Monday, August 30, 2010

Inconvenient Truths

Like Global Warming skeptics, the Alberta Government and the Oilsands industry have long been telling us "not to worry", there's no problem with pollution in the Athabasca River system for years now.

When researchers set out to question these claims, it comes as no surprise that there are serious problems.

Mercury, thallium and other pollutants accumulated in higher concentrations in snowpacks and waterways near and downstream from oilsands development than in more remote areas, said a study to be published Monday afternoon in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Upstream and undeveloped sites exposed directly to the McMurray Geologic Formation, the natural source of the oilsands, did not show high levels of pollutants.

So much for the 'it's all naturally occurring' argument that the Alberta Government has been trying to convince us of through their "joint monitoring program" with industry:

However, the Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program, or RAMP, a joint industry-government environmental body that monitors water in the Athabasca River and its tributaries, said in its 2009 report that generally, "water quality was similar between [test] stations located within and outside oil sands development and when compared to conditions prior to development."

The program has reported the pollutant levels occur naturally because of erosion of the natural geologic formation that contains the oilsands and are not caused by human activity.

I find it particularly interesting that the RAMP program's findings have never been published in a peer reviewed journal. I'm guessing that's because the peer review process is biased against propaganda.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Could They Be Any More Blatant?

This business about Terrorism arrests (cue doomsday music) reeks of politics.

In the last little while, we've had the HarperCon$ prattling on about the "Russian threat", now terrorism has reared its ugly head? Hmmm...smells rotten to me.

It starts to really stink when we get the oh-so-wise Vic Toews urging people to spy on their neighbors.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’s pitch Thursday comes shortly after Mounties charged three Canadian citizens of South Asian heritage in connection with an alleged domestic terror plot.

He urged “all freedom-loving Canadians” to “be vigilant” against terrorist threats.

But the minister later singled out assistance from ethnic communities as key.

Asked to define what he meant by vigilant, Mr. Toews cited the example of Canadian Somalis, disclosing that this community – which is overwhelmingly Muslim – had recently brought suspicions regarding extremists to authorities.

“I think it’s that kind of vigilance that is absolutely necessary in order to deal with these kinds of problems,” Mr. Toews said.

Uh huh. I don't know about you, but this smells to me. Not only is it designed to stir up fear among Canadians in general, it deliberately makes "Others" out of visible minorities. If this doesn't scare you, it should. The last time we saw government propaganda of this nature, it was in WW II era - and it was used to justify some amazingly horrific acts on the part of both citizens and governments in North America; and it's well documented just how the Nazis used that same technique.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Harper Lies ... Again

I see the testosterone fuelled stupidity of the HarperCon$ continues unabated. This time, another repeat of the "we repelled the invading russians" meme is being repeated again over a couple of Russian bombers which NORAD calls "routine" and non-threatening.

"At no time did the Russian military aircraft enter Canadian or United States sovereign airspace," said NORAD spokesman Lt. Desmond James, a Canadian naval officer.

"Both Russia and NORAD routinely exercise their capability to operate in the North. These exercises are important to both NORAD and Russia and are not cause for alarm."

All this while PMSH is busy with this summer's Arctic photo-op tour.

How much taxpayer money is this ego-stroking posturing costing?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Slide Continues

We already know that Sun Media's editorial policy is being driven out of the PMO these days.

So it comes as no surprise to this writer to see the overt bigotry and racism lurking in their editorializing on the Tamil refugees. The Con$ have never had a problem with throwing people under the bus for political gain.

But, I was surprised to see that Ezra Levant seems to have been rehired by Quebecor media after being punted a few years ago.

And I see that Levant continues in his usual patterns of writing:

As QMI’s investigative report shows, 71% of Tamil refugees here in Canada think things back in Sri Lanka are good enough that they’ve gone back home for a vacation.

Canadian immigration officials randomly surveyed 50 Tamils already here, who are trying to “sponsor” more people to come over, too. Of those would-be sponsors, 31 are refugees. And 22 of those admit to going back to Sri Lanka.

There's more holes and assumptions written into that statement than I can count. Of those who arrived here as refugees, how many are now Canadian citizens? Of those who went back, how many travelled under Canadian passports?

As for QMI's "investigative report", I find myself wondering about the quality of the data and how much of it is based on questionable inferences such as what Levant so blithely vomits up onto the page.

Each of the people who arrived on that boat have stories, and Canada (in theory) has this funny thing called "due process". They deserve to be heard out before we simply toss them on the next plane back to Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MisUnderstanding Transsexuals and Transition

Every so often, I see someone start talking about transsexuals and transition. They almost always do it from an externalized perspective and inevitably make some statements that are guaranteed to make various members of the transgender community angry.

So, when Jerry Maneker wrote a post that pointed to Don Charles' post entitled "Frankengender", I got curious and went and read it.

