Friday, April 29, 2011

Dear Steve ... It's Not HarperLand

This business of a "personal" gift to the royal couple from PMSH is offensive on a dozen different levels.

First of all is that Harper is doing it 'in his capacity as Prime Minister':

Taxpayers will pay for the Harpers' personal gift since it is given "in his function as prime minister," she said.

WTF? If he's doing it "in his function as Prime Minister", shouldn't he be presenting the gift on behalf of Canadians, rather than as a "personal" gift. (If it's "personal", then it should damned well not be paid for by Canadian tax dollars - it should come out of his own money, dammit!)

I cannot believe that this man has the arrogance to act as if he is the "supreme leader" (or whatever other title despots like to adopt these days - I'm not sure what's in fashion among such people any more), and use Canada's resources and image to try and aggrandize himself.

The second thing that I find deeply offensive about this is the way that Harper is trying to build some kind revolting cult of personality around himself. It's another piece of his repeated attacks on democracy in Canada in an effort to ensure his own grip on power.

On May 2, get out and vote against this overweaning egomaniac before he turns Canada into something that would horrify all of us.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

No, Craig ... Western Separatism Is More Fiction Than Fact

I was wondering where Craig Chandler had gotten to - especially in the run up to the current election - a time that usually draws him out to comment on something.

Well ... apparently he's been nursing his inner western separatist back to health after the 'flare-and-fizzle' of David Crutcher's Western Business and Taxpayers Association in 2008.

“Western Canada will not tolerate a purposeful slap in the face if the government they chose is rejected by Canada’s Central Canadian parties. The threat of the West organizing to separate is real and reared it’s head in a serious way last time the coalition threat occurred. Unlike Quebec, the West can afford to leave and even pay its share of the debt on the way out” stated Craig B. Chandler, Executive Director of the PGIB.

What people like Chandler don't seem to understand is that the idea of separation from Canada has been tossed about from time to time for decades. I first encountered it in the late 1970s when the Western Canada Concept party came into being. It didn't exactly go anywhere then, and in the thirty years since, entities like the WCC have flared up and died out repeatedly - usually led by a bunch of loudmouths who have no real idea what they're on about and gaining absolutely no real traction with the public as whole.

Why? Unlike Quebec, where separatism has its roots in the cultural history of the province and is deeply influenced by the colonial wars between England and France, the concept in western Canada is rooted solely in political and economic arguments with little or no grounding in our cultural identity as Canadians.

Simply put, most Western Canadians are quite happy to be Canadian first. We know that economic and political upsets happen from time to time - and we've likely as not lived through a few of them. The idea of separatism is a fantasy that gets played with occasionally, but really doesn't have any traction with people's sentiments.

Mr. Chandler seems to take great offense at the idea of a coalition being formed in our parliament and then governing. Sadly, his sense of offense is rooted in his blindness to the subtleties and workings of the Westminster Parliament system that we use in Canada.

Far too many people these days assume that we are voting "for the party leader" that we want as Prime Minister. In fact, we are electing our local representative to Parliament. It is up to the members of parliament to form a workable government that has "the confidence of the house". That may or may not be led by the party with the most seats, and if a couple of parties band together to form a government that is in fact perfectly legitimate - in spite of the lies that Harper has told the public about coalitions. (Perhaps, Mr. Chandler would like to muse a little bit on Harper's past dalliances with the concept of coalition as well)

Rather than fuming about Western Separatism as an alternative, Mr. Chandler would be better off focusing his energies on trying to understand why it is that voter turnout has been declining for so long. Why, for example, did 22% of the electorate decide 80% of the seats in the last Alberta provincial election? Why did over half the voters just stay home that day? (Of course, an engaged electorate generally doesn't bode well for today's conservatives, who know damn good and well that most people would object violently to their policies - if they bothered to look)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Unstated Agenda Of The CPC

I've said it for years on this blog, and I'll say it again - Harper's base wants to impose their religiously driven morality on women and minorities in Canada.

They've been signalling this repeatedly with a series of ugly little bills like Jake Epp's Bill C-484, which attempted to create legal recognition of a Fetus as a person by the back door of our criminal laws or Rod Bruinooge's Bill C-510 which attempted to criminalize "coercion" with respect to an abortion. (and was so atrociously written that even providing a woman information about abortion could be construed as coerci and Vellacott's Bill C-537 which tried to establish bogus "conscience" rights so that

Make no mistake about it, Harper's enough of a control freak that if he didn't like something his backbenchers were doing, it would have long ago been stifled. Consider for a moment what happened to Dianne Ablonczy for daring to channel funding to Toronto's Pride Festival a couple of years ago. By allowing his backbenchers to table those bills, Harper is tacitly supporting them. (and I'd that he voted for each of them ... if he happened to be in the House the days that they were voted on ... he certainly voted against C-389 on its third reading)

So, when Brad Trost brags about defunding Planned Parenthood on the campaign trail, it comes as no big surprise. (In fact, it was Mr. Trost who seemed to act as party mouthpiece when Ablonczy was muzzled - interesting) For those of you not paying attention, Planned Parenthood is an organization focusing on reproductive health - including, but not exclusively, safe access to abortion. Trost is busy bragging about his petition campaign against Planned Parenthood in 2009. This because Planned Parenthood has the temerity to actually advocate that safe access to abortion is a legitimate part of women's reproductive health.

Stephen Harper himself refused to include abortion - or even contraception - in the so-called Maternal Health Initiative he put before the G8 in 2010. So, when MPs like Trost start flapping their gums about something, chances are pretty darn good that there's more unwritten policy being executed than it appears on the surface. I shudder to think what will happen if Harper gets anywhere near majority territory in the House Of Commons.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

About That VoteCompass Thing

Over at CBC, they have a rather interesting tool called Vote Compass which is intended to help voters understand how their own values line up alongside the four major parties that are competing for electoral support this election.

Of course, Conservatives are whining loudly that it is "biased" because so many people come up considerably left of the CPC.

This is quite interesting, since the accusations of bias are quite strident, and I'm not so sure that the loudest objectors have really paid close attention. The basis for each and every answer is clearly provided in the detail analysis part of the poll, and it's quite clear that the poll designers have been very thorough in their research.

Let's go through the questions, and the answers for the CPC, shall we:

Defence: All Canadian troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan immediately

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Ministers Cannon, MacKay and Oda Announce Canada’s New Role in Afghanistan

Defence: Canada should increase its military presence in the Arctic

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservatives are Defending Canada's Northern Sovereignty

Defence: How much should the government spend on the military?

CPC Answer: Somewhat More
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
The True North Strong and Free: Stephen Harper's Plan for Canadians

Economy: When there is an economic problem, government spending usually makes it worse

CPC Answer: Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Source: Harper Government Priorities: Low Taxes and Fiscal Prudence

Economy: The federal budget deficit should be reduced, even if it leads to fewer public services

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
PM Replies to Speech from the Throne

Economy: Canada should seek closer economic relations with the USA

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservatives Take Action to Strengthen Canada-US Trade

Environment: The environmental damage caused by the Alberta oil sands industry is exaggerated

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Peter Kent's Green Agenda: Clean up oil sands dirty reputation

Environment: Canada should adopt a carbon tax

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Carbon tax 'foolish and unnecessary': PM

Environment: Environmental regulation should be stricter, even if it leads to consumers having to pay higher prices

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Killed climate change bill flawed: Harper

Government Programs: How much of a role should the private sector have in health care?

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Government Programs: The government should fund daycare instead of giving money directly to parents

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree:
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

Government Programs: It should be easier to qualify for Employment Insurance

CPC Answer: Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Source: Budget 2010 - Leading the way on Jobs and Growth

Immigration and Multiculturalism: Speaking English or French should be a requirement for immigration to Canada

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Improvements to proof of language rules will increase fairness, reduce delays, says Immigration Minister

Immigration and Multiculturalism: How many new immigrants should Canada admit?

