Monday, December 31, 2007

The CBC Responds To Conservative Party Fundraiser

Quite rightly, the CBC's Publisher John Cruikshank has responded publicly to the Conservative Party's amazingly dishonest fundraising letter.

Your suggestion to your potential contributors that the CBC was waging a partisan campaign against your party and the government of Canada was flatly contradicted by every step we had taken before you composed your cash appeal.

We accept that you are not the only, or even the first, Canadian political party to use CBC News as a whipping boy for fundraising purposes.

The Liberal party accused us of bias on several occasions when it fit their agenda.

While Harper and his band of Rove/Bush-inspired fellows run about whining about "media bias", those claims come out regularly when the Con$ are inevitably saying or doing something reprehensible.

Of course, I'm sure Harper would be all to happy to turn the CBC into his own little pet propaganda ministry if he could. Just as he is having his ministers use government agencies to spread party propaganda.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bhutto's Son Leader of PPP ?

I'm a little astonished by this revelation.

While Bhutto's son will certainly have a degree of name recognition, but I find it hard to believe that at the age of 19 he'll be ready to "take the reins" from his father anytime soon.

Although it creates a certain "image" of consistency for the party in the short term, it seems to me that it also tells us something indirectly about the state of "democratic" politics in Pakistan. When party leadership is decided not by the party membership but its executive - who have clearly tried to make a dynasty of sorts out of the Bhutto family - it tells us just how very limited the concept of democracy as we understand it is in that nation.

I suspect that if a public vote goes ahead in early January, that Pakistan will collapse into civil war shortly after that. In the wake of Mrs. Bhutto's assassination, it seems likely to me that any election outcome is going to be seen as illegitimate by whatever factions do not gain the power that they claim is their due.

Dear Pope: That's Probably Not Helping

It seems that the Vatican wants revive the practice of exorcism as an active part of Catholic practice.

According to plans being considered, each bishop would have a group of priests in his diocese who were specially trained in exorcism and on hand to take action against "extreme Godlessness".

Fr Amorth said: "Thanks be to God that we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head-on.

What's next? Reviving the old saw that being left-handed is the mark of the devil, or perhaps the Pope would like us to once again assume that epilepsy seizures are a sign of possession?

Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a proper, trained exorcist."

He went on: "Thankfully Pope Benedict XVI believes in the existence and danger of evil, from the time he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

Somehow, I don't think that reviving an arcane medieval-era practice is exactly going to bring people flocking back to the Roman Catholic faith - at least not in the relatively highly educated countries of the world such as the United Kingdom or Canada.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thoughts On A Comment

Back here, where the discussion around candidates for the PC nomination in Calgary Egmont got going, a commenter left the following comment that I want to spend a few minutes discussing.

I shake my head at anyone who styles themselves "liberal" or "progressive" who gasps in dismay when someone mentions they attend church. Do you understand the meaning of those two words?

Not everyone who goes to church on Sundays (or temple on Saturdays, etc.) is a nutter. In fact, I would go so far as to say there are quite an unhealthy number of people claiming no affiliation or a "humanistic" theology that hold some pretty disturbed ideas. It is only types like Chandler who cloak themselves in religious piety (yet never seem to practice what they preach) who ruin it for the rest of us.

I commend someone who has the gumption to run for public office, and not hide who they are and what they believe in. Good luck to you.

First off, I don't actually care if someone goes to church every Sunday or not (or whatever faith observance you wish). The fact of someone's faith, or its absence is quite immaterial to me. The vast majority of church-going people are pretty rational and sane about things, and similarly the majority of people who choose not to attend church are pretty rational as well - neither has a lock on "rightness" or virtue.

However, we do not live in a theocracy, nor do we live in a country that gives primacy to any specific religious tradition. In such circumstances, we must reasonably view matters of faith as matters of personal liberty, and bound their exercise of those freedoms appropriately - especially if they are standing for public office.

I would go so far as to say there are quite an unhealthy number of people claiming no affiliation or a "humanistic" theology that hold some pretty disturbed ideas.

Since our commenter is being amazingly broad in such statements, one can only guess what they might be referring to. Any particular system of beliefs or perspective on the world can be twisted into some pretty hideous conclusions - a brief review of various periods in the history of the Catholic Church demonstrates that quite clearly. (Most people would be quite horrified by the reasoning present in the Malleus Maleficarum, for example)

Broad-based accusations of this sort are really quite meaningless, providing no grounds upon which to address them.

It is only types like Chandler who cloak themselves in religious piety (yet never seem to practice what they preach) who ruin it for the rest of us.

My grandfather used to have a saying "It is your responsibility to pay attention to our government and vote because if you do not, those whom you would least want in power will get there".

I'm sad to say it, but in recent years the rise of so-called "values voting" has dragged a particularly unpleasant form of "Christian" faith into the public arena, and given it a prominence that it does not deserve. Under such circumstances when someone proclaims themselves to be "a person of faith", is it unreasonable for the voters to question just what that catch phrase means? (One must, in fairness, be similarly vigilant about how others put things forward as well - politics is a game often filled with evasion and partial statements)

There are a number of similar "catch phrases" out there that are seemingly "empty", and often carry some surprising implications. "Pro-Life", "Family Values" and "Values Voter" are among the best known such catch phrases - fairly empty, innocuous sounding combinations of words whose full meaning varies from faction to faction among the voters - and some factions take some pretty unpleasant interpretations of those phrases.

One example that comes to mind is that the so-called "Pro-Life" movement in some corners is beginning to represent not just "anti-abortion" activists, but is going so far as to advocate against contraception of any sort.

Some so-called "Family Values" advocates in the United States are beginning to demand that funding aimed at AIDS research be directed elsewhere - primarily on the unfounded assertion that AIDS is primarily a disease of "the gay lifestyle".

It is the extremism, which often shrouds itself in the cloak of religiosity, that must be watched for and stood against, as it ultimately works to all our disadvantage.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Harper The Clueless

I was hoping to mostly ignore Harper's "year end interviews" - for the most part such things are so much ego stroking that they are just depressing. However, he gave Maclean's such a juicy little bit of stupidity that I'm going to swat it around.

Says the oh-so-wise PMSH:

On Afghanistan, the dominant defence and foreign policy file, Harper again looks ahead to tough choices. Rather than talking up the military mission in Kandahar as an inspiring undertaking, he used the year-end sit-down to vent frustration at slow progress in building a self-sufficient Afghan government. “You know, the United Nations and our allies will have been in Afghanistan 10 years in 2011. For God’s sakes, Germany was basically fully restored within four years; Germany joined NATO ten years after it was conquered.”

Any comparison of Afghanistan to post-WWII Germany is fundamentally flawed in several dimensions.

First, it ignores the massive cultural delta between Afghanistan's would-be occupiers and Afghanistan's denizens. Germany was a relatively trivial case, as Germany was a European power being rebuilt primarily by countries that it shares common history with.

Second, by WWII, Germany was a major industrial power, with a generally well educated population. Conditions in Afghanistan speak to a much different environment, with Afghanistan arguably still in a "Pre-Industrial" state with relatively minimal education in the populus.

Calgary Egmont - Round 2 *Ding!*

[Update: 02/01/08]:
Comments have been closed for this post.

Reason: The conversation is degenerating into baseless accusations that are not adding either new insight or information.

Candidates for the PC nomination Calgary Egmont are emerging gradually.

So far, officially declared candidates for the nomination:

  1. Vicki Engel

    As I've written back here, I suspect that Ms. Engels is a little too closely associated with Chandler's now defunct nomination.

  2. Don Middleton

    Don is a new name to me, and his website is a trifle sparse at the moment. I believe his claims to having been neutral in the most recent nomination squabble in Egmont, and look forward to seeing what he brings to the table

There are rumors that Jonathan Denis may run again as well, although I cannot find anything to corroborate a few side comments I've heard, so I'll sit back and wait on that topic.

Post Bhutto...

Listening to CBC's "The Current" this morning, I heard a rather interesting conversation between several Pakistani people in Karachi discussing Bhutto's assassination, and the concept of democracy as it applies to a country like Pakistan.

