Thursday, June 30, 2005

*Clunk!* - Another Brick Falls Into Place

Watching the US establish a case for invading Iran is fascinating, rather - kind of like watching a child playing "tetris" with Lego bricks.

Today, what comes bubbling to the surface, but the allegation that Iran's newly elected President is one of the 1979 Hostage Takers.

Right now, the Americans are being coy about how they will respond, saying only that "an investigation is in progress". However, if assertions used to justify invading Iraq are valid, then it seems to me quite reasonable that we will soon see Rumsfeld, or Rice standing up and accusing Iran's president of not only aiding and abetting terrorists, but of in fact having been one himself.

Alberta - Dinosaur Country

Alberta is home to some of the most spectacular fossil sites in the world - whether it is Drumheller and the Badlands, the Burgess Shale or the Legislature buildings in Edmonton.

Mere hours after the House of Commons passed third reading of Bill C-38, a group of MLAs holds a huddle in Edmonton to figure out how to "get around" bill C-38. At the center of it all, we find MLA Ted "Firewall" Morton.

According to Mr. Morton:

Foothills-Rocky View MLA Ted Morton says if the province doesn't fight the legislation, homosexuality will creep into the mainstream and those that don't agree will be discriminated against.
"If gay marriage has full support of both federal and provincial law, it would be very difficult, for example, for a teacher at a high school or junior high to refuse to teach this as part of the curriculum that presents this as normal," Ted Morton said.


Once again the hysterical illogic comes bubbling to the surface - faster than Jed's Crude in the Beverly Hillbillies. Next, Mr. Morton will be spouting that there is a conspiracy of homosexuals to recruit your children. (Which is pure nonsense)

Lessee - basically Morton's all afraid that his right to marginalize a minority group because of his religious beliefs is going to be lost. I realize, and respect, the fact that a lot of religions have strong sanctions against homosexuality. That's fine and dandy - freedom of belief doesn't extend - in my view - to the right to treat other people as "lesser" members of society because you don't like their romantic attachments.

Claiming that something is a "moral choice" repeatedly doesn't make it so. I can argue that the sun revolves around the earth until I'm blue in the face - the fact is no matter how fervently I believe it, will not change the reality of the universe.

Even if Alberta were to cease issuing "marriage licenses", and only issued "civil union licenses" (or whatever they call them), it doesn't change the reality of same-gender marriages happening - whether the government wishes to admit it or not. There are same-gender couples that are as committed as any mixed-gender couple already out there; several churches - notably the United Church of Canada and the Unitarian Church of Canada have already stated a willingness to marry same-gender couples. So even in Mr. Morton's fantasy world, there will be same-gender couples.

Of course, in Alberta, minority rights have always required someone to drag the government through the court system. Whether it was Vriend who dragged the province through the courts to reaffirm his right _not_ to be fired because of his romantic preferences or granting of family treatment to same-gender families in the health system.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Vote Is Over ...

Last night, Bill C-38 passed through the House of Commons.

The vote was relatively close (158-133) - although the margin was actually quite a bit wider than I had anticipated. I was happy to see more than a 1 seat difference in the vote as we had with the first Budget bill.

The version that the committee process returned to the house substantially expanded the wording of intent in section 3 of the document to reinforce and clarify the role of Charter Section 2 freedoms with respect to the notion of Civil Marriage.

While I'm hardly fool enough to believe that the debate will go away overnight, I hope that we can have a few weeks of relative peace and quiet while Parliament is recessed for the summer. Summer is a short season in much of Canada, and I sense a degree of exhaustion both in the public and our politicians.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Misconceptions and Ignorance - The Underpinnings of Intolerance

Two of the more vocal opponents of same-gender-marriage (SGM) have taken one last swing at the topic just before the last debates and voting on bill C-38 take place. Of whom do I speak? No, not Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney or Rob Anders. I speak of the Sun Newspapers' Bishop Fred Henry, and Ted Byfield.

I'll give Bishop Henry a modicum of credit - he's at least attempting to enumerate the nature of the "harm" that he believes that SGM will do to society. In a nutshell, his argument boils down to the notion that children's rights to a stable, identifiable family will be violated. Of course, the Bishop's reasoning is predicated, as it has always been on the "potential" to have children. In today's diverse world, there are a plethora of ways that a couple may come to have children - whether it is a result of sexual intercourse, adoption or surrogate parents. I won't go into the number of Same Gender couples I know of where one member or the other has offspring as a result of some past relationship.

The tragedy of that past relationship isn't that it failed, but rather that societial pressures are often the reason the homosexual person entered into it in the first place.

Of course, Bishop Henry goes on to argue
"Given that stable and exclusive homosexual coupling is the exception rather than the norm, to connect homosexual coupling with children's welfare or with a stable environment for children is nothing if not dishonest."


I find it sad that the Bishop's own sense of intellectual honesty doesn't allow him to recognize the fact that heterosexual couples can be just as unstable as any other. Affairs happen all the time; abusive couples happen; spouses walk out on their partners for a myriad of reasons. When the statistics show that nearly 50% of all marriages end before the vows of "'til death do us part" expire, it's damnably difficult to argue that heterosexual couples are inherently stable. (and goodness knows, I've seen enough "stable" marriages that were so screwed up that any offspring were going to be seriously troubled as adults - and they have been!)

Sadly, the Bishop goes on to make the following statements:

Even if we concede that the social-science evidence is sometimes ambiguous, we know that two parents are better for children than one.

Families with both mothers and fathers are generally better for children than those with only mothers or only fathers. Biological parents usually protect and provide for their children more effectively than non-biological ones.


I'd love to know where he gets his "facts" from. So far, he's making a lot of very bold assertions, but he has yet to put forth any kind of credible evidence to reinforce them. (Whether there is any clear evidence is debatable - the number of homosexuals raising children is a small fraction of a small population. Making any kind of meaningful population study would be extremely difficult. The evidence I have been able to track down is mostly anecdotal in nature, but suggests that the outcomes for children raised by same-gender couples are little different than those of heterosexual couples.

Of course, while Bishop Henry at least attempts to be reasoned - if sadly underinformed - Ted Byfield continues to show the knuckle-dragging narrow-mindedness of someone whose mind has long ago closed to any new information.

