Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Fetus Fetishists Strike ...

[Update 31/05/09 18:50]
So, I see that Randall Terry is out flapping his gums about how George Tiller was a mass murderer - as if that justifies some nutcase gunman shooting him in church.

I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions.
"Those men and women who slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the Law of God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes, even their churches."

All that this statement does is give the wingnut who shot Dr. Tiller reason to think he's some kind of hero. He's not - he's a vigilante, a murderer and a criminal ... and a man who deserves to be treated far worse than how he treated Dr. Tiller.

The Fetus Fetishists have lost the moral high ground. It is time to recognize that their judgmentalism is giving the worst society has to offer the license to kill. Directly or indirectly, they are responsible for what happened in Kansas today.
Come and talk to me about the "angry left" sometime ... last I checked the pro-choice lobby doesn't go around murdering doctors in cold blood.

It's things like this that make me downright furious most days, and today more so than average.

When we hear politicians musing about introducing abortion controls, they are pandering to the same wingnut extremism that thinks it's some kind of heroism to gun people that offend them down in the streets.

This isn't the first time that a doctor has been murdered, simply because he provides women with abortion services. It is time for politicians in both Canada and the United States to condemn these acts of violence, and close the door to the anti-abortion crowd.

H/T: Feministe

Calgary Is Being Punished By Stelmach

The mendacity of the Stelmach tories continues to unfold in Alberta. The latest example comes to us in the form of a refusal to fund a piece of equipment for prostate surgeries.

Two veteran Tory MLAs are taking issue with the government-created health superboard's move not to fund Calgary's only surgery laser for enlarged prostates, with one branding it a "dumb decision."

The specialized laser was packed up Friday at Rockyview Hospital after the Alberta Health Services superboard said it won't pay to operate the $100,000 machine.

At the Alberta Progressive Conservative policy convention Saturday in Calgary, several city MLAs --including Health Minister Ron Liepert--said it wasn't their role to micromanage the board.
There are two such lasers in the Edmonton area, and one each in Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat.

Liepert's attempt to sidestep by saying that it was a decision of the "Superboard" doesn't wash. That superboard is a bunch of appointees that Liepert and Co. brought together in the first place. Second of all, this Superboard is not running a crown corporation on behalf of the crown, it is running a part of the civil service, funded entirely by the government. As such it is unquestionably directly accountable to the government. To claim an "arm's length" relationship when no such thing exists is beyond obscenely dishonest.

Actions speak louder than words,and the Stelmach government's actions to date create a significant case for a governing party that was deeply offended when Calgarians sent something other than a branded conservative to the legislature. With respect to health care in general, Liepert has shown himself to be intransigent, dogmatic and arrogant - reflecting the attitude that Blackett showed us on election day when he mused that "with such a huge majority, they could do whatever they liked".

The unlike Premier Lougheed, who took a landslide majority in the late 70s, and rightly observed that such majorities are treacherous territory for any governing party, Stelmach and his crew have long lost sight of the wisdom of Lougheed's caution - and Albertans will pay the price for the arrogance and hubris we are seeing out of a government that is out of control.

Priorities ... and Getting Them Wrong...

I see that Harper is getting ready to add another dust collector to Canada's legal libraries.

Speaking at a Canadian Jewish Congress 90th anniversary luncheon in Toronto, Mr. Harper said legislation will be introduced this week by Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan "to enable victims of terrorism to seek justice" and compensation from individuals, organizations and foreign states that support terrorism.

Why yes, what a lovely sounding idea. Let's tie up Canada's courts with lawsuits against people and powers that aren't even residing in Canada. Brilliant! I'm sure that Canada's courts have lots of spare time to deal with these lawsuits - and that's assuming that the accused party can even be brought before the courts to face these charges.

This has nothing to do with any meaningful sense of justice or improving Canada's profile on the international law stage. This is all about Harper trying to shore up his crumbling electoral support. Like any conservative, he knows that ridiculous "get tough on crime" laws that are utterly unenforceable are an easy way to make political points. Real governance, on the other hand, seems to elude this particular Prime Minister - who is obviously more about showboating and slandering his opponents than he is about actually governing Canada effectively.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Politicizing The AHRC

I don't know how I missed this one, but the second amendment to Bill 44 is perhaps even more brain damaged than the first amendment was.

In its entirety, it reads as follows:

The Bill is amended as follows:
Section 16 is struck out and the following is substituted:
16 Section 22 is amended
(a) in subsection (1)(c) by striking out “chief commissioner” and substituting “Chief of the Commission and Tribunals”;
(b) by adding the following after subsection (1):
(1.1) Notwithstanding section 21, where it appears to the director at any time that a complaint
(a) is one that could or should more appropriately be dealt with,
(b) has already been dealt with, or
(c) is scheduled to be heard,
in another forum or under another Act, the director may refuse to accept the complaint or may accept the complaint pending the outcome of the matter in the other forum or under the other Act.
(c) in subsection (2) by striking out “subsection (1)” and substituting “subsection (1) or (1.1)”. just what are they tinkering with here?

It turns out to be S.22 of the act which sets out the powers of the director to intervene in a specific case. The existing legislation reads as follows
Director’s powers re complaint

22(1) Notwithstanding section 21, the director may at any time

(a) dismiss a complaint if the director considers that the complaint is without merit,

(b) discontinue the proceedings if the director is of the opinion that the complainant has refused to accept a proposed settlement that is fair and reasonable, or

(c) report to the chief commissioner that the parties are unable to settle the complaint.

(2) The director shall forthwith serve notice of a decision under subsection (1) on the complainant and the person against whom the complaint was made.

So, with this amendment, what does it look like?

Director’s powers re complaint

22(1) Notwithstanding section 21, the director may at any time

(a) dismiss a complaint if the director considers that the complaint is without merit,

(b) discontinue the proceedings if the director is of the opinion that the complainant has refused to accept a proposed settlement that is fair and reasonable, or

(c) report to the chief commissioner that the parties are unable to settle the complaint.

(1.1) Notwithstanding section 21, where it appears to the director at any time that a complaint
(a) is one that could or should more appropriately be dealt with,
(b) has already been dealt with, or
(c) is scheduled to be heard,
in another forum or under another Act, the director may refuse to accept the complaint or may accept the complaint pending the outcome of the matter in the other forum or under the other Act.

(2) The director shall forthwith serve notice of a decision under subsection (1) or (1.1). on the complainant and the person against whom the complaint was made.

This is interesting, because it is essentially means that the director can decide that any case can - or should - be heard in another venue.

