Thursday, July 31, 2008

Private Insurance Is Off The Rails

Private Insurance, such as what we have in Alberta, has clearly lost its way. As a result of killing a brain dead law that punished accident victims to protect the financial interests of big insurance companies.

Well, today's announcement of a minimum 5% hike in automotive premiums across the board in Alberta tells us a great deal about how greed driven this industry really is:

During public hearings held in June, the Insurance Bureau of Canada asked the board to hike premiums by 37 per cent, which would have meant a jump of up to $200 a year for the average driver.

Insurance companies said the marketplace is unstable right now in the wake of a court ruling earlier this year when a judge struck down Alberta's $4,000 cap on non-pecuniary damages for some soft tissue injuries.

The market is "unstable"? What the heck does that mean? With over 3 million inhabitants, a good proportion of which drive, it's hard to imagine how there's an instability in the market in any way. There might be an uncertainty, even that strikes me a something of a crock in the first place, since Alberta is hardly the only jurisdiction in Canada with similar legal issues.

The fact that the industry asked for 37% hikes, is a sign of pure greed. Insurance companies have become more about skimming the margin on the investments they make with premiums instead of about the 'shared risk' model that was the original intent of the business model. These days, an accident tends to result in a jump in premiums which mysteriously is awfully close to the cost of borrowing the money to effect repairs directly - in essence the insurance companies are no longer in the managed risk game, but are in the money lending business.

When the Kleinosaurs decided not to regulate the insurance industry, but rather to regulate the victims of accidents instead, it signalled to the industry that Alberta's politicians were no longer going to represent the interests of Albertans, favoring instead the monetary interests of big money.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Harper Still Hasn't Got The Concept

And Harper makes my point for me by ignoring his own accountability rules. Can you say 'double standard'?

Apparently nobody bothered to tell PMSH in 2006 that winning an election means he should start acting like a leader, and not like a Bush league thug that takes his orders from Karl Rove.

His challenge – “Mr. Dion must decide to fish or cut bait” – came as the Conservatives faced head-on the growing economic concerns of Canadians; in particular, rising fuel costs. Keenly aware of concerns from constituents, MPs have suggested a series of potential tax measures aimed at reducing housekeeping budgets, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the economic health of the country did not currently allow for “big new tax reductions.”

I think, Mr. Harper, that the man who has to 'fish or cut bait' is you. It's time to quit acting like you are still in opposition and start taking responsibility for your actions as a government.

But, the real non-sequitur is here:

The Prime Minister reiterated his consistent position that Canada's fundamental economic indicators remain strong, though he too allowed, in his speech Wednesday night to the party faithful, that there is “global economic uncertainty” and that “no economy in the world is immune from what is happening, especially in the United States.”

The fundamentals are strong, but apparently they're shaky too. Right. Got that one. Next time I'm looking for an earthquake forecast, I know exactly where to go - Harper's campaign office.

On hard specifics, Mr. Harper promised not to increase taxes at this point, while Mr. Flaherty's earlier comments suggested that, in this “time of economic slowdown,” the government is limited in what it can do to help Canadians cope with rising gas and heating costs.

I don't know about that - I can think of lots of things we could do about that. Of course, none of them would ever be approved by Harper's masters in the GOP...

“A carbon tax, especially when it is explained by Mr. Dion, can seem complicated, even incomprehensible,” Mr. Harper said. “In fact, this tax invented by the Liberals will touch everyone and everything, without exception.”

Why yes, it will. But the real genius of Dion's carbon tax is that it rebalances the tax burden, and ultimately offloads the middle class taxpayer considerably - who has become the primary carrier of the tax burden while large corporate interests have gradually lobbied themselves into a position where they pay minimal or no taxes at all - and so often leave the taxpayers to clean up the mess when they move on.

Of course "Public Safety Minister" Day had to open his yap:

Mr. Day said his government is also looking to improve security in prisons, including getting rid of rules that prevent the government from forcing inmates to work or that hinder proper searches for drugs in prisons.

While I have no objection whatsoever to making it harder for inmates to engage in illegal activities such as drug dealing while incarcerated, I have major problems with forced labour. We incarcerate people as punishment. Incarceration is not an automatic condemnation to what amounts to slavery or indentured servitude to the government's whims.

The Gender Police and the Olympics

I see that in spite of transsexual athletes being approved to compete in the Olympics, China is going to subject female athletes to a 'gender test'.

The New York Times article points out, quite correctly, that "gender tests" tend to find people who are actually intersex to some degree or another:

The tests never unmasked a man posing as a woman, but they did turn up several athletes who were born with genetic defects that made them appear — according to lab results, at least — to be men. In 1967, the Polish sprinter Ewa Klobukowska was barred from the sport because she failed the chromosomal test, even though she had passed the nude test a year earlier. In the 1980s, the Spanish hurdler Maria José Martínez Patino was disqualified because the test revealed, to her surprise, that she was born with a Y chromosome. Her eligibility was reinstated in 1988.

So, basically, the Bejing games are going to subject female athletes to invasive testing (both in a physical, but also in an emotional sense) simply because they are afraid that someone who isn't a "real woman" isn't competing.

While I can certainly understand that a man posing as a woman is problematic, that's fairly easy to check - without invasive testing. Also, the IOC standards set out in 2004 are quite significant:

The committee said transgender athletes could compete in the Olympics if they met certain requirements, such as completing genital reconstructive surgery and at least two years of hormonal therapy. The IOC also requires that "legal recognition of their assigned sex has been conferred by the appropriate official authorities," such as by a nation's courts.

Sex hormones - especially estrogen and testosterone have pronounced effects on the body. A male to female transsexual will not have a significant advantage over a genetic female in most events - the male skeleton is heavier than the female skeleton, and the muscle mass and power will be reduced to female normal. At most, there might be a mild advantage in some events due to slightly longer limbs, but even that's not likely to be significant at the elite levels of Olympic calibre athletes.

It is a shame that in today's world, there are still those who believe that there is some absolute definition of gender that can be applied.

The Blogging of the Boggled

Apparently, in the fetid imagination of at least one nutcase, feminism is engaging not just in equivalent, but the same, practices as Nazi Germany.

In all these Progressive social engineering projects, and many others, women have been leading proponents. They're against drinking because drunk men are violent. They're against smoking because cigarettes and cigars resemble male penises, a source of male violence. They're against guns because they see guns as symbols of male violence.

Then, of course there's reality:

- MADD is opposed to people driving drunk. Period. Why? Because drunk drivers tend to end up killing people.

- Smoking - well, sorry it's not the Freudian symbology Frank thinks it is - it's because tobacco smoke is lethal.

- Guns - well - about all I'll say there is that it does seem to disproportionately be young males who use guns to commit crimes. But the issue of gun control has more to do with being able to walk the streets relatively safely - and streets where a gunfight breaks out are not safe.

But our writer's insanity doesn't end there - no, he goes on to try and describe the very normal dating dance between men and women in these same terms:

The fact is that women today continue to marry men they feel have the power and beauty to make beautiful children. They add up the physical and financial advantages of a particular mate and make their choice. Once married, and pregnant, they have ultrasound and other tests to determine if the fetus, is healthy. If not, an abortion is performed. Where the poor are breeding, the modern female is very much in favour of abortion clinics to keep the underclasses in check.

What is the difference between this and the Nazi notion of breeding a better Aryan race? Boys are selected for strength, girls for beauty and the gypsies and darker races are given abortions or sterilization.

The leaps of illogic here are amazing. Not only has our intrepid author managed to link maternal (and fetal) health monitoring during pregnancy to "social engineering", but at the same time, he claims that abortion clinics are about "keeping the underclasses in check". If groups of "underclass" women were being rounded up and herded to the abortion clinic, he might have a point. But that isn't what is happening. I suspect that the author is one of those clods who figures that once a woman is pregnant she essentially gives up any right to decide her own destiny.

Abortion clinics, along with contraception and other bits and pieces are ultimately about a woman's right to control her life, and in particular her reproductive life. No more, no less. To infer anything else is plain stupid.

Is that why the Liberal Party and its large female support base is in favour of native Canadians getting a third order of government, one that will create an almost perfect Canadian copy of apartheid? That would certainly appeal to the Nazis; separation of peoples on racial lines and legal enclosures for them to live in.

Uh? How do you get to here from there? Whatever. Apparently Frank hasn't heard of the concept of addressing past wrongs. Somehow, equating native self-government to eugenics is just a little bit of a stretch. Especially given the ugly history that has led Canada's indigenous peoples to the place they find themselves in now.

Is there a Canadian woman anywhere who will admit to these repulsive facts?

No, Frank - there isn't - mostly because they aren't facts. At best they are inferences that you've made that make no sense to people who are actually thinking rationally.

p.s. You might want to take a remedial course on feminism at some point. It's pretty clear you have no idea what you are ranting about.

H/T: Lulu @ Canadian Cynic

You Keep Using That Word 'Effective'

So, under PMSH, Ottawa's advertising budget doubled ... in the first full year of the Harper government.

The Liberals said the increased spending on advertising shows the Conservative government is misguided in its priorities, and should stop using advertising to improve its image in the eyes of Canadians.

