Saturday, June 30, 2007

Oh The Evil Plans of Little Boys

Apparently, being named Alistair Butt makes you a terrorist ... even if you are only ten years old!

Yep, that's a "no-fly" list for you - securing the skies from the evil machinations of people who can barely spell 'terrorist', much less formulate any kind of real plot.

Feeling safer yet?

(Time to start up the lawsuits challenging the legality of this odious piece of crap that the HarperCONS have foisted upon us.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

More Argument By False Authority

It appears that NARTH is at it again. This time, we find them quoting a psychiatrist on gender identity issues - of course in a manner intended to deride and denigrate transsexuals as illegitimate people.

Follow things far enough, and you find the NARTH article linking to an opinion piece on MercatorNet, a "newsmagazine", with a suspiciously overt Christian Conservative slant to its articles. Why an organization like NARTH that is ostensibly about research would like to what is so obviously pure opinion is beyond me, but link they did.

The article itself is rather long winded, and boils down to "we shouldn't provide gender transition as a treatment for transsexuals, we should treat them as mentally ill instead".

Newsweek also avoided the other key debate about this difficult issue: whether or not transgenders have a mental illness or merely an inconsequential desire.


Since the term "transgender" is rather broad, covering anyone who exhibits some degree of cross-gender identity - from cross-dressing occasionally to transsexuals, this is actually a very misleading statement. The Newsweek article was actually quite specifically focused on transsexuals.

If you are talking about non-transsexuals, then yes, there are legitimate questions as to the degree of their cross-gender identity. (In many respects, this is no different than is often found among bisexuals, who experience varying degrees of attraction to members of either sex. Some bisexuals are primarily heterosexual, with some undercurrent of same-sex interest, others are much more fluid in their experiences of attraction.) However, since the Mercatornet article is focused upon the provision of surgical gender alignment to patients, let's be clear that they should be referring to transsexuals.

However, this is only the beginning of the writer's attempt to dismiss the validity of the transsexual narrative. By misusing the terminology, the author sets the stage to proceed with attempting to invalidate that narrative by insinuation and distortion:

A few years ago I attended a program at the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Conference. An editor of the DSM was under attack for describing gender identity disorder as a mental illness. But in the course of the debate, in a remarkable display of having your cake and eating it too, the transsexual woman who argued against its inclusion was forced to admit that a DSM diagnosis was necessary after all. Why? Because otherwise people suffering from the disorder could not get their health insurance company to cover the cost of the procedures.


There is a classic error of logic being presented here. The author has attempted to spin it into the "you just need the diagnosis for money". This is false. As I have pointed out before, the DSM is a lexicon needed by medical professionals (both mental health and physicians) in order to communicate in a meaningful manner:

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


I'm rather appalled to see that Theron Bowers conveniently ignores this reality - especially when Dr. Bowers is a psychiatrist! (Of course, I should point out that Dr. Bowers does not list either sexuality or gender as an area of specialty - and those areas are unique specialties indeed!)

The author conveniently cites writers like Dr. Paul McHugh and Michael Bailey - both authors that in varying degrees seek to refute the transgender narrative. (How you refute someone's life experiences, I do not know, but they keep trying)

Although Theron Bowers does not resort to the language of religiosity, it's pretty obvious that the argument has its roots in the religion. Dr. Bowers does not speak to the clinical realities for transsexuals (such as the fact that the Standards of Care (a document which provides guidelines for treatment of transsexuals) is quite detailed about the management of these cases, and promotes a high degree of professional caution with respect to the clients.

Amusingly, Bowers cites Bailey's assertion:

However, sex researcher J. Michael Bailey in his book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, notes the decision for sex reassignment has a "rational component" and that the "large majority of boys who start out looking transsexual ultimately do not pursue sex reassignment."


Cross-gender children are rare indeed, and still relatively poorly understood. While only a handful of children that exhibit cross-gender behaviour at an early age go on to pursue gender transition, one should point out that the SOC document itself is quite clear about caution, and recognizing that not everybody who is cross-gender identified needs to transition.

However, unlike what Bowers and others attempt to infer, that does not mean that nobody needs that treatment. (Even Bailey, whose positions are generally held in some contempt among transsexuals, admits that some people legitimately need to transition and are quite successful afterwards)

I find it somewhat ironic that in order for NARTH to find pieces that back up their narrow-minded view, they have to resort to people writing opinion pieces in non-refereed publications, and riding upon the fact that the author has a PhD or MD, without actually wondering aloud whether the author has a clue about the subject at hand. (Bowers appears not to, rather relies on a bad mixture of assumptions, public policy commentary and assertions that are weakly supported at best)

It tends to reinforce the perception that these people aren't about research, and are more about forwarding a highly politicized agenda that involves the bully-boy tactics of denying others their stories.

Perhaps most amusing is the assertion that a transsexual needs psychiatric treatment, as if there is no program of treatment involving psychotherapy before surgery - a reality that exposes the lies of these people for what they truly are.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Privacy Commissioners To Ottawa: Knock it OFF

Remember PMSH's latest incursion into civil liberties? His little No Fly List? Yes, I thought that might jog your memory.

It seems that Canada's Privacy Commissioners have figured out Harper's game, and they are not impressed:

At a meeting in Fredericton on Thursday, the officials issued a joint resolution that says the list of people considered to be potential threats to security violates privacy rights of Canadians.

They find it "alarming" that Transport Canada, which administers the Passenger Protect program, could be sharing names on the list with other countries and has not provided assurances that that's not happening.


While I imagine that Harper will ignore this, the first false positive should be used to drag this whole sorry mess into the courts, and expose this for the abuse of government power that it really is. (In one of the great ironies, there are rumors that the US list that this is based on does not have the names of anyone currently "under investigation" on it, for fear that it will compromise an investigation - so one has to wonder just who such a list is supposed to "protect" the public from)

Wild Rose Party Update

A little digging, and it turns out that the "Wild Rose Party" is Link Byfield's contribution to right-wingnut politics in Alberta.

First, check this manifesto out on Byfield's "CCFD" website. Then check the street address of the CCFD:

203, 10441 - 178 Street
Edmonton
Alberta
T5S 1R5

Phone: 780-481-7844
Fax: 780-481-9983


Then, we traipse on over to the somewhat incomplete website for the Wild Rose Party, and it has the following address:

Suite 203, 10441 - 178 Street
Edmonton, AB T5S 1R5
Phone: 780-481-7184
Fax: 780-481-9983


And, a quick check of the WhoIs database turns up that the domain itself belongs to Byfield's organization:

Status: EXIST
...
Registrant-no: 1026134
Domaine-no: 1905974
Subdomain: wildroseparty.ca
Renewal-Date: 2008/06/07
Date-Approved: 2007/06/07
Date-Modified: 2007/06/25
Organization: Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, Inc.
Description:
Admin-Name: Craig Docksteader
Admin-Title:
Admin-Postal: Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy
203, 10441 - 178 Street
Edmonton AB T5S 1R5 Canada
Admin-Phone: 7804817844
Admin-Fax: 7804819983

Admin-Mailbox: email address guarded from harvesters


Reaction over at "Free Dominion" is guarded at best.

Just to give you a sense of the kind of wisdom that pervades this bunch, even the Federal CON$ had to ditch one of this bunch last election. How promising...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CON$ervative Di$$ent and CON$equences

Apparently, disagreeing with Harper on anything is a ticket to eviction from caucus, as Senator Anne Cools found out this week.

However, Garth Turner fills in a few more bits that suggest that her eviction from Senate Caucus was not just a result of a single vote:

On one previous occasion here, I referenced a Conservative summer caucus meeting in August of 2006, in Cornwall, Ont. It was the height of the short but intense Israel-Hezbollah war, in which PMSH has come out early, hard and unequivocal on the side of the Israelis.

The position was controversial. Some people worried about the Lebanese citizens being killed by Israeli bombardment or the apparent lop-sidedness of the conflict, or the lack of cause. One of those people was a caucus member – the only one who found the courage that stand to stand up to Stephen Harper.