First, he dredges up the saw used repeatedly about how the bill constrains religious freedoms:

Nothing in it will interfere with freedom of speech, they say, or with the rights of churches to refuse to marry gays, or the rights of Christian schools to teach the biblical injunctions against the practice of homosexuality, or the right of churches to read passages from Scripture condemning homosexual activity.


Yes Ted, allowing the gay couple down the street to be legally recognized as a married couple really affects your religion. Uh-huh. I agree that there will no doubt be a number of challenges along these lines that Churches will encounter in the coming years. However, given the fact that the Roman Catholic Church's stance on ordination of women has been left alone by the courts of the land, I would tend to suspect that other teachings of churches would go similarly unchallenged. Of course, there might be some question of the boundaries. Is it legitimate for the clergy to exhort their congregations to "go roll a queer"? Or might that constitute active promotion of hatred, violence and persecution?

In other words, it is no longer a court at all. It is now an unelected legislature, its members specifically chosen to create laws fulfilling an ideological agenda that could not possibly gain the approval of an elected Parliament.


WTF? Where did this bit of illogic come from. Oh waitasec - it's the "Judicial Activism" bogeyman. Congratulations Ted, you've demonstrated yet again that your ability to read something as relatively simple as the Charter of Rights is nonexistant. Go read the document, and think on it for a while. (If necessary, try a simpler read - like "See spot run", first) You might just figure out that the Supreme Court has been doing precisely what they are mandated to do - interpret the laws of the land. I have seen rulings I disagree with, but I can usually figure out the basis from which they are derived - which is better than I can do with your reasoning.

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has been twice cited in complaints registered with the Alberta Human Rights Commission for daring to inform the faithful of the church's position on homosexual practices. If the case proceeds, it will undoubtedly wind up in the Supreme Court where the outcome is a foregone conclusion.


The cases involving Bishop Henry's so-called Pastoral Letters (which he has used every other means available to him to broadcast outside of the church) have yet to be considered. You do both the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal and the court system of this nation a disservice by presupposing what the findings will be.

Soon any church caught teaching Christian sexual morality, or urging its members to oppose sodomy-endorsing politicians, will be accused of getting into politics and its tax exemption status will be challenged.


Ah - now the truth comes out. As usual, the problem is the ill-informed notion that homosexual males are out to sodomize anything that moves. A gay man I met once said "I just want to shake your hand, not fuck you". Get real Ted - you can't tell me that your own marriage is based entirely on your sexual relationship with your wife. (Or, if it is, I'm amazed that you're still married - few women I can think of spend their lives focusing on sex)

Meanwhile, lesbian couples will have been allowed to adopt children. Would it not be vicious discrimination to deny them such a right? It certainly would, the court will rule.

And since gay women have that right, surely gay men should be allowed to adopt little boys. How can the court say no?


Uh-huh. Once again, Ted is completely, and irrationally focused on the sexual act. My God, last time I saw someone so obsessed with sex, it was when someone tried to pick me up in the Devonian Gardens back when I was in High School (at least the poor sod had the grace to be as embaressed as I was). Of course, Ted can't possibly leave out a chance to equate homosexuality with pedophilia. (We won't go into the infamous Pedophile Priests, and the complicity of the Church organizations in covering up their activities, will we?)

Yes, Ted. Allowing gays to marry will cause the earth to stop spinning and the sun to stop shining.

If Bill C-38 does anything, it puts one more nail in the coffin of dinosaurs whose sole purpose in life seems to be finding an excuse to persecute someone for being honest with themselves about who they are and who they love. This was a coffin that started being built when King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta - it has already taken a millenium to get to this point - it will take millenia yet to finish the work begun a thousand years ago.

As long as the orphan twins of Misconception and Ignorance continue to roam this planet, there will always be people whose right to full participation in the world need to be protected and fought for.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Good Grief!

Can the Conservatives say anything without putting both feet in their mouths? This evening, we are treated to the brilliant Stephen Harper complaining that since the Bloc Quebecois is backing bill C-38, it will be "illegitimate".

What kind of idiotic logic is that? The fact that the BQ backs the separatist movement in Quebec doesn't somehow render their votes in the house "illegitimate". The voters of Quebec legally appointed the BQ members as their representatives in Ottawa. Since Mr. Harper saw fit to ally his Conservative party with the Bloc back in March - when he thought he could bring down the Liberal government on the budget bills, it seems just a tad hypocritical to complain when the Bloc allies itself with the Liberals.

I realize that politics is riddle with contradictions, and I don't have any expectation that Mr. Harper - or any other politician be slavishly consistent, Harper has got to learn when to hold his tongue. It seems that every time this man opens his mouth, he inserts both feet. I used to reserve the designation of party twit for Jason Kenney and Rob Anders - two of the most useless MPs on the face of the planet. Apparently Harper's taking his cues from their playbook.

Harper's comments that the bill will lack "legitimacy" in the eyes of most Canadians because separatist MPs are backing it has once again dashed any chance of Conservative gains in Quebec in a new election. Even anglophone Quebeckers will be offended by this belittling attitude. Not only has Harper sunk into the politics of regional rivalry, he will have confirmed in the minds of Canadians that his party has no interest in representing all of Canada. In alienating Quebec voters in such denigrating terms, Harper has painted the Conservative Party into a corner. The only way that they will ever form a government is with major gains in Ontario.

How he can argue that votes from Bloc MPs are worth less than those of other MPs in this case, while he would have been crowing over his victory had his own alliance with the Bloc in the spring actually succeeded in bringing down the government is beyond me. Surely he can't believe that Canadians are so dense as to miss the non-sequitur.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Ready The Wagons! Tehran Ho!

More or less right on schedule, BushCo. is setting the stage for a future invasion of Iran.

First, is Rumsfeld's comment that the Iraqis could be fighting the insurgency for years to come. There's two points of interest here - first he refers to Iraqi security forces, not American military; second, he is implying that American involvement in Iraq will wind up.

Second, we have Rumsfeld apparently involved in some kind of negotiations with the leaders of the insurgency. (Hmmm...I see - perhaps the BushCo. is finally recognizing that they can no more bring peace to Iraq than I can stop the Bow River from flowing.)

Third, we have Rumsfeld (Who elected him president??) slamming recent elections in Iran. In that same article, the American position on the elections is echoed by Israel, along with a resurrection of ongoing charges of a "nuclear weapons program" in Iran.

