Monday, March 29, 2010

There Goes The Credibility

One of the challenges for the Wildrose Alliance in Alberta is to avoid looking like they are the new home of political extremism in Alberta.

The cautious first steps in that direction happened when they selected Danielle Smith as the party's new leader. Today, Rob Anders just undid that step by taking out a WRA membership.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

That Would Be A Start

While the Vatican's official mouthpieces gnash their teeth and angrily deny anything that implies that Pope Benedict XVI ever had anything to do with covering up the tracks of pedophile priests, someone in the Vatican makes a comment that makes sense:

"We need a culture of alertness and bravery, to do the housework," Cardinal Kasper said.
"There is no turning back on the path we are now on and that is good."

If the Vatican actually undertakes such a housecleaning, it could be very fruitful indeed.

However, that said, we have to also recognize that the church has tried to place itself above the law in many countries - and in doing so has failed utterly to do justice to either the victims of its most perverse clergy, but has stained itself twice over by actively allowing the abusers to go on.

This time, while a house cleaning might be a good thing, I think that housecleaning has to be seen to be done in an open, transparent manner, possibly with the church itself taking criminal and civil responsibility not just for its actions, but those of its clergy who were protected by policies that enabled the abuse.

Unfortunately for the Pope and his defenders, the allegations that he directly or indirectly was involved are serious, and must be addressed. To do anything less would call into question any 'housecleaning' exercise that might be undertaken by the Vatican ... and since the Vatican is clearly a biased party, the entire case - all of it - should be turned over to the legal authorities that operate in the region of the diocese/archdiocese that Ratzinger was in charge of.

I doubt very much that the Vatican will be anywhere near as open about all this as is truly needed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dear Ann: Go Back To Outer Wingnuttia!

Not all Canadians are wannabe Americans, Ann.

Ann Coulter said she's determined to "save the good Canadians" in Calgary and regions west from "crazy Liberals,"
"I'm more determined than ever to turn pretty much from Calgary through the west into the 51st state now. We got to save the good Canadians.

While your buddies like Ezra Levant and Craig Chandler might be eagerly awaiting their next orders from Bush II and his minions, there's an awful lot of us who are proud to be Canadian - and equally find loudmouths like you an embarrassment.

It might come as something of a shock to you, but there's actually people in Calgary who take pride in our history as Canadians.

In the meantime, the following summarizes my opinion of your arrogant, condescending attitude towards Canada:

Any Bets?

I was chatting with someone last night about the Liberal's apparent self-sabotage on a motion, and it occurred to me that the Con$ hand is firmly in this.

Remember Rod Bruinooge and the super secret Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus?

I thought you might. I think the Liberals just found out how many of their MPs are being squeezed - indirectly - through their participation in Bruinooge's little 'caucus'. On orders from the PMO, no doubt.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So Ms. Coulter Was Worried About Limiting Her Speech?

It doesn't seem to have stopped her from spouting her usual bigotry:

On Monday night, Coulter sparked controversy when she spoke to about 800 people at the University of Western Ontario in London. ...

But the regular Fox News commentator drew outrage from some, including a 17-year-old Muslim student who asked her a question about her views on Muslims.

Coulter has said all terrorists are Muslims and has suggested all Muslims be barred from airlines and use flying carpets.

When the student said she didn't have a flying carpet, Coulter told her to "take a camel."

and this woman wants to whine and snivel about a handful of protesters at University of Ottawa?

I'd say she had her chance to make her speech, she made it, and people got outraged. Gosh ... who woulda thunk it?

Frankly, Ms. Coulter has shown herself to be a bigot and a racist. If we can ban a British MP for holding opinions that the HarperCon$ find difficult to stomach, one might just wonder what kind of "free speech" we're promoting by letting a nutcase like Coulter into Canada?

According to the G&M, she's hired Ezra Levant to prepare the complaint on her behalf:

“I would like to know if any Muslim has been treated this badly, at least since the Reformation, because I am drawing a blank,” Ms. Coulter told The Globe. So after telling a Muslim student to 'take a camel' instead of flying, she thinks she's hard done by because her views are sufficiently outrageous that people actually called her out.

She also took a swipe at Canadians, saying this country has lost its edge.

“You guys used to be so cool. You were smokers. You had epic hockey fights. We had half our comedians from Canada. Now you’re all a bunch of girls named Francois.”

Oh ... how nice. Great way to win friends and influence people, Ann. Perhaps in some future life, you might learn this funny Canadian value called 'respect'.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It Only Makes Sense If You're Insane

So, it seems that Ann Coulter wants to file a human rights complaint in Canada ...

