Monday, August 31, 2009

The G&M Does Some Real Journalism

Mainstream media has an unfortunate habit of getting their facts wrong, or even outright failing to do their research when it comes to talking about transgender - and in particular transsexual - issues.

So, it was with some trepidation that I opened this article on The Globe and Mail: Mourning a Daughter, Celebrating a Son.

To my relief, the writers at the Globe and Mail actually took the time to do some research:

Transgender facts

Although social acceptance for transgender people is growing, parents continue to abandon youth with gender-identity issues when their children need them most, advocates say.

49 per cent of transgender people attempt suicide.

Transgender youth account for 18 per cent of homeless people in cities such as Chicago, but researchers estimate fewer than 1 in 1,000 people is transgender.

1 in 12 transgender people in America is murdered.

Transgender youth whose parents pressure them to conform to their anatomical gender report higher levels of depression, illegal drug use, suicide attempts and unsafe sex than peers who receive little or no pressure from parents.

Less than 1 to 1.5 per cent of individuals experience persistent regret after sex-reassignment surgery.

Sources: Guidelines for Transgender Care (2006), Gender Spectrum Education and Training, Families in TRANSition (2008)

The article is genuine and sympathetic to what is often a difficult change for families to accept - especially with teens. It talks quite reasonably about the struggles that parents face in such matters, and describes the results of being supportive.

Why Is The NDP Acting Like An Adjunct To Harper?

There's an important observation in this morning's article about the Liberal Caucus retreat:

But a $550-a-plate fundraising dinner slated for Monday night in Sudbury has garnered criticism from local unions and the NDP, as about 3,000 workers with Vale Inco enter their seventh week on the picket lines with no negotiations between the company and the union.

Some workers along the picket line described the dinner as a "slap in the face" and said they planned to protest outside the event.

Sudbury NDP MP Glenn Thibeault also plans to hold a dinner of his own, serving spaghetti and salad at $5.50 a plate to support miners who find themselves without a job.

"My whole meal … is going to cost about $550 to feed about 150 to 200 people, so there's a big difference here," he said.

Uh huh. Now, tell me Mr. Layton, about those "fundamental differences" that keep you from "supporting" the Harper government? You seem to be doing an awfully good job of telling your people to ignore the malfeasance of the Conservative GOVERNMENT while paying attention to the Liberals.

It's pretty amazing how regularly we are hearing things out of the NDP that sound suspiciously like Conservative-generated talking points.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

If That's Your Criteria, You've Already Failed Stephen

‘God's verdict' outranks history's, PM says

“Honestly, I'm not into politics to play to the microphones and the cameras,” he said. “I'm there to ensure that the government acts responsibly, protects the population and meets its needs. I can take the criticism – it comes with the job – but my main preoccupation is not my personal image, but rather the country's higher interests.”

So, tell me ... how is strandig Canadians abroad in Canada's higher interests? Or perhaps, you'd like to explain to me how dragging Canada's political discourse lower than it has ever been is in our "higher interests"? Or how a bunch of partisan patronage is in Canada's higher interests?

Harper is several kinds of hypocrite - if he is awaiting "God's judgment" on his record, I can't imagine any Christian god is going to look too kindly on much of his record in government.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Purple Coalition Takes Shape

The timing and choice of Canada's next ambassador to the United States just smells wrong to me.

I'm speculating a bit here, but in the last couple of weeks, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper meet, and then this week, NDP Premier Gary Doer is appointed Canada's next ambassador to Washington.

To say that the timing of this is a little fishy is an understatement, but it fits. Layton has very carefully avoided actually criticizing the Harper government directly - instead choosing to frame his criticism of Harper's recent round of pork barrel patronage in terms of the Liberals:

"He has declared to the Canadian public that he would not name unelected people to the Senate. ... His word means less and less every day he's in office, and he's behaving more and more like the Liberals," NDP Leader Jack Layton said of Harper.

One has to wonder about the NDP's soft-pedalling of its criticisms of the Harper government when suddenly one of the NDP's longest serving public figures is granted a plum appointment by Canada's most partisan Prime Minister. Harper doesn't typically do things like this unless he's getting something out of it.

In this case, he gets to point to Doer as an example where he has apparently not been partisan, and I suspect that he also gets Layton to be somewhat passive for the next few months - and Layton will continue to focus his efforts on the Liberals instead of the government.

Layton will, of course, continue to talk vaguely in terms of "fundamental differences" with the Conservatives and it will be a rare vote that he actually aligns with the Conservatives in the House of Commons. He holds enough of a weight in the House of Commons that he can order his caucus to vote against the government, and thereby act as a fulcrum for whatever lever Harper is trying to apply to the Liberals.

Layton knows that an election right now will go against him, and likely as not end his political career - party leaders that lose seats tend not to survive so very long...even in the NDP.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Canada's Presence In Afghanistan

Eric Margolis nicely sums up the problems with military occupation in Afghanistan, and ends up recommending that it's time for Western powers to get out of that mess and let the people who actually live there take control over their own destiny.

We can't solve Afghanistan's social or political problems by waging a cruel and apparently endless war. A senior British general just warned his troops might have to stay for another 40 years. (He later retracted).

The western powers, Canada included, have added to the bloody mess in Afghanistan. Time to go home.

Can They Sink Any Lower

I know that blaming the victim is a pretty standard right wingnut attack ... and what do we see Conservative MPs doing to Suaad Hagi Mohamud?

Conservative MP Brian Jean went on the offensive, trying to force Ms. Mohamud to immediately waive her privacy rights and allow the full release of the government investigation into her case.

“We've heard that she wants to be forthright and honest, but she is asking for $2.5-million in taxpayers' money, and we have not heard whether or not she would release the findings to the committee,” Mr. Jean said.

What a bunch of complete scum. The government wants a private citizen to permit full disclosure of her personal information in order to make public the investigation report into why and how the government facilitated her detainment in Kenya? Holy crap - I didn't think it was human possible to sink any lower than the Harper government has...Mr. Jean just picked up the barrel and showed us what's writhing underneath it.

Ms. Mohamud's lawyer, Julian Falconer, was outraged by the question, stating that his client has nothing to hide. He added that the government, on the other hand, has not provided Ms. Mohamud with all of its information on her case.

“What a sad story that months later, having failed to do their jobs, [government officials] would somehow try to put the onus on her,” Mr. Falconer told reporters. “To ask her to somehow agree to waive rights over things she hasn't seen is absurd.”

Truly, Harper's legacy might just be that he finally made Brian Mulroney look good.

Governance By Ideology

In Alberta, the Conservative government has been in power so long that they have lost sight of the practical realities of government, and in particular the need to be flexible in coming up with policies to deal with difficult situations.

First up, we have Ed "I won't raise taxes" Stelmach whining about how it's going to be "long and painful" getting out of the fiscal hole that the PC's are busy digging for taxpayers.

Stelmach has vowed there will be no tax increases or new levies introduced as the government scrambles to balance the books, and reiterated government spending will be reined in.

"We will tighten our belt further," he said. "Steady Eddie" is going lean entirely on standard neo-Conservative dogma about taxation and take a primary tool of government off the table - taxation.

During the 90's and early 2000's, Ralph Klein took advantage of burgeoning royalties from the energy sector, and proceeded to chop taxes. That's all well and good, except that it leaves the government fiscally starved the moment that energy prices fall. (which they have)

Instead of investing the surplus revenues in the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, Klein mostly burned the money, and put a dribble here and there into his own "Sustainability Fund" - all the while draining any gains from the AHSTF. Had the Trust Fund been allowed to grow as it should have during the recent boom years, it would be worth a lot more than it is today, and much more than the $12bn "sustainability fund". But Klein, and now Stelmach, are far to short-sighted to understand this concept.

