Saturday, March 31, 2007

Conservative Foreign Policy

I must start this with a brief apology to regular readers. Due to some unforeseen circumstances last week, I literally did not have time to do any significant writing.

- Grog

It seems that our geniuses in Ottawa haven't figured out the concept of nuance. Apparently, Harper's government refuses to Acknowledge, or meet with the newly constituted Palestinian government.

Per se, this doesn't surprise me at all. Harper and his pet puppy Mackay were first out the gate last year with condemnation after a free vote in Palestinian lands elected a Hamas government.

This is, in my view, nothing more than a demonstration of how rigidly mindless our Conservative government is. Instead of working with the language of diplomacy and persuading others of Canada's position, Harper is taking rigid, absolute positions on matters which are far from clear.

Is a Hamas-led government necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps, but perhaps not. In the world of international politics, Canada's strength has always been its ability to play a nuanced hand. On one hand close enough to the United States to be able to get the American ear; but distinct enough to be listened to by countries who otherwise feel alienated by American foreign policy.

By taking an even harder line than the White House (is that possible?) on this matter, Harper is signalling not merely a different foreign policy, but one which in fact is ultimately damaging to Canada itself. The neoCons are quickly waning in the United States - Bush has a little over 1.5 years left, and the voter mood down there doesn't look too promising for another Republican president at this time. Canada is not big enough to throw its weight around by force, which means a hard line approach to foreign policy will do little but isolate Canada on the world stage.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ThoughtCrime: Conservatives Moving To Remove Free Speech

I don't want to guess whose brainchild this is. Apparently the Parliamentary Committee of Public Safety and National Security would like Canada to make "Glorifying Terrorism a Crime.

I don't give a damn whether Britain, Spain or the United States have done this or not - it doesn't make it right. (and, as my Mother repeated often when I was growing up, just because they're doing it doesn't mean you have to!)

For starters, I'd like to see someone define what a phrase like "glorifying terrorism" even means. Among other things, it means starting with defining the term "terrorism" in a framework that is legally comprehensible. Too broad a definition, and any form of civil disobedience or organized protest suddenly becomes a criminal offense. If you try to put a legal definition around "glorifying" something, you run a similar risk. For example, a person advocating for Quebec autonomy may well make admiring reference to the FLQ - are they glorifying it? Is a blogger who speaks out against American occupation in Iraq - possibly going as far as calling for civil uprising against the "puppet government" - "glorifying" terrorism? Are they even advocating for terrorism?

One of the things that has never been defined intelligibly is just what is it that constitutes a "terrorist"? Try defining the term, and I think you will find that at some point or another a large number of otherwise harmless people would fall into whatever definition you create, and could be subjected to unjust prosecution under such a law.

One can certainly make the act of creating, or providing assistance to, a criminal endeavor a crime. In fact, we already do in many respects. Creating a bomb is a crime; detonating one is similarly a crime. So is discharging a firearm in public, or selling drugs or money laundering. Promoting violence against others is criminal in many different respects, and carrying it out is similarly a crime against the person.

Why do we need a law criminalizing "terrorism" - it seems to me that terrorists are already violating a lengthy list of existing statutes. Adding another class of crime - especially one so vaguely defined as "glorifying terrorism" to the books just creates another class of criminal - one that could just as easily be applied to this blog - or any other blog about current events - simply because the author spoke an opinion that somebody found politically "inconvenient".

Having political opinions, and expressing them, is not a crime.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Minority in Quebec?

As I write this, CBC is predicting a very close minority government in Quebec.

What does this signal to Stephen Harper? A couple of things spring to mind - first, I would suspect (quite strongly) that it should tell him that Quebecers aren't necessarily all that impressed by his blatant play to bolster Liberal Premier Charest's campaign by throwing money at Quebec (nor should they be). In fact, when Charest turned around and promised to use that money for tax cuts, he actually damaged two things - his own campaign, AND Harper's claim to be fixing the "fiscal imbalance".

I'm not sure that the rise of the ADQ means anything terribly significant to Federal Conservatives. While the ADQ is not per se a separatist party, it certainly would be a stretch to consider them "federalist" either. While Boisclair sounds like a policy ally to Harper in several dimensions, I think the ADQ is appealing to what has been traditionally a "soft-separatist" vote - those who want to use the threat of Quebec separation as a political tool more than actually wanting to partition Canada.

Although Harper would be quite happy to delegate everything possible to the provinces, an isolationist government in Quebec doesn't necessarily help Harper's agenda, nor does it indicate an increased interest in Harper's notion of Conservatism for Quebecers on the Federal level.

In fact, it doesn't even say much to Dion's Liberals either, since Charest seems to be more of a Conservative than a Liberal these days.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Chalk One Up For The Ignorant

Via Dr. Weiss, I learned that Steve/Susan Stanton has been officially terminated.

I blogged about this subject back here, although I didn't spend much time examining the Stanton case in particular.

In Tampa Bay Times blog of the proceedings, we find some real gems:

Speakers rip Stanton's management style

Former Mayor Robert E. Jackson told commissoners that Stanton should be fired for questionable decisions he made as city manager. Jackson pointed to James Gesicki, a 30-year public works employee who was fired in 2004. According to Jackson, Gesicki stayed with his elderly mother when Hurricane Charley was heading for Tampa Bay instead of reporting for work. Jackson said that Gesicki was fired without cause by Stanton, despite many years of service.

Former Largo firefighter Jeannine Horton said that Stanton held employees to standards that he did not apply to himself. Horton was fired in 2002 after using derogatory terms to describe African-Americans.

Let's consider this for a moment. Stanton has worked for the City of Largo, Fl. for over a decade and a half. Few managers with careers longer than six months have made no "questionable" decisions, and the accusations of "double standards" are coming not from Stanton's peers, but from people who would see Stanton as among the "Other" of the power structure.

The accusation of 'double standards' is commonly levelled against managers by workers, especially when the workers are not directly aware of the day to day activities of the leadership.

Perhaps the clearest show of the ignorance involved in this situation came out here:

Commissioners hear from detractors

Several speakers in a row endorsed the firing of Stanton.

One Largo resident complained that Stanton had made a "laughingstock" out of the city, adding "Who would want to live in a weirdo town but a bunch of weirdos?"

The Rev. Charlie Martin, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks said Stanton and his attorney had played "the race card" by focusing on Stanton's status as a transgender as opposed to his inferior performance. Martin told commissioners they could fire Stanton without cause and urged them to relieve him of his duties as city manager.

