Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thoughts On Israel Bombing The Gaza Strip (again!)

I really don't know what the solution is in that part of the world, but I do know that bombing each other isn't working.

It strikes me that Israel's response to the rockets being lobbed out of the Gaza is (once again) completely out of proportion to the damage the rockets seem to be doing. Okay, I understand that there is a very human, visceral need to step on those that are causing the problem, but for crying out loud people, it hasn't worked once in the fifty odd years that Israel has been a nation on the world's maps - what makes anyone think it will make a difference this time?

Unfortunately, I think that Israel finds itself in a 'got the tiger by the tail' scenario. They have tried to isolate the Palestinians from each other, and from the greater bulk of Israel with a combination of walls, and checkpoints. On both sides, the isolation breeds both alienation and resentment.

It will take a meeting of the minds between two serious statesmen to broker a meaningful peace in that region - if such a thing is possible at all.

When Denial Goes Wrong ... Very Wrong

So, Pope Ratzinger has sent out one of his minions to "explain away" his latest homophobic/transphobic dog whistle remarks.

He also said that Pope Benedict's comments were "quite difficult to interpret" and as a result of this that he had been "very much" misrepresented in the media.


Horsefeathers - one only has to take other statements the Pope, and other members of the RC Clergy have made - to realize that the Pope wasn't being at all obscure.

The cardinal went on to say that the pope was only trying to emphasise the importance of the family, and the responsibility on humans to procreate.


Oh lovely - from this, one might conclude that rape is acceptable behaviour - after all the rapist is merely trying to procreate. Give me a break. (No, I don't believe the Pope meant any such thing, but this Church is so hell-bent on regulating sexuality that they've lost sight of reality)

We should also consider that sex does not necessarily result in pregnancy, so even if one were to view its purpose as primarily procreative, one still has to recognize that it serves other purposes. If it were purely procreative, then one would expect that the probability of conception as a result of sexual intercourse would be a lot higher. (Of course, nobody is supposed to question the Vatican's interpretation of "God's Design" ... goodness knows, we might have a point)

The Pope said behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations is "a destruction of God's work."

He also said man must be protected "from the destruction of himself" and urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman."


I see. So, as I have repeatedly pointed out in the past, what about intersex individuals? Or are they supposed to be celibate as well? The other problem I have with this Pope's logic here (and the pathetic attempt at "unwinding the damage") is that it makes the horrendous mistake of assuming that sex == love. Anyone with any real experience in an adult relationship will have long ago realized that love is quite apart from any sexual relations involved.

"The Vatican has already reinforced its anti-gay reputation by strongly opposing a UN declaration calling for an end to discrimination against gays, but this latest Papal outburst is clear evidence of an obsession about homosexuality which is tantamount to paranoia."


Now then, given that this Pope has repeatedly shown himself to be overtly hostile towards GLBT people, is it any surprise that when he says something that can be interpreted as hostile, it is seen as such? (including by the wingnuts)

[Update 31/12/08]:
Apparently there are also theologians who see the Pope's rant as unreasonably hostile as well: The Pope has forgotten Christ's word.

H/T: AE Brain
[/Update]

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Base Squirmeth

I see that one of Harper's minions is all anxious to reopen the abortion debate.

The abortion debate is about to enter a “new era” of advocacy for the rights of the unborn, says a Conservative MP who recently took over the chairmanship of a secretive, parliamentary anti-abortion caucus.

The all-party caucus will publicize what it views as inadequate abotion regulation, and push for legislation to restrict abortions, Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge said in an interview.


I see the wingnut base of the HarperCon$ is alive and well ... and just like Bill C-484, Harper is tacitly supporting it:

However, Mr. Bruinooge said that his party leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is well aware that he is involved in a campaign to advocate for precisely what Mr. Harper does not want to see – the reopening of the abortion debate.


Now, we all know the iron fist with which Harper runs the Con$ caucus in Ottawa. If he didn't support Bruinooge, Harper would squash this "secret caucus" like a bug under his jackboot heel. Harper only killed C-484 because he knew it would haunt him during an election.

Now for the wingnutty goodness of Bruinooge's logic:

Mr. Bruinooge said that an inordinate number of Canadians are unaware that there has effectively been no abortion law since the father of the pro-choice movement, Henry Morgentaler, persuaded the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 to strike down the existing law.

As a result of the government's failure to fill the legislative void created by that ruling, he said, laws governing organ transplants are tougher than those that pertain to abortion. For instance, Mr. Bruinooge said that it is illegal for an individual to have a kidney removed and auction it off on eBay.

“The bottom line is that people like myself are not going to stop until, at the very least, unborn children have more value than a Canadian kidney,” he said.


Somehow, I think that there is a big difference between selling organs and a woman's decisions with respect to her pregnancy. Of course, the forced-birther crowd keep trying to treat the fetus as distinct from the woman who is carrying it - and in doing so would remove from the woman the right to control her own destiny the moment she becomes pregnant.

To these people, women are little more than an Axlotl Tank - an unthinking, unaware female that solely exists to gestate.


[Update 31/12/08]:
From a comment (the bulk of which I won't waste bits on publishing):
1. Does the unborn baby begin to enjoy the right to life at any point during his or her gestation?

2. If not, how long after his or her birth does he or she begin to enjoy the right to life?


Largely, I have addressed these questions Here.

In short, both of these questions fall firmly into the domain of the pregnant woman - it is her decision and hers alone to make. Nobody else has any legitimate say in the matter. You can argue until you are blue in the face about "when life begins", and frankly it is irrelevant to the fundamental fact that bearing the child has a significant biological cost for the woman. Paraphrasing the old adage "he who has the gold makes the rules", she who pays the price, makes the decisions. All the way up to birth.

Anything less presumes that a woman is incapable of making moral and ethical decisions of her own the moment she becomes pregnant.
[/Update]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reasons Legal Equality Matters

I'm ashamed to say that the following story is taking place here in Canada: Transsexual Quebec inmate sentenced to serve time in male prison [TRIGGER WARNING: The crimes involved in the inmate's are not pretty]

A court-appointed lawyer who assisted Veilleux at her trial says tensions boiled over at the women's facility because while Veilleux is legally a woman, she still has male sexual organs.

At least one of female detainee didn't appreciate sharing space with Veilleux, said lawyer Andre Boissonneault. "Legally she is a woman but she hasn't had her operation, so she's partly a man," Boissonneault said.


Okay, I can understand that Ms. Veilleux has not yet had surgery, fair enough. However, Corrections Canada blew it in their handling of Ms. Veilleux:

Boissonneault said provincial jail officials went to great lengths to accommodate Veilleux, including keeping other inmates behind bars while she bathed and changed.

"Then she was sentenced to 40-months in prison and instead of sending her to a prison for women, they sent her to a prison for men," Boissonneault said.


Mistake 1: Punishing other prisoners for her presence. Locking the rest of the population up while Veilleux showers or changes is a mistake - a huge one. That's a recipe for creating tensions, no doubt about it. It also affirms the commonly held assumption that a transsexual gender is somehow "less valid" than that of others.

Mistake 2: Placing Ms. Veilleux in a Men's prison. I'm sorry, but that is wrong on so many levels it's not funny; worse, it actually places Ms. Veilleux in personal danger.

Mistake 3: Did the prison that Ms. Veilleux was held in take any steps to educate the other prisoners? They are as much a part of the story here as Ms. Veilleux. From what has been described, I suspect that they did not take such steps, or worse they only took a bare minimum approach. (The actions taken by the prison (Mistake 1) suggest to me that they may not even have done that much, but that is purely speculation)

Granted, Prisons are not nice places, nor are they expected to be. That said, someone who has transitioned (is living full time in gender, and has undertaken steps such as legal name change) and is now living as a woman is guaranteed to be a target when housed in a men's-only institution.

Now, the first piece of advice to anyone who is planning to transition is pretty simple - Don't do anything stupid that gets you tossed in jail. However, reality is that transfolk are like the rest of the population, and some will inevitably do things that are illegal, and some do wind up in prison.

For prisons and the legal system, this situation means that there is a need to find ways to accommodate transsexuals who are incarcerated. Filing people based on what's between their legs doesn't work in this case, and can result in horrific situations. We don't incarcerate people to denigrate them, and we certainly don't do so to put them in situations where they will be raped repeatedly at the hands of others (last I checked, rape is crime in its own right - even when it occurs in a prison).