Then we get the government talking about "belt tightening". That always sounds good to the public - mostly because the public memory in this province is disastrously short term, and few people remember the consequences for Albertans from Ralph's early years, or the disastrous cuts that Getty imposed on areas like education.

Add to this the announcement yesterday from the Alberta Health Superboard that they are going to "cut jobs to improve service".

Currently, the health system faces a $1.3-billion deficit and has long surgical and emergency waiting times. It aims to have a balanced budget and reduced waiting times in three to four years. Part of those cost savings must focus on the workforce, since 70 per cent of the budget is spent on human resources, Duckett said.

Wait a second here. Health care delivery is primarily done with people - lots of them. Whether we are talking about nurses, doctors, clinical technicians, laboratory technicians, there's a lot of people that need to be present to analyze, diagnose and treat patients. You aren't likely to improve service by axing people.

... one might consider the massive pay hike that the "superboard" voted itself as the first place they should start cutting.

At least the UK government has looked at its NHS and published an extensive program of reform and funding change where the public can read and understand it.

Instead, in Alberta we have a government that is so used to being unaccountable to its citizens that it keeps its plans secret, only to drop it on us at the last possible minute - just as they did with the 2009/10 budget, where they conveniently chose to announce that a large number of health care services were being arbitrarily delisted.

No rationale, no chance for public input, no explanations whatsoever - the axe just fell.

This is not government, it is dictatorship. Sadly, it is dictatorship by the mendacious, and I have little faith that there is anything resembling actual thought going into the picture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Conservative "10% ers"

It's not like the leaflets that Conservative MPs keep sending out at taxpayer expense are worth as much as the paper they are printed on these days, but every so often, one of these things gets out that shows us the festering bigotry lurking just under the veneer of civility.

H/T: Canadian Cynic

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


An update on the whole Caster Semenya affair: New twist in Semenya gender saga

Tests have revealed Caster Semenya's testosterone level to be three times higher than those normally expected in a female sample, BBC Sport understands.

Of course, BBC doesn't even mention what the normal ranges for Testosterone in the blood are:

Normal Results Return to top

* Male: 300 -1,000 ng/dL
* Female: 20 - 80 ng/dL

Note: ng/dL = nanograms per deciliter

So ... even at the high end of that range, multiplied by 3, Caster's Testosterone level is arguably below the Male range low threshold. Further, the test itself if it is only a basic testosterone test and likely doesn't measure free versus bound testosterone.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Harper Government Pays Homage To Their Masters

Having been repeatedly ordered by various levels of Canada's courts to actively pursue repatriating Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, the Conservative government has decided to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada...

The government has decided to appeal a Federal Court of Appeal decision made earlier this month to the Supreme Court, unnamed sources told CBC parliamentary reporter Julie Van Dusen.

The Justice Department has filed a motion for stay pending appeal, Van Dusen said. spite of being told that the government had acted to this point in contravention of Omar Khadr's rights as a Canadian citizen, the Conservatives have decided to grind this through the Supreme court - deferring any need to act on behalf of a Canadian who has been held abroad in arguably illegal circumstances.

Never mind that the Charter of Rights in Canada is quite clear on this matter:

6. (1) Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.

So, once again, we see the Conservative government acting in a manner that is contrary to the interests of its citizens, but also in contravention of Canada's own laws. The longer this bunch is in office, the more they act like the Bush/Cheney crowd - with none of the charm of either of those two.

Next Up From the Ministry of Propaganda

Will be more stories about the great progress being made in Afghanistan.

... and then there's what the troops are facing on the ground:

The war in Afghanistan is going so badly – “it is serious and it is deteriorating” – that America's top military commander Admiral Mike Mullen was grimly preparing a war-weary public Sunday for the possibility that many more U.S soldiers may soon be needed to quell the raging Taliban insurgency.

This already has been the bloodiest summer for both foreign troops and Afghans since 2001.

Not to mention the evolving smell of electoral fraud and 'democracy by coercion' as practiced by the Taliban:

Adm. Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, America's most senior military commander, warns time is running out.

“We've got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said Sunday. That warning came on the heels of a flawed presidential election in Afghanistan where Taliban threats kept millions from the polls in the war-torn south and accusations of widespread vote-rigging threaten to further taint the outcome.

So ... we might do well to ask ourselves just what we seek to gain in Afghanistan besides inflating Steve "War President" Harper's ego?

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Term is "Personal Responsibility"

I seriously hope that the judge who hears this case throws it out:

Boy who lost foot sues railroad, city, and community association

It says Jashua Piche lost his right foot after he and his brother entered a CNR yard through a broken fence.

“Jashua Piche attempted to climb onto a moving train ... (when he) slipped and fell underneath the train, which subsequently rolled over him,” it states.

The mishap caused “Andruw Piche to suffer emotional trauma as a result of seeing and having to rescue (his brother).”

It alleges the defendants, along with an unnamed company and individuals, were negligent in not repairing the hole in the fencing.

So ... the kids went through a fence (previously damaged or not), tried to climb on a moving train, and one of them got hurt.

There was a fence present, and it's not like it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that a rail yard filled with tonnes of rolling metal is a dangerous place to play. Trying to climb onto a moving train is a borderline suicidal move at the best of times.

I'd say that the first question is why hadn't the parents done an adequate job teaching their kids to stay out of areas that are fenced in - regardless of the state of the fence?

The second question is just what kind of stupidity does it take to play around in a rail yard that is being actively used?

This whole unfortunate mess is an object lesson for the kids, not an excuse to try and get rich by suing everyone in sight.

On Caster Semenya

I've been leaving the whole uproar over Caster Semenya alone to this point.

The sidebar in the Toronto Star article above contains quite a list of the possible reasons that explain why Ms. Semenya appears quite androgynous:

The most common cause of sexual ambiguity is congenital adrenal hyperplasia, an endocrine disorder where the adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of hormones.
In women, this means a masculine appearance. They may have female sexual organs, but the ovaries may be unable to produce estrogen, preventing the growth of breasts or pubic hair.
There are also several rare chromosomal disorders where women may have some male characteristics. Women with Turner syndrome, which affects about one in 2,000 babies, typically have broad chests and very small breasts. Their ovaries do not develop normally and they cannot ovulate.

If, in the remote possibility that Ms. Semenya is a transsexual, as long as she is competing within the guidelines and rules of the governing body (IAAF in this case), it should also be a non-issue. In 2006, the IAAF released the following rules regarding transsexual and intersex competitors:

5. Reconstructive surgery and sex reassignment
- if sex change operations as well as appropriate hormone replacement
therapy are performed before puberty then the athlete is allowed to
compete as a female
- if the sex change and hormone therapy is done after puberty then the athlete has to wait two years after gonadectomy before a physical and endocrinological evaluation is conducted (The crux of the matter is that the athlete should not be enjoying the benefits of natural testosterone predominance normally seen in a male)

6. Conditions that should be allowed:
(a) Those conditions that accord no advantage over other females:
- Androgen insensitivity syndrome (Complete or almost complete - previously called testicular feminization);
- Gonadal dysgenesis (gonads should be removed surgically to avoid malignancy);
- Turner’s syndrome.
(b) Those conditions that may accord some advantages but nevertheless
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia;
- Androgen producing tumors;
- Anovulatory androgen excess (polycystic ovary syndrome).

