Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nobody Expects The Inquisition

Least of all a Seminary.

Apparently the Catholic Church thinks they have solved the problem of pedophilia in the priesthood - by trying to filter out homosexual candidates.

The authors said screening would help avoid "tragic situations" caused by what they termed psychological defects.

The guidance says the voluntary tests should also aim to vet for those with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies".

Among other traits that might make a candidate unsuitable for the priesthood, the advice lists "uncertain sexual identity," "excessive rigidity of character" and "strong affective dependencies".

Ummm...yeah...good luck with that. I imagine that the usual techniques involving hot pokers and the like will extract the "truth" from candidates too.

Utterly laughable is the idea that there is some kind of knowable and predictable test of someone's sexual identity. (There is, but it depends entirely upon the individual's desire to be open about their sexuality)

Tests for sexual identity, like any other personality attribute, are fairly hard to assess. I suspect the Church's hunt for homosexuals attempting to enter the clergy will be only marginally more successful than past attempts to unearth "witches".

Canada Is About To Be 'Harrised'

I see Big Daddy has unveiled his cabinet.

To me, this cabinet smacks of Mike Harris' Ontario in the 1990s. (In fact, it has some of the same people in it)

Assorted notes:

Mr. Harper is also signalling the importance of managing the environment file in his second minority government, appointing Jim Prentice – one of his most senior and trusted ministers – as Minister of the Environment.

The post is Mr. Prentice's third, following successful terms at Indian Affairs and Industry.

Successful? Really? I'm sure that those burned by the dissolution of the Kelowna Accord, or took the time to understand Mr. Prentice's DMCA clone legislation and his blank cheque approach to the cellular industry (they of $.25/text message charges) might question how successful Prentice has been.

Two veteran Conservative MPs received big promotions today, with B.C. MP James Moore jumping to the Heritage post and Jason Kenney being named as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Oh goody. Mr. Kenney has been given an entire ministry to take underground. He's been the most non-responsive MP in Calgary for years, spending his time in Ottawa playing partisan shenanigans when he should have been representing his constituents.

Mr. Van Loan's move will not be seen as a demotion however, as he now replaces Stockwell Day as minister of Public Safety. Mr. Day moves to International Trade.

Van Loan as minister of public safety? Right - that's only slightly less ironic than putting Stockwell Day in charge of International Trade. Day didn't exactly accomplish anything as minister of "public safety" - about the only thing he did was manage to avoid saying anything to prove to the public how limited he really is.

Of course, all of this is moot if Harper continues his micromanaging style there's very little chance that any of these people will say or do anything without Harper's go ahead.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dear Anonymous Commenter:

I don't know who you are, and frankly I don't really care.

I have previously described my comment policy - go read it.

If you want me to publish your opinions, then they better be on topic and not filled with whiny complaints about me, or whether I choose to publish it or not. (I will not publish such comments)

If your opinions are so wondrously valuable, go start your own blog - you can publish anything you like there for all the world to see. Anything you post here is subject to my judgment as to whether it is worth allocating space to.

My blog, My policy - deal with it.

[Update 30/10/08]
To the anonymous whiner whose comments I will not post:

(1) You are free to start your own blog. I am not obliged to publish anything you write here. I am not restricting your freedom of speech - any more than stopping vandals spray painting a building is suppressing their 'freedom of speech'.

(2) It's spelled "Farce", not "farse"

(3) My reasons for maintaining a degree of anonymity are my own. If you don't like it, that's too bad.

(4) Have a nice life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And Just What Were The Parents Thinking?

... when they allowed their 8 year old son to fire an uzi???

The boy was with a certified instructor and "was shooting the weapon down range when the force of the weapon made it travel up and back toward his head, where he suffered the injury," a police statement said. Police called it a "self-inflicted accidental shooting."

Someone care to tell me just where the adults in this picture left their brains? An UZI - or any other firearm for that matter - is outright dangerous. You don't put one in the hands of an 8 year old - EVER.

It's tragic that a young life has been snuffed out by the naive notion that "guns are perfectly safe handled properly". Guns are designed to do one thing, and one thing only - kill. We should never forget that...especially where our children are concerned.

There Are Plots ... and Then There's Terminal Stupidity

It appears that the morons who were "plotting" to assassinate Obama are somewhat less than sophisticated thinkers.

Reading through some of the news article linked to above, it appears to be the juvenile meanderings of two people who had not grown much past grade 9.

In all, the two men whom officials describe as neo-Nazi skinheads planned to kill 88 people — 14 by beheading, according to documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The spree, which initially targeted an unidentified predominantly African-American school, was to end with the two men driving toward Obama, "shooting at him from the windows," the court documents show.

"Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt," the court complaint states. "Both individuals further stated they knew they would and were willing to die during this attempt."

Ooooh - look at all the deep symbolism in there - and outside of a very small community, who'd notice? What morons. They couldn't even decide if they were plotting to assassinate Obama or commit mass murder.

Sheriffs' deputies in Crockett County, Tenn., arrested the two suspects — Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman 18, of Helena-West Helena, Ark. — Oct. 22 on unspecified charges. "Once we arrested the defendants and suspected they had violated federal law, we immediately contacted federal authorities," said Crockett County Sheriff Troy Klyce.

Court records say Cowart and Schlesselman also bought nylon rope and ski masks to use in a robbery or home invasion to fund their spree, during which they allegedly planned to go from state to state and kill people. Agents said the skinheads did not identify the African-American school they were targeting by name.

Hmmm...lessee 18 and 20 years old, and such grandiose plans for the future. To judge from their actions, we aren't talking about the brightest tools in the shed, are we?

That said, I would not be surprised at all if others were plotting similar nastiness as well - there's been an unprecedented level of ugly in the current presidential campaign.

Monday, October 27, 2008

That Slithering Sound You Hear coming from Harper's base which is now demanding that he unveil - and railroad through parliament - the entire radical conservative agenda...before the next election.

Ordinarily, I ignore the swill produced by the National Post, but when the wingnut "news" sites start linking to them (republishing it, actually), then it's time to look a little closer.

Call for Canada's Tories to drop incrementalism

Gerry Nicholls is only marginally more sane than Barbara Kay, but there's some things about what he has to say that Canadians should take note of.

Realistically speaking the Conservatives will be able to effectively govern this country for perhaps one more year. After that a revitalized Liberal party led by a shiny new leader, whose name isn't Stephane Dion, will start to gum up the government's Parliamentary agenda

I love this term "govern effectively" - like so many things that come out of right wingnuttia, it's a meaningless phrase. What it really means is that the HarperCon$ know that they have a limited shelf life before the opposition can force them to either negotiate or trigger an election. The fact is that the current batch of Conservatives have fundamentally isolated themselves in the political landscape. They have no "natural ally" party sitting in the house that they can readily persuade to back them up in a pinch, and in the broader picture of Canadian politics, they have been unable to expand their base of support.

This strategy is usually referred to as "incrementalism." The chief proponent of incrementalism is former Conservative campaign manager Tom Flanagan and it's essentially based on the idea that the Canadian public doesn't really like conservative ideas or conservative polices.

Now, let's consider this for a moment. Flanagan is not stupid. He's a lot of other things, but he's not stupid. If he thinks Canadians will collectively choke on the actual vision that the HarperCon$ have for Canada, then there's a good chance that there's enough ugliness in that vision that Canadians won't like it. In that vein, Canadians should ask themselves just what the HarperCon$ want to do that is so distasteful that the Con$ don't dare let us hear about it directly?

Who knows, maybe if he implemented a true conservative agenda, Prime Minister Harper might even win his coveted majority government in the next election. Then again, maybe he won't. But at least he would have accomplished something while in power.

Notice the "doggy whistle" phrase aimed at the "base". Just what does a "true conservative agenda" mean here? I can guess, and the fact that the HarperCon$ haven't been open in their vision for Canada and Canadians, I'd suggest it isn't something most Canadians would willingly vote for. Instead, they have chosen a path of stealth policy, and quietly not admitting that there is an agenda and vision.

