Wednesday, April 29, 2009

That Is No Apology

There is an enormous difference between expressing sympathy for the plight that someone else has experienced, and the kind of apology that acknowledges the role that one (or ones organization) had in that situation.

Vatican Press Release:

...the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity. His Holiness emphasized that acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society. He prayed that all those affected would experience healing, and he encouraged First Nations Peoples to continue to move forward with renewed hope.

"Sorrow" is not the same thing as accepting responsibility and taking ownership of what happened. But then, coming from this Pope, I don't suppose I have any right to be surprised - he seems to have a knack for picking the wrong thing to do.

Residential schools are a particularly shameful chapter in Canada's past, and most of the parties who played a role in it have formally apologized - except for the Vatican. It is disappointing indeed to see the Pope failing to take any kind of ownership over the role of the Roman Catholic Church in that era.

So ... Where's The Outrage From CPoC Supporters?

It was only a few months ago that the HarperCon$ were running about telling us about the evils of an "illegitimate coalition" government.

Now, we find a Conservative/NDP/Bloc coalition forming up.

So, CPoC supporters, which is it? Are you going to express your outrage at a possible Conservative/NDP/Bloc coalition, or are you going to admit to gross hypocrisy?

Alberta Amendments To Human Rights Code Tabled

I see that Blackett has tabled Bill 44, his overhaul of the Alberta Human Rights law.

It's not as awful as I was expecting. Some of what I had heard Blackett musing about in past weeks sounded suspiciously like a resurrection of Morton's private member's bill of 2006. However, relatively little of that seems to have survived the initial drafting of the legislation.

As required by the Vriend ruling of 1998, the province will at long last include sexual orientation in its human rights legislation explicitly, instead of being a court-ordered read-in.

Other than that, the only thing that Blackett included from Morton's bill 208 is an explicit parental exemption if certain subjects are being taught in classrooms. (and it is a comparatively limited exemption).

Notice to parent or guardian
11.1(1) A board as defined in the School Act shall provide
notice to a parent or guardian of a student where courses of
study, educational programs or instructional materials, or
instruction or exercises, prescribed under that Act include
subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or
sexual orientation.
(2) Where a teacher or other person providing instruction,
teaching a course of study or educational program or using the
instructional materials referred to in subsection (1) receives a
written request signed by a parent or guardian of a student that
the student be excluded from the instruction, course of study,
educational program or use of instructional materials, the
teacher or other person shall in accordance with the request of
the parent or guardian and without academic penalty permit the
(a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction,
course of study or educational program is taking place or
the instructional materials are being used for the duration
of the part of the instruction, course of study or
educational program, or the use of the instructional
materials, that includes the subject-matter referred to in
subsection (1), or
(b) to remain in the classroom or place without taking part
in the instruction, course of study or educational
program or using the instructional materials.

In some respects, I'm actually a little surprised by the modest breadth of this set of changes. There's been more than a little agitation for more drastic changes to the legislation, and the summary of the government's rationale, especially with respect to Section 3 is surprisingly in line with my own concerns about simply striking that from the legislation.

I'm quite sure that as I breathe a bit of a sigh of relief that this legislation is not as odious as it could have been, that Ezra Levant is near apoplexy right now.

Why Don't I Believe This?

Somehow, I find the doctor's testimony suspect:

“In Mr. Dziekanski's death, we know his [heart stopping] was not immediate, we know he had an adequate cardiac rhythm for a number of minutes following exposure to Taser,” said Dr. Swerdlow, who works at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles and also teaches at the University of California.

“So nothing here fits with direct cardiac electrical stimulation.”

Dr. Swerdlow also said that if the heart is affected by electrical current, the resulting heartbeat would be either too fast or irregular. The first time anyone noticed anything wrong with Mr. Dziekanski's heart was when firefighters arrived and found he had no pulse at all.

... and just what do we know about Dr. Swerdlow?

A cardiology expert paid by the company that makes Tasers told a public inquiry Tuesday he doesn't think Robert Dziekanski's death was at all related to the controversial stun guns.

Uh huh. So, this is one of the people Taser pays to claim that their weapon is "harmless". That's like going to a doctor paid by the tobacco company for an explanation of the relationship between lung cancer and tobacco smoke.

There have been far too many deaths occurring after people have been assaulted with these things for me to buy that there is "no connection" between their death and the jolt the Taser delivers. Once or twice is coincidence, after that we have to start getting suspicious.

Not being an MD myself, I can only speculate on how a Taser might cause death some minutes later. However, we know that electrical discharges can cause all sorts of problems with various parts of the nervous system and like all complex systems, the nervous system doesn't necessarily respond immediately or as we might have initially predicted.

For now, I think that Tasers should be treated by law enforcement with the same caution that firearms are.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Demonstrating Liepert's Arrogance and Ignorance

Oh, this is a real gem. It seems that Stelmach has had to apologize on behalf of a cabinet minister who has once again overstepped his boundaries.

On Thursday, Health Minister Ron Liepert dismissed the concerns raised by NDP Leader Brian Mason. Like Liberal Leader David Swann and Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor, Mason was physically stopped from entering Government House as Liepert announced details of a new seniors' drug program.