CPC Answer: About the same as now
Source: PM reiterates commitment to crack down on human smugglers who abuse Canada’s generous immigration system

Immigration and Multiculturalism: How much should be done to accommodate religious minorities in Canada?

CPC Answer: About the same as now
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Law and Order: Violent young offenders should be sentenced as adults

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Conservative Action to Strengthen Justice System

Law and Order: The long gun registry should be scrapped

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

Law and Order: Possession of marijuana should be a criminal offence

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Conservative Government Plans to Fight Crime

Moral Values: The government should make it easier for a woman to get an abortion

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Moral Values: Marriage should only be between a man and a woman

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Moral Values: If they so wish, terminally ill patients should be able to end their own lives with medical assistance

CPC Answer: Neither Agree Nor Disagree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Parliamentary Reform: The Senate should be abolished

CPC Answer: Somewhat Agree
Source: Conservative Party of Canada 2008 Policy Declaration

Parliamentary Reform: Political parties should no longer receive government funding

CPC Answer: Strongly Agree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
PM targets party subsidies

Parliamentary Reform: Only those who speak both English and French should be appointed to the Supreme Court

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree

Quebec: The federal government should have a say when it comes to decisions about culture in Quebec

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Prime Minister Harper and Premier Charest sign historic agreement establishing a formal role for Québec in UNESCO

Quebec: Quebec should be formally recognized as a nation in the Constitution

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Duceppe demands Harper enshrine Quebec nation status in constitution

Quebec: Quebec should become an independent state

CPC Answer: Strongly Disagree
Source: Prime Minister Harper outlines his government's priorities and open federalism approach

Taxes: Workers should contribute more to their government pension plan (CPP/RRQ) so that it can offer bigger pensions

CPC Answer: Somewhat Disagree
Source: Here for Canada: Stephen Harper's Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth
Securing Retirement for Canadians

Taxes: How much should wealthier people pay in taxes?

CPC Answer: Somewhat Less
Source: Budget 2010 - Leading the way on Jobs and Growth

Taxes: How much tax should corporations pay?

CPC Answer: Much Less
Source: How Canada Got It Right: Prime Minister Harper Speaks to New York Business Leaders About Canada and the Global Recession

I've copied the list above of answers and sources straight from the VoteCompass site. In my own experiments on the questions, I have answered them both as I believe things should be, and using other perspectives. In all cases, I came up with results that were consistent with the kinds of answers that I fed to the survey. (This was spread over about ten iterations of the questionnaire)

It is possible that the weighting in the scoring system is questionable - I don't have access to the scoring software needed to understand that, but my own testing of the platform suggests that it is nowhere near as biased as the CPC faux media have been claiming.

I think that the real question that people should be asking themselves is whether or not the CPC positions as they are stated in both word and deed truly represent the kind of Canada that they want to see.

Go to VoteCompass and give the party platforms a close look compared to your own stated values. You might be surprised at where your views really land.

Remember that as a voter, the most important thing you can do is make an informed vote on May 2.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Abolishing Corporate Taxes

Writing for the Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders is arguing that we should abolish corporate taxes.

But corporate tax, by its nature, has a reverse Robin Hood effect: It is regressive. Big corporations have no trouble avoiding it. They can do any number of things, including acquiring other companies or shifting profits to overseas divisions, that make their balance sheets legally register zero profit. So small- and medium-sized businesses end up paying the full burden – a situation that chokes off entrepreneurship, reduces competitiveness and damages economic growth.

So ... in essence, Saunders is arguing that because of a swiss-cheese legislative approach to corporate tax law that we should abandon the idea entirely. I disagree with Mr. Saunders entirely on this.

There are a dozen things wrong with Saunders' reasoning here.

First of all, his comment about a "reverse Robin Hood effect" is a very narrow view of the situation. I will agree that there has been a growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the very wealthy. I do not agree that you can meaningfully place responsibility for that concentration at the feet of corporate taxation policy.

The real issue is that governments have allowed multinational corporations to become a law unto themselves over the last thirty years. Additionally, the multinationals have become very skilled at playing the governments off against each other by playing up fears of job losses and infringements upon national sovereignty. What really needs to happen is for the governments to get together and start creating agreements that tighten up the loopholes that the multinationals are using to sidestep the taxation laws in various countries that they operate in.

There is another strong argument against corporate tax: It gives businesses far too much power in politics, law and society. As “taxpayers,” corporations are given citizen-like rights in court and legislatures; as financiers of the state, they are given far too much lobbying power and influence over legislation

Again he's partially correct and grossly incorrect. The first point I have to make is that the notion of a corporation as citizens is a construct that has its roots in far more than taxation policy. I doubt that even if you were to offer to abolish corporate taxes that the corporations would accept having their voices relegated to the back seat any more.

The rise of corporate influence - especially in democratic countries - has severely weakened democracy. There is no doubt that it is necessary to take steps to curtail the abuses of power that are resulting from this. However, the solution to such ills as influence peddling, excessive lobbying and so on are not to be found in removing the taxation burden. These areas must be addressed with greater accountability on the part of both lobbyists and politicians. Essentially there must be double blind, audited records kept by all government officials who have decision making powers.

Lastly, if Mr. Saunders thinks that eliminating corporate taxes will somehow magically increase corporate investments in long term jobs and other related tasks, he is sorely mistaken. All it will do is make it still easier for the already wealthy to get even wealthier, and to do so entirely at the expense of middle and low income citizens. His fundamental point starts and ends with the dubious notion of trickle-down economics as practiced during the Reagan years - it wasn't terribly successful then, and I doubt that there is anything in place now that would change the outcome of such a structure today.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You've Got To Be Kidding

Apparently, the latest catalogue from J. Crew has the wingnuts all up in arms because it shows a five year old boy with his toenails painted hot pink.

Let's start with one Dr. Keith Ablow who posted this screed on Faux News' website:

Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians?

Why should we hold dear anything with which we were born? What’s the benefit of non-fiction over fiction?

For someone who is supposedly a mental health professional, Dr. Ablow is profoundly ignorant about the nature of transgender people and the treatment protocols for them. Worse, he clearly hasn't even bothered to read the DSM-IV (much less the working material for the DSM V on the subject. If he had, he would have a much different understanding things. (Of course, he is being published on Faux News, so it's not as if I expect much here)

Jenna Lyons and J. Crew seem to know exactly what they’re up to. That’s why the photograph of Jenna’s son so prominently displays his hot pink, neon toe nails. These folks are hostile to the gender distinctions that actually are part of the magnificent synergy that creates and sustains the human race. They respect their own creative notions a whole lot more than any creative Force in the universe.

No, Dr. Ablow, it is you who fails to understand that gender is much more flexible than the rigid boy/girl binary that you are propounding. Transgender people all over the world show up the lie in your assumptions every day - just by existing.

Even more ironic is that it is well enough established that painting a little boy's toenails pink (or giving a little girl a toy gun) isn't going to make anybody transgendered. This is another little fact that had Dr. Ablow been paying attention to the research work in his field at all he would have been aware of.

... and of course there's always the predictable outrage from one of the religious "research" think tanks:

J.CREW, a popular preppy woman's clothing brand and favorite affordable line of first lady Michelle Obama, is targeting a new demographic - mothers of gender-confused young boys. At least, that's the impression given by a new marketing piece that features blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.

Really? That's "propaganda"? First of all, what's wrong with painting toenails or fingernails? Why is that a "girls only" activity in the first place?

