Monday, November 30, 2009

The Question, Mr. Harper, Is When Did You Decide To Lie To Canadians About Afghanistan?

As usual, when confronted with a real political problem, Stephen Harper turns to the usual "when did you stop beating your wife" tactics:

Harper said that living in a time "when some in the political arena do not hesitate before throwing the most serious of allegations at our men and women in uniform, based on the most flimsy of evidence, remember that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are proud of you and stand behind you, and I am proud of you, and I stand beside you."

Canadians who have their brains switched on have long since realized that Canada's armed forces in Afghanistan are carrying out the orders they receive from their political masters in Ottawa.

The real issue is no longer about who knew what about prisoner mistreatment in Afghanistan, but it is now about the litany of blatant lies and distortions that have been spewed forth by Harper, Mackay and other members of the Conservative government.

Mr. Mackay has changed his story so many times in the last week or two that I'm not sure he even knows what the reality is himself. Mr. Harper's defense is what? To accuse critics of "not supporting the troops".

This isn't about the troops - it's about a government which lies blatantly to Canadians, and changes its story more quickly than it does its underwear.

Friday, November 27, 2009

So What?

Apparently Adam Lambert's performance at the American Music Awards has touched off a bunch of controversy.

Not on ABC, which apparently didn't approve of Lambert's stage show in which he French-kissed a band member and simulated oral sex.

Meh - whatever. Madonna did things like that back in the 1990s. What's the big deal? Oh right - Lambert's a guy - I suppose that makes all the difference in the world.

After all, Madonna and Britney Spears kissing is just hot - or so it seems; apparently when it's two guys it's suddenly a horrible moral failure.

Just as society holds women up to some nearly impossible double standards, this is one of those double standards for men - showing any kind of physical affection is taboo; showing it towards other men is beyond taboo. It's time we looked at some of these arbitrary rules and tossed them in the dustbin where they truly belong.

Frankly, Lambert's performance wasn't my cup of tea - but I don't really care what he does on stage - or off it come to that. It's up to me if I watch it or ignore it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why Do Conservatives Hate Public Accountability?

Perhaps it really is unique to the brand of political conservative that has arisen in Alberta, but whether we look at the federal scene or the provincial scene in Alberta, we see the same basic patterns emerging.

In Alberta, the provincial government has been steadily whittling away at anything that resembles meaningful accountability to the public for years. Alberta's legislature barely sits long enough to execute the semblance of parliamentary process; the government is awarding itself discretionary powers to act above and beyond the regulatory processes it created itself not so long ago.

Federally, what do we see? We see Mr. Harper trying to render critics - real or potential - mute. Either by force of law, such as making anything at all to do with Afghanistan prisoner handling secret documents, or by simply claiming that anyone who criticises the government's actions is lying or making claims with no merit.

Looking back over the history of the Harper government, I have not seen a government so focused on hiding reality from the Canadian people in years - with the possible exception of the Klein and now Stelmach governments in Alberta perhaps.

Whether it is Harper's intransigence in his handling of Omar Khadr, the Isotopes Affair, his abuse of prorogation of parliament, the costs of his Softwood Lumber Deal or the spending cuts he instituted in 2006, Harper has done everything in his power to avoid being accountable to Canadians when it matters.

It has become harder, not easier, under Harper to get information out of the government, and he has carefully pared down the ability of the public to get any visibility into the government and its actions - what is he hiding?

Bill 50 - And What It Tells Albertans

So, the legislature passed Bill 50 yesterday.

I have all sorts of problems with Bill 50, but in particular what it represents. Essentially, the Alberta Government has just removed public process from the creation of power transmission lines. If the minister decides that a given transmission line is "critical", then there is no regulatory process to vet whether the line is in fact critical, or whether it unreasonably affects people living along its route, or will unnecessarily hike electricity costs for Albertans.

This is a serious problem - the Stelmach government is setting things up so that they are even less accountable to the public than Klein was ... and Klein was pretty awful for accountability. Klein didn't like accountability much, and it appears that under Stelmach, it's about to take a turn for the worse.