Interestingly, several points that I have claimed/suspected about introducing democracy came up as observed deficiencies in Pakistan:

1. The notion of a "civil society" as a prerequisite for any meaningful stability.

Without a set of social structures in place that effectively proscribe the notion of killing people. In Pakistan where "honor killings" are still commonplace, and tribal rivalries still boil over into violence routinely, it's hard to say that the "civil society" that is a prerequisite to democracy is anywhere near existing.

Naturally, this is required for any kind of meaningful democracy - no sane discourse of ideas and vision can take place when your opponent (or their family) may decide to kill you for some perceived slight.

2. Comprehension of the Concept of Democracy

In general, only a handful of people in Pakistan seem to actually have some idea what the concept of democracy means. The "average" person on the street is perceived to be pretty cynical about government in general - and generally just wants a government that will be more or less stable ... even if it is a dictatorship.

This is a matter of education, and dovetails with the concept of civil society. Democracy tends to require a long term commitment to education and literacy for all layers of society in an effort to instill a certain level of civic knowledge and responsibility in the population overall. {BTW - I suspect strongly that one can trace a line between degraded investment in education and increasing voter apathy in both Canada and the United States, going back to the late 1980s}

3. Desire to Participate in Government

Again, this ties back to my first two prerequisite points. Government in general tends to produce a certain degree of cynicism in the public as a whole at the best of times. If people are overly skeptical about their government, and generally feel that it is a toy of the elite to exploit for gain, you will have little or no desire for them to participate.

Pakistan's history in some respects is interesting - born of the British withdrawal from India, it is a radical distinction from India, which has managed to adapt and sustain a recognizable democracy. Pakistan's history has been one of a few dalliances with democracy, and mostly various forms of dictatorship.

While I would be quite happy to see a meaningful democracy emerge in Pakistan (or Afganistan for that matter), I simply do not believe that the social preconditions for what we recognize as democracy exist in that region. The political instability of the region, both a natural outcome of the society and geography as well as the ongoing military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq guarantee that the preconditions for a sustainable democracy to emerge are unlikely to emerge in the forseeable future.

The insistence of "Western Powers" that Pakistan move towards democracy is naive posturing at best, and potentially undermines their stated goals in the long run.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Church Attendance - It's All Feminism's Fault

This appeared just before Christmas in the Globe and Mail's Opinion Section.

Apparently Michael Valpy has bought into the neo-fundamentalist line that the reason that attendance at churches has largely dropped in Canada since young women turned away from the churches some forty odd years ago.

But with research showing mothers to be the prime influencers of their offspring's religious behaviour, it remains the rejection of the church by young women 40 years ago that was so catastrophic. Their children never came through the doors.

There is little doubt that feminism and conservative christianity have clashed over the decades. However, it is indeed simplistic and outright silly to apply a single cause explanation to something as complex as a societal shift such as what Valpy is addressing.

The various alternate explanations Valpy explores all suffer from a fundamental omission - that of a growing availability of advanced education and concrete knowledge of the world around us becoming commonly available for the public.

Think on it for a few minutes, and you start to realize that as people become more educated and critical in their thinking, often the less they need the kind of guidance that the Christian Church has traditionally provided. {This isn't to say that there aren't educated people who are religious}

Additionally, as an increasing body of evidence calls into question statements that are made in scripture (e.g. much of the creation story in Genesis), it further erodes the relevance of scripture to many people who would rely on it for guidance if they didn't perceive it as filled with questionable assumptions.

There may well be a myriad of other factors in play as well - the rise in prevalence of other faiths, a growing sense of individualism come to mind, as well as a growing "highly mobile urbanization". Churches have historically been social focal points for fairly small geographic areas - towns, villages etc. Late 20th Century urbanization brought with it the "suburb" - essentially an attempt to nestle a small town in the greater body of a city - but with it came the proliferation of cars and transit. Instead of social lives centering around relatively small geographic areas, people now drive considerable distances to visit friends and family.

If I look at my own life, none of my intimate social network lives "walking distance" from me. Everybody is at least 10 minutes away by car. I interact with my neighbors infrequently at best - a handful of times a year perhaps. What possible connection am I likely to have with my neighborhood church? (especially after having moved a few times over the years)

Valpy has tackled a complex topic, and missed badly. His article falls into the trap of grasping at a simplistic explanation that utterly fails to explain the phenomenon he is exploring. To distill the last 40 years into "mothers don't take their children to church" is little more than a bad attempt at sophistry.

If You Had To Ask ...

Apparently PMSH Wonders if Canadians "Get" Afghanistan.

... asked whether he believes Canadians truly appreciate what is at stake in the decision, Mr. Harper said: “I don't know, the short answer is I don't know.”

If that doesn't tell you how dramatically out of step with Canadians and what we value Harper is, I don't know what will.

Trust me, Mr. Harper - most Canadians "get" it just fine with Afghanistan. That doesn't mean that we agree with you and your government's assessment of what Canada's role should be.

Oh yes ... and a tip for your uber-expensive image consultant: foundation should be subtle, not obvious...

Dear Mackay: Got Some Proof of That?

In the latest bit of Con$ervative plagarism, we find Defense Minister Mackay claiming that Iran is providing weapons to the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters after the festivities, MacKay accused Afghanistan's neighbour, Iran, of propelling the conflict by providing improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or roadside bombs, to insurgents there.

"We're very concerned that weapons are coming in from Iran. We're very concerned that these weapons are going to the insurgents."

Although Iran has been accused of interfering in Afghanistan in the past, MacKay's comments mark the first time a Canadian government official has made the accusation publicly. MacKay said the Iranian government is aware of his concerns.

I've heard this before somewhere...oh yes, wasn't the US claiming that Iran was arming resistance in Iraq at various times?

Weapons from Iran (or any of a number of other places) may well be winding up in Afghanistan - but that's not my point here. Making vague allusions without any demonstrable proof is nothing more than vacuous posturing.

In fact, if we take a quick wander over to The Globe and Mail's story on the subject, we find that Mackay is trying to set the stage for Canada's involvement in a protracted war in Afghanistan.

Mr. MacKay said the length of the mission "will be decided by Parliament in a fair, democratic debate and vote" but made no secret of his minority government's desire to stay until 2011 — and possibly a lot longer.

According to Mackay, "we are providing peace":

He said "remarkable progress" has been made, but it's still early days. "We're providing peace in a war-torn country. Certainly that takes time.

Really? Are we now? Or are our forces over there simply serving as a unifying target that the various factions can focus their hostility upon? There is a considerable amount of evidence and past history which suggests that Canada's presence in Afghanistan is doing little more than holding off an inevitable civil war.

"Five years, six years is a relatively short time, in the grand scheme of things, to build a country that has been under such difficult circumstances for so many years."

Ah - bingo. That's the closest to reality based thinking that has come out of the Con$. I've said for years that what we are really talking about is a multi-generation colonization effort to introduce any kind of meaningful democracy in either Afghanistan or Iraq. However, multi-generational means something more like 75+ years of direct involvement by foreign powers ... and that's after you've more or less stabilized the country. (which clearly has not happened yet)

Today, Taliban extremists are back and leading a growing insurgency. There are renewed fears that Afghanistan could slide back into becoming a failed state and terrorist haven.

How would I phrase this? - Well Duh!

I doubt the Taliban ever actually left - after all it is their home. They went to ground for a while - and then re-emerged when the US had itself well committed in Iraq. Pretty basic opportunism on their part - and surprisingly rational strategy.

It also calls question to what Mackay is calling "progress" in Afghanistan. While there may be some superficial progress, it's fairly clear that the resistance can quietly organize itself in the background, and emerge when it's to their advantage.

Mackay's accusations towards Iran are irrelevant in the bigger picture. Canadians need to ask themselves a series of questions around our experience in Afghanistan:

  1. Should Canada be trying to intercede in what amounts to a growing civil war?

  2. Is Canada willing and able to become what amounts to a colonial power? (Which will be the case if we accept a decades-long engagement in Afghanistan)

Mr. MacKay was accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier. David Wilkins, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, also came along at Mr. MacKay's request. Mr. Wilkins called Ottawa's contribution in Afghanistan "a great example of what a freedom-loving people can do to help other people gain freedom and democracy."