Think about all of this for a minute. On one side of the coin, we have a group of people villifying Stanton because of the revelation of his transgender status. These are the people who worry incessantly "what will the neighbors think?", instead of trying to understand the situation rationally.

As for Rev. Martin's assertion that the focus is on Stanton's transgender status instead of "inferior performance" as a political ploy, it's a complete crock. I don't have access to Stanton's personnel file, but with a decade and half of performance, I doubt it contains anything all that bad, certainly nothing to warrant immediate termination.

Stanton's termination was initiated when he announced plans to transition. Claiming that suddenly it's about "inferior performance" when a person has a track record over a decade in length is dishonest at best.

Claiming that someone who is transgender is suddenly "incompetent" is no different in my view than telling someone they can't do a job because they are a woman. It's a complete crock.

Perhaps, more amusingly, one might muse that women are often held to arbitrarily higher standards than men. In declaring his desire to transition, why did his performance suddenly become "inferior"? Either mediocrity is expected of men, or Stanton's past performance is suddenly being recast in the light of the expectations that would be placed upon him as a woman?

I can only imagine the lawsuits that will come forth from this - especially in the litigious environment of the United States. Cases like this are the reasons that non-discrimination clauses are so important in law. Being different is not a crime, nor should it be used as a cause for terminating someone's career.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Michael Coren Is Delusional ... and a Bigot

Michael Coren needs psychiatric help - soon. His latest column is an anti-Islam screed that demonstrates just how far off kilter his world really is.

Imagine a history book being read by people in 100 years time. In a chapter entitled, Why We Fought, it would list the crimes of an ideology and a movement, Islamic fundamentalism, that became so powerful and so grotesque in the opening years of the 21st century that the civilized world was obliged to resist.

Okay - he's hallucinating about a "war" that exists only in his fevered imagination, and that of a few other religious nutjobs who have confused scripture with reality - lovely.

He then goes on to describe all of the evil things that have been done in the name of Islam in recent years - and some of it's pretty nasty. But then again, some of what I've heard and seen Coren advocate doesn't exactly show his brand of Christianity to be a very redeemable thing. (Remember, this hypocrite is the same man who has called for nuking Iran, and gay bashing disguised as "Christian compassion")

They declared their intention to target children because, they said, they knew their enemies valued children most of all and loved life. For them, they boasted, death was more important than life. They vomited this philosophy all over the world, in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

Who is this "they", Michael? Last I checked, Islam was no more a philosophical monolith than Christianity or any other school of thought. Yes it has its share of whackjobs, and so does Christianity - looked in the mirror lately?

Coren ends his latest insane tirade with this:

They despised progress, freedom, grace, gentleness, empathy, tolerance, civilization, truth, thought, understanding, joy, laughter and love. They hated humanity and they hated God.

That, the readers would be told, was why we fought. And that is why we fight. Because if we genuinely care about all that is fine and grand and important we have no choice.

Coming from a man who keeps calling for society to roll its clock back to the 1950s, I find it ironic that he criticize Islam for "despising progress". Yes Michael, I'm sure the women of our land would happily go back to your fantasy world where societal expectations kept them pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.

He's bought the whole Bushian concept of a "war of cultures" hook, line and sinker - and apparently thinks that some noble ideal is being upheld by invading far-off lands - other than sheer greed and lust for power.

His paranoid rantings are filled with the near irrational rantings of racism and ignorance. Basically, he wants to bring war to parts of the world because he thinks that the people who live there are a threat to his faith. Gee, Michael, do you cross to the other side of the street when you see someone of Arab descent? Or do just yell obscenities at them?

Somehow, if Coren's tirades are in that category of "fine and grand and important", then I think we need to reimagine our priorities.

Bad Poker Hands

The game of cat-and-mouse with Iran took another couple of steps today.

The UN Security Council voted to increase sanctions against Iran.

In retaliation, Iran has claimed that British sailors have confessed to entering Iranian waters voluntarily.

It's such an obvious game of 'tit-for-tat' it's not even funny. The sad part of the whole mess is the fact that Iran is really just goading the United States - trying to provoke George Bush into attacking Iran. (Iran's behaviour reminds me of someone I used to know years ago - specialized in "button pushing" someone until they got mad and retaliated - if you ignored this attribute he was basically harmless)

Even if the United States were to be successful in knocking the Iranian government over, he'd actually expand the porous region between Iraq and Afghanistan, making it easier for insurgents in all three areas to gain access to resources.

Interestingly, it would also open up the prospect of dragging China into the fracas - as there are significant economic ties between China and Iran. While China's army may not have the technological sophistication that the US army has, it will be fresh, and China has numbers of troops it can call upon that make the United States, or any other western power, look pretty trivial - a distinct advantage in what would amount to a war of attrition.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The American Mortgage Crisis

For any of us that have been quasi-sentient since 2000, when George W. Bush was elected, there's been a huge warning flag on the US economy - mortgages.

If you haven't followed the headlines, there are all sorts of rather nasty little mortgage schemes out there - from so-called "sub-prime" mortgages for high risk purchasers, to "interest only" mortgages. All of these schemes are based on the gamble that prices are going to go up faster than the costs of maintaining the mortgage. (A risky gamble even in a good economy)

Foreclosure rates in the US are skyrocketing right now, as some of the secondary terms of these mortgages kick in, and people discover that suddenly they cannot afford their homes.

The social aspects of this aside (although they are significant!), the recognition has to be made that these "alternate" mortgages - which make high ratio mortgages in Canada look positively trivial to deal with - have been part of what has kept the US economy going in recent years. People have been encouraged to refinance their homes to make major capital purchases - whether that's a fancy new car in the driveway, or a vacation. The US economy's growth has been heavily driven in recent years by consumer spending - not industrial production, not massive growth in technology, and not by military spending. In fact, one might argue that Bush's entire war in Iraq has been financed primarily by the government convincing people to spend money - profligately.

Now, how does an emerging mortgage crisis in the United States affect Canada? Potentially quite badly. A lot of Canadian trade is providing products and services into the US market. The Canadian softwood lumber dispute may quickly become moot as the US housing market finds itself flooded with a lot of homes on the market.

US consumer spending drops off, and Canadian revenues drop with it. Including Alberta's oil-driven cash flood to some degree. (Although US government desire to free itself from the Middle Eastern oil supplies may offset slowdown somewhat - if people can't put gas in their great big Hummers ... )

Amazingly, a "Conservative" government in Ottawa is increasing spending, constricting government revenue streams and assuming that Canada's economy is going to remain on pretty healthy footing, when our major trade partner is developing influenza like symptoms.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thin Skinned Stephen

Stephen Harper has demonstrated just how thin-skinned he really is in the last day or so. In comments about the Quebec election, Harper states that money is conditional on who the Quebec voters elect.