We've already seen the first steps in this with Liepert's "Health Services Superboard", which both Stelmach and Liepert hide everytime something controversial is being done with the health care system in this province.

Now we have a situation where cabinet wants to appropriate the power to be the regulator and the lawmaker with respect to large infrastructure projects. This has the potential to be extremely destructive to participation in Alberta's democracy (which is already depressingly poor).

Last election, over 80% of the seats were decided by 22% of the eligible voters - Stelmach won on apathy. Think about it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inquiry Time

With the partisan nonsense that has been bouncing around this week regarding Afghan prisoner/detainee transfers, it's past time to call a public inquiry - one that isn't bounded by arbitrary rules that the HarperCon$ have come up with.

Harper has tried very hard to muzzle, or render ineffectual, the current parliamentary investigation, and I think in this case Amnesty International has it right:

We are, however, shocked, that at least 12 of his reports were not disclosed by the government during the course of Federal Court proceedings in 2007 and 2008, despite the fact that they were obviously of direct relevance to the issues before the Court and were certainly covered by requests for disclosure of documents that had been made by our legal team. Equally troubling has been Richard Colvin’s testimony as to the ways in which he indicates his reports were dismissed and ignored by senior officials. That your government has responded primarily by seeking to discredit and impugn Mr. Colvin’s credibility has been, frankly, wholly unacceptable.
In our view, therefore, there is no other option open other than to immediately convene a full, public Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of the laws, policy and practice that has governed Canada’s approach to handling prisoners in Afghanistan. We call on you to do so without delay.

The real issue here is what is the Harper Government trying to cover up? I can think of a few possibilities.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

If Colvin's Testimony is so "unbelievable" ...

Then we should be asking some really tough questions of Defense Minister Mackay in light of his top General's recent comments.

"We indeed did stop the transfer more than one time," he said. "At the same time, I don't want to throw out more information. There's a process that's undergoing and I know that the witnesses will be called forward for that process and give their testimony."

So ... Mr. Mackay, would you care to square last week's knee-jerk attempt to dismiss Mr. Colvin's testimony with the actions of the very department you are the minister for? Clearly the Canadian Armed Forces believed that something wasn't entirely right in the first place, so that tells me that Mr. Colvin's concerns had their share of validity - even in the absence of "absolute proof".

Just one more example of the Harper gov't lying to Canadians for political gain.

Friday, November 20, 2009

From Ideology Comes Sloppy Logic

I've heard about You're Teaching My Child What? for quite a while now and mostly dismissed it as yet another anti sex-ed book.

So, when I spotted this book review, I decided to spend a few minutes reading it to see if there was any reason to think that the book was anything worthwhile.

It isn't.

Although the author is an MD, it's pretty clear that the book is written to reinforce most of the complaints that the anti-sex-ed crowd loves to throw about.

Society has now gone from two STDs, syphilis and gonorrhea, to more than two dozen, some incurable and even fatal. Chlamydia is a common bacterial STD that can cause sterility, but can have no symptoms and is readily transferred back and forth between males and females unnoticed. The protection advocated by sex ed groups is a misnomer; condoms are little protection against many of these STDs. On the other hand, as the good doctor notes, all STDs are 100 percent avoidable, through abstinence, and then monogamy.

Uh huh. We all know just how well that policy works in reality.

Of course, when they turn their attention to sexual minorities, the argument degenerates into the usual "oooh - look how creepy this is".

...keep in mind that most of the “experts” spewing forth information on these websites are not physicians or psychologists or psychiatrists or educators, but are activists, and many are so gender confused because of their own behaviors and sex changes they don’t know who they are. Some are “peer educators,” and the rest would have been described as sexual deviants just 50 short years ago, as they dabble in every kind of unnatural behavior, then describe it, and share it with teens, encouraging imitation.

Oh yes, people who are GLBT are just soooo strange aren't they? Not so much in reality. But this has been part of the anti-gay arsenal for decades - an attempt to erase the person by lumping them into the category of "alien" and "bizarre".