I have to take great exception to some of the assumptions in Mr. Charles' writing, because they lead him down a path to conclusions which are just plain, outright incorrect.

... "Gender reassignment" is a cynical hoax which exploits vulnerable people and leaves them forever chasing a false legitimacy; it's so cruel, so despicable, so horribly inhumane, I can barely stand to think about it. The really tragic part is, a person's inborn Transgender status is every bit as legitimate as conventional male or female biology, but nobody will acknowledge that fact.

As I've said before, there's nothing wrong with most Transsexual patients that broader, more realistic definitions of male and female wouldn't cure.

I think this statement underscores a key assumption about transsexuals that is, to say the least, incorrect.

He's inverted things from the usual assumption that non-trans people make. Instead of claiming that it's all about the physical (surgical), he tries to make a variation on the Rad-Fem claim that gender is largely rooted in the social. (and sadly, has misconstrued it in a manner consistent with the objections that both social conservatives and radical feminists raise about transsexuals)

His misunderstanding here arises from a failure to recognize that Gender is a complex, multi-dimensional aspect of our being. At the very least it involves the intersections of the physical, social and psychological aspects of us. (and, as if we can't possibly get any more difficult to comprehend, the social and psychological aspects are likely in themselves comprised of many different threads of identity!)

The claim that "broader definitions of man and woman" would "cure" transsexuals is, highly debatable. While more flexible notions of gender would certainly help alleviate some of the stigma that transsexuals encounter in life, it cannot and will not address the cognitive dissonance that so many transsexuals experience prior to transition and (for some) surgery.

But feelings of disgust for the body you were born with is a mental health issue requiring mental health services. You don't treat mental health issues with radically invasive surgical procedures!!! That's barbaric!

I've seen this claim made before by other opponents of treatment for transsexuals. Coming from someone who apparently is connected in general with the GLBT community, I'm particularly disappointed to see it.

The problem is that it falls into the same category as so-called "reparative therapy" for homosexuals. Trying to change something as fundamental as gender or sexual identity using therapy just plain old doesn't work - at least not for those whose identity is firmly at the extreme end of things.

I can appreciate his "horror" at the nature of gender surgery - most males express that response when thinking about Male to Female GRS.

However, for transsexuals in general, GRS is an effective part of the treatment process (although a fairly late stage of the overall treatment). I would invite Mr. Charles to spend some time reading Pfaefflin et. al.'s study of post-surgical outcomes before he goes too far down the path of condemning the availability of surgery for those who need it.

I will also refer to the WPATH Standards of Care briefly to substantiate my point that there is more at play here than a single dimension of experience:

Options for Gender Adaptation. The activities and processes that are listed below have, in various combinations, helped people to find more personal comfort. These adaptations may evolve spontaneously and during psychotherapy. Finding new gender adaptations does not mean that the person may not in the future elect to pursue hormone therapy, the real-life experience, or genital surgery.

This is significant, because it underscores a clear understanding in the treatment community that surgery is but one dimension of a much broader scope of treatment.

When it comes to surgery itself, I would like to bring your attention to section X of the v6 Standards of Care:

Sex Reassignment is Effective and Medically Indicated in Severe GID. In persons diagnosed with transsexualism or profound GID, sex reassignment surgery, along with hormone therapy and real-life experience, is a treatment that has proven to be effective. Such a therapeutic regimen, when prescribed or recommended by qualified practitioners, is medically indicated and medically necessary. Sex reassignment is not "experimental," "investigational," "elective," "cosmetic," or optional in any meaningful sense. It constitutes very effective and appropriate treatment for transsexualism or profound GID.

While I would to some extent agree with Mr. Charles' assertion that GRS is not a cure per se, we can't cure a lot of conditions yet. But we have known treatments that are effective. Whether you like the SOC or not, the protocol they describe is demonstrably effective at both the individual and population levels over the long term. (Pfaefflin et. al.'s survey of post-surgery results corroborates this claim quite nicely)

It's an option for Transfolk, not a necessity!

Is GRS necessary for all transfolk? No. For some? Absolutely. The issue around surgery funding is that when you view it as "purely optional" (and therefore something the individual must pay for out of their own pocket), you create a situation where the most severely affected by their gender issues likely will never have access to the treatment they need for economic reasons. (Granted, I'm a Canadian, and I have a somewhat different perspective on funding for medical treatment than is common in many parts of the United States ... I see great value in not driving people with medical needs into bankruptcy)

I think that Mr. Charles' has grossly misunderstood that although it is a fraction of transfolk who actually have gender surgery performed, that doesn't make it less important and valid for them than any other medical intervention for a condition. Perhaps I should point out here that medical intervention for mental conditions such as schizophrenia aren't exactly ideal solutions either - at best they are marginal attempts to manage the symptoms the patient is experience ... but the patient is much better off with that imperfect treatment than with no treatment at all!

