Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chandler on CTV

It appears that CFCN picked up on Chandler's little tirade as well - and they've posted an interview with him as well.

In it, he continues to reiterate his asinine "if you're not a conservative, leave" tirade. To which I can only say this: "Piss Off, Craig!" There are Albertans who have lived here a lot longer than you have who are not rabid, fundamentalist conservative ideologues...I'm one of them!

Additionally, I'm sad to say, but Stelmach's comments on the matter don't exactly inspire me, either. This is an issue where Stelmach needs to come out and be very clear, forceful and unambiguous in squelching Chandler's BS. I wouldn't say he did that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Picking Up On Chandler...

[Update 19:20]
Over at Daveberta's blog, the comments are positively hilarious - especially when someone pops up to defend Chandler's insane rantings

Also via Daveberta, we find this little turd that he mentioned a while ago on Project Alberta as part of his strategy for dragging Alberta's PCs even further into the extreme right wing ...

The domain registration is via Chandler's PGIB group...

[/Update]

I've been waiting for this for some time. At long last, we finally see people in the media picking up on Chandler's latest insanity.

Today, it's columnist Rick Bell in the Calgary Sun, pointing out the utter insanity of Chandler's If you aren't a PC, leave Alberta tirade.

Amusingly, in a move almost as brazenly stupid as Ralph Klein's infamous "Bums-and-Creeps" speech, Chandler basically tries to blame all the people who are moving into Alberta for Ed Stelmach's plummeting support numbers:

Alberta is growing in a way that was never expected and many of the people coming here do not truly appreciate Alberta or even understand the history of this province or the relationship with the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. To those of you who have come to our great land from out of province, you need to remember that you came here to our home and we vote conservative.


Newsflash, Craig. Not all Albertans vote conservative. Frightening to you, some of might even consider voting Liberal on occasion. After all, anyone who has ties to the liberal party (or anything that is left of Chandler's ideas) is clearly untrustworthy:

Lastly, the polls are manipulated, at least anything by Cameron Strategies. Cameron Strategies are Liberals and can't be trusted.


Sure, Craig. We'll keep in mind that like most bullies, you actually believe that you have a monopoly on "truth"(™).

We are all "real Albertans", Craig - and our opinions do not become invalid because we step into this province.

The Media Awakens ...

Slowly, it would seem.

The uproar over Stephen Harper's deliberate attempt to undermine Canada's democracy by appointing Houston, B.C.'s mayor as the "Conservative Government Liason" in a BC riding has been rattling around the blogosphere for some time now.

At long last, we find a few comments appearing in The Vancouver Sun, making observations that many in the blogosphere have already made since the story first bubbled its way to the surface.

As if Harper's other antics haven't been bad enough, deliberate attempts to undermine the democratic foundations of our government should outrage Canada's electorate. Conservative campaign signs last election read "demand better" - this is one Canadian that is demanding a government a damn sight better than the bunch of thin-skinned partisan yahoos that are currently gorging at the trough on the government side of the House of Commons!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dr. J. Michael Bailey Admits To Bad Science?

My 'bots are dredging interesting stuff up this morning. Today, I find myself pointed to a transcription of a radio interview with Alice Dreger and J. Michael Bailey that follows up on my earlier post on the furor over Bailey's book.

There's two things that leap out at me in this interview - and they are both statements by Bailey.

Bailey: Well, sure thing. This would be a pretty simple matter to tell you what the book was if there hadn’t been an intentional attempt to defame me and my book. I wrote what is commonly understood to be a popular science book, in which I reviewed serious academic work by myself and other scholars. And the serious scholar who did the traditional academic work, peer reviewed and published in respectable journals, who wrote about transsexuals, is a guy named Ray Blanchard from Toronto, who I think is the world’s expert in transsexualism. And I, kind of coincidentally, because they came to me and wanted to talk to me and tell me about themselves, I came to know a group of transsexual women in Chicago. I was struck when I got to know them that there seemed to be these two completely, utterly distinct types of transsexuals, and I had not known about that. I subsequently became familiar with Ray Blanchard’s work, which was published in the 80s and early 90s, and it completely explained what I was seeing. It made me understand. And so I consulted gender experts, allegedly, such as Randi Ettner, and I read autobiographies of transsexuals, and I was struck by how they don’t write about what I could plainly see with my eyes and was there in Ray Blanchard’s work. And so I decided to write my book in part because of this.


In short, Bailey is essentially arguing that Ray Blanchard's theory supercedes all the other work and study of cross-gender identified people (and in particular, transsexuals) as an explanatory model. While I don't think Blanchard is anywhere near the mark in his classification and evaluation of the evidence, I don't want to entirely dismiss his work which may well contain some valid observations. In short, the jury's still out on this one - I think the evidence I have seen substantially calls into question Blanchard's interpretation of things.

Additionally, Bailey appears to be admitting that his clinical work has not substantially been involved with transgender people, and that isn't an "area of specialization" for him. Which is roughly equivalent to this author writing a book on machine intelligence and claiming that I'm an authority in the subject when my own dalliances in software have only touched upon the notion from time to time.

It's the second part of Bailey's statement that leaves me a little thunderstruck. Basically, Bailey has admitted here to writing a book based on what he and Blanchard infer from what I will broadly call the "transsexual narrative" - oddly in areas such as sexual identity that he freely admits do not appear to any great degree in the narratives themselves. This is as close to a tacit admission of intellectual hackery as I've seen come from an author with Bailey's credentials.

I realize that in science one has to "read between the lines" that the evidence before you contains (whether we are talking about psychology or particle physics), but there are degrees to which such inferences can be made and supported. However, if transsexuals don't talk about their sexual identity in their narrative, it's probably because it isn't important to the discussion of gender identity!

This one statement is the gem that puts the whole Bailey/Blanchard thing into perspective - regardless of the actions of those who sought to intimidate or bully Bailey. His book, and theoretical assertions, are at best transcriptions of Blanchard's work, and inflated considerably by whatever anecdotal evidence Bailey chose to interpret through Blanchard's model.

It's a sad statement that the subtitle of Bailey's book talks of "The Science of Transsexualism", when more and more it becomes clear that very little science was actually involved in the writing of that book.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Right!

More Brilliant Logic ...

From Alderman wannabe Richard Evans...more compassionate conservatism.

Instead of actually postulating solutions to things, we find our erstwhile candidate for Alderman yapping in the classic language of "individual responsibility" - which so often translates into the basic mantra that poverty is the fault of the poor.

Why yes, people should live within their means, and earn as they are able to. In a perfect world, it would all balance out just fine. Sadly, our world is somewhat less than perfect.

Homeless people on our streets are there for a plethora of reasons, not all of them obvious or well managed. Our society does a poor job at best of dealing with people who suffer from mental illness (an all too common problem among the homeless), nor do we manage to examine and deal with the social cycles that perpetuate the grinding poverty of life on the streets.

Whether you are talking about drug addicts, schizophrenia or other issues that are often part and parcel of the "street scene", it is simplistic to claim that they are all the result of "poor choices" and shrug them off.

When we are talking about housing, it is foolish to assume in Calgary's marketplace that "the market will provide". It's rapidly reaching a point where the cost of housing is far beyond the means of many, (Try surviving in this city on less than $30K or so a year...) while wages in many jobs have remained at the levels they were at in the late '90s.

Poverty is a cycle, and part of a complex picture called society. It is facile and unrealistic to simply attribute the social problems that many experience to "poor choices" or "irresponsibility".

What is the price of not dealing effectively with the problems and causes of poverty? Increased crime and violence as those at the bottom of the economic ladder seek to find ways out of their situations. Remember, for many of those people, they have nothing more to lose. If they suffer additionally from mental illness of some sort, their reasoning may be severely impaired as well.

Personal responsibility is fine and dandy - a good place for most of us to start, but it does little to deal with those who have fallen through the cracks and now struggle to survive. We need people on Council who are willing and able to consider constructive approaches to these issues, not simply blaming the people who find themselves in dire straits for their situation.

The Con$ervative "Family Values" Bandwagon

The HarperCon$ have long tried portray themselves as the "family values" party - in a strategy that echoes the path and approaches of the Bush II Rethuglicans in the States.

Well, in their latest little game of undermining Canadian democracy, they apparently forgot to do the requisite sanity checks on whom they were thrusting into the public spotlight.