Chapter Seven in the book, devoted to “Genderland” is a real eye opener. Blaming society’s culture for what they described as an assigned bipolar male and female gender system, the transformers described here make a serious departure from reality as they try to address the gender identity issues they have created. On some teen websites there are quizzes to help one determine one’s gender. (Gender is no longer biological fact, you see, but how one identifies oneself, e.g., female at birth now male or transgender, or intersex but identify as male.) This goes far beyond even the homosexual/heterosexual/transgender labels we’ve come to know, and is accompanied by new language; “ze” to replace “he” and “she”, and “hir” an alternative for “his” and “her.”

Let me point out a couple of things here - puberty - and therefore teen years - are when cross-gender identities become real issues for those who have them. There is little more horrifying than to see your body turn into something that you weren't meant to be.

Second, the language of "ze", "hir" etc. is not a commonly used construct in the transgender world. Those are terms that have emerged out of the world of gender and queer theory studies, and are not commonly used - even within the communities that would benefit from them in principle. Again, this is little more than more of an attempt to signal to the reader how unimaginably bizarre the world of cross-gender identities must be.

It’s hard enough, says Doctor Grossman, when teens and pre-teens feel mixed up about many issues, but the question “Who am I?” needs to be answered before the challenges of adulthood present themselves. Teens are not miniature adults. Theirs is a world of emotional intensity, with strong drives and hormone overloads. Documented in the book are expert findings showing adolescents have a lesser ability to reason. One neuropsychologist explained: “adolescents are more prone to react with ‘gut instinct’ when they process emotions but as they mature into early adulthood they are about to temper their instinctive ‘gut reaction’ response with rational reasoned responses.” Hard science reveals that it’s not a lack of information, but a lack of judgement that gets teens into trouble.

I'll agree that lack of judgment frequently does get teens into trouble. However, lack of information - especially about matters related to gender and sexual identity is asking for even more trouble. It's the teen years when sexual awareness and identity develop, and to blithely tell them to "wait until you're 20" is beyond daft, it's unrealistic. For those who struggle with gender identity issues, there are good reasons to make the information - along with access to appropriate therapists - available. Teens aren't stupid, and contrary to the popular fear-filled mythology of the religious right wing, hiding sexuality related subjects from them doesn't stop them from exploring. It never has, and likely never will.

Dr. Grossman makes clear in the book, which is very well documented, that the real goals of the sex education lobby are not to prevent pregnancy or disease, but to indoctrinate the young. It is this politicization of sex that will morally bankrupt our nation. The sex-obsessed want to spread their unnatural behaviors as they curry favor for dangerous and unhealthy sexual activity by relying on emotions and pleasures. They craft a false perception of the realities of free and open sex, desensitizing our youth to subject matter that used to be avoided in conversation among polite company.

And these sex transformers want to start earlier and earlier, with your child. Anatomically correct verbiage is to be used in kindergarden, and feelings expressed. Third graders are to have an exaggerated version of the birds and the bees talk. And teens, who are scared into avoiding tobacco and alcohol, are to be made to understand the pleasures of all types of illicit sex.

Oh yes, sex education is all about a political agenda. That's right up there with the alleged "Gay Agenda" (which I've never seen a copy of, but every homophobe out there is absolutely convinced it's real). This is another strawman argument, and by the sounds of this review, the entire book is essentially built on the same kind of silly, sloppy and hysterical reasoning.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Under All The Bluster ...

Is a reality.

The HarperCon$ have struggled mightily to silence Richard Colvin, failing that they then attempt to discredit not just what he says but the man himself.

Peter Mackay's attempt to discredit Colvin's sources and interviews is an interesting exercise in missing the point:

"There has not been a single, solitary proven allegation of abuse involving a transferred Taliban prisoner by Canadian forces,” he said.

However, there is considerable evidence out there of prisoners being turned over to the Afghan government, and being tortured.

We also know that we suspended prisoner transfers at one point, and the HarperCon$ tried to cover up the reasons for that.

