Sunday, August 31, 2008

That Slithering Sound is The Base Squirming

I'm not even sure Coren's latest column can even be parsed using the rules of the English Language. Even if it contains the odd sentence that is correctly structured, the overall argument makes somewhere between little and no sense.

Stephen Harper has been told by his advisers that he must avoid social issues if he is to win the election and, horror, unborn children were mentioned twice in the past seven days.

Pesky little things. Why can't they just agree to being slaughtered and stop muddying the waters of Canadian politics ...

Of course, Coren's whining about Bill C-484, which the Tories have suddenly decided to stop supporting because it is now a political liability.

These current mentions are tenuous at best. In a desperate attempt to make the prime minister look like the president, Stephane Dion asked Harper where he stood on abortion. A sordid attack.

Is it such a "sordid" thing, Michael? The Leader of the Opposition has asked our Prime Minister to state what his position on the subject is. It doesn't take a genius to suspect that there's an inconsistency or two between Harper's statements and his support for Bill C-484. I think what is far more significant is Harper's outright refusal to answer a simple question.

Even though Harper has proposed alternative legislation on the issue that is insultingly weak, he and his party are still held up as vile fundamentalists who want to force women barefoot into the kitchen.

Something I've never understood in that when my wife is making dinner I'd far rather she wore shoes. Choice, however, is apparently all important in this discussion so I shan't dictate footwear.

How generous of you Mr. Coren. I'm sure your wife appreciates your magnamity in the matter.

Harper hasn't proposed any legislation yet - there's no government bill before the house to replace C-484, and the Con$ don't seem overly interested in promoting C-537, which would do the correct thing in the first place.

Thing is, almost every survey shows that at least 50% of Canadians are opposed to abortion.

Really? Let me see if I get the reasoning here correct. Even if I accept the assertion that 50% of Canadians are opposed to abortion, since when does that have anything to do with an individual woman's right to make that decision for herself? There are lots of life decisions that people make that others would oppose. The issue around abortion is not a matter for some kind of "will of the majority" to decide. The long term, legal issue is really about a woman's access to health services in general, and reproductive health in particular. But, then again, Mr. Coren is also the same man who argues that teaching about sexuality in school is a bad thing. I suppose I should not be too surprised.

But at heart it's about doing what is right. Our beliefs regarding health care, welfare, housing, education, foreign policy and general social justice are all vital, but ultimately irrelevant if we deny the most basic right of all -- the right to life -- to the most vulnerable.

Perhaps, Mr. Coren, you would do better to argue about what is right for yourself, and let others lead their lives in a safe, peaceful manner. But thank you for admitting by your own reasoning that C-484 really is about abortion, and that the Fetus Fetishist crowd really is all about regulating everybody else's sex lives.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Credible is

A while ago, someone started up a site called How'd They Vote, to track the voting of our parliamentarians on various bills and motions before the House of Commons.

When I was researching my last post, I went there to check on Harper's voting record on C-484 and found nothing. It was as if any record of C-484 had been expunged from their database...which is very strange considering when I wrote this piece, it was there.

It seems strange indeed that Bill C-484 would have vanished utterly when other Private Member's business is clearly still in the database - including other bills that the house voted on March 5, 2008.

I'm afraid this sudden omission raises serious questions in my mind about the usefulness of 'howdtheyvote' as a credible source of information.

The Lust For Power

Harper's lust for power has long worried me. Lust is one of the so-called seven deadly sins, and for good reason - as it completely distorts an individual's judgment.

This past week's posturing is particularly revolting in this regard. Harper has been strutting about calling the current Parliament 'dysfunctional' and trying to pin the blame upon the opposition parties. While I can hardly call the opposition in this parliament effective, I'd say that they have been far more cooperative with Mr. Harper than Mr. Harper was when he was the leader of the opposition.

Mr. Harper's statements about Bill C-16, the 'fixed election dates' amendment smack of dishonesty. He is playing exactly the games today that he complained about so bitterly back then. Why? Because he lusts after a more absolute degree of power. As long as he heads a minority, he knows that sooner or later his government is likely to be brought down by the opposition.

Why the lusting? I suspect that in Harper's mind, and those of his advisors, that there is but one goal - to gain the kind of control over parliament that will allow them to ram bills through that the Conservatives can only support at the moment as private member's bills.

Consider the voting patterns of Mr. Harper:

Bill C-484: In Favour
(This is Mr. Epp's odious little piece of legislation)

I think it is quite significant that Mr. Epp's little piece of legislative experimentation got as far as it has. A quick glance through the list of Private Member's bills before the house shows that it is one of a handful to move beyond first reading since introduction.

Harper has quietly allowed this little play to the social conservative "base" of his support to fester in the order paper as a way of signalling to the social conservatives what his agenda really is.

It's not like we haven't had plenty of other signals from the Harper government - it's amazing how their funding cuts always seem to go after minorities, women and the arts, meanwhile they mysteriously seem to think that there's an infinite pile of money for their latest he-man military expenditures.

When Mr. Harper can't even abide by his own fixed election date law, you have to know that his word is of limited value. I shudder to think about what he might do if given a majority government.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fire Tony Clement - and Harper Can Go With Him

I'll give Mr. Clement one thing - he's nothing if not consistent. However, his words at the party the Canadian government put on at the DNC Convention are beyond the pale.

The Canadian government sponsored a swish lunch reception at its consul-general's Denver residence.

The food included bite-sized bits of beef, shrimp, tortellini and potatoes gratin. Health Minister Tony Clement, whose absence from Canada during the tainted meat crisis has not gone unnoticed, was there and introduced himself:

"I'm Health Minister Tony Clement, and I have to say I approved this food."

Fire the heartless SOB. NOW. 15 DEAD CANADIANS IS NOT A JOKING MATTER - under any circumstances.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Well ... Isn't This Special...

In this morning's Globe and Mail, we learn that government cuts to food inspection to enable handing the whole business over to industry were already underway when things went awry at Maple Leaf Foods.

However, some of the plans have been in place since March 31, according to a CFIA manager and an official from the union that represents the federal inspectors.

At the Maple Leaf plant behind the listeria outbreak, a single federal inspector was relegated to auditing company paperwork and had to deal with several other plants, the manager and the union official said, contradicting the impression that officials had left last week that full-time watchdogs were on-site.

While auditing some of the paper trail is no doubt part of the inspector's job, we should be eminently clear that food inspection needs to be happening on the production floor much more than in a back office with a box of old files.

Under the old system, inspectors had a more hands-on role on the plant floor, did more of the tests themselves and had more freedom to investigate, said former CFIA inspector Bob Kingston, who is national president of the Agriculture Union, a branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Let's have a little more fun with this shall we? Just what does PMSH have to say for his government's obviously brain-dead actions?

"It's necessary to reform and revamp our food- and product-inspection regime after some years of neglect," he said yesterday. "As you know, in the recent budget, we put considerably more inspectors and resources into this."

Mr. Harper rejected any suggestions that the federal government is not doing enough.

"Obviously we want to make sure that the companies maintain their responsibilities and that we fully review all the facts here to understand what went wrong and how we can prevent it in the future."

Uh huh. Adding inspectors does nothing when you hand the actual inspection process over to the producing companies.

I swear this Prime Minister is starting to take glib lessons from Brian Mulroney. Otherwise he wouldn't be able to spin half the fibs he does and keep a straight face in the process.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So Much For That ReformaTory Plank

Apparently, the best way to tell if a ReformaTory is lying is to listen to how they are going to 'reform' things - and then to recognize that they are full of it.

Remember when Harper was bragging about how he was going to move to fixed election dates to take all of the games playing an brinkmanship? Well apparently that was just so much smoke.