This little gem makes me wonder just who is minding whom - especially with Harper's foreign policy looking more and more like he's turning Canada into a vassal state to the Americans. With respect to the ever increasing propagandization of stories of Afghanistan from the Con$ervatives, Canadians need to ask themselves whether the HarperCon$ are even telling us enough of the truth about Afghanistan for us to honestly feel confident that the situation is understood by voters.

There's What The Con$ WANT You To Believe

Namely that the CBC is biased against the Con$:

Mr. Finley, the party's campaign director, says he was shocked by allegations that a CBC reporter helped produce questions for a Liberal MP to ask Brian Mulroney at a recent parliamentary hearing.

Now he's using the incident as a fundraising message to the party faithful: Tories face a chronic disadvantage because of their powerful enemies, and need your cash to overcome it.

Oh yes, woe is the poor embattled Con$ervative. Isn't the CBC so evil.

Of course, then there's reality:

CBC brass have said they are investigating and considering possible disciplinary action against a reporter who allegedly supplied questions for Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez to ask Mulroney.

But the broadcaster's reaction has left some puzzled on Parliament Hill.

Other reporters say they've suggested questions for politicians in the past — for instance, when Conservatives were in opposition and grilling the Liberals during the sponsorship scandal.

Ah ... so now that the shoe is on the other foot, this is a problem? What a bunch of dishonest liars.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Chavez Moves Towards Barter Economy

Hugo Chavez is proposing a "trade for goods/services" model instead of a cash economy in the Caribbean. BBC Story.

Chavez is already doing this with Cuba, and has been for quite some time. His motives are clear enough - Chavez feels that the US in particular has too much influence in the region, especially via devices like the World Bank and World Monetary Fund, which tend to impose political structure as a condition of the loans that they provide.

Like recent moves in the Middle East to establish commodities trade based against the Euro, Chavez's recent maneuvers show us a different strategy for undermining the historic dominance of the US greenback as the "lingua franca" of international trade currency.

In spite of "globalization", what we may be seeing the early stages of is a balkanization of the world along economic rather than political lines. Consider the following - Canada, the United States and Mexico form a significant "free trade zone", and much of South and Central America appears to be poised to step back from the dominance of the Northern hemisphere. (and Chavez's approach may well appeal to countries who are struggling under IMF/World Bank imposed economic structures in the region)

While one may look at Chavez's proposal as "mere posturing from an insignificant dictator", it has some interesting subtleties to it that I would not be so quick to dismiss. By switching to a barter system, Chavez and his allies quite effectively undermine the ability of organizations like the World Bank to dictate political and economic conditions to them - restoring a level of political autonomy that has been missing for those governments for some time, a very appealing proposition indeed.

There are other signs of growing segmentation in international trade to be considered as well.

As the EU grows and stabilizes, it becomes an important economic player for two reasons. It represents a single block of trading countries whose combined economies exceeds that of the United States, and the Euro becomes an appealing currency for international trade because it is perceived to be more stable, and less susceptible to the whims of a single country's government.

There are also signs of a reinvigorated Russia emerging as something of a unifying factor in much of the Middle East, and evolving ties with China that seem important.

The overall picture starts to suggest that the world is shifting, and opportunities to back away from relying on the US dollar as a "standard" in world trade are emerging in some unexpected ways - and those will change the landscape of world trade in the years to come.

Accountable Government: Harper Style

I've criticized Harper repeatedly for being even less accountable to the public than his predecessor, and it seems that the PMO is getting in the way even more than we initially thought.

While Stephen Harper's Conservatives campaigned on opening up the access-to-information system, Information Commissioner Robert Marleau said the government's own statistics show that responses to the public's requests for information are slowing down “across the board.”

Access-to-Information and Privacy co-ordinators in federal departments are grumbling that efforts to answer requests are being delayed by lengthy consultations with other departments, and especially the Privy Council Office, which serves the prime minister.

It gets better, though:

Mr. Harper's Conservatives made accountability a central plank of the campaign that brought them to power in January of 2006, and improving the public's access to government information was key to that platform.

Almost two years later, however, the Conservative government has failed to table the bill they promised to reform the access system.

And the Conservatives are now using the same excuse for refusing to release documents that they railed against in opposition: the assertion that a minister's office, including the Prime Minister's Office, is not covered by the access law. Mr. Marleau's predecessor, John Reid, took the previous Liberal government to court to contest that claim, and Mr. Marleau is continuing the case.

“If you exclude that range of activity and documentation and information, it's one giant loophole,” Mr. Marleau said.

Basically, what the HarperCon$ are doing is routing things through the PMO and Privy Council offices and then hanging the entire process up. I didn't support this kind of crap under the Liberal governments past, and Harper sure as hell doesn't have any business standing on that bit of sophistry. Especially when he ran on a platform that promised Canadians better accountability.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another Sock Puppet?

It's up to you to guess if PC nomination candidate for Calgary Egmont is another Chandlerite sock-puppet or not.

Vickie Engel announced her candidacy on Saturday, Dec. 21 for the PC nomination in Calgary Egmont.

Given that someone sharing that name shows up as a PGIB member ... in Calgary SE, there's a good possibility.

Then there's her platform page, which reads pretty much like a cut-and-paste job from Chandler's platform page.

Chandler's platform on 'family values' reads:

FAMILY VALUES - Elimination of Child Pornography and strict enforcement laws at the municipal and provincial levels of government. Elimination of interest group funding. Supports the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Stands for the sanctity of life. Craig also believes in creating a provincial sex offenders registry.

Ms. Engel's:

FAMILY VALUES - Elimination of Child Pornography and strict enforcement laws at the municipal and provincial levels of government. Elimination of interest group funding. Vicki also believes in creating a provincial sex offenders registry. Matching the Federal Conservative's "Choice in Child Care Allowance" by giving parents an additional $100 dollars per month for each child ages 5 and under. Formal recognition of income splitting between couples whether they are raising children at home or working full or part time, saving parents thousands of dollars each year in taxes. Increasing the base personal income tax exemption of each parent according to how many children they have. This would save parents hundreds of dollars each year for each child they are raising.

(Emphasis Added)

She's tried to add some additional bafflegab, but aside from substituting her name for Craig's, it's pretty obviously a direct lifting of Chandler's platform.

Smells like yet another sock puppet - no more credible than Crutcher's lame attempt at baiting the PC's last month.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Evils of Atheistic Fundamentalism

I had no idea that there was such a term as "Atheist Fundamentalist", but, apparently some think there is.

He said it led to situations such as councils calling Christmas "Winterval", schools refusing to put on nativity plays and crosses removed from chapels.

In his Christmas message, he said: "Any kind of fundamentalism, be it Biblical, atheistic or Islamic, is dangerous."

While I would certainly accept the proposition that fundamentalism is bad news, no matter its stripe, I take a little bit of exception to his commentary about the use of phrases like "Winterval".

First of all, one has to recognize that not all faiths celebrate "Christmas" per se, however a winter solstice celebration is quite common, whether we are talking about Persian Culture, or the pre-Christian era cultures of much of Europe.

I disagree with The Pope's recent pronouncement that "Christmas without Christ is empty". To make such a claim is to suggest that all other cultures and faiths besides your own are empty and devoid of meaning and validity.

When one stands back and recognizes that the early Christian Church chose to move its celebration to coincide with winter solstice celebrations in northern europe, it becomes a bit tricky to claim that other non-Christ centric celebrations are invalid.

I am sympathetic to those who are appalled by the notion that the annual school play at this time is often called "Winter " rather than the "Christmas Pageant" (or whatever) - I do think this reflects an over-sensitivity on the part of those wishing to "not offend non-Christians". I wouldn't ask a Muslim to change the name of Ramadan simply because it happens to coincide with a celebration of my own faith.