There's a couple of points here - in Alberta, where the HarperCon$ figure they're pretty safe, I haven't seen much of anything in the way of government advertising aside from military recruiting posters. Which means that the HarperCon$ are spending public dollars on propaganda campaigns where they hope to pick up seats.

The HarperCon$ spin?

A source said the problem is that advertising expenses are generated by a number of departments and agencies, and that there is a lack of centralized supervision of the activities. “The advertising budget doubled without anyone taking notice,” the source said.

Which translates to 'we were so focused on spinning our BS that we didn't pay attention to the books'. Given how the HarperCon$ have been misusing the MP communication budgets in Ottawa, I don't suppose this is a surprise. (Come to think of it, I haven't seen a thing out of my local MP since last election - fascinating)

So much for being open, honest or accountable - much less effective.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Winning Their Hearts and Minds

So, a questionable bit of field judgment and an unfortunate bullet trajectory killed a couple of Afghani children today.

This is NOT how you bring the people of an occupied land to your side. If anything, it drives them into the arms of the already present adversary:

Shopkeeper Din Mohammad said foreign soldiers had better stop accidentally killing civilians or they will suffer the same bitter fate as the defeated Soviets.

"They must stop this," said Mr. Mohammed, who was visiting his son at Mirwais hospital when he saw the children's lifeless bodies carried in.

"Otherwise the day will come when everybody will stand up against the foreigners in a holy war – a jihad."

"It's happened once before [with the Soviets]. If things continue like this, history will repeat itself."

Anybody with their head screwed on will have figured out that this was likely to be the reaction - the occupying forces cannot afford to make a single slip - one incident like this will be remembered by thousands for a long time - much longer than a few "rebuilding" exercises will be - especially if more of those projects turn out to be prisons.

It really doesn't matter what kind of idiotic sophistry Mr. Mackay wants to use to spin things here in Canada:

"Look, soldiers do everything they can to make proper judgment. They exercise professionalism, they follow rules of engagement, but they're human and they're living in a very tense environment with these suicide bombs that have occurred in the past," the Defence Minister said.

"With these approaches, soldiers have sometimes a split second to make a decision on protecting their fellow soldiers and protecting themselves, protecting fellow civilians that are in the area."

That is quite irrelevant to the impact of these events on the ground in Afghanistan. What has happened in this incident has handed the Taliban (and other groups) a propaganda tool - one that is incredibly easy to exploit.

No matter how well-meaning Canadians convince themselves that our presence in Afghanistan may be, we cannot forget that a society that does not want to be occupied will ultimately win out - and Afghanistan's history is that of a society unwilling to be occupied.

Remember The Concept of Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

Apparently, Peter Worthington thinks it doesn't apply in cases like Omar Khadr - after all look what happened with Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

I'm afraid that Mr. Worthington has fallen into the same trap as Nigel Hannaford over at the Calgary Herald - he's spouting talking points without even really thinking things through.

Okay, Worthington doesn't like the Khadr family - fair enough. But that doesn't mean that we can simply convict Omar Khadr of anything on that basis - except perhaps, having the misfortune to be born to parents with questionable judgment. Claiming that he's going to be another al-Bashir is to convict him of someone else's actions, which he might mirror in some future. (Kind of an evil combination of Orwellian thought-crime and Minority Report-esque conviction in advance of crime)

Canada, as a nation, needs to consider whether the pseudo trial that Bush is inflicting upon detainees at Guantanamo Bay is in fact representative of the concept of 'due process', or whether it is a political ploy that is ultimately in violation of both US and International legal standards.

The second thing Canadians need to do is consider whether the Canadian government has lived up to what we expect of it when a Canadian citizen is held by a foreign government. Has Canada, under the Stephen Harper Party, provided any kind of support or backing to Mr. Khadr? Should it?

I claim that the Stephen Harper Party has been grossly negligent in its handling of Canadians held abroad - assuming that they "deserve" whatever is inflicted upon them - until the public outrage reaches a boiling point. This is unacceptable negligence on the part of the Harper government.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How Generous Of Them

Not that I think much of recent US ambassadors to Canada, but this is missing the point utterly.

The fact is that Canada's governing politicians - The Stephen Harper Party™ are more than prepared to allow a Canadian to rot in the hell of a foreign prison for no better reason than they are afraid of how the Bushites will respond.

Think about this, and ask yourself if that represents the kind of government that Canadians want? I don't really care if the US is now generously 'giving permission' or not - Canadians deserve better than this from our government.

Calgary's Growing Up ... Or Is It?

Just when you start thinking that Calgary is starting to sound and act like many of the more cosmopolitan urban centers around the world, some ignorant yob has to open their mouth and spout something ridiculous that shows us that prejudice and bigotry lies just below the surface.

Over the same period, French dropped in Quebec though only slightly. In 1951, 82.5 per cent of Quebecers identified French as their first language compared to 79 per cent in the last census.

The French drop has been matched by a rise in non-official languages (neither English nor French) and this has the potential to refashion politics especially in Quebec, perhaps federal hiring practices, and one would hope -- even court judgments in Alberta.

I couldn't believe it when I read this bit of utterly ignorant stupidity. It could have come out of Alberta in the 1980s when Ralph Klein was still Mayor of Calgary and made his infamous 'bums and creeps' speech.

This particular tirade irritates me more for its disdain for Canada's history, and the francophone contribution to Canada. It's the classic WASP attitude that pervaded Western Canada for years - one of condescending derision towards french people in general and Quebec in particular. This is offensive in a dozen ways that I don't need to document here, but it is the disregard for our collective history as a nation that really irritates me.

I don't much care about population statistics in this matter - Canadians should be proud of this country and its heritage. We should celebrate it and our diversity, not denigrate and marginalize based on statistics. We are among the first nations of the modern world to be multicultural in fact as well as ethos. Alberta whining because it doesn't want to provide services in Canada's second official language is petulant, immature and silly. The oldest newspaper in Calgary publishing such drivel is pathetic.

More on The "Massive Poll" On Morgentaler's OC

Ordinarily, I don't go after the posts of other bloggers, but then there are moments where someone writes something so utterly lacking in critical thought that it deserves to be examined. Such is the case with this post by "All-Caps SUZANNE" in trying to defend a dubious bit of polling methodology from a polling company nobody had previously heard of.

So let's go over the poll, one more time.

Over 157 000 households were contacted. There were 13 000 respndents. They were weighted for geographic density-- in other words, they were from all over the country.

The automated dialer phoned these households and asked whether abortionist Henry Morgentaler should received the Order of Canada. They pressed "1" for "yes" and "2" for no.

Over 55% responded "no". In some provinces, the opposition was about 2/3 of the population.

Pretty straightforward, huh?

Does it matter who commissioned or conducted the poll? No. Hand over the same poll to any large polling firm, apply the same methodology, and 19 times out of 20, the poll will get results within the 1.5% margin of error.

Let's consider that for a moment - 157,000 thousand households, and 13,000 responded. Hmmm...can you say "self-selecting sample"? It might also explain a rash of telephone spam I received a few weeks ago, where the same semi-concealed number kept on calling me - at dinnertime. Getting back to the numbers, that's an 8% response rate. That's pretty low, and chances are the 8% that even bothered to respond would mostly be the same crowd that's been screaming ever since Morgentaler's OC was made public knowledge. The rest of the population doesn't give a damn.

The piece that makes me suspicious is the confidence interval - 1.5%, nineteen times out of twenty. I studied just enough of this kind of statistical analysis in University to be a little suspicious. 1.5% is pretty tight for this kind of statistic, a "19 times out of 20" is basically a 95% odds. The usual rule in such circumstances is that as the margin of error is reduced, the odds of that outcome start to drop off.

From a purely mathematical standpoint, I can pretty much draw whatever confidence interval I want from a large enough sample size. However, that's where you have to look at the sampling technique, as well as the questions asked in the survey.

Telephone solicitation of input is rapidly becoming a very weak strategy for pollsters to use. Not only do more and more people simply refuse to answer phone calls from numbers they don't recognize (I'm one of those), the days of public telephone directories are rapidly dwindling. More and more people have unlisted numbers, and the frustration with unwanted telephone spam is rapidly killing off people's polite willingness to even tolerate survey questions.

This means that KLR-VU's analysis needed to make correction for sample bias in their raw data.

A classic example of a biased sample and the misleading results it produced occurred in 1936. In the early days of opinion polling, the American Literary Digest magazine collected over two million postal surveys and predicted that the Republican candidate in the U.S. presidential election, Alf Landon, would beat the incumbent president, Franklin Roosevelt by a large margin. The result was the exact opposite.

This alone, along with a disturbingly simplistic question in the first place places this poll in the danger zone of being of limited or no real value. It tends to suggest that there are only two answers, and as we all know in politics, there are always more than two opinions. (By the way, this is something that has bothered me a great deal with Nanos Research polling as well in recent months)

Right now, like other polls that have traced back to the HarperCon$, this starts to feel like a 'push poll', something that we already know the Con$ have been engaging in.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How Many More Are There???

It seems that the HarperCon$ have been letting another Canadian national rot in a foreign prison.

This time, we have documents showing that the government is all worried about getting the Bushites in Washington upset with us for repatriating him.