The upshot of this is that it's much ado about nothing really. However, once again it is being used by the wingnuts to attack transgender people by repeating the same tired old lies that are trotted out at every opportunity.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Something's Rotten Here ...

If DrDawg is correct, then Harper's goons are violating democracy in some pretty vile ways.

There's more ... and this is looking distinctly like a Conservative attempt to suppress student voters - who are less likely to vote Conservative.

[Update #2]
... and the Con$ lose their first gambit to subvert voter rights to Guelph students.

Ha Ha Ha

Apparently a bunch of secular people questioning and calling out the denizens of No Apologies is enough to get them to shut down comments for the time being.

Given the persistent unwillingness over there to even consider an argument on its own merits if it disagrees with their preconceived notions ... especially if that argument came from a "secularist".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Welcome ...

I've noticed a real spike in traffic from the Twitterverse this week.

I may be guessing here, but I think a good bit of it is coming from Nicole Hankel, Liberal Candidate in Alberta - Macleod.

Thanks for the linkage!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The HarperCon$ Lexicon

After hearing Canada's Auditor General boxing Harper's ears for quoting her out of context, I thought it might be a good idea to review the abuse that the english language is taking at the hands of the Harperites lately:

"Misquote" - Taking something another person said completely out of context and putting it in another unrelated context entirely.

"Accounting Error" - A money laundering scheme which rightly leads to criminal charges being laid.

Procedural Matter - Better known as being found In Contempt of Parliament - a more serious charge than being found "In Contempt of Court" in a Parliamentary Democracy.

Fraudster - A person likely to become an adviser to the PM.

Balanced Budget - Sorry. That one's not part of a Conservative lexicon - haven't seen it happen yet.

I'm beginning to think that Harper's government might actually succeed in redeeming Brian Mulroney's reputation ... by sinking lower.

That Credibility Thing

Who are you going to believe - members of a governing party which has been caught out in more lies than any other in recent memory or Auditor General Sheila Fraser?

The confidential draft by Sheila Fraser concludes the government misinformed Parliament to win approval for a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on questionable projects in Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding. And it suggests the process by which the funding was approved may have been illegal.

How shocking. The Contempt Party of Canada was lying to Parliament...again.

Then there's attack dog Baird's comments:

Conservative cabinet minister John Baird reacted quickly, saying the contents of the final report are different from the draft report. Specifically, he said the final report doesn't say the government “misinformed” Parliament.

Hmmm...really - you've seen this report already, Mr. Baird? Even if I believed that, I still think that Ms. Fraser's draft is closer to the truth when it accuses your government of lying.

... and just to add to the outrage, why did we spend enormous amounts of money upgrading public washrooms 20 km away from the conference site?

The draft reveals that a local “G8 summit liaison and implementation team” – made up of Mr. Clement, the mayor of Huntsville, and the general manager of Deerhurst Resort which hosted the summit – chose the 32 projects that received funding. It says there was no apparent regard for the needs of the summit or the conditions laid down by the government.

Among the questionable projects funded were:

» $274,000 on public toilets 20 kilometres from the summit site.

» $100,000 on a gazebo an hour's drive away.

» $1.1-million for sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 kilometres away.

» $194,000 for a park 100 kilometres away.

» $745,000 on downtown improvements for three towns nearly 70 kilometres away.

That's one hell of walk for conference attendees to take care of the morning's coffee, don't you think?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The MSM Wakes Up A Bit

Someone at the Globe and Mail wakes up enough to start asking if the Con$ are engaging in voter suppression.

What we don’t know is whether there is an ulterior motive to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s incessant claims that, unless he wins a Tory majority, the Liberals will form a coalition with the NDP supported by the Bloc Québécois. Canadians objected strongly to such a proposal in 2008, which is why all three opposition parties deny having any such plans this time.

The Conservatives might be calculating that, even if the coalition bogeyman doesn’t win voters over to their side, the prospect might discourage some Liberal supporters from voting at all–a second-best result.

This may be a conspiracy too far. In all likelihood, no party is engaged in an overt campaign to depress voter turnout. But both the Liberals and the Conservatives may be hoping that, if they can mobilize their vote while discouraging voters

It might be conspiracy ... but Harper's pattern to date has been one of surprisingly long range, destructive plans. (anyone else forget Harper's little book on disrupting parliamentary committees?, abuse of prorogation of parliament and other nastiness...) I wouldn't put anything past him myself.

Dog Whistling To The Base

So, the HarperCon$ want to emulate G.W. Bush once again - this time by creating an office for religious freedom.

The Tory platform, unveiled Friday, calls for the creation of special office of “Religious Freedom” within the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa.

The function of the new office would be to “monitor religious freedom around the world, to promote religious freedom as a key objective of Canadian foreign policy.”

The new office would ensure that Canada protects “vulnerable religious minorities” abroad and would target them in refugee resettlement, or other programs through the Canadian International Development Agency.

I'm going to disagree with Ignatieff's apparent endorsement of this proposal. Not because I necessarily disagree with the concept of evaluating fundamental freedoms in foreign lands as part of our foreign affairs platform, but because of the longer range implications of this "special office".

First of all, I think for this to be a meaningful part of our foreign affairs platform we need to take steps to ensure that we are talking about all of the fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not just Freedom of Religion. I do not accept the supposition that freedom of religion deserves special status or profile in our foreign affairs.

Second, this is a play to "the base" of extremist religious lobbyists in Canada who have squawked and complained for several years now that their "freedom of religion" at home is being unreasonably constrained by a series of human rights rulings.

I suspect that this "office" will be given a mandate that will oblige it to evaluate the "Freedom of Religion" in foreign lands with respect to Canada's practices. Conveniently, it will have to "measure" freedom of religion in Canada in order to create a meaningful benchmark. You can pretty much bet that the "findings" of said measurement will be used to argue that Canada's Human Rights system is "not adequately safeguarding" religious freedoms - [particularly where "christian" beliefs about sexuality are concerned. Just about all of the cases involve "christians" discriminating against GLBT people]

This "initiative" is actually the HarperCon$ setting up yet another "wedge issue" - in this case, it is intended to be used to begin the process of undermining Canada's human rights law and the agencies that enforce it. The only people who have been squawkingabout this are the fundamentalist religious right wingnuts who seem to believe that it is their right to insist that they be able to project their moral code onto others who do not share their beliefs - and thereby forget the interesting paradox of the very notion of Freedom of Religion - namely that it includes Freedom _from_ Religion as well.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Emperor's New Clothes (reprise)

So, Harper's promising all kinds of spending on various programs ... with a catch:

Election pledges have a poor reputation with voters to begin with. But the prime minister's pledges practically scream "buyer beware" this time because they're dependent on a "what if" world that may never come into existence.

Harper was at it again Thursday, promising to double the limit on annual contributions to the popular Tax-Free Savings Accounts, to $10,000.

The catch: "We will of course do this once the budget is balanced."

It was the same contingency with his $2.5-billion promise to allow income splitting among families; to double the fitness tax credit for children; and to introduce a new fitness credit for adults.

That adds up to about $3 billion in contingent promises, with almost four weeks of campaigning left.

Hmmm...given Harper's fiscal track record since 2006, I can't say I'm optimistic that they'll even start to fulfill one of those promises by 2015. The HarperCon$ had spent us into a deficit position before the recession hit in 2008, and it's only gotten worse since.

In essence, Harper's promised less than nothing. Probably the only promise that he stands a chance of delivering on.

Birds Of A Feather ...

The Carson affair is the gift that keeps on giving.

Now we find out that Carson's choice of call girl came with an extra helping of criminality - including keeping a common bawdy house and money laundering.

... and Mr. Harper had the poor judgment to have this man as an advisor? Really?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Eek! It's A Cap And Trade System!

