Monday, January 30, 2006

The Distinction Between Law and Morality

Since it seems to be beyond Bishop Henry to draw a distinction between law and moral equivalence, I'll try to spell it out for him.

Once again, Bishop Henry draws out a false slippery slope argument, little different to his assorted, and irrational tirades about SGM:

McLachlin writes that indecency may be conduct that i) interferes with a person's autonomy or liberty, ii) pre-disposes others to anti-social behaviour or iii) causes physical or psychological harm.

Further, the harm must be "of a degree incompatible with the proper functioning of society."

There are a number of problems with the reasoning of the justices.

If they thought it was difficult to define indecency, just wait until they have to struggle with defining "harm" within their parameters.

This new standard will be even more problematic.

Of course, the good Bishop is attempting to draw an equivalency between the ambiguous notion of indecency and the notion of harm. What the Bishop (having clearly not fully understood the case history upon which the ruling is based upon) has missed is that the courts have a long history of assessing and understanding the legal notion of harm. It is a notion that has a solid rooting in law and the practice of law.

Just to play in the Bishop's own little playground for a moment or two, it's pretty darned easy to apply a measurement of harm. If Robert Pickton is convicted, it will be indisputable that his actions harmed his victims. Similarly, there is little doubt that pedophile priests harm their victims, or that a pimp's enterprise is harmful to the prostitutes they attempt to control.

By comparison, what goes on between consenting adults is another thing altogether. While something may be perfectly legal, that doesn't make it moral or ethical. A case in point would be the established behaviour of various members of the Chretien-era PMO during the "Sponsorship Program". While neither moral or ethical, their actions were not clearly illegal either.

Continuing along his argument of an increasingly slippery slope, Bishop Henry skewers himself on his own logic:

The saddest part of the justices' decision is their misunderstanding of human nature and human sexuality.

Passion will continue to rage within the human breast, and reason and religious conviction will try to get the upper hand until the end of time.

But once unlimited opportunity for sex is available, the contest becomes unequal.

The last barrier to fall is social sanction.

The moment society stops saying that sex outside marriage (one's own marriage) is sin, injustice, or reprehensible conduct, but says instead that sex of any kind is available to everyone in the normal course of things regardless of state or circumstance, then sex outside marriage will "happen" more and more.

First of all, the courts aren't in the business of measuring human nature and sexuality. At most, they may consult from time to time with mental health professionals to understand the behaviour of someone appearing before them.

Then, Bishop Henry comes out and plays his cards as if he holds some kind of trump, asserting that sex outside of marriage warrants proscription. Once again, we are confronted by a member of the Catholic Priesthood trying to dictate to the masses what the rules around their sexuality should be. Coming from someone who is forbidden by their own vows not to be a participant in the sexual aspects of society, it seems a trifle unreasonable to dictate to the rest of society how we should conduct ourselves.

Legal sanction issues aside, what Bishop Henry has completely, and utterly misunderstood is that the Justices of the Supreme Court made no moral declaration about the behaviour in those swinger's clubs. They simply ruled on the application of the sections of the criminal code that were applied and determined that the measurements available did not suggest a criminal behaviour. I don't think this is exactly complicated to understand. Society is still free to decide that the activity itself is undesirable and to broadcast its disapproval.

I submit that if the Bishop wishes to demonstrate the supposed dangers of the behaviour that he is so worried about, it is time for him to engage in some real study of the subject. The kind of dispassionate study of a population that routinely undertaken by researchers in sociology and psychology. If the empirical results show the kind of "damage" that Bishop Henry claims, then there is a measure upon which the assertion of harm can be based. However, if the empirical results show otherwise, the good Bishop can shut up about the subject, and reserve his moralizing for the congregations that fall under his purview.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Dear Ambassador Wilkins:

Quit being such a transparent idiot - you're embarassing your country.

It's amazing just how quicly the BushCo machine changes its tune, isn't it.

Not so long ago, a comment like Harper's would have earned our Prime Minister (and his representative in Washington), a tongue lashing by the US administration.

Now, really, how ridiculously transparent can you get. According to Ambassador Wilkins, "We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters. Most other countries do not recognize their claim. We have agreed to disagree," Wilkins said.

Most other countries? Really? Would the good Ambassador please explain this little gem of "fact" - perhaps by enumerating these countries that don't recognize Canada's claim to these waters - when they don't seem to have a big problem with Canada's claim to the lands on either side.

Few things irritate Canadians as much as transparent hypocrisy.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Allan Gotlieb on Canada-US Relations

In the January 26, 2006 Globe and Mail (sadly, I haven't found it online - and I'm too lazy to retype a lengthy diatribe), we are treated to a detailed lecture by Allan Gotlieb about all of the missteps made by Paul Martin in dealing with the Bush Whitehouse.

He argues that Martin made seven key errors:

1) Canada does not need Diplomacy. (In essence, we have to negotiate with the US Executive branch)
2) Martin 'elevated' the importance of Congress and tried to downgrade the president.
3) Overemphasis on lobbying congress
4) Overemphasis on advocacy
5) Mobilize the Canadian diaspora. (Basically make ex-pat Canadians a vocal lobby group)
6) Underestimate the importance of defence and security
7) Americans must be sensitive to our agenda but we do not need to be sensitive to theirs.

In some respects, Mr. Gotlieb has a point or two. I don't think Martin handled certain aspects of the relationship particularly well - but I also think that Mr. Gotlieb has allowed his partisan history with the Mulroney era to colour his analysis rather badly.

First, we cannot foist the blame for the current state of affairs entirely upon the Martin government. To do so would be disingenuous, and worse fails entirely to recognize the short term history that led to the current state.

We have to recognize that George Bush, and his cabinet are not Ronald Reagan. The Bush administration is extremely partisan, and quite unwilling to discuss anything with governments that they perceive to be ideologically at odds to them. This was made painfully clear when Bush visited Vincentes Fox of Mexico shortly after taking office in 2000, and delayed even making a phone call to then Prime Minister Chretien as long as possible.

Second, both Paul Martin, and Jean Chretien, are ultimately responsible to the Canadian PEOPLE. When the Canadian People as a large majority stood in opposition to Canada participating in the quagmire to be called Iraq, there was little room to maneuver politically. Outside of bastions of Conservative support such as Alberta, Canadians were deeply opposed to what they perceived to be an unnecessary war of aggression.

Third, we have to examine the behaviour of Bush's ambassador's to Canada - in particular Paul Cellucci. The man paraded himself around Canada to various speaking engagements, using the opportunity each time to lecture Canada on how we should conduct ourselves. Needless to say, acting as "Governor-in-Residence" did not sit well with many Canadians, and no doubt contributed to a sense of animosity on both sides of the fence.

The message from Washington was pretty damned clear: "Do it our way, or we won't talk to you". Since neither Chretien nor Paul Martin were what the Bush White House would consider ideologically compatible, the Bushies simply decided that they would freeze Canada out until something "more palatable" came along. It's notable that shortly after a Conservative win in the election Ambassador Wilkins starts groping the new government.

I hear on the radio today that Mr. Wilkins is now saying that a "speedy resolution" can be found to the Softwood Lumber issue. Really? How interesting. For the last several years, BushCo has claimed that they can't do anything about it because it's in the hands of the courts and the legislative branches of government. Now, mysteriously, they can pull a rabbit out of the hat?

Mr. Gotlieb's analysis is deeply flawed because he fails entirely to acknowledge the utterly closed minded approach to foreign affairs that BushCo takes. In essence, ever since President Bush took over, it has been a game of "do it his way". Canada is not the United States, and many of us really don't like the idea of being dictated to from Washington. To be sure, both Chretien and Martin took their share of 'cheap shots' at the White House (what do you expect when they provide a target the size of all outdoors?), but the White House bears more than a passing involvement in the picture.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Consequences of Abstinence Only Policy

The consequences of the conservative right-wing approach to sex education is becoming rather clear in the United States.

We aren't talking about a simple failure here, but instead of an approach whose failures are so glaring that they are costing people their lives.

In Alabama - a deeply conservative and religious state - the latest legislation regarding HIV and Aids is known as the Abstinence Bill.

But Michelle Lampkin, an awareness campaigner who is herself HIV positive, said that young people are having sex "whether you want to believe it or not."

She told Analysis she has tried advising young people to wear condoms, but is accused of "promoting teenagers to have sex."

"I'm not - what I'm doing is to help to protect them," she argued.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta show that, while Aids is still thought of by some as a disease primarily affecting the gay community and drug users, the biggest risk to women comes from heterosexual partners - husbands or boyfriends who do not know or do not tell their HIV status.

The point here is simple - AIDS is a disease. It is not a punishment from God for "immoral" behaviour - any more than Katrina was. The simple cold reality is that AIDS doesn't care about its victims gender, sexual orientation or anything else. Period.

Any education policy that provides the very information and knowledge that can protect people from the risks is better than nothing - even if it is imperfect. While abstinence is unquestionably effective, it doesn't work - not when you are talking about the mobile hormone factories that are adolescents and young adults.