To me, this seems pretty basic, and not too difficult to understand.

Then there's what I'm finding "Christian" organizations saying:

Steve McConkey of 4 WINDS, a Christian track and field ministry, tried to persuade the U.S. and International Olympic Committees that this was going to create future problems. During that time, Steve mentioned that it would be possible for a country in Africa to have a male compete as a female.

To avoid confusion, 4 WINDS suggested that the IOC should follow genetic chromosome tests as an indicator of the sex of a person. The IOC was warned that future problems would come up if they did not make this a policy.

Oh yes - the vaunted precision of chromosome tests. Except what does one do with the plethora of intersex conditions that are chromosomal? Forbid those people from competing altogether? What about cases where the person is intersex, and happens to appear outwardly "gender normal"? (Lots of those out there, too) Determining sex is not as simple as "XY=male" and "XX=female".

The Star has done an excellent job of covering the difficulties of using any singular testing model to verify gender today.

However, the uproar over this also carries with it a couple of dimensions that are exceedingly bothersome apart from the Intersex/Transsexual aspect of the coverage. I take some exception to the "omigod, she might actually be a MAN" statements. This is another form of the "deceitful transsexual" meme that so often goes around when a transsexual turns up dead after a boyfriend beats them to a pulp. It is demeaning and insulting to both Intersex and Transsexual people that these kinds of memes are repeated on a seemingly daily basis.

Then there is the seeming paranoia around having someone with a "male past" competing as a woman. The argument gets made that there's some kind of "advantage" athletically to having been born male. Anecdotally, there isn't. Once a Male to Female (MTF) transsexual has been on hormones for a couple of years, their body will not develop a masculine musculature, and in fact the power and endurance of the muscles will shift towards female normal levels. The male musculature is heavily influenced by the presence of testosterone - in large quantities. Additionally, the MTF transsexual has a male skeletal structure, which is markedly heavier than that for a natal female of the same approximate height. So, one can argue that in fact the MTF transsexual is in fact at a disadvantage because they will have a feminized musculature that is moving a heavier frame about. Unless the slight differences in proportions between male and female skeletal structures provide a significant mechanical advantage in motion, it's hard to imagine how there's any advantage whatsoever.

Whether Ms. Semenya is normal female, Intersex or even transsexual really should not be subject to such public scrutiny. The coverage is misguided, filled with innuendo and speculation and ignores the dignity of the person.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting It Wrong and Compounding The Error

Like this is any real surprise. Now Minister "Isotope Shortages Are Sexy" Raitt is using the argument that the MAPLE reactors would never have solved the isotope crisis.

Well ... yes and no. Without understanding the operational issues fully, that's a pretty hard thing to claim. Could the MAPLE reactors have been made to operate safely? Quite likely, but it would be a matter of time and money.

However, Ms. Raitt, and her short-sighted boss Stephen Harper, have utterly missed the point here. It isn't whether the MAPLE reactors were shelved at all. The issue is that the Conservatives shelved them, announced the permanent shutdown of the existing NRU reactor and left both Canada AND the world without any future plan for providing medical use isotope products.

Yes, there are a handful of other reactors around that produce these isotopes, but all of them are in varying stages of distress, and Canada's NRU reactor is by far the major player in that game.

The failure to even put in motion the steps to build another instance of the workhorse NRU reactor design that has worked remarkably well for a very long time is simply another example of this government's short-sightedness. They can't even understand that leaving the world with no path forward is irresponsible and seriously damaging to Canada's reputation. Nor do they seem to understand the benefit to Canadians that replacing the NRU reactor would have.

The Harper Government's Implicit Bigotry

The actions of the HarperCon$ in handling Canadians who are stuck abroad for one reason or another carry the seeds in them of a rising tide of conservative prejudice against anyone who doesn't subscribe to their narrowly defined sense of norms.

First up is this editorial from Embassy Mag (sorry, it's a sign-in site - but it is free).

The second lesson is about the lack of political concern for Canada's reputation in dealing with these matters. The treatment of Ms. Mohamud combined with other recent cases strongly suggests to the world that non-white and Muslim Canadians do not get the same attention from Ottawa as white native-born Canadians.

Stephen Harper and three of his ministers—Jason Kenney, Lawrence Cannon and Peter Van Loan—may not realize the seriousness of this problem. But this perception of institutional racism is a smoldering coal that, if left unchecked, runs the risk of igniting more than negative perceptions.

Along with certain overly heavy handed changes to our policies with respect to requiring Visas, the Harper government has taken a particularly heavy-handed approach to dealing with Canadians abroad, and visitors coming to Canada. The excuses they have provided to date seem at best inadequate.

It's time to bring the tough talk to an end. Canadians in trouble don't need to be lectured by the prime minister. And immigrant and refugee applicants don't need ministers to constantly complain about "queue jumpers." If the leaders set a tone of compassion, rather than the hardball language popular in Cabinet today, the world might not be so tempted to think us racist.

But then, when you combine that picture with the implications of recent changes to the "approved language" for DFAIT, it gets a whole lot uglier:

"The broader focus [of gender equality] certainly does include an understanding of the importance of the rights of the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] community. I think that there is a real concern about whether or not those rights are going to have less of a focus from the Canadian government perspective from that change," said Lindsay Mossman.

"[Equality of men and women] is language that was used in development circles years ago—language has progressed for reasons and moved forward and the Canadian government doesn't seem to be reflecting that in its language."

Mr. Cannon told Embassy on July 30 that some of the language changes were semantics, but said others reflected a change in policy. He didn't say which terms indicated a policy shift.

If the terminology does mean a change to government policy, it's a change that matters when you step outside Canada to look at how other countries treat gay and lesbian people, say advocates.

"On the ground, if the Ugandan Gay and Lesbian Association asks for some money to hold a workshop or something, [Canada] still could sponsor it, but we couldn't use our gender priorities as a justification. We'd have to just sponsor it on its own. Because that is less clearly about equality between men and women," Mr. Brown said.

Brown says the change at CIDA happened about a year ago. He believes the language shift indicates changing government policy because it has hit two departments.

Frankly, I think Cannon, like his master is being a little bit of a weasel when he tries to be evasive about what the various changes represent. Canada's government is trying to reinstate the kind of institutional bigotry that was commonplace through the first part of the 20th Century and before. It is a sad statement indeed that they either do not understand this, or have not managed to move beyond that period of time themselves.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Harper and The Press Reprise

I see that someone took some time to analyze Harper's approach to the media.

It doesn't say anything terribly surprising, but I think it misses a key point. Harper has done everything in his power to avoid being accountable to the Canadian public. Avoiding any media that might question his wisdom simply makes it easier for him to conduct his schemes without actually being held to account.

According to these insiders, Harper views the press gallery as a nest of liberals who are unwilling to give Conservatives a fair shake. But most of the Conservatives didn't see it that way at all. They acknowledged that at its core the press gallery is a liberal-leaning institution, but five of the seven Conservatives also reported that journalists for the most part do provide balanced coverage, even if the Prime Minister doesn't see it that way.

There's a clue here - Harper's acting in a manner that is rightly described as paranoid. Paranoia is an attribute we frequently see among the worst of leaders. If they are paranoid, then there is very little chance that they will be able to look at anything objectively. As a result their decisions will be colored by the taint of whatever is the subject of their paranoia. Harper's unceasing desire to engage in extreme partisan tactics is reflective of this, and I suspect that it is also reflected in the inability of the Harper government to find any form of meaningful compromise.