Looking back at the run-up to invading Iraq, we had BushCo repeatedly accusing Saddam Hussein of having "WMDs" - as well as the capability to deliver them. Hmmm...even if Iran has a nuclear weapons program, we should be at least a little cynical about the constant harping about the topic in the last six months or so.

Add to this, the fact that the Pentagon has been rebuilding old Soviet-era bases in Afghanistan (surely you hadn't forgotten the Americans also have troops there???), with two of the bases suspiciously close to the Iranian border - certainly within strike range for short range craft to sneak in below radar tracking capability.

Of course, people will raise the point that US forces are already over stretched, and demoralized. I doubt that BushCo. care about this - their backers, fervent militarists beyond doubt will begin applying pressure to Congress and the Senate to renew the US Military Draft. Yes, it will be a low morale army, but it will have the raw manpower to add one more front to the growing American Empire.

Why would BushCo want to invade Iran? I can think of several reasons - Republican egos are still smarting from the beating they took in 1979; Control over Iran gives the Americans the effective ability to render null and void major resource and technology deals between Iran and China. The last point is the home front - where a third war may well not play well at all.

A third war is going to send more American youth back in pine boxes - not something that will play well. In one sense, the Republicans may be preparing to commit political hari-kari - lose the next election by prosecuting a war that many Americans will not want. But, once started will be virtually impossible for a Democrat to pull out of - America likes to believe itself invincible, and any president that calls that into question will pay the price at the next election - paving the way for another Republican victory. (Quite likely, actually, especially with the Democrats in something of a shambles lately)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Intriguing...

Last night, the Liberals organized an alliance with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois to get the Bill C-48 amendment to the federal budget through. Basically, they got the NDP and Bloc to agree that the Conservatives were being 'obstructionist' in regards to this bill.

Sure enough, the Conservatives squawked about the deal (which strikes me as very much a well-organized ambush in many dimensions):

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who was forced to rush back, blasted the three-way alliance.

"When push comes to shove, the Liberals will make any deal with anybody," Harper said after the vote. "And it doesn't matter whether it's with the socialists or with the separatists or any bunch of crooks they can find. That's how they govern the country."

Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay also expressed his outrage over the political manoeuvring.

"It's a very sour end to an acrimonious and bitter session and does not bode well for the future workings of Parliament. If this is the kind of diabolical, sneaky, treacherous, behind-the-scenes activities that are going to go on..."


Okay - the Conservatives were caught off-guard. It wasn't dirty pool - it was pretty ordinary politics. Under Brian Mulroney, the Conservatives invoked closure more times than most care to count. (To the howls of protest from the opposition Liberals at the time) It's notable that to this point, the Conservatives have had the Bloc "on their side" in the house. I don't know what changed, but it's a hint as to how well the Conservatives are adapting to the thrust and parry of deal-making in a minority parliament.

The blogosphere is surprisingly quiet about last night's budget vote. Conservative blogs seem to be more worried about comedian Rick Mercer's recent skewering of Jason Kenney. Apparently they don't like the idea that "www.jasonkenney.org" happens to point to Egale Canada's website (it previously pointed to the Marxist-Leninist Party website).

Of course, Mercer did this after Jason Kenney lectured Don Boudria over domain names when a religious conservative group acquired "www.donboudria.ca" to use in their campaign against same gender marriage.

Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

Personally I think it's hilarious. It surprises me how humourless the Conservative party's supporters have become. Suddenly Mercer is "unoriginal", "unfunny" and "partisan". Even Jason Kenney seems to have taken the jibe in stride - an article in the Calgary Sun quoted him as saying he thought the joke was "hilarious".

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Offended By a Flag?

Earlier this week, I could scarcely believe what I was reading when I read Michael Platt's column in the Calgary Sun.

Apparently someone from Concerned Christians Canada, Inc. got Mr. Platt's ear after the Gay Pride parade on June 12. Their complaint? It seems that city crews hadn't removed the Rainbow Flags from light standards on 17th Avenue fast enough to suit them.

It seems that the moral and religious sensibilities of these people are offended by the presence of a brightly coloured, multi-striped flag. Says columnist Platt:

If the CCC doesn't like it, they can simply stay away from 17 Ave. for the few hours it takes to hold a parade. But to fly gay pride flags on a public street, using public property as a flagpole, is reprehensible.

Whether you agree with the ideals of the CCC or not, they are still citizens of Calgary, with a right to their opinions, and a right not to feel uncomfortable in their own city. These flags fly directly in the face of that basic right. Put it this way. If a Christian fundamentalist group was allowed to fly flags from city property, I would be equally offended.


The man's been hoodwinked by the CCC and their malice-filled agenda. First of all, there are church symbols all over this city on city property. I drive past no less than three permanent signs directing me to one church or another every day on my commute, and that doesn't account for the half a dozen or so "sandwich board" signs that appear on boulevards every Sunday morning.

Using his tautology, the Calgary Stampede and Spruce Meadows shouldn't have the right to post their flags and signage on light standards and overpasses for weeks on either side of those events. After all, there are lots of people who are morally offended by the kind of treatment of animals that these events represent.

Mr. Platt should have gone and done his research a bit more thoroughly before writing his June 19 column. First, their web site quite prominently puts this press release out - proclaiming their "moral outrage" over the proclamation of "Pride Month". This press release goes on to make the following threat to Mayor Bronconnier and Alderman Diane Colley-Urqhart:

he has also been the first Mayor in Calgary to give any proclamation for Gay Pride. Mr. Bronconnier has been giving Calgarians many reasons not to re-elect him, but now he has awoken the moral majority in Calgary and we will organize for his defeat"
...
Concerned Christians Canada Inc., has never organized the support of candidates at the municipal level but are vowing to insure the defeat of Mayor Bornconnier and Alderman Diane Colley Urquhart next civic election in Alberta.


The assertion that CCC has "never organized ..." is only superficially true. Key players behind CCC such as Craig Chandler are also key players in the group "PGIB" - a group which brags quite openly about its political involvement in getting Alderman Ric McIver elected. I wasn't impressed with their campaign tactics then, and I haven't been impressed with Ric "Dr. No" McIver as an alderman. He comes across to me as the civic equivalent of Jason Kenney - full of his own self-importance, and unwilling to listen to constituents. Nobody I know that has had him for alderman has said anything very positive about his work.