At an Ottawa press conference Tuesday, Mr. Harper insisted he would not be breaking his word by disregarding his own fixed-election-date law that sets voting day in October, 2009, insisting that opposition parties want to bring down the government before then, so it is up to him to remove doubts about who will govern.

“They're committed to an election well before then. If they're clearly committed to that course of action, and I think they are, then it behooves the government to provide some responsibility,” he said.

No Mr. Harper, you are breaking your word. In fact, you are doing exactly what you used to complain so bitterly about. Apparently you can even stand on your own principles. Remember, Mr. Harper, it was you who blathered on incessantly about fixed election dates; you who blathered on about electoral reform and you who has clearly done exactly nothing that is meaningful in this regard.

What else have you lied to Canadians about?

Cue The Violins

With the CPC formally taking C-484 off the table, you had to know Canada's wingnuts were going to start whining - and so they have:

Mr. Epp concluded, "What right does anyone have to deny a pregnant woman the right to have the child she has chosen to bring to term protected in law? I can't imagine any pregnant woman feeling that justice has been served if the person who brutally and intentionally killed the baby in her womb simply gets a stiffer sentence for assaulting her.

Mr. Epp is being so utterly dishonest here it's not even funny. If his law is only about that, then he should not have a big problem with C-543. Instead what he proposed was a piece of garbage legislation designed to establish a beachhead for "fetal rights". {Rights which can only be exercised by proxy, I might add}.

This is the second time this year that Nicholson has betrayed and shocked Canada's social conservatives. In May he presented the Conservative government Justice Department's 50-page defense of the notorious subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act that has permitted major assaults on freedom of expression and freedom of religion by the Human Rights commission kangaroo courts.

Amazing, with all the pandering to their wingnut base lately, the base is still whinging away about things when they don't get their way.

What a bunch of juveniles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bill C-484 Dies

I see that in their preparations for a fall election, Harper has killed Bill C-484 in favor of a yet to be tabled piece of legislation.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced Monday that the government will draft a new bill to replace Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, so that it closes the debate about fetal rights and focuses instead on penalizing criminals who harm pregnant women.

Hmmm...isn't there already a bill before the house that does that? Why yes, yes there is - Bill C-543.

I suspect that this is little more than Harper realizing that C-484 is a political hot potatoe, and he can't afford to give the oppositions a club:

A free vote in March on Mr. Epp's bill passed in the Commons 147 to 132. Mr. Harper voted in favour, as did more than 25 Liberals. Mr. Dion was absent. Four Conservatives, including cabinet ministers Lawrence Cannon, Gordon O'Connor and Josée Verner, voted against the bill.

Now, the problem here is that the majority of the Conservative caucus voted for this bill, in spite of its many blatant flaws, and the obvious attempt at creating a legislative wedge to introduce the concept of 'fetal recognition' in law. This tells me a great deal about what the current 'front lines' of the CPC really represent, and it's not pretty. The fact that Harper allowed this bill to fester its way along this far without killing it sooner suggests strongly that Harper is not only deeply anti-choice, but that he is not above 'back door legislation' to achieve his goals.

Bill C-484 may be effectively moribund at this point, but feminists would do well to consider carefully the implications of putting their 'X' beside the local CPC candidate in any future election.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hell Hath No Fury


Here's the backstory: Courier Mail (Australia)

I have a feeling that this is going to be one messy divorce.

Dobson Is Pronoun Impaired

I see James Dobson's collection of misfits over at "Focus on the Family" have decided to dredge their cesspool for an opinion on Diane Schroer's discrimination suit against the Library of Congress.

Quoting from Dobson's mouth organ, Citizenlink:

David Schroer, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces commander, testified Tuesday in federal court against the Library of Congress, claiming he deserved a job even as he was undergoing surgery to look like a woman.

Schroer, who goes by Diane, said his job offer was withdrawn when he told his would-be supervisor about his surgery. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2005 on Schroer's behalf. He is seeking the job and damages, which are capped at $300,000.

First of all, I have a huge problem with referring to a transsexual by pronouns other than those appropriate for their day to day social presentation. It's beyond crass.

The second problem with this is the fact that these people see nothing wrong with using a person's previous name, even if they have legally had it changed since. Not only is this inappropriate, it can actually expose the person in question to real danger. There are plenty of people out there who have beaten the tar out of someone for being transsexual in the first place.

Take a look at the picture on the left, and tell me for a moment that the person is a man, or that using masculine pronouns is even marginally appropriate.

It's really not all that complicated - if someone is living socially as a woman, use female pronouns. But more importantly, ask yourself in what way does Ms. Schroer's decision to transition impair her ability to do a job?

The job that she was applying for did not require any attributes that are uniquely masculine, and the job offer was rescinded upon disclosure of her gender transition status.

"Activists will no doubt attempt to use this case to lobby to have the nebulous concept of 'gender identity' added as a category meriting special protection under federal law," said Caleb H. Price, research analyst for Focus on the Family.

"Americans have no interest in seeing their tax dollars spent on ‘transgender’ individuals seeking to indulge their confusion — let alone the expenses involved in defending the Library of Congress’ sound decision not to hire Mr. Schroer."

These paragraphs from Dobson's organization demonstrate a deeply held ignorance about transgender people, and their condition. While someone who is transsexual may well be confusing to others, when the decision to transition is finally made, it is plenty clear that they are no longer confused about themselves. Transition is not a matter of 'indulgence' - such a characterization is disrespectful and ignorant of the emotional crucible that transsexuals have been subjected to by life itself.

Referring to Ms. Schroer's case itself:

But the job offer was withdrawn one day after Schroer, in a meeting with her future boss, explained that she was under a health care provider's care for gender dysphoria, the clinical term used to describe the experience of being transgender. Schroer explained she would be using a traditionally feminine name (Diane instead of David) and would dress in traditionally feminine clothes when she started the new job, and would not have sexual reassignment surgery for at least a year.

There is a minor technical niggle - the clinical term in the DSM-IV is "Gender Identity Disorder". Gender Dysphoria is a somewhat older term, and although it describes the emotional turmoil a transsexual may experience before beginning the transition process, it ceases to be meaningful by the time that they choose to live full-time in their chosen gender.

This is nothing less than basic discrimination on the basis of gender. Period. Someone's skills, knowledge and competence doesn't vanish in a cloud when they start to transition, and withdrawing a job offer on the basis of transition is ridiculously narrow minded.

Starting Another Cold War

After last week's invasion of Georgia by Russia, Poland and the US signed a missile defense pact to allow the US to deploy a an assortment of armaments on Russia's doorstep.

Then, perusing BBC today, I see Russia is getting in bed with Syria. If this pattern sounds familiar, it should - it strongly reflects patterns that were common in the cold war era.

But why? Well, simply put, post-communist Russia is still a big country, and one that doesn't entirely trust the US on a good day. (and few in the Russian power structure think that there have been many 'good days' since GWB came to power)

As for Bush, well, he's interested in one thing - creating another enemy for the Rethuglicans to demonize in the coming months. Just as he didn't see anything wrong with starting a second front of war in the Middle East, his objectives are focused on power, and maintaining power. The spectre of totalitarian russia isn't far removed from most people's minds these days, and that makes it an ideal propaganda tool.

Campaigning On Parliament's Nickel

It should come as no secret to readers of this space that I have little or no patience for some of the HarperCon$' antics. Their utterly abusive use of parliamentary printing and mail services to conduct their ongoing campaign for re-election is no exception.

Not only is this an abuse of the parliamentary rules and the intention of Parliamentary printing services and the free access to Canada Post, it's a waste of Canadian taxpayer dollars.

When Liberal MP Mark Holland came across a 10 per center being sent to his constituents in Ajax-Pickering by Conservative MPs, he asked the House of Commons law clerk whether the Tories were breaking the rules.