Unfortunately, what we have here is currently a situation involving a prisoner in a legally ambiguous state, and the bureaucracy running the prisons isn't responding to the situation constructively.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Burning Stupid: Townhall Edition

Via Feministe, I found myself reading Dennis Prager's latest babblings on Townhall.

Ordinarily, I simply dismiss Prager as a basic right-wingnut theocon extremist. But, today, Prager is exceptionally offensive:

First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife's refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him.


Ummm...I don't even know where to begin with this bunch of ludicrous reasoning. Prager has clearly the sex act with love; and then he's gone one step further by construing the act in terms of possession - specifically the woman's body as her husband's possession.

But, it gets better, and even more illogical:

Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men's natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman's nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.


Okay, I don't doubt for a minute that men and women have very different thinking when it comes to sex. One only has to consider the biological price that a woman stands to have to pay afterwards to figure out that just maybe she's going to be somewhat less enthusiastic at times. However, what Prager derives from this is utterly ridiculous.

In Part II, I will explain in detail why mood should play little or no role in a woman's determining whether she has sex with her husband.


Uh? Excuse me? Sorry, Prager, but mood is part of the equation. A man who demands sex of his spouse when she is unwilling is committing something we call rape - even when in the confines of marriage. The idea that a woman should be 'willing' anytime her husband demands sex suggests that the man bears no responsibility for being aware of his spouse's emotional needs. Sex is a mutual experience - if one of the parties doesn't want to be there, it becomes rape.

Everything written here applies under two conditions: 1. The woman is married to a good man. 2. She wants him to be a happy husband.


What? Since when was the husband's happiness the responsibility of his wife? Last I checked, marriages are a partnership - hopefully one where both partners are in tune with each other's needs.

The utter irresponsibility of these comments suggests Prager's idea of marriage is firmly rooted in the stone age somewhere - you know the same era where an infertile couple was always considered to be the woman's fault. Perhaps this explains why Prager's marriages eventually collapsed in divorce?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dear Pope Ratz:

[Update 29/12/08]
I see that the wingnuts heard the Pope's 'dog whistle' all too well:

Unless we "listen to the language of creation" he said, we end up with "destruction of the work of God." The Pope suggested that the gender ideology which seeks to redefine the sexes to allow for homosexuality, transgenderism and such things are examples of mankind separating himself "from creation and the Creator.


I believe this makes my point for me.
[/Update]
There are some subjects where it's painfully obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about.

In this case, the subject is transsexualism.

Without actually using the word, Benedict took a subtle swipe at those who might undergo sex-change operations or otherwise attempt to alter their God-given gender. Defend "the nature of man against its manipulation," Benedict told the priests, bishops and cardinals gathered Monday in the ornate Clementine hall. "The Church speaks of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected." The Pope again denounced the contemporary idea that gender is a malleable definition. That path, he said, leads to a "self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator.


So just what does the Pope think about people with various Intersex conditions - or has the Vatican given them some kind of a special dispensation? For that matter, the Pope has no idea whether or not transsexuality is a perfectly normal (if rare) aspect of human experience.

His selective condemnation is based on a highly debatable understanding of "natural law" - it is one that assumes that the inner person is defined by their outer appearance. As we all know, it is folly to 'judge a book by its cover', and for this Pope to condemn an entire class of people on the basis that "god-given gender" is fixed and immutable is deeply problematic. How does this Pope claim know what goes on inside the heads of someone who is transsexual? How does he know that a 'female soul' did not wind up in a male body (or vice versa)? The fact is that he doesn't.

For him to claim that 'God doesn't make mistakes' is ridiculous, for one only has to turn to the physically intersexed and realize that such a claim is ludicrous. For the Pope to claim that gender is "immutable" is to claim that it resides only in the genitalia, and yet we know that so much more of the human experience - social, sexual and romantic takes place between the ears - which other than what someone finds a way to express in words or actions is largely inscrutable. There is also a small, but growing body of evidence that suggests that there are physical as well as psychological factors at play with transsexuals.

In short, Pope Ratzinger knows not what he speaks of, and has proven to the world that he is truly a fool for opening his mouth. He would do far better for the world to focus his attentions on the horrors in Africa, rather than spouting off about identities that he is so clearly ignorant of.

More Stephen The Refoooormer

Shorter Stephen Harper:

Reform is a great thing ... as long as I continue to have the perogative to ignore the changes I advocated for

You have to love it - Harper and his party fought and screamed and stamped their feet to get the process for filling Supreme Court vacancies made "more democratic". But, while he has parliament prorogued, Harper decides to circumvent the very process that his party was instrumental in creating.

By the time Canada gets rid of this turd of a Prime Minister, his name will be a synonym for 'hypocrite'.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Steve Stacks The Senate

So, Harper has appointed 18 senators.

Mr. Harper has always believed senators should be elected and he refrained from filling most vacancies while trying to make the upper chamber more democratic. Those efforts ran into roadblocks erected in Parliament and by Ontario and Quebec.


Oh yes, Mr. Harper's half-baked attempt at Senate reform - formally call Bill C-43, and was one of the most ridiculous bills tabled by the HarperCon$ in 2006. It did not deserve to pass - any more than Harper's equally ridiculous (and now irrelevant) "fixed election dates" law. (which he saw fit to ignore this past fall)

“We've invited the provinces to hold elections. We've put an electoral bill before the House of Commons. But for the most part, neither in Parliament nor in the provinces has there been any willingness to move forward on reform.”


Wow, can you hear the tone of petulant whining in this quote? My goodness, Mr. Harper, you must really be missing the point. Nobody buys that your "reforms" are meaningful.

What really irritates me about these appointments comes in two forms:

1. Mr. Harper is making these appointments during a prorogue of Parliament that he triggered to avoid a confidence vote that he would likely have lost. As far as I'm concerned, along with a bunch of other patronage appointments made during this period of parliamentary limbo are simply a demonstration of how Harper abuses his position.

2. As The Toronto Star points out, Harper has tried to attach strings to these senatorial appointments:

According to Harper’s office, today’s appointees have all promised to support his plans for Senate reform, including eight-year term limits. But they are not bound to run for election themselves.


So - in short what Harper has done is bought his votes in the Senate, by insisting that they vote for whatever brain damaged legislation he puts forth.

Mr. Harper neither understands nor appreciates the function of the Senate in Canada as a check and balance to the often fractious House of Commons. He apparently believes that Senators are subject to the same kind of arm twisting and thuggery that he routinely applies in the House of Commons caucus.

[Update 23/12/08]
Comments on this article are closed before they degenerate any further.
[/Update]

More Penny-a-Point Partisanship Games

Brought to you from the oh-so 'open, accountable' government of PMSH - Electing Bloc MP may have cost town $2-million subsidy ... because in Stephen Harper's Canada, everything is an opportunity for a partisan maneuver.

Radio-Canada quotes sources from the office of Tory MP Christian Paradis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant, as saying the Conservative candidate Claude Durand would have had a better chance of netting the subsidy than the current Bloc MP Paule Brunelle.

Radio-Canada reported that a spokesperson for Mr. Paradis confirmed the federal government wouldn't be granting the subsidy.


How unsurprising - don't vote for Harper, well, his brown-shirts will make sure that for the duration of his government that your region suffers - greatly. (Of course, this is no surprise coming from Alberta - if you aren't on the Con$ party membership rolls, good luck getting your MP to even answer a letter)

On a campaign stop in Trois-Rivieres during the elections, Mr. Harper told Le Nouvelliste that the grant money had already been allocated and that he “was looking forward to working with a Conservative MP.”


Ah - I see Harper's word only extends as far as his party's reach. Vote against him, and you shall be punished.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Alright Pope ... Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

If Pope Benedict XVI really means what he says about Galileo, when is he going to start admitting that church dogma isn't always right?

He said an understanding of the laws of nature could stimulate appreciation of God's work.


Right...a few centuries too late for Galileo, but just maybe the church could turn its attention to recognizing the myriad diversity of the human race - especially in matters related to - oh I don't know - gender and sexual identity perhaps? An even easier start would be to do something trivial - like accepting that making condoms available in Africa isn't an entirely bad thing; and having catholic hospitals teaching people how to use the things properly isn't bad either.

... but then again, I don't think I'll be holding my breath on this one either.

[Update 22/12/08]
So much for reality intruding on the Vatican.
[/Update]

We'll See...

It's taken several weeks of outrage, and some pretty bleak economic numbers being published, but Harper seems to be (slowly) coming to a position of actually taking steps with our beleaguered economy.