. . . they expect me to swallow this whopping big lie about "gender dysphoria", a "neurological disorder" for which no neurological therapy exists. Instead, major cosmetic surgery including breasts and reproductive organs is the only effective treatment! It's the most demented thing I've ever heard of.

For those who experience and live with whatever the causes of being trans happen to be, the consequences are very intensely real. To the point that the suicide rate (and suicide ideation rates) among transsexuals in particular are many, many times higher than the population as a whole. It's not just suffering, Mr. Charles, it can be so destructive as to be beyond debilitating. While I would agree that the clinical models used to date are imperfect, they are a damn sight better than nothing.

In this case, the pit in question is a "civilization" that seethes with entrenched transphobia. That's the abnormality that needs to be corrected . . . and it's still there! Quackery like "gender dysphoria" and Frankengender "sex change" operations keep it there.

I will agree that there is an entrenched degree of transphobia in society, and that it deserves to be expunged from society. One of the things Mr. Charles' has misunderstood, and misrepresents through his entire argument is the role of the therapist (at least the good ones).

A good therapist will help their client work through and beyond the transphobia in society and themselves. Guess what? - even after that process has worked its way through in a reasonable fashion, we still find that there are transsexuals who are not willing to live with the incongruity of feeling and living as female in our society without the gender surgery to align body and soul.

The point, Mr. Charles, is that for a fair number of transfolk surgical intervention is part of the solution. The rest of the solution comes from within - an inner journey that is at least as moving and powerful to those who undertake it as your own journey into faith no doubt was.

As for changing society's paranoia about transgender people as a whole, the only way that's going to happen is for those who are trans to live well and be positive examples within our circles. Sadly, when the most generous of estimates place the rate of transgender identity at somewhere in the 1 in 3000 range(and personally, I think that's very optimistic), the odds of there ever being enough transsexuals to influence the greater mass of society into a more engaged, thoughtful place are tiny indeed.

It is one thing to argue for excising transphobia from society, but it is quite another to do so without acknowledging the very real need for transsexuals to change their bodies.

If you get angry e-mails about your posts on the subject, it is no doubt because so many would read what you are advocating as an attempt to erase their own narratives. Generally speaking, erasure tends to result in cranky people. Not everyone who is transgender is content to live in the nether world betwixt and between.

Personally, Mr. Charles, I would strongly suggest spending some time talking with therapists and other treatment professionals who are part of WPATH, and a little more time in the clinical literature about transsexualism before you go making proposals like "fixing the mind". It seems to me that your own thinking is filled with as much subjective nonsense on the topic as comes from the likes of Peter LaBarbera and Julie Bindle.

[Update 19/08/10]
Reductio ad Absurdum

In the comments over at Jerry Maneker's blog, the conversation took a turn for the surreal and outright ridiculous when Jerry writes the following in reply to one of my comments:

If there were no transphobia in society, it is unlikely that there would be many transexuals who would feel "like they were born into the wrong body."

Ummm...right. So eliminating transphobia will reduce the number of transsexuals - I can't even begin to express how ridiculous that kind of reasoning is. The degree and extent of transphobia in society today is enormously lower than it was thirty years ago; and the numbers of transsexuals hasn't exactly dropped off, has it?

As for the argument that eliminating transphobia would allow more transfolk to live comfortably without pursuing surgery, that's at best a bald assertion with no evidence to back it up.

I'm sorry to say it, but even within the broad GLBT community, there's an immense amount of misunderstanding of transgender folk as whole, and transsexuals in particular. It's truly sad when people opine about how to deal with the plight of others without bothering to inform themselves in a meaningful way about those people.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

About That "Traditional Marriage" Thing

Ms Magazine has an excellent writeup that reminds us of just how "traditional marriage" used to work:

Arguably the most influential definition of “traditional” marriage came from William Blackstone, a well-thumbed copy of whose “Commentaries on the Laws of England” could be found on the desk of every Colonial or Early American lawmaker, judge and attorney:

By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband, under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.

The two became one–that one being the husband–while the bride underwent “civil death” to become his legally invisible appendage. Virtually every asset of hers–personal possessions, every penny of wages earned, the very clothing on her back, and even her children–was placed under the absolute control of her husband, though inherited real estate was restricted in that husbands could use it for their own benefit, but not arbitrarily dispose of it without her free consent, as it was meant to provide for her during widowhood then be passed on to her children. Like a child, she could not sign a contract, make a will, buy or sell a business, or sue in court (except for divorce–where legal–or for failure of her husband to adequately support her.)

Hmmm...and the "anti-gay marriage" crowd wants to go back to this? How delightful.

Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance Are Alive And Well

I'm appalled. Riding home this afternoon, I turned down the main road that leads into my community to find a group of demonstrators with placards protesting the arrival of a Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka.