So ... what precautions, if any, did the HarperCon$ order Canada's Armed Forces to undertake regarding the handover of prisoners? I'm putting better than even odds that the sum total of those precautions was nothing. In short, they continued to do exactly as Bush II did, and turn a blind eye to the abuse that prisoners were (and likely as not, are) being subjected to when turned over to the Afghan authorities.

In short, through a series of acts of omission, the Canada has become complicit in what are internationally recognized as war crimes - and Harper will do just about anything to cover it up.

I'm not saying that everything that Mr. Colvin has said is true - but the viciousness of the government's response, along with the desperation that has been quite apparent in their actions to suppress the current (and very limited) inquiry, leaves something lying about that does not pass the "smell test".

If it takes a judicial inquiry - and one that is unfettered by desperate politicians trying to save their electoral hides in particular - then we should undertake one on Afghanistan immediately. Canada cannot, and should not, ever be party to war crimes - or even have the appearance of being party to them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Little Window Into The World Of The Anti-Gay Conservatives

I have often wondered what really makes the religious conservatives so rabidly hate-filled when it comes to homosexuality. It has often seemed to me that the anti-gay message is rooted in a particularly narrow, literalist view of scripture.

After reading this gem ... and in particular the comments over at No Apologies, I'm afraid I must revise my opinion.

The vitriol is not really rooted in any meaningful understanding of Scripture - at best, that seems to be an excuse - something that they can point to that allows them to justify not taking personal ownership of their feelings and reactions.

What needs to be understood about these people is that they are not content to be sodomites and just carry on with life. They want to promote that wicked lifestyle. We know this because God says so.

Hmmm...what an interesting set of inferences. First of all, there's an underlying wish that GLBT people would quietly stay in the closet - after all, why on earth would anyone that was GLBT want to be a full participant in society? When someone from the GLBT community does participate in our society's government, they are immediately accused of "promoting their wicked lifestyle" or "recruiting".

Underlying this seems to be two basic themes:

(1) A desire to keep the unknown ("the Others" in society) from being full and equal participants in society.

(2) Fear - plain old fear. Once you make another human being "the Other", it becomes easy to think of them as less than human; of being capable of all sorts of malfeasance and misdeeds.

In short, although the mask they draw over their words and deeds is made of the fabric of faith, it is but a mask. Underneath it lie attitudes steeped in fear and ignorance. When confronted with evidence that contradicts their assumptions, they will inevitably dismiss it out of hand, rather than trying to assimilate it.

12 Letter Synonym For Two-Faced

According to Runesmith, the word would have to be "C o n s e r v a t i v e".

I can't believe how utterly hypocritical the HarperCon$ are.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Watch Out ... It'll Gum Ya To Death

Calgary's city council decided to tackle the bugbear of pesticide use in the city. Perhaps to nobody's surprise they blinked, so the proposed bylaw will merely make recommendations.

Council voted Monday to direct staff to develop a pesticide control bylaw. But in an 8-7 vote, they rejected the idea of including a timeline for ending pesticide use in this city.

This particular excuse is just infuriating though:

"What about golf courses?" asked Mar. "What do people have the right to do on their own property? This is something that concerns me and concerned a lot of the other people that I've spoken with in council and administration and most importantly, how is this enforceable?”

Yes, John, it's so important that your golf courses have perfectly manicured, dandelion free greens ... for those in this city who can afford to play golf at least. Perhaps, instead of soaking the ground with poisons, we could do something innovative - like actually dig out the dandelions.

The Poor, Persecuted Christian ... and Reality

Over at No Apologies, we find them desperately trying to spin things into a case of "persecuted christianity" because Washington, D.C. might pass a law legalizing SSM.

In Washington, D.C., the Catholic archdiocese has threatened to end its charitable work in the city – the work of Catholic Charities – if homosexual “marriage” rights are passed and the state tries to force Catholic Charities to extend employee benefits to homosexual “married” couples. If this happens, homosexualists will be to blame for terminating important charitable aid to the needy.