The notion of "Atheistic Fundamentalism" is a flawed concept to begin with. The very notion suggests that there is some "fundamental" set of tenets that atheists subscribe to. Besides the common concept that there is no "real god", there is no common set of concepts that atheism derives from. One cannot, for example, claim that atheists all subscribe to a common root text, and that the fundamentalist has some particular interpretation of that text. What I suspect they are referring to is in fact a form of "absolutism" on the part of some people, who seem to complain at the mere mention of the concept of any religion that it is "exclusionary".

I think what people of all traditions need to become a little more self-aware of is that in societies where multiple faiths coexist, faith itself becomes a matter of the individual, and each of us should be free to practice our faiths - up to, but not including the point where our practice of our faith begins to impose itself upon others.

As a practitioner of "Evangelical Christianity", one might believe that it is your duty to go forth and preach the gospel to those who have not heard it yet. That's fine, and I have no problem with that. However, I still possess a right to not have to listen to that gospel if I do not wish to. In other words, if someone approaches me in a coffee shop while I'm enjoying a coffee, and begins to preach to me, I have a legitimate right to tell that person to get lost ... and they should comply. {and yes, I've had that very experience once or twice - although I had to get a little bit more explicit in my demand to be left alone)

In short, matters of faith do not, and should not, be matters of state in a poly-faith society such as exists now in much of the "Western World". Instead, there is a quiet respect that we all should bear for all faiths... including those who practice no specific faith.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

CPC Support Fragile

I'm not going to spend much time on the actual numbers that the latest polls show for the various parties - it's mostly a rehash of things as they have sat for the last couple of years.

I think what is interesting is how little it has taken to knock the Con$ back to a statistical tie.

• Former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney's admission that he accepted cash-stuffed envelopes from arms lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber and kept the payments secret for years.

• Heavy criticism of Canada's position at the climate-change summit in Bali.

• Political fallout from a critical shortage of medical isotopes due to the shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear reactor.

When you look at it, no one of those should have resulted in the kind of drop that we've seen here. I suspect that Mulroney's testimony mostly confirms what most Canadians thought of him before, and has relatively little impact overall.

The Chalk River reactor issue and the Bali positions are more serious and immediate concerns.

The government's attempts to play partisan games surrounding the reactor shutdown is appalling and shows the Conservatives up as being primarily interested in propping up their polling figures rather than good policy. While there is relatively little likelihood of a disaster occurring, we should not lose sight of the fact that AECL was ordered to upgrade key safety systems quite some time ago. The regulatory authority involved was absolutely correct to demand the work be done prior to restarting a reactor that is now over fifty years old. Harper's blithe statements when he forced a restart of the reactor demonstrate that the man has no understanding of the engineering principles involved.

As for the Bali talks, the government's position was such a blatant sucking up to Washington job that I think it was horrendously out of step with the vast majority of Canadians.

What the sudden drop in the polling numbers really shows us is how fragile the Con$ervative support really is. Harper doesn't seem to realize that he is in power because a lot of people voted "anything but Liberal", not because they actually believe in what Harper actually represents. Every time Harper shows us his real colours, the party's polling fortunes plummet 5-6 percentage points.

There are some interesting regional numbers as well:

In Ontario, the Liberals scored 41 per cent support, widening their lead over the Tories who stood at 31 per cent.

In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois remained in the lead with 40 per cent, but the Liberals had moved up to second place with 23 per cent followed by the Tories at 17 per cent — an 11-point drop.

Tory popularity slid dramatically even in the party's traditional strongholds and among groups usually most supportive.

In Alberta, for instance, Tory support plummeted almost 20 points to 45 per cent. In British Columbia, support dropped 17 points to 31 per cent.

In Atlantic Canada, where the Conservatives had been leading for most of the year, the Liberals edged ahead with 36 per cent to the Tories' 33 per cent.

Overall, this is what I would expect, especially with Harper becoming somewhat more emboldened in his implementation of Bush-style Rethuglicanism in Canada. Hopefully, more voters will start to wake up to how little Harper actually represents their goals and aspirations as Canadians for Canada.

Of Rights and Rights Tribunals

Since a number of commenters seem to have utterly missed my point with regards to both Mr. Levant and Mr. Hannaford's idiotic commentary on Canada's human rights tribunals and have gone after the notion that somehow "Freedom of Speech" is a fundamental right that supercedes all others.

Let me begin with a basic review of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

When most Canadians talk of "Freedom of Speech", they are actually referring to Section 2 of the Charter which reads:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

I think you could argue that the term "expression" legitimately includes speech, although the specific phrase "freedom of speech" is not present in the Charter itself. (However, the wording of 2b might provide some context around the statements that commenter "John Adams" refers to (without source) in his comments)

However, section 15(1) of the Charter clearly lives somewhat in opposition to section 2b:

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.

Clearly, this paragraph quite explicitly addresses notions of racism, gender discrimination etc.

The Charter itself does not stipulate that any right is unbounded or exists in some kind of hierarchy with respect to the others. Therefore, one must conclude that those rights exist in something akin to a mesh, with each right "tugging on" or binding the other rights as it intersects with them.

In other words, someone's rights under S2 do not necessarily abrogate someone else's rights under section 15.

That means, in one sense, that if I were to arbitrarily write a diatribe demanding that members of ethnic group X should be treated with suspicion and hostility, that I certainly could be held as violating members of group X's rights under S15.

The point of argument then becomes whether my right to believe and express my belief in that regard actually impinges upon that group's S15 rights. Obviously, I am going to claim that I haven't violated their rights, and they will claim that I have.

Layered over top of the Charter is a piece of legislation: Canadian Human Rights Act, which establishes in considerably more detail grounds of discrimination that are recognized as well as the powers and duties as well as basic processes of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Like it or not, there is a validity to the existence of the Human Rights Commission - namely that it serves as a first level of arbitration between parties who claim that one has infringed upon the other. They do not exist as bodies of "censorship" or as "thought police". Rather, they exist in a very difficult area of law - namely that of deciding when someone's rights have in fact been infringed upon.

Turning back to my hypothetical example, once a complaint has been filed, there is a process that must run its course. That process includes investigation, analysis and ultimately a ruling of some sort. (assuming that the parties do not reach a settlement agreement in the interim - as happened in the Rob Wells complaint against Freedom Radio Network and Concerned Christians Canada)

Further, it is not as if CHRT decisions are beyond appeal. From their decisions page:

Decisions of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are reviewable by the Federal Court. Federal Court decisions can be appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

In short, this is essentially a lower level court proceeding - and the decisions reflect that. (They are posted on the website for those willing to read them)

These bodies exist because human rights do not exist in a vacuum, nor do they exist in some kind of arbitrary hierarchy where one right absolutely supercedes another.

If you wish to claim that non-discrimination complaints have shifted the balance too far away from "freedom of speech", that's your right. Make your case - not to me, but in the forum of the hearings. Bleating away from the sidelines does nothing for your claims. I have said this about the same complaints that religious conservatives have made in recent years as the gay rights debates have raged, and I look forward to the outcome of Chandler's rumoured to be imminent CHRC complaint surrounding the handling of his nomination review.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is Harper Even Canadian?

From the Globe and Mail's editorial pages a day or so ago. {sadly it's behind their "pay to view" firewall, so you get to read a scanned copy - apologies}

Apparently, with the 400th anniversary of Quebec City's foundation coming next year, all sorts of heads of state are being invited - except our own head of state, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

According to the editorial, even the Governor General is being shut out of these celebrations.

While I've long suspected that Harper is at the very least anti-monarchy, I always thought he had at least a modicum of respect for the heritage and traditions that are part of Canada's history and present day reality.

Whether or not Prez Harper likes it, the Queen is still Canada's legal head of state, and she - or the her representative - should be present at celebrations of this nature. There is certainly no good reason not to invite the Queen, but of course the PMO is being suprisingly closed mouthed about the whole business - probably because it's not on Harper's script of "current issues" that he can talk about.

This isn't a big issue per se, except it demonstrates further that Harper's leadership has a cloud of ulterior motives over it. Claim as he will that there is "no hidden agenda", his actions and secrecy continue to suggest that the man is being less than up front with Canadians...and even less than respectful of the structures of our government.

That's Quite A Leap

Via B.C.'s Kalamalka Rainbow, we learn of the latest insanity to come from the rarified atmosphere of the Vatican.