They were waving a British Empire-era ensign flag and a handful of placards with slogans like "Canada is Closed", "Tamils = Trouble" and so on. There weren't many of them - ten at most.

While I have reservations about the arrival of these people, the fact is that they're here and each of them has a story. Given that Sri Lanka is just emerging from a civil war, and the Tamils are on the losing side of that war, it seems entirely conceivable to me that many may well rightly fear for their safety.

It's a sad statement that the knuckle-dragging crowd out there sees fit to wave their ignorance and xenophobia in public in response to a group of people arriving who they apparently fear.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Canada's TheoCon$: No Condoms - You Should Just Obey Us

Apparently, Gwen Landolt isn't satisfied with lecturing Canadians on the immorality of anything other than missionary sex for making fetuses, and is now whining about the fact that our prisons make condoms available to help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the prison population.

Landolt said that distributing condoms avoids the central problem leading to AIDS.

“AIDS is a tremendously serious health issue,” she emphasized. “They should be dealing with the problem, not trying to deal with the consequences. They should be monitoring the inmates to prevent them from carrying on this activity which is causing the AIDS.”

Landolt said that condoms “only encourage the inmates to be involved with this dangerous activity.”

Apparently Ms. Landolt thinks that telling prisoners not to engage in sexual activity means that they won't. I don't think it's news to anyone grounded in reality that sexual activity happens in prisons - regardless of what the regulations say. This has been the case for as long as prisons have been bigger than a few cells in a castle's cellar.

The reason for distributing condoms is simple - they work.

Ms. Landolt seems to be of the opinion that anything even remotely related to sexuality is automatically giving "permission" for sexual acts. It isn't, but just telling people not to engage in sexual acts isn't going to stop that either. I may not like the idea of sex happening in prison, but that doesn't mean it's going to stop either.

Ms. Landolt might want to consider the consequences of allowing our prisons to become a primary source of HIV infection. Does a prisoner infected with HIV have anything to lose when they get out of prison?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yeah ... Right ...

So, it seems that the Saudi government has decided it wants its own time standard clock set around the city of Mecca.

While I'm sure the clock tower will be striking and very beautiful, I just don't need another "zero meridian" time base in my world. It's bad enough dealing with GMT and the plethora of oddball rules around DST and timezones to begin with, adding a Mecca Mean time is simply going to make life incredibly complex - especially for software developers.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Census Play Was Just Foreshadowing

If you thought that the HarperCon$ had sunk about as low as they could go with the census issue, guess again.

In handing the procedural reigns of government to John Baird, I think you will see a parliament whose level of dysfunction will reach new depths. Baird isn't exactly known as a conciliator or someone capable of negotiating compromise at the best of times. He's far better known as an agitator and destructive force - always ready to turn things back on the opposition.

To hazard a guess, I'd say you will see a much more hardline stance from the HarperCon$ in the next sitting of the house - one that they will need as they attempt to ram through legislation that will be damaging to Canada on all levels. The "get tough on crime" agenda is a load of absolute crap that Canada cannot afford, and in many ways will violate key tenets of our constitution on the way past.

Of course, this will not bother the ever increasing totalitarianism of the HarperCon$. They have already demonstrated a repeated disregard for facts and reality in their approach to governance many times since 2006. The most recent bit to emerge in their overbearing totalitarianism came from the PMO - when they criticized a play based on the case of one of the "Toronto 18".

I'm not going to comment on the play itself - that's almost irrelevant. The issue here is that someone in the PMO saw it as their role to comment on a play from a political stance. We already know that the HarperCon$ have intervened in funding decisions for political reasons before (e.g. the pride parade funding issues that got Diane Ablonczy in trouble earlier) This is deeply troubling because it shows us that this government thinks nothing of intervening in Canada's arts and culture scene when it finds something objectionable. This smacks of McArthyism or for that matter the behaviour of Stalinist USSR, where the government thinks that its role includes the right to dictate the cultural dialogue of the nation.

If our opposition doesn't wake up and start calling this stuff out - loudly - Canada is about to enter one of the darkest periods of its history.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

More From The Illogical File

If you haven't encountered Dale O'Leary before, you can be forgiven - one has to tread into the swamps of religiously driven pseudo-science to find his writings. (He was one of the authors of the horrendous paper on the "ethics" of gender reassignment surgery I dissected back here)

He's surfaced again - a year late, it seems, to respond to the APA's study on reparative therapy - and like other attempts at reason from this sector, he's busy cherry picking facts and in doing so gets it entirely wrong. (The actual APA report is here)

1) Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality—in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders.