Parliamentary counsel Louis Mac Habee wrote back, saying the pamphlet appears to be offside because it includes the line: "Why vote for Mark, when Mark won't vote for you?"

The NDP has also made a formal complaint to the Speaker recently regarding the pamphlets.

Having seen one of these disappointing bits of excretia from the Stephen Harper Party, all I can say is that they are barely disguised campaign propaganda and do little to inform the public of parliament's activities. They make broad insinuations and fail utterly to communicate any real meaning.

The fact is the HarperCon$ are abusing this service of Parliament not to communicate with Canadians, but rather to continue their never ending campaign for re-election.

This is an abuse of Parliament, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

About That "Progress" You Keep Talking About...

If NATO is making so much progress in Afghanistan, then why have 3 Canadian and 10 French soliders died in the last week and a bit?

It seems to me that what is being passed off as "progress" ignores the fact that the adversary in Afghanistan is part of the local culture. Mackay can flap his gums all he likes, but it makes no difference - because military occupation is not going to win the hearts and minds of Afghanistan's people.

I'm sure that in the coming days, we'll once again be serenaded by more stories about all the wonderful progress being made over there ... in between the suicide bombings, IEDs being planted and random firefights with the various armed parties.

Like That's A Surprise

No Kidding

Of course Harper wants to go to the polls before the ethics committee hearings on his party's campaign financing scam wrap up this fall.

First of all, the scam itself demonstrates the utter disrespect that Harper and his merry band of thieves have for Canadians and the electoral process in the first place. The longer the hearings are in the public eye, the more damage they do to Harper's credibility.

The fact that the Con$ are outright not participating is further evidence of not only a fundamental dishonesty in the party's dealings with Canadians, but also of how much they must feel they have to hide.

While this writer has some idea of the significance of declaring someone 'in contempt', I don't think that the majority of Canadians really do. Symbolically, it's a way to shame the person, but in terms of the electoral process I think such declarations would be seen as little more than an attempt to score political points and would not be persuasive to voters.

The opposition needs to be careful about how long they let things draw out here. There is a fine line between how much damage the story itself can do to the Conservative's electoral prospects and achieving utter boredom among the voters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harper: A Little Light In The Foreign Affairs Department

I've said since day one that the HarperCon$ are lacking in wisdom when it comes to their approach to foreign affairs.

Harper's reaction to Chretien's criticism of Harper's absence from the Olympics is a case in point.

What Harper fails to recognize in all of this is the importance of symbolism to the Chinese. His approach has been to snub and upbraid China at every opportunity.

His absence from the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was a deliberate slap in the face to a nation that is still very, very sensitive to such things. Where Canada spent much of the 1990s quietly building its influence with Beijing, and early in 2006 could probably have successfully got Celil brought home, Harper has thrown that away on the altar of neoCon dogma.

Harper's lame attempt to lash out fails to recognize both the political and economic consequences of a swaggering foreign policy where a nation like China is involved.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all this is recorded here, where we find Harper spouting off about the Canadian Government's obligation to stand up for its citizens when they are held abroad. It's a dark irony given how often we see this government ignoring the maltreatment of Canadians at the hands of foreign powers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Speaking Truth

The name "Pravda" used to be something of a bad joke back in the era of the Soviet Union.

Although it translates into English as "Truth", Pravda was best known as the propaganda mouthpiece of the Soviet Union. That was then.

Now, on the other hand, their writers can say what Faux News won't.

How about your missile shield breathing down the neck of the Russian nation? There to protect Europe from Iran? The most totally absurd thing that only a moron would believe.

How about your deliberate breaking of your agreements regarding Serbian Kosovo? UN Resolution 1244 which your country agreed to, is the ink dry…you deliberately went against it and recognized Kosovo in total disregard and in violation of that agreement.

And you expect your words to be heeded or even listened to? You are joking! It is said when Caligula went mad he heard laughing.

Do you hear people laughing at you Mr. Bush?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tony Clement Doesn't Know When To Shut Up

Somebody needs to take Health Minister Clement out behind the woodshed and give him a clearer understanding of what the word ethics means.

"I find the ethical considerations of supervised injections to be profoundly disturbing."

Hold it right there, Mr. Clement. Are you a doctor? Have you got any background at all in medical ethics, or even basic medicine? I thought not.

"We specifically take issue with the minister using that phrase," Dr. Day told reporters after Mr. Clement's speech.

"The minister was off base in calling into question the ethics of physicians involved in harm reduction.

"It's clear that this was being used as a political issue."

Bingo. Not that anyone should be surprised - it's hardly the first time Harper's puppets have substituted ignorance and bluster for actual thoughtful reasoning.

Like I Would Trust McVety To Sit On The Bench...

Apparently, McVety is out for blood:

A move by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin to stifle a controversy about her role in the awarding of the Order of Canada to abortionist Henry Morgentaler has done nothing to clear her of misconduct allegations, one of her chief critics said yesterday.

"If Canadians cannot count on non-political, non-ideological justice from the Supreme Court of Canada, it compromises the whole justice system," Charles McVety, president of the Canadian Family Action Coalition and president of the Canada Christian College in Toronto, said in an interview yesterday.

Coming from a man who is busy astroturfing his supposed support in his crusade against "evil feminist judges", it's hardly a particularly well founded complaint. First of all, McLachlin was not acting in her capacity as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. McVety's just trying to propagate an old meme of the religious reich wing in this country - only this time he's accusing someone directly.

If I were McLachlin, I'd be busy recording every asinine word that McVety spews on the subject - There's enough fodder there for quite a libel suit.

But second and more importantly, McVety is making an accusation against Justice McLachlin that doesn't bear up under scrutiny. Essentially, he is claiming that because of her role in the OC nominations process, that her judgment in her professional role is impaired and unreasonably biased.

Coming from McVety, it's not a surprising allegation, although I think he would be hard pressed to identify any rulings that are not well grounded in law itself and existing case law that McLachlin has had a direct involvement in writing. You don't get to her position with a spotty record as a justice.

The Great ReformaTory

Remember when Harper was campaigning in 2006?

Remember him promising fixed election dates to end the gamesmanship around precisely when an election would be called?

Do you remember his government introducing Bill C-16, which created a fiction about fixed election dates?

I thought you might.

So, then. Why is Stephen Harper trying to trigger an election? The news on CBC this morning hinted that Harper could decide to trigger a general election instead of just allowing the current lot of byelections to finish.

I can think of lots of reasons - the most fundamental of which is that he has run out of script, and the longer his party is off script, the greater the probability that they'll say something that Canadians don't want in their government. Of course, the longer that the Ethics committee hearings into the Conservative In-and-Out campaign funding scam go on, the worse it's going to look for them - especially with their obvious attempts to subvert the process.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When You Can't Get Your Way...

I see that Canada's religious wingnuts have decided to go after Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin's day job for having anything at all to do with Dr. Morgentaler's Order of Canada.

Of course, as usual, they are dead wrong, and the good judge had very little to do with the nomination.

But, that isn't the interesting bit. Not only is this complaint being organized by CFAC, but a suspicious number of the organizations who have "signed" have rather direct connections to one Charles McVety - including CFAC, I might add.

Just scanning through the list, we find:

Canadian Christian College - McVety's own little private college.
Canadian College of Christian Counsellors - which mysteriously shares both address and telephone with the "Canadian Christian College" above.
Evangelical Association of Canada - Similarly shares both address and telephone with Mr. McVety's college.
Institute for Canadian Values - Again, shares resources with McVety's college.
Christians United For Israel - Which McVety is the chair of the Canadian arm.
Niagra Chapter of CFAC - I think it's safe to say who controls that group...

That makes six of the organizations who signed this letter directly associated with McVety. Smells like astroturf to me. I suspect that it wouldn't be terribly difficult to draw connections between McVety and a good number of the other signatories with a little digging. At the very least I suspect the executives of the various boards are well known to each other.