Cap and Trade

So, the Liberals are proposing a Cap and Trade system for greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Predictably, we find the fearmongers in Alberta playing Chicken Little and calling it NEP 2.0.

Of course, one has to take this kind of hysteria with a grain of salt (or an entire salt flat, perhaps).

I'm not going to bother trying to defend the NEP - that was thirty years ago and the political and economic landscape in Alberta were dramatically different then than they are today.

I find it ironic that the "free market" types are all about "opportunity" without accountability - in spite of the disastrous results of such situations in the past (anybody else remember Enron, WorldCom and Lehman Bros?). As soon as it might affect the oh-so-precious oilsands industry in Alberta, their hackles go up - in spite of the fact that a cap-and-trade system will actually create a very interesting open market opportunity in the economy - while requiring a certain level of accountability on the part of all industry in Canada.

Considering that one of the big things I hear todays "conservatives" rattling on about is individual accountability, I find it amazing that they get all up in arms over that accountability when it applies to the megacorporations that are profiting from our resources.

In terms of the actual impact of this kind of policy, I'm going to have to agree with Andrew Leach, and say that we need to know much more about the details before we can make any kind of concrete assessment of impact.

Would I like more details? Yes. But I'm also realistic - a cap-and-trade system is a complex beast to design and implement - I doubt that level of detail exists with any of the party platform topics that have been put forward in the last 2 weeks from any party.

In Harper's Canada

... it's inquisitive voters out and fraudsters to the front row:

A Toronto businessman and self-described campaign volunteer who circulates in Conservative circles is facing a criminal charge for allegedly fraudulent credit and debit card withdrawals — a background that did not prevent him from sitting right behind the Harper family at a rally last week.

Snover Dhillon met with Tory MP Patrick Brown, of Barrie, Ont., at an event in the Punjab region of India in January and attended a Tory convention in Halifax a month later, appearing to violate bail conditions set in December that barred him from leaving Ontario.

Stephen Harper's campaign has come under fire for its strict vetting of rally attendees. The prime minister is also facing questions about how a former senior adviser, Bruce Carson, was able to work in his inner circle despite fraud convictions in the 1980s and 1990s and a bankruptcy in 1993.

Dhillon landed a plum seat in the second row of Harper's rally in Brampton, Ont., on Mar. 27, right behind Laureen Harper, her children Rachel and Ben, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, and local candidates.

In short, if you are an undecided voter and openly explore all of the voting options out there, you better not let the Harperites find out that you have been to a *gasp*- Liberal or *GASP* - NDP or *SHOCK* - Green party event, you could well find The Party ... and the RCMP ... have opened a file on you.

Meanwhile, we see the "Tough on Crime" party giving the red carpet treatment and plum patronage appointments to fraudsters.

All this from the party which ran on "more open and accountable government" and "getting tough on criminals" - the cognitive dissonance in their warroom must be positively crippling!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Right ... Who Gave What Orders To Whom

Assuming that the RCMP's story is even partially true, there's still a serious problem here.

Who gave the RCMP members instructions to provide partisan checks on attendees at Conservative party events? I find it more than just a little bit strange that these same kinds of things haven't been happening at other parties' events, just the Conservative's.

Come to that, just what kind of democracy is Harper's party promoting when only the anointed members of the party are allowed into an event? These are election rallies for crying out loud, not party strategy sessions! Why would you throw anybody out that wasn't causing a disturbance? Anybody there is a potential vote.

Frankly, I'm not buying the RCMP's story - there are just too many gaps in the overall picture. Especially when we have Mr. Harper trying to avoid questions that he finds "inconvenient"; and his MPs are trying to dodge engaging in debates.

Boris over at TGB nails it.

Corrupt, Wilfully Blind, or Both

Given the track record that Bruce Carson has in his life, one has to wonder about what was going on when William Elliott did his background check.

What kind of Prime Minister accepts a man as an advisor who has not one, but multiple convictions for fraud against his name? Come to that, how trustworthy would that man's advice be in the first place? (One conviction, I might let go, but multiple? Really? - that's a pattern)

But looking a little further, we have to ask ourselves another equally prickly question. Why did Elliott sign off on what is obviously such a dubious candidate? Was he being deliberately blind to the shady past? Or was there more to the picture - what was in it for William Elliott? (and it's hardly as if Elliott's performance as RCMP commissioner has been stellar, come to that)

It seems as though every time we turn around these days, there's more signs of corruption and dishonesty in the Conservative ranks - and some of those are disturbingly close the PMO.

Can you trust someone's judgment who keeps hiring convicted criminals as advisors?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Peevish Stephen

So, after his "campaign staff" eject a bunch of people from campaign events we find Stephen Harper denying any involvement.

Here's one of the many problems that Harper's style of leadership - he, and his party, are unwilling to take responsibility for anything. It doesn't matter what the issue is, Harper and his goons are willing to point the finger at anyone else and claim that it (whatever it may be) is somebody else's fault.

However, we have to recognize that Harper's leadership style is precisely what has given rise to this thuggish, uncivil approach to campaign management. It's Harper who has the media being kept a goodly distance away from him; it is Harper who insists that he will only answer questions that he wants to answer; it is Harper who gave the directives to his people to disrupt parliamentary committees (remember, they wrote the book on it - literally!). Remember, it is Harper who has suspended parliament repeatedly to save his political hide from the flames.

Ignatieff has it nicely summarized:

Ignatieff also pulled Harper's former relationship with Bruce Carson into the screenings debate, saying Canadians are in a bad place "when you have got a prime minister who does a background check on his audience at a democratic crowd and doesn't seem to do a background check on the people he hires in his Prime Minister's Office"

Should we be surprised that Harper's campaign staff are acting like thugs? No. Should we be worried about it? Absolutely. I've argued for a long time that there's a totalitarian streak in Harper - and it keeps on coming to the surface. The man's behaviour is closer to that of many totalitarian dictators than it is to any democratic leader.



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stephen Harper On Coalitions

So, Harper's running about the country blathering on about a "coalition" that would be so very awful for Canada if the electorate doesn't grant him his majority.

How awful would a coalition government be? Well, awful enough that in 2004 he signed a letter that implicitly is asking the Governor General to allow him to set up a coalition government should the then Liberal minority government collapse.

In a minority Parliament, it is in fact the opposition parties that have the greatest number of seats, and therefore reflect the will of the greater part of the voters. His current meme about "only the party with the most seats" should get to form the government conveniently ignores the reality that the majority of seats didn't go to his party last election.

The man is a hypocrite and a liar on this matter.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Writ Drops

Details Here

The Tory Leader attacked his political rivals for toppling his government and accused them of plotting to form a coalition to replace him in power if possible.

But, minutes before he spoke, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff ruled out a coalition with the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois.

Mr. Ignatieff said he's open to working issue-by-issue with other parties if his party wins the election.

Oh yes, the bogeyman of "coalition". Once again, Harper lies through his teeth, trying to convince Canadians that a coalition is a bad thing ... unless of course he's at the head of it ... as he demonstrated in 2004 or 2005 by agreeing to a coalition with the Bloc and NDP to replace the Liberal minority government headed up by Paul Martin.

Mr. Harper, this election is about your government's record ... governing. A government that has been found in contempt of parliament; a government that has subverted parliament and the machinery of government at every turn (anyone else a little worried about being fleeced for billions of dollars by the defense aerospace industry to purchase the wrong fighter jets?); a government which has been caught out lying to Canadians not once or twice, but repeatedly.

I also find it quite ridiculous that Harper is pointing to events in other parts of the world and claiming that now is not the time for an election. Sure, there's violence and uncertainty in the Middle East - when in the last century hasn't there been? That should stop Canadians from voting how? Or the disasters in Japan and New Zealand - tragic and heartbreaking to be sure. ... and we should wait on the resolution of those events why?

