Friday, November 30, 2007

Boissoin Hearing Conclusions & Ruling

The Alberta Human Rights Commission ruling on the Boissoin/CCC complaint has been posted.

The short synopsis: Boissoin and the CCC lost the case:

361. In conclusion, I find that the respondents, Mr. Boissoin and the CCC, have contravened
s. 3 of the Act by causing to be published in the Red Deer Advocate, before the public, a
publication which is likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt because of their
sexual preference.

The commissioner's interpretation and balance of the legislative and legal principles at play here is impressive:

356. I have considered Charter values in reaching my decision. I agree with the argument of the CCLA that Charter values are at play, not only when there is a constitutional challenge. Further, the case law is clear that in any analysis of competing rights, the balance must be done in light of the Charter. I accept the authority as submitted by the CCLA from Multani v. Commission Scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, [2006] S.C.C. 256.
In quoting from Justice Charron at paragraph 16:

The rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter establish a
minimum constitutional protection that must be taken into account by the
legislature and by every person or body subject to the Canadian Charter.

357. In balancing the freedom afforded under the Charter and the degree of protection
afforded through the provincial legislation, I considered s. 2(b) of the Charter in regards to the fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion, the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including the freedom of the press and other media, the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association. Having considered the Charter and the balancing of the freedoms set out in the Charter, I have interpreted the Act in a manner which respected the broad protection granted to religious freedom. However, I have found that this protection does not trump the protection afforded under the Alberta human rights legislation in s. 3. to protection against hatred and contempt. I also take the view that s.3(2) required a balancing of these freedoms afforded to individuals under the Charter, with the prohibitions in s. 3(1) of the Act. In this case, the publication’s exposure of homosexuals to hatred and contempt trumps the freedom of speech afforded in the Charter. It cannot be the case that any speech wrapped in the ‘guise’ of politics or religion is beyond reproach by any legislation but the Criminal Code.

This wording puts those who would use their faith to marginalize others into an awkward place. Although it is valid to discuss topics of faith, clearly there are now stated boundaries to those rights - namely that you are entitled to a religious opinion, and to express that opinion up to the point where you are trying to curtail someone else's right to a peaceful existence.

The Alberta Attorney General's arguments are similarly aligned and rather interesting from the perspective of Alberta's past history regarding GLBT rights cases such as Vriend:

242. It is the Attorney General’s position that Mr. Boissoin’s letter is discriminatory and it clearly falls within in the purview of Section 3 of the Act. The Attorney General’s position is that the Intervener C.C.L.A. agrees on the point that the province of Alberta has jurisdiction to legislate with regard to discriminatory expression that is directly linked to areas of prohibited discriminatory practices. It is the position of the Attorney General that the discriminatory messages in Mr. Boissoin’s letter need only likely cause others to engage in prohibited practices. Furthermore, it is the position of the Attorney General that no link to actual discriminatory acts need be established in this regard.

243. The Attorney General submits that evidence before this Panel of Mr. Doug Jones and Dr. Kevin Alderson have established that Mr. Boissoin’s letter contains messages that have the effect of enhancing discrimination against homosexuals living in central Alberta. The messages as asserted by Mr. Boissoin add to the misperception of gay people as being inherently evil. Further, Mr. Boissoin condones the mistreatment of gay people through his message creating an atmosphere that is conducive to discrimination.

244. The Attorney General asserts that on a plain reading of Mr. Boissoin’s letter he is seeking that readers do whatever they can within their own sphere of influence to stop the homosexual machine. Furthermore, Mr. Boissoin is encouraging discrimination in employment tenancy and in goods and services.

Ouch - that's a pretty harsh condemnation of a fairly short letter to the editor.

This has not been a good week for Craig Chandler - founder and one time head of the CCC, whose involvement in this case is not to be overlooked:

358. No evidence was presented by the CCC as to its position regarding the statements made by Mr. Boissoin. Mr. Boissoin did state on cross examination that Mr. Craig Chandler was aware and supported what he was doing.

359. Early in the proceedings, Ms. MacIntosh, representing Mr. Chipeur, Q.C., made an
application, as instructed by Mr. Craig Chandler on behalf of the CCC, only with respect to the issue of whether or not the CCC should be removed as a party.

Strangely, it is also this same case that provoked Rob Wells of Edmonton to complain to the Canadian Human Rights Commission about what was said on Chandler's "Freedom Radio Network" show in February 2005, and to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Commission when a few months later Chandler threatened to retaliate. Not one of those cases has landed in Chandler's favour, and neither has this one.

Next up, will Stelmach really want this man running alongside him in an anticipated spring election?

[Update 18:22]
Well, would you look at that, CCC's responding to the ruling:

Jim Blake, the current head of the Christian group, said all Canadians should be allowed to speak freely.

"Clearly, the freedom of expression has been suppressed so we're disappointed," Blake said.

Just like your Blake's accusations that PC party brass reviewing Chandler's suitability as a candidate are a witch hunt, Blake has missed the point once again. The issue is not "freedom of speech", but whether the exercise of that freedom impinges upon the valid rights of others.

Breaking: Crutcher Removed As President of PCs In Egmont

CBC is reporting that David Crutcher has been voted out as president of the Egmont PC riding association.

Crutcher has been an affiliate of Craig Chandler for a long time, and a letter published through Chandler's campaign apparatus from the "riding executive" just prior to nomination vote made it clear that Crutcher was unquestionably backing Chandler, and it is arguable that he had never really left Chandler's campaign in spite of claims to that effect on Chandler's campaign website.

I suspect that this represents the first step for the PCs to break the grip that Chandler and crew tried to impose on the Egmont riding organization.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

You Knew That Had To Come...

It was going to happen sooner or later, I guess. The latest meme out of the Chandler camp is that reviewing his candidacy is a religious witch hunt - from no less than the head of Chandler-founded Concerned Christians Canada, Jim Blake.

Jim Blake of Concerned Christians Canada likened the review to a witch hunt, targeting social conservatives and evangelical Christians.

"This is not an issue of Craig Chandler being an intolerant person," Blake said Wednesday. "It's a party that's saying we don't want people of faith in our party that are going to speak their values in any way, shape or form, even if it's not in the political forum."

No, sorry Jim. That's a gross distortion of reality. There's quite a difference between legitimate religious positions and discourse and much of what Chandler's past is. Chandler has made himself a public figure, and he has been - to put it politely - over the top in much of what he has said publicly. Especially about GLBT people, but also about anyone who dares to be something other than his particular breed of "conservative".

The meme about religious persecution is largely a fabrication rooted not in reality but in the fevered imaginings those who insist upon using their religious beliefs as a club to beat the rest of the world with. It is not a matter of "religious freedom", but rather a question of when does the expression of that freedom begin to impinge upon the legitimate rights of others.

Frankly, if Chandler's religious beliefs are an issue it is because he has chosen to make them part of the issue of his own free will. Aside from occasional side references to faith, much of what has gotten Chandler into hot water has not been expressed in the language of faith, but in the much cruder language of the street tough. It may be rooted in some notion of faith, but it is questionable whether one could argue that it is a legitimate expression of such when it degenerates into threats and abusive language.

In contrast, I would actually argue that while I consider the Christian Heritage Party platform to be a hate-filled screed, it at least attempts to root itself explicitly in the language of the party's expressed concept of "Christian Faith". Much of what is in their policy is tied back to specific passages in scripture. At least in that case, one can turn around and argue that their interpretation of scripture is flawed.

Politically speaking, the PC's have to make a choice as to whether the reputation that Chandler has accrued in the public arena is a liability that the party can "afford" to overcome or not in the next election. With the Stelmach government's polling numbers quite low, Stelmach may well be considering candidates with the kind of reputation that Chandler has acquired to be far too great a political risk. We'll find out as the party makes its decision in the coming days and weeks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This Will Get Interesting

Whatever you think about Schreiber, or Mulroney for that matter, there can be little doubt of the curiousity surrounding Schreiber's recent allegations about Mulroney.

As far as I am concerned, I want the whole business on the public record. Sworn testimony from all parties involved is the only thing that will ever clear the air around Mulroney's record.

Whether or not Harper likes it, the ghost of Brian lingers over his own tenure in the PMO like a shadow.