"I'll speak to cabinet on Tuesday just to get the message very clear," Stelmach said. "I'm sorry for that. I can only apologize now. I'm not putting the blame on anybody."

"Not putting the blame on anybody"? What kind of apology is this? Liepert has grossly overstepped his boundaries and his authority. The man thinks he is above everybody else, and he responsible to no one. He's so scared of actually having to answer questions that he orders security to keep the opposition MLAs out of his news conference? That's beyond disrespectful to the MLAs, it's a direct attack on the very notion of democracy. (such as it exists in Alberta these days)

It's Called Responsibility, PMSH

So, in the wake of getting thoroughly spanked for failing to carry out its responibilties, the HarperCon$ are plotting an appeal of the court ruling which obliges them to actually take steps to repatriate a Canadian citizen that has been allowed to rot in Guantanamo Bay for the last several years.

A day after a federal judge ordered the Harper government to seek Omar Khadr's repatriation, Canada's foreign affairs minister went on the offensive by telling the House of Commons that young terror suspect stands accused of "building and planting explosive devices" that killed soldiers in Afghanistan.

Uh huh. I'm sure the evidence for this is so amazingly reliable.

I'll give Canada's politicians a hint - the issue is not what Khadr did or did not do in Afghanistan. It's about Canada's obligations to its citizens, at home and abroad. It's about the international conventions that Canada is signatory to - such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ... among others.

... and lastly, it's about truth and justice. Holding someone illegally for 7 years, subjecting them to torture and putting them before a faux court system is hardly just - and we all know how relaible testimony from torture is.

I don't have to like the Khadr family's past to recognize the grave injustice that has been done to Omar Khadr. That Harper's government wishes to prolong this farce is a condemnation of conservative ideology in Canada.

Friday, April 24, 2009

This Is Interesting ...

Okay, the Alberta Human Rights Commission has quite a few human rights complaints from transsexuals sitting on its desk now. Fair enough.

However, if the writer over at the UofC's Law School Faculty blog "ABlawg" is any indication, Blackett may have tipped his hand:

Lindsay Blackett (Minister of Culture and Community Spirit) is said to have made the following comment: “We have a slightly different process, and we have slightly different value systems and a way of thinking in Alberta, and since most of the people on our commission are from Alberta, they may look at it a little differently then Ontarians do.”

The post's author then goes on to speculate on the various ways that Blackett could attempt to interfere in the process of the AHRC:

For example, will members of the Human Rights and Citizenship Commission be fearful that their salaries will be in jeopardy if they permit these complaints to proceed to a hearing, given that remuneration for the chief commissioner and other members of the Commission are prescribed by the Minister (see s. 15(4) HRCMA))?

What does Blackett’s statement portend for the Alberta government’s current review of our human rights legislation, and the argument that discrimination on the basis of being transgendered should be included in proposed amendments to the HRCMA?

Second, Blackett’s comment suggests that there is a “different value system” and “way of thinking” in Alberta. This suggestion of some sort of monolithic Alberta value system runs contrary to the HRCMA itself, ...

Third, even if there is a relatively conservative mindset in this province compared to some others (like Ontario), this is precisely why we have human rights legislation. Individuals who belong to minority or disadvantaged groups, such as the transgendered (who, it must be said, are not themselves a monolithic group), require the protection of human rights legislation to ensure that they are not subjected to the tyranny of the majority. Again, the preamble of the HRCMA is instructive ...

If the author's speculations are true, then transsexuals in Alberta are going to be fighting a long, ugly battle with the government. (Repeat of Vriend, perhaps?)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Michael Coren: Adding New Depth To Sexism

I don't care much for Michael Coren has to say on good days. Most days, I just try to ignore him.

Then he writes something as utterly offensive as this.

So Canada sacrifices another victim on the altar of equality.

Last week a young girl dressed up as a soldier died in the increasingly futile and pointless war in Afghanistan. She was 21 years old, had been in the country for two weeks on her first tour of duty and probably weighed a little over 100 pounds.

Let's start with the basic offensiveness of Coren's wording. Karine Blais was not "playing" at being a soldier, so the phrase "dressed up as" is not only wrong, it's denigrating. The implication being that a woman can never be a soldier. Never mind that Ms. Blais had to go through the same Basic Training that everyone of her male counterparts had to, and probably could have quite cheerfully laid Mr. Coren's flabby, middle-aged paunchiness out in about 2 seconds - unarmed.

Yes, yes, yes, I know it's fundamentally anti-Canadian to say this but I'd prefer to articulate the views of the silent majority than hide behind some modernist fetish that places more importance on the myth of absolute equality than the safety of a girl who should be laughing with college friends rather than fighting theocratic madmen.

You know, Mr. Coren? You aren't part of any "silent majority" here. You are part of a very small minority that still pines for some idealized notion of the nuclear family, and in particular women's role in that. You want someone who is waiting at home for you after a hard day at work, ready to soothe whatever ails you.

It is beyond insulting to Ms. Blais' memory for you to insist that she should be at college. Remember, she chose to join the army (just I chose not to years ago). Whether she had plans to go to college after a few years in the military or not, only she and her family know that - and it's irrelevant to you anyways.

What Mr. Coren doesn't recognize here is that Karine had the right to make the choice to join the military. It wasn't so long ago that she wouldn't have had such a choice at all.