Harper's Agenda Starts to Emerge

I know I said it for much of the election campaign, so don't say I didn't tell you so.

Consider the following:

Harper to "move quickly" on gay marriage vote

Mulroney and his people help takeover (I like the use of the word Takeover - it seems so apropos)

Then, we get his lardship, King Ralph, rattling about violating the Canada Health Act - oddly, just a day or so after he has "consulted" with Stephen Harper. (presumably on the same topic)

And to round the smelly little topic list off, we find some nutcase commentator trying to "suggest" how Mr. Harper should go about things. Fortunately, this particular half wit knows little or nothing about Canada and our legal and legislative processes (not to mention our laws) - or he might realize that Harper isn't in the position of "Lord High Imperator" - he's Prime Minister of a very weak minority government.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

In Contrast to the US

While a near war goes on in the United States over treating sexual minorities as equals, a prominent politician in the UK is saying his relationships with men and women don't matter as far as his abilities as a leader and politician are concerned.

Prime Minister-elect Harper would do well to consider emulating the UK's example - rather than the United States he has so often bowed to. That the UK is able to deal with a politician like Mr. Hughes without demonizing him is impressive and admirable. The fact that he feels he can stand up and say what he has said without being at significant risk speaks loudly to an environment in the UK which has grown to be a lot more respectful of people's differences.

Meanwhile, in the United States, we find teachers wanting to refuse GLBT students access to resources and protection because 'their religious values are offended'. (Read - bullying's bad, unless you're bullying a queer - how lovely)

Religious Bigotry In Public Schools

Whether or not one agrees with public agencies making mandates like this, it's the reaction of some of the teachers that really irritates me:

Five teachers at San Leandro High School have refused to comply with a school district order to display a rainbow-flag poster in their classrooms that reads, "This is a safe place to be who you are," because they say homosexuality violates their religious beliefs, Principal Amy Furtado said.

Remember, these teachers are working for public institutions. We aren't talking about a private school where they can be openly bigoted (under US law).

It's really too bad when people let their religious "beliefs" get in the way of reality. The issue here is about providing students with access to resources - primarily so that their education isn't disrupted by narrow minded ignorance. The claim that homosexuality "violates their religious beliefs" is about the same as a "young earth creationist" claiming that biology, geology and other sciences violate their religious beliefs - it doesn't change the reality one iota.

Myself, I applaud the San Leandro Unified School District for having the organizational fortitude to stand up and provide active protection for a group of students that otherwise can suffer some pretty horrific treatment at the hands of other students on campus.

I have little, or no patience for bullying of any sort, for any reason. Tacit approval of that activity because one's religion "is violated" by someone else's reality is an utter crock.

More Clues...

Canada just elected a Conservative government, and sure enough signs of the Reich Wingnuts in the states having near orgasmic experiences as a result are emerging. Of course, out of sheer ignorance, they think that this clown actually influenced the election.

While laughable, what is less laughable are the various attempts on the part of other American groups to influence our political processes.

To give us some insight into the reaction of the BushCo government, do I need to point out the speed - and persistence - with which Bush telephoned Mr. Harper? Or, for that matter, the rapid speed with which his Ambassador started to send out "feelers"? Remember, this was the same idiot that got his nose out of joint early in the election because he thought Canada was being "disrespectful" to his boss.

Now, we have BushCo practically fawning over Mr. Harper? I'm not at all sure I like the sound of this one little bit.

Oh yes - and over here we have my favourite bigot - er bishop - spouting off.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Worried Yet?

Apparently Georgie Binks is - and with very good reason.

As she correctly points out, the track record of what currently passes itself off as the CPC is hardly encouraging when it comes to the rights of women, much less minority groups.

Well, that didn't take so long after all

Less than 24 hours into Stephen Harper's mandate as Prime Minister, Ralph Klein breaks his silence.

The premier told the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto yesterday he expects Stephen Harper's Conservative government to respect provincial jurisdiction.

"The past 15 years of federal-provincial wrangling over everything from health care to day care can be traced to a federal government that did not respect that division of powers," he said.

Read between the lines - basically Ralph thinks (probably correctly) that Harper is going to give him carte blance to do as he wishes with healthcare.

Now, someone get me a copy of the books for the CPC - I want to know where the funds for Ralph's 'fishing vacation' came from in the last month.

Meanwhile, more rational minds are warning Harper to tread carefully especially where the US is concerned.

The cautionary note is appropriate - Canadians don't especially like or trust the Bush Administration (with good reason). One can't help but wonder just what games are afoot. Certainly over on "Free Republic", the wingers are practically wetting themselves over the conservative minority.

I'm not sure if the irony is intentional, but the Globe and Mail article contains the following paragraph:

While the Bush administration will be delighted to see the backs of the Liberals, who they regarded as untrustworthy and devious, the Conservatives are attractive more because relations can be straightforward rather than because of ideological similarities, Mr. Biette suggested.

The Liberal government was "untrustworthy and devious" - hmmm - coming from a government that spies on its own people (and gets caught), lies to justify wars, and actively engages in the suppression of civil liberties, that seems rather like the pot calling the kettle black, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Call Me Paranoid...

But when CNN starts having wet dreams about closer Canada-US relations under Harper, I get very worried. Add to this the speediness with which Bush chose to congratulate Harper, I have to wonder about more than a few things.

It's no great secret that the BushCo White House has been decidedly chilly towards Canada ever since GWB was elected in 2000. Then, out of the "blue", Harper receives near immediate congratulations upon winning an election. Hmmm - along with some fairly convincing evidence of connections between Harper's conservatives and various US "conservative" lobby organizations, one might just suspect that the crew in the White House is fairly salivating at the possibility of having an ideological "kindred spirit" that they can manipulate in Ottawa. (Something that they haven't had since Brian Mulroney retired) It is notable that even after the last election, Bush took "his time" before calling to congratulate Paul Martin - rather makes me wonder what would happen if we had the collective audacity to elect Jack Layton as our next Prime Minister?

Even CNN - which is fairly moderate as US news sources go, makes the following statement:

But while his ideology runs parallel to that of the Bush administration, Harper failed to win a majority and will be constrained by the need for an alliance, which could limit his ability to move Canada to the right.

One can only imagine the fantasies that are rippling through BushCo minds tonight as they size up their prospects for gaining control over Canada's water supplies, oil and other natural resources. (or for that matter, access to our youth for their next expedition into foreign lands)

This is far too funny...

The 50 Most Loathsome

- 'nuf said

The Aftermath

The Conservatives won the most seats, but it was hardly the overwhelming breakthrough that they might have been hoping for.

The Numbers:

CPC: 125 Seats
Lib: 103 Seats
Bloc: 51 Seats
NDP: 29 Seats
Ind: 1 Seat

Considering the last election gave a scandal-plagued Liberal party just over 130 seats, giving the CPC 125 is hardly a ringing endorsement. In fact the Liberal support remained much stronger than perhaps it had any right to - especially with a badly fumbled campaign from the start.

Canadians didn't "flock" to the Conservatives as perhaps one might have anticipated given a well run campaign, with the wing-nuts kept carefully muzzled. I'd call this a 'training wheels' government. The people have handed Harper the keys to 24 Sussex, but like a parent loaning their teenage child the family car, a strict admonition not to drive recklessly.

The real winners in this election seem to have been the NDP, who picked up ten more seats. Clearly, as much as voters in Alberta might have thought that "soft" Liberal support would flock their direction, they did not. Instead, their votes moved to the NDP, and possibly the Green party to some extent. Although I was less than impressed with Jack Layton, both during the campaign and in the final weeks of the last sitting of Parliament, apparently he was more successful not only in wooing new voters, but in keeping his core support base.

Intriguingly, B.C. seems to have been the province to slap the CPC upside the head. The party actually lost 5 seats in B.C., giving up one to the Liberals no less. (Of course, when you run known extremist cases like Darrel Reid (former Focus On The Family Canada leader) in urban Vancouver, I can't say that it comes as any big surprise.

Sadly, Alberta voters were nowhere near as canny as B.C.'s - returning some of the worst MPs we've ever had to the House of Commons, and wiping out a couple of very good candidates. When will this province learn? Voting "en-herd" simply means that everybody walks through the same pile of manure.

Stupid Comment of the Night Award:

I have to deliver this to Stephen Harper. Echoing the roots of the Reform/Alliance days, his victory speech contained the line "The West wanted in, and now it is". (or something to that effect)

What a dumb statement to make. Once again, it reinforces the idea that the party is a regional protest party. It creates a false expectation on the part of the Party's long-martyred MPs from Alberta (especially) and the other prairie provinces that suddenly they are going to be in "control".

The mandate that the CPC got is sufficiently weak that Stephen Harper has a lot to balance in order to hold on to power at all. He has no ideological allies in the house, and the voters have not given him a blank cheque. That means not only must his cabinet be regionally balanced, the party as a whole must become very disciplined in the house. (So much for all the free votes they've been promising)

The Surpise of The Night:

Paul Martin stepping down as leader of the Liberal party. I'm alternating between surprised and shocked by this. Martin spent the better part of a decade pursuing his moment in the sunshine, and he has stepped aside on the night of his party's defeat.