The federal budget was fairly obvious in its attempts to set the tone of the Quebec election, and more recently we hear Harper trying to dictate to Quebecers that he won't work with anyone other than a "federalist" Premier in Quebec. Given that Charest has been something of a ideological sympathizer for Harper, it's pretty clear that Harper hasn't got the spine or integrity to negotiate with anybody over anything.

Consider this carefully - Harper keeps sounding like George Bush, and keeps on acting like him as well. As a Canadian voter, that doesn't represent me and my values at all. Most Canadians dislike Bush, why would we elect his ideological twin in the next election?

Distorting Reality

The religious right does an amazing job of distorting the pictures that reality provides:

European Court Orders Pro-Life Poland to Compensate Mom Who Was Denied Abortion

At first, one might think that the Polish government is the victim here. Just examine the way that the woman who brought the case forward is portrayed:

Poland’s current laws only allow for the unborn child to be killed in its mother’s womb in cases of rape, when the child is seriously malformed, and when the health of the mother would be in grave danger were she to carry the child to full term.

Tysiac claims that in 2000 she found out that she was pregnant with her third child. At that time, according to her complaint, she was warned by numerous doctors that her pregnancy and delivery of another child could result in a deterioration of her myopic eye condition.

She further claims that the gynecologist that she saw destroyed her abortion referral saying that her health was not in serious danger and her condition did not warrant an abortion under Polish law.

Tysiac also claims that, after delivering her child, she suffered what was diagnosed as a retinal hemorrhage which rendered her “significantly disabled” and in fear of going blind. Tysiac, who raises her three children on her own, receives a monthly disability pension of 140 euros.

While technically correct - an assertion made in court in such a case is a "claim" that must then be substantiated by evidence - the constant use of the word claim implies a doubtfulness that is not borne out by the court's findings.

In a BBC article on the same story, we learn a slightly different view:

Alicja Tysiac's eyesight worsened drastically after she had her third baby and she fears she may go blind.

The 35-year-old mother was refused an abortion despite warnings that having a baby could make her go blind.

Now, one might look at it and say that the plaintiff was not mortally at risk by bearing her child - the worst that might happen is she would lose her eyesight. (I don't know about you, but I value my eyesight quite highly, thank you very much!)

The Lifesite article goes on to further distort (and attempt to discredit the suit itself) by stating:

A typical strategy for abortion advocates has long been to use emotion generating hard cases, (often falsified, as in the two Supreme Court cases that legalized abortion on demand in the US) to open a wedge that inevitably leads to full abortion on demand.

Ah - so suddenly Roe v. Wade was "falsified"? BullFeathers.

In a follow-up story on Lifesite we learn:

Kowalewska said that the decision ignores Polish law and effectively pits the Court of Human Rights against the right to life. In the Tysiac case, no medical specialist, either gynaecologist, or oculist, qualified her state of health for abortion under Polish law.

The only possible conclusion that a rational human being can derive from this is that woman should not have sex unless they plan to get pregnant. And if that pregnancy leaves them disabled in some capacity, well, too bad.

The "Forced Birth" crowd really doesn't give a damn about anything but imposing their morality upon others. Even at the price of bodily harm to the mothers whom they claim to value so very much.

ReCycling Gone Awry

I see that PMSH has decided to start recycling George Bush style memes - attacking his critics because of expressed concerns over how Taliban prisoners are being treated in Afghanistan.

I realize that recycling is the "in thing" these days, but really, Mr. Harper, must you recycle George Bush's memes? They're a little past their "best before date" - come to think of it, they're downright rancid.

We've had just over a year of this goon in power, and the only thing he's done is get Canada more deeply embroiled in the mess in Afghanistan - an expenditure we can ill-afford.

Canadian voters need to think carefully in the next election - whenever that happens - Do they want George W. Bush's ideological twin in Ottawa? A man who not only apes Bush, but actually is dumb enough to recycle Bush's leavings.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The ConBudget...

I'm a day or so behind in putting down my thoughts about the Conservative Government budget that was tabled this week.

The first, and fairly obvious analysis of the budget is that it is fundamentally an "election budget". It is perhaps somewhat unique in that it is designed to influence not one, but two elections. In the first, and most immediate sense, it is intended to back up Jean Charest in the provincial election currently going on in Quebec, and second, the Conservatives obviously are anticipating a federal election sometime soon.

This budget is notable not for any ground breaking programs, or significant announcements, but rather for the way it tries to ladle a little something into the bowls of as many voters as possible. (what else is news? - most governments do this kind of thing as they move into election mode)

I think the "Con" in this budget is that is does not reflect the ideological make-up of the Harper government one bit. A little like the Wizard of Oz, it's really a small little man pulling a lot of levers - trying to appear as though they are something they aren't.

Most of what they are putting forward is in the form of new spending and tax credits, not tax cuts, or strategies such as "income splitting". Tax credits, as we should all know by now, turn out to be fairly limited gain moments for most taxpayers. (For example, the transit tax credit introduced last budget turns out to be quite limited - giving a credit equal to (maybe) a month or two's bus passes in a major urban center. What's that? $150 in a municipality such as Calgary -roughly. So - that's $120 off your taxes - which certainly isn't all bad, but does little to make most of us care when city transit access is so thoroughly brain damaged to begin with.

Or, let's consider last budget's $100/month childcare allowance. The Cons claimed that the market would easily step forward and create much needed new spaces. The real impact? Not a single new child care space created by that "market", and increased childcare costs for parents that must work to pay the bills. They've apparently tried to remedy this by funneling money to the provinces specifically for childcare spaces. (Hmmm...waitasec, doesn't this sound like the Liberal policy and direction for Universal Childcare coming back from the grave the Cons tossed it into?)

Perhaps what should have taxpayers most concerned is that the Cons continue to increase spending - at a profligate rate - while attempting to reduce government revenues through half-baked tax cut regimes.

At a time when the overall performance of the North American economy is a little shaky to begin with, it seems to me that dramatically increasing government spending without a clear focus on the people and their benefit is a poorly designed bit of policy that mimics George W. Bush's economic savvy as he mires his nation in both war and debt.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Michael Coren: Liar and Hypocrite

Coming from a man who has argued that we should nuke Iran, I find Michael Coren's latest column particularly amusing:

Homosexuality? Constant understanding for the individual but unwavering commitment to historic and unchanging Christian teaching. It's so easy to appear fashionable but so meaningless. If we compromise on truth we might as well compromise on goodness as well.