Then there is reality - The Catholic Church is the one threatening to shut down it's charitable works in D.C. if the bill is passed.

What soup kitchens for the poor have to do with SSM is a bit of a puzzle, isn't it?

But officials from the archdiocese said they feared the law might require them to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples. As a result, they said, the archdiocese would have to abandon its contracts with the city if the law were passed.

Oh, now I see. The Church is afraid it might have to treat gay employees as actual equals with respect to subjects such as benefits plans.

The reality here is that the Church is offended that it might have to treat all of its employees as equals for subjects such as paid benefits plans. In other words, the Church is about to lose yet another area where it can discriminate and treat gay people as second class citizens.

It's important to note that the law in question does not impinge upon the Church's autonomy with respect to deciding who it will or will not marry:

Under the bill, which has the mayor's support and is expected to pass next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform same-sex weddings or make space available for them.

In order to get its way, the Church is effectively making the clients of its charitable operations the victims. The denizens of No Apologies, are, of course, trying to spin this hostage taking as being the fault of those who back gay marriage. In effect, they are saying that the Church's actions are the direct result of the law changing, instead of recognizing that the Church has choices it can make. It could choose to simply extend benefits to same sex couples that are legally married - and there would be no issue. Instead, they choose to try using their charitable operations as a political lever.

Hardly something that one can blame the backers of the gay marriage bill in D.C. for.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Administrative: Captcha's Enabled

Due to a particularly irritating amount of comment bot spam recently, I have enabled 'captcha's on comments.

Hopefully this is only a temporary measure until the various spam lists this blog appears to be on expire.

That's Terrorism?

According to the wingnuts over at No Apologies, the mere threat of the GLBT community demonstrating against an anti-gay series of seminars is "terrorism".

No, I'm afraid that's just abusing the term. Stalking people and murdering them so that others will be intimidated out of legal practices like women's health care services, that's arguably terrorism of a sort. Anybody else remember Dr. Tiller's murder this year? Or Operation Rescue's various campaigns against abortion providers?

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Look at the screaming, whining and bellyaching that comes out from the religious right wing whether it's about gay rights, marriage or abortion - the demonstrations are amazing, and when someone chooses to confront them using their own tactics it suddenly gets labelled "terrorism". There's a word for this - hypocrisy.

As for Mr. Lizotte, the man leading these sessions, he seems to be a francophone version of the usual anti-gay speakers. I would put even odds that I could find the same assertions that Mr. Lizotte makes on any of the usual anti-gay websites - with about as much real data to back them up.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The PC's No Longer Represent Albertans

One only need look at this weekend's leadership review for Ed Stelmach.

Mr. Stelmach received a vote of confidence from 77.4 per cent of PC delegates eligible to cast ballots during a mandatory leadership review. The result of the secret-ballot vote was announced to the cheers of more than 1,000 people on Saturday night at the close of the party’s annual party convention in Red Deer.

Considering that less than half that number in the general population would vote for Stelmach, I'd say that 77% suggests that the PC party has officially lost touch with Alberta voters.

Stelmach is easily the weakest Premier this province has seen since Don Getty and by far the most out of touch with Albertans as a whole. (a neat trick, given how awful Getty was) That the party delegates chose to give him such a high approval rating says more about the party's sense of entitlement than anything else.

A premier who has bungled every major policy decision moment since the last election should be in deep trouble with the party apparatus. Instead, they give him a resounding vote of approval - as if the anointed one could not possibly make a mistake.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

And Alberta Was Surprised By The Turnout?

So ... the Alberta Government was "surprised" by the high turnout for H1N1 vaccination.

Then there's stories like this in the news. Normally we don't hear about multiple people dying of flu infections in one week ... much less people in the prime of life:

At least three of the four had "risk factors," Predy said, adding he could not release further details because of privacy concerns.

Predy said 70 patients across Alberta are in intensive care with H1N1.

About 26% of those hospitalized are children under nine years old.

The median age is 30, according to officials.

Not only will parents be scared for their children, but they should be worried for themselves too.