If, as Mulroney has repeatedly insisted, there is no truth to allegations of questionable dealings between him and Schreiber, then open inquiry should be the best thing to happen to Harper. On the other hand, what Schreiber has to say could carry a very high price for Harper if there's any truth to it.

Whatever comes, it will be very interesting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


[Update: Nov 30/07]
From some of the comments I've been getting over the last 24 hours, it seems that the CNN link below now points to a story about a boy who refused treatment because of his religious beliefs. That is NOT the story that this article is based on. It is in fact based on a CNN interview with doctors who were refusing treatment to patients based upon the doctor's religious beliefs.
When Doctors start refusing treatment on religious grounds, something is vastly out of whack in the world.

Don't misunderstand me - I have no problem with medical doctors having active religious lives. However, when otherwise perfectly legal treatments are refused on the grounds that it conflicts with the "doctor's religious beliefs", then there is a serious, serious problem.

The last thing I, or any other patient, wants is to go to a doctor and instead of treatment receive a lecture on the morality of our lives as an excuse for not treating the patient.

There's an underlying misogyny to this practice, as it is most often women who find themselves refused treatment. From abortion to birth control pills or "the morning after" pills, religious doctors are refusing to provide treatment they deem "immoral".

There's more to the picture though. What if your doctor were to decide that cancer was a punishment from "god" for an "immoral life" and refuse you treatment? Or perhaps the myriad of symptoms that some women experience as part of their monthly cycle are a punishment from "god" for being "temptresses", and therefore unworthy of treatment? Pick your scenario, just about anything can be construed as 'immoral' depending on how you interpret scripture.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coren: Mulroney Debacle Doesn't Matter

The certifiably looney Michael Coren's at it again. This time playing apologist for the current government and its oh-so-intimate association with former PM Mulroney.

The reason he is so detested by some is that he introduced free trade and formed a particularly close relationship with the United States. Apparently unaware of their own inconsistency, Liberal nationalists see everything through stars and stripes-tinted glasses and they simply cannot forgive a man who brought us closer to the most benign super power in history.

That's an amazingly simplistic reduction of Mulroney's past. In fact, I'd say it goes as far as demonstrating the ignorance of Mr. Coren to Mulroney's era as Prime Minister. There are a myriad reasons why Mulroney reached depths of unpopularity unseen in sitting Prime Ministers prior - the FTA is but one reason, the GST is another and the general impression in the population that he was lying through his oh-so-glib chin every time he opened his mouth. (an impression that has yet to be alleviated)

As for calling the United States a "benign superpower", there are many who would disagree with Mr. Coren on that. One need only look as far as Iraq today, or perhaps the mess in Central/South America in the 1980s, where people were subjected to brutal dictatorship sponsored by the US (e.g. Chile's Pinochet), or the violent invasion and occupation of Iraq today.

CHP: Why Church and State MUST Be Kept Apart

This morning's troll through the wingnut-o-sphere turned up this little gem on Wingnut Daily. (which is being parroted here on Tristan Emmanuel's blog)

It seems that the Christian Heritage Party and its leader are the subject of a couple of human rights complaints. Largely for recycling and posting material that is hostile to GLBT persons. (Go read the article over on Wingnut Daily if you want ... I'll not be recycling that spewage here)

However, that led me to start poking through the CHP's website, just to see what they have to say for themselves. Essentially, they advocate for what amounts to a form of theocracy - even if they wrap themselves in the cloak of democracy.

From their policy pages on what they euphemistically call Civil Government:

We affirm that God is the Originator, Sustainer, and Judge of all governments. Those who govern, whether in the family, the church, or the civil realm, are ministers of God for our good, and therefore are subject to God's Laws (1). Since authority t o govern is ultimately derived from God, the state does not wield supreme power over the individual, family, or church, but is obliged to respect their legitimate jurisdictions. Government exists to serve God by dispensing justice, protecting basic human freedoms, and directing the activities of the community as a whole towards justice and righteousness.

I see - these clowns want to revive the "Divine Right to Govern" concept that the monarchy used in centuries past. (I don't think we need to spend too much time reflecting on how that particular exercise went)

We affirm that the value and dignity of the individual is derived from man's being created in the image of God. 'Human rights', therefore, have no other source than the God of the Holy Bible, and cannot be construed as to mean the freedom to commit acts which the Bible openly calls 'sin' (i.e. the transgression of the Moral Law of God).

There's an interesting problem here. Essentially the claims in this would return us to the era of stoning people to death, and treating women as chattel rather than persons. Lovely...just lovely.

But the real gems are just starting to emerge:

We affirm that no person (or group) has unlimited freedom to do anything desired, without due consideration for the 'rights' of others. 'Human rights' do not conflict, and the 'rights' of one person should not be interpreted by civil magistrates, or upheld under civil law, in such a way that they infringe upon the basic 'human rights' of another. The term 'discrimination' cannot in all cases be equated with a denial of 'human rights'. Discrimination is an inevitable consequence when a choice is mad e between good and evil, or between those that wish to uphold honesty and integrity, and those that don't.

Uh huh. Yes, you read that right. They want to reserve - in law - the right to marginalize people based entirely upon the CHP's notion of good and evil - how generous of them. You can just guess who are first in line for their righteous wrath - GLBT people, followed by anyone who dares not follow the CHP's idea of "Christian righteousness".

From their more foundational Basis of Christian Law pages:

We assert the importance of maintaining the Biblical basis of the Common Law, transcending any clauses of or judgments under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or any rulings or interpretations by Human Rights Commissions, in accordance with the Preamble to the Canadian Constitution.

I see, so the notion of "biblical law" applying in Canada derives from a particularly brain damaged interpretation of the preamble to The Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law

I've heard that canard before. It's largely derived from some pretty bold assertions as to what that phrase means. As part of a preamble it perhaps provides some contextual guidance, but certainly does not provide legal weight to any particular notion of scripture or "God". Although one would tend to suspect the authors were referring to a Christian concept, the fact that the document later discusses freedom of religion explicitly, it would seem that they may well have meant a much broader concept of godhood than what the CHP is reading.

And then they become quite explicit about their intentions to marginalize and discriminate against GLBT people:

It should be beyond the power of any legislative or administrative body to recognize, affirm, condone, or discriminate in favor of, identifiable sexually aberrant individuals or groups (1).

I being visibly "different" should be grounds for being fired, denied residency etc.? No, I don't think so. We've tried that before and the result was some of the darker periods in human history.

The Christian Heritage Party presents in their platform all of the things that make me a firm believer that the Church has no place whatsoever in the governance of a nation these days.

I don't know the specifics of the alleged complaints by Mr. Wells, but the very policy foundations of the CHP are as noxious as anything I've ever seen on Wingnut Daily. The fact that the allegations are being reported on Wingnut Daily right now, and I have yet to find an independent corroborating source is enough to make me question the claims on Wingnut Daily - however, the party's policy platforms themselves strike me as containing just cause all by themselves. (Biblical allusions contained therein aside)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Harper: Leading From The Rear

Canadians should be outraged with Harper's handling of himself at the Uganda Commonwealth Summit this week.

The Conservatives have often ranted about taking individual responsibility - whether that is talking about health or financial success. Yet, when it comes to climate issues, Harper comes along and whines that because "hard targets" on climate change won't be "uniform" and global, that they shouldn't be part of any multi-national policy.

While I accept the criticism that hard targets are of limited effectiveness if countries like China, India or the United States aren't participating, the Harper position is based on blame shifting. Essentially, Harper says that he wants hard targets, but only if the United States and others do too. This is like saying that you are all in favour of exercise, but because the obese guy next door isn't exercising, you won't either.

Canada's strength on the world stage has traditionally come from leading by example. Harper is destroying that, creating the image of Canada as nothing more than a poodle to whatever Bush decides in the United States.

Where climate change is concerned, I recognize that Canada cannot change the world by itself. However, we can, and should, be taking actions of leadership on our own. The "environmental movement" was ringing the bells about the impact of human activities on the planet back in the 1970s. It took at least two decades for that message to be heard in the mainstream. The same applies to climate change on the political stage. Canada can, and should, be leading that endeavor.