Inflammatory right-wing pundit Ann Coulter took aim at a University of Ottawa administrator Monday night, saying an e-mail from the school warning her to use “restraint, respect and consideration” when addressing Ontario students during a speaking tour this week made her a victim of a “hate crime.”

Speaking to students and academics at the University of Western Ontario Monday, Coulter said the e-mail sent to her Friday by Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost of the University of Ottawa, targeted her as a member of an identifiable group and as such, she will be filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission alleging hate speech.

Kind of makes you wonder just what Ms. Coulter's speech was going to be, doesn't it? But then, like a lot of the extreme right wing in the US - and Canada for that matter - Ms. Coulter is well known shooting from the lips and not really paying attention to facts or reality.

... and right on cue, we find Ezra Levant on the stage:

Ezra Levant, lawyer and former publisher of the Western Standard magazine, spoke before Coulter on Monday and called Houle’s letter a “veiled threat.”

Why yes, Ezra, only you could possibly take a bit of advice given to someone who may not be fully cognizant of Canada's laws and interpret it as a 'threat'.

Of course, Ms. Coulter opens her yap during her speech and says the following:

“A word is either offensive or it’s not. In a world of political correctness, all words are banned unless they’re used against conservatives. It doesn't work that way, Ann - and you know it. The e-mail you received encapsulated the concept in three words: “restraint, respect and consideration”. It's not like your track record for saying amazingly ignorant things in public isn't well known in Canada.

If the notion of speaking in a manner that respects others, and being asked to do so, is 'discriminatory' against them and a form of hate crime, it does make one wonder just what they had in their minds to say in the first place.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's About Accountability and Responsibility

Ironically, in spite of the headline, I'm not going to be talking about Stephen Harper and his band of twits. This is about the seemingly endless sex abuse scandal that continues to rock the Roman Catholic Church ... and Michael Coren's utter misunderstanding of the situation.

It’s Saturday, so it must be time for yet another attack on the Roman Catholic Church — this time involving lies about the Pope, his brother and, before long, his auntie Freda and his pet cat Hans.

Logical thinking and balanced thought were eliminated from this subject long ago. It’s church-bashing time and why bother about poverty and war when you can pretend that Catholicism is to blame for everything.

Of course - the nitwit picks up on the role that the current Pope has apparently played in one diocese, and conveniently ignores the fact that what's coming out now shows us a picture of an organization that has actively and systemically enabled pedophiles in its midst.

Yet if we are to believe the media, abuse is almost exclusively Catholic and — here we go again — all because of celibacy and an all-male clergy.

Complete trash-talk of course. A failed priest says no more about Catholicism than a failed Canadian says about Canada.

Nice straw man argument there, Michael. Care to try again? I don't think people really care what vows a priest takes. While personally I find the notion of a celibate priesthood a bit ridiculous, that's really an internal matter as it has little or no effect on the parishoners whether the priest is married or not.

While sexual abuse is obviously grotesque, the number of occurrences in the Catholic Church is neither higher nor lower than any other denomination or religion and the same as those in education, sports and any other institution that involves a power dynamic between adults and youth.

Again, Coren completely misses the boat. In those other "institutions", the abuser and their enablers are subject to criminal prosecution, and rightly so. The issue here is that the Catholic Church has tried to not only set itself apart from the laws in so many lands, but has actively attempted to protect its clergy from prosecution - not just once, but repeatedly.

Worse, from an optics point of view, is that the current Pope's name appears repeatedly in this history - including renewing or re-approving the original protocol the church came up with to conceal child molesters in its midst.

People are looking for something here - it's called accountability. The rot in the clergy has been percolating to the top, and today the people who are implicated are very highly placed in the church hierarchy. These are people whose acts and actions attempted to protect the abusers, but coerced the abused into 'vows of silence' and generally tried to place the clergy outside the laws of the land.

If a hockey coach abuses his players, he goes to trial. If his leadership moves him around to conceal his tracks, they too are culpable for their acts. Why should a member of the clergy be any different simply because they are part of the Catholic Church?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yet More Child Molesting Clergy

In the last few days, it has become very apparent that the phenomenon of Roman Catholic clergy molesting children was not just an oddity that took place in a few North American parishes.

I see now that the Pope is saying "sorry" to his flock in Ireland with a Pastoral Letter.

This has been bubbling about for close to twenty years in North America, and the incidents that are being described go back as far as the 1950s. Entire generations of the faithful have been lied to and deceived by the church hierarchy which is known to have actively covered up the tracks of its pedophiles and protected them from the legal prosecution that would have befallen them had the law caught up to them.