Caucus members were briefed on the conflict by Peter MacKay, then chair Rahim Jaffer moved to proceed quickly to the next agenda item. No discussion allowed (as usual in meetings in which Mr. Harper is present).

But that did not satisfy Anne Cools.

The small, 63-year-old woman stood there in the amphitheatre at the Nav Canada centre, asked for an opportunity to debate the government’s stand, and then started raising questions. Jaffer told her to stop and sit down. Cools continued. Jaffer shouted. Cools asked why have a caucus if we could not talk? Jaffer screamed. Cools sat.

I watched then from ten rows back, and knew there would be retribution. Mr. Harper is a spiteful man, and a bully. My troubles were just beginning, with the PMO supporting a televangelist out to thwart my CPC nomination. It was all becoming clear. Cools and I were marked.


While I think Garth is project a little here, I don't think he's that far off the mark either. Harper has demonstrated repeatedly a nasty streak the likes of which I've only ever seen out of Dick Cheney in recent years. I think he not only keeps score, but does so in an outright malicious sort of way.

However, he points out some events in the Senate that reflect the CON$ and their thuggish approach to dissent or even so much as questioning "dear leader":

Senator Cools lost faith in Jean Chrteien and Paul Martin, and crossed to the Conservative side of the Senate in 2004, believing Stephen Harper was a better choice. That did not last long. She voiced grave concerns about the new government’s lack of accountability, and voted last week against the Conservative budget which broke agreements with the Atlantic provinces, taxed income trusts and increased spending to historic levels. She also called for the resignation of the CPC whip and House Leader in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton – the same woman who recently canned two Progressive Conservative senators, Hugh Segal and Michael Meighan, from Senate positions, for speaking their minds.

In the end, the Honourable Conservative Senators, taking refuge behind themselves, tossed Ann Cools out for not paying her annual dues to caucus – money used to buy the coffee served at meetings.


Yet another chapter in the Harper government's ongoing tale of suppression, lies, deceit and absolutism.

Almost Funny

The wingnuts are coming out in full force these days. This time, we have Edmonton's own mayoralty candidate, Bill Whatcott, getting his knickers in a twist over the location of the "Mayor's Gay Pride Brunch", apparently held in a Catholic-church owned facility.

You can't even argue that the "Church didn't know" - this event was advertised like this (relatively tasteful, actually), and even Lifesite admits that the Church knew what was happening:

According to parishioner Lonney D'Agostini, newly installed Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith was informed of the event by himself and several other parishioners six days prior to the brunch. D'agostini told LifeSiteNews.com that "the bishop said that he did not want any visible protest but that we were free to pray for those people (the homosexuals)."


Now, what starts to get amusing is the facts that Lifesite reports (impressively) and then tries to squirm around:

The building encompasses a Catholic Church and the St. Andrew's Centre, a senior's independent living centre.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel hosted the "Mayor's Pride Brunch" which took place in the banquet facilities of the centre which lies in very close proximity to the 24-hour Eucharistic adoration chapel.


Okay, let's consider this for a moment - it is a banquet hall, one that is presumably available for rentals, and rented by the Edmonton Pride organizers. One might think that the Church could have easily refused the rental if it was a big issue.

But, reality isn't so simple, is it?

The St. Andrew's Centre, while being partially a public building, has as its primary shareholder and owner the Archbishop of Edmonton.


Oh ... so it's not entirely a "Catholic Centre", but rather it is a facility where the public has a stake as well. Sort of changes the picture a little, doesn't it? Of course, Lifesite raises the Knights of Columbus case as some kind of bogeyman that inhibited the Church from cancelling the booking:

The Centre was hesitant to cancel the event because of possible legal repercussions involved in canceling a contract. The management admits, however, that the brunch was a mistake. Mark Barylo, Senior Manager in charge of St. Andrew's Centre, told LifeSiteNews.com, "In booking the event, Centre staff didn't ask all the appropriate questions for this particular event. As a result, the centre is going to review its policies and procedures when it comes to booking outside groups into the Centre. We are going to try our best to ensure that this situation doesn't arise again."

Booked as the "Mayor's Pride Brunch," the event may have escaped detection as a gathering of homosexual activists.


Oh please. What a bunch of Drama Queens.

Lifesite reports that Whatcott received the following treatment:

One such Catholic is Mayoral candidate Bill Whatcott who happened to be at Mass Sunday and was outraged by what he saw taking place. Whatcott told LifeSiteNews.com he was dragged off Catholic Church property and told not to return by two Edmonton plainclothes policemen after he entered the hall and vocally protested the brunch as it was taking place.


A little digging, and we find Whatcott's insane rantings over at FreeDominion:

Apparently the sodo,mites used deception to rent the banquet room and they obviously expected confrontation as they posted two Edmonton Police Service plain clothes officers at the door of my church's banquet room.


Ummm...no Bill, we already know that it was booked (and advertised) quite openly ... even Lifesite admits that.

Anyways I decided if they really wanted a brunch there than some good preaching and meal disruption was in order. So I marched in and called on the sodo,mites to repent and get right with Almighty God. I lasted for about 4 seconds and the two cops grabbed me by my arms and physically dragged me out of my church and on to the public sidewalk before they let me go.


Uh huh. You walked into a private function (tickets were required), chose to disrupt it with your particular brand of "Christianity", and then you are surprised when the event's organizers have you removed??? If the logic wasn't so pathetically flaccid, it might almost pass for comedy.

They warned me if I set foot on my church's property again I would be arrested and charged with tresspassing. I told them homosexuality is an abomination and contrary to my church's moral teachings. I also told them I am a Catholic and this is my church. The police wen't back to the sodomfest taking place in my church hall. I went to the Sanctuary tried to pray and got more mad. I called a Lutheran pastor friend of mine and told him what happened and said I wanted to go back in to the homo pride brunch and get arrested.


The man's a raving loon. Of that, there can be no doubt. You can practically see the spittle flecks peppering his screen as he wrote out his indignation. In response to being told not to trespass, he talks about abomination? WTF? Meh, whatever.

I forecast that Edmonton's mayoral race this fall will be filled with wingnutty goodness in all of its insanity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is There Something In Alberta's Water???

What is it about Alberta's political conservatives? It seems like every time you turn around, there's another "even more conservative than the other conservative" party popping up:

"These are people that feel disenfranchised today because the [Progressive Conservative] party in Alberta has continued to move to the left, and left conservatives behind," James said.

The new party will be based on conservative ideas and grassroots accountability, according to James.


So, the Alberta Alliance, Alberta Party and Alberta Social Credit parties aren't enough alternatives? Why, no it's not - if those parties aren't hard-line enough, there's always Alberta Separation Party.

Apparently, the "Wild Rose Party" has decided that not only are the Alberta PC's are too "left-leaning" these days, and they can't play nicely with the other right wingnut ideologues that run the options listed above.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Right Wingnuttery - Creating Counter Lobby Groups

[Note]:I started writing this a week ago, and have been mulling over publishing it since. My decision was made for me this morning when I heard this on the news this morning.

Driving into work one morning, I was treated to a rather lengthy treatise on CBC about the Anglican Synod voting on blessing same sex unions. Let me be clear about one thing here - I don't in fact really care how any given church chooses to handle the notion of gays and lesbians being married. That's a matter for the church to decide based on their theology. Choose to be accepting, and the church opens its doors to a population that has been excluded - either explicitly or implicitly (but that is really more of a "marketing decision" IMO)

However, during the interview, there was mention made of "ex-gay" groups lobbying "to be heard" because they had been "excluded" by the gays.

This is an intriguing tactic. The first thing that you have to realize is that the majority of "ex-gay" groups are closely allied with a faith community of some sort. (Often they are hooked in with the fundamentalists)

In general, I have always felt that the "ex-gay" thing was primarily created in an effort to "disprove" the often claimed argument of gays and lesbians that they are "just that way", and don't ask them to "change". The ex-gay argument is that people can change, and they did it by "accepting God" (most often, or via religious conversion and some odd little notion called Reparative Therapy) As I've argued before, human sexuality is sufficiently diverse to encompass the existence of both "absolute" gays and ex-gays without either in fact invalidating the other.