The Conservative government "is happy to keep him halfway around the world" to avoid upsetting Washington, said Yavar Hameed, the Ottawa lawyer who represents Mr. Abdelrazik.

"He's at the mercy of the Americans," Mr. Hameed said, adding the Canadian government is "fighting tooth and nail" against his effort to prove he has "a right to return home."

This is utterly ridiculous. A Canadian citizen is arrested in a foreign country, and held without charge not for days or weeks, but years. Now, our government is refusing to grant him passage back to Canada for fear of upsetting its masters in Washington?

The documents, dated April 30, 2008, and marked "Secret - Canadian eyes only" also designate Mr. Abdelrazik, a citizen who has never been charged with a crime, as "involved in Islamic extremist activities."

Oh, I see - he's one of them 'evil ones'. In five years of having him detained by a foreign government, our own government agencies haven't been able to scrape together enough evidence to charge him with anything. What the heck happened to the presumption of innocence?

It's time to replace Canada's neo-Rethuglican government with one that actually pays attention to Canada and Canadians. If Harper is so scared of upsetting Washington that he won't take action on behalf of a Canadian citizen, then it's past time to replace him - preferably with someone who actually understands that citizens are people, and that you get a lot more stature on the world stage by standing up for your citizens than you will ever get for kowtowing to the Bushites.

I Thought It Smelled Rotten

When I first heard about this poll a few days ago, I thought it seemed more than a trifle suspect.

Turns out that I wasn't the only person who thought this was suspect - other bloggers went digging, and turned up quite a trail, that leads to people associated with the HarperCon$.

Quelle Surprise!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

PFOX - The Burning Stupid Edition

Via the religious wingnut crowd over at Lifesite, we learn of the latest gem of "wisdom" to fall out of PFOX. According to PFOX, this risk of suicide is higher in younger gay-identified people - therefore, having support groups for GLBT people in high schools is a bad idea:

Therefore, in order to reduce suicide risks, schools should not encourage teens to self-identify as “gay” during adolescence before they have matured. Sexual attractions are fluid and do not take on permanence until early adulthood.

I think I take more than a little bit of an exception to the claims in there. First of all, we shouldn't confuse attraction with the patterns of expression. We know well that teens experiment with their identity quite heavily. I'm cautious about saying that sexual attractions are "fluid" per se, when there is a great deal of narrative evidence that suggests that in fact such attributes are not fluid, but rather very broad for many people.

Similarly, I take exception to the idea that schools should not be affirming of their GLBT students. Consider the generally hostile messages that GLBT youth (or adults!) face on a daily basis, and then ask yourself what kind of despair someone who can't find a supportive voice to talk with is going to experience. It takes many youth years to overcome their internalization of these negative messages, only to face making dramatic and life altering decisions later in life when the potential disruption is even greater.

Lifesite spins it a bit harder, and quotes Griggs as saying the following:

Griggs also notes that schools with Gay Straight Alliance clubs are notorious for suppressing ex-gay organizations or individuals supporting tolerance for the ex-gay community. "GSA clubs and their teacher sponsors make schools unsafe for anyone who has rejected the 'gay' label in their lives or who believes in ex-gay equal rights. Our efforts to reach all students are typically met with hostility and violence. Time after time, we have faced hostile gay students and teachers ripping up our ex-gay materials or demanding that we be banned from distributing our materials on campuses."

The problem I have with the 'ex-gay' ministry thing where GLBT youth are concerned is the fact that ex-gay programs are predicated on conditional approval. Their approval is granted only so long as the person continues to act straight, and if someone changes course, they are shunned by the rest of that community. Considering how emotionally vulnerable GLBT youth often are, this is arguably predatory at the very least.

... and just to wrap this all up with a nice little bow, Truth Wins Out has the researcher who was an author of the paper that PFOX cites take them out to the woodshed for a beating:

Dr. Remafedi’s study was the one cited by PFOX to back their unfounded conclusions. Today, Dr. Reamafedi released the following comments to Truth Wins Out:

“My work has been cited by PFOX in response to a Washington Post article on gay-straight alliances (GSA),” wrote Dr. Remafedi. “PFOX misuses one of my studies on suicide attempts in gay youth to argue that people should not identify their sexual orientation at young ages. Our findings do not support the contention that young people choose their identity or the timing of events in identity formation. Nor is there any evidence that the availability of GSAs influences those developmental processes.”

What Part of "Citizen" Do You Not Understand

Jeepers - if I read one more dolt columnist start blathering on about how the awful Omar Khadr should be rot in an American gulag, I'm going to scream.

For crying out loud, what does it take these morons to get their heads around the fact that Omar Khadr was born here, and is every bit as much a citizen of Canada as they are?

Do we not, as a nation, believe that our citizens deserve fair and reasonable treatment under the law, regardless of where they are detained? Surely you can't be arguing that the half-baked "tribunal" process that allows evidence from torture is anything close to what would be considered a fair trial?

I suggest that should one of these clowns find themselves the subject of one of those funky "extraordinary renditions", that they better be prepared to suck up whatever treatment is handed to them by their captors in silence - after all, Washington still claims that those lovely renditions are legal, just as they insist that Guantanamo Bay represents a valid and legal handling of people captured in a combat zone.

... and apparently in Harper's world, once you step foot outside of Canada, you aren't a Canadian any more.

Monday, July 21, 2008

HarperCon$: Sticking To A Post

Apparently, Harper still thinks he's the leader of the opposition:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper remains unmoved and his spokesman, Kory Teneycke, has accused the Liberals of “revisionism and hypocrisy” for only now adopting the cause.

“This is the process the Liberals chose, and we're sticking with it,” Mr. Teneycke said in an interview Sunday.

In short, Harper is going to stick to his stance on Omar Khadr because he thinks he can pin it on the Liberals politically.

How mature of him. He's willing to throw a Canadian citizen away for points. I have news for you Mr. Harper, politics isn't a videogame. You don't come out on top for having a 'high score'...and I don't think you get any bonus points for being a cold-hearted, unfeeling clod either.

But his new spokesbot can't stop, and comes out in a full out lie:

"This information was in their hands when they made these decisions," he said.

... and then there's the other side of the story.

But today, Liberal Dan McTeague – a parliamentary secretary who had been given a special responsibility for Canadians detained abroad – says he regrets telling Canadians that Mr. Khadr was being treated humanely.

“I said it many times, ‘We've been given assurances by Americans.'… I said it in [media] scrum after [media] scrum, I had to take them at their word,” Mr. McTeague said in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail. But now he says he was not in the loop on a sleep-deprivation program, that, according to a newly released Canadian briefing note, U.S. military officials had used against Mr. Khadr in 2004.

“That information was not made available to me at the time,” Mr. McTeague said. “Obviously I wouldn't have made that statement had I known that.”

Off the top of my head, either Spokesbot Teneycke is utterly clueless about what happened, or he's busy trying to apply as much spin as he can get.

Let's be clear about something here - I wasn't exactly impressed with how the Liberal governments dealt with the Khadr file either. However, we get to work with the facts we have today, and we must assess today's government on the basis of what we know today about that file. Leaving Mr. Khadr to fend for himself in a pseudo-legal "trial" that may or may not be fair is becoming less and less tenable as each day goes by and each new revelation escapes from the guarded worlds of Guantanamo Bay and CSIS.

The Harper government stands on its own actions - or lack of them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Coren: Citizenship is Conditional

In the right-wing of Canada, it seems that citizenship in Canada is conditional - even if you were born here.

Omar Khadr is a tenuous Canadian at best, unlike most newcomers to the country who love it with pride and passion.

He's not a newcomer, Mr. Coren - Khadr was BORN in Canada. This is one of the points that the right-wingnuts in Canada keep forgetting. Omar Khadr has not renounced his Canadian citizenship to my knowledge, and he was born here - he's not a "tenuous" Canadian - he IS CANADIAN. The double standard that is at play here is revolting in the extreme. Canada's laws are clear enough on the matter.

Naturally, Mr. Coren spends most of his column convicting Omar Khadr based on his parents:

She has also, of course, loudly expressed her hatred for western culture and condemned Canada as a vile place where all children are drug addicts or homosexuals. She said she did not want such a fate for Omar or for her other son Karim, who suffered spinal damage after a firefight with the Pakistani soldiers who killed her terrorist husband.

Wait a second, Mr. Coren. What if others were to assign to your offspring the bigotry towards others you have shown? Surely you would own your own actions as distinct from those of your offspring. Let's not forget that under both American and Canadian law, Omar Khadr was not at what we call the 'Age of Majority' in 2002. Legally, that means that he is not held to the same degree of responsibility for his actions as he would were he legally an adult.

But, more importantly, we live in a country where the laws devolve rights and responsibilities to the individual. That means similarly that while we must hold the parents accountable for their actions, we cannot legitimately convict the son based upon the words and deeds of the parents.

The only valid criticism of the United States is that this young man should have faced a trial by now. If, however, he had been in prison just a few miles away from Guantanamo on Cuba he would have been beaten to death in one of Castro's death camps.