At this point, anything like an investigation that originates in the Vatican will have no credibility whatsoever. It is already clear that the Vatican hierarchy has moved in the past to protect its own from the consequences of their actions, after so many decades, one can only imagine the degree of organizational rot that must pervade the entire structure. Coverups, deceit and lies all in the name of protecting the "reputation" of the Church are guaranteed to be corrosive to the organization itself.

Instead, If the Pope truly wants to make a clean break of things, and re-establish his Church's moral authority, he should open the doors of the Vatican's archives (all of them!), as well as those of every diocese of the church to a public, legal investigation by a third party such as Scotland Yard or Interpol.

The goal of such an investigation? To describe the activities not only of the Church's pedophiles, but also the actions of the church hierarchy with respect to those abuses. Further, the perpetrators must be brought to account for their actions - in both the courts of secular law and the Church itself. The results of that investigation must be fully public, and the consequences for those identified must also be public - anything less would smack of further coverup and protectionism. This may be a massive bloodletting within the Vatican hierarchy, potentially going all the way to the top, but it must happen in order for the Catholic Church to reclaim any sense of moral validity in the years to come.

At this point, the reputation of the Church is so besmirched with the taint of sexual abuse and coverup that it is hard to take any of its moral teachings seriously. To rail against civil rights for GLBT people whose actions are about living in society in peace with those whom they love when your entire organization seems to have become the world's largest pedophile ring seems more than just a little hypocritical.

Friday, March 19, 2010

General: Gays in the Army Caused Srebrenicia Massacre


Some people will go to any lengths to justify the utterly ridiculous 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy of systemic bigotry and discrimination in the US military.

"The battalion was under-strength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone polls, marched the Muslims off and executed them," Sheehan told the Senate armed services committee.

Sheehan also argued that the armies of several European "low" countries had become soft as they moved to "socialize" their militaries after the end of the Cold War and continued European unification meant that Soviet and earlier German threats were consigned to history.

"That included the unionization of their militaries," Sheehan said. "It included open homosexuality, demonstrated in a series of other activities, with a focus on peacekeeping operations because they did not believe the Germans were going to attack again or the Soviets were coming back."

Oh yes, having open homosexuals in the army has anything to do with the tactical situation in Srebrenicia. Sure. What's the next tale this moron's going to come up with?

I'd suggest the General take some time to look at the service records of the thousands of men and women that have been dismissed for the crime of being homosexual while enlisted in the army. I suspect he'll find that by far the majority served their country well - regardless of their sexuality.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Finally Somebody Says It

Motion to limit PM's prorogation power passes

"Our prime minister is not a king, and it's time he understood that. It would appear he doesn't get it," Layton said earlier on Wednesday in the House of Commons.

I'm not sure Harper considers himself royalty, but he certainly is doing his level best to avoid being accountable to Canada's Parliament (and thus, the people of Canada).

Canada's Conservative Government: Misogyny and Ignorance in One Package

After listening to yesterday's Question Period, I am astonished and appalled by the responses of our government regarding their "Maternal Health" development program for the G8.

Says the odious Bev Oda:

“This initiative is about saving the lives of mothers and children,” she said. “Far too many lives are being sacrificed when we can do something about it. This is the time we should act.”

Yes, Canada, this is exactly what the Forced-Pregnancy crowd wants. Take away options which allow women to control their fertility - after all if they don't want to be pregnant, they shouldn't be engaging in sex, right?

Then there's the more realistic side of the world, pointed out by MP Carolyn Bennett:

“Unbelievably, the minister suggested that birth control has nothing to do with saving lives,” Dr. Bennett said, noting that United Nations says a “lack of adequate contraceptive services is responsible for 1.5 million deaths in developing countries every year.”

What?! How can it be that our government is not only ignoring the research?

Oh - wait - these are the heirs of the Bush II years in the US - facts and evidence don't matter, just their dogma.

[Update 18/3/10]
So, having sounded the dog whistle loud and clear to the base, we now see Harper beating a retreat ... of a sort:

"We are not closing doors against any options, including contraception," Harper said in French in the Commons. "But we do not want a debate here or elsewhere on abortion."

But why is contraception - and safe abortion - even a question? For decades, these have been part of Canada's foreign aid policies - nicely aligning us with the UK, and much of the EU.

The fact that Harper & Co. are "questioning" this, and "considering it as an option" tells us a great deal about what they would do given the opportunity.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ah - So Women's Health Only Matters When You're Pregnant

Birth control won't be in G8 plan to protect mothers, Tories say

In no uncertain terms, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon yesterday ruled out any kind of family-planning programs being included in Canada's "signature" initiative at June's G8 summit - a strategy to improve the health of mothers and young children in poor countries.

"It does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives," Mr. Cannon told the Foreign Affairs committee.

