Saturday, April 29, 2006

Government in Secret

Following up on a comment back here, I went digging into the NORAD question, and found this little gem where the Conservatives have just signed Canada to "indefinite" involvement in NORAD.

Now, first, let me be clear, I believe that NORAD, like NATO, has served a valuable role in Canada's defenses. However, both organizations are leftovers of the post-WWII "Cold War" era. The degree to which they are relevant today is somewhat suspect.

Second, my problem is not that the Conservatives have signed a renewal of the NORAD agreement either, but rather the apparent secrecy of both the negotiations (how many Canadians even knew this topic was on the table?), and the ambiguous terms that have been agreed to.

Once again, we find ourselves treated to another example of "Open, Accountable Government" - CPC Style. This is neither openness, nor accountability. It's an attempt to govern by subterfuge - to commit Canada to as many things that will inexorably tie our fate to that of the United States as possible - before Canadians can turf this miserable bunch out of office.

[Update 18:00 29/04/06]: So, now Harper is promising a debate on NORAD treaty. This is after the fact of the negotiations taking place. This comes as yet another entry in the list of events where the Harper government continues not only to disregard Parliament, but clearly has an agenda that is hostile not only to Canadians, but derisive towards the intelligence of the Canadian voter.

Remember, this is coming from the party that spent the last couple of years ranting about "Open, transparent, accountable government" - so why is so much being done in secret?

What's Wrong With the Softwood Deal?

In a word - lots.

While CPC apologists go off praising how "quickly and professionally" Harper was able to wrest an agreement on this topic from the United States government, they miss several factors that are seriously problematic.

First, is a matter of principle. Three nations signed theNAFTA agreement in the early 1990s. The United States breached that agreement in the Softwood Lumber dispute, and even through both WTO and NAFTA dispute resolution mechanisms lost.

So why is Canada allowing them to keep over a billion dollars of money that belongs to Canadians and Canadian companies? Why are we, in effect, paying a penalty of any kind to the United States?

Additionally, the signal that this sends is that International Agreements are meaningless to the CPC government now sitting in Ottawa.

Second, are the artificial "floor price" clauses. This is a problem on a couple of levels. First, the Canadian industry has restructured itself enormously in order to survive the punititive tariffs levied by the Americans. At this point in time, if Canadian mills were to crank up to full capacity, they not only would be able to out produce their American counterparts. In essence, this is a penalty for being more efficient.

Third is an arbitrary ceiling placed upon how much of the US market that the Canadian lumber industry can occupy. Considering that the governing parties in both countries claim to "support the free market economy", I find this to be a serious non-sequitur. While the terms of NAFTA have allowed all sorts of American businesses to come into Canada and wipe out local Canadian enterprises, we are being told that it doesn't apply the other way?

[update]: I did miss a point in the second announcements made on this topic - the market ceiling has been removed.

The "sudden agreement" reached is consistent not with "Harper professionalism", but rather the partisan bias that that the BushCo administration has shown since the beginning. It has been very clear since the first days of BushCo that they weren't interested in talking to anyone who wasn't "their brand of conservative" (and anything calling itself "liberal" can't possibly be that). Notable, is that this deal had been "in the works" for a long time - going back to well before the election triggered last November.

What's next - Ottawa signing on to BushCo's farcicle little "Missile Defense" program, or are they just going to go whole hog and commit Canada to BushCo's next war?

Friday, April 28, 2006

This Is Not Reassuring

When the bureaucrat responsible for government transparency and information disclosure trashes your bill, it might not be written to do what you think.

I've beaten on this drum before - Harper isn't what he claims to be, and so far he has yet to put forth anything that suggests that what he campaigned for has anything to do with his real agenda.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Softwood Lumber Deals?

According to the CBC, a base deal on Softwood Lumber has been reached with the United States.

A few interesting tidbits emerge on a brief evaluation:

1. Coming from two parties that are both ostensibly "free market" proponents, it's possibly the first time since Pierre Elliot Trudeau imposed "wage and price controls" in the 1970s that I have seen this much government regulation of industry and markets:

The agreement would see Canada allowed access to roughly 34 per cent of the U.S. softwood lumber market.
In Ontario's best years, its forestry sector produces some 12 per cent of Canada's softwood lumber exports to the United States, Ramsay said. Under the proposed deal, Ontario's softwood lumber exports would be capped around nine per cent, a significant reduction for companies like Tembec and Domtar.
Under the terms of the deal announced Wednesday, Canada will also collect an export tax on softwood lumber shipped to the United States if the price drops below $355 per thousand board feet. The tax would be at least five per cent of the price per thousand board feet.

There's several things that just plain wrong here. First, this looks like Washington trying to divvy up how Canada will exploit its resources. This is an International Agreement for goodness' sake - what is it doing with production quotas in it that affect Canada's internal affairs?

Then, there is the floor price issue. Last I checked, if you make widgets and charge $10 for them, and I make "similar" widgets and I can sell them for $8 (and still make money), the market economy says I should be free to do so. But no, Canada is suddenly obliged to collect a counterveiling tariff/tax. Isn't the third word in NAFTA "FREE" as in "Free Market Economy"? Wherein American corporations seem to have had free license to come into Canada at will? Apparently, where Canada has a competitive advantage, we should pay for it? What the heck is that?

If this is Harper's idea of "smoothing things over" with BushCo, he's a bigger idiot than I thought. I have a little newsflash for Stephen - Canadians don't want you to sell the country off to the American Government! (especially not the current one)

I can hardly wait to see what HarperCrit puts into the Budget next week...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Argument By Assertion

Yesterday, I wrote about the false comparison between Chris Kempling's case and Mark Tushingham. At the time, I merely chose to tap dance all over the utter illogic of comparing the two cases.

However, in my travels researching Mr. Kempling's case (in particular, hunting for the original text of his letters), I found a few things that I thought were rather revealing of the right wing(nut)s arguments towards GLBT people.

First, I find only a few articles on Worldnet Daily that mentioned Mr. Kempling at all - and but one with an excerpt of his letter in it.

Then, I ran into this little piece of testimony provided to the State of Massacheusetts legislature.

In general, what is striking about both Kempling and DeSerre's arguments is this - not a single verifiable fact is presented. It's all inference and allusion. I'll only take a few highlights to make my point here:

From Kempling:

Gay people are seriously at risk, not because of heterosexual attitudes but because of their sexual behaviour, and I challenge the gay community to show some real evidence that they are trying to protect their own community members by making attempts to promote monogamous, long-lasting relationships to combat sexual addictions.

This is just loaded with assertions, not one of which appear to actually be substantiated:

a. Gays are promiscuous.
b. Sexually active gays are at risk for disease. (so are heterosexuals)
c. Gays are "sexual addicts". (wow - that's an assumption!)

From DeSerre:

2- Research demonstrates conclusively that heterosexual marriage serves children's best interests. There is no such evidence for same-sex marriage. The French National Assembly Commission was presented with "research on children raised by same sex couples concluding the absence of any ill effects on the children. Their scientific nature and the representation of the samples of the populations studied were broadly criticized and contested during the hearings... the lack of objectivity in this area was flagrant." One presumes that the very best research would have been presented. These conclusions are consistent with other studies here in the U.S..

More stupid assertions.

1. "Research demonstrates ..." Really - what research, pray tell?
2. "there is no such evidence for same-sex marriage" - False. Very False. The American Psychological Association has published numerous papers on the outcomes of homosexual couples raising children.
3. The research that's out there on same-sex families is biased. Really? I might accept the criticism that the sample sizes are very small, but unless the peer review system in academe has seriously failed since the early 1970s, I suspect that the research is at least reasonably objective.
4. The research presented was "not the best available". It might have been imperfect, but it might also be all that is available. We are talking about a very small population here, and one that for the most part can be very hard for researchers to access as they will try to stay "out of sight" much of the time.