I like Garth Turner's take on the matter, it more or less echoes my own sentiments. The pictures themselves, I could care less about. What they symbolize, I find outright offensive - a disrespect for an elected office and what it represents.

Perhaps a little like Bill Clinton's dalliances with Monica Lewinsky, the actions themselves reflect poor moral judgment more than anything else. However, when paired with a party that has tried to claim some kind of higher ground morally and ethically with the voters, it is yet another piece of evidence of just how power-hungry and dishonest the HarperCon$ really are ... and apparently hypocrites on their "morality" play as well.

The voters in Skeena deserve far better than this ... they deserve a government that is not so amazingly partisan that it cannot bring itself to listen to MPs from other parties who represent their constituents in Ottawa. The HarperCon$ clearly are not that party.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Do We Need This On City Council?

Calgary has a sizable budget (a couple of billion or so in 2007). By any standards, this is hardly monopoly money or child's play to work with.

While some of the antics of city council in recent years have been disappointing to say the least, they have for the most part conducted themselves with some degree of respectability.

This fall, one of the candidates running against Bob Hawkesworth in Ward 4 is a piece of work that goes by the name of Richard Evans. I've commented on his candidacy before - here and here.

Today, we find a little more of Mr. Evans' oh-so-broadminded approach to those he finds disagreeable.

In this case, he goes out and purchases rights to a "soundalike" domain name - in this case "canadiancynic.net", and redirects it to something he thinks is outrageously funny. Today's "flavor du jour" is to redirect readers to the "NAMBLA" website (I won't link there - if you really want to find it, there's always google - I don't like pedophiles, and I won't link anywhere near them). The redirect page he's slapped up reads as follows: (at least as of August 25, 2007)

Raise the age of sexual consent in Canada!



The folks on the page you're about to be redirected to want to have sex with your children and it's people like "Canadian Cynic" that help to enabel them...


Okay, that's childish at best, crass and boorish at the very least. My personal thoughts on this are simple - does this kind of childish attempt at humour reflect the kind of attitude that we would trust to manage our civic budgets and affairs?

Do we want a man on council who sneers at rape victims, and plays childish little games with domain squatting tactics in his blogging? Just what kind of conduct do we think we would get from him if he were to sit on city council?

Oh yes, here is the whois domain registration for "canadiancynic.net":

Registration Service Provided By: SIBERNAME.COM
Contact: +1.8006138915

Domain Name: CANADIANCYNIC.NET

Registrant:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Creation Date: 02-Jul-2007
Expiration Date: 02-Jul-2008

Domain servers in listed order:
ns6.ixwebhosting.com
ns5.ixwebhosting.com


Administrative Contact:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Technical Contact:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Billing Contact:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Status:ACTIVE


Just to round it out, here's the domain registration for his campaign website:

Registration Service Provided By: SIBERNAME.COM
Contact: +1.8006138915

Domain Name: CALGARYWARD4.COM

Registrant:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Creation Date: 06-Aug-2007
Expiration Date: 06-Aug-2008

Domain servers in listed order:
ns6.ixwebhosting.com
ns5.ixwebhosting.com


Administrative Contact:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Technical Contact:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Billing Contact:
Let Freedom Reign
Richard Evans ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +1.6134822085

Status:ACTIVE


... and here's the domain registration for his blog's domain:



Get a .CA Domain Today! From $13.46 CAD per year free web page & forwarding http://www.sibername.com







Registration Service Provided By: SIBERNAME.COM
Contact: +1.8006138915

Domain Name: NO-LIBS.COM

Registrant:
Sibername.com
Privacy Service ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +613.4822085
Fax. +866.6801880

Creation Date: 03-Mar-2006
Expiration Date: 03-Mar-2008

Domain servers in listed order:
ns18.commonservers.com
ns17.commonservers.com


Administrative Contact:
Sibername.com
Privacy Service ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +613.4822085
Fax. +866.6801880

Technical Contact:
Sibername.com
Privacy Service ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +613.4822085
Fax. +866.6801880

Billing Contact:
Sibername.com
Privacy Service ()email address guarded from harvesters
275 Slater Street, Suite 900
Ottawa
ON,K1P 5H9
CA
Tel. +613.4822085
Fax. +866.6801880

Status:ACTIVE

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Conservative Grubbermint - Arrogant AND Condescending

Via Canadian Cynic, we find out the latest attempt by the Con$ in Ottawa to undermine Canada's democracy.

The blatant intellectual dishonesty of this "liason to the government" is amazing. There is already an MP duly elected and sitting in the House of Commons. This particular maneuver is little more than an expression of a thin-skinned party that is unwilling and unable to actually deal with anyone who doesn't fit into their narrow little ideological framework.

With their core roots in Alberta, our Federal Con$ simply have no idea what democracy really looks like. As a consequence, they conduct themselves as if they have a Ralph Klein landslide majority, and with an arrogance the price of which Stelmach's backers are only just beginning to pay. Unlike Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper doesn't exactly make a "great connection" with the voters.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Recruiting ? They Bitch About Recruitment?!

One of the common talking points out of the Religious Reich is how the GLBT are "recruiting" youth into "the gay lifestyle" {whatever that might actually be}.

I have always found this claim to be somewhat laughable - as it's such an obvious mangling of what's really happening.

However, in gross counterpoint, we find this bit of blatant recruiting on the part of evangelical christians in the US.

Last year, Hutchins and his Christian youth group attended an Acquire the Fire rally in Atlanta, Georgia, he said. Acquire the Fire -- regional rallies held across the country -- and BattleCry -- the larger rallies held this year in only three cities -- are the products of the evangelical Christian organization Teen Mania.

One part concert, one part Christian revival, the rallies seek to "stage a reverse revolution" against secular popular culture. They have the pull of headlining rock concerts, drawing thousands of people regardless of the region of the country, the month of year or the day of the week. The audiences are nearly always predominantly teenagers and young adults.


The mind boggles.

Just Because...

I spotted this little piece of fluff during my morning stumblings through the Globe and Mail.

I'm just old enough to have caught a few of the original live-action Batman shows when they ran as reruns on TV in the '70s. Pure Cheez(™), but they were kind of fun in their own way.

It's kind of nice to see an actor enjoy their lives in the years following the performances that define them so strongly in the public imagination ... and Adam West really seems to do that.

I can only imagine that there's a little snark or hyperbole in this comment though:

Why do you do these conventions? Don't some of the obsessive fans scare you?

No, not so much, because I have five bodyguards at all times, with automatic weapons.


At a SciFi Con? WTF? I suppose a few loons do exist in every community, but the fans I know are in the category of "eccentric, but mostly harmless". Perhaps it's an American thing...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

So...Who Gave The Order For This?

As many had alleged in the blogosphere, it seems that a number of the "demonstrators" at Montebello were in fact police officers.

The official excuse is this:

Police said the three undercover officers were only at the protest to locate and identify non-peaceful protesters in order to prevent any incidents.


Amusingly, these are the same clowns who approached the police lines with rocks in hand and were "soft-arrested" by the police.

However, one might be suspicious that the micro-managing PMO has a hand in this. Think about it a moment - if Harper can deflect attention away from the SPP talks (preferably by discrediting SPP's critics by showing them to be "thugs"), he wins all ways around - without having to be held accountable to the Canadian public.

Nor should we forget that Harper has used police muscle in the past to get his way. I don't think for a moment that he, or Sandra Buckler are above such tactics.

In the meantime, he gets to continue agreeing to sell Canada out to GWB behind closed doors. Next time you are talking to your Conservative MP, I suggest you ask them why the Harper government refuses to table the content of the SPP discussions in the House of Commons.

[Update 9:15]:
In further digging about, I found this article from the Toronto Star where we learn that Stockwell Day is part and parcel of the Con$ efforts to cover up whatever involvement they had in this debacle:

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day rejected opposition calls Thursday for an inquiry into agents role in trying to provoke protesters into violence at this week’s North American leaders summit in Montebello, Que.

“I’ve made the inquiries and there was no RCMP that were involved as far as those three individuals go,” Day told reporters after making a crime-prevention announcement in Winnipeg.

“If people have concerns ... there is a complaints process for the RCMP. There is also one for the Surete du Quebec. This incident happened in Quebec, so I imagine people could also file under that complaints process.”