On the "altar of equality", as Mr. Coren puts it, we have but one word - choice. Gender equality is about having the right to choose one's own path in the world, regardless of being born male or female. If that means the right for women to choose to take on combat roles in the military, so be it - just as it also grants the right for men to choose to become stay-at-home parents.

If captured, of course, such a woman would be repeatedly raped. And tortured. Again, I'm not meant to say this. Not Canadian, not CBC, not Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Not the sort of thing we're supposed to feel, so we pretend that men and women in the army, police and fire service are given the same tests and have to fulfil the same requirements. Yet truth still breaks through.

Oh, how nice of Mr. Coren. He's trying to protect Ms. Blais from the horrible fate that would await her should she be captured by the enemy. Is he really so thick between the ears that he believes she didn't think about that risk? The risk of rape and sexual assault is everywhere, Mr. Coren. Women know about it, and live with it every day of their lives.

Mr. Coren has only demonstrated his complete ignorance of what has happened since WWII in this part of the world. That he takes such a snide, paternal tone in his article serves but to reinforce the impression that he lusts after a social ideal that never has, and never will exist.

The Law Applies To Government As Well...

I see that once again, it's taken a judge to get Harper to actually obey the law in Canada, and in particular with respect to Canadians held abroad.

What is it with Conservatives that make them think that their ideology renders them exempt from the moral and ethical obligations that a government has to its citizens?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Small Justice Moments

Once in a while, the world manages to see through the nastiness and intellectual dishonesty that so often appears in courtroom trials.

Today, the jury in the Angie Zapata murder trial delivered guilty verdicts on all charges.

"Hearing 'guilty on first-degree murder' and 'guilty of bias-motivated crime' was a hugely emotional experience for all the family, friends and the supporters of Angie," Barton added.

Considering that the defense was trying to recycle a "blame the victim" strategy, it is a major relief to see the jury toss that evil little strategy onto the midden heap.

Andrade admitted killing Zapata, but his defense argued that he acted in the heat of passion after discovering that Zapata was biologically male. The defense asked for a lesser verdict, such as second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors referred to Zapata as "she," while the defense referred to the transgender teen as "he."

"When [Andrade] met him, he met him as 'Angie,' " defense attorney Annette Kundelius argued on Wednesday. "When he found out it wasn't 'Angie,' that it was 'Justin,' he lost control."

But the jury rejected the argument, deciding in favor of prosecutors, who argued that Andrade knew Zapata was biologically male and that knowledge motivated the crime.

"This was an ambush attack," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Robb Miller. "This was an all-out blitz."

Zapata was "born in a boy's body but living as a female," added Miller. "Ultimately, she was murdered because of it."

To the jury: Thank you for seeing through the defense and convicting Andrade for the evil crimes he committed.

To the prosecution: Thank you for treating the victim with dignity, and respecting her memory. Above all, thank you for pursuing this case to its just end.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Is Why It's Called "Systemic Discrimination"

I see yet another bright bulb in the Stelmach cabinet has just demonstrated the utter cluelessness that seems to pervade this bunch of politicians when it comes to treating other people with respect.

There is no reason to change the definition of spouse in the benefit plan for government employees, an Alberta cabinet minister in charge of human resources said Monday.

"I don't see the problem," Treasury Board president Lloyd Snelgrove said.

A booklet distributed to civil servants last spring defined a spouse as someone of the opposite sex. Gay and lesbian couples who are married are called "benefit partners" in the same document, even though same-sex marriage has been legal in Alberta since July 2005.

But Snelgrove said the government gives all employees equal coverage, so he has no intention of changing the definition of spouse to include people in same-sex marriages.

"Now if the government as a whole decides that they want to review terminology around a spouse, that's a little bigger thing because I would imagine there's more departments [like] justice that would use that same definition," he said.

You don't see the problem, Snelgrove? You are either blind, have never actually looked at the wording, or your brain is still paralyzed from the cabinet session where Liepert convinced to cut funding for GRS in this province!

Legally, those two people are married. The term spouse applies to them just as much as it does to Mr. Snelgrove and his wife. Assuming, of course, that Mr. Snelgrove is married.

The fact that "benefits partner" implicitly creates a second class of benefit management is one problem; the fact that it will be seen as an implicit form of hostility by any GLBT members of the civil service is another.

That an Alberta politician from the current governing party doesn't understand this is no surprise. It's not like reality bothers them much at all.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Systemic Discrimination - A Textbook Example

One of my sore points about delisting GRS in Alberta is that it further exposes transsexuals to all kinds of systemic discrimination - whether that is additional scrutiny at a traffic stop because the gender marker on the license doesn't match the appearance, or passing through customs when travelling doesn't matter. This is a source of additional stress in a form that only compounds the stresses (internal and external) that a transsexual experiences during transition.

Well, it seems that even though Alberta has been forced to recognize same sex marriages, within the government there is still considerable denial.

Scott Mair, who used to work for Children's Services, says that according to a booklet he received in May 2008, Mair's husband is not his spouse, he is his "benefit partner."

"This is what our government has put out for its own employees," Mair said. "Clearly discriminatory. Absolutely disgusting, and they're telling me that my marriage doesn't mean anything.