However, here we have the 'ex-gays' claiming the same basic discrimination that the GLBT organizations have long asserted is levelled at them. Groups like PFOX argue that ex-gays face discrimination too. Intriguingly, in a maneuver straight out of the old Mad Magazine Spy Versus Spy cartoon, the ex-gay lobby works hand in hand with the evangelical lobby to claim that the GLBT narrative is invalid. It's an interesting political strategy - find a few people who struggle with their identity, often because of the proscriptions of society, convince them to act differently and then use their narrative to claim that someone else's narrative is invalid.

As if to confirm my position that the "ex-gay" movement is primarily focused on denying the legitimacy of the GLB narrative, today's update on the story had this lovely little quote:

The Rev. Don Alcock from Ontario once lived as a gay man, but then turned to the church to heal what he calls his "brokenness."

"Our argument is you were not born to be that way. You were born the way God created us to be, and that was man and woman."


This has been the ranting tirade of the ex-gay movement as well as anti-gay organizations such as Dobson's "Focus on the Family".

There are two problems I see with the 'ex-gay' narrative. First, is that it attempts to invalidate the story of many GLB people. It implies that because some have "changed", that all can change. (Anyone with a first year logics course under their belt can tell you the problem with that little induction!) The second problem it puts forth is one I addressed here, is that such claims are founded upon views of human experience that are unreasonably rigid when held up against the light of human variability.

This leads me to suspect that "ex-gay" groups are really little more than an extension of the militant "christian" anti-gay lobby. They form the second side of the militant "christian" argument, and adopt the cloak of persecution themselves in a way that seeks to undermine the validity of the GLB narrative.

Just to extend things a little further, the gender identity population is not left to one side of this hypocritical set of arguments. In recent years "Ex-Transgender" organizations have begun to appear, recycling much of the rubric of the "ex-gay" movement, only spinning it into the world of gender identity.

In reality, neither of these movements would particularly bother me, if it weren't for the fact that they ultimately boil down to attempting to deny others the legitimacy of their life experiences. However, that is precisely their goal, and it is yet another insight into the crude viciousness that the evangelical right-wing has brought into the political dialogue in both Canada and the United States.

Con$ervative FundRaising...On The Back of Taxpayers

There are few things that make me angry faster than seeing politicians being blatant hypocrites. Stephen Harper's CON$ ran on a platform of honesty, accountability in government, and then they turn around and pull crap like this.

A friend of mine runs a small business here in Calgary. Last week, they received two sets of envelopes in the mail. The first envelope came from the desk of MP Lee Richardson extolling the virtues of Harper's do-nothing environmental policy.

The second envelope came from the Calgary Center CPoC constituency organization, seeking donations for the expected election campaign to re-elect Richardson.

Now, one might think at first that this was a mere coincidence of timing. I'm less credulous here. First of all, my friend's company isn't even located in Calgary Center. The second part of this is the irony that not one set, but two sets, were delivered, one addressed to a prior owner of one of the companies she owns.

Both sets contained precisely the same typos in the addresses - suggesting that the mailing list was purchased and shared by the two offices.

While the "Dear Constituent" letter came from Richardson's Parliament Hill office (paid for by the taxpayer), and the actual funding solicitation came from the CPoC (ostensibly funded by "donations"), it's rather peculiar that the CPoC is soliciting donations not from their membership and the residents of the riding, but from businesses that aren't even remotely related to that riding. In fact, I'd go as far as to suggest that private residents of Richardson's riding have never even seen this letter.

Not only is Richardson's timing suspect, but the blathering content of his letter reads like a classic political fundraising screed - crying out "look how much wonderful stuff I've done for you". Meanwhile, it contains the requisite attempt to slag the Liberals as well (what else is news ... when the Government is still acting as though it is the opposition - and doing nothing constructive at the same time - all that they have to work with is sniping). All that Richardson's letter lacks is the classic "close line" to get people to pony up money.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stephen Harper - Can You Read?

Stephen Harper is claiming that a private member's bill passed by the house is constitutionally invalid because Harper thinks it will cost money to implement.

He's actually trying to play semantics with the rules of the House of Commons that restrict bills that explicitly initiate government expenditures:

Speaking shortly after the bill received royal assent, Harper suggested the bill is invalid because it is not a money bill, yet would involve large expenditures.

"There are strict constitutional limits which decide what you can do with such a bill," he said. "It could impose enormous costs on the Canadian government or on the economy. It's impossible constitutionally.


Funny, coming from a government that has implemented an unconstitutional no-fly list without even putting a legislative framework around it. A no fly list which will cost many millions of dollars and gain us little or nothing in terms of real public safety.

Any law passed by the government bears a cost of enforcement. Bill C-288 obliges the government to put forth a plan to meet our legal obligations under the Kyoto protocol that we ratified in the late 1990s. It does not initiate any specific expenditures, but rather obliges the government to fulfil obligations that Harper has chosen to ignore since day one.

Oddly, I don't think Harper has a clue what our Constitution really says. The issue he is raising is a matter of parliamentary procedure:

In developing their legislative proposals, Members should bear in mind that bills containing specific provisions or clauses involving the expenditure of public funds will require a Royal Recommendation from the Government before they can be passed by the House.


Please note that bill C-288 makes no specific comment at all about initiating expenditures of any sort, but rather is a legal lever to insist that the Cons actually comply with the will of Parliament as expressed in prior legislation. No more, no less.

Of course, Harper, along with the rest of the Cons, is so clearly ignorant of our Constitution and what it says about Legislative Powers in the Federal Government, that he waves the "unconstitutional flag" about as if he knows something, and only demonstrates his ignorance and disrespect for Canada in doing so.

- Would you vote for a party whose name starts with "Con"?
(Coming soon - the latest CON$ervative "fund raising" tactics - on Canadian Taxpayer dollars)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Define Something Here...

So, how does Ontario's Attorney General think he is going to KNOW that a car is being built for "street racing"?

It's perhaps one thing to talk about punishments such as making a street racer's car forfeit IF YOU CAN PROVE THEY WERE RACING, it's quite another thing to do what he's talking about:

“If we can establish someone has parts and they're juicing up their car — obviously for the purpose of street racing — then we can seize those vehicles,” Mr. Bryant said.

“We will seize it and you will never see it again. We will crush your car, we will crush the parts.”

Mr. Bryant said cars built for street racing are as dangerous as explosives and can cause catastrophic damage.


I have several problems with Bryant's rantings here. First, he is talking about exacting punishment without any kind of process of law. He's talking about the mere act of enhancing your car as a punishable here. Get pulled over one day for a minor infraction, and the officer decides that your car is the one he wants crushed, and presto, you're out whatever that car cost you? No. Wrong. Just as wrong as Harper's "no fly list" - for the same reasons.

Second, I doubt very much that you could define just what characteristics either street racing, or a street race car, would have in any legally sustainable manner. I just put new rims and tires on my car - they're a little showy, does that mean in Bryant's ranting little world that I am making my car a "street racer"? Define just what "street racing" is, and you will quickly discover that it changes; try to define what a "street racer" is, and half the exotic cars on the road probably become illegal.

Besides, I know people whose cars are tuned for rally racing that they do on weekends - and they drive those cars to work during the week. Does that make them dangerous? No. {In fact, I trust those people to drive their cars well better than the average "soccer-mom in a minivan" who is yakking on her cell phone on her way to pick up little johnny from wherever.}

What about the amazingly custom T-Bucket's out there that are amazingly hot cars, but their owners drive them more to "show off the artwork" than anything else?

Ontario's AG has a justifiable reason to be outraged. His rage needs to be directed at the racers themselves, not their cars. There are too many legitimate reasons that someone may have dolled up their car, and no good reason to confiscate it simply because some police officer is having a bad hair day.

