Monday, June 30, 2008

Still More Evidence

For years, scientists have been finding little bits of evidence that suggest that there is a lot more to someone's sexual identity than 'personal choice'.

In the early 1990s, Simon LeVay made one of the first important observations about differences in brain structure.

This small observation (and I am cautious about treating it as conclusive) blew open the whole "nature versus nurture" debate around homosexuality. LeVay's finding was one of the first things that pointed to validating the assertion that so many in the GLBT community had made for years - 'they were born that way'.

Then, in 2005, another study popped up, this one analyzing brain response to sweat. Again, not a hard-and-fast finding by any means, but another piece of evidence that suggests strongly that there are in fact differences in how brains work.

Most recently, Antonia Zerbisas notes that Swedish researchers published another study of brain physiology that looks quite significant, as it demonstrates differences in brain structure which show gay male brains as being more consistent with straight female brains.

This last study strikes me as particularly important, as it has the potential to provide considerable insight into the vast dynamic range of human sexuality, but it also goes an enormous distance towards providing some degree of explanation for the existence of cross-gender identity (transsexualism) as well as potentially providing some means to understand that homosexual and bisexual behaviour is somehow related to differences in brain structure. I'm reluctant to say that it is "caused by brain structure", as I believe such an explanation is overly simplistic, but the presence of structural similarities that are cross-gender consistent (e.g. A gay male showing a brain structure that is consistent with a straight female) is intriguing.

When I wrote this series of essays, it was with a predominantly psychological perspective that I was working. To add to the mix the influence of physiological brain structures goes a huge distance to explaining the "I always knew I was different" narrative that is common among both homosexuals and transgender people.

Do these kinds of findings "prove" the idea that sexual and gender identity are genetic? Not entirely, because we don't fully understand much about how the brain develops, and when these differentiations occur; nor do we have sufficiently meaningful understanding of how brain structure influences individual personality and behavioural traits. What we have is an emerging correlation that suggests that brain structure is involved somehow.

This growing body of evidence is gradually leading down a path that is consistent with other parts of science - namely that the human body is vastly diverse in its individual expression, even in areas that are not readily seen from outside.

Politically, these findings have huge implications - particularly for the gay-hostile religious lobby. (Who I am sure will be working hard to find some supposed "expert" to denounce this latest study) These findings suggest that sexual identity has physiological anchors to it, and that tends to fly in the face of the oft-raised complaint that GLBT people are trying to "recruit" others - especially children. As the GLBT side of that argument has often claimed, you either are part of that population and know it or you aren't.

Those who can "swing either way" (Bisexuals) likely have brain structures somewhere in between those of strictly heterosexual and strictly homosexual individuals - and are likely the people for whom "reparative therapy" manages to "convert" to being straight (mostly).

If you have a strong biologically-based explanation, then it becomes much easier to understand the frequency of occurrence (relatively rare), and much harder to justify enforcing 2,000+ year old scriptural prohibitions as a reason to marginalize GLBT people as a whole.

They Don't Give Redress To Their Own Citizens

What makes the Europeans think that Washington is going to treat their data any differently?

The two sides are said to have reached agreement on about a dozen areas, but a big sticking point remains legal redress for Europeans who feel they are being victimised by US possession of information that may be incorrect or used incorrectly.

If I were living in the EU I'd be very upset with this whole charade:

A comprehensive transatlantic pact clearing the way for the unprecedented supply of private data on European citizens to the American authorities is to be promoted by France in support of the US-driven campaign to combat terrorism and transnational crime.

The French government is expected to use its six-month presidency of the EU, starting tomorrow, to build on 18 months of confidential negotiations between Washington and Brussels aimed at clearing the complex legal obstacles to the exchange of personal information with the Americans.

The controversial proposed pact, a "framework agreement" on common data protection principles, is likely to enable the Americans to access the credit card histories, banking details and travel habits of Europeans, although senior officials in Brussels deny US reports that the Americans will also be able to snoop on the internet browsing records of Europeans.

I think Sarkozy is just a little to cozy with BushCo for his own good. The EU should be insisting on several key actions as acts of "good faith" before they even consider enacting this agreement:

1. Fair trials for anyone charged and held at Guantanamo Bay, and those who are not charged, must be released.

2. Open and transparent recourse for anyone who finds themselves on any of numerous US lists such as the "no-fly" lists that result from the government's "information gathering" efforts.

3. An immediate and permanent end to "extraordinary rendition" and other forms of questionable detainment.

If the United States cannot, or will not, enact such changes at home, I don't think any foreign power would be well served by signing up to hand over data on its citizens.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Not Thinking It Through

Wow, this bunch sounds suspiciously consistent with the typical conservative mentality with respect to environment issues these days.

“But in the North, there really are no alternatives for us in Nunavut to turn to, to get away from diesel generation for power and for heat,” he said.

Okay. Fair enough, but isn't the point here to get people to find better ways to do things? We know that as long as people have an "easy" answer, they won't look for more innovative solutions - and the "can't do nothin', it'll hurt" line has been coming from the right wing for years - based largely on fear.

A little digging about turns up that Premier Fentie leads the Yukon Party - which is (surprise, surprise) - "conservative" in its leanings. Premier Okalik has no official party affiliation, but I have to imagine that he is being influenced heavily by Fentie on this one.

Regardless, for years, it has been the residents of the Arctic regions that have been sounding the alarm over climate change. Now, someone starts proposing ways to nudge things in the right direction, and the first thing out is "not what we wanted"?

“We see instead a more productive or sensible solution to combatting the impact of climate change, such as making strategic investment in alternative energy sources such as hydro electricity, wind power and bio-mass.”

Well, boys. You're in charge up there. Start investing. It's pretty simple - come up with alternatives and make them happen. The sooner you do, the sooner that a 'carbon tax' model becomes a moot point.

Ironically, if they had been paying attention, they would have noticed that a big part of the Green Shift model Dion is proposing in fact directs resources heavily into additional technology research and development to overcome precisely the challenges that the Canada's Arctic faces.

I don't want to be overly dismissive of the challenges that living in Canada's Arctic presents - but if we are going to move things forward, all Canadians need to take some ownership - it's far too easy to point the finger at "somebody else" and insist that they carry your burden.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hmmm...Taft Resigns

I'm not entirely sure that Taft's resignation really addresses what happened in the last provincial election for the Alberta Liberals.

When the bigger issue facing Alberta's politicians is apathy on the part of the voter, and an environment where the governing party has been in power so long that it will likely take nothing less than a revolution to unseat.

The only thing I am critical of Taft for is not hammering the Tories at every turn with the material out of his books "Shredding The Public Interest" and "Democracy Derailed" As far as I can tell, the only way that the Alberta voter will consider an alternative is to see up close and personal what kind of ugly sense of entitlement thirty years in power creates in a political party.

In failing to hold the PC's accountable for their actions (or inaction as the case may be), Taft made it too easy for Stelmach to create the impression that the party has changed. (More recent events such as their self-awarded pay raise calls that into question, to be sure)

PFOX - Je T'Accuse

I've always been a little suspicious of PFOX, an ex-gay support organization. Part of me has suspected for a long time that this is nothing more than the anti-GBLT lobby trying to make itself look "compassionate".

This news release confirms my suspicions, and proves just how unpleasant these people can be.

“Homosexuals and their transgender activist allies hope to use this hearing as a way of forcing the imposition of gender confusion upon all Americans,” said Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) Executive Director Regina Griggs today. “Instead of treating transsexualism and cross-dressing behaviors as Gender Identity Disorders (GID) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Democrats seem determined to make these behaviors into federally-protected minorities.”

“Why should Congress force Americans to provide workplace accommodations for people who are confused about whether they’re male or female? How can Congress force us to make believe that a man is really a woman or a woman is really a man?”

“If Democrats were truly concerned about these gender confused individuals, they’d push for expanded mental health services for GID. A person can’t change his or her sex – and many of these individuals think they’re a woman one day and a man the next day. Why is Congress catering to such insanity?”

This snippet shows us the extent of PFOX's ignorance and hostility towards transsexuals. Allow me to take a few moments to make my point, by dissecting the arguments they are putting forward one at a time.

Instead of treating transsexualism and cross-dressing behaviors as Gender Identity Disorders (GID) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

For those unfamiliar with the DSM-IV, it is essentially a lexicon used by mental health professionals to describe their client's symptoms and narrative to other professionals. The DSM-IV describes Gender Identity Disorder in fairly broad terms, with a bit of a narrative rooted in "classic" patterns for GID. It most clearly DOES NOT describe treatment.