Last century, Canadians went to the polls during two World Wars - events which had far more impact on Canada, and far more uncertain times than we face today. Harper insults the very fabric of Canadian society when he comes up with excuses to delay an election.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Harper Makes History

... by becoming the first Prime Minister in Commonwealth History to be found In Contempt of Parliament. (and the Sun has a surprisingly insightful piece on the subject for a change)

Make no mistake about it - this is no trifling "procedural matter". Parliament is the highest power in this country. The courts are parallel, but bound to interpret the laws that Parliament writes. To be found "In Contempt of Parliament" is arguably more serious than being "in contempt of court".

For a governing party to be found "In Contempt Of Parliament" is profoundly disturbing, as it underscores a governing party which is bent not just on subverting our democracy, but is clearly bent on power for its own sake.

Still More "Persecuted Christian" Nonsense

I talked about the initial incident with Petals and Promises back here. This post is about the shrieking stupidity coming out of Canada's religious right wingnuts.

Lifesite almost brushes up against an honest bit of journalism, although their biases are clear enough.

Then there is the bunch over at "No Apologies", who seem to have gone quite over the top about the issue.

It all boils down to one basic point - they believe that they should have the right to run a business and enforce their religious beliefs upon their prospective customers.

Consider this doozy of a comment from Tom Bartlett:

The issue is not one of discrimination. Let me take the example of slavery. When slavery was legal, although it clearly contradicted the Christian (and U.S. adopted) value of recognising that all are equal in God’s sight, Christians who deemed slavery to be wrong would hide and help slaves to escape. They would face penalties under the law for taking a stand on principles not held by the state. Abortion is another example. Science establishes that life begins at conception and Christians do not allow for killing an innocent unborn child, so in principle we stand against it and regularly have our views censored, distorted, and having abortion defenders and providers paid for with our taxes while not allowing factual information to be presented in public schools. That is discrimination, but is permitted under law.

You just don't get it, do you? Nobody cares what you say as a Christian. You are absolutely free to believe and behave as you wish - up to, but not including the point where your actions demand that somebody else live by your moral creed. What you have forgotten is that Freedom of Religion is an individual freedom. It does not extend beyond the individual.

I cannot, under Canada's laws, start a business up and hang a shingle out that says "I don't serve ". Whether that group is gays, Christians or any other identifiable group. I can certainly choose to market to any one of those groups as a primary market focus(for example, there's a guy in my home town that calls himself "The Christian Contractor"), but as a business owner, I don't get to say "I won't serve " because they happen to offend my personal sensibilities somehow.

You see, there's an interesting aspect to universal freedoms such as "Freedom of Religion". Not only does it guarantee that any individual is free to believe and practice whatever faith they choose, but it similarly guarantees that others are not subject to those same beliefs being imposed in their lives. Put succinctly, Freedom of Religion includes Freedom FROM Religion.

The argument that one's faith permeates all aspects of life, including business dealings does not excuse an individual from the consequences of projecting their beliefs onto others who do not share that same faith.

Let me be clear about this. If I were to be a practicing member of a faith community that strictly forbade a medical procedure and I voluntarily underwent that procedure, then quite legitimately the members of that same community are within their rights to sanction me somehow. However, if I am NOT a member of that faith community, then they have absolutely NO SAY WHATSOEVER in the matter, and do not have the right to sanction me at all - no matter what they believe.

When it comes to businesses, one might be tempted to question just what steps a business is taking if it is run by a "christianist" who is going to drag their morals out to refuse a customer? Are they, like the "Christian Contractor" I referred to earlier making their faith a clear part of their business? Or do they just yank it out from under the counter when it is convenient? If you want the kind of privilege to tell a customer to PFO after making an agreement to do business, then you better be prepared to make your policies clear up front. (and I don't know too many people who are willing to do business with someone who posts an "I won't serve " sign on the door ... you might find that your market is a lot smaller than you thought at the outset if you were that honest with your customers)

*Note: I have used the term "christianist" here to refer to these people who insist that it is their rights who are infringed upon when they are called out for imposing their beliefs on others in blatantly discriminatory ways. The majority of Christians do not engage in such vile behaviours.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

No Ms. Wente ... There's More To It Than That

Apparently Margaret Wente thinks that we don't need an election.

As for scandal-mongering, Mr. Ignatieff will have to come up with something better than what he has. What he has is a bit of procedural abuse, one dopey minister and an old fool who got mixed up with a 22-year-old former escort. What he doesn’t have is a widespread pattern of abuse of power. His outrage sounds a little overdone – especially against the backdrop of current world events. Shouldn’t we be debating, say, the future of nuclear power in Canada, or the wisdom of getting entangled in a distant military action whose command structure and objectives are entirely unclear?

Nice try at deflection, Ms. Wente? Did you get that from the PMO? ... or did you forget that Harper is the man who pushed the button on Canada's participation in Libya?

As for Mr. Harper's contempt for parliament, that's been clear from the get-go. Let's not forget that it was Mr. Harper's party who produced a 200-page manual on how to disrupt committee business; it was Mr. Harper who prorogued parliament to save his political hide not once, but twice since being elected in 2006; Conservatives have been caught out lying to Canada's public some many times I've lost count; Harper's henchmen have violated the lobbying rules time and again, and the man who ran on a platform of greater accountability has done NOTHING to change the situation.

Bev Oda was the clumsy one who got caught - where there's smoke, there's fire. There's something very smelly about a government that insists on sole-sourcing a major purchase like fighter jets - who is getting bought off with what? What else has dear leader decided to bury under the covers on the basis that "Canadians don't need to know that"? ... and lastly, let's not forget the thinly disguised money laundering scheme the HarperCon$ came up with in 2006 - only criminals engage in money laundering.

... and Ms. Wente wonders why Harper's government is likely to fall tomorrow?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Base ...

The Harpercrits produce a non-budget budget.

It looks to me like Harper figured out that if he wrote a budget that pandered to the squirming base of extremists that form the core support for his party that he'd lose the bulk of the rest of his support. However, he didn't dare write a budget that spoke to the bulk of Canadians with real issues either, because he'd lose the support of his "base". (although where they'd end up voting is hard to guess - CHP perhaps?)

So, what does he do? Relatively little it seems. A few tax credits that are likely not worth the powder to blow them to hell in the long run (remember, a tax credit is usually only a percentage of the cash outlay that is claimed - 15% for medical expenseses over $2000 this year), and I suspect that like the medical expenses claim, the devil's in the details. They moved the floor on medical expenses up for 2010 - from $1745 to just over $2000, and oh yes, don't forget that anything the government deems "cosmetic" is no longer eligible.

Keeps government on track for a balanced budget within six years through the combination of economic growth and spending restraints. The end of the federal stimulus program, by itself, will cut the 2011-12 deficit to $27.6 billion from a revised $40.5 billion in 2010-11.

Economic growth (real gross domestic product) of 2.9 per cent, based on the average outlook of private sector economists.

Hmmm...economic growth of 2.9% ... that's a little optimistic. I don't budget my spending on the basis of getting a pay raise of a certain size each year. I always thought that Conservatives were the "live within your means" crowd - it's funny how every time they get into power the deficit goes ballooning out of control.

Monday, March 21, 2011

There's Only One Kind Of Leader

... who will argue that events in another country should suspend democracy here. Usually we call them despots.

Harper's logic on this is spurious and insulting to Canadians. During two World Wars last century, Canadians went to the polls, under conditions far more uncertain than those we face today.

We can't deal with uncertainty? The economy won't survive a government transition? Nonsense.

