Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quelle Surprise!

So ... the courts have been finding that holding people without charge and without evidence under a "security certificate" is illegal. Apparently, the Conservatives don't really like that too much:

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan says he fears for the government's ability to fight terrorism in light of "an increasingly complex legal environment" in which judges are no longer deferring to the government in its efforts to deport foreign suspects.

"It raises questions about whether we can protect national security and I can tell you I am concerned," Van Loan told Canwest News Service. "I spend a fair bit of time thinking about it."

Ummm...right. Sure. It doesn't raise any such questions, Peter. It means that like anyone else that the government wishes to detain, there had better be something called evidence ... and that evidence had better be credible.

The Security Certificate program was dicey when it first came out - any law that places a person in a situation where they are detained without due process, access to the right to challenge their detention in a court of law, etc. is inherently on pretty shaky ground. Now that more and more of these cases have been shown to be deeply flawed - filled with uncorroborated evidence from unreliable sources, questionable investigative work on the part of CSIS and goodness knows how much else that we have no idea about - simply because the "evidence" is secret.

The detention of people under such conditions is an abuse of Canadian Law, and in particular the key principles of our Constitution and society. Not one of these "grave threats" has ever been proven to actually be a threat to our country. Canada does not need these kinds of laws - we need our law enforcement and CSIS officials to actually do their jobs in a way that deals with real threats.

Somebody remind me again about how the Con$ are about law and order?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

20 Things Canadians Should Know About Harper's Government

Lifted from The Liberal Party Website:

1. They rigged a self-serving and politicized infrastructure stimulus program so that most of the money could land in Conservative-held ridings, delaying projects so much that only 12% are in construction and creating jobs.

2. He called Canada “second-tier socialistic country” and a “Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term.”

3. They put Canada on track for a deficit before the recession hit and now holds the record of the largest deficit on record at 56 billion (and climbing).

4. They failed to plan for the H1N1 flu by delaying the order of the flu vaccine and sending body bags to remote communities instead.

5. They spent 5 times more on self-promotion than informing the public on how to protect themselves from H1N1?

6. In the past two months, he has twice failed to defend Canada’s healthcare system against outrageous attacks from ultra-right Conservatives n the United States.

7. He kept Ministers in his cabinet who called the medical isotope crisis they helped create “sexy” and made jokes about the listeriosis crisis.

8. He broke his promise not to raise taxes with a $13 billion EI payroll tax.

9. They pick and choose when to protect the rights of Canadian citizens at home and abroad.

10. He called women, minorities, the disabled, and gays and lesbians “left-wing fringe groups” and Canada’s independent judiciary “left-wing ideologues.”

11. He keeps a Minister in his cabinet who openly mused about putting 10-year-olds in jail.

12. He denied that the country was in a recession and failed to plan for it, and only agreed to provide economic stimulus after causing a constitutional crisis.

13. He said he doesn’t care if “Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement.”

14. He holds the record for unelected Senate appointments for a single year — 27, more than any Prime Minister in Canadian history – after saying he would never appoint Senators.

15. He has presided over the loss of nearly a half million high quality fulltime jobs since October, with no plan to replace them with the next generation of jobs.

16. He has pushed for amending the Canada Health Act to allow for-profit-pay-as-you-go Medicare in this country and abdicated any federal role in ensuring its guiding principles of public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility.

17. He said "There will be no special status, formally or informally, for Quebec or any other province."

18. He pushed for further deregulation and less oversight over banks and financial institutions.

19. He has done nothing to address the hollowing out of corporate Canada due to a weakening in foreign takeover rules.

20. He bragged that he was opposed to government programs to eliminate child poverty and promote cultural identity.

IMO, that's barely scratching the surface ... but it makes the point about the most dishonest government Canadians have suffered since Mulroney's second term.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Michael Coren: Hypocrite and Whiner

I see that Michael Coren is busy whining about the opening of the Queer Hall of Fame this past week.

Just like when I was a child and that longed-for present wasn't in Santa's sack, my hopes were dashed this week when I wasn't included on the list of the first inductees into Canada's Queer Hall of Fame. Pierre Trudeau, swimmer Mark Tewksbury and drag queen Robert Kaiser, known as Joan-E, were there but I was ignored. I can't say it doesn't hurt because it does.

Well, Michael, it might have something to do with your incessant whining about the evils of the GLBT in our society ... just sayin'.

It's not like you've done anything for GLBT people in Canada, Michael. In fact, I would hazard a guess that most GLBT people - and their allies - consider you to be someone worth remembering as a reminder of why the fight for equality must continue.

Gay people have a right to be gay. Just as Muslim or Jewish people, sports fans or Star Trek devotees or anybody else have a perfect right to be exactly who they are and what they want to be. But their first and most important loyalty should not be to their sexuality, religion or hobby but to their citizenship. This was the case at one time in our history but no longer.

Huh? What the heck is this? Loyalty to Canada - and to being Canadian has exactly zero correlation to wanting to be an equal participant in Canadian society, and before Canadian law. To infer that agitating for equality is somehow disloyal is beyond insulting - it also reflects upon how little Mr. Coren understands of Canadian identity.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dear Jim Blake: (CCC)

Get Over Yourself

"The displaying of different gods in a public place like this is an offence to our beliefs and does not represent the diversity of views that should be reflected."

If the zoo wants to keep the statue and "[embark] on teaching the public about world religions, Blake suggested that the facility also erect the cross of Jesus Christ, the Ten Commandments and Noah's Ark

"The display of foreign gods is offensive and does not reflect the views of the majority of Canadians," he continued.

Good grief. So now it's "offensive to 'Christian'ity" to display something that has even a nominal resemblance to a deity other than the 'Christian' deity?

I have a newsflash for you Mr. Blake: Freedom of Religion doesn't give you or anyone else the right to dictate to the rest of us. Last I checked, there's nothing in Christian scripture that says it is forbidden to look upon images and symbols from other faiths ... not that the sculpture is even a symbol of Hindu faith per se.