The second point is that although each individual is unique, in the most severe of cases, the only real treatment available is ultimately gender transition. There will be some who only transition part-way, and a certain number who attempt transition and back away for a variety of reasons.

Why should Congress force Americans to provide workplace accommodations for people who are confused about whether they’re male or female?

By the time someone who is considering transition is talking to their workplace about their intentions, any sense of "confusion" should be long dispelled. By that point, they are taking concrete steps to make their lives congruent with their identity. (A dual-role existence is extremely hard to maintain)

There is a second insinuation here that I find particularly noxious - and that is the absolutist notion that someone who is transsexual is "confused" because their identity is at odds with their body. The insinuation is that the person is delusional in some capacity. Yet, there is no psychiatric evidence that the individual is in fact delusional. Transsexuals are typically quite coherently aware of their status - both physical and mental. To infer that someone who is in the midst of gender transition is somehow "confused" is deeply insulting to someone who has already looked dysphoria in the face and chosen to act constructively against it.

A person can’t change his or her sex – and many of these individuals think they’re a woman one day and a man the next day. Why is Congress catering to such insanity?

While in early stages of grappling with whatever coping mechanisms someone has created in order to survive their inner gender conflict that there may be periods of ambiguous behaviour and fluctuating identity, that is understandable in light of the often dramatic differences between the social roles that men and women face, not to mention the often severe social penalties for those who violate the "expected" role. Gender transition is a high stress process, and not one undertaken lightly.

The next ugly wart in this paragraph is the classic "biology is destiny" argument. This overlooks a key part of the transgender narrative - namely that their feelings of "not rightness" predate the age when most people become gender aware, and significantly predate any awareness of sexual identity. While it is impossible to change someone's chromosomal sex, there is no guarantee that a male body gets a 'male brain' associated with it - as most MTF transsexuals will attest.

While I am all in favour of making better treatment available to all transgender people, that will be for naught if the legal and social frameworks continue to discriminate against transgender people. Even more unfortunate is the fact that PFOX chooses to attempt to declare invalid the stories of those who have transitioned, and some five decades of background science that has shown gender transition to be a successful treatment in its own right - even in light the challenges that transsexuals face post transition. (and that's ignoring the kinds of obstacles that PFOX would create.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dear Bishops:

What is it with the Bishops in Alberta? Did moving here come with an obligation to have the rational part of their brains lobotomized?

The latest utterances from their collective wisdom is protesting the distribution of a vaccine against HPV.

It wouldn't be so bad if they had actual reasons to work with, but no - the Bishops are all a-feared that giving girls a vaccine against HPV (which is a known primary cause of cervical cancer) will make them all sex-obsessed:

Alberta's Bishops released a statement on Monday warning parents that in allowing their daughters to receive the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination, they are in effect condoning pre-marital sex and subjecting them to a plethora of other health risks.

"Catholic teaching is that sexuality is a God-given gift that should be reserved for marriage," the bishops wrote in the letter to parents.

"So-called 'casual' or 'recreational' sexual activity carries with it profound risks to a young person's spiritual, emotional, moral and physical health.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I fail to see where a vaccine to counteract an amazingly common virus has anything at all to do with whether someone has sex before marriage or not.

I hate to point it out to the Bishops, but puberty beats any vaccine to the punch in terms of provoking sexual curiosity. Whether the Bishops want to admit it or not, teenagers experiment sexually - period. It's been a fact since the dawn of time, regardless of what prohibitions are created.

Besides, the point of this vaccine is actually more about recognizing that a woman deserves some protection from whatever philandering a prospective husband may have done before marriage.

Of course, the Bishops have to attack the efficacy of the vaccine, pointing out that it isn't 100% effective (well duh, what vaccine is?)

But, for Alberta's Bishops, it seems that anything to do with sex is all about consequences, isn't it?

Shuffling the Deck Chairs

In his tradition of maintaining Canada's most secretive, unaccountable government, Harper shuffled his cabinet today.

Not only does the shuffle emphasize the Con$ervative party's desire to suck up to Quebec as much as possible, but it goes several steps further in maintaining the secretive, dishonest model that PMSH clearly favours.

Senator Michael Fortier, a Montrealer who doesn't have a seat in the House of Commons, was appointed international trade minister.

Christian Paradis, an MP for the southeastern riding of Mégantic-L'Érable, was picked to take over Fortier's former job as public works minister. Paradis will also continue in his role of secretary of state for agriculture.
David Emerson was asked to fill in as foreign affairs minister temporarily, and on Wednesday he was named to take on the role permanently.

In one final move Wednesday, James Moore, a parliamentary secretary from British Columbia, was named secretary of state for official languages, the Asia-Pacific gateway and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

I don't think it's necessary to point out that having Fortier in Cabinet at all is a slap in the face to Canadian democracy. Fortier is unelected, was appointed to the Senate on PMSH's first day in office, and is completely unaccountable to the public, yet he holds a fairly senior post in Harper's cabinet.

Continuing to promote David Emerson is similarly offensive. The only merit he has is that he slavishly does whatever his master tells him to do - which no doubt makes PMSH very happy, as it means that Emerson won't wind up doing something that PMSH will find embarrassing. On the other hand, Emerson's profile after his "oh so amazing" softwood lumber deal has been nearly subterranean - a bit of reality that should give a lot of Canadians pause when the man is put into the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

However, we should also take note of something more subtle in Harper's cabinet structure. He has quietly left people like Jason Kenney in secondary posts, and then drags them out to act as "spokesweasel" on whatever topic needs a particularly vile form of attack that day (in PMSH's opinion, of course.

Harper isn't keeping the wingnuts "at bay", he's keeping them in reserve. Especially while he's salivating over the possibility of achieving a majority government. But, coming from Canada's most secretive Prime Minister (one who actually makes Mulroney look accountable!), this should be no real surprise.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Canada's Wingnuts - When Facts Won't Do

There is a part of me that takes a perverse pleasure in watching the sheer stupidity of Canada's wingnut fringe.

Today, I find our friends over at one of McVety's little mouth organs decided to quote Spanish psychiatrist Enrique Rojas' comments about homosexuality from a speech he gave in Buenos Aires:

Rojas characterized homosexual orientation as a "disorder" rather than an illness, and stated his opinion that 95% of cases are caused by environmental factors, according to the Spanish news service Terra.

The disorder, according to Rojas, is the result of an absent father, overweening mother, or sexual abuse in childhood.

Once again, we see the classic canard about "bad parenting" or other "family environment" problems as a causal explanation for why someone is gay. Of course, it falls apart when one considers studies such as twins studies where although there is an increased probability that both twins will be gay if one is, that is just a probability. At 55% probability, that is pretty close to even odds - not what one would expect from a dysfunctional parenting arrangement (where I would expect the effect to be considerably more pronounced). Nor does it explain the emergence of gay children from families that are clearly quite normal.

If this clown is some "eminent" (it's amazing how as soon as one of these people says something the fundies like, they immediately grant all kinds of authority to the person's utterances) psychiatrist, it seems to me that he is lacking the requisite background in current research on subjects he is claiming to be an authority on.

Nanos On Dion's Green Shift

Nik Nanos has an interesting take on Dion's 'Green Shift' strategy here:

In regards to the political rewards, the Dion proposal will likely have appeal among Green Party and NDP voters who are environmentally conscious and who are looking to block another Harper mandate. With the Conservatives and the Liberals neck-and-neck, this may incrementally tip the balance in favour of the Liberals, if they can remain united behind this policy and their leader.

Likewise, the policy will likely shed a new spotlight on the Conservative approach to the environment. After the Conservative attacks subside, expect Canadians to shift their focus on the Harper government’s track record and approach to the environment. If that transpires, the short term Conservative advantage may turn to a disadvantage.

I'm cautious about the political success of Dion's plan, in part because the Liberals have not made me very happy on other fronts this past session, and in part because I'm not so sure about the timing.

Nanos' evaluation of the situation is possibly the most reasonable I've seen put forward. Whether it is what actually unfolds over the summer months remains to be seen.

Monday, June 23, 2008


It seems that although Alberta's 'fat, dumb and happy' politicians think that they are set for the time being with revenues from the Oilsands, consumers of that product aren't so thrilled.

The issues around extracting viable (read: refinable) crude out of Alberta's "Tar Sands" projects have been getting a lot of publicity lately, and it's even taking root in the minds of US municipal politicians.