According to the Pope:

"Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of new life ... constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace," Benedict writes.

If I wasn't convinced that Pope Ratz is completely insane before, he's just convinced me that he is today.

The issue of gay marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with the conflicts that incessantly bubble around the Middle East, or numerous civil wars in Africa. Give me a break. In fact, I would go as far as to point out that the countries that permit gay marriage are among the most politically stable in the world. Even South Africa is relatively stable these days - and it's probably the most borderline of the states that allow gay marriage.

Given how many of the wars currently bubbling around in the world are based on either religious or ethnic grounds, one has to wonder just where this Pope gets off trying to dictate to the rest of us how we are obliged to live. It seems to me that we would get a great deal further if we actually tried to understand each other as human beings instead of trying to claim that any one faith has a monopoly on being "correct".

Dear "Jermo Sapiens"

I will not publish comments that contain ad hominem attacks or name calling.

Calling someone a fascist or otherwise attacking them personally for their positions is disrespectful, rude and crass.

Respectful debate of ideas, on this blog, is welcome and encouraged. I don't expect my readers to agree with me. Anonymous was being quite appropriate in challenging my position, and I respect that.

Debate is not a matter of win or lose - often times it simply reaches a point where it is going to go in circles with neither side giving any ground. I saw that pattern evolving with that discussion, and I chose to end it at that point.

You are welcome to come back when you are willing to act in a more thoughtful and mature fashion.

Comment Policy: My blog, my policy - deal with it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And Ezra Steps Forth ...

and vomits up yet another moronic screed - this time he appears to be channelling Mr. Hannaford - blathering on for five screens of crap about human rights complaints.

Blathers the LeRant:

Human rights commissions are a relatively new creation, formed in the 1960s and 1970s for political reasons, not legal reasons. The main issues that these commissions were created to address -- such as racial discrimination in rental housing and employment -- were already covered by established landlord and tenant law, as well as labour and employment law. The commissions were supposed to be an informal, sympathetic forum for vulnerable people who needed extra help; and commissions were limited to dispensing a few thousand dollars.

No, Ezra, you are completely wrong in that regard. The legislation that substantiates the Human Rights Commissions in Canada are mysteriously called "Human Rights Legislation". Discrimination can take many forms, and some of them can be quite subtle and insidious, others are more blatant.

The most common cases seem to be employees quitting over squabbles with other staff -- a female backhoe operator claimed her rights as a woman were violated for being called "honey" and other locker-room talk on a construction site

That backhoe operator has a name, and her coworkers should be using it out of basic decency. Names like "honey" have their place and purpose, but it's not in the workplace. In the workplace, it is condescending, crude and inappropriate...even if the person uttering it is married to the other. Using a name like that in a workplace of that nature can set the stage for dehumanizing the individual whom it is directed at. Sorry Ezra, that's an amazingly bad example.

Sure enough, Ezra has to wade into the Boissoin issue:

The commission's one-woman panel--a divorce lawyer with no expertise in constitutional rights -- ruled that "the publication's exposure of homosexuals to hatred and contempt trumps the freedom of speech afforded in the Charter." That was it: Freedom of speech, and of the press, and religion, all of which are called "fundamental freedoms" in our Constitution, now come second to the newly discovered right of a thin-skinned bystander not to be offended.

Sorry Ezra, but it's pretty clear that Ms. Andreachuk knows what she was talking about. She grounded her opinion quite nicely in precedent and reasoning. I'm appalled that a man who is supposedly a lawyer himself is so crude as to attempt to challenge her credentials simply because she came to a conclusion that Mr. Levant doesn't like.

The Oakes Test was named after David Oakes, a man charged with trafficking of hash oil, who beat the rap using the Charter. Accused drug dealers get the benefit of the Constitution, but not accused pastors.

Again, like Mr. Hannaford, Levant makes a gross mischaracterization of the situation regarding Boissoin. The AHRC ruling on Boissoin is quite clear why Boissoin's "letter" steps over a reasonable line. (Declarations of war always go so well, don't they?)

Mr. Hannaford I expect more from - Ezra simply keeps demonstrating to us that he's an utter loon. At least the Sun has had the relative smarts to quit publishing his tirades in the weeks since he blamed a tragic accident on someone wearing what he thought was a hijab - apparently the National Post's editors haven't heard why Ezra's tirades don't deserve the time of day in print.

Spewing Talking Points: Nigel Hannaford

The Herald's Nigel Hannaford has descended into the pit of spewing conservative talking points.

This week's topic from Mr. Hannaford is all about a vile little piece of work that writes for Maclean's under the name Mark Steyn. Steyn is yet another of the "chickenhawk" crowd - pro war, pro American aggression, and desperately phobic of the "brown-skinned menace" that he predicts will overrun Europe in a few generations. (I won't go into the details of Steyn's bird cage liner book - if you really want to read it, find it in the library or a used book store ... or at the bottom of a parrot cage)

Apparently, Mr. Steyn finds himself subject of a human rights complaint:

A chapter of his book, America Alone, ran in Maclean's Magazine last year. In it, Steyn predicted -- in his trademark abundant style -- the likely outcome of changing European demographics. Low birth rates among Europeans, and high birth rates among Muslims, could have only one result: eventual Islamization of the continent. He also cited the satisfaction that gave Islamic leaders such as Libyan president Moammar Gadhafi: "There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe -- without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades."

Complainant Dr. Mohamed Elmasry says it was "flagrantly anti-Muslim . . ." As a reader of Maclean's, "I am entitled to its services without discrimination on the basis of religion."

This is the issue. The rise of Europe's Muslim population Steyn talks about is real -- in France it's reached 10 per cent. If religion matters to government and institutions, (and we know it does, and separate church and state accordingly,) it's reasonable to suppose this may affect life over there.

While Steyn may wish to assert that Europe will be "a Muslim continent" within a few decades, I suspect strongly that the issue is not the prediction itself, but rather the manner in which Steyn framed it that is at issue.

However, Mr. Steyn's specific woes are not my point with Mr. Hannaford's column. It is the blatant way that he repeats a series of talking points that I have heard repeatedly out of those who wish to impose their will upon others.

In Canada, there are two parallel streams of law dealing with speech. One is the criminal code, the other is the constellation of human rights commissions.

The key difference among many is that nailing somebody for discriminatory speech is much harder in court under the code, than at a commission by its rules. The prosecution has to prove an intent to incite hate; it is difficult to get a conviction. The commissions just take somebody being offended as prime facie evidence of guilt.

Well, not all somebodies. Years ago, B.C.'s HRC declared a hierarchy of protection: vulnerable minorities got it, members of oppressor groups didn't. Seriously: In the name of equality, these people declared Canadians unequal before them.

This is so fundamentally dishonest it's not even funny. Hannaford is doing little more than spouting a talking point here. Just as he did in his commentary on the Boissoin ruling, he's blithely ignoring the reality of the situation.

While the Human Rights Commission uses a much less rigid set of standards upon which to evaluate a case than would be used in evaluating criminal charges under S. 318 of the Criminal Code, Mr. Hannaford is utterly incorrect in claiming that they are "parallel laws". The Human Rights Commissions are essentially civil processes with very limited powers to impose punishments. Second, once a case leaves the commission system, there are options to appeal those cases to the courts.

Second, the criteria for a "hate crime" are quite different for the criteria that one would make a finding of "discrimination". Hannaford is conflating the two, and being quite dishonest in the process.

Multiculturalism secretary Jason Kenney thinks Elmasry is reaching: "To be attacking opinions expressed by a columnist in a major magazine is a pretty bold attack on the basic Canadian value of freedom of the press and freedom of expression . . . I think all Canadians would reject that kind of effort to undermine one of our basic freedoms."

Well, without seeing the substance of the complaint, I fail to see how either Kenney or Hannaford can really comment. I suspect that Elmasry's complaint won't go very far on its own merits.

I think Steyn's predictions are largely intellectual excretia, from the fevered imaginings of a man who tends to argue purely from assertion and claim that it is fact.

You've guessed it. Steyn is a paid-up member of the oppressors, and won't get a chance to marshal his facts in court, or offer a fair-comment defence.

