Thursday, August 31, 2006

Note to Alberta PCs: Start Listening!

When Peter Lougheed is saying wake up to the Alberta PC party, you know that they should be listening.

He warned that the party needs to stay "new, fresh and with modern ideas" to remain in office.

"In 1971, we campaigned on the basis that the government of the day had been there -- can you imagine 36 years? It was the theme of our campaign," Mr. Lougheed said with a laugh.


Lougheed doesn't say much these days, but when he does speak out, it's usually well worth paying attention to.

With people like Morton putting forth ideas that are resurrection of the late 19th century, it's time to slap the current lot around.

The discontent first became widely apparent after the last general election in November of 2004, when traditional Tory supporters stayed home in droves. While the party still won a sound majority, Mr. Klein's Tories captured just 47 per cent of the vote and dropped from 74 seats to 62 in the 83-seat legislature.


Yes, and they're still acting utterly non-responsive to their constituents (I sent a couple of letters to my MLA over the last year and have received the most dismissive responses possible - a sign that even those MLAs who are "perceived" to be good about working for their ridings have lost sight of reality.

Mr. Ellis said the province's Official Opposition -- the Liberals, who haven't held office since 1921 -- aren't the answer either because voters perceive them as a "bunch of losers"


Yeah, well, we all know Mr. Ellis' biases. He was one of the the people conducting "pseudo surveys" last year on the topic of "Western Alienation" and came up with results that are quite at odds with any reality I'm familiar with (including other polls). He's so tied in with the hard right wing that he's quite blind to the notion that other opinions could possibly exist.

I'd say it's a "wake up" call - last election, voters reduced the PC's significantly in the legislature, and there's been a steady influx of new people in the province who are now running into all kinds of problems (such as a lack of housing), in large part because of a laissez faire attitude on the part of the government. Someone offering alternatives could well receive much more of a hearing than the present lot suspect.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Softwood Corruption?

My morning blog travels turned up a real doozie that's emerging about the softwood lumber "deal" that was so miraculously negotiated.

Via Cathie From Canada, we learn that testimony given to Canada's Standing Committee on International Trade suggests that a "gift" of some $450 million dollars is to be handed over to the White House as part of the agreement.

I'd been wondering where that other $1 billion dollars was going - it appears that it's going to land in White House coffers where the Senate and House of Representatives won't be able to touch it. In terms of the US Federal Budget, $450 million is chicken feed - but in terms of Canada, it's not. We are essentially handing BushCo nearly half a billion dollars in an election year, in funds that can be used for whatever the White House deems fit - including, no doubt, bankrolling whatever they think they need to do to maintain the Rethuglican majority in the two houses.

We punted the Liberals out for misspending a mere $200 million in Canada. It appears that Harper's lot is about to waste nearly double that, and is doing so in his efforts to cuddle up with the Rethuglican cactus down there.

Mr. Harper, Canada is NOT the United States Republican party's whore, and Canadians should be outraged that you are making such deals.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Reasons Why Alberta Needs Change

Yesterday's stalling tactic in the Legislature is symptomatic of a much larger problem than what should have been a minor private members' bill.

First, let's take a look at Ted Morton's comments:

Morton vowed to reintroduce the bill next spring, and said what transpired Monday would be remembered the next time a private member's bill originated from across the aisle.

"What goes around comes around," he said.

"The Liberals not only were irresponsible in blocking debate today, they were stupid, too."


Unsurprisingly, he's talking in the words of retaliation and revenge. This is typical of two kinds of people - the schoolyard bully types, and those who have become too accustomed to power.

The Progressive Conservative party in Alberta has been sitting on oversized majorities for so long that they have come to believe that there is no need to amend their legislation, or to reconsider an ill-conceived bill. When it requires the opposition to use every procedural rule in the book to put the brakes on a piece of legislation, it's a clue that just maybe that legislation is a bad idea.

This indicates a few key points:

1) The overwhelming majority the PC's have in the legislature is not good for Albertans. Legislation cannot be given the consideration it deserves when the party in power is only taking "softball questions".

2) Under Ralph Klein, backbench Tory MLAs have been discouraged from doing anything constructive beyond throwing a few "softball" questions about. This is not constructive debate at that point in time.

3) After 30+ years, the last fifteen of which under Ralph's thumb, the PCs have come to believe themselves, and have stopped listening. When I wrote to my MLA about my concerns with Morton's bill the response I received was a rather bland "well, I voted for the bill in both first and second readings". (I'm not surprised by this, but it still irritates me that engaging these people is next to impossible)

4) The Conservatives federally (a party whose key power brokers are thoroughly steeped in the Alberta monolith) are acting similarly disengaged and distant with respect to the concerns of their constituents. (Try engaging Jason Kenney on anything)

It's not just time to replace the PC's, they're so far past their "sell before date" that even "Dean's Deli & Death" wouldn't sell it. ("Dean's Deli" was a sleazy little shop near my office when I first started there. It mostly sold cigarettes, Hygaard immortal sandwiches and hot dogs that you guessed their age by the number of skewer holes in them - we called it "Dean's Deli and Death" after someone found that he had sold them a Hygaard sandwich that had actually started to grow mold!)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Morton's Talking Points

The resurrection of Ted Morton's obnoxious Bill 208 has, of course, brought forth a series of right-wing talking points about how "good people" are being "dragged before human rights tribunals and the courts", "being fired from their jobs", etc. ostensibly "just beccause they expressed an opinion" contrary to public policy.

Of course, there's really only a handful of cases that they are referring to, and in reality only one of them is even remotely related to the issue of SGM itself.

Case #1: Chris Kempling

Twisted Assertion: Kempling was fired for expressing an opinion contrary to public policy.

The Reality: Kempling was suspended from his job as Teacher and Counsellor for more than just that. Kempling was repeatedly writing hostile "letters to the editor", as well as advertising "cures" for homosexuality through his "therapy" business on the side.

Even if Morton's legislation were still in force, Kempling would have found himself answerable to a number of questions - starting with creating an environment in the school which is implicitly hostile to gay students.

Further, Kempling has pushed his case through the courts system and repeatedly lost decision after decision.

If Kempling were simply operating a private counselling service and making those claims, that would be one thing; however, he was also a guidance counsellor at the local school, and as such had a fairly high profile both within the school and the community.

Since the school clearly has obligations to all of its students, one of its staff running about making claims that are obviously going to make a part of the student body extremely uncomfortable dealing with him is detrimental to the school's overall responsibilities.

Case #2: Scott Brockie

Brockie refused to print materials for a Gay/Lesbian organization. In other words, Brockie did the classic "we don't serve your kind" routine when he found out that his client was a G/L organization. Turning this one on its ear a bit, what would Brockie have done had he walked into a G/L owned business and found himself refused service because of his religion? A quick check of Brockie's business website provides no clue that he runs it on "strict born-again christian" principles.

As with the Kempling case, Brockie did more than just express an opinion. In this case, he chose to deny service based on that opinion. {Which, by the way, is one of the things that Morton's law could be interpreted as permitting}

Case #3: Bishop Henry

Bishop Henry's case is still ongoing, as two separate complaints were filed.

Notably, the first complaint was resolved/dropped following a conciliation meeting between the Bishop and the complainant.

The second complaint is still pending, and as such is subject to an assortment of confidentiality issues.

Personally, I think that Bishop Henry's letter steps somewhat beyond the normal bounds for "pastoral letters" - at least the examples I've found on the web tend to be much more oriented towards the interpretation of scripture with respect to an issue, rather than outright calls for political action.

However, even though I disagree with what the Bishop wrote on the subject, I am willing to respect the fact that the first complaint has been dropped (and I suspect that the second complaint will die quietly).

Case #4: Knights of Columbus in B.C.

This case arose after the KofC cancelled a booking made by a lesbian couple to celebrate their wedding.

The end result was a split ruling. The KofC was penalized for breaking a contract, but their right to not rent their facilities to future gay or lesbian couples was upheld.

Now, you might look and say that this is similar to the Brockie case, but there is a key distinction here. The KofC is clearly a religious organization affiliated with the Catholic Church. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to get the picture that they might have some objections to celebration of gay weddings. (In fact, I'm surprised the couple approached the KofC in the first place - but that's my own sensibility speaking) Brockie is running a commercial enterprise with no indication whatsoever of any religious affiliation.

Again, the KofC situation is not merely a matter of someone "expressing an opinion", and I think that's quite important to recognize here. In this case, a contract was agreed to, and then subsequently broken.