Personally, I don't think it would be a bad thing for Justice McLachlin to sue these clowns for attempting to impugn her character and professionalism.

Lawrence Martin Summarizes Harper...

Quite nicely here:

If the Harper boys don't get their own way, they stamp their feet and start bawling at bad treatment from others and make big-time threats - forgetting all the while what they had put down in their own playbook.

If it were elementary school, the teacher would tell them to go stand in the corner.

Other than that, Martin makes more or less the same points and observations that I and others have already made about the past week's events - primarily that the HarperCon$ are the authors of the problems in the first place.

I Suppose If You Must Believe In Something...

It might as well be completely irrational faith.

A priest of Westminster, the leading diocese of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, has written that promiscuity, whether homosexual or heterosexual, can lead to dire spiritual consequences, in addition to the dangers to physical health.

Promiscuity, as well as homosexuality and pornography, says 73 year-old Fr. Jeremy Davies, is a form of sexual perversion and can lead to demonic possession. Offering what may be an explanation for the explosion of homosexuality in recent years, Fr. Davies said, "Among the causes of homosexuality is a contagious demonic factor."

Fr. Davies continues: "Even heterosexual promiscuity is a perversion; and intercourse, which belongs in the sanctuary of married love, can become a pathway not only for disease but also for evil spirits."

Ah ... so the Catholic Church is getting back to the old "The Devil Made Me Do It" excuses. The logic of these people is amusing indeed. On one hand, human beings are supposed to have free will; on the other hand, they come around and argue that all sorts of evil, supernatural beings are driving us? To borrow from an old Bill Cosby routine "Riiiight!".

But the better bits come along here:

He also said that Satan is responsible for having blinded most secular humanists to the "dehumanising effects of contraception and abortion and IVF, of homosexual 'marriages', of human cloning and the vivisection of human embryos in scientific research." Extreme secular humanism, "atheist scientism", is comparable to "rational satanism" and these are leading Europe into a dangerous state of apostasy. "Only by a genuine personal decision for Christ and the Church can someone separate himself from it."

I can't even begin to parse how ridiculous that set of conclusions is. It's roughly equivalent to finding a car smashed into a brick wall and concluding that the brick wall leaped in front of the car causing the collision. I don't even want to think about the concept of 'rational satanism' - that's an oxymoron from the beginning, since 'satan' is a supernatural being to start with, and therefore beyond what most rationalists would accept as reasonable.

Fr. Davies also warns in his book against so-called New Age and occult practices, as well as trendy exercise and "spiritual healing" regimens derived from eastern religions.

"The thin end of the wedge (soft drugs, yoga for relaxation, horoscopes just for fun and so on) is more dangerous than the thick end because it is more deceptive - an evil spirit tries to make his entry as unobtrusively as possible."

"Beware of any claim to mediate beneficial energies (eg. reiki), any courses that promise the peace that Christ promises (eg. enneagrams), any alternative therapy with its roots in eastern religion (e.g. acupuncture)." Needless to say, overtly occult activities such as séances and witchcraft are "direct invitations to the Devil which he readily accepts."

Right Father. I'll keep that in mind while I'm doing my yoga routine this afternoon, and when I next go for acupuncture to alleviate the pain of several joint injuries, I'll be thinking about how much evil I am exposing myself to.

I cannot believe these people. Do they really think that their bogeyman stories are that persuasive? Jeepers. I do yoga because it's good for me physically, and the meditative aspect of it is nothing more than a way to clear my mind. Get over it.

Their gross misrepresentation of Secular Humanism is little more than a pathetic attempt to reassert the control of the church over people by fostering fear and ignorance.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Well, Since The HarperCon$ Are Slashing At Culture...

Before we go taking Michael Coren's latest rant too seriously, we need to chat a little about Stephen Harper's war on culture that he has been quietly waging by slashing government programs.

Of course, this makes the religious right wing pleased as punch - after all, they'd like to think that they are the only arbiters of 'correct culture' that should have a voice.

But, then one has to start thinking about the Churches they hold so dear. They have a unique status in Canada that is at least as costly to taxpayers as the various culture programs the government has had in the past - they are tax-exempt.

If Mr. Harper is so interested in 'culture by economic success', then perhaps he'd like to treat the other cultural industry in Canada by the same rules? (Of course, I know this is never going to happen on PMSH's watch - that would require actual principles, integrity and logical consistency - something he keeps demonstrating significant deficits in)

H/T: The Galloping Beaver, Canadian Cynic.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Do These People Ever Look In The Mirror?!?

George Bush opens his mouth on the Russian/Georgian conflict, and promptly demonstrates a complete lack of self awareness:

In Washington, President Bush on Friday chided Russia for Cold War-style behavior, saying, "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."

Bush said the United States stands "with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government." He said the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected."

"We will not cast them aside," he said.

Bush said Russia's invasion of Georgia in recent days has "damaged its credibility."

Funny, I wonder just what Bush thinks the difference between Iraq and Georgia is? (Or perhaps he'd like to consider his actions in Iraq and more recent posturing towards Iran?)

How these people can look themselves in the mirror every morning is beyond me.

Why Is Parliament Dysfunctional?

It seems to me that the current Ethics Committee hearings into the Conservative In-and-Out financing scam are a pretty good place to look for a few clues as to why Parliament is so thoroughly dysfunctional.

Fortunately for us, Maclean's writer Kady O'Malley has been liveblogging some of the goings on in session.

We already know that the party instructed its people not to show up when summoned (after all, why would a Conservative in government want to actually have government do its job?).

And then we have some of the Conservative attempts to disrupt the committee proceedings - straight out of their little handbook, no doubt:

3:53:05 PM
David Tilson is reading the names of MPs whose expense reports have not been finalized - all NDP and Liberal, that is - so I think I’ll take a moment to do a staff check.

Conservative side: three staffers and A. Hamilton
Opposition side: six staffers, apparently no legal counsel

3:54:33 PM
“We have made allegations,” says Tilson. I think it’s safe to say we all agree with him on that. He’s making rather a leap here, though - just because a report hasn’t been finalized, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the numbers; it could be administrative, or it could be something entirely unrelated to expenses.

It’s also a bit of a stretch to claim that all these files are “under investigation”.

3:57:23 PM
This is the dullest timewaster ever - Tilson is just reading names and ridings into the record, and he goes crazy when the chair mildly suggests that he move it along. “This is my question and I’ll ask it however I want, and you’ll just sit there!”

At which point he runs out of time without ever actually getting to the question.

Gee...I wonder who in the PMO gave instructions for that little performance?

And then there's the opposition MPs who actually seem to understand how to use the wheels of procedure to move things forward constructively:

4:56:15 PM
Carole Lavallee gets the floor finally - finally - and she has a motion to introduce, but only as a warning, that would authorize the chair to go to the Speaker for a warrant, it would apply to all the no-show witnesses from the last week. She doesn’t propose debating it *now*, but wants to table it, so it can be passed if necessary. She wants these potential Speaker’s warrantees to “take the time to think about it,” and, eventually, she hopes, choose to come back. Talk to lawyers - not, she suggests Conservative Party lawyers - and make that decision.

“We are asking the Conservatives to respect this institution,” says the member whose party is, in theory, dedicated to breaking up the country. She begs the governing party to “think about the consequences” - if they care about law and order; these witnesses should be here.

Man, she really is sane, isn’t she?

Amusingly, here's a typical Conservative whine in response:

5:36:25 PM
Pierre Lemieux believes that totalitarianism is when six MPs consistently outvote five MPs, and that’s just about all there is to say about his views on parliamentary democracy.