If the AG wants to do something, ratchet up the fines and penalties for the offenses that street racers commit. (Driving without due care and attention, excessive speed, reckless driving, public endangerment, criminal negligence, etc.) Catch them, and throw the book at them, by all means. But do so through the processes of law and due process that Canadians are guaranteed under the Constitution itself.

A hot car is not a crime, it doesn't even represent intent to commit a crime.

In California, there is apparently a law that allows the government to destroy a car after someone has been convicted of an appropriate crime. (I don't know the details of this law, but at least there's some kind of due process wrapped around it)

It seems of late that our politicians have a propensity for forgetting that Canada has a Constitutional framework for its laws, as well as laws.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No Fly Lists and The Right To Speak Out

The Cons screamed blue murder when Bill C-250 was passed, claiming that it created a class of "thought crime".

But, let us look for a minute at Canada's recently implemented "no fly list", and the potential abuses it is subject to for a moment.

First, the no-fly list has been implemented as a matter of policy, not law. In other words, it exists by fiat of Conservative policy being implemented by bureaucrats, not as a result of any kind of debate in the legislative houses.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that both the list itself, as well as the process by which a name is added to it, is a secret process. The citizens of Canada have absolutely no visibility into the processes involved, and no right whatsoever to appeal the determinations of those processes.

Sit back and consider this for a moment. We have no idea what the rules are upon which this list is being maintained, and people whose names are put on this list have no ability whatsoever to appeal the punishment being levied as a result.

This means that if the politicians in power decide they don't like you, it becomes quite easy to make your life very awkward indeed. Write a letter to your MP, and he or she decides that they dislike you, and presto, you are on the list at their whim, with no traceability, no accountability and no appeal.

You may be looking at this and saying to yourself "nah, your reaching". But, I ask you to consider the legislative agenda of the Cons. It has been blatantly hostile to civil liberties and rights - breaching fundamentals such as the presumption of innocence; Harper and his bandits have lied to Canadians on just about everything from accountability to cabinet appointments and Afghanistan. What assurance do I have that this list will not be used for political reasons?

The long and short of this is that unlike Bill C-250 that put something out in the open, where it can be seen and contested, the Harper Cons have created a 'frankenpolicy' which can be used by the government to arbitrarily curtail individual rights and freedoms, while the politicos hide behind the veil that bureaucracy creates in the first place.

In doing so, the Cons have sent out an implicit, thuggish message: "Don't dissent, or we'll curtail your freedom to travel". (and, as a citizen who has tried to deal with ReformACon MPs many times in the past, it is quite clear that they don't take contrary positions "well".

So...are the Cons protecting us, or creating a tool of oppression? What is more open and accountable - a law on the books that can be challenged in court if abused, or a secret process created at the whim of Harper's Cons?

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Little Humanity ... Goes A Long Ways

As I've commented before, it's all too easy to treat the unknown as hostile, and to condemn others simply because they are visibly different.

This morning's web travels turned up the following blog - Straight, Not Narrow, which had this post about transgender people:

Let's face it, there are probably a LOT of people in our lives we just don't get, but that doesn't mean we should stop loving them. The same concept applies to transgender people.

We need to remember that the fact they are changing physical gender doesn't make them stop being people, and Jesus commanded us to love one another, not just people who are like us or that we understand.


Kind of says it all, I think.

Deep Integration and Infringing Upon Liberty

In a move that mirrors the insane paranoia of BushCo, the Conservative government is going live with Canada's No Fly List today.

As I noted back here, the no-fly list is arguably downright illegal in Canada, as it uses secretive information without any kind of contestable process to restrict an individual's liberty. You might sit and think to yourself that it will only sting "them evil terrists", but that's clearly not the case.

Coming from Harper's lot, this isn't a terribly surprising maneuver - they are so big on the whole "deep integration" thing that slavish obedience to Washington just seems to be their second nature. (and yes, there are reasons to suspect that the CPoC is little more than the "GOP North" these days)

By blindly mirroring the US no-fly list, the Harper government is once again repeating the very legislative errors that created the so-called "security certificates" that were struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year. It's yet another means for detention without trial, and that is a fundamental violation of civil liberty in a supposedly free country.

In an aside, I see that the Cons are trying to appeal to NASCAR fans - sure hope that gets you a pile of votes boys - in Tennessee. More cynically, I'd like to follow the money for that little escapade.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Problem Is Not With Religion...

It's the most vocal advocates for a religion that become the problem.

I was reading Ted Byfield's columns for June in the Calgary Sun this morning, and I realized that the reason that "religion" becomes problematic is not the religion itself, but rather those who believe that they have some "perfect" understanding what 'it all means'(tm).

In today's column, we find Ted bemoaning the sorry state of things in Canada:

Our governments, businesses and people all "punch below their weight." Comparing us with other developed nations, it noted "too often we trail the pack." We are "unwilling to take risks."
...
In the bad old days, we boasted, Atlantic fishermen, for example, had to toil three or four months at sea, then work desperately for the remaining eight or nine to eke out a living from such land as they possessed. Now they do what fishing they can and bask serenely for the rest of the year on E.I. Such things, we were taught to regard as an astonishing advance in the national character.

Well, maybe what's advancing is our decrepitude and it's by no means confined to Atlantic Canada.
...
Where "unwanted pregnancies" were a fact of life visited upon most couples, we now have easy birth control, and if it fails we have abortion.

Where marriage was once something we had to make work whether we enjoyed it or not, it is now something that can be set aside and tried again with a new partner, often a series of new partners.

Sex, once inhibited by a host of taboos, some of them enforced by the Criminal Code, is now acceptable in almost any variety whatever, and any questioning or criticizing some of the varieties shall be branded "hate," and punished with jail, "intolerance" being the only sin left in our moral code.

...

Where we used to get paid for working, we now expect pay for existing, and where we used to believe in God, we now believe in Tylenol.


Ah - the usual pattern of Byfield's arguments emerges. After all, if we only remained in the god-fearing era that he idealizes (and never actually existed), all in our world would be perfect.

The blind rigidity of this ideal is reflected in one of Ted's earlier columns in the month:

Meanwhile, Calgary Catholics are no doubt becoming aware their own bishop, Fred Henry, was first in Canada to make media waves by calling the attention of his flock to what the church in fact teaches. When he ruled that ex-Prime Minister Joe Clark, who calls himself a Catholic though he favours abortion rights and gay marriage, would no longer be welcome to speak in Calgary's Catholic schools, Bishop Henry was branded as backward, as "living in the past."

It now appears he was actually, if anything, on the leading edge -- living, so to speak, in the future.

Not that Bishop Fred has ever let his decisions be governed by whether they'll be considered behind the times or ahead of them.

He knows God doesn't change, and neither do the essential principles of morality. And in times of alarming impermanence, it is this "eternal changelessness" that attracts people, young and old, to the Christian faith.


Saying the Christianity is "eternal" and "changeless" is possibly among the most ridiculous statement that anyone could ever make. Over the centuries, the face of Christianity has shifted and changed dramatically. From a nascent faith that adopted and absorbed "pagan" rituals as it encountered them, it became the faith which brought us the astoundingly irrational Malleus Maleficarum used to guide the "inquisition" that hunted practitioners of "witchcraft", and in more recent years has become a deeply fractured faith, split by fundamentalists and a plethora of different sects which all interpret scripture differently.

But, when you believe you have achieved perfection, there is little reason to look beyond what you have and know, is there? When someone proposes that perhaps Scripture is more mythological in form than factual, it's easy to reject the proposal, giving us sorry attempts to debunk science with pseudo-science. It becomes easier to reject and ignore new information that contradicts what is now comfortable and familiar.

Intellectual calcification that comes from blind obedience to any one faith gives room for groups like this to arise, out of fear that change will bring about the inevitable collapse of all that is "good" in the world. Of course, it never does - catastrophic collapse of a civilization is rare - even Rome didn't "collapse", so much as it crumbled gradually, and new things arose in its place. The British Empire didn't collapse, it likewise fell apart over a period of time, creating new opportunities and new realities in its place. Such is the nature of change.