The use the term "per se" confuses the issue. It is true that same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations are not in and of themselves (per se) indicative of anything. Given the variety of human behavior and attractions in different cultures, throughout history, and among the variety of mankind, nothing can be said about all persons with same-sex attraction, everyone who engages in same-sex behavior, or claims a particular sexual orientation. However, there is substantial evidence that same-sex attraction is a sequel of disturbed early childhood, in particular a failure to achieve a secure attachment to the mother1 and a failure to identify with the same sex parent and peers2. There is also evidence that persons with SSA are more likely to have been victims of childhood abuse,3 including sexual abuse,4 or other exposure to age inappropriate experiences. A number of well designed large sample studies have found that persons with SSA are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, substance abuse problems,5 and suicidal ideation.6 Men who have sex with men are at high risk for contracting an STD, including HIV.7 While not every persons with SSA falls into these categories, a significant percentage do. There is on the other hand no replicated evidence that SSA is genetically or congenitally predetermined and therefore a natural and unchangeable variant.8 Therefore, it can be argued that there is evidence that SSA in some cases (or some might argue in most cases) is associated with a psychological or developmental disorder.

O'Leary makes several assertions here which, had he bothered to actually read the report in its entirety, he would find it addresses.

Assertion: Homosexuality is a result of childhood and/or family dysfunction.

From the APA Report:

Theories that certain patterns of family relationships cause same-sex sexual orientation have been discredited (Bell et al., 1981; Freund & Blanchard, 1983; R. R. Green, 1987; D. K. Peters & Cantrell, 1991).

Assertion: Homosexuality is associated with childhood sexual abuse

From the APA Report:

Some individuals who present with requests for SOCE may have clinical concerns that go beyond their sexual orientation conflicts. These may include mental health disorders, personality disorders, or trauma- related conditions that influence the presentation of sexual orientation conflicts and distress (cf. Brown, 2006; Drescher, 1998a; Glassgold, 2008; Haldeman, 2001; Iwasaki & Ristock, 2007; Lasser & Gottlieb, 2004; Mohr & Fassinger, 2003; S. L. Morrow, 2000; Pachankis et al., 2008; Schneider et al., 2002; Sherry, 2007; Szymanski & Kashubeck-West, 2008). Such conditions may require intervention separate from or in conjunction with the intervention directed at the sexual orientation distress. For instance, some clients who seek SOCE may have histories of trauma (Ponticelli, 1999), and in some individuals sexual abuse can cause sexual orientation identity confusion and other sexuality-related concerns (Gartner, 1999). Other individuals seeking SOCE may make homosexuality the explanation for all they feel is wrong with their lives (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Erzen, 2006; Ponticelli, 1999; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002). This displacement of self-hatred onto homosexuality can be an attempt to resolve a sense of badness and shame (cf. Brandchaft, 2007; Drescher, 1998a), and clients may thus need effective interventions to deal with this self-hatred and shame (Brandchaft, 2007; Linehan, Dimeff, & Koerner, 2007; Zaslav, 1998).

Please note the language of the APA report. Unlike O'Leary, the APA is very careful to describe these conditions as coincidental with, not causally related to, the client's sexual identity. The APA is very cautious about drawing causal relationships between conditions for good reasons - when one looks at the broad spectrum of people who were (for example) victims of child abuse, it's not clear that even a significant fraction of those people turned out to be homosexual.

Assertion: Homosexuals are at a higher risk for other psychological conditions.

The APA Report addresses this concern in the quote I provide above.

Assertion: Men who have sex with men (MSM) are at higher risk for STIs

From a purely psychological perspective, this hardly seems relevant. Although it certainly is indicative of O'Leary's biases, since it is a common assertion made by the religious set to justify their "opposition" to homosexuality.

Assertion: While not every persons with SSA falls into these categories, a significant percentage do. There is on the other hand no replicated evidence that SSA is genetically or congenitally predetermined and therefore a natural and unchangeable variant.8 Therefore, it can be argued that there is evidence that SSA in some cases (or some might argue in most cases) is associated with a psychological or developmental disorder.

Ah ... the classic circularity which confuses correlation with causation. The APA is very careful not to make any assessment of causal factors related to homosexuality because what evidence exists is far from conclusive. Unfortunately for O'Leary, his fantasy that because there has been no "gay gene" found that the causes must lie in other correlations doesn't exactly hold up. (I discussed this in more detail here, here and here.

O'Leary doesn't let reason get in his way though, as he proceeds to try and disprove other basic tenets of the APA's report.

2) Homosexuality and bisexuality are stigmatized, and this stigma can have a variety of negative consequences (e.g., minority stress) throughout the life span.

Sexual acts between two persons of the same sex, along with adultery, fornication, and sexual paraphilias, are condemned by a number of religions as always contrary to God’s law. Since these religions are based on unchangeable revelation, these doctrines cannot be altered. Therefore, engaging in same-sex relations will always be considered by some as unacceptable. Love and compassion for those who struggle with temptation does not require acceptance of these behaviors. Freedom of religion protects the right of persons, who believe that homosexual acts are always wrong, to state their belief publicly and teach this conviction to their children without fear of discrimination. Such convictions are not bigoted, discriminatory, homophobic, or hate speech.