I'm the first to admit that committee hearings are probably among the most deadly dull things one can imagine - creatures of process and quasi-legal procedures. But when the utterly pathetic behaviour of the governing party's parliamentarians is so clear, it's worth looking at as a case study of the current parliament.

Perhaps There Is An Election In The Wind

When I got home the other day, I found about the first attempt at communication from MP Jason Kenney that I've seen all year.

It looked rather like one of these - with only minor differences. There's no doubt a half dozen variations or so of these that printed up, and the Harper Party MPs are spamming their constituencies with them. (and the constituencies of other MPs as well)

I'm actually a little annoyed with this particular piece of garbage because it's basically campaign literature, and its being created and distributed on my dime as a taxpayer. It tells me nothing about what the Conservative Government has accomplished in the last few months, nothing about what my MP has been doing.

I realize that this is just the HarperCon$ trying to borrow a page from the Bush Jr. Republicans - namely never actually stopping their campaign for next election - whenever it should be.

However, not only is this an abuse of taxpayer funds, I think it tells me a great deal about the limitations of the Stephen Harper Party as a government. You cannot govern effectively when your focus is on the next election campaign. It's sort of like trying to run a company by focusing on the next Christmas party for the staff. You tend to lose focus on the issues that actually matter.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Harper Wishes What?

Coming from a Prime Minister whose own party quite literally wrote the book on how to disrupt parliament, there's something ironic about threatening to call an election because "Parliament is becoming increasingly dysfunctional".

He sees the very force behind this situation every morning when he shaves - unless of course, PMSH doesn't use a mirror in the mornings.

As the leader of the CPC, and the current occupant of the PMO, Mr. Harper is unquestionably the man who has the opportunity to make parliament work, and yet by his own actions and words, it is clear that he has no interest in such matters. Everything has been about partisan squabbling - even today, he attempts to lay the blame for his party's inability to get some of their "key" legislation through Parliament upon the Senate and the opposition, taking absolutely no ownership for the intransigence of his own party in a minority parliament.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Talk about timing. On the week where the HarperCon$ play more silly games, a poll comes out showing the Con$ losing ground in Ontario and Quebec:

In Quebec, the Liberals appeared to be benefiting most from a collapse in support for the Bloc Québécois. Liberals were at 30 per cent, virtually tied with the Bloc at 29 per cent, followed by the Tories at 24 per cent, the Greens at eight per cent and the NDP at six per cent.

In Ontario, the Liberals enjoyed a healthy lead with 40 per cent, compared to the Tories with 31 per cent and the NDP and Greens with 14 per cent each.

I'm not so naive as to believe that there's a direct relationship, but I can't imagine some of the transparently ridiculous games that the government is playing are going to gain them support. (Or at least, they shouldn't be gaining support based on some of their recent games)

Academic Standards ... Followup

A little while ago, I commented on California Christian schools whining about how the University of California was rejecting their courses as college prep.

Well, it turns out that the case has been thrown out:

In March, Otero threw out the Christian school's broader claims that UC policies were unconstitutional on their face. Friday's ruling concerned Calvary's claims that the policies were also unconstitutional as they were applied in the review of several classes.

Otero wrote that Calvary "provided no evidence of animus" on the part of university officials, whom he said had a "rational basis" for determining that the proposed Calvary courses would not meet the UC college preparatory requirements.

For instance, a UC professor who reviewed Calvary's proposed Christianity's Influence on America class said the course used a textbook that "instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events," "attributes historical events to divine providence rather than analyzing human action," and "contains inadequate treatment of several major ethnic groups, women and non-Christian religious groups."

Somehow anytime you start trying to interpret history through a religious lens, things go awry - quite badly.

University officials have said they approved 43 courses from Calvary Chapel, which Tyler said Calvary students have used to gain admission to UC schools. There are other ways to be admitted, such as high test scores. However, Tyler said he fears schools will become afraid to teach from a Christian perspective.

Ah, remember how the previous articles on this subject were trying paint the situation as if all of their courses were being rejected? Reality check, please!

I find it both intriguing and worrisome that 'teaching from a Christian perspective' seems to mean bending reality and ignoring established facts - and perhaps most disturbing is the idea that one should attribute to the divine rather than thinking about situations critically.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that this ruling will be appealed - so the fun isn't over yet.

H/T: Pharyngula

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Talk About Misfiring On The Talking Points

When it finally became public that the HarperCon$ were slashing at arts and culture programs, one of the first talking points thrown about was how Gwynne Dyer had leeched off one of the programs - as if to demonstrate that the program was being badly abused by people who didn't (or shouldn't) be taking advantage of it.

Then Gwynne Dyer shoots back:

But, in fact, I was asked to go to Cuba in early 2007 by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Some embassies in Havana were bringing in experts to talk to groups of influential Cubans about how things work in free societies. Fidel Castro was on the way out, and the embassies were being creatively subversive. I talked about the media to young journalists, and about civil-military ties in a democracy to senior military people.

I didn't get paid for the work, but the Canadian embassy gave me $3,000 in cash to cover my travel costs. I never applied for a grant, and I never heard of PromArt until last week, but obviously some wily accountant at Foreign Affairs took the money for the Cuban project out of the wrong pocket. Stephen Harper's ministers just can't keep control of their departments.

So ... in short, Harper's government asked Dyer to speak, and poached money from this program to pay the bills.

What Was That About Accountability, Stephen?

So ... not only do the HarperCon$ want to play utterly dishonest games with election financing, but when they are called to account by their peers, they thumb their noses.

The Stephen Harper Party of Canada - proving that they are neither accountable nor ethical...and thus entirely untrustworthy.

An Interesting Ploy ... But What Good Will It Do?

I'm not particularly opposed to the idea of tracking parolees electronically, but I find myself wondering just what the point really is.

"Corrections officers can monitor exactly the whereabouts of an offender at any given moment – these are very precise, satellite-driven devices," Day said in Halifax as he held up one of the black, circular gadgets.

"It makes the job of the correctional officer more efficient."

The devices use Global Positioning System technology to report parolee movements to a monitoring network that streams data on a regular, but not real-time, basis

Okay, in a perfect world, you can tell approximately where someone is. Of course, any such system is going to be somewhat error-prone. I don't share Stockwell Day's confidence in the technology - Satellite systems are surprisingly brittle, and easily disrupted by something as simple as the weather; and that doesn't even begin to open the can of worms around the fact that someone who wants to can come up with all sorts of ways to disrupt them.

But critics panned the initiative, saying the technology is flawed and prone to being abused by crafty parolees who can outsmart the devices by cutting them off, disabling them or, as one is reported to have done, fool officials by strapping it onto a pet cat.

Just to be clear, the device has to be removable for a number of basic reasons - safety and hygiene among the top of the list. You can't just clamp one of these to someone's leg and tell them never to take it off. (Anyone who has ever worn a tensor bandage or cast for any length of time can tell you just how bad that can get if you can't clean the area regularly.

Even if I presume that most parolees would just wear the thing, I find myself puzzled by just what this system will prove. At best, it might make it easier to detect occasions where someone violates 'no go' restrictions in their parole order. There's a limited amount of utility to that.

One of the questions that we have to consider is the costs of maintaining such a system. Consider a parolee with an order to stay 50M away from playgrounds. Even if you have a handful of playgrounds within a 10Km radius of where the parolee is living, there's a lot of geographic detail that has to maintained in the database to detect when a violation has occurred. (To be truly meaningful, I suspect that one needs the geometry of the park recorded in the database) The costs of maintaining the database, as well as the rules engine required to describe the various restrictions being imposed, is going to be quite high - especially once you have more than a handful of cases being tracked.

The other thing that does worry me is this little tidbit:

...but that officials at a monitoring centre in the United States are quickly alerted to any breaches and follow a protocol to determine whether police are dispatched.