It's absolutely the right move, and opens the doors for the Liberal Party to start the rebuilding process - one that could not really begin until the Chretien/Martin factions were dismantled. Leadership campaigns are often very divisive, but I think Martin's "long game" play was exceptionally damaging to the Liberal's internal cohesiveness.

Martin's pursuit of the leadership hat was a "corporate" move - where he took a very long range view of the objectives, and wasn't afraid to break a few eggs as he did it. While building a corporation up, this is a great way to do business, it's not necessarily the right way to handle a political party.

... more to come - as I think of things to babble about...

Monday, January 23, 2006


Apparently, the Vatican is going to start agressively enforcing its copyright on the words of the Popes.

Now, isn't there something in the scriptures about "bringing the word of God to the world"? Apparently, now they're bringing the Word of God to the _Paying_ world.

One Last Swing... Stephen Harper and the Suppressed Agenda.

Over here, someone spent some time going through a recording of Jason Kenney speaking at Alberta Pro Life's conference. Listening to that recording must have been a form of torture for whoever wrote the article on the Liberal Party website - I'm struggling with transcribing a few (< 1 minute) sound bytes from an All Candidates Forum with that weasel speaking.

Sayeth Mr. Kenney:
"Those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life are the true champions of democracy," Mr. Kenney told Alberta Pro-Life at its Life 2005 conference held April 29-30, 2005.

It's not merely the words, it is the context in which the words were said that we must consider. The statement itself is actually rather well crafted - Mr. Kenney might almost be able to weasel out and say that he was being "taken out of context" - of course, you'd have to be the village idiot to really believe that is the case.

Mr. Kenney has a long track record, and for him to be allied with the anti-abortion movement is no big surprise. (I've commented on it before)

But, consider this for a moment - indirectly, Mr. Kenney is saying that women - in particular - aren't able to make sound moral judgements. After all, if that were the case, the abortion issue would be an issue, would it?

Yes, he wraps it up in the sanctimonious language of "the sanctity of life", etc., but that's all basically code phrase for control. Part of me wants Mr. Kenney to have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to its endpoint - with all of the discomfort that goes with pregnancy - maybe, just maybe, he might get a small clue about what "a woman's right to choose" actually means.

I get quite irritated when boneheads like Kenney stand up on topics like abortion. Quite frankly, he has less than no idea what life is like for a woman, what their experiences are or anything else. Who is he to stand judgement over a woman's life decisions?

The random proscriptions in the Bible about sexuality - especially women's sexuality - are based primarily on a male viewpoint rooted in ignorance of a woman's lot in life. Actually, for the most part, the Bible ignores women's sexuality, save for viewing women as "temptresses" and "whores" - in other words - women are treated primarily as objects for male sexual gratification, not sentient, self aware people. (Hmmm - random aside - does the objectification of women in scripture influence the "beauty myth" that pervades society today?)

The days of men controlling women's lives, especially reproductively, are long past. For the sake of all of us, let's leave those days in the past. I really don't want to see The Handmaid's Tale come to reality.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Conservatives Promise "Open, Accountable Government"

Nice promise - pity their actions speak rather loudly the other way.

Consider the following factoids:

1) Harper is not talking to the media any more This is a resurrection of Harpers past - you know the one who openly despised the media.

2) In the same breath, the CPC is muzzling any candidate that is a known hard line social conservative - telling their campaign workers to keep the media away from them.

Now, if they aren't "open" and "accessible" during an election campaign, how bad are they going to get once elected?

Having had Jason Kenney as my MP since he was first elected to Parliament in 1997, the answer is pretty obvious - if you thought that Mulroney's government was arrogant an inaccessible, you haven't seen anything yet. (Of course, it is nearly a full generation since Mulroney was last running for office...long enough for voters to forget just how bad it really was) Harper and his band are apt to be even worse. Mulroney was just corrupt - I suspect that HarperCo will emulate all of the worst attributes of BushCo.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I Assert That The CPC Has Not Changed

Why would I make such a statement? After all, Harper's been very careful to make sure that his party is "on message" all election - and it's overall a relatively moderate message...especially when we compare it with some of what came out of the former Reform/Alliance camp.

Let me give a few key points:

1) Harper's apparent moderation is superficial, in my opinion. There's a few reasons for me to say this. First, Harper's not entirely stupid. He knows full well that the Canadian voter is not impressed by the hard line conservative stance that he has taken in the past. Second, please take a careful look at Harper's behaviour in the spring sitting of the House of Commons last year. Between Harper and his cabinet, you could have very easily mistaken the lot of them for being clones of Dick Cheney and other members of Bush Jr's cabinet.

I suspect that Harper's changed views are a reflection of a desire or even outright lust for political power. Like the 'ex-gay', Harper's outward alteration of behaviour has not changed his core beliefs - and is unlikely to change.

2) If the CPC has moderated under Harper, then please explain to me why the most hard-line wingnuts still hold positions of significance in the party and caucus? We have running as candidates under his name people like Jason Kenney, Rob Anders, Art Hanger, Stockwell Day, Myron Thompson and numerous others who have a long standing track record of demonstrating to the world that narrow minded ugliness still exists, and manages to rise to some prominence.

3) On topics such as social issues, the Harper CPC has been deliberately mushy. Instead of taking a clear stance on topics such as abortion and SGM, the party adopts a policy of a 'free vote' should a "private member's bill" be introduced. Give me a freaking break. The old Progressive Conservative party at least had the intellectual honesty to state their position. This lot gives the voters a sop that the hard liners can grasp onto, and then turns around and tells the moderates (most of Canada) that they've "changed" - horsefeathers.

4) On topics of international relations, we have heard Mr. Harper talking about "discussing" BushCo's totally dysfunctional "missile defense" toy program (discuss being another code phrase for reopening a debate that Canada doesn't need to go through). We get to hear MPs like Jason Kenney talk about the "moral rightness" of invading Iraq, and then spin things around to Iran "pursuing nuclear weapons". Even if they are, so what? If that's such a huge risk, then why is nobody taking steps to disarm India, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, China, Israel or Russia (and the former Soviet Republics) - not to mention the United States?

5) Harper complains - openly - about the "activist judiciary" - pulling a line from the Republican US campaigns - a line which completely ignores the actual rulings of the Supreme Court in this nation and the carefully considered reasoning that they have consistently used.

6) His senior MPs, like Jason Kenney, repeatedly demonstrate their utter ignorance of both Canada and its roots - comparing us to the United States and ignoring our heritage in British Empire and France. At a recent All Candidates Forum, Jason Kenney asserted that Canada was the only "major democracy in the world with an unelected upper house". What utter nonsense - look across the Atlantic, Mr. Kenney. (Granted, I have always held that the senate in Canada could do with an overhaul to make it more effective than it is - but I still utterly loathe statements like that made in utter ignorance - what other acts is he going to undertake out of that same fount of wisdom from which that statement sprang forth?)

In short, little has happened since Peter Mackay reneged on the deal that got him the leadership of the PC party. I could have written much of the same essay anytime since the Reform Party ate its young and ejected Preston Manning as its leader.

I Know It Must Be Like A Broken Record

But since the media is only half getting it, it's falling to the bloggers to point out the painfully obvious about the CPC.

Via the DanReport, we get a little more direct insight into the wingnuts in the CPC.

Of course, there's been a few little tidbits that have come to the surface and are starting to get reported.

Oh yes - and I wonder just how much the CPC paid for Klein's latest fishing trip? [Update]: From sources I consider reliable, Klein has been seen in the Calgary area lately, partaking of our gambling nightlife - so, the question I have is who is paying for his habits?

While I'm sure that candidates such as Diane Ablonczy who really seem to have tried to be good MPs, it's not the Ablonczy's of the world I'm worried about. It takes a few hundred Ablonczy quality candidates to overwhelm the radical nutcases.

Of course, I don't happen to think that this makes for good electoral tactics myself. Those are very serious allegations and can ruin a person's life without cause.

Why haven't the Liberals been strangling the CPC on their own words? (It's not like it's difficult - there's tons of material out there, and they keep adding to it)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

And Just For Reference

We have the following pot pourri of topics originating south of the border:

Bin Laden tape emerges and threatens the USA - which will, of course, be used by the BushCo administration to justify further illegal (or at least unethical) spying on the private citizens of the USA - and anyone else considered to be "of interest".

And, where they think they can get away with it, BushCo wants to monitor what you look for on the internet - just in case you are looking for something as dangerously immoral as "pornography" (a term which they have yet to define just what they mean). If my website comes up on a search adjacent to a porn site does that make it pornography?

Failing that, we have the wingnuts in the bitter "I couldn't get nominated for office" failed Republicans bribing students to "expose" left-leaning professors in some kind of neo-McArthy attempt to bully professors.