Talking about relativism here. Most of the bible beater crowd that think like Coren cherry pick their scripture - conveniently ignoring the aspects that they find difficult to reconcile. (You know the ones - prohibitions against eating shellfish, or admonitions to stone your daughter to death for one sin or another)

Yes, Mr. Coren, let's talk about your "truth" for a moment, shall we? The same "truth" that you use to mentally justify remote control genocide ... because you're afraid of someone who is different than you are!

Or there's this gem:

Perhaps we should also challenge the church's condemnation throughout the centuries of such things as poverty, cruelty, injustice and hatred. After all, those condemnations come from the same Bible, the same God, the same Jesus that necessitates the condemnation of sexual immorality.

Yes, Michael, let's talk about the church's condemnations over the centuries. Let's start with The Malleus Maleficarum, a document used to justify drowning and torturing people to death (mostly those who were either wealth or odd - sometimes both); or perhaps you'd like to talk about the church's oh-so-enlightened hiding and enabling of pedophile priests? Or perhaps you'd care to explain the wisdom of keeping people illiterate, reserving literacy and written word for the clergy?

Or, perhaps you can explain how a church that even today is among the wealthiest institutions in the world, possessor of some of the most valuable real estate known to mankind, has used its wealth and influence to ensure that politically inconvenient groups of people are kept poor and powerless?

Yes, Michael, your "christianity" is as much a creature of convenience and opportunity as those who you would condemn.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Required Reading

The New York Times has a long, but important article on the treatment that female soldiers are receiving in Iraq ... on American bases.

Read it, and weep for the inhumanity of the military towards its own.

h/t: Feministe

Low Hanging Fruit

Today's fruit du jour comes to us via the gong show that is Tory environmental policy.

In the Toronto Star today, we learn that the Conservative government is considering foreign credits to meet emissions targets.

It wasn't so very long ago that this bunch of naysayers was claiming that such tactics were "do nothings", and had "no effect" other than to put Canadian monies in the hands of foreign economies.

The Conservative government might let Canadian polluters meet greenhouse gas emission targets by investing in foreign projects, Environment Minister John Baird suggested yesterday.

No decision has been made, Baird said in a telephone news conference after meeting in Potsdam, Germany, with counterparts from the G-8 industrialized nations, China, India and three other "emerging economies" to discuss climate change.

He said the government is considering a policy reversal that would allow investments in what the Kyoto Protocol calls the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

While I'm not entirely thrilled with the whole "emission credits" concept in the first place, I find it mostly bad comedy being played out here, with the Conservatives repeatedly cancelling and then resurrecting policy as they bumble their way through the environment portfolio. (Which, in this case overlaps with Foreign Affairs heavily - but of course, Mr. MacKay is so busy licking Ms. Rice's boots that he probably has forgotten that he has a job to we get two really bad images for the price of one!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Of Skunks and Freeways

It would appear that our oh-so-principled Conservative party's true colours are showing in the courts.

I can only imagine what the smell must have been like after running over that skunk!

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jed Hawco ruled Friday that the party did not follow its own rules for setting a date for the nomination meeting in September and did not conduct a fair candidate selection process.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

HarperCrit and The Environment

Whilst running about the country spending like only a drunk conservative could, PMSH is quietly dismantling the very infrastructure that is necessary to understand what effect policies are having.

The Conservatives love to rant on about how the Liberals "didn't do anything", and yet, what's really happening is that the Conservatives are dismantling the very things that they claim "weren't done".

Roughly translated - PMSH & Crew are lying to the Canadian people. They are "green" like that tub of cottage cheese that's sat in my fridge for a bit too long.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Conrad Black's Trial

With the inevitable media circus that will swirl around Conrad Black's trial in Chicago getting wound up, I find myself musing a little about whether or not he can receive a fair trial in these circumstances.

My concerns are not with the media circus itself, nor with Black's public profile. Instead, I find myself wondering if the whole mechanism of a trial-by-jury is even the appropriate means by which to test the case.

Fundamentally, Black's trial is set in the same criminal system context that we use to try murderers, rapists and the odd mobster. Largely violent criminals, or people whose acts are violent at their roots. Black is none of these, accused instead of what amount to unethical business and accounting practices that ultimately resulted in defrauding investors. Perhaps more worrisome is the ability of most people to comprehend the machinations that took place in Black's companies.

Is it reasonable, in such a situation to pick twelve people off the street, and ask them to sit in judgment over Mr. Black? Few enough people are used to the kind of sums that Mr. Black handled on a daily basis, much less the intricacies of the corporate structures he created. Is it possible to give a jury what amounts to an advanced degree in Business Administration during a four month trial, and then expect them to be able to synthesize some reasonable concept of whether Mr. Black acted fraudulently or not? Will a jury of 12 "average citizens" be able to measure Mr. Black's side of the story without being overwhelmed by the prosecution's inevitable desire to throw huge numbers around in their arguments?

These are all tough questions. I find myself wondering if the real problem is the fact that we are applying a series of legal constructs to this case that derived from an era when crime was mostly a matter of either physical theft, or physical harm, and we find ourselves faced today with a new breed of crime which involves money, deception and obfuscation, and we just haven't recognized the need for a new kind of "criminal justice" yet.

Looking back at the history of organized crime in the United States (and elsewhere), we find cases like Al Capone - who was ultimately jailed for nothing worse than "tax evasion", in spite of a decades long investigation that never quite put enough together to hang a more serious charge on him.

Today, we see Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers and other corporate high fliers being put into jail after often lengthy, and boggingly complex criminal trials. Often, it seems to me, these people fell prey to little more than avarice, and got caught at it.

I am not arguing that these people should not go to prison for their actions, but I find myself wondering aloud whether or not the "trial by peers" model which has served so well for criminal cases hasn't hit a limiting factor in these cases. So much specialized knowledge is needed to understand much of the evidence and case against the accused, that I can't imagine how someone without that specialized knowledge could possibly arrive at a sensible understanding of the crime itself, and the impact of that crime upon its victims.

Is it time to create a specialized court of trial specifically for prosecution of "criminal fraud" cases - especially when we are talking about the enormous scale and complexity of fraud that cases like Enron, WorldCom, and now the Hollinger/Ravelston case, represent? One where we are talking about a panel of judges and accounting specialists are responsible for analyzing the details of the cases.