"To me it was systematic bullying and hatred that we've seen consistently through the Alberta government."

It may seem at first that I am conflating two unrealted issues. However, I am not doing so. Systemic discrimination is often subtle, delivered in terms of words and subtext messages. The fact that the Alberta Government is still using different language when it talks about same-sex spouses in communicating with its employees is neither surprising, nor is it acceptable. It sends a message that a same-sex spouse is "different" than an opposite sex spouse, yet in law (which is what matters here), there is no difference in Canada. This duality of language is unnecessary.

Again, as with delisting GRS recently, this sends a message to those it is aimed at - "The government doesn't value you, go live elsewhere".

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Burning Stupid: Colby Cosh Edition

I see that the bird cage liner called National Post decided to publish Colby Cosh's commentary on the Alberta Government's delisting of GRS.

Given where it's published, I don't exactly expect much out of Cosh's article, but it's so painfully obvious that he hasn't even done the most basic of research.

Starting off with the following:

Well, as it happens, they don’t; the only other province that was hitherto covering the whole tab was Liberal Ontario, which agreed to do so only after a human rights commission ruckus in 2008. This is dead wrong. Ontario is not the only government to pay for GRS. According to CPATH, as of 2008, the following provinces provided some degree of coverage for GRS: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland/Labrador.

There is a strong bioethical case against the very existence of surgical gender reassignment, not that most members of the newly empowered caste of professional bioethicists would ever dare advance it. (Indeed, that there is not a louder debate about gender reassignment suggests that bioethicists are a virtually useless species.) The case against is usually made by Catholics, but nothing about it depends on any religious premise. It boils down to this: Gender reassignment constitutes the irreversible surgical mutilation of a healthy body — and thus violates the traditional prime directive of medicine — in the effort to correct a delusion, one which may be reversible.

Oh brother. I've heard this bunch of trash before - a few dozen times. Unfortunately, what Cosh fails to understand is that the very reason that WPATH exists today, and that Gender Identity Disorder is seen as distinct from psychological delusion is that it has long since been demonstrated that transsexuals are clearly NOT delusionary:

In Schizophrenia, there may rarely be delusions of belonging to the other sex. Insistence by a person with Gender Identity Disorder that he or she is of the other sex is not considered a delusion, because what is invariably meant is that the person feels like a member of the other sex rather than truly believes that he or she is a member of the other sex.

Of course, Cosh continues down his misguided path and gets even more wrong. This time by criticizing the evidence for GRS:

What is needed in the field of gender reassignment, as papers in that field point out ad nauseam, are prospective studies with randomized controls. So far, there don’t seem to have been any. One non-randomized study containing just 40 GID patients has been recycled with almost comic frequency.

Ummm...yeah...right Cosh. Of course you don't even bother to cite the paper you are referring to. I'll accept the criticism that most studies have very small numbers of participants - given the infrequency of the condition itself, this should come as no real surprise.

However, I will point you to Pfaefflin et. al., a survey paper that spans over thirty years of surgery and follow-up studies. It's amazing how consistent the findings are.

In other words, no scientific claim about the therapeutic appropriateness of gender reassignment is possible.

Bull. As commenters DianeG and Zoe in the National Post article point out, there is tons of scientific evidence both for the validity of transsexualism as a condition, as well as the effectiveness of Therapy, Real Life Experience, Hormones AND SURGERY in helping transsexuals overcome their challenges.

But then, writers like Cosh are among the primary reasons I call the National Post birdcage liner.

The Wingnuts Heard The Dog Whistle In The Budget

I said cutting GRS funding was a dog whistle for the fundies.

Sure enough, as if to make my point for me, the following letter appeared in the Edmonton Journal:

Why don't we consider delisting abortions? Surely in this enlightened day, no baby should suffer annihilation just because the timing is wrong, or because proper birth control was not used. How many abortions are performed in Alberta each year, and how much do they cost taxpayers? I am not questioning abortion where the health of the mother or baby is at risk. But Alberta could be a leader in delisting this abhorrent medical procedure.

Judy Buddle, Edmonton

I'd hardly say that this comes as a surprise per se; although I still think it has more to do with a proposed series of amendments to the Alberta Human Rights legislation the Lindsay Blackett has been working on for quite some time.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Positive Commentary From A Place I'd Not Expect

In particular, a columnist for the Edmonton Sun who goes by the name Yukon Jack, covers the GRS issue in terms anyone can understand:

OK, Johnny Hetero, roll with me on this one. You wake up tomorrow morning and all of a sudden you're a woman.

Everything about you mentally, emotionally is male.

You like to fight, spit, swear, drive truck, crush beers and belch.

You are a man ... man.

But physically you are a woman. Well, after a week of playing with your boobs, it would be terrible.

Your life would be ruined. There would be no getting used to it.

You would suffer depression, anxiety and stress about everything you ever do, and would have difficulty keeping a job.

Well, for a bargain basement price of between 17 and 70 grand the provincial government can fix that. Well, they could have, but not any more.

In an attempt to save 700 grand annually, Alberta Health and Wellness will discontinue sex-change operations.

"Why should we pay for something that can't be proven? Prove you shoulda been a woman?"

Why don't you prove that you're clinically depressed and not just lazy. We pay for that.