Frankly, if someone from the Hindu faith wants to object to that statue as an inappropriate representation of Ganesh, I might think about listening. Hindu isn't your faith, Mr. Blake, and there's a hell of a lot more faiths practiced in Canada than your particular flavour of Christianity ... and they are practiced by people born and raised here ... every bit as Canadian.

I'd say that symbols of Christian faith are so prevalent in our society that one statue at the Zoo which is loosely based on another faith really doesn't matter one iota.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Conservatives: Policy By Slogan Rather Than Wisdom

I see that Peter van Loan doesn't think much of today's report criticizing a quiet assault on Canadians by the Conservatives:

“The professor has a different philosophy than us,” Mr. Van Loan told CBC Newsworld. “We think the protection of society has to come first.”

Sure Peter. Throwing more people in prison makes society safer. That's been a classic conservative fantasy for years - and one that the United States has tried to live:

As Don Davies, the NDP justice critic who joined the news conference, observed: “If getting tough on prisons — locking people up longer and more harshly — resulted in a safer society, then United States would be safest country probably on earth.”

Financially strapped American state governments are now desperately seeking ways to reduce their prison populations, including rescinding exactly the kinds of tougher sentencing measures the Conservatives are pursuing.

Conservative Fantasy: Throw criminals in jail, that'll teach 'em.

Reality: Not only does it not work, we can't afford to do it.

I'll leave the last words to the reports authors:

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Stewart contend there is no evidence to support the Conservative approach. They say the little data cited in the 2007 Tory road map was “completely distorted,” while great bodies of evidence were completely ignored.

In Mr. Jackson's words, the road map shows a “complete ignorance of history, of law and of evidence.”

First They Came For ...

As if it was any real surprise, but the Conservatives are making yet another attack on people that they don't think have any voice, rights or for that matter might not even be human in their eyes.

This time, it's more of the ugly truth of the Conservative agenda - the one that Harper and his buddies don't talk about out loud.

The Conservative government plans to bring in an American-style prison system that will cost billions of taxpayer dollars and do little to improve public safety

A panel led by Rob Sampson, a former corrections minister in Ontario's Mike Harris government, drafted the government plan, which is being implemented by the Correctional Service.

In addition to constructing super prisons and implementing work programs, the program will eliminate gradual release and deny inmates rights that are now entrenched in the constitution.

By stressing punishment rather than rehabilitation, the plan ignores lessons of the past, which led to the prison riots and killings that dominated Canadian news in the early 1970s, said Jackson.

"My greatest fear is with this road map's agenda and its underlying philosophy, we will enter a new period of turmoil and violence in Canadian prisons," he said.

Great. Just great. Let's emulate the US system - where California's prisons are so overcrowded, the courts have ordered them emptied, and nearly a full percent of the US population is incarcerated under "get tough on crime" laws that incarcerate blindly, and take no steps to rehabilitate the prisoner.

Worse, the HarperCon$ are plotting to set up an environment where the already acknowledged legal rights of the prisoners are denied. How delightful. Considering that they have already gone after "Women, special interest groups and socialists", and that they are now setting the stage for an ideologically based attack on prisoners (a group which has even less political clout), just whom might be next on their agenda of establishing a hierarchy of rights? (You know, where those who vote Tory Blue get preferential treatment)

... and they are doing this behind closed doors. This is not being proposed in Parliament; there is no debate over whether such policy directions are either constitutional or practical. (Those who have lived in Alberta will recognize this pattern as consistent with the sense of entitlement that the PC's have developed here - they not only don't believe that they are accountable to the public, they don't even consider the public interest - it's purely ideology)

So ... who will speak for you when they come?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Irony 101: The PFOX Edition

At first glance, PFOX almost looks like they are an advocacy group seeking to help ex-Gays and to end whatever discrimination they face.

Certainly, when one finds articles like Court Rules Sexual Orientation Laws Include Former Homosexuals, it is easy to assume that as a group PFOX is honestly working on behalf of the common interests of their membership.

Then we find them republishing FRC's Exhortation to fight against ENDA. Now, this casts their mission somewhat into question, doesn't it? On one hand, they are willing to go to court to get a ruling that says that anti-discrimination laws which cover gays must also be read to cover ex-gays. On the other hand, they object actively to a piece of Federal legislation which would similarly protect their membership from being treated unfairly in the workplace.

I think it tells a great deal about their intellectual honesty ... and what their real agenda is.

Dan Brown, Meet Leonard Stern

In yet another case of writers blathering on without actually bothering to do real research into what they are saying, we have Leonard Stern from the Ottawa Citizen (a CanWest publication, so the stupidity really isn't a major surprise).

Mr. Stern is off on a tirade about Caster Semenya (as if the poor girl's privacy hasn't been violated enough lately) ... and he gets the facts and reality of things wrong in so many ways.

He starts off with the following attempt at a partisan swipe by trying to dismiss the questions around the complexities of gender testing by complaining about "postmodernism" in social sciences:

A scientist, Sokal was fed up with the nonsense that passed for "cultural studies." He wanted to test the leftist intellectuals who edited Social Text by seeing if they could recognize an extreme parody of the sort of thing they regularly published. So he penned a ridiculous article, making it deliberately indecipherable, save for the passages where he pandered to the postmodern view that there is no objective truth and everything is culture-bound.

Social Text published the piece -- whereupon Sokal revealed his hoax, the editors were humiliated, and the relativist Left began its retreat into irrelevance.

Having done that, he then attempts to go on to dismiss an article critical of the whole hulabaloo over Semenya by writing:

But the postmodern monster likes to emerge from its crypt every so often, as it did this week in an article in the Nation, the foremost magazine of the American left.

The article is about Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old South African runner who won the women's 800-metre race at the world track and field championships in August. For a variety of reasons -- her muscled physique, masculine jawline and the ease with which she beat the competition -- there was speculation that Semenya might not be a woman.

(Here's the article from "The Nation": Caster Semenya: The Idiocy of Sex Testing)

Up to this point, besides being a little snide, Stern hasn't done too badly - then his argument proceeds off the rails.