Given that this government has been contemptuous of parliament (over, and over), breaks their own lobbying rules, and is generally busy lying to Canadians on anything and everything, it would not be unreasonable to turf this government out on its ear - the sooner the better.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Direct Intervention in Libya Is A Mistake

Okay ... we're sending planes to Libya to enforce a "no fly zone".

There is a moral argument that I can understand for why this is a good idea. Among other things, Ghadaffi appears to have been attacking his own citizens - certainly not a good thing by any measure.

However, direct intervention in the civil war that is unfolding in Libya is a big mistake - at least where North American and European powers are concerned.

Why do I make such a claim?

The issue is related to the perceived validity of whatever government emerges in the resulting power vacuum. If a coherent government emerges from the rebels, there is a serious image problem that they will have. Any government that emerges from such circumstances stands the distinct risk of being perceived as a "western puppet" government - both by Libyans and by Libya's neighbors.

We already know that such puppet governments eventually (if not immediately) become a liability for our politicians - requiring both economic aid and military assistance to continue retaining their grip on power. Further, they tend to be pariahs in their local region - seen by their peers as being more about "foreign interests" than anything else.

In order for any intervention in Libya to have even the veneer of validity, the "boots on the ground" (or planes in the air) are from Libya's regional peers. Western powers can assist, but we cannot be seen to assist.

If Ghadaffi keeps his grip on power, the intervention will be seen as a failure around the world - and potentially weakens the validity of alliances like NATO, which is already on shaky ground.

Either way, direct Canadian intervention has some serious downsides for Canada both in the short and long term.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Religious Bigotry

In New Brunswick this time. Florist Refuses To Sell Flowers To Lesbian Couple

After agreeing to provide the flowers for a wedding, Kim Evans of Petals and Promises Wedding Flowers sent an email last month to the couple, saying she didn't know it was a same-sex wedding and would have no part of the ceremony.

"I am choosing to decline your business. As a born-again Christian, I must respect my conscience before God and have no part in this matter," the email said.

Yet another case of someone dredging up their religious beliefs and demanding that everybody else live by their moral code.

... and like a certain case involving one Scott Brockie, the business is declined after agreeing to do the work in the first place. Apparently "christianists" have forgotten the very real persecution their forebears experienced at the hands of the Romans, because they are practicing more or less the same kind of oppression against GLBT people. Worse yet, they express their bigotry after making a business agreement.

The question for the denizens of places like "No Apologies" is clear enough in my mind - how is the couple supposed to know that this - or any other - business is run by some narrow-minded christianist who will deny them service? ... and just why should someone's faith be an excuse for denying service to someone else?

... and these are the same people who question the "necessity" of Bill C-389? Seems to me that they are the best argument for that bill being passed into law.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why The NA Car Market Sucks

I recently spent a bit of time looking at prospective replacements for my car. Guess what I found? Zip - nada - nothing. There are a couple of cars that I would consider if my current vehicle failed catastrophically, but nothing that I'm willing to fork out money for right now.

My complaints - what's out there is either far too large, or it has the wrong features. Most cars are getting godawful automatic transmissions crammed into them and standards aren't even an option (I'll consider a decent sequential shift design - but really, I prefer driving a standard); finding a decent mid-size car with good fuel economy, a standard and reasonable design is like finding hen's teeth - they're pretty scarce.

My disappointment with the offerings on the market turned to anger when I read this tirade on Motortrend whinging about how the VW "Bulli" mini-bus is so "awful" and inappropriate for the North American market.

The rest of the world lives with much smaller cars than we do - a 2.0L motor is a good size in most places, here it's a floor. I've been in Europe a few times (not as much as I'd like), and I've been in some fantastic little cars that are half the size of an average car here.

With two rows of fold-down bench seats, the Bulli is ostensibly a six-seater. Really, it’s more of a four-seater, for young couples or people with dogs, instead of kids. The seats fold down 50/50 front and back, and the rear windows roll down on conventional (not sliding) doors.

Whine ... whine ... whine.

It's no wonder the North American car market is so depressing these days. Not only have consumers gotten complacent, but the journalists have bought into the same complacency. Instead of cheering on more innovative and efficient designs (and while I'm not likely to buy a Bulli, I do admire it), they spend their time whining about how awful the vehicle is because it makes trade-offs compared to the bloated behemoths that dominate North American roads. Finding an automotive review with something good to say about a small car is next to impossible, and that shapes people's opinions quite dramatically.

The rising costs of fuel these days might spur a few more people to take a long, hard look at what they are driving. With a few more European inspired cars like the Ford Fiesta making their way to our shores, perhaps we'll start to crawl out of the doldrums of bloated, boring designs that currently dominate showrooms.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Cult Of The Harper

Now the Harperites are spending taxpayer dollars on partisan propaganda:

The massive TV and radio buy is shared among three federal departments for slick ads that began airing Jan. 11 and wrap up by March 31. The ads have been hitting some of Canada's priciest advertising real estate: the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and Hockey Night in Canada.

Human Resources and Social Development Canada has budgeted $14.5 million on three separate advertisements over nine weeks. The Canada Revenue agency is shelling out $6.5 million over 11 weeks, and Finance would only say its $5 million campaign runs during February and March.

All the ads link to the Economic Action Plan website which has drawn the ire of critics across the political spectrum for its partisan tenor.

The current run of television ads is also coming under fire, in particular a Finance department spot that features actors singing the praises of the Harper government's 2009 budget plan.

Uh huh ... so, we're paying how much for "The Harper Government" to tell us the wonders of the "Economic inAction Plan" ... on some of the most expensive advertising real estate in the country? Worse still, they're spending more on this propagand campaign than a major corporation will spend in an entire year of advertising in Canada:

Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University's Schulich School of Business, called the dollars involved "huge."

"A major advertiser like Procter and Gamble wouldn't spend that within a year in Canada, it's that big," he said.

Annualized to about $100 million for a full year, "not even McDonald's and Tim Hortons spend anywhere near that."

More outstanding fiscal management on the part of "The Harper Government" ...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Addressing The Bogus Arguments

One of the most common arguments I see from the religious right wingnuts is essentially that all study of human sexuality is invalid because they don't like Alfred Kinsey. Consider this screed by No Apologies writer Tom Bartlett.

...Despite Judith Reisman revealing the sexual abuse revealed in Kinsey’s own writings in which infants were repeatedly brought to orgasm, apologists set this aside as irrelevant. If such treatment of infants is acceptable and his research is valid, why is there still a stigma and laws against what is regarded as sexual “abuse” or “exploitation” of children?

Considering that Ms. Reisman's writings are featured regularly on Wingnut Daily, I'm somewhat inclined not to take her work too terribly seriously. When I take a few minutes to find responses to Ms. Reisman's criticisms, I find myself unsurprisingly reading a formal response over at the Kinsey Institute's website, which quite clearly calls into question the particulars of her criticisms:

Allegations against Alfred Kinsey and his research on children's sexual responses, as reported in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, were first made in 1981 by Dr. Judith Reisman. She subsequently enlarged on these ideas in a book written jointly with Edward Eichel and published in 1990 (Kinsey, Sex, and Fraud). When The Kinsey Institute responded, Reisman filed suit in 1991 against The Kinsey Institute, then director June Reinisch, and Indiana University, alleging defamation of character and slander. In September 1993, Reisman's lawyer withdrew from the case, and in June 1994 the court dismissed Reisman's case with prejudice (which means that Reisman is prohibited from refiling the suit)., Ms. Reisman sued when the Kinsey Institute responded to her allegations about Kinsey's work? That sounds like a credible response to me. Or perhaps it's really more about the usual over-the-top distortions that I have come to expect from the religious right wing.

Below is a reiteration of these accusations, recently reported, and the Institute's response.