... food for thought, perhaps.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Oh Brother ...

I'm amazed by the number of "anonymous" comments I'm receiving that appear to be coming from people bound and determined to save me (and my readers) from my unrepentant, sinful ways.

Back here, anonymous author writes:

I read this and also your new post. Let's end it at this: We cannot both be right.

am confident in God's Word and therefore I warn you: A day is coming when we both will face the God that you do not believe in -- the one who has revealed His will in the pages of the Bible. As for me, I have hope -- I enjoy an expectation based on God's promise, not on my performance -- that I will be saved from eternal condemnation (which based on my record, I would deserve) because I have confessed the name of Jesus, I have acknowledged as evil my sins and my life has been transformed, and I have been baptized so that my own wicked sins are washed clean in Jesus Christ.

You and many of your readers are unrepentant, embracing behavior that your Creator has told you is detestable. That is not my judgment, but His. If I hated you, I'd let you face that day without a warning. But I would wish hell upon no man.

The Bible says "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." So I urge you to consider: What if you are wrong?

If I'm that horrendously wrong, I guess I'll worry about it then. In the meantime, you have your idea of what Christianity is (or should be), and I have my own sense of faith. That's one of the beautiful things about living in a nation that guarantees freedom of religion - we don't _have_ to agree.

If arguing against discrimination, against the treatment that is foisted upon "sinners" by those who are so religiously devout to be absolutely sure that They KNOW God's Will makes me an "unrepentant sinner", then so be it.

In the meantime, I'll do my part on this world to make a few people's lives a little less dark by treating them like human beings, even when the holier-than-thou crowd chooses to judge them wanting.

If some unknowable being in some unknowable afterlife chooses to deem that to have been a terrible thing to do, I'll worry about it when I get there. I'd prefer to deal with the here and now with a little more compassion, and a lot less judgment.

Remember, there is an underlying ethic in Christian scripture - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Would you like to be fired and marginalized as so-called "christians" have done to Julie Nemecek?

It's not always the headline...

We've been hearing a lot lately about how the Conservatives have been flitting in and out of Afghanistan - first they allow our Governor General to go over (odd, when about a year ago it was "too dangerous", and not much seems to have really changed), then we heard that O'Connor had gone over there to look into the much mangled file on detainees, and now I see that mouthpiece Hillier has just landed.

My goodness, anyone would think we are colonizing Afghanistan from Canada - the Harper Conservatives are paying more attention to that country than things at home ... where they are busy running about promising to spend money like drunken sailors.

More seriously, it's interesting to note O'Connor missed a meeting with the director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission because the director wasn't even in Kandahar!

Of course, somehow, I doubt that this really bothers HarperCrit and his crowd - they aren't exactly known as great humanitarians. (Recent attempts to change that impression aside - as I suspect like recent gov't announcements on other fronts, these are just electioneering)

Monday, March 12, 2007

"Managed Democracy"?

Just when I think that all the possible euphemisms that could be created have been, someone proves me quite mistaken. In this case, I'm referring to Putin's Russia - a state that is ostensibly democratic (e.g. they have elections at least), but the elections are, well, constrained it seems.

With the Kremlin maintaining tight control over the media, and disqualifying parties that it finds "troubling" on the basis of technicalities this sounds less like democracy and more like revised dictatorship - wrapped in a cloak of respectability.

The BBC's Russian affairs analyst Steven Eke says the overall result was to halve the number of political parties registered in Russia and to destroy any possibility of the smaller, liberal opposition parties having their candidates elected.

The Russian government says it wanted to create a more efficient system based on two or three parties.

"More efficient" - well that's the first clue that this isn't democracy. The last thing that one can ever accuse democratic government of being is "efficient" - even when there are only a handful of parties.

I think what I find most intriguing here is the fact that we are hearing little from Washington about this - it seems that "regime change" in Iran is a more important euphemism to him these days. I wonder what will happen when the US realizes that Russia has significant oil reserves hiding beneath the steppes?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Assertion, Meet Reality

In the comments section for yesterday's post, an anonymous commenter leaves us with quite a range of assertions that deserve to be shown the light day.

We start off with our commenter complaining that referring to Julie Nemecek as "Mr." is merely a reflection of "fact":

First, it's not "disrespectful" to refer to Nemecek as "Mr." -- it's simply factual. He was born with a Y chromosome and a penis -- he's male, even if he takes female hormones, grows out his hair and nails, wears a dress, gets silicone implants and has his genitals surgically removed.

Let's start with a few basics here - yes, Julie Nemecek was born male. That is an accepted fact, as is the observation that she is (at least, we presume) chromosomally normal for a male. (I cannot prove the latter, as if such a test were done on Ms. Nemecek, it's in her medical records and appropriately confidential, but I'll accept it as a given)

However, that merely means that Ms. Nemecek started life as a reasonably normal genetic male. However, if you were to meet her on the street today, I doubt very much that you would see someone conducting their life in the social role of a man. Since pronouns like Mr. convey a certain social status, it would seem to me quite reasonable to assert that it is in fact quite disrespectful to refer to someone living their lives as a woman as "Mr." - regardless of their chromosomes or past.

To me, this little more than verbal bullying.

The school kept this professor on the payroll for a period, trying to work with him to bring him back in line with school policy which is based on church/Bible teaching. He refused and was subsequently terminated.

My post wasn't about the particulars of Ms. Nemecek's termination, but since you raise the topic, I'll take a closer look at it here.

Here's the story from - a Michigan based news site that has a lengthy article about Ms. Nemecek's case.

There's a few points here:

1) Ms. Nemecek declared her intention to transition in 2005.

2) The University almost immediately took steps to curtail her transition, both on and off the job:

The meeting seemed to go well. But soon his job responsibilities changed. He was banned from appearing as a woman on campus or in town. He could not teach in classrooms, interview prospective employees or attend graduation ceremonies. His administrative duties were cut.

College officials ordered him not to discuss his circumstances with any SAU staff, which includes a son, a brother and sister-in-law.

We then find that the school started to amend his contract on the fly over last year:

His bosses issued an updated contract in April 2006 meant to subdue his feminine side in public. He tried to follow it to the point of extreme anxiety, he said. But by late October he was informed he had violated his contract and faced firing.

Now, at about this point, I don't exactly think we are talking about an organization that is showing any willingness to "work with" Ms. Nemecek at all. In fact, this has the hallmarks of setting the stage to fire someone on quite arbitrary grounds.