Last election Harper didn't talk at all about what he would do if a Con$ervative government were elected. Think on it - he's either out of ideas, or what he wants to do is fundamentally offensive to a majority of Canadians.

That the National Post is now publishing columns calling for Harper to 'get aggressive' about it is telling as well.

Intriguing Research Findings ...

Many have speculated on the biological factors that contribute to transsexualism - anything from pre-natal hormone flush irregularities to differences in brain structure have been proposed.

I've never been overly impressed with the BSTc analysis - not only are the numbers too small, but aside from a paper or two in the 1990s, there has been no corroborating study that lends weight to it, and by the authors own admission, there are plenty of explanations for the observed evidence.

The in-utero hormone flush hypothesis has always felt similarly weak - it's an explanation, but it's almost impossible to verify. It would require numerous strokes of luck to identify a candidate or two, and then decades to follow them from pregnancy through to early adulthood. (a process which by itself may have a significant influence on the subjects)

So, when this story popped up, I was initially feeling pretty skeptical about whatever it was going to say (in fact I was worried that it was going to be more on the BSTc study).

After studying the DNA of the male-to-female transsexuals, genetic experts from Prince Henry's Institute at the Monash Medical Centre found they were more likely to have a longer version of a gene known to modify the action of sex hormone testosterone.

The genetic abnormality on the androgen receptor gene is believed to lower testosterone action during fetal development, and "under-masculinise" the person's brain, leading them to feel like a female trapped in a male body.

Actually, this makes a lot more sense as an explanation of causality than the other options that have been put forth to date. It fits well into the "Occam's Razor" principle - it's simple, covers a wide range of possibilities. Even better, it's relatively easy to pursue further. (The BSTc investigations could only be done post-mortem, and long term follow-up research with transsexuals is notoriously difficult)

Further, this particular finding also meshes well with the all too common narrative that so many transsexuals put forth that they "knew something was wrong" from very early ages - often before any awareness of social gender distinctions would be expected.

The work is far from conclusive at this time, and we should always be cautious with early results like this. I am reassured by the breadth of sample size used. (No, it's not a large sample in general population terms, but for a study involving such a tiny fraction of the population, it's actually a pretty good size for a starting point)

This writer is now going to have to go and find the actual article and study it - I'm sure that whatever is in the news is only the surface of the story.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Housing Bubble ... *PoP!*

You knew the meme had to start somewhere - The US isn't to blame for the housing bubble.

Quoting from an IMF report, Neil Reynolds is busy arguing that the shockwaves we are now experiencing are actually global in their origins and not at the feet of poorly planned, questionable practices in the US market.

Canada fared well in these (and other) comparisons. But the much-maligned U.S. didn't fare all that badly. (The United States, the IMF report concluded, was among the middle-ranked countries in “vulnerability” to a bubble-busting correction.) Most European countries are decidedly worse off. Some confront the prospect of catastrophic house price crashes; some apparently confront the prospect of bankruptcy.

Really what this speaks to is the sheer size of the US economy, not the policies and practices that led to the housing bubble in the first place.

George Bush's economics (or lack of them) focused the US economy on two things - war and consumer spending. Ill-planned and misguided, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have driven the US government into record levels of debt and deficit.

What economic growth has occurred has depended primarily on consumer spending, not exports or manufacturing growth. This has allowed the US economy to hollow itself out from within - literally stripping it of its ability to fill the needs of its own citizens, much less produce meaningful growth. Worse, US consumers were encouraged to contribute to this growth by increasing their levels of indebtedness.

Short sighted is about as polite a characterization as I can come up with for 'Bush-o-nomics'.

An approach to economic policy by Alan Greenspan that is clearly based on the "everyone for themselves" thinking of Ayn Rand (If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged, I urge you to do so, it will give you a sense of insight into the policy and ethos we have seen among the so-called 'neoCons'.) hasn't exactly helped either.

In the last fifteen years (or more), the ethos of greed has come to characterize the US-based marketplaces. Ever more obscure "investments" were created to attract money, and obscure the investor's view of what was behind the investment. "ABC Paper" was used to bury the risks that lending institutions were taking on with Sub-Prime mortgages; NINJA loans (No Income, No Job or Assets) started to be made - purely to increase bank revenues. Both sub-prime and NINJA loans were written on terms that I can only politely call disastrous for the borrower. Interest rates that were ridiculously low to begin with would escalate well beyond the ability of most to pay - forcing people to either move, or dramatically refinance their homes constantly.

These are not mechanisms rooted in any reasoned, balanced sense of caring for those around you. They are mechanisms built to foster greed and are built upon the hubris of short term success. Banks were able to disconnect themselves (somewhat) from the consequences of making loans to people who couldn't pay them back; investment banks bought up those loans, and poisoned themselves in the process.

There were signs of this imploding two or even three years ago, as the lending practices became even more aggressive and predatory. Did the US Treasury step in and take steps to settle things down? No. Could they have? Yes, of course - but for an ethos of 'not touching the sacred free market'. The IMF is acting, as it so often has, as an arm of the US government in this report - and is attempting desperately to minimize the consequences of that government's economic policies.

I'm sorry, but Mr. Reynold and the IMF's apologetics for a failed laissez-faire, every man for himself, economics in the United States ring hollow.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

McVety's Moralizing on the Arts

Remember Bill C-10 - and more specifically McVety bragging about his influence in it?.

Well, take a read through this little turdgem that he plopped onto the "Christian Government" website.

Following the October 14th vote, Canada’s representative of the Queen will conduct the ceremony inaugurating the nation’s next Government Representatives, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. This official ceremony will be conducted with the backdrop of a large homosexual mural called "Androgyny", which means being both male and female.

Huh? Since when was androgyny even remotely related to homosexuality? My goodness, but McVety's reaching here...but wait, it gets better:

The homosexual lobby group EGALE, has pushed this issue for years. During the 2004 election they circulated a questionnaire to all federal candidates asking the question, "will you commit to fighting the discriminatory practice of labeling children male or female at birth?

Ummm...actually, this is a very real problem for Intersex individuals. The real problem is not assigning a gender role to the child, but the common practice of doing "corrective" surgery on the child which they may well choose quite differently when they are older.

However, it is not McVety's ludicrous attempt to tie Intersex and homosexuality together that is most disappointing, it is his statements about the picture's backstory itself:

The Governor General’s website describes the giant 20 foot mural as follows: "In the Okanagan, as in many Native tribes, the order of life learning is that you are born without sex and as a child, through learning, you move toward full capacity as either male or female. Only when appropriately prepared for the role do you become a man or woman. The natural progression into parenthood provides immense learning from each other, the love, compassion and cooperation necessary to maintain family and community. Finally as an elder you emerge as both male and female, a complete human, with all skills and capacities complete." Does the Governor General actually believe that in order to be a complete human you must be both male and female?

So, the painting itself is based not upon themes of sexuality at all. It is in fact a reflection of spirituality of some of Canada's First Nations.

McVety's whining because that spirituality doesn't align with his precious "Christianity". I don't know what notion of Christianity McVety subscribes to, but I do know it's a nasty, small-minded worldview when he cannot even find it in his heart to honor the spirituality of those who occupied this land so long before his ancestors took up residence in the early colonies.

McVety is, essentially, a cultural imperialist - as long as it is his particular notion of "Christian". What a drab world we would live in with he and his ilk dictating what is "culturally acceptable". How many voices filled with beauty would he silence? One can only imagine.

(Oh yes, just to verify that the article on "Christian Government" wasn't a forgery in McVety's name, I went over to and looked there to verify that he was splattering the same spewage all over websites he controls directly. Sure enough.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Breaking The Separation of Church and State

Via Pam's House Blend, we have what is possibly one of the most blatant violations of the separation of Church and State (especially as it is legally described in the US constitution) - a Bishop making specific dictates about how members of his faith are obliged to vote.

In both Canada and the United States, Churches are granted a unique tax-exempt status that is not granted to political lobby organizations. Apparently, it's past time that we revisited that tax exempt status - especially if church clergy are going to attempt to dictate to either voters or politicians how they should vote on issues.