So, in short, the HarperCon connection to the ultra-conservative "base" of religious fanatics has surfaced once again - this time with respect to women's health.

I'm sorry, Mr. Cannon, but you are doing nothing for women's health if you are taking out of their hands the ability to control their fertility. (and telling women to 'keep their legs crossed' doesn't work - especially in many of the third world countries where women are more chattel than equal members of society)

Women's health must include all dimensions - not just when they are pregnant, but also family planning, contraception and other forms of birth control. To do anything less is political dogma, not good government or policy.

Of course, this comes as little or no surprise to those who have been paying attention to the Harper government. There's been more 'dog whistles' put out in their policy in the last few months than I care to count. Whether we talk about Jason Kenney's lying deceit about his role in the content of this country's new citizenship book, the 2006 "cuts" that targetted women and minorities, or this issue, they are intended to signal to the squirming mass of extremism that had control over the Reform/Alliance party policy that they have not been forgotten.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scripture and Transgender Issues

Recently, I found myself engaged in a discussion about whether the Bible has anything meaningful to say about transgender people - and in particular, transsexuals.

For the most part, the other party in the conversation was repeating the "but it's a SIN, the Bible says so" line. However, eventually he did post a list of Bible verses that he thought were germane to the discussion. Here they are:

Gen 1:26-28; Gen 3:4-5; Gen 5:2; Gen 13:13; Gen 19:4-9; Lev 18:22; Lev 20:13; Deut 22:5; Deut 23:17-18; Deut 32:4-5; Judges 19:22-26; 1 Sam 16:7; 1 Sam 18:1; 1 Sam 19:1; 1 Sam 20:3, 1 Sam 20;41; 2 Sam 1:26; Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 72:14; Psalm 139:13-16; Prov 12:20; Prov 18:2; Prov 20:17; Eccl 7:29; Eccl 11:5; Jer 1:5; Jer 9:6; Jer 9:8; Jer 17:9; Amos 2:4; Matt 5:17-18; Matt 19:4-6; Matt 23:25-28; Mark 7:22; Mark 10:6; Rom 1:21-32; Rom 3:4; Rom 3:13; Rom 3:23; Rom 8:5-8; Gal 5:3-7; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:3-7; Eph 5:31-32; Col 2:8; Col 3:5; 1 Cor 11:3; 1 Cor 11:14-15; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 2 Cor 7:1; 2 Tim 3:2-5; Titus 1:16; Heb 6:18; James 1:13-15; 2 Peter 2:10-14, 17-19; 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:20; 1 John 5:10; Rev 22:15

I'll come back to this list in a little bit. First, I must lay out some of the foundations of my interpretations.

(1) I view the Bible as a whole as a historical document - one that reflects the society and era in which it was written.

(2) Because the Bible is a religious document, it cannot be assumed to be entirely factually accurate. That is to say that some stories will be deliberately exaggerated or outright fabrications in order to make a point.

(3) The modern notion of history as a reflection of documented, verifiable facts is relatively recent. The tradition of Roman historians, for example, was to "enhance" the stories of their subjects in order to further glorify them. I suspect strongly that the Roman tradition of history is reflected in significant aspects of scripture, even when they are otherwise factual.

(4) I do not dispute whether the current versions of the Bible have been correctly translated from their original forms. For the purposes of this discussion, I assume that the translation is at least nominally accurate.

The Language of the Bible and the Language of Transgender

The first point that I will make is that scripture is at least 2,000 years old, and the parts consider Old Testament are older still. This means that we would be talking about a society where the notion of gender would have been firmly rooted in the binary notion of male and female exclusively. The rare cases of physical hermaphroditism would be so rare that it is unlikely that an author of scripture would have more than a passing awareness of the phenomenon, much less integrating it with the concepts of 'male' and 'female' that would be commonly held.

Clearly, the language of scripture will not contain the modern words like 'transgender' or 'transsexual'. Further, I claim that the scripture itself cannot meaningfully be read to have any clear statements about transgender people as a whole.

Why do I make such a claim?

The answer lies in the reality that at best scripture will speak to the acts and outward symbols, but will be semantically unable to address the subtleties that underly those symbols and acts. So, for example, while Deuteronomy 22:5 proscribes cross-dressing, it does so in the context of a man dressing in the clothing of a woman. Such proscriptions are based on a very limited understanding of what it means to be 'man' or 'woman', which I will show to be deeply flawed - especially in today's world.