Further, I'll point out that Ms. Nemecek claims to have made efforts to comply with the University's demands about how she present and live, to the point that it began to cause her significant and real anxiety.

I'd almost put money that the definition of "Christian character" that is in the original contracts signed by staff at that University neither mentions nor considers the prospect of gender identity being at odds with someone's body.

The author then goes on to accuse me of the following:

You are arguing for a constitutional right to inflict approval of homosexuality, bisexuality, or "GID" on a church which believes those behaviors to be sinful -- you are advocating a right which does not exist and cannot co-exist with the right to freedom of religion.

No, actually I'm not. I'm arguing that discrimination like this is arbitrary, crude and generally unjust. Nobody has demonstrated that Ms. Nemecek was doing harm to anyone else by her transition. What Methodist theology says about transsexualism is unknown to me, and frankly irrelevant to what I was writing about. I was critiquing the assertions of the column on AFTAH, not making assertions about either the legal implications of acknowledging LGBT rights in the United States. I will argue that the religious right in the United States and Canada both unwisely use "freedom of religion" to justify marginalizing and mistreating otherwise law abiding citizens.

(As an aside, in Canada, the legal framework guarantees both freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination - which extends to topics of gender and sexual identity in the interpretations made by the Canadian court system)

However, in the kind of Irony that only comes from the creation of policy from ignorance:

Ironically, Joanne Nemecek last year completed a master's-level advanced human-sexuality course at SAU's Dearborn campus, which focused partly on the plight of transgender individuals.

On its Academic Affairs Web site, the university pledges: "We will seek ways to invite and welcome diversity into our community."

"The university teaches tolerance for transgender individuals in the classroom. It just doesn't practice it,"...

So, the University teaches courses about transsexuality, in those course calls upon people to be understanding, and then turns around and fires someone from their staff for being transsexual. Oh the irony.

He noted the Free Methodist Book of Discipline lists gender-identity issues, organ transplantation and genetic engineering under the heading "Other Ethical Dilemmas."

I don't happen to own a copy of the book, but if this is true, then it suggests strongly that Free Methodist faith community is far from conclusive in its understanding of things. (A quick browse around the web didn't turn up anything reasonably up to date - if I felt it was more germane to my position, I'd dig further)

The Bible is not "amazingly silent" on the issue of cross-dressing and mutilating one's anatomy with the objective of emulating the opposite sex (Deut 22:5 for starters, but much more). You are simply ignorant of its content and I hope you will remedy that condition by finding a Bible and reading it.

Oh, please. Why is it every time these topics come up, Deuteronomy, Leviticus and other Old Testament books are conveniently dragged out as "absolutes"? Surely in today's world, we've grown beyond that - or do you still insist on seeing a prospective wife's hymen to ensure that she is still a virgin? No, I'm not ignorant of the Bible's content - I just don't happen to interpret it as "absolute truth", nor do I accept as valid prohibitions against cross-dressing when they occur in the midst of a score of other proscriptions that are demonstrably irrelevant and unpracticed today. (Such as insisting on a bride's virginity) To me, this is the "scripture of convenience" approach being executed in order to justify marginalizing people.

Read literally, the scripture implies that surgery of any sort is immoral and sinful. Of course, we recognize today that many surgeries are in fact quite beneficial. Two thousand years ago, opening up the body to monkey with its inner workings tended to result in death. It's not surprising that such a prohibition made its way into the "cultural taboos" of the time. To argue that gender surgery is immoral or wrong based on those same proscriptions is to argue equally that open heart surgery (or any of a thousand other procedures) is similarly wrong - no matter what the benefit to the patient.

However, the Bible does NOT talk about transsexuals - how could it? The notion of a medically assisted gender transition didn't exist 2,000 years ago. Yes, it has proscriptions against cross dressing, but arguably, is a transsexual cross dressing? Not in their minds (or more distressingly, they find themselves forced to cross-dress as they live the social role that society assigned to them at birth). You can bend, fold and twist scripture all you like, but at best you are making a projection of what its authors would have concluded had they encountered such a situation themselves.

(BTW - it should make you happy to know that Ms. Nemecek is not actually planning to pursue gender surgery)

He is mentally ill, deluded, deliberately living against the obvious. (And I'm not sure our culture isn't essentially mentally ill, too, since many fail to recognize his condition as aberrant.)

Oh my. You've never talked to a transsexual, or read any of the clinical literature out there on the subject have you? You are correct that there is a diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (302.85 - p. 576-582 of the DSM-IV TR) for Gender Identity Disorder. After that, you completely miss the diagnostic boat. A little study of the subject demonstrates that transsexuals in general are not "deluded", nor are they "mentally ill" in the sense that you imply. In fact, they are typicall quite rational, and clear about both their realities and their gender feelings.

The mistake many people make is that they assume that a diagnostic category in the DSM actually means that someone so diagnosed is "mentally ill". The reality is that for a large number of conditions described in the DSM, the person is not "mentally ill" in the sense that they cannot function in society, but rather the diagnostic category serves primarily as part of a lexicon so that professionals can adequately discuss the particulars of a patient's case with a reasonably common understanding of meaning.

What I have seen of Julie Nemecek's story, and read of the stories of other transsexuals makes it quite clear to me that Ms. Nemecek is not "mentally ill" in the sense that you suggest, but is in fact quite rational and aware of what she is doing and why she is doing it.

As for society being "ill" because it doesn't see Ms. Nemecek as "abnormal" or an "aberration", all I can do is suggest to you that those "aberrations" have occurred repeatedly throughout human history, and present a picture to us of a diversity of humanity that extends well beyond mere physical attributes and into the realm of the mind as well. When we are talking about human emotions and feelings, it is far more complex than "biology is destiny" - as transsexuals so unsettlingly demonstrate.

Isolating and punishing someone for being "different" (but otherwise harmless) is little more than abusive and mean spirited.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bigot Watch - Argument By Assertion and Syllogism

In the last couple of weeks, the story of Steve/Susan Stanton has been in the news.

The short synopsis is that Steve Stanton has been a long time employee of the City of Largo Fl. Recently, Steve announced plans to transition to live as Susan and was promptly terminated by the city executive who decided, apparently, that being transgender was the equivalent of a lobotomy that would render Susan unable to carry out her job.

Of course, most of this is coming from the same kind of religiously-inspired ignorance that spawns legislation like Bill 208 in Alberta.

I went digging around the dark side of the blogosphere, taking a look at what some of the wingnuts were saying about transsexualism in general, and it's not a pleasant picture to look at. Perhaps because they got bored trashing Gays and Lesbians, but the nuttier clowns have started going after transsexuals as well - smearing them in all sorts of nasty ways.