In recent years, church hierarchies seem to have lost sight of their status and have chosen to inject themselves more directly in the political dialog of the nation - from the pulpit. That's fine, but at that point it is necessary to level the playing field in terms of economics. Either political lobby organizations become tax exempt, or churches lose that benefit. Attempting to dictate to voters (or politicians) how they must act puts them firmly in the public discourse over matters of policy and law.

Deficit Spending - Thoughts

With renewed speculation that the Federal government will run a deficit this year, I thought I'd spend a few moments discussing where I land on the subject - because it's not as cut and dried as "Deficit bad, Surplus good", as has been common mantra in recent years.

Let me start out with a review of the terminology - in part because here in Alberta, people have long since comingled the ideas of debt and deficit.

Debt: is the money that the government owes to various lenders from whom it has borrowed to finance various aspects of its operations. Sometimes, debt is a necessary thing - usually to finance assets which have a fairly long life (e.g. buildings, roads and other infrastructure) - paying that down over the first phase of the asset's life (before maintenance becomes an issue), is just fine - little different actually than the mortgage most of us carry on our homes for some period of time.

Deficit: is a different proposition. Deficits are what happens when the government borrows to finance its day to day operations. Probably the best way to look at a deficit is to consider it as similar to credit card spending. If you can pay the card off every month, you don't have much of a problem. Start carrying a balance, and suddenly you are compounding that balance into your overall Debt picture.

That doesn't mean that the credit card debt is necessarily bad. For example, your furnace in the house dies during a cold snap in the winter. It costs you a few thousand to replace it which you slap on the Credit Card to cover the cost now, and perhaps you flip the credit card balance to your Line of Credit at the bank at the end of the month, knowing that you just don't have that extra $4000 lying around to pay off the furnace.

Did you incur a deficit for that month? Yes. Did it compound your debt? Yes. However, it was also a necessary purchase to keep your home livable, right? That isn't such a bad thing. If, however, you are incurring a credit card balance every month because you are overspending on dinners out and going to movies, you have a more serious problem - because the costs will continue to occur unless you take specific steps to change your patterns.

Government has a somewhat trickier balance to maintain than most of us with a mortgage and a few credit cards. Government spending exists on multiple levels, and cannot simply be blindly cut without understanding what is being cut. For example, cutting EI spending dramatically during a downturn is actually a very destructive thing to do, especially during a time period when demand on that program will very likely escalate.

The challenge that the government faces in these times is deciding where cuts can be made with a minimal negative impact upon the citizenry of the country - you know - the same people that pay the taxes that fund government in the first place. So, how deeply do you cut before real damage is being done to the country? What is important to maintain, and what is simply an unnecessary burden on the country?

The balance is not trivial, although I suspect that the way the HarperCon$ are going, any cuts made will be excessively damaging not just to Canada, but to Canadians as individuals.

The finance minister will keep his post in the upcoming cabinet shuffle, insiders say, and they insist he remains hawkish on balanced budgets even if others are starting to resign themselves to red ink.

They say Flaherty has three ways to stay in the black.

The Tories can cut program spending. They can scale back future commitments - reducing the scope of the tax-free savings accounts created in the last federal budget, for instance. And they can freeze public service hiring.

There's an obvious area we could cut back our spending - Afghanistan. However, I doubt very much that Harper will do that. The typical neoCon line is all about making authority structures bigger, and more aggressive - whether that is the military, police or prisons.

Unfortunately for everyday Canadians that means that the Con$ will be going after the programs that benefit them on a day to day basis - health care, EI, and others that the Con$ typically argue are all about 'poor judgment' and 'individual irresponsibilty'.

A certain amount of deficit spending to keep important government functions and programs running is reasonable over the short term - especially when the world's economy is so volatile, and government revenues are therefore similarly unpredictable.

Using deficit spending as a club is neither productive, nor useful - unfortunately, I suspect that is exactly what we'll see in the House of Commons when it next convenes:

"(Harper) will be able to have a deficit and take no criticism for it. Who's going to criticize him for going into deficit when you get their buy-in first?"

A Conservative MP made it clear what political tack the government would take if forced back into the red. When asked whether he expected a deficit the MP smiled and replied: "Only if the opposition agrees."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Bishop ...

When you can bear a child, then you have a say in whether a woman can get an abortion - at least for yourself

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is a bill introduced in the United States Congress in 2004. It would remove all restrictions on abortion in the United States, both on the state and federal level. “FOCA goes far beyond guaranteeing the right to an abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy. It arrogantly prohibits any law or policy interfering with that right,” says Bishop Serratelli. This is the “dark reality” kept secret by propagandists for ‘choice.’

But that's not the best part of the Bishop's argument. No, once again we find ourselves listening to the whining about the medical practitioners:

Among those no longer free to choose under FOCA, says the bishop, would be pro-life doctors and nurses, whose freedom of conscience is currently protected under the law. Religious hospitals and clinics would also be forced to perform abortions up until the birth of the baby.

Of course, what these clowns omit is that there are cases (albeit rare) where late term abortion is appropriate for both the mother and the baby (largely because the baby won't survive birth anyhow, and would kill the mother in the process).

From where I sit, the notion of "religious hospitals" is chilling. There are far too many religious types running about who would deny treatment on "moral grounds" in all sorts of situations. I'd hate to be sitting in a hospital awaiting treatment, only to be told it was denied on some moral grounds ... but the person in the next bed would be treated.

Here we have some moralizing priest - who is not an MD, nor is he a woman dictating to both what is fundamentally an ethical and moral decision best dealt with individually. Even if a miracle were to occur, and the Bishop found himself suddenly able to bear a child, his say on abortion still would not extend beyond his own body.

At its most fundamental level, the decision to carry a pregnancy through to birth is the woman's. So is the decision to end it early. The medical practitioners need to deal with it as an ethical issue in making their decision to participate. Other parties are only participants in the conversation at the consent of the pregnant woman - in other words only those whom she chooses to involve in the discussion.

Financial Meltdown in 3 Frames

Via my favourite webcomic: User Friendly:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Remember Canada, You Voted For These Clowns

Remember when Ryan Sparrow opened his yap last election and claimed a dead soldier's father was "a Liberal supporter" when the father dared criticize PMSH?

Less than two weeks after getting re-elected, Harper has reinstated Sparrow.

Sparrow should have been terminated for a complete lack of judgment. Harper, on the other hand, seems to think that it's all good as long he got re-elected.

Of course, the very position of 'Communications Director' in Harper's world is an oxymoron to start with - it's not like the HarperCon$ have ever lived up to their promises of open, accountable government in the first place.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I don't think I'd take it seriously, but in light of current financial events, this is actually quite funny:

Could We Blame the Financial Crisis on Too Much Testosterone? Harvard Researchers Say Yes

Legal Equality Infringes On What?

I see that Peter LaBarbera thinks that legal equality for GLBT people infringes upon religious freedom.

“Including ‘homosexual orientation’ among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate,” Ratzinger wrote, “can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights…(and)…to the legislative protection and promotion of homosexuality.”

The American Family Association of Michigan strongly agrees. However, the practical effects of such legislation extend beyond medical or religious concerns.

Proving to have exactly the opposite effect of their supposed intent, so-called “sexual orientation” ordinances have a track record of being used to discriminate against individuals and organizations who don’t support homosexual activists’ political agenda.

Detective Richard Stern, a fifteen-year veteran and president of the Ann Arbor police officers union, was fired after the chairman of the city’s “rights commission” formally accused him of violating that city’s “sexual orientation” ordinance. Stern’s offense? On behalf of his union, in a public forum for police chief candidates, he “was accused of saying that one of the candidates had a gay-rights agenda,” according to Between the Lines, a Detroit homosexual advocacy newsmagazine.

So, if I understand Mr. LaBarbera correctly, his right to marginalize others based on his personal religious beliefs supercedes the rights of those same people to live a peaceful, law-abiding life.