Note, that again, not a single source for the assertions is actually cited. I could not practically go back to DeSerres' original sources and validate the analysis made.

Now, returning to the allegation that the Religious Right likes to make that the freedom of religion and right to freedom of speech are being curtailed. This is actually a false allegation. Please note that in neither example I have presented is there a single reference to the scriptural foundation of those assertions. Instead, both Kempling and Serres have made assumptions about how they believe a small subpopulation conducts itself, and then railed against that conduct. I believe in logical terms, that's known as a "straw man" argument.

The religious right starts their arguments from a number of assumptions, and then bully their way forward as if their assumptions are mystically based upon facts. Like the proverbial "Emperor's New Clothes", nobody watching can actually seem to see these alleged facts.

Why Some "Public Interest" Data Shouldn't Be Public

Over the past week or so, we've had to listen to the wailing over how a young man used Maine's "Sex Offender Registry" to track down and murder two registered offenders.

For reasons I will never claim to understand, the twits in Maine's legislature decided that it was a good idea to make the registry publicly accessible on the web. I'm sure that they thought of all the 'good' reasons to do so - such as making it easier for parents to be aware that two blocks away is a known pedophile, etc. But surely it had to have occurred to them that just maybe some halfwit would pick up a gun and a map and decide that they were the angel of justice.

Making this kind of information public gravely endangers the offender after they have served their sentence. I realize that without significant ongoing counselling the risk of a sex offender (especially a pedophile) reoffending is very high. However, for reasons of safety, both public and the offender's, it important to keep the location of individual offenders in the hands of people charged with public safety such as the police. Making it publicly accessible - especially with addresses - on the internet is simply inviting disaster.

Parents need to be aware if there is a risk, and we need to do a better job of ensuring that offenders are placed in locations where the risk they pose can be managed effectively. Simply making the location where an offender lives known publicly does little to manage the risk, and actually endangers both the public and the offender needlessly.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oh Woe, The Christian is Persecuted

Via Canadian Cynic, I find myself directed to the most amazing piece of illogic I have read in a long time.

The writer seems to think that there is a logical comparison between the idiot treatment of Mark Tushingham by the CPC government, and Chris Kempling. After all, both are cases of "free speech" being abrogated.

WRONG. How utterly, vastly WRONG.

Tushingham is an environmental scientist who wrote - and got published - a piece of speculative fiction and was ordered not to talk about it by his employer.

Kempling was (is?) a teacher/guidance counsellor in a school setting who wrote several 'letters to the editor' that were blatantly homophobic.

If you were wondering about the moral equivalence here, it's nonexistent.

Tushingham interacts primarily with adults, Kempling was providing counselling to students.

Tushingham wrote a "what if" speculation based on his ideas about what could happen if global warming goes awry.

Kempling wrote a bunch of moralizing letters based on HOW HE THOUGHT the gay community behaves. (Given that Mr. Kempling refers to NARTH on his own website, I'd hazard a wild guess that quantitative research on sexual minority populations isn't big on his list of experiences).

Kempling's job made him a fairly high profile person in a small community. Word travels in small towns - fast. Any student that was GLBT would have found themselves unable to access Kempling as a credible counsellor for anything after those letters were published. Do you think that just maybe Mr. Kempling made the school(s) he worked in a less "safe" place for a small number of students?

Do I need to point out that prior to Minister Ambrose's ham-fisted action, nobody had even heard of Tushingham outside of his immediate circles? His job wasn't one that puts him in a position of "authority" over others, and his target audience for writing is clearly adults.

Of course, the "Christian Right" wants you to believe that Mr. Kempling was "only exercising his right to free speech"; that he was being persecuted for stating his religious convictions publicly.

One has to look at the impact of the actions involved. As far as I can tell, nothing in Tushingham's work would be jeopardized by him giving that speech. His ability to carry out his work effectively is not compromised, nor is his judgement being called into question. Kempling, on the other hand, by his own actions sent out a message to his students that effectively put them "on notice" that he was prepared to be discriminatory towards a small fraction of them. (a small, but very vulnerable, fraction)

The reason that you cannot compare Kempling's case with Tushingham's is pretty obvious - they aren't equivalent. Nor was Kempling being "persecuted" for being "Christian".

HarperCrit Watch ... Installment XVII

In yet another stunning example of the CPC Government's hypocrisy, we are treated to the media being pushed away from the arrival of dead soldiers' remains when they are returned from Afghanistan.

Yet again, we see the Harper government's actions mimicking their masters in Washington - in this case, trying to hide the consequences of government actions from the people. BushCo has worked very hard to make it nearly impossible for the press to get anywhere near the aircraft that have returned several thousand US soldiers killed in Iraqi operations. Apparently, HarperCrit thinks we shouldn't know what's happening. Remember, there's nothing like seeing the nation's youth returned in coffin after coffin to bring home the impact of engaging in wars.

Following up on that little bit of BushCo emulation, we are treated to this story on Softwood Lumber. Apparently we are getting close to a "framework within which to negotiate a settlement" - whatever that means. Given the utterly revolting sycophancy that HarperCrit and Mackay have shown towards BushCo, I can imagine just what's really happening here - and I doubt very much that it will be to Canada's benefit.

As if to complete the picture, Canada appears to be creating its own Guantanamo Bay style detention facility. The "security certificate" model that the Liberals put forward in the wake of 9/11 has always bothered me, and continues to really irritate me as an utter violation of due process before the law. In creating the 'security certificate', we created a second class of justice and process that is indeterminate and unreasonable. The rules are sketchy and vague, and essentially we are holding people without access to due process or charges before the law. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I'll put money that HarperCrit will not do anything to address this problem - after all, it's not like Washington has done anything about Guano Bay, have they?

Unleash The Puns...

According to CNN, the WhiteHouse is set to replace Scott Mclellan with a fellow named Tony Snow.

That will add a whole new dimension to the Whitehouse press briefings - they'll officially be Snow's Job!

...of course, that like putting new curtains up when the window frames are rotting and the foundation is crumbling.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ignorance is the Spawn of Suppression

Via Raw Story, we get a couple of insights into the consequences of the Conservative view of sexuality (namely that it is evil and should be suppressed):

Yet more arguments as to why "asbtinence education" doesn't work. (It doesn't, and I've commented on the obvious reasons for that before).

Recent legislation in S. Dakota has placed a chill on sexual expression throughout much of the midwest and southern United States it seems, with several states proposing legislation similar to S. Dakota's anti-abortion laws.

Next on the list of targets by the conservatives appears to be sex toys: Bill Would Ban Sex Toy Sales in S.C.. Yes, several states have had bans on sex toys for years, but 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines as punishment?! When has a vibrator hurt anybody?

Wouldn't legislators be better off trying to think up a way to better regulate the guns that are so prevalent?

More Propaganda ...

I've complained before about the BS coming out of the HarperCrit's government.

Today, I received an e-mail about this article in which we see Gordon O'Connor sounding like a bad knock-off of Donald Rumsfeld.

At risk of being accused of plagirism, I'll turn over the floor to the email comment received:

Okay now, how much of that sounded exactly as if it was BushCo speaking to the American people ??? Exactly all of it!! The use of the word terrorist when describing anyone who attacks your troops, despite the fact that what is actually going on is a Civil War and we are (unfortunately) picking sides. The other statement is "Our troops on the ground are protecting Canada". Bullsh!t, that statement is part of the 'fear mongering' that is so pervasive in the U.S. and is designed to make us believe that our government, through the use of the troops, are 'protecting' us from the evil terrorists.

Frankly this is disgusting, it is lying to the Canadian people and setting the stage for the same kind of crap rhetoric that has caused the American peoples to become so xenophobic.

The more I hear out of HarperCrit, the more afraid I become that we have just elected "mini-Shrub".