It is true that the realization that a significant portion of the community believes that a person’s behavior is not acceptable may make that person feel bad. Persons engaging in homosexual behavior may wish to silence those who disapprove. They may wish to have their behavior universally accepted; but so long as people have freedom of religion this situation will not change.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry over this self-serving bunch of tripe. Instead of addressing the very real issue of stigmatization, O'Leary provides us with a self-serving justification of why he thinks it's his right to demand that GLBT people be limited in their lives.

I would argue that his interpretation of "Freedom of Religion" is deeply flawed - at least with respect to the Canadian Charter of Rights. I've discussed the principles of how different rights intersect with each other elsewhere on my blog.

... and yes, when those anti-gay statements amount to propaganda, they are no better than what the Nazis spread about Jewish people in the 1930s. Make no mistake about it.

3) Same-sex sexual attractions and behavior occur in the context of a variety of sexual orientations and sexual orientation identities, and for some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome.

Gay activists would have us believe that SSA is a normal, and unchangeable variant, but numerous studies have found that SSA is fluid.9 If as the evidence shows it is possible for SSA and behavior to change spontaneously, then why can’t a person seek psychological therapy or spiritual counseling to affect a change in SSA or behavior?10

The APA report doesn't actually say this. What it does say is that the evidence supporting reparative therapy is deeply flawed (big shock there), and that reparative therapy doesn't produce the results claimed.

What the APA does advocate is a therapeutic environment that will help the client achieve a degree of self awareness and self acceptance that they did not have before - in a manner that respects the spiritual, social and sexual context that the client lives in.

4) Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals form stable, committed relationships and families that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships and families in essential respects.

Same sex relationships differ in many essential aspects from a marriage between a man and a woman. Two persons of the same sex cannot consummate a marriage - the one and only act that joins a man and a woman as one flesh. They cannot conceive a child that is the fruit of their union and their joint biological offspring. Every child acquired by a same-sex couple has been separated from one or both biological parents. Such a separation is perceived by the child as a loss. Every child raised by a same-sex couple lacks a parent of one or the other sex. Two persons of the same sex lack the psychological and emotional complementarity that is part of a husband and wife union. Finally, it is interesting to note that exclusivity is not considered essential for male couples.11

The usual "but homosexuals can't procreate" argument. I've heard this a thousand times as an argument against gay couples. It's a crock. This argument is based on a myriad of assumptions about heterosexual relationships and how they differ from homosexual relationships ... and aren't based on a single scrap of evidence that I've ever seen.

As for exclusivity, as much as the religious set likes to get their panties in a twist every time they talk about gay promiscuity, they do so while turning a blind eye to the frequency of what they should rightly call adultery among heterosexuals. Extra-marital affairs (on both sides of the marital bed) are surprisingly common, and to criticize homosexual couples for being open about them is hypocritical at best, and a double standard at worst.

As for offspring, how many children are raised in single parent households? By step parents? ... by adoptive or foster parents?

5) Some individuals choose to live their lives in accordance with personal or religious values (e.g., telic congruence).

Some individuals not only choose to live their lives according to God’s revealed law, but also believe that since truths of revelation and the truths discovered by science come from the same source, when both are properly understood they will agree. The term "values" degrades this belief into mere personal opinion; one person "values" one thing, another "values" something else. Those who believe in the congruence of revelation and science, reject this kind of relativism. They hold that it is possible through revelation and science to approach truth and that certain opinions are simply wrong. However, they respect the right of those who oppose them to be wrong and to defend their beliefs. While gay activists demand universal acceptance and affirmation for themselves, they use every method within their grasp to silence and marginalize those who disagree with them.

More self-serving malarkey from O'Leary. He clearly hasn't bothered to read the entire report from the APA - or if he has, he failed to comprehend a sizable chunk of it. If he had bothered to read the APA's report thoroughly he would have realized that this forms a significant part of how the clinical environment should be managed.

We Can't Afford The Harper Con$ Criminal Agenda

When Canwest's writers are starting to twig to the dogmatic, ideologically bound Harper Con$ervatives agenda - and pointing out the problems with it - you know it's bad.

Why the Harper Conservatives would want to adopt such a tragically failed social and fiscal strategy beggars understanding.

"We don't govern on the basis of statistics," Nicholson told reporters Wednesday.

Of course not. Why pay attention to facts, to evidence, or to logic, if they don't support your pet ideological agenda?

If we want to understand the real costs of the HarperCon$ ideological agenda, we only need to look south of the border where various states have implemented the very policies that the Harper government is trying to force upon Canada:

The United States has spent two decades experimenting with the same "tough on crime" philosophy the Harper Conservatives now espouse. The results have been economically and socially disastrous.