With the often dramatic differences in Canadian and US laws - and the related complexity, I wonder about having monitoring centers that are run by US companies. There are also concerns around the data being shared across the border. The American government has laws on the books that give them access to the contents of any server on American soil, and that raises serious questions about both the confidentiality of data and privacy violations.

Monday, August 11, 2008

On "Traditional Marriage"

One of the guest bloggers over at Pharyngula has done an excellent article which exposes yet another catchphrase from the "Family Values" crowd for the empty phrase it is. In this case, the phrase of the day is Traditional Marriage.

Go read, and then consider just how empty the catchphrase that is so often thrown around really is.

One More For The Accountability File

Albertans will be familiar with this pattern.

The legislative house is not sitting, so the government goes ahead and starts slashing away at things that it wants to attack but knows that the opposition would have a field day with.

Per se, the two programs that they cut are well off the public radar - if you don't live in the arts community, you've probably never even heard of them. They aren't particularly big either - a few million dollars is all. But then again, the cuts they made in 2006 were of relatively small programs too (the Court Challenges Program was only $5 million)

For the Conservatives to attack the arts programs in Canada on the heels of announcing that they were leasing heavy helicopters for Afghanistan use at $36 million should come as little surprise. For reasons I have never understood, Alberta seems to have spawned a breed of conservatism that views the arts as tertiary on the list of priorities.

However, it's not the priorities of the government that I'm annoyed by here - it is the fact that this government has continued to repeat the patterns that Ralph Klein established in Alberta. Do as much as possible via Order in Council, and as little as possible in the legislature. There is little doubt that Ralph was successful doing this - but it is the least open and accountable form of government you can have. ... and coming from a party that ran on a platform of open and accountable government, that's pretty much a slap in the face to Canadian voters.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I Have A Problem With This

First, Calgary is ticketing cyclists for speeding on the pathways.

Okay, to some extent there is a validity to keeping your speed down on the bike paths - they aren't terribly wide to begin with and you are sharing it with other users who are on foot or other non-motorized transportation such as roller blades.

But, there are several problems with the imposed speed limits. First, it targets one segment of users, and ignores the reality that problems on the paths cut both ways. It is not just cyclists going too fast that are problematic on the public pathways.

The second aspect of these tickets that bothers me is the fact that it creates a difficult to enforce requirement to keep your speed down, while failing to acknowledge that few bicycles have any kind of speedometer. (and setting one up and calibrating it is not my idea of fun) Second, 'average speed' varies quite dramatically based on the type of the bike. I own what is called a 'road bike', and cruising at 30+ km/h is not difficult on that bike; meanwhile, the same amount of exertion on a mountain bike tends to produce a much slower pace - down in the 15-20 km/h range.

Why the focus on cyclists? It's easy to target them, but what about the groups of pedestrians who insist on occupying the entire path way and blocking it? (and are seemingly oblivious to the ringing of bells behind them)

Or the joggers with their iPods plugged in and turned up so loudly that they don't even know that there's a world around them?

For that matter, Roller Bladers who commit variations of the above problem behaviours are just as bad.

I don't like to count the number of times that I've either dumped my bike, or had to suddenly go off-path because somebody's dog decided to run across my path and now I have a choice of taking drastic action to avoid the dog - and the leash now strung across my path, or potentially injuring the dog or its owner. (... and I've been yelled at by same dog owners after dumping my bike!)

As a cyclist, I try to keep my speed down on the paths - there are safer places for me to wind out for speed. When I hear a bike bell behind me when I'm on the paths either as a pedestrian or on roller blades, I try to acknowledge the bell by slowing my pace, or stepping somewhat to the side of the path.

It's called courtesy. Respect the other users of the path, and you won't have a big problem with others.

Singling out a group of users for "enforcement", and punishing them without recognizing that there are other abuses that create hazards as well. Yes, a cyclist can get up a fair turn of speed, and that can be dangerous when the paths are busy. But so are a lot of other behaviours that are all too common on the paths. It strikes me that the issue really boils down to a simple lack of regard for other users of the path.

As Calgary's path system becomes more and more part of the road system with more and more people taking to bicycles as an alternate form of transportation, the relationship between cars, pedestrians and bicycles needs to be revisited once again. Calgary's roadways are often hostile to cyclists, and certainly the pathway system is an improvement, but once again increasing usage is resulting in some unfortunate conflict between the various user groups involved. A bit of basic courtesy will help, but it is only a partial solution; singling out a group of users for enforcement is only going to exacerbate the existing sense of antagonism between users.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Dominionist Influence In The HarperCon$

This is unquestionably bad mojo for the HarperCon$ who keep trying to convince us that they are not a bunch of dominionist wingnuts.

Unfortunately, when your MPs put out bookmarks that say things like:

That we may lead according to the Scriptural Foundation upon which our country was founded tells us quite a bit that most Canadians should be worried about - especially with MPs like Ken Epp and Maurice Vellacott coming up with "private member's bills" that are unquestionably playing to the religious extreme base in the party. (I will point out that a surprisingly high percentage of the government benches voted for Epp's bill C-484 - in spite of its obvious flaws.

and Sometimes It's Called Disturbing The Peace

I see that Rotting Cryptkeeper's clan was stopped at the border when they tried to enter Canada.

But Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, said a group of church members was turned away from a border crossing at Niagara Falls, but a small group did manage to get into Manitoba overnight.
However, Phelps-Roper said the reaction the group has raised from some police and public officials has her questioning whether the planned protest will go ahead.

"The question to my mind [is] whether or not we ought to get them the heck out of that country, because that's some crazy stuff when you've got your officials talking like they are in a back-alley brawl and not government officials who took an oath to obey the law and so forth."

It can't be too hard to pick out the seventy odd people that are part of Phelps' collection of borderline cases. Let's see - home address in Topeka Kansas would be a good starting clue. The ones that weren't frothing at the mouth might be a little hard to pick out otherwise, but I'm sure a couple of questions about picketing would do it.

If there are still a few that got into Canada, I'd suggest that as soon as they show their faces to picket, the local constabulary should pick them up and hustle them out of the country. (They could just as easily be 'playing possum' and heading towards Red Deer).

You Don't Say...

Tell me it isn't so...Calgary's house prices are overvalued.

Markets in Regina, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Sudbury and Montreal are all more than 10 per cent overvalued, as calculated by economists David Wolf and Carolyn Kwan.

Anybody who has lived in Calgary in the last five years knows too well how nutty the housing situation was getting. House prices more than doubled in the space of less than five years - you had to know that was overheated.

I don't know why anybody is surprised by either a cooling of the housing markets or news of significant job losses.

The reality is that with oil over $100/barrel, the only people that really win are the big oil companies. Other sectors of the economy have to pull back when the end prices they pay for energy begin to reflect the inflated commodity prices. There will be a cycle of consumer inflation that we have yet to experience as well - this will further stretch the demands on people's paychecks. I expect 'big ticket' purchases such as homes, cars etc. to slow down dramatically as people adjust to the realities of economic uncertainty.

Whether this turns into a full blown recession or is just pull-back in our economy to reflect the changing situation on the world stage is yet to be seen. I suspect it may produce a "regional" recession - with parts of Canada getting hit harder than others.

I have always been a proponent of Canada expanding its trade network to diversify beyond the massive dependence we have on trade with the United States. Sadly, in the last ten years, none of our governments have acted on that - content to ride the short term wave of a housing-bubble fired spending boom in the United States. Since oil is a 'global commodity', the current price spike is affecting economies around the world, and a more diversified trading network would still result in a net exporter country like Canada experiencing a significant economic slowdown. What it would do is make the recovery cycle smoother, and likely faster as the various regions of the world will recover at different rates. (I fully expect Europe and Asia to recover from the current slowdown quite a bit faster than the US - the US economic picture has depended for too long on growth due to 'bubble spending', and it's going to take quite a while for the economic engine to start producing product again)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

So What Is It, Mr. Epp?