Setting The Stage - Part X of Many

So, in this morning's The Globe and Mail, we find two articles that are very interesting:

Iran's Nuclear Program Irreversible

Followed by:

Iraq worrying about "troop buildup" on its borders

Then, over on CNN, we find that another "Bin Laden Tape" has been aired on Al Jazeera.

Superficially, these appear to be somewhat unrelated. but, Iran's President has openly threatened Israel in several speeches. Then, when you add to the mix Bin Laden stirring the pot by criticizing western powers for cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority following the Democratic Election of Hamas, and BushCo's relentless sabre rattling towards Iran (whose president is a consummate button pusher) and Iraq suddenly 'getting nervous' about a "troop buildup" on its borders, can you see the pieces lining up?

Iran will be declared a threat to Israel, and Iraq will ask the world community for "help" dealing with the buildup of Iranian troops on its borders. (Of course, we'll ignore the fact that Iran is likely putting troops in place to defend against an anticipated American invasion based in Iraq and Afghanistan)

The match to light this powderkeg will be Iran performing a subterranean test of something explosive. (A seismograph can't tell the difference between a nuclear blast and a huge conventional blast.) Iran's president doesn't care about the consequences of his actions, and George Bush appears to be quite willing to engage in another war.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

HarperCrit, BushCo & Mulroney

Second only to the sycophantic drivel that has come out of both Harper and Mackay after their first meetings with members of BushCo, we are treated to Brian Mulroney waxing philosophical about how we should "engage" the United States.

According to Mr. Mulroney, Harper is "off to a good start". Hmmm - off to a good start by cuddling up with a President that is arguably the most dangerous President in American History, as well as being possibly the most unpopular in history.

Meanwhile, The HarperCrit and his Lapdog seem bound and determined to piss off China.

Let's talk a little about long range political thinking - BushCo has a maximum of 2 years left - China - decades. By the time Bush leaves the Whitehouse, the US will be deeper in debt than it has ever been, and its economy will have been hollowed out by consumer debt and financing multiple wars in the Middle East.

On the other side of the coin, China is booming - growing at over 10% per year, and is probably the single biggest opportunity for Canadian economic interests in terms of trading partners. Yes, even an economically disabled United States will remain a huge force in world economics for years to come, but China is not to be ignored.

Mulroney and Harper err considerably in their view that we must cuddle up with the current Whitehouse administration. Not only is a cozy relationship with BushCo folly on the world stage, it is simply bad policy. BushCo has demonstrated absolutely no wisdom with regards to world affairs, their own economy or much of anything else. What on earth would make one believe that such a myopic vision of the world is going to lead anywhere but to tragedy?

The former prime minister said "there are few durable solutions on the environment on any other international issue without the engagement of the United States and the leadership of its president."

Wrong. Not just a little bit wrong, but outright wrong. The United States thinks it is the economic gravity well of the world. But a burgeoning trade deficit in all directions leaves the US in a very vulnerable position. Having gutted their own manufacturing base in their rush to "globalize", the US is eminently vulnerable to commercial sanctions. What would happen if the US suddenly found itself unable to import cheap consumer goods from Asia? Natural resources from Canada?

Policy can be coerced in multiple directions by many forces. I think most of the world has long ago resigned itself to the stone-headed thickness of BushCo and is quietly biding their time to see what the next administration looks like. Just about anything is going to be more readily reasoned with than BushCo.

As for the HarperCrit, by taking advice from Brian Mulroney, he tars himself with the same brush. Canadians would do well to recall just how much damage Mulroney's policies ultimately did to this nation.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Of Health Care Policy and the Undead

I don't know what it is about Ralph Klein. The man's been smacked around like a political punching bag lately - by his own party no less. His latest swatting coming from a legislative caucus now nervous about the idea of private health care insurance and a few other aspects of Ralph's so-called "Third Way".

Via Feministe, we learn of just how hideous the Health Insurance lobby in the United States really is.

For the short term, the most destructive aspects of Ralph's policy appears to have been chopped up and buried in several separate graves. However, like zombies, it always seems to find a way to crawl back out of the grave.

Until the PC's have chosen a new leader this fall, I think we can all breath a little easier. However, just because Ralph's gone, doesn't mean that we can trust his replacement on this topic. Citizens of Alberta will have to remain vigilant for a long time to come to guarantee that our health care system doesn't get overrun by the avaracious greed of private, for profit corporate interests.

Reasons Not To Read ...

Anything ... by James Dobson and his ilk.

Dear Abby has the following letter in her column today:

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ron," and I are at odds over parenting our 7-year-old son, "Brett." My husband is very domestic. He cooks like a world-class chef and does more housework than any man I know of.

I have read Dr. James Dobson's books on family. He clearly states that a father should be the manly role model for the son, to prevent the son from being homosexual. I'm concerned that Brett will learn feminine ways from my husband and turn out to be gay. How can I convince Ron that he needs to teach Brett the more manly things in life? -- WORRIED MOM IN FLORIDA

Fortunately, Abby replies with a modicum of sense:

DEAR WORRIED MOM: From my perspective, you don't need to change a thing. With all due respect to Dr. Dobson, your husband is already a manly role model to your son. He is teaching the boy important survival skills that will be invaluable when he is older. With luck, your son will turn out to be every bit the man -- and father -- that your husband is.

All that this really tells you is how utterly stupid Dobson's view of "family" really is. (although, frankly, I think Ms. Abby is being far, far too respectful of "Dr." Dobson)

Looks Like a Rat, Smells Like a Rat...

A couple of days ago, the Globe and Mail pointed out how General Hillier is being muzzled. In that article was the following little gem (pointed out to me by a reader):

Mr. Dosanjh pointed out that, in his recent speeches, Gen. Hillier has said that tactical, short-haul aircraft to replace the military's ancient C-130 Hercules transports are his priority.

Mr. O'Connor, by contrast, has said frequently that strategic or long-haul lift must come first. The Tories have also promised three new icebreakers for the Arctic.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Gen. Hillier and Mr. O'Connor have discussed procurement, but nothing has been resolved.

Hmmm...why on earth would Canada want long range strategic lift capability? It doesn't do much good if you can't handle shorter range tactical lift as well, and we've always been able to rent that capability when needed. (It's not just the capital cost of the aircraft to consider, but in fact the ongoing "care-and-feeding" costs of maintenance, training etc.)

Then, in today's Globe and Mail, we get this little gem which fills in a few of the blanks:

"If they go with six [C-17s], that means they'll delay tactical lift," a source close to the Defence Department said. "Hillier will react to that." ...
Preliminary discussions have already taken place between Defence Department and U.S. military officials on whether Canada could get speedy access to some of the Boeing C-17s already on order to the U.S. military, sources say."We know that officials have spoken," a defence industry source said.

The U.S. government has made it known through its embassy in Ottawa that it would facilitate the purchase, the source said.

A similar arrangement was recently struck with Australia, which is buying four of the planes.

Take a close look at this - Washington, D.C. has "made it known". WTF? Washington is involved in Canada's military planning? (Somehow, the image of Stephen Harper being hand-puppet to GWB comes to mind way too fast).

Intriguingly, a similar deal was made for interesting.

Remember, that not too long ago we were being told that the military wouldn't be taking on new assignments abroad.

This starts to smell - rotten - like a compost heap gone anaerobic.

Here we are with BushCo continuing to claim that "all options" are on the table - after denying repeatedly that he was considering bombing Iran with nuclear weapons. Which is it George - either all the cards are on the table, or they're not.

Then we have "our good friends" in Washington "helping" us get access to aircraft that Boeing is currently building for the US Military? Aircraft that are designed for strategic life more so than tactical life?

Add to this the "give the troops a rest" routine, and I smell Canada getting sucked into whatever the United States does with Iran. (Likely late this year, or early next year)

How is $1200 "choice"?