Religion has long fought the notion of science, or more particularly, rationalism. Why? Because in its purest form, rationalism is anathema to faith. Rationalists tend to ask "why?" or "why not?" a lot, and religion - at least the Ted Byfield variety of it - doesn't respond well to such questions. Byfield and his ilk seek absolutes, and are all too happy to say "because" as a response to fundamental "why" kind of questions - an answer that makes those who are engaged by, and interested in, the world around them uncomfortable - leading them to go seeking answers elsewhere.

The last couple of centuries have rocked faith at its core. Social prohibitions described in scripture centuries ago have slowly dissolved because they are no longer necessary, or because new understandings have emerged that make those rules irrelevant. People like Ted Byfield live in fear - not fear of the unknown, but fear of the loss of all that they think they know. The unknown becomes the bogeyman - something awful that nobody has every quite seen, and yet change will inevitably result in. Sad, really.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Failings of MicroManagement, Part XVII - Afghanistan

I've commented on just how badly Harper's micromanagement style is going to get things wrong.

Sure enough, we see that when the PMO wasn't getting the reports on Afghan detainees. WTF? Why in heck should it require the PMO to figure out that abusing prisoners, or handing them over to abusers is bad karma?

Where was the Minister of Foreign Affairs? Or the Minister of Defense? These are the two ministers whose direct responsibility the Afghan mission falls under in one form or another. Feigning ignorance doesn't cut it.

Mr. MacKay said that until recently, he knew nothing of the reports either.

"The human rights reports are not normally copied to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, nor is the Minister briefed on their content," Mr. MacKay wrote in response to NDP defence critic Dawn Black. In a separate response, National Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor wrote that he and his predecessors had also not been made aware of the human rights reports.


MacKay and O'Connor may well not have been made aware of those human rights reports. In which case, not only should they resign, but half of their political staff should be fired immediately for gross incompetence. You're conducting activity in a war theatre, and neither of these men is paying attention to the human rights files? Okay, boys, it's time to put away the guns - because clearly you haven't got a goddamned clue what you are doing! Ignorance of such an important issue in today's world is inexcusable.

I think we can guess where they were. Mackay was busy licking Condi's boots to a fine polish (you get to imagine how Condi was dressed), and O'Connor was busy fulfilling his unfinished contracts as "lobbyist" for various military hardware vendors.

As for the PM? Well, obviously he had bigger things to do - like piss off China for example.

In the Commons yesterday, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said that "everybody knows that the Department of Foreign Affairs reports annually on human rights."

In fact, the Foreign Affairs Department initially denied the existence of the Afghan human-rights report, saying in response to an access-to-information request earlier this year that "no such report on human rights performance in other countries exists." Only after complaints to the Information Commissioner was a heavily edited version of the report released in April.


Like the business with Celil rotting in a Chinese prison, or Omar Khadr being paraded like a sacrificial sheep through the kangaroo courts in Guano Bay, the HarperCons keep showing that they have no idea about dealing with human rights of any sort, nor do they give a damn - whether or not you are a Canadian citizen.

Worse, they are outright willing to lie, and cover up what they are (or are not) doing in the name of Canada. It's time for this bunch of incompetent, lying bastards to leave office. They are clearly neither ready for, nor able to govern a nation...much less Canada.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Light on Relations ... Period

I see that the Stelmach Cons are as clueless about relations with other governments as the Harper Cons.

It seems to me that just as Harper can't seem to "get it" on either the world or domestic stages, neither can Stelmach's bunch get it right in managing the relationship between the government in Edmonton and the cities in Alberta.

In neither case does this come as a big surprise. Every piece of evidence I have seen to date makes it clear that the only kind of negotiations that Harper is capable of takes its roots in the "six-shooter diplomacy" of George W. Bush. Whether it is on the world stage, where Harper's performances have had all the nuance of an incontinent water buffalo in five star restaurant, or at home, where Harper not only turns everything into a confrontation, but a pugilistic one at that. Turning to the provinces and saying "so sue me" is buying yourself exactly no love.

At home, Stelmach is a lifelong farmer - he has no idea about the stresses and problems that are faced by Alberta's large urban centers. Now he thinks he is going to assuage that by pouring money into the cities. Don't get me wrong, the money is badly needed, but that isn't what the problem is. Having your cabinet ministers running about making snotty remarks about the cities like Ted Morton just did only gets people's noses out of joint.

No, Albertans - at least in Calgary Elbow - have made a statement. It's time for the government to show us some vision and actual leadership. This means showing us a plan that looks beyond the end of your stubby noses, without turning it into a juvenile pissing match.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Swing ...

As of 9:30 or so last night, it was becoming quite apparent the Alberta PC's were going to lose Calgary Elbow, and so they did, handing the seat over to Liberal candidate Craig Cheffins.

I had done a little informal "sign-polling" last weekend, and I had suspected that the Conservatives were in trouble, and the poll results from last night bear that out.

While the wealthiest areas of the riding (and there are some pretty posh neighborhoods in Calgary Elbow) remained firmly conservative, others just a step or two down on the economic ladder swung quite dramatically towards the Liberals.

Polls in areas like Chinook Park or Lakeview swung Liberal - sometimes by very close margins (only handful of votes), or in Lakeview, the polls swung to the Liberals quite significantly.

I was a little surprised that the SoCred and Alberta Alliance candidates didn't do more to dilute the PC vote - I had expected a greater impact from those parties than the polls actually demonstrated.

Does this speak to a "red tide" in Calgary, AB? I'm not so optimistic about that. I think this is a "bow shot" for Stelmach's PC's. One that says that you don't get to ignore Calgary - or any other urban area in Alberta.

I'm happy to see another member of the legislature sitting in the opposition benches. Our legislature has been stumblingly useless under the weight of decades long landslide majority governments, interrupted only briefly by the ineptitude of Don Getty.

Under Steven Taft's leadership, the Alberta Liberals have become an effective voice for Albertans. He has a team of strong MLAs in the legislature that have done more to hold the Klein era tories to some degree of account than any of his predecessors. Today, Ed Stelmach has simply tried to continue with doing it "Ralph's Way", and because he's not Ralph, people are being a little more critical about it.

The only real disappointment I have with the byelection is the fact that only a little more than 30% of the eligible voters participated. But, that isn't entirely surprising when many in Alberta would view the outcome of any electoral vote as a foregone conclusion after so many years of landslide victories for the PCs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How Prime Ministerial of You, Stephen

I've claimed for a long time that Stephen Harper is a nasty little piece of work. Along with other neo/theoCons out of Alberta, he isn't interested in negotiation or compromise. When faced with a confrontation of his own making, we find Harper saying "so sue me". I don't pretend to have fully understood the objections of Newfoundland-Labrador and Nova Scotia to the budget this past spring in any detail at the moment, but that isn't significant here. Premiers MacDonald and Williams have both made it abundantly clear that they have promises, written and verbal, from Stephen Harper himself on this matter. Promises that clearly they feel Harper has broken.

Harper's response? Like his response to Garth Turner, Michael Chong and Bill Casey, Harper doesn't negotiate, he blusters and bullies to make his point. Look at his front line ministers - light on talent and depth in their fields, long on shouting down anyone who dares to object. (examples that come to mind: Baird, O'Connor and Flaherty for a start - Mackay just looks weaselly, except when he's drooling over Condi's boots when he achieves creepy)

This Canadian, and I think on this I speak for a lot of us, expect our politicians and leaders to be civil people capable of negotiating their way through a difficult situation. Instead, what we have is a goon who has taken his book of tactics straight out of the Rethuglicans, and transplanted it here. These are not the politics of nationalism, they are the politics of divisiveness and spite.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Collapsing Bush Lies

George W. Bush's attempt to redesign the American legal system by writing notions like Habeas Corpus out of existence for "terrorism" suspects has begun its inevitable collapse, with a Federal Appeals court in the United States slapping BushCo around for failing to bring charges forth and follow due process.

So far, it hasn't been a good year for Bush - his kangaroo courts for Guantanamo have refused to cooperate with his desires, and now the courts at home are slapping around his little fantasy of rewriting law to ignore all of the basic rules of law that are the underpinnings of law in most free nations.