While the news stories don't help the public see this as "perfectly normal", or make them patient about waiting for vaccination. Anything that attacks people this quickly and kills those that we would ordinarily have thought to be at low risk is going to provoke a visceral reaction.

Any government that is surprised by this kind of response is seriously out of touch with reality.

Harper Attempts To Politicize The Civil Service

If you haven't heard about this, it's because it's another one of Dear Leader's lovely little partisan games - the kind of shenanigan that Harper doesn't want us to know about.

The Accelerated Economist Training Program invites highly educated people to develop careers in the federal public service, starting at a senior level.
But this year, for the first time, candidates need to provide more than a list of qualifications and good marks. They also must to write 1,000 words on the federal government's last budget, promoted widely as the Economic Action Plan.

This is so blatantly political it's ridiculous. I'd put pretty good money down on a wager that says this little turd of a question came down from the political side of things in Ottawa.

No doubt, Harper would dearly love to put a bunch of Reformatories into convenient ranks of the bureaucracy so that the Con$ could undermine another government.

If this question was really about evaluating someone's analytical abilities, there are a hundred other essay questions that could be asked, none of which imply to the candidate that they need to toadie to the fantasies of the current government.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More Dog Whistles From Harper's Back Benches

I said it when Harper was first elected, and I continue to stand by the claim that he is letting his back bench run amok with bills and other activities designed to play to the social conservative base deliberately.

He doesn't expect to have many of those bills get very far, and if he has to, he'll kill them off if he thinks that there will be a political cost to it (e.g. Bill 484 - for example) But ... because he can 'let his caucus vote "freely"' on these matters, Harper allows his caucus to keep their "social/religious conservative credentials" by voting for these bills.

The latest entry in Harper's efforts to keep his base happy emerges in the form of MP Brad Trost's petition to defund Planned Parenthood.

A petition calling for a stop to federal funding of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has been launched by Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost.

Trost presented the petition to the House of Commons Monday. IPPF is funded through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and, according to Trost's petition, "promotes the establishment of abortion as an international human right and lobbies aggressively to impose permissive abortion laws on developing nations."

Most people won't pay attention to this little turd of a petition - they rationally understand that IPPF does some real good in the world. The so-called "pro-life" crowd on the other hand thinks that anything to do with contraception and birth control is pure evil. It's not as if Trost hasn't opened his yap before - inevitably to groups like Lifesite, and conveniently closed-mouth towards mainstream media.

There's nothing hidden about Harper's agenda - you just have to know what to look for.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mr Liepert, You Got Some s'Plainin To Do

Just what kind of monumental cock-up does it take for for a bunch of overpaid athletes to jump the queues for flu shots?

First of all this bunch of morons in Edmonton come up with a half-baked plan for rolling out H1N1 vaccine, and now we find out that rather than giving preferential treatment to medical and emergency personnel, the government was giving preferential treatment to the Calgary Flames?

Mr. Liepert, you give preferential treatment to that bunch and then bitch about those who stood in line for multiple hours to get a flu shot? Give me a break.

This puts Alberta squarely in the same place as both B.C. and Ontario where preferential access has been given to private clinics that charge a small fortune for people to have the dubious privilege of being their patients.

Someone remind me again what's so #%!##$@! great about privatizing health care? (Which I suspect strongly is precisely Mr. Liepert's goal - make things so awful that overpriced US-style insurance programs look good - so he can sell Alberta off to the private health insurance companies that have been lining the PC's pockets for so long)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Why "My Genes Made Me Do It" Misses The Point

One of NARTH's favourite writers is a fellow by the name of Dr. Neil Whitehead. He has published a book entitled My Genes Made Me Do It which attempts to dispel the notion that there are genetic factors at play in the existence of homosexuality.

Not unlike Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box", one doesn't need to be a specialist in the domain to recognize the logical errors in the arguments presented - no matter how hard the authors attempt to substantiate their position with diagrams, and serious looking statistical analysis.