No, Stockwell - you missed this one. As public safety minister, you are also responsible for ensuring that the bodies responsible for public safety are conducting themselves in a reasonable manner. The public has right to know exactly why the police overstepped their bounds so badly in this one - who gave the orders, why were those orders given ... all the way to the top.
[/Update]

City Council and the "Yellow Ribbon" Campaigns

I've commented before on my objections to having City of Calgary vehicles festooned with "Support The Troops" decals.

I know that candidates like McIver are going to try and parlay this into something they can feed on for the coming civic elections, but that's another issue.

Today, The Globe and Mail commentary has it pretty much right:

But as he has identified, sporting the yellow ribbon is widely per-

ceived not just as an abstract form of well-wishing but as a highly charged political statement. That is not how it was originally intended, but in the United States, where it originated, it has since the Persian Gulf war of 1991 - and especially in the continuing war in Iraq - come to be seen as support for conflicts themselves. In this instance, to many Canadians that means a tacit endorsement of the decision to keep troops in Afghanistan.


Which is precisely my objection to splattering it all over city vehicles in the first place. As the Globe and Mail points out, civic governments have no say in the matter, and the image itself has been abused and misconstrued by those who would equate support for the troops with support for the mission they are carrying out.

Few and far between are the Canadians who don't support our troops, insofar as they wish them to return home safely. While roughly half the country opposes the mission in Afghanistan, only those on the furthest fringes fail to recognize the sacrifice our men and women make by serving there. And Mr. Bronconnier, who initiated a project to sell stickers to the public to raise funds for military families, can hardly be accused of indifference toward Canada's soldiers.


In short, there are those whose support for the troops does not extend to supporting the mission ... and thick-headed verbal bullies like Richard Evans keep claiming you must. (and he's of the "left wingers want to control your thinking crowd" ... oh the irony)

Dr. Michael Bailey and The Botched Theory

Recently, there's been quite a bit of rumbling in the blogosphere about this report on what happened to Psychologist J. Michael Bailey after he published a book entitled The Man Who Would Be Queen in 2003.

The book itself touched off a furor among transsexual and transgender people, in large part because Bailey's theory flew in the face of their individual experiences. I'll leave the dissection of Bailey's "theory" to others. In my view, it is sufficient to say that his theoretical construct is a bit of a "reductio ad absurdum" that attempts to define gender identity in terms of sexual identity... and in doing so fails utterly to address the narrative so common among transsexuals. I do not think Bailey is necessarily a homophobe (or transphobe, I guess), rather he just doesn't "get it".

That Bailey is reviled among the transsexual community is not a huge surprise. When your work is cited and reviewed favorably by NARTH, you have to know that the affected communities are not going to be overly impressed. When you walk up to an entire group of people and tell them that their experiences and self-definition are "invalid" in some way, you guarantee that you will earn their animosity. When the argument used is seen by many as weak, or not well supported by the evidence, then you can expect to experience a persistent and stubborn backlash.

The report I mentioned earlier does describe some pretty awful things that have been done by a few in response to Bailey's book. I do not condone threats of harm or outright attempts to blackball the man professionally.

That said, many are trying to claim that Bailey's experience is "chilling" to academic freedom. I disagree. Bailey's book is a mass market publication, which puts it firmly in the public square when it comes to the political discourse. Perhaps where Bailey's biggest error lies is in the reality that not only did he publish the book relying on his credentials to bolster his argument's credibility, he failed to put forth a compelling body of evidence to support his argument.

Perhaps this comment from Bailey (via Lifesite) tells us this most clearly:

Referring to the bitter controversy surrounding the work, Bailey stated on his website "Although the critics have produced a litany of alleged sins, their main complaint is something that I actually do write, and believe."


Well, since Bailey claims to be a scientist, he should be well aware that if he is going to put forth an argument that flies in the face of a great deal of evidence, his own model and evidence has to be pretty compelling. Simply writing a book like that from a perspective of "what he believes" would qualify as both irresponsible and a serious mistake.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush Fails To Learn The Lessons Of History

In a speech today, President Bush demonstrated his utter lack of comprehension of the past.

According to Bush:

President George W. Bush argued Wednesday that leaving Iraq now would provoke the kind of horrendous bloodbath that followed U.S. withdrawals from Vietnam and Cambodia.

"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields," Mr. Bush said.


Bush must have failed History 101 somewhere along the way. The lesson of Vietnam is not in what happened when the United States withdrew. The lesson of the Vietnamese conflict has more to do with the ability of determined shadow organizations to make it near impossible for foreign occupiers to control a country - even when overwhelming military force is brought to bear.

"We are still in the early hours of the current ideological struggle, but we know how the others ended, and that knowledge helps guide our efforts today," the president said.


Again, the president is badly misconstruing history quite badly. He's referring to the "victories" in the 20th century that America takes credit for in its efforts to squash the "communist threat". Unfortunately, Bush isn't taking on an ideology - he's taking on a combination of a culture and a religion. A far more relevant example historically are the Crusades. (Which were far from a swimming success)

Perhaps one day, when he's older, Bush Jr. just might realize that the world is better off if you let people live in peace, rather than ramming your agenda down their throats.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What is it With "Christians" and Harry Potter???

There are times where you have to just give your head a shake. Today's insanity comes to us from Lifesite, where they are still whining about the latest Harry Potter book.

All told, it is the grandest trans-cultural event of epic proportions in the history of mankind, rivaled only by the Bible.

I use the word rivaled with some consideration, not only because of the impact of the series on the modern world, but also because of the worldview it so powerfully implants in its devotees. In short, the series is a kind of anti-Gospel, a dramatized manifesto for behavior and belief embodied by loveable, at times admirable, fictional characters who live out the modern ethos of secular humanism to its maximum parameters.


Huh? Where did that little leap of illogic come from? Has the writer actually read the Harry Potter books? Or is he merely taking his cues from the insane ravings of the writers over at Wingnut Daily?

Calling the Harry Potter novels an "anti-Gospel" suggests that the stories aspire to a higher objective than they actually do. Of course, in the shrieking insanity of the columnist's mind, we find that it gets even more insidious:

More precisely, it is all about Homo Sine Deo, man without God, who, in order to find his identity in a flattened cosmos, must pursue power and knowledge at all costs lest he be blasted into non-being by a killing curse. He feels abandoned, alone, and believes, therefore, that he must rely upon himself - though he will bond, to a degree, with those who assist in the revelation and development of his hidden identity.


Yeah, well - guess what pal - in most heroic literature, the hero doesn't kneel down and start praying to some deity to save their butts. Even in the legends of Ancient Greece, the Gods were there more to create obstacles for someone than to actually help out. (and interestingly, there are echoes of Homer's Illiad and Odyssey in most heroic literature - whether we are talking about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Narnia.

The series is also about the usefulness of hatred and pride, malice toward your real or perceived enemies, seeking and using secret knowledge, lies, cunning, contempt, and sheer good luck in order to defeat whatever threatens you or stands in the path of your desires. It is a cornucopia of other false messages: The end justifies the means. Nothing is as it seems.


Ummm...really? Perhaps one could equally spin it that the Harry Potter stories are about the "wonder of the world" - encouraging people to seek that little bit of "magic" in their daily lives? Urging young minds to look beyond the surface of what the world shows them, perhaps?

Coming from so-called "Christians" who routinely claim that "God moves in mysterious ways", and formulate vast conspiracies against "Christianity™", there's a certain irony. While we hear so often about the evils of such things as the "Gay Agenda", we see these same clowns self-justifying Bush's invasion of Iraq(talk about a case of the "ends justifying the means" there!).

Such humanism cannot long survive without a "spirituality" of some kind or other - and what better spirituality for Homo Sine Deo than one which offers the thrills and rewards of the preternatural, without moral accountability to God. One might call this, paradoxically, the religion of secular humanism.


Wow - what an amazing screed. I realize that many people of faith simply cannot imagine existing without that faith as a part of their lives. When it's constructive and helpful to them, I think that's wonderful. However, when that same faith causes you to close your mind's eye to other ways of looking at the world, then I believe it is crippling your ability to think clearly and critically.

When someone stands up and condemns a piece of escape literature as "evil", I can only imagine that somewhere, lurking behind a "don't open this door sign" in their minds is an imagination - because clearly they have lost sight of something somewhere along the way.