These people are not gay. They don't get their jollies in fishnet stockings and lipstick. This isn't a Thai Lady Boy.

Aside from the the obvious, they're normal people. They're not flamboyant, they're not confused, they're broken and we can fix 'em for dirt cheap.

This isn't cosmetic. A nose job, boob job, lipo, botox or collagen. This isn't something they've done to themselves, like lung-cancer-smoker guy, or severe-head-wound-quad-riding guy, liver-disease-alchoholic guy, or tanning-salon-skin-cancer girl.

If Bobby Bigot wants to make this a taxpayer issue ... news flash. They pay taxes. They pay into Alberta Health Care.

In the meantime ... I'll just shut my big yap.

Oh Really?

So, Alberta's Minister of Health is starting to blink in the face of protest.

On the same day seniors protested a government overhaul of Alberta's Blue Cross drug coverage, Health Minister Ron Liepert said he hopes to announce changes to the proposed plan in the coming weeks.

Uh huh. Notice that Liepert still seems to think he can kick transsexuals under the bus. What he's really doing is making it even more clear that his delisting of GRS is an act of blatant discrimination.

... and inevitably the terminally uncreative conservatives in Alberta are falling back on their old false savings vehicle, Public Private Partnerships - you know, those wonderful arrangements where the taxpayer pays for the building, the operating costs of it and a landlord's profits for the first 25 years of the building's life.

The Pope, Condoms and Next Generation Media

Apparently the Vatican has its feelings all hurt by the coverage of the Pope's anti-condom remarks on a recent trip to Africa.

It said the remarks had been "used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the Pope from expressing himself on certain themes of obvious moral relevance and from teaching the Church's doctrine."

Apparently, the Pope thinks that condemning people to a slow death as a result of ignorance is "moral".

It's time that this pope realize that in the era of the Internet, news travels fast, and the daft ramblings of an old man in a cassock will be picked up on even faster - especially when they are so obviously rooted in dogma rather than the reality on the ground.

H/T: Canadian Cynic

Friday, April 17, 2009

Don Braid On Liepert's Future

I know I've written quite a bit recently about the Alberta Government's delisting of Gender Reassignment Surgery.

However, Liepert's mendacious plan for Alberta's Medicare system affects all Albertans.

Don Braid chronicles it, and it's not pretty.

Blame The Victim: Angie Zapata Edition

The defense in this case makes me sick.

But an attorney for Allen Andrade said the case is about the woman's deception and Andrade's reaction to that deception, not whether Angie Zapata's lifestyle was right or wrong.

"This girl that he had just spent the last day with, was in fact a man, and Allen snapped," defense attorney Bradley Martin declared in opening statements.

Oh yes, the "trans-panic" defense (a variation on what's been used to justify beating GLBT people to death for years) It's the most intellectually vacuous excuse making I've ever seen - especially when it's murder.

Accusing the victim of "deception" hardly justifies a murderous response under any circumstances. If you are so fragile that learning someone is transgender is a threat to you equivalent to having a gun pointed at you, then perhaps you shouldn't be trying to date people yet.

The defense argument is ridiculous and offensive. To accuse a transsexual of being "deceitful" for living their life is beyond offensive, it demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the transition process itself, and the WPATH standards of care which clearly obliges the transitioning person to live at least a full year in their chosen gender before they are candidates for Gender Reassignment Surgery.

Nieto showed jurors partial transcripts of tape-recorded jail calls in which Andrade allegedly told his girlfriend that he "snapped" and that "gay things need to die."

In another transcript, Andrade downplays the slaying. "It's not like I went up to a school teacher and shot her in the head, or killed a straight law-abiding citizen," he said in the transcript.

Martin said the jail calls were taken out of context as Andrade joked with his girlfriend about a crime he knew he didn't commit.

"Taken out of context" - ah yes, the excuse of politicians everywhere. In this case, the excuse of a murderer trying to justify to himself his own actions.

Let me be very, very clear here. Murder is murder. You cannot justify it based on some ridiculous excuse like "I panicked because she was transsexual". There is no way that someone being transsexual poses that much of a threat to anybody.

If the judge allows this defense to prevail, it will be open season on transsexuals across America. Sadly, this kind of defense is being used because it has been successful before - when it had no right to be.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Hope This Is A Trend ...

Conservatives slipping in the polls

Fortunes have shifted substantially for Stephen Harper's Conservatives since December, with Michael Ignatieff's Liberals enjoying an upsurge, says a new poll from EKOS released exclusively to CBC News.

Asked which party they would support if an election were held tomorrow, 36.7 opted for the Liberals while 30.2 per cent chose the Conservatives. About 15.5 per cent supported the NDP, while the Green party was the choice of 8.1 per cent and the Bloc Québécois was backed by 9.4 per cent.

If that support translates into votes at the polling both, puts the Con$ firmly in opposition territory.

Harper has an approval rating of 91 per cent among decided Conservative voters, although he only has a rating of 14 per cent among Liberal voters, 18 per cent among NDP voters, 28 per cent among Greens and 10 per cent among Bloc voters.

"There's a vivid gap between the Conservative base, who are very happy with the general direction of the country, and everyone else," Graves said.

Graves added that the reverse doesn't apply for Ignatieff.

