawmakers have proposed a form of “single-payer lite” – a government-administered plan people could buy into as an alternative to purchasing an individual policy offered by insurers. But single-payer supporters say this option doesn’t go far enough. They want private insurers completely out of the business of covering basic care, which they say could save nearly 30 percent in administrative costs.
That’s clearly not something the health insurance industry supports. Many of the nation’s largest insurers prefer a form of “universal” health care that would cover all Americans, while keeping them in business. They tend to avoid discussing the single-payer option largely because it hasn’t been included in the national debate.
Some statistics show the single-payer concept has grown in popularity as problems in the nation’s health care system have worsened. A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in January found 59 percent of the 1,112 people surveyed said they supported government-provided national health insurance.
Several groups, including the California Nurses Association and Physicians for a National Health Program, call for a single-payer option. While not supported by the American Medical Association, a nationalized health system got the backing of 59 percent of physicians in a poll published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The California Legislature has twice passed a state-level single-payer bill – in 2006 and 2008 – making it the first state to do so, but both times the effort was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The legislation, authored by former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, has been reintroduced as by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. Leno’s version is expected to meet the same fate as its predecessors.
Still, single payer has been largely dismissed from serious discussion on the national level as politically infeasible.
“It’s off the table in Washington because of the politics,” said Laurence Baker, associate professor of health research and policy at Stanford University.
Health insurers and drugmakers have contributed millions of dollars to members of Congress. One of the top recipients of that money, said Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group based in Santa Monica, was Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who was running the hearings when the arrests took place this month. He accepted $413,000 in drug and health insurance campaign contributions during that time.
Many single-payer supporters interpret the resistance to the single-payer idea to be simply the result of a formidable lobbying effort by the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but Stanford’s Baker said the hurdles are more nuanced.
Distrust for government
Americans are clearly frustrated by the health care system. While some polls indicate that a majority of Americans favor single payer, some polls show a distrust of government’s ability to take over health care, he said. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in April, just 35 percent of those surveyed expressed support for a government-run health system like Medicare.
As the debate continues, single-payer supporters have clearly ramped up their activity and tactics. The 50 demonstrations have been organized by a variety of groups including Healthcare-NOW!, Progressive Democrats of America and the Green Party.
But not all single-payer groups promote civil disobedience as a way to draw attention to the cause. Don Bechler, chairman and founder of Single Payer Now, a statewide advocacy group in San Francisco that helped organize the demonstrations, said he is more interested in drawing in more supporters than seeing people get arrested.
California nurse DeAnn McEwen didn’t set out to become one of the “Baucus 13,” the 13 arrested at the Senate Finance Committee hearings. She happened to be in Washington for a nurses’ union organizing committee meeting when she learned about the hearings.
McEwen, of Long Beach, a nurse for 35 years, said she felt compelled to speak out about the lack of a single-payer voice at the table.
“At that point, I felt I couldn’t be silent anymore because it was like I was seeing a gag, a hand covering the mouth of a victim,” McEwen said. “There’s therapy for the broken health care system, and any other reform that includes the insurance companies is not going to get us where we need to go in terms of providing equitable and fair coverage.”
Health care proposals
A number of health policy proposals are under consideration as lawmakers work to overhaul the nation’s health care system, but a proposal to have the government pay exclusively for basic health care has largely been left out of the discussions. Here are some of the ideas on the table:
Public plan: Create a government-financed purchasing pool or “exchange” – one that people could buy as an alternative to individual health policies offered by private insurers.
Individual mandate: Require individuals to get health insurance through an employer, the government or on their own. In exchange, insurers would have to stop discriminating against people with medical problems.
New taxes: Tax job-based health insurance benefits, a controversial option that proponents say could help pay for the overhaul estimated to cost some $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Other taxes would come from hikes on alcohol, tobacco and soda.
Reduce health costs: Improve efficiency in the delivery system by upgrading technologies, increasing the availability of generic medications, realigning provider payments to reward quality of care rather than just quantity, and funding efforts to figure out which medical treatments work best.
© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.
Heroin Legalization Program Approved By Swiss Voters December 1, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Political Commentary.
Tags: alcohol, cannabis, decriminalization, drug addiction, drug decriminalization, drugs, green party, health insurance, heroin, legalization, marijuana, narcotics, public health, roger hollander, substance abuse, switzerland
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Alexander G. Higgins, Huffington Post
November 30, 2008
GENEVA — The world’s most comprehensive legalized heroin program became permanent Sunday with overwhelming approval from Swiss voters who simultaneously rejected the decriminalization of marijuana.
The heroin program, started in 1994, is offered in 23 centers across Switzerland. It has helped eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks that marred Swiss cities in the 1980s and 1990s and is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.
The nearly 1,300 selected addicts, who have been unhelped by other therapies, visit one of the centers twice a day to receive the carefully measured dose of heroin produced by a government-approved laboratory.
They keep their paraphernalia in cups labeled with their names and use the equipment and clean needles to inject themselves _ four at a time _ under the supervision of a nurse, and also receive counseling from psychiatrists and social workers.
The aim is to help the addicts learn how to function in society.
The United States and the U.N. narcotics board have criticized the program as potentially fueling drug abuse, but it has attracted attention from governments as far away as Australia and Canada, which in recent years have started or are considering their own programs modeled on the system.
The Netherlands started a smaller program in 2006, and it serves nearly 600 patients. Britain has allowed individual doctors to prescribe heroin since the 1920s, but it has been running trials similar to the Swiss approach in recent years. Belgium, Germany, Spain and Canada have been running trial programs too.
Sixty-eight percent of the 2.26 million Swiss voters casting ballots approved making the heroin program permanent.
By contrast, around 63.2 percent of voters voted against the marijuana proposal, which was based on a separate citizens’ initiative to decriminalize the consumption of marijuana and growing the plant for personal use.
Olivier Borer, 35, a musician from the northern town of Solothurn, said he welcomed the outcome in part because state action was required to help heroin addicts, but he said legalizing marijuana was a bad idea.
“I think it’s very important to help these people, but not to facilitate the using of drugs,” Borer said. “You can just see in the Netherlands how it’s going. People just go there to smoke.”
Sabina Geissbuehler-Strupler of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, which led the campaign against the heroin program, said she was disappointed in the vote.
“That is only damage limitation,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of the addicts are not healed from the addiction.”
Health insurance pays for the bulk of the program, which costs 26 million Swiss francs ($22 million) a year. All residents in Switzerland, which has a population of 7.5 million, are required to have health insurance, with the government paying insurance premiums for those who cannot afford it.
Parliament approved the heroin measure in a revision of Switzerland’s narcotics law in March, but conservatives challenged the decision and forced a national referendum under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.
Jo Lang, a Green Party member of parliament from the central city of Zug, said he was disappointed in the failure of the marijuana measure because it means 600,000 people in Switzerland will be treated as criminals because they use cannabis.
“People have died from alcohol and heroin, but not from cannabis,” Lang said.
The government, which opposed the marijuana proposal, said it feared that liberalizing cannabis could cause problems with neighboring countries.
On a separate issue, 52 percent of voters approved an initiative to eliminate the statute of limitations on pornographic crimes against children before the age of puberty.
The current Swiss statute of limitations on prosecuting pedophile pornography is 15 years. The initiative will result in a change in the constitution to remove that time limit.