Treatment of the "Others" Among Us

In recent months, there have been quite a few discussions in the blogosphere around the fundamental notion of transsexuals - particularly focused around the situations that Susan Stanton and Julie Nemecek found themselves in.

What has been particularly disturbing has been some of the commentary from various so-called conservatives regarding how transgender people , and in particular transsexuals, should be treated (or not).

There is an amazing amount of hostility that ranges from blatant to veiled behind the mists of ignorance (and/or blind ignorance based on theology that I would call questionable).

From "Americans For Truth":
We must pray for these poor souls who are so confused that they would destroy their healthy, God-given bodies to assuage their inner conflict.


Or from a religious apologetics blog:
My personal view is that the transgendered operation should only be embraced by those who are born hermaphrodites or whose sexual genitalia are opposite their genetic endowments. I do not currently buy the view that being “mentally” or psychologically a woman and “physically” a male (or vice-versa) somehow justifies surgical change. The mental phenomenon may or may not be legitimate, but that’s irrelevant to me. For a believer, I don’t believe the experience justifies the surgery.

By analogy, a mental or genetic predisposition to violence doesn’t justify abuse. Similarly, a mental or genetic predisposition to thinking like the opposite sex, or being attracted to the opposite sex, also doesn’t justify cross- dressing, transsexualism, or homosexuality.


Or from a rather rednecky blog:
*(And personally, I would argue that no matter what sort of mutilation you subject your genitalia to, you can't change the fact that if you were male you were born without the same plumbing and you will die without it, too. In my humble opinion, Steve should always be referred to as a "he" even if he goes through with the sex change operation.)


*Note: I choose not to link to these sites because I feel that their content is fundamentally hostile to other human beings' life experiences.

The commentary carries a common theme throughout that I find quite objectionable - namely that transfolk, and transsexuals in particular, should be denied not only basic courtesy in the world, but worse, denied treatment for their conditions.

Perhaps the greatest irony comes from the religious blog I mentioned earlier, the author of which asserts:

My personal view is that the transgendered operation should only be embraced by those who are born hermaphrodites or whose sexual genitalia are opposite their genetic endowments.


Just consider the logic here - if someone has a physical ambiguity, it is perfectly reasonable to allow medical intervention; but in contrast, if someone's psychological gender is ambiguous relative to their body, it is not acceptable to provide treatment?

This kind of non-linear reasoning astounds me. On one hand, imposing a gender on intersex babies is argued as acceptable (even though the baby is neither aware of, nor able to participate in, the decision being made on their behalf. (For cross reference, consider the case of David Reimer to get some sense how wrong things can go if such a decision is made for the wrong reasons)

Meanwhile, most transsexuals that ask for medical assistance in making a gender transition are adults - not merely of legal age, but often old enough to more than fully appreciate the implications of the steps they are taking. Further, if we have medical treatments that are constructive for these individuals, I see no compelling moral or ethical reason to deny them treatment. To date, all such "moral" arguments I have seen rely upon interpretations of biblical scripture, applying that scripture to a situation that could not have been understood or

Interestingly, the advocacy around intersex children is towards waiting until they are old enough to make a choice intelligently, rather than simply imposing a surgical gender on the child while they are still infants.

My assertion in this regard is quite simple - if nature can provide the diversity of expression to produce (albeit rare) physical ambiguity, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that psychological gender may similarly be highly diverse. The argument that because we are talking about a hard to verify condition in the case of transsexuals (it's hard to know what someone is thinking or feeling beyond what they provide words for), that we should not provide them with access to treatment is fundamentally unreasonable. (Please note that both the HBIGDA SOC and the DSM IV are quite clear about the need for demonstrated persistence, a key point in establishing whether one is dealing with a "fleeting fantasy" or a more persistent condition - as well as a demonstrable ability to adapt socially to a new social role)

Other arguments, such as insisting that a post-transition transsexual that no longer presents in their birth gender should be treated as though they do are simply demonstrating a fundamental disrespect for other people. As soon as we allow ourselves to see someone as "Other" (different, and somehow apart from "us"), we create a serious problem in society. The "Other" is always the "alien" - incomprehensible to the greater masses. Whether we denote otherness based on someone's religion or ancestry (as Bush has done with Muslims in the US), language or behaviours doesn't matter. As soon as we provide that tag of "Other" to be applied, we create a serious problem where society can condemn without actually knowing.

This is the fundamental tactic being applied by "family values" adovcates throughout North America - by portraying GLBT people as essentially "aliens among us", they dehumanize that population, and then proceed to tar them with blame for all of the ills they see in society. Of course, when you get a little closer to these people and see them as human beings with lives little different from the rest of society, it becomes much more difficult to judgmentally push them to the margins.

ByElection Musings: Calgary-Elbow

The byelection in Calgary-Elbow this week will be a very interesting one indeed.

I've found myself driving through parts of the riding at various times, and doing an informal "sign poll" as I go.

My general rules for such a poll are this:
- A sign on somebody's lawn counts
- Signs on either public or commercial properties don't count

Basically, what I noticed is that in areas like Riverdale Ave., you see what has been a familiar sight in Alberta - lots of Conservative campaign signs and little else.

Get out of that area, and into areas like Altadore and Lakeview, and the picture changes quite dramatically. The Liberals have been blitzing the area, and it shows. There are a lot of Liberal signs on people's lawns. There is also a fair sized number of Social Credit and Alberta Alliance signs out there as well. The NDP's showing in the area is fairly weak - which doesn't come as a big surprise. It's a relatively affluent riding overall and that isn't where the NDP line traditionally plays well.

Informal reports I've heard about the campaigning have boiled down to two basic statements at the doorstep:

1. I don't know who I'm voting for, but it damned well isn't the PC's
2. I'm leaning towards the Liberals

The PC Candidate, Brian Heninger, is trying to put a little distance between himself and Ed Stelmach, but I don't think it's playing all that effectively - especially given the spat between City Hall and Edmonton. (Remember, this is the riding that has the Glenmore-Elbow (G-5) interchange project right smack in the middle of it - people are sick and tired of half-baked construction projects that go on for years and disrupt everything from the commute to their home lives) Although I don't like Bronconnier's handling the situation particularly, it happens to be ensuring that the byelection in Calgary Elbow isn't a coronation for the PC's.

I'm guessing right now that what we will see is that the traditional PC vote splits between the PCs, Alberta Alliance and Social Credit parties, and the Liberals may well "run up the middle" as a result. It's not likely to be by a large margin, either - people in Alberta are so used to putting an 'X' beside the PC candidate that they have to break a thirty year habit to vote for someone else. That's not going to be easy for a lot of people.

Whatever the outcome on Tuesday (and I will be watching it closely!), this is possibly one of the most interesting electoral races Alberta has seen since the late 1960s.

PMSH: Embarrassing Canada Out Loud

At the recent G8 summit, Harper continued to demonstrate that he is a hypocritical ass on the world stage.

First, he continued to lecture China about human and civil rights issues. (Yes, China needs to be held accountable, no, I don't think PMSH is the man to do it).

Next we hear about Harper getting all upset because he's been criticized for not following through on Canada's commitments to Africa. (To the extent of throwing a "press-corps hissy fit" and refusing to even meet with people like U2's Bono who were acting as advocates for the Africans)

Lastly, he had the stupidity to repeat what he did with China with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Yes, Stevie, strutting about the stage with your chest all puffed up trying to act like a "man of principle" works so very well. Canada's strength comes not from acting like a muscle-brained bully, but rather from its ability to be influential in Washington, and yet not be a lap-dog to Washington.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at Harper's own record on human rights and democracy shall we?

Dismantling the Status of Women and numerous other government programs aimed at reinforcing (and holding the government accountable to) human and civil rights; an illegal no-fly list to restrict people's liberty at whim; Lying about prisoners in Afghanistan and their treatment; undermining Parliament not merely by the usual games, but by codifying those games as policy for how CONservative MP's should conduct business; Laws that break fundamental principles such as the presumption of innocence.