I suspect that there are a lot of potential problems with this. The most obvious that I can see is the prospect of ministerial interference. It would not be hard for the minister to walk into the director's office one day and insist that a high profile (and politically awkward) complaint is "best heard in the courts". (Theoretically, any case can be heard in court, I suspect)

This completely undermines the purpose of Human Rights commissions in the first place. It is rare that discrimination happens on a scale that most people would say merits the cost involved in a court challenge. For that matter, few people have the financial resources to sustain a long term challenge in the first place. One of the intentions of the HRC's is to provide an avenue of appeal that does not bear the same kind of costs that a court challenge would.

According to Blackett, this is just meant to allow the commission to dismiss "frivolous" cases, but somehow, I'm beginning to suspect that this is meant for other, more insidious reasons.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This Is News?

More seriously, it's about time that others start calling Harper out for being a nasty piece of work.

The fact that Harper is busy focusing on Ignatieff for personality assassination instead of trying to govern this country through a serious economic downturn is a sad, unfortunate statement of a Prime Minister whose priorities are sadly misdirected.

H/T: Darryl Raymaker

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bill 44 - Brain Damaged and Going Forward

If the reports on the news this morning are correct, Bill 44 went ahead last night with at best minor amendments. (Sadly, none of the online outlets have stories posted to confirm this, so I have had to refer to the tabled amendments.

The Bill is amended as follows:
A Section 9 is amended in the new section 11.1
(a) in subsection (1) by striking out “explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation” and substituting “primarily and explicitly with religion, human sexuality or sexual orientation”;
(b) by adding the following after subsection (2):
(3) This section does not apply to incidental or indirect references to religion, religious themes, human sexuality or sexual orientation in a course of study, educational program, instruction or exercises or in the use of instructional materials.

I'm still suspicious of these changes. In legal terms, what constitutes "primary" and "explicit"; come to that, what constitutes "incidental or indirect"?

For example, one can hardly study Europe in the Middle Ages or Renaissance without spending a great deal of time talking about the impact of the church on society - is that "incidental"? Come to that, a discussion about the Iranian revolution in 1979 would hardly be "incidentally" about religion, would it - religion is right smack at the center of that discussion. Are those excluded in by that wording, or is notification required?

The fact is that this is such a poorly conceived piece of legislative trash that the courts are going to spend decades deciding what the parameters really are ... and it will have done nothing except waste resources for no better reason than to attempt to appease the sensibilities of those offended by having to recognize GLBT people as legal equals.

I think I'll leave the rest to Rick Bell to express disgust with the whole ridiculous farce that is Alberta's government:

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader David Swann figures Ed's outfit "don't get what human rights are about."

They don't get what a lot is about, but when has that stopped them before?

"This is the worst of politics," says Swann, a man who obviously hasn't clocked enough kilometres through the Toryland trenches.

It has been worse and it will be worse again.

On his last sentence, I disagree with Rick Bell. I have never seen a government so overtly hostile to minority populations - even Don Getty's reign of stupidity wasn't malicious. This bunch is, and is becoming even more so.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gender Surgery In Alberta

Bill Kaufmann's latest column summarizes things quite nicely.

Altering one's physical gender would only seem a lark to those who haven't met Edwards. There was a time when even the Alberta government saw it that way.

Predictably, some Albertans citing other unfunded, vital treatments have taken out their frustrations on the province's transsexuals.

Their bitterness is misdirected.

But it's a distraction no doubt welcomed by a government whose mismanagement of the health-care system lurches between grim and gruesome.

No group of people should be subject to being "thrown under the bus" politically.

Blackett, Quit Being A Snivelling Hypocrite

Sometimes, the jokes write themselves; other times, the joke is standing behind the microphone.

In the Calgary Herald today, Lindsay Blackett places himself firmly in the latter category with the following:

"Everybody's looking for the right-wing bogeyman that doesn't exist," Blackett tells me, "but everybody who's talking like that, they are the intolerant ones. It's them, not us."

Those "intolerant ones," in Blackett's book, include the opposition and the media, too.

"The opposition never offered a solution. All they had was opposition based on hysteria, with support from the media." wasn't so long ago that Blackett admitted that the proposed S.11 was pandering to the Religious Right in Alberta:

Lindsay Blackett admitted that the provincial caucus wrote the school provisions into the bill as an olive branch to religious groups and conservative voters who might be offended by the province's move to codify gay rights.

... and no, I don't think it's any coincidence at all that Alberta has steadfastly refused to amend the human rights code since the 1998 Vriend decision. Alberta's religious right wing can't have that kind of clout. We remember well the temper tantrums that Klein had over Same Gender Marriage - repeatedly insisting that he would invoke the "Notwithstanding clause" ... until his Attorney General pointed out the logical fallacy of doing so.

So...Lindsay, which is it? Is Alberta's government kowtowing to wingnut religiosity, or are you just incapable of remembering what lies you told us last week?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Irony, Thy Name Is ...

Brian Rushfeldt.

In a letter to the editor, Mr. Rushfeldt writes:

It is dangerous for a law to set up categories of people against each other. It violates the notion of equality in our Charter.

Coming from a man who has made a career running Canadian Family Action Coalition, this a truly amazing bit of irony. His entire career has been spent trying to deny others equality and equal rights on the basis of his religious beliefs.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Remember Stephen Harper Saying Chalk River Was Safe?

Anybody else remember when Harper ordered the restart of the NRU reactor at Chalk River ... and he was quite emphatic that the reactor was perfectly safe?

Not so much, it would seem.

This is precisely why Linda Keen was right to insist that AECL finish a series of upgrades to the NRU reactor, and demonstrates that Harper and Lunn were just playing politics.

Harper and Lunn were so wrapped up in "scoring points" against a "liberal appointee" that they lost sight of the regulator's job, and why they are at arms length from both the legislative and commercial aspects of what is being regulated.

So, a little over a year later, we find ourselves revisiting the Chalk River/NRU situation and discovering that there are more problems.

Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt, in Edmonton where she was giving a speech, said Wednesday she is relying on AECL, a Crown corporation, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the federal nuclear safety watchdog, to provide the best information about the timeline for repairs.

"It's a reality of having older infrastructure and that's why the world is coming together to come up with a plan in order to deal with the global supply of medical isotopes," Ms. Raitt said.

So ... a year ago, it was "urgent", and "couldn't wait" to restart the NRU. Now, it's "wait for the process to work itself through"? What's different from the situation in Fall 2007?. Not much. In short, the HarperCon$ are just proving that they are willing to sacrifice the public interest as long as they can score political points.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tom Flanagan: It's All About Social Darwinism

Tom Flanagan flaps his lips about human rights law and gets it so ridiculously wrong it's not even funny.

I'll ignore his worship of Ezra Levant - it does nothing to improve Flanagan's credibility.