Talk about a bunch of crap. Not only are there enormous legal, moral and ethical problems with the entire construct that is embodied in Guantanamo Bay, defenders of Khadr's treatment while in custody conveniently gloss over the fact that the Americans were applying adult interrogation techniques to a sixteen year old. For all intents and purposes, he's still an adolescent in many respects. (Please note that the reasoning centers of the brain are not fully developed until sometime around the age of 20)

As for tying it to criminal justice issues in Cuba, I don't think Cuba is an active participant in Afghanistan at all, so that's a completely irrelevant red herring.

I've said this repeatedly. The issue here is not what Khadr did or did not do. The issue is the negligence of the Canadian government where Canadians held abroad are concerned. The HarperCon$ have done absolutely nothing until public pressure reaches the boiling point. Think about this. If you are detained abroad, access to consular services and intervention is considered by most to be a fundamental right. Under Harper, that has gone by the wayside - a warning to all Canadians who travel abroad.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rights in Ezra's World

If I hadn't read it myself, I don't think I'd believe it. Apparently, Ezra Levant thinks that informing people about their rights is a bad thing.

He's whining about this booklet that the AHRC has published which outlines in very broad terms the scope of what is covered in the legislation that the AHRC is responsible for implementing.

Apparently he doesn't like that the booklet is full of simple examples:

Let's start with this one, called "Maria's story". I can tell you right now, having read every ruling issued by the Alberta HRC is recent years, that there is no "Maria", and there is no "Maria's story". There has never been a ruling about a woman whose parents came to Canada from Mexico, who was upset about Mexican jokes that aren't funny.

It's a fabrication. That's called propaganda -- telling new Latino immigrants that they're coming to a bigoted province, where Mexicans are treated poorly.

What part of example do you not get, Ezra? It's intended to give people who don't spend their time trolling through AHRC decisions for fun an idea of the kinds of topics that are considered discriminatory.

I'm sad to inform you, Ezra, that you've horribly abused the term 'propaganda'. Propaganda attempts to make a truth out of a non-truth. Giving people examples that are fictitious is not the same thing at all.

It's disgusting to begin with, but the fact that it is deliberately targetting new immigrants is downright vile. The Alberta human rights commission -- in other words, the Government of Alberta -- is trying to persuade newcomers to Alberta to support their grievance industry, and become little race hustlers, little Al Sharptons, just like Khurrum Awan of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

I see. So it's a bad thing for people to know what their avenues of redress under the law are? Sure...

What that really tells us is that Ezra wants the world to revolve around him - it's all about his right to spout off in whatever ugly way he chooses, nobody has any right to challenge him unless they have enough money to do so.

The vast majority of people are pretty benign when it comes to situations where discrimination could happen. But, that doesn't invalidate the need for avenues of redress when it does occur. More often than not, the person on the receiving end of discrimination is in a position of relative social and economic weakness. (especially in the workplace)

Do you like how Albertans are being described to newcomers -- as a bunch of stupid bigots? And do you like the instructions given to 60,000 of those newcomers, in the guise of "learning to read English" -- a propanganda tract telling them to sue their neighbours?

Oh please, Ezra. It's time to get off your high horse. Perhaps you'd like to reserve all knowledge of rights and law to those who have been through law school, but the real world knows that doesn't work in a free, and democratic society. (There's an irony here, since it was Mr. Levant who filed certain lawsuits against Dr. Lund a few years ago in an effort to halt his complaints against Stephen Boissoin and Craig Chandler's "Concerned Christians Canada" organization.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blowin' Smoke

Why is it that the Bank of Canada's assessment of Canada's economy smells like some politician trying to blow smoke.

Ontario has been losing jobs left, right and center, and big ticket items like car sales are way off. The cost of simply putting gas in a car is high enough that people are beginning to cut back their vacation plans, and disposable income is starting to dwindle.

Food prices have been creeping up, and I expect that the prices will escalate even more rapidly as transportation costs make their way onto store shelves.

Add to that signs of softening in Canada's real estate market even in Calgary, and Carney's assessment that the economy is "robust" seems disingenuous at best, an outright fabrication - more of a political message than anything else.

Brilliant, Just Brilliant

I don't think it's any secret that Harper is considerably more intelligent than his ideological pal in Washington, so why is he repeating the same mistakes?

It's not like the American use of private armies like Blackwater in Iraq has exactly gone well.

However, we see Harper aping BushCo policy step for step:

The federal government has warned bidders on a high-profile reconstruction project in Afghanistan that they will largely be responsible for their own security, raising the prospect that private security firms will form the first line of defence against the Taliban.

The Harper government announced last month that the refurbishment of the Dahla Dam will be one of Canada’s “signature” projects in Kandahar province. Canada has promised to invest as much as $50 million over three years to repair the long-neglected dam and its irrigation system, which supplies most of the farmers in the province.

Well, this is just plain peachy isn't it? Assuming that HarperCo can find someone foolish enough to bid on this contract, and the winning bidder can find people desperate enough to work on the job, the safety of those workers is going to be in the hands of the bidding company?

Commercially speaking, no sane bidder is going to touch that contract. The costs associated with providing the required security in a combat zone would rapidly consume whatever margin was in the winning bid.

Practically speaking, mercenary armies are generally not a great idea. They tend to have their own chains of command, and individuals mercenaries may or may not pay much attention to it.

However, I think this little proposition tells us more about PMSH's motives and politics than it reveals about the situation in Afghanistan.

It demonstrates to the Canadian public that either the man is being run by handlers in the Bush Republicans, or that he is purely an ideologue who is willing to sacrifice critical thought and Canada's best interests on the altar of NeoCon dogma.

H/T: Boris @ The Galloping Beaver

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is Progress?

In Afghanistan, we find that reality on the ground is quite different from what Canada's government is trying to convince us is the case.

So, the next time some politician starts trying to blow smoke about how wonderfully well things are going in Afghanistan, think hard on the fact that the calls for more troops are coming, and the NATO forces are busy abandoning ground for the Taliban. This does not sound like a country that is acquiescing to foreign occupation to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's Still Called Discrimination

This is almost unbelievable: a gay man in Italy was issued a handicapped driver's license - because he is gay.

I say almost, because when you read the same story as told by Lifesite, you'd think this was a good thing:

The medical report said Giuffrida suffered from "a disturbance of the sexual identity" and the information was then passed onto Italy's transportation ministry that Giuffrida was "not in possession of the necessary psycho-physical requirements."

Giuffrida was required to retake his driver's exam and passed for a second time; however, he received a licence for just one year rather than the standard 10 years, because his admission of homosexuality was recorded as a mental disability.

What that has to do with his ability to drive a car, I can't even begin to fathom. But, I think it's important to point out how Lifesite has conveniently ignored some other facts in the case.

Missing from the Lifesite rendition:

A judge ordered the Italian government to pay $160,000 to a Sicilian man who was forced to reapply for his driver's license after motor-vehicle workers learned of his sexual orientation.

Reuters says when Danilo Giuffrida "told doctors he was gay at his medical examination for military service, they passed the information to the transport ministry, who told him he must repeat his driving test or have his license withdrawn due to his 'sexual identity disturbance."

He passed the second test, but officials issued a handicapped license that was valid for one year.

That isn't just a bureaucrat being nasty at the counter, that's a systemic attempt to harass someone, and make their life difficult.

Sadly, such systemic discrimination and harassment is all too common, even in countries where GLBT people are recognized in law as being subject to a disproportionate amount of harassment. One has to wonder what Barbara Kay would have to say about this situation.

Mr. Worthington: He's A CANADIAN Dammit!

Apparently, Mr. Worthington who writes for the Sun newspapers thinks that citizenship is conditional, especially if you are Omar Khadr.

I have news for Mr. Worthington: It's NOT. Khadr is a Canadian citizen, born in Canada - no less a citizen than you or I.

Of course his parents are to blame for what he became. Of course he had little choice. But he is what he is, and after six years in Gitmo, subjected to whatever indoctrination his fellow detainees have imposed, he may well be beyond redemption.

Khadr hasn't even been tried in a legitimate court of law, for goodness' sake! Do you really believe that anybody except him knows who or what his goals are?

It's hard to see where Omar Khadr has done anything criminal or illegal, despite being charged with murder by the Americans.

In 2002 he was the only survivor in an American attack, in which a grenade killed a sergeant and wounded a medic who then saved Khadr's life. Omar had been shot three times.

Since when is fighting and killing invaders a crime? Khadr doesn't deserve to be put on trial. He should simply remain in custody like a prisoner of war until the war is over, and then freed.

Canada's only concern should be that he is treated decently, which he is.

That said, the pendulum has swung and pressure will increase until the PM will find an excuse to change his mind and request Khadr be sent to Canada.

Well, Mr. Worthington, since you all but admit that Khadr can't justifiably be held, charged or tried by US authorities, why shouldn't he be brought back to Canada? Or do you merely choose to convict him based on his dark skin, and the unsavory acts of his parents? The long and short of it is that Khadr is a Canadian citizen, held by a foreign power, and subjected to a "legal process" that is not legal under US law.

Canadians should be appalled that in order for their government to intervene on behalf of its citizens, the public has to express absolute outrage at the government's lack of action. This is far from the first time that the HarperCon$ have dropped the ball and allowed Canadians to languish in foreign prisons, under questionable circumstances.