Via PGIB, Craig Chandler advertises his own political organization - as well as his mass marketing (you know - junk faxes (paper SPAM)) services. Since Chandler's name turns up all over the place on CCC's website, one would have to imagine that the two organizations are at least tacitly associated with each other.

As for the flags - get over it. It takes city crews a few days either side of an event to put flags up, or take them down. If you hang out near 17th Ave for any length of time, you quickly figure out that there is a sizable fraction of the GLBT community living there. If that is offensive, don't go there - you're just looking for an excuse to be offended if you do. CCC was looking for an excuse to complain - Platt's column was published on June 19, 2005 - a total of 7 days after the parade. Assuming he had to complete the article (plus edits) by June 18, and it probably took a day or two to get the article written and approved, that means he started writing it around the 16th. Assuming he started writing the day CCC contacted him, that means the city crews had a less than 4 days to get the flags down. Get real!

The Rainbow Flag is something the gay rights movement adopted. It actually represents many of the principles that the Christianity _I_ understand reflects. I have no idea where the narrow-minded, nasty, hostile form that CCC's leadership espouses comes from, but it is the kind of blind absolutism that I want no part of.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Harper's Biggest Liability

Is not his image, but his supporters.

I don't even mean Conservative Party members per se. No, I speak of the near http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifhysterical paranoia that many CPC supporters seem to have regarding the media and its treatment of Stephen Harper.

A brief tour through parts of the Conservative "blogosphere" is really quite revealing. There are entries galore lately ranting about how the media is engaging in a character assassination of Stephen Harper. Postings from Western Canadians go so far as to attempt to resurrecting the tensions that existed between Western Canada and Central Canada in the waning years of Trudeau's tenure as Prime Minister.

I will accept that media which is based out of Toronto (CBC's national news, The Globe and Mail, The National Post) are going to reflect a Toronto-centric perspective on things to some degree.

This is borne out by the equally Calgary-centric view that The Calgary Sun and The Calgary Herald present. While I do expect the CBC and its ilk to stand to a higher standard, I cannot expect them to preside over the news with near-judicial impartiality.

However, what I see in parts of the blogosphere borders on a near-hysterical ranting that Central Canada's out to "get" Harper. They routinely point to articles that paint Harper in a less than favourable light, interview comments and questions that they deem to be 'sneering' or condescending in tone. (Apparently not sufficiently "respectful" enough of Harper's enlightened genius, I guess) A psychiatrist would probably diagnose these people as paranoid, or at least suffering from a persecution complex of some sort, given the hysterical tone of their rantings.

Lately, I'd be hard pressed to say that the media is 'out to get Harper' so much as Harper is out to shoot himself in the foot. He has been handed opportunity after opportunity to seriously damage the Liberal government, and he and his party have succeeded only in shooting themselves in the foot. (The Grewal Tapes Affair, Harper's 'double-about-face' on the budget, the childish handling of Stronach's defection...among others) A reporter would be hard pressed to sound overly positive towards Harper lately - and his dour, taciturn expression doesn't help matters either.

I think it's actually very much to Harper's credit that he is setting out this summer to perform an 'image makeover'. I'm skeptical about how well it will play outside of Alberta, but at least he has recognized that his demeanor hasn't been playing all that well outside of his core constituency.

From what I've seen, the Conservatives have suffered for a couple years from some very bad listening skills. First, the so-called "grass roots" model for policy direction has left Canadians feeling ill-at-ease with a party whose internal factions squabble so publicly. Even if the policy goes in on direction on election day, nobody is sure that some ongoing squabble isn't going to change it. The party has been fishing for favour for so long that nobody's sure just what it represents any more.

Second, party leadership doesn't seem willing to look beyond its core support and listen to what other groups are saying. The deafening silence of MP Jason Kenney's office to any attempt to contact the MP on constituency business is a not-so-subtle hint in this regard. Even my "died-in-the-wool Conservative" neighbor has been met with a wall of silence from Kenney's office.

With a history of "loose lips" in the party, with both candidates and party members saying things that can only be called "ill-advised", it's awful difficult for voters to believe anything the party claims to believe. I don't expect the party to be a monolith of opinion, but rather to have enough collective wisdom to realize that there are times to grit your teeth and move forward with a united platform.

Oddly, if Harper isn't careful, he's going to find his best efforts undone in the blogosphere, where it seems that even those who support the party do so in ways that reinforce the widespread unease which the party is held in.

The party will only develop trust among an uneasy electorate if it can establish a sense of consistency in policy, and an openness to approach from the electorate. A wall of silence is essentially a closed door, and it makes the party appear to be populated by single-minded ideologues whose sole interest is in imposing their idea of political utopia upon the voters of this nation.

Harper's summer BBQ circuit run will be scrutinized like no other before it. Unsurprising since he leads the party that is officially supposed to be the 'government-in-waiting', and is probably seen as even less trustworthy than Brian Mulroney was at the end of his second term. (Or Marc Lalonde at the end of the Trudeau era, for that matter) I wish him well, but it will be a long, hot summer for Mr. Harper - one that an ant under a magnifying glass wouldn't envy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Freedom of Religion

Lately, there has been a great deal of hand-wringing on the part of the religious communities over the impact of Bill C-38 on Freedom of Religion.

After reading Bishop Henry's latest missive on the subject, as published in the Calgary Sun, I thought I'd do a little exploration of the topic of religious freedom and what it means in a country like Canada.

I once read a quip from an American commentator about freedoms: "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose".

It's not a very complex statement, but it does point out a couple things about individual rights and freedoms - they are bounded by the rights and freedoms of others. For example, a neo-Nazi in Canada is perfectly free to believe that there is a zionist conspiracy to take control of the world's financial structures. Nobody can stop that person from bearing that belief. They may even claim that their beliefs are protected under Section 2(a) of the Charter since they belong to one of the "Aryan Churches".

Up to this point, I see no problem with any of this. Our hypothetical character has done nothing beyond belonging to a particular faith, and adopting the beliefs of that faith. However, should this person begin to agitate that Jewish people should be treated differently under the law because of this person's religious beliefs, we run smack into several chunks of foundation law in Canada.

First, we run into section 15(1) of the Charter, which reads:

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.


In other words, our hypothetical Neo-Nazi's faith is bounded by this equality clause, which not only guarantees him the right to his beliefs, but also guarantees the rights of the minority group he wishes to suppress.