[Update: 07/12/06]:
There is subpoint to this one wandering about the conservative blogosphere. It seems that several people don't believe that the BC tribunal actually said that the KofC had a right to refuse services to a Gay couple based on their religious affiliation and beliefs. I refer you to Paragraph 120 of the Decision itself which reads:

Although we have accepted that the Knights could refuse access to the Hall to the complainants because of their core religious beliefs, in the Panel’s view, in making this decision they had to consider the effect their actions would have on the complainants. In the circumstances of this case, the Knights could not simply act in a manner that adversely affected the rights of the complainants to be free from discrimination without considering the effect that would have on the complainants’ right to access a public service particularly because they had already agreed to rent the Hall to the complainants.


Q.E.D.
[/Update]

Summary:

In four cases, we see a 50/50 split, where some complaints are seen to have merit, and others are dismissed (or ruled against) on the lack of merits. Both the Kempling and Brockie cases have been through the courts systems on a variety of appeals.

It should be noted that in the Kempling case, Kempling tried to argue the "religious discrimination" suit, and the argument was found lacking in light of his other actions.

With the exception of Bishop Henry, not one of the cases cited is "simply" a matter of someone expressing a religiously based opinion. They involve either denial of services or the creation of a hostile environment.

Bishop Henry's case is unique in that his "pastoral letter" just "happened" to be published widely on a number of internet sites before it was to be read out to congregations in Calgary. His choice of wording is certainly questionable, and the highly political tone of the letter is unusual. Since one of the two complaints is still pending, we will just have to sit back and see what due process turns up.

Going Off The Deep End

Via the Cathie From Canada blog, I found the latest in US immigration stupidity.

Two US citizens are being denied entry into the United States after a "lengthy" stay in Pakistan. (Where, presumably, they have relatives)

Federal authorities said Friday that the men, both Lodi residents, would not be allowed back into the country unless they agreed to FBI interrogations in Pakistan.


I see, so if your skin colour is wrong, you must be interrogated by the FBI before you are allowed to return to the United States? That's certainly the optics of this situation.

Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, have not been charged with a crime. However, they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, a 23-year-old Lodi cherry packer who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp.


Oh, really? So, by inference, since relative X was convicted of something, these people are guilty of an offense? Brilliant detectoring there people.

Just to round things out, we get another glimpse into how the US is using the "no fly" list to restrict the liberty of their citizens:

McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for California's eastern district, confirmed Friday that the men were on the no-fly list and were being kept out of the country until they agreed to talk to federal authorities.


Oh, I see. So, US citizenship is conditional now? Your right to return home depends on whether or not the FBI thinks you did something bad while you were abroad? I believe in most courts, an application for a warrant under similar circumstances would be tossed out as being a "fishing expedition".

...and people wonder why I'm so unimpressed with Harper's sycophantic cuddling with BushCo?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Stephen Harper, You Forgot Something...

Eric Margolis' latest column in the Toronto Sun fairly hands Stephen Harper his ass for being such an utter nitwit about "terrorism".

Of course, like his idol George Bush, Harper stays comfortably within his bubble so he doesn't have to hear voices that are critical.

Interesting Update

Late in July, I was making a few snarky comments about an interview I heard on CBC during my drive into work.

An anonymous commenter must have been checking my links, because they observed that the offending material has been removed from the websites in question.

They also added a note that suggests that the High River radio station that had been carrying his show has dropped it.

Fascinating. After all the crowing recently about "winning" some initial argument with the Human Rights Commission in Alberta, it's hard to guess why that material suddenly vanished from the websites.

On Michael Ignatieff

The Globe and Mail has possibly the most detailed biography piece on Michael Ignatieff that I've seen to date. On Being Michael Ignatieff is a huge article (warning - it took me the better part of an hour to chew through it on paper - it's a "print and read" piece - don't skim it on your screen.

It's rare that one candidate for a party leadership can draw so much attention, but then it's equally rare for a candidate to be as enigmatic and complex as Ignatieff to appear on the scene.

Personally, I can't make up my mind about Ignatieff. On one hand, he's made some statements about foreign policy that are just a little to cozy with current American ethos to make me feel comfortable; on the other hand, he's put forward some ideas that are very long range, and speak to this being a candidate that is able to articulate a vision for Canada that is bigger than some narrow ideology.

Other candidates, such as Gerard Kennedy sound a little closer to my own personal thoughts (at times) - the question is whether Ignatieff is able to adjust his vision to something that most Canadians can feel comfortable with.

I urge you to read the article carefully - it may not help you make up your mind about Ignatieff, but it will certainly tell you a great deal about the man and what makes him tick.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Breath of Fresh Air

The Green Party of Canada has elected a new leader.

I honestly hadn't been paying much attention to the Green Party's leadership convention - it's been pretty low key, but I think the new leader might be the "shot in the arm" the party needs to break into parliament. She sounds like she's got lots of experience making herself heard on parliament hill - both from within and outside government positions.

On the radio, I heard part of her acceptance speech, and her best quip was about "being available for scrums - since Stephen Harper isn't available, people should have some extra time up there".

The Green Party is still very much a "second string" party in this country, but it's nice to see a party stepping forward and calling the "mainstream" parties out on some of their dishonest crap. (e.g. The current CPC government's whiny claim that Kyoto targets are "impossible" - without so much as giving lip service to trying - is no better than the repeated inaction under verbage approach of preceding Liberal governments on that front)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Following Up On The Rumour Mill

Sometimes the Rumour Mill is correct. According to CBC, there were protests at the legislature today over Bill 208.

This is Ted Morton's little pet hobby horse bill.

According to Mr. Morton:

Morton, reached in his car in Carstairs, Alta., said those who oppose his Bill 208 need to understand that the issue is not about marriage, but about the balancing of rights.

"Critics of 208 should take a reality pill," he said.

"Same-sex marriage is not a basic human right.


Well, let's go take a look a the "reality" pill of his little bill, shall we?

It is his first clause that is the most troubling:

1(1) The Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act is amended by this section.

(2) The following is added after section 11:

Same-sex marriage

11.1 No person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under this or any law of Alberta, solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Bill of Rights, or the expression or exercise of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.


This is an amazingly broad set of statements. Basically, it allows people to discriminate without recrimination based on their particular views about marriage. This goes beyond simple expression of a few words, but can easily expand into topics such as refusing GLBT people service, firing them from their jobs, evicting them from an apartment rental, whatever you want - as long as you claim that you are doing because of your "religious" opposition to their marital status (real, imagined or anticipated).

I do not, for one moment, think naively that Mr. Morton hasn't thought of this in writing this bill.

Morton defends himself with the following piece of logic:

"(It) does not appear in any recognized human rights document. It's not in the Charter of Rights. It's not in the Canadian Bill of Rights. It's not in the European Convention of Rights, It's not in the American Bill of Rights.


Perhaps not, but all of those "bills of rights" contain significant amounts of verbage that oblige governments to remove legalized and systemic discrimination. As has been pointed out numerous times in the past by others, failure to recognize same gender relationships has resulted in people's wills being disregarded, and loved companions being shut out from critical decision making during times of illness. (This has been more of a problem in the United States than in Canada, I believe, but in Little Texas (Alberta), I can see some people trying the same tactics)

He then argues further that the bill is necessary because:

Morton, who is running in the fall leadership race to replace outgoing Premier Ralph Klein, said the bill is needed to correct abuses that are occurring now in Canada.

He has cited the case of a Knights of Columbus hall in British Columbia fined for refusing to rent space to a same-sex wedding party, and the case of a B.C. teacher suspended for speaking out against gay marriage in a newspaper.


Now, let's review these two cases - because they have dramatically different outcomes:

1) The Knights of Columbus Case:

What about religious organizations that don't want to rent their space for same-sex weddings?

In B.C. a lesbian couple signed a contract to rent a Knights of Columbus hall for their wedding reception. The K of C are affiliated with the Catholic Church. When the K of C discovered the couple's intention, they cancelled the booking. The couple launched a human rights complaint. The human rights tribunal found that the Knights of Columbus should not have signed the contract and for that reason fined the Knights. However it ruled the Knights had a right to refuse to rent the hall, based on protection of their religious freedom. This case clearly shows that religious freedom is fully protected.


So, I think that pretty much shoots the first canard that Mr. Morton is whining about out the door. The KofC is quite clearly free to refuse such rentals. At the same time, they don't have a blanket right to simply cancel an existing contract.