To be perfectly frank, I don't think it's a bad thing at all if we end up having to slow down a bit on development in northern Alberta, and start to solve some of the very real secondary issues that processing tar sands into crude actually entails. This may be the very "tacit" economic pressure that will force the industry to address these issues instead of fighting it every step of the way, or worse telling the public that they are "already dealing with it" and presenting some bunch of greenwash.

Whether "Steady Eddie" up in Edmonton has recognized this for what it is remains to be seen, but at least the anticipated consumers of this product are starting to make noise. My money is on Stelmach doing nothing until government royalty revenues mysteriously start to dry up.

Deriving Bad Conclusions From Good Science

Alberta's Stephen Boissoin has linked to this Lifesite article from his blog.

The article references a paper from 1997 published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The study itself is actually an interesting piece of work, as it estimates the impact of HIV/AIDS on gay male life expectancy. The data from the article ranges from 1987 to 1992 - near what many would consider the peak of the AIDS epidemic.

The study is an interesting exercise in statistical projection and modelling techniques.

Of course, from this, the Lifesite article then goes on to derive that it is perfectly valid to suppress GLBT people in society:

This morose reality makes a strong case for a fitting redefinition of so-called "homophobia," that being "Homophobia: The rational fear that 'gay sex' will kill you!"

The fact that we don't have mandatory surgeon general warnings on the side of condom wrappers is a testament to the power and influence wielded by the radical homosexual lobby. (Warning: Male-male anal sodomy has been proven to shorten your lifespan by up to 20 years.)

Hmmm...well, given that condoms are in fact intended to provide some degree of protection from HIV and other STIs for both men and women such a warning seems to be rather missing the point, doesn't it?

Of course, that's all just worthless fluff. All the political spin in the world doesn't change reality, nor does it eliminate the study's disturbing conclusions or practical implications. The research left ZERO wiggle room for anyone who would argue that homosexuality is a "perfectly normal and healthy alternative sexual orientation."

No, actually that research didn't conclude any such thing. It presented the impact of HIV infection on life expectancy for Gay Males. The study did not address safer sex practices, nor did it attempt to make any assessment as to whether being gay was a normal part of the human experience.

In fact, a careful read of the study shows that it was designed to address the problems that underreporting of HIV (and related risk activities) present for those attempting to understand the public health implications for HIV. (Strangely, that underreporting correlates directly to the kind of social suppression that GLBT folk have experienced historically)

In light of the irrefutable medical facts, it should be considered criminally reckless for educators to teach children that homosexual conduct is a normal, safe and perfectly acceptable alternative form of sexual expression (or "sexual orientation").

But instead, the "gay" lifestyle is vigorously promoted in our public schools. Sexually confused children who suffer from gender identity disorder and same-sex attractions are told to "embrace who they are," and are encouraged to entertain deviant and dangerous sexual temptations. "But always use a condom!" liberal educators bellow. (Forget that condoms have a perilously high failure rate and are incapable of preventing numerous STDs such as the HPV virus.)

If there is one thing to be learned from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is not the disease that is the problem - it is ignorance that is the problem. Being gay should not be something that has to be hidden. Having to hide means that youth will make foolish choices out of ignorance.

Oh yes, the canard about how condoms can fail utterly misses the point. Condoms are surprisingly effective at stopping a host of different infections - whining because HPV isn't one of them is silly - especially when these same idiots are the ones who figure that an HPV vaccine shouldn't be made available because they're afraid it will promote promiscuity.

But then, logic doesn't stop a fundie in the midst of a rant, does it?

The "Day of Silence" (DOS) is organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), one of the most militant and well-funded of the powerful homosexual pressure groups. DOS purports to confront the alleged systematic harassment and bullying of children who self-identify as homosexual, bisexual or "transgender." ...

To be sure, bullying and harassment should not be tolerated against anyone, anywhere for any reason, and those who engage in such activities should be firmly disciplined. However, DOS has very little to do with "bullying" and has everything to do with propaganda.

During DOS, children and teachers are encouraged to disrupt the school day by refusing to speak, in a show of support to self-described "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" students. ...

If this was any more asinine, it would be mind-boggling in the stupidity of its conclusions. Essentially, the author, "Concerned Woman" Matt Barber, has concluded that the kinds of systemic discrimination that GLBT people face on a daily basis is valid because of a study which examined the impact of HIV/AIDS on male homosexual life expectancy. Perhaps even more offensive, he figures that GLBT people should sit back and quietly accept it, on the basis of his "irrefutable medical evidence". (Actually, I think the Day Of Silence is one of the most brilliant protests out there - because it so effectively represents EXACTLY what the bigot crowd wants, and they know it calls them on it - without getting into a yelling match)

Of course, we shouldn't point out to Mr. Barber - or Mr. Boissoin, for that matter - that GLBT civil rights have exactly nothing to do with gay male sex or HIV transmission per se. (and, if it does, then I'd love to see them explain away what's happening in Africa these days - where a lack of knowledge is quite successfully killing off an entire generation of straight people)

Conservatives and Civil Rights

If you think back to a not so distant future, Income Tax filings were held to be strictly confidential - to the extent that the CRA (formerly Revenue Canada) couldn't even share name and address information with either the census or elections departments without explicit permission on the part of the individual.

This is as it should be - income taxes contain some of the most important data that we expose to the government, data that we submit with a certain expectation of respect for the confidentiality of it.

Then there's the HarperCon$, and their particularly vile way of doing things. During salary negotiations with federal judges, the Government used the income tax filings of sitting judges to reinforce its position.

Income taxes contain a great deal of information, including clues to past income, and possibly surprising amounts of information about a person's investments as well as employment income. The Federal Government grossly abused its position as employer by using tax filings data to make its position:

To buttress its position that salaries for federal judges are generally higher than the income they earned as lawyers in private and public practice, the Justice Department took the unprecedented step of giving the Canada Revenue Agency a list of the names of 627 judges the federal cabinet appointed to the bench between 1995 and 2007.

The agency was able to match 567 of those judges to their tax records as lawyers, and provided the Justice Department with an aggregated version of the information, with no names attached. A consultant used the data to calculate what the department claimed was an indication of the average increases in salaries and benefits lawyers received after they became judges.

Think about that for a moment - you are negotiating with your employer over matters of salary, and he turns around and slaps a stack of statistics on the desk which are derived from your last ten years' income tax filings - some of which contain the results of investments which were surprisingly successful for you. Whether it weakens your negotiating position is irrelevant - your employer has just shown you that he is willing to violate your personal privacy in order to "win" in the negotiations.

PMSH - violating people's privacy for his own political ends. How trustworthy of him.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Argument By Assertion

One of the things that irritates me to no end is when people make broad, sweeping claims without providing evidence to back them up; or they conveniently ignore the broader reality in which their claims exist.

The so-called "Social Conservatives" are particularly nasty in this respect. In fact, this has been one of the bones I keep picking every time Mr. Boissoin pops up as a commenter on this blog.

The first time he popped up here, he made the usual talking point references to the "Gay Agenda" as if it is some coherent, real thing. When I challenged him to be precise about his use of the term, he shuts up and goes away.

Then, in a more recent dialogue, he tries the same ambiguous kind of debating tactic, and combines it with a marginally related argument about what a gay community activist said regarding HIV/AIDS. (Which semi-anonymous commenter "SB" very nicely put into appropriate context.

We can imagine from a statement like "The scientific evidence suggests that homosexual practices are not healthy but instead physically dangerous." what Mr. Boissoin is talking about, but in fact we don't actually know what he's getting at - which means he can change his meaning at whim. As a reader of that statement, for all I know he may have knowledge or evidence that lesbians are generally known to wrestle with each other in a way that has an increased probability of spinal injury? It's hard to say for sure, isn't it?

The same problem exists with the oft-heard railing against the "Gay Agenda" - the Theo-Con set talks about it, but won't specify what they believe it to be; much less how, or why, it is harmful to anyone. The assertion of harm is made, but nobody ever substantiates that assertion with verifiable evidence.

Consider the following from Boissoin's own website:

Watch these videos and see for yourself. The video, It's Elementary has been used to indoctrinate school children over the last decade. It contains actual classroom footage showing educators imposing pro-homosexual propaganda on children as young as six. They even encourage these children to discuss gay marriage in an obvious attempt to infuse a pro-gay opinion in their highly impressionable minds.

He's referring, of course, to It's Elementary. The movie itself is nothing more than footage of GLBT people going into classrooms and talking about their lives. Little different, in my view, than the myriad of people of different backgrounds that presented vignettes of their lives to us when I was in grade school. The point is simple enough - namely to teach the children that the "Others" in society are in fact little different than the rest of the population when it comes down to it.