The act of encouraging pedophiles to rape innocent babies and toddlers in the names of "science" offends. The act of protecting them from prosecution offends. The act of falsifying research findings which, in turn, open the floodgates for the sexual abuse of children, offends. (from Dr. Laura's (Schlesinger) website)

This would be a cause of great concern if it were true. Kinsey was not a pedophile in any shape or form. He did not carry out experiments on children; he did not hire, collaborate, or persuade people to carry out experiments on children. He did not falsify research findings and there is absolutely no evidence that his research "opened flood gates for the sexual abuse of children." Kinsey did talk to thousands of people about their sex lives, and some of the behaviors that they disclosed, including abuse of children, were illegal. In fact, many sexual behaviors, even those between married adults, were illegal in the 1940's and 1950's. Without confidentiality, it would have been impossible to investigate the very private lives of Americans then, and even now.

While there may have been ethical issues in Dr. Kinsey's work, I would submit that those issues have been unreasonably blown out of proportion.

Others have criticized Kinsey's raw data:

Jones wrote that Kinsey's sexual activity influenced his work, that he over-represented prisoners and prostitutes, classified some single people as "married",[23] and that he included a disproportionate number of homosexual men, particularly from Indiana, in his sample, which may have distorted his studies.[12][13] It has also been pointed out he omitted African Americans in his research.[24] Bullough explains that the data was later re-processed, excluding prisoners and data derived from an exclusively gay sample, and the results indicate that it does not appear to have skewed the data. Kinsey had over-represented people who were homosexual, but Bullough considers this may have been because this was stigmatized and needed to be understood.[12][13] It was Paul Gebhard, in the 1970s, who removed all suspect data (e.g., pertaining to prisoners and similar respondents), and recalculated significant sets of figures against results given by "100 percent" groups. He found only slight differences between the original and updated figures.[25]

So, coming back to Bartlett's suggestion that somehow Kinsey's work justifies enabling pedophilia, his argument is not just a little bit incorrect, it's outright wrong. Where does he get it wrong? Besides quoting highly questionable allegations against Kinsey himself, Bartlett's argument conveniently overlooks the very fundamental point of consent. It is generally accepted in our world that children cannot make a consent decision in such matters. Further, it is widely accepted that child sexual abuse results in serious psychological trauma to the victim. It isn't rocket science to understand that harm occurs to the victim and that the victim cannot make a reasonable consent decision - hence the ridiculousness of Bartlett's assertion. Of course, he's notorious for making straw-man arguments.

Similarly, while there are moral and ethical questions that pertain to Kinsey's methods, we must not forget that he did his work on human sexuality from the 1930s to the 1950s - an era during which much of what he was exploring was subject to criminal sanction. Attacking historical works based on a projection of current understandings is an unreasonable line of argument which attempts to dismiss the results of that research not on the research itself, but on the basis of objections to how that research was conducted.

For example, at the turn of the 20th Century, it was considered ethical to experiment on people directly with x-ray equipment. Today, with the understanding we have of the effects that such radiation can have on people, we would consider that type of experimentation to be unethical because of its consequences. Even if we were to criticize that work on the basis of those ethical considerations, it does not render invalid the findings of that work itself.

Although Kinsey's methods may not have been ideal by modern standards, I think that accusations of malfeasance in his work are gross exaggerations inflated for political reasons. The Kinsey Institute has addressed these objections reasonably and rationally over the years. Kinsey was essentially a pioneer in the field of sexology - whether his findings were objectively correct is an academic discussion.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Thought Conservatives Were Supposedly Good With Money

Fighter-jet price tag will approach $30-billion, budget watchdog warns

An explosive independent report on the Harper government’s controversial purchase of new fighter jets estimates their full cost, including maintenance, could hit $29.3-billion (U.S.).

That’s about $12-billion more than what the Tories have been telling Canadians it would cost.

The report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page comes at a bad time for the Conservative government, which been dogged by controversy over the acquisition and faces a possible defeat in the weeks ahead.

So, let's see if we've got this straight. Not only did the government sole-source this contract - and in doing so, violated the public tender process that is intended to ensure that Canadians pay a reasonable price for the capital goods our government purchases, but they've been short-changing the long term costs of this program.

Figures released by the government have suggested the total cost of the planes would be $17.6-billion, which includes about $9-billion to purchase them plus decades of maintenance bills that the Tories say would not exceed the annual costs of maintaining the current CF-18 fighters.

Hmmm...let's see - the Conservatives want to minimize the costs, so they are quietly 'underestimating' the costs involved. What do they gain by it? The ability to claim that they are being fiscally prudent - and hopefully retain a few votes.

His report was independently peer-reviewed by non-partisan experts at the United States Congressional Budget Office, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and Queen’s University.

Somehow, I'm thinking that the government's numbers are overly optimistic. Any other guesses on how badly the Conservatives have mangled this country's finances?

Biblical Discrimination???

Over at "No Apologies", we find Mr. Bloedow responding to my commentary on one of his dafter ramblings about rights and discrimination.

MgS makes the same socialist error. If a businessman subjects a potential customer to “‘we don’t serve your kind’ discrimination,” to use MgS’s expression, then that potential customer is restricted from participating in the particular benefits of that particular businesses products or services. He is not being restricted from participating fully in SOCIETY.

So...somehow, a business is not a part of society? Horsefeathers, Bloedow. You are drawing a false dichotomy here. A business exists as an element of society - it does not exist in a vacuum, nor does it provide its goods and services in isolation from society. To claim otherwise is false.

The problem with discrimination is that it ultimately results in groups of people being marginalized - largely because those groups make "the majority" uneasy for some reason or another. By definition, a marginalized population is prevented from participating fully in society because they are kept on the margins of that society.

The consequences of marginalization are disproportionally greater to the target of those actions than your discomfort about that person or group justifies.

Before I get to my main point, let me point out that legislation against discrimination is juvenile symbolism. It doesn’t stop much of the discrimination it targets because people can get around it.

Are anti-discrimination laws perfect? No. However, they do have the net effect of persuading a lot of people who would engage in discrimination to actually think about their actions before they do it - especially in the marketplace and workplace environments. Yes, they can be undermined - and are from time to time, but that doesn't make them ineffective. Women, members of visible minorities and others can attest to the difference that such laws have made since their introduction in the 1950s and 1960s.

As an aside, you don’t see any atheists or homosexualists condemning “gay-only” businesses or women-only clubs. Clear evidence of the discriminatory nature of “anti-discrimination” law/ideology.

Oh - I see. You've decided to take up one of Mr. Bartlett's favourite tactics - drag in unrelated topics and try to claim that your opponent's position is inconsistent because of them. Nice try - but I haven't discussed these issues, nor do I take ownership of them. Don't go putting words in my mouth.

It's sort of the same as as the conversation around child-molesting priests in my view - using your approach, I must assume that your view is one of tacit approval, since I haven't seen you speak out against the subject, nor have I seen you speak out on the organized effort of Churches to protect these predators.

... and just what is "The Biblical" view of discrimination you talk about? So far, I've seen you assert it, but not once have you shown any reasonable derivation of your position based on anything other than some pseudo-libertarian screed you must have read back in University.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Dear Leader ...

As if I should be overly surprised, but the overweaning ego of Stephen Harper has come to the forefront with Harper rebranding The Government of Canada as The Harper Government.

What an egotistical ass. Mr. Harper isn't exactly someone to create a cult of personality around - for the most part you'd have to scrape pretty hard to find something likeable enough to build a cult around ... and it would be pretty tiny.

Even as our Prime Minister, it is NOT his government - it is OUR government, and it is time for Canadians to take it back.

Even worse, we should be deeply concerned about the fact that they don't seem to understand that money laundering is something criminals engage in, that lying to Canadians is wrong or that Parliamentary resources aren't for political fundraising.

