Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Speaker Made The Right Decision

It's about time that someone slapped Harper around for his attitude towards Canada's government.

I'm glad to see that the Speaker had the wisdom to actually talk to other countries that have Westminster-based parliamentary governments. That singular move would have tilted the balance of decision away from Harper's claim of what amounts to US-style "executive privilege".

Milliken noted that in other countries, they get around the national security issue by swearing in MPs who see sensitive material.

The documents at issue are believed to contain information related to the alleged torture of prisoners transferred to Afghan authorities by Canadian soldiers.

Of course, this would be the simple and sensible thing to do. A reasonable government would have long ago done precisely this. But, the Harper government is not reasonable, is it?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Slouching Towards An Election

The HarperCon$ are busily putting their election machinery into high gear, setting the stage for what I expect will be a fall election.

While the Rahim Jaffer affair continues to grow legs, arms and tentacles, and distracts public attention from the real game that is afoot.

Harper is moving to replace Governor General Michaelle Jean, no doubt he will choose someone whose conservative credentials are impeccable - in the hopes that the next GG won't sign legislation into force, no doubt.

Mysteriously, I received a rare propaganda page from my otherwise missing in action MP a few days ago - and it was considerably larger than the usual pamphlets I see from his office. All of it carefully worded "feel good" nonsense intended to soothe anxious SoCon radicals that the Con$ are working in their best interests.

The legislative game is very interesting. The HarperCon$ have routinely used an array of Private Member's bills to play dog whistle politics with their base. Interestingly, as we discovered with the closer inspection of parliamentary procedure last time Harper prorogued parliament, Private Member's bills survive prorogation - which saves the HarperCon$ a certain amount of public discomfort when the same bill, for the same stupidity is reintroduced time after time - reigniting debate over issues that are generally inflammatory.

Consider the following. The Con$ have long railed against the long gun registry program, but Bill C-391 is a private member's bill. The Conservatives know that passing it as a Government bill would split wide open the rural/urban voter divide, and likely would cost them a significant number of urban seats in centers like Toronto. But, by allowing their "backbenchers" to put it forward, they can claim that they "tried" to make it happen, but the evil opposition wouldn't let them.

Then we have Rod Bruinooge's bill C-510, the "coerced into an abortion" anti-abortion bill. This is a blatant case of dog-whistle politics. It's intended to appeal to the ultra conservative base of Reformatories with their roots firmly in Alberta's Bible Belt. The law itself is fundamentally unnecessary, and legislates something which needs no legislation - and presumes that a pregnant woman can't make an intelligent decision on her own.

Bruinooge's brand of misogyny could almost be shrugged off as a wingnut politician's ravings - except for the G8 'women's health initiative' that has been bubbling around:

The Bloc pressed the Conservatives as to whether they would put aside ideology and include abortion as part of their family planning measures. No way, the government said.

“Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning however Canada’s contribution will not include funding abortions,” Jim Abbott, the parliamentary secretary to the International Co-operation Minister, asserted.

Now the extremist misogyny of the Federal Conservatives is coming from the front benches - loud and clear. This can only mean that the Con$ are busy trying to shore up their "base" support before the summer recess - when they will no doubt run all over the country announcing all sorts of "feel good" spending.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Charles McVety: Clueless AND Ignorant in one package

So, I see that Ontario Premier McGuinty has decided to drag sex education into the modern era.

Frankly, I think it's a good idea. When it is so easy for children to "learn" about sexuality via some truly awful stuff on the Internet, credible and meaningful material is needed earlier than before. I'd love it if parents actually could teach this subject to their children - but so few people can talk about sexuality openly and honestly in our society that it still ends up falling to our schools to attempt to stem the constant barrage of misconceptions and myths that permeate pop culture.

Predictably, the usual suspects have their panties in a twist:

Dr. Charles McVety, President of Canada Christian College, stated that “it is unconscionable to teach 8 year-old children [about] same-sex marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity. It is even more absurd to subject 6th graders to instruction on the pleasures of masturbation [and] vaginal lubrication, and 12 year-olds to lessons on oral sex and anal intercourse.”

“Mr. McGuinty plans to teach our children sexually explicit material that he did not give to his own,” Dr. McVety continued. “The Premier is not acting in trust. He must stop this form of corruption.”