TransBashing Matt Barber Speaks On HRT For Inmates

Sometimes, looking over the fence into the cesspool of neoChristianist media is a frustrating horror show - especially when they start bashing GLBT people.

Being transgender in a prison can't be a pleasant experience - especially if one has not had surgery yet. It's particularly nasty if the adminstrators won't even provide access to treatment.

So ... two inmates sued. That's good news. In fact, the revised policies that Idaho is implementing are quite interesting:

The new policy says inmates must be given information about available treatment for gender identity disorder, that inmates can't be harassed by staffers for having been evaluated for the disorder, and that they must be moved to appropriate housing units while they are evaluated. It also spells out that outside consultants may assist in the diagnosis and that a recommendation for treatment must be completed within two months of a gender identity disorder diagnosis.

Also under the new policy, if an inmate is taking cross-sex hormones when they enter prison, they will be allowed to continue unless another medical condition makes it unsafe or inadvisable to continue.

Then there is what comes out of neoChristian wingnuttia:

Barber believes prison officials are doing transgendered inmates a disservice. "The American Psychological Association still considers gender confusion -- GID, gender identity disorder -- a disorder. It is a mental disorder," he contends.

According to Barber, prisons throughout the U.S. should help suffering inmates to overcome their gender delusions.

Barber...Barber?...That sounds familiar... oh right, that Matt Barber.

Ironically, what Mr. Barber ignores is that the WPATH Standards of Care actually recommend the very treatment he is opposing:

After the diagnosis of GID is made the
therapeutic approach usually includes three elements or phases (sometimes labeled triadic therapy): a real-life experience in the desired role, hormones of the desired gender, and surgery to change the genitalia and other sex characteristics.
Typically, triadic therapy takes place in the
order of hormones = = > real-life experience = = > surgery

Additionally, Barber doesn't seem to understand that a GID diagnosis bears no resemblance whatsoever to either clinical delusion or other disorders. In fact, those other conditions would explicitly preclude a GID diagnosis until dealt with adequately from a clinical perspective.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Troops Are In Afghanistan In Support of This?!?

Let me get this straight - Canadian troops are part of the force that is occupying Afghanistan right now. Many times, I have seen people who defend this occupation by saying how much better things are for women than they were under the Taliban.

So ... would somebody care to explain to me why our troops are propping up a government that proposes blatantly misogynistic legislation that would make the most rabid of the Taliban proud?

Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands, despite international outrage over an earlier version of the legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.

The new final draft of the legislation also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work.

"It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying 'blood money' to a girl who was injured when he raped her," the US charity Human Rights Watch said.

Around about this time, I think it's time for the Canadian Army to pack up and leave. Our tax dollars should not be used to prop up any government which is willing to pass legislation that allows women to be starved to death because they won't have sex with their husbands, or that allows rape to go unpunished.

At this point, our presence in Afghanistan is implicit endorsement of the legislation just passed...this is acceptable how?

It's A Start ...

I haven't been overly impressed with the lack of our country's opposition parties taking the Harper government to task over this summer. It seems like every time we turn around, the HarperCon$ have been spewing out more and more nonsense that deserves to be taken down - whether it's been about the Chalk River situation, immigration or stranding Canadian citizens aboard.

However, as a regular reader of this space pointed out to me, the Liberals have at least made an effort - which the mainstream media seems to have ignored so far.

Frankly, while Ignatieff has been touring about the Maritimes, out here in Alberta, we've heard precious little. I can only hope for Canada's sake that in other provinces the message is getting more coverage than I'm seeing this week.

Because They Lie - ALL THE TIME

The right wing hysteria over sexuality continues unabated. Today's installment comes in the form of Lifesite's response to the APA Report on Sexual Orientation conversion therapy.

This is a piece which is filled with ad-hominem attacks, distortions and outright lies about the psychology profession, and in particular how psychologists handle clients with sexual and gender identity issues.

It starts off with a whopper, too:

A man goes to a psychologist with a problem. "Doctor," he says, "I'm suffering terribly. I feel like a woman trapped inside the body of a man. I want to become a woman."

The psychologist responds: "No problem. We can discuss this idea for a couple of years, and if you're still sure you want to be a woman, we can have a surgeon remove your penis, give you hormones for breast enlargement and make other changes to your body. Problem solved."

Gratified, the first patient leaves, followed by a second. "Doctor," he says, "I feel terrible. I'm a man but I feel attracted to other men. I want to change my sexual preference. I want to become heterosexual." The psychologist responds: "Oh no, absolutely not! That would be unethical. Sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic!"

The irony of this little tale is that, while reading like a joke, it is in reality an accurate description of the mental health professions today. While dismissing and condemning reparative therapy for homosexual orientation, the majority of psychiatrists and psychologists in Anglophone North America have embraced the concept of "sex change," a procedure that does nothing more than mutilate the patient to appease his confused mind.

Lie #1: The implication that getting a therapist's backing for gender reassignment is trivial. It's not. A good therapist will help their client explore all of the options open to them, and will not make a recommendation for surgery before they are satisfied that the patient is making a choice that is in their best interests.

Lie #2: That there is an equivalence between GRS as part of the treatment for transsexualism and sexual orientation change therapy. The APA is in fact quite consistent in this regard. The long term research evidence has repeatedly shown that sexual orientation does not change measurably over time, nor does gender identity - homosexual identity and cross-gender identities tend to be surprisingly fixed and unresponsive to therapeutic efforts to change them.

Lie #3: Gender Reassignment Surgery is "mutilation". Not for the patient it isn't. For those who truly need it, GRS is part of a three pronged approach to treatment which includes therapy, hormones and yes - surgery. Surgery is the last step, taken primarily when the patient has been living in their chosen gender for a long period of time. From the patient's perspective, having genitalia which are at odds with their overall presentation is a source of ongoing distress. The long term studies (Pfaefflin et. al., 1992) demonstrate repeatedly that the outcomes post surgery are positive in all but a tiny handful of cases.

The refusal of the organization to accept the increasingly strong evidence against its position is another reminder of how entrenched the sophistry of sexual hedonism has become among the leaders of the organization.

In recent years, a number of studies have been published in peer-reviewed psychology journals, indicating that significant numbers of patients who voluntarily participate in therapy to change their sexual orientation are successful and happy with the results. Combined with numerous individual testimonies by former homosexuals, evidence in favor of the practice is overwhelming.

Yet another lie. The APA statement was quite clear about the methodological problems that those published studies suffer from. The APA did not simply dismiss them out of hand, but in fact reviewed them, and pointed out some of the methodology problems that they suffer from. The fact that a paper was published in a journal does not mean that it is without flaws.

However, the authors of Essential Psychotherapy and its Treatment, a standard text in medical schools, disagree with the APA's leadership, and say that the newer studies vindicate sexual reorientation therapy.

The newest edition (2009) notes on page 488 that, "While many mental health care providers and professional associations have expressed considerable skepticism that sexual orientation could be changed with psychotherapy and also assumed that therapeutic attempts at reorientation would produce harm, recent empirical evidence demonstrates that homosexual orientation can indeed be therapeutically changed in motivated clients, and that reorientation therapies do not produce emotional harm when attempted (e.g., Byrd & Nicolosi, 2002; Byrd et al., 2008; Shaeffer et al., 1999; Spitzer, 2003)."