The religious set likes to claim that these are attempts to "recruit" people into the GLBT "lifestyle" that they imagine as being so licentious. Movies like "It's Elementary" are not "recruiting" tools of any sort, instead what they do is dispel much of the mythology that surrounds GLBT people's lives. (which, for the most part, the religious conservative set would be quite disappointed to learn how amazingly mundane those lives are)

While there is no empirically clear understanding of the causality of sexual and gender identity, the notion of "recruitment" is a silly derivation to make in the absence of that clarity. GLBT youth often know their identity, often long before they have any discrete knowledge of the terms and concepts related to it. (Even in situations where such information has been actively suppressed by the surrounding community) A lack of scientific clarity does not mean that we can simply deny the reality of their narratives, as I have discussed before in this essay.

In my view, it's rather like getting upset because someone from a non-Christian culture gives a presentation in a classroom. It's unlikely that the person is "recruiting" anyone. We all have stories to tell, and it's not invalid to tell them. Ultimately, it removes the stigma that arises in society from someone being "different".

Catching Up On Backlog

This is a bit of miscellany - short bits that warrant mention, but not an entire post.

First off, we have Don Martin singing the praises of the Federal Cabinet, and drops this little gem in the midst about Stockwell Day:

Just to illustrate the dramatic nature of his transformation, consider that his name is now whispered as a front-running replacement for, get this, Stephen Harper.

Oh, Please - the comic potential is just too much to ignore!

(as an aside, I think Martin is at least two letter grades high on his assessments!)

H/T: Impolitical

Then, we get the political cartoonists weighing in on Colorado's recent law about transgender discrimination:

H/T: Autumn @ Pam's House Blend

Green Shift: Policy versus Non-Policy

I've been somewhat reluctant to comment on the Liberal Green Shift Plan this week because I simply haven't had the time available for me to sit down and think past the rhetoric and look at the policy platform as it is presented.

After reading through the plan itself, and thinking a bit about some of the statements by the HarperCon$, and Dion's response.

Stepping aside from the partisan politics whirling through Ottawa these days and looking at the policy itself, it is an interesting model that Dion's team has put forward.

For years, critics of environmental protocols like Kyoto have sat on the sidelines and heckled - whining that cutting environmental emissions is going to be too hard on the country's economy. The 'Green Shift' policy attacks that criticism head-on, and through the most directly visible ways that most people experience government's hand - taxation.

Essentially, what the Liberals are proposing is a shifting of the tax burden - away from individual earnings, and placing it firmly in the hands of those whose actions impose high, long-term public expenditures to remediate. Whether we are talking about abandoned mines, or oil and gas wells that have been abandoned, often the "owners" of these properties either no longer exist, or the shifting sands of mergers and acquisitions has left the property in a no-man's land. The reality is that the cleanup of these properties lands squarely in the taxpayer's lap - after the fact.

While one might argue that my example is unrelated to going after a Carbon Emissions tax, the fact is that we face serious consequences if we do not work actively to make our collective carbon footprint smaller, and one of the most direct ways that government can intervene is by moving the economic burden towards those who produce the carbon load.

It's clear to me that this is one facet of a far reaching view of government policy as a means to influence the broad spectrum of public activity. The Green Shift is not a comprehensive environmental policy, but instead is a piece of policy intended to address the very real issue that simply slapping another tax into place is not going to have much effect other than being a damper on the economy. (and it would - if steps to counter-balance the impact of the new tax didn't exist in the framework)

In a policy designed to address the economic issues of changing Canada's GHG footprint, I have no reason to expect that specific targets are part of that policy.

I find it somewhat amusing that Harper and his ideological "clones" are trying to portray Dion's strategy as a "tax grab", and as a "NEP II" policy. For a party that is supposedly governing Canada, it seems to me that Harper is once again playing the role of Leader of the Opposition instead of governing.

Where is the Conservative environmental policy? Where is the government's legislation to implement that policy? Oh right - it DOESN'T EXIST!

All we've seen out of the HarperCon$ in matters of environmental policy and legislation are "do nothings" that postpone doing anything material until long after most of the current generation is dead, or policies that kowtow entirely to the interests of large corporations.

I'll give Dion this much - in the face of the HarperCon$ whose sole goal seems to be to ape the BushCo Rethuglicans at every turn, he is at least putting forward actual policy to address real issues. As opposed to the self-inflating, ego stroking that the HarperCon$ are engaging in.

Since Harper seems so willing to oppose the concept Dion's putting forward, and so unwilling to suggest alternatives, I suggest that voters return Mr. Harper to the opposition benches at the first opportunity. His role in parliament should reflect his behaviour - and his behaviour is entirely that of the oppositon, not the government.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conservative Environmental Policy

After putting the oh-so-lovable John Baird in charge of the Environment portfolio after a "do nothing" policy on the environment imploded, about all the Con$ have done is spray more hot air into the environment and sidestep doing anything.

Well...almost nothing. Via Allison over at Creekside, we get a particularly nasty little bit of destructiveness being done to Canada's lakes - simply by the fiat of declaring them "tailings containment areas".

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that those "tailings containment areas" are in fact toxic waste zones - and because these are existing lakes, those same tailings will inevitably escape beyond the so-called containment zone.

Conservative government - when you are absolutely clear that public policy is all about kneeling before big business interests.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Credibility: Zero

There is little more disappointing than the transparent attempts to "prove" that Iran has nuclear weapons.

Okay, a bunch of smugglers have "plans" for a nuclear weapon of some sort, and maybe they had been talking to the Iranian government. Big deal - at most we have a conjecture that there is something being developed in Iran. Let's be realistic here - anyone with some basic physics these days understands the basic design principles behind a nuclear weapon. It's documented in hundreds of textbooks that are readily available. The extra steps to get from theory to implementation aren't exactly difficult - they are more of a matter of logistics than research.

Even if Iran is actively developing nuclear weapons, it seems to me that's like worrying about whether China, Pakistan or India has nuclear weapons - they all do, and chances are someone is crazy enough to use them. Whether there is an actual threat as a result of any of the involved countries having these weapons is open to discussion.

The issue is never what weapons a country has at its disposal. Instead, one must ask what the intentions of that state towards other states? Iran turned inwards in 1979 and aside from a regional conflict with Iraq, has mostly focused on rebuilding itself and quietly establishing itself as a trading power in the Middle East, well entrenched with both China and Russia.

Does that make it a threat to US interests - beyond the usual goading about Israel, there's little real evidence of that, unless one considers trade with China or Russia to be a threat to the US.

I continue to suspect that the current round of sabre-rattling at Iran has more to do with Republican election strategy than it does sound foreign intelligence and policy decisions.

Confronting Ignorance

It strikes me that if organizations like Lifesite News want to achieve actual credibility, they might start by not linking to the incredibly stupid work published over at Wingnut Daily.

Entitled "Where are all the homosexuals?", the article postulates that since a number of GLBT-themed movies in recent years only garnered modest fractions of the box office receipts, that somehow the number of people affected by the GLBT rights movement is too small to warrant consideration in law.

The problems with this kind of reasoning are myriad - starting with the attempt to connect two unrelated topics together - civil rights and movie box office receipts and running into the classic problem of minority rights in the face of an overwhelming majority.

The first problem is simple - the claim implied is that because few people go to movies with GLBT themes, there just aren't enough GLBT people out there to matter. First of all, that makes a pretty broad statement about the assumed interests of GLBT people. Not all GLBT people want to watch movies that are portrayals of their community or world. Often, the movies themselves rely on horrible stereotypes or other factors that do not reflect the reality that many GLBT people live. The second point is that nobody's civil rights - especially to live a peaceful existence - are EVER subject to how much they spend at the movie box office.

In fact, along with articles about human rights issues such as Organization of American States Approves Homosexual "Human Rights" Resolution" and Interview with a Persecuted Christian Pastor, it's hard to imagine just how deeply ignorant these people really are about those that they share the world with.

Consider the following from the first article:

"Gender identity" refers to the gender an individual claims to have, rather than his actual gender. Homosexual activists urge that such people be given "rights" allowing them to identify with whatever gender they wish.

Consider the use of the quotation marks around the terms 'rights' and 'Gender Identity' - these are nothing more than a sneering attempt to dismiss as invalid the experiences of real people. The rights in question in such situations are nothing more than explicitly recognizing that firing someone from their job, or denying them service simply because they are cross-gender people, is wrong. Not just a little bit wrong - a lot wrong.