In many ways, Dr. Whitehead falls into precisely the same trap that Behe did - he's so convinced of the rightness of his argument that he cannot see or recognize the glaring holes in his interpretation of the data.

Consider the following assertion in Chapter 1:

The implications of “many genes” for homosexuality would reflect what happened with the mice, or fruitflies: the typical genetic pattern would be a gradual change in the family over about 30 generations from heterosexuality through bisexuality toward homosexuality - a few percent with each generation. Similarly,homosexuality would only slowly disappear in the descendants (if any) of a homosexual person. Any other proposed mechanism is highly speculative and runs against the known evidence.

The flaws in this argument are many. First of all, it makes the incorrect assumption that evolution would have to progress through bisexual variations to arrive at a homosexual variation. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that this is the case at all, in fact the evidence overall could easily be read as implying that heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality occur naturally and concurrently. This claim implies a determinism that in fact evolutionary theory does not actually reflect.

Similarly, Whitehead asserts that in such a scenario, homosexuality should die out, and yet it clearly does not. Therefore, argues Whitehead, homosexuality could not possibly be rooted in genetics. Again, this makes the false supposition that evolution is deterministic, and further that because a homosexual is less likely to pass their genes on to offspring, that it should die out - more of the "evolution is deterministic" line of thinking. However, it fails to take into account that there may be other reasons why the patterns that result in homosexuality persisting through many generations.

Further, even though we have sequenced the human genome, we should not be so naive as to believe that we have anywhere near a complete understanding of how the genetic attributes we can now describe respond to the surprisingly complex organic chemistry that fills our bodies and makes us tick. We have but begun to explore those very questions.

I'll skip ahead to Chapter 3 for now. Chapter 3 is where the author's bias and agenda is clearly stated:

We all tend to take our heterosexuality for granted as if it just happens. But it seems to develop slowly and steadily and to consolidate over about two decades - through clearly defined and documented stages. Psychologists are in broad agreement about the general stages of heterosexual development and unanimous about one thing: heterosexual orientation is not genetically determined.

This is a strange assertion, and one that seems to be quite at odds with the consensus statements from the APA on homosexuality:

What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?

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

This is subtly different from what Whitehead states. Whitehead conveniently leaves out is that the research is inconclusive with respect to causality. The lack of concrete evidence either way should not be interpreted as negation of the idea that there are biological factors involved.

In Chapter 5 (no I'm not deliberately skipping even numbered chapters, but Chapters 2 and 4 really don't say anything significant), Whitehead takes a stab at trying to explain the gender and sexual orientation of Intersex people.

Ironically, his interpretation of Money et. al. falls into almost exactly the same error that Money himself made - namely he confuses gender identity with social gender.

Social gender is largely learned through experience. It builds on gender identity to some degree. If we didn't learn it through experiences, then by what purpose would the natural segregation of male and female children in school years serve? Further, if gender was purely socialization, then the outcome of Money's experiment involving John Reimer would have been dramatically different.

Money's work with John Reimer actually can be understood as validating the narrative of many transsexuals, who almost universally claim that they felt "like the opposite sex" from a very young age (often well before any sense of gender is supposed to be understood by the child) - and transsexuals move towards transition with a surprising degree of persistence - seemingly without swerving once they start to understand themselves.

Whitehead, however, goes on to argue that because many Intersex people choose to remain in the gender role that they were raised in, that gender identity, and correspondingly sexual identity are in fact primarily learned.

Unfortunately, Whitehead has made a serious error in his theoretical construct in making such an argument. Instead of expanding his interpretation to encompass the percentage of Intersex people who do choose to transition to a different gender role as adults, he effectively argues that their story is not relevant and discards that evidence.

There is a fundamental construct out of Mathematics that Whitehead has clearly ignored or misunderstood - namely that of completeness. Mathematical completeness has a strong definition, but the principle applies to scientific theory as well. A theory that fails to encompass the breadth of the available evidence is either in need of revision, or it suffers from logical inconsistencies, and this is where Whitehead's arguments begins to fall apart.