The Nation article denounced the medical effort to classify Semenya. Authors Dave Zirin and Sherry Wolf say sex testing is not just "puritanical" but "idiotic," because gender is "socially constructed." Semenya's physiology is her "private business." As for the concern Semenya, who is black, has masculine features -- well, that's just the "racism of Western standards of appearance."

Ummm...that's not really what the writers in The Nation were getting at Leonard. The article is really recounting the amazing degree of sexism that women in sports have been subjected to - not just in recent history, but throughout the 20th century. They are also setting the stage to explain to you just why our handling of Intersex conditions in society is so badly broken:

When Martina Navratilova dominated women's tennis and proudly exposed her chiseled biceps years before Hollywood gave its imprimatur to gals with "guns," players complained that she "must have a chromosome loose somewhere."

This minefield of sexism and homophobia has long pushed female athletes into magazines like Maxim to prove their "hotness"--and implicitly their heterosexuality. Track and field in particular has always had this preoccupation with gender, particularly when it crosses paths with racism. Fifty years ago, Olympic official Norman Cox proposed that in the case of black women, "the International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them--the unfairly advantaged 'hermaphrodites.'"

For years, women athletes had to parade naked in front of Olympic officials. This has now given way to more "sophisticated" "gender testing" to determine if athletes like Semenya have what officials still perceive as the ultimate advantage--being a man. Let's leave aside that being male is not the be-all, end-all of athletic success. A country's wealth, coaching facilities, nutrition and opportunity determine the creation of a world-class athlete far more than a Y chromosome or a penis ever could.

That's quite different from what Mr. Stern seems to think was being claimed. But we're not done with him just yet, because he goes on to sink to new depths of ignorance and misrepresentation:

A political agenda lurks behind the argument that there are no such things as "male" and "female." The same agenda is behind assertions -- contrary to science -- that there is no such thing as "intelligence" or "race." By promoting a relativist view of the world, postmodernists seek to erase difference.

No, actually that's not true either. What we have learned over the last hundred or so years is that human beings exist on a continuum in many dimensions. The mythical concept of race becomes pretty meaningless when one considers the population in North American society - there are people with so many diverse mixtures of ancestral background that you couldn't call them "black", "white", "hispanic" or anything else without being substantially incorrect. Physical sex is just as ambiguous, with a myriad of different variations resulting from chromosomes, hormones, genetic variation and whatever other factors. While the vast majority of humanity falls into the male/female dichotomy, there are enough individuals who fall into the Intersex space that we can't simply - and objectively - ignore their existence.

But surely, Zirin and Wolf would not allow a man to lurk about in the women's locker room at the local gym on the grounds that he says he "perceives" his gender identity as female. If Usain Bolt were suddenly to announce that he is really a woman inside, I'd wish him all the best but I'd be against allowing him to compete in the women's 100-metre dash.

Now Mr. Stein has fallen into the trap of the ridiculous. First of all, he dredges up the infamous "bathrooms" argument used by right wingnuttia as a bludgeon against transsexuals. Then he makes an equally stupid statement about Usain Bolt - a statement which ignores entirely the reality that there are already clear rules of engagement for situations like that which would exclude Mr. Bolt from competing until he had undergone GRS, and been on hormones long enough to eliminate whatever gains might have been had from testosterone. Sorry, Mr. Stein, your reality cheque just bounced.

Flanagan Sort of Gets It

I suspect that Beelzebub is shovelling a dollop of snow out of his demesne today, Tom Flanagan wrote something that I almost agree with in the Globe and Mail this morning.

The reasoning seemed persuasive, but it neglected the limitations of Western power that have manifested themselves so visibly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yes, Tom ... if the NeoCon warmongers had been paying attention in 2001, they could have saved taxpayers billions of dollars, and countless military families the pain of losing their loved ones or having them come back maimed for life - because it was obvious back then that all out military invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq was doomed to fail in the first place.

As far back as 2001/2002, I remember arguing that you don't fight shadows with heavy armor - you fight shadows with shadows. You fight shadows by removing the dark crevasses that they hide in by shedding light on them. All out conventional war creates more shadows, it does not eliminate them. It never has and never will.

What the NeoCons don't understand about foreign policy can be summed up in the Afghanistan and Iraq experiences - military force is the threat you use in today's world. The real work happens much more covertly. You don't defeat terrorists by blowing up the compound that one of their leaders lives in, you defeat them by undermining their activities and efforts.

The question we face now, is what to do with Afghanistan and Iraq. Long term military occupation is unlikely to feasible or politically palatable to taxpayers, and it is hard to imagine that we have any real allies in those countries right now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Apparently, Being Conservative Means That Logic Doesn't Count

Over at Conservapedia, Andrew Schafly has decided he'd like to teach a course in Conservative Mathematics, in which he boldly asserts that there is controversy about proof by contradiction , and then attempts to back that up by asserting that Godel's Theorem shows the following:

In light of Godel's revelation that math may contain a contradiction, proofs by contradiction are particularly disfavored. One can never know logically whether the proof simply stumbled into an underlying contradiction in the math, rather than proving the proposition

... and as commenter "AdrianDelmar" points out, Schafly has completely misunderstood Godel's theorem:

If you are referring to Gödel's incompleteness theorems, his revelation was not really that math may contain contradictions but that a formal system cannot be both consistent and complete, meaning essentially that a consistent formal system will contain statements that it cannot prove true or false within its own system.

I'd hate to see Mr. Schafly try to teach a course on computational theory - which clearly doesn't align with his conservative ideology.

Dear Music Industry Lobby/Lawyers

Quit Whining

For those reasons, composers and songwriters will struggle to sell their case to the public. But these royalty-collection groups say they're at the bottom of the music-sector food chain and aren't trying to gouge anyone. They say their livelihoods are threatened and wonder why movie studios, big recording companies, TV networks, and online retailers are allowed to profit from their work but they aren't.

"We make 9.1 cents off a song sale and that means a whole lot of pennies have to add up before it becomes a bunch of money," said Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters' Guild of America. "Yesterday, I received a check for 2 cents. I'm not kidding. People think we're making a fortune off the Web, but it's a tiny amount. We need multiple revenue streams or this isn't going to work."