... we should remember that the existence of the commissions is itself an abuse. They have little to do with genuine human rights such as freedom of speech and worship, security of the person and ownership of property. They are specialized agencies to enforce anti-discrimination legislation, and issues of prejudice and discrimination are far too complex to be resolved by human-rights sloganeering.

Of course, irrational prejudice and discrimination - assessing and treating people as members of categories rather than as individuals - are pervasive realities. We may not be born xenophobic, but we learn xenophobia very easily. The question is what, if anything, government should do about it.

Now, think about this for a minute. Flanagan is essentially saying that freedom from racism, or religious bigotry aren't real rights. Basically your right to be served when you walk into a shop is, in Flanagan's mind, conditional.

In a competitive market, discrimination is costly to the discriminator. An employer who refuses to hire workers because of race, religion or ethnicity restricts his own choices and imposes a disadvantage on his firm. Meanwhile, his competitors gain by being able to hire from a larger pool. The same logic applies to restaurateurs turning away potential customers, or landlords refusing to lease to people of particular categories.

This almost sounds reasonable. Except it also is quite clear that Flanagan has no idea what it means to be part of a minority population. The whole point is not whether a company does itself a disservice when it refuses to deal with someone on the basis of whatever grounds of discrimination they use is actually quite moot. While some ethnic minorities are now large enough to be a significant economic influence on a business' success or failure, a lot of other minority populations are far too small to have any real impact.

Discrimination, when it affects someone's ability to integrate with the broad fabric of society, is a power play on the part of whoever engages in the discrimination. Further, Flanagan fails to recognize the disproportionate impact of discrimination on the individual at the receiving end.

In the examples Flanagan cites, the business denies itself a sale, or possibly the services of a talented employee. However, for the individual on the receiving end, there are both emotional and economic costs to the discrimination.

A person denied service at a shop not only ends up walking away from an emotionally charged situation bearing not only the brunt of someone's ill-chosen ire, but the message that "you don't matter" - repeated often enough, this can have a serious psychological price. Economically, the individual must now spend more time seeking an alternative source for that service. In theory, there is a competitive market, and thus an alternative source which may or may not act in a discriminatory fashion towards them.

When we are talking about a denial of employment, it goes even further. Not only is the emotional price the same, but the individual who would have otherwise got the job if their skin was the right colour, or if their religion was the right one, pays a second price in terms of lost income. It is the loss of income that is by far disproportionately hostile to the recipient of the discriminatory message. A business usually has multiple clients from which to draw income; an individual usually only has one source of income.

The argument applies no matter how rampant prejudice and discrimination may be. Those who discriminate impose burdens on themselves and confer advantages on their competitors. Competitive markets don't immediately abolish discriminatory practices, but they tend to erode them, not by trying to enlighten bigoted people, but by making discrimination unprofitable.

This is a classic argument of the social darwinist. Flanagan misses the point here as well. In essence, he is arguing that the only people who matter when it comes to matters of rights are those who have the economic resources to enforce their will. Consider the smaller minorities in our population - whether it is the sexual minorities, or exceptionally small religious minorities - and ask yourself how tiny percentages of the population can have anything close to the kind of impact that Flanagan seems to think everybody possesses. The answer, in large part, is that they cannot.

Further, Flanagan is dead wrong in his assertion that governmental application of coercive power has no effect on bigots. Just thinking about my own lifetime, I only have to look at my own attitudes and those of the generation just entering the workforce to see a stark, glaring difference. I'm part of the first generation that grew up in the era after Canada decriminalized homosexuality. To my generation, being homosexual still carries some stigma, but nowhere near what it meant to our parents. To the generation just nicely in their early twenties now, being GLBT is almost a non-issue. They are used to the concept, and it doesn't dawn on them to treat their GLBT peers as anything other than equals. This change has taken place in the relatively short span of forty years.

Were the human rights laws that provide recourse for those who find themselves at the receiving end of that discrimination an important part of that change? Absolutely. In fact, if it were not for those very laws, Alberta would still refuse to protect homosexuals. It wasn't so long ago that the coercive force of legislation made it illegal to be homosexual - and at that time, that very law in fact gave gross license to those who are hostile to gay people the free license to engage in both discrimination and violence against GLBT people.

Flanagan frames his argument entirely in the language of economics, and in doing so loses sight of the fact that discrimination affects people in very real and important ways that should not be ignored. Further, he fails to recognize the history that shows beyond question that the state, through legislation, is capable of effecting enormous positive change in social attitudes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

This Will Get The Creationists Going...

One of the often repeated saws out of creationists is that science has never successfully produced life in a laboratory experiment.

There is a certain amount of reasonableness to that argument. Although science in general has a pretty good idea of how life got started on this world, those ideas have been largely unprovable, since the most that scientists have seemingly been able to do is form some of the basic proteins that are part of RNA.

But then again, unlike scripture, science isn't standing still for anybody. Sure enough, someone has put aside the "you can't do that" rulebook, and done some very interesting experiments that we should take note of.

However, though researchers have been able to show how RNA’s component molecules, called ribonucleotides, could assemble into RNA, their many attempts to synthesize these ribonucleotides have failed. No matter how they combined the ingredients — a sugar, a phosphate, and one of four different nitrogenous molecules, or nucleobases — ribonucleotides just wouldn’t form.

Sutherland’s team took a different approach in what Harvard molecular biologist Jack Szostak called a “synthetic tour de force” in an accompanying commentary in Nature.

“By changing the way we mix the ingredients together, we managed to make ribonucleotides,” said Sutherland. “The chemistry works very effectively from simple precursors, and the conditions required are not distinct from what one might imagine took place on the early Earth.”

Is this life created in a lab? No. But it has established one more piece of the picture, and as you add pieces to the picture, the number of unknowns drops off, until you are left with a fairly coherent sense of the possibilities.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ideology Does Not Make For Diplomacy

Sadly, it seems that even after 3 years in the PMO, Harper hasn't figured this out.

After all the planning and diplomacy, Europeans and their leaders were left with two images of Canada: a man clubbing a seal, and a prime minister missing a photo opportunity because, the European media kept reporting, he was on the toilet.

Absolutely nothing else registered: In the public eye and in many official circles, Canada failed to arrive.

"I don't think Canada is sending any message at all. It has become invisible in Europe," says Jeremy Kinsman, who was Canada's ambassador to the European Union until 2006 and served as prime minister Brian Mulroney's ambassador to Moscow.

It actually gets worse - if you can believe that.

"I think you can see that. This government has failed to reciprocate initiatives from the Europeans, it has not listened or offered anything that matters to them - we have just faded from the European picture."

That view is echoed, in less-public language, by Canadian officials across Europe, who say it has become difficult to get any significant hearing from European leaders.