Mark Twain once said "You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Religious Hard-Liners and Gender Identity

Every so often the various 'bots that I have out there sniffing for content dredge up a good one. (I suspect it's similar to dredging a silt bed in a river - every so often the dredge pulls up something more interesting that mud)

For some reason, churches appear to only just be starting the process of trying to address the concept of transgender clergy. Why this is just coming to light now is a bit of a puzzle to me, but that's more church business than anything else. (Frankly, a little like ordination of women, I view it primarily as a matter of religious doctrine, but very telling as to just what kind of a grip on reality a church has collectively)

However, it was the wording of the announcement on the UMC article, as well as this post that got me thinking.

The UMC article mentions the following:

Though the United Methodist Church bars self-avowed practicing gay clergy from appointment and does not support gay unions, the Book of Discipline says nothing about transgender clergy.

During discussion around Phoenix in the Baltimore-Washington executive clergy session, two requests were made for the bishop’s decision of law. The first asked whether a name change based on a change of gender identity should be listed in a category which requires no discussion or approval, or whether it should be placed under another disciplinary area that requires consent and recommendation by the conference Board of Ordained Ministry. The second asked whether transgender persons are eligible for appointment in The United Methodist Church.

In his ruling, Bishop Schol wrote that "There are no paragraphs in the 2004 Book of Discipline that prevent transgender clergy from serving in an appointment."


Okay, the Methodist faith is decidedly legalistic in its approach to things, that's fine by me. To be honest, my perception is that to date, the Methodist church has been generally pretty reasonable about things, and only some rather narrow minded University administration officials who fired Julie Nemecek have blotted that record.

It also seems to me that what I've seen of the United Methodist Church in the States is similar in many respects to the United Church in Canada, which has been pleasantly willing to adapt to the changing world in which we live.

and then there's what happens when literalism trickles into the hands of people seeking simple answers to situations.

In response to the UMC announcement the author of "No Religion, Just Jesus" blog starts off as follows:

So why are they even having to "consider" what to do about this situation? This is clearly perversion.


Perverse? How so? Unfortunately, the term "perverse" has a plethora of meanings:


Dictionary.com:
1. the act of perverting.
2. the state of being perverted.
3. a perverted form of something.
4. any of various means of obtaining sexual gratification that are generally regarded as being abnormal.
5. Pathology. a change to what is unnatural or abnormal: a perversion of function or structure.


I'd have to guess that our author is thinking predominantly in terms of definition 4, although perhaps 5 might be more applicable. However, in order for transsexualism to qualify as "perversion", we would have to show that it was "unnatural" - right?

There is a broadly made claim implied by many that transsexualism is "unnatural" in part because its treatment can involve surgery, and largely because of the misguided perception that the condition is primarily about sex (I'll get to that in a bit). However, surgery is used in a variety of situations which do not raise the objections of the religious. Surgical intervention is certainly human, but it is hard to claim that it is "unnatural", and therefore immoral. (Or is it now "unnatural" to intervene surgically to save a life or to help a burn victim be able to live a more natural life by reconstructing their features?)

That means that we must then address the question of the psychological and emotional roots of transsexuals. Unfortunately, because of the emotional nature of the subject, we are confined to the narratives of transsexuals, and the diagnosis of their psychologists who deem that they are are not clinically delusional. One of the common themes among transsexuals is a "knowledge" of their status that often goes back to their earliest memories. This suggests that there are "pre-socialization" factors that influence gender identity. This is, of course, far from conclusive - merely anecdotal evidence that suggests the picture is far more complex than can be explained away by "mere choice" (and thus treated purely as a matter of personal "morality").

But, at this point, I must raise a question - what about intersex conditions, or for that matter left-handedness (which at one time was thought to be the mark of the devil)?

These are quite normal, naturally occurring variations in humanity. Being left-handed is no more a "mark of the devil" than is a birthmark or other genetic variation. Similarly, the Intersex represent a rare, but nonetheless valid variation in humanity. (I won't go into the politics surrounding the treatment of intersex people - that's quite a topic in its own right) If someone can be born with any of a myriad of combinations of genetic variations - including physiological intersex conditions, it seems to me that it is equally likely that a few "feminine personalities" WILL be born in male bodies.

Biblical claims that God made people "male and female" are clearly not factually true when there are children born who are ambiguous either physically, or internally (chromosomal), and we do not accuse those individuals of being "unnatural", and therefore "perverse" - at least in the sense that I suspect is often used by those making scriptural arguments.

However, let me take the question of "perversity" apart a little further here. The entire notion of transsexuality being "perverse" is derived primarily and fundamentally from the common (but incorrect) assumption that it is related to homosexuality.

Although I won't call Wikipedia "authoritative" in these two subject areas, the articles on each draw an important distinction:

Homosexuality can refer to both sexual behavior or attraction between people of the same sex, or to a sexual orientation. When describing a sexual orientation, it refers to enduring sexual and romantic attraction toward others of the same sex, but does not necessarily involve sexual behavior.


versus:

Transsexualism is a condition in which a person identifies as the gender opposite to the sex assigned to them at birth.


In my view, this distinction makes arguments which derive from sexual proscriptions in books like Leviticus and Corinthians (I think), which speak against male homosexuality are suspect when applied to transsexuals.

Now, one might argue that a transsexual is really just "cross-dressing writ large", and therefore proscribed by several parts of the scripture that speak against cross-dressing. I do not accept cross-dressing proscriptions as extrapolating to transsexuals - because it is arguable that a transsexual is in fact cross-dressing long before they transition, and is not cross-dressing afterwards as they become at home in their new social role. (Remember, clothing is primarily a function of culture and socialization) If, as the transsexual narrative claims (and we cannot disprove it), that someone is "born in the wrong body", then one would be obliged to admit that the transsexual was in fact "cross-dressing" by living in their pre-transition gender. {if that sounds slightly mind-bending, it's supposed to ... the very dilemma that transsexuals find themselves facing is mind-bending in the extreme}

You can contort scripture all you want, but the simple fact is that at the time that Biblical scripture was written, the very concept of a transsexual simply did not exist. Cross-dressing certainly did, and the proscription itself may simply have arisen out of a desire to provide a justification for punishing a man who sneaks into his neighbor's women's quarters and sleeps with one of the harem. (Remember, at the time of the old testament polygamy was not unusual, and often women and men had separate sleeping quarters) Essentially, it was a way for a "head of family" to maintain procreative control over the women he married. Viewed in this light, the proscriptions involved take on a very different light, and are in fact more likely a direct social consequence of the societal structures of the day.

Further, it seems to me the height of disrespect to tell someone that their personal experiences are "invalid" - in the absence of significant clinical evidence to the contrary, it seems to me that we are obliged to accept the transsexual narrative.

Returning to our blogger, she writes:

If we have the mind of Christ we do not have to be tolerant to the things of this world. God gave us a standard, and that standard is the Bible. If anything goes against that standard, we do not have to "like" or be tolerable of it. Yes, God loves the sinner, but He does not love the sin.


Wow - that's quite a leap in my books. Basically, if the Bible doesn't talk about it, or perhaps even condemns, this position self-justifies hostile discrimination against someone who is a peaceful, law abiding member of society. The "love the sinner, hate the sin" line is a cop-out - no different in my books to saying "some of my best friends are but ...", and yet this very kind of reasoning is used to justify justify using some amazingly inappropriate language when talking about transsexual / transgender rights.

All that aside, I don't have much problem with whatever a specific church decides as a matter of faith. However, I do think it is reasonable to question the reasoning used for the condemnation of others since it so often leaks out into other more secular aspects of the discourse - such as politics and protection under the law.

How Does This Guy Remember To Breathe?

Sometimes, the criminal element in society is too stupid to breathe, but somehow robbing a store by using a vibrator as a weapon has to be a new low water mark...even among the terminally stupid criminals.

Why The SPP Is Bad News

I'm not opposed to trade regimes that work (whether NAFTA does or not is debatable in a number of ways). However, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) bothers me in some very fundamental ways.

First off, unlike NAFTA, this discussion is going on behind closed doors. While Harper, Bush and Calderone sit around "talking", none of these men is taking the results of their discussions back to their legislative houses.

The euphemism used is that the "SPP" is a "dialogue" and not a treaty, and therefore doesn't need to involve the legislative houses. Frankly,any time I see politicians doing things behind closed doors (and there have been several secretive meetings related to the SPP in the last couple of years), and refuse to table anything in the legislative houses, they're up to something ... and I doubt it's "good" for Canada.

The Canadian government SPP website says that "consultations occur at many levels," although the only specific group it mentions having presented recommendations to it is the North American Competitiveness Council.