Instead, it's off to the HRC, where all that matters is whether what he wrote is judged likely to bring an identifiable group into hatred or contempt.

Hannaford's characterization of Human Rights Commission processes is horribly dishonest here. If you have actually spent some time reviewing the published decisions (such as the Boissoin decision), it's quite clear that both parties in the discussion have considerable opportunity to put forward their side of the story, and that the commissioners do make an effort to weigh the positions in the context of both the laws that set out the powers of the Commission, Canada's legal framework overall and past cases.

These are not, as Hannaford or Craig Chandler might characterize them, "Kangaroo Courts". They are quasi judicial bodies that take their roles seriously.

Basra: Case Study In Failed Gunpoint Diplomacy

With the UK military officially handing control of Basra back to the Iraqis, now is a good time to consider just what the occupation has wrought.

While the official line from the British military is that violence in Basra is down, and this is all about a "success for Iraq", there's some pretty ugly stories that should not be ignored.

al Qaeda is claiming that the UK is "fleeing".

Fair enough, one doesn't have to dig too far to guess what al Qaeda's motives might be, but I also think there's a certain truth value to the notion that as the occupying forces pull back, the power vacuum will be filled not by Iraqi forces per se, but by "shadow forces" that see an opportunity to step forward. (and I'd put money that by this time next year, much of the equipment the Iraqi forces in Basra have today will be in the hands of militants of one sort or another.

The Guardian points out a few rather bleak facts of the reality in Basra:

What have they achieved? When they entered Basra in 2003, they handed out sweets and water and helped to clean the streets. Now they can't safely enter the town even in armoured vehicles. Iraqi security chiefs and politicians say the British should go and that when they do security will improve significantly. Yet police chief Khalaf told the Guardian yesterday that Britain had left him to cope with militia, gangsters, and beheadings of women considered insufficiently Islamic.

It is this second point that scares me. Essentially, radical nutcases are clearly operative in Basra, and trying to impose their peculiar brand of "Islam" on everybody they can. From a human rights perspective, these acts are horrifying - beheading someone because they are a woman, and they aren't "dressed modestly enough" is vile in the extreme.

However, this is ultimately a reflection of precisely the kind of outcome that any military occupation of Iraq would be likely to have.

My prediction is that short of a multi-generation occupation and rebuilding process, the short to medium term outlook for Iraq is bleak and violent. I do not know what forces would come to the forefront if Iraq were allowed to descend into the civil war that is clearly brewing just beneath the surface veneer of "peace".

Monday, December 17, 2007

Break Out The Popcorn...

The Chandler saga is going to get interesting.

Today, Chandler announced that he's going to run as an independant candidate in Calgary Egmont.

That comes as no real surprise - Chandler started making such grumblings as soon as it became public knowledge that his nomination was being reviewed carefully. While that should make for quite an amusing election campaign in Calgary Egmont, it's far from the only aspect of the story.

"They're no longer Conservative," he said. "Conservatives wouldn't act like that. Conservatives believe in freedom."
Chandler also said he was running with a slate of candidates who would challenge the Tories in other ridings, including deputy premier Ron Stevens' riding. Those vying for legislature seats include Jim Blake, national chairman of Concerned Christians Canada, and David Crutcher, the former riding association president in Calgary-Egmont and a Chandler associate.

Wow, I wonder what Chandler thinks about MPs in Ottawa that Harper has turfed out of caucus for daring to question Harper's authority. Running a slate of candidates against the PCs has got to have made the Liberals and NDP positively ecstatic in those ridings. Chandler may have just handed over a handful of ridings to the opposition parties.

Chandler said he also plans on launching a lawsuit and human rights complaints against the Tories, the latter stemming from what he said was a "grilling" on his faith by Tory executives who were considering his nomination. He alleged Monday that he was discriminated against because of some of his religious beliefs.

Now, this will be interesting. I've said for quite some time that if there is any validity to the claims often thrown around by supposedly "Christian" anti-gay activists, that they should avail themselves of the human rights laws of the land and put those claims to the test.

Since I wasn't party to the conversations in Red Deer, nor the deliberations of the PC Party executive, I cannot say if Chandler's claims have any substantive validity. I suspect that the party has an equally legitimate argument that it cannot accept a candidate whose "political baggage" is as extensive as Chandler's.

It will be interesting to see how Chandler's human rights complaint plays against the words in paragraph 357 of the Lund/Boissoin decision which reads:

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.

If, as Chandler claims, he was refused candidacy because of his religion specifically, that is a problem that deserves to be addressed. If, however, Chandler's candidacy was refused on the basis of the baggage that came along with how he has conducted himself, then he's got quite a hill to climb.

[Update 16:05]:
I see CBC has their copy up on the story, and it adds a few more choice tidbits of Chandler's wisdom:

He also said he plans to sue the party in the new year to reclaim about $170,000 he claims he spent on his nomination campaign.

Is it just me, or is this amount going up? When this story first emerged a week or so back, Chandler was talking in terms of $127,000. (Who in their right mind spends over $100K to get a riding nomination???)

Calling Stelmach's rejection of his nomination a "denial of democracy," Chandler said Monday he hopes to take Calgary-Egmont from the Tories as an Independent.

"I think they picked the wrong guy to push aside," he told reporters.

Apparently, Craig has never figured out the concept of when to gracefully retreat. Instead, we get to watch Craig's antics as he tries to take out his anger on the PC's, and he demonstrates once again that he in fact has no idea how to work with people who don't see the world his way.

[Update 2]:
I suspect the $170,000 number may be a factual error on CBC's part. Over at Project Alberta, Chandler's own press release posting uses the $127,000 number.

Minister Prentice - Sliced and Diced...

Via Canadian Cynic:

Charlie Angus rips into Minister Prentice over "Can-DMCA".

I agree with Prentice on one thing - the current system of copyrights and patents has been rendered obsolete by today's technology. I've started to muse aloud about this whole conundrum back here. Fundamentally, what we cannot, and should not do is implement anything modelled even remotely on the now notorious US legislation entitled Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The consequences of that act in the US have been topics like the recording industry suing its own customers, and apparent bans on a common (and valid practice) known as reverse engineering of technologies.

For Canada to ape the US on this would be disastrous on numerous levels. The fact that the Con$ have not been consulting with Canadians boiled over in a protest crashing Prentice's Christmas Party at his constituency office. Whether Canada signed onto the WIPO treaty is academic today - that treaty came along in the 1990s, and the last decade has contained a plethora of technology changes that it does not address adequately.

The Con$ claim to be a more democratic, grassroots party. Let them show that in doing some real consultations with more than just whatever industry lobbyists currently have their ear on this subject.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Wingnuts on Aqsa Parvez

Like you couldn't have predicted Coren's latest literary turd coming on the heels of Aqsa Parvez's murder.

Not that we know why, or even if Muhammad Parvez killed his 16-year-old daughter Aqsa last week in Mississauga, Ont. But we do know that he has been charged with the crime and that friends told reporters there had been terrible arguments about Aqsa's refusal to wear Islamic head covering and that she wanted a different path from that of her family.

You should have stopped there, Michael. You almost sounded reasonable. The fact is that Muhammad Parvez (or someone in his household) has committed a crime, and will be held to account under Canadian law for that crime.

Sadly for the world, Coren didn't stop at that paragraph and launched into a tirade of muslim-bashing that is truly appalling:

Which is probably just what the owner of a Christian bookstore in Gaza thought three months ago as he was murdered and his shop firebombed. Or Danny Pearl, shortly before the American journalist had his head cut off by Islamic terrorists -- who, naturally, filmed the whole thing and made sure their chants from the Koran were loud and clear.

Why yes, Michael, the wingnuts in Islam are a vile, violent bunch of beasts. But claiming that they represent the greater body of Islam is about as valid as saying that Fred Phelps represents Christianity.

Or the wretched gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 200 lashes for daring to be in a car at the time of the crime with a man to whom she was not married or related. Or the women stoned to death for adultery. Or the Iranian men hanged because they were homosexual.