Now, really, does Canada want a government that is going to try and emulate this kind of silliness? Or perhaps, do want to consider the idea of actually paying attention to our citizen's rights and needs in a compassionate manner.

Shorter CPC: Harper Isn't Scary

If Harper himself isn't scary, take a look at this little bit of trivia where someone has tried to detail the links between the CPC and various social conservative organizations with their roots in the United States.

I have a sneaking feeling that if I dug a little deeper, I could add a few more connections.

I haven't followed all of the research links, but the author has tried to document their sources, so I'll give them at least some credit for making the effort. When you combine that with Mr. Harper complaining that the judiciary is a bunch of "partisan hacks", I think that Canadians who see themselves as progressively minded and egalitarian have a great deal to worry about should the CPC be elected to anything that resembles a majority government next week. God help you if you are a woman, gay or lesbian, or a member of any minority population that isn't donating hugely to the CPC.

Just to round things out, we have Myron Thompson musing about abortion over here.

Someone convince me that the CPC has changed from its Reform/Alliance roots when the extremists hijacked the party from Preston Manning (who was actually moderating things...)... Please?

Another Sign of the Squirming Masses Beneath Harper's Thumb

Vote Marriage Canada is endorsing candidates.

Lovely - the "omigod, gays can't marry" crowd is at it again this time throwing their weight behind individual candidates in this election.

Of course, we are talking about the crowd with Elsie Wayne, Pat O'Brien and Grant Hill trying to legislate their morality so that the rest of us will see the wisdom of their ways.

Taking a brief look at the "endorsements", I see that (no surprise) mostly CPC candidates are being backed by this particular lobby group. Of course, they try to appear non-partisan by not showing the party affiliation of each candidate - but the arithmetic isn't exactly difficult.

Eyes open people - at the beginning of the election, Harper opened the can of worms on marriage. I've asserted all along that just underneath the veneer of unity in the CPC is a squirming mass of ugliness jockeying for control.

If the Liberals needed a topic to beat the CPC over the head with - it's just been handed to them again, and the timing is just right. (Of course, the Liberal campaign's state right now is such that they aren't exactly in any shape to do much, I suspect)

Marriage Debate - Polygamy is not equivalent to SGM

Over here, we have Lifesite wringing their hands over a recent Government of Canada study on the topic of decriminalizing polygamy. In the usual, paranoid and irrational manner of these folks, they try to tie things back to Same Gender Marriage, and then claim that we are on the slippery slope to damnation.

Fortunately, far more rational analysis exist, which actually frame the issue in much clearer terms.

Quite some time ago, I had started to suspect that the polygamy-following-from-SGM argument was a complete crock based on the other discrimination protections in the Charter. Michelle Mann's analysis points out much the same issues, and she elaborates on it much better than I have been able to so far.

Get this man a seat!

I want to see Michael Ignatieff in the House of Commons. I've always admired his ability to articulate his reasoning - even when I strongly disagree with the conclusions he draws. Over here, a reporter refers to Ignatieff's response at an All Candidates forum as "eloquent".

I don't think I've heard a single politician's speeches described as eloquent since Pierre Trudeau and Peter Lougheed retired. (Possibly Ed Broadbent - he's no slouch either) But those were men of a different era. Even if the Liberals get their asses kicked this election - I _want_ Ignatieff to win his seat.

Books of his that I remember reading:
The Lesser Evil - Political Ethics in an Age of Terror
The Rights Revolution

It was The Rights Revolution that really turned me onto Ignatieff in the first place. It's a beautifully crafted series of essays/lectures that are both interesting and intriguing.

If nothing else, he's intellectually head-and-shoulders above the right-wing rabble of the CPC these days. It would be enjoyable watching them squirm as their irrational reasoning is dissected and fed back to them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stephen Harper - Can We Trust Him?

Yesterday, Harper accused Canada's judiciary of being "political activists" from the bench. (Oh right - they have interpret laws written by politicians - we won't go into the fact that politicians are inherently politicized, will we).

Today, in a horrendously bad attempt to backpedal, Harper claims that Conservatives would "accept" checks and balances. First of all, Mr. Harper, you don't get a choice in whether you "accept" our country's checks and balances. They are there for good reason, and may whatever God you worship help you if you decide to breach them (much less as egregiously as King George I of the Imperial United States has done), because the citizens of this fair nation will not be pleased.

The more obvious question - and I think Mr. Martin was even smart enough to pick up on it - is just what is it that a politician has in mind when running around telling us that "they will accept checks and balances", and that a "liberal appointed judiciary and senate" will keep their government in check? Having lived in Alberta much of my life, I can make a pretty educated guess at what you have in mind - and it's downright ugly when I look at it.

I can only hope that the Canadian voter is smart enough to not give you the opportunity to begin. With Harper making these kinds of statements already, I can only imagine just what the writhing masses of the CPC extremist elements must be doing beneath the veneer of silence that the party has presented this election.

I may not be a Paul Martin fan, but I'm even less interested in Stephen Harper being able to adopt the moniker Prime Minister.

Conservative == BushCo?

Over here, we have CPC deputy leader Peter Mackay saying that a Conservative Government would declare the "Tamil Tigers" a "Terrorist Organization".

Now, going through my mind, the first thought is this - what is this fascination the CPC has with following BushCo. Knowing full well that there has been a near civil war going on in Sri Lanka for some 20 years, does it not occur to the CPC that just maybe these organizations exist out of necessity? That people would adopt membership in the Tamil Tigers simply to survive wherever it is that they live in Sri Lanka?

On the topic of 'getting tough on deportations of accused terrorists', don't we have something called due process? In other words, if you are going to accuse someone of being a terrorist, why not bring them to trial and prove your point. Otherwise, it's little more than political fiat being exercised.

If the Tamil Tigers are to be marked "terrorists", who's next on the list? Are we going to adopt the US "no fly list"?

Of course, pragmatism and logic haven't exactly been the CPC's strong suit.

Of Common Sense - Applied

Normally I rant about the utter stupidity of people, but occasionally we hear of someone whose common sense and down to earth reality is truly admirable:

Dear Abby has the following letter:

DEAR ABBY: I have a 15-year-old son. "Max" has just announced that he has a girlfriend. He talks to her on the phone constantly. I have met her, and she's a very nice girl.

I had the "sex" talk with Max. I explained about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and how some girls who say they're on the pill really aren't, and that the pill does not protect either partner from STDs. I also gave my son condoms (only two) and explained that it was not permission to have sex. However, I'm afraid he might not listen and do it anyway. If that happens, I want my boy to be protected.

I have gotten conflicting opinions from friends about having given Max the condoms. Do you think I did the right thing? -- DON'T WANNA BE A GRANDMA (YET) IN MANHATTAN BEACH

DEAR DON'T: I absolutely think you did the right thing, also the intelligent and pragmatic thing -- and in exactly the right order.

The letter says it all. I'm glad to hear in all of the screaming lately over sexuality that at least some parents have their heads screwed on and their eyes open.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The US "Nation Building" Exercise

The election has me too depressed to want to rant on about the idiocy on the campaign trail today, so I thought I'd take a look at the Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan mess that BushCo has created.

Last weekend a suicide bomber attacked a convoy, and seriously injured several Canadian soldiers - and killed a diplomat in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, amidst the ongoing car bombings and other violence in that nation, the electoral officials have thrown out the ballots from 227 voting stations. I did a double take on this one myself. We aren't talking about 227 ballots - no we are talking about all the ballots from 227 voting stations. Presumably hundreds, or even thousands of ballots have been discarded as a result.

So, here we have the US government involved in wars on two fronts - both Afghanistan and Iraq, and although BushCo has been talking about "success" in these two countries, it's quite clear that the local resistance has very different ideas.

Meanwhile, the drums of war start to beat in Iran's general direction.

I said this before the US went into Iraq - replacing a government with a radically new structure is a very long term project. Not one that is going to resolve in a year or two, but is going to take generations to stabilize - likely time periods on order of the duration of the British occupation of India.

Sure enough, the work has turned into the messy, dreary drudge of stabilizing a war zone in a culture that the US military hasn't taken the time to understand. (Wow - big surprise there), so now BushCo turns its sights on other conquests.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I said it about Iraq, I'll say it again about Iran

Where's the evidence?

BushCo: Iran's a threat! Iran's a threat!

Yes, Iran's busy trying to build a nuclear power plant - they may even be pursuing nuclear weapons development.

Of course Dragon Lady is in the mix:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that Iran's latest actions "crossed the threshold" and that the IAEA board should hold an emergency meeting as soon as possible.

She said the United States feared that if IAEA members wait until a scheduled meeting in March, Iran would use the time to further "obfuscate" over any nuclear weapons plans, Reuters reported.

"We just can't let them do that," Reuters quoted Rice as telling reporters traveling with her to Liberia for the inauguration of Africa's first elected woman president.

BushCo only seems to be able to do one thing - start wars.