Rumours are that the Conservative government will inject as much as $30 Billion in the January budget. That's close to the 2% of GDP number that some economic theorists are saying is necessary (worldwide). On the other side of the coin, I'm not so sure it will end up in the right hands.

A big part of the situation we currently find ourselves facing is a direct result of corporate greed ... I'm not sure that the composition of Flaherty's advisory panel (if he even listens to it) reflects that reality or balances itself against it.

I'm skeptical - we'll see what happens in six months or so. (BTW - economic theory isn't the same thing as building a budget, which is half of the reason that Harper's lost at sea right now)

[Update 15:50]
What little optimisim I had just shrank a lot. Harper continues to lie to Canadians about our government, it's hard to believe that they are going to tell us anything honest about the budget and economy.
[/Update]

Pop Quiz Time

Quickly now...imagine that you are a public servant - in a position that puts you in regular, direct contact with the public that the government has hired you to serve. Do you have the right to deny service to that same public based on your personal morality?

If you answered 'no', then chances are you understand that doing your job means that everybody you deal with gets fair treatment and that the law applies equally to all.

If you answered 'yes', then chances are pretty good that refusing to marry a gay couple is just fine (and Canada has its own variety of this same nonsense)

The problem is that public servants are hired to do a job for taxpayers - and GLBT people are taxpayers and citizens just like everybody else. It's really simple. If you are a civil marriage commissioner, that's cool. If you are a heartfelt Christian, that's cool too. What's not cool is when you refuse to do the job that the government hires/licenses you to do because of some offense taken under your religious beliefs.

If you will, think of a food inspector that happens to be a practicing Orthodox Jew. He can be offended all he wants that a restaurant's kitchen is not Kosher, but he isn't hired to judge that - he's hired to ensure that a the restaurant is fundamentally safe for its patrons to eat at. His religious beliefs have nothing to do with how he assesses the restaurant's kitchen...period.

When it comes to civil marriage ... it's the same thing. If you really can't stomach the idea of marrying a gay couple, then it's time to find another occupation to consume your time, or become an ordained minister. There's nothing in the law that places a public servant's personal morality above the government's law. Period.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Back To More Constructive Reality...

While people like LaBarbera bay at the moon, other parts of the world are actually being constructive in their engagement of GLBT issues.

The poster child this week is The Harvard Business Review's When Steve Becomes Stephanie case study on workplace transition.

For anyone who has ever taken a college business course, it is a classic 'case study', intended to provoke thought and discussion.

Needless to say some of the discussion is quite interesting, as are the open comments. (Not all comments are constructive, but the vast majority certainly attempt to be reasoned and reasonable about things - quite unlike Mr. LaBarbera's shrieking)

H/T: Dr. Jillian Weiss @ Bilerico Project

You Reap What You Sow

Over at AFTAH, we find Peter LaBarbera trying to explain to us why he doesn't permit comments on his blog:

By the way, and for the record, AFTAH does not allow comments to be posted on our website precisely because of the sheer viciousness, vulgarity and ad hominem, hate-filled attacks that characterize so many messages against us from pro-homosexual activists. Responding to the lies and smears would take all of our time. Uncivil homosexual activists would love that.


That's funny Peter, 95% of what I've read on your site is vicious, vulgar and hate-filled. Do you think there might be a correlation? You blatantly show GLBT people a level of disrespect and rudeness that makes what comes spewing forth from Dobson look almost civil.

As an example, let's consider some of what you wrote in the following article:

ob oh boy! A band created by the Lesbian and Gay Band Association — built around men and women who share disordered sexuality and, for some, gender confusion ...


That's just in the start of your tirade, we find you referring to homosexuality as a "disordered sexuality" and transgender people as having 'gender confusion'. It is not just what you say, Peter, it is how you say it. Use the correct terminology instead of inventing something that is obviously intended to be disparaging.

Questions: what deserving, hard-working high school band from Anytown, USA was bumped out by the homosexual marchers in the intense competition to march in the Inaugural Parade? We’re also wondering: do the bisexual LGBT band members get to march in any direction they want? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)


Your first question is a complete non-sequitur. It implies something that you cannot possibly substantiate, and connects two unrelated issues.

Your second question is so disrespectful of bisexual people it's not even a little bit funny. Which returns me to my original point - you reap what you sow. (and the article I'm picking on is relatively mild compared to some I've seen you publish)

You claim to want a respectful dialogue, but your own writing proves that you are quite incapable of doing so - do you really think that those whom you seek to marginalize are going to just lie down and let you run roughshod over them?

(One little aside - the corollary to "Freedom of Religion" is "Freedom From Religion")

Thursday, December 18, 2008

So Much For Women's Health

It seems that Bush has signed his "rule" permitting health care providers to deny treatment if it "violates their conscience".

Who does this affect - primarily women and members of the GLBT community. Who else? After all, when does a man ever need an abortion? And goodness knows, that no straight WASP ever does anything "morally suspect"... do they?.

Basically, what it does is give carte blanche for health care providers to deny care on their moral whims. Whether or not the patient needs the treatment is irrelevant - the only thing that matters is whether providing treatment violates the provider's morals now. Lovely.

If you are a woman, and you need treatment for anything to do with your reproductive system, (after all, the moralizing rules all focus on that) you better hope you live in one of the larger urban centers ... or plan on immigrating to Canada.

If you are part of the GLBT community, your already limited options just became a little narrower today...because Bush just gave free license to the bigots.

I hope that Barack Obama is smart enough to introduce that turd of a 'rule' to the Presidential shredder as soon as he is sworn in - the women and GLBT people of the United States deserve far better than that.

Reactionary Conservatism (The Western Separatist Flavour)

[Update 20/12/08]
Well, I'll give WBTA a little bit of credit here - they seem to have dumped Ernie Slump as the B.C. Chair as of this morning.
[/Update]

Well, the organizational fiasco that is The Western Business and Taxpayers Association continues.

Over at Big City Lib, we find more gems from B.C. Chair Ernie Slump.

Guess what ! Greater Vancouver and the Island will not be a part of the New West ! Albertans hate that part of BC as much as they hate your part of the country [Ontario]. Too many free loading NDP'er's and socialists. ! ! ! And: Too many third world immigrants and refugees, the Liberals deliberately allowed into Canada and the west, to overwhelm and destroy the western Canadian Conservative vote.


Wow - regionalism, racism and political polarism all in one place. BCL has another more charming quote referenced.

The amusing bit is WBTA VP Doherty's attempt to defuse the situation:

This letter is in response to the recent comments circulating regarding Ernie Slump. The Western Businesses and Taxpayers Association do not support any offensive remarks and or actions, particularly regarding ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. David Crutcher and our Council have contacted Ernie to provide him with a forum to explain his comments.


Let me give you a hint, Mr. Doherty. If you want any credibility for your organization, distance yourselves from wingnuts like Slump - fast. It isn't a matter of giving him a 'forum to explain himself' - he's already shown himself to be an extremist willing to advocate murdering those he finds "objectionable". He's baggage - better jettisoned now than later...unless of course, WBTA's objective is to show the world that 'Western Separatists' really are a bunch of crackpots - as opposed to "just" being a bunch of reactionary right-wingnuts.

"Green Light Cameras"? - This Sounds Like a BAD Idea

I do not like the idea of the proposed green light cameras that Alberta has just given the go ahead for.

The problem I have is simple - as a driver, if I'm coming up on an intersection as the light turns yellow, I have a snap decision to make - try to stop, or try to go through. I've seen more than enough cases where trying to stop would create a panic stop situation, and likely as not, would end up with the car behind hitting me. The second option is often to push it a little and accelerate through the intersection. This is a split second decision - based entirely upon my immediate judgment of the situation.

What this does, much like the Red Light cameras do, is create a situation where a driver's decision is now subject to penalty, and is only measured along a single vector of consideration. I'm not objecting to nailing people who speed, or run red lights - but rather the problem is the fact that these things can be set overly aggressively, thereby penalizing drivers who are making legitimate safety decisions as they drive. (and yes, the yellow light period is a gray zone - and that's what I'm most worried about - I don't care about solid green or red situations, but I do care about the yellow light - there's just too many circumstances where the decision has to be made in the moment, and a camera simply cannot capture that context)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's Nothing They Won't Buy

... and in the case of the HarperCon$, it's votes.

It's funny how it goes with this lot. One day, they are busy denigrating the Premier of Ontario for complaining about the seat redistribution:

The seat issue had erupted into such an angry war of words between Ottawa and Ontario that then Conservative government house leader Peter Van Loan called McGuinty "the small man of Confederation" for demanding Ontario get 21 additional seats instead of 10.