I'll start off with "Americans For Truth", who posted this screed about Julie Nemecek.

If your first concern is protecting the welfare of teenage college students, the only good and noble reaction is to be firmly critical of the bizarre political agenda embodied by Mr. Nemecek’s demands and immovably intolerant of the threat that harmful agenda poses to young people.

First of all, Julie Nemecek has been living as Julie for over a year before she was fired. The author is being deliberately disrespectful of Julie's status by referring to her as "Mr.". This is a classic attack that the religious right have adopted - attacking the person by disrespecting them personally.

The second part is the immediate assertion that a transitioning transsexual is a "threat" somehow. Of course, they don't define what the threat is, and I must confess I find it pretty hard to imagine how someone transitioning between genders is a "threat" to anybody.

"Good and noble" justifies firing someone because you do not understand them? The insanity goes further, claiming:

The bleeding heart “tolerance” crowd insists that Spring Arbor must surrender its allegedly antiquated Christian values and instead concede to, thus giving formal recognition and legitimacy to, the demands of one emotionally disturbed employee’s obvious mental illness.

Ummm...last I checked, Christian scripture is amazingly silent about transsexuals - probably because the concept of a medically assisted gender transition didn't exist until the mid-20th century AD! As for it being a "mental illness", I think you would find most mental health professionals would see it quite differently (at least those who practice in the areas of gender and sexuality that have made a serious study of the topic!).

I won't even begin to address the myriad misconceptions that AFTAH's articles work from - I could write an entire book on the subject, and that's with my relatively limited knowledge and a bit of research.

Perhaps most laughable is this article which attempts to link transgender identity to "paganism" (without even defining what paganism they are referring to), in an effort to show how it is "unchristian". Considering how much of "christian ritual" is directly lifted from, or lain over, pagan traditions that were predominant in the late Roman Empire, I'm amazed at the utter dishonesty of these accusations.

Fundamentally, there are so many bad assumptions in this article that any conclusions drawn by it fall into the category of syllogistic error. More or less, the author seems to argue that because sexuality was richly reflected in pre-christian religious ritual, essentially any "sexual variance" is clearly "pagan", and therefore "anti-christian".

The syllogism goes like this:

Assertion: Pagan ritual included sex.
Assertion: Christian ritual excludes sex.
Assertion: Gays, Lesbians and transgender people are "sexually variant" in the behaviour.
Assertion: Paganism is anti-Christian

Therefore: GLBT people are pagan
Therefore: Being part of the GLBT community is anti-Christian.

Not a lot different from:

Assertion: Ghandi was an Indian
Assertion: Indians are men
Assertion: Beethoven was a man

Therefore: Beethoven was an Indian.
*** Which is obviously so incorrect as to be bad comedy.

The conclusions these twits draw are astonishing in their stupidity. Frankly, any argument that starts from a false assumption is guaranteed to be incorrect. LaBarbera continues to repeat and demonstrate this with his insane postings.

It seems to me that many of these so-called "christians" have forgotten the underlying ethos of even the Old Testament - namely the notion of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". I wonder if they have really thought about that.

(Of course, more cynically, it's really all about power, and these clods are like the schoolyard goons I remember from Junior High - all about beating everyone around them into submission)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Departure From The Usual Rantings

[Update 10/3/07]
From the Globe and Mail, we have a column by the Bishop reflecting his views. Well written, and interesting.
This one should get the wingnuts going. It seems that Right Rev. Michael Ingham wants Christianity to develop a "better theology of sexuality". In recent years, it has seemed to me that most of the time when a religious leader has opened their mouths to rant about sexuality, they have clung to an amazingly narrow view of things - opposing everything from homosexuality to birth control.

"Christianity as a religion stands in need of a better theology of sexuality," he said, "a better understanding of the complex role sexuality plays in our human nature and of the purposes of God in creating us as sexual beings."

He said the church has misunderstood references to homosexuality in the Bible, wasted energy in persecuting individuals who have argued for a new understanding of sexuality, and failed to comprehend how much the Bible and church doctrines have been shaped through the lens of male experience.

While this won't cause me to run off and join an Anglican congregation, it's a refreshing change from the increasingly irrational rantings of Bishop Fred Henry, or other "leaders" like Charles McVety - whose vitriol is deeply disappointing to encounter.

Like John Shelby Spong, this is another man who has looked into current Christian Theology and found it wanting. Perhaps they are voices doomed to be drowned out by demands for "absolutes" from conservative theologians, and congregations filled by people uncomfortable with "shades of grey".

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Zombie Bill

[Update 9/3/07]
It seems that Burke has changed his mind - I wonder if he started to actually think about the laws of the land a bit further.
I really must be more careful about mentioning certain people in my blog - it seems as if within days of the somewhat snarky mention of Ted Morton, we find out that he's being channeled by other legislators - this time in New Brunswick.

It seems that Conservative MLA David Alward is proposing legislation that would "grant rights to commissioners who are opposed to same-sex "marriage" on religious grounds. ".

New Brunswick Attorney General T.J. Burke spoke out in support of the amendment, saying he saw no conflicts with the Charter of Rights an Freedoms regarding same-sex equality issues.

"We're not going to oppose the bill. The bill provides preference in choice for individuals who wish to perform same-sex marriages and who wish to decline. There's nothing really that's going to change with respect to the amendment," Burke said.

Ummm...let me put this in one word - BullSh!t.

As soon as you put a bill like this into law, you create a situation where someone acting as an agent of the secular government (and thus, the government itself) is able to discriminate against someone on religious grounds. Although less sweeping than Ted Morton's Bill 208, this amendment to the marriage law in New Brunswick still ultimately enacts legalized discrimination by the state.

Now, last I checked, Section 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads:

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

Last I checked, there was a considerable body of case law established since 1983 that severely curtails the government's right to act in a discriminatory fashion. Remember that Marriage Commissioners are performing Civil Marriages, not religious marriages, and thus are acting not as agents of a church, but as agents of the State. I don't know how much law background Attorney General Burke has, but I suspect his understanding of the interpretation of the Charter in the courts is somewhat weak. (Or either that, like Ralph Klein, the man is fundamentally hostile to the equal treatment of GLBT citizens under the law)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Are We Really Making Headway?

I'm not going to spend any time here on the quagmire that is Iraq - anyone with their eyes open will have figured out that there's a huge problem there, and it will take years to sort out - even if US troops leave the region tomorrow.