I'm no genius here - but this just isn't adding up for me. What gives him the right to demand that somebody else live by LaBarbera's personal moral code - or whatever moral code Josef Ratzinger thinks we should live by for that matter?

While LaBarbera will protest that he's only "acting in the public good", he's conveniently missing the point. People don't beat the tar out of smokers - but an amazing number of people seem to think that kicking the crap out of a gay is grand sport, and don't even start me on what happens to transsexuals on all too frequent a basis.

Violence against people simply because of their identity is the ugly child of the morally upstanding protestations of LaBarbera - as they so often give others the idea that they are doing "the right thing" when they beat the crap out of someone they think is GLBT.

Inevitably, in order to step aside from the indefensible projection of his "biblical views" on others, LaBarbera pulls the following little logical turd up:

For example, a compassionate society that rationally discourages smoking because of the clearly identified health consequences should not irrationally enact laws giving special protection to homosexual behavior that has been scientifically associated with a dramatically higher incidence of domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, eating disorders, life-threatening disease — AIDS, cancer, and hepatitis — and premature death by up to 20 years.

Ever so typical, he repeats a blatant lie and distortion from the utterly discredited Paul Cameron, or ignores the findings of Evelyn Hooker on mental health in gays.

People like LaBarbera don't seem to understand that they are in fact the best argument for the the laws they protest so loudly - since they so blindly ignore evidence and manufacture "facts" to make their unreasonable stance sound reasoned instead of blindly dogmatic.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Is In The Kool-Aid Harper Serves At Conventions?

I was listening to CBC's Sunday Edition this morning, and they had a group of people in speculating on how the newly elected parliament was going to function.

I only heard a few minutes of it, but the CPOC representative made the most irritating whiny statement: Why is it when a Conservative is pursuing a majority, everybody talks of dictatorship?

Once I got past my initial reaction, I sat back and thought about it. Of all the party leaders, Harper is by far the most autocratic and authoritarian. His tactics in the last parliament spoke of a petulant, thin-skinned leadership that could not, and would not, tolerate anything other than having his way. Negotiation boiled down to making everything a confidence vote - forcing either an election or mass abstention on the part of the opposition. Then there is the deliberate silence of his MPs when you contact their offices to do anything other than lick the MP's boots. I've had more responsiveness from Liberal and NDP MPs from across the country than I have had from my local Conservative MP.

But that is far from the only evidence of Harper's autocratic ways. Let's consider his StealthCon campaign this past election, where his candidates were ordered to shut up and not say anything - lest it upset Big Daddy's applecart. Or perhaps we should consider Harper's notorious micromanaging style which basically insisted that his cabinet could say nothing without his go ahead; and back-bench MPs were clearly ordered to tow the party line at all times - lest they find themselves sitting as independents.

Or perhaps, we should look at how Harper's spending cuts attempt to silence groups most likely to be critical of his policies and laws? Yet another common tactic among dictators is to silence opposition - at every turn if possible. Of course, throwing more people in prison for longer is another favourite tactic of dictators - what better way to silence people than with the threat of prison?

Lastly, Harper is so full of his own wisdom that dares to claim that Canadians are too stupid to understand things - especially something as complex as Afghanistan.

If Harper is seen by Canadians as a wannabe dictator, then perhaps it's a result of his own behaviour.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Electoral Irresponsibility

This is something of a rant - rooted firmly in the peculiarities of Alberta's voting patterns, and the effect that has on election campaigns.

For reasons that are only marginally rooted in logic, Alberta voters in the last 25 years have overwhelmingly voted for right-wing parties. This is mostly an artifact of the late 1970s when Alberta was led by one of the most impressive premiers it has ever had, Peter Lougheed. At the time, Alberta's economy collapsed - a victim of a worldwide economic downturn, and Albertans blamed it almost universally on Pierre Trudeau's NEP.

That is mostly a historical footnote in Alberta's politics - however, it has in fact provoked a degree of voter apathy that is positively depressing. In the last provincial election, the Stelmach-led PC's achieved a landslide majority of the seats on the votes of about 20% of the eligible voters.

This last Federal election, however, was appalling. All of the parties appear to have conceded defeat to the Con$ from the start. The Conservatives were so confident in their own stranglehold on Alberta's seats that they didn't bother to campaign at all - most Conservative candidates were nowhere to be seen (often known to be out of province in fact). The local candidates for the other parties ran minimal campaigns, with a handful of signs on public property being about the extent of it. In what I can only call irony, I received campaign literature from the NDP candidate in my riding in the mail ... one day after voting day.

Even conservative voters I know are less than impressed by this past election - the arrogance of their preferred party was clear enough, that voters rewarded them with the massive margins of victory they did is just sad.

Voter apathy and blind adherence to past habits are certainly part of the problem here; but the parties themselves - Liberal, NDP, Green and others all deserve sound thumping for yielding Alberta simply by not even trying. Some of the worst MPs in the parliament are Alberta-based members of the Stephen Harper Party - members that are last on my list to deserve a 'shoo-in'. This past election, the Federal parties have done more to advance voter apathy than they have done in the last ten years.

The Liberals, NDP and Greens should realize that the only party that benefits from apathy are the NeoCon based Conservatives. If you want to unseat the Con$, you have to do it using some of the playbook tactics that gave them the foothold in Alberta in the first place - campaign constantly. Make yourself heard every time the government makes a misstep - constantly ... and when there's an election, get people knocking on doors - all of them! This past election, had any of the parties bothered to actually campaign in Alberta they could have taken a sizable chunk of the popular vote - simply for having bothered to campaign.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Must Read

Go Read ... Now

Good Journalism Can Deal With Controversy

Via Zoe's blog, I found myself reading this article on transgender children, and some of the psychological and ethical debate surrounding the subject.

I've blogged about treatment of young transsexuals before, and I remain cautious about how such cases should be handled (I do believe that the current WPATH SOC approaches the subject with a degree of caution and humility that is appropriate). That said, The Atlantic has done quite a good job of actually researching the topic, and talking to various clinicians and researchers - and pointing out both the good and the bad.

“Maybe we really have to think … that we don’t come to this world neutral; that we come to this world with some degree of maleness and femaleness which will transcend whatever the society wants to put into [us].”

This comes to us from Dr. Milton Diamond (I'd never heard of him before reading this article, and I'm thinking I'd like to read more of his material - that quote is brilliant and encapsulates my own thinking about gender identity and social gender just about perfectly.

It did bring one thing out about Dr. Spack that bothers me a little:

Spack has treated young-adult transsexuals since the 1980s, and until recently he could never get past one problem: “They are never going to fail to draw attention to themselves.”

He's basically talking about appearances here. While he's correct to a point, I'm a little disappointed by a couple of aspects of his claims. Yes, the younger someone is when they transition, the easier it often is for them to achieve "passability" - the ability to be taken as their chosen gender without getting 'hairy eyeball' looks.

But, in making such a claim, Dr. Spack is also promoting a 'cult of beauty' that I find equally troubling. Men and women come in all sorts of shapes and sizes - some more 'classically beautiful' than others. Second of all, I see an inherent danger in his reasoning - it places a pressure on people to make a decision about their lives long before such a decision may be appropriate. Certainly, if by the age that puberty would be onset, a child is expressing - and still expressing - a strong cross gender identity, then yes, there is some merit to making puberty blocking drugs available, but some degree of caution is still appropriate.

The reason for my caution is actually mentioned in this article (which is a testament to the quality and depth of research the authors went to - some of this data is fairly obscure).

For 15 years, Dr. Richard Green followed 44 boys who exhibited extreme feminine behaviors, and a control group of boys who did not. The boys in the feminine group all played with dolls, preferred the company of girls to boys, and avoided “rough-and-tumble play.” ...

Green expected most of the boys in the study to end up as transsexuals, but nothing like that happened. Three-fourths of the 44 boys turned out to be gay or bisexual (Green says a few more have since contacted him and told him they too were gay). Only one became a transsexual. “We can’t tell a pre-gay from a pre-transsexual at 8,” says Green, who recently retired from running the adult gender-identity clinic in England.