"The Lula administration is showing a solid determination to promote the homosexual agenda in a world scale," said Severo. "Its first attempt to introduce it in the UN was frustrated by a strong Muslim opposition. Yet, it did not give up. It is directing now its efforts through the Organization of the American States without the same strong opposition. Muslims have shown more courage than Christians."

Considering how often I hear how western soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq are "protecting women's rights" and so on, this statement reeks of hypocrisy and stupidity. The statement that "Muslims have shown more courage" is simply dead wrong. Muslims have shown us that politically they have yet to accept the reality that GLBT people exist, are very much a part of society and basically harmless. You can't on one hand criticize Islam for its treatment of women and children and then turn around and praise it for its hostility towards GLBT people. They are two faces of the same coin.

Discrimination against minority populations like GLBT people is the tactic of the bully. Groups that represent less than 10% of the gross population are simply too small to have any significant clout - which makes them easily demonized. Similarly, in society contexts where the sheer physical strength of men is highly valued, the smaller stature and physical strength of women tends to equate to second class status. It is only when you accept both genders as legal and social equals that the GLBT minority becomes understandable.

Which brings me around to the interview with Alberta's own high profile anti-gay letter writer - Stephen Boissoin.

The problem, says Boissoin, is that he has never felt any hate towards homosexuals. While Boissoin admits that he used impassioned and strong language in his letter to the editor on homosexuality, published in the Red Deer Advocate, language that some may have been offended by, he says his intention in doing so was simply to shake people of good will into recognizing that the radical homosexualist agenda has made significant inroads into Canadian law, and schools in particular.

"I certainly don't feel any anger or bitterness towards anyone who's homosexual," says Boissoin.

No, Stephen, I'm sure you don't have any anger at all. After all, your letter only equated GLBT people with drug dealers, pimps and pedophiles. No anger there at all.

"I did not have what I believe is an equal opportunity to not only speak what my context and the interpretation of my letter was - after all I'm the one who wrote it, I should be able to interpret it. What I felt at the Tribunal hearing, and in the public, there's been a lot of this, where people have had the - like the Darren Lunds - liberty of interpreting the letter for me."

You know - I'm really getting sick of the "I was quoted out of context" line coming from these people. The letter in all its objectionable glory is here - not much to take out of context there. It's short and to the point - and entirely based on an utterly ignorant understanding of GLBT people.

Why does this kind of ignorance deserve to be publicly confronted? Because if it is not, we give leave to others to use those same attitudes to engage in physical violence against others - for no better reason than fear that will inevitably sprout from the fertile grounds that suppression and denial will create.

I am not saying that religion has no place in the public square, far from it, rather that the exercise of religious freedom in the public square must also respect the legitimate rights of others, regardless of how any religion views those "others".

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Michael Coren: Abstinence Because Girls Are Icky

Did Michael Coren never get out of grade school or something?.

His latest gem is an amazingly misogynistic rant revolves around the movie "Sex and the City" and contraception. Basically, he's blaming movies like "Sex and the City" (and I presume its television series predecessor) for the spread of STI's in New York - and of course, the world would be so much a better place if we were all good abstinent little "Christian" robots who held off sex until we got married.

Of course, Michael's contact with reality is tenuous at best, but his focus on "Sex and the City" - and in particular feminine chastity that he appears to nearly fetishize - is creepy and smacks of both hypocrisy and ignorance.

Yes, I know that according to the Bible, women are temptation that men must resist ... yadda yadda yadda... If Michael had even the faintest inkling of reality he would have long ago figured out that even at the height of Church power in Western countries, the church couldn't even keep its own clergy abstinent! There are so many people around whose ancestry includes the illegitimate offspring of some cleric or another who was supposedly "chaste" it's not even funny.

Nothing in Michael's column even starts to acknowledge that when it comes to sexual fidelity, human males are rather prone to wander about. In the past, this was often winkingly referred to as "sowing one's oats" among other euphemisms; youthful sexual curiousity created more "shotgun" weddings and "overeager brides" who delivered a baby in somewhat less than the usual 9 months after wedding day.

Although the "abstain" crowd is technically right about one thing - if you aren't having sex, you can't acquire an STI - they overlook and grossly misrepresent the basic human condition that leads people to be sexually active. I don't know what little fantasy world Coren lives in, but apparently in it, nobody has any instincts, or perhaps every time those instincts rise to the foreground, the individual drops in prayer until the feeling goes away - either way, it sounds like a pretty grim little world.

Telling people about condoms and contraception is not about encouraging promiscuity (as Coren argues) - it's really about giving people the knowledge they need to keep themselves alive in the face of a reality that a lot of people are going to have sex at some time or another in circumstances that Coren wouldn't approve of. In an era where some STI's can be lethal if untreated, not teaching people about condom use is akin to handing someone a table saw and not giving them instructions on how to avoid getting their hands lopped off while operating it!

Coren getting on his high horse because there's a movie out there that happens to play on the mythology surrounding feminine sexuality is merely further proof in my mind that the man has no concept of what goes on in the real world.

Stelmach Shows Us His Kleinosaur Cred

I'm not even going to start examining Bill 26 in any detail - what I've read about it makes me angry, but I'm even angrier about the Alberta Progressive Conservative government's conduct in the legislature over this bill.

Tories Invoke Closure at all levels to ram the bill through.

Laurie Blakeman, Alberta Liberal House Leader, calls the procedural tactic “uberclosure.” Under the measure, only seven hours were allocated for debating Bill 26 in the committee stage, after which it will move into third and final reading, likely late tonight or early Thursday.

Had you heard anything about Bill 26 prior to this? I hadn't, and neither had a lot of people.

The issue here is not that the government is changing Alberta's Labour codes with what appears to be a worker-hostile approach, it's the fact that a government with one of the biggest majorities this province has ever seen is invoking closure so it can ram it through.

This isn't a government which is losing touch with the people of this province, it clearly never had any real contact in the first place. After voting themselves pay raises that are far in excess of what most Albertans have seen for some years, now they demonstrate that they have even less regard for the concepts of democracy and debate than Ralph Klein did - and Klein was a low point in Alberta's history for leadership that understood just what debate really means.

Alberta voters, your apathy in this past Spring's election has handed the proverbial keys to the kingdom to a bunch of bandits who no longer believe that they are accountable to anyone except their own egos and the desires of whoever happens to be their largest donors.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

First Thoughts on Bill C-61

Kill it.

This bill has a fundamental flaw. Superficially, it reduces penalties for "simple downloads", but it bumps them right back up if you are "distributing" them.

Well, what most people don't realize is that most of the peer to peer programs commonly used for file sharing of any sort on the internet depend on the "clients" who are receiving a file becoming "active seeders" of that file as it is downloading - meaning that the minute you are downloading something, you are probably uploading it concurrently - whether or not you realized it.

So, Prentice's "reasonable" penalty of $500/infraction (which is actually quite steep for a 5 minute pop song - about $100/minute of material) pretty much changes nothing.

Worse, this bill really does open up the Canadian environment to US-style lawsuits where greedy corporate entities will pursue anyone they can - because its profitable. This does nothing to stay the hand of corporate greed in Canada.

I'll finish going through the legislation in more detail when I have a few minutes. At first glance, I believe this is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that is little more than the HarperCon$ taking their marching orders from their Rethuglican masters.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Conservatives: Running For Opposition

It seems to me that the HarperCon$ have lost sight of what it means to govern, and have digressed into their infantile state of being opposition to the Federal Liberals.

Con$ Attack Ads #20,542.

They spend more time trying to slag the Liberals than they do actually governing - and when they attempt to govern, we things like L'Affaire Bernier where we find out that our Foreign Affairs Minister is thinking with the wrong head!

If they want to play at being opposition while they are in government, perhaps we should oblige them by slamming them to third party status or lower in the next election.

I'll give you a hint, Mr. Harper, there's a country here that needs to be run like it means something - so far, all we've had out of your government is chest-thumping, ego stroking and ineptitude.

L'Affaire Bernier - Couillard: More Gift Giving

It seems that Ms. Couillard gets around Conservative party circles rather more than one might expect.

"Mr. Bernard Côté failed to inform me that while he was in a personal relationship with Julie Couillard, at the same time she was also vying for government business for Kevlar and raised it with Mr. Côté," he said. "Mr. Côté should have recused himself of having any dealings with the matter at hand, which he unfortunately didn't."