Now We're Just Arguing About The Price

We already knew that Harper has prostituted himself to the whim of the Republicans in the USA, and apparently his price is pretty cheap, since he can't even be bothered to express so much as smidgen of outrage over how Omar Khadr has been treated at the hands of the US government, and obviously with complicity on the part of Canadian officials.

Let me add it up for you:

(a) Khadr is being held on questionable charges
(b) Khadr's interrogations have involved an assortment of torture and torture-like practices applied to him.
(c) He is being subjected to American-created pseudo law for events that took place outside of the legal territory of the USA, and in a "legal" system that ignores the fundamental rights of habeus corpus
(d) Canada's government has been active and complicit in the mishandling of Omar Khadr

Now, Canada's "New Government" refuses to raise a hand to help Mr. Khadr, and its Prime Minister cannot even express a modicum of outrage over the fact that a Canadian citizen has been subjected to treatment that under Canada's own laws would be illegal and abusive.

So, I have to wonder just how much BushCo paid for that little service...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Harper Has No Plan

So he returns to his role as leader of the opposition.

The HarperCon$ have avoided any substantive policy on the subject of the environment, preferring to blow smoke instead. When the government has something resembling an actual policy, then they will be in a position to comment on the positions of other political parties.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

As The Veneer of Civility Cracks

I've claimed for a very long time that just below the surface of the CPoC currently sitting on the government benches in Ottawa is the squirming base of intolerance and hardline religious bigotry.

With the CPoC sniffing at majority territory, that base is becoming more vocal - and in particular some of what has been oozing out of the National Post in recent weeks has made this very, very clear. Today's bit of vileness comes to us from via Barbara Kay's wisdom.

In it, she manages to invoke not only the wingnut insanity of the anti-gay religious reich, but also the racism of the KKK.

Three causes preoccupy liberal ideologues: the absolute divestment of morality from all sexuality, the normalization of homosexuality and the eradication of racism. Unfortunately, the hard truth around the spread of HIV/AIDS -- a nightmare trifecta for them -- indicts promiscuous homosexuals and certain African black populations, and tends to acquit sexually prudent heterosexuals.

Why yes, Barbara, it's really all the fault of those nasty gay people who have more than one sexual partner. Ever been to a bar like Cowboys in Calgary? If yo have, then try to tell me that there isn't massive amounts of promiscuity among young heterosexuals as well - with a straight face. (and, unsurprisingly, the GLBT people I know who are over thirty are in established, long term relationships.)

As for the issues in Africa, if you can't recognize those as social and educational problems, then you are similarly naive.

But alas for all those non-judgmental AIDS do-gooders: What has worked best and most rapidly to reduce HIV infection among both homosexuals and promiscuous Africans is partner reduction.

Nice theory. Here's your reality check, Barbara. Societies don't change overnight; and subgroups that are held in an oppressed state will be less likely to conform with the social norms of the broader society. (It's funny how that works - alienate a group of people and then watch them go a totally different direction socially to what you want them to.

Sadly, the other problem that Ms. Kay is blithely overlooking is that HIV is transmitted by more than sexual promiscuity, and once a virus like that is in the wild, it will find ways to survive and propagate - nature's funny that way. That, combined with the fact that in Africa in particular, AIDS is literally killing off an entire generation when they should be at their peak of economic productivity. Hardly a combination that says we should stop treating HIV/AIDS patients, or searching for longer term solutions than the chemical cocktails required to survive the effects of the virus.

Epstein credits the decrease in multiple partners to Uganda's "Love Carefully" and "Zero Grazing" campaigns against casual sex, ubiquitously promoted by politicians and the media.

And yet, although the relevant data was available to the AIDS establishment throughout the decade, Epstein observes, "When independent consultants, some of them hired by UNAIDS [The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS], reported to the agency that partner reduction, not condoms, was largely responsible for Uganda's HIV decline, their reports were ignored or never made public."

Worse, international AIDS "experts" scolded Uganda's National AIDS-Prevention Committee for encouraging sexual restraint, which was believed to be naive and ineffectual. Sadly, as advocacy of fidelity and youthful abstinence was systematically undermined, Uganda's HIV rates began to rise again.

In 2006, UNAIDS publicly acknowledged that partner reduction was pivotal to HIV reduction. It took so long because, in the words of a candid insider: "There was a sense that promoting fidelity must be totally wrong if it was a message favoured by the Christian Right. We've made an emotion-based set of decisions and people have suffered terribly because of that." It seems George Bush was actually on to something in his policy of linking aid money to the encouragement of sexual fidelity.

Unfortunately, this realization has come too late. AIDS establishment elites lied; gay and black AIDS victims died.

Ummm, no, Bush wasn't onto anything that wasn't already part of normal sex ed. The Bush-styled "abstinence only" education tries to bury sexual realities, and in doing so is far more deadly. People make better decisions when they have all of the information, not just the half-baked subset that Bush, and apparently Ms. Kay, want to be made available.

Why Are We In Afghanistan?

I've not been at all comfortable with the Afghanistan mission for quite some time - at least since the Paul Martin Liberals were the government, and more recently, I've found the HarperCon$ aggressive approach to foreign affairs in general deeply unsettling.

In the past week, there have been two very interesting articles about the Afghanistan mission and the history behind it. The first is Paul Koring's conversation with a Russian Army officer who served in Afghanistan.

In it, the officer reflects upon the problems that the Soviet army encountered during its attempts to control Afghanistan, and notes some striking similarities between the Soviet experience and the current NATO mission.

“You are just repeating our mistakes,” Mr. Aushev said in an elegant, memento-filled office close to the Russian Duma. While some Russians – perhaps many – take some satisfaction in watching the U.S.-led coalition struggle in Afghanistan, Mr. Aushev knows better than most the dangers of a defeated superpower leaving the wreckage of Afghanistan to violent and radicalized factions.

“Most Afghans still live in a feudal society, in villages far from the cities,” he said. “For them, there is no difference between being bombed by the Soviets and now being bombed by the Americans … and it won't succeed.”

I've thought this for some time as well - even in light of this article which tries to show us that Canada's military is trying to learn from the mistakes of the Soviets, there is a harsh reality that it is difficult, if not impossible, to conquer an enemy like the Taliban (or the Mujahadeen) which exists as part of the local landscape.

“The main reasons behind the fall of the pro-Moscow regime in Kabul were not defeat on the battlefield nor military superiority of the resistance but the regime's failure to achieve economic sustainability and its overreliance on foreign aid,” says a document called Economic Development in Afghanistan during the Soviet Period 1979-1989: Lessons Learned from the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan.

Now, those are all good observations. However, those same observations are "well known" to what is now the Taliban resistance. Anyone who thinks that the Taliban hasn't figured out that the best way to disable the invaders is to tie things up so that economic gains simply don't happen is horribly naive.

“One of the big lessons for us is, don't beat a hasty uncontrolled retreat because the place then really goes nuts,” Prof. Bland said. “The exit strategy has to be some very carefully considered process and based on a strong local security situation.”

He said he thinks Canadian soldiers will still be responsible for safeguarding the peace well after 2011, when Canada's troops are supposed to withdraw from combat operations in the country's southern province of Kandahar under a motion passed in Parliament.

“Canadians should be prepared for the fact that Canadian soldiers and policemen and others will be employed in security duties in Afghanistan for a very long time.”

He said he thinks the Forces have done other studies of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, but said these may not be publicly available.

To some extent, this corroborates my own claims that any meaningful change in Afghanistan is going to be a multiple generations-long endeavor. Unlike the person quoted, I do not share an optimistic view that there is a significant chance of long term success. In that respect, I think the long history of the region makes the point for me:

Invaders of Afghanistan

Many foreign forces have attempted to conquer Afghanistan and its predecessor states. Few have succeeded. Here are some examples of those who tried.

Darius the Great: In the late sixth century BC, much of the country was absorbed into the Persian empire of Darius the Great. However, plagued by constant uprisings, the Persians never established effective control.

Alexander the Great: In the third century BC, Alexander the Great invaded. The harsh, mountainous terrain and brutal weather were only part of the challenge. The Afghans themselves were no less formidable. Constant revolts undermined whatever glory he could claim.

Genghis Khan: In 1220, the Islamic lands of Central Asia were overrun by the armies of this Mongol invader. But even Genghis Khan failed to destroy the strength of Islam there. By the end of the 13th century, his descendants were themselves Muslims.

Britain: There were three major interventions by the British Army between 1838 and 1919. Each one ultimately failed.

Soviet Union: In 1979, the Soviets rolled in about 115,000 troops. The Afghans responded with an extended guerrilla war, and in 1989 the Soviets withdrew.

Not exactly promising, is it?

I think the second point of question with respect to Afghanistan is related to the sincerity of the American (and NATO forces) stated desire to "bring democracy" to the region. This history of American intervention in the affairs of other countries and regions is not a source of confidence building inspiration. The fact is that the US rarely intervenes in another nation's affairs unless it thinks that it can gain something.

Now, what could be gained out of Afghanistan in today's era has been a little opaque for some time, as the days of the "Silk Road" are long gone. But, fairly recently, a major oil pipeline was announced, with backing from the Americans and American oil companies.