The free-trade talks were successfully launched, largely as a result of aggressive efforts by Quebec Premier Jean Charest, but the lack of enthusiasm among Europe's national leaders was palpable.

Our NATO ambitions were rebuffed when Defence Minister Peter MacKay's bid for the secretary-general position won no major supporters, and countries such as Germany complained openly about Canada hectoring them to take more risks in Afghanistan.

Canada's Arctic-ownership agenda is being pushed, but Nordic leaders and EU officials complain that Ottawa's bellicose tone sounds more like Moscow's unilateralism than their co-operative vision.

Likewise, the effort to proffer a "Canadian model" of bank and finance reform went nowhere, and even seemed to annoy some leaders.

In short, Harper's approach to foreign affairs has turned off the Europeans just as much as Bush II's pugilistic approach to everything. When you allow ideology to drive your agenda, the results are pretty much guaranteed to be disappointing. Canadians should not be surprised - Harper has had his people focused not on running the country, but on generating the next set of attack ads.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bill 48 - Liepert's Next Nail In Health Care's Coffin

I'm going to have to disagree with Mr. Chapman's analysis of Bill 48.

It's not that I don't think that he has made some interesting points. Far from it, in fact. Superficially, Bill 48 goes after big tobacco, criminals, the auto insurance industry etc. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? After all, why shouldn't, for example, a criminal be held responsible for any health care costs incurred as a result of criminal activity, or a tobacco company for selling a product known to be harmful?

But step back from this for a moment, and consider the implications, and in particular how this can - and will - trickle down to the individual taxpayers in Alberta.

For example, consider the case of a criminal who either injures someone - or is injured - in the commission of a crime. Does anybody really believe that these people have a bag of money set aside to pay the medical costs related to whatever damage their activities cause? They do not, and are unlikely to ever repay those costs.

As for automobile insurance paying for injuries sustained in a collision, we already know how that is going to work. If you have an accident that results in a claim today, you can fully expect your insurance rates to go up enough that the insurance company will recoup whatever it paid out on your behalf over the next two to three years. Make no mistake about it, if the insurance carriers think they are going to be stuck with any medical treatment costs related to that accident, they will increase premiums at the outset, and the rate spike related to an accident will make what we see today look absolutely trivial.

Which brings me to the real issue that I have with this bill. It takes Health Care into the world of being a "cost recovery model", where the costs are immediately downloaded to whatever third party is deemed "liable" for those costs. Ultimately, it will result in either no useful recovery (as in the case of criminal liability), or the costs will be passed onto consumers in Alberta quite directly through increased insurance premiums. As a taxpayer, I'm already paying into the health care pot to begin with, and in many ways, this will result in me paying not once, but twice.

The second issue I have to raise as an objection to this legislation is the "what were you doing" exception made for criminals:

34 If a person convicted of an offence provided for in the
regulations, under legislation specified in the regulations, receives
health services for personal injuries suffered in the commission of
that offence, the Crown has the right to recover from the convicted
person the Crown’s costs of health services.

At first, this seems innocent enough. If you are a criminal, and you get hurt in the commission of a crime, you pay the freight for your health care. On further consideration though, this starts to sound like the myriad of exclusionary clauses that are seen in the US health care system so often - The so-called "Pre-existing condition" clauses that insurance companies use regularly to weasel out of actually paying for health care that someone needs. What Liepert has done here is signal that he intends to make access to health care in general conditional. Upon what, remains to be seen.

Liepert has already shown Albertans that he isn't willing to be up front with us when it comes to his agenda for health care. On April 7, he started unveiling his plans for attacking Albertan's health care by delisting Gender Reassignment Surgery on budget day - again using the tactic of an easy political target to put a veil over what he really has planned. Albertans have no reason to trust recent denials from the Stelmach government about what they will or will not be targeting.

Ignatieff Puts Harper In Perspective

The first time I heard Michael Ignatieff speak, it was several years ago when he read his book The Rights Revolution on CBC as part of The Massey Lectures on Ideas.

I remember thinking "wow, but this guy's an amazing speaker" at the time. Yes, his style is a bit ornate, but it pulled me in and made me pay attention to what he had to say...and what he had to say was articulate, reasoned and reasonable.

Well, so far his response to the latest round of Conservative character assassination has been spot on.

In his speech, the Liberal Leader hit directly at criticisms of the years he spent in Great Britain and the United States as a writer and academic, and elsewhere as a war reporter, saying that sometimes a person only sees how Canada is an inspiration to the world “from afar.”

“Stephen Harper doesn't understand that. Stephen Harper thinks if you've lived and worked outside the country you're somehow less of a Canadian,” he said to the Laborers International Union of North America.

“Is that the type of Canada you want? To have a government decide who is a good Canadian and a bad Canadian? Who is a true Canadian and who is a false Canadian?

“You know and we know that no matter where we come from, where we live or have lived, we are all of us proud Canadians.”

As for Mr. Harper, he's engaging in his usual pugilistic politics of desperation. I can only hope that outside of Alberta, Canadians are seeing these ads for what they truly is - awful government.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Outer Wingnuttia: The APA Admits There's No Gay Gene

Or at least, that's what wingnut daily would like you to believe.

What they are squawking about is a change in wording in one of the American Psychological Association's brochures, which now reads:

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

In perspective, this means what? It means nothing more than the research results to date are inconclusive. A lack of conclusive results doesn't mean a great deal here. There is far too much about human development that we don't fully understand. I suspect that the search for causal understanding of a lot of human development, not just sexual identity, is in this boat. Like the search for extraterrestrial life, the absence of confirming evidence at this point is hardly sufficient to rule out the understanding being sought.

Of course, that's just reasoned investigation taking place - it's not like the denizens of Outer Wingnuttia bother with such trivial matters as reality anyways.

Just How Screwed Up Is Alberta's Legislature?

Unsurprisingly, Bill 44 is going to go ahead "as is" in the legislature.

There may be room to clarify the wording of a new human rights legislation provision for parental rights, but Alberta Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett said the clause will remain in Bill 44.

School boards"would prefer if it was in the School Act, but we're this far along.We're not able to retract, nor is there a lot of will to do that," Blackett said.

Ummm...unless someone has dramatically rewritten the basics of Parliamentary procedure, Blackett doesn't know what he's talking about. A bill can be amended during its passage through the house and committee cycles. To say that the government "cannot retract" something is beyond a falsehood - it is a clear statement that democracy in Alberta is so broken that the governing conservatives have lost their grip on the even the basics of how our government is supposed to work.

Premier Ed Stelmach reaffirmed his commitment for Bill 44 and his view Albertans would not misuse it.

"I feel very confident in the act and entrenching the rights of parents," Stelmach said Tuesday. "I have tremendous trust in Albertans."