The man who has been Liberal leader for almost four months has approval ratings of 33 per cent among Conservative supporters, as well as a rating of 80 per cent among self-identified Liberals. Ignatieff also fares high among other party supporters — he has a rating of 34 among NDP voters, 44 among Greens and 47 among Bloc voters.

What this really says is that outside of the rabid conservative "base", Harper is universally disliked (surprise, surprise), and he is making Ignatieff look like a very good alternative - for all of his flaws.

How Convenient ...

A little more than a week after arbitrarily axing GRS from the AHCIP, we now hear the inevitable excuse of the Alberta conservative - It's Ottawa's Fault.

A sick Albertan is just as sick as a sick Quebecer or sick Ontarian, Premier Ed Stelmach said Thursday.

As the province continues to evaluate delisting health care services, Stelmach echoed his health minister's concern Alberta is being short-changed by the federal government to the tune of $700 million.

"We're going to work very hard to get the (money) from the federal government," he said Thursday following a public library announcement in downtown Edmonton. "We can't carry the country. All we're asking for is respect."

My, my. What a predictable tactic. Even when the government in Ottawa is dominated by Albertans, the default excuse for Alberta's politicians when their financial ineptitude is revealed is to start pointing fingers at Ottawa. It has happened time and again ever since Don Getty replaced Peter Lougheed.

"We're a government that's looking forward long-term," Stelmach said. "If we maintain the same cost increases annually in one department, then health expenses will far outstrip and be the dominant operational part of government."

He emphasized the province will work "collectively with Albertans" to find a balance.

Uh huh. Like you worked "collectively" with Alberta's transsexuals in deciding to axe medical treatment? This is a government which has its priorities completely awry, and is hiding their agenda.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So Now He's Assembling an "Experts Panel"

As if I needed more evidence to confirm my belief that Stelmach/Liepert's decision to delist GRS was done out of spite and malice, we now have Liepert musing about forming an experts panel to evaluate further cuts.

So ... Liepert felt completely qualified to delist anything to do with transsexuals - after all who would possibly want that ?!? ... and now he wants to consider what else should be delisted, so he's going to form an advisory panel.

Brilliant move, Mr. Liepert. Alberta's transsexuals are going to have a field day with that one when your earlier decision about GRS gets hauled up ... not unlike happened in Ontario a few years ago.

First they came for the transsexuals ... did you speak up? What happens when they come to you and yours?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

In Today's Alberta QP

We get to see up close and personal the kind of thinking that Minister Liepert thinks is a perfectly good excuse for axing programs.

His response to very direct questions from opposition MLA's Kent Hehr, Lori Blakeman and Rachel Notley with regards to cutting Gender Reassignment Surgery funding from the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan boils down to "well, we cut other things too".

Streaming Video Feed

Of Note:
Kent Hehr @ 11:15 has a great statement on the GRS topic
Lori Blakeman @ 25:00 takes Minister Liepert to task
Rachel Notley @ 51:00 similarly takes on Minister Liepert.

Why yes, yes they did. What else did they decide to cut? Well, let's start with the $200 subsidy for chiropractic care - this primarily affects seniors who are on limited, fixed incomes. Then he announced that they defunded a youth suicide prevention program. Brilliant - it's not like youth have any real political voice to begin with, and goodness knows Mr. Liepert couldn't give a fig if a few more troubled teens attempt to take their lives. After all, a dead teen doesn't cost the health care system any money, do they? Do I really need to point out how common suicide attempts are among transgender youth?

While I am sure that some of the programs that Liepert axed aren't medically necessary by any measure, I do know that GRS is deemed medically necessary for severe cases of Gender Identity Disorder. That is one of the key distinctions between it and some of the other cuts that Liepert has referred to.

When I look at a health care system whose overseers - the "superboard" - can afford to vote themselves a 25% pay hike in the midst of a recession, I can only say that Minister Liepert is looking in the wrong places for "efficiencies". He could save far more than $700,000 I'm sure - and I'm not even going to guess how much it will cost the government to defend its decision against the inevitable challenges to their delisting of GRS.

Liepert thinks that GRS is "healthcare of the 50s" - which only goes to show his gross ignorance of the history of treatment for transsexuals. If he wants to build a health care system for the 21st century, it's time that he realized that includes all Albertans, not just those that Mr. Liepert approves of.

Alberta's government has lost sight of its basic humanity.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Congratulations To Susan Stanton

Remember Susan Stanton? She was fired from her job as a city manager in Florida for daring to transition on the job.

Well, it's been a long two years for her since, but She has just landed a new job with the city of Lake Worth, FL.

I hope that the city of Largo Fl is hanging its head in shame today.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Dog Whistles

I see that Alberta's "PC's" are busy pandering to their base.

The recent delisting of Gender Reassignment Surgery cannot be even close to actual, meaningful cost cutting.

Consider the following:

Cutting the service will save Alberta Health and Wellness about $700,000 each year out of its $12.9-billion budget.

So, in cutting GRS from the budget, the province saves a grand total of 0.005% of the total health care budget. Anybody with a grain of sense understands that in a budget of billions, that amount is pocket change - it's nothing more than margin of error.