2) The Chris Kempling Case:

From Wikipedia, we find the following bits:

Kempling appealed to the courts to over-turn his suspension. The Supreme Court of British Columbia and the British Columbia Court of Appeal both upheld the BCCT disciplinary action. The BC Civil Liberties Association and the BC Public School Employers Association both intervened against Kempling in the Court of Appeal case.[2][7] The BC Human Rights Tribunal denied his complaint in November, 2005.[3] The Supreme Court of Canada decided in January, 2006, that they would not hear his appeal.[8]


So, Mr. Kempling not only has had multiple hearings before the BCCT, but also in every level of court in the country all the way up to the B.C. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Canada examined the case, and chose not to hear Mr. Kempling's appeal earlier this year. To me, this hardly smacks of discrimination at this point. Clearly there's a little more to his actions than merely making a religiously based statement of opinion about homosexual relationships.

Sure enough, we find he is quoted as writing:

He also cited various studies that he interprets as showing harm caused by what he described as the "homosexual lifestyle". Among other things, Kempling wrote:

"Sexual orientations can be changed and the success rate for those who seek help is high. My hope is students who are confused over their sexual orientation will come to see me."


Yikes! First, that is very troubling. The evidence surrounding the "successes" of so-called "reparative therapy" and "ex-gays" is highly problematic. Since Kempling was in a role as both teacher and counsellor in the school where he was employed, I can certainly see how GLBT students just coming to terms with themselves would see that as both threatening and creating an environment that is detrimental to their studies.

The BC Human Rights Tribunal ruling on the matter is here, and quite thorough in its analysis of why Mr. Kempling's actions are arguably discriminatory.

In other words, both situations have been processed and evaluated on their merits. One case was decided in favour of the defendants, and one in favour of the complaintants. Seems to me that our system of management for dealing with complaints of discrimination is doing exactly what it should be doing - evaluating things carefully and dealing with them in a reasonable and appropriate fashion.

No, Mr. Morton, it is you that needs to take a "reality pill" - discrimination, systemic or legalized is the problem here. Just because you wrap yourself in the cloak of "faith" doesn't automatically give you carte blanche to say or do anything you like with respect to other people who may or may not share your particular brand of faith.

This is a piece of legislation that should never see the light of day - and it will hopefully never actually be passed. If it is, I expect it will become the subject of an array of legal and human rights challenges the like of which Mr. Morton has yet to imagine.

Warning: Rant Follows

Some days, traipsing about the wingnut-o-sphere is downright dangerous to one's sanity. A quick review of Lifesite this afternoon turns up one of the most amazingly idiotic screeds I've seen in some time.

Abortion in Cases of Rape: Why Not Kill the Guilty Rapist Before the Innocent Child

The headline tells us quite a bit about the thesis of the author - it's a fairly classic piece of irrationality in which a child that is a result of a rape is portrayed as a victim being punished for the father's actions.

The author dives into his thesis quite early, posing the following question:

However, in a civilized country we punish the guilty and not the innocent. So why are we suggesting capital punishment for the innocent unborn child rather than the guilty rapist?


There are two fallacies in here to start with - first, that we do not punish rapists; the second that if the woman has an abortion afterwards she is "punishing" the unborn child.

Both are patently false. A brief examination of our criminal code makes it quite clear that rape is a most serious offense, and carries significant consequences with it.

The second gets into a nasty little issue - namely that of a woman's control over her own body and fertility. I doubt that any woman who has been raped would view an abortion as "punishing" the child. She might justifiably have some strong opinions about carrying the child of someone who has brutalized and violated her though.

However, the argument gets more irritating:

Secondly, abortion is harmful to the women that undergo it. Childbirth is a natural function that women's bodies were made for. Abortion is not. Abortion is a traumatic event psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically.


1) Abortion happens quite naturally - it's called a miscarriage.

2) Childbirth can be quite damaging to a woman's body - the rate at which women died giving birth to their children in centuries past is a good reminder to us of just what the price of being female often is.

3) Any major event in life can be traumatic - whether that is major surgery, marriage, divorce, birth of a child - whatever.

At this point, I started getting annoyed - then I read the last part of the writer's thesis:

Why are we giving more trauma to the victim of rape by encouraging her to abort her child?

Carrying such a child to term has been for many women a help in coming to grips with the abuse they suffered. Many victims of rape and children born of such attacks have testified to these truths.


At about this point, I saw red. First of all, following a rape, no ethical professional is going to encourage the woman to have an abortion. The option will certainly be presented, as it should be.

Why on earth would we punish the victim of a rape by insisting that she carry what amounts to a "cuckoo egg" to term? While some women may find the experience therapeutic, others are going to be thoroughly revolted by the prospect of giving birth to a child resulting from such a violation.

The issue here is that it comes down to a woman's authority over her own body. A rapist violates that control in the first place. After that, as far as I'm concerned, the woman is the person who has to bear the consequences of his actions. It is, therefore, quite reasonable for her to make whatever decision she sees fit should a pregnancy result. Society is morally obliged to be supportive of her, whatever that decision.

I should point out that the author of the column is apparently a man by the name of "John-Henry Westen". Perhaps that tells us a great deal about the thesis he starts from. As a male, his reproductive "goal" - biologically speaking - is to get as many opportunities as possible to create offspring. It is, in his world, therefore reasonable to continue the violation of a rape by insisting that the victim carry the resulting child to term.

If and when we find a way to make the rapist carry the resulting child to term, and go through some facsimile of a childbirth experience (how about a modified c-section - without the anaesthetic, perhaps), then you might be able to convince me that the woman's pregnancy may not require termination. However, the decision remains hers ultimately even then. In the meantime, these moralizing anti-abortion males can shut their yaps.

Irony

...is primary material in politics.

Something about Ralph Klein joining a "think tank" strikes me as astonishingly ironic.

Considering that Klein has gotten through his entire political career by avoiding anything resembling reasoned thought, seeing him join a think tank is rather an odd thought - even if it is The Fraser Institute.

The Rumour Mill

The rumour mill is starting to gear up on both the Federal and Provincial scenes this week.

Federally, rumours are beginning to swirl around a fall election.

I've wondered the same thing, with the Conservatives running around doing their nominations like crazy lately, but I've chosen not to comment on it until today. I suspect that if Harper triggers an election, it will be little more than a power grab. With the CPC having slipped back to Nov. 2005 levels in the polls, I'm not sure that it's a "slam dunk" for them to get a majority right now. (The fact that the Liberals are regaining lost ground without a clear leader is telling, I think)

It seems unlikely to me that the opposition parties are going to band together to bring the government down - making Harper's declaration of anything and everything a "confidence matter" little more than a way to build up some "ammunition" which he can use to criticize his opponents during an election. ("If we're so bad, why did you support X, or Y or Z when a vote against it would have toppled the government?"). It's a fairly obvious tactic that he's setting up.

Ottawa's warming up as the weather cools down, it would seem:

The selloff of Canada's assets to foreign companies is to be expanded

Liberals are focusing on Harper's "support" and weakening it

Expect pressure to be applied to increase welfare supports - especially in light of government surpluses across the board in Canada.

Harper's legislation around the softwood deal is due to come before the house - I imagine that unless the Conservatives slip some smelly little clause into the legislation that makes it utterly untenable, it will proceed through the house.

Last, but not least, Jason Kenney is going to find himself the deserving target of a lot of verbal fire. It will be interesting to see if HarperCrit has the gonads to ask Kenney to step aside.

...

Provincially, I've heard a few rumours that Ted Morton is planning to re-introduce Bill 208 - his little "legalize being a bigot" legislation - possibly in an amended form later this week.

Since there is only one or two days available for private members bills during this sitting, we'll see what happens.

Notably, having reviewed the bill itself, I think it would ultimately fail when challenged before our federal courts - its wording appears to substantially infringe upon areas of federal jurisdiction, as well as the Charter of Rights itself.

[Update]
I see that the Senate isn't willing to be pushed along by Harper's tactics in his efforts to push through his "accountability" act - which really does little to address such issues.

[/Update]

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What's That Smell?

Oh...nothing new, just Jason Kenney being a hypocrit.

Of course the talking point will be "but he apologized for it". Yes - what an honest sounding apology:

"I wanted to be sure there wasn't a connection," said Kenney. "I came away with the impression that there was no connection whatsoever."


What a mealy-mouthed bunch of garbage - but coming from Kenney, I shouldn't be surprised. He's yet to do anything that suggests even a smidgen of intellectual honesty.

[Update 19:20]
I found an article on CBC this evening, which contains the following very memorable zinger:

Denis Coderre:
"A terrorist group is a terrorist group so I'm expecting Jason Kenney, who likes to play politics and who's as subtle as Barney Rubble in politics, he should do better than that."