From a technology perspective, you've got two choices - something coming your way from iTunes (which by far owns the majority of the paid music downloads) and a larger proportion of nothing from unlicensed downloads.

Let's get real about something - just like software piracy has been around since the dawn of microcomputers, unlicensed music downloads will always be around too. Consumers aren't stupid, and the people who cook up ways to download things will always be able to come up with a new way to work around the latest scheme to prevent downloading. (and sue your customers all you like - that's going to win you tons of support) Underground software (and I include music in this) is a "Spy versus Spy" game of constant escalation - you cannot win.

There are a lot of consumers that aren't going to buy your music sight unseen these days - those 30 second samples on iTunes make you a lot of sales - suck it up princesses. This isn't the days of vinyl records and radio any more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Conservative "Innovation" - Alberta Style

So, now our geniuses in Edmonton want to close acute care beds and create long term care beds to replace them.

This is another example of how short-sighted the Alberta government really is. The problem they are addressing? There are people in acute care beds that should be in long term care facilities. So far, so good - creating long term care beds is a reasonable thing to do in addressing that problem.

However, it is dead wrong to simply close those acute care beds once you have shuffled the patients out of them into the new, and apparently cheaper to operate, long term beds.

Why do I say that this is an error? Simple - the supposition is that the acute care bed is not meaningfully needed outside of its current role of being a long term bed is false.

The net effect of this change is to further reduce the available bandwidth in acute care, which is guaranteed to increase waiting times for necessary treatment. It has been pointed out that the volume of this cut is equivalent to closing down the Grey Nuns hospital in Edmonton - it's just split between Edmonton and Calgary.

We already know that Calgary (and likely Edmonton too) is running with far fewer beds than we should be. This article shows Calgary and Edmonton at 1.7 Beds / 1,000 population - which is less than half the national average, at the time, and near the bottom of the heap when it comes to other countries ... only marginally better than Mexico.

All this does is exacerbate existing problems. Rather than actually measuring the effect of one change (adding long term care beds) and then determining how best to utilize those resources, they are just going to cut the acute care beds - regardless of whether or not those are needed for other purposes. The people who will pay the price for this? Those who find themselves in need of hospital care for any reason and are unfortunate enough to live in Calgary or Edmonton.

Ken Chapman on the Purple Coalition

Go Read

... and I hope for all our sakes he's right.

That's One Book Off The List

I won't claim I'm a big fan of author Dan Brown to begin with - The DaVinci Code was overrated as a novel - there are far better novels out there that do a much better job of playing around with Christian mysticism and dark conspiracies. His writing strikes me as a cross between Robert Ludlum and Umberto Eco - with none of the strengths of either.

However, after reading this, I don't think I'll be bothering at all with his latest offering. (Here's the full review On CBC ... the rest of it doesn't seem to be much better)

11:45 a.m.

Ugh. “The act of tattooing one’s skin was a transformative declaration of power, an announcement to the world: I am in control of my own flesh. The intoxicating feeling of control derived from physical transformation had addicted millions to flesh-altering practices … cosmetic surgery, body piercing, bodybuilding, and steroids … even bulimia and transgendering.”

Sometimes, Dan Brown, loosely adapting Anthropology 101 texts for fiction just doesn’t work. Also, why do I get the sense you’ve never been tattooed – or met a gender-variant person? Also: “transgendering” is not a verb.

Great ... another idiot author who stereotypes people out of ignorance. Dan Brown, welcome to the same bookshelf I put Orson Scott Card's work on - most of us call it the trash.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So ... How Much Is Harper Paying You, Jack?

I see that the NDP has chosen to prop up the HarperCon$:

The NDP will join with Bloc Québécois to support the Conservatives financial ways-and-means motion to be introduced on Friday. The motion, which includes the popular tax credits for home renovation, is considered a confidence issue and its defeat could trigger an election.

But the NDP will also support the proposed EI reforms and will vote for the measures in order to get them into a parliamentary committee, which can be a lengthy process.

That means the party would refrain from voting the government down on any other confidence motion that would trigger an election, including a Liberal no-confidence motion expected the first week of October.

I sure hope Harper's paid you a bundle, Jack ... because when he screws you over, it had better be worth every dime of it to you.

It seems to me that Layton has just shown that his principles are for sale - no NDP leader with any actual principles should ever be willing to get into bed with Harper's band of neoCons.

As for Mr. Harper, remind me again why "unelected coalitions" are a bad thing? Seems to me that's exactly what you've just created.

Boissoin Appeals AHRC Ruling To Courts

I see that Stephen Boissoin has appealed to the courts over the finding that his 2002 letter to the Red Deer Advocate was hate speech.

"We say the legislation stepped out of bounds when it brought in legislation that dealt with hate speech," Chipeur told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Earl Wilson on the opening day of a two-day appeal hearing.

"Any limitation on debate in the public, whether by letter to the editor, at a community hall or on television, regarding political views . . . has been restricted to federal government." interesting argument - and completely specious. If the same letter had been written with reference to Mr. Boissoin's faith, it would be hate speech just as much as it is when it is aimed at homosexuals. Further, Chipeur is conveniently ignoring that criminal code amendments that added sexual orientation to our hate propaganda statutes weren't added until quite some time after Boissoin wrote his letter.

CBC picks up on another comment by Chipeur:

"Nobody should have the power to use the tools that are available to the state, to use the police powers of the state, to prosecute someone else who they disagree with," said Chipeur.

Excuse me? What a load of nonsense. Somewhere along the way, Chipeur has lost track of something - namely the fact that rights are not absolutes. There are boundaries and limits to rights - usually at the very least where the exercise of those rights negatively affect somebody else's rights. To put it into the language of the pugilism, your right to swing your fist stops precisely where my nose begins.

Why is it that when homosexuality is involved it's somehow "public debate", when it's somebody's religion, that's somehow magically different? Nobody argues that a letter like Boissoin's written about a specific religious group would be seen as hate literature of some kind - why is it even one iota different when somebody's sexuality is involved?