Again, another distortion, bordering on an outright lie. The APA's report is clear in pointing out that the evidence regarding the effectiveness of "reorientation therapy" and its potential to do harm is simply too sparse to be conclusive. The APA clearly left the door open for future research to be methodologically complete.

Although the homosexualist leadership at the APA tries to rationalize these relationships by claiming that they are caused by social stigma or other factors, their claims ring hollow. Many stigmitized groups exist in society that display none of the pathological tendencies of homosexuals, and these tendencies appear even in countries that are very tolerant of homosexual behavior, such as the Netherlands.

Yes, and in any country with a "western Christian" background, no matter how legally tolerant they may be, there is still an enormous amount of social pressure to conform with the Christian view that homosexuality is evil. It will be decades, if not centuries before sexual and gender minorities are free from the constant pressure to conform to a standard they cannot possibly meet.

I must also point out the ad-hominem attack that Lifesite's writer launches at the APA, accusing the authors of the recent report of being "homosexualists", "homosexual activists" etc. This is a recurring standard of attack from those who lack actual evidence to back up their claims - attack the authors of the "opposing" claims instead of actually addressing the subject matter.

The defense and even the promotion of mental health experts who defend child sex abuse is a terrifying, but expectable movement down the slippery slope of sexual hedonism embraced by the powers that be at the APA. It not only threatens homosexuals, who are deceived by the seductive argument that their orientation is nothing to worry about, but psychology and psychiatry themselves.

We've had several centuries of Christian proscriptions against homosexuality. It hasn't worked on the whole, and I have yet to see credible evidence that attempts to change someone's sexual identity actually work. (Much less any serious studies of transsexuals in a similar vein) We know that homosexuality has been a part of our society since the dawn of time. We also know that whatever attempts to suppress or eliminate it that have been undertaken have not been successful.

It seems to me far more constructive to help someone accept who they are, and learn to deal with their feelings constructively. Telling them to deny themselves and attempt to be something that they are not. Those who are free to live their lives openly and authentically are ultimately happier, and more productive members of society.

The outcome of the current battle over the science of homosexuality may well determine the future of the mental health professions as a whole. Will they turn back from the brink, or plunge into the abyss? And what will become of the societies that heed their counsel?

What battle? It strikes me that it's more of a "faith versus science" argument these days. On one hand, we have faith, and faith-based groups masquerading as scientific (NARTH) claiming something about sexual identity and orientation that they have yet to substantiate. Then there's what happens when rational evaluation of the evidence occurs - it tends to result in the very interesting report the APA recently released.

Once again, the religious right has to dredge up the old saw about how society is going to collapse because of homosexuality. It's hard to imagine how society would ever collapse when the incidence of homosexuality appears to have been pretty constant throughout human history - regardless of how open a society is towards it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Michael Coren: The Misogynist Chronicles Ctd

I really should know better than to read Coren's rantings - they are inevitably so full of idiocy it's amazing that he continues to be publishable.

His latest piece is another "get back in the kitchen, woman" column, in which he not only tries to claim that women shouldn't be working, but that the world's problems with parenting are entirely the fault of feminism.

There is more to this case and judgment than just this one passage of Cunningham's ruling, but at first sight it does seem rather strange.

Truth is truth, lies are lies and unless MacLeod's lifestyle goes directly to character it has no influence on the credibility of her evidence. It does, however, say something about her decisions and choices and about how the contemporary world regards motherhood.

We're not supposed to say it anymore but motherhood is pretty important. There are, of course, many women who are forced by economic circumstances to work outside of the home. But there are others who seem to believe that raising a child is less significant than alleged self-fulfilment or even political ambition. Ms. MacLeod, do you seriously believe you can be both an exemplary mother and a full-time politician?

The arrogance of Coren's close to that last paragraph is beyond words. In that one sentence, he has belittled the efforts of every working mother and father in this nation. I know far too many couples who struggle daily with keeping work, finances and raising their families in balance to accept Coren's blithe inference that you can't be both a good mother and a career woman. (or for that matter, a successful career man and single father)

Yes, I know people will say the father can do the job just as well and that it's all about quality time but this is nonsense and denial. Real parenting is about the time that isn't quality.

The quality stuff, the fun stuff, is easy. It's the driving to soccer yet again, the sitting with them when life is awful, the meetings with the teachers, the helping with the homework, the being there stuff that makes you a good parent.

Oh yes, so it's only the maternal parent that can ride out the rough patches, the difficult times? Right. I'll keep that in mind - in the same place that I keep my belief in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Mr. Coren's attitudes don't even begin to recognize the realities that most families live with today. Perhaps, because of his semi-celebrity status, Mr. Coren has gathered enough wealth that he can afford this idealized stay-at-home world where his wife does all of the hard work raising the children, and he just has to do the "quality time" routine - that isn't real for most parents in urban Canada these days.

Believe me Lisa, sitting in committee rooms with political hacks mouthing the party line is not the same as seeing your child, to and for whom you are responsible, grow by the day into a unique human being.

Perhaps, Mr. Coren, you might want to write that same sentence with yourself as the subject of it? I think a lot of us can think of more pleasant ways to pass the day than in meetings with political hacks.

For Mr. Coren to place the burden of raising children primarily on the female parent, and then complain that "men are treated unfairly" is ridiculous, stupid and infuriating. It is, in fact, the very social structures that he idealizes that resulted in those court rulings he bemoans, not feminism. It has only been in the last 25-30 years that the burden of parenting has become more evenly shared by mother and father - and that has been a product of economic necessity for many.

I will agree that the family courts still make rulings which do not reflect the realities that many single fathers experience on a daily basis, but that will only change when the laws of the land change, and the courts are convinced of the realities. Ironically, those are the very realities that the Status of Women ministry used to fund research into tracking - until the HarperCon$ came along and slashed funding.

[Update 18/08/09]:
Mindelle Jacobs hands Mr. Coren his ass on a plate

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Using Passports To Revoke Citizenship

The Canadian government has taken a disturbing turn in recent years, and under the Conservatives, it has become amplified.

There have been several cases that have hit the media in recent years that bear consideration. In particular, I want to draw attention to the cases of Abousfian Abdelrazik and Suaad Hagi Mohamud. In both of these cases, the Canadian government has acted to deny Canadian citizens access to the documents needed to return home.

In the first case, the government acted for several years to deny Mr. Abdelrazik the right to return to Canada. In the second case, the government spent 2 full months denying Ms. Mohamud's identity in spite of corroborating documentation.

Both of these are extremely serious cases. They represent a government acting to deny its acknowledged citizens the right to return home. Canada does not have a "two tier" citizenship policy - it is not easier to strip citizenship from somebody because they immigrated to Canada rather than being born here - although past Reform/Alliance party tirades have suggested that many within the party would like to do just that.

So ... instead of attempting to revoke citizenships, the Conservatives have chosen to use this tactic of revoking passports and denying replacements to their victims. A few have made their way into the public spotlight, but how many more have been quietly muzzled in some foreign prison?

As for those that argue that the government has no obligations to you when you travel abroad, I argue that the government is in fact morally and legally obligated to provide assistance - and certainly not act in a manner that deliberately obstructs a citizen trying to return home. The moral case is trivial; the legal case is rooted in the Charter of Rights and its guarantees of mobility and security of the person. (Which, one can arguably claim the government is violating both of in these cases)

[Update 20:05 13/08/09]:
I see that once again, the Harper Con$ are persuaded to take actual action (or at least talk about it) once the political heat gets high enough. When it takes public outrage before the government acts on behalf of its citizens, it is no longer a government that represents the people it claims to govern.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Arguing Against SGM: The Punch - FAIL

The Punch is an Australian current affairs magazine.