Now that big daddy didn't manage to secure his vaunted majority in October, he's suddenly willing to hand over the whole lot to Ontario:

A lengthy and often bitter fight between Ontario and the federal government was quietly resolved last week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to give the province 21 additional seats in the House of Commons, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.


Uh huh. Alex, I'll take "Things Harper Will Do For a Majority" for $200, please.

This is nothing more than Harper playing his cards where he thinks he will have the greatest degree of "traction" - and since pouring money into Quebec didn't succeed, he's now spending his attentions on Ontario.

Next up, wait for astonishingly large amounts of money to be poured into Ontario, while Quebec and Alberta get told to bugger off. (Alberta will be ignored because Harper knows full well that he can get a bale of hay elected in this province, so he doesn't have to give a damn)

Just What Is This?

Students joke about school as a prison, but what idiotic nonsense possesses educators to use prison cells for discipline?.

This is just vile. Whoever instituted those things deserves to be fired from their jobs and run out of town by the local parents. (After spending a day in one of their own little "cells")

Oh Brother!

I see that we have another 'Western Separatist' group sprouting in Alberta. This time, it's Western Business and Taxpayers Association - brainchild of long-time Chandler associate David Crutcher. (Remember him? He was part of Chandler's attempt to take over the Calgary Egmont PC riding association, and he ran as a candidate for the Alberta Alliance party a few years ago)

Over at Bouquets of Gray, the author there has done an outstanding job of checking into the credentials of the executive council. (The B.C. chair is a real piece of work!)

On and off, I have watched the 'western separatist' movement since the late '70s when Doug Christie and the Western Canada Concept emerged. They pop up like dandelions in the lawn - for no apparently good reason, and somewhat at random.

What strikes me is that these groups are always a reactionary response to political events. However, politics is transient - today's crisis is tomorrow's history. Unlike Quebec separatism which has its roots in cultural identity, the 'western separatist movement' really doesn't have much for roots. Reactionary politics is mighty thin soil - people simply don't identify with it in the long run, and I haven't seen one of these groups yet even begin to try and build a cultural identity that Western Canadians can take to heart.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just How Does Escalating Violence Equal Progress???

I could swear that this general was spinning faster than a top to frame this as "progress" in Afghansistan:

Speaking to reporters in Kandahar, Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier warned that the surge of U.S. troops arriving in 2009 will likely prompt retaliation from the Taliban, particularly in Afghanistan's volatile southern region.

"There will be a higher level of violence in 2009 than there was in 2008. I wouldn't actually see a decrease in violence until perhaps the following year when we begin to gain traction with some of the capacity," said Gauthier, who has spent the last several days in meetings.

Gauthier's expectation for an eventual decrease in violence by 2010, however, may seem a little optimistic in the eyes of many analysts and even Afghans themselves, the CBC's David Common reported from Kandahar.

"For many people in Afghanistan, particularly in the south where it has been very violent, it's something that is difficult to believe because there has been so very little stability for some time," Common said.

Gauthier's comments come as conflict in Afghanistan is at its highest level since the U.S. invaded in 2001, followed shortly by Canada. The number of allied and Afghan troops, as well as civilians, killed in the conflict continues to rise.


In fact, what it really demonstrates is more or less what I've been claiming for some time, and reflects the Soviet experience in the region as well - namely that the foreign troops are serving primarily as a focal target for the various groups that would otherwise be competing for power.

In the U.S., president-elect Barack Obama has said he hopes to shift troops from Iraq and bolster the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in the upcoming year. Commanders there want at least 20,000 more troops, while Obama has pledged to send up to 12,000 to complement the more than 30,000 U.S. troops already stationed.


That almost sounds good, but I suspect that Obama will find that once the American presence in Iraq begins to diminish, it will turn into a mire every bit as messy as Afghanistan - and for the same reasons. It would be naive in the extreme to think that the groups in Afghanistan and Iraq are not in communication with each other.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Little Refresher ...

[Update 19:30]
It's even worse than I feared according a Dominion Institute commissioned survey:

The institute drew up four basic questions:

* Who is the head of state?
* How can Canada's system of government best be described?
* Do Canadians elect the prime minister directly?
* Can the Governor General nix a prime minister's request for a new election?


The really sad part is how few people actually got the answers right:

About 75 per cent of Canadians believe incorrectly the prime minister or the Governor General is head of state, ...
Given a choice how best to describe the system of government, 25 per cent of those surveyed decided on a "co-operative assembly" while 17 per cent opted for a "representative republic."

Canada is neither. Only 59 per cent picked correctly — constitutional monarchy.

In a similar vein, 51 per cent wrongly agreed that Canadians elect the prime minister directly.

...
A full 90 per cent responded correctly that the Governor General does have the power, which Jean may yet be called on to wield if the opposition coalition does defeat the government with a vote in the Commons.


If a majority had responded anything other than in the affirmative about the Governor General's powers given what's been in the news in the last few weeks, it would have made the results that much more disappointing.

What's even more vile than those results is the way that the HarperCon$ are preying on the ignorance of so many.
[/Update]

Since Canada's government seems intent on lying to the public about the concept of a government formed by a coalition, I thought it worth a few minutes to dismantle the outright lies that are being foisted upon us from the PMO.

One of the talking points that has been thrown out there is that an opposition coalition is somehow analogous to a coup d'état.

This is blatantly false. I'll refer briefly to the Wikipedia article on the subject for a practical working definition:

a coup, is the sudden unconstitutional overthrow of a government by a part — usually small — of the state establishment — usually the military — to replace the branch of the stricken government, either with another civil government or with a military government.


The first point here is that a coup d'état is unconstitutional. So, let us consider the constitutional realities that are at play right now in Canada for a moment.

Wikipedia provides a reasonable (but incomplete) summary of the Governor General's legal powers. If one reviews Section III of the Constitution Act of 1867, it clearly vests the executive power of government in the crown, represented in Canada by the Governor General:

9. The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.

10. The Provisions of this Act referring to the Governor General extend and apply to the Governor General for the Time being of Canada, or other the Chief Executive Officer or Administrator for the Time being carrying on the Government of Canada on behalf and in the Name of the Queen, by whatever Title he is designated.


This is the first part of the discussion that is important. The appointment and swearing in of the government in the House of Commons is performed by the Governor General on behalf of the crown. In a situation such as a minority parliament, the Governor General is presented with the potential for several different options - the party with the plurality of seats will likely be asked to form the government first, but as the King-Byng Affair of 1926 demonstrated, the Governor General may ask the leaders of other parties to form the government.

As far as I know, the coalition has taken no steps which undermine or violate the authority of the Governor General in this matter.

Now, let us move along to how the coalition has proceeded. Prior to Prime Minister Harper requesting, and being granted, a prorogation of parliament, there was to be a confidence vote in the House of Commons on Dec 12, 2008 on the motions related to the Fiscal Update that the Harper-led government had tabled in the House of Commons in late November.

In a Westminster parliament, a government that loses the confidence of the House of Commons collapses. The concept of a confidence motion is a recognized and accepted construct through which the sitting government will be tested. Although a government's collapse usually triggers a general election, it is not necessarily the case that happen. If the Governor General can be persuaded that one or more of the opposition parties can form a stable government for some period of time, the Governor General has the right to ask the opposition to form a government without triggering an election.

So, since the coalition was proceeding through a legitimate path to deprive the Harper government of the confidence of the House of Commons, it is hard to claim that a coalition is in any respect a 'coup d'état' in any meaningful way.

The second point that needs to be considered here is that in a Westminster Parliament, we elect our representatives, and we do not directly elect the Prime Minister, instead the Queen requests the person most likely to command the support of a majority in the House, normally the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, to form a government. In short, Stephen Harper sits in the PMO at "Her Majesty's Pleasure", and by a series of quirks of convention belonging to a system that has evolved over nearly 1,000 years.


Since the Harper Conservatives were so willing to form a coalition to replace Paul Martin's government in 2004, it is mind boggling that today we find the same group of people complaining that a coalition would somehow be an illegitimate government.

In October of 2008, Stephen Harper asked Canadians to decide on a parliament. We duly elected our representatives with the full expectation that they would find a way to make the resulting House of Commons work. If that takes the form of creating a coalition government, that is an eminently valid expression of democracy in Canada and in fact would represent a government that is doing what most Canadians would want - a degree of cooperation among the leaders in the House of Commons.