It should not be. Section 3, and its federal counterpart Section 13 represent reasonable constraints on Freedom of Speech. This has been tested in court multiple times.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Horsefeathers and Mumbo Jumbo

Oh dear. I see that the religious crowd in Australia is getting their knickers in a twist over the prospect of same gender marriage.

We've heard all of the arguments in that article in Canada - and every last one of them is specious because they fail to recognize one fundamental point: Nobody is talking about the religious notion of marriage, but rather the secular and legal notion of marriage.

They can blather on all they like about the "uniqueness of love between a man and woman", or how sex between a man and a woman is "designed to create life" and they still miss the point entirely.

There are a couple of gems in the midst of their fear-riddled tirade against allowing gay couples to marry.

But, as hard and painful as it is for those who suffer
from same‐sex attraction, real love demands chastity – the integration of sexual desires into unselfish love for the other person. This means abstaining from sex that is not marital and open to life. Unfulfilled sexual desires can be a painful cross to carry. But a chaste life brings us true inner peace and joy, because we are living in harmony with the way our bodies have been designed and we are treating the person we love as a gift – loving him or her for their own sake, and not for the sexual pleasure they can give us.

Oh yes, the classic Catholic dogma - tut tut tut ... no sex outside of marriage; and anything within marriage had better be about making more babies.

Then it invokes the "nobility of suffering" line while advocating that homosexuals should have no sex lives whatsoever.

What this theology fails to recognize is the importance of sexual activity as part of a social bonding process between individuals. Whether the sexual activity is heterosexual or homosexual, it has a unique effect in bringing the partners closer together over time. It isn't trivial and should not be ignored. It is, in some ways significant that when a marriage gets into trouble (and they do), one of the first things to be withdrawn by one of the partners is sex. I do not think that is any accident, since it is a very common pattern. Conversely, a healthy marriage has an active and ongoing amount of sexual activity in it - and this pattern doesn't appear to differ substantially whether we are talking about a heterosexual or homosexual couple.

Allowing two men or two women to ‘marry’ would involve a fundamental
change in the definition of marriage, from a life‐giving and sexually complementary union to a personal, romantic relationship with no true communion or connection to procreation. It will entrench, in a public way, the separation of sex from babies and marriage from children. It will move marriage from a children‐centred institution to an adult‐centred one. It will trivialize the meaning and dignity of motherhood and fatherhood. This will deeply affect children and young people’s aspirations for their own marriage.

Nice try. You missed again. There isn't a shred of evidence to back this claim up. This is a restatement of the "marriage = sex = babies" routine. I hate to point this out, but it's hardly news that there are lots of marriages without children; and lots of children born out of wedlock (go back to when clergy acknowledged their offspring, we used to call them bastards - remember?) To claim that there is some magical connection between marriage, sex and raising children is arguably false - and I dare say that most single parents would agree.

Further, I don't think that the fraction of same gender marriages that will be created will ever be big enough to meaningfully affect how most heterosexual couples live. The fact is that homosexual couples have been a part of society for at least as long as we have had recorded history - not once have those couples ever changed the behaviour of their heterosexual counterparts.

As for the qualitative arguments about the "uniqueness of love between a man and a woman", those are pure conjecture. Nobody that I know of has ever been able to substantiate that love in that context is different between heterosexual and homosexual couples. The religious crowd likes to assert it ... let them prove it.

The Sheeple of Alberta Have Spoken

... and they said "baaaah".

So, voters in Calgary Glenmore sent Paul Hinman of the Wild Rose Party to the legislature.

Frankly, I wouldn't have voted for Hinman ... but then again, I didn't vote for "Special Ed" either. The Wildrose Party has yet to convince me that it's anything more than a provincial version of what we have in Ottawa - and their policies don't exactly encourage me either.

I continue to be disappointed with Alberta voter turnout. Yes, I know that byelections typically have much lower turnout than general elections do - but it's a sad statement when the byelection turnout was 40.5%, and the last provincial general election was 40.8%. To borrow from the wisdom of my grandfather - "If you don't get out and vote, the people you least want in power will win". Since the 1970s we've seen a steady decline in voter turnout, and a single party has consolidated its grip on power to the extent that they didn't think they needed to campaign at all in this byelection. (Yes, I saw a few Colley-Urqhart signs, but very few and residents I know who live in the riding all commented on the near-invisibility of the PC campaign).

The bright side of this vote - from my perspective was that Hinman's win was not a runaway victory - there's only 3% of the popular vote between Hinman and Avalon Roberts of the Liberals - a fairly small margin of victory for a province used to voting PC "because they've always voted that way".

Monday, September 14, 2009

Iran as a Case Study in GLBT Politics

Iran is interesting from the perspective of GLBT politics for a number of reasons. First, it has flipped the roles of the Transgendered part of the GLBT spectrum and the GLB. Being homosexual in Iran (and getting found out) carries a death penalty; meanwhile the country seems ironically almost enlightened when it comes to transgender rights - creating a situation where GLB equality movements have to find a way to build on transgender rights in Iran.

In many respects, Iran is the example that shows why politically GLBT equality are inseparable even if they are somewhat distinct. Iran uniquely creates a situation where in many same-sex couples one partner will transition and have GRS - regardless of whether they identify internally as a member of the opposite sex.

This creates a situation for the person who transitions which is as devastating post-transition as transsexuals in Western societies experience before they transition. A common aspect of transsexual narratives prior to transition is a fervently expressed sense of distress over the disjoin between their body and their identity - it leads many into self destructive behaviours and even suicide. Yet, for the homosexual in Iran, transition may indeed be the only option in order to keep body and soul together.

I'd be very, very curious as to what the suicide rate among post-operative transsexuals in Iran is, and how that compares with the suicide rate among pre-operative transsexuals in other countries.

Returning to my opening point though, it seems to me that the situation in Iran holds a mirror up to the GLBT movement in western societies, and is an object lesson in why Transsexual equality must be a part of the overall GLBT equality drive - even though the objectives and needs are somewhat different. Fundamentally, if one excludes the other, we end up in a situation where some percentage of people end up living in lives that don't really fit them simply to ensure their survival. In Iran, it's GLB people transitioning in order to live with their chosen partners; in Western societies it is no doubt a sizable number of transsexuals who never even attempt to transition out of fear for the consequences.