One of their columnists attempted to write a non-religious argument against gay marriage

It boils down to two basic lines of argument - neither of which hold even a drop of water when subjected to scrutiny.

The first argument is that same-gender couples can't possibly have children. This is a very nice truism, but if you restrict marriage solely along the lines of procreative potential there's some serious problems.

The simple fact is that while some marriages do not produce children, no gay relationships can produce children. Children may be involved but they haven’t been produced as a result of the sexual relationship between the couple.

Throughout its clouded history, marriage has been as much about the provision of a future for a society (through children) as it has been about the relationship between a man and a woman. A gay relationship is not the same as a marriage in this regard.

Again, if one uses such a criterion for marriage, then one must assume that marriages involving Intersex individuals or those who are for one reason or another sterile must also be seen as invalid.

A gay relationship that is raising children - whether by adoption, or past relationships of one of the partners - is just as much about the "future of society" as a heterosexual relationship raising children. Who gave birth to those children is immaterial - there are plenty of children raised by step parents.

Similarly, if one is talking about "the future of society", we must also recognize that not every heterosexual couple produces children - whether by choice or fate. Those couples are no more the majority than same-gender couples are. To suggest that either represent any kind of "threat" to the continuation of society is ludicrous at best.

Those who argue that allowing homosexual couples to marry will somehow be detrimental to society's integrity are invited to look to Canada, Norway, Spain and other countries which have had allowed such marriages for several years now. I have yet to see any credible research to suggest that the handful of same-gender marriages that take place each year have had any such consequences.

As I said earlier, there are many long-standing, committed and loving gay relationships and I have no objection to some form of recognition by the state for those that seek it but I do not think that marriage and a gay relationship are the same thing. A gay relationship needs to be called something else.

Oh? Really? Are you prepared to go through every piece of legislation that references marriage and make appropriate references to this "alternate"? I doubt it, and it would be much more expensive than simply allowing the same term to cover both heterosexual and homosexual partnerships. Second, as "separate-but-equal" experiments in both Canada and the United States have shown, separate-but-equal schemes are seldom, if ever, actually equal.

Our definition of marriage as between a man and a woman is part of our cultural heritage as well as recognition of the uniqueness of the relationship. There’s no reason to change that.

Besides the fact that the author has utterly failed to demonstrate that there is even a smidgen of evidence to demonstrate the "uniqueness" of the heterosexual marriage relationship that truly distinguishes it from a homosexual marriage relationship.

Lastly, he fails completely to address the systemic social and legal discrimination that same-gender couples experience on a routine basis where SGM is not fully recognized in law. Among other issues that are not adequately considered are topics such as inheritance rights, access to loved partners who are hospitalized, decision making powers that would normally devolve to a spouse are assigned to parents or other members of the biological family who may be quite overtly hostile to the same-gender partner; numerous taxation rules change for married couples ... and the list goes on.

Let me be explicit here - as I said repeatedly during the debate here in Canada, we are talking about the legal construct of marriage, not its spiritual or religious forms. Arguments that fail to address the very legitimate issues of discrimination and unequal treatment that same-gender couples face are fundamentally empty arguments.

Canada's Conservatives - Dishonesty, Denial and Irresponsibility

This should come as no surprise:

On one hand, the Canada Border Services Agency said this morning it is working to issue the Toronto woman travel documents, tacitly admitting that Canadian authorities made a mistake in voiding her passport in Nairobi, Kenya, nearly three months ago.

On the other hand, no government politician has acted to get the woman home, instead leaving the federal court to sort out details.

In short, once again, Canada's Conservatives have shown us their fundamentally bigoted approach to Canada's citizens. If you are a Canadian citizen, and a foreign government detains you, you're pretty much screwed. On top of that, it's amazing how often this happens to Canadians of colour.

My own disgust with the Conservatives on Foreign Affairs matters is well documented in past postings - Harper & Co. simply don't get it when it comes to playing on the world stage and end up coming off as a bunch of juvenile thugs.

However, Ms. Mohamud's case is a reptition of something that has happened often enough to start looking like a pattern - and pattern in government is an indicator of policy - whether or not the government has said it out loud.

Sure enough, Alison over at Creekside has found a real gem:

"Gender Equality", "Child Soldiers" and "Humanitarian Law" are Axed from Foreign Policy Language

With subtle strokes of the pen, it appears the Conservative government has been systematically changing the language employed by the foreign service and, as a result, bringing subtle but sweeping changes to traditional Canadian foreign policy.

In an email communication obtained by Embassy, staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs express concern about frequent changes being made to commonly used terms, particularly where such changes are not consistent with accepted Canadian policy, and which may be carried out to minimize international obligations on issues as complex as the Omar Khadr case.

In short, Canada's Con$ are sneaking around and changing our foreign policy to represent something that only George W. Bush could ever be proud of. Filled with language designed to deny the very principles that Canada has represented since the end of WWII, these wording changes reflect a policy direction that Canadians should be embarrassed by at the very least, and outraged by in truth.

Within DFoA, it's clear that people are concerned:

For many observers of Canada's foreign policy, these are distressing language changes that water down many of the very international human rights obligations Canada once fought to have adopted in conventions at the United Nations. As one source said, in the international world of diplomacy—where officials often focus detailed discussions on the language included in documents and policies—wording makes a big difference.

Indeed, the email states "It is often not entirely clear to us why [office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs] advisers are making such changes, and whether they have a full grasp of the potential impact on [Canadian] policy in asking for changes to phrases and concepts that have been accepted internationally and used for some time."

No, it's perfectly clear - and as dishonest an approach to policy as a government could possibly take. This is unnecessary mucking about with the language of diplomacy - a tactic which can only serve to obfuscate and confuse issues.

Which is precisely what the Con$ have done with Omar Khadr, Abousfian Abdel-Razik and now Suaad Hagi Mohamud. We don't need to spend much time talking about Mr. Celil who is now rotting in a Chinese prison; or the royal screw-up made of Brenda Martin's case.

No matter what Mr. Harper and his band of NeoCon nasties think, Canadians as a whole don't believe as they do - and should be outraged at Mr. Harper's government for its blatant abuse of both language and its own citizens abroad.

Monday, August 10, 2009

PFOX - Your Source for Lies and Distortion

This time, PFOX has opened its yap about the bogeyman of having taxpayer-funded gender surgery available in the United States:

if the proposed federal health insurance will cover sex-change surgeries, hormone treatment, etc. for Gender Identity Disorder as opposed to therapy.

This is one of those typical lies that we see from the "pray away the gay" crowd. The key phrase is "as opposed to". This leaves it open to the reader to understand that Gender Surgery would somehow be available apart from appropriate psychological counselling.

If PFOX was even marginally honest with their readers, they would have acknowledged that the WPATH Standards of Care are entirely based on access to surgery only with a psychologist or psychiatrist's recommendation.

In fact, section X of the SOC is quite unambiguous about the triad of treatments required for "profound GID":

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. Such a therapeutic regimen, when prescribed or recommended by qualified practitioners, is medically indicated and medically necessary.

As an aside, Gender Reassignment Surgery is probably the only medical procedure in the world that requires the patient to prove to not one, but two professionals besides the surgeon that they are in fact in complete control of their faculties.