What lovely little fantasy world does Stelmach live in? Especially when Alberta's own home grown wingnuts have already signalled their intentions?

Responding To The HarperCon$

Frankly, I think Ignatieff is dead right when he responds to the latest round of attack ads out of the HarperCon$:

"On a day when we've got record bankruptcies, (when) we've got unemployment skyrocketing, all this government can think of doing is running attack ads on me," he said. "This is the old style of politics. We are in the middle of a serious economic crisis. This government needs to grow up and do its job properly."

Kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When You Have Nothing To Contribute ...

engage in character assassination - or at least that seems to be the HarperCon$ typical strategy.

A day after launching attack ads against Michael Ignatieff on the Internet, the Harper Conservatives are bringing out the big guns for a sustained and broad negative campaign against the Liberal Leader — launching six spots to run on national TV.

The Conservatives are stepping up their attacks on Mr. Ignatieff in order to end what they suggest has been a “free ride” for the Liberal Leader in the Canadian media.

... because nothing says "Good Government" like the governing party slagging their opponents, does it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bishop Henry Speaks - Apparently Stelmach Didn't Listen

So, Bishop Henry has broken his silence on Bill 44.

Apparently, it doesn't go far enough to suit him:

Many of us, especially those who have been charged under the current Alberta human rights legislation, have been advocating for significant legislative reforms, i. e. to incorporate amendments to preclude anti-religious actions.

Why yes, of course - because anyone who would dare challenge Bishop Henry must be anti-religious. The fact that we might just be opposed to religiously inspired bigotry is lost on the Bishop.

Oh yes, and you were never "charged", Bishop. A complaint was filed. As far as I know, the crown (the only body that can lay "charges" in court) never filed any such accusations in the courts.

Bill 44 includes "sexual orientation" as an added protected area. Since there is a tendency to further extend this protection to mean promotion of a lifestyle, many parents requested that this kind of initiative be balanced by explicit confirmation of parental rights regarding the education of their children. A similar provision already exists in the School Act at Section 50 (2).

Uh huh. "Promotion of a lifestyle" - got it. I've heard the meme of the "gay lifestyle" for so many years that it's beyond meaningless. Bishop Henry, and the rest of the religious right wing keep using this phrase, as if to imply it means all sorts of darkness without even bothering to actually pay attention to the mundane reality.

Furthermore, all education is faith-based to some extent. It's time to ask why the opinions of the majority of the citizens in Alberta are being ignored, i. e., "why should the faith of the atheist and agnostic be the only and the governing paradigm in public education?"

Coming from a man whose faith has had its own unique school district arrangements in Alberta since day one, I find this bit of whining particularly ironic. Of course, the good bishop is utterly ignoring not only the existence of the Roman Catholic school boards in this province, but also the plethora of religiously centered Charter Schools and private schools in this province.

It is painfully obvious that the majority of the caucus didn't read Ezra Levant's recently released book, Shakedown. Pity. D+might even be too generous a mark!

Well, we all know how cozy Henry has become with Levant in recent years. Levant's claims in "Shakedown" have been called into question on numerous fronts. It is a sad commentary that the Bishop hasn't apparently even attempted to think through the implications of this bill, and has instead chosen to parrot the dubious wisdom of Levant.

Like Levant, Bishop Henry unhappy because Bill 44 doesn't go as far as he would like.

Bill 44 is deeply flawed, but not for the reasons Bishop Henry raises.

Fingerprinting The Homeless

It's taken me a few days to absorb the implications of Calgary's DropIn Center scanning client fingerprints.

Superficially, the motives are all fine and reasonable - increased safety for the clients and staff of the center, and so on. But, something about it kept on niggling away at me as troublesome.

First, I'll raise the obvious problems of any organization having this kind of data.

The security of the data itself is an enormous problem. The DropIn Center is not an organization that is going to have a great deal of experience with data security. We don't know what steps they have taken to ensure that the actual data is not accessible to unauthorized users; nor do we have any sense if they have taken steps to ensure that the machines hosting the physical data are not readily accessible to anyone. (It takes about five minutes with a screwdriver to yank a hard drive out of most machines these days). What is the DropIn Center's plan for handling backups, for securing that backup media, and eventually for disposing of data? Perhaps they have dealt with these issues adequately, perhaps not.

This is a very real concern that we have to think about. Of all our personal information, our fingerprints, next to DNA, are among the most absolute markers of identity. To date, we have only allowed government organizations to have that data, and we routinely castigate them when someone makes an error in handling our personal data. (How many times have we heard of a computer with the records of thousands of citizens being stolen or lost? - plenty) In today's era of identity theft, this is a huge risk, and having databases of biometric data floating out there that are unsecured, or only minimally secured should give all of us pause for concern.

The second concern we have to think about is the isolation of that data. To the best of my knowledge, there are no mechanisms in law which would prevent the DropIn Center from sharing that data with various law enforcement agencies. While such sharing of data would no doubt be a gross violation of trust, I doubt that there is much to prevent the Center from granting law enforcement requests for access. I'm sure that the DropIn Center has good intentions of not doing this, but all it will take is one "emergency" where the Police apply to the courts for access to that data, and suddenly they have access to a large body of fingerprints that were gathered outside of legitimate law enforcement activity.

Now, you might look at that and say "well, if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear". With the capriciousness with which governments can act (especially here in Alberta where the governing party has minimal opposition), it takes very little for something that wasn't criminal before to suddenly become a criminal act. It wasn't so long ago in this country that we jailed people on the basis of falling in love with someone of the same gender, and there are those who would quite happily recriminalize that. For that matter, some of Calgary's Aldermen have essentially tried to criminalize being homeless.

Lastly, we should not lose sight of the fact that fingerprints are generally seen by the public as something used as part of criminal investigation and law enforcement. The clients of the DropIn Center would rightly be upset at being treated like criminals, even though they may have done absolutely nothing illegal.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Loose Cannon About To Embarrass Canada ... Again

I see that Harper has sent sent Lawrence Cannon to China to lecture them on human rights issues.

Harper has done more damage to Canada-China relationships since 2006 than any of us could suspect. Sending Cannon over there is, in many respects, going to be seen by Beijing as another snub.

Given Canada's appalling treatment of its citizens held abroad in dubious circumstances, its not like the Harper government is in any position to lecture anybody on human rights - and Beijing knows this. They also know that they are in control at this point in time.

I'm putting better than even odds that Cannon will continue Harper's blowhard patterns and he will make already chilly relations with China positively Arctic. (Why do you think Canadian students were quarantined last week? This is typical of how China expresses its displeasure, and I expect that the Harper approach to things will continue to make a bad situation worse.

The Clerk of the Privy Council

Darryl Raymaker has it perfectly summarized.