I suspect that Harper is in fact fomenting a crisis for one of two reasons - he either wants "another kick at the can" in the electoral forum to secure a majority, or he is trying to create a crisis big enough to justify re-opening the constitution. In the latter case, I fear greatly what he would do, for he has shown himself repeatedly to be autocratic rather than democratic.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Whipping Girl - Commentary II

I've tried to write this commentary several times, and each time that I have written it, I have found myself getting bogged down in the details and quid pro quos.

Through to Chapter 7, Serano speaks quite harshly of the treatment that a lot of transsexuals experience at the hands of therapists. She comes very close to advocating for removal of the condition entirely from the DSM, but stops just short of that.

Let me start off by saying that I am sympathetic to those who have experienced the kind of hostile treatment that Serano describes, and has often been attributed to the dubious methodology of people who follow J. Michael Bailey's theories. There is nothing more damaging to someone's sense of self than finding a therapist who claims that they are lying at every turn.

However, I disagree quite strongly with the idea of simply removing transsexualism from the DSM. Transsexualism is a somewhat unique condition in the world of mental health concerns. Unlike a lot of situations that lead people to seek out a therapist's help in life, the transsexual's situation actually will ultimately lead to bringing the services of multiple professionals into the picture - including psychologists, physicians and surgeons; but also can involve lawyers, public service officials and other individuals. There can be little question that some kind of common lexicon is useful in facilitating communication between these varied professionals.

The physician that is prescribing hormone therapy may be quite comfortable monitoring the response of the body's endocrine system to the hormones, but may well not feel that he or she has the appropriate training and background to understand whether the patient is adapting to the changes that the hormones bring with them appropriately. When one considers the legal and ethical bindings placed upon medical practitioners, it should come as no great surprise that many are reluctant to get involved in a situation that they do not feel they understand.

Quite rightly, the WPATH Standards of Care demands that the various professionals involved in an individual's transition be in regular communication with each other.

As Radha points out in her post 'Gaming Therapists, Gaming Ourselves, the therapy process can be a catalyst for learning a great deal about oneself. A positive relationship with a therapist can be an amazingly constructive process - one which enables an person to move beyond their immediate assumptions about themselves and to be completely honest with themselves - both in terms of their strengths and weaknesses (and yes, there is an amazing amount of strength to be found in the vulnerability of admitting to your own failings - the reality of that is left as an exercise to the reader).

I would like to see the definition of transsexualism (or more broadly transgenderism) in the DSM to continue to evolve. In the DSM IV, it is only in its third incarnation, and it has morphed considerably from the original definitions in the DSM II(?), mostly in response to the emergence of more data that has broadened the range of experiences that clients have described.

It is unfortunate that there are so many who mistakenly assume that the presence of a diagnostic category in the DSM means that someone is 'ill'. A more reasonable view of the DSM is that it describes psychological conditions - a lexicon more than anything else. In fact, if one peruses the chapters of the DSM for a while, it is not difficult to understand that it contains a great many conditions which we would agree do not constitute a serious impairment of an individual's ability to function, but may need to be described in order to draw a complete picture of the factors an individual is facing. Here, I believe the APA and related professional bodies have a significant amount of 'marketing' work to do. Society still bears a surprising degree of fear and stigma to 'mental illness', and the professional societies involved have not been very successful in breaking that pattern. One of the key things they could - and should - do is spend some time explaining the DSM's purpose and intentions in layman's terms. (There are only a few of us outside the mental health world willing - or able - to wade through the dense terminology of that book's prefaces)

The transsexual bears a responsibility to find a therapist that they can work with. We are all individuals, and it is no surprise that not everybody can work effectively with every therapist. Therapists and medical professionals are responsible for ensuring that they become educated about the treatment of transsexuals - the transsexual should not be the person trying to educate the professionals; and similarly, finding a therapist should not be an 'underground experience'. Too few therapists publicize that they are willing and experienced with transfolk, which often makes the process of finding a therapist traumatic in its own right.

Those professionals who see themselves as 'gatekeepers' rather than as partners with their clients need to adjust their perspective. In the case of transsexuals, the client is usually quite aware of their condition and what they need to achieve. Gatekeepers are not what is needed - constructive help is. Sometimes that may mean pointing out the 'cracks' in the patient's plans or timelines; but more often than not, it means helping the patient piece together the resources they need.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is GM Headed For Breakup?

With the latest US bridge financing for the 'Big 3' dead on the Senate floor, one has to wonder what will become of them.

Chrysler will shrink to a shadow of its former self. (Those old enough to remember their show rooms in the early 80s will remember walking into a room full of K-platform cars and leftovers from the mid-70s. This time around, I suspect the remains will include a minivan, and possibly something based on a Mitsubishi platform ... and not much else.

GM on the other hand could be headed for a fate not unlike what happened to AT&T/Bell in the early 80s. GM has a couple of brands that I suspect will survive in some form or anther. I can see Chevrolet, Pontiac and Cadillac remaining fairly intact; Saturn will likely become a brand used to label whatever they can import from Europe and Korea. (Not unlike GM's ill-fated "Passport" and "Geo" brands - hopefully better managed than that...)

Buick will vanish - at least in North America, and I suspect the 'GMC' branded trucks will also go away - being otherwise identical to their Chevrolet-branded cousins.

Just at a guess, we'll see the following companies emerge from a GM bankruptcy in North America ("MiniGeMs"?):

1. Chevrolet - Mostly producing family cars and light trucks
2. Pontiac - Will try to position itself as a "near luxury" brand competing with Acura
3. Cadillac - Will continue to be Cadillac
4. Saturn - Will mostly become a dealership network selling rebranded Opel product.
No speculation on what will happen with their holdings in Europe and Asia - I simply don't know enough of GM's current holdings over there

All of those companies will be producing in much reduced volumes from today, and I expect their lineups to be trimmed dramatically.

Any guesses as to what shape GM takes on after a bankruptcy filing is, of course, purely hypothetical - based far more in my imaginings than anything even remotely real.

What the impact of a dramatic reshaping will be on the US and Canadian economies will be is hard to say - I'd have to imagine that it will be messy in the short term until the new companies start to take shape and fill the gaps. I expect the stock markets to take a nosedive on this, not because it's warranted, but because the stock markets are run more on emotion than on anything resembling rationality. Sit back, and hold on.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So Much For Harper's "Principles"

For a man who has been on a tirade about senate reform for years, it's amazing to me how quickly Harper lowers himself to tradition when he's suddenly under pressure.

Of course, in typical HarperCon fashion, it's all the opposition's fault:

The Tories want to avoid the possibility that the 105-member Senate gets filled with members opposed to Senate reform -- or with separatist leanings.

"The Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition has indicated it plans to fill the Senate with coalition members and this includes the prospect of appointing senators who do not believe in Canadian unity," the official said.


I see ... so Harper's round of appointing senators (none of whom will have been elected - in spite of his previous arguments that they should be voted on by the citizens) is really all out of fear of the "Evil Coalition"™ - uh huh. I'll put better odds on Harper is simply being dishonest with Canadians, and continuing to play his petty partisan games, all rooted in his ideology.

Just as his repeated suspensions of parliament are anti-democratic, so is his approach to Senate Reform - which appears now to be just empty words.

More Rovian Crap From The PMO

Taking more plays from Karl "Turdblossom" Rove, the PMO starts on its next campaign of lies, deception and character assassination:

"The basic substance of the debate doesn't change," said Heritage Minister James Moore. "They're still part of a coalition with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP which remains unelected by Canadians."

Moore insisted "we're prepared to listen to them," but, asked if Conservatives could back specific budgetary proposals by the coalition such as eliminating a two-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits, he shrugged.


Right...this coming from a party whose leader is saying that he is willing to work with Ignatieff.

Rajotte said the Liberals don't need to wield the option of a coalition to exert leverage on the government. "The leverage (Ignatieff) has, the leverage all parties have, is that we (Conservatives) require at least one other party to support ... the budget at the end of January."

He added: "They've done some harm to the Liberal brand because a lot of Liberals across this country are not comfortable with the idea of forming a coalition with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP."


Bullfeathers. Rajotte is making assertions here ... and coming from a party who was courting the Bloc and NDP in 2004 to form a coalition, that smacks of plain hypocrisy. There's no way that a coalition is "valid an democratic" one day and suddenly becomes "undemocratic" the next - not unless you are being a two-faced liar.