Roaming through a few of the more blatantly "pro-CPC" blogs this morning, I find that the "talking point du jour" is how the Conservative Party's "$100/month {taxable} Childcare benefit" is all about creating choice for people, and yet evil "liberal" types use the term choice all the time when talking about abortion laws.

First, I would be the last person to draw any kind of equivalency between abortion and child care. Any attempt to do so is disingenuous jingoism at its worst.

Second, $100/month, when taxed, leaves an "average" family (income ~ $35K/year - which is starvation wages low where I live) with about $70 - far less than that if your income is pushing $60-70 and up.

Think about it - you are a single parent struggling by on a $35K salary in a city like Calgary, Vancouver or Toronto and someone hands you an extra $70 a month. Lovely - it's not like you'll turn down the money, but in terms of child care it makes precious little difference. Heck - the cost of diapers in a month is going to be that much or more for young children! Day care in major urban centers is running anywhere from $600 to well over $1000/month. (Hmmm let's see - $75 might buy - a whole two days of cheaper daycare...)

So - how, pray tell, is this pittance creating choice? A family struggling with the costs of raising children is still struggling. Has this created one new daycare space for a family which needs two incomes just to survive? No - of course not.

For a family who chooses to have the mother stay at home, $1200 is a slap in the face - assuming a 2000 hour work year (and we all know that being a parent is not an 8 hour a day job!), it's about $0.60/hour. In Alberta, the minimum wage is pushing $8.00/hr - to flip hamburgers at McDonald's!

Families where both parents work - out of necessity or choice - two days of cheap (and cheap is rare) day care is a bad joke. It's an even worse joke if both parents are pulling down professional incomes - because it's taxable income and pretty much gets clawed back.

If the CPC was serious about creating choice for families, they would have to approach the issue from several different angles:

1) Address the issues faced by families with regards to taxation in a way that reduces the tax burden carried. For example, allow income splitting between spouses to reduce the tax burden for a couple where one parent has chosen to stay at home to raise children. Other policy options would include a sizable direct deduction for child care costs which would come directly off the gross income.

2) Address the ongoing problems faced by low income earners trying to raise children (and who must work just to keep body and soul together). This means creating affordable child care spaces across the nation. Whether that is through a subsidy program or whatever doesn't matter - it has to be direct and concrete. {No, programs to "encourage" industry to create such spaces don't count - they don't work, and they always get subverted by corporate greed.}

3) Focus the taxpayer dollars spent on child care in areas where they do the most to ensure that people have practical choices. Right now, the only people that have real choices are the wealthy. If you can afford to live on one income, that's lovely - go for it. If you have two professional incomes in the family, that's fine too - the cost of "better quality" childcare may be irritating, but you can find a way to afford it. Lower income families don't have these choices - they are often struggling just to keep food on the table and a roof overhead. They must work just to pay the bills. Where are their options?

Choice - real choice - is about enabling people to be productive, valued members of society. Stephen Harper's program doesn't do that. In fact, one could look at Stephen Harper's program as doing little more than punishing women for having sex. After, all, it is often the woman who winds up with the 'stay-at-home' duties, especially in the child's early years. I think it really says something about how the the CPC values "traditional roles" (apparently at about 7% of working at McD's).

The message to women - don't have sex - you can't afford the consequences. If you do, not only are we going to punish you for that, we're going to value your efforts as a parent at a fraction of what you'd make working at McDonald's. God help you if you're single, and there's no man to help pay the bills - cause the CPC sure as heck won't.

Yes...the CPC, they're really all about choice, aren't they?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I'd Hate to Be A Creationist Right Now

Whether you are talking about theistic creationism, or the pseudo science that is called "intelligent design", I'd really hate to be trying to advocate for either of those notions right now.

The science evidence behind the Theory of Evolution continues to mount, and in the last few weeks, it seems to have done so in astonishing leaps:

Tiktaalik clearly demonstrates a significant finding in terms of "filling in" the gap between fish and land-resident reptiles. Since the creationist movement likes to insist that there has to be "intermediate" forms, and there is 'no evidence of such', I'd postulate that the biblical literalist view of creation just crumbled into utter irrelevance.

As if that wasn't enough, someone has found a fossil showing an early snake form in the process of losing its legs. Again, another little piece of information emerges to "fill in a gap", further reinforcing the strength of the theoretical model that rests as the foundation of evolution models.

Then, we get to add another lovely little find hominid fossils in Ethiopia that further reinforce the estimated lineage of homo sapiens through a series of predecessor species. Then, as if to push another nail or two into the sarcophagus of the pseudo science variations on creation, this discovery fills in some more of the informational gap around the fossil known as "Lucy".

Of course, biblical creationists will continue to dispute evolution theory - but it get's damned hard to claim that Genesis is factual when the weight of evidence ever so steadily keeps tilting away from it.

Is It Just Me?

Last night, in a telephone conversation, the observation was made about how the CBC had organized two stories in their 6:00PM newscast. The first story was about Harper's $1200/child childcare subsidy, which was followed up by an article about a study in Quebec that suggested that placing children into daycares before they were two years old was "a bad thing"(tm).

The implication was that this was a "manipulated message" - namely one intended to serve a propoganda purpose. At the time, I brushed it off. For the most part, the CBC has traditionally managed to do a pretty good job of reporting factually and honestly.

However, micromanagement (and Harper's clearly a micromanager)tends to beget more micromanagement. I'm beginning to suspect that the CBC has been "put on notice" to be "good little mouthorgans" for the CPC government, or risk having major funding cuts in the upcoming budget.

Why would I say this? Several reasons - looking back over my own blog columns in the last couple of months, less and less of my raw source material has been coming from the CBC. In fact, the CBC's reporting of Canadian - and international - political affairs has become nearly non-existant. Even more disturbing is the significant gap between what's on the "World at 6" newscast and the stories carried on CBC's website. (Major omissions on the website, mostly).

Then, I found The Globe and Mail publishing yet another government official being micromanaged. After this outrage, it begins to fit together. The CPC government is going to try and tightly control every message coming out of government - to the extent of _telling_ us what we want.

(I'm just waiting for Peter Mackay to come out of his next snugglefest with Condoleezza Rice and tell us that Canadians WANT to go to war in Iran...)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More on HarperCrit & Management

The Globe and Mail has a story that describes all of the things that go wrong when you start to micromanage things.

I don't think I need to say much more about this...

Using Scripture to Justify Discrimination

Not so long ago, I posted a rant about the fundamental flaw with "faith-based initiatives. I was digging around Pharyngula today and decided to read the messages attached to PZ Meyers' commentary, and I spotted a couple of comments from someone trying to take the Church's defense on:

>I've been trying to find where God revealed that he doesn't want people to have sex change operations

I doubt you have. Changing one's outward physical gender doesn't cancel out the Biblical condemnations against homosexuality or transvestism. If you are genetically a male or female, you still are a male or female no matter if your genitals are changed and you take hormones of the opposite sex.

Hmmm - starting here, I think it's pretty obvious what phrases in the Bible are being referred to:

Deuteronomy 22:5
22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

and Leviticus 18:22:
18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Hmmm - seems like a fairly simple set of proscriptions, doesn't it? More less, it's the biology is destiny argument. You are born male or female, and you shall always be one or the other.

Starting with the basic biological expression issue, there are problems here. There are men whose physiques are relatively feminine, there are equally women who have relatively masculine builds. Quite unsurprising really, since humanity comes in all shapes and sizes, it seems quite silly to expect that there is only two 'real' morphologies. If we focus on genital expression, we run into another problem - the intersexed - people whose bodies are not expressly either male or female.

Diving a little deeper with a metaphorical microscope, we dive down into the chromosomes. After all, the chromosomes are "XX" for female, and "XY" for male - right? Yes, in simple terms that's true enough. But then we have to account for a number of unusual chromosomal combinations XXY, but a variety of other factors described here

Hmmm ... we have a problem here. Nature itself presents a conundrum to any absolute definition of Man / Woman, doesn't it? We can define "Male/Female" to some extent, and recognize that there are those in the population who are neither.