The NACC is a group of CEOs from each of the three North American countries. Most of the Canadian representatives are members of D'Aquino's group, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.


Okay - newsflash for people here, but generally speaking, Corporate CEOs are not the people we want making public policy. Corporations are accountable for one thing only - making a profit, and delivering it to their shareholders. Period. The interest in social issues goes only as far as it impacts the company bottom line.

Attempting to disguise sweeping negotiations that affect the future of three sovereign nations by calling them "discussions" is a bald-faced lie. If they are mere "discussions" and as "boring" as Thomas D'Aquino, of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, claims, then it is high time for our politicians to table what they've been discussing in the legislative houses and make their activities known.

Mere "discussions" don't provoke the kind of security overreaction that we are seeing in Montebello, Quebec this week.

Remember, this little gem is brought to you with the active participation of Canada's Gnu Government - which ran on a platform of being more "open, honest and accountable" to the public.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Afghanistan As Harper's Ego Trip

A lot of people have thought what Michael Byers is say - that Canada's participation in Afghanistan is essentially all about Harper's ego:

This comes back to my point that this is Stephen Harper's war.


There's a lot of other points that he makes - in particular the concerns that he raises about the direction that Harper's attempt at playing "beach muscle" with the military is headed in the long run:

You write that our mission in Afghanistan could, over time, lead to the development of a Canadian Armed Forces that is focussed almost entirely - in its training, ethos and equipment - on aggressive missions conducted in concert with the U.S. What's the evidence of that happening, and why is that not a good idea?

The evidence is widely manifest. One saw it in [Chief of Staff Gen. Rick] Hillier's comments about fighting "scumbags and murderers." One saw it in terms of the reluctance to deal with international law on detainees comparable to our European allies. We essentially embraced the American approach starting with Day One, certainly in terms of our embracing the search-and-destroy component.

Part of the reason the Dutch have not lost nearly as many soldiers is that they rejected that particular approach even though they're in the south. They're working on stabilizing and winning hearts and minds closer to their bases.

But the Canadian military has embraced the tough-guy approach. You ramp up the aggressive nature of your equipment, your rules of engage- ment, your choice of mission, your rhetoric - and then, of course, it becomes more dangerous, and that in turn justifies ramping up some more, and the end result, I fear, is we wind up with a mini-version of the U.S. Marine Corps.


While I am sure that there are many who are impressed by Harper's "tough-guy" stance - I'm not. Canada is a small nation, and does not have the resources (militarily, population and budget) to sustain an aggressive style of military. Canada needs an effective military, but that doesn't mean we need to play "heavy" on the world stage. (In fact, I would argue that in the long run, Canada is far more effective playing a more subtle game that doesn't require us to be prepared to invade or occupy foreign countries.

There are a number of reasons, but I think a lot of Canadians, particularly my gen- eration, bought into [philosopher] George Grant's thesis that Canada as an independent country has effectively ceased to exist. That has had a quite pervasive effect on how Canadians think about Canada's place in the world. And so, essentially, on the really big issues, we've been content to drift along on the slipstream of the United States.


Here's perhaps where I disagree with Byers somewhat. Canada has long played the moderating influence between US foreign policy and the countries that policy is directed to. Harper's near slavish devotion to the "six-shooter" diplomacy of G.W. Bush is in fact the worst possible thing Canada could do in the long run on the world stage. To some extent we have "drifted" along with the US, but that's perhaps better described as being "swept along" by the US. It is only people like Harper who favour deep integration with the United States that have given up on the concept of Canada as an independent state.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

So This Would Be "Compassionate Conservatism"?

Over at Richard Evans' blog, we find him posting as follows about an alleged sexual assault in Ottawa:

What kind of man allows himself to be sexually assaulted by another man? In public, with no weapons involved? Are we really turning into a nation of wimps where no one fights back anymore?


Waitasec, here. First of all, I can imagine a dozen different situations where you can be overpowered - no matter how muscle-bound you are. Second, just because someone is assaulted doesn't make them - as Richard puts it - a "Girly-Man".

In fact, Richard's use of that epithet is an example of precisely why so few sexual assaults against men are actually reported. Our society still has such a hang-up about the very possibility that a male might be sexually assaulted that people like Richard seem to think that reporting the assault is a sign of weakness on the part of the victim.

The real fact here is that aside from the victim and the assailant, the only other people who have a clue what happened are the police (and only by the statement of the victim at this point) Also, the victim's actions - or lack of them - are utterly irrelevant here. A crime has been committed, and to the credit of the victim, they had the personal fortitude to report it - in spite of the ignorant denouncements of people like Mr. Evans.

Frankly, the assumption that the victim "didn't do anything" (or "enough") to defend themselves in this case is as vile and repugnant to me as the classic "she was dressed provocatively" defense you used to hear in rape cases.

Rape is rape. I don't give a damn about the gender of the victim (or the perpetrator for that matter) - it's a crime and deserves to be punished. We should be focusing on the rapist, not persecuting the victim.

Destructive ...

Okay, the fact that little Stevie has a destructive bent in him is no surprise. We only have to look at his grandiose adventures in Afghanistan for that.

However, his high-handed style is beginning to take a toll within his party as well. There's some rather interesting fallout starting to emerge from his cabinet shuffle at the beginning of the week:

Flaherty has been dropped from key committee positions:

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has been moved from two key cabinet committee positions, losing both the chair of the economic growth and long-term prosperity committee and his vice-chairmanship of the Treasury Board committee, a position that has been traditionally held by finance ministers.


Supposedly this is a "message" from the PMO to Flaherty to pull up his socks. The problem with this kind of "message" is that it's classic behaviour for micromanagers. They don't tell people specifically what they are unhappy about, but rather rely on the ability of the employee to intuit what they are unhappy about after a rather public, but oblique slap has been delivered.

Mr. Flaherty, who remains a member of the two committees, will now serve on the economic growth committee under the new chair, former Liberal MP David Emerson, the International Trade Minister.

A cabinet minister said Mr. Emerson's promotion was because “his stock has been going up internally.”


The fact that Harper is "promoting" David Emerson is troubling all by itself. Emerson has already shown himself to be an opportunist and a liar. The fact that Harper continues to keep him in cabinet belies the honesty of Harper's campaign promises last election to provide more "open, honest and accountable" government. (Especially after the screaming hissy fit that the Con$ had over Belinda Stronach's crossing to the Liberal benches)

Con$ervative Insiders Lose Chief of Staff Posts:

A second federal government shuffle - this one of top aides to ministers - is creating grumbles in the insular world of Conservative insiders in Ottawa.

At least three chiefs of staff lost their posts when their ministers were shuffled, but the move of long-time Conservative and early Stephen Harper supporter Michele Austin has become the talk of the town, according to several Conservative aides and strategists.


Okay, no big deal. This is essentially a political move within the party, right?

Well, sort of true. However, it is also a rather interesting window into the inner workings of Harper's government and how its playing within his party.

Ms. Austin, the highly regarded chief of staff to Maxime Bernier when he was industry minister, was told by an aide to the Prime Minister, Bruce Carson, that she would not follow her boss to Foreign Affairs. Instead, the Prime Minister's Office told her she would work for the demoted Gordon O'Connor in the low-profile National Revenue post.


I can understand why she might refuse that post - going from a minister on their "way up" to a minister on their way out - in terms of long term career prospects, that's not exactly encouraging, is it?

... However, several said they view the treatment of Ms. Austin, a Reform Party veteran, as punishment for her willingness to challenge PMO directives when she felt they were not good ideas or were bad for her boss.


Whoops! There we are. Still more demonstrations of the destructiveness of micro-managers. In this case, we have someone who dared question or challenge the opinions of the all-wise PMO, and presto! - they're shipped off to lower Siberia.

This is not just poor leadership, it's downright awful leadership being demonstrated, and it's horrendously destructive to an organization.

Of course, that's not the only ham-fisted thing the PMO's done recently within the party ranks on Parliament Hill:

But some Tory insiders said Ms. Austin's departure has led to a round of grumbling among Conservatives who view the PMO's staff-relations approach as "ham-handed," comparing it to what some felt was an overly aggressive recent request from the PMO that each minister's chief of staff donate $1,000 to the Conservative Party.


Do the math, people. Not only is Harper acting like a petty tyrant towards other parties in Parliament, but he's extending those destructive tendencies within his party - and in the worst ways possible.