...and Mr. Graham has an equally astute summary of Mr. Kenney:

"It's a classic example of Mr. Kenney's complete disregard for what he says for one group and then says another thing to another group."

[/Update]

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Open and Accountable?

Once more, we are given a glimpse into the secretiveness of the CPC government.

This time, the CPC is shutting out anyone that's likely to be critical of their "made in Canada" environmental policy. The intellectual dishonesty of these lizards is amazing! For crying out loud, we are talking about environmental policy here. Hardly something that is a "national secret" for security reasons.

Of course, this comes from the same government that thinks the softwood lumber legislation should be a matter of "confidence" - a tactic which is little more than a transparent bully tactic to force the bill through, and a Minister of the Environment that thinks that a spotted owl population of less than 20 birds is not really an endangered species.

Not only liars, but stupid liars.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Call For Honesty

I've complained many times that Harper's government is acting in ways that range from outright lies to disingenuity in their motives. A regular reader of this blog pointed me to the following article The Iraqifiction of Afghanistan by Eugene Lang.

It is, at heart, a call for the the Conservatives to get honest with Canadians. Why is it essential that Canada be a military presence in Afghanistan? (and step away from the pithy 'cut-and-run' talking point, because we all know it's a crock)

Calgary's Hay Bales

Following a tip from commenter JN, we find out that Jason Kenney opening his yap again - and removing all doubt that he is an idiot.

By virtue of some amazingly stupid logic, Mr. Kenney is trying to liken Hezbollah to the German Nazi Party in the 1930s.

Jason Kenney says the fact that Hezbollah has a politicial wing doesn't change the fact that it is a terrorist group dedicated to the eradication of Israel.

He says Germany in the 1930s had a political party which ran in elections and provided social services but it was also dedicated to violence against the Jewish people.


That's quite a leap. Of course, Mr. Kenney conveniently forgets that Israel has its own history of paramilitary organizations that under his rules would also qualify as terrorist organizations.

Generally speaking, if there is a lesson to be learned from Nazi Germany, it should be that punitive conditions - such as those imposed by the Treaty of Versailles which punish and/or marginalize a population will backfire somehow. The fact of the matter is that the Arabs have always felt that Israel was created at their expense to some degree.

If there is a comparison to be drawn, it should be taken from the fallout of the Treaty of Versailles - and is precisely the reason that the "isolate the Hezbollah" model will ultimately fail.

The reality is that the picture in the Middle East, especially in regards to Israel, is complex. Projecting our local values and sentiments onto the region is a dangerous thing to do, as there are far too many cultural differences for such a mapping to be coherent. I suspect that practical answers lie in many little pieces - including finding ways to share "sacred" territory that Islam, Judaism and Christianity all claim as their own.

Meanwhile, people like Kenney should start by looking for solutions, rather than telling us (the voters) what can't be done. (Of course, that would require sentient thought - not something a bale of hay is noted for)

Reasons I Don't Trust Stephen Harper

When The Mini Shrub moves protect an MP who is less useful than a bale of hay, you have to know that a priorities are screwed up.

Rob Anders' track record in the house is a pathetic collection of pratfalls that most frat boys would be embarrassed by.

However, when Harper moves to protect an MP like Anders, and by inaction leaves an MP that tries to work hard for his constituents like Garth Turner, out twisting in the breeze, I think the message is pretty clear. Suck up to Stephen, or else.

Coming from a two-bit micromanager, that's not surprising.

Politically, protecting Rob Anders is a silly move. Few people seem to have anything good to say about the man - you could easily replace him with someone else with fewer political liabilities. (Heaven forbid that goofball ever seeing a seat in cabinet!)

Sadly, it also means that there are reasons that Harper hasn't managed to calm down the extreme elements of the CPoC - he can't. Not without losing his own personal base of support.

Monday, August 21, 2006

One Down...

Charles McVety has abandoned his recent attempt to unseat Garth Turner as candidate in the Halton riding this weekend.

I don't think that this is the last of it, but Garth's own blog makes a couple of comments that hint at the squirming factions lurking beneath the veneer of the CPC's facade:

I was shocked at the swiftness and magnitude of the Righteous Right campaign, and have learned since that it was geared up and set to go some time before I ever knew my own riding would be thrown into nomination mode by the geniuses in Ottawa. McVety even came complete with a young operative who had been volunteering in my office for several weeks
...
Some people in the Conservative Party this week have criticized me for the ferocity of my anti-McVety campaign, in particular the media and Internet air war. In fact, I got absolutely nowhere at head office when I complained the crusade had local Tory membership lists when that is forbidden under nomination rules. I even heard one higher-up speak of “Dr. McVety” in tones far too reverential for my bruised ears.



Do I think that McVety's gone from the political scene? No. I suspect McVety and his crew will continue to try and find ways to take over the party by rebellion from within. An internal dynamic that is ultimately guaranteed to tear the party apart.

Memo To WarMongers: Clean Up Your Messes!

I wonder if George W. Bush's mother ever told him to clean up one mess before he goes making another, or did she simply call in some servants to do it for him?

His comments today on the Middle East make it quite clear that the man doesn't get it.

While Iraq continues to teeter on the edge of civil war, we have Bush playing into Iran's hands on the world stage - edging closer and closer to open conflict with Iran.

Given that the US invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan are hardly "finished" business at this point in time - both countries are nearly embroiled in some form of civil war, and likely would be if it weren't for the focus that the occupying armies give the locals.

Says Bush:

"Iran is obviously part of the problem," Bush said. "They sponsor Hezbollah. They encourage a radical brand of Islam. Imagine how difficult this issue would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon.

"So therefore it's up to the international community including the United States to work in concert for effective diplomacy. And that begins at the United Nations Security Council," Bush said.


Interesting plea to the "world community", when the Bush Administration has played a "go it alone" card when the UN doesn't vote their way. I suspect that like many things from BushCo, it's mostly a sop to make the appearance of trying diplomacy before they launch their next war.

Perhaps more ironic is this:

"If we ever give up the desire to help people who want to live in a free society, we will have lost our soul as a nation," Bush said.

...

And he said the war must be fought in Washington, too, criticizing a federal judge's ruling last week to stop the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, which was instituted after the 9/11 attacks.

"Those who heralded the decision not to give law enforcement the tools necessary to protect the American people just simply don't see the world the way we do," Bush said. (Full story)

"They see maybe these kind of isolated incidents. These aren't isolated incidents; they're tied together. There is a global war going on," he said.


I see, so a direct attack on the freedoms of your citizens is the price that must be paid for your futile attempts to export the facade of democracy? Freedom and democracy start at home. A government that spies on its people, illegally no less, is not fostering freedom or democracy.

As if to underscore the crumbling legitimacy of BushCo reasoning around their so-called "War on Terror", we find yet another "Terrorism Charge" thrown out of court. The regularity with which people have been held for years, only to find the charges against them thrown out since 9/11 speaks to the effectiveness of the various spying programs and extended powers asserted in the so-called "Patriot Act".

It's high time that America concentrated on bringing order and reconstruction to the disasters it's already fomented in Afghanistan and Iraq. That might do a little to start creating the impression that America actually wants to accomplish something positive in the world.

Vic Toews - Ralph Klein Minus Charisma

In a Ralph-Kleinesque maneuver, is musing about dropping Preliminary Hearings from our criminal prosecutions process.

Besides being one of the sillier ideas I've heard, the idea of dropping preliminary hearings strikes me as having little or no real benefit in terms of the costs that our criminal court system incurs.

My guess is that it's going to do little beyond making the central trials a lot longer and more complex (with multiple adjournments and delays requested as the two sides maneuver their cases).

Of course, we have to recognize where this is coming from. Toews is of the "lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key" school of criminal justice. After all, this is the same man who thinks a ten year old is ready to understand what a judge is doing.

One can hope that this is a "trial balloon", but I suspect it isn't - not coming from the current bunch.

Rise of the AmTaliban(tm)

Occasionally, one will see reference to some of the nastier, more judgemental types in the religious right being part of the "AmTaliban(tm)".

I've always kind of laughed at it as a cute slam - then I read this on CNN this morning.

In the letter of termination given to the long-time Sunday school teacher, "The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." ".

So, some lady spends over 5 decades teaching sunday school, only to be terminated by some nutbar who figures that a woman couldn't possibly be "in a position of superiority to men" in the church.

Reminds me of the tales coming out of the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

It's amazing to me - the New Testament is clearly allegorical in form, much more so than the Old Testament, and yet we still find people out there bound and determined to use those phrases to justify being little more than petty assholes towards their fellow human beings.