I see ... of course, like any good prude, McVety immediately glues his eyeballs on what he thinks are salacious ideas (dear god, who would EVER think of oral sex without instructions? /sarcasm) and utterly ignores the fact that the curriculum will more than likely talk about what it is, and some of the safety steps you can take to minimize the risks that such activities can entail. (for example, using dental dams and condoms)

If McVety wants something to be shocked about, he should Google "Oral" and take a note of the first page of results - it doesn't include Oral Roberts.

What used to mostly be rumours and discussion on the school playground is pervasive in our world today. I suspect that kids are more than passing familiar with the language of sexuality long before Junior High (grade 7).

The curriculum, when you read past the emotionally loaded language of Lifesite's writers doesn't sound unreasonable:

Under the curriculum, students begin to explore “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in grade 3, as part of an expectation to appreciate “invisible differences” in others. In grade 5, a student is expected to recognize that “things I cannot control include ... personal characteristics such as ... my gender identity [and] sexual orientation.”

In addition to learning about masturbation in grade 6, the curriculum suggest that students can better understand “sexual orientation” by “reading books that describe various types of families and relationships,” including those involving two “mothers” or “fathers.” In grades 7 and 8, “preventing pregnancy and disease,” “gender identity,” and “sexual orientation” become “key topics.”

Grade 7s are expected to be taught about “using condoms consistently if and when a person becomes sexually active.” In grade 8, the use of contraception is a key component of the curriculum, and students are expected to “demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual, intersex) and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual).”

I seem to remember getting some of that material in Junior High myself - although it was certainly not complete in any sense. The basics of contraception were certainly discussed, and in an era where HIV is an enormous risk, and other STIs are far from 'conquered', it seems to me not only reasonable, but prudent, to make sure that children have information available to make intelligent decisions about their sexuality as they are coming into it.

But, I wouldn't expect McVety to understand such things - after all, he's still in the world of denying sexuality exists at all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We're Fighting For This?!?

Okay, here's one that should get religious right wing thoroughly up in arms over our involvement in Afghanistan. Child Prostitution. That's right, our Army is in Afghanistan fighting - and dying - so that the rich and powerful men can buy male child prostitutes.

... the horrific tradition called bacha bazi, which means “boy play.” Boys, some as young as 11, often orphans, are bought by former warlords and powerful businessmen, then trained to sing and dance for the entertainment of male audiences. They then become sex toys for anyone who can afford to pay their masters

How lovely. Essentially this is institutionalized pedophilia and child prostitution.

Would somebody care to explain to me just how we are 'making a difference' here? If there is one thing that this, along with the steady growth of the Taliban's influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, demonstrates it is that foreign intervention in that region is like sticking your hand in a bucket of water - remove your hand from the bucket, and the water doesn't look any different. (BTW - has anybody else noticed that nobody's ever found Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the man whose supposed presence there was the ostensible reason for invading in the first place?)

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to believe that there is either a moral or ethical imperative that justifies the war in Afghanistan, much less Canada's involvement in it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Little More Insight Into Harper's "Base"

Rod Bruinooge has tabled bill C-510 to criminalize someone for attempting to "coerce" a woman into having an abortion:

264.2 (1) Every one who coerces a female person to procure or attempt to procure an abortion for herself is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.

264.2 (1) Quiconque contraint une personne du sexe féminin qui est enceinte à se procurer ou à tenter de se procurer un avortement est coupable :

Contraindre à avorter

a) soit d’un acte criminel passible d’un emprisonnement maximal de cinq ans;

b) soit d’une infraction punissable sur déclaration de culpabilité par procédure sommaire et passible d’un emprisonnement maximal de dix-huit mois.