Ah, but Judaism is a recognized faith, and further Jewish peoples are a recognizable and relatively visible ethnic group you say. Therefore, my argument is spurious relative to Bishop Henry's objections to Same-Gender-Marriage (SGM) and Bill C-38.

Not quite. Take a close look at the sentence structure used in section 15(1). This sets out a key boundary relative to other aspects of the legal rights and freedoms - that of individual equality, especially with regards to the law. Please note that the wording around the non-discrimination list is quite broad, leaving it open to reading in societal groups not explicitly listed. Once again, homosexuals or other "invisible" minorities can be read into the protection inclusively. There is considerable legal precedent for doing so in a number of significant cases in Canada that have forced governments to change laws as a result.

Having established the fact that freedom of religion is inherently bound with the individual, how does a church protect itself before the courts? First of all, the rights of the individual clergy are clearly protected under the bindings of section 2 of the charter. There is no clear way that I can see that a member of the clergy (or anyone else) can be compelled in law to solemnize a same-gender-union if they do not wish to. (Inevitably, there will be a few lawsuits on this matter, I'm sure - but they will be doomed to failure) This leaves the matter of a church organization being forced to allow what they believe to be a profane act to take place on sanctified premises. (Assuming, of course, that the couple can find an agreeable member of the clergy to perform the ceremony)

There are two reasons I do not think this is a real problem. First, is the fact that nobody has successfully challenged the Roman Catholic Church's position with respect to the ordination of women. The position taken has been that this is a matter of church doctrine, and therefore protected. Second, are the protections granted under the notion of 'freedom of association'. If one views a church as a social group - an association for legal purposes, it would be difficult indeed to make a compelling argument that this group should be forced to allow a profane act on their premises. (Again, it is likely that legal challenges of this nature will arise, I am asserting that such a challenge is doomed to failure)

Fundamentally, there is nothing about bill C-38 that actually attacks either freedom of religion, freedom of association or freedom of expression. It opens the probability of a few short-lived lawsuits, but that's about it. What Bishop Henry and other religious leaders need to wrap their allegedly rational minds around is that the issue for them is not around same-gender-marriage, but rather the question of just how far their right to spout misinformed positions about sexual minorities goes.

There is a repeated claim that legalizing same-gender-marriage will "harm society". Granted, this argument is trotted out every time society begins to grant rights to previously marginalized minorities. The question that Bishop Henry and others like him have failed to answer is "what is the nature of the harm?". I invite them to draw from the wellspring of history and show by example what kind of harm they foresee.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What is Canada ?

Or rather - what does it mean to be a Canadian?

Most of the nations of the world today were born out of either the ashes of conflict (for example, much of the Middle East after WW I) or revolution (e.g. the United States).

Canada was negotiated. The spirit of compromise resulted in the 1867 BNA act that created Canada as a discrete nation on the world map. Quite literally, Canada came into existance by agreement.

For Canadians, this creates a unique situation in the world. We cannot say that our nation was born out of an uprising to throw off the shackles of past masters; nor can we point to world events around us as defining moments in our emergence. Hence, it is very difficult indeed to articulate just what is Canada - or more specifically, what is a Canadian? - A reality that tends to seriously annoy neo-conservatives and others who seemingly admire the United States for its clarity of identity.

The fact is that the 1867 Constitution is fundamentally relativistic. It seeks to find a balance between a number of conflicting tensions of the day, and in doing so has very much set the tone for Canada ever since.

Look around the world stage at the role Canada plays - Canada seems to consistently wind up playing the role of moderator - like the electrons that jump between the orbits of various molecules, we constantly seek balance.

Essentially, Canada is inherently a creature of relativism. Our very legal foundations are quite relativistic, and the 1983 Constitution reflects that same issue in the domain of human and civil rights.

As a result, Canada winds up being the society that everyone sees aspects of themselves in, but nobody understands. We ultimately have defined ourselves by adopting the good bits from a plethora of sources. Does that make Canada undefined? No - merely difficult to articulate, rather like Einstein's Theory of Relativity - a simple concept, but damned difficult to understand the first time.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dick Cheney - Cogito, Ergo Spud

According to US VP Dick Cheney, the treatment of prisoners as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is perfectly acceptable.

So - let's see if I've got this straight:

1. These prisoners are held without charge and trial - essentially outside of the rule of law that the United States allegedly values so much.

2. These prisoners are held outside of the Geneva Conventions on Prisoners of War.

3. They are interrogated and abused on a regular basis by guards.

And Mr. Cheney claims "they are still treated with respect and dignity"?

Respect and dignity obliges the United States to either bring criminal charges against these people, or declare them Prisoners of War under the Geneva Convention. The United States is a signatory to that convention.

If the BushCo. want to claim that the US is in a time of war, then it is bound by the Geneva Conventions. Whether their "enemies" are or not is moot. To hold them in a legal vacuum is an abuse of the captives, and reduces the United States to the level of the very despots they claim to despise.

Between Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib,the United States has not shown itself to be a respectful keeper of prisoners in its "war on terror".

Sunday, June 12, 2005

An Intriguing Spin...

The Ottawa Citizen has an article about some lawsuits being raised to have churches lose their 'Charitable Organization' status with regards to taxation.

The reasoning behind the lawsuits seems to be an argument that these churches (at least some of them) are engaging in political lobby, not charitable works where their activities around the Same-Gender-Marriage debate are concerned.

In Calgary, Bishop Fred Henry has been among the most vocal opponents of Same-Gender-Marriage (SGM), and is now utilizing church resources to raise his defense before the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal.

The argument is very interesting. The churches will argue that in their advocacy against SGM, they are in fact engaging in a charitable act intended to better society. On the other side of the coin you have the argument that says that such activity is in fact political activism, and therefore should not be treated as "charitable".

If the lawsuits involved do anything, it is to further raise the tension between freedoms guaranteed in separate sections of the Charter of Rights in this nation. In one sense, I am sympathetic to the Churches - after all they have long held themselves to be the "shepherds" of society, and part of that ministry has traditionally been to act as a voice of conscience. On the other hand, I can understand why there would be considerable secular opposition to Churches acting as political lobby groups.