What scares the heck out of me is that Canada may be about to put a smile on Bush Jr's face that will make Bill Clinton look downright dour (right after Monica...).

At an All-Candidate's forum for Calgary SouthEast on Saturday, incumbent Jason Kenney said something to the effect of "I think it was morally right to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but Canada didn't have the military muscle to participate". (I'll get the exact quote up when I finish transcribing the tape). Apparently, Mr. Kenney thinks it's okay for nations to go invading other nations that pose exactly no threat to anyone. It's the attitude of moral entitlement - "It's my right to tell you what you are doing wrong, and make you do it _my_way_."

Ugly - downright ugly. - and Jason Kenney is apt to wind up with a significant cabinet post should the CPC win next Monday.

Prepare to have Canada's good name in the world destroyed by hitching our wagon onto that of a President whose failures are beginning to make Richard Nixon look like a positively honest broker.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Liberal Campaign So Far

For the most part, the Federal Liberal party campaign has been a long series of fumbles, misfires and general disorganization. Paul Martin has been running around acting like he's punch drunk, stumbling over words and sounding defensive.

Early in the campaign, we had a number of Liberal party candidates and members talking at what seemed to be cross purposes to Mr. Martin and the official line.

Then, just before Christmas, the RCMP announced that they were escalating their review of the events around the income trust policy release to a criminal investigation. I must admit, it's rather odd for the RCMP to "announce" that they are escalating what amounts to a political investigation. Very strange.

Policy announcements have been met with surprise by candidates at times, and there seems to be serious disconnects in the ability of the campaign teams to get their messages out - and consistent.

This week the policy book got leaked to Ezra Levant (wtf?) a day or so before its release; a book on some obscure lobby group called "Option Canada" came out and the party utterly fumbled the roll out of a new set of ads.

This is not the Liberal Party that has run successful elections in the past. There have been rumours of a 'mole' working in the campaign war room, but I think that's a little too 'cloak and dagger'.

Looking at it, I suspect we are actually witnessing the fallout of the long internal battle between Martin and Chretien supporters. After the less than conclusive election in 2004, I suspect that Chretien's supporters declared amongst themselves that Martin didn't have the backing of the public either, and therefore should be removed. In other words, within the party, people are tussling over the carcass, and looking at each other as adversaries - instead of looking outward at their foes.

Oddly enough, in Calgary here, although the campaign is a bit tepid (with all of the CPC candidates acting as if they are shoo-ins), the Liberal party seems to be starting to attract some good quality people for their campaigns. (Mind you, it's always mystified me that Calgary West keeps electing Rob Anders...)

It's Late in the Campaign...

...But the CPC's true colours are starting to emerge.

Over here, we have Stephen Harper whinging on about how he would scrap Kyoto - on the basis that the targets of Kyoto are "unattainable".

Hmmm...I'm looking up the side of a mountain, and I have two choices - I can attempt to make it to the peak, or I can walk away thinking it's "too hard to do". Who else has done this? Lemme see - oh yes - George Bush. I remember - he walked away from Kyoto - probably because he hadn't thought of it. Besides, what's climate change when you're planning a war?

Then, over here we find Mr. Harper trying to justify some of the mindless spewage he made in this 1997 seech.

In the same speech, Harper also told the group that Canada was "a northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term."

Harper said he wasn't serious about that quote.

Uh-huh - that's right up there with "I was quoted out of context" - bullfeathers!

They've also gone to considerable lengths to keep the party morons quiet by shipping them elsewhere.

...and in the department of further evidence of the CPC still having ties with the wingnut factions, we have pictures of Mr. Harper and associates at this organization's website (take a gander through their "newsletter" - *urk*), which apparently has ties with these people.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ye Gods!

It would appear that the repeated ugliness of Bishop Fred Henry's unique brand of Catholicisim is spreading through the Roman Catholic Church like a slow moving tumor.

Over here, we have Cardinal O'Brien in Scotland showing a brilliant bit of bigotry laden crap:

In comments described as "obnoxious", Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he "tolerated" people who lived differently, but added that he must "take a stand when Christianity itself is questioned in this country".

My goodness - I would have expected something better than this from one of the "Princes of the Church". Of course, it's no better than this evangelical nut-case, either.

Is there anyone left in the church hierarchy that sees the compassionate God that Christ spoke of, or have they all turned back to the angry, judging God of the old Testament? It's sad when over a matter of personal beliefs, these people find it necessary to treat others as inferior.

Random Electioneering Bits - and Bytes...

While people get themselves all whipped into a lather over changing the ruling party in the government, there's a few things to consider before January 23:

Over here, we have a CPC candidate facing criminal charges for an attempted smuggling run. That may seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but this is the party that is claiming it is "corruption free". I don't know about you, but after the Gurmant Grewal affair last year, I'm not so sure.
[Update: 09:24 12/01/06]:For the first time ever, the CPC has dumped a questionable candidate

Then, we are treated to Stephen Harper attempting to deny his often stated positions on social issues in response to some of the more recent Liberal ads. Frankly, I'm unimpressed by those ads - they are the kind of 'schoolyard mudslinging' that I abhor anyhow. However, anyone who thinks that a Conservative Government isn't going to be looking at social conservative positions has missed a few things:

Elsie Wayne and the Traditional Definition of Marriage lobby. Please note that these groups have very long standing ties to the CPC and its past incarnations as the Reform and Alliance parties.

Long standing statements by Stephen Harper that reflect his ties to the hard core social conservative movement.

Twits like Clan Byfield who run lobby organizations that think the CPC owes them a debt of some kind.

Not to mention this article where the "social conservatives" are deliberately lying low until the CPC gets elected. If you think they are going to lie low after that, you've got another thing coming.

Why the Liberal campaign isn't playing on this like a violin is beyond me. The CPC isn't running a hidden agenda campaign - it's a suppressed agenda campaign - and a very nasty one at that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Conservative E-mail Propaganda

I received a copy of this in my e-mail today:


My name is Alan Robberstad I am a Canadian. One voter out of millions of Canadian voters.

Paul Martin is no friend of mine. Liberal governments have not made my life any better. Liberal governments have made the future worse for my children.

Jean Chretien and the Liberal Party became Prime Minister many years ago. Guess who was the Liberal Finance Minister.....Paul Martin...LEST WE FORGET

Since 1993:

(1) My taxes have increased.
(2) My family's share of the national debt has increased.
(3) My personal expenses have increased.
(4) My waiting time to see a doctor has increased.
(5) My concerns for my family's safety have increased.
(6) My costs to educate my children have increased.
(7) Government interference in my life has increased.
(8) My personal debt has increased.
(9) My income has stayed more or less the same.
(10) My savings have decreased.
(11) The buying power of my dollar, in Canada, has decreased.
(12) The value of my dollar, in the U.S., has decreased.
(13) My trust of elected officials has decreased.
(14) My trust in the justice system has decreased.
(15 )My trust in the immigration system has decreased.
(16) My hope that a Liberal won't waste my tax dollars has decreased.
(17 )My dreams for a better future for my kids, in Canada, have disappeared.

That is my story since the Liberals came to power.

I am not voting for Paul Martin's Liberals. I am voting against Paul Martin and his Liberal Party in January.
I am voting for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party.

Do I like the Conservatives? Not particularly......I don't really like Politics. I am not political by nature. I am not passionate about politics. I am a middle age guy (48). I live in a small house on a fairly quiet street in Edmonton. I have a wife, Kathy, and two children (ages 19 and 17). I have no pets. I am a middle class man. I don't usually say too much.

Until now:

Now I am going to say something!

In 35 of the past 37 years, Canada has been ruled by:

(1) Pierre Trudeau - a multi-millionaire lawyer from Quebec.
(2) Brian Mulroney - a multi-millionaire lawyer from Quebec.
(3) Jean Chretien - a multi-millionaire lawyer from Quebec.
(4) And now we are going to vote for Paul Martin???? - a multi-millionaire lawyer from Quebec???

The leader of the Conservative party, Stephen Harper, is:
(1) Not a lawyer.
(2) Not a multi-millionaire.
(3) Not from Quebec.

Stephen Harper says that the Conservative party will:
(1) Reduce my taxes.
(2) Pay off the national debt as fast as they can.
(3) Shrink the size and influence of the federal government.

That's good enough for me. I'm going to give the Conservative party a chance with my vote.

But wait! Paul Martin is now saying the same thing. My mother told me forty years ago: "Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me!"
The Liberals have had 34 years to be financially responsible. Remember, Jean Chretien was Trudeau's Finance Minister. Remember also, Paul Martin was Jean Chretien's Finance Minister. These people have been raising my taxes for thirty four years. They have been mis-spending my tax dollars for 34 years.

34 years!

And now Paul Martin says he'll stop taxing and spending. No way. Each time he opens his mouth,,he lies.

Thank you for reading my story so far!