I'm beginning to think that Ms. Couillard makes it clear that the Con$ need to start thinking with their grey matter...rather than hormone-flushed instinct.

Bom! Bom! Go The Drums Of War

Gee - Bush II couldn't be any more transparent about stirring up fear of the evil Iran threat in time for this year's presidential elections, could he?

US President George W Bush says he wants to pursue diplomacy to deal with Iran's controversial nuclear programme, but "all options are on the table".

Mr Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said further sanctions against Iran were possible.

"The first choice is to solve it diplomatically and that's exactly what we're doing," Mr Bush said.

He was speaking after talks in Germany, on the latest leg of what is likely to be his last tour of Europe.

Uh huh...coming from a man whose idea of diplomacy involves holding the trigger of a gun to the other party's head, I don't think that he's really trying that hard. Similar noises were made about Iraq a few years ago too.

I'm guessing that the current focus on Iran has more to do with sagging Republican fortunes in the US than it does anything else. The Rove formula for electoral success tends to require that the population be scared of something - preferably a remote and easily demonized adversary - it distracts the masses from what's happening at home.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The CBC Running Behind The Blogs?

Wow - the CBC only just posted their story about the Boissoin remedy decision - and they've dated it June 6.

Go read some of the reader comments - there's a lot of them, but a few gems in the midst of it all.

Also, I see that Mr. Boissoin has published his "response" to the decision on his website. How mature of you, Mr. Boissoin.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

So, Just What Do They Do In The Washrooms?

[Update 11/06/08]:
I see a few of the more intelligent and self-aware side of the world are pointing out the stupidity of the religious zealots. Well done!

I'm becoming more and more amused by the howls of outrage coming from "Christians" over transgender equality laws, and in particular the whole bathrooms issue.

Consider the following claims:

The rationale for Senate Bill 200 is that transgenders should be able to use the restroom they feel most comfortable using. Apparently, it is not important if others feel uncomfortable having their privacy violated every time they use public facilities.

The lack of privacy is not the only problem. Nobody is going to ask a man if he is trangendered before allowing him into the ladies’ room. This means any man—including a child molester—could simply follow a little girl into the privacy of a public restroom. And, if a man decided to expose himself to a young girl there, who is she going to complain to? After all, restrooms, by definition, are places where one exposes the private parts of one’s body.

Now, this is so laughably stupid it almost makes the Simpsons look like complex humour.

I'm going to take this silliness apart one claim at a time:

1. This means any man—including a child molester—could simply follow a little girl into the privacy of a public restroom.

The inference here is that a MTF transsexual is likely to be a child molester. This claim is ridiculous to begin with, as it confuses gender identity with sexual identity. Lastly, contrary to the delusions of many of these people, such laws will not result in a sudden interest in cross-dressing by child molesters. If that was going to happen, it would have been happening before.

2. others feel uncomfortable having their privacy violated

Okay, washrooms, are places with a certain degree of privacy implied in them. Absolutely true. But consider the scenarios involved.

A MTF (Male to Female) transsexual enters the ladies washroom. She is going to find a stall, close the door and do her business - same as any other woman using the washroom. Invasion of privacy? None. It's not like she's going to be peering in the other stalls any more than other women do. It's a washroom, not a freaking peep show for goodness' sake! (and women often "critique" other women far more thoroughly than men do to men - meaning for the MTF that they are probably going to be all the more cautious about trying to fit into the protocol for using the ladies' room.

In the second possible scenario, a FTM (Female to Male) transsexual enters the men's room. Unless he has had rather expensive phalloplasty, he's going to be using a stall. Again, like most people, he's going to enter, do his business and leave.

Additionally, the writer is ignoring the "don't look, don't see" protocol in men's washrooms and locker rooms. Men don't walk around with it all "hanging out", and other men in the room will work awfully hard NOT to look.

3. After all, restrooms, by definition, are places where one exposes the private parts of one’s body.

Really? What washrooms does the writer go to? The public washrooms I'm used to tend to have doors on the stalls for a reason, and the only "shared" place is the sinks and mirrors - not usually where anything is exposed at all.

4. And, if a man decided to expose himself to a young girl there, who is she going to complain to?

The police, I should think - I believe most jurisdictions have laws on the books about 'indecent exposure'. That would be inappropriate behaviour from an adult of any gender towards a child. Equality and non-discrimination laws do not change the status of such things at all.

The fetid imaginings of the writer of that article suggest that he needs some time with a psychotherapist - it's getting pretty clear that he doesn't know what he's talking about, and worse he's clearly got some pretty strange ideas about what goes on in public bathrooms.

Appalling as this law is, it gets worse. Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family points out, in the Denver Post, that the law also threatens religious liberty: Colorado’s “public accommodations” law includes not only hotels and restaurants, but also any small or home-based business that offers “goods or services” to the public.

Wait a second here - you are complaining because it takes away your "right" to deny people service based on who they are? fascinating. And just how would these same idiots feel if they walked into a business that refused to serve them because they were Christian, or because of their race? I'm not feeling too sympathetic to someone whining because their sense of entitlement is being infringed upon because they want to deny someone else access to a place to pee! (and just how small a person are you if you would deny another human being the right pee in peace?)

Oh yes, and just to keep it straight stories like this happen semi-frequently - apparently not fitting into someone else's sense of "male" or "female" is good enough reason to get removed from a washroom - regardless of your gender.

Apparently Ezra Has Forgotten Some History

Somewhere along the way, Ezra has either forgotten or horrendously misinterpreted some significant chapters in human history. Especially in his latest round of whining about human rights commissions.

He's picked up on the remedy decision in the Boissoin affair that I commented on back here.

Unsurprisingly, he's not impressed. After all, Dr. Lund is merely "the town scold" who had no business complaining:

No-one was hurt. The complainant was an officious intermeddler, a busybody, the town scold, an anti-Christian activist named Darren Lund who had an axe to grind, and Andreachuk gave it to him.

That's right Ezra, resort immediately to the refuge of those who have no real merit to their argument and attack the person. Brilliant strategy there - after all, what could Mr. Lund's reasons for objecting possibly be - he was only a high school teacher living in Red Deer at the time? Right? Oh wait, Mr. Lund had already seen the ugly side of bigotry and discrimination in the white supremacist movement that Terry Long and Jim Keegstra were part of.

Mr. Lund saw something he believed was egregiously wrong and acted on it.

So a busybody with no standing spends time filing complaints -- and gets a tax-free reward for doing so. Oh -- and for his "suffering". Not suffering at the hands of Rev. Boission, but "as a result of his complaint". death threats are not suffering? Putting up with a lawsuit that Mr. Levant filed on Boissoin's behalf is not harrassment. Got it. In Ezra's pithy little world, he should be absolutely free to harass and harangue anyone he pleases without being held accountable - unless of course some gets injured physically.

Perhaps Mr. Levant would like to review the myriad ways in the 20th Century that "mere words" have been used to provoke genocide on grand scales. How broad generalizations against identifiable groups can be used to tar an entire population, regardless of their actual status? From the 1930s onwards, the world is filled with examples - whether we choose to talk about Adolf Hitler's propaganda campaigns, Stalin, McArthy or the tribal genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. Pick one - any one - they are amazingly vicious and broad in their impact, and every single one of them spawned from the words of a handful of loudmouthed brutes who believed they had some god-given right to treat others as lesser beings for their own ends.

The fact that Mr. Lund himself is not gay doesn't mean that he should not speak out against bigotry when he sees it. It is all of our responsibility in a free society to speak out when we see someone like Boissoin screaming out for violence.

Ezra claims "nobody was hurt" - well, that's a matter of opinion. Within two weeks of Boissoin's letter, a gay youth in Red Deer was severely beaten - while the furor was still raging in the Red Deer Advocate's letters section. I know of quite a few GLBT people who lived in Red Deer at the time who moved away quite specifically because that letter made them feel that their safety was jeopardized. Nobody was hurt? Well, only if the youth who was beaten is "nobody", only if those who chose to leave homes, family and careers in the area because they feared for their own safety are "nobody".

The broader society of Red Deer was hurt by that letter because it drove people away from Red Deer - people who are otherwise law abiding, peaceful citizens. You might say "good riddance", Ezra, but the fact is that letter had an impact far beyond physical harm. Beatings and physical violence leave scars that you can see. Verbal and written violence leaves a different kind of scar that you cannot see, but is just as real.