Instead, Harper makes vapid statements about "wanting hard targets" and doing everything he can to make sure it doesn't happen. What passes for environment policy among the conservatives is framed in terms of doing nothing until the current generation is either dead or living in nursing homes - far too late.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Does Chandler's Past Matter?

[Update Nov 28]
Since someone has complained that it is "illegal" to post quotes from the actual complaint itself, I have edited out those quotes for the time being while I find alternative sources.
If you were talking about the distant past, I might agree that it doesn't. However, much of Chandler's controversial past isn't that old - the letter that Stephen Boissoin wrote in Red Deer was published in 2002 - not that long ago.

The complaint Rob Wells made to the Canadian Human Rights Commission date to 2005.

Poking around the web today, we find Chandler trying to refute a column in the Edmonton Sun by Neil Waugh. Craig is trying to claim that Waugh is "factually wrong":

The complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission relating to everythng from homosexuals of having a "conspiracy against society," of being "sick, diseased and mentally ill" and of being "linked to paedophilia." come directly from the letter written by Rev Stepen Boisson, not myself.

Strictly speaking, that might be true enough. I have in my possession the unabridged Minutes of Settlement document between Rob Wells and Craig Chandler and Concerned Christians Canada. (It was posted in its unabridged form on the CCC website for several months). The appendixes to the settlement contain copies of some of the statements that Chandler made on his "Freedom Radio Network" program that spawned the complaint.

Chandler is explicitly quoted as saying that homosexuality is "an unhealthy lifestyle", among other things, which covers the "diseased" bits. As well as making some pretty broad implications of the legitimacy of sexual minorities by suggesting that they originate from the Devil. I would argue that going as far as bringing Boissoin onto the radio program and ranting away about the evils being gay is a pretty strong endorsement of what Boissoin wrote in his letter.

[Quotes from Complaint Removed At Reader's Suggestion]

However, we should also bear in mind what Chandler said on air in response to Mr. Wells' complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission:

Win or lose, and I’ll make this promise to Mister [W.], ’cause I know he downloads our shows and listens. I’ll make this promise to ya, [R.]. Win or lose, we’re going to sue you. And here’s why. Because it’s frivolous what you’re doing. We will take our fight to the other courts where you don’t just write a simple letter, [R.]. And then, and you can just get away with, uh, uh, just doing that and not having to have legal counsel. We will go to court. Uh, we will go to court and we will take it as, as far as the Supreme Court. We will get our monies back if we have any fines or anything of the sort. We won’t pay those either. We won’t pay those. This is a battle that you’ve just, uh, you know, it’s, uh, you’ve, you started something which is going to need to be decided at a higher level.

There's more, but that is fundamentally an attempt at what is otherwise known as "libel chill". When your first response to being called on your crap is to threaten lawsuits, that is the act of a bully.

We should note that as far as any of the complaints around the Boissoin issue that have involved Mr. Chandler (all of them that I've heard of), not one has Mr. Chandler been found justified in his actions - which, in my view, makes these threats an attempt to achieve Mr. Wells' silence.

Amusingly, one of Chandler's apparent supporters on "Project Alberta" writes:

This "knuckle dragging Neanderthal" portrayal has spread through many newspapers, internet news outlets & blogs - Craig's personal & business credibility has been destroyed...... No matter what retraction with a small clarification is printed later - the damage has been done...

Politics is all about image - Chandler's own actions today and in the recent past have been a part of forging the image that he projects. If the media is portraying him as a "knuckle dragging neanderthal", it's because his own actions have created that image. Threatening to sue someone for taking legitimate steps to challenge your words makes you a bully, much of what Chandler has said about GLBT people can hardly be called "tolerant", and his recent tirade telling 60% of Albertans to leave because they don't vote his way didn't exactly help matters. You can sue someone for libel, but you better be damn sure that what you are suing about is in fact libel. If there is a reasonable truth to the statements, you don't have a case.

Is it relevant to the Mr. Chandler who is now trying to act as if he is a "changed man"? Yes, I believe it is. If it were decades old, I might be less concerned - it's not - it is recent and ongoing activity on his part. Hardly something that one can merely ignore. Stelmach, as I pointed out earlier, has an ugly choice to make.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Talk About No Win

Poor Ed Stelmach. No matter what he does, he loses on the review of Chandler's candidacy.

Rick Bell covered it quite nicely in yesterday's Sun as well.

Chandler has a history - and it's a long, and not very nice looking one. I've blogged about it numerous times in the past.

Stelmach is in an awkward place with Chandler. Refuse to sign off on Chandler as a candidate, and Stelmach will be accused of not respecting democracy, and he will lose a lot of the "Ted Morton supporters" - likely to the Alberta Alliance or Wild Rose parties.

Endorse Chandler as a candidate and the opposition can quite rightly tar Stelmach and his party with Chandler's past history. Whether you are talking about Chandler's tirades against GLBT people, or his insistence that we are all the same stripe of "conservative" that he is in Alberta, Chandler's own past is a political liability.

Not exactly a "win" for the PC's, but the opposition NDP and Liberal parties can certainly make hay out of the decision either way.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

You Can't Read That ... It's Not Religious Enough!

Apparently, some religious conservative wingnuts in Ontario decided that The Golden Compass shouldn't be in the Halton Catholic School district's libraries because it was *gasp* written by an "atheist" (agnostic actually, but whatever):

Following a recent Star story about the series, an internal memo was sent to elementary principals that said "the book is apparently written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic and anti-religion."

Why? Apparently because the author has made some "inflammatory" statements:

Pullman has made controversial statements, telling The Washington Post in 2001 he was "trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief." In 2003, he said that compared to the Harry Potter series, his books had been "flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God."

Yeah, whatever. The wingnuts got their knickers in a twist over Dungeons and Dragons when I was in school. Note to the wingnuts - banning the book gives it notoriety, and people will want to read it. In the meantime, if you are that scared about a children's book undermining your child's faith, perhaps it is time to start asking yourself just why your faith is so fragile.

Conservative Policy and Its Consequences

We are now starting to see the consequences of Conservative policy in this country.

A year ago, the HarperCon$ slashed funding to Canada's 'Status of Women' department, and removed study and monitoring from the departmental mandate. Meanwhile, we find out that EI is being blatantly sexist in its policy implementation towards women.

While the Con$ may not think that monitoring the reality of gender equality in Canada is not a good use of time, it's clear that even government policy cannot be successful balanced if nobody is paying attention to it.

Next up, we get the next installment in "Open, Honest, Accountable" government from Canada's Gnu Government, as the HarperCon$ head off to a Climate Summit in Bali, without bringing the Opposition critics along as part of the delegation.

That's a departure from a long-held government tradition of bringing critics along to major international conferences - opposition MPs participated in the last major UN environmental conference in Nairobi last November, for example. This coming meeting will set the stage for a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 and does not include the developing world.

Baird spokesman Garry Keller said in an e-mail that Baird " going to Indonesia to work for global action on climate change, and not fight partisan battles."

No, Mr. Baird, you are excluding the opposition critics because you, and your colleagues, have forgotten that the opposition parties are duly designated "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition", and that they have a real and legitimate role to play.

Like the oh-so-secretive "SPP" (deep integration) talks that the Con$ keep attending and not talking about, I'd have to wager that Baird and his master Steve simply don't want anybody around to hear what asinine proposals they are going to make so they can't be held accountable for making a laughingstock of Canada on the world stage. (Oh wait - their recent decision about death penalty cases already did that - never mind, carry on)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hate Crimes ... Reprise

Little did I realize that when I wrote about hate crimes law yesterday that it was a day set aside by the transgender community as Transgender Day of Remembrance to acknowledge transgender people killed by others - mostly for being transgender in the first place.

Then I ran across Georgie Binks article on CBC today.

So much violence has been visited on the transgendered that Nov. 20 has been designated National Transgender Remembrance Day. Numerous transgendered people have been murdered over the years: the website Remembering Our Dead lists dozens of them who were shot, stabbed or otherwise killed.

And it continues. In January 2007, Keittirat Longnawa was beaten by nine youths who then slit her throat in Thailand. Michelle Carrasco was found in a pit with her face completely disfigured in Santiago, Chile, in March. ...