No, today's topic is Afghanistan, where Canada's troops are being asked to put their lives on the line in the name "rebuilding". However, one has to wonder just how much real headway can be made when air strikes destroy Afghani homes?

The US tries to avoid taking real responsibility for the fallout of this particular act by complaining:

A coalition air strike destroyed a mud-brick home, killing nine people from four generations of an Afghan family during a clash between western troops and militants, Afghan officials and relatives said Monday.

It was the second report in two days of civilian deaths at the hands of western forces. On Sunday, U.S. marines fired on cars and pedestrians as they fled a suicide attack. Up to 10 Afghans died in that violence, which President Hamid Karzai condemned.

Both times, the U.S military blamed militants for putting innocent lives in danger.

Hold on a second, here. The US is blaming the opposition for operating "too close to civilian targets" - couldn't the other side of that be that the US troops overreacted to a situation when civilians were too close? No matter how we slice this one, it seems to me that as long as coalition forces are the ones seen to be killing and maiming Afghani civilians, there is little or no chance of actually creating some kind of peace. It's hard enough to be an occupying force in a land where you are "the outsider" - and that's without bombing the crap out of it on a near daily basis. If you are doing the latter, you can fully expect that the "resistance" (or "insurgence" as the lingo goes today) to find plenty of sympathizers among the populus who are willing to give them sanctuary from which to stage their disruptions.

Of no great surprise is that these heavy handed tactics are even getting Afghanistan's "democratically elected puppet government" upset:

But Karzai has repeatedly pleaded for western troops to show more restraint amid concern that civilian deaths shake domestic support for the foreign military involvement that the president needs to prop up his weak government - increasingly under threat from a resurgent Taliban.

I can see how the Taliban is making gains. As horrific as their government was to Western eyes, the Afghanis who support them no doubt see them as attacking the foreign invaders who currently occupy the land. Granted, under similar circumstances, I might even welcome a "Conservative" government led by Ted Morton.

HarperCrit ... Once More

While Harper is busy trying to pain the Liberals as "obstructing" the Air India investigation by voting down two unused clauses in the "anti-terrorism" laws passed in the wake of 9/11, his own government's actions are getting in the way by restricting the evidence that can be considered by the inquiry.

So...please tell me, just how is it that Harper can claim to be "tough on terrorism" when his own government's actions stand in way of the very investigation he claimed made those previously unused clauses necessary?

Never mind, in Harper's "oh-so open and honest" government, facts don't matter and are replaced by outright lies, and the politics of insinuation and guilt by association.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

An "Existential Fight"?

According to Jason Kenney, Israel is in an existential fight.

What I'd like to know is just what "an Existential Fight" would actually be?

If he means it in the sense of Existentialism, he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. Come to think of it, I doubt Kenney's ever studied enough philosophy to even have a clue how badly he's abusing the language.

Of course, JK doesn't actually care - along with his master, he lusts after one thing - political power, and will do just about anything to achieve it. If that means getting tied up in Bush's "Next Little Adventure"(tm), that doesn't matter. They want to get their testosterone fuelled egos stroked, and playing in the sandbox of a war seems to suit these pseudo Rethuglicans that call themselves "Conservatives".

"Honest" Ed Stelmach - Stuck on The Past

A couple of years ago, just about every capital expenditure that the province talked about doing for infrastructure was a "P3" (Public-Private Partnership) - from building roads to schools and hospitals.

This week we learned that Stelmach's government is resurrecting this hoary concept to build new schools. Although slightly less problematic than a hospital, repurposing a school building is still an expensive and unlikely proposition.

First, schools tend to be built in the midst of residential areas, not commercial areas. That makes it quite a bit more difficult to make the zoning changes necessary to allow the school to become "office space" or other similar commmercial spaces. Second, schools are often heavily utilized as part of the community recreation infrastructure - with gymnasiums rented out after hours to all sorts of community recreation groups. Once the provincial lease has expired (if it is not renewed), those groups lose access to that space as it is remodelled for other uses.

This is taking a very short-sighted view of infrastructure. At the end of 25 or 30 years, it becomes "disposable". Essentially, taxpayers will pay out the full cost of the building and its operating costs, and then if some bureaucrat in Edmonton decides we "don't need it", we lose the benefit of the building as well, and it is turned over to private, commercial interests. In the meantime, we've paid the private interest not only the cost of the building and its operations, but we hand it the appreciation value at the end of the game as well. In contrast, the elementary school I went to as a child was already paid for back then, and still in use today - having given taxpayers double duty service at the cost of renovations and upkeep. Were it on a P3 arrangement, taxpayers would have paid for its capital costs several times over, with the bulk of it being pure profit in someone's pocket.

The reality is that a "P3" arrangement is nothing more than a financial shell game which allows the government to take capital expenditures out of "operating budget" instead of 'capital budget' - and thus avoid the "horrifying" prospect of the government carrying long-term debt. This is a very short-sighted approach to infrastructure and education.

"Honest Ed" seems to be more like "Recycled Ralph" - only slightly less of an obnoxious blowhard.

Friday, March 02, 2007

CPoC Is NOT Moderate

I don't know who is falling for the notion that the Harper-led CPoC is "moderate", but it's not me; and not anyone that I know.

While Harper's waist grows at a rate that exceeded only by his ego, his Secretary of State for Monoculturalism is running about making speeches about Iran and how the Canadian government blindly supports Israel:

Harper, he said, is unshakable in his support for Israel, because he “understands its existential fight,” and he has told the Conservative caucus that he would not change his stance even if it means the fall of his government.

Remember, Harper called Israel's invasion of Lebanon last summer "measured".

Let's not be blind to what Harper's up to here - he's currying favor with whomever he thinks he needs to get a majority; and everyone else gets thrown under the bus. If you are of Arab descent, rest assured that Harper will support your rights - until he decides you are "a terrorist".

Just to make it clear, I nominate Pierre Poilievre as the poster child for just how wingnutty this party really is.

"Parliamentarians were presented with a choice on February 27, 2007 - a choice between the safety of Canadians or bending to Liberal caucus politics. I will not apologize for standing up for Canadian families, and I will vigorously defend the remarks I made."

"For any government, there is no greater duty than the protection of its citizens, and the onus is now on the Liberal Party of Canada to explain why they voted against the families of the victims of Air India and 9/11. It is up to the Liberal Party of Canada to apologize to the Canadian victims of terror they abandoned, and explain another flip-flop on a critical issue."

I don't even need to begin trashing this goon's verbal behaviour - he's taking his lead from Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day.

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...