... all this from a party that promised us "greater transparency and accountability"???

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Irony ... As It Is Done

The NDP is demanding that Conservative Senators should step aside until "In-and-Out" Charges Resolved.

I'm not sure that there's actual parliamentary precedent for such a move, but I applaud the sentiment of the NDP's demand here.

However, it is this comment that really gets me going:

"The two gentlemen in question have an impeccable record of honesty and integrity," said MP Pierre Poilievre.

"They have conducted themselves admirably throughout all of this and we're proud to have them as part of our team."

Hmmm... Poilievre? Oh - that Poilievre. It's not like he's exactly the most well-informed MP out there in the first place.

More seriously, the fundamental issue in the "In-and-Out" Scam is that the Conservatives were engaging in nothing less than a money laundering scheme - and a poorly thought out one at that. It leaves one thinking that these amateurs were tossed out from organized crime for good reason ... and went into politics as a second career choice.

Monday, February 28, 2011

It Won't Get Far ...

... but I have to give it points for creativity.

Crimes Against Humanity Charges Against Pope Benedict

There's a copy of the entire submission in the link - it's interesting reading ... but I don't think it has a snowball's chance in hell of going anywhere.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

WhereIn NoApologies Shows Us Why Church And State Must Be Kept Apart

If you ever needed more concrete reasons why Canadians should be diligent about ensuring that radical religiosity needs to be kept as far from the reins of state as possible, consider the oh-so-rational thinking of the erstwhile Tim Bloedow in his post Thinking rightly about homosexuality and Christian B&B owners.

That being said, human rights is hostile to Christianity and justice. And we see that born out again in this case. Human rights is the law order for socialism – for affirmative action, group rights, “substantive equality,” which has nothing to do with genuine equality. We see this in human rights legislation: It protects people not as individuals, but based on their participation in groups, and not any group, only politically protected groups, such as people defined by ethnicity, sex/gender, “sexual orientation” and marital status. Human rights law doesn’t protect firemen, those with eyebrow piercings or dairy farmers.

Of course, what Mr. Bloedow is asserting here is actually quite ludicrous. Essentially, he is arguing that because human rights laws typically specifically address common grounds on which discrimination takes place. Whether that is race, religion, sexual orientation is irrelevant - these are all common grounds which have been used historically to limit the full participation of an individual in society.

Apparently, Mr. Bloedow doesn't understand the notion of individual rights as they are expressed in law. I will point to Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an example of how flawed his logic is:

Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

I don't know how this could be more abundantly clear about the fact that these rights apply to individuals.

What Mr. Bloedow seems to want is some kind of hierarchy of rights, which would put his "Christian Rights" ahead of all other rights - in particular his right to discriminate against others based on the projection of his faith onto others.

But the question is more fundamental than that. Christian activists should be asking: “How can businessmen live out their faith if they are legally required to support with their time, their labor, their goods, and their services behaviors that are offensive to them?”

Yes, we’re concerned about freedom of religion and conscience. Yes, we are concerned about Christian businessmen. But the real ba is far more fundamental.

Really? So, you want to make it legal for businesses to practice "we don't serve your kind" discrimination? We've seen that before - it used to take place in the US before segregation was outlawed. Sadly, there are still those who would practice such vile forms of discrimination. Whether you apply on the basis of someone's ethnic characteristics, or on the basis of that person's sexuality is irrelevant - the consequences to the individual are still the same. You end up restricting their ability to participate fully in society on the basis of values that you are projecting outwards and insisting that they abide by.

These two views are incompatible. The erosion of Christianity and the rise of Humanism has been moving us from an environment of liberty – self-government under God – to state-ism. Many of us have only personally experienced state-ism so we don’t know what liberty feels or looks like. But that is ultimately what we’re arguing for when we say that businesses, such as these Christian B&B owners, should be free to operate their businesses as they see fit.

I always find this line of reasoning to be just a little too convenient. It always seems to crop up when we are talking about situations where so-calTo argue that operating a business should not be bounded by law is more than a little ridiculous. Businesses have always been subject to the law of the land, and rightly so.

What Bloedow is really arguing for here is either a form of extreme libertarianism, or if you read the rest of his writing he's really talking about rewriting Canada's laws to his particular interpretation of the Bible.

We posted a story about a Montreal-area trucking company that was ordered by Quebec’s human rights tribunal to pay $10,000 to a female truck driver who was not considered for a job because she is a woman. The business owner was apparently quite upfront about refusing to consider her for employment because she was a woman. We titled the post, “QC human rights trump business owner’s prerogative.”

Apparently, Mr. Bloedow wants to dial rights back to the late 17th Century. He obviously fails to understand that there is a fairly serious problem with refusing someone a job on the basis of the fact they are female - especially when they hold all of the requisite qualifications otherwise. Of course, I've seen other commentary on No Apologies where they've whined about how we should mourn a woman's "loss of purity" as a result of a sexual assault. The underlying misogyny of such a strategy is pretty offensive as it supposes that the only thing a woman brings to a relationship is her "purity" - and it is ironic that they never seem to talk about the same notion of "purity" for males, isn't it?

This has become a much longer commentary than I intended, but 1) it is absolutely necessary to drive home the importance to Christians of embracing Christianity as a worldview and not simply as a religion that provides a moral code to justify our antipathy to sexual perversion. 2) We need to champion morality at a foundational level that embraces justice for all Canadians, not simply for Christians, and 3) we need to understand where the true antithesis lies between Christianity and Humanism so that we don’t waste our time with losing battles, championing human rights and other anti-Christian concepts when we should, instead, be advancing the law of God and the lordship of Christ as relevant and applicable for 21st Century Canada.

Here is where Bloedow's obsession with all things to do with "homosexuals". He wants his right to discriminate against GLBT people - and women - enshrined in law. In effect, creating a hierarchy of rights.

The reality is that Mr. Bloedow's rights are already well established. What he has is a problem with comprehending the idea that individual rights exist with respect to the individual, and do not provide for the individual to project their beliefs onto others - especially in a way that limits their right to live a full life in society.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Knuckle Dragging Judge

Normally, I find most judges are fairly well reasoned in their rulings, even if I disagree with them. Then there's Justice Dewar's comments in a recent sexual assault case where he blamed the victim:

Queen's Bench Justice Robert Dewar called Rhodes a "clumsy Don Juan" who may have misunderstood what the victim wanted when he forced intercourse along a darkened highway outside Thompson, Man., in 2006.

Rhodes and a friend met the 26-year-old woman and her girlfriend earlier that night outside of a bar under what the judge called "inviting circumstances." Dewar specifically noted the women were wearing tube tops with no bra, high heels and plenty of makeup.

I can't believe the judge was daft enough to make this ruling. Once again, we find ourselves being dragged back to the stone ages by people who seem to think that men can't possibly manage their sexual responses if the woman is "dressed provocatively" (whatever the hell that means, given the plethora of sexual turn-ons out there).

However, others have already pointed out the outrageous nature of the judge's comments, and the remarks (and presumably the ruling itself) are under review.

However, there's another dimension to this whole smelly mess that I'd like to bring to your attention.

Justice Dewar is one of Harper's patronage appointees: for donating to CPoC in 2008., let's see if I've got this straight:

A judge who was appointed to the bench by Stephen Harper's government just made a ruling that revived the "blame the victim" defense for rapists (a defense which has been thrown out of court more times than I can count in the last thirty years).

I'd say this is pretty good evidence that the HarperCon$ would dearly love to drag Canada further back into the stone age. After their blatant attack on women and minority issues in 2006, one might just imagine that there's more going on than we are seeing (and the Bev Oda affair is just one more example of this government's inherent dishonesty with the public)

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...