Well, perhaps, the biology-is-destiny model isn't going to work so well. After all, it leaves those who are intersexed in a rather odd place in terms of scriptural salvation, doesn't it? {and further, we can hardly accuse someone who is intersexed of having violated Deuteronomy, no matter what they wear, can we?, and goodness knows how God would look upon someone having sexual relations with someone who is intersexed - did they lie with a man or a woman? both at the same time?}

Fine, let's look at it as a social role issue. Clearly, nature (or creation if you prefer), is clearly very diverse. Looking across my office at the plant on my bookshelf, each leaf is a similar shape, but they all differ from each other somewhat. I've just finished exploring (albeit superficially) the morphological diversity of humanity that renders even the polar notion of male/female physical gender somewhat suspect. Clearly, there are exceptions.

If physical morphology is so highly variable, it seems to me that the mind of a person is equally variable. There mere variety of different personality types that you can meet in life makes it very clear that humanity is amazingly diverse in its mental expression as it is physically. I choose not to speculate on the causes here, but suffice it to say that it is entirely conceivable to me that there would be "feminine minds" in male bodies, and "masculine minds" in female bodies. I know women who are as competitive as most men are supposed to be, and I know men that are every bit as "passive" as women are "supposed" to be. Few people are archetypally masculine or feminine - most of us embody a blend of behaviours. Is it reasonable to expect that there will be a few extreme cases where people's mental state is at utter odds with their physical morphology? Absolutely - nature has repeatedly demonstrated its diversity in physical form, it would be naive indeed to assume that such diversity does not extend into the mind as well.

So, once again, I must return to an age-old question that is rendered even more perplexing by the very existence of cross-gender identified people. What makes a man a man, or a woman a woman?

Is it physical attributes such as genetics? Is it all "in our heads"? The fact is we don't know. What we do know is that there is a vast array of behaviours possible, and within the context of social roles, may be perfectly acceptable. For example, the formal military dress of a number of countries involves men wearing skirts - not kilts, but skirts {and let's not forget the Scots and their Kilts - I defy you to call a Scotsman in formal Kilt a transvestite!}. To "western" sensibilities, this is a form of cross-dressing, and yet I dare say that the members of those armies would argue differently.

So, returning to the case of the Transsexual mentioned above, can we honestly say that she had broken the biblical proscriptions? We know nothing of her sex life, so I will simply leave the Leviticus 18:22 issue as unprovable. Since we have a rather significant problem defining any concrete sense the notion of "man" or "woman" that doesn't exclude a sizable population, we have to take her at her word that she is a woman. If we assert a biology-is-destiny view of things, we wind up ignoring both mental and physical variance.

From the transsexual's point of view, she may well argue to having been in violation of Deuteronomy for much of her life before she transitioned to live as a woman. From that perspective, she has actually moved out of a state of sinfulness.

The other point that is perhaps important to recognize is that transsexuality is about gender identity, not sexual identity. So, to assume that proscriptions about homosexuality apply to transsexuals is similarly suspect reasoning.

Isn't it fun when people try to apply black-and-white reasoning to the murky realities of the world?

HarperCrit Watch - Instalment XVI ...

and counting...

Over here we learn that Stephen Harper is not merely ignoring a change to parliamentary procedure, but is in fact reversing his position on the very procedure that he pushed through:

Mr. Harper was a vocal critic of appointing chairs when he was leader of the Official Opposition. In 2002, he co-wrote a letter to The Globe with Chuck Strahl, now the Minister of Agriculture, accusing the Liberals of "posturing" on parliamentary reform.

"Standing committees of the House should not simply be extensions of the Prime Minister's Office, and members of Parliament should choose their committee chairs by secret ballot and set their own agenda, free from the Whip's direction," Mr. Harper and Mr. Strahl wrote.

In the fall of 2002, Mr. Harper successfully divided the Liberal caucus by proposing a motion that committee chairs be elected by secret ballot, rather than appointed directly by the Prime Minister. The motion passed when Paul Martin and his supporters in the Liberal caucus broke ranks with then-prime-minister Jean Chr├ętien.

Now, he is reverting to exactly the tactic he demanded be changed:

But now in office, Mr. Harper is planning to avoid the elections by pre-selecting one Conservative MP per committee to put their names forward as chair. This would mean that the person would be acclaimed and a secret ballot unnecessary. Earlier this year, all MPs approved new rules stating that all committee chairs except three must be a government MP.

And, in the first concession to the wingnut factions lurking just beneath the veneer of Harper's lipstick smile, he appoints Maurice Vellacot as chair for the Aboriginal Affairs committee. Brilliant Stephen...just brilliant.

Oh yes, and just to remind us of how wingnutty things can be just under the surface:

Mr. Vellacott is one of the more controversial MPs in the Conservative caucus, an evangelical pastor who frequently issues anti-abortion press releases.

A quick perusal of Mr. Vellacott's website turns up a lovely collection of his rantings.

From last years debates over Marriage, we find the following gem in the Hansard:

Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member could help me out a little on the history around the world as we have looked at the issue of extending the vote to different people over time, and rightly so, but specifically with respect to extending the vote to women. It has been done in various regimes and was long overdue.

At the time the vote was extended to women, for example, were women called men? To my knowledge, that is not the case anywhere. When bringing a new group in to have those particular rights, one does not need to call them the same thing in order to give them the equal benefits and rights, which is what our party is proposing to do by giving equal benefits and rights without terming it the same.

Unless I missed something in history, and I am certainly open to being enlightened, has there ever been a time where, when extending the right to vote, women have been termed men?

Mr. Gilles Duceppe: Mr. Speaker, the member certainly missed something in history, which is the evolution of society, and I am sure of that.

Women were not called men. They were called nobodies. They simply did not exist. That was the problem. I do not want the same situation where people who do not have the same rights simply do not exist. We do not want to live in that kind of society. I want everybody to exist, not just by having a name, but by having the same rights and living under the same conditions, all of us, not just those who are not gays or lesbians. This is a question of justice and living with our own identities. It is not more than that.

Duceppe does such a lovely job of handing Vellacott his own ass back to him, I had to leave it in.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Why Doesn't This Surprise Me?

Once again, the Harpercrit strikes. This time, it turns out that the "ethics reform" legislation tabled in the House of Commons this past week has holes in it you can drive a truck through.

No big surprise - this is the second major gap in this piece of legislative window dressing. The first being the complete omission of any overhaul of the Access To Information acts.

Yes, there are aspects of the legislation presented earlier this week that I believe are good ideas. That isn't my point - far from it. For a party that claimed to want to do things "differently", and campaigned on "open, honest" government, we've had little of honesty, openness or accountability.

At every turn, it seems that the CPC is trying to engineer something in secret, foisting it upon us at the last possible minute, and hoping we don't spot the obvious problems with what they are doing.

OMFG - The Next Iran "Talking Point"

If you have followed US politics at all in recent years, you will be quite aware that one of the favourite tactics of BushCo apologists is to try and twist everything around to being Bill Clinton's fault. According to many Bush backers, 9/11 was all Clinton's fault because he didn't go after "terrorism" aggressively after the first attempt to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993.

From Wingnut Daily, we get our first glimpse of the blame Clinton tactic to be used with respect to Iran.

It seems that in the 1990s sometime, the US intelligence community hatched a scheme to hand Iran the plans for a fatally flawed atomic bomb. Now, the idiots in the wingnut sphere are claiming that this advanced Iran's science capabilities with respect to nuclear capability. The basic science around building a nuclear weapon has been readily available to any physics student for most of the last thirty odd years - but we won't discuss the obvious, will we?

Of course, Bush isn't responsible for his own war mongering activities, is he? It's all Bill's fault - especially since he had the blowjob...