Oh yes, apparently the minister involved also happens to sit on his local town council. I can imagine just how well balanced his counsel is.

The mind boggles.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Squirming Base

I've said for quite some time that the Theo-Con base in the CPC won't tolerate being muzzled by Stephen Harper for too long.

Earlier this week, It comes out that Garth Turner is being challenged for the nomination to his seat.

It seems that Mr. Turner has become the focus of Charles McVety's wrath over a number of things, but in particular, having the gall to vote in favour of Bill C-38 last parliament. If you have forgotten, Charles McVety is one of the more vocal opponents of Same Gender Marriage. McVety is also involved with other "Christian Lobby" organizations such as Canada Family Action Coalition.

I suspect that this is more or less "on schedule" - the religious "base" in the CPoC is getting itself tied in knots over what it no doubt sees as "inaction" on their pet hobbyhorse issues.

The AIDS Conference and Conservative Disengagement

A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the International AIDS Conference that wrapped up in Toronto this past week.

A number of commentators have observed that too much of the coverage looked decidedly like things had been taken over by celebrity names such as Bill Clinton or Bill Gates.

While I agree that the "main hall" events of the conference had took on a distinctly "photo op" appearance, with speeches clearly geared to "large audiences", a perusal of the conference program paints a much different picture, with a plethora of sessions focused on all different aspects of the issues that HIV/AIDS presents. (If you are sufficiently interested, webcasts and presentation slides have now been posted on that site)

The disengagement of the CPC government with respect to the conference is disturbing for quite a number of reasons. First, it signals to the public that a major public health issue is not something this government is willing to address.

However, even more troubling is the elliptical comments from Tony Clement, Minister of Health, in regards to the conference. The assertion that "no rational debate" was possible worries me - it's hard to imagine what "rational debate" the CPC is talking about. For example, just what do they claim is debatable - that HIV/AIDS is killing people? Or, in a country like Canada, putting them on lifelong diets of drug cocktails that are no fun to live with.

A review of the CPC's Policy on Health shows a position that is deliberately vague and evasive in a great many dimensions, one that stays away from any hard statements except for this paragraph:

57. Assisted Human Reproduction and Related Research

The Conservative Party recognizes the need for federal regulation in assisted human reproduction and related research. This field should be governed by principles that respect human individuality, integrity, dignity and life. In recognition of the ethical and scientific concerns around research using human embryos, we support an initial three-year prohibition on embryonic research, and call on the federal government to encourage its granting agencies to focus on more promising adult (post-natal) stem cell research.


This is pretty much a rehash of the BushCo position on this subject.

Then, poking around the news this morning, I tripped across this article blathering about abstinence only sex ed program results. It's talking primarily about an American study, and one that only followed the students for two years (a relatively short period of time, especially when you are talking about teenagers who are growing and changing quite rapidly). There's two things about this article I find striking - one, it's appearance in an obviously conservative media outlet, second is the timing of its release, right in the middle of the AIDS conference itself. Of course the cited study fails to account for the long term price of ignorance - which is now emerging as an increasing rate of HIV infection in parts of Africa that had experienced major declines in their infection rates.

As Tom Paine.com points out, the abstinence only sex ed discussion is deeply troubling when one considers what these programs leave out. US Government policy surrounding the funding of NGO AIDS prevention programs in other countries is written in a way that effectively prohibits teaching about condoms and other effective birth and disease control techniques.

When Clement starts claiming that "rational debate" isn't possible, I have to wonder if it really doesn't boil down to another case of sucking up to the teat of BushCo favour, but not wanting to admit it publicly.

As commentor "Quixote" pointed out on his personal blog, the government is conduction "Stealth Consultations" online. I suspect that like a lot of the Alberta Governments "public consultations", this one is designed to restrict the respondents (by being online, you've already restricted your sample to the part of the public this is "online", and the subset of those people who are willing and able to trawl through the government's website looking for these things. (Notably the government's main web presence doesn't even hint at this consultation's existence)

With a government whose desire to be secretive about what they really represent, one has to be cautious when obscure phrases like "no rational debate" are used. I suspect strongly that the CPC is rather inclined to lean towards "abstinence only" sex education.

BTW - I don't disagree with teaching abstinence - I disagree with teaching that without teaching about other aspects of the subject. Teens need to understand topics like the use of various forms of birth control in honest terms, as well as some of the psychological aspects of sexuality. Abstinence by itself is inadequate, and is more of a "head-in-sand" approach to the whole topic - one that ultimately does not achieve the desired goals in terms of public health.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Conservative Code Phrases

Typical of the Conservatives, anyone that might disagree with their preconceived positions and stereotypes gets blanked out. The most recent example of this comes from the mouth of the Minister of Health, Tony Clement.

According to Mr. Clement, No rational debate was possible.

Says Mr. Clement:

"That conference, in our view, was becoming a place where you couldn't have a rational discussion," Clement said.

"I think things were way over the top, at least from some of the so-called experts and people that like to have an opinion on these things."


Frankly, I'd say that the delegates - political and medical - to The International AIDS Conference probably know more about the disease, the current state of it in the world, the status of research efforts than Tony Clement and his advisors are likely to know.

I've heard the "No Rational Debate" comment before - it tends to come out of rabid creationists when they encounter substantive arguments.

The CBC article makes a few other interesting observations:

Two cabinet ministers abruptly cancelled planned news conferences during the conference, which drew roughly 30,000 delegates.


Fascinating, hmmm. Cancel a news conference when you might get a few tough questions ?

As an example of the politicization of the conference, Clement cited South African AIDS expert Mark Heywood's call for the resignation of South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, whom he accused of promoting traditional treatments, such as lemon and garlic, instead of anti-retroviral medications.


That's the Conservative idea of something being politicized? If Heywood's accusations are grounded in any kind of reality at all, the man should be run out of town on a rail. Lemons and Garlic as a way to treat AIDS? Hello? Is anybody home? We're talking about a retrovirus that attacks the immune system. I don't think that Lemon and Garlic is going to do much to bolster the immune system when it's under direct attack. (Note: Yes, garlic has some medicinal properties, but so do a lot of foods - right now, I'm unaware of any credible research that suggests garlic is an effective anti-viral)

Your Conservative Government - not only more closed government than we've ever had before, but even less accountable.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Conservative Retaliation

Quite predictably, the Conservative government is retaliating against anyone that criticizes them.

This time, we find HarperCrit refusing to acknowledge the World AIDS Conference.

First, Harper made himself amazingly absent from the conference by going on a tour of Northern Canada. Given the classic Conservative mentality towards the primary vectors of transmission for AIDS - sex and IV drug use - this is unsurprising. They view the entire pandemic as primarily a matter of "self restraint" and "consequences for actions". (Ignoring the fact AIDS has been transmitted by other methods such as blood products, accidental exposure and faithful partners who have picked up the virus in some dalliance, of course)

"The government of Canada is strongly committed to the fight against HIV-AIDS and continues to commit a significant amount of money to this issue," press secretary Erik Waddell said by e-mail to Canadian Press. "Our government is committed to doing more in the future.

"However, there are no announcements this week while the issue is so politicized."



So, when the Conservatives criticize something, it's taking a principled stand, and when they are called out for being petty about something, it's "politicizing the issue"? Right, sure.

It's notable that we don't even hear this policy through the Minister of Health, but instead, we hear from a press secretary. Again, you can be quite sure that this is the muzzling of "The Decider (jr)" making sure that his ministers don't slip up. (Come on, this is summer - not like the politicians are swamped by government business - surely the minister responsible is able to speak for such issues.

Of some concern - and quite related to the whole AIDS discussion is the need to extend the exemption under which Vancouver's safe injection site is operating. There had been some hope that the government would choose to announce its decision regarding the Vancouver facility. Instead, the government gave us an indirect bit of insight into their plans:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is visiting the North, told reporters Wednesday that the government has not yet made its decision on the program.

"We are undertaking some evaluations, but this government's concentration in the fight against drugs in the next few years will be on enforcement, prevention and treatment," he said.

"Unfortunately, the issue has been so politicized this week that this is probably not the time for us to make additional announcements."

Harper has in the past voiced his opposition to the program.

During an election stop in B.C. last December, Harper said "We as a government will not use taxpayers' money to fund drug use."


So, I'd hazard a guess that in spite of the research that has come out of the Vancouver facility, the Conservative government are going to continue their mindless "get tough with consequences" approach to law enforcement and shut things down. (Something that will please dimwits like V. Toews to no end, I'm sure).