In the case of Bishop Henry, for example, his "pastoral letters" - ostensibly intended for distribution through the Church sermons on Sundays have also been published under the guise of his monthly column in the Calgary Sun newspaper. Now, while the letters themselves may be defensible within the context of the Church - and the sermon held in the church - when they are further propogated as columns in a local newspaper, one has to wonder if the Bishop has in fact stepped out of the realm of legitimate ministry and acts of charity, and is now acting as a political lobbyist.

Since I cannot start a lobby organization to support SGM, and have it declared a "charity" under Canada's tax laws, it does seem to stand to equal reason that when the Churches step into the discussion as political lobbyists that they are no longer acting as charitable organizations (in the sense that the income tax act stipulates).

Of course, the conservatives (especially the religious conservatives) will perceive this as a further attack on their religious freedoms. As I have argued many times before, this is not an attack on the freedom of religion, but rather seems to me to have a lot more to do with determining the boundaries between the various freedoms as established in the Charter.

In as much as the Roman Catholic Churches have not been challenged over their refusal to treat women as equals within the Church hierarchy in this country, it seems unlikely to me that any legal challenge to change the status of SGM within the church itself would go very far. That is to say, the rights of the Church, and its ministers, to refuse to marry a SGM couple would remain intact, protected under the Section 2 stipulation of freedom of conscience and belief. Remember, not even the Supreme Court could take away Section 2 for the individual clergy - only an act of Parliament invoking the NotWithStanding clause (section 33) - something that I would point out that _ONLY_ the Conservative Party has advocated invoking.

It may be that the current taxation regime is inadequate in its granting of 'charitable' / 'non-charitable' status to organizations on a polar basis. It could be that it is now necessary to further stipulate which activities a given donation will go to. For example, a donation to the Church (Charitable Entity) could only be used for legitimate charity causes. Donations for political action causes would have to be separately tagged and earmarked in the accounting.

The Importance of Small Omissions

Numerous commentators have stated that the bits excised from the Grewal Tapes are "irrelevant" and "moot", after all, the tapes still confirm the perfidy of the Liberals.

However, as this article from the Halifax Herald points out, it is important recognize that language is a subtle thing, and a few words omitted can radically change the meaning of a sentence. A simple example - "I cannot offer you a job" changes dramatically in meaning by dropping two syllables: "I offer you a job".

Now that the - alleged - complete Grewal Tapes are available, we can start considering the full context of the tapes and the conversations they contain. As a few analyses have shown already, the conversations are as damning to the Conservatives as they are to the Liberals.

However, voters must also consider the actions of those that acquired the tapes in the first place, and decide whether or not their actions represent the "honest, upright, moral" people that the Conservatives have long claimed to be.

As a voter, I'm perfectly aware that the Liberal Party is corrupt, or at the very least drunk on its ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. However, I cannot say that the lies and misdirection coming from Harper and his advisors makes me feel more comfortable with them. A recent poll on party leadership underscores that more Canadians feel this way than just me.

Reasonably, I'm willing to concede that the current release of the Grewal Tapes is likely to be authentic. While I think that the Liberals need to do some house cleaning, I will also assert that the Conservatives have an even bigger problem. Not only is the party's credibility now suspect, Harper himself is now visibly damaged as the leader. Not only has he publicly backed the actions of his MP, people in his party have clearly been lying about events. Not only must a house-cleaning take place in the party, but the party is also obliged to make its message something other than "The Liberals are Corrupt".

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Price of Lies

No big surprise, the most recent polls coming out today show that Canadian voters are not impressed by the Grewal Tapes affair.

The Conservatives have reverted to their Alliance days support - about 23% of decided voters (I'd have to guess that 80% of the 23% resides in Alberta...) - putting them at about the same level of support as the NDP. In all-important Ontario, Conservative support fell 26 points behind the Liberals - wiping out any of the gains they may have made in the last few years.

What does it mean? It means that the perception of a great many voters is similar to my own take on the Grewal Tapes affair - it was a badly stage-managed attempt to score a few cheap points.

Conservatives will argue that the tapes are now in the hands of RCMP investigators, and the story is not finished yet. Perhaps, but do you really think that voters want to hear any more about this sordid tale? Even if the RCMP lay criminal charges - an event I suspect is very unlikely - as soon as the charges are laid, the ability of anyone knowledgeable to speak publicly is drastically hampered.

I think the point out of this whole business is this - if you are going to try and "make a point" politically, your case has to be pretty transparent. As a result of AdScam, the people of this country are not willing to believe our politicians on their word any more. Mr. Harper, Mr. Mackay, and Mr. Grewal tried to attack by insinuation and innuendo, keeping their evidence private for too long. Big, big mistake.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My, Defensive Aren't They?

On CBC's "The Current" this morning, one of the key stories was about Nina Grewal, wife of Gurmant Grewal.

Mrs. Grewal has been notably invisible on Parliament Hill ever since the "Grewal Tapes" incident happened. Of course, any attempts to get Mrs. Grewal to agree to an interview have met a wall of silence. I'm not terribly surprised by this - it's hard to imagine that she isn't privy to a fair bit about her husband's intentions in making those now notorious tapes.

In an effort to get a sense of what kind of person she is, the CBC assembled quite a panel of people who have at least some exposure to her. These people ranged from constituents to a communications consultant for the Conservatives in BC, a couple of columnists from BC newspapers, and a former candidate that ran against Mrs. Grewal in the last election.

The interview wasn't informative in any real sense with respect to Mrs. Grewal. The basic sense that came out of the conversations was that she is being very quiet on the hill. (In the light of the storm her husband has unleashed, I suppose that's no big surprise).

What was fascinating was listening to the Conservative Communications Consultant attempting to divert the conversation onto other topics. His initial foray was to say that his counsel to any MP in this situation would be to remain silent.

When that was challenged by the interviewer, he pointed out - correctly - that there are already investigations of the situation ongoing and from the Conservative Party's perspective there's no need to further fan the flames.

A while later, he tried to accuse the media (and in particular the CBC) of sensationalism, and trying to "sell more newspapers". When that didn't get him his desired results, he started accusing the CBC of bias, since they weren't interviewing Dosanjh. (Of course, the CBC had interviewed Dosanjh last week)

I know that the Conservatives as a whole don't typically like the CBC. They routinely accuse it of being part of the Liberal Party apparatus, and therefore inherently biased against them.