CPC => The Authoritarian Party of Canada

I was going to make a few comments today about what I see happening with the Conservative Government's sucking up to BushCo yesterday. (Mackay's comments were so syrupy I just about gagged reading that article)

Yesterday, it came out that the Conservatives were talking about axing most of Environment Canada's budgeted programs for dealing with Greenhouse Gases. Today, we get Prime Minister Harper trying to deny this plan. Jeepers - this guy lies almost as ineptly as President Bush.

However, that isn't what got my dander up. Lurking down on the "Arts" section of CBC's News site, is this little gem in which Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is getting her knickers in a knot over a piece of science fiction written by an Environment Canada scientist.

She had her department order this scientist not to appear at a talk about his novel. Why? Ostensibly, the excuse for squelching the speech is:

A spokesperson for Ambrose said the speech was billed as coming from an Environment Canada scientist and even though his book is a work of fiction, he would appear to be speaking in an official capacity.

Uh huh. Sure. Not surprisingly, the author's book just happens to be set in a "not too distant" future where global warming has gone quite awry. Remember, the CPC has long argued that Kyoto is impossible, and in general seems to love echoing the anti-science, anti-intellectual line of the BushCo White House in the United States.

No, this isn't because he would be "talking in an official capacity" - that's weasel words. It's nothing more than blatant censorship being exercised with a ridiculously heavy hand. For crying out loud, it's book of fiction. The fact that the author happens to be a climate scientist merely means that his "speculations" as to where global warming could lead might have a little more validity than what Tom Clancy would come up with.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

More Conservative "Justice"

Conservatives are at least consistent about one thing - their perspective on justice. Foolish, perhaps, but consistent.

Recent events in Ontario, and British Columbia are being spun by Justice Minister Vic Toews as an excuse Get Tough on Crime.

I'm no expert on US racketeering laws, or the evidentiary standards that they contain. However, I worry when the United States pops up as an "example" of how to fight crime. Canada's crime rate has traditionally been quite a bit lower than the United States, and mysteriously manages to trend downwards even without massive programs of incarceration.

Conservatives love to use the line "if you do the crime, you do the time", usually followed up with "it's got to be serious time". These are lovely sound bites, but they really mean nothing.

Those people who are involved in organized crime probably aren't overly intimidated by prisons. Let's face it, they know that their organization is involved in drug trafficking, prostitution or whatever other vice is. They've probably spent time in prison themselves before for one thing or another - they aren't scared of "the man", nor will they be deterred by "stiffer" sentencing.

The people who will be deterred by stiff sentences are the "casual" criminals - the same people who won't jack your car if it has a security system in it. Not because the security system really stops them, but they just can't be bothered with the extra effort.

I'm not saying that we should not punish criminals, but I am not at all convinced that longer incarceration periods is going to have any real effect on crime rates.

Meanwhile, the "Pro-Corporate" colours of the CPC are coming out in full flower:

Starting with cuts to Environment Canada programs dealing with Greenhouse Gas issues, and moving into tax cuts which will further shift the burden of government spending onto the middle class in this country. By reducing corporate income taxes and the GST, middle class Canadians wind up holding an even larger proportion of the government's obligations through their income taxes.

Even more worrisome is a rollback of previous income tax cuts designed to ease the tax burden on the lowest income Canadians which is not ameliorated by GST cuts, no matter what the CPC claims.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why "Faith Based" Initiatives are a Crock

Via Pharyngula (one of my favourite science blogs), I found this apalling example of bigotry coming out of George Bush's Faith Based notion of delivering social services.

The county involved should be slapped upside the head repeatedly for turning over social services delivery to a Church in the first place. The Church, on the other hand, should be slapped around repeatedly for acting like such pious prigs about the situation.

I'm no biblical scholar, but 10 minutes with a search engine and an online bible turns up the following on the topic of charity:

1st Corinthians 13:2
And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

That seems pretty clear to me. If you lack in your soul charity, you are nothing. In principle, these churches, when they take on the role of delivering social services to citizens, are performing an act of charity. Now, it seems, they feel that it is their right to refuse someone aid based on what? The person's identity and past.

It reminds me not so long ago of a summer afternoon when a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses approached me as I was working in my garden. They walked up to me, brandishing a copy of "The WatchTower". Emblazoned on the front cover was the word "Prejudice" in letters big enough to be read from across the yard. I don't remember the exact conversation, but it went like this:

[JW #1]: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your saviour.

[Me]: Not the way you want me to.

[JW #2]: We'd like to show you something (tries to pass me the ragazine)

[Me]: Don't even get me started on churches and prejudice.

... at this point I turned back to my gardening and ignored them.

What really irritates me about this situation is the fact that they chose to refuse service to somebody based on what they think the person behaves like. We aren't talking about someone who broke the law here, stole from the neighbors or anything like that. No - we are talking about some who is not even a practitioner of that particular sect's brand of "Christianity" breaking the "beliefs" of that sect.

Now, I realize that a lot of churches do an amazing amount of charitable work, and are run by well meaning people. That doesn't mean that those people are equipped to deal with the reality of a diverse society. The "we had no idea" excuse doesn't cut it when you take on responsibility for programs that should be available to all members of society, not just "the saved".

Just one more reason why when I feel a "need to commune with the almighty", I go find a lake in the middle of the mountains and sit on its shores. I don't think I need some narrow minded interpretation of dusty scripture telling me how to look at the world.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Suing for the Right to Be a Bigot

Via Feministe, two articles come to light that are a case study in why Canada was right to pass bill Bill C-250 a couple of years ago.

First, I must point to this article, in which we learn of anti-Gay slogans chalked up around a University Campus. These are the kind of things that can happen, but it's the sheer vileness of the slogans themselves that I find somewhat shocking. These are the kind of slogans that if they said "Jew" instead of "gay", would have police launching manhunts for the perpetrators. These are outright threats on the lives of GLBT students on that campus.

Then the Christian Right Wing starts to SUE because they don't like tolerance policies that include GLBT rights. Apparently, they believe that their religion is being impinged upon because they aren't allowed to say whatever they like against gays.

To my mind, there's a big difference between keeping your opinion to yourself (or being asked to), and uttering threats. While uttering threats is a crime in its own right, hate crimes laws give an extra avenue that judges and prosecutors can bring to bear when these cases reach the courts. The motives of the perpetrator become something that can be brought to into consideration far more effectively when there are specific provisions built into law.

Recently, "Christians" (and I put the term in quotes because the ones complaining have clearly not read the same scripture that I have - or they wouldn't be spewing the kind of nonsense that they do) have begun to adopt the cloak of the "Persecuted" - claiming that tolerance policies are unreasonable infringements on their freedom of religion. What they fail to recognize is that their personal freedom of religion, and right to be "offended", is bounded by the rights of others around them. (The same thing goes on in Canada, but our legal infrastructure is sufficiently different from the United States that the same tactics tend to run into brick walls)

In Case of Rapture...

In case you miss the Rapture...

Perhaps most hysterical in the list is #2:

2. KEEP A TIME TABLE. Look back and find the date people were reported missing or raptured, mark that date, and put it away. Keep track of the following 7 years. The first three and a half years will not be too bad, but the last three and a half years will be so horrible that human vocabulary is insufficient to describe the events that will take place.

At first, my thought was "Oh, the Dreamer will awaken"...then it occurred to me - how long has George Bush been president?

Marketing War

You know that they are settling in for the long haul when Marketing becomes part of the War Effort.

So - the Pentagon, in concert with BushCo, is busy trying to rename the awkwardly named "War on Terror" something like "The Long War". It no doubt will be if these dipwits keep on throwing their weight around with heavy weapons instead of actually pursuing the terrorists.