Yes, Mr. Harper, your own track record on human rights and democracy are such a shining light for the rest of the world...China and Russia are rightly going to look at you and laugh.

Thanks for embarrassing Canada, and besmirching our good name in the cause of your partisan hackery.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Innovative Thinking - Conservative Style

I heard on CBC this morning that Alberta Health had decided to stop publishing this adolescent sexual health booklet. (Audio here)

The drone from Alberta Health basically argued that because we have an outbreak of syphilis happening, that's more important. I suspect the real problem is that some of dinosaurs in Edmonton have it stuck in their head that this booklet - and several others like it - talk about the "icky bits" of being human, and shouldn't be made available to impressionable young minds. (Hmmm - why might there be an outbreak of syphilis happening - Alberta has a boom, a huge influx of people - an amazing percentage of whom are either single, or living apart from their family for economic reasons - the net result? Well - that's pretty easy to guess)

What they are forgetting is that these booklets are an amazingly inexpensive "ounce of prevention". If our youth are aware some basic facts about their bodies, and hopefully, their emerging sexuality as well, then they are better equipped to survive times like we have right now when an outbreak of some STI is happening.

Of course, the Kleinosaurs in Edmonton don't see this as an "ounce of prevention". Instead, they no doubt want to put forth more of the "God Will Punish You" style of material to scare people, rather than actually educating. (I'll put odds that the rest of the sex ed books will quietly vanish off the government's list, to be replaced by Bush-doctrine crap like "abstinence-only" education.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dear Mr. O'Connor

Obstinance is not generally a good strategy when you've been caught out in a LIE!

Yesterday, O'Connor tried to justify this government's secrecy over Afghan detainees by claiming that we weren't doing it because the US military wasn't. Today, we learn that particular justification, like so many other things spewed forth by the HarperCons is an outright fabrication:

While both Day and MacKay were forthcoming with numbers on abuse allegations, no information has been released on how many prisoners Canada has captured while fighting the Taliban.

"The U.S. issues a press release about every detainee they capture," Dhalla said Thursday in a statement directed at O'Connor. "Why does this minister refuse to be as transparent?"


Like just about everything else about this government, things don't sound "too bad" ... until people start asking the prickly questions that involve actual facts being disclosed.

Now, somebody remind me of just how amazingly honest and accountable the Cons were supposed to be?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Citizens of Calgary West: It's Up To You

The Conservative party shenanigans to protect Rob Anders' nomination keep unfolding. In the news this morning, we find the next chapter in the saga:

Walter Wakula said Tuesday that the rules for the nomination are biased against anyone challenging Anders.

Only people who were members of the party last August can vote and challengers can't get a party membership list until after Tuesday's nomination deadline passes.

Wakula said it's like running a 100-metre dash, but Anders is on the 50-metre line while challengers are at the start line with a ball and chain tied to their legs.

"I mean, that is just not a fair race."


For voters in Calgary West, this is important. We live (supposedly) in a democracy, and the CPoC is supposedly a 'grassroots' party where the members are free to speak their minds. The ongoing saga of Anders' nomination merely demonstrates that under current leadership, the CPoC is no longer either grassroots, or even particularly democratic.

When someone cannot contest the nomination for the riding because the MP is magically protected by the PM's whim, and worse, instead of being honest about it, we find the party engaging in all sorts of legal games and rules bending to achieve their goals, one has to begin wondering just what's really at play here.

At this point, it looks like Anders' will be the candidate for the CPoC in Calgary West. Come next election, voters will have to decide if the kind of dishonest, corrupt shenanigans that have gone on in this nomination saga have left Anders with any credibility in terms of his ability to represent them. (Remember, at this point, whoever is protecting his nomination basically owns his ass - if he doesn't bow to their whim, they withdraw their shield - do you know who is protecting Anders so vigorously? ... and would you want someone like that able to puppet-master your MP?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Let Me Get This Straight...

According to Ron Liepert, Alberta's school boards can't expect any significant funding increases because we might hit a financial wall in the indeterminate future?

We've been dealing with a funding wall in Alberta's cities ever since Klein's bunch of bandits took over the purse strings for property taxes, and started to dole them out in a way that punished the cities. Now, we find ourselves staring at skyrocketing costs for salaries, crumbling schools and a host of other issues in the urban centers and this SOB is worried about some arbitrary future that he thinks might happen???

Our school boards have been hamstrung for over ten years now, and it's offensive to me. The school board has to negotiate and own contracts with its teachers, and yet the government is not obliged to provide adequate funding for those contracts. Hell, the government can't (or won't) even demonstrate that the dollars contributed by Calgary taxpayers are going into the Calgary schools!

So far, I have had little reason to be impressed by Ed Stelmach's government, but this is rapidly moving me from ambivalence to outright hostility towards this bunch of Kleinosaurs.

Guano Bay Reprise

It seems that Bush's second attempt to create extra-judicial courts is collapsing on itself again.

Unfortunately for Mr. Khadr, this doesn't mean that he is likely to see any kind of freedom in the near future. The US government still claims that the people held there are "enemy combatants" - and will be held for the duration of 'The War on Terror'(tm).

Since BushCo refuses to acknowledge these people as POW's (and grant them appropriate treatment and rights), it seems to me that there is little chance of any release for these people until 2009.

A no-nonsense military judge lobbed a bombshell into the Bush administration's controversial terrorist tribunals, dismissing all charges against Canadian Omar Khadr Monday because prosecutors failed to label him an "unlawful" combatant.


Although the reason for dismissal seems to be "mostly semantics", I think there's more at play here than "just semantics". The judge is playing with semantics, but in doing so, he's also sending a signal to the Pentagon and the executive branch of the US government that he's not willing to participate in a charade.

Hours later after the first ruling, another judge, Navy Captain Keith Allred, similarly dismissed all charges against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, former driver for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Capt. Allred cited the same grounds, lack of jurisdiction because the government had failed to demonstrate Mr. Hamdan was an "unlawful" combatant.


Oh - this is interesting. I thought we were talking about a declaration of someone being "an unlawful enemy combatant", and it seems that the courts are saying that the government must demonstrate why such a designation is appropriate. That puts the government's case in a deep, dark little world of hurt.

Any appeal must be to the Court of Military Commission Review, created by the act. But it doesn't yet exist and no one has been named to sit on it.


Speaking of charades - notice that BushCo hasn't even finished setting up the overall structure required. Bushco wasn't expecting to have to actually use the appeals process, were they? I'm pretty sure that they wanted to get a couple of quick "slam-bam" convictions out of the way, and then proceed with whatever arbitrary punishments they could come up with.

Now, let's see just how much Harper does to get Khadr released to Canadian custody in the coming months - it will tell you a great deal about just how concerned about your civil rights Harper really is. (and I'll wager it isn't much)

Monday, June 04, 2007

You Know It's Bad When...

Remember Harper admitting that he was trying to stack the judiciary with partisan hacks, and Vic Toews' changing the judicial selection process?

Well, it seems that even Brian Mulroney isn't impressed with Harper's antics on this one.

Judges should continue to be chosen with as little political interference as possible, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said this weekend.

"We all know of cases. . . where an independent judge has been the only person standing in the way of abuses of power by government, including inappropriate activities by the police," Mulroney said


Which underscores beautifully just what is wrong with Harper's "justice" policy platform in general. It's not about "getting tough on crime", it winds up being about putting in place the kind of structures that turn into totalitarian regimes.

Here's the full text of Mulroney's speech.

That's "Middle Ground"???

[Update 12:50]:
No Stevie, you can't have it both ways. If you aren't even willing to attempt be accountable to a treaty Canada signed and ratified, then you are not in a position to claim any kind of "leadership" on the stage.

That's right up there with driving a Hummer and claiming to be environmentally conscious.
[/Update]
Harper's been in office far too long already. Not only has his ego grown faster than his belly, but now he seems to think that vacuous "do nothing until hell freezes over" legislation is a "middle ground" compromise to be considered among the G8 leaders.