But, then again, it's not like I haven't caught PFOX with their proverbial pants down before, either.

p.s. PFOX links to a very heart-breaking story of an "Ex-Transgender". I don't want to dismiss his narrative as invalid, for it is not. However, he is exactly the kind of patient that the SOC is designed to weed out before they get to surgery. The long term literature is clear - those few who need GRS benefit from it.

So Where's The Legislation, Steve?

So, according to Harper, the decision to force Mexican and Czech travellers to get visas before they can enter Canada is the fault of Canada's refugee system.

Really? For a government that has been in power intermittently since 2006, it's surprising that the Con$ haven't even proposed legislation to address the "broken" immigration/refugee laws in this country.

So ... if things are really that badly broken, it seems to me that the responsibility for addressing it in legislation sits firmly in Mr. Harper's lap, and takes the form of one Jason Kenney.

Once again, we have Canada's most immature government trying desperately hard NOT to take responsibility for their own inaction and inability to work with the other parties in the House of Commons to pass legislation that is meaningful and beneficial to Canada. Instead, they consistently introduce legislation so rooted in a vile cross between uncompromising ideology and partisanship that the opposition cannot pass it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Conservative Politicians Distorting Science? ... Nah

... not much at any rate.

Early concerns about the Conservative party's policies under Stephen Harper emerged in the areas of reproductive technology and stem cell research. More recently, cuts to basic research in the Tories' stimulus budget as well as Conservative Science Minister Gary Goodyear's unscientific comments on "creationism" versus evolution prompted an open letter to Harper by more than 2,000 top Canadian scientists decrying "huge steps backward for Canadian science" under the Conservatives.
Among the most egregious examples of the Tories' manipulation on this file are their apparent efforts to suppress and cloud research, and their unwillingness to accept scientific findings. When initially faced with the decision whether or not to allow Insite to continue to operate legally, then health minister Tony Clement stated that "more research is necessary."

Ironically, as part of this announcement he declared a moratorium on injection site research trials and intervened to halt funding to an Insite research grant, which had already been externally peer-reviewed and recommended for funding by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Rather than promoting "more research," his interference with the recommendations coming from this transparent peer-review process was in clear violation of international scientific standards.

There's no manipulation for political purposes going on there, is there? Couldn't possibly be that Harper will twist facts and distort reality just so that he can continue to reside at 24 Sussex... or could it?

Ironically, the Conservatives have responded to this volume of research by clouding the issue and stating that the research has actually "raised questions" and that there is a "growing academic debate." These statements are highly disingenuous. The published research has answered many questions, not raised them. Furthermore, rather than academic debate, a near unanimous academic consensus has emerged in the mainstream scientific community. For instance, more than 130 prominent Canadian scientists recently published an open letter to Harper charging that his conduct surrounding Insite was putting ideology before the protection of public health.

In short ... the HarperCon$ have been lying to Canadians on this subject as well.

The story gets worse, and should remind us of the close ties between Harper and the Bush II NeoCons:

In 2006, the Harper government took a page from the Republican handbook when it selected an "expert advisory committee," giving the members no more than six months to solicit and conclude definitive research on the impact of Insite. The government also stipulated that researchers conduct this work in secrecy and agree not to present their research at scientific meetings or in medical journals until six months after the committee's final report.


Despite the constraints placed upon it, the Conservatives' committee concluded that Insite had a range of benefits and there was no evidence of harm. Having failed to discredit the scientific evidence, the Tories then embraced purchased "critiques" of Insite that later disclosures revealed actually were funded by the RCMP and posted on a website hosted by the conservative law enforcement lobby group known as the Drug Free America Foundation.

In other words, solely for the purpose of putting still more people in prison under the conservative mantra of "getting tough on crime", the HarperCon$ are prepared to do everything in their power to shut down one of the most promising approaches to drug abuse that we have seen in Canada. All so that they can follow the oh-so-successful American model of conducting a "War on Drugs" - which has seen more and more Americans spending time in prison for simple possession, and afterwards living life with a criminal record following them around.

Could Canada's Conservative party sink any lower if they tried?

Friday, August 07, 2009

In Outer Wingnuttia ... The Howling Begins

I wrote about the APA's report on "change therapy" for sexual orientation yesterday.

Today, we have the loons in Outer Wingnuttia squawking about it - and they aren't happy at all.

I'll let Mr. Hooper over at the Good As You blog take apart the pathetic attempt at spin from Exodus.

NARTH, on the other hand delivered some whoppers in their press release.

Unfortunately, however, the report reflects a very strong confirmation bias; that is, the task force reflected virtually no ideological diversity. No APA member who offers reorientation therapy was allowed to join the task force.

Oh dear, apparently NARTH's all upset because nobody "from their team" was on the task force. I think this tells us a great deal about NARTH's approach to research. Good research is impartial. That is to say, it is evidence based, not rooted in political ideology.

The APA report doesn't make any statements without citing what research those statements are based on. There's a lot of a research that they reviewed from NARTH's Nicolosi, Byrd and others - in addition to all the other material they reviewed.

They selected and interpreted studies that fit within their innate and immutable view. For example, they omitted the Jones and Yarhouse study, the Karten study, and only gave cursory attention to the Spitzer study.

Ummm...bullfeathers. Spitzer's work is cited multiple times through the document, as is work by E. Karten. Similarly, the Jones & Yarhouse study from 2007 is in fact cited in the bibliography. NARTH can't even be bothered to read the documents they are criticizing!

In a fit of complete irony, Mark Yarhouse served as one of the scholarly reviewers of this study.

Further, the APA report actually takes the time to explain the problems with reports like Jones & Yarhouse, or Spitzer come to that:

65 A published study that appeared in the grey literature in 2007 (Jones & Yarhouse, 2007) has been described by SOCE advocates and its authors as having successfully addressed many of the methodological problems that affect other recent studies, specifically the lack of prospective research. The study is a convenience sample of self-referred populations from religious self-help groups. The authors claim to have found a positive effect for some study respondents in different goals such as decreasing same-sex sexual attractions, increasing other-sex attractions, and maintaining celibacy. However, upon close examination, the methodological problems described in Chapter 3 (our critique of recent studies) are characteristic of this work, most notably the absence of a control or comparison group and the threats to internal, external, construct, and statistical validity. Best-practice analytical techniques were not performed in the study, and there are significant deficiencies in the analysis of longitudinal data, use of statistical measures, and choice of assessment measures. The authors’ claim of finding change in sexual orientation is unpersuasive due to their study’s methodological problems.

Then NARTH goes on to try and spin the issue of Reparative Therapy causing serious harm to clients:

We believe the report indirectly supports the findings published in the current Journal of Human Sexuality that reveal no significant ill-effects of therapy. Further, if some clients are dissatisfied with the therapeutic outcome, as in therapy for other issues, the possibility for dissatisfaction appears to be outweighed by the potential gains.

The Journal of Human Sexuality? Oh NARTH's Journal of Human Sexuality - their in-house vanity journal. Somehow, I'm not thinking that this is exactly seen as a high value journal outside of NARTH's membership. As Ex Gay Watch points out, the study NARTH is referring to is flawed from the start - and its authors have admitted as much.

I find it deeply troubling that NARTH simply tries to dismiss the prospect of psychological harm experienced by clients of Reparative Therapy dismissively as "dissatisfaction".

The APA report is much more honest about the issue, and state the following:

We concluded that research on SOCE (psychotherapy, mutual self-help groups, religious techniques) has not answered basic questions of whether it is safe or effective and for whom. Any future research should conform to best-practice standards for the design of efficacy research. Additionally, research into harm and safety is essential.