... and if you want a taste of what is to come if his prognostications are correct, just take a look at what Alberta is doing to its health care program and human rights legislation.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

No Big Surprise Here

The HarperCon$ continue to dodge their duty to Omar Khadr - this time by appealing the court verdict of a few weeks ago.

“The Government of Canada has consistently stated that Omar Khadr faces serious charges,” said a statement from the department of Foreign Affairs.

“After careful consideration of the legal merits of the ruling from the Canadian Federal Court issued on April 23, the Government of Canada has decided to appeal the decision.

“As the matter is currently under litigation, we will provide no further comment at this time.” Khadr is not facing serious charges. At most he is facing a bunch of "charges" that only stand up in a faux court concocted by the Bush II government to get political convictions.

You couldn't put Khadr into a criminal court in either Canada or the United States and have the charges stand up for more than about thirty five seconds - you know, about the length of time it takes to point out that he was underage at the time and that most of the "corroborating" evidence was extracted under torture. (Oh wait - they didn't "torture", did they? It was "enhanced interrogation" - by means of such helpful techniques as near drowning people)

If Khadr is in fact chargeable with "serious crimes", then repatriate him, and try him in Canada's courts. But then, I'm pretty sure that any sentence he might receive has been more than made up by his incarceration in Guantanamo Bay.

And then there's the latest bunch of idiocy to be tabled regarding Mr. Abdelrazik:

He should get himself off the United Nations's 1267 list, Elizabeth Richards, a Justice Department lawyer, replied, referring to the Security Council's list of terrorist suspects, named after UN Resolution 1267, which created it.

“But how are you supposed to respond [to the secret allegations] when you don't know why you are on the list?” the judge asked.

There was no answer from Ms. Richards.

Mr. Abdelrazik, the only Canadian on the UN blacklist, was added by the Bush administration in 2006. But no reason or evidence has ever been made public. He has denied any links with al-Qaeda and, before the Harper government agreed to ask the UN to delist him in 2007, he was cleared of criminal and terrorist links by both the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Last month, two hours before he was to fly home – 200 Canadian chipped in to buy him a ticket – Mr. Cannon rescinded previous promises of a one-way travel document and designated him, without giving reasons, a national security risk.

“The refusal of a passport on national-security grounds does not violate the Charter,” Ms. Richards told the court yesterday.

Ms. Richards and her Justice Department colleague, Anne Turley, insisted that the whole long litany of promised one-way travel documents that were never delivered – because the government kept changing what Mr. Abdelrazik had to do to get them – was no longer an issue that they need to consider.

Canada's Conservative government has apparently become a bunch of apologists for the worst aspects of the Bush II regime. Still more evidence that Canadians should be embarrassed by Harper and Co.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Difference Between Evidence And Dogma

Ordinarily, I don't pay much attention to what other bloggers write, but since "Cardinal Pole" (whoever it really is) seems to insist on not just misquoting me, but deliberately misunderstanding what I write, it's time to take his little charade to task here.

Firt up, we find Cardinal Pole going off on a half baked dismissal of transsexuality: A Herald Letter On "Trans" Matters:

In a nutshell it’s this, apparently, judging by MgS’s approving quotation of it:

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.
(her bold type and italics,

MgS highlights the part before the comma, but it’s the part after the comma that I find remarkable: G.I.D. is not a delusion because its sufferers feeeeeeeeel, not think, that they belong to the opposite sex. Got it.

Few things in the world irritate me more than some half baked attempt to quote me by taking things completely out of context. The quoted phrase Cardinal Pole references is in fact a direct quote from the text of the DSM IV-TR category for Gender Identity Disorder.

That particular point is key to addressing the often-heard "it's a delusion" argument from a variety of sources who are critical of actually providing transsexuals (in particular) with the only known effective treatment available.

Clinical delusion is quite distinct from the symptoms that are descriptive of delusion. Particularly key is recognizing that transsexuals are usually very, very aware of the reality of their situation. They fully understand that their biology is at odds with their emotional sense of themselves.

From the eMedicine article on Delusional Disorder, is the following very important paragraph:
Patients usually have little insight and impaired judgment regarding their pathology. Police, family members, coworkers, and physicians other than psychiatrists are usually the first to suspect the problem and seek psychiatric consultation. Seeking corroborative information, when permitted by the patient, is often crucial.

This is an important differentiation between clinical delusion and transsexualism. The transsexual is quite conscious of their status at all levels. There is no lack of insight or impairment of judgment involved.

In fact, if one spends any amount of time paying attention to the clinical literature relating to transsexuals, it quickly becomes clear that the attribution of delusion is at best ill-informed, if not simply the product of downright sloppy thinking.

I've addressed the myriad problems that "gender as pure construct" reasoning suffers from in numerous other posts on this blog.

In parting, I leave Cardinal Pole with the following thought, in direct response to his intellectual dishonesty and typically circular reasoning:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bill 44 - Subtle and Destructive Legislation

Frankly, I think that much of what has been said about Bill 44 is based on misinterpretations of the wording in the legislation.

When Brian Rushfeldt opens his yap, you have to wonder just where Charles McVety's hand is, though:

The head of a national Christian lobby group says parents, not educators, will decide when to apply new rights allowing them to pull kids from controversial classes if enshrined in Alberta's human rights laws.

Provincial officials have insisted Bill 44, which saw some heated debate Wednesday during second reading in the legislature, would exclusively apply to teachings of sexuality, sexual orientation and religion.

But Brian Rushfeldt, co-founder of the Calgary-based Canada Family Action Coalition, says the proposed human rights provision can be more widely interpreted.

"It's up to the parent to make (the legislation) as broad or as narrow as they want," said Rushfeldt, who welcomed the proposed changes.

"I don't know that the schools nor the government should be the ones to put parameters on it and say it's only sexuality classes or only evolution classes or only religion classes."

The reason I don't buy a broad interpretation here is simple. The proposed wording (at present) is quite limited:

subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or
sexual orientation.

That said, however, we have to recognize that the wingnuts are going to try to use it any way they think they can get away with. That will doubtless include vocal and incessant whining when some of Shakespeare's works are being studied; or for that matter contemporary literature of any sort.

I don't think it will allow them to pull their children out of science class, when the subject happens to offend someone's religious views - that isn't my sense of the wording.

However, what it does do is quite fundamentally undermine the very notion of tolerance and understanding when it comes to sexual minorities. Because sexuality and sexual orientation are specifically mentioned, this in essence gives a blanket right to parents to continue to foster ignorance and bigotry towards GLBT Albertans. It appears to once again reinforce the double standard of conservatives when it comes to equality rights.