Hold it a second. This criticism is coming from the same guy who wanted to turn Iran into a glass parking lot not so long ago? Really. Or the same guy who has bemoaned how "feminism has ruined the family"? Again, I wouldn't even begin to suppose that the laws in Saudi Arabia are defensible under our standards (they aren't), but Christianity hasn't exactly been a paragon of virtue either.

Only a bigot would argue that every Muslim was violent or opposed to Western freedom. But only a coward or a liar would argue that there was not a profound and deeply worrying link between conservative Islam and myriad acts of terror, intolerance and hysterical anger.

Just like the oh-so worrying link between Stephen Boissoin's letter and a gay bashing in Red Deer, perhaps? Oh wait - Boissoin was a Christian, so he was only "discussing an opinion"...sorry I forgot.

While I am deeply troubled by what happened to Aqsa Parvez, Canada's laws already speak to this matter quite clearly on numerous different levels. Unlike Mr. Coren, I do not believe or claim that such incidents are representative of anything except the actions of individuals, and not of the greater body of Islam. (The practising muslims I know are not particularly prone to violence)

As to whether certain social attitudes in the Middle East (esp. towards women) need to change, I do believe that change is necessary. But I am also not foolish enough to think that such change is going to be delivered successfully at gunpoint.

Those who choose to live in Canada are subject to our laws, which for the most part reflect a generally egalitarian view of the citizens of our nation. Mr. Parvez will be held accountable for his own actions under Canadian law. Mr. Coren, like Ezra Levant is far too quick to turn the issue into a judgment of someone else's faith.

Dear Mr. Baird:

You are an embarrassment to Canada and all that this country represents. Your behaviour at the Bali talks this past week has been two-faced and disgraceful.

On the one hand, after the talks finish, you claim:

But Environment Minister John Baird hailed the talks as a positive first step toward an effective global climate treaty.

"We were naturally disappointed in the language that weakened and watered down the agreement," Baird said.

"But it's better than no agreement."

He said he was disappointed that the deal was almost completely stripped of any reference to numbers and targets that could have been the starting point for the discussion.

However, this doesn't square with your actions throughout the negotiations where it was so damnably obvious that you and Harper were taking your orders from the White House instead of standing for what is right and honorable.

Senior federal officials have confirmed that Mr. Baird did not attend a lengthy negotiating session on Thursday night of the 34 countries that were chosen to resolve the thorniest issues at the Bali conference. Instead, he sent a bureaucrat to speak for Canada.

The officials said Mr. Baird gave instructions to the bureaucrat and was available just a few minutes away if the bureaucrat needed to consult him. Instead of attending the negotiating session, Mr. Baird attended a meeting of a bloc of several industrialized countries that have acted together at the talks, the officials said.

Canadian officials have bragged that Mr. Baird is playing an important role in "bridging" the differences between the United States and the European Union at the Bali negotiations. "Minister Baird is directly involved in trying to achieve consensus for a post-2012 agreement," one official said.

"His No. 1 priority from the beginning of this conference has been to achieve a successful outcome. … He is focused on playing a bridge-building role to try and get all parties to agree to start negotiations and put in place the building blocks for a future agreement."

What a disgusting show of sycophancy to the Bush administration. Canada's minister responsible can't be bothered to show up at negotiation sessions so that he can "bridge" with the US? What a complete crock!

Traditionally, Canada is the country at the forefront of creating compromise, not isolating itself to satisfy Washington. What Mr. Baird and Mr. Harper have done this past week is vile in the extreme, and demonstrates still further that what Canada has right now is not a government for Canadians, but a government that is acting as a vassal state to George Bush's henchmen.

Friday, December 14, 2007

And You Expected What?

According to Chandler's latest post on Project Alberta, David Crutcher is going to pack up his marbles and go play elsewhere.

(Calgary) David Crutcher is withdrawing for the Calgary Egmont Alberta Progressive Conservative Party race. Mr. Crutcher has been in communication with the Executive Director of the party, Jim Campbell and asked for some advice, even personal in nature and the party refused.

"I understand that the party's poorly written constitution has no method to pre-qualify candidates and I asked Mr. Campbell to even give his personal feeling on whether I would be accepted as a candidate. All I received back is a passing of the buck and that they do not pre-approve candidates" stated David Crutcher.

Jim Campbell wrote to Mr. Crutcher in response to his e-mail that "It has not been the practice in the past to pre-approve candidates before a nomination and the Executive would have to be assembled for a meeting to treat any such question. I would not presume to say what their decision, or the Leader's, would be". Mr. Campbell also further stated that " While the PCAA lends assistance where required, it does not normally run the process or interfere with the independence of the constituencies"

As if either Chandler or Crutcher would have expected anything other than an elliptical response from PC brass. Even a pidgin knowledge of the party Constitution such as I have gleaned in recent weeks makes it painfully apparent that the party executive is somewhat hamstrung on Crutcher's demand for a "pre-approval", as final approval of nominees happens after the nomination vote at the constituency level.

David Crutcher encourages the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party to change it's constitution, fire it's president and get a new leader, or there will be continued bleeding from the party.

Uh-huh. How typical. The hard-line social conservative like Chandler or Crutcher is a surprisingly thin-skinned creature. As long as they think things are going their way, they are happy. As soon as their plans go awry, they lash out at everyone they perceive to be "to blame", and take oh so little ownership of how their own contribution to the story plays in.

Amusingly, this announcement comes mere days after Chandler starts declaring that he's going to run, along with a small slate of PGIB-affiliated candidates.

If Stelmach Agrees To Sign Off Crutcher...

He will be admitting to his organization the hostility of Craig Chandler.

Consider the following. On the Project Alberta thread talking about his "sympathy dinner", we find Mr. Chandler posting the following:

All we are waiting for is some indication that his papers would be signed if he won, just some indication. Even if informal, but we shall see.

Please note, Craig is talking "we" here, implying strongly the connections between himself and Mr. Crutcher. (Which further reinforces my suspicion that Crutcher's declaration that he will run for the nomination is essentially a "sock-puppet" maneuver on the part of Chandler and his allies)

Then we find the following posted by Chandler on Project Alberta:

I need as much Info on the PC's as possible such as the following:

1 - How much money lost due to Royalty Review? (please provide names and links)

2 - Any info on candidates

3 - Any other info that is good for ammo in the election

And a little later on the same thread:

Keep it Coming!

United Against Stelmach!

If party brass is even marginally aware of these conversations going on, I can't see how Stelmach could possibly justify allowing someone so closely associated with Chandler to run.

However, as Ken Chapman points out, this whole business could provide the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose parties with a "common enemy" in Ed Stelmach. Frankly, if that happens, it still does little for Mr. Chandler's own political aspirations - as he continues to demonstrate that he is essentially destructive if you "piss him off".

The whole lot of the shenanigans demonstrates a fundamental point that I have always felt bears a great deal of truth - namely that social and fiscal conservatism are largely mutually incompatible.

Where fiscal conservatism is generally compatible with the notion of multiculturalism as it has evolved in Canada, social conservatism has unfortunately adopted the cloak of Christian Fundamentalist politics. Speaking broadly, fiscal conservatism tends to be rather laissez-faire on social matters - believing that for the most part, people can sort themselves out. The social/religious conservative tends to desire an increased adherence to whatever "scriptural truths" they believe should be enforced in law.

Enforcing "scriptural truths" by force of law is expensive, especially when that law runs orthogonal to foundational aspects of law in Canada - such as the Constitution. This in general tends to make "fiscal conservatives" uncomfortable simply because it means taking a position that will cause the government to spend enormous amounts of money for "gains" that they do not necessarily buy into.

In large part, this is why Stelmach is encountering issues with the "social conservatives" that lurk in the PC party. While Stelmach is apparently a social conservative on a personal level, he seems to be much more of a fiscal conservative in policy terms. Where Ralph Klein was more or less "hands off" in his leadership, which made room for some of these people to step forward (Ted Morton and Victor Doerksen for example), they could do so only as long as they didn't have a "political cost" to Ralph.

Ed Stelmach doesn't enjoy the kind of personal popularity that Ralph did with the electorate, and thus he cannot afford to allow a great deal of dissent within caucus ranks - relying instead upon creating the image of being a "good manager".