Violence happens, but it should never happen to someone simply for being different. Nobody deserves the kind of fate that blind malice and ignorance can impose. Being different - visibly or not - is not a crime.

Read Georgie's narrative about her encounters with Leslie, and it will remind you that above all else, no matter how different or unusual someone's story may be, they are still emphatically human, with families, feelings and lives.

[Update: Nov 22]
A friend brought the following comment on Georgie Binks' column to my attention:

Maybe once in while we could contemplate those who sacrifice self-fulfillment for the benefit of others and sacrifice their own dreams to protect those they claim to love. In my mind, they are the true heroes.

Apparently the writer of this has never faced himself in the deeply personal way that anyone who is transsexual ultimately must. Even more unfortunate is that he failed to read a couple of key aspects of Leslie's story correctly:

In fact, she'd lived a pretty normal suburban life. Married for 30 years to the love of her life, she had a couple of kids, a good job, and enjoyed a night out with the boys. But inside, Leslie had always felt she was a woman and I wanted to hear her story.

Thirty years of self-doubt, of trying fit into a life that feels "wrong" at some fundamental level isn't a sacrifice? Trying to hold yourself together to make a marriage work for three decades is not a sacrifice? Sorry, but this is one of those moments where I must borrow a line from a now old, but favourite movie of mine:

"Sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many" (Star Trek III: The Search For Spock)

I do not know how good the relationship between Leslie and her now ex-spouse is, but if they have managed to remain on speaking terms, I'll bet that it will be a lot healthier now that Leslie is living as she felt she was intended to.

This Should Get Pope Ratz Going

Cardinal Oullet Apologizes For Church Conduct

Give credit where it's due - this is a start:

Among the errors he cited are attitudes, prior to 1960, which favoured "anti-Semitism, racism, indifference to First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals."

Ouellet acknowledged that abuses of power hurt the church's image in Quebec and hindered its moral authority.

"Mothers of families were snubbed by parish priests without regard for the family obligations that they are already assumed; youngsters were subject to sexual aggression by priests," he wrote.

I think this is the first time that I've seen anything remotely resembling an apology from a senior member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy for some of the most egregious behaviours of the church itself and its clergy.

By no means do I believe that the R/C church has yet begun to repent for that past - when we start seeing the Church not merely apologize, but actively taking steps to correct policies that are blatantly fostering discrimination then I'll start to consider whether the church is in a position to make statements of "moral authority".

Of course, we could also find that Pope Ratz makes the good Cardinal's existence in the Church a living hell too...

Lifesite Comes Out With Their Interpretation, which naturally tries to justify the standard Catholic dogmas of misogyny and homobigotry:

His inspiration in apologizing comes, he says, from similar actions by the late Pope John Paul II in 2000. And like John Paul, Cardinal Ouellet also strongly affirms the Church's stands against homosexual acts and the so-called woman's right to choose.

Excesses, prior to 1960, by some clergy and religious in the province who unjustly discriminated against persons with homosexual inclinations with name-calling and belittling attitudes were hurtful, and indeed the source of much bitterness. For the Church, the opposition to homosexual acts, comes not out of any type of disdain for persons with same sex attractions, but just the opposite.

It is out of love for those afflicted with these sexual temptations that the Church speaks out against homosexual acts. She recognizes the physical, emotional and especially the spiritual harm that results from these behaviours.

I realize full well that Oullet's comments are far from a complete repentance of the Church's historical attitudes of intolerance and bigotry, but LifeSite's interpretation is essentially a blind defense of the worst aspects of how scripture can be read.

Westen's attitudes are an insult to neanderthals everywhere, harkening back to a time when beating the tar out of someone for being gay was considered good sport, and women were published for being sexual beings.

... and these people wonder why church attendance rates keep dropping ...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yep, That'll Discourage Them ...

As the Con$ unroll their next plank in their strategy to expand the prison industrial complex in Canada, we get more insight into how limited the Con$ really are.

Basically, anyone deemed to be "producing" or "trafficking" in drugs face mandatory minimum sentences.

About all that such sentencing laws really do is hamstring judges and force them to incarcerate people without regard for the context and aggravating (or mitigating) factors in the case. Which means, for the most part, that we will accomplish little but growing the population of our prisons to no real benefit.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not sympathetic to drug dealers or any of a dozen other varieties of criminal. However, the Conservative notion of "consequences" is rooted in the protestant notion of guilt and punishment. Sadly, for the most part the people we are talking about simply do not subscribe to that same set of assumptions.

Even more important is to recognize that individual drug dealers or grow op owners are really not the problem. Narcotics will always be sought out by thrill seekers and others who desire to experience "something new". The real problem is that drugs - especially narcotics - are big business. There are reasons that organized crime rings get into outright wars over territory - and it boils down to money.

The dealers, and I suspect, grow op operators, are the ground level functionaries. Although they are a part of the problem, taking out a dealer or two, does little to shut down the higher level business that is organized crime. Stiffer penalties do not deter organized crime rings either - far too much money is at stake. (Anybody else noticed that even when the "head" of a crime ring is caught and convicted, the ring continues on?)

The "small fish" don't matter in terms of crime reduction. Remove their supply lines and puppet masters and they'll fade into the woodwork quite rapidly. Mandatory sentences simply won't make a difference to anybody.

If the Con$ want to make a lasting and meaningful impression on Canada's streets, it must be by finding the legal structures to make it possible for our law enforcement agencies to shut down the big money crime organizations more readily.

Why Hate Crime Laws Matter

According to some right wing bloggers, an apparently low rate of conviction means that hate crimes don't really matter.

Sure - unless you are the victim of a hate crime. In which case it is all too real.

Getting the tar kicked out of you because someone thinks you are gay, belong to the wrong religion or whatever is all too real, and if the motive can be demonstrated as being 'hate related' there is a legitimacy to adding that to the list of convictions.

Hate crime statistics are troublesome because hate crimes themselves are notoriously under reported, and it is extremely hard to get a conviction because in order to demonstrate that the crime was in fact a hate crime, the prosecution must demonstrate motive - something that most prosecutors find extremely difficult to accomplish.

Hate crimes are the tool of the bully. The bully in this case seeks to intimidate not just the victim, but other members of the same "group" as the victim. While word of a hate crime is likely to spread within the community of the victim, few among minority communities are willing to draw attention to themselves - which makes it less likely that the crime will actually be reported.

This does not mean that the crimes do not occur, nor does it mean that they are any less serious than other crimes against the person (or their property). The legal concept of "hate crime" is simply a way for the legal system to recognize a serious aggravating factor in the offense. A low frequency of reporting, and similarly lower still numbers of convictions does not invalidate the legal constructs involved.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Conservative "Consequences"

Conservatives like to talk about "consequences" a great deal. Usually they mean it in the most malicious sense - usually in terms of punishment.

Today we were treated to the next bit of conservative agenda - "Gettin' Tough On Crime"(™).

There's two bits that the HarperCons unveiled today:

1. Tougher Young Offender Sentences
2. Minimum Sentences for Drug Possession and Trafficking

Okay, the second part is merely "expected later this week", but that doesn't make it any less brain damaged.

Making it easier to try young offenders in the adult court system, or impose harsher sentences isn't going to change how young offenders think and act. Except in the most egregious of cases such as repeat violent offenders. Long sentences are little more than incubation periods for hardened criminals.

As for "mandatory minimum sentences" - especially for drug possession - will do little but put more people in prison, increasing the size of the prison industry. This has been tried in the US already, and has done little but put a lot more people in prison.

Putting more people in prison for longer does not address crime in any meaningful way. Worse, the Con$ervative attitude on "drugs" is something freshly resurrected from the 1950s, when most Canadians have long since moved beyond that.

Senate As Jury Duty?

With our politicians rumbling once again about "Senate Reform" - or if you are Jack Layton - abolition, it's not a bad idea to consider the question of what form should a revised senate take.

This proposal is mildly intriguing, as it proposes constituting the Senate through an arbitrary (and hence apolitical) means similar to that of forming a jury for a criminal trial.

Perhaps that isn't entirely a bad idea, after all we do elect our MPs in the House of Commons (and theoretically, politicians are just "guys off the street", right?), so why wouldn't a "jury duty" approach work?