I see Ken Epp is trying to brainwash us into thinking that his terminally dishonest Bill C-484 is all about protecting pregnant women.

am deeply disappointed that a number of physician groups are opposing my private member's bill C-484. I want to believe that any opposition is sincere and based possibly on publicly stated misconceptions that the bill will, in some way, reduce a woman's right to make choices about her own body, and also about possible legal consequences "down the road."

I respectfully ask doctors to consider this matter as individual physicians, and not as part of a collective interest with any particular agenda. In that spirit, let me try to address the above concerns.

Yeah, right Mr. Epp. Do you think we forgot what you said back here? If you did, you really are dumber than I thought.

Losing an unborn child in a violent act is beyond heartbreaking. It is a devastating tragedy which is only exacerbated by the fact that our legal system, not to mention society in general, has for too long turned its back on these most vulnerable of women and their families. By not charging an assailant in this tragic circumstance, we only add to the hurt and sorrow that survivors experience. C-484 is a compassionate response to their cry for justice.

Spot the strawman argument here. Would somebody show me the sudden rash of cases where criminal assault has involved pregnant women? Oh wait - it's Mr. Epp's imagined threat - the one he's busy knocking down.

Also, and significantly, the bill does not change the definition of "human being" or recognize fetal "personhood" in any way. What it does, is to give legal recourse to lay charges against a third party only in the very specific, very narrow circumstance when a pregnant woman is the victim of a crime, the attacker knows she is pregnant, and, in the process, the attacker intentionally or recklessly harms or causes the death of her unborn baby.

Ummm...bullfeathers, Mr. Epp. You have, by the very wording of your legislation given legal status to a fetus that is separate and apart from the mother:

238.1 (1) Every person who, directly or indirectly, causes the death of a child during birth or at any stage of development before birth while committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother of the child, who the person knows or ought to know is pregnant,

If this bill were seriously intended to do what Mr. Epp says it is, all it needs to do is impose an additional penalty for the fact that the assault victim was pregnant - as Bill C-543 does.

I suggest, Mr. Epp, that you quit trying to do the women of Canada any more favours - it's pretty obvious that you have no clue.

Geez, Ezra - Want a Brick of Cheez

... to go with your whine?

It seems that the AHRC just took a plank out of the soapbox that Ezra's been grandstanding on lately by rejecting a complaint against him.

Apparently this isn't good enough for Ezra, so he's gone on quite the little temper tantrum about it all:

The two complaints cost Alberta taxpayers in excess of $500,000 and, according to access to information documents, involved no fewer than 15 government bureaucrats. What a scam – on the part of the complainants, who were able to wage “lawfare” against an infidel without paying a cent; and on the part of the HRC, as a make-work project.

Fire. Them. All.

I have no idea where Ezra gets the figure he posting here as if it's fact - I don't imagine that the AHRC publishes per-case costs somehow, and their annual budgetary reports certainly don't contain that kind of granularity. I imagine Ezra's talking through his hat here.

However, even if two complaints did add up to $250,000 to investigate and ultimately reject, what's the big deal. How many police investigations of 'criminal complaints' go on for years only to finally end up with no charges laid, or a conviction overturned? (It's not like Canada hasn't had its share of wrongful convictions) How much did it cost to overturn Milgaard's conviction? - and unlike Ezra, Milgaard spent time in prison - not just paying lawyer's fees.

If Ezra wants to wear the mantle of being persecuted, perhaps he should consider his lot in relation to others who have had much worse treatment.

But I’ve read the dismissal letter three times now, and each time it makes me more angry. Because I haven’t been given my freedom of the press. I’ve simply had the government censor approve what I said. That’s a completely different thing.

Bullfeathers, Ezra. Freedoms are not an absolute - they never were, never are, and never will be. Essentially a complaint was made that you had abused the principle of Freedom of the Press. That complaint was investigated and found to be unpersuasive. Your problem is what, precisely?

Your freedom of the press does not give you carte blanche to publish anything you want, and you know it. There are all sorts of guidelines and rules that come into play. You knew that publishing those cartoons was going to raise someone's ire. You chose to publish them, even though it wasn't necessary to do so. You gambled, you took a chance and it had a price.

Deal with it, Ezra.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The HarperCon$: Accounting Lite

Apparently, not only is the Harper government breaking new records for secrecy and unaccountable behaviour, apparently they are also challenged by simple arithmetic.

The Conservative government's pledge for a stable funding program for the Canadian military will actually result in less money for the cash-strapped Forces because of inflation, a Senate committee report says.

The report by the Senate security and defence committee, which was slammed by Defence Minister Peter MacKay, criticizes the Tories' planned annual defence budget increase of 1.5 per cent until 2011 and two per cent until 2031.

"A two per cent increase is ludicrous as any government accountant must be well aware," says the report released Wednesday.

Oh, it gets better:

But in terms of military spending as a percentage of GDP, Canada spends almost 1.2 per cent of its GDP on defence, while the average for most NATO countries is two per cent.

However, both the Senate committee and the Conference of Defence Associations have estimated that under this spending plan, the defence budget in 10 years could fall to as low as 0.89 per cent of GDP.

"A two per cent increase over and above inflation would at least be an honest gesture. But even that won't come close to meeting the NATO target," the report states

My - wasn't it Mr. Harper who was oh-so-concerned about Canada meeting it's NATO commitments last election?

And, in classic HarperCon form, Mackay's response is "but...but...the Liberals!":

But the Tory government shot back at the report. MacKay called it "both disingenuous and inflammatory," saying it serves only to "highlight Senator Kenny's hypocrisy."

"After years of Liberal neglect of the Canadian Forces, Senator Kenny's only argument against the Conservative government is that it isn't cleaning up his party's mess fast enough," MacKay said in an e-mail statement.

No, Peter - that doesn't wash any more.

Foreign Affairs, International Law and the United States

I was going to spend this post ranting about the outcome of the first Guano Bay trial - which is in my view a mockery of the concept of justice for a variety of reasons.

Then there's the execution of Jose Medellin in Texas. While I am unquestionably opposed to the death penalty, that isn't the issue here:

Medellin's appeal to the top court relates to the Vienna Convention, an international treaty the U.S. signed that gives detained foreigners the right to consular help from their government.

The International Court of Justice, known also as the World Court, has argued that never happened in the case of Medellin and some 50 other Mexicans on death row in the United States.

In short, the executed criminal was never given access to Mexican consular services, even though the United States had signed the Vienna Convention. The execution of this man sends a clear message to the world - if the US signed a treaty, it's only meaningful as long as the Americans think it's to their advantage.

Which, of course, comes back to the Guantanamo Bay fiasco, where the United States is imposing arbitrary "law" upon people captured in a war zone - "law" that is arguably well beyond the limits that the Geneva Conventions would allow for.

The message is clear, the United States no longer subscribes to the very International Law that it has agreed to. I can imagine that travelling abroad on an American passport just became a whole lot riskier in some areas of the world - even with the size of the American army considered ... as the Romans proved, you cannot garrison the entire world - and sooner or later, somebody is going to decide to "make a point".

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The First Clue Was ...

In 2006, when the newly elected HarperCon$ were running around announcing military purchases every couple days, that was our first clue that the HarperCon$ had no idea what they were talking about.

Army equipment is often highly specialized to begin with, and you don't just "order it" and receive delivery some weeks later as you might with a car purchase. (even one that requires a 'factory order')

Sure enough, the Harper 'fast and furious' approach to military spending is running into exactly the kind of problems you would expect from a poorly planned, rush job.