No matter how much Chandler wants to protest that he is being misrepresented, the simple fact is that regardless of what he said or didn't say, he has come to represent a particular kind of "social conservative" in the public mind, and it is a kind of "social conservative" that carries a high political price among the voting public.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

They Say A New Broom Sweeps Clean

Unless, of course, that broom is Stephen Harper's Con$.

Harper has just burned a little over half a million of taxpayer dollars on a fishing expedition investigating past Liberal government spending on polls:

An independent investigator hired by the Harper government to look into past Liberal polling practices has wound up shining an unfavourable light on the Tories' penchant for polling.
However, opposition critics questioned the value gleaned for the money spent on Paille's report, which cost about $610,000.

However, wasting over a half million on a fishing expedition is far from the greatest irony here.

Daniel Paille notes that the Conservative government commissioned more than two polls per business day in the past year, a figure he calls "quite astounding."

His report shows that the government spent $31.2 million on opinion research in the last year - more than any previous year and almost twice the $18 million spent on average during the Liberal years.

Now, the Minister of Public Works steps forward and sticks his foot in his mouth:

Public Works Minister Michael Fortier pointed out that the report shows previous Liberal governments actually commissioned more opinion research in some years - reaching a peak of 686 projects in 2001-02 - even though they spent less on them.

"It is the spend per poll . . . that has gone up," Fortier said in an interview. "We just need to be smarter in how we buy polls."

Dear Mr. Fortier - let me suggest a simple solution for your overspending on polling: do less of it!

This has been yet another entry in the "More Accountable Government" brought to you by Stephen Harper and his Con$.

Dear PMSH: It's About Public Safety

Stephen Harper has just demonstrated once again the fundamental contempt that he has for Canadians and our well being.

In the process of pushing through legislation to override the CNSC's shutdown of a Chalk River reactor, he's trying to make it a matter of partisan politics.

I can certainly assure the House that when this is all behind us, the government will carefully examine the role of all actors in this incident and make sure that accountability is appropriately restored," Mr. Harper said in the House of Commons.

He blames Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the Crown corporation that owns the reactor in Chalk River, Ont., and the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, whom he accuses of partisan intransigence, for the fact that the reactor has not operated since Nov. 18. And the nuclear regulator is feeling the repercussions.

Now, I agree that the output of this reactor is vital to the health and well being of a lot of people. However, Stephen Harper is not an engineer, and obviously has only a limited appreciation of the implications of why the reactor was ordered shut down.

When the reactor's operating license was renewed a decade or so back, the CNSC ordered that a series of safety systems (cooling pumps in particular), be wired into a backup power source. A decade later, that work has not yet been done.

While the people that design reactors design in multiple layers of "failsafe" in the designs, we quite often identify new modes of failure and improvements that can be made to those mechanisms. Backup power and other forms of redundancy are common aspects of critical systems design today. These "no-single point of failure" designs are part of the thin line that protects the public from cascading failures. (Anybody else remembering Chernobyl?)

Nuclear reactors are in a class of human invention that I would politely call nominally safe. That is to say that the basic designs we use today (at least in Canada) are relatively sound and failsafe. However, equipment ages, it becomes prone to modes of failure not reflected in its design. Retrofitting additional safety mechanisms is a common and required activity.

The failure of AECL to implement mandated safety changes over a decade is disastrous to Canadians - especially those who live in the vicinity of Chalk River. This particular situation actually is a double jeopardy problem, because shutting down the reactor also inhibits a critical source of supply used for some key medical specialties.

Restarting the reactor is appropriate. However, AECL must be held to implementing mandatory upgrades.

Harper's error is in attempting to turn it into a matter of partisan squabbling - it shows us once again that Harper governs not on the interest Canadians, but instead on the basis of his own sense of when he can "score a political point".

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


When you rate as "less credible" than a self-absorbed character like Schreiber, then you know it's bad.

While only a minority of Canadians believe Schreiber, even fewer believe Mulroney's side of the story.

Somewhere along the way, the epithet "Lyin' Brian" was coined, and it appears to have more "sticking" power than tar.

It's Tiny Violins Time

It seems that Chandler has decided to try to make a profit from his newfound status as "martyr for democracy". Over at Project Alberta, he has posted an announcement for his fundraising dinner for January:

Now, Chandler running another fundraiser is hardly surprising. I rather expected this, but it certainly reinforces my suspicion that Crutcher's announced "conditional nomination candidacy" is little more than a sock-puppet maneuver on Chandler's part.

However, Chandler's attempts to adopt the cloak of martyrdom are actually kind of pathetically funny:

He feels he's been "tarred and feathered" for something he didn't even write. No, he didn't write it, but he clearly sanctioned it - both in spirit and action. Not only did Chandler republish that letter on both "Freedom Radio Network" and the "Concerned Christians Canada" websites, he brags about bankrolling Boissoin's defense:

Even more amusing is Chandler's attempt to rationalize how he is the "hero" in the various human rights decisions which hardly could be argued as "going in his favor".

Lurking in the midst of all that sophistry, Chandler spouts one of the bigger fibs I've ever seen. His sentence implies that not only did he sell his shares two years ago, but that he left the organization around that time. However, as I've blogged before, Chandler in fact remained CEO of the CCC until his resignation in March of 2007.

In other words, through the vast majority of the time from when Boissoin wrote his vile little screed to the point at which he reached a settlement with Rob Wells on behalf of CCC, Freedom Radio Network and himself. At which point it had to be getting painfully obvious that he didn't have a leg to stand on with respect to the various human rights laws involved, and the critical Alberta decision would go against him and the CCC (as a member of the CCC executive at the time, he would hold a certain degree of personal responsibility in the matter).

While Chandler attempts to distance himself from the whole Boissoin incident, he ultimately comes off looking like he not only backs Boissoin, but clearly one must infer that he also backs what Boissoin wrote. At no time that I am aware of has Chandler ever come forward to distance himself from the Boissoin letter's content. In reality he has made it very clear by his actions what he believes. In fact in his mealy-mouthed apology to Rob Wells, Chandler writes:

If you have felt we have done so please accept our deepest apologies. Our views will not change, however, and if and when we discuss this matter again we will be careful to insure that our words are calculated before spoken.

So, while on one side of the coin, he seems to be apologizing, and then he turns around and essentially says that he sees nothing wrong with what has been said - pivoting on the sophistry of "how it was said".

The meme that Chandler is propagating about how he "didn't say or write anything hateful" is only marginally true. There are many who would argue that the transcript of Freedom Radio Network July 29 is hardly pleasant about the matter.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lock This One Up And Throw Out The Key

Where I have a certain amount of sympathy for Robert Latimer and the tragic story that led him to kill his own offspring, I'm feeling considerably less sympathetic to this father.

I don't really give a damn what the man's daughter did or did not do - and it sounds like little more than typical teenage rebelliousness, strangling her to death was a vile and reprehensible thing to do:

Aqsa Parvez's friends told CBC News that the teen had been having arguments with her father because he allegedly wanted her to wear a traditional hijab.

"She kinda wanted to go a different way from the way her family wanted her to go," said one friend.

They also said that she wanted to escape the family conflict by running away.

This sounds sad more than anything else. What provoked the father (or her brother) to choke her so brutally doesn't really matter - the mere thought that choking someone could ever be seen by someone as "legitimate discipline" is horrifying.

I do not claim that the father is a "monster" (at least not in the pathological sense that William Pickton represents), but his actions in this case are monstrous indeed.

If, in the due course of legal process, this man is found guilty of murdering his daughter, he deserves no less than to be locked away from society for the remainder of his natural life ... during which time, we can hope that he will come to see the horrifying error of his actions.

For those that wish to question why I do not feel so strongly about the case of Robert Latimer, I suggest you read my post on the subject. There's a considerable difference in my mind between an act such as Latimer's which appears to have been motivated by despair and mercy in some form and an act of rage over an apparently rebellious teenager.

Letting Your Biases Get In Front Of You

Yesterday, I ran across this essay on X(itter), and it annoyed me because the author makes all kinds of errors of both fact and reason.  Si...