I dare say that a lot of Liberals are more comfortable making alliance with the NDP and Bloc than with the Con$ - for the simple reason that the Con$ have proven time and again that they are all too eager to kick their opponents in the shins and higher at every opportunity.

A leopard does not change its spots, nor a tiger its strips. A snake may shed its skin, but pretty much the same pattern is always underneath - you can guess which one the Con$ really are as they slither their way through this parliamentary disaster they've created.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No Wonder The Big 3 Are Screwed

With this kind of brilliant advice.

Walter S. McManus, the head of the Automotive Analysis Division of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, says he could see it coming.

"Brand loyalty is overrated," McManus stated flatly. "It is costly to do all the fuzzies, and Saturn's example is clear that it doesn't pay off for what is essentially an economy-car company. Women especially appreciated the Saturn way, but Honda sells more cars to women, despite having a less female-friendly approach."


Jeepers. What a pin-headed bit of logic. Honda isn't particularly 'female friendly' (any more than other car makes, really), but they've earned that market by producing cars that work. For a long time.

No, Honda's cars aren't the most exciting out there - but they work, they are well made and they've had a solid reputation for decades. Yes, the early models were - well - crude. But once they hit the mid-80s, the company hit its stride - especially with the Accords.

I can't count the number of people I work with whose first car was a Honda Civic, or they bought one for their daughter's first car (often with the thought that it was a reliable car that wouldn't strand their daughter somewhere in the dead of night).

Myself, I'm on my second Honda; my father is on his second (in fifteen years!) - brand loyalty isn't worth much? Horsefeathers. Chances are that I'll give whatever Honda has on the floor in another few years a serious look when I go to replace my current car. Why? Because the cars have treated me well, the service department at the dealership has been fair to me, and Honda has stood behind their product. Loyalty is earned.

Saturn set out on the right track in the late 80s - it was a lack of vision and persistence on GM's part that undermined the first initiative that company had which was going in the right direction. Those that I know that have owned Saturns have spoken well of their experiences with the dealers (in the early years), even if the car itself was "average" quality.

Dear Stupid Driver:

Let give you a hint - it's 06:00 and you're busy spinning your tires on the foot of snow that's out front of my house - you know who you are.

First up, let me remind you that your car's throttle is not a binary device - it has more than two states. Squeeze the throttle gently - you're not Fred Flintstone trying to stop in a hurry - in fact just slamming your foot to the floor is making things worse.

Second, as rhythmic as your abuse of the throttle was, it wasn't even as musical as the overpowered stereo the teenager down the street has in his car.

The whizzing sound was not the sound of sudden, gratifying acceleration - it was the sound of your bald tires polishing the ice to a nice shine which would make any Zamboni operator proud.

Lastly, if you really are that stuck, get out and push - or better yet, park your car and take the bus until spring. Seriously - you'd be doing the rest of us a favour.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Stephen "Janus" Harper Speaks

Talk about speaking out of both sides your face. Harper in today's interview on CBC opens his mouth and proves that he's the most two-faced politician walking Canada's soil today.

On one hand, he tries to sound oh-so-reasonable:

Until then, Harper repeated his invitation to the opposition parties to offer specific suggestions for managing the economy.

"We have a right to that input. Some of the opposition parties are saying they want to run the government. That's fine. Precisely what is it you want to do?" Harper asked.


Then he turns around and makes amazingly partisan accusations against the opposition parties:

Harper suggested Tuesday that the coalition had little to do with frustrations over his approach to the economy, but was in fact a conspiracy on the part of opposition parties to bring down the recently elected Conservatives.

"I think, frankly, after the election — if not before the election — the opposition parties decided that they would work against the government as an essentially unified front," Harper said.

He went on to accuse NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe of backing the Liberal party into a corner where it was forced to either vote against the government or be "condemned as sellouts."


I don't know about you, but there's a gaping lack of responsibility here. Harper knows damned good and well that he is responsible for the actions of his party in crafting the FU of two weeks ago. His government not only failed to put forth any sense of clarity of action to address the economic situation, but he - and yes, I believe Harper himself is culpable - placed a couple of resolutions into the mix which none of the opposition parties could or would ever accept.

The other thing that's just plain wrong here is the "tell us what you would do", followed by still more partisan sniping. Let me be excessively explicit about this - you do not get cooperation from people by kicking them in the shins at every opportunity.

What a patently two-faced man.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hahahaha!

Once in a while, I find myself over at Urban Dictionary to find out what some acronym/phrase/word I've seen used in the quasi-casual language of the internet means.

Today, the 'term of the day' was Academic Bulemia:

The process of learning or memorizing by rote, subsequently followed by the regurgitation of that knowledge onto an exam answer sheet. Just as with the serious eating disorder, this form of bulemia results in no real retention of substance.

This term is frequently applied to describe a common practice of young medical students.

I can't remember anything that I learned last night. It's like I grabbed the answer sheet, puked out all the answers and forgot everything immediately. I'd say that's academic bulemia.


Ouch! But that's funny!

Losing Your Support, Steve?

You might think that when Joseph Ben Ami starts criticizing you Mr. Harper, that you've stepped a few yards over a line.

It's not like the organization Ben Ami runs, the Canadian Centre For Policy Studies, is left leaning (if they started leaning left they might eventually achieve upright...) - in fact Ben Ami is one of McVety's crowd.

But “coup d’état”? “Sedition”? A “subversion of democracy”? Now that Parliament has been prorogued and the crisis averted until at least the end of next month, can we all please, please take a deep breath and relax?


Amazing - a conservative commentator calling out the hyperbole the PMO has been spewing for the last few weeks.

As for “sedition” – well, Mr. Harper’s government was only able to survive for more than 2 ½ years during the previous Parliament because it too had worked out a responsible modus vivendi with the BQ, as any prudent minority government would do. Remember the declaration that Quebec is a nation within Canada? By characterizing the Liberal-NDP willingness to cooperate with the BQ as incitement to treason – which is what sedition is, after all – Mr. Harper and his supporters are not just being insincere; they are engaging in their own brand of incitement. It may serve them well in the short term, but politics has a funny way of exacting revenge on those who practice it with such calculated cynicism. As the Prophet Hosea warned, “Those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”


Right now, I'd say the word "Conservative" is synonymous with "liar" in this country ... especially where the current government is concerned.

H/T: Queer Thoughts and Canadian Cynic

So...Where's The Media Hiding?

One of the great whines out of the Con$ is about how the evil media is so biased against them. I've heard this whinging coming out of them for years now - especially in Calgary, where even the local newspapers are blatantly conservative-leaning it's not even funny.

But, that said, I'd like to ask the media in general why they aren't calling the Conservatives out on the blatant lies they've been spewing ever since Big Daddy Harper shot his right foot off with his FU gun.

Either you're scared of this Prime Minister, or you've forgotten that not only is your job to report what happened, but it also behooves you to investigate just a little beyond reporting what falls out of a politician's mouth. Whether you remember it or not, the press is a key part of a successful democracy. If you allow politicians to decide for you what you can or cannot write, then you become the propaganda arm of the politicians.

Quite frankly, the blogosphere has done a better job calling the HarperCon$ out on blatant lies and distortion than the paid media lately. For a group that the Con$ keep claiming is biased against them, it's awfully strange that you are giving them a free ride at this time.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dear Mr. Kenney:

Let's chat for a moment about your comments yesterday, shall we?

"It says to me that the people of Canada want democracy respected. They just voted for a Conservative government six or seven weeks ago. They don't appreciate Opposition politicians trying to overturn election results and make a deal with the Separatists six weeks later."


This is a blatant lie on so many levels it's ridiculous.

Six or seven weeks ago, a majority of Canadians did not vote conservative. Let's be absolutely clear about this. The Conservatives got just over 30% of the popular vote - which means that about 22% of the eligible voters actually voted for you and Mr. Harper.

Second, I think you need a little remedial education in the form and structure of Canada's government - apparently you have forgotten some basics that you should have been taught back in grade school.

In Canada, we elect a Parliament - and we give a mandate to that parliament to govern the country. It is by convention that the party with the most seats is asked to form the government. In reality, it is in fact the party (or group of parties) that can control the majority of the seats that forms the government. The Conservatives are quite some distance from forming a majority in this situation.

Second, you don't get to squawk about a coalition being "anti democratic" when your party has gone after the same gambit. You know damn well that it is both legal, and a legitimate expression of democracy in Canada.