From Alberta's Hansards:

Ms Notley: Well, I suspect that the minister had trouble understanding
the question because he doesn’t understand the issue. Your
proposed policy will clearly allow children to be removed from
classes which discuss sexual orientation. Presumably, that includes
where a teacher instructs that sexual orientation is a protected
equality right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why is the
minister supporting a plan to limit the ability of teachers to talk
about our human rights code to our Alberta children?

Mr. Blackett: Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is saying that, you
know, the provisions are already given to our parents in the School
Act. We will continue to do that. With respect to sexual orientation,
they have that provision to opt out now. They will have that
provision going forward.

I think Rachel Notley's speech in the legislature on Bill-44 warrants further reading as well:

Ms Notley: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m pleased to be able to
finally have an opportunity to speak at more length about this issue.
I won’t go so far as to say that I’m pleased at the opportunity
because I think that the fact that this bill is coming into this House
today is, in my view, very disturbing to me as a member of this
Assembly, and in some ways, you know, I’m quite sad today,
actually, that I need to be in the House outlining the significant
concerns that exist around elements of this piece of legislation.
What should be a time for a significant portion of Albertans to
celebrate a long-awaited symbolic recognition of their equality has
instead turned into this debate, which, in my view, undermines the
impression ofAlbertans to the rest of the world, undermines our own
collective commitment to education and to diversity and to a full,
thoughtful discussion of things, and ultimately undermines the very
new right which we are in the process of being about to recognize.
Let me just talk a little bit about that. Obviously, the key issue
with respect to this bill is section 11, and that’s, of course, the part
of the bill that would allow parents to have their children opt out of
instruction that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality, or sexual
orientation. It is this particular section which, in my view, represents
a very dark day in the history of this province.
Let me talk first about the issue with respect to religion. Now, I
respect the right of parents to choose what religious instruction their
children will or will not receive. Personally, I would prefer to see a
system where all children were given a very neutral survey course
on what different types of religion look like. That’s my personal
belief of what would represent the most enlightened approach to
educating my children. But I understand that my belief is not
everyone’s belief, and I appreciate that some people feel very
strongly that they don’t want their children’s religious instruction
that they receive at home and their beliefs – it goes beyond just
instruction – to be challenged in the school setting, and that’s fine.
Section 50 of the School Act deals with that issue. It deals with
that already. The School Act talks about education. The School Act
talks about parents’ rights in relation to their children’s education.
The School Act talks about that whole milieu. It is not necessary to
put that provision into the human rights code. The human rights
code is not a document designed to undermine the very rights which
are included in the human rights code. It is not a document designed
to, as the Member for Airdrie-Chestermere talked about, bow to
every different person’s version of what is politically correct today
or tomorrow or the next day. It is a set of rights that we presumably
all agree all people have. So I’m very concerned about muddying
the waters with a statement that we are prepared to undermine some
of those rights in certain circumstances.
Now, I’ll talk a little bit about how it is I believe we’re doing that,
but I want to just stay for a moment on the issue of religious
instruction. One of the problems with putting this into the human rights
code and taking it out of the School Act is that you make it a
human right, and with that comes a whole slew of legal consequences
and implications. It allows for a broad range of interpretive
efforts to be applied to it. What we’re putting in it right now could
be amended through a great deal of litigation in the future, and
because it’s an active right which is found in the code, it will be
treated differently than what’s in the School Act, which is essentially
an administrative provision.
Right now in our schools what theoretically happens is if religious
instruction – and, of course, the School Act only talks about
religious instruction. The School Act does not allow parents to pull
their kids because somebody talks about the dreaded sexual
orientation. Let’s just say for a moment we’re talking about the
issue of religion. If religion is brought up, the family needs to get
notice. Well, that’s fine. What does the notice ultimately look like?
At the beginning of the year, can the school board say: from time to
time in grade 12 the social studies curriculum will call on the teacher
to engage in discussions that will cover issues that may cover
religion, that may cover theories of evolution, that may cover
which may cover the concept of, for instance, gender equity and
gender equality? If they give that notice, is that enough? Can the
parent then simply provide the notice to the teacher, and then every
time those issues come up in the teaching moments that we’ve talked
so much about, the teacher just says to the child: you have the option
now to leave the room because we’re talking about these issues. Is
that the way it would work?
Well, now that it’s in the human rights code, it is entirely possible
that the parents would be able to go and say: “Well, this right that
you’re giving me is meaningless if it’s administered this way, so in
fact what you need to do is give me notice every time it’s going to
happen. You’ve got to give me dates. You’ve got to give me
content. You’ve got to give me written curriculum because
otherwise this right that you’ve now given me in the human rights
code of my province is meaningless.” That’s what happens when
you put it in the code. So then suddenly we create chaos.
Alternatively theycan turn around and say: “You’ve given me this
right, but in my exercising this right, my child has to now sit in the
hall playing with his DS or something like that. In effect my child
is being discriminated against now because I cannot crystalize or act
upon my right that is in the code without otherwise adversely
impacting my child by making him or her sit in the hall. Therefore,
you’ve breached my right, so you need to actually come up with a
whole new way to teach my child during the time that that education’s
going on.”
With all of these things, this is not trying to create a panic. This
is not trying to blow it up beyond what it is. It’s not. This is the
kind of thing that happens when you put a new right into the human
rights code, and let’s just be clear: this is a new right that we are
putting into the human rights code. There is no other human rights
code in the country that has this right embedded in the code. It is
embedded elsewhere, not in the human rights code. This is the kind
of chaos that we will create.
Then, of course, the other thing is that under the School Act it is
not necessarily the case that the teacher would become the subject,
a respondent in a human rights commission hearing. The teacher
would not necessarily become compelled to defend their course of
study, defend the way in which the particular issue came up in the
class. They wouldn’t under the School Act. They will now, another
consequence of putting it into the human rights code.

Lastly, a few links to some better commentary on this subject:

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix has an excellent take on a poorly considered piece of legislation.

Ken Chapman has covered things quite thoughtfully as well.

Don Braid catches how thoroughly screwed up the Stelmach government's priorities are.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

From The Democratic Reform Party...

The intellectual dishonesty of the HarperCon$ continues apace. Consider the following claim of democracy with respect to party nominations:

Plett said 94,000 ballots were mailed nationally to party members in ridings with an incumbent, asking them whether they wanted a nomination race in their constituency. The mail-out included Calgary West, where lawyer Donna Kennedy-Glans wanted to challenge longtime MP Rob Anders.

Two-thirds approval was required to trigger a battle, while an unreturned ballot was counted as a no under new rules adopted by the Conservative party's national council in March. In the past, if people wanted to challenge a nomination, they generally could after an interview, Plett said.

Now, let's think about this. First up is the obvious bar that a 2/3 of membership creates. Anyone even mildly familiar with volunteer organizations knows that for the most part, only a handful of the overall membership is ever active, and likely to return their ballots.