Why am I telling my story to you?
Although I feel alone, I know that I am not alone. Your story may be similar to mine. And you may also feel alone. One small voter in the midst of millions of voters.
What can you and I do together to change things?
Here is my idea: Lets you and I join up together. Just you and I. Together. As a small team of two.
How can you and I fight a huge political machine?
You and I have two things that we can use:
(1) Our individual personal connections.
(2) The Internet.
The Internet is supposed to be this globalizing tool, right? Let's put it to use.
I have 27 Canadians in my personal e-mail address book. I am sending this e-mail to each of them.
I'm asking you to do two things:
(1) Forward this e-mail to every Canadian in your own address book
(2) Vote against Paul Martin and the Liberal Party in January of next year
Vote for the Conservative candidate in your riding.
I have probably written this e-mail too late. As I said I am not politically adroit. I feel like Peter Finch, in the 1976 movie "Network", when he shouted: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Please, forward the e-mail RIGHT NOW!!
I hope the Internet is as fast as some people claim it is.
This may not work. This e-mail may "fizzle out" and go nowhere. But you and I will have tried, won't we have?
My best wishes to you. My best wishes to Canadians everywhere.
My thanks to David Stokes from Toronto He actually wrote this just (5) days before the last federal election. Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me!"
Alan Robberstad Edmonton, Alberta .

That's all of it.

Now, allow me to dissect this thing a little bit, because there are a number of errors, both factual and errors of omission - intentional or otherwise:

Let's start from the top, and dissect accordingly, shall we?

(1) My taxes have increased.

Really? Have your earnings increased perchance? Were you aware that the Liberals had refactored the tax brackets in the mid 1990s to account for the fact that the income brackets had shifted. As a percentage of income, your taxes should be the same, possibly slightly lower than they were - unless of course you shifted tax brackets as a result of increased earnings - during an economic boom.

(2) My family's share of the national debt has increased.

Horsefeathers. The Liberals have wiped out the recurring deficits that the Conservative Mulroney years introduced, and have run surpluses for quite some time. The net effect is that Canada's debt is in fact going down. Second, the population of the country has increased considerably since 1993, which means that your per-capita portion of the debt is in fact quite a bit lower. If you wish to bitch about your percentage of the national debt, I suggest you look closely at the Conservatives as your culprit - especially since Brian Mulroney remains their current idol, with significant policy influence.

(3) My personal expenses have increased.

Inflation has run at all time lows through the 1990s, while incomes have gone up. If your expenses have increased, then perhaps you are overreaching your own financial limits? Of course, you could be pointing at the skyrocketing costs of energy, but then, I'd have to send you back to Brian Mulroney and the FTA and NAFTA agreements that he negotiated with our neighbors to the south.

(4) My waiting time to see a doctor has increased.
(5) My concerns for my family's safety have increased.
(6) My costs to educate my children have increased.

Lessee - do I need to point out that health care delivery and education delivery are provincial concerns. The original author of this letter lived through the Mike Harris years in Ontario, and in Alberta, we've been treated to the 'just do it' hack and slash budgeting of the Klein government - both governments are notably "Conservative". Did the Federal government cut its funding for these programs? Yes, but they did so in dealing with the Deficits (and subsequent DEBT) that the Mulroney era left as its legacy.

As for waiting times to access doctors - how serious have your ailments been? Anyone I know that has been seriously ill has received treatment at a near blinding speed. Personally, when I've had to wait, it's because I'm not _that_ sick (thank god!)

(7) Government interference in my life has increased.

Such as???
(8) My personal debt has increased.
(9) My income has stayed more or less the same.
(10) My savings have decreased.

Take some responsibility for yourself pal - unless the Federal Gov't signs your paycheque, what you earn in this country is your problem. Similarly, I doubt anyone held a gun to your head every time you signed a visa stub or a loan agreement. Personally, my savings are up - quite a bit as a % of my overall assets - but I don't buy every shiny new toy I see in Future Shop either.
(11) The buying power of my dollar, in Canada, has decreased.
(12) The value of my dollar, in the U.S., has decreased.

It has? Really? Then why is the C$ riding between $0.85 and $0.90 US right now - near 20 year highs. Travel through parts of the US comparable to where you live, and you discover that the cost of living in those areas is the same or higher than it is in Canada - and that's measured in US$.

Inflation happens - that's life. The buying power of the C$ around the world has not decreased. In fact, it has gone up because our debt is low, and our economy is strong, with a significant trade surplus.

(13) My trust of elected officials has decreased.
(14) My trust in the justice system has decreased.
(15 )My trust in the immigration system has decreased.

Your opinion, your perspective. You are entitled to it. But unless you can quantify it with some kind of facts it's just an opinion. The last 25 years have been challenging - especially for our legal system - as it grapples with the realities of a restructure of law that the Constitution and Charter of Rights imposed.
(16) My hope that a Liberal won't waste my tax dollars has decreased.
(17 )My dreams for a better future for my kids, in Canada, have disappeared.

Take a bit a of ownership for your own hopes and dreams pal - that's not the government's job. Their job is to keep the country running. It's up to us little people to find ways to be successful. You still live in a rare country where you are free to your opinions, the expression of them, and one that is remarkably stable, in spite of its problems. You can't blame a political party for how you feel.

(4) And now we are going to vote for Paul Martin???? - a multi-millionaire lawyer from Quebec???
The leader of the Conservative party, Stephen Harper, is:
(1) Not a lawyer.
(2) Not a multi-millionaire.
(3) Not from Quebec.

Paul Martin is not a lawyer - he's a businessman. (Which, oddly, is what the Reform/Alliance/CPC has always claimed we should have for governmental leadership - right?)

Stephen Harper is a Political Science graduate who has spent his entire career either working in the Reform/Alliance camp, or running lobby organizations. Remember, lobbyists are the people that are supposedly such a huge problem in government these days - and you want to elect one with a background not in real life, but in political theory? Really...

The Liberals have had 34 years to be financially responsible. Remember, Jean Chretien was Trudeau's Finance Minister. Remember also, Paul Martin was Jean Chretien's Finance Minister. These people have been raising my taxes for thirty four years. They have been mis-spending my tax dollars for 34 years.

To be honest, I don't remember the budgets of the Trudeau years. But I do remember the budgets for the 1980s and 1990s rather well. As I recall, (and have previously noted) the deficits were at their peak, and incurred not under Liberal rule, but under the tenure of Conservative PM Brian Mulroney.

Brian Mulroney is a man who has fought tooth and nail every effort to get to the bottom of the financial and ethical pit that was the Airbus scandal. His very actions have made it near impossible for the government to investigate that affair with a public inquiry - he has threatened to sue every person involved in such an inquiry. This is the man that Stephen Harper has said he would use as his "model" for ethics in good government.

And now Paul Martin says he'll stop taxing and spending. No way. Each time he opens his mouth,,he lies.

Tally up the CPC's promises this election, and then tell me that they are telling the truth fiscally. Paul Martin lies, but so do most politicians. Stephen Harper has been caught out in enough semantic inconsistencies between what he's saying today and what he said not too long ago to make me suspect that on quite a number of fronts, he's not telling the Canadian public the whole story about his intentions.

As for voting CPC? Well - since 1997, I've had the dubious pleasure of having Jason Kenney as my duly elected representative. A man who supposedly wants to be a better representative of his riding than his Liberal, NDP or BQ counterparts. Nobody I know that has tried to involve Mr. Kenney in either discourse, or gaining access to government services has ever received a response from him or his office. That's in damn near ten years he's been in Ottawa! The people in Stephen Harper's riding that I know have reported a similarly deafening silence as well. Consider some of the other "leading lights" of that party from Alberta - Rob "Nelson Mandela is a Terrorist" Anders and Art "Blacks, coloreds and gays to the back of the shop" Hanger, and ask yourself if these people really represent the kind of Canada you believe in, or for that matter, if they are being honest at all.

The Yawning Chasm Opens...

... and spews forth Bishop Henry...

Stupidity, Ignorance and Bigotry - all three in one package - how efficient. Over here we have an interview with the erstwhile Bishop by the Vatican's own news agency.

The beginning of the interview is fine, until it turns to the Bishop's favourite hobby horse - gay marriage. Okay, the Bishop is perfectly entitled to disagree with it, nobody is asking him to endorse a legal same-gender marriage. (Or - if they are, the persons doing so are terminally overoptimistic)

Q: In the wake of the same-sex marriage law, do you foresee a danger of more discrimination against the Church and Catholic organizations?

Bishop Henry: Absolutely! The attempt will be made to continue the process of privatizing and/or marginalizing religion.

Er - I don't quite know what he means by "privatizing" or "marginalizing" religion. As far as I can tell, religion enjoys a uniquely privileged place in our society - both socially and in the context of the government recognition of that role. We grant churches a unique tax free status - even when they try to morph themselves into political lobby groups. Since the government asserts no ownership over churches, they are already private organizations - with an amazing amount of freedom that other private organizations do not enjoy.

It will be argued that the Charter of Rights and the new law regarding same-sex marriages compel public schools to teach their students the moral equivalency of heterosexual and homosexual relations and marriages.