Third, it is the Conservative party that is behaving in a manner that is deeply offensive to the democracy in Canada. This is not the first time, but the third time that Mr. Harper has shut down parliament to avoid debate and to avoid being held accountable for his government's actions and policies. Instead of facing his opposition, or trying to work with the opposition, he tries to skewer them at every turn. When challenged in a serious manner, he folds like a cheap tent.

By shutting down parliament to avoid a confidence vote, Mr. Harper has done far worse damage to Canada's democracy than a coalition government would have. Why do I say this? Because in doing so, the Prime Minister of a Minority Government has silenced the voices of our duly elected representatives - including yourself Mr. Kenney. He has stifled debate solely because he cannot defend his actions as anything other than vicious partisan politics, and he is afraid to be accountable for them.

Your statements, Mr. Kenney, merely demonstrate that you are a toadie to Mr. Harper's will and whim. (Not that you've ever even attempted be anything other than a partisan politician - heaven forbid that you might actually have to deal with a constituent who isn't of like mind to yourself)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Cue Mackay ...

To reassure Canadians that the latest deaths in Afghanistan really prove that we are making progress over there.

The three were in an armoured vehicle when it struck the IED west of Kandahar city around 9 a.m. local time, CBC's David Common reported. Common said the device was likely quite large, since it was able to rip through their armoured vehicle.

In an unrelated incident, two soldiers were also injured Friday, one of them seriously, by an explosion while on foot patrol in the Zhari district, west of Kandahar city.


So..."progress" is measured in terms of the IED's getting bigger apparently. Does that mean when the Taliban gets nukes that we've won?

More seriously, how many more Canadian soldiers must die in this ill-conceived ego trip of Harper's? Occupying troops are the "Others" over there - at best they are serving as a unifying target for the various factions in Afghanistan to attack.

Harper The Cowardly Prime Minister

As it turns out, Mr. Harper fits the stereotype of a bully from stem to stern. Full of bluff and bluster when he thinks he has the upper hand, he runs from any serious challenge to his authority.

In 2007, he prorogued parliament because he had run out of script and didn't want to face the opposition parties in the house.

In 2008, he prorogues parliament again, this time to avoid a confidence vote he knows he would likely lose - less than six weeks after an election he triggered in direct contravention of his own fixed election dates law. The simple fact is that Harper has neither spine nor principles to stand and be accountable for his actions. When faced with a situation he doesn't control, he runs off to Government House to find a way to hide from his peers.

Like Frank Baum's character the Cowardly Lion, Harper is all roar and deep inside he knows that he's faking it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Harper Makes History!

Albeit, by putting a black mark beside his name for being the first Prime Minister in Canadian history to suspend parliament solely for the purpose of avoiding a confidence vote.

I do not envy the Governor General this decision - in granting Harper's request,she placed herself firmly in a partisan position backing a Prime Minister who, it seems, has lost the confidence of the house. But, had she flat out denied the request, the HarperCon$ would have been screaming about her in the same manner, complaining that she had tacitly supported a "separatist coalition" through her actions.

Harper is now damaged goods as a Prime Minister. Not only has Harper abused our parliamentary processes by running like a coward from a confidence motion, but his actions themselves are fundamentally contrary to the notion of an elected, parliamentary democracy. Not only has Harper dodged a confidence vote next week, but in doing so he has silenced the voices of all of our elected representatives in government and he has demolished any possible credibility he would have to claim that his government is in any respect accountable to the people.

If the Liberals are smart, they will move quickly to replace Dion before Parliament reconvenes. This is no time to sit back and allow another drawn out leadership campaign - pick a new leader, swear them in and gird for battle. A Harper-led government should not be allowed to stand any longer than absolutely necessary.

[Update]
As this blogger points out, in Harper's own words, he has lost his moral authority to govern:

“When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.”- Stephen Harper, 2005

[/Update]

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mr. Harper - Why Should We Trust You?

Harper Addresses Canada

How magnanimous of Mr. Harper. He actually chose to address Canada - and unfortunately he simply proved once again that he is far more interested in playing partisan politics games rather than actually governing the country.

Does he talk about his party's plan for Canada? No.

"The opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent, and without your vote," Harper said.

"This is no time for backroom deals with the separatists. It is a time for Canada's government to focus on the economy and specifically measures for the upcoming budget."


Instead, he spends most of his time blathering on about his imagined evils of coalition, and quietly avoids actually talking about how his party is going to govern Canada through the current economic turmoil.

In fact, worse, Harper has further isolated himself and his party in a minority parliament. He might have been able to turn to the BQ for support - if he could convince Duceppe that what he was proposing was in fact in Quebec's best interests. After this week's demonizing, I very much doubt that Harper will get the time of day from Duceppe - or even agreement that it's raining during a downpour.

At a time like this, a coalition with the separatists cannot help Canada. And the Opposition does not have the democratic right to impose a coalition with the separatists they promised voters would never happen.


Right. Sure, Steve. What you forget, Mr. Harper, is that you don't exactly have an overwhelming mandate to govern yourself. In fact, you have a minority of the seats in the house - which means that if the opposition can form a coalition in Parliament that in fact they can govern - quite legally, and quite democratically. You see, Canadians told all of the parties that none of them were acceptable - including the Con$.

The irony is that it wasn't that long ago that Harper's own party was trying to secure a coalition of its own.

I must give Dion's speech some credit - it's possibly the best one he's ever given.

In times like this our compassion as a country is tested. We believe it is imperative that the government offers Canadians who have already lost their job, whether in the factories of South Western Ontario or the forests of Eastern Quebec and British Columbia, the support they need to live in dignity and develop new skills.

That is precisely what we intend to provide.


... and then there is this:

Earlier today I wrote Her Excellency the Governor General. I respectfully asked her to refuse any request by the Prime Minister to suspend Parliament until he has demonstrated to her that he still commands the confidence of the House.

If Mr. Harper wants to suspend Parliament he must first face a vote of confidence.

In our Canada, the government is accountable for its decisions and actions in Parliament.

In our Canada, the government derives its legitimacy from an elected Parliament.


Harper has shown Canadians that he is no longer to be trusted to run Canada - he is far too interested in his own political vendettas, and far too disinterested in the job of actually governing to be an effective Prime Minister.

A Quick, Concise Review of Parliamentary Civics

Here

Read It.

Then go introduce the next twit spouting Con$ervative talking points about coalitions to reality.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Nominations For Prime Minister

With Alberta's newspapers - and population, it seems - having forgotten the basics of how our elected government is supposed to work, I'd like to nominate two candidates to replace Mr. Harper and his band of bullies in Ottawa:

Parrots Buddy and Chipper join Calgary Zoo

Two parrots can make just as much pointless noise and mess as a 140-odd Conservative politicians - only the parrots will at least be entertaining to watch...and occasionally the parrots will learn something new.

Anybody think the Calgary Zoo will agree to a straight swap?

On Coalition Government and Legitimacy

Since the HarperCon$ have been running about trying to claim that a Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition is somehow "undemocratic", it's worth spending a few minutes to debunk those talking points.

(1) In the October election, Canadians returned a minority government. The Con$ervatives won 143 seats, with the remaining 165 seats split between the Liberals, NDP and BQ.

(2) Based on voter turnout, and popular vote percentages, the Conservatives aren't exactly in a place to assert that they got more than a plurality of seats - sort of.

Conservative Popular Vote: 37.7%
Voter Turnout: 59.1%

So...37.7% of 59.1% is 22.3% of Canada's eligible voters actually voted for the Conservatives.

Comparatively speaking, 54.4% of those who voted marked their ballots for one of the Liberals, Bloc or NDP. Which means that 32.2% of Canada's eligible voters voted for the parties now threatening to form a coalition.

Let's be clear about this - Canadians did not grant the Con$ervatives a majority of the seats in the house, nor would anyone be able to claim that this is a ringing endorsement of Stephen Harper as a leader, either.

(3) We don't elect our Prime Minister. He is just the leader of the party that is able to control the most seats in the house.

(4) In a minority parliament, the governing party is always obliged to get at least some of its support from among the opposition members, especially anything that is a confidence vote. (money votes are always confidence votes)

(5) So, the difference between Harper's minority and a Liberal/Bloc/NDP coalition is merely that there is an agreement between party leaders to collaborate. Harper has made it clear that he's quite unwilling to collaborate with anyone - including his own party.

Is a coalition "undemocratic"? Not really. It's actually the first sign in a long time of the parties in the House of Commons actually trying to make it work at all. Canadians need to remember that we sent back a rather 'checkered' parliament this last election, and we told them to find a way to make it work. That doesn't mean it has to work with Harper sitting in the PMO.