This particular venture underscores my long held suspicions around the reasons for our presence in Afghanistan, and further calls into to question the moral and ethical validity of those claims. Canadians have some hard questions to ask themselves before we give any government the mandate to go ahead and further prolong our involvement in this war - questions that are moral, ethical and economic.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

They Appointed Whom To The "Science Advisory Panel"???

Okay fine, Preston Manning is a smart enough man, but he isn't exactly the sort of person I'd put into a board discussing how science should be interpreted with respect to public policy.

The group is supposed to “build public confidence that policy and regulatory decisions are being based on broadly accepted scientific knowledge and evidence.”

I'll believe that this group isn't a bunch of CPoC hacks and ideologues when I start seeing something from this government that demonstrates a modicum of respect for facts and evidence instead of ideology.

Michael Coreen Attempts To Understand Science

... and then use it to self justify his Fetus Fetishism by squawking about Morgentaler's Order of Canada.

The word "fetus" merely means "young child" and, anyway, after three months of growth nothing new develops. At nine months the unborn child is more mature, but then a five-year-old is more mature than a two-year-old.

This such a gross oversimplification of the development of a fetus during pregnancy. There's Coren's claim that a fetus is fully developed at three months, and then we find reality:

Fetuses are not capable of feeling pain at the beginning of the fetal stage, and will not be able to feel pain until the third trimester. At this point, uncontrolled movements and twitches occur as muscles, the brain and pathways begin to develop.
From weeks 11 to 14, the fetal eyelids close and remain closed for several months, and the appearance of the genitals in males and females becomes more apparent. Tooth buds appear, the limbs are long and thin, and red blood cells are produced in the liver, however the majority of red blood cells will be made later in gestation (at 21 weeks) by bone marrow.

Then Coren goes on to attempt to debunk arguments related to abortion in a classic 'straw man' attack style:

Rape and incest

Most of these arguments are entirely spurious, such as the point about abortion in the case of rape and incest. Such tragedies provide less than a fraction of 1% of the reasons for abortion and they are mentioned by abortion advocates simply to make pro-lifers appear extreme.

We should ask if those who support abortion in these exceptional cases would oppose it when rape and incest are not the causes of pregnancy. We know the answer.

Straw man #1 - support for abortion at all means supporting it under all circumstances, therefore we can dismiss this argument.

Wrong. Dead wrong. The problem with this simplistic framing of the situation is that the argument places the onus entirely upon the woman to reveal and explain her sex life. I don't need to point out that there's nothing here that holds the man in the picture accountable for his actions, is there?

But before legal abortion, the pro-abort people say, enormous numbers of women died in backstreet procedures. Actually this is mostly propaganda. Of course such horrors occurred, but there are no reliable figures and informed sources dismiss most of these claims as nonsense.

Again, another straw man argument. Essentially, he's saying that women dying because they sought an abortion "in the back alley" isn't a big deal. The issue around back alley abortions is not just that women were killed or horribly maimed as a result, but the fact that women found it necessary to seek out underground health care in the first place.

Even if true, they continue, only women have a right to an opinion on this issue. No. Men are fathers, men are taxpayers, men are citizens. Men also are abortionists. But surely it is the nature and quality of the argument rather than the gender of the individual that should inform our position.

As a man, Mr. Coren will never be pregnant, will never carry a baby to term. It is not him who would be "held accountable" for his sexual activities. In short, he has no say in the matter. When men like Mr. Coren can be held accountable for their sexual activities (in or outside of marriage - it's not like Christianity doesn't have a long history of "bastard" children born outside of the marriage bed!), and they pay the biological price for bearing children, then they have a say in this matter of women's health. Until then, he has no say unless the woman chooses to involve him.

Gender bias does, however, lead to far more baby girls being aborted than baby boys. Rather a bitter paradox for feminist ideology.

Why yes, you misogynistic ass, that's all the fault of the feminists. It couldn't have anything to do at all with people who haven't yet figured out that women are just as important and valuable as men, could it?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Omar Khadr - The Harper Spin...Then There's Reality

Let me be clear, I don't think Canada's government has ever done "right" in the Omar Khadr affair, but Stephen Harper's pronouncements in the last couple of days have sunk to a new low.

"The previous [Liberal] government took a whole range... all of the information into account when they made the decision on how to proceed with the Khadr case several years ago," he said.

Around about the time I heard this little bit of deflection on the radio, I got quite angry. First of all, the situation when Khadr was captured is quite different from the situation today. Given the petulant, immature behaviour that George W. Bush has shown in office, I'm pretty sure he would have simply ignored any lobbying from the Chretien or Martin governments purely on the basis that they weren't right wing enough for Dubya.

The second point is that in the intervening years, we also have the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay - and it isn't pretty. So, when Harper tries to pin this all on the Liberals, he's full of it. His government is in power today, and his government carries the obligation to review and act upon the situation intelligently.

And then there's the bit that Harper doesn't want to talk about:

In an interview, Gar Pardy, the now retired head of consular programs for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said that in 2002-03 “we were fighting for Omar [Khadr],” whom he regarded as too young for Guantanamo.

“I wanted to use his age as the largest club we had to beat up the Americans on,” Mr. Pardy said. But he added that Canadian initiatives to protect the prisoner's rights got lost among departments and officials with competing priorities.

So, let me get this straight - Canada's government in fact did take steps to intervene on Omar Khadr's behalf ... but that was BEFORE PMSH. Unsurprisingly, nothing happened - and I think we can guess why - the reason sits in the Whitehouse.

Make no mistake, I certainly do not approve of the actions of Omar Khadr's father, whether his apparently active participation in paramilitary activity in Afghanistan or the fact he took his then young son with him into that situation. However, when it comes down to it, what Omar Khadr is accused of doing happened in a combat zone, and at a time when he was the ripe old age of fifteen. Adults aren't terribly rational in a firefight, what in heck makes anyone think a fifteen year old male is going to be? (Hello, hormones anyone?)

Omar Khadr should have been in a Toronto high school at the time - discovering girls and preparing for his future. If anyone is to be held responsible for what happened in Afghanistan it is his father who took him there, not Omar Khadr.

PMSH is being a petty, petulant ideologue in this matter - and he is trying to make his own government's failings someone else's fault. I haven't seen such immature and stupid behaviour since I was in junior high.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Setting The Stage For Privatization

Geez, could Liepert be any more blatant about his goals? From day one, I've said that I don't think he's being open and honest with Albertans about his objectives for health care.

Well, I think Calgarians just got the first slap in the face of many we will see in the coming months. Mysteriously, the The South Calgary Hospital is suddenly too expensive to build.

Construction costs have pushed the facility's price tag to $1.7 billion, but the hospital only has $1.4 billion of funding, so it's been forced to make changes to stay within budget.

As a result, the first phase of the hospital, near Deerfoot Trail and 196th Avenue S.E., will go from 325 beds to 293 when it opens in 2011, said Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Calgary Health Region.

The claim is outrageous from the outset. The Klein government delayed and stalled moving this hospital project forward for years, after closing several of Calgary's existing hospitals (The Holy Cross, The Grace and The Calgary General hospital had all been closed by the year 2000) - all in the name of "paying off the debt". Today, the Alberta government is awash in money, but mysteriously a hospital that Calgary desperately needs is suddenly "too expensive"?

Why have costs escalated so much? Delays on the part of the government, gross mismanagement of Alberta's growth in the last ten years which have resulted in a massive labour shortage in the province - driving wages, and inflating all sorts of capital project costs because various parts of the markets have gotten horrendously out of balance.

Now, today, the province mysteriously "doesn't have the money" all of a sudden? Horsefeathers. If you take that claim seriously, then I've got a business proposition involving a bridge to discuss with you. I claim that this is another piece in Liepert (and Stelmach's) ideological drive to do what Ralph never did - privatize the health care system so that Albertans can pay the same exorbitant insurance premiums that are seen in the US - to the same money grubbing insurance companies and "Health Management Organizations", making treatment a matter of "economics" rather than people.

I Suspected As Much

I've been waiting for this to ooze out.

Initially saying she was not getting support from Conservatives, Wright added: "Well, there's a bunch of them emailing saying they want to give us money."

Green Shift has retained former Progressive Conservative communications guru from the days of Brian Mulroney, Michael Krauss, to orchestrate her media strategy.

Krauss says he is not affiliated with the Conservatives.

Uh huh. So, in short, the HarperCon$ are bankrolling this lawsuit. Part of me suspects that Ms. Wright has been egged on in filing this suit by the Conservative Party from day one. (I can't prove it, but it would be fairly consistent with their general approach to politics)

Harper: 'Compassionate Conservatism' At Work

Apparently, advocating for Canadian citizens held abroad in dubious circumstances is a matter of whether Dear Leader thinks that the person involved is guilty of something.

In the case of Omar Khadr, Harper clearly sees no problem with Guantanamo Bay, and the treatment of Omar Khadr.

Never mind claims of torture, or that under some international law conventions he would be a Child Soldier. (Even under the much older Geneva Conventions, he would be on the borderline). Of course, Harper won't pay any attention to the fact that the "judicial process" being created at Guantanamo Bay keeps getting declared illegal even when the Bushites have tried to create a legal fiction to separate Guano Bay from normal US law.