As a selection process it sounds only marginally less messy than an election, and subject to a variety of manipulations.

The more critical problems that arise come out of the subtleties of both law and politics. Unlike a jury trial, where the judge provides a certain amount of guidance to the jurors in understanding the applicable bits of law, I'm not at all sure who would be able to provide that guidance to the "Jury Senate", especially when the Senate has to be able to parse through not just legalities, but also the smoke-and-mirrors that politicians routinely use.

The next point of issue would be that such a process remains subject to criticism as "undemocratic", with substantially less accountability than is present in the current system. Without spending a significant amount of time addressing the role and powers of the Senate in the parliamentary processes, I don't see how this would actually work.

I also suspect that continuity could be a huge problem. One of the intended reasons for the Senate is to have a body in the legislative process that is persistent across multiple sittings of the House of Commons - providing a degree of continuity to the process - and hopefully some sanity compared to the fractious nature of debate in the House of Commons. Even if you replaced a third or a half of the Senate each year, there is still a great deal of challenge around people learning the legislative game in Ottawa, and learning to balance the imperatives of legislation against the practicalities of law.

A poorly educated oversight body could easily be more damaging than the current Senate is capable of being.

Lastly, I think the notion of viewing the Senate as a form of "jury" is a gross misrepresentation of the role. Such a mischaracterization means that there is a substantial risk that a lot of the "selected jurors" would be burnt out very quickly by the political process in Ottawa. Politics, like management is not easy work, nor is it the kind of work that everyone is well suited to.

Information? ... You Don't Need That To Be Healthy!

The HarperCon$ like to talk about innovation and creativity rather a lot. Then there's what they practice.

In the late 1990s, the Chretien government provided funding for The Canadian Health Network, an online resource of health information drawn from specialists across Canada. The idea was, and is, innovative - bringing a moderated source of medical information to the web in a form that most Canadians can read.

Via Canadian Cynic, I found myself reading Carol Goar's column in the Toronto Star, which revealed the following little bit of policy by funding fiat:

Two weeks ago, Catherine Drew, executive director of the Canadian Health Network, notified the 26 member agencies that the program would be eliminated at the end of the fiscal year.

Most of the participants were shocked. A few had been picking up trouble signals – funding delays and bureaucratic dithering.

The only explanation Drew provided was that the Public Health Agency had been ordered to cut its grants and contributions to outside groups by $16.7 million and it had reluctantly decided to pull the plug on the network.

Oh really? So, while we a pouring billions of dollars into Afghanistan, reporting record surpluses, the HarperCon$ are quietly attacking public health. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Unsurprising, since it is no secret that the Con$ would quite cheerfully dismantle any government program that involves the public good.

In fact, Health Minister Tony Clement launched a new website,, in October, to provide users with information about all of the government's programs – its children's fitness tax credit, its revised Canada Food Guide, its toy safety tips, its latest product recalls and its healthy pregnancy guide – designed to promote an active, well-balanced lifestyle.

Oh, isn't that special. So we are going to replace a focused resource that provides specialized information with one that is riddled with propaganda about the Con$ latest "tax incentives".

I've said it before, Harper's not going to talk about his agenda - he's going to impose it without discussion. How accountable of him.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Musings On The "Pension Settlement" For Teachers

This has been rattling around for a few days, and I've had a hard time putting my finger on what's wrong with the issue.

Earlier this week, the provincial government announced that it would pay out the $2Bn pension liability in the Alberta teachers' pension fund in exchange for five years of labour "peace".

Superficially, it doesn't sound too bad - the teachers get a few dollars a month back on their paychecks, and modest raises in the coming years in exchange for agreeing not to go on strike for five years.

There is a "but" to all of this - and it's a huge problem. The collective agreement as announced is being imposed from Edmonton. However, the agreements themselves are between ATA locals and the various regional/municipal school boards, not the provincial government. Meanwhile, the provincial government holds the purse strings for education - and can arbitrarily strangle the ability of local school boards to implement the agreement that is being imposed.

For those who have lost track, or are new to Alberta, somewhere in the mid-90s the Klein government stripped local school boards of their ability to levy and collect property taxes to fund education. The power to levy and collect those taxes was absorbed by Edmonton and then they would parcel the money out to school boards.

During the Klein years, that control over the purse strings was used to brutally constrict funding of public education overall, and hamstring the local school boards' ability to respond to local concerns. Arguably, the current "unfunded liability" that the government is now so "generously" proposing to absorb was a direct result of policies imposed from Edmonton during the Klein years.

In other words, the government is agreeing to rebalance the books after sucking the teachers' wallets dry.

The second, and perhaps more important problem here is the fact that the agreement is being imposed on both sides of the equation from Edmonton. This is a direct violation of the very principle of collective bargaining in the first place. If this is to be the case, I argue that the contracts involving the ATA must in fact be contracts with the government in Edmonton specifically, not the local school boards. Anything else simply creates an artificial wall that protects the provincial government from being held responsible for the terms of the agreements.

Lastly, while the intent of the Klein era changes to school funding was to "cure" a perceived imbalance between large urban and rural school boards' ability to levy adequate funds. This latest agreement imposes a 3% increase on teachers across the province. I won't profess to know what the circumstances a teacher in High Prairie finds themselves in, but I do know that 3% in Calgary is less than half the rate of inflation - in other words it doesn't even cover the amount that people's bills have gone up in the last year!

Teachers have a tough decision to make - accept the government's offer to absorb the shortfall in the pension fund or push back and demand both a more realistic bargaining context and pay raises commensurate with the economic environment in which we live. A third option might be to punish the PC's at the next election - even if this deal is ratified.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Calgary Egmont Is Now Vulnerable

The PC stranglehold on Calgary Egmont for so many years just became a little more vulnerable tonight, with party members in the riding selecting Craig Chandler as their nominee to stand in the next provincial election.

I shudder to imagine what depths the next election campaign will sink to.

Columnists Getting It Wrong ...

What is it with the Sun Media chain? They continue to provide a voice for some of the most astoundingly ignorant, bigoted and illogical columnists I have ever read.

This week's gem of the week comes to us from London Free Press in the form of Rory Leishman who is arguing that gays shouldn't raise children.

More or less, Leishman is arguing by parroting Dawn Stefanowicz, who blames the evils of her own childhood on the fact her father was gay:

Out From Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting. In this compelling book, she presents an open and honest account of her anguishing experiences as a child growing up in a dysfunctional home dominated by a homosexual father and a submissive mother.

I'm not going to trash Ms. Stefanowicz's experiences - I simply can't call them invalid any more than she can call my own life experiences invalid. However, it is folly to assume that because one person writes a book about growing up in what sounds like a deeply dysfunctional family (like I haven't seen a few of those among long-standing heterosexual families), that all people who share an attribute (sexual orientation) with a member of that family are "bad news". Yet, Leishman tries to do just that:

Nevins contended: "Despite stereotypical beliefs to the contrary, there is no evidence to support the suggestion that most gay men and lesbians have unstable or dysfunctional relationships."

That assertion is patently untrue. Sex in America, reputedly the most scientifically rigorous survey of the sexual habits of the people of the U.S., found that the average number of lifetime sexual partners is four for heterosexuals and 50 for homosexuals, while the percentage of monogamous couples who have been 100-per-cent faithful to their spouse or partner is 83 per cent for heterosexuals, but less than two per cent for homosexuals.

Screech! Hold it right there. Given the social proscriptions against "affairs", that study itself talks about people "admitting to having an affair". Leishman's derivation is suspect in that he fails to acknowledge that the Gay subculture may well not have the same inhibitions around "admission" to an affair. (By the way, it will be quite interesting to watch if the access to legal marriage impacts this over time)

Second, Leishman is essentially claiming that simply because a gay parent might have an affair, that somehow they are an unfit parent. This is patently not true - if that measure were applied to heterosexual couples, most would turn up as "suspect" to some degree or another - after all how many people date multiple partners who are unaware of each other?

Nonetheless, several studies purport to show homosexual couples are no less competent to nurture children than heterosexual couples. These claims are not credible. Given that few children raised by a homosexual couple have yet grown to adulthood, it's impossible to prove the competence of homosexuals as parents.