As long as the GLBT movements allow laws to exclude one subgroup or another, this situation continues to be perpetrated and exacerbated. Further, the hostility of religious extremists towards GLBT people places all who fall under that umbrella at risk from maliciously designed laws and ballot initiatives.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

As If They Listen at all...

So, the Conservatives are admitting that they ignore voters who disagree with them.

Ignoring the queer vote is the way to win the Vancouver Centre riding in a possible fall federal election, says a letter from the newly anointed Vancouver Centre Conservative Party candidate.

This comes as no surprise. In Alberta, Conservative MPs do their level best not to talk to anybody who isn't among the party faithful. I haven't seen anything that resembles even a pro forma attempt to communicate from my MP in ages. I'm assuming that most of his communications allotment is being spent on 10%ers.

We already know that there's a streak of bigotry in the Harper government - it's shown up in so many policy decisions they have made you'd have to be deliberately ignoring it not to notice - whether it's the sudden demotion of Diane Ablonczy for daring to provide funding to the Toronto Pride parade, or the plethora of dark skinned Canadians that have been left twisting in the breeze by a Canadian government seemingly uninterested in dealing with protecting its citizens abroad.

Canadians - if we have an election this fall (and it's a big if), ask yourself if a candidate who won't even approach some of their constituency residents is likely to represent your interests at all - especially when your interests run contrary to Big Daddy Harper's ideology or goals.

Stelmach and Liepert: Starve HealthCare

Remember the 1980s, and 1990s? You know, when Alberta's governments closed down - and did not replace - a big chunk of the hospitals in Calgary. The Grace, Holy Cross and Calgary General hospitals all fell under the government's axe. It's only been in the last few years that any effort at all has been made to start replacing the beds that were sacrificed at that time.

Now, we find that the Stelmach government is going to open the expansion at the Peter Lougheed Hospital but not fund actually operating the beds - instead beds in other parts of the hospital will be closed. I imagine the same stunt will turn the South Calgary Hospital into a white elephant.

The government cries poverty, yet it has been crying poverty over health care even when revenues were at record highs. It also ignores the fact that since the Klein government blew up the General, Calgary's population has grown to over 1,000,000 residents. Meanwhile, it has only been in the last few years that infrastructure spending has even begun to even start to catch up with the demand on the system. Calgary's EMS system has run at critically low levels many times over recent years because there weren't sufficient beds and staff in the emergency rooms for Paramedic crews to turn patients over to.

Meanwhile, we have Ron Liepert's Health Superboard awarding itself astonishing salary increases, and Liepert appointing a panel to "review" health care once again at taxpayer's expense. They are increasing the overhead costs in the health care system without actually improving the availability of care.

Meanwhile, Stelmach continues to all but give away Alberta's resources to big business, and "refuses" to consider any changes to taxation on either an individual or corporate level.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More ConservaThug Ideology

What is it with today's Conservatives? I swear that they are either deliberately stupid, or that they really don't understand the tools of governance.

Echoing Ed Stelmach yesterday, Jim Flaherty declared that taxes would not be increased to kill off the deficit:

Yesterday, finance minister Jim Flaherty forecast a deficit in 2014-15 of $5.2-billion. Though he insists that’s a manageable number from which to restore a balanced budget, he’s not telling us how or when he’d do it. As to how Mr. Ignatieff would go about implementing his fiscal plan, here he echoes Mr. Flaherty’s clarity on what he wouldn’t do, and lack of clarity on what he would do to cut federal expenditures:

Let’s be clear: I don’t want to increase taxes for individuals and businesses, particularly when we’re trying to get out of an economic crisis. That’s crucial. We’ll have to examine everything in the federal budget to see where we can make savings. Avoid transferring the burden to the provinces. That’s another mistake we made in the 90’s and must not repeat.”

Bullfeathers, Flaherty. One way or another, you're downloading it onto the taxpayers. We're not stupid. Whether it comes in the form of "user fees" (a polite fiction that is still taxation at the end of the day), or program cuts (which, like user fees, merely downloads the expense entirely to the individual).

By taking taxation off the table, Flaherty has made the same crucial error that Stelmach has - he's tied one hand behind his back before he's even started dealing with the deficit. This is at best an election promise, and at worst an outright lie that only George H. W. Bush used in 1988 - it was a lie then too. Bush had to renege on that promise after 1988, and the economic downturn then was comparatively mild.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Harper's Politics of Division

It's always the same with the Con$ - it's "either we get a majority or the opposition will form a coalition"; "if an election is called, law reform bills will die"; call an election, and you won't get your renovation tax credit ... and on it goes.

And this whole charade underscores the problem with the Harper government in the first place. It's all about sowing division, not finding compromise. It's about absolutism, not practical government.

Harper's recent speech in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario underscores that again. Harper's salivating over the concept of a majority. Why? Because Harper has demonstrated repeatedly that he can't deal with a minority situation. This is the Prime Minister who has prorogued parliament twice when the heat got to be too much, and called a snap election last fall because he thought he could winkle a majority out of it.

The man is positively slavering over political power - and it would not be a "benign dictatorship" - Harper has shown us repeatedly that he kowtows to the extremist base in the Reform ranks of his party. Canadians should not think for a minute that Harper would do anything other than legislate a Neo/TheoCon agenda as quickly as possible.

As the Bush experience in the US has shown, that would be disastrous for Canadian citizens. Human rights would be replaced by a near police-state kind of autocracy. "Law and Order" based on fear would replace due process. Ideology would reign over law.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More Conservative Bigotry

It's hardly surprising that Rob Anders would publish something like this. The fact that he felt it appropriate to do so merely shows us the ugliness that lies beneath the surface veneer of the current Conservative Party of Canada. (which is largely dominated by the Reform party hacks, obviously)

In an Anders communique, one of 10 different versions mailed out, he claims: "It is now illegal to hold opinions that offend radical Muslim activists," and "under section 13 of the so-called 'Human Rights' code, Canadians have been prosecuted for holding personal beliefs which offend radical Muslim Imams and liberal activists."