In South Carolina, for example, the state adopted tough new "truth in sentencing" laws in the mid-1990s. From 1983 to 2008, spending on prisons went up 600 per cent, while the number of prisoners soared from 9,000 to almost 25,000.

In California, according to data from the Pew Center on the States, more than 755,000 people are either in prison or on parole; the state spends almost $10 billion US a year on corrections, helping to drive it into financial meltdown.

Over all, spending on corrections in America has jumped from $11 billion US 20 years ago to $50 billion US today. One out of every 100 adult Americans is in jail, and one in 31 is on probation or parole. As the respected conservative magazine The Economist put it last week, "Never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little."

It is truly a sad statement when they are willing to ignore the unmistakable fact that the crime rate in Canada has been dropping for most of the last two decades, and instead insist that there is a phantom "unreported crime" epidemic as justification for their agenda.

The Harper government is going to drive Canada into bankruptcy with a "tough on crime" policy that has enormous costs and virtually no real impact on the crime rate. Funny, for a party that has campaigned on "better governance", and "greater transparency", that they should be so wilfully blind to the realities of their own policies ... unless of course they were lying to the public - which would hardly come as a surprise.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Dear Anti-Marriage Bigots

Figure it out.

Equality means equal - not "separate but equal".

I'm not so naive as to think this is the end of the discussion in California, but it's good to see the judiciary calling Prop 8 (aka Prop Hate) out for what it is.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Facts Don't Matter When It's Ideology

According to Stockwell Day, statistics don't matter.

During a news conference on Tuesday in Ottawa, Day said the government has received indications that more and more people are not reporting crimes committed against them.

"It shows we can’t take a liberal view to crime which is, some would suggest, that it is barely happening at all," Day said. "Still, there are too many situations of criminal activity that are alarming to our citizens, and we intend to deal with that.

Really? There's been a steady decline in the crime rate in Canada for more than a decade - but according to the HarperCon$ it's all because people aren't reporting the crimes. Horsefeathers.

This is nothing more than making up facts to fit current Con$ervative dogma. This is typical of how the HarperCon$ have done things from day one - only more blatant. When the facts and reality don't mesh with your dogma, make up a fiction that does and repeat that as if it is the reality.

We've seen this with the long-form census, with various members of the Con$ervative cabinet ridiculing questions which never existed on the long form in the first place, and now we see Con$ervative ministers lying to the public to justify their unnecessary "get tough on crime" nonsense - a fiction which is going to cost Canadians billions of dollars as more and more people are imprisoned for longer periods of time.

Really, do the Conservatives want to explore why the 'unreported crime rate' is going up on THEIR WATCH?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The "Why We Shouldn't Leave Afghanistan" Propaganda

In the last few days, there has been an upswing in media reporting on the consequences of western powers leaving Afghanistan before the country is stable. Perhaps we should be appropriately skeptical and wonder aloud if "stable" is a code phrase for having a nominally friendly puppet government in control?

Up first is Time Magazine talking about the horrors of what the Taliban does to women ... it's not pretty by any means. Cutting someone's nose and ears off for leaving a bad marriage is certainly abusive in the extreme - and it is particularly shocking to someone with a westernized sensibility about the world.

Then, as if to reinforce the issue of female subjugation, we get a little article about a mosque in Iran offering "temporary marriages". In western cultures we called these brothels in the not so distant past.

I'm not going to spend a great deal of time indulging my sense of outrage over the mistreatment of women in Iran, or Afghanistan, come to that. I think that these countries are all a good couple of hundred years behind the times when it comes to how they treat half of their population.

The real question that is in my mind is whether the "West" has any moral or ethical justification for attempting to intervene in Afghanistan?

The current war of occupation in Afghanistan has its roots in America's reaction to the events of 9/11/01. Ostensibly, the purpose was to go after Osama bin Laden and his allies within the Taliban-led government. While the Taliban government was overthrown, there hasn't been a great deal of success with hunting down bin Laden. (Not that this comes as any great surprise)

At this point in time, what we have appears to be a barely functional government in Kabul whose influence doesn't extend beyond that city. The rest of the country is being overtaken - province by province it seems - by a growing Taliban insurgency that is becoming more emboldened as times goes by. (An insurgency that seems to be fuelled by resources and advice from a supposed ally in the "War on Terror", I might add...)

While there is certainly an emotional case to be made for continued presence in Afghanistan, is there a reasonable moral or ethical case to be made for continuing an occupation that started a decade ago?

Morally, there's a certain obligation to "put things back together" after the invasion which toppled the Taliban government. However, anyone who thinks that the current situation in Afghanistan is a "rebuilding" exercise is fooling themselves. At best, this is buying time for a shattered Afghanistan military to be rebuilt. Anything that is done while western troops continue to "enforce the peace" at gunpoint is going to be seen with suspicion by the Afghan people - and rightly so.