The message is becoming quite clear indeed - toady to Mr. Harper or you can expect to receive the worst treatment he dares deliver. There are three premiers in this country who can attest to that already, and by the sounds of it, more than a few party insiders who have found this out the hard way.

A little bit of grumbling is normal, possibly even healthy, in an organization. However, ham-fisted demotions of people for daring to disagree or challenge an edict is a sign of leadership gone amok. This is neither good for the Con$ervative party, or Canada.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cabinet Shuffle Expected Today

[Update: 19:45]:
Well, here it is. The only real surprise is moving Mackay into Defense, but that's pretty much a matter of replacing the most inept defense minister Canada's ever had with the most incompetent Foreign Affairs minister we've ever had.

I think more telling is the fact that Harper didn't allow his new ministers speak to the public. Instead, all speaking was left to PMSH ... you do the math.
[/Update]
Sometime this afternoon, Harper will unveil his new cabinet to the country.

I'm not expecting much - too big a shuffle of key portfolios, and Harper will look like he's admitting to having botched it in the first place. Complicating things for him even further is that he's looking decidedly "light" on the front bench in key areas - Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defense come to mind.

I fully expect O'Connor to be moved out of defense, but whether Harper will have the nerve to move Flaherty or Mackay is harder to guess. Neither of these ministers has demonstrated any coherent grasp of their respective portfolios, in my view (but I'm not sure Harper's got anyone with the appropriate backgrounds for either.

Additionally, I'd like to see Harper shuffle out David Emerson and get rid of Michael Fortier.

However, this cabinet strikes me as shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic overall. Unless Harper undoes the gag he places on all of his people, changing cabinet around really makes little difference - it's still ultimately the "all about Steve" show.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Throw The Book At 'Em Justice

I see Lorrie Goldstein has dredged up the usual old conservative saw about how the justice system is all broken.

Granted, after last weekend in Calgary, one could easily come to the conclusion that the world (or at least this corner of it) is well on its way to hell.

Recently, Ontario Conservative leader John Tory proposed a sensible bill to gather information on such issues as how long it takes to bring cases to trial, the results of plea bargaining and the number of bail violations. Why? Because in order to fix something, you need to know how and where it's breaking down.


Well, that's actually a good idea - I see nothing wrong with measuring how our justice system is working. The questions, of course, should include determining what those measurements should be.

I'll ignore the blatantly partisan rantings that Goldstein is making in his column, because they are irrelevant and largely pointless, in my view.

Justice is one thing, but at the same time, any system which does not work to help find ways "out" for those who we incarcerate creates problems, rather than solving them. While in a handful of cases (Clifford Olsen or Paul Bernardo come to mind) it is actually quite reasonable to lock the perpetrator up with little or no realistic chance of ever seeing the outside world again, we must recognize that the majority of people that we commit to prison terms will eventually be released.

The tough "hang-em high" justice in states like Texas has not been shown to be anything other than politically expedient (and certainly has not in the long term reduced crime rates). One of the biggest complaints in the justice system is recidivism, such as the Peter Whitmore case.

Whitmore is a bit of an exception here - he's a pedophile, which means that there are psychological issues involved in his criminal behaviour. But perhaps that's as good an example as any. While there is no doubt that Whitmore should be punished for his crimes (and he is being so punished), there is also a long pattern of repeat offenses. This means two things - Whitmore has some serious problems, and perhaps more worrying that what passes for treatment and follow-through monitoring has failed.

Criminals like Whitmore are perhaps an unusual subgroup of offenders - those whose criminal activities have complex and ill-understood roots. What about other criminals - gangs, murders, drug dealers and pimps? It has been proposed many times in the past that their activities have other reasons behind them. Those reasons may be anything from poverty to misplaced economic opportunism (one does have to admit that some of these people do demonstrate a surprisingly entrepreneurial bent in their activities - however vile they might be). The question in these cases is then twofold: on one hand, we need to better understand the reasons that they wound up where they did, and begin addressing those issues constructively; and second, we must find more effective ways to ensure that post release, these people become functioning members of society.

Anything less does all of us a disservice.

(* No, I'm not so naive as to believe that we can "eliminate" crime - I just don't think that locking people up is necessarily a good solution if we don't mitigate the reasons the crimes happened in the first place)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On Morality and Politics

One has to wonder about the state of "morality" in our government - especially among our politicians. It seems to me that the priorities and compass are royally screwed up right now.

While Republican family values keep on showing up in the courtrooms, and Democrats pussyfoot around legal equality for GLBT citizens in the United States, we find a government which is using "executive privilege" to invade citizen's privacy arbitrarily, and send people off knowingly to be tortured.

So, let me get this straight - granting legal equality to law abiding citizens is a bad thing, but torture is a good thing? Since when?

Lies and Distortion - Lifesite Style

Right-wing religious "news site" Lifesite has taken it upon themselves to completely misconstrue the Boissoin case as being a "hate crimes" case.

Two things popped up on this:

1) Lifesite whining about "media bias" in the coverage of the hearings. Mildly amusing, if it wasn't so pathetic. (Especially when two days before, the following editorial - which claims:

What may be most objection-able about Prof. Lund's complaint, however, is the way he is trying to use a single, unverified gay-bashing assault that happened in Red Deer two weeks after the letter's publication as evidence that Mr. Boissoin's declaration of "war" against the gay rights movement had the effect of inciting hatred. No charges have been laid in the assault, so this tactic creates the steepest kind of slippery slope imaginable.


The absence of charges being laid is utterly irrelevant here. One doesn't have to reach too far to figure out that the furor over Boissoin's letter was still rippling about Red Deer media at the time. (But coming from the National Post, this doesn't surprise me - and it mysteriously echoes the refrain from people like Brian Rushfeldt - making me wonder just who actually wrote that unattributed column)

However, the bit that triggered me to write this was this article about Bush pledging to veto hate crimes legislation in the US. This law is a direct result of Matthew Shepard's murder several years ago. In the article, Lifesite reports:

The Canadian version homosexual "hate-crime" legislation, Bill C-250, that was given royal support on April 29, 2004, has proved true many of the fears and predictions of concerned Canadians. While attempting to prevent crimes against homosexuals, the bill has in effect opened the door to countless forms of legal action against other groups. Canadians have seen it being used to actively discriminate against religious leaders such as Pastor Stephen Boissoin who publicly denounced homosexuality based on his moral convictions, or companies that have refused to offer their services to homosexuals and has limited the freedom of the press.


The bullshit call here is obvious. Boissoin is not facing any criminal charges (that I am aware of), nor could he. Bill C-250 came into law well after 2002, and it's fairly rare for laws to be retroactive. More correctly, Boissoin is the subject of a civil complaint being handled through our human rights tribunal processes - this isn't even before the civil courts yet. Lifesite is not only lying through its teeth, they are deliberately distorting reality to suit their agenda. (not like I haven't seen them do that before...)

As if to make the point...

Remember Truro's anti-gay mayor?.

Well, a little more has happened in Nova Scotia since then. First, to the credit of the citizens of Truro, a number of them got together to peacefully protest their town council's stance:

People who attended the rally were particularly miffed with the Truro's Mayor Bill Mills, who cited his Christian beliefs as his reason for voting against the move.

"The mayor of Truro has embarrassed a lot of Christians by interpreting the bible in a very unfavourable way," said Rev. David Fletcher, an Anglican priest. "If we want to shout bible passages back and forth, my bible bullet would come from Galatians in Chapter 3, where St. Paul says that in Christ, there is no more exclusion."


Of course this hasn't stopped the unhinged from coming out of their caves and howling at the moon. Apparently, some unfortunate woman shares the same name as one of the rally's organizers, and was treated some amazingly abusive telephone calls:

"It was from a female and I believe it came from Halifax because of the number that showed up on my phone," Ms. Farrell said. "The message she left wasn’t very pleasant. She said things like being gay is a deadly sin, that I should be ashamed of myself for organizing the rally.

"I was so shocked by its tone and its message that I deleted it right away. I was also baffled about the two calls because I didn’t know anything about a (gay-rights) rally or a dispute between the local gay community and the town."

It wasn’t until she received the third phone call that she learned about the rally from the female caller, who told her about the story that appeared in Monday’s edition of The Chronicle Herald and outlined the other Ms. Farrell’s work to hold the rally.