Of course, tanks in the streets of a far off land make good television footage. Covert operations don't. I've argued it before, and I'll continue to argue that if BushCo was truly serious about taking down the terrorists, they'd be spending the several billion a month that it's costing to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan on covert operations that hollow out the terrorist organizations from the inside.

Instead, they continue a heavy armor approach to warfare.

Monday, April 10, 2006

False Security

Canada's involvement in Afghanistan is not about "supporting the troops", nor is it about "making Canada safe".

Sadly, the more that we learn about the situation that has emerged in Afghanistan, it becomes increasingly clear that Canadian troops have been put in the midst of what would be called a civil war in any other situation. Between "Taliban", "al Quaeda" and assorted warlords, it's pretty clear that Canada has been roped into taking sides in a civil war - in this case, it's the "anybody but" side - primarily focused on both the Taliban and al Quaeda as the two most undesirable options.

Unlike Iraq, Canada has a moral obligation to help bring that country to some degree of order. We were a part of the coalition that went into Afghanistan in 2001, and as such are morally bound to be a part of the cleanup. As the situations in both Afghanistan and Iraq so clearly demonstrate, bringing about what we would understand to be a "civil society" in that part of the world is no small task. That society has remained stubbornly in the quasi-feudal era for the last millenium or so. (This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, merely a recognition of the social context which the region seems to be embedded in)

Having said that, there remains significant reasons to question why Canada has taken sides in what appears to be a civil war. As much as I think the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was run by a bunch of knuckle-dragging reprobates, I also have to ask myself whether Canada has any right to "take sides" in what appears to be a recycling of the ongoing tribal and regional disputes that have been part of politics in the Middle East for decades.

Saws that are dragged out about "supporting the troops" are little more than thinly disguised guilt trips. Trust me, conservatives won't be able to sell me one either - I've had to fend off someone who is far more masterful at guilt trips sales than they ever will be. It's not about "courage", nor is it a matter of "supporting the troops". Canada has to ask itself just what its obligations are on the world stage, and whether it is appropriate for us to take sides in a civil war. I can morally support the work of our troops, while still questioning the orders that are given to them by their political masters.

In practical terms, we have to ask ourselves if our presence in Afghanistan is legitimate, and actually contributing to Canada's security - either directly by removing a threat, or indirectly by being a stabilizing influence in the world stage? To be honest, I'm not so sure that we are accomplishing either in Afghanistan.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

And A Cold Chill Descended...

If this article from the New Yorker is correct, then the world is about to become a much uglier, nastier place in very short order.

If we had a "cold war" from the 1950s through to the collapse of the Soviet Union, I can only imagine what the Middle East will look like politically after the United States drops nuclear weapons on Iran.

BTW - I personally think the probability of an Iran invasion is very high based on the repeating of the pattern used by BushCo prior to invading Iraq. 09/04/06 - ed. Oops - meant to say Iraq

[Update 09/04/06 - 19:36]

A commenter has put forward all of the reasons why invading Iran would be patently stupid. They're correct of course - invading a nation several times the size of Iraq that has been relatively prosperous for 20 odd years since the Iran-Iraq War would be nothing less than stupid.

In my view, this omits one key ingredient - I don't think that BushCo give a damn about whether they can "win" in Iran - and the issue isn't tactics or equipment - it's politics and faith.

1) Politics

Invading Iran is a "no lose" proposition for the Republicans. Done right, it keeps the American people thinking they are under threat, and preserves the "soft" vote that got them where they are.

If it backfires, it'll take things past 2008, and leave the next president, regardless of stripe with a hideous set of conditions, both at home and on the world stage - setting the stage for a Republican comeback in 2012.

2) Faith

No, I'm not talking about exporting Christianity. Like exporting democracy, that doesn't work. No, I'm talking about the "end-times" prophecies in the Book of Revelations. Within North American evangelical circles, there are a lot of people that believe that open war in the Middle East is one of the events prophesied as a precondition to the "Rapture". Remember, Bush and much of his advisors circle are followers of evangelical faith.

It's not a matter of "winnable" in their minds. In fact, I'd suggest that with two wars left incomplete in the region, BushCo has made it abundantly clear that they are about destabilizing the Middle East.

...but that's just my opinion.

[Update: 10/4/2006 07:15]

I apologize to readers - I don't normally keep appending to one post, but in this case, I keep finding more details

Mr. Hersh isn't the only person claiming that BushCo is planning a Nuclear Attack on Iran

I take no joy in this revelation, and I'll be quite relieved should it turn out to be utterly wrong. The United States is the only power in the world to have ever used Nuclear Weapons in war, and apparently, it's current government is the only one in history to utterly forget the consequences.

... And, just to add to the joy, The US Government is denying these plans - while asserting that the Pentagon is engaging in "contingency planning" Since past behaviour is often the best predictor of future behaviour, I'd say the odds are quite good that Washington is lying through its teeth when it talks about "diplomacy".

[Update: 10/4/2006 18:15] According to Bush, the talk of invasion is "just wild speculation". Uh-huh. Sure. There's enough pattern repetition from the Iraq lead up to make me think this is Rove-inspired spin.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Few Notes From The Federal Scene

A couple of things of note in tonight's news:


I think the Liberal Leadership Race just got interesting, with both Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff entering the leadership race. I like Ignatieff, I think he is someone who is capable not only of raising the level of political debate in this nation out of the muck and mire of regional politics, but a man who is capable not only of expressing a real vision for Canada, but also answering to the critics intelligently.


We get to see the false defeatism of the Conservatives. In decrying Kyoto's targets, Rona Ambrose has once again shown the utter lack of imagination that will no doubt become the hallmark of this government. Instead of seeing in Kyoto an opportunity to overhaul Canada's infrastructure and take advantage of Canada's wealth of both expertise and resources, the Conservatives are simply turning their back on the opportunity. In falling in line with the United States line on Kyoto, we once again get to see just how closely the CPC is taking its marching orders from Washington.

That Crumbling Sound You Hear the ID/creationist arguments against the idea of Evolution slowly falling apart

A common creationist argument is that there are no fossils that are evidence of "intermediate" forms. Once again, the evidence is found that further reinforces the evolution model for explaining the life forms we see on this world.

Meanwhile, the Discovery Institute is trying desperately to refute the evidence through still more argument-by-assertion. (the only tactic left in their arsenal, since they keep on finding themselves refuted at every turn)

Religious Conservatism Gone Way Too Far

Abortion Law in El Salvador.

It's a bit long (10 minutes or so), but listen to it - it gives you some idea of the horrifying endgame of the religious anti-abortion movement. The article that spawned this interview is due to appear in the upcoming issue of the New York Times Magazine.

Human Life International claims that El Salvador is an "inspiration". But then again, they publish tripe like this about condoms. (Please note that many of the sources used are over 15 years old, and would not reflect ongoing changes and improvements in the manufacture of condoms)

There Is No Honor Amongst Thieves

Assuming that "Scooter" Libby is actually telling the truth, it would appear that the Valerie Plame business has its roots in the Oval Office.

Why would Libby be testifying about this now? I can think of a couple of good reasons - first, he's under oath when testifying before a grand jury, and second, he might just have an axe or two to grind after being "pushed under the bus" by Karl Rove & Co. So, there's reason to believe that he's being at least somewhat truthful.

Of course, the 'talking point' coming out of a variety of BushCo apologists boils down to this: "If the President authorized it, it wasn't a leak"

Okay, let's run with that - it's not a leak, after all the President authorized it. Fair enough. Then you must accept that the President LIED TO THE PEOPLE about it - not merely once, but repeatedly. ( and no, I don't give a rat's ass that he wasn't under oath - a lie is a lie )

Remember, the talking point about Bill Clinton is that impeachment wasn't pursued because of his acts with Monica Lewinsky, but because he lied about them. Fair enough - sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The First CPC Throne Speech

The full text is right here.

There aren't really any surprises. CBC's synopsis quite correctly points out that it's largely a carefully worded reflection of campaign promises made.