As I have said before, rights exist in a tension with the various players involved. Boissoin's right to express his religiously held views exists in a state of tension with the rights of others to live their lives without being subjected to arbitrary and illegal discrimination. There is no "single" victim in the case of Boissoin's letter because that letter tarred an entire population segment without good reason.

Although Boissoin likes to claim that he wrote the letter from a "religious viewpoint", I question that. His words do not substantiate such a claim. More recently, his website attempts to cite bits and pieces of scripture that he believes justify his position, but the letter itself does not couch itself in the terms of anything even vaguely religious. If it weren't for the "Reverend" on the signature tag, I imagine few would have any idea that it was written by someone of supposedly "Christian" beliefs.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Right On Schedule...

As the US Presidential race moves out of the nominations process and shifts into active campaigning, we see the latest Rethuglican war drum being beaten.

Does anyone else find it suspicious that the first thing that hits the news as the Democrat nomination cycle wraps up is Iran's nuclear program?

Last time this came bubbling up was 2006 - while George II was busy trying to get re-elected. Okay, so it's Israel making the threats - it's not as if Israeli leadership's connections to the Rethuglicans are news or surprising.

Is Iran a military threat? Perhaps; but I'm not about to assume that it is without some credible evidence. The world has been misled into two wars in the Middle East already - starting a third war in Iran would be foolish indeed. Not to mention likely to create an atmosphere of hostility. Right now, I'm inclined to suspect that the Iran drum is being beat again to give the Rethuglicans a "fear card" to play in the coming election.

C-484 Is About Abortion - And Epp Admits It

I've said since I first saw Ken Epp's dishonest bunch of hackery called Bill C-484 that it was all about attacking a woman's rights - especially pregnant women's rights.

Over at Broadsides, Antonia Zerbisias has found some beautiful gems about the bill - straight from Mr. Epp's own writings:

"Even if people do start questioning abortion, it does not necessarily follow that they will change their minds about whether a woman should have the freedom to choose that option," Epp wrote in The Ottawa Citizen last month. "What it means is that pro-choice advocates will be in a position of having to justify abortion without relying on the illusion that the fetus is absolutely worthless.

"They will need to defend the view that, in spite of the unborn child being recognized as something of value, the woman's interests are paramount."

So, Mr. Epp, would you quit being a dishonest misogynist and admit that what your bill is really all about is feeding your festering desire to control women and create a world where male dominated "medical panels" decided if a woman would be allowed to have an abortion, or if she should be forced to carry that pregnancy to term.

As for Rona Ambrose's asinine claim that C-484 being about "an issue of protecting pregnant women ", it is such a dishonest statment it's not even funny.

By Epp's own admission, this bill isn't about protecting anyone. It's not like we have a sudden rash of people running around violently assault pregnant women these days.

Ambrose says it's Dion who's turning C-484 into a renewed abortion debate.

"I think he's taking a very partisan tack on what could be a very non-partisan issue that we could address together," Ambrose said. "I think he's fear-mongering women on this issue."

No Rona - Dion isn't fearmongering - women aren't stupid, and strangely most of them can read what's in C-484 just fine. It lifts most of its wording out of the wingnut arguments about abortion, and transplants them. If C-484 isn't about abortion, then why are you idiots in the government not adopting Bill C-543, which accomplishes the same thing without the slimy wording?

Stacking The Deck ...

The HarperCon$ are all about democracy and the will of the people ... until the will of the people runs contrary to their ideology.

Such is the case with an obscure little bill that landed before the House of Commons recently. Bill C-57 is a small bill that amends the board selection process for the Canadian Wheat Board.

The modification is innocuous enough:

3.02 (1) Four directors are appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister. Ten directors are elected, in accordance with sections 3.06 to 3.08 and the regulations, by actual producers who produced at least 120 tonnes of grain in either of the two previous completed crop years. The president is appointed by the Governor in Council in accordance with section 3.09.

In fact you have to and look at the existing act and read section 3.02 before this amendment makes any sense whatsoever:

3.02 (1) Four directors are appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister. Ten directors are elected by producers in accordance with sections 3.06 to 3.08 and the regulations. The president is appointed by the Governor in Council in accordance with section 3.09.

In other words the real change is that now only producers who produce a minimum amount of grain are permitted to participate in the board elections process.

Not being a farmer, I'm not sure if a 120 tonnes of grain is a huge amount - but I went off and did some investigating to try and determine just how much this is.

First, I located Alberta's Bushel-Tonne calculator - which told me that it takes some 4,400 bushels of grain to achieve 120 metric tonnes. But that doesn't answer the "how many bushels does an acre of land produce?" question - which turns out to be somewhere around 40 bushels to the acre for Alberta (yes, there's year over year variance, but I just wanted a working number to get some idea of how much land would be involved for a producer to qualify under these rules. A quick crunch turns up a number of 110 acres would have to be committed.

The amount of land doesn't sound all that big - 110 acres is about 1/6 of a section. When many farms are much larger than that, that doesn't seem to be a big deal. Until you sit back and consider the political games that have been going on around the Wheat Board. What this effectively does is cut off small producers (e.g. so-called "hobby farms" and producers who are trying to do multiple crops.

How does this fit into the HarperCon$ ambitions to dismantle the Wheat Board? Well, what it does is take out the small producers who benefit the most from the Wheat Board. In theory, larger producers have a sufficient amount of output that they would be "of interest" in their own right to buyers looking for grain from Canada.

In fact, it is the larger producers - those who have expanded by buying up adjacent farmland and consolidating it under the control of a small handful of people - who have the greatest objections to the Wheat Board. Strangely enough, they are the producers who believe that they will benefit the most from a dismantling the Wheat Board.

However, as repeated votes in the past have shown, they are not the majority of farmers. So, what is really happening here is the HarperCon$ are moving to disenfranchise the people that they find politically inconvenient for their agenda. What is particularly vile about this when you line it up against even the limited democracy that goes on with publicly traded companies, it's fundamentally dishonest. Even as a small shareholder (holding common stock), I have the right to vote for who should be on the board. That vote may not mean much alongside the massive weight that institutional investors can throw around, but it still exists. The HarperCon$ are kneecapping small farmers and telling them that their needs don't matter.

Who is next on their list? Disenfranchising women? Oh wait - they've already started on that.

[Update 19:30]
A reader pointed out that there are 640 Acres to a Section, not a quarter section as I had originally written. The error has been corrected.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Boissoin Case: Remedy Decision

I've apparently been sleeping - at the end of May, the Alberta Human Rights Panel released the Remedy Decision in the Boissoin Letter case. (My comments on the ruling itself are here)

The decision itself boils down to a few basic points:

1. A joint apology for the letter, to be published along with the remedial decision itself in the Red Deer Advocate newspaper. (Appropriate, as the Advocate was the newspaper that published Boissoin's letter in the first place)

2. A "Don't Do It Again" order. Again, no big surprise here - although I can imagine that Boissoin and Ezra will be crying foul over this.

3. An order to compensate Dr. Lund to the tune of $5000, and to pay the expenses of one of the witnesses at the hearings to a maximum of $2000. (This is a "joint-and-several" liability - in other words it is up to Boissoin and CCC to decide how best to divide that up.

I had hoped that there would have been a directive in there obliging Dr. Lund to funnel whatever funds he received into programs intended to combat discrimination against GLBT people - something he has said he would do, but it would have been appropriate to request some kind of accounting of the disposition of those funds.

There are a couple of interesting asides in the decision itself:

That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals. Further, they shall not and are prohibited from making disparaging remarks in the future about Dr. Lund or Dr. Lund’s witnesses relating to their involvement in this complaint. Further, all disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.

Essentially, this is a "cease-and-desist" order. What is interesting is the way the order itself is broader than the letter that was the subject of the complaint, and includes Dr. Lund and witnesses involved in the testimony phase. I find this intriguing because it seems at first a bit unusual, but it also reflects the surprisingly public and vicious approach taken by Boissoin's backers towards this whole affair.

Now we get to see what - if anything - happens with whatever appeals Boissoin et. al. decide to launch.

Dear Stephane: Show Us You Mean It

Okay, Stephane. You've drawn your line in the sand, now stand by it.

The voters that would naturally back you are now looking for you to show us that you have something resembling a spine to stand up for the rights of Canadian women to control their reproductive destiny and their bodies.

The question is why?

So, PETA has convinced KFC to provide vegan menu options.

The first thing that goes through my head is 'why?'. You don't go to KFC (Kentucky Fried Critter) for healthy (or even semi-healthy) food, you go there because your body is craving an oil change.