This is not cost savings in any meaningful sense - this is the Stelmach Tories playing to the "base" - the same bunch of ignorant clods that PMSH plays to when he accuses Ignatieff of lacking a moral compass (an absolutely nonsensical statement, really, but coming from PMSH, not one that surprises me).

It's becoming all too clear that Ted Morton has far more influence than he should have at Stelmach's cabinet table - or either that, Stelmach is just as hostile to anything he doesn't understand.

Cutting GRS is not responsible budgeting, it's pandering - and it's done at the expense of people that they don't think can hit back.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Transsexuals In Alberta To Bear The Brunt of Liepert's Mendacity

Apparently, in Alberta, being a transsexual also means that it's your fault that the "Health Superboard" is in the hole to the tune of a little over $1 billion dollars for fiscal 2008.

Calgary Herald:

Today's budget also eliminates "gender reassignment" surgery, meaning it will no longer pay for Albertans to have sex change operations, saving the system about $700,000 a year.

The government hasn't simply reduced the number of procedures that they pay for, or the proportion that they will pay. No, in this case, they have axed it outright. This puts a lot of people into really awkward straights. Not all transsexuals have the kind of professional income that would allow them to pay that cost out of their own pocket - in fact relatively few do.

Similarly, I have to wonder at the long term costs of yanking funding for chiropractic care. Who is going to be most affected by this? Seniors, who are not only on fixed incomes, but for whom chiropractic care is often a vital relief from chronic back problems.

Then we find Liepert bragging about this:

The province's superboard received a modest increase in funding of about $550 million, bringing its budget to $7.7 billion.

"We are maintaining our spending from last year and are also able to give Alberta Health Services an increase," said Health Minister Ron Liepert, in a statement.

Think about this, while cutting $700,000 (less than 1% of the Health "Superboard" budget), the Alberta government brags about adding funding. Typical Conservative policy - when times get tough, attack the people who can do the least about it.

Oh ... That's Gotta Sting

It's a tough life for Stephen Harper. Not only is he quickly descending to depths of unpopularity not plumbed since Mulroney's era, but Mulroney himself left office with the dubious honor of being Canada's most unpopular Prime Minister.

It seems that someone in Ignatieff's office clued into the idea that Mulroney might be a wedge to divide the Conservatives:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff offered unexpected praise for Brian Mulroney Monday and criticized Stephen Harper for failing to show the veteran Tory due respect – comments calculated to exploit unprecedented public bickering in Conservative government ranks over the former prime minister.

Tory MPs and senators have been quarrelling this past week over how the Harper government is treating Mr. Mulroney as a public inquiry begins probing his dealings with businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

Actually, this is fairly decent tactics. Mulroney is spectre in most voter's minds, and his image is what will scare people - especially in Ontario. The comments also play against the Conservatives in Quebec, where Mulroney is still held in high regard by many.

“A lot of Canadians have a lot of respect for Mr. Mulroney's strengths, and you have to show some respect. It's simple. And I believe that Mr. Harper is lacking respect towards Mr. Mulroney,” Mr. Ignatieff told reporters in Calgary.

It has been no secret that the HarperCon$ have been trying desperately to distance themselves from Mulroney, and in doing so have been dividing their own ranks on parliament hill rapidly. Harper's tactics play well in Alberta - but in Alberta, it's possible to get a bale of hay elected as long it has a Conservative nomination.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Reflecting On Alberta's Democratic Deficit

Anyone who has paid attention to politics in Alberta for any length of time has to wonder aloud about how the province got into a state where it has effectively been one party rule for so long.

Today, it is virtually impossible to get elected without being some variety of Conservative, and even more depressingly, it seems as though the only alternatives that show up with any regularity are regularly even more extreme instances of right-wing politics than the current incumbents. Center and left-leaning political parties seem to be doomed to the political wilderness here - and nobody seems to really understand why this is the case.

In Alberta Views April issue, are some truly troubling letters-to-the-editor that should cause anyone living in a democracy pause.

There are two letters in particular I wish to draw your attention to:

First, is the leading letter, which discusses a movement to address some serious issues around a small, regional hospital in Beaverlodge. The author writes:

One of the organizers found a great deal of community reluctance to confront the local MLA on the issue, saying "I've encountered an immense fear within my community that sounds like this: If this debate takes place in the legislature or if we organize a grassrots movement to oppose these reforms we risk offending rural Conservative MLAs

Think about this for a moment. We are talking about MLAs - people who are duly elected to act as our representatives to the provincial government. Their duty is to their constituents first, not to the party, and certainly not to the aggrandizement of their egos. A citizen should never fear political debate in this way - the implication is that one has to curry favour with your MLA to get them to do their job? This is wrong on so many levels, and abusive to the interests of the population in general.

It tells us something of the attitude that has evolved within conservative Alberta - MLAs see themselves not as representatives to the government, but rather purveyors of the governing party's mood towards their respective ridings. A chilling thought indeed.

The second letter tells us something about the conservative attitude towards electoral democracy. It describes their experience as a scrutineer for one of the opposition parties during an election a few years ago, and I have heard anecdotally similar stories in recent years:

While I was expecting to be received by the Returning officer with professional indifference, what I wasn't prepared for was open hostility to the fact I had dared to be there in the first place. I was told to sit in a chair at the far side of the hall and not to move unless she said so. During the day, as voters trickled in and cast their votes, her partisanship was blatantly apparent ...