Of course, the Conservatives have made it quite clear that you don't dare challenge them on anything - if you do, they will punish you however they can. In this case, they are going to lash out at their critics in a way that ultimately hurts people that are marginalized to begin with.

Harper's pattern of retaliation against those he perceives to be "against him" has been clear for some time, and is underscored by the childish hissy fit he throws every time he has to deal with media other than those based in Calgary. (Where you can run a bale of hay as a Conservative and get it elected).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Wingnuttia...

We learn this morning that Victor Doerksen has resigned as Alberta's minister of Innovation and Science.

Big whoop...Right? Wrong. A little digging turns up the gem that he's expected to announce his candidacy for the leadership of the Alberta PC Party.

I can only come up with a couple of possibilities for why he's running. Doerksen's a known theo-con - and a rather rabid one at that. My guess is that he either thinks that Ted Morton isn't as well supported by the religious right wing types, or he and Morton have gotten together and Doerksen's candidacy is intended to swing the discourse of debate in the PC leadership race dramatically to the right in an effort to motivate their "base" of support. (With the payoff being a cabinet seat later if Morton wins - or vice versa, no doubt)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Conservative "Justice" Policy - Part Deux

Let the ten year olds suffer the courts, says Vic Toews.

Jeepers, what kind of neanderthal thinking is that?

I just cannot believe these people - Toews is talking about the courts "ordering" appropriate treatment?

The courts should have that jurisdiction so they "can order appropriate treatment," he told reporters at the Canadian Bar Association conference in St. John's.

The change would not necessarily mean charges would be laid, but the courts need some mechanism to intervene in cases where young children act in a criminal way, such as becoming involved with gangs and drugs, he said.


Perhaps I'm just being thick, but it seems to me that this is the classic "conservative" BS routine about "consequences", which completely misses the point where youth are concerned.

Ceasefires and "Victories"

How interesting - the first spin on the Lebanon ceasefire is coming from Syria.

As one might expect, they are claiming a Hezbollah victory of sorts. Somewhat more intriguing is some of the other comments:

He praised the "the glorious battle" he said had been waged by Hezbollah, and said peace in the Middle East was not possible with the Bush administration in power in Washington.

"This is an administration that adopts the principle of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace," he said. "Consequently, we don't expect peace soon or in the foreseeable future."


I tend to agree that BushCo no longer has the "political capital" to play "honest broker" in the Middle East.

Equally significantly, I see that Iran is making threatening noises in Israel's direction. It seems to me that this is a "counter move" in response to the ongoing US pressure on Iran regarding nuclear weapons.

Although the ceasefire in Lebanon appears to be holding (certainly longer than I had initially thought it might), I think it remains very clear that the region will remain downright unstable for quite some time to come - likely until some credible new moderating force emerges - possibly China or India?

Monday, August 14, 2006

When You Start From False Premises

...you will inevitably arrive at false conclusions.

The next chapter in Esolen's tirade has been posted, and he continues his illogical reasoning in grand style.

He starts off with the following doozy - which is riddled with false assumptions:

9. In one crucial respect the social acceptance of homosexuality makes matters worse, not better, for the homosexual himself.

If my body needs protein, it will not do to try to fool it with starches. If the male homosexual needs a true male friendship, and affirmation as a man, he will not attain it by adopting the pose of a woman. That stands to reason.


The assumptions he is making in here are astonishing. First, is the utterly ludicrous assumption that gay men (in particular) are somehow effeminate and assuming the "feminine role" in a relationship. I can only imagine that he is deriving this from the ages old stereotype of the gay male being exaggeratedly feminine. In part, this is no doubt because the only kind of intimate relationship Esolen is capable of considering is the classical "male/female romantic pairing" - which is as stereotypical in form as what Esolen assumes a gay male relationship must be. I have only come to know a handful of gay couples in my life, but none of them has been the masculine/feminine stereotype that Esolen's wording implies.

The second key error in Esolen's reasoning derives from his previous post - that is the assumption that homosexuals are either socially isolated as children, or they did not receive 'adequate' male bonding as children. As I pointed out back here that assertion is utter nonsense.

He follows that up with the following piece of pseudo justification for being an obvious bigot:

f people understand that some folks are unfortunately attracted to members of their own sex, and if, while they neither seek to reveal it nor feel compelled to punish it, they make it known as a matter of cultural custom that they do not approve of it, then the homosexual is provided with a sane and merciful curb on his behavior. That explains why homosexuals seem to plunge further and further into the bizarre and self-destructive, precisely in those places where bigotry against them is slight or nonexistent.

... homosexuals themselves admit that they delight in being what they have called “transgressive,” that is, literally, crossing the boundaries of what is decent or even speakable.


First of all, again he is stereotyping gay subculture behaviour, without actually having the faintest clue what he's talking about. He fails to recognize that by far the majority of homosexual couples live amazingly quiet, pedestrian lives. The "show" that is put on for "pride" parades is deliberately exaggerated, intended to dispel the very myth that GLBT people are some kind of uniform stereotype.

The second thing that Esolen is doing is assuming that anything other than his own behavioural norms is somehow destructive. Of course, out of his vaunted, monogamous heterosexual "norms", we get stories like this on a regular basis. We won't go into the myriad of infidelities, child abuse and other activities that go on every day.

Suppression is neither sane, nor merciful, when it is destructive to people's mental well being. When the APA removed the diagnosis of homosexuality from the DSM in the 1970s, it was recognized that the psychological problems most homosexuals face actually arises from the treatment they receive at the hands of the "majority", not from their romantic and sexual identities.

Following from that fallacy, Esolen plunges into his next error:

AIDS is only one disease in a panoply of ailments that the male homosexual suffers, through abuse of his body. Perhaps the reader should pause to consider why hepatitis is so common a killer of homosexual men.


Ah yes, the stereotype of the homosexual as disease-ridden. AIDS is most unequivocally not a "gay disease", in spite of what Esolen claims. If one looks around the world, it rapidly becomes clear that AIDS doesn't care about your sex, sexual orientation, race, or anything else. In Africa, AIDS is endemic, and most monogamous women are infected by their promiscuous husbands who don't see anything wrong with a little recreational sleeping around.

Then, cutting to his final argument:

10. It spells disaster for children.

Our society has been corrupting childhood for a long time now, all under the pretense of good hygiene.

Why have we forgotten that it is crucial to our emotional and intellectual development that sexual feelings be latent while we are children? It frees the time for what is then more important: learning. In the first instance, the boy learns to be a boy and then a man, so that afterwards he can marry; and the girl learns to be a girl and then a woman.


I'm not at all sure where he thinks he's getting this from. First of all, homosexuals are not automatically pedophiles, nor are they running around "recruiting" children - there is exactly no evidence that one can "recruit" or otherwise manufacture someone else's sexual identity.

At worst, normalizing homosexuals as part of our society might result in a child seeing an openly gay couple on occasion. Speaking for myself, I grew up as part of that first generation where homosexuality itself was no longer considered criminal conduct. The idea of someone being openly gay doesn't bother me, nor has it ever done so. I fail to see how gay couples are going to cause any significant problems for children. Among other things, we have to be honest, and recognize that the numbers of GLBT people in our society is a very small fraction of the overall population indeed.

However, let's let Esolen try and clarify things for us, shall we?

This social learning is short-circuited by a forced precocity in matters of sex. Other forms of learning are short-circuited too. The boy who at age fifteen is not interested in girls may well be forging his way through calculus, or learning to take cars apart and rebuild them from scratch. The girl who at age fifteen is not interested in boys may be devouring the novels of Charles Dickens.


Okay - first of all, at the age of fifteen, most teenagers are walking collections of hormones. However, I'm going to dissect this a little further, because Esolen is making yet another egregious assumption that is just plain wrong - namely that of social roles.

Boys play with cars or mathematics, girls with literature. Assumptions like this just irritate me from the start. Some of the best software developers I have known have been women - and trust me, software development is nothing but applied mathematics. One woman I am honored to know very well indeed knows more about printing presses and how to make them run than a lot of pressmen that have worked for her. None of these women lack for being feminine, and yet their interests are way over Esolen's arbitrary gender role lines. Another lady I know from work has a husband who stays at home to look after their young children. He knows the local coffee klatch better than she does - and usually knows more about hairstyles and fashion as well. In his spare time, he does house renovations. The social "rules" we apply to gender roles are artificial at best, and generally speaking incredibly arbitrary.

The argument then proceeds to claim that normalizing homosexual relationships will foist upon children an identity crisis:

Would we of all people not want instead that our children should not even think seriously about the opposite sex until well into their teenage years, at the earliest?