Let me address the notion of male and female first. I interpret this as being primarily a physiological discussion. I'm pretty certain that writers of the scripture understood male and female as absolutes. One either has a penis or a vagina, and that's about it. In the 2,000 years that have elapsed, we have learned that nature is seldom so absolute as that. We have learned that you can't even use chromosomes to determine male and female with absolute certainty - rare conditions such as mosaicism do occur naturally, and can result in ambiguity in the determination of whether an individual is male or female. Similarly, Klinefelter's Syndrome is more common, and also muddies the waters of determining someone's sex. As much as culturally we accept a binary notion of male and female, when one inspects nature closely, it is hard to claim that there is such a strong absolute.

Having shown that the obvious tests for sex are at best problematic, let's turn to the brain - the seat of personality and thought. If the rest of the body is sex-differentiated, and that differentiation is not always as clear as we might think, then we should consider the same of the brain. It's well known that male and female brains differ in some interesting ways, and referring to Zoe's collected evidence of ambiguous brain structure in transfolk, I would argue that the notion that it's exceptionally difficult to claim that someone's mind is either exclusively masculine or feminine in structure.

I think I've shown that the 'male and female' dichotomy that scripture assumes is an absolute is far from being so when we shine the light of modern science on it.

So, let's consider the Deuteronomy 22:5 proscription briefly. The concepts of 'man' and 'woman' are certainly derived from the fundamentally physical 'male' and 'female' binary that I have already shown to be deeply problematic. If the physical is so deeply problematic, then how can we possibly think that there is an absolute around 'man' and 'woman'? After all, in the modern world, I know women who are steelworkers; men who are nurses and so on; families where the woman is the wage earner, and the man cares for the children at home. It's hardly like one can look at someone's sex and know or assume their role in society.

When we consider the notion of crossdressing, we have to establish if the person crossdressing is a man (or a woman - there are FTM crossdressers out there). I'll put aside the polarizing extreme of the transsexual for a moment. Many crossdressers talk about 'expressing their feminine side', or something of that nature. Thinking about this in the context that masculine/feminine are hardly absolutes, even in the brain, one has to raise the question as to whether in fact the MTF crossdresser is in fact 'a man wearing woman's garment', or is it actually someone giving expression to a part of their being that is in fact rooted in the feminine? In other words, if the notion of man and woman are not truly social absolutes, one has to consider that such a proscription can only apply to the hyper masculine or hyper feminine. Otherwise, we walk into a world where suddenly one's apparent sex ends up defining every aspect of the individual's existence - from job prospects to hobbies - something that we know is far from so absolute.

Where the transsexual is concerned, one might in fact argue that they were crossdressing constantly before the individual transitioned to live in their correct gender. As the Garcia-Fulgeras and Swaab
paper suggests, there are in fact coherent reasons that a feminine brain may reside in an otherwise masculine body, so the interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5 in such a situation almost inverts itself in order to make sense.

Much of what my adversary referenced are the usual proscriptions against homosexuality, deceit etc. Anything that references the usual proscriptions against homosexuality, I will ignore. To equate transgender identities with homosexual identities is like saying a giraffe is a form of cat.

However, one of the references of particular interest is 1 Sam 16:7 which reads:

7: But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

This is part of many aspects of the scripture that essentially order us to live honest lives. From the perspective of a transgender person, one might well look upon this passage as demanding that in fact they give honest expression to themselves.

Among transsexuals, there are many who express their pre-transition lives as "living a lie". While I think that such an expression is perhaps a little too simple - not unlike the 'a woman in a man's body' aphorism is overly simplistic. Certainly, living in the incorrect gender socially is a crippling experience for many. There is no doubt that most transsexuals fully and honestly believe that to the very core of their being that they were meant to live in the other gender to what was assigned at birth.

Similarly, for crossdressers and others whose transgender identity does not oblige them to transition fully, the expression of their cross-gender nature in a constructive form is an honest expression of their individual spirits.

I would argue that based on what I have shown above about the complexity and subtlety of gender as expressed in the human body that it would be quite reasonable to interpret 1 Sam 16:7 as in fact proscribing transgender people from burying their feelings and needs as human beings, rather than proscribing the expression of those needs.

Building on the notion of deceit as it applies to transgender people, we move on to Proverbs 12:20 which reads:

20: Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellers of peace is joy.

and Prov 20:17:
17: Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.

For so many transfolk I know, the very acts of transition and self exploration are the pursuit of inner peace. When an individual finds their place along the transgender spectrum, they almost inevitably express a sense of peace and joy. It seems to me that there is much to be said for being honest with oneself, and it is ever the more important for those around that person to acknowledge their peace, and not judge them harshly for being different.

Being transgender is not about being deceitful, it is in fact a challenge to be be honest with oneself to the degree that transgender people must be in order to overcome the social prohibitions that western society imposes that serve as powerful barriers to the inner honesty of the transgender experience.