"He's basically spread misinformation among his constituents about a large proportion of his constituency because there are many Muslims living in his area," Liepert said Tuesday. "Any time you have a politician who, for political gain, targets a minority group with disinformation, it's something that I think needs to be addressed."

The best way to address this is to punt Anders from office next election. This leaflet is yet another example of Conservative dishonesty and mendacity.

The Calgary West Conservative MP is attempting to drum up support to scrap section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which deals with complaints about hate messages disseminated over telephone or the Internet.

"It's fair-minded of us to question Section 13 and its restrictions on the freedom of speech, particularly in light of the decisions that have come down as of late," he said, citing human rights complaints against Macleans magazine and Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard magazine.

"Fair-minded"?? Have you looked at the decisions regarding those cases, Anders? You know - the ones that have been set aside as lacking merit? Frankly, what you twits are looking for is the unfettered right to lie, slander and besmirch entire populations of people. You know that if you go after individuals it's libel, and it's a lot harder for entire populations to sue for libel.

In short, in Stephen Harper's Canada, if you are part of a minority - especially one that his Neo/Theo-Cons don't like - you're screwed. I don't know about anybody else, but that isn't the Canada I grew up in, nor is it the Canada I believe in.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Stephen "Electoral Reform" Harper ...

Remember last fall? When Stephen Harper decided to call a snap election? Yeah, I thought you might.

Well, it seems that someone has seen fit to drag Harper into court for breaking his own fixed election dates law.

"It was exactly the mischief the bill was designed to stop," lawyer Peter Rosenthal, representing Democracy Watch, told Justice Michael Shore.

The only way an election could have been called then was if the government had fallen on a vote of no-confidence, said the group's founder, Duff Conacher.

"We believe that the prime minister should be found accountable because he introduced changes to the law, said they fixed election dates, and then for false reasons called a snap election in violation of those measures," Conacher said outside of court on Tuesday. "And also, we want to prevent future prime ministers from doing the same kind of thing because it’s so unfair."

I agree with the principle that Democracy Watch is arguing, but I don't think they can get much out of it, since the legislation is fundamentally undermined by its own exemptions.

At most, any such judgment is going to be a symbolic slap on the wrist to Harper. Canadians are going to have to punish him for his constant lying and game-playing at the polls.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Signs That Alberta's PCs Have Been In Power Far Too Long

Consumers foot bill to close Alberta power plants

David Gray, who resigned his post as executive director with the Utilities Consumer Advocate in July, says consumers got a raw deal when the government agreed to make them responsible for restoring the sites.

"It's just like all the other deals consumers don't know about where the utility gets to keep the gravy and we get to pay the bill," he said. "There could come a day when the Balancing Pool amount on their bill is a charge rather than a payment."

The upshot of this article is that taxpayers are being asked to pony up additional funds to pay for decommissioning and reclamation of power plant sites. Remember, these are facilities run by large corporations who sell the output - ultimately - to us. So ... just how is it that the taxpayers (who are also the utility consumers) have already paid for these plants many times over are to pay once again for these plants, this time to shut them down and clean up the mess. What happened to the money the utility companies operating these plants made from them? Didn't these companies post significant profits over the decades of operating these plants?

If I had to hazard a guess, the PC's looked at their coffers and decided that the nice fat donations from corporate Alberta were worth more than looking after the interests of taxpayers.

One has to wonder how many more of these "sweetheart" deals are out there fattening the wallets of a few on the backs of all Alberta taxpayers. Like mice, where there's one, there are inevitably more.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Let's Talk About Fiscal Responsibility, Shall We? we know where the money cut from treatment services this spring is going: Executive compensation for Liepert's "Superboard":

A former deputy minister who helped create Alberta Health Services, then ran part of it for nine months, walked away from the cash-strapped department with a $257,500 bonus as part of her severance package.

The severance deal for Paddy Meade, whose position with Alberta Health Services ended after about nine months, included two years' worth of salary (about $1 million), and a$257,500 bonus, the maximum amount possible in her contract.

Excuse me? But that's beyond offensive - especially when the government is crying poverty and running about cutting services. Seems to me that cutting executive compensation would be one heck of a good place to start - instead of going after treatment options for citizens.

Oh - wait - this is's no longer Government by the people for the people here. It's become government by the Con$ for the benefit of the Con Arti$t$.

Harper Peeing All Over Ontario, Quebec ... etc

Remember the GST? It was brought in by the last Conservative PM we had - near the end of Brian Mulroney's tenure.

At the time, it was often referred to as the "Go Shoot a Tory" tax. Well, outside of Alberta (where political mythology has kept any form of sales tax out of our provinicial taxation regime), Harper is trying to impose a "harmonized sales tax" to unify the various PST and GST regimes. As BCL points out, it is becoming a political liability in its own right - referring to it as the "Harper Sales Tax" (oh please, can somebody use that line in a campaign ad?)

On top of that, the HarperCon$ are busy trying to play favourites with an environmental policy designed to favour oil sands development while holding Ontario and Quebec manufacturing to different and higher standards.

I'm sure that this is going to play well for the HarperCon$.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

You Only Just Figured This Out, Coren?

Apparently, a little glimmer of reality finally penetrated the TheoCon fog of Michael Coren's mind:

A War Built On Lies

We have been lied to about that terrible war and only a fool would think that we are suddenly being told the truth about the current ones.

It was horrific then and horrific now that good people have to die for agendas rather than causes.

Coming from a man who has argued for dropping nuclear weapons on Iran, or all of the great things our troops are fighting for in Afghanistan, it's more than a small surprise that Coren is finally starting to question the truth value of the reasons we have been fed about why we are engaged in Afghanistan, or why the US attacked Iraq.

When we are being told stories about why we are going to war by our politicians - and their allied commentators - we should treat them with more than a little skepticism.

Friday, September 04, 2009

I Smell More HarperCon BS

So ... Athanasios Hadjis has argued that S. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is unconstitutional.

Interesting ruling that - especially since it flies in the face of Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Taylor, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 892 from the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990, which reads:

Held (La Forest, Sopinka and McLachlin JJ. dissenting in part): The appeal should be dismissed. Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act is constitutional.