"When I told her she had the wrong person, it didn’t seem to matter. She was still looking for information. It got to the point that we were talking over each other. It was an exasperating phone call because I don’t tolerate people yelling at me on the phone. I finally told her she had the wrong person and hung up."


Wow, the "family values" crowd comes out again and shows us all just how ugly they can really be. It's sad, really. These people are operating on the basis of so much misinformation and mythology that they have no idea who and what they are talking about. It's rather sad that some of these people get themselves so worked up that they can't even listen when the person they have telephoned tells them "you got the wrong number"!

To give Ms. Farrell credit, she didn't just let the phone calls go, but instead contacted her namesake:

Ms. Farrell then sent the other Sharon Farrell, the rally organizer, a message on her Facebook account in which she detailed the calls. They later met at the rally.

"I was very impressed with her. She is very sincere and she was aghast that anyone would go to such great lengths to get a phone number or to make phone calls like that. I was impressed by her stand. It got me involved."


This is the other side of the coin to what I wrote about last time. When you come to meet people that you have often thought of as "Other", you learn that they are just people like anybody else - and very seldom are they deserving of the kind of bile that is so often flung at GLBT people.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Softwood Lumber: So Much For That $1 Bn

Remember the Con$ crowing about a softwood lumber deal?

Well, it seems the wheels have come off their wagon.

The United States said yesterday that it will launch arbitration proceedings under last year's softwood lumber agreement because it claims Canada is flagrantly violating the terms of the hard-fought deal.

But any disagreements are merely the result of differing interpretations of the deal, the Canadian government and Canadian lumber lobbyists said, expressing confidence Canada will win the fight when it goes to the London Court of International Arbitration.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Canada is breaching the terms of the softwood lumber agreement, in place since last October, because too much lumber from British Columbia and Alberta is crossing the border. On top of that, several assistance programs in Quebec and Ontario violate other parts of the deal, she said.


Doesn't this sound like we are right back where we started? Why yes, it does. In fact, it's a step backwards yet again. When Harper started waving his agreement with the US around, Canada was about a year away from final court hearings in the legal challenges - and we were poised to win - even under US law. We're just a billion dollars or so poorer because of the deal.

This is what Harper's "Gettin' Things Done" government has accomplished all along - nothing. You don't get along with the US government by sucking up to them - that's at best a short term strategy. The US doesn't respect sycophantic cooperation, and never has. Canada has always done best by standing its ground and forcing the US government to abide by its own laws on trade.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Just Where Do These People Come From?

Remember that bridge collapse in Minnesota last week?

Well, it seem that Rotting Cryptkeeper Fred Phelps has decreed that it was an act of "God" in punishment to Minnesotans for allowing GLBT people to live there.

Apparently, the Phelps clan will be protesting at the funerals of those who died on that bridge when it collapsed.

Quoting PZ Myers of the Pharyngula blog:

I wonder what happens on the day a blood clot stops Phelps' black and shriveled lump of cardiac muscle. Will his followers stand around at his funeral, howling about damned fags and fag enablers?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Iran's a "Destabilizing Influence"?

Geez, talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

President Bush says the following about Iran:

The US president said Tehran was "not a force for good" and vowed that the US would continue efforts to isolate it.

"I believe it is in the interests of all of us that we have an Iran that tries to stabilise not destabilise, an Iran that gives up its weapons ambitions and therefore we are working to that end," he said.


So, Iran is a "destabilizing influence"?? What the hell does that make George Bush's America? It's not like you can say that either Afghanistan or Iraq is exactly "stable" yet. And one can hardly say that the United States has been diligent in their efforts to capture Bin Laden:

Mr. Bush has said before that he would order the U.S. to act inside the Muslim-majority country if there were firm intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or other terrorist leaders.

Mr. bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is believed to be living in the tribal border region of Pakistan. His ability to avoid capture remains a political sore spot for Mr. Bush.


It is truly disappointing to see Bush continuing to set the stage to "justify" invading Iran, when he hasn't cleaned up the mess he made in two other nations.

It's All The Feminist's Fault!

Or, at least so Anthony Esolen believes.

I'm not going to dissect Esolen's argument piece by piece here - that's just too much like sandblasting a soda cracker at the moment and doesn't reach the topic that Esolen's brushed up against.

Long time readers will have long ago figured out that I don't exactly "follow" anybody's particular religion. The simple fact is that I have yet to find a religion that isn't more about furthering the personal power and objectives of its clergy than the congregants.

Esolen's entire argument (which is amazingly sloppy, actually) boils down to the notion that because his Bible happens to reflect a civilization where a patriarchy is dominant, that somehow all of society's ills today are related to feminism and the gains that it has made.

Now, that's a pretty silly argument if you look at it rationally, but consider the roots from which Esolen is arguing - a set of scriptures that are (depending on the particular book) between 2,000 and 4,000 years old. Two thousand years ago, men were the natural leaders of the world by what right? No more than brute force. By sheer force of muscle, men ruled the world - treating women as property and children even worse.

The social roots of any faith are very interesting, but they also speak to the time in which that faith emerged. However, as a given faith matures, it moves from being quite dynamic and adaptive (the early Christian church is an excellent case study - as it adopted "new" traditions to replace the various pagan traditions it encountered while it spread through the known world.

However, as a faith matures, it also becomes codified. Things are written down, common practices become "law" within the community. Uniformity becomes valued quite highly, and strong hierarchies emerge within the leadership. (This is especially true of Christianity, which emerged to replace the amazingly structured and legalistic religion of the Roman Empire.)

However, with codification seems to come a calcification of thought as well. The need to adapt to the world one finds is replaced by the need for the world to adapt to you instead. After a while, the roots of various beliefs and proscriptions are lost in time, and simply become "the way it is" (or should be), and literalists begin to emerge, claiming "inerrancy of scripture" and other semantic tools to justify their positions.

The longer that a religion has been codified, the more inflexible it becomes, until it reaches a point of brittleness where it fractures into multiple sects. Such is the place that Esolen finds his faith today. He looks about the world in which he lives and complains loudly that feminism is the cause for all the disruption he sees socially, without acknowledging that in the intervening millenia from when the scripture he worships from was written, that society has changed dramatically - new knowledge has emerged, people have questioned and rejected large tracts of "scriptural truth".

As if to reinforce my point earlier that religion is more about power and control than anything else, we find Esolen closing his argument with the following whinge:

And we men, who should be the heads of our families, what do we do about it? We help the folly along, just to keep the peace, as if a great spiritual harridan had invaded the nation, one that must be appeased at all costs. We are the chumps. And women -- conservative, leftist, traditional, feminist, young and old -- despise us for it. As they should, eh?


I think, Prof. Esolen, that it is time to get your head out of the idealized world of the past you inhabit, and start asking yourself how your faith can be relevant in today's world. There is a reality today that didn't exist 2,000 years ago - or even as recently as when the King James bible was created. Your claims that "men are the natural heads of households", and other essentially anti-feminist ravings, are based a world that no longer exists. ( and arguably hasn't existed since sometime in the 19th century - although it has taken much of the 20th century to even begin the process of breaking down the clinging grasp of past power structures ) Rigidity of belief merely ensures that the faith will eventually shatter.

Arming Your Own Enemy

One of the biggest problems that the US foreign policy has suffered from (for decades) is the fact that one way or another, they become the suppliers of arms to their own enemies.

The pattern is repeating itself in Iraq - how surprising. It seems that sloppy procedures in distributing arms and armor to the "New Iraqi Military" means that an amazing amount of weaponry has likely landed in the hands of the insurgency.

It's hard to say how much of that is deliberate on the part of the US government - nothing about the war in Iraq has been "up front" from day one, why should this be any different?

While the amount of money involved here is quite small - relative to the overall costs of the US occupation in Iraq - it's still quite a lot of money overall, especially when you realize that most of us could retire quite handsomely on the interest income from an investment 1% of $1 billion.

One has to imagine that the Bush administration has spent its time carefully arranging things so that the mess in Iraq remains volatile for years to come - specifically to hamstring the next president of the US. (Especially desirable for the Rethuglicans if the next president is a Democrat - which seems to be a high probability at this time)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Underestimating Dion?

The Sun Media chain has not been a "friend" to Stephane Dion since he came to the leadership of the Liberal Party.

However, Lorrie Goldstein's column this week is unusual.