It is difficult for those who are not transgender to understand that a transperson is not engaging in a deception, but rather is simply giving expression to their reality.

Mark 7:22 reads:

22: Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

The inference is that the transperson is somehow engaging in these sins. Yet, such an accusation rests upon the assertion that being transgender is necessarily dishonest. I think the reality is that most transgender people are being excessively honest with themselves, and in their expression of their identity are being similarly honest. There may be a period of significant struggle during which they are coming to that honesty of self and self-expression. During this time, it is entirely possible that they may transgress these proscriptions, but when we talk about people being fundamentally honest with themselves, and in their lives, most transgender do not engage in these sins. (It is quite ridiculous to accuse a MTF transgender person of 'coveting' the feminine - they already are feminine)

Romans 3:4 is also cited:

4: God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

This is mostly a variation on the 'man can lie to himself' routine. Okay, fine - we can lie to ourselves. That's hardly news. However, the nature of a lie is that the liar is fully aware that it is in fact a lie. The transgender people I know in general would argue that they are not in fact lying to themselves, or those around them.

Further, referring back to 1 Sam 16:7, this particular piece creates a logical conundrum. If someone is deceiving themselves, and they are unaware of it, what will God see when he looks through to the heart of a person? Presumably, if one accepts the notion of omniscience, that God would witness both the deceit and the honest intent in the person's actions.

However, I don't have any reason to believe that a transperson is engaging in any kind of deceit - either knowingly or unknowingly.

The Base Squirmeth

If I hadn't read it, I would never have believed it.

Over at No Apologies, we find one Tim Bloedow airing his opinions Canada's Discrimination Law.

Think about it… the non-discrimination categories are politically defined. Some of them, like ethnicity and colour of skin and marital status, may line up with real-world distinctions, but it’s a particular worldview – and a non-Christian one at that – which has selected the particular categories that exist today in non-discrimination – or Human Rights – codes. In other words, the state has been given the divine right to define reality and morality by declaring that “sexual orientation” should be a non-discrimination category, but suit colour should not be; marital status should be, but hair length should not be.

Besides setting up one of the usual straw-man arguments that the religious right likes to throw around, Bloedow is also telling us a great deal about his thinking as to what government can or should do.

The straw man is easy enough to discount. He tries to equate sexual orientation with 'suit colour' and 'hair length'. Of course, this is fairly typical rhetoric - according to the extreme religious right wing, sexuality is entirely a matter of choice, no different than choosing a suit. The rational research into human sexuality seriously calls such a simplistic view of things into question.

“Human rights” – or non-discrimination – law is predicated on Humanism/Atheism/Socialism, so it discriminates against Christianity.

So ... you wanted to better understand the double standards that seem to permeate the current CPoC? There it is in black and white. It boils down to 'rights for me, not for thee' - especially for those who are not hardline followers of a particular notion of Christianity which I will dub 'Christianist' - in a manner consistent with the distinction between 'Islam' and an 'Islamist' (a term often used with respect to violent, political advocacy groups whose roots are in Islam).

I find it interesting that Bloedow argues that Humanism effectively discriminates against Christianity. He seems to have lost sight of the fact that in Canada, the fundamental foundation of human rights law is rooted in individual rights and freedoms. Therefore, for example, the concept of Freedom of Religion in fact encompasses not only Christianity, but other forms of belief (or non-belief) as needed. However, that freedom exists primarily for the individuals who live in Canada, and does not give any one system of beliefs the right to demand that others live by its specific creed.

What does this mean in the real world? It means that an employee can file a discrimination complaint against his employer, but an employer has no recourse to file a discrimination complaint against an employee (or a potential employee who he thinks decided not to pursue employment with him due to his race). It means that a tenant can file a discrimination complaint against a landlord, but a landlord can’t file a complaint against a prospective tenant who finds other accommodations due to a discriminatory attitude. It has meant that 99% or more of the time when Christians file “human rights” complaints, they’re complaint is rejected, but when homosexuals file discrimination complaints against Christians, almost every single one is accepted and more than 95% of them are decided in favour of the homosexuals. It is also why many vehicles for combating “gender” discrimination can only be used by women, not men.

Once again, Bloedow is grossly misrepresenting the situation. Of course the opportunity to file complaints exists (for example, an employer could file a complaint against a prospective employee for refusing an offer based on the employer's race). However, the chances of being able to substantiate such a claim would be astonishingly small, unless there were overt actions taken by the prospective employee. (e.g. being tattooed with swastikas and making obviously racist comments during the interview - in which case one might wonder aloud about the employer's sanity in even extending an offer of employment)

Further, cases of discrimination where a group that has been in a position of power and/or dominance for an extended period of time are involved are extremely rare (e.g. gender discrimination against men, or discrimination based on someone being Christian). It is far more likely for a woman to hear "that's a man's job" in the workplace than the other way around.