Green's work predates the existence of the puberty blocking chemistry that Spack is using, but it does send up an important caution flag. There is a legitimate question here. For those who are truly transsexual, Spack's work will unquestionably be beneficial. The open question is for the 3/4 in Green's work that are Gay or Bisexual, what would the outcome be. Under Spack's treatment would gender transition be successful for them? Is their cross-gender behaviour a result of a core gender identity question, or is it sexual identity at play? Is the plasticity of the brain in pre-adolescent children adequate to allow a successful gender transition if the child is not actually transsexual? (or more correctly, would not feel a need to transition if they faced the same question in their 20s?)

I don't know what the answers to these questions will be. I hope that Dr. Spack is correct in his assumptions, and that the long term outcomes for this emerging wave of very youthful transitions will be either proof or refutation.

Then the article turns to Dr. Zucker:

In his case studies and descriptions of patients, Zucker usually explains gender dysphoria in terms of what he calls “family noise”: neglectful parents who caused a boy to over­identify with his domineering older sisters; a mother who expected a daughter and delayed naming her newborn son for eight weeks. Zucker’s belief is that with enough therapy, such children can be made to feel comfortable in their birth sex.

Where Spack's work is unsettling, Zucker leaves many in the transgender community as a whole feeling quite suspicious that he is actually propagating the patterns of self-denial and repression that many transsexuals who transition later in life describe. Personally I find his "family noise" hypothesis troublesome - it smacks of long ago discredited ideas about the causes for homosexuality (that the religious right just loves to revive at every opportunity).

The article itself chronicles two of Zucker's "success stories", and I find them troubling indeed:

When I visited the family, John was lazing around with his older brother, idly watching TV and playing video games, dressed in a polo shirt and Abercrombie & Fitch shorts. He said he was glad he’d been through the therapy, “because it made me feel happy,” but that’s about all he would say; for the most part, his mother spoke for him. Recently, John was in the basement watching the Grammys. When Caroline walked downstairs to say good night, she found him draped in a blanket, vamping. He looked up at her, mortified.

I'm sorry to say, but that sounds to me far too much like denial and 'closet activity' - a pattern that can be deeply destructive, and in some cases will lead the individual to behaviours that are overtly self-destructive.

I spoke to the mother of one Zucker patient in her late 20s, who said her daughter was repulsed by the thought of a sex change but was still suffering—she’d become an alcoholic, and was cutting herself. “I’d be surprised if she outlived me,” her mother said.

Ouch - I feel for both the patient and her parents. That's a pretty ugly situation that has evolved. For all that Zucker claims that none of his younger patients have ever transitioned, I wonder aloud just how well they have fared in later life.

Neither Zucker nor Spack have a lock on "what's right" here. Neither of them can. Green's studies tend to favour Zucker's approach in some respects, but then again, the techniques Spack is employing didn't exist in the 1980s. How well a young person will adapt to gender transition when they have done so voluntarily is an open question, and one that only time will tell.

Long term outcome study is difficult in these circumstances, but it is also necessary. Spack is taking huge risks, and I fear Zucker has fallen into the trap of assuming that cross-gender identity as a lie that can be "overcome" through therapy.

The article itself is well written, intelligent and balanced overall. Kudos to The Atlantic for tackling a difficult topic and still keeping their sanity about them.

Dion's Goose Is Cooked

Regardless of how you feel about Stephane Dion, his political career is over. Politics is a harsh game, and it doesn't give people many 'do over' opportunities - especially not those who step into the leadership of their party.

Two things in today's Globe and Mail are particularly interesting:

Dion ignored advisers' advice, preferring to act as 'a lone wolf'

So it was a combination of factors that cost the Liberals so dearly: Mr. Dion was not connecting with voters and his Green Shift was unpopular.

“The Green Shift was a millstone around his neck,” the Dion adviser says.

In fact, he had been counselled in the spring by his senior advisers, including campaign manager Gordon Ashworth, not to use it as a major election piece.

That's consistent with Dion's background. He's an academic - used to charting his own path and dragging a handful of promising grad students along for the ride. That's quite different from a political party on the national stage - a place where even if the party leader is a strong personality, a degree of humility needs to be applied within the party - recognizing that the party structure exists to put people around the leader who can help fill in the blanks - the leader is not all-knowing (in spite of Harper's apparent beliefs)

The second piece of some interest is titled "Key Liberals send out feelers for Dion's job".

Meanwhile, people close to MPs Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy and Dominic LeBlanc, former deputy prime minister John Manley and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna were contacting influential party members to test the waters.

There's only two in that list that I would consider worth the time - Kennedy and Ignatieff. Not because I necessarily agree with either of them or necessarily like them, but rather I'm looking at their ability to stand 'toe to toe' with Harper and slap him about when he starts playing thug.

If the Liberal party is smart about this, they'll make the leadership race to replace Dion brief - 3 months at the outside - and pick a sitting MP - someone who, on day 1 can, and will, stand up in the House of Commons and take Harper to task - and stick to it.

Confusing Justice With Revenge

I'm sympathetic to the family of Tim McLean (not to mention everybody else that was on that bus to Winnipeg). There's no question that their son was murdered in a horrifying and brutal act that we still do not really understand.

However, in calling for "stiffer sentences", they are grossly misunderstanding something.

Carol deDelley, Mr. McLean's mother, has said that she's concerned the man charged in her son's death might eventually be released if he is found not criminally responsible by the courts.

She wants the federal government to amend the law so that no one gets off lightly because of mental illness.

The odds of Tim McLean's murderer ever being released from psychiatric care is between slim, nil and none if his found "not criminally responsible".

Law professor Sanjeev Anand said defence lawyers don't often argue criminal responsibility because the person stands to be detained indefinitely as opposed to being jailed for a limited sentence.

Even if someone is convicted of murder, Mr. Anand said they have a chance of parole.

“I understand the family's concern but if this individual poses a danger to the public, he'll be detained,” said Mr. Anand, who teaches at the University of Alberta.

“The restrictions on his liberty will be just as great.”

In short, if the accused in this case is found to be 'not criminally responsible', they face a much more ambiguous sentencing status - namely indefinite detention in a locked psychiatric facility.

We should recognize that no plea has been entered yet in this case, nor has any evidence been heard in a court.

Superficially, the description of events that has been presented in the media certainly sounds consistent with a psychotic episode - and may be an indicator of a more serious mental illness that has been progressing quietly for years.

The finding that he is 'fit to stand trial' doesn't tell us a lot about his psychiatric status at the time of the act - at best it indicates that the individual is able to understand the proceedings coherently. If he has a psychotic episode during the course of the trial that could dramatically change the course of proceedings - leading to an indefinite incarceration, with the trial suspended indefinitely as well.

Recent pleas for harsher laws in this case I presume to have more to do with the family's grieving for a lost son, and are not rooted in a clear understanding of either the situation or the current state of the laws involved.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Irony in the Headlines

The following headline arrived in my mailbox this morning:

Stocks Slump on Gloomy Economic Omens; Dow Sheds 733 Points

If there was ever an indication that the stock markets work on emotion rather than logic, this headline says it all. Omens? Didn't superstitious people in the middle ages see everything as an "omen" of something or another??

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Bad News First ...

Canadians returned the Stephen Harper Party to the PMO. Bad move. Very bad move, IMO.

The good news is that Quebec didn't give Harper any gains - which is the one thing that appears to have kept him out of the majority he has sought.

I expect we will see a parliament every bit as dysfunctional and rancorous as the previous parliament. The simple fact is that the HarperCon$ have no natural allies in the house, and they have gone to great lengths to isolate themselves politically. There is no sense in my mind that Harper will play for compromise - he will continue to bully his way along and in doing so will be quite destructive.