Whitehead wants his reader to be convinced that in the absence of concrete proof of biological causality that sexual identity and behaviour are therefore learned. If something can be learned, it can obviously be "unlearned" or changed, right?

Well ... perhaps that is the case - after all transsexuals learn the social aspects of their chosen gender, often in the face of having transitioned later in life.

However, that does not explain in the least their stated motives for choosing to transition (or, in the case of some, making the choice not to transition).

For much of the rest of his book, Whitehead spends his time expounding on how various lines of investigation have "not turned up any conclusive evidence" in building his argument that sexual orientation is primarily learned behaviour.

Right now, based on much of what Zoe Brain keeps digging up, I think the interesting work is not going on in the causality of sexual identity, but in understanding gender.

The more of this evidence that gets published, the more convinced I become that to assume that we must all try to be heterosexual is deeply flawed. In no other respect to we expect people to fit into absolute categories. Even handedness is mixed - few people are absolutely left or right handed. I'm strongly left-handed myself, but even there, I find that there are things that I do right handed. There's no absolutes in life, and it seems to me that where we are talking about sexual or gender identity, we should not be attempting to impose some kind of absolute models either.

I think that the notion of gender, and sexual identities as occurring along a spectrum of behaviour, as discussed in this essay series is a more reasonable notion than looking at it as if it is all learned, or all innate. It is far more likely that it is actually a mix of factors, and none of us should assume that there is an absolute of any sort at play.

Whitehead's book is essentially a piece of apologetics for the ex-gay lobby. It depends on the classic logical fallacy that the absence of conclusive evidence is equivalent to negation. This is no different than the classic "gaps in the fossil record" arguments against evolution theory - it fails to prove anything, and does not acknowledge that the evidence is gradually getting filled in. Further, because it requires us to discard information in order to hold together, Whitehead's work is clearly based on a weak foundation.

A Clear Lack of Planning

If you've been in Alberta for the past week, you will have no doubt heard about the disastrous fiasco that has been the H1N1 Vaccination Program.

As of this morning, the vaccination program has been suspended.

Let's see - we have a flu virus running around that in its most serious cases kills otherwise healthy people extremely quickly, the government at both the Federal and Provincial levels has been blitzing the media for weeks telling the public to get vaccinated, and the government opens "mass vaccination" clinics in the major centers. They expected what kind of turnout?

Then we get Liepert blaming the general public for turning up for vaccination - amid stories of supply problems and other issues. If this is the kind of wonderful planning we can expect out of our new Health Superboard, it's no wonder that Albertans are skeptical of this government's ability to tie its own shoelaces, much less actually govern.

People are scared - with good reason. When this virus kills suddenly, can anyone blame parents for fearing for their children's health? When the week that vaccinations began, a thirteen year old hockey player in Ontario got sick and succumbed to this flu within 24 hours, one can only imagine that parents got worried - and rightly so.

While I give full marks to the staff working at those clinics for their efforts to keep things calm and orderly, the Alberta Government, and Alberta Health Services in particular, get a big fat goose egg for their planning and execution. Four clinics in the city of Calgary? Please. Winnipeg has 12 clinics for a population half that of Calgary.

Calgarians were standing in lineups for upwards of 5 hours, and then getting turned away. This is a complete fiasco - the governments made it plenty clear that we should get vaccinated, and then they tell us that we shouldn't get vaccinated? No. Wrong.

Liepert screwed this up monumentally - and he gets to wear the fallout. Don Braid explains how badly Liepert and Stelmach have bungled this rollout.

But even if supplies were ample, the public health officials were on the edge of a crisis they created. They simply didn't supply enough access points to meet the huge demand they completely failed to anticipate.

In hindsight, it's almost beyond belief that they only set up 10 clinics for two million people in Calgary and Edmonton.

B.C., by contrast, will have dozens of smaller clinics when H1N1 vaccination starts for the public (high-risk people are already getting shots). So B.C. looks smart by holding back vaccine. I'm not sure it should; people surely have a right to the vaccine as soon as it's available.

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...