I don't necessarily like what the Khadr family has done in the past, but allowing a foreign government to detain, torture and "kangaroo court" a Canadian citizen is utterly dispicable. If, as is claimed, Khadr is accused of "serious crimes", then let him be tried in a criminal court of justice.

On Thursday, Mr. Harper said Mr. Khadr is accused of serious crimes, and there's no real alternative to the special military hearings he faces – and he has no intention of asking for him to be sent to Canada.

Since the Bushites have already shown their complete lack of of regard for due process, law or human rights, it is then incumbent upon Canada to act as an advocate for the well-being of her citizens. To blithely disregard someone who is being denied even the basic, and long standing right of Habeus Corpus is unconscionable.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Harper: Do Nothing Environmental Policy Part 2008

What is it with Harper and 2050?

Every time that man opens his mouth on the topic of environmental policy, what plops out but goals that are so far in the future that not only will his mendacious government will be a footnote in Canada's history, most of the politicians currently sitting in Ottawa will have died of old age!

Newsflash for Mr. Harper - long range goals are all fine and dandy - when they are backed up with more immediate objectives that are meaningful. Things that are 42 years in the future are completely unrealistic and meaningless - a bit of political theatrics so that you can make a blithe claim about your "concern" over the environment - while you continue to follow the idiot military spending model of your political soulmate currently residing in Washington.

Canadians cannot afford you, Mr. Harper; and the world cannot afford your environmentally blind economics.

Food Safety And Conservative Governments

via The Galloping Beaver:

Apparently the HarperCon$ are going after public safety - and not in a good way. They are cutting CFIA's mandate with respect to food labelling and safety by having it outsourced to industry.

Frankly, I don't trust industry to audit itself worth a damn. Businesses just don't work that way. As someone with a potentially serious food allergy, and others I am very close to have similar allergy concerns, I believe that this move by the HarperCon$ has the potential to be quite deadly. Unreported "traces" of various allergens in food is all too common, and I generally am suspicious of a lot of food labels most of the time.

As with a great many other things that the HarperCon$ are up to, this has been done quietly, and places the legitimate interests of individual Canadians at risk, and without any discussion whatsoever. No doubt, so that they can find the monies needed to fund "Stevies Little War" in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

And the Privatization Move Begins

Alberta Starts Restructuring Health Boards

No matter how I spin it, the more I hear out of Ron Liepert, the less impressed I am with his "just do it" approach to health care policy. This first round tells us a lot, and I don't like any of it.

First of all, I don't like the lack of clarity that Liepert and his new lapdog bring to the picture - denials mostly.

"I emphasize this is all about the patients," board chair Ken Hughes said at a news conference in Calgary. "Obviously this is not an easy decision and it's not easy for the individuals and we respect that and thank them for their contribution to health care in Alberta."

Uh huh. Sure.

Among those not retained by the new board is Jack Davis, the high-profile president and CEO of the Calgary Health Region who earned $1.2 million in salary and benefits in 2007.

Well, Davis has been a thorn in the side of the PC's since day one. Mostly because he has taken steps that call the PC government out for their shameful neglect of Calgary's health system for the last 20 years. He's gone as far as to overspend his budget trying to close the gaps that 20 years of cuts, neglect and outright mismanagement inflicted on Calgary. That he isn't being retained isn't a surprise - those that are being retained are all from the rural boards - you can imagine just how well that's going to work out for Alberta's major centers.

Bishop Henry Speaks - Does Stelmach Listen?

I sure as heck hope not. Bishop Henry's recent letter to Stelmach showed up on Zenit - the Roman Catholic Church's "news release" agency.

[Editor's Note]: I see that Zenit has pulled the letter itself off their English Front Page. I have archived a copy for reference purposes.

[Update 21:16]
I see that Bishop Henry has posted his letter on the diocese website
Bishop Henry, as we have seen before, is once again in the business of confusing issues and misconstruing the situations.

Consider the following:

April 2008: The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ordered an evangelical Christian charity, Christian Horizons, to rescind its morality code and require employees to undergo anti-discriminatory training. In addition, Christian Horizons has been ordered to pay $23,000 plus lost wages for terminating Connie Heritz’s employment based on a morality code which she freely and knowingly signed as a condition of employment and which she failed to adhere to.

Every religious institution should have the jurisdictional independence to determine its own confessions, doctrines and ordinances, including conditions of employment.

Hmmm...Christian Horizons...I've heard that name before. Oh yes! Here it is, in all its shining glory. The Bishop has missed a very key aspect of the issue in this case - namely that Christian Horizons used its "moral code" not merely to regulate the lives of its employees outside of work, but allowed a poisonous, harassing working environment to fester with respect to Connie Heintz.

I have some problems with these "moral codes" being imposed by employers (regardless of faith) that attempt to strictly regulate someone's life outside of the workplace. It strikes me as an unreasonable invasion of privacy. However, if Canadian Law allows for it in some capacity, that's fine as long as it doesn't get modified "on the fly" - as happened with Julie Nemecek.

Next up, we have Bishop Henry pulling on a recent ruling in Saskatchewan regarding a Marriage Commissioner who refused to serve a gay couple.

Nichols, who has performed nearly 2,000 marriages since 1983, had referred the couple to another marriage commissioner because he said his religious beliefs (Baptist) kept him from performing the ceremony.

The conflict between social pressure and the demands of right conscience can lead to the dilemma either of abandoning a profession or of compromising one's convictions. Faced with that tension, despite the ruling of the Commission, we must remember that there is a middle path which opens up before workers who are faithful to their conscience.

Hold on a second, here Bishop. We are talking about someone who is being paid out of the public purse to perform a legal public service. Since when did the benefit of the law and government become subject to the moral assessment of the public functionary? Am I going to be subjected to someone's "moral assessment" (and objections) next time I go to renew my driver's license? I certainly hope not!

If the man wishes to hide behind his religious beliefs to justify not providng service, then let him become an ordained minister and carry out his marriage duties in that capacity. Otherwise he is essentially an agent of the government, and is obliged to conduct himself accordingly.

Section 30 of the Alberta Human Rights Act states: “Evidence may be given before a human rights panel in any manner that the panel considers appropriate, and the panel is not bound by the rules of law respecting evidence in judicial proceedings.” It would also seem that this panel is also not bound by reasonable argument or the elementary rules of logic but is free to skewer anyone not espousing and proclaiming politically correct views. Darren Lund, the complainant, said that Boissoin’s words in his 2002 letter to the Red Deer Advocate were hateful, and furthermore, an assault on a gay teenager three weeks later could be connected to them. No proof of either was presented.

Lori Andreachuk, the chairperson of the Tribunal, agreed that his words were “likely” to expose gays, “a vulnerable” group, to hatred due to their sexual orientation. No court in the land would connect the letter and the assault but this silly tribunal did.

Hmmm...if the only issue involved was the assault that Bishop Henry is referring to, I might consider agreeing with him. However, there is quite a bit more to the Boissoin case than that. (The actual decision is here)

Second, with the exception of Mr. Boissoin, all of the witnesses and intervenors in the case concur with the linkage of the assault in question and Boissoin's letter - including the Attorney General of Alberta. (This is Alberta, we are talking about - a province that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Supreme Court of Canada in Vriend before the AHRC would even look at a case involving GLBT rights!)

After ranting on further about Boissoin, Bishop Henry concludes with the following:

Mr. Premier, we have talked enough about the inadequate provisions of and appointment to the Alberta Human Rights Tribunals, it is time to repeal Section 3(1)(b) of the Alberta Human Rights Act ("No person shall publish, issue or display or cause to be published, issued or displayed before the public any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that is likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or class of persons") and to protect the rights of religious freedom. Every person has the right to make public statements and participate in public debate on religious grounds.

Hold it a second, Bishop. Just because someone professes to having a faith of some sort doesn't make every statement they make "faithful". The white supremacist nutcases cloak themselves in a warped form of Christianity, and I dare say that just about every other community has its faith.

In essence, Bishop Henry is demanding that free license be given to all forms of public bigotry in the name of "religious freedom". Think on the implications of his demands for a moment. While Bishop Henry, along with Boissoin and allies, are thinking in terms of their glorious crusade against homosexuality, they would be giving a free pass to all sorts of hatemongers who target any group that they can bully.

In all of the cases that Bishop Henry cites, he has erroneously assumed that it is all about "matters of faith", and in doing so has clearly disregarded the reality that matters of faith must be handled with a certain level of decorum. Using religion as an excuse to promote bigotry, deny services, or to poison the workplace environment is an unacceptable exercise of that freedom.

I have seen others write their opposition to GLBT rights on religious grounds without invoking blatant falsehoods or making spurious inferences that cannot be substantiated. It is possible to do, and there are still valid reasons why the HRC construct remains a valid, extra-judicial process.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

It's All About The Context

Over on his personal blog, we find Stephen Boissoin trying to "contextualize" his letter of 2002 by inserting attempts to explain "what he meant".

I have two problems with this - first of all, six years after the fact, it smacks of being little more than sophistry. (and perhaps in part, it's Boissoin thumbing his nose at the recent remedial decision handed down) While it is valid for him to make some of these claims, he hasn't made them publicly that most of us know about prior to this point.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the observation that we have to consider his letter in the form it was published. No matter how you slice it, the real question that needs to be asked is how a reasonable person would have read that letter - minus all of Mr. Boissoin's belated attempts to justify his spewage.