I have to wonder just how much of a screw-up the Grewal Tapes have become for the Conservatives. First the tapes come out after a major delay, then what comes out is a subset - and badly edited at that. Most recently, Grewal himself has taken "stress leave", and we find it announced not by Grewal or his staff, but instead by party leader Stephen Harper (kind of makes one go "hmmmm" - is this really stress leave, or just a ploy to get the MP out of the public eye for a while?)

The attempts of the Conservatives to deflect the questions that the Grewal Tapes have raised in other directions are at best cynical. When I combine this with an attitude from Conservative commentators such as Paul Jackson that is high handed, sneering and condescending towards differing opinions, I find myself looking at a political movement that is fundamentally insecure in itself. (I've seen more than a few conservative blogs floating around that descend into name calling and personal attacks when a differing opinion is put forth, and the commentators like Jackson are only marginally better)

Why do I accuse them of insecurity? Simple - their tactics in the house, and the sneering attitude in debate sounds suspiciously like someone whose approach to winning involves shouting louder than their opponents. This is not unlike the schoolyard bully that when you dig a little below the surface of their aggression, you discover someone who is fundamentally insecure about themselves for any of a dozen different reasons.

The ongoing claims of persecution at the hands of a "biased" media are another clue. The Conservative party keeps on pulling stunts that are fodder for the media - whether it is feigned outrage by Peter Mackay, or sleazy activities like Gurmant Grewald's recent activities. Regardless of the Liberal's involvement and behaviour in the matter, the Conservatives have to be able to assert the moral high ground, without making themselves look like a bunch of inept buffoons.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Defending the Indefensible

So, in the midst of the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature, Premier Ralph Klein buggers off to the fishing resort in BC that he owns shares in.

Okay, I don't have a big problem with Ralph owning shares in a business - lots of people do, and given that it is in BC, it seems unlikely that any of Ralph's decisions and directions as Premier are likely to affect that operation materially.

However, this isn't the first time the Premier has absented himself from political proceedings:

- Last year's health summit involving the First Ministers of Canada - Ralph took off for another "personal trip" (Which was it this time Ralph - the casinos for a gambling and smoke fix, or was it fishing?)

- A couple of years ago, he was mysteriously absent for the bulk of the Fall Sitting of the Legislature.

Every time he pulls this, he claims that it was a "long planned" trip. Frankly, that's got to be the biggest bunch of horse manure this side of creation I've ever heard. Ralph, as Premier of this province, you have a duty to the citizens of Alberta. One of those duties involves actually being present in the Legislature. I realize that Albertans have been foolish enough to give you ridiculously large majorities and there is no real opposition, but that doesn't excuse your obvious disinterest in the political system. (Or are you trying to emulate the MIA-MLA from Calgary Montrose - Hung Pham?)

Apparently Alberta has the MIA-Premier.

Monday, June 06, 2005

What do the "Grewal Tapes" Really Tell Us ?

As a voter, I find it necessary to periodically review and analyze the activities of various political parties in this country.

Frankly, the Grewal Tapes incident has crystallized a few things:

1) The current minority Liberal government is willing to bargain with just about anyone in order to swing a majority of votes in the House of Commons.

2) Dosanjh is fundamentally an opportunist - he'll say whatever he thinks he needs to in order to move his own objectives forward.

3) Martin's Chief of Staff, Mr. Tim Murphy, doesn't exactly come off looking like a hero. He looks like a standard back room political operative, and little about that breed of animal impresses me.

4) Mr. Grewal, by his own actions, is a man willing to betray someone's trust in order to achieve some kind of personal gain. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the man.

5) Whether Mr. Harper, or his so-called strategists, made the decision to release the recordings in edited "dribs-and-drabs" doesn't matter. Tactically, it was a stupid move. Releasing anything less than the full tapes is an insult to the intelligence of Canadians. (Whether the omitted pieces are materially important is a moot point - the Conservatives have demonstrated a contempt for the Canadian voter that irritates me beyond all belief)

The tapes themselves provide little or no useful information. At most one might assert that it is a rather vivid insight into the kind of backroom shenanigans that go on in Ottawa these days. (Admittedly, it's rather like turning on the light in a prostitute's bedroom - the image is lurid, but not one that is worth considering beyond that)

Fundamentally, these tapes tell us (the voters) that both the Conservative and Liberal parties are willing to do anything they can to grasp power - even if it is for "just a little longer".

Perhaps the message that voters should take from the past couple of weeks silliness is not that either party is "good/bad/evil/corrupt" per se, but rather that neither party is in fact presenting the attributes of "good governance" that we should be demanding of them.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

In Politics, Right and Wrong are of the Moment

As the Conservative party tries to back away from the fiasco that the Grewal tapes have become, I have observed many die-hard Conservative backers in the blogosphere continuing to uphold the moral legitimacy of the Grewal tapes and what they represent.

Arguments along the lines of "secretly taping a conversation is unethical yes, but the tapes themselves back up the immorality of the Liberals". More or less, "Grewal did something wrong, but it's a lesser wrong than the Liberals have done".

In the black-and-white, win-or-lose world of the contemporary conservative, this is no surprise. Basically, anything that they think will make the Liberals look bad is a win, no matter how badly it besmirches their own chosen party.

Sadly, the Grewal recordings have fallen rather flat on their face, making Stephen Harper - and the rest of the party look decidedly like rubes once again. Not only have the recordings obviously been doctored, Grewal's protestations about the veracity of his story pale quickly, especially when party leadership (Harper and Mackay) change their tune apparently overnight - distancing themselves from Grewal's version of the story quickly.

Not only are the recordings now in public hands obviously edited, we have no full copy at all.

The net result - yes, the Liberals do come out of this with a couple of new bruises - neither Dosanj nor Murphy wind up looking good, but at the same time, we have an emerging picture of the Conservative party and its leadership that is far from flattering.

Grewal looks like a duplicitous scumbag, whose primary purpose in life is personal gain - whether through gaining Stephen Harper's esteem or by switching parties for a supposed cabinet post for himself or his wife. Harper, and Mackay, both wind up looking irresolute - unwilling and unable to back away from a disaster until it is far too late, apparently blinded by their lust for power (or perhaps revenge - it is notable that this whole affair appeared shortly after the Conservatives lost a very high profile MP to the Liberals). If this little escapade was Mr. Grewal's own little invention, we must ask ourselves if Mr. Grewal's behaviour is what we want to see running the country? If, on the other hand, Mr. Grewal's actions were at least partially sanctioned and planned by Harper and his advisors, it is hardly a ringing recommendation for their own ethics and morals is it?