Says Mr. Goldstein:

The tougher but more eye-opening one is 1999's Straight Talk -- a collection of Dion's speeches and writings when he was Canada's unity minister, following the near-disaster of the 1995 Quebec referendum.

Reading these pieces, you quickly discover that Dion is, like Harper, scary smart.

His speeches, letters and essays -- most given when he first entered Jean Chretien's cabinet on the advice of Chretien's wife, Aline -- literally demolish the separatists' arguments.

No wonder they hate him. He's smarter than they are.


Hmmm...interesting. I may have to hunt down a copy of that book.

Think about that. At that time Stephane Dion -- who had followed his father's footsteps into academia -- was a political neophyte, whom the separatists were calling the most hated man in Quebec.

He was being depicted as a rat. Then his father, whom he clearly loved, dies in a terrible accident and his critics imply his father committed suicide because of him?

Never mind that Leon Dion wasn't a separatist and was proud of his son. What a cheap shot.

Even a strong person might understandably have said, "who needs this?" and retreated from politics.

Dion stayed. And fought.

To any Conservative (or Liberal) who thinks this guy isn't tough enough to be prime minister, maybe you'd better think again.


Interesting indeed - especially when we have a Prime Minister running around playing autocrat and succeeding primarily in alienating Canadians in various regions - simply by opening his mouth.

I think Dion is a leader that people could grow to respect - unlike Harper for whom time is clearly his enemy.

C-Ya, Gordon

If this article from CTV is correct, Gordon O'Connor is a gone cabinet minister.

Sources say they expect Harper will put Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice into Defence and move O'Connor to Veterans Affairs.

Prentice, who chairs the operations committee of cabinet and is the defacto deputy prime minister, is highly regarded by Harper for his political and management skills.

Greg Thompson will likely be shifted from Veterans to Revenue.

Oda, who is judged by the PMO to be a weak minister, will be given a less onerous post.

It's possible bilingual B.C. MP James Moores could take over Heritage. Jason Kenney, the bilingual minister of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, might also be a candidate for promotion.


I'm not sure that giving leading greaseball Jason Kenney a more senior cabinet post is a good idea. That man is as arrogant as Harper himself, and even less likable.

I imagine that this will be an "election cabinet" - one that Harper thinks will be a "strong, united" face for his government in an election.

Comment Policy Changes

I have turned off the "captcha" word verification which has been causing a lot of commenters trouble lately.

Comment moderation remains enabled.

Unless I find myself inundated by "comment spam" from 'bots, I'll leave the captcha disabled.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

More On Harper's Week in Atlantic Canada

Harper's visit to Atlantic Canada this past week has been a political hurricane for his party, with Harper doing most of the damage himself.

I blogged earlier about Harper's thick-witted approach to damage in Newfoundland, but the National Post adds more to the list of droppings Harper left around the region:

Newfoundland:
Harper told reporters the speed of compensation for the region largely depends on the provincial government. "The province has to start the work, and then send some of the bills to Ottawa," Harper said.

"There's a provision for advance payment. That can be done fairly quickly if we get the documentation. Sometimes it takes time, because sometimes the documentation doesn't come. But I hope we'll get on with it quickly."


Brilliant - I'm sure that people are just going to be so impressed with Harper's willingness to be constructive after a natural disaster has happened.

Nova Scotia:
Then later that afternoon, Harper let loose with a blast aimed at Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald and their ongoing battle over the Atlantic accord.

At a barbecue in the Nova Scotia riding of Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, Harper told some 300 Tory faithful that every province was better off because of the Conservative's budget. "More money is flowing to this province and will flow in future years, for health care, for post-secondary education, for daycare spaces, for gateway and infrastructure and, yes, for equalization."

Speaking from a podium flanked by two miniature lighthouses, Harper told the crowd Nova Scotia received $100-million more in equalization in the most recent budget.

"Make no mistake, our best hope, our only hope, is that despite our differences, Conservatives stay united and work together in this province and across the country," Harper said.

Although MacDonald was at the barbeque, he was not invited to speak. The premier could not be reached for comment.

Just before the prime minister took to the podium, aides removed the flags of Canada and Nova Scotia, fueling speculation that an accord announcement may have been scuttled at the last moment.


Jeepers, talk about peeing in the pool while you're drinking from it! First, he brags (naturally to a "safe crowd") about all the wonderful things he's doing for Atlantic Canada, and then he turns around and refuses to have the flags of both Canada and Nova Scotia around while he gives this speech.

If this wasn't so pathetically childish, it might almost qualify as funny. Sadly, it's childish and stupid. I hope that Atlantic Canadians are paying close attention to the respect that Harper's bunch are paying them.

Of course, the only place he didn't completely screw up was a closed door meeting with "business leaders" in New Brunswick:

In between his controversial Newfoundland and Nova Scotia visits, Harper stopped in Moncton, N.B., for a private meeting with a group of local business leaders, in a session hosted by former Tory premier Bernard Lord. Harper met the group behind closed doors for roughly an hour.

New Brunswick, which has no offshore oil or gas industry, is Harper's best choice for adding Atlantic seats in the next election. The Conservatives currently hold three of the province's 10 House of Commons seats.


So, the only place he didn't really screw it up was in a closed door meeting hosted by his friends. This man thinks he is some kind of leader??

Dear Mayor Mills:

Please look in the mirror.

Sez Truro's Mayor:

Mayor Bill Mills is standing by the vote, saying, as a Christian, he simply could not support the request.

"God says I'm not in favour of that and I have to look at it and say, I guess I'm not either," Mills said.

The mayor said gays and lesbians already have equal opportunities and work and pension benefits, so he wonders what else they're fighting for.


Do these clowns ever look themselves in the mirror? Do they ever think about their own words? His own statement, or perhaps the debate itself in Truro is a clue for his query.

Of course, Mayor Mills goes further and makes exactly the kind of misinformed, quasi-paranoid comment that tells you oh-so much about the underlying prejudice this man harbors:

By raising the rainbow flag, he added, that might open the door for other groups.

"If I have a group of people that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too? I don't want to lump them in with homosexuals, but that's the point, the issues, and that's my feeling.

"There doesn't seem to be standards anymore. Everything is OK, everything is a go."


Good grief. Once again we see yet another elected official open their yaps and show us all exactly how ill-informed they really are. Okay, he's a professed "Christian", big deal. Not only has he pulled out the old "gays are pedophiles" saw, he's also essentially claimed that the GLBT people are "immoral" people who have no "moral standards". While his "beliefs" may tell him this is 'truth', that doesn't make it so.

It occurs to me that this man is exactly the reason that pride events have been a part of the GLBT rights movement in the first place. He's one of the "keep it in the closet" types who sees nothing wrong with firing somebody because of who they love becoming public knowledge.

Having Your Cake and Eat It Too

In Alberta, the notion of government intervention in any "free market" is anathema. When the topic of what to do with rental apartments in Alberta's terminally out of balance real estate market was raised late last year, the governing Conservatives swore up and down that they'd never impose rent controls - after all, that would be meddling in the "open market".

Anyone who has actually lived in Alberta in the last 24 months or so has long since figured out that our entire housing marketplace is horrendously out of balance. Demand has long since outstripped what supply did exist, and landlords have been "condo-izing" existing rental units at a blinding rate, and you could count the number of new rental units constructed on the fingers of one hand. (at least in Calgary)

The oh-so-generous landlords of Alberta have gotten together and agreed to place some 1,000 units available under a rent subsidy program. Superficially, this almost seems reasonable - after all it makes a certain number of units available to low income or working poor people who cannot quite manage to break into the housing market.

The problem is that this is a "cake-and-eat-it-too" for the landlords. They still get the inflated "open market" rent for their apartment, while the tenant pays a reduced amount. So, while the landlords think that this makes them "look good", they are basically looking at a way to get at some of the $20 million the government is using for rental subsidies in Alberta.

The net effect? A few people get "low income" housing - until the subsidies run out, at least. In the meantime, except for The Mustard Seed, nobody is actually building any rental accommodations to re-balance the marketplace.

I cannot blame the landlords entirely - anytime you put $20 million on the table, some people are going to try and suck up as much as they can without doing anything material. The real problem here is a government in Edmonton so tied to the dogma of "not intervening" in the oh-so-wonderful "free market". Instead of trying to rebalance the factors in the "supply-and-demand" curve, the government is simply throwing money at the people who already hold all the cards in a marketplace that is desperately out of balance.