In short, the APA is saying that the research done into various attempts to change one's sexual orientation is so limited, and flawed, that it neither refutes nor substantiates claims of harm.

The problem that groups like NARTH face is that their "research" is simply not credible when you hold it up to scrutiny.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

So Much For Reparative Therapy

For the last ten years or more, the "Pray away the Gay" crowd in the religious right has been trying to prop up NARTH to provide the appearance of legitimacy for their position that "homosexuality can be changed/cured/prayed away".

As reported on CNN, the American Psychological Association chose to review the real research on such programs (not the spewage from Paul Cameron, or the various lobby groups, but actual peer reviewed research that has been published in reasonable journals), and released their report titled Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.

The upshot of their findings:

The appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions with adults is built on three key findings in the research: (a) an enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation as a result of SOCE is unlikely, and some participants were harmed by the interventions; (b) sexual orientation identity, not sexual orientation, appears to change via psychotherapy, support groups, or life events; and (c) clients benefit from approaches that emphasize acceptance, support, and recognition of important values and concerns.

In short, reparative therapy is snake oil. Something which most critically thinking people would have long ago figured out.

Ironically, NARTH founder Joseph Nicolosi's work is heavily cited in this study:

Nicolosi, J. (1991). Reparative therapy of male homosexuality. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Nicolosi, J. (1993). Healing homosexuality. Northvale, NJ:Jason Aronson.
Nicolosi, J. (2003). Finally, recognition of a long-neglected population. Archives of General psychiatry, 32, 445-447.
Nicolosi, J., Byrd, A. D., & Potts, R. W. (2000). Retrospective self-reports of changes in homosexual orientation: A consumer survey of conversion therapy clients. Psychological Reports, 86, 1071-1088.
Nicolosi, J., & Nicolosi, L. A. (2002). A parent’s guide to preventing homosexuality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Although, Nicolosi's work is cited primarily in the background chapters describing the discussion itself, and in particular advocacy from groups like NARTH.

Where Nicolosi's research is actually cited or discussed for its merits, it comes in for some fairly harsh criticism:

A meta-analytic review of 14 research articles (Byrd & Nicolosi, 2002) is not discussed in this report. The review suffers from significant methodological shortcomings and deviations from recommended meta-analytic practice (see, e.g., Durlak, Meerson, & Ewell-Foster, 2003; Lipsey & Wilson, 2001) that preclude reliable conclusions to be drawn from it.

For instance, to assess whether sexual orientation had changed, Nicolosi et al. (2000) performed a chi-square test of association on individuals’ prior and current self-rated sexual orientation. Several features of the analysis are problematic. Specifically, the nature of the data and research question are inappropriate to a chi-square test of association, and it does not appear that the tests were properly performed. Chi-square tests of association assume that data are
independent, yet these data are not independent because the row and column scores represent an individual’s rating of his or her past and present self.

Recent studies have investigated whether people who have participated in efforts to change their sexual orientation report decreased same-sex sexual attractions (Nicolosi et al., 2000; Schaeffer et al., 2000; Spitzer, 2003) or how people evaluate their overall experiences of SOCE (Beckstead & Morrow 2004; Pattison & Pattison, 1980; Ponticelli, 1999; Schroeder & Shidlo, 2001; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002; Wolkomir, 2001). These studies all use designs that do not permit cause-and-effect attributions to be made. We conclude that although these studies may be useful in describing people who pursue SOCE and their experiences of SOCE, none of the recent studies can address the efficacy of SOCE or its promise as an intervention.

Childhood interventions to prevent homosexuality have been presented in non-peer-reviewed literature (see Nicolosi & Nicolosi, 2002; Rekers, 1982). ... Thus, we concluded that there is no existing research to support the hypothesis that psychotherapy in children alters adult sexual orientation.

Not exactly a promising assessment ... and arguably invalidates many of the shibboleths held by the advocates of "change therapy".

H/T: Commenter "SB" for bringing this to my attention

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Medical Treatment Should Never Be About Popularity

In recent weeks, the shrieking out of the right wingnuts over the idea of the US government actually implementing a meaningful taxpayer funded medical system has been alternating between stupid and funny.

Until two of the loonier members of America's right wing - Matt Barber and Peter LaBarbera decided to weigh in.

I could give their joint idiocy a detailed analysis - but it boils down to one fundamental point that is worth addressing.

Both men seem to have a problem with the idea that providing treatment to transsexuals shouldn't be done. In fact, I'd go so far as to argue that they don't merely argue against treatment funded by taxpayers, but in fact both argue against any kind of meaningful treatment.

And yes, the idea of subsidizing body-disfiguring “operations” surely would be considered “queer” by the average tax-paying American.

“Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) may also be provided – free of charge – courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. The current price tag for such a procedure can exceed $50,000.

This falls into the classic trap of making access to needed medical treatment conditional upon the "charisma" of the condition, instead of talking about the best interests of the patient. Transsexuality will never be a "charismatic" condition - it's far enough from so many people's understanding that it seems unlikely to ever have "popular support".

However, using that kind of approach for one treatment means it can be used for others. Let me illustrate. In the last thirty years or so smoking has become quite the social evil. Smoking has two well known consequences - emphysema and lung cancer. Can you imagine having either of these conditions, and finding that your access to treatment is based suddenly on how much public sympathy there is for ex-smokers with emphysema?

That is essentially what many people are arguing when they make statements like "I don't think my tax dollars should pay for that".

Access to medical treatment - when medically necessary - should never be conditional on public opinion. This is as true in Canada as elsewhere. Using minority populations as political footballs is despicable, bordering on criminal.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Plan? Conservatives Don't Plan!

I have a feeling that Canada's technology sector could be waiting for quite a while

But Canada has not only lost its leading high-tech multinational; it has also failed in recent years to keep up with major competitors in embracing technology as a force for economic growth. With the exception of RIM, no new major Canadian tech champions have developed. Canada is lagging the leading countries in promoting business innovation through adoption of technology. And we are falling behind in deploying digital infrastructure, such as state-of-the-art high-speed Internet and e-commerce systems that buttress an innovative society.

No surprise here. The blind adherence to the supremacy of the "free market" and globalization has meant that Canada is for sale to the highest bidder under the current government.

While I have no doubt in my mind that Nortel needed to be broken up and restructured, I do think that Sinclair Stevens has some excellent points about the Harper government's inaction. Ultimately, I believe that they are acting contrary to Canada's best interests both short term and long term by allowing Nortel assets to be swallowed up by foreign companies with no particular interest in Canada's future.

Going From Extremist To Extremist

Anybody associated with the Conservative party in Canada that thinks Jason Kenney would be a good replacement for PMSH has rocks in their head.

Giving Kenney the reins of the party would put another hyper-partisan politician at the helm. It would be only marginally less destructive than handing the party leadership to a one-issue nutcase like Ezra Levant.

But, then again, it's not like the front ranks of the CPoC are exactly filled with promising talent. Lots of Harperite yes-men, but any real talent has been shuffled to the background - usually as soon as they make one mistake that angers the theocon base.

Of course, Kenney won't do that - like Harper he has spent too many years pandering to them to dare do anything but their dogma-inspired bidding.

Letting Your Biases Get In Front Of You

Yesterday, I ran across this essay on X(itter), and it annoyed me because the author makes all kinds of errors of both fact and reason.  Si...