Furthermore, to the extent that these concepts are explored in health and physical education classes, the exploration must be equivalent. The argument will be that any other approach would be discriminatory and contrary to the equality rights under s.15(1) of the Charter and the numerous court cases that have led to the passage of Bill C-38.

The impact of the social re-engineering is bound to filter down to school classrooms.

Bishop Henry's paranoid reading of the law misses the point entirely, and will no doubt continue to miss the point. If there is anything to what he is saying, it would turn up in the issue of whether or not the schools are teaching a curriculum that is fostering hostility towards gay couples.

Among other things, the Bishop is once again confusing moral issues with legal and ethical issues. I respect his right to believe that same gender marriages are morally wrong - It's a shame that the Bishop insists upon forcing his moral view upon the rest of Canadian society.

Then, later in the interview, the Bishop goes on to say:

Within the Catholic community we have to do even more to strengthen our marriage preparation and marriage enrichment courses, our accompaniment of the separated and divorced and the bereaved who have lost spouses, and our celebration of marriage and the beauty of human sexuality in God's plan. Many of us are committed to working for a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others.

Dear Bishop - if human sexuality is truly beautiful, and it's part of God's Plan(tm), would you please explain to me what your problem is with sexual minorities? Does it not occur to you that your very theological position that God Created All(tm) also implies that God Created Those Minorities? No? - I thought not - that might require you to actually open your eyes and recognize the reality of the world around you. (Not something that Pope Ratz is going let you do anytime soon)

Then the exchange moves to politics:

Bishop Henry: Catholic politicians have a duty to be morally coherent. They cannot live as spiritual schizophrenics.

In undertaking any public initiative, it is morally incoherent to leave out completely one's own fundamental convictions, whether for noble or pragmatic reasons. The truth regarding the human person and obligations to uphold this truth do not change when a politician leaves the security of the home and ventures into the secular or political sphere. In all that he or she does, the Catholic politician must work to proclaim and put into action the truth about man and the world.

All Catholic politicians would do well to imitate the example of St. Thomas More, who by his life and death taught that man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality. In him, there was no sign of a split between faith and culture, between timeless principles and daily life, but rather a convergence of political commitment.

While serving all, More knew well how to serve his king, that is the state, but above all wanted to serve God: "The king's good servant, but God's first."

When a politician acts in a manner that is scandalous to the faithful, harmful to society, and gravely immoral, I believe that in keeping with Canon 223, "Ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ's faithful."

Although not the first course of action, this includes the right to holy Communion. For as Canon 915 states: "Those [...] who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion."

In the world of politics, the Bishop has once again missed the boat. A brief review of Section 2 of the Charter should be mandatory reading for him every night before he goes to bed - along with an essay on how the freedoms of conscience and religion also place our politicians in the position of legislating not merely on the basis of their beliefs, but sometimes on the basis of - oddly - law that may well run at odds to specific dogmas.

While Thomas More may have disagreed with the King, and paid the price for it, this is not the era of King Henry VIII. Our laws today are a compact between all citizens and the government. That means our politicians have to act not merely to protect the expressed interests of the masses of the majority, but also those of minority groups.

Second, freedoms of conscience and religion also mean that if the government is to legislate morality, the courts are then obliged to examine that legislation on the grounds of whether it is causing harm to plaintiff groups. If the Bishop wishes to express that SGM causes some kind of harm (goodness knows what that might be), then go for it. Otherwise, he is doing little more than attempting to impose his own religious dogma upon those who may or may not follow his faith traditions.

Sadly, while the Bishop continues to view marriage as a procreative construct, he fails utterly to understand that it's very recognition in law takes it into a very different context from the scriptural and moral viewpoint that he is pushing. Of course, the Bishop is a member of the clergy, and not a lawyer so perhaps the distinction escapes him.

An aside - if Marriage is primarily procreative in nature, as the R.C. church continually seems to argue, then marriages become invalid when one of the partners becomes infertile. More to the point, why don't I hear them howling blue murder about procedures like vasectomy, tubal ligation and hysterectomy? (Yet the church seems to be incredibly worried about condoms?) Of course, the church couldn't possibly be applying a relativistic spin on things, could they? - especially in light of Pope Ratz's condemnation of "relativism"...

The Guano Courts Are Now Open!

Today, the US Military will try a young man for "crimes" committed when he was 15.

I wish I could say that it was a trial - it's not. It's what George Bush has euphemistically called a "Military Tribunal". The impartiality of such a structure is suspect at best - the panel hearing evidence can contain his accusers; his "lawyer" is a young military lawyer (therefore subject to military law himself...) - appointed to the case. (The accused is not permitted their own legal representation) The standards of evidence are much lower than they would be in a civilian court, making evidence obtained by coercive means such as torture admissable.

While the Khadr family's ties to al Quaeda are indisputable, that doesn't justify the US Government's heavy-handed approach here. Even if Omar Khadr was "a fully trained terrorist", he was in a combatant in a war zone. No more, no less. If a US soldier had done the same thing in a similar circumstance, he would have been rewarded. Mr. Khadr, is being tried for "war crimes" - in this case - lobbing a grenade in the vinicity of a US army medic. Somehow, I think there are bigger fish to fry than this guy.

These courts are a farce, and like the handling of the whole Guantanamo Bay prisoner issue, a continuing example of a government acting extra-territorially, and ignoring its own legal process and laws.

The Charter of Rights and Section 33

Paul Martin threw a proposal to inhibit the Federal Government's use of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Monday debate.

Initially, I dismissed it mostly as a desperate election gambit with no real thought behind it. In fact, I mentally concluded that it should be ignored.

Then I heard Irwin Cotler talking about it on CBC's "As It Happens" program last night, and he came very close to selling me on the idea. (I'm sure if Cotler had been standing at the podium for the Liberals instead of Paul Martin, the debate would have gone much better for the Liberals - he's a very sharp speaker.)

Basically, his argument was (like mine with regards to SGM) that the rights that are embodied in the Charter - even if they are not explicitly written therein - should not be subject to the capricious whim of a government.

Further, Cotler argued that the Constitution adopted in 1982 forms a pact of trust between the citizens of Canada, the Legislative Assemblies and the Court System. Providing a government - any government - with the ability to override that trust by a mere act of legislation is simply providing the means to subvert democracy.

An interesting argument, to say the least. To date, the only cases where the terms of section 33 have been proposed haven't been justified in my view. (In the case of SGM civil marriage, most of the arguments against it were either religious moralizing, or failed utterly to demonstrate that any kind of harm was being done as a result)

There are still situations that could arise where Section 33 would be a useful clause - such as a civil emergency (a la the 1970 FLQ Crisis) where the government may need to take extreme measures in the short term which may violate people's civil and legal rights briefly, so I remain somewhat skeptical that removing Section 33 from the government's tools is entirely valid. (But Cotler came damn close to convincing me)

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Great Debate

If the bits I heard of the debate were anything to go by, I'd say that Martin blew this debate more or less sideways.

Martin needed to score some serious points - most of what I heard sounded pretty mushy, and substantially defensive.

He tried to come off as the great defender of civil rights, but to me it sounded flat. There were one or two good swings taken, but mostly at Duceppe - and it's not Duceppe that Martin needs to paint in a new light.


- more analysis tomorrow - when I feel like writing, and the sandpaper irritation of listening to Harper's nasal drone has passed.

Ordinarily, I avoid doing this...

But I don't think Rick Mercer's trying to be funny this time.

And I hope like heck he's very, very wrong...

Toying With Theoretical Models - Part VI: The Critical Thoughts

This is part VI of a series of essays:

Part I Motivations

Part II Obvious Problems

Part III What Evidence Must Be Addressed

Part IV Towards A Layered View

Part V Beauty and the Beast

Part VI The Critical Thoughts

To this point, I've put forward a hypothetical model, and then made an effort (imperfect as it is) to examine whether the model is able to accomodate the data and claims that are available. My list is far from absolutely complete - I could spend many hours poring over data, and tossing things around with statistics. It is not my intention to "prove" something, but rather to put forward a rational model that works with respect to the data available, and does not make moral or ethical judgements about the people involved.

Like any model, there are aspects that can be - and should - be criticized. A few have come to my mind as I have written this series, and I will try to address them here.

Criticism #1: The "Core Attributes" are invisible and untestable

Not quite. I can't tell by looking a piece of ground whether there is a pool of oil underneath it either. We find those pools of oil mostly by indirect techniques such as seismic analysis - and eventually prove it by drilling a hole in the ground which we hope will provide that gusher of oil that we can put a well on top of. Even then, I will never know the precise shape of the reservoir, instead I will only be able to deduce an approximation of it.

A skilled psychoanalyst can get a sense of the form of someone's personality attributes through the various techniques of psychoanalysis that are available. Certainly, the analysis is not going to have the mathematical elegance of a geologist's analysis, but it will become reasonably complete over time. A good therapist will be able to see when a patient is 'stringing them along' or trying to manipulate things.