But if homosexual “marriage” is accepted, there can be no such wise deferral. We will be visiting a crisis of identity upon every child in our society. That in fact is the intention of many homosexual activists, whose revenge upon the children who were once cruel or indifferent to them is to afflict other children with doubts, to make them endure the questions that they themselves endured.


My goodness, this man must be amazingly blind to the activities of teenagers then - or he underestimates their ingenuity. While we might not want it to happen, teenagers quite naturally experiment with their sexuality throughout their teenage years. Everybody knows of the guy or girl in their middle or high school years that was bragging about their "conquests" in bed. It happens - don't assume that it has anything to do with their sexual identity.

The gay rights world does not wish to foist upon others the very crisis of identity and the pain that it caused them as adolescents and young adults. By opening society to the reality that already exists, we stand to gain far more by inviting the GLBT members of it to be active and full contributors to our world. When people like Alan Turing are driven to suicide by society's abuse of them, our world is that much poorer for it.

The Counter Point to "Anti-Science"

I don't often link to other blogs, but this particular entry on Pharyngula is a rather amusing counter point to the usual tripe that gets trotted out about how evil science - and atheists - are.

- Enjoy

Security?

Someone, somewhere, with an ounce of rational thought to their name, please explain to me just how banning shampoo, creams, drinks etc. from "carry on" luggage is making my flying experience "more secure"?

In the near hysterical reaction of aviation authorities in the wake of "Shampoo Terrorist" Arrests last week, we suddenly find ourselves in a world where a drink on the plane is banned.

The claim that a "liquid explosive" was going to be used, so we have to ban these things from being "in the cabin" during a flight is ludicrous. Changes in the last couple of days to extend the ban to fruit juices and other such products simply make flying an endurance test for people.

This latest bit of "show security" is all about scaring the crap out of the public - a bottle of pop, or conditioner, is not a terrorist weapon - nor will it ever be.

Global Warming Denial

How the University of Calgary's people can deny that global warming is taking place after this summer is beyond me. It's mid-August - our dry season - and we're getting humidity running around 60%-70% (ever since June), for a region where 40% humidity is considered high, this is like living in a swamp. We're seeing really nasty thunderstorms boiling up in the afternoon (something that's usually over with in early July), and we've had nearly three full weeks where daytime highs have reached near 30C. While that can be explained as a local climate phenomenon, we aren't the only region seeing unusual weather patterns.

I read the article in the Globe and Mail on the weekend, but didn't have time to get around to writing down my thoughts about it. I see that blogger Tim Lambert has already cut to the chase quite nicely.

More poking about this morning turns up The Friends of Science website - which reads not all that differently from your average anti-evolution pseudo science website, and Desmogblog which has a rather detailed analysis of the group and their activities.

If U of C professor Barry Cooper has been using the University to "launder" money for this organization - as Charles Montgomery alleges - the University can, and should, be investigating his activities. Something here doesn't pass the smell test.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I Give The CeaseFire 24 Hours

After reading a bit more about UN Resolution 1701, and the Israeli and Hezbollah comments, I don't give it a whole lot of time before it collapses.

As this article from CNN points out, there are some serious problems with how the Israelis and Hezbollah are looking upon this "agreement":

Israel has made clear it will not immediately pull out, but will wait until other forces arrive to prevent the Hezbollah militia from again taking over the area on Israel's northern border.

"We ask that there not be a vacuum, in other words that there not be a situation in which the IDF exits and there remains a vacuum there and the Hezbollah returns to those places where it left, or alternately remains in those places and nothing actually happens," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday.


Meanwhile, Hezbollah vows:

However, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on TV that Hezbollah would continue fighting as long as Israeli soldiers remained in Lebanon.


It strikes me that with today's extreme violence, I imagine it won't take anything much to trigger further violence in the area, with both Hezbollah and Israel pointing fingers of blame at one another. I doubt the ceasefire will hold long enough for the UN to agree upon the composition of forces (and role) for an enforced neutral zone.

I'm also rather perturbed that the proposed neutral zone is purely in Lebanese territory, and does not extend into Israel's northern regions. It strikes me that in this conflict the neutral zone needs to overlap the territory of both nations.

No Connections?

Back here commenter "Mike" suggests that I might be a bit off the beam in suspecting that there are political motives around the timing of the recent "Shampoo Terrorist" arrests in the UK.

Via Canadian Cynic and MSNBC, we learn that US authorities were applying pressure to British investigators.

While I agree that conspiracy theories are quite often "off center" to reality, I can't help but be highly suspicious when little snippets like this come to light not so long after the fact. (And the current lot of politicians in power in the UK and the US don't exactly inspire me with confidence in their honesty)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's A Step ...

A first step towards stopping the idiocy going on in Lebanon is about to be taken.

I hope that this at least accomplishes the initial goal of bringing the pulverization of Lebanon's civilian population to a stop.

However, the wording of the UN Resolution and the Hezbollah response to it are still worrisome.

The resolution obliges Israel to cease offensive operations in Lebanon, but the loophole of "defensive" operations remains open to Israel - and their claim has always been that their operations are primarily defensive in nature.

Hezbollah, on the other hand agrees to observe the UN ceasefire, but at the same time declares "Hezbollah would continue fighting as long as Israeli soldiers remained in Lebanon."...

Assuming that the ceasefire actually happens, I consider it a positive first step.

However, I remain skeptical of it's odds for real success beyond the short term. With The Leading Embarrassment of the Free World declaring that Hezbollah and the arrestees in England are cut from the same cloth, it hardly gives me the impression that there is much chance for a political engagement of all parties involved.

In some respects, the real question is how does one go about engaging Hezbollah politically? I'm not sure that there's any obvious answer to that. The militias of such groups often contain numerous subgroups that are personality cults in their own right, making it very hard for the political arms to control them. However, the political arms can be engaged - and should be. Their presence within the Lebanese legislative assembly is a good enough place to start.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fishy Timing ...

The UK is bragging about foiling a nefarious "Terrorist Plot" which apparently involved detonating liquids on airliners.

As of this morning, your carry-on luggage for a flight outside Canada cannot contain:

Shampoo, Hair Spray, Nail Polish Remover, Creams, etc.

Restrictions on laptops, ipods and other such devices have apparently been stepped up in the UK and US as well.

The timing is interesting, since the United States mid-term elections are going through "primary" votes right now, heading towards a general vote in November. When the Democrats punt Joe Leiberman - a man who has come to symbolize the Democrats who have supported BushCo in some of their most ill chosen ventures - and replace him as a Canadidate who is a virtual unknown - you have to know that BushCo is slowly being seen as the liability that they are.

The timing of this particular round of arrests is suspicious - both Tony Blair and George Bush have just vanished on "vacations", and the Rethuglicans need a population that is scared out of their wits in order to hold onto control of the legislative houses. What better way to proceed than to put forth the nameless bogeyman of "terrorist plots". You can make them out to be anything you want until a few months later in court when it comes out that it's another Richard Reid (the "Shoe Bomber") or something equally incompetent.

[Update 15:06 10/8/06]
Just to convince us that the security people are as inept as the so-called "Toronto 17", what are they doing combining chemicals in public places - especially when they claim that the plot involved "liquid explosives"???

...or is this more "for show"?
[/Update]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Short Takes On The News

We've heard this before

Apparently, NATO command thinks they'll know within 4 months whether they are making any progress against the Taliban. Last time I heard a schedule that optimistic, it was BushCo talking about Iraq - and we all know just how swimmingly that went.

When a couple of kids in the US do it, it's vandalism; when a couple of kids in the Middle East somewhere do it, it's Hijacking.

Why does this strike me as more of a propaganda piece than anything else?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Once More Down The Rabbit Hole

Well, I see that the next chapter in Esolen's diatribe about the evils of homosexuality upon society is up. This guy's unreasoning gets more amusing everytime I read it.

7. It seals us in a culture of divorce.

In the United States, nearly half of all marriages will end in divorce. It is hard to see how any community can survive the resulting breaking up of homes, the smashing of friendships, the jumble and shuffle of neighborhoods, and the underlying assumption that human beings are not to be trusted.


That's quite a leap - divorce has been around for almost as long as the human concept of marriage has been. The Church of England was created because the Pope at the time refused to grant King Henry a dispensation for yet another divorce and remarriage.

I somehow think that blaming gays for the problems that married couples routinely encounter is a wee bit of a stretch.