Attempted coercion

(2) Every one who attempts to coerce a female person to procure an abortion for herself is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

Then there's the definition of "coercion" that's written into this little bit of legislative stupidity - it's a definition which could easily be twisted by the wingnuts to mean that anyone who counsels abortion as an option to a pregnant woman could be held culpable:

“coercion”, in respect of an abortion, means conduct that, directly or indirectly, causes a female person to consent to an abortion that she would otherwise have refused. A person coerces an abortion if he or she knows of or suspects the pregnancy of a female person and engages, or conspires with another to engage in, conduct that is intentionally and purposely aimed at directing the female person who has not chosen to have an abortion to have an abortion, including but not limited to the following conduct:

(a) committing, attempting to commit, or threatening to commit physical harm to the female person, the child or another person;

(b) committing, attempting to commit or threatening to commit any act prohibited by any provincial or federal law;

(c) denying or removing, or making a threat to deny or remove, financial support or housing from a person who is financially dependent on the person engaging in the conduct; and

(d) attempting to compel by pressure or intimidation including argumentative and rancorous badgering or importunity;

but does not include speech that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Practically speaking, this is utterly unnecessary legislation. We already have legislation to deal with people making criminal threats, or assaulting others regardless of gender.

This little bit of legislative chicanery is based on the false assumption that women are routinely coerced into having an abortion. This is demeaning to women simply on the presumption that they don't make these decisions themselves. Bruinooge thinks far too highly of himself and his male brethren - it seems to me that the coercion is coming from them - trying to make it as hard as possible for women to access health care related to their fertility.

The First Step Towards An Authoritarian State

Criminalize everyone.

That's essentially what Special Ed and his band of geniuses are proposing with Bill 16.

I'm not saying that it is wise to be doing any of the things prohibited in the act while driving - that isn't the point. This is a piece of legislation which gives police blanket permission to hand out tickets for anything that they feel like.

Have an iPod on your dash? Oh - must have seen you operating it while driving. Is that a lipstick sitting on the console? You were seen putting it on in the car - that'll be $172 please. Or perhaps you have an apple core sitting on the passenger seat - whoops, that must be proof of distracted driving.

You can see where this heads - quite quickly. An awful lot of tickets get written, and most people won't bother to contest them, even though they are mostly going to be based on the word of the officer writing the ticket.

On CBC this afternoon they had some whackjob on the radio who was going on about how the law wasn't strict enough, they should have banned cell phone use altogether - including hands-free.

Broad, sweeping laws like this do nothing for public safety, and provide law enforcement officials with a tool that can be used primarily to harass civilians.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alberta Cuts Health Care To Pad Executive Salaries

Via The Calgary Herald:

Eight senior executives with Alberta Health Services received nearly $500,000 in bonuses last summer, leading the opposition to demand the government put an end to such hefty payouts.

In Edmonton, Liberal health critic Kevin Taft released documents left, Tuesday -- obtained through access to information legislation -- that show top health bureaucrats received bonuses between $19,000 and $130,000.

So, in the Spring of 2009, the Alberta Government cut a range of programs - some of them meeting key medical care needs of their patients - so that Liepert's "superboard" could afford to pay out executive bonuses?

Alberta Health Services is now finalizing payouts for the 2009-10 fiscal year -- including Duckett's performance-based compensation -- which will be determined once the financial statements are reviewed by the auditor general in June. The organization ran a deficit of $1.3 billion for the fiscal year ending in March.

We're going to pay out bonuses when the organization is losing money? WTF? If you go losing millions of dollars, and your workforce is as completely demoralized as we've been hearing about lately, I'd say that's a failure of leadership. Starting with the executives.

Regardless, cutting services only to direct monies into "bonus compensation" for executives is positively insane.

This says so much about the "Old Boys Network" that is the Alberta Government under the PCs. Not only is there a lack of vision, but the priority is lining their pockets not fulfilling the government's responsibilities towards its citizens.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vatican Dodge #2,532,792: You Took It Out Of Context

So, now the Vatican is trying to dodge the current Pope's direct involvement in hiding and enabling pedophile priests.

A spokesman said the claims, which stem from a letter signed by Benedict XVI when he was a senior Vatican official, had been taken out of context.

Well, let's go take a look at this letter, shall we?

Most Excellent Bishop

Having received your letter of September 13 of this year, regarding the matter of the removal from all priestly burdens pertaining to Rev Stephen Miller Kiesle in your diocese, it is my duty to share with you the following:

This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favour of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.

It is necessary for this Congregation to submit incidents of this sort to very careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.

In the meantime your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible and in addition to explain to same the rationale of this court, which is accustomed to proceed keeping the common good especially before its eyes.

Let me take this occasion to convey sentiments of the highest regard always to you.