Psychology is still a discipline with few absolutes, and those few attempts at creating "concrete" measures have turned out to be quite limited in their accuracy and clarity. (please see my comments back here where I addressed the realities of the domain.

Criticism #2: This Opens Everything Up For Inclusion - an interest in feathers could be seen as a sexual orientation

Perhaps it does - I certainly haven't made any rules about what is "core" and what is "behaviour". To borrow from the movie "Shrek" - Ogres are like onions - made of layers. So are people - there may well be layers of behaviour wrapped around our basic personality attributes that are nearly as difficult to change. As I stated earlier, in many ways our understanding of the human mind's workings is like Galen's understanding of the human body - imperfect, and likely deeply flawed.

Nevertheless, a model that encompasses the known data reasonably is better than no model at all.

Criticism #3: Where's the data that backs this model up?

I can't give you statistical data that reinforces this, it's a model that I have derived from reading, and thought on my part. In some respects, it could form the basis for a long, happy career on my part trying to substantiate it and flesh out with empirical data.

At best, my data is anecdotal - based on what I have read and observed over the years I have been aware of such issues in life. Some of the books I have read are written by people with far more depth in the issues of psychology and psychotherapy than I have, and I take their bibliographies as a clue to what seems to be reasonable research and conclusions drawn from it.

Criticism #4: Aha! So you accept that orientation may change!

No. I accept the possibility that behaviour may change. I am much more skeptical about the underlying impetus for those behaviours. There is simply too much evidence that contradicts that precept. In particular two key areas of evidence trouble me with the assertion of orientation changing:

1) The 'failed ex-gay' issue is very troublesome. The reports from former 'ex-gay's suggest to me that for all of their efforts, some core driver brought them back to where they were.

2) The persistence of feeling that has been reported by both homosexual and heterosexual people. Whatever the roots of one's sexual orientation, it seems that once it is set, it is very unlikely to change dramatically. (Try interesting most heterosexual people in a homosexual relationship, and they get very uncomfortable, and the converse is also true overall)

These two areas in particular make me very suspicious of the claim that "change is possible". Behaviour modification, certainly, but core attribute change seems less likely. I am familiar with Spitzer's study, and the criticisms of it. Until a more objective study emerges that confirms the claims Spitzer is making, I personally remain skeptical.

Criticism #5: No Explanation of Origins

I am playing on some of what we do understand of human behavioural development, and modification of behaviour. Newton's physics didn't try to explain the origins of the world - it merely describes the observed behaviour in the world. So it is with my model.

I don't even begin to claim that I believe that we have a good understanding of the roots from which the human psyche develops. Certainly, we do understand that environment and experiences play a big role, but we don't fully understand that role yet, nor do we understand the basic behaviours that children exhibit early in life.

While no "gay gene" has been found to date, all that means is that we haven't established an understanding yet of the base development of the human psyche. The human genome is huge, and we only understand a small fraction of how it fits together, much less how it influences the brain, and the higher level functions of the brain. Among other things, hormones affect the brain, as do exercise and stimuli.

The absence of absolute data explaining human psychological development is simply that - an absence of data. In such a situation, the field is quite open to a variety of explanatory models. My guess is that the long range explanation of human psyche development will be firmly rooted in multiple disciplines - developmental psychology, biology, biochemistry and genetics - just name a few - bringing together such disparate disciplines will be a long time in coming.

The model I have presented isn't about origins, it's about trying to frame the available data in some kind of reasonable fashion.

Toying With Theoretical Models - Part V: Beauty and The Beast

This is part V of a series of essays:

Part I Motivations

Part II Obvious Problems

Part III What Evidence Must Be Addressed

Part IV Towards A Layered View

Part V Beauty and the Beast

Part VI The Critical Thoughts

Of course, as both Freud and Jung's work shows, the real ugly problem arises when you start trying to apply the real data to the theoretical model. Freud's conceptual model of Id, Ego, Super Ego etc. became gradually more and more twisted as he clung to an extremely male-physiology-centered interpretation of things. (hardly surprising, Freud was a man, in an era where feminine behaviours were seen as nearly otherworldly by most men)

So let me step back to some of the evidence issues I raised here, and explore how they fit into the proposed model:

1. Mutability of Sexual Orientation

Where strongly "polar" heterosexual and homosexual individuals are concerned, their expressed sense of core orientation is reportedly constant. For these individuals, the "elastic" that ties their behaviour back to their core identity is fairly short and does not permit a great deal of variation in behaviour.

But, we have ex-gay groups claiming that they have clear evidence of members that have changed their orientation. Criticisms of Spitzer's study raise the prospect that many of the "successful ex-gays" were either bisexual to begin with, and had simply adjusted their behaviour, or had become celibate homosexuals. to reconcile two seemingly incompatible sets of evidence? The first observation is that people's sexuality is highly variable, and in many different degrees. So, an individual may well be "extremely" heterosexual, or "extremely" homosexual, but similarly, there are all sorts of shadings in between which individuals may or may not have acknowledged in themselves. It is quite conceivable that the successful ex-gays have been bisexual in the first place, and simply hadn't understood that aspect of themselves fully as adults.

If we then apply the "veneer" of public behaviour (which is often shaped by societal pressures and other factors), and allow it to drift somewhat relative to the underlying core attributes, it is quite reasonable to find that there will be those who believe that their orientation has in fact changed. Whether the core identity has changed is open to some debate - and is much more difficult to prove, but we have a model which describes the experiences of both camps relatively well. It also happens to conveniently bring into the discussion the bisexual population that is often ignored in these discussions.

Similarly, the "ex-ex-Gays" (ex-Gays who have returned to their gay identity) may well be individuals who "overstretched" their public behaviour relative to where there core identity is, and eventually the core identity asserted itself strongly enough to cause the individual to step away from the public construct of being 'straight'.

I do not claim that this is absolutely the case, but it does provide what I believe is a reasoned view of the experiences described by all parties, without telling any individual that their life experience is invalid. (In my view, any model which tries to tell someone that their life experience is somehow less than valid is not only flawed, but dangerously incorrect)

2. Fluidity of Behaviour

Human beings are capable of a vast range of behaviours, and some people seem to change almost day by day.

The ability of individuals to morph their behaviour varies considerably (there are reasons I can't act to save my life), and again, this model provides a means to rationally understand the differences between someone's core personality attributes and the behaviours they exhibit publicly. Some people will possess a greater degree of elasticity in their behaviours than others (explaining, for example, the difference between a great actor who can vanish in their characters and most of the world whose acting ability ends at playing nice with wierd aunt Martha that we see once a year)

3. Persistence of Behaviour

Just as humanity is able to express a huge range of behaviours, it is striking how persistent behaviours can be, even in the face of proscription both in law and socially.

Again, this model seems to work in a wide variety of situations. If one takes the case of an alcoholic, who is physically addicted to the alcohol, it is essential for them to develop specific coping and avoidance behaviours to keep them away from liquor.

Similar approaches are being tried in situations involving certain types of criminal behaviour (e.g. pedophilia - see Karl Toft's release conditions - where he agrees to a large number of avoidance strategies manage his condition.) The success of such tactics is limited by the willingness and motivation of the patient, as evidenced by the high rate of recidivism among such offenders.

(* NB: Please note that I am not equating or linking homosexuality with pedophilia - by far the majority of pedophiles present as heterosexual - the only similarity is with respect to the notion of persistence of behaviour)

In both cases, the model I have proposed actually seems to hold together - there is behaviour that is engaged in by the individual, but that behaviour does not imply that the person has changed their underlying core attributes. At best, they have developed management strategies that allow them to function more or less normally.

In relative terms, the behaviour has changed, but core attributes remain much more constant - evolving at a very slow rate - if at all - in adulthood. Individuals will find a "comfort zone" of behaviour that isn't too far removed from their core attributes. This provides reasonable explanation of the claim that something has changed on the part of the ex-gays, as well as the strong persistence of behaviour experienced by "ex-ex-gays", and most heterosexual individuals.

4. Validity of Personal Experience

I have been very troubled by the dismissiveness with which the right wing treats human diversity:

In this article, we find the following paragraph at the end:

Landolt said, “The same thing happened in Ontario with the so-called ‘transgendered.’ They were refused OHIP coverage for their surgeries and they went to the Human Rights Tribunals.

The use of quotes around the term transgendered is a clue to a general dismissiveness of someone, you can almost hear the sneer in the speaker's voice (no doubt the intention on the writer's part). Similar writing permeates the "reporting" that you find on sites like LifeSite and other "religious news sites".

Looking at the picture more realistically, we need to recognize that individual experience is very important. To dismiss someone's experience because we do not fully understand it is simply flawed logic and exceedingly disrespectful of the people claiming those experiences. It also is the first step in marginalizing someone.

The model that I have proposed allows for a rational understanding of the experiences reported persistently by many members of minority groups who barely register as statistical blips in the overall population (but who exist, nontheless).

The Cass Review and the WPATH SOC

The Cass Review draws some astonishing conclusions about the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) . More or less, the basic upshot of the Cass Rev...