Considering that Alberta recently fired the man who proposed serious change to make our elections run better, one can only imagine the sense of entitlement that has permeated both our governing party and the degree to which they have taken control over the very levers of democracy.

It is little surprise indeed that Alberta's voters stay home in droves rather than making the trip out to the polls. Ironically, I can find very few people who claim to have voted for the current Stelmach government, yet it sits with a majority as large as any that Ralph Klein presided over - and Stelmach hardly has the personal charm that Klein seemed to possess.

One last thought - the key leadership of the federal Conservatives comes from Alberta as well, and under Harper, they exhibit the same aura of thin-skinned, unwillingness to think for themselves that their brethren in Alberta demonstrate. It is a sad state of affairs, indeed.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Canada's Conservatives: Detention Without Trial

I cannot believe this appalling abuse by the Canadian government.

The Conservative government reversed itself today and denied an emergency passport to Abousfian Abdelrazik, preventing the Canadian citizen - blacklisted as a terrorist - from flying home to Montreal.

In a terse explanation, it said Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon considers Mr. Abdelrazik a national security threat.

In a one-sentence letter, delivered this morning to Mr. Abdelrazik's lawyers, the justice department said “the minister of foreign affairs has decided to refuse your client's request for an emergency passport.” It cited Section 10.1 of the Canada Passport Order which says “the minister may refuse or revoke a passport if the minister is of the option that such action is necessary for the national security of Canada or another country.”

The refusal represents a complete reversal of the government's written promise of three months ago to issue Mr. Abdelrazik an emergency passport if he had a paid-for ticket home. Mr. Abdelrazik remains stranded in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, where he has living for nearly 11 months, granted “temporary safe haven” by former Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier.

As the Globe and Mail points out here, not only is there no case against the man, but the government is simply moving goalposts about in an effort to be obstructive.

Let's consider this for a moment. Mr. Abdelrazik is virtually a prisoner in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum - he really cannot leave the embassy without risking arrest and further maltreatment at the hands of Sudanese authorities. The Canadian government refuses to issue him the travel documents he needs to return to Canada, and worse, insists that he get himself removed from a "travel ban" list that the UN maintains. Individuals cannot approach the UN to have themselves removed from that list, their government is obliged to do this.

In essence, the Canadian government has imprisoned Mr. Abdelrazik without trial, without charge and without recourse. Think about this. This is yet another in a long, and seemingly growing list of Canadian nationals abroad that the Conservative government has failed. In this case, the Canadian government has done worse than that, it has acted maliciously to obstruct Mr. Abdelrazik.

Canada's Conservative government - standing up for ... well ... repeating George Bush II, actually.

Friday, April 03, 2009

More Harper Hypocrisy

Earlier this week, we found out that Canadian troops in Afghanistan are backing a regime that is moving, quite explicitly, to subjugate women instead of treating them as equal partners.

It used to be a mission to give a future to little girls. Now the government is scrambling to explain why Canadian troops are fighting for an Afghanistan that legalizes rape within marriage.

The new Afghan law, apparently approved by President Hamid Karzai, led Western diplomats in Kabul to call an emergency meeting and hammer out a concerted response, pressuring the Karzai administration to back down.

Canadian officials insisted that Mr. Karzai still has some "wiggle room" before the law is implemented, and waited impatiently for the President's first public comments on the law.

The Conservative government expressed outrage, and opposition politicians said Canadian soldiers did not fight and die for an Afghanistan that would pass such a law.

Anyone else remember all the right wingers in this country bragging about how our troops were "over there liberating people"?

But that isn't the hypocrisy at all. Only the completely clueless would believe that little lie.

No. The hypocrisy is in the actions of the Harper government themselves. Think back to 2006. Remember the spending cuts they did back then? Kind of focused on Women's and minority programs, didn't they? Then there is Harper's personal support for Bill C-484, which would essentially strip a woman of the right to control her reproductive destiny and Bill C-537, the so-called "medical practitioner's conscience" act - another piece of moralizing garbage legislation which fundamentally affects women disproportionately.

In this light, the government's "outrage" over Afghanistan's law suddenly seems just a trifle contrived.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gearing Up For An Election, Steve?

So, I see that the HarperCon$ have decided to start combining issues ... in this case by re-introducing their legislation to kill the gun registry, but in the Senate this time.

Realistically, the last two attempts to pass this legislation failed in the House of Commons because the HarperCon$ either allowed it to fail by taking no steps to bring any of the opposition onside - mostly so they could whine and bellyache about how "dysfunctional" parliament was.

This latest maneuver is little more than an attempt to get the Conservative "base" in Alberta wound up over two issues at the same time. They'll find it particularly easy to whine about how the evil senate gets in the way of government legislation, and because there is little chance that this legislation will ever get to the House of Commons before parliament is dissolved next, it means that the Con$ can whine further about how "undemocratic" that is. Ignoring, of course, the fact that the legislation has about as much chance of passing in the House of Commons as it did the previous two times.

While this maneuver will play well in Alberta, I'm less convinced that it will make that much difference elsewhere in the country. Frankly, given some of the horrendous legislation the HarperCon$ have proposed, I'm glad that the Senate has been able to put the brakes on some of it.

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...