Outside of Alberta, where everything the Conservative party does is held to be almost religious gospel, the Conservatives have accomplished little, other than making themselves once again look like small, petty little creatures whose primary motivation is a lust for the privileges of power.

Who did "right" or "wrong" in this sad episode is irrelevant now, and the electorate of this land must bear these events in mind when the next election happens. Last election, voters clearly said "none of the above", recent events have done little to change this.

Perhaps "none of the above" will become the Marijuana Party (at least we _KNOW_ what they represent) next election.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Syria or Iran? Who's Next?

Ever since the elections in Iraq, (and before that), the question has been rolling around as to just who might be next on BushCo's target list.

The two candidates have emerged as likely targets - for different reasons, of course - Syria and Iran.

This article on G2Mil.com reflects much of the military speculation as to when such an invasion might take place (after June 2005) Along with contracts given out to overhaul ex-soviet bases in Afghanistan, the sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear programs has been pretty constant from the US ever since Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq collapsed. Of course, just to muddy waters further, Syria continues to have its own activities going on, which seem to make Israel decidedly nervous as well.

My money's still on Iran as the next target - that would give the US a great deal of control over the Persian Gulf region, and the opportunity to hobble the Chinese economy in the short term by clobbering a recent deal with Iran for LNG deliveries. The US has taken a first step to isolating China on the world economic stage.

What does China have to do with Iran (or Syria, for that matter)? China presents a problem for US policymakers - not only is China one of the fastest growing economies in the world, they also happen to hold a great deal of the US foreign debt. (You know, the very monies that are funding US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan) If the US can render China impotent on the world stage, they remove a potential stumbling block to their goals in the Middle East.

The United States economy isn't in any shape to withstand another military levy for action in Iran or Syria - but this isn't the question for the neo-cons currently occupying the executive arm of the US government. Under the extended powers granted them in the so-called "War on Terror", all they need is an excuse, manufactured or otherwise, to go after Iran. The profligate spending of the Bush administration in its wars doesn't exactly make me believe that the neo-cons in Washington give a fig about the US economy. As far as they are concerned, they will cheerfully start printing money to finance their war.

Invading Iran is probably one of the dumbest tactical maneuvers that BushCo could possibly do right now. Not only has Iran been more or less unmolested for the last 15 years or so, it has spent a huge amount of money building facilities underground in the mountainous regions of the country. Iran is at least as complex to occupy as Afghanistan, and simply toppling the government in Tehran is unlikely to give foreign occupation control over the country.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mr. Harper, Mr. Grewal:

Kindly do the collective intelligence of Canadians a favour and shut up about these so-called recordings of yours.

In a bid to "score" a few political points, you've come up with an amazingly complex tale of stupidity on Parliament Hill.

If your tapes were legitimate, they should have been placed in the hands of the RCMP immediately, and copies made available immediately. Instead, Mr. Grewal, you claimed to have these tapes a day after Belinda Stronach crossed the floor, and it took over 10 days for you to release even transcripts of parts of the tapes.

Anyone with a computer, a bit of patience and some ingenuity can do some fairly credible audio editing. Ten days is plenty of time for someone with a bit of readily available equipment and software to edit these tapes in all sorts of ways.

Frankly, you guys blew it - both in timing and then in holding onto the recordings for as long as you did. In all honesty, I cannot accept those tapes as particularly credible at this point. It's far too easy to have doctored them, and your constant harping on the topic makes me deeply suspicious that this is little more than a mildly staged "political points" exercise.

As I said before, it's time to focus on governing the country, not assuaging your egos. Minority governments have been amazingly effective, but it requires the governing and opposition parties to find common ground. The ongoing shenanigans of the Conservative party do the party and this parliament no favours. (Having your trained ape - Jason Kenney - on CBC's "The Current" this morning didn't exactly convince me of the credibility of your claims either...)

I heard a clip on the news the other day of a Conservative MP complaining that the amended budget increases spending, but does little to put appropriate controls in place to ensure the money doesn't go missing. Possibly the first good point I've heard come from the senior opposition benches since parliament convened. You would do far better to play that up, and find a way to amend the budget accordingly. People might start believing that you actually have an interest in governing the country rather than salivating after power the way an adolescent boy drools over every female in tight jeans he sees.

[Friday, June 3, 2005 - Update]

I see the latest excuse is a "technical glitch" transferring the audio from tape to CD. Gentlemen, do you think that Canadians are really such idiots? The only "technical glitch" that occurs ripping from tape to CD audio format turns the CD into a coffee mug coaster - it doesn't "drop" bits of the signal out - especially not little sections of the dialogue in nice neat snippets.

Do the country a favour, admit that you were playing a game, you blew it, and get over it all.

What's that flapping sound? The Conservative party's credibility flying out the window.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Okay, so Guantanamo Bay isn't a Gulag...

According to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, it is inexcusable to compare conditions at Guantanamo bay with a Soviet Gulag.

Okay - let's play with this for a moment or two. Soviet Gulags were notorious prisons, brutal in both their intent and conditions. The conditions under which people were sent to them were often shadowy and no doubt debatable.

At Guantanamo Bay, we have prisoners held for reasons obscured in the shadows of the American-led "War on Terror".

They are held outside the norms of US law and jurisprudence, as well as outside of the Geneva Convention terms for treatment of Prisoners of War. (Largely by the dubious creation of the "Enemy Combatant" designation - a term which seems to mean whatever's convenient at the time).

Although recently a few motions have finally started to reach the top levels of the US judiciary as to whether the prisoners at Guantanamo are in fact eligible to have access to US legal recourse, the fact is that they have been held there for years without charges being laid, legal representation of any sort.

Are they held in conditions including forced labour? Not that I'm aware of, but then again, any kind of serious scrutiny of goings on at Guantanamo Bay has been well and truly suppressed by the Bush Administration.

Okay - it's not a Soviet Gulag, it appears to be an American Gulag with no fair system of law in place. The military is creating some kind of tribunal structure, but the lack of transparency and appeals process in the proposed structure makes it highly subjective.

Rumsfeld's verbal outrage seems to be rather similar to a child who has been "caught out" at some misdeed.