No, Rory, I'm sorry to say that you are very, very mistaken. Gay and Lesbian (and Transgender) people have been raising children since the dawn of time. In the past, how many single parents in the 20th century were gay? Nobody will ever know because the social conditions of the time made it very dangerous to be "out" as gay and also be an involved parent. (Which may well be a significant part of whatever dysfunction afflicted Stefanowicz's childhood) They made a choice to keep very, very quiet.

Further, you cannot simply dismiss the study based on "small population sizes". Small 'n' studies still remain valid, and enough of them showing consistent results provides sustainable conclusions. (and yes, I trust the APA to have done a lot more analysis of the topic than Mr. Leishman)

The most glaring error you can make is to take a single case and apply it to an entire population. One does not describe all - it never has and never will in humanity. I sympathize with Dawn Stefanowicz, just as I sympathize with anyone who grew up in a dysfunctional home. Her experience is unfortunate, but no more representative of the situation that GLBT-led families experience than situations like this can be called representative of heterosexual families.

The reality is that what children need, above all else, is a loving and stable environment, which can be provided by GLBT people. (Being different doesn't remove someone's ability to care about those around them!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

What An Abominable Loon

Once in a while other bloggers write something so amazingly ridiculous that you have to actually shake your head and read it twice before your mind will admit to having seen what they have argued. Such is the case with this bit of spewage written by the same person who denies that Calgary has a labour shortage.

Needless to say that leftist bloggers instantly repeated the new mantra over and over again, singing the praises of Arar as well as the media that had begun to idolise the guy for some reason. Again, it was the bloggers from the conservative side of the spectrum (and others who do not follow left-wing ideas) that managed to think things through on their own and form their own and independent views and opinions. Naturally readers visited mostly such blogs, rather than wasting time with bloggers who merely copied the mainstream media reports word for word and bias for bias.

Holy generalizations, Batman! According to Patels, nobody who thought critically about what happened to Maher Arar could possibly have concluded that he was being honest. Never mind the findings of The Arar Commission, as well as the utter silence of the Americans on their intentions by handing Arar over to Syria.

The mistake that leftist bloggers make is that they try to be popular by being mainstream - even when the mainstream is completely wrong. Rather than speaking, or writing, from the heart and jotting down their true feelings and thoughts, they want to appear hip, in, progressive - in short, knowledgeable, as in ’I’m as smart as that commentator or pundit on TV.’ The only trouble is that they come across as phoney, sycophantic adulators that don’t have even a shred of authenticity. in essence while all those who are "right leaning" are clear headed thinkers, the rest of the world are muzzy-minded emulators of others. Not to put too fine a point on it, but "Fuck Right Off, Patels". I see just as much - or more - propagandizing going on among the so-called "Blogging Tories" as anywhere else in the blogosphere. Considered thought and intelligent opinions are not the exclusive domain of people based on their political leanings.

Conservative and other non-leftist bloggers, however, have mastered the skill of ’calling a spade a spade’,

No, no you haven't. It is the height of arrogance to believe that because of your political leanings, you have some kind of lock on "the truth"(™). The only people that really believe that kind of crap are outright loons who cannot grasp that there are more opinions in the world than their own.

Locking 'Em Up ... and Throwing Away The Key?

I see that the provincial PC's are starting to bang on the "Get Tough On Crime"(™) drum.

The first gem is this:

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is near the top of Stevens' agenda.

He wants a complete review of the act launched early in the new year, and would like to see more aggressive pre-trial detention for youths, so they can't reoffend while awaiting trial.

I the first thing this nutjob wants to do is start locking up kids because they have been accused of committing a crime. Please remember, even though we are talking about young offenders here, they are still legally presumed innocent until proven otherwise. In other words, if you incarcerate them leading up to a trial, there had better be either a substantial past record, or the case has to be exceptionally vile (as in what happened in Medicine Hat a couple of years ago), demonstrating that the accused poses a real danger.

There's also heated debate about legislating credit for time served in a remand centre. Lawyers and criminals are "playing the system," he said, because they know they can get anywhere from three-to-one or five-to-one credit for serving time in remand.

Justice ministers would like to see a maximum 1.5-to-one for exceptional circumstances and one-to-one credit for the vast majority cases.

Again, I question the complaint here. Remand Centres are jails. Let's be honest here. The accused who are held in custody are still technically innocent. Their legal rights are substantially restricted while they are held in custody, yet the case against them has yet to be proven in court.

There may be "just cause" to hold them, and I have no objection to that. However, we are also obliged to acknowledge that the period of detention prior to trial is unquestionably not related at all to punishment for the crimes they are accused of.

While they are detained, the accused have no means to earn an income, no freedom, limited access to their families and a host of other day to day constraints that are the reality of prison life. Economic assets such as houses may be seized by banks as a result of non-payment and a variety of other events may come to impact them as a result of that detention.

All of this is taking place during the time when the accused is still legally innocent.

Are we, as a society, obliged to compensate for "hard time" prior to trial? Absolutely. If, as Minister Stevens suggests, we stop doing so, then we create a more serious problem for ourselves, as we erode the notion of "Presumed Innocence" to the point where it is little more than a phrase with little meaning.

I have little problem with the idea of providing "credit for time served" as a multiple of raw time. If we take that away, then we are essentially saying that accusation is equivalent to guilt, and that punishment starts the day you are accused. Can you imagine the lawsuits that will start flying about - someone who is accused of a crime and is later found "not guilty" would suddenly be quite free to start suing the government for compensation.

What is "fair compensation" for time already served? I'm not sure - I can't say I've personally had the opportunity to compare and contrast between remand centres and penitentiaries (nor do I especially want the chance, thank you). I see compensatory time as a way to reflect the impact of detention on the accused while they remain legally innocent, as well as a means to ensure that the justice system does not drag its heels too long in bringing a case to trial.

While I might agree that a 5:1 ratio is perhaps a bit more generous than I would expect, a 3:1 doesn't necessarily give me the same impression. Taking away a full year's worth of someone's ability to earn an income is a pretty harsh punishment to start with - worth an arbitrary amount from $20,000 to as much as over $100,000 depending on the individual. That's a pretty harsh penalty to levy on someone prior to being convicted of anything.

Should we allow people we consider dangerous (or a significant risk) to simply walk the streets because they are presumed innocent? Of course not. But, if we fail to appropriately recognize the impact of that detention on citizens who are still held to be legally innocent of a crime, then I believe we open the criminal justice system from the police through the courts to a raft of compensatory lawsuits from people both convicted and serving their sentences and those who are ultimately found not guilty.

Of course, the current crop of what passes for "conservative" these days doesn't seem to quite get the notion that accusation is not a synonym for conviction. Federally, the HarperCon$ have shown a disdain for the concept of "presumed innocence", and it seems that Alberta's Ron Stevens is equally thick-headed about the subject.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dear Access Copyright: Piss Off!

Access Copyright has just made itself the paper-and-ink version of the RIAA. How you might ask? They have just just filed suit against Staples for "illegally allowing customers to copy works protected by copyright.

This lawsuit is such an obvious derivative of the "sue your customer" model that the RIAA has used it's ridiculous. The claim is that because Staples offers a "pay to copy" service, that they are "profiting from the copying of protected works":

Staples/Business Depot is a sizeable, for-profit organization that has
built part of its business through a lucrative service that exploits the
published works of authors, photographers and publishers. Companies that
photocopy illegally are effectively taking money directly out of the pockets
of creators and publishers who depend on book sales and copyright royalties
for their livelihood.
"Companies that profit from illegal photocopying are undermining the work
of others," said Maureen Cavan, Executive Director of Access Copyright.
"Staples/Business Depot is no different from those organizations that profit
from illegally downloading copyright protected music or the unauthorized
sharing of videos and published works on the internet."

This is a direct assault on the legitimate notion of "fair use", which justifiably allows people to make copies of articles or portions of books for such legitimate purposes as research. It seeks to attack "fair use" by attacking an organization that makes photocopiers available for public use. The expansions on this are amazingly broad - ranging from suing any company that charges money for access to a photocopier (outfits like "UPS Store" and FedEx/Kinko's would be prime candidates for further lawsuits), or as the Canadian Recording industry has done with recordable media, get a levy imposed on copiers and scanner devices on the supposition that it will be used for "piracy" at some point.