In fact, the HarperCon$ dismantling and weakening of the very programs that strive to ensure equality in Canada have already had a serious impact on the very people that Bloedow and others seem to think they have a biblical right to treat poorly. (e.g. women and homosexuals for a start)

Non-discrimination law is a perpetual act of war against Christianity. It reflects a complete abandonment of the Christian principle of equality – equality before the law – that is absolutely foundational to the survival of a just civilization.

One can only come to a conclusion like this by thinking that there is some kind of 'right' to impose your particular brand of religiosity on the breadth of a nation's populus. Doing so would naturally negate the concept of individual liberty, leaving many subject to treatment as second class citizens simply for not following the religious edicts handed down.

... and if you think that given a majority that Harper wouldn't go down this very path, consider this.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dear Conservatives:

Sandbagging is not equivalent to actually opening the books for parliamentary review.

Apparently, Canada's current government doesn't understand that Parliament is the highest authority in the country - and its denizens have every right to have access to documents regarding the situation in Afghanistan. All that Harper is doing by appointing former judge Iacobucci is stalling. Put it on the table - all of it - where Canada's elected MPs can inspect it.

There's nothing wrong with insisting that the MPs treat the documents as confidential - but there's a whole lot wrong with delaying the process indefinitely by slapping a "retired judicial review" in the middle. The issue here is whether Canada's policy and actions in Afghanistan have made the country complicit in the commission of war crimes. If that is the case, then Canadians deserve to know the story.

The Conservative party's actions reek of cover-up - and a far more egregious cover-up than Brian Mulroney's undeclared envelopes of money from Schrieber.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Cognitive Dissonance Must Be Crippling

PFOX must be collapsing under the cognitive dissonance of their positions.

On one hand, they want us all to think that being GLBT is "just a choice", and that those who are GLBT can "choose" not to be just as easily. In fact, they go to great lengths on their blog posting every gay sexuality denial piece they can find on their blog.

Then they post something whining about discrimination against ex-gays. The first thought that crosses my mind is 'what discrimination?'. Theoretically, if one was an 'ex-gay' (or ex-lesbian, I suppose), wouldn't you then be straight? ... and as such, not subject to a lot of the censure that society imposes on GLBT people?

So, just what is this 'discrimination'? Well, a little more digging turns up that PFOX is all upset that GLBT organizations won't have anything to do with them. Ah - I see - so the fact that the very people that PFOX wants to undermine and invalidate won't play nice with PFOX's agenda is somehow 'discriminating' against ex-gays.

But, if you are yourself an ex-gay, why would you want anything to do with the GLBT world in the first place? Weren't you trying to escape that "lifestyle"? Wouldn't you want to align your efforts with the straight population? As a supposedly straight person, don't you already enjoy all of the privileges that are denied to GLBT people in so much of the world?

Or, perhaps more likely, the whole ex-gay thing is nothing more than a front for anti-gay lobbying that is trying to co-opt the GLBT position so as to seem more legitimate.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


So, I see that his greasiness, the Right Questionable Jason Kenney, took a few minutes out from lying to Canadians about his role in writing GLBT people out of Canada's identity and decided to send his constituents a leaflet.

Let me start off by pointing out that this is the first communication of any sort that has landed in my mailbox in at least six months - if not longer ... and it has less than 200 words in it. As for informing me as a voter just what he's been doing as my MP, it's about as useful a toilet paper in a rainstorm.

However, it's more interesting to look at this flyer for what it tells us about HarperCon strategy in the coming months.

First off, the obvious talking point will be how the Conservatives are cutting taxes. Wow, isn't that brilliant - in a time when the government has run up a record deficit, the HarperCon$ think that it's a good idea to cut government revenues, and wishfully hope that economic growth will be enough to wipe out the deficit - and quietly ignoring the cost of the resultant debt the country will be carrying ... and how that might be paid down. That's about the most ludicrous fiscal stewardship plan I've ever heard of.

Ironically, the inside "question" reads "Who Is On Track To Keep Your Taxes Low?". The reality is that the HarperCon$ have put Canada on track for increased taxes as the bills come due in the next few years.

Friday, March 05, 2010

A Fantasy Budget

As budgets go, the overall intent of yesterday's budget is more political than it is fiscal.

Harper's hoping that nobody will notice anything except the lofty goal of dropping the deficit to $2 billion from its current $49 billion level over five years.

Of course, that entire scenario is based on assumptions that are entirely beyond the government's direct control.