Personally, I think Dion is toast. I like the man, and I think he's more than smart enough to do the job. But, it isn't a matter of him being likable right now - it's a matter of him being able to stand toe to toe with Harper and hand Harper and his band of sneering thugs their asses back to them. (Which isn't hard to do, but requires a style that Dion simply lacks)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When Feminists Go Awry

Don't get me wrong - I'm probably about as ardent a feminist as you can get. I'm not talking about the average feminist that believes in social and political equality, but rather the ones who want to define who can be feminine - or more particularly female - in a way that suits their particular ideology.

Consider these two posts:
Part One Deconstructing Transgenderism
PART TWO: Deconstructing Transgenderism for non-radical feminists

If you can get past the author's condescending attitude and slightly rude language, she's actually trying to make a coherent argument - and sadly misses some key points in her fervent desire to prove how evil transgender people are for feminism.

First, we have someone who claims to not feel comfortable in hiz own body. All well and good, many people are uncomfortable about some aspect of their physical appearance that they wish to change. This individual claims to be a different gender then hiz birth body indicates. Well we have a problem with that word gender. Because feminists keep saying that there is no gender. So if transgenderism is a valid medical condition, and transfolk really do need to change body parts, then the reason they need to change those body parts is because gender is real. Which automatically makes the favorite feminist theory invalid — yanno, the one where they screech that gender is a social construct. Yanno, the one theory which has formed the foundation for all other subsequent feminist theory for the last three centuries. Yanno, the one theory which if rendered invalid automatically reboots every other feminist theory in existence. That one, ya fucking pea-brain.

I hate to point this one out, but it is such an obviously flawed bit of reasoning to begin with - and one which just about every transsexual has needed to dismantle themselves to understand what they need to do.

Let me preface my comments by stating that I will focus upon transsexuals in particular. No offense is intended to other members of the broad transgender world, but the arguments being raised are ultimately focused quite specifically upon those whose gender identity leads them to transition.

The opening supposition here is that if we acknowledge transsexuals as valid, that everything that has ever been theorized or described in feminist theory must become invalid.

This is not the case at all. In fact the reasoning appears to be rooted in the realm of confusing the distinct physical, psychological and social aspects of gender in the first place.

I'm not about to claim the that three attributes do not interact with each other, for they clearly do - otherwise the social aspects of gender would not differ so dramatically between men and women. (again for simplicity, I will not be directly addressing the consequences of intersex conditions directly)

However, I will claim that the writer of the above comments has made quite a significant error in stating ... transfolk really do need to change body parts... that she perceives gender transition as primarily a physical event. It isn't - far from it in fact. Transition has much, much more to do with changing one's social gender than it does the physical gender. The physical changes are almost coincidental - they facilitate the individual's integration into the new social milieu that matches their chosen gender - no more. (Yes, I would go as far as arguing that SRS falls into the same basic category for an awful lot of transsexuals) If one views transsexuals as primarily integrating into a new social gender role, I would claim that the phenomenon should cause very little difficulty for mainstream feminism at all.

However, she isn't finished yet ... and neither am I.

The reason we know those differences must be internal is because the transgendered themselves say that it is impossible to change their internal structure, and so they are altering their external body — the only thing they say which is capable of change. ... But darlings, when those differences become worth switching body parts over, then those differences become major, and then gender discrimination becomes not only reasonable but acceptable.

Ummm ... again, this is the flawed model that presupposes - fundamentally - that biology is destiny somehow. That if one is born with 'male plumbing' or 'female plumbing' that gender starts and ends there. If only it were so simple.

The author gives a 'tip of the hat' to a key part of the transsexual narrative - that of persistence. It is not uncommon for transsexuals to be able to trace their cross-gender identity back to early (and I mean very early) childhood. Even more troubling is the fact that no matter what coping techniques they have tried, those who do decide to transition invariably will have tried just about every combination you can think of, and probably a few that most would never consider - only to find themselves facing precisely the same dilemma time and again.

It is this essentialism of gender identity that is in fact so troubling for gender theorists in general, and the "radical feminists" in particular. You see, it tends to break down arguments that claim gender identity is purely a construct (similar to what writers like Butler argue), but it also flies in the face of the notion of birth gender is all that there is. This is one of the reasons I distinguish between the physical and psychological aspects of gender. In order to reasonably account for the persistence of identity that transsexuals claim, and to still make sense of the social constructs around gender in a meaningful way, it seems to me to be one of the few viable options.

No, claiming that the transsexual is deluded or lying - the Bailey/Blanchard argument - is not adequate here. There is a lack of clinical evidence that corroborates such an argument - clinically, most transsexuals are far more grounded in the reality of their situation than they are given credit for. Like many criticisms of transsexuals, it relies upon declaring the narrative of individual people to be invalid - not on the grounds of actual evidence, but rather because the evidence that the transsexual's narrative presents is deeply troublesome for a particular social theory construct.

Remember, the transgendered claim they can only express their feminine attributes if they have a feminine body. By making each set of approved gender characteristics utterly dependent on which body the transgendered person happens to claim, — guess what we get to say next?

Uh no. Not true at all. In fact, if one considers the transsexual narrative carefully for a while, it becomes clear that in fact what is happening is the physical changes that take place (e.g. growing breasts after taking hormones for a while) merely facilitate the social transition that is taking place concurrently. Those physical cues go quite some distance in making it easier for the transsexual to be perceived by others - and thus treated socially - as a member of their chosen gender.

Does this have any impact upon the feminist desire for equality, or the feminist desire to 'break down the patriarchy'? Not really - not if you are sensible about it.

In fact, I would argue that transsexuals in many ways are natural allies of feminism. These are people who have walked through a world filled with social animosity towards them - subject to hostility and discrimination at almost every turn. If there is someone whose life contains a visceral understanding of what discrimination is, and how society can marginalize people based on what it assumes about them, it is transsexuals. It would be a mistake to assume that a transsexual is oblivious to the social and political challenges presented in their chosen gender. (and even when those challenges severely limit life options, as seen in some Islamic countries, people still transition)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shorter Stephen Harper: An Election Is No Time To Talk About Issues

It appears that Stephen Harper has decided to channel Kim Campbell.

Where Campbell is paraphrased as saying that "an election is no time to discuss serious issues.", Harper appears to have decided that an election is no time to talk to the electorate.

The Conservative Leader's staff offer several explanations. One official said it's simply a question of schedules and that they don't have enough time to scrum due to the hectic pace of the final two days. Another said that there will be “nothing to react to” over Sunday and Monday.

"Nothing to react to"? The arrogance of the Con$ and their "now you see me, now you don't" campaign far exceeds that of Trudeau or Mulroney at the height of their political careers.

... and this man wants Canadians to return him to 24 Sussex and the PMO?

Musing on The Mortgage Crisis

With governments around the world desperately trying to save the banking industry from itself, I think it is time to consider these actions.

The current crisis we are seeing unfold is a direct result of nothing more than blind greed on the part of the banks. There can be little doubt about that. The various abstract constructs that they created to shuffle money between institutions created the illusion of safety but in fact decoupled risk and consequences of poor lending practices from the reward of profits.

With taxpayers ultimately holding the bag for this mess, the depth of the crisis speaks volumes to the consequences of the blind ideology of allowing the 'free market' to run unfettered - especially in areas where the industry is foundational to the economy itself. The claim is made - all too often - by hardline free enterprise advocates that the free market should reign supreme, without any government intervention.

While things are on an upswing, that isn't such a bad thing ... right? Well, I think such a view is both short-sighted, and deeply flawed. The consequences of allowing foundational aspects of the economy to run amok are becoming quite clear these days. Some brain boys in the US banking system came up with this neat idea called 'Asset Backed Commercial Paper' - essentially a vehicle for auctioning off mortgages in lots to investors who have no visibility on the underlying mortgage or the borrower's circumstances. This created a layer of abstraction that decoupled the bank that initially made the loan from the risk/reward equation of making that loan; and shuffling it off as part of a larger packet of loans to some investment bank. The investment bank only really sees the numbers on paper - an asset behind the debt itself, so the investment bank thinks it is on pretty solid ground.

Clearly, this is not so much the case, as we are learning.