Your most Reverend Excellency

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

I see ... in effect, then Cardinal Ratzinger is saying that he will do NOTHING - mostly out of fear that the church will be "embarrassed"!

I cannot even begin to express my outrage over the Pope's obvious and direct involvement in this case.

AP said the Rev Kiesle was sentenced to three years of probation in 1978 for lewd conduct with two young boys in San Francisco. It said the Oakland diocese had recommended Kiesle's removal in 1981 but that that did not happen until 1987.

Cardinal Ratzinger took over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases, in 1981.

AP says the 1985 correspondence, written in Latin, shows Cardinal Ratzinger saying that Kiesle's removal would need careful review.

Cardinal Ratzinger urged "as much paternal care as possible" for Kiesle.

Kiesle was sentenced to six years in prison in 2004 after admitting molesting a young girl in 1995.

Kiesle is now 63 and is on the registered sex offenders list in California.

So ... the man had already been convicted in criminal courts of precisely the kind of conduct that the Church routinely condemns very publicly, and the Vatican doddles over taking any meaningful action for how many years? Good lord, but that's criminal in itself.

Yes, eventually, Cardinal Ratzinger's offices did defrock this priest - six full years after the diocese itself asked for this priest to be removed? That's supposed to be 'good enough'?

It's not. Moving so slowly when the accused has already been found criminally responsible is appalling - and speaks to an organization that has its priorities so profoundly misplaced that it really should give its head a shake. The leadership in Oakland had its priorities straight, and actually acted in the best interests of the church. This ball dropped in the Vatican.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Parochialism Is Alive And Well In Alberta

Apparently Minister Blackett hasn't bothered to read or understand the legislation that gives the AHRC its mandate.

The minister responsible for the Alberta Human Rights Commission says a complaint about an anti-gay letter to a Red Deer newspaper should never have gone before the commission.

"It's not there to mediate hurt feelings caused by some words or not," said Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett. "If it's hateful, then that's a hate crime. And that's something for the Crown attorneys and the police services to investigate.

"But the goal of the commission is to make sure people are protected against discrimination where they work, or access to accommodation, access to government services."

Uh huh. Sure Minister Blackett - checked the contents of the legislation? The part where it talks about publishing hate literature would be a good place to start.

"If it's hateful, then that's a hate crime. And that's something for the Crown attorneys and the police services to investigate.

Ah yes - but the amendments that included sexual orientation in our hate crimes laws federally didn't exist until well after 2002. So, what Mr. Blackett is in effect saying is that there should be no recourse whatsoever. I wonder what will happen if he tries to remove those clauses - which also protect other minorities who are regularly attacked by violent hatred?

Boissoin's letter was a thoughtless piece of drivel that called on society's worst elements to commit violence against GLBT people, and repeated many slanderous allegations about GLBT people that do not bear up to scrutiny.

Surely, the concept of freedom of speech doesn't grant someone the blanket right to make such claims without being held accountable for the consequences?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Lengths Some Bigots Will Go To

Wow, when I first heard about Constance McMillan being told she couldn't bring her girlfriend to the school prom, I imagined that not much was going to happen except the school cancelling the prom.

It's a stupid, childish approach to a non-problem. A couple at the prom is a couple - whether male/female, male/male or female/female, or trans come to that.

Then there is the fake prom that they put together. This is truly offensive - not just on the part of the school administration, but a group of the parents as well.

This meant a serious amount of collusion on the part so many people - all of whom should have known that what they were doing was morally repugnant. Lies upon lies upon lies ... and these people want to stand in judgment over a young couple who had the honesty and spine to tell others about their plans.

That's some moral high ground isn't it?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

And The Catholic Church Tries To Dodge Accountability


The pope’s personal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, in a Friday sermon in St Peter’s Basilica, said attacks on the Catholic Church and the pope over a sexual abuse scandal were comparable to “collective violence” against Jews.

Yes, the mass extermination of Jews in Europe over imagined collective crimes is entirely analogous to demands the Catholic Church hierarchy be held accountable and liable for very real crimes and very real cover-ups of those crimes.

Today, we see the Church trying to backpedal from such an obvious blunder.

Talk about out of touch with reality.

The Cass Review and the WPATH SOC

The Cass Review draws some astonishing conclusions about the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) . More or less, the basic upshot of the Cass Rev...