The long run play for consumers? (including students, researchers and so on)

Basically, you will see your costs skyrocket largely because yet another unaccountable group "representing artists"(™) will be making it more difficult for you to do legitimate work and research without their hand in your pocket.

The very fact that this lawsuit has even been filed in Canada is offensive, and it further reinforces my belief that the Intellectual Property laws in Canada desperately need a massive overhaul - one that protects us all from the predations of corporate lawyers whose next bonus hinges on their ability to sue us individually or collectively on the supposition we are engaging in piracy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Licia Corbella Engages In Historical Revisionism

Licia Corbella is apparently in the mood to revise history - in this case, the downfall of the Progressive Conservatives after Mulroney stepped down:

On that day, thanks in large part to Harper, Preston Manning and a group of people known as the Reform Party, the Progressive Conservative Party that Mulroney had led to two majority governments was reduced to just two seats in Parliament. Reform won 52 seats, including Harper's in Calgary West and the Liberals under Jean Chretien were swept to majority rule with 41% of the popular vote.

Holy crap! There's more distortions of reality in that one paragraph than the best tirades that holocaust deniers like Ernst Zundel can come up with.

Crediting the near annihilation of the PC's under Kim Campbell, the rise of the Reform party in Western Canada all to Stephen Harper is more than something of a stretch.

The PCs fumbled that election badly - whether it was Kim Campbell saying that an election is no place to talk about issues or whoever was brain dead enough to authorize the "Jean Chretien looks wierd" ads.

Harper might have been one of the backroom policy wonks in the Reform party at the time - I honestly don't remember, nor do I much care. To me it's irrelevant. The post-Mulroney era PC's were doomed by a legacy of glib dishonesty that had been led by the ever so slick "Chin" himself. A PC's word by then was associated with just a wee bit too much blarney. Campbell's missteps merely sealed their fate.

The big Conservative tent -- with its share of battle scars and mended seams -- is pretty sturdy as long as nobody kicks out the poles of mutual support and respect that hold the whole thing up.

By calling a public inquiry into the Mulroney affair -- something Mulroney says he welcomes in order to clear his name -- and forbidding his Conservative caucus from having any contact with Mulroney, Harper is doing the right thing with potentially damaging results to the tent.

The big question in this whole affair is, will this scandal harm Harper and his party or will the mud being flung in this 14-year-old story stick as much to those doing the throwing?

What makes this whole, rotting, aged mess with Mulroney and Schreiber relevant to Harper is simple - far too many Mulroney era advisors hold senior posts in the Harper government, and Harper himself is known to rely on Mulroney's counsel. Which, in all respects, makes Mulroney something of a "puppet master" to Harper. Harper owns this almost as much as Mulroney himself does - especially when Harper ran on a platform of being "accountable".

This Must Be A New Meaning Of "Independent"

Stephen Harper has just announced the appointment of David Johnston to "set out the parameters" for an inquiry into the relationship between Mulroney and Schreiber.

Okay, the man lives in academe - fair enough. But what else do we know about him?

Harper said in the House of Commons Wednesday that Johnston also previously served on various provincial and federal task forces and committees.

According to the Western Economic Diversification Canada website, Johnston once chaired the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE). Mulroney announced the creation of NRTEE in October 1988.

Okay, now I see the bucket of whitewash filling. The man's a former Mulroney appointee (Remember, Mulroney was PM until 1993 - and Johnston's name appears on the annual report for 1992/1993, and this 1991 publication of the NRTEE. So much for neutrality.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Venting of Hot Air

I see the Con$ are busy trying to play to Jack Layton's tune on abolishing the Senate.

I would suggest strongly that Mssrs Layton and Harper review this section of the Constitution before they go off on their next little tirade about senate reform or abolition thereof.

In particular, I would draw their attention to the following sections:

38 (1):
(1) An amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by

(a) resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons; and
(b) resolutions of the legislative assemblies of at least two-thirds of the provinces that have, in the aggregate, according to the then latest general census, at least fifty per cent of the population of all the provinces.


42 (1):
(1) An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made only in accordance with subsection 38(1):

(a) the principle of proportionate representation of the provinces in the House of Commons prescribed by the Constitution of Canada;
(b) the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators;
(c) the number of members by which a province is entitled to be represented in the Senate and the residence qualifications of Senators;
(d) subject to paragraph 41(d), the Supreme Court of Canada;
(e) the extension of existing provinces into the territories; and
(f) notwithstanding any other law or practice, the establishment of new provinces.

If you thought the arguments over Meech Lake or Charlottetown were nasty, I suspect it would be nothing compared to the debates that would rage over restructuring parliament.

Harper, and Layton, dream of making their mark in history - I would suggest that they both start by knocking off the rhetoric and taking the time to start understanding this nation's Constitution. Even if they were to make a motion to abolish the Senate, that is only one step in a long process - which, I suspect, only a handful of provincial legislatures would agree to readily.

I'm not saying that changing the senate is necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be crafted carefully, and with a great deal of deliberation. Simple abolition would place Canada in the unique place of being the only large democracy without an upper house that can act in counterpoint to the often fractious House of Commons. That would not be good for Canada in the long run.

PC Members In Egmont - Consider Character

Politics is often as much about a candidate's character as anything else. Oftentimes it is what is written and said outside of the campaign sphere that tells us the most.

Such is the case with Mr. Chandler who is currently seeking the PC nomination in Calgary Egmont.

Perusing postings on Project Alberta, one of his haunts, I came across this lovely little post:

Please note the following snippet:

...He told me why he did and if it is true this campaign has been tampered with.

Put it this way. I win and I will not pursue it. I lose and I will post the e-mail thread Paul and I had privately and many will be shocked at the reason Paul gave.

So, not only does Craig essentially threaten to make public a discourse that was assumed to be in some confidence, he also makes it conditional upon his success (or lack thereof) in the coming nomination vote this weekend.

Further, should he lose, it will be (in his mind) because "the election was tampered with".

This doesn't sound like someone who is going to accept anything other than getting their own way. Most of us outgrow that in our childhood.

I Smell Something Rotten In Egmont

This saturday is the voting day for PC's in Calgary Egmont. Members of that party in Calgary Egmont need to consider carefully the contrast between words and actions, especially among the Chandler campaign.

Of particular note, in my view is the contrast between an announcement in August to the effect That David Crutcher had LEFT the Chandler campaign committee.

Then there is the signatures found at the bottom of the screed that residents of Egmont found dropped in their mailbox:

Waitasec - what is the executive doing here? Didn't Crutcher step aside as a member of Chandler's campaign team? And aren't most of the other executive signatories listed as part of Chandler's campaign team?

So, if they are writing "as individuals", please tell me why the letter is emblazoned with Chandler's letterhead? (and no, I don't buy that ripping Chandler's logo off his website and then slapping names below it differentiates this from Chandler's campaign crap - especially when the text of it blathers on incessantly repeating the talking points off Chandler's previous campaign literature.

This vile bit of drivel ends off with an appeal based on all of Chandler's wonderful attributes and integrity:

Oh yes, let's review Craig's "integrity" for a moment shall we? After all, if he wants to play representative for people, we might expect him to live up to his commitments.

Over at Concerned Christians, we find the documents related to a human rights complaint lodged by Rob Wells of Edmonton. In these pages, we find the text of a negotiated settlement of the dispute, which reads:

[Update: Nov. 28/07]
I see that the apology letter page now has a link to the CHRC settlement agreement document. It's new to me, and I apologize if I missed it earlier.

I suspect like the pseudo distancing of Mr. Crutcher from Chandler's campaign team, it's a matter of political convenience. Members of the PC association in Egmont need to think carefully about whether their next candidate should be Mr. Chandler, and whether Mr. Chandler's associates should remain on the board of that association.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Now, Will Stevie Do It?

When Daddy is saying call a public inquiry, we have to wonder how long it will take junior to get the message.