First of all, it makes the assumption that the Canadian economy will grow - and in fact outperform - all the other economies in the world. That's a lovely little bit of patriotism, but it ignores the interdependencies between Canada and the nations we trade with - especially the United States. About the only economy we trade with right now that isn't in serious trouble is the Chinese economy - and Harper hasn't done relations with China any favours.

Second, the projections assume that the interest rates for government borrowing are going to remain fairly low. This seems highly unlikely. The current trough in interest rates has been a result of trying to keep an already faltering US economy going by encouraging consumer spending during the Bush II reign. However, with EU member countries in substantial debt positions, as well as most governments in North and South America, there's going to be significant upward pressure on interest rates ... and that will affect not only the cost of maintaining the debt, but it will also affect consumer and business borrowing.

Fundamentally, it's a fantasy budget - entirely based on wishful thinking. Ironically, the government could delete better than half the deficit by simply reinstating the 1% rollback on the GST that they did in 2006. As I pointed out back here, for most people the savings in GST are peanuts - it's a rare person who can afford to shell out $20,000 in a year on things other than rent and food. (and most have to borrow that kind of money when they purchase a car!)

I'd say what Harper's really gambling on is that he doesn't expect to be sitting in the PMO in five years - and in fact won't really have to clean up the fiscal and social mess his government is creating with budgets that are mostly wishful thinking.

A government unwilling to examine and use all of the fiscal tools at its disposal is trying to run a marathon with its shoelaces tied together.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

If You Must Lie

... don't tell one that that is readily checked for veracity.

Asked Wednesday why he blocked any information about same-sex marriage and Charter rights protecting sexual orientation, Jason Kenney said: “I did not do such a thing. No, no, you are wrong.”

Uh huh ... so how does the erstwhile minister explain the following:

But a memo to Mr. Kenney from bureaucrats at Citizenship and Immigration last June show the sections were removed at the request of the minister's office. Another memo to Mr. Kenney in August indicates bureaucrats were rebuffed when they made a last-ditch request to have gay rights re-inserted in the guide.

Whether or not is Mr. Kenney personally, or his office staff is irrelevant - as the minister he is responsible for the actions of his staff as well as himself. For his staff to make those decisions, they had to have believed that Kenney would approve.

... and as the Minister responsible, one has to imagine that Kenney himself had a substantial hand in the creation of the booklet that he unveiled with such fanfare last year.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Recalibrate ... Regurgitate ... What's The Difference?

If the Throne Speech is an indication of Harper's idea of "recalibrating" his government, then I think we can safely assume that his government is out of script.

Heck, they've been out of script since early 2007 as near as I can tell, and Harper keeps forcing crisis situations so he can justify resetting parliament and then repeating the same script that he used before - it's like a really awful sitcom that keeps recycling bad material because the writers either died or ran out of material ... only there is little funny about this government.

What he just pushed out as a throne speech has been recycled so many times it's ridiculous. What passes for 'austerity measures' is at best a symbolic joke; and his recycling of the 'get tuff on crime, man' line is boring beyond belief. Those bills haven't passed because Harper keeps shutting down parliament.

... and somehow, I don't think that fiddling with the wording of the national anthem is going to persuade women that Harper is working in their greater interests ... not after what has been done to them on Harper's watch

This time, he's shut down parliament for an extra long vacation, and clearly he's done nothing constructive with that time from a policy and directions perspective.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Can You Imagine What They'll Do With A Majority?

It's not really news that Jason Kenney forced the omission of any mention of equality rights in the new citizenship guide.

Drafts and other internal documents related to the guide were obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

"Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 and more recently, civil marriage rights to same-sex couples was legalized nationwide in 2005," the earliest draft of the guide says under the section Towards a Modern Canada.

And in the section on citizenship rights, the early draft said: "Equality Rights — Canadians are protected against discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or age."

Neither sentence survived the minister's red marker.

Kenney has steadfastly opposed same-sex marriage since his time as an opposition MP in the House of Commons.

In the larger picture of our country, this particular act is small potatoes ... or is it?

More realistically, along with Harper's recent refusal to include contraception and abortion in his world stage 'Maternal Health' initiative, Kenney's actions are another political dog whistle aimed squarely at the TheoCon base that is at the core of the old reform party movement.

Make no mistake about it - there are major elements within the CPoC that would quite happily roll back both gender and sexual equality rights to the era when being gay was a criminal offense ... not unlike what Uganda is trying to do right now, and where both contraception and abortion were either illegal, or nearly impossible to acquire.

When Harper and his ministers feel they have to play so blatantly to these attitudes, it's not hard to imagine just what might happen should Canadians ever grant this bunch a majority.

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...