What does the current situation tell us? That the 'free market' works only when there is a reasonable amount of balance in the market. When it gets too far out of balance in one direction, it will inevitably fall apart. The role of government is to ensure that the market remains in balance.

Free market ideologues will argue that the government has no place in the market. When the impact of that market coming unglued is as pervasive at it is with the banking industry, the cost of that imbalance lands firmly in upon the shoulders of the taxpayer. Therefore, the taxpayers have a right to insist (through their government) that the market players be regulated in such a way as to ensure that the risk and reward of the marketplace is kept in perspective.

This isn't to say that all aspects of the free market must be carefully regulated, but there are certain areas which are foundational to the basics of the free market itself, and clearly those need to be kept in balance.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The StealthCon ... (Updated)

A running tally of the Absentee Candidates.

And These Clowns Want Us To Vote For Them ?!?

As if to further prove the intellectual dishonesty of the Stephen Harper Party, we have this little gem coming to light:

A tape recording at the centre of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's $3.5-million defamation suit against the Liberal party was not altered as the prime minister has claimed, a court-ordered analysis of the tape by Harper's own audio expert has found.

Which contradicts the "official Stephen Harper Party position" as stated back in June:

The Conservative party has asked an Ontario court to order the Liberals to stop using a tape that one MP charges was "doctored" to attack Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Anything else you wish to tell voters that you've been lying about, Stephen? Like the economy for example?

Globe and Mail: What ARE YOU THINKING?

Apparently, someone at the Editorial board of the Globe and Mail has lost their marbles.

I'm sorry, but Harper has to be the most dishonest leader this nation has had. His words and his actions are completely contradictory, and his fiscal sense is non-existent. (Case in point - the costs of the Afghanistan mission revealed yesterday)

I won't even go into the StealthCon campaign being run right now, and how damaging that is to our democracy (my own MP/incumbent is nowhere to be found, along with most of the other CPOC candidates in Calgary).

To say that "on balance" he's the best option is like saying that a kleptomaniac is the best person to watch over the jewellry store while the owner is on vacation.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What Price Are We Paying For Stevie's Ideology?

Well, if we are talking about Steve's Most Excellent Imperial Adventure in Afghanistan, it seems that the number is at least $18 Billion and counting - for all of this amazing progress.

However, a lack of government consistency and transparency has made the figures difficult to estimate, and they likely understate the full costs of the mission, the report says.

Wow, that comes as a big surprise - the HarperCon$ have made it difficult for the Parliamentary officer responsible to get to the real numbers.

The figures released Thursday are incremental costs — that is, they do not include costs such as salaries that would be incurred by Canada's military anyway, even if it were not in Afghanistan. The cost of military operations, veterans benefits and foreign aid related to the mission were all part of the estimate.

However, Page said certain costs weren't included due to the difficulty of estimating them reliably, and this suggests the figures "may likely understate the costs" of the mission. Such additional costs include danger pay and the need to replace equipment sooner if it is deployed in war rather than peacetime.

So, reality is the number is a lot more than the $18.1 Billion - and I shudder to think how much we've spent on "urgent" equipment purchases that didn't follow the usual competitive bid process.

But, that's not the best part - all of that is simply depressing. Truly pathetic is the utter lack of comprehension of the financial costs coming from our supposed economic genius of a prime minister:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had previously estimated that the total cost so far would amount to less than $8 billion.

We can afford this how?

So, What Was That About Progress?

In recent weeks, reality has been slapping PMSH's Most Excellent Adventure in Imperialism upside the head.

First it was a British diplomat raising concerns over the prospect of any kind of meaningful success in Afghanistan, and now the US is expecting failure as well.

The classified report finds that the breakdown in central authority in Afghanistan has been accelerated by rampant corruption within the government of President Hamid Karzai and by an increase in violence by militants who have launched increasingly sophisticated attacks from havens in Pakistan.

Breakdown? What breakdown? You can't have a breakdown of something that never existed. There are good reasons why Karzai is sardonically referred to as the "Prince of Kabul" - and it's not because of his amazing success in unifying the country under his leadership.

The report, a nearly completed version of a National Intelligence Estimate, is set to be finished after the November elections and will be the most comprehensive American assessment in years on the situation in Afghanistan. Its conclusions represent a harsh verdict on decision-making in the Bush administration, which in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made Afghanistan the central focus of a global campaign against terrorism.

You don't say? That's what happens when you elect a blind ideologue to power - they make really stupid decisions - on a near daily basis. That the NeoCon Bush administration screwed the response to 9/11 royally is no surprise; and it should equally be little surprise to Canadians that the current Prime Minister is hell-bent on following in "Dubya's" shoes.

Think about that on Tuesday, October 14 when you cast your ballots.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Isolation Of Hostile Partisan Politics

Perhaps the current lot who wear the cloak of "Conservative" never learned the lesson about playing politely with others as children. Most of us learned that before grade school.

When I read this post over on Buckdog, and this article from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, I had to wonder just how many liberal voters in Central Nova would even consider voting for Mackay.

Okay, Mackay's campaign is obviously worried about something - fair enough. Let's put aside the ins and outs of campaign strategy and polls for a moment, and consider the Conservative lot in Canada.

From day one, Harper has made it painfully clear that it is the Conservative "way" or the highway. His party versus the world, for all intents and purposes. You either buy into it, or get run over by it. It has been that way since the Harper-led Alliance merged with Mackay's Progressive Conservative party.

Since 2006, and in particular since Stephane Dion was selected to lead the Liberal party, the Conservatives have taken this to a new extreme - essentially leading a constant campaign of attacks on their adversaries. Attacking and bashing at every possible opportunity.

Now, we find them in Central Nova trying to shore up their support against a rival they didn't anticipate by attempting to recruit the very people that they have spent the last several years bashing remorselessly. Every party has its 'fringe supporters' - people who mostly vote for that party, but can be persuaded to vote elsewhere. (Sadly for the Con$, it is this vote that is also the most likely to be paying attention to what's going on - not something that works in the Con$' favour in Mackay's situation)

Even if you are among that 'fringe' support, how likely are you to be willing to vote for the Conservatives? You already know how well the Con$ are going to listen to you or reward your vote. (most likely with another round of bashing attack ads, I'm sure) Why would you make alliance with someone that is just going to wallop you later?

In short, the HarperCon$ have made their own bed here, and across Canada. Their constant bashing of everybody else, and intransigent hostility towards anything and everything that they didn't invent leaves them subject to isolation. Just like the child who never learned to share toys with the rest of the kids, sooner or later, the Conservatives will run out of allies.

Harper has been successful to this point not because of his strengths, but because of the weakness of his rivals - he is fundamentally the Nelson Muntz of Canadian politics - successful only because he is a bully, but ultimately isolated.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Atwood For PM?

The lady knows how to write.

Dear fellow Canadians: If you give the Harper neo-cons a majority government, you'll lose much that you cherish, you'll gain nothing worth having, and you'll never, never forgive yourselves.

She's a whole lot better spoken than any of our politicians, that's for sure!

Dear Stevie:

It's one thing for a megalomaniac with a personality to attempt a 'cult of personality' play - it's another thing altogether for you to waste taxpayer's money on Steve-shaped bobblehead dolls.

Okay, you think you are something special - I get that. Sadly, you aren't. Nor are you exactly representative of Canada. This isn't North Korea or Mao's China which defined itself in terms of its leader. Even Chretien and Trudeau had the grace to recognize this reality at the peak of their tenures.

I somehow don't think tourists are going to flock to Canada on the merits of a cheezy little piece of plastic.

Margaret Atwood slams Harper


"Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they're a mouthy lot and they don't line up and salute very easily. Of course, you can always get some tame artists to design the uniforms and flags and the documentary about you, and so forth - the only kind of art you might need - but individual voices must be silenced, because there shall be only One Voice: Our Master's Voice. Maybe that's why Mr. Harper began by shutting down funding for our artists abroad. He didn't like the competition for media space."

and ...

"Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful,"

I look forward to reading this: Atwood on the Election

Silence of the Con$

Aside from PMSH, finding a Conservative candidate willing to make an utterance of any sort is next to impossible. If you are in Calgary, you'd have to find them first - which likely means a trip to their campaign "war room" in Ottawa (or wherever the heck it is).

This is not acceptable democracy - but then anybody who has been paying attention will have long ago realized that democracy is not what Harper really practices.

However, at least some of the media are catching on to big daddy's muzzled campaign:

Tory candidates have obligation to share views

But then again, I can sort of see Harper's point - when you have candidates out there like Rob Anders, Maurice Vellacott, Ken Epp and no doubt plenty of others, letting them open their mouths might just horrify enough people to convince the public that they don't want to be governed by a bunch of TheoCons.

H/T: Cathie From Canada

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Find These Criminals! NOW!

The events in Toronto this weekend are nothing more than an outright assault on the very notion of democracy.

Toronto police patrolled a midtown area overnight, after vandals cut brake lines on at least 10 cars parked at homes with Liberal election signs on their lawns.

"We're investigating. Officers are paying special attention to the designated area and we take this very seriously," Staff-Sgt. Shawn Meloche, from 53 Division, said last night. "This is a danger to life as well as to property. Regardless of the motivation – and there appears to be a connection (to the signs) – this is a public safety issue."

Affected residents live in the riding of St. Paul's, in a swath of the city around Eglinton Ave. between Bathurst St. and Mount Pleasant Rd., and had Carolyn Bennett signs on their property. Although Meloche confirmed 10 cases of vandalism last night, Liberal riding headquarters said the number was going up, reporting 14 by 9 p.m

I've seen people in Alberta think that it is "fun" to kick over campaign signs for anything other than a Conservative candidate, but sabotaging vehicles is far, far beyond anything even remotely acceptable.

This is nothing less than an attempt on people's lives - apparently for having the gall to declare the political believes publicly.

Whoever did this should be prosecuted not only for vandalism and endangering people's lives but also for attempting to subvert democracy itself.

If they are affiliated with any political party, the party involved should also be held accountable.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Economics and the Ideology of Deep Integration

If you have been paying attention, there's an active movement afoot to tie Canada to the United States often called 'Deep Integration'. Think of it as Free Trade only with serious implications for Canada's sovereignty in many ways.

The HarperCon$ have been big on this for years - in fact they'd like to go a step or two further. Now, consider the current economic mess in the United States for a moment. It's not pretty, is it? So, someone explain to me Harper's utter lack of policy - or even proposals - to protect Canadians?

There's no policy there because doing anything would fly in the face of one of the tenets of Harper's ideological dogma. I'll take Dion's ideas over Harper's absenteeism on this one - even if Dion's ideas are incomplete.

Leader's Debate ... Impressions

Last night, Canada experienced its political leaders arguing with each other in English.

I won't claim I listened to all of it - the leaders' debates are seldom effective tools unless one or more of the parties has a leader that is a good debater...and none of our current leaders hold such promise.

This was a more orderly, civil debate than some I've seen in the past, but that's about all I will give it. (Was that a result of Elizabeth May sitting at the table? Hard to say)

My basic impressions of the leaders:

Harper: Two things stood out for me with Harper. One, he refused to be accountable for his government's lack of action in key areas. Two, he continued his "but ... but ... the Liberals' whinge instead of actually having a platform of policy.

Layton: This guy's so desperate for the keys to Stornoway that he spent half his time attacking Harper, and half his time sounding like he was in Harper's pocket. Creepy and greasy.

Dion: I thought he did better than I had expected for the most part. That may be a case of exceeding low expectations, I'm not sure.

Duceppe: If the man wasn't a separatist, he'd actually be a serious contender for the keys to 24 Sussex. He is by far the most articulate of the bunch and he thinks fast on his feet. Pity that his brand of politics is purely Quebec centric.

May: I'm sorry to say it, but I thought she was disappointing. Too much time setting the evidence out, not enough making her point. Perhaps next time she'll do better.

The debate itself told me a lot - fundamentally, what it boils down to is the Conservatives are running a campaign that boils down to not saying anything substantive. The party has not made its policy platform known - which given this bunch means that they know that Canadians would be horrified by it.

I won't say that I'm impressed with any of the parties at the moment - it's going to be a case of casting my vote where I'm least disgusted.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wondering Why Conservative Candidates Are So Quiet?

The silence of the HarperCon$ has been deafening. Except for big daddy opening his mouth to pollute the air, Conservative candidates have individually been just about non-existent in Calgary. (With the possible exception of Prentice - and I suspect he's speaking only with special dispensation from his masters).

Then we get Rob Anders making comments off the record:

Rob Anders' political views are again coming under fire, as a local lawyer and humanitarian said the Calgary West Conservative told her he believes that Canadian diplomacy and humanitarian work should focus on changing outsiders' language to English and faith to Christianity.

Coming from Anders, this isn't terribly surprising - it's not like he's ever exhibited anything resembling an understanding of tact, much less diplomacy.

"If anybody in the world saw or heard that the MP in my riding was saying that he thought humanitarian agencies should go out and change religions, I am at personal risk and so are the volunteers that get on the plane and go do this work," said Kennedy-Glans, founder of Calgary-based Bridges Social Development.

Which is precisely the point that we should be thinking about - statements like Anders' will reverberate when they become public. The consequences for others could be quite serious - especially if they are in countries that are sensitive to the notion of 'Christian Crusade'.

In an interview Tuesday, Anders said her accusations misconstrue his position, noting he's regularly donated his time and money to helping Tibetan organizations, which practice a different religion and speak a foreign language.

The classic "but some of my best friends are ..." defense. It still doesn't change the underlying bigotry and arrogance of the statements.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

More on CCSB and HPV Vaccination

Remember the Calgary RC School Board refusing to allow HPV vaccination in their schools? Well, it seems that Bishop Henry has chosen to respond:

Bishop Henry said the Catholic bishops of Alberta are concerned not only about the harmful side-effects associated with the vaccine, but very particularly about the conflicting message the vaccination program sends to young girls about chastity and sexual promiscuity and about putting schools in a position of "grave moral compromise."

"Catholic teaching is that sexuality is a God-given gift that should be reserved to marriage," they said in a press release in June, warning parents that consenting to this vaccination was condoning pre-marital sex.

I do not believe these people. Dogma rules all for them, reality be damned.

This vacant claim that providing HPV protection (even if it is incomplete) has nothing to do with "conflicting messages" about chastity - it is about PREVENTING DISEASE. No more, and no less.

This so-called "moral" stance is nothing more than an extension of the usual RC Church's view of female sexuality (namely that it should never be seen, heard or thought of, lest it lead one into "sin" - of course, we'll ignore the fact that the whole perspective is so male-focused it's pathetic)

While I agree that there are long term questions around the HPV vaccine in terms of effectiveness and potential side effects, that's quite a different discussion, and strikes me as little more than an attempt to make an irrational decision sound like it is based on something rational.

What is offensive here is that Bishop Henry - a man who will never have or raise children by his own vows - thinks he can decide for all Catholic parents what to do in this matter.

But then again, one only has to look at the kind of moralizing idiocy around female dress to understand how clueless these people can actually be:

Many women hope that in dressing provocatively men will find them attractive and desirable, with a view to a lasting relationship. In reality, however, few, if any, men view a scantily clad young woman walking down the street and gape after her with thoughts like, "What a beautiful girl, I wish I could marry her."

A paragraph that could only be written by a man - and one who is obviously quite clueless about women ... a state which he seems to share with Bishop Henry.

Dear Voters:

If a Harper-led majority worries you today, what makes you think "it won't be so bad"?

It's not like Harper doesn't have a track record of deceit and hypocrisy since 2006 - if that doesn't make you uneasy, it should. I still don't think he's being up front with Canadians about his agenda - the squirming base of theo-cons in that party speak otherwise, as does his explicit support of Ken Epp's terminally dishonest bill C-484.

If your heart is telling you that a Harper majority is a worry, then listen to it, and vote accordingly.

Ken Chapman has some interesting comments on Harper on his blog.

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...