Mr. Harper, who has made a pledge to try to bridge the gap between Europe's more aggressive efforts to reduce carbon emission with those of other nations – such as the United States – said the Canadian plan allows developing countries to cut carbon pollution without risking their economies. The prime minister has said he wants Canada to take a middle role in a meeting of the G8 industrial countries later this week. That meeting will also include other major developing countries, such as Brazil and China, which do not have targets under the Kyoto protocol.


I can just imagine the European leaders rolling their eyes as this speech was delivered.

Mr. Harper comes from a government that has denied, ignored and generally refused to acknowledge the impact of human activity on the planet. (No doubt because somewhere in the Bible is a phrase to the effect of "all you see before you is yours", and conveniently forgetting the admonitions to care for the world as well)

Past speeches have made it abundantly clear - his government isn't even going to make an effort with regards to Kyoto, and his legislation on the matter puts in law his unwillingness to act.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Following Up... Womb Control redux

Sometimes, I wonder if the nutbar crowd is following my blog just to decide what to do next. (and no, I'm not so full of myself to believe that in any serious way)

However, via The Galloping Beaver, we learn of a slightly less than rational pharmacist refusing to dispense a woman's birth control prescription:

When she went to the pharmacy counter, she received a slip of paper signed by the pharmacy owners (Stuart Anderson, Kurt Depner and Kori Depner) stating that the pharmacy would no longer fill birth control prescriptions.

Adding insult to injury, the note goes onto say that they pharmacy will "continue to serve your prescription needs with utmost care and trust." The customer, who happens to be a 49-year-old woman who is unable to conceive and uses birth control for a medical condition, called the pharmacy and asked one of the owners why the pills were being discontinued. The owner told her that birth control pills are dangerous for women.


Waitasecond here - we've heard plenty about fundamentalists in the States doing this kind of crap before. This is more of the Forced-Birth crowd punishing women for being sexual beings - no more, no less.

The real question that needs to be asked here is this - just what gives a pharmacist the right to intervene between a patient and their doctor so arbitrarily? Generally speaking, when we are talking about treatment involving prescriptions, the pharmacist would only intervene if there was a second medication the patient was taking that would interact negatively with the prescribed treatments. I expect that such intervention would be a call back to the doctor, and possibly a follow up between doctor and patient - it's not the pharmacist's call to judge the moral implications of a given treatment.

You might almost thing this to be an American phenomenon - until you scrape a bit. As Dave at The Galloping Beaver points out, similar cases have occurred in Canada.

Linking things back to Canada's politics, I need to bring a few things forward. It's no secret that much of the Con caucus in Ottawa is linked to the religious right wing, and prominent characters like Jason Kenney have served on the boards of organizations such as "National Foundation for Family Research and Education", or the Catholic Civil Rights League. The CCRL is nothing new to most of us, and they are notoriously slavish to whatever edicts come out of Rome. The "National Foundation for Family Research and Education" I had to dig for a while to find much. A few of their publications are referenced by such august bodies as Focus on the Family - which is a red flag, but not overly significant. It wasn't until I found this article tying it back to the so-called "Calgary School" of right-wing neo-con politics that I fit it back into what I already know about Jason Kenney. (This group is significantly "underground", which suggests that they don't especially want to be noticed)

It doesn't take a lot of digging to link Jason Kenney back to the hard-line "family values" crowd that is so intent on punishing women for having sex. The Wikipedia entry for Rob Anders suggests ties between Anders and Focus on the Family and other evangelical lobby groups. It's not too hard to imagine just where the Harper Cons would try to go if they had a majority - and it's not a pretty place.

(If you want a good idea of what their ideal little world is, I strongly suggest reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.)

Speaking of Hypocrisy ...

The reich wing in Canada, embodied by such illustrious nuts as Michael Coren often like to accuse the left wing of being hypocrites for demanding that Canada end its involvement in Afghanistan - a move which would "leave Afghani women in the brutal hands of the Taliban".

Well, let's turn that around a little, shall we? In the realm of short sighted silliness, we have Canada's policy towards the Palestinian people. Almost immediately following the election of Hamas by the Palestinians, the Harper-led Cons cut off any aid whatsoever to the Palestinian government. I thought this was an amazingly short-sighted stance to begin with, and now we start to see the consequences of Canada (and other Con-led western countries) withdrawing all support to the Palestinian people and government:

Women march in Gaza to protest fundamentalist group's threat of beheading


Basically, what has happened is the very government who is so high on "law and order" and "effectiveness", has sold out the interests of the Palestinian people, leaving a power vacuum in the region that radical militias are moving into. Militant militias whose idea of "justice" involves cutting women's heads off because they are not dressed "appropriately" according to some arbitrary interpretation of the Q'ran.

So...turning it back on the Canadian reich wing, let's be real here - you dare criticize others for disagreeing with Harper's Grand Foreign MisAdventure, while that same Government's reactionary policies have had exactly the same - or worse - effects in the Palestinian territories?

Perhaps we should really talking about how Con policies have attacked women's rights and freedoms - both at home and abroad.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Palm: You've Missed The Mark

I don't normally blog about tech here, but this announcement from Palm (makers of the Palm Pilot devices in the 1990s) got my attention.

They are planning to launch a little "mini laptop" that runs about 1kg in weight as an alternative to a full sized laptop. Based on Linux, it has a lot of bits that sound right, but I just don't think it'll fly.

Even the name is a rip-off from the past - "Foleo" rings very close to the Atari Portfolio from the late 1980s - and while the Atari was modestly successful, that was before the explosion of mobile computing in the late 1990s.

This device feels like a last gasp for a company that ran out of direction after the last round of Palm Pilot devices were released a few years ago.

And Their Words Shall Reveal Them

Every so often, someone writes something where it is not the main thrust of their argument that leaps out at me as significant, rather it is the terms in which they frame it.

According to Michael Coren, arguing for improving civil rights conditions at home (where ever that might be) is a matter of left wing hypocrisy:

Dumb as well as hypocritical. Freedom of expression for us because we are tolerant. No freedom of expression for you because you're not. There's consistency for you. It's not about Israel or homosexuality or feminism, but about truth and common sense. For goodness sake, someone pass a motion.


Well coming from Coren, one of Canada's loudest, most noxious bigots, I don't suppose I should be overly shocked that he frames hypocrisy in the following kind of terms:

Feminist New Democrats call for Canadian troops to leave Afghanistan, thus abandoning Afghan women to the Taliban.


Just look for a moment at his phrasing here. Apparently, it is a form of hypocrisy in Coren's mind to be opposed to Little Stevie's Grand Adventure in Afghanistan - after all, if you argue for women's equality at home, you should be appalled by the Taliban. Well, truth be told, most people are appalled by the Taliban - but those among us who actually think about things a little also recognize that Canada's military engagement in Afghanistan is unlikely to change that particular issue in the long run.

Of course, we all know that the right wing Cons in this country don't like feminism at the best of times - it undermines the male patriarchy and their grip on political power. (Goodness knows, there are those who argue that women's emancipation was a mistake, and I don't doubt that for a minute Coren's among them - even if he doesn't dare say it out loud)

Of course, he saves his harshest comments and wishes for the GLBT people:

If they declared their sexuality in Palestine, or for that matter in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the region, they would likely be murdered. One particularly ingenuous method of killing one's local male homosexual in Palestine is to push a wall on him.


Again, here we must examine his words. There is a tone of admiration for the idea of killing someone by flattening them with a wall. He doesn't call it vicious, vile or sadistic, no, Coren reserves the admiring term "ingenuous" for this particular form of savagery, almost as if he wishes he could use it at home - where such an act would get him 25 to life - and if he's lucky that would be in solitary confinement.

Coren accuses the "left wing" of hypocrisy, but in doing so demonstrates his own distaste for women's rights, or even the basic right of GLBT people to live their lives in relative peace without fear of being assaulted or worse. Instead, he waxes poetic over the violence that is visited upon people.

Says a lot about him, doesn't it?