How Stupid Is Liepert?

I don't even know where to begin with this bunch of drivel from Alberta health minister Ron Liepert:

A squeeze on disposable income as the economy nosedives could lead to healthier lifestyle choices, the province's health minister suggests, including fewer addictions and less obesity

...

"Somehow we've got to get Albertans to accept more personal responsibility for their behaviour," he said.

"I guess I'm hopeful that if people don't have the money to spend on Jolt and booze and everything else, maybe they won't become quite as addicted."


Uh huh. Got it. So if I get sick, it's clearly my fault because of something in my lifestyle. Using Liepert's logic, the poor should be the healthiest people on the planet.

... and then there's reality: (as opposed to ideology)

"That's a blame-the-victim approach that has been consistent in the Conservative ideology," Swann said. "They fail to see the social conditions that are creating the conditions in which people are making poor choices."

Calgary dietitian Sarah Remmer also isn't certain less disposable income will lead to healthier food choices. "A lot of people eat fast food because it's inexpensive," said Remmer, adding studies have shown people living in lower-income communities are more overweight or obese.


Of course, Liepert also uses this to signal to Albertans that he is setting things up to dismantle public health care in Alberta:

Less prosperity may also lower Albertans' expectations of what services should be covered under the public health-care system, added Liepert, who's leading the Alberta government's major over-haul of the medical regime.

"We're going to have some tough decisions to make in the budget coming next year and I think people are going to start to say, 'OK, maybe government shouldn't be covering everything,' " the health minister said after his speech.


Coming soon - pay for it yourself healthcare in Alberta:

On Monday, the province is unveiling a new plan broadly outlining the government's medical reforms. The plan will focus on sustainability of the medical system, whose costs have ballooned to $13.4 billion from$4.6 billion in 1998. However, the thorny issue of delisting services will not be addressed then, Liepert said.

Several other health announcements are planned, as the province's Dec. 15 deadline for this year's reforms looms.


Anyone for moving to Saskatchewan or B.C.?

Monday, December 01, 2008

So Eddie, How Much Did Harper Pay You?

I can only imagine what the conversations between the PMO and Stelmach's office this past week must have been.

"Put Canada first and stop the nonsense,” the provincial Progressive Conservative leader told reporters in Edmonton Monday. “This is a time where we need sane, prudent leadership dealing with the bigger elephant in the room which is the global economic crisis. It's a real concern to all Albertans.”

He said he expects that “cooler heads will prevail” and that coalition talks will die by next week.

“I think it's just imperative that we move ahead with good, strong economic policies. Give us some predictability and some certainty in policies so that we can attract the investment that's necessary.”

However, he said his right-wing government already has a strategy in place to deal with a possible Liberal-NDP coalition in Ottawa. “But I'm not going to play the cards until such time and until we know who are dealing with and what the issues are.”


How blatantly partisan can you possibly be Stelmach? Did Harper pay you to come up with that drivel, or did you think it up all by yourself? But then again, Stelmach lives in Alberta where a bale of hay can be elected as long as it is nominated on the conservative ticket.

Does it strike anyone else as only mildly ironic that Stelmach's ire is directed at the opposition, not a Prime Minister who directed his government to play the most vicious of partisan games at a time when Canada's government needs to be focused on the economy?

Mr. Harper decided to play politics - he picked an exceedingly volatile moment to engage in a game of political chicken...and his bluff got called. Yes, he's backed down on some of the most volatile propositions, but at this point, can anybody trust him to actually do his job? Or does he believe that all he is responsible is political points - as if running Canada were some massive videogame where high score is all that matters.

[Update]
Just maybe, the rank and file of the CPoC will remove Harper as leader if they get bounced to the Opposition benches. It's time this bunch learned that politics really is all about compromise.
[/Update]

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Let's Talk About "Democratic" Government, Shall We?

So, now in an effort to save his skin, rumors are flying that Harper may prorogue parliament. (Garth Turner has picked up on the same rumour)

All this to avoid facing a confidence vote that Harper is apt as not to lose.

So desperate to hang on to power, Harper is prepared to suspend the business of Canada's government at a time when our economy is in crisis, even the Harper himself has had to admit that the fundamentals are not as sound as he so proudly proclaimed during this fall's election campaign.

Even in Alberta, where the word conservative is assumed to be synonymous with "infallible", proroguing parliament is apt to be seen as worse than falling to a confidence motion.

However, Mr. Harper may find this little tactic limited indeed, because Her Excellency, the Governor General may refuse to prorogue parliament at this time - on the basis that the session has just begun, and it would be difficult indeed for Harper to argue that the business of the government has been completed.

For a man who prattles on about democracy, Harper continues to prove to Canadians that he is about the least democratic leader this country has ever seen.

[Update]
One additional thought - for the first time I can remember, the leader of a minority parliament is unwilling to face a confidence motion over his government's actions. Where, pray tell, are the vaunted "principles" that Mr. Harper and his ideological allies have talked so much about in the past?
[/Update]

Harper's Hand - Firmly on the Trigger

Harper has his people talking about 'staying the course' and a 'firm hand on the tiller'. Even though the Con$ have blinked in their most recent game of political chicken, Canadians should be wary.

Harper has shown us that he is much more intent on playing for partisan advantage than he is in governing Canada for the benefit of Canadians. The fact that he slipped in several ideological turds into Flaherty's "Fiscal Update"(most ironically, a term that abbreviates to 'F.U.'...) last week tells us that he simply doesn't get it. If he wants to play the 'steady hand on the tiller' card, the first thing he needs to do is start governing rather than acting as though it was all a game of "scoring political points'.

Today, based on what I have seen, Harper's hand is not on the tiller, but on the trigger - and it is aimed at Canada and Canadian democracy. Make no mistake, Harper is an autocrat in the extreme. His fiscal policy is not fiscally responsible, it ideological. He seeks to impose a style of government that is extreme indeed - hard-fisted towards all who dare transgress or defy his ideology.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Arrogance of this PM

Regular readers of this blog already know that I am no fan of Stephen Harper. However, his antics in the last week have taken my opinion of the man to new lows.

Consider his marching orders to the troops:

Mr. Giorno's e-mail stated that MPs must show that the current dispute with opposition parties is merely about the Liberals, NDP and Bloc trying to protect their share of the $27-million in public subsidies and steal power that they failed to win legitimately in the last federal election.

The Tories plan to scrutinize the public reaction to their message over the weekend. If they don't feel they've persuaded Canadians that a change would be disastrous, sources said, they may consider describing in more detail what kind of spending they would be prepared to offer and under what conditions they would pump stimulus into the economy.


Uh huh. Since that little piece of odiousness is off the table (or it was as of yesterday - perhaps the HarperCon$ have put it back on - hard to know), one has to imagine that there's just a little more to the picture than that. Of course, what this really reflects is the HarperCon$ playing more from the Karl Rove book of political dirty tricks than from any coherent sense of doing the right thing for Canada as a nation.

Harper is playing politics while our economy sinks, a Canadian Nero so self absorbed that the only thing that matters to him is his ego.

Harper Needs A Lesson On Canadian Civics

Since I'm hearing this bit of drivel fall from our Prime Minister's lips:

The opposition is entitled to defeat the government as it sees fit, Harper said Friday, but Dion himself does not have the right to take power without an election.


Perhaps it is time to remind Mr. Harper that in fact the Governor General has the right to consider the Leader of the Opposition forming a coalition government if the minority government falls. Such governments have been exceedingly rare in Canada, but that doesn't mean they cannot occur.

Second, to claim that it is 'undemocratic' is completely ridiculous. The last election for the Parliament was only a few short months ago. Canadians sent politicians a message that none of the parties deserves to govern in a majority setting. Therefore, we clearly asked the politicians to find a way to make a minority situation work. Since the leadership of the 'first party' has made it clear that he is unwilling to compromise with other parties, then the other parties have the opportunity to form a coalition - if, of course, they can persuade her Excellency, The Governor General, that such a coalition would have the confidence of the house.

It is, in fact, Mr. Harper who has shown himself to be anything but an advocate for democracy in the last couple of years.

In terms of the political crisis that Harper has just spawned, Jeffrey Simpson has an excellent assessment of the situation, and Harper's behaviour.

Rick Bell over at the Calgary Sun has the grand prize winner for headline: The PM plays politics when the economy is tanking and people are afraid. So how do you spell 'disgraceful?' S-T-E-P-H-E-N-H-A-R-P-E-R.