Then there is the ballot counting method. An unreturned ballot is assumed to be a "no"... hmmm... so, in essence, this entire system was set up not so that the incumbents had to actually earn their nomination, but rather so that apathy would guarantee their renomination.

Coming from the party whose roots are in the grassroots populism of the Reform party, this is beyond revolting. They haven't held anything close to a democratic process. Any process which assumes the value of an unreturned ballot to be anything other than "spoiled" is fundamentally wrong.

As a long term watcher of Alberta politics, it's amazing the lengths that the CPoC has gone to in protecting Rob Anders from any kind of nomination threat. Every time there is a credible threat, they go gumby the rules about in such a way as to neutralize the threat to Anders.

But then again, it just tells us something about how conservatives win in politics - by playing on apathy. In Alberta politics, we've seen it for years - where ever dwindling voter turnout has made it possible for the conservatives to gain a virtual stranglehold on the provincial government.

More Argument By Assertion

It's amazing to me how often so-called "experts" pop up with supposedly informed commentary on subjects like transsexualism, and they so obviously have no idea what they are talking about.

Most recently (Monday, I believe), there was a court decision in Australia where the Family Court granted a court order allowing a 17 year old FTM transsexual to have his breasts removed.

Lurking in the middle of the article is the following paragraph that caught my attention:

But ethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini said mainstream medicine did not recognise hormone treatments and surgery as treatment for gender dysphoria. He said it was a psychiatric disorder qualifying under American guidelines as a psychosis because "it's a belief out of accordance with reality".

"What you are trying to do is make a biological reality correspond to that false belief."

The first thought that went through my head was "who is this twit?". Among other things, it's quite apparent that he doesn't understand the diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder at all, nor has he bothered to fully understand the diagnostic criteria for Delusion.

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.

So, a little bit of time with Google turns up that the man is affiliated with a religious institute as a philosopher/ethicist:

* JP502 – Philosophical Foundations of Bioethics
* JP540 – Foundations of Christian Moral Life
* JP543 – Theological Bioethics
* JP544 – Beginning of Life Ethics

* JP545 – End of Life Ethics
* JP546 – Current Controversies in Bioethics
* JP547 – Theology and Practice of Natural Family Planning
* JP564 – Educating in Sexuality, Marriage, Family and Life

Oh ... now it starts to make sense. We have another case here of someone who is more than likely to be parroting whatever the Vatican spouts.

Sure enough, he has commented on the case in question before, when Alex was first granted hormones (again through the courts, presumably because Alex is a ward of the state).

Then there's his commentary on the most recent ruling, which is particularly galling.

NICHOLAS TONTI- FILIPPINI: Most psychiatrists who treat people with gender dysphoria don't recommend the surgery and the transsexual changes. It worries me that this young woman is to have her breast cut off with the authority of the court, when the court hasn't got, well they haven’t got the mainstream view.

SARA EVERINGHAM: How do you think this should be managed?

NICHOLAS TONTI- FILIPPINI: You've got to look at it in terms of a person who is usually not well socially adjusted and so you would need to deal with those things. So that there are beliefs there, there are attitudes there which are harmful to her, that prevent her from forming normal relationships with women.

I don't even know where to begin with how dreadfully wrong Mr. Tonti-Filippini has it. Although many transsexuals do have great difficulty with relationships, those issues are secondary to the condition, not a primary root factor.

Social adjustment is something that usually improves dramatically post-transition for those who are having problems prior to transition. The other problem I have with Tonti-Filippini's reasoning here is that he's trying to deflect attention away from the base condition being addressed - Alex's cross-gender identification - thus framing his argument in the "transsexuality isn't real" context.

When he starts from a position which denies the treatment and research from the last fifty or so years, it's no surprise that Tonti-Filippini concludes that Alex is being treated incorrectly. Not unlike the decision making of Alberta's Ron Liepert, he clearly hasn't bothered to admit to his own lack of knowledge in the area, and takes it upon himself to make pronouncements without actually investigating.

Most psychiatrists who treat people with gender dysphoria don't recommend the surgery and the transsexual changes.

Sort of true, and not entirely an accurate portrayal of the WPATH Standards of Care either. Again, I will refer to section X of the SOC, which reads as follows:

In persons diagnosed
with transsexualism or profound GID,
sex reassignment surgery, along with hormone therapy and real-life experience, is a treatment that has proven to be effective.

Let's see...Alex has been living as a boy since the age of 13, and is now 17. That means that he has been living full time for 4 years, and assuming that the request for breast removal surgery was made at the age of sixteen, that's well beyond the SOC guidelines for Real Life Experience. Offhand, I'd hazard a guess that Alex has more than met the diagnostic criteria that would place him in the 'surgery is medically indicated' category. While only a handful of transgender people ever pursue surgery, that doesn't mean that surgery should not be an option to be considered.

However, I suspect that Mr. Tonti-Filippini isn't interested in doing the real research to understand the background and literature surrounding transsexuality. He's already made up his mind based on his presuppositions, and quite probably whatever pronouncements have been made by the Vatican - which is already known to be hostile to transsexuals.

It's one thing to make informed criticism of things, that's not what I see here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

Ezra's Facts - Shaken Out

So, someone decided to do a little fact checking on Ezra's historical analysis of the relationship between the CJC and the Canadian Nazi party in the 1960s.

It seems Ezra's analysis is a little bit lacking:

Indeed, facts appear to be secondary to Mr. Levant as he hunts and pecks his way through the historical record, extracting only those quotations which support his theories.

Finally, as Levant connects imaginary dots between John Garrity and CSIS mole Grant Bristow, it is significant to observe the dots that are not connected: Garrity's work destroyed the Canadian Nazi Party just as Bristow caused the implosion of the Heritage Front. They should be applauded for this work.

In the end, does Levant's contention that Canadian Jewish Congress "bank-rolled," "propped-up," "built up" or "organized" the Canadian Nazi Party of the 1960s have any merit? None whatsoever.

Somehow, this analysis comes as little or no surprise to me.

No Kidding!

Apparently, someone up in Edmonton figured out that what Stelmach and Blackett have been saying the last few days since tabling Bill 44 is at odds with what the legislation actually says:

Premier Ed Stelmach told reporters last week that the provision could be used to pull students out of classes dealing with evolution if parents preferred their kids be taught what's in the Bible instead.

Followed by the following from Minister Blackett today:

"This is opt-out on religious instruction not on grounds of religious beliefs. So the thought that somebody can get out of evolution using the fact that it's against their religious beliefs is not correct," he said. "Evolution is not a part of religious studies, it's part of science curriculum, and there is nothing that will change that going forward."

This is more or less what I read when the legislation was tabled.

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...