It just goes to show us how small-time the HarperCon$ really are on the political stage. Even Mulroney can figure out that if he doesn't clear the air on the whole business with Schreiber it's going to remain a political liability for the Con$.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Confusing Correlation With Causality

I'm always amused by various attempts at linking birth control and abortion to cancers in women. Inevitably, some combination of statistics come out and and some people start trying to claim that there is a causal relationship, and therefore both should be outlawed.

The first article cited is this article which describes a statistical correlation between hormone-based birth control pills and cervical cancer. The correlation is interesting in itself, but of course no story is ever so simple:

For women in developed countries who took the pill from age 20 to 30, the number of cases of cervical cancer by age 50 rises to 4.5 per 1,000 women, from 3.8 cases per 1,000 in women who did not take the pill.

The incidence rises to 8.3 cases per 1,000 for pill users in less developed countries, compared with 7.3 cases per 1,000 for women who did not take the pill.
But this extra risk is outweighed by a reduction in the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, the researchers said in a statement.

In other words, one risk is traded for another risk. Unsurprising, as this is true of most medical treatments these days. However, it is important to note that the researchers are quite clear in pointing out the "other side" of the risk coin - a factoid that is conveniently ignored by the so-called "pro-life" advocates.

The second article is more egregious as it is a purely statistical analysis which suggests a relationship between abortion rates and breast cancer rates in women. The sad part about this is that the trends shown do not necessarily imply any kind of causal relationship. The trends are parallel, but there are also a myriad of other factors that could be at play.

I will grant that statistical correlation is a valid point from which to launch more in-depth investigations to establish whether there is any causal relationship. However, it is folly in the worst sense of the term to simply assume causality.

Additionally, when an article by one person is only cited by people with obvious "axes to grind" politically speaking (and Patrick Carroll is certainly in that category), it's worthwhile to start digging a bit to see what can be found about the researchers involved.

It's hard to tell what Mr. Carroll's credentials really are. He seems to have a fairly solid background in statistical analysis, which fits with references to actuarial research, but it's not clear if he holds an advanced degree in that field, or has any significant medical research background. He's clearly not exactly "widely published", and certainly not as a co-author of papers in journals of Oncology, which should give anyone reading his work pause before placing too much weight on the conclusions or inferences made.

However, I would be reluctant to make any kind of policy decision based simply on these limited points of data, without significantly more in-depth causal analysis being made.

Paul Jackson Drops Endorsement of Chandler?

I think the PC party brass have been busy arm-twisting Paul Jackson.

Jackson's latest column is singing the praises of Jonathan Denis - which is interesting because in the past Jackson has often spoken very favorably of Craig Chandler.

In a previous column about Denis, Jackson alludes to Chandler in a somewhat less flattering light:

Denis' competitors for the nomination are either old and worn-out political warhorses, off-the-wall rabble-rousers, or unknown and unproven candidates.

I'm pretty sure that Denis was "pushed forward" as an alternative to Chandler when party brass started to figure out the game that Chandler had afoot.

Notable, although perhaps unrelated, I notice that Chandler's personal website is down, as well as significant portions of his "Freedom Radio Network" site are surprisingly MIA.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Abbreviated Michael Coren

As if he hasn't produced enough drivel to convince us that he's a complete loon, Michael Coren opens his and demonstrates not only a complete lack of understanding but a monumental level of ignorance, intolerance and bigotry normally reserved for Klan meetings safely held while everyone is wearing pointy white sheets.

Musing about the challenges that afflict some of the various ethnic minorities in Canada.

The reason is that black children do extraordinarily badly in our education system. Shock. Horror. Never mention race unless it is to play the guilt game and apologize for wrongs committed centuries ago or to claim that every problem within the black community is the fault of white people.

He then goes on to rant about how flawed black culture is in Canada:

The fundamental, of course, is the existence of a nurturing family. Meaning a mother and a father who value education, value family and support and encourage their children. It is insulting to assume that no such units exist in black Canada, but realistic to ask why they seem so relatively rare.

Holy sweeping generalizations, Michael. I thought you were smarter than that. I won't profess to know much about "black social culture" in Canada. I'm sure it exists, but I don't have a lot of personal insight into it - from the statement that he just made, Coren has just demonstrated how little insight he has as well.

There is also the danger that their so-called "Afro-centrism" becomes a euphemism for rejecting white culture and rejecting Canada. No need for dead white males, from Shakespeare to Tommy Douglas, if we can teach the latest radical fashion in black identity politics.

Less than 40 years ago Irish Catholics were told they need not apply for all sorts of jobs and there were university quotas to restrict the number of Jewish students. Cry me a river for kids who live in a country with free health care, social security, welfare democracy and freedom. This is a grand, great nation. Do not blame it if you choose not to live up to its standards.

[Snark]Why yes, Michael, we're all so threatened by the rising tide of alien cultures among the anglo-saxon traditions we are used to.[/Snark]

I think it's time for Michael to move down to somewhere in the US South - preferably one of those "quaint" little towns that never quite managed to leave the segregation era. He'd fit in just fine there - I'm sure he'd enjoy the occasional lynching too.

Michael Coren is not asking valid questions about the issues, he is casting broad aspersions about subjects he is clearly not just ignorant of, but willingly so. If Mr. Coren wishes to make pronouncements on the social and economic success of an entire population in Canada, it would behoove him to learn a little about the topic first. Instead of doing such research, he makes sweeping generalizations and then wonders why he is immediately tarred with the brush of 'racist'...probably because he's earned it. (But then, Coren's never let facts get in the way of a good rant - especially when it allows him to unleash his inner bigot)

Breaking Out The Whitewash

So, Harper's going to appoint a "neutral" advisor to investigate Mulroney's entanglements with Schrieber.

Please note that the Prime Minister's objective is not to get to the bottom of the whole affair in a public and accountable fashion, but rather to "protect the office of the prime minister".

In other words - Mulroney just got too hot to handle, and Harper needs to create the appearance of having done something while he does as little as possible.

Canadians have a legitimate right to know just what shenanigans are involved here, especially since the allegations involve not just a former Prime Minister, but a man who has been an active advisor to the current government, and whose own advisors are now ensconced in key roles within the Harper apparatus.

This is not a matter merely a matter of Mr. Mulroney's actions, but also a matter of Mr. Harper being held to his own promises of openness and accountability in the last two elections - promises which he has not yet delivered on. A whitewash job will not be adequate.

Attitude, Entitlement and Job Seeking

So, you are new grad, with a shiny new degree in hand and you are seeking that first job to launch into a long term career. You've heard that employers in Calgary are starved for staff, so out west you come seeking your fortune.

Perhaps you attend a job fair or two, and come away empty handed, as this person did.

My question is twofold after reading that editorial. First, did the author of that little rant actually try to engage some of the "disinterested" people he encountered to find out what kind of people they were seeking? Does his cover letter explain the relevance of his ba to the position? I don't know the answer to those questions. What I do know is that you won't get hired just because you can fog a mirror.

What galls me reading that editorial is the attitude of entitlement that shines through. Here we have a candidate looking for a position, and after coming up empty-handed for whatever reason, they go off writing a rather lengthy complaint about how employers won't even look at them. I'm sorry, you aren't "entitled" to a job here or anywhere else just because you have a degree.

As I've said before, employers aren't going to hire "just anybody" into a job. In times when qualified, capable staff are hard to come by, the fit of someone into an organization is as important as the qualifications themselves. A bad fit can be exceptionally destructive, and costly.

I've just been through a round of interviews and hiring. While employers may consider candidates today that they would have rejected immediately in the past, those with questionable qualifications had better be able to sell the prospective employer that they have a passion and drive that will enable them to overcome that technical barrier. That's hard to convey on a resume, but that's the first document that an employer often sees - which means that's where you have to do it. Show some interest in your prospective employer - do a bit of research and find out what you can about them. Then tailor your approach to what they are seeking.

Don't shoot the messenger here, but no employer is going to hire someone with a bad attitude, an overbearing ego, or comes across as if they are entitled to the job. Qualified means more than just having the "right degree", it also means that you have the right attitude and willingness. A poor attitude shows - trust me.

Does Calgary have a labour shortage? Yes. Does that mean that everybody in Calgary is employed? No.

On Coded Language and Political Policy

In the last few years, coded language has become a significant factor in how political parties present themselves.  This is especially preva...