Ethically, I just can't justify long term military control being exercised over a foreign country. At best it comes out as a power grab; at worst it's an attempt to impose our values on people whose context and experience have led them to different places. It seems the height of hubris and arrogance to think that once NATO troops leave Afghanistan that the situation will be substantively different than happened after the Soviets left. (and, if one looks through history, military occupations of that region aren't exactly sources of long term change in the society)

It might sound harsh, but I think Afghanistan will have to sort itself out. I do not see any reason to believe that continued intervention there will have any positive effects ... at least not within the next two or three generations ... and I don't think we can afford to occupy that country for multiple generations.

Taking An Assumption Out Of Radical Feminism's Arsenal

Over at "Miss Andrea"'s blog Feminazi, we find the following gem of absolutism:

Lisentia, the thing I would like transfolk to prove is the actual existence of gender and that gender is always matched with biological sex. It’s already clear that transfolk do feel like X, but the real question is does X exist.

The underlying assumption in Miss Andrea's argument is that gender is fundamentally a social construct and it has no roots beyond socialization and physical sex.

Unfortunately for most radical feminists this has already been demonstrated to be false - they just aren't always aware of it.

Back in the 1960s, Dr. John Money was exploring some of the key aspects of gender that, if they held true, would validate a lot of radical feminism's denial of gender beyond being a social and sexual construct.

If the notion of gender was in fact primarily a social construct, then one might have expected a very different outcome for David Reimer - who was raised as a girl after a botched circumcision.

Psychological support for the reassignment and surgery was provided by John Money, who continued to see Reimer annually for about ten years for consultations and to assess the outcome. This reassignment was considered an especially valid test case of the social learning concept of gender identity for two reasons. First, Reimer had a twin brother, Brian Reimer, who made an ideal control since the two not only shared genes and family environments, but they had shared the intrauterine environment as well. Second, this was reputed to be the first reassignment and reconstruction performed on a male infant who had no abnormality of prenatal or early postnatal sexual differentiation.

Now, if the radical feminist theory of gender as a social/sexual construct was true, one might expect Brenda Reimer to grow up as a fairly normal female socially and integrate into that role in society.

It didn't work out that way...

Reimer's later account, written two decades later with John Colapinto, described how, contrary to Money's reports, when living as Brenda, Reimer did not identify as a girl. He was ostracized and bullied by peers, and neither frilly dresses (which he was forced to wear during frigid Calgary winters) nor female hormones made him feel female. By the age of 13, Reimer was experiencing suicidal depression, and told his parents he would commit suicide if they made him see John Money again. In 1980, Reimer's parents told him the truth about his gender reassignment, following advice from Reimer's endocrinologist and psychiatrist. At 14, Reimer decided to assume a male gender identity, calling himself David. By 1997, Reimer had undergone treatment to reverse the reassignment, including testosterone injections, a double mastectomy, and two phalloplasty operations. He also married a woman and became a stepfather to her three children.

Now, it's important to recognize that David Reimer was not, per se, transsexual. Had he been raised into the male role from day one, I'm certain that he would have been perfectly comfortable in his birth gender.

However, from a transsexual perspective, Reimer's story is important because it raises significant questions about the 'gender as construct' argument.

First, Reimer starts from a known physiological state. This is significant because it rules out arguments related to a variety of intersex conditions that have been identified to date.

Second, from a socialization perspective, we have a clear example of someone who is raised as female but is known to have an otherwise male-normal genotype. Reimer's phenotype was nominally female, but not completely so.

Yet, at the end of the day, we have David Reimer expressing a variation on the classic transsexual narrative of feeling like 'being in the wrong body' - and eventually undertaking a gender transition to resolve it.

If the hypothesis of gender being rooted firmly in socialization were in fact valid, one would expect that a case like David Reimer's would have had a significantly different outcome.

Similarly, one would expect that transsexualism would be all but nonexistent. After all, if gender is primarily rooted in socialization, would it not be reasonable to expect that transsexuals would adapt to, and identify as members of, the gender roles that they grow up in? Yet, we find that so many describe their pre-transition lives as living behind a mask or fa├žade.

What can we conclude from this? First, I think it is quite reasonable to assert that there is much more to gender than can reasonably be assigned to either social or physical dimensions. I argue that in order to adequately explain the disjoin that Dr. Money's work reveals, one currently has to turn to inferential reasoning.

It may be tempting to discount the Reimer case as an aberration (and from certain perspectives, it may well be), but it represents an interesting validation of so many aspects of the transsexual narrative from a non-transsexual no less that doing so would be to ignore the exception that calls into question an assumed generalization.

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...