In addition, documents from National Defence show the government will either have to pay an extra $300-million in "overrun cost" to purchase a fleet of 16 Chinook helicopters, or settle for less equipment.

I wonder what "less equipment" means - removing one of the engines from the Chinooks?

Monday, August 04, 2008

More Accountability From The HarperCon$

Do you live in a "safe" Conservative riding (like just about anything in Alberta)? Been wondering why you don't hear anything from your MP?

Well, it would appear that the party that brought you "In-and-Out" campaign financing has been using MP communications budgets for distributing campaign literature. Garth has more on Rob Anders' abuse of those funds, and I've heard about the same thing from other MPs as well.

Remember, the communications budget is intended for MPs to communicate with their local constituents...

I Think The Correct Term is 'Standards'...

Apparently, in Outer Wingnuttia, they think that the University of California is discriminating against "Christian" courses.

As WND reported earlier, the University of California system adopted a policy last year that basic science, history, and literature textbooks by major Christian book publishers wouldn't qualify for core admissions requirements because of the inclusion of Christian perspectives.

Yeah, well if the books they are talking about are as horrendously badly written as Darwin's Black Box, I'm not surprised.

"Christian schools will have to decide: teach from a Christian worldview and eliminate your student's ability to attend a UC school, or teach from a secular worldview, so that the kids can enter the UC school system," he explained.

"Essentially what's happening is the UC has to pre-approve courses taught in high school," Tyler said. "It's pretty shocking, because in depositions UC reps made it clear: whether it be English, history or science, the addition of a religious viewpoint makes it unacceptable."

Ummm...not quite. There's a couple of points to be considered here. Public school curriculum is visible to the University structure, and they know what they are getting. Many of the so-called "Christian" private schools are quite deliberately off the accreditation radar so they don't have to be accountable for their courses.

I don't know about you, but anytime someone says that they refuse to participate in the formal structures established for inter-college credit sharing, I have to be somewhat skeptical of both their motives as well as the veracity of their academic courses.

After reviewing textbooks from major Christian publishers Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, UC officials deemed them insufficient, specifically because the books supplemented the basic material with a Christian perspective.

Burt Carney, an executive with the Association of Christian Schools International, said he's met with officials for the university system, and was told that there was no problem with the actual facts in a BJU physics textbook that was disallowed.

The question I would have to ask is just how much of that book presented the facts, but then couched them in scriptural terms or contexts that made the resulting presentation sound like the science was incomplete or otherwise ambiguous - the usual half-baked horse apples that are often used to justify the "debate" around evolution.

It may well be that the facts were fine - there just weren't enough of them to constitute an adequate text in the field.

"Here's the very university that talks about academic freedom," Carney said. "It's very discriminating. They don't rule against Muslim or Hindu or Jewish (themes) or so forth, only those with a definite Christian theme."

I don't know about anyone else, but I've never encountered science texts with religious themes except for cases where 'Christianists' pop up and start trying to spin the facts to match their scriptural interpretation.

Digging around, I found a few interesting bits and pieces on this lawsuit. First is a PDF from the Calvary school that is one of the plaintiffs, which provides some more concise insight into why some of the courses were rejected.

The second is an article published in a UC Berkely publication on the subject.

UC also disallows science courses that rely solely on BJU and A Beka Books textbooks. At issue, the fact sheet says, "is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide a comprehensive view of the relevant subject matter...." In the BJU Press and A Beka Books science textbooks, it goes on, "the publishers themselves acknowledge that the primary goal is to teach religious doctrine rather than the scholarship that is generally accepted in the relevant fields of study."

The introduction to Biology for Christian Schools (2nd Edition, BJU Press) clearly states, for instance, that students' conclusions must conform to the Bible and that scientific material and methods are secondary: "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second.

Somehow, I think I can understand why the UC organization is hesitant to accept these books and courses as valid foundations for study in established fields. This isn't discrimination against Christianity - it's called academic standards - UC has a right to insist that its students enter their courses with a reasonably known and consistent foundation. If you want to teach a course on biology and derive it from scriptures, that's fine, but call it that (e.g. 'Scriptural Biology' or some such) and admit that outside of a very limited subset of the world, very few people are going to accept the course as being representative of modern science.

... And Just What Is The Difference?

So, the kingpin of Wingnuts, Fred Phelps, and the oh so lovely gems from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas are threatening to come to Red Deer, Canada to "picket" the Laramie Project play.

Phelps is a particularly vile form of humanity, renowned around the world for his blatant hatred for anybody, and anything that runs contrary to his particular brand of scriptural mangling. Assuming that he even gets into Canada, their shrieking "picketing" campaigns are hard to take seriously - they are so obviously unreasoning in their claims it's almost laughable.

But, in a move that I can only call pure irony, the Red Deer Advocate decided to turn to Stephen Boissoin for an opinion on the Phelps clan coming to Alberta.

“Their interpretation of the scripture and how they choose to manifest that interpretation is a disservice to the Christian gospel of God’s grace. Grace means unmerited favour and unmerited love to all human beings, who are all sinners,” Boissoin said.

Boissoin’s anti-gay letter to the Advocate was ruled by the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission to have broken Alberta’s human rights law. He said it is unfortunate that in the middle of his appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Kansas group is coming here. He said it will cause further confusion about what other Christians — like himself — believe, which is that God loves all people equally, but not all of their behaviour.

Funny how he's so willing to lump GLBT people in with all sorts of malfeasance, but doesn't like it when his actions might be lumped in with an even more extreme expression of fundamentally the same thing by someone who is so brazenly insane that they are just obviously hate-filled.

From Boissoin's own letter:

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.

The line between Phelps' obviously insane rantings and Boissoin's tirade isn't exactly much of a line, in my view. One talks about war and victory, the other shrieks about it - the difference is probably a couple of valium pills at most.

I see Boissoin is now trying to soft-pedal his words and self-justify the bigotry that underlies them by using phrases like "believe, which is that God loves all people equally, but not all of their behaviour.".

I just love the "it's the behaviour" line that comes out of these people. What a bunch of nonsensical garbage. I have never seen a single, solitary attempt to define what they mean by "behaviour". What is "homosexual behaviour" in their lexicon? Frankly, I don't think any of the people that use that phrase have a clue, much less any ability to articulate what they are talking about. The phrase is little more than a catch phrase that is really intended to represent a group of human beings that they wish to treat as second class citizens.

What gives these goons the right to insist that others live by their religious ethic? From that perspective, there is very little difference in my view between calling an entire class of people "wicked" - based on what one imagines of their "behaviour" - and the screaming insanity of the bile that Phelps and clan spew on a regular basis. Both boil down to the same fundamental demand.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Alberta - Compassionate Conservatism For The Wealthy

These two stories were brought to my attention over coffee this morning:

Alberta Increases Funding For Private Schools
Alberta Increases Fees For Nursing Homes

So, in short, who is hit hardest by this? Seniors who live on fixed incomes and need long term medical care. These are the people who are least able to fight back against the thick-witted malice of the Stelmach government.

Who benefits? Those parents who are wealthy enough to be able to afford the tuition costs of privately run, for profit schools. Students whose parents are of more modest means get to continue attending underfunded public schools which are in desperate need of repair, and whose teachers are rapidly finding that their salaries are so far behind the curve that they can't afford to live in the province.

Not only is Stelmach rolling these changes out using Ralph's playbook to squash debate, it's clear that they now believe themselves to be infallible, and infinitely re-electable.

Alberta's voters hold the bag for the colossal mess that Ed and the Boys are going to make of our province - the current government was elected by just over 20% of the eligible voters, and a total turnout of just over 40%. That means 60% of Albertans couldn't even be bothered to vote. Remember that as Stelmach bumbles through the next four years or so and blindly imposes his brand of "compassionate conservatism" on Albertans.

The Cass Review and the WPATH SOC

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