But there are a few interesting wrinkles rattling around:

1) The "Government Accountability" act that Harper has babbled on about incessantly has been substantially weakened recently by the removal of all of the changes to the Access to Information legislation. (Hmmm - coming from Mr. Harper, who has tried to position himself as the sole voice of the government by muzzling both caucus and cabinet, is this really a surprise?)

2) The $1200/year "subsidy" for childcare turns out to be taxable income, meaning that most people will only get a relatively small fraction of it in reality. {and the base amount is small enough that it really does little to benefit the bottom of the income spectrum at all, since out-of home childcare costs so much in urban centers that low-income families are simply hamstrung.

3) A "get tough on crime" policy that looks good if you don't scratch at it too hard. (Read just below the surface) It reminds me of an old car I bought once - the body looked okay, but the engine was - as I later found out - going to cost more than the car was worth to repair.

With recent elliptical comments from Harper about amending the Canadian Constitution, I'm very skeptical that this speech from the throne is anything other than a really thin veneer over top of the longer term conservative agenda. (Which, of course, they aren't about to unveil until they achieve their much desired majority government)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ideas for Alberta's Wealth

Looking towards Norway, whose fortunes are similar to Alberta's, we find some ideas about what to do with the billions of dollars flowing into the province.

It will be interesting to see who will champion a forward looking view like Norway's first. {I'm betting it won't be the PCs}

Dear Colleen:

Boo friggin' Hoo.

Good god lady - grow a brain sometime. Ralph's sat at the helm of this province far longer than was justified. He should have stepped down a few years ago when it was clear that the province was going to clear the debt books quite handily. Instead, he had to hang on until pushed hard to leave.

You can't tell me that you were shocked that people thought that an 18 month leadership race (declared or not) just might do more damage to the party than the short term damage of a speedy, but forced, departure. Surely Jean Chretien's "long goodbye" would have made the consequences pretty clear. (Or perhaps, you are just deluded enough to believe that the PCs are one monolith of opinion?)

Monday, April 03, 2006

It Was A Matter of Time

You had to know that when it became public that James Loney was gay, that the wingnuts would pick up on it and use it to trash him.

He hasn't even been back in Canada a full week when this piece of crap comes spewing forth from Michael Coren.

Apparently working from essays published in "the left-wing Catholic New Times", Coren spends most of his column trying to demonstrate how Loney was not a True Christian(tm).

Frankly, the bits that Coren quotes strike me as more of an indictment of what churches have become than anything else. Most of Coren's arguments seem to be focused around Loney's opinions on marriage - and of course, because Loney's gay, his opinions don't matter as much as the revered Mr. Coren...

It makes me somewhat ill to note just how quick Coren is to trash someone who has just been through an ordeal that few in the world can truly comprehend. He accuses Loney of being "less than Christian" while he sits in judgement from afar - how Christian of Mr. Coren.

Can We Afford Conservative "Justice"?

Harper's speech to Police Association once again resurrects the idiocy that came out of the United States during the 1980s and 1990s - "Mandatory Minimum Sentences".

In the United States, "Mandatory Minimum" sentences and "Three Strikes Laws" were intended to send a message to criminals - do the crime, and you will do the time. US Prison Populations have soared since, with 1 in 31 US adults under some kind of criminal supervision in 2004.

Compare a few numbers - incarceration rate in the United States: 724 per 100,000 population compared with 107 per 100,000 population in Canada.

That means that the US population is supporting seven times as many prisoners compared to Canada. More troubling is the fact that for most major crime categories the US crime rate remains much higher than Canada's.

So, if I were to project even a doubling of prison population over the next five years as a result of "minimum prison sentences", that means we are going to have to double our prison capacity - increasing both the capital expenditures that are directed through Corrections Canada, as well as vastly expanding the administration required, the number of parole officers and goodness knows what else.

When both Canada and the United States have enjoyed more or less similar overall declining crime rates since 1991, it seems to me that "Mandatory Minimum Sentences" only benefit the "Prison Industry" (those businesses who provide services and products to prisons - be they buildings, people or toilet paper). Certainly, it won't be the taxpayers who foot the bill.

Remember, this is the same party who intends to chop several billion in government revenues out by cutting 1% from the GST - so just how do you suppose they intend to pay for this?

The Culture of Fear - 2

Back here I was commenting on how the GOP in the United States is spinning damn near everything in sight into something to be "afraid of".

Yesterday, events occurred in a Toronto Tim Horton's that reinforce my assertion.

It's not the event itself, but the reaction that was interesting. Suddenly, anything "odd" at a Tim Horton's became a dire emergency.

This is interesting not because it happened, but _where_ it happened. Canada cannot help but receive the backwash of what comes out of US media. The vast bulk of television programming comes out of US networks, and there are a lot of people I know who get their news primarily off of either Fox or CNN.

The result? One nutcase with a can of gasoline and a match turns into a "terrorist conspiracy" within minutes, perhaps an hour. Fascinating, really - something that gives some insight into just how effectively the GOP has managed to instill a sense of irrational fear in the culture - even across international borders.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Wingnuts - Canada Style

For all that Canada is a generally quiet, pleasant country to live in, far be it from us not to have our own share of wingnut cases:

Nut Case Wants to Defer Tax Trial so he can attend his wife's exorcism.

This guy's a piece of work on two levels:

1. Both wife and daughter are to undergo "exorcisms" soon.

2. The reason for the tax trial is:

He said he refuses to pay taxes because he contends tax money is used in part to fund abortion procedures. He argues that to force him to indirectly participate violates his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Alrighty then, I think we have a pretty good picture of what is going on here, don't we?

Just offhand, I imagine his tax trial will be very short - and will end with a copy of the Income Tax Act thrown at him from the bench. I would guess that his appeals will be equally short lived.

Why Does This SMELL Familiar?

Harper's musing about making changes to Canada's Constitution - out loud now. Of course, he's not talking about specifics yet - Mr. Secrecy doesn't seem to believe that we need to understand what he wants to accomplish.

I predicted in December, 2005 that this is exactly what he'd try to do. Do not, for one moment, suppose that the Harpercrit won't try to slide a "fast one" past during negotiations - especially to do something to suppress gay rights, or to give some kind of "moral precedence" to "Christian" "family values".

I said it before, and I'll keep on saying it - Harper isn't trustworthy, nor is the CPC as a whole. This business of "cabinet secrecy" is a crock - it's nothing more than an executive gag order to keep people from saying something that is "inconvenient" to Harper's unpublished agenda.

Ralph Is Toast

I've felt for a long time that it's time for Ralph to leave politics in Alberta. (Granted, I can't count myself among those who find him "appealing" as a political leader either)

It appears that a good portion of his party think so too. Since Ralph announced his departure in 18 months, he has acted with increasing desperation and a much heavier hand towards "dissenters" such as Lyle Oberg.

Today, we have loud hints from Preston Manning that he might step into the arena. Interesting, indeed.

I'm not at all sure that I want Manning to succeed Klein - I have mixed feelings about the man. He had grown considerably from his years in Ottawa, become much more flexible and pragmatic than his party (the old Reform/Alliance party, now called the CPC) base. That's promising. So is the likelihood that his entry into the race would gut the support currently backing Ted Morton. {a man who makes both Oberg and Dinning look positively promising}

On the other hand, I'm not at all comfortable with Manning's vision for the future. His policy positions in the past have been much more "hard right" leaning than I think is constructive for any democratic society. We'll see in the coming weeks whether Manning does throw his hat into the ring, and just what he starts to put forth as a plan for the future of both the PC party in Alberta and Alberta itself. {Also, I'm not at all sure that he wouldn't fall back into the trap of playing the utterly ridiculous card of "Western Alienation" on the federal scene - a play that puts Alberta into the same league of silliness as we often see from Quebec, and is routinely derided as farcicle}

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...