Then, there are some of the details of what he tries to wrap around his toxic words of six years ago.

This letter was not directed at gay individuals that are not involved in an activist agenda and it is especially not directed at those who are struggling with an unwanted attraction to the same sex. The following paragraph confirms this.

Instead, this is aimed precisely at every individual that in any way supports the homosexual machine that has been mercilessly gaining ground in our society since the 1960s. I cannot pity you any longer and remain inactive. You have caused far too much damage.

By definition, anyone who is a member of a minority group that wants to be treated as equals in society is going to be generally supportive of such movements - to some degree or another. (I can't imagine too many homosexuals that were unhappy when homosexuality was decriminalized in the late 1960s, for example) Second, he makes the broad claim that GLBT people have "caused far too much damage". Damage to what, or whom, he doesn't say. I think most reasonable readers would still take his attempt at an "exclusion" as being little more than a broad swipe at anyone who is part of the broader GLBT community.

My banner has now been raised and war has been declared so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth, that you so eagerly toil, day and night, to consume. With me stand the greatest weapons that you have encountered to date - God and the "Moral Majority." Know this, we will defeat you, then heal the damage that you have caused. Modern society has become dispassionate to the cause of righteousness. Many people are so apathetic and desensitized today that they cannot even accurately define the term "morality."

'Banner' refers to the raising of one's standard. At the time of this letter I was the Executive Director of a Christian charity, active in youth ministry, an ordained minister, a leader of a Christian based political lobby group and a volunteer with other youth focused community initiatives. This letter was submitted to the RED DEER Advocate, not the National Post. War has been declared simply meant that I was making my standard 'public' and that I would no longer remain quiet since becoming aware of how pro-gay activists are indoctrinating young people. Anybody with a hint of common sense knew that this terminology had nothing to do with violence.

In a July 2008 Washington Times article, Barack Obama is speaking about gay rights and equality. He is quoted as saying that " we must fight for the world as it should be." Is he referring to violence by his usage of the word 'fight?' I don't think so. His usage of 'fight' is figurative and no different than similar statements like 'war on poverty' and' 'war on AIDS.' Heck, I even read that certain Muslim clerics had declared 'war' on condoms.

Obviously, I was declaring 'a public war of ideologies' against gay activism. This would have been accepted by the vast majority had Darren Lund not strategically and deceptively linked my letter to an uncorroborated, uninvestigated assault on a gay teen which occurred TWO weeks or more after my letter was published.

First of all, for most people, the "raising of a banner" as a metaphor is going to evoke images of the medieval battlefield - especially as they are portrayed in so many movies.

Again, putting in context of Mr. Boissoin as an ordained minister (etc. etc.), the language is surprising indeed. Most ministers I can think of would have come up with much clearer analogies. Boissoin did not speak of a "war of ideologies" as he now claims he was referring to. Subsequent language talking of "weapons" and "victory" etc. speaks of someone using the language of the medieval crusade, not the language of modern politics.

A letter like Boissoin's would have rippled around the editorial pages for more than a few days - and a violent assault against someone from the GLBT community within two weeks of the letter's publication certainly suggests some cause for concern. (Oh yes, as I understand it, the assault was investigated, but no charges were ever laid - that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

The masses have dug in and continue to excuse their failure to stand against horrendous atrocities such as the aggressive propagation of homo- and bisexuality. Inexcusable justifications such as, "I'm just not sure where the truth lies," or "If they don't affect me then I don't care what they do," abound from the lips of the quantifiable majority.


Self explanatory, Stephen? Horsefeathers. First of all, the paragraph in your letter is filled with assumptions and assertions - not a one of which the religious reich wing has ever been able substantiate. It is a paragraph filled with allusion that leaves the reader's imagination to run wild. This is a classic tool of propagandists - instead of citing something real about their target, they suggest something, and fail utterly to substantiate it.

Face the facts, it is affecting you. Like it or not, every professing heterosexual is have their future aggressively chopped at the roots.

Gay marriage, gay adoptions, gay parades, gays undermining the traditional family and teaching children and youth that homosexuality is normal and acceptable.

Pure assertion. First of all, the original paragraph (in bold) suggests that the rights and lives of heterosexual people are being negatively impacted by the GBLT rights movement. But it doesn't even begin to suggest how or why this is the case. Again, Boissoin has left it to the reader's imagination what might be the case.

His attempt at substantiating his position is pure assertion. Boissoin's claims about gay rights in general (be it adoption, marriage, or for that matter teaching children that being gay is a normal part of the human experience - it is, and millenia worth of human history make that point for me, since GLB people have been clearly documented throughout recorded history. (The documentation for transgender people is perhaps a bit more obscure and rare - a good subject for another post later) He does not show in any way how heterosexual rights and liberties are being attacked; nor does it demonstrate any attempt that would lead a reasoning person to his conclusion.

Realize this is happening and be very concerned! Teachers are not presenting the facts. They are not informing young people that there are therapies available for those struggling with an unwanted attraction to the same sex. They are leading them to believe that a person is born gay. That it is normal to be gay. They are not highlighting the health risks associated with homosexual behaviour nor are they informing them that Health Canada is refusing to accept organ donations from men that have sex with men due to the risk to society.

Those "therapies" are highly questionable, Mr. Boissoin - to such an extent that the key professional bodies in the mental health world have expressed extreme concerns over them. Optimistically, they appear to be successful for a small fraction of people who are either gay or lesbian (and more correctly, I suspect, those that reparative therapy "works" for likely would qualify as bisexual (see my comment #4 here.

Second, I believe Mr. Boissoin is overly worried about homosexual males, and is conveniently ignoring the fact that the GBLT umbrella covers much, much more than homosexual males. Further, as I have criticized other anti-gay activists before, he is overly focused upon what he imagines of their sex life. I don't know about Mr. Boissoin, but personally, my own life doesn't revolve around sexual activity, I fail to see why he insists on getting so bent out of shape about what is likely a small part of someone else's life.

Gay activists want you to believe that homosexuals have it worse than everyone else. They want you to believe that they need special protections. They disguise a scientifically baseless pro-homosexual agenda that is desinged to promote homosexuality by telling us that it is all about tolerance. I am all for tolerance. Nobody has the right to physically harm a
person because of their sexual orientation! If the agenda stopped there, I would have little to say but instead it pushes homosexulity on our society, on our children and I am going to do my part of voice my opposition to it. Nothing normal about homosexuality in my books.

Scientifically baseless? Really Stephen? As I have said in previous discussions with you - if you are going to make assertions of that nature, then it is your responsibility - and obligation - to back up your assertions. Otherwise, all you are doing is making an assertion. Since your background doesn't appear to contain much science per se, I think it behooves you to provide credible sources for your claims. To date, you have made many such claims, and have failed horribly in your attempts to back them up.

Don't allow yourself to be deceived any longer. These activists are not morally upright citizens, concerned about the best interests of our society. They are perverse, self-centered and morally deprived individuals who are spreading their psychological disease into every area of our lives. Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them, are just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.

According to my personal and religious beliefs, teaching a child that homosexuality is normal and acceptable is JUST AS IMMORAL as how a pedophile, drug dealer and pimp seduces a child/young person.

Ummm...first of all, Boissoin is approaching this from the classic, and arguably questionable position that being gay is purely a matter of choice. In the face of a growing body of evidence that suggests that the picture is far more complex than mere behaviour. Additionally, Boissoin's position makes the mistake of assuming that pedophilia is closely correlated with homosexuality.

While I personally suspect that they are in fact parts of different axis of sexuality, and may coincide in specific individuals, I think the weight of evidence would show that most GLBT people are quite clearly NOT pedophiles. The second point here is that teaching children that being gay is part of the normal human experience is not going to 'recruit' a new homosexual. It doesn't work that way - any more than you "recruit" someone to be heterosexual.

Pedophiles present a unique and problematic danger, since the object of their interests is someone that we (society) agree is not competent to make their own decisions in such matters due to age. Quite rightly, society treats those who molest children as criminals, for they have taken advantage of - and abused - our children. On top of that, there are no known cures for pedophilia. At best the individual can keep themselves out of trouble, and with psychiatric intervention can learn to avoid situations that would arouse them. (In this respect, pedophilia is consistent with the GBLT narrative - it does not respond to clinical treatment that attempts to change it)

However, to draw the same conclusions about the impact of GLBT people as for pedophiles in general is simply bad logic which there is no evidence to substantiate.

Homosexual activists are an enemy of certain values that I hold as a Christian. It's time to start fighting back in an attempt to protect these values, the safety and future of our children is at stake.

I love it. Not only is Mr. Boissoin unable to articulate what the "evil gay bogeyman" is really doing that is so bad, he isn't even willing to give voice to what his values are that his imagined bogeyman is attacking. Very convenient for him of course, because it allows him to move the goalposts at whim, and self-justify his own anti-gay bigotry - while never having to actually think things through in light of real evidence.

On Coded Language and Political Policy

In the last few years, coded language has become a significant factor in how political parties present themselves.  This is especially preva...