And again, that is exactly what the no-fault divorce laws failed to do. Divorce swept the land like a plague, and brought untold misery in its wake. And no-fault is patently unjust: very often it subjects the wronged party to the whim of the guilty; it rules out of bounds the most commonsense considerations in matters of the custody of children; and it reduces marriage to a status some miles below that of a business contract.


Spoken from a position of utter ignorance, I'm sure. Contrary to this nitwit's claims, the "no fault" laws have served some very positive purposes - such as enabling both parties to remain a part of their children's lives even after a divorce has been finalized.

In a few, very fortunate cases, the no fault provisions in divorce law have enabled both partners to build new relationships in the aftermath that are every bit as healthy and productive as the happiest marriage.

Those who claim that it is always better for the children for a couple to remain together have no idea just how screwed up a family can become in those circumstances. The kids know that their parents aren't getting on with each other, and possibly even resent each other as a result. Children are not stupid, and either way pay the price. Some couples can make the "stay together" routine work, others cannot.

Moving along, the author then goes into what he supposes happens in gay relationships:

And what about homosexual adultery? We have been informed by the homosexual activists themselves that people’s expectations in this regard will have to change. Male homosexuals do not remain faithful to one another, in the sense that they do not so severely restrict their sexual activity. But if a certain looseness is granted to the male homosexual, when his jealous lover chooses to “divorce” him, why should the same benefit not be accorded the male heterosexual?


This is a truly amazing statement. I have no idea where he pulled this fiction from. Once again, it is the classic "argument by supposition" that you couldn't possibly support in any real sense. I don't have any population studies at my fingertips that examine the stability of gay relationships, there are clearly plenty of cases of long term, extremely stable gay relationships that have lasted decades - until one of the partners died.

Considering the frequency with which heterosexual relationships collapse due to infidelity of some sort or another, one has to suspect strongly that sexual infidelity is hardly a trait unique to homosexuals, and it is silly to condemn gay relationships because of it.

Then, he moves onto his next point:

8. It normalizes an abnormal behavior.

That it is an abnormal behavior is clear to any disinterested observer. It hardly needs mentioning that the male and female bodies are made for one another, in obvious ways, and in more subtle ways which medical science is only beginning to discover.


This is a doozy. Starting with the obvious hints - once again - at regulated sexuality, the assumption that homosexuality is "abnormal" is a very flawed argument. Starting with the fundamental notion that it's abnormal simply because only a minority of the population applies.

I will turn to the words of Olive Skene Johnson to elegantly debunk this:

The Myth of "Majority Means Normal"

This is based on the belief that large numbers are superior to small ones. "If the majority of people are a certain way, then obviously that must be the right way to be; why else would most people be like that?" It's inevitable that the next step is to brand those who aren't in the majority as the abnormals. "Isn't it obvious? If this were a normal guy like me and practically everybody else, he'd be cruising chicks instead of other deviates."

Curiously, it rarely occurs to these people to apply the same logic (illogic) to the right- and left-handed people. "Practically everybody's right-handed, so left-handers must be abnormal, disgusting. Let's force them to be normal." Most Western people, of course, no longer hold that view of left-handers, whereas disapproval of homosexuality is still thriving.

p. 216 The Sexual Spectrum, by Olive Skene Johnson


Then he goes on to play theoretician:

will discuss below what causes the behavior. For the moment, let us remember what is required of a scientific theory.


My goodness, this man is truly full of himself. Over a century of modern psychology / psychiatry has yet to even scratch the surface of the most basic of human behaviours, much less something as complex as our relationships and sexuality. Let's see what he has to say...

Now the theory that homosexuality is caused by one’s genes is based on the simple, though shaky, assumption that human behavior is wholly determined by genetics. Otherwise it violates every qualification for sound science.


Setup part #1 - let's set up the straw man of "it's all genetic". First of all, twins studies have long ago called question upon a purely genetic explanation - after all identical twins are genetically identical - if one was gay, the other should be as well if we were dealing with a purely genetic issue. No big deal, I've never been impressed by purely genetic explanations of human behaviour - there's usually a lot more involved in something as complex as a human being.

The author spends most of the next few paragraphs debunking his straw man before moving onto his ideas:

I accept the word of male homosexuals who say that they have always felt attracted to other males. There is no reason to doubt them on this. They believe that this attraction makes them different from their brothers -- and this is where they go wrong. The plain fact is that all boys have a deep need (again, this is something hard to explain to women) for male acceptance and affirmation. All boys are attracted to the athletic, the popular, the gregarious, the cheerful, the clever boy, or man, as the case may be.


There's a few things here that are real whoppers. First of all, his supposed "universal need" on the part of boys for "male acceptance and affirmation". Recalling a bit of first year formal logic, "for all X" arguments are extremely dangerous to use when making sociological or psychological arguments - usually because it's not terribly difficult to dig up at least one exception to the supposed rule.

Second, is his generic statements about being "attracted" to the popular/gregarious/etc. This merely demonstrates that Esolen is arguing solely from his own boyhood memories.

Third, this sounds suspiciously like a variation upon the mechanics of some of Freud's theories about sexual identity. While I respect Freud's works, I've always found some of his generalizations a bit troubling.

Then, he proposes that homosexuality is therefore a problem with childhood trauma:

That is the single assumption I make; and even homosexuals unwittingly testify to it. From it, all else follows. For suppose the boy has a cruel father, who makes fun of him for being slow or fat or clumsy. Or suppose the boy is naturally shy, and is rejected by the local boys -- and can only watch their rough games resentfully yet longingly from the kitchen window. Or suppose the boy’s older brothers ignore him, and he watches in envy as they catch the football or flirt with the pretty girl. Whatever the cause, suppose a boy who is rejected by the most important males in his life: the neighborhood boys, or his brothers, or, most perilously, his father.


My god, I can't even begin to express my astonishment at this resurrection of a long dead set of assumptions. Among the more brain damaged attempts at logic that I've ever seen, this is the classic - and incorrect screed - that you can imagine. For example, using his logic, homosexuals are social isolates, and utterly unathletic. Nothing could be further from the truth - it's hard to imagine Olympic Swimmer Mark Tewksbury grew up living on "the outside" of a relatively normal boyhood.

Proceeding along his merry little way, assuming the correctness of his ill-chosen assumptions, he leaps into the following conclusion about male homosexual desires:

What the male homosexual longs for, sexually, is what every male needs, and that is simply affirmation by other men. It is to know that you belong, you are a man, you can be relied on in a fight, you have what it takes. If a boy is given this affirmation, then, barring a rape or something else unspeakably bizarre, he will not become a homosexual. This too is a plain fact: it is a sufficient condition for the nonappearance of the syndrome. If a father affirms his son physically (for the rough touch of a good father’s love is never forgotten by the son), then the son will identify with the father. He will know he is a boy, to follow his father in marrying a woman and having children by her.


So, you've been inside the head of every male homosexual out there, have you? Horsefeathers.

The assertion here is amazingly simplistic - gay males must have grown up in an environment where their fathers didn't treat them "quite roughly enough" or something equally silly that prevented them from "bonding" correctly with other males. Explain to me then, how it is that a family can raise some number of sons, and arbitrarily one of them is gay? Or among twins, how one is gay and the other isn't?

Really, if you are going to play psychologist here, you could at the very least read a little of the material out there beyond the crap that people like Paul Cameron spew.

Thus male homosexuality is a corruption not of the relations between men and women, but of the relations between men and men: it is an aberrant eroticization of male friendship. And that explains the unimaginable promiscuity.


Once again, I refer back to my quote from Olive Skene Johnson earlier - why is it he insists on arguing that this is abnormal. Millenia of human history have repeatedly shown that it occurs in every society throughout recorded history - why on earth would we possibly believe that it is abnormal? Worse, he then tries to turn it into a "socialization problem", and then claims that somehow that links it back to promiscuity.

Since heterosexuals are rather promiscuous beings themselves (as evidenced by the seemingly unending stream of "sexual experiments" between couples, whether they are married to one another or not; "swinger clubs", and goodness knows what else that goes on that I've not heard about, it seems utterly baseless to claim that homosexual promiscuity is unusual sexual behaviour.

On the topic of human identity - gender and sexual identity in particular - Esolen errs repeatedly by assuming that he has even the faintest idea of the thoughts and feelings of sexual minorities that he criticizes; worse, he makes blanket assertions about the population that are not sustainable when put up against the observable evidence that is available. He claims to make a "scientific" argument, but then turns around and fails to substantiate a single assertion with credible data. It's obvious that he hasn't even read the "popular psychology" materials on the subject, much less anything even vaguely academic.