Per Dickson C.J. and Wilson, L'Heureux-Dubé and Gonthier JJ.: The activity described by s. 13(1) of the Act is protected by s. 2(b) of the Charter. Where an activity conveys or attempts to convey a meaning, through a non-violent form of expression, it has expressive content and thus falls within the scope of the word "expression" as found in the guarantee. The type of meaning conveyed is irrelevant. Section 2(b) protects all content of expression. In enacting s. 13(1), Parliament sought to restrict expression by singling out for censure particular conveyances of meaning. Section 13(1), therefore, represents an infringement of s. 2(b).

Hate propaganda messages against identifiable groups, such as the ones dealt with by s. 13(1), do not fall within the ambit of a possible s. 2(b) exception concerning expression manifested in a violent form. This exception speaks only of physical forms of violence, and extends neither to analogous types of expression nor to mere threats of violence.

Section 13(1) of the Act, which is sufficiently precise to constitute a limit prescribed by law under s. 1 of the Charter, constitutes a reasonable limit upon freedom of expression. First, Parliament's objective of promoting equal opportunity unhindered by discriminatory practices, and thus of preventing the harm caused by hate propaganda, is of sufficient importance to warrant overriding a constitutional freedom. Hate propaganda presents a serious threat to society. It undermines the dignity and self‑worth of target group members and, more generally, contributes to disharmonious relations among various racial, cultural and religious groups, as a result eroding the tolerance and open‑mindedness that must flourish in a multicultural society which is committed to the idea of equality. The international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda and Canada's commitment to the values of equality and multiculturalism enshrined in ss. 15 and 27 of the Charter magnify the weightiness of Parliament's objective in enacting s. 13(1).

There can be only one motive to this decision - and that is to provoke another costly round of appeals through the court system with the objective of overturning Taylor.

In short, the Con$ are busy pandering to their base of extremists. Yes, I suspect strongly that there has been political interference in the CHRC process which is supposed to be held at arm's length from the government - Harper has shown repeatedly that he has no respect for anything that might constrain his powers.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

This Is Governing?

So ... it seems that the Con$ are suing Elections Canada.

Over what you ask? Turning back some half a million dollars in GST expenses that Elections Canada refunded after the 2004 and 2006 campaigns.

But the latest court battle between the governing Tories and Elections Canada may not be as self-defeating, or altruistic, as it first appears.

If successful, the cash-flush Conservatives would both increase their election campaign spending limit and ensure that their poorer Liberal opponents have to refund a similar — if not larger — six-figure sum.

A Tory win in the case could also reduce the amount by which the party exceeded its 2006 campaign spending limit should the party lose another court case with Elections Canada over the so-called “in and out” ad-buying practice.

Not only is this childish on the part of the Con$, but it should remind all of us that this is a party so bent on power that it will stoop to any tactic it can dream up. They aren't interested in governing Canada - they are only interested in power itself.

Reminds me of a lyric from an old Fleetwood Mac tune: Players only love you while they're playin'

The Con$ are players ... the public ... well ... we better ask ourselves if we will be able respect ourselves in the morning.

... and the Screeching Begins

Yesterday, I wrote about the Globe and Mail's article on young transsexuals and their families.

Sure enough, almost like clockwork, the denizens of right wingnuttia came out of their caves squawking about the subject. In this case, the screeching starts at Tristan Emmanuel's No Apologies blog.

Of course, the writers at No Apologies talk in broad generalizations and conveniently fail to cite any real facts to substantiate their bogeyman fears about allowing young transsexuals to transition while still adolescents:

Glossing over the serious moral and ethical dilemmas of gender reassignment, the piece briefly addresses not only the emotional strain of gender confusion among adolescents, but the serious consequences of promoting gender reassignment surgery at young ages.

What "moral and ethical dilemmas" might these be? The fact that transsexuals tend to make the religious right wing horribly uncomfortable? Or perhaps it's the uneasy fear they have that transsexual youth might come to regret their decision later in life?

Being transsexual is, by nature, emotionally stressful. How could it not be? (and it is no easier for the family of the transsexual than it is for the transsexual - nobody expects their child or sibling to pop up one day and announce their intention to transition)

There is an implicit accusation that the treatment community has ignored addressing the very real ethical issues that providing treatment to someone who declares that they are transsexual raises.

Referring to the Endocrine Society's recently published guidelines on the treatment of transsexuals (I only seem to have access to the draft still), we find the following:

Transsexual persons seeking to develop the physical characteristics of the appropriate gender require a safe and effective hormone regimen that will 1) suppress endogenous hormone secretion determined by the person’s genetic/biologic sex and 2) maintain sex hormone levels within the normal range for the person’s gender. A mental health professional (MHP) must recommend endocrine treatment and participate in the ongoing care throughout the endocrine transition. The endocrinologist must confirm the diagnostic criteria the MHP used to make this recommendation and collaborate with the MHP in making the recommendation for surgical sex reassignment. We recommend treating transsexual adolescents (Tanner stage 2) with suppression of puberty with GnRH analogues until age 16 years old, only after which time cross-sex hormones may be given. We suggest suppression of endogenous sex hormones, maintaining physiologic levels of gender-appropriate sex hormones and surveillance for known risks and complications in adult transsexual persons.

There are two key points that I wish to emphasize here. First is the requirement for direct involvement of an appropriately trained mental health professional (e.g. psychiatrist or psychologist). Second, I will also point out that treatment options recommended for those under the age of 16 are puberty blocking drugs, not cross-sex hormones or surgery.

This dovetails quite nicely with the guidelines in the WPATH Standards of Care which addresses the mental health aspects of treatment more fully.

The piece reveals just how few medical and psychological experts in the field of mental health and education are willing to address the negative long-term effects of gender confusion and gender reassignment surgery.

What negative long term effects? As I discussed here, the research is quite clear that the long term outcomes for GRS are generally positive, with only a small handful of unsatisfactory results or regrets - and that's over some 30 years to 1992. I am unaware of any research since that suggests the Pfaefflin survey has been proven incorrect.

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...