Somehow, deep fried tofu product just sounds like some evil thing you'd find at the fair grounds - being sold to you by the same evil types that sell "corn dogs" and other cholesterol-laden horrors.

The HarperCon Propaganda Machine

In the world of politics, propaganda is nothing new. The way the Conservatives go about it adds a new dimension to the picture that Canadians should be wary about.

Now we find the HarperCon$ using public resources to buff their personal images on sources such as Wikipedia. Now, I don't have a problem with adding information or even putting in a legitimate counterpoint to criticism points on Wikipedia pages - deleting anything that's even remotely critical and replacing it with glowing praise smacks of the same kind of self-congratulatory propaganda that totalitarians around the world like to revel in.

Coming just ahead of an expected re-introduction of "Canadian DMCA" (legislation which would be a disaster if it ever gets passed) changes to copyright law, this is an interesting development. To me it suggests that the HarperCon$ are worried about this piece of odious crap - so worried that they will do anything they can to squelch controversy and discussion.

Perhaps in a move that tells us still more about the utter lack of honesty in the HarperCon government, we also find Flaherty talking about providing welfare to GM after GM announced that they would close a major truck plant in Ontario. Wasn't this the party that has argued so loudly in the past about the supremacy of the market? But then, the HarperCon$ are the same idiots whose "green car" subsidy applies to full size pickup trucks, but not to a Honda Fit with an Automatic transmission.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Uh huh ... Why Don't I Buy This?

So, now several months after the Cadman Affair burst open, the HarperCon$ are now claiming that a key tape has been doctored.

There are things about this claim that I simply do not buy. First off, there's too many other parts of the story that don't line up with that claim. Even if we accepted Conservative claims that Harper wasn't directly involved, the involvement of guys like Flanagan and other "inner circle" players means that Harper had to have been aware of what was going on. His micromanagement style guarantees that Harper knew damn good and well what his minions were negotiating with Cadman - micromanagers don't give their people that kind of latitude.

Suddenly, the Con$ervatives - a party that has hardly been overly concerned about honesty and transparency since last election - are running to the courts to try and make sure the Liberals can't use this tape in election ads - this on top of an unresolved libel suit that Harper has filed. So anxious the Con$ are, they cannot even allow the due process of the court system to do its job? Really?

There's an old saw about how one "doth protest too much", which tends to suggest strongly that they are more involved than they are going to admit to. Would the power-chasing Con$ pass up an opportunity to topple the Martin government? - even if it meant stooping to bribery of some sort? I doubt it - Harper's antics at the time don't support the idea that this is a man capable of biding his time.

My challenge to the HarperCon$ on this is simple: Put your case forward in court, and let your story speak for itself. If, as you claim, Harper is lily white, then it shouldn't be too hard to demonstrate that. If that tape is doctored in some critical way, that should also be fairly easy for your "experts" to prove before the courts. Now, the other question we should be asking is if the tape you claim has been doctored is in fact the correct tape, or is it one that your bunch of juvenile delinquents that created your "Dion is Evil" website cooked up?

Prentice Delays Copyright Reform Bill

I'm beginning to put money that it appears as a rider on a money bill, since Prentice is delaying the bill, and the HarperCons aren't exactly known for wanting to debate the merits of their legislation.

Of course, I think a big part of this is that Prentice knows that what he's been ordered to do is based on a deeply flawed approach to begin with - and any real debate or analysis would expose those problems quite quickly.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Would You Want To Return To This?

With Canada's wingnuts occupying the House of Commons, and the opposition seemingly missing in action, it's time to consider the ramifications of Bill C-484, which is unquestionably a direct attack on women's health, and abortion in particular.

Via Feministing, I found this essay from the New York Times - written by a retired gynecologist who lived through what is now often referred to as the "Pre-Roe era":

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

Yes, it's gruesome. That's the point. If Canadians allow Bill C-484 and its cousins to come into force, we run a very real risk of our doctors encountering scenes like that in hospital emergency rooms once again.

All because some zealots are all about "consequences" for everyone except themselves.

Consider this - if Bill C-484's backers were actually being honest with Canadians about their intentions, why aren't they supporting Bill C-543? - as the keeper of 'Benediction Blogs On' points out.

Attacking Canadians For Corporate Greed

Rumour has it that Minister Prentice will introduce his "Canadian DMCA" in the next couple of days.

This will no doubt be a variation on the legislation he backed away from last December, and he's hoping that we aren't paying attention right now.

The HarperCon$ have repeatedly gone after closer alignment with the United States on all matters, even when the US approach has been demonstrably brain damaged. Anything that models itself on the US DMCA is beyond brain damaged, it is an outright attack on individual freedoms and liberties - and is the very legislation that the recording industry in the United States uses to sue its customers.

I agree with the government on one point - the copyright and patent system needs to be overhauled in light of the modern realities. After that, I have my own ideas that are intended to be more constructive than punitive.

Dear Liberals:

It's way past time to do your job as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Sitting on the sidelines on one confidence motion I can accept - and even consider it brilliant tactics. Doing it every time there's a confidence motion just makes you look bad.

Propping up the HarperCon$ by tacit support is not doing the Canadian people any favours. This is a government that needs to be held to the fire - and if that means you stage the living hell out of confidence votes so that they only get through by one vote, then that's what you do.

Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but absenteeism from the House of Commons looks bad - sort of like skipping class did in high school. It's time to start showing up and being effective - and if that means shouting down this bunch of thugs currently sitting in the government benches, then do it.

If Mr. Dion isn't able to bring himself to do what needs doing, then it's time for him to step aside and let others take the helm.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Gee ... Why Doesn't This Come As A Surprise?

Apparently, the HarperCon$ government is plunging in the polls as people figure out just how bankrupt this government really is:

But specific appraisals of the federal government were less flattering.

Satisfaction with government integrity fell 10 points, with just 27 per cent saying the Tories are doing a good job in this regard. And 65 per cent said the Harper government is doing a "bad job" on accountability. A shortfall in this category would suggest the government is losing support in an area that was critical to their electoral success two years ago. The Conservatives rode a wave of voter disgust over the Liberal sponsorship scandal into office in 2006.

Some 74 per cent said the government was doing a bad job on health care, 70 per cent believe the Tories are not being attentive to the views and priorities of Canadians, and 66 per cent gave the thumbs down on environmental policy.

Ratings for providing "smooth, orderly government" sank 12 points to 40 per cent from 52.

Of course, voters in Alberta still aren't getting the picture:

The online poll of 3,565 Canadians indicates satisfaction fell to 40 per cent from 53 per cent - with majority dissatisfaction in every region of the country except Alberta.

Dear Premier Stelmach:

I wasn't going to write this when I first caught wind of Alberta's Cabinet handing itself a 30% pay hike on what amounts to an Order In Council motion.

I recognize that politicians have demanding jobs - but two things have happened since that have made me reconsider that initial stance.

First was hearing one of your ministers braying away on the news about the "overwhelming mandate" that Albertans gave you. You won an overwhelming number of seats on an underwhelming plurality. Yes, your party won over 70 seats, but in terms of Alberta voters, you won that with just over 20% of Alberta's voters expressing direct support for you. That means just a hair under 80% of Alberta's voters DID NOT vote for you. (An absentee vote is not "a proxy in favour of status quo - it is in fact a non-vote - period) While I have my own opinions about the wisdom of Alberta's voters, I don't think any voter believes that they elected you and your party brethren just so you could go vote yourselves a hefty pay hike the moment you were sworn into office.

Second on my mind is the classic issue of accountability and transparency. This province's government has been one of the worst in Canada on both topics - largely because under Ralph Klein not only has the amount of time the Legislature sits dwindled to an absolute minimum, but worse, more and more of the government's actions are decided in forums that are closed-door. A sad condemnation of Ralph's need to protect his thin-skinned nature from any kind of criticism. In taking this action today, you have just signalled to Albertans that you are more likely to follow the footsteps of Don Getty - a man whose tenure in the province is memorable more for the utter ineptitude of the government than anything else.

When you have such an overwhelming majority, arrogance is the worst of all traps to fall into, and you seem to have walked right into the pit, willingly. I think it was Peter Lougheed, after winning a landslide majority in the late 1970s, who said something to the effect that the government has to be doubly careful when it has such a majority, for it can too easily lose touch with the wisdom of the people.

So, Ed, besides picking my pocket all the deeper, just what have you done for me today?

The Cass Review and the WPATH SOC

The Cass Review draws some astonishing conclusions about the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) . More or less, the basic upshot of the Cass Rev...