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)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Layton Flip-Flopping?

I must confess that Jack Layton's antics lately are making less and less sense.

Yesterday, the G&M was reporting that Layton had taken Tax Cuts off the NDP's list of budget demands that the HarperCon$ must meet in order to get the NDP to vote for the budget.

This morning, he seems to be speaking out the other side of his mouth.

The last time I saw something this incoherent out of anyone, I was pretty sure the individual was having a psychotic episode. Layton's changing his position on things so rapidly - and frequently - that it's almost impossible to figure out what direction he is trying to head.

But then again, Layton's behaviour in the HOC has been plain bizarre ever since 2006 - to a degree that makes me question Layton's objectives and his commitment to the principles upon which his party is founded.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What The Bev Oda / KAIROS Mess Tells Us

Go ... READ

It's good to see some of the media picking up on the undercurrents of the HarperCon$ activities of late - and what the Bev Oda/KAIROS business really tells us about the current state of things in Ottawa.

Think it’s a stretch to compare Canada to Nigeria? A government that forges documents, that makes things up, that smothers dissenting opinions, that accuses the media of lying.

That Oda is the minister overseeing international development makes the whole scene all the more surreal. Our government is funding groups in Afghanistan and Haiti now, teaching them about good governance.

“This is what happens in the countries we work in,” a friend of mine working for a development agency told me confidentially. We have become precisely what we contend with overseas. if the winter outside wasn't bad enough, reading that article has just given me a case of the chills!

Friday, February 18, 2011

As SunMedia Mutates

... into being the official mouth organ of the Stephen Harper party, we find their editorial pages repeating the talking points out of the Stephen Harper Ministry of Truthiness.

Consider Michael Dent-Andt's defense of Bev Oda:

Harper knows this. He also knows, because he’s been around the block, that in the grand scheme Oda’s transgression was not so terrible. She was clumsy, not dishonest. That’s likely why he’s still protecting her.

Why just clumsy? Here’s where it gets interesting. For Oda is indeed being accused of lying to Parliament.

When she appeared before a Parliamentary committee in December, the International Cooperation minister insisted she had no idea who’d scrawled the word “Not” on her bureaucrats’ written recommendation to approve a $7-million grant to Kairos, a church-based, foreign aid group. Rejecting the grant reflected her own position and that was that, Oda said then. It didn’t matter who wrote the “Not.”

How utterly juvenile - a Minister of the Crown trying to evade responsibility for orders she later admits she gave by "not knowing" which member of her staff added the "Not" to those documents.

The cold, hard fact here is that she gave the order to amend the document in question, and whether she did the amendment by her own hand or not is irrelevant. She made the decision and then tried to avoid being held responsible for it - by playing silly little semantic games.

Ms. Oda no doubt acted based on party policy - and therefore likely as not on the instructions given to her by the Prime Minister's office. (As there is little doubt that nothing happens in the current government without the PMO's approval)

Or perhaps you'd like to consider Eric Duhame's stunningly stupid article trying to deflect attention away from the direct influence that Harper is allowing certain religious groups:

Unfortunately, as often happens with the Crown corporation, it betrays a leftist bias and demonizes the political right.

Last week, Enquete journalist Brigitte Bureau tried to scare us with her report about the privileged access some evangelical Christians might have to Ottawa’s inner circle of power.

Opposition to abortion and gay marriage are presented as proof of the progress made by some obscure religious leaders. The report implies a Conservative majority would recriminalize the first and abolish the second, but it does not mention that a strong contingent of Conservative MPs are clearly opposed to going back to both issues.

The fact is that we already know that there is a significant number of TheoCon$ in Harper's caucus (and arguably Harper among them). Harper's already shown that he will ram whatever he thinks he can through by bullying the opposition - and that's with a minority. Give him a majority, and there's good reason to suspect that he will do everything in his power to slam Canada's society back a good century or more.

The fact that he has allowed his backbenchers to promulgate legislation that is clearly aimed at subjects like abortion is a telling statement all by itself, especially in a world where the PMO exercises absolute control over everything that is said and done by members of the government caucus.

Neither Nadeau nor Radio-Canada mentioned, however, that last Sept. 4 the Bloc MP received the 2010 El-Hidaya plaque of appreciation from the Montreal Muslim Community Center, a centre described by Canadian Muslim author Tarek Fatah as “a hotbed of pro-Hezbollah activities in Montreal.” Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist organization by Canada.

Given his participation in a rally under the Hezbollah flag in August 2006, it is not surprising to see Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe come back to that Radio-Canada story during his General Council last weekend while his party was officially reopening the door to a coalition with the Liberals and the NDP.

Ah yes, the standard CPoC tactic of deflecting attention away from the original point by trying to make someone else look as bad or worse. Nice try, boys.

It flabbergasts me to see how ready Bloc MPs — and to an even greater extent federal Liberals — are to denounce people of Christian faith in the Conservative party and use them to scare those of us who do not believe in God by telling us how they do not share our values and have a social conservative agenda, while at the same time they are caving in to the most radical elements of the Islamists in the name of political correctness, Trudeau’s multiculturalism or — less openly — a few thousand Muslim votes.

The real threat to the equality of women, gay rights and our fundamental Western values might not be the ones the publicly funded CBC is presenting us.

Oh yes, it's all about the muslims - of course, how silly of me. I won't even begin to address the underlying bigotry of that tactic.

Let's talk more bluntly about the matter. The issue that the EnquĂȘte show was really addressing was that of allowing any one religion have undue influence on the government of our nation. (and after suffering through the Duplessis years, Quebec has more reason than most to be edgy about any religion dominating politics)

I'm sure that in the coming months we can expect more of this kind of nonsense out of Sun Media publications, especially as they are clearly well on the road to becoming Stephen Harper's private propaganda source.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Prime Ministerially Sanctioned Lies

With Prime Minister Harper doggedly defending Bev Oda's lying to Canadians by trying to deflect the KAIROS issue as a matter of ministerial privilege, we might want to take a look at what it says about this government.

First of all, let me be abundantly clear - the issue is not the minister's decision with respect to KAIROS. That may be one of the more thick-headed decisions from the HarperCon$, but it's far from a the root of this issue. I might want the government to be more transparent about why it axed the funding beyond simply refusing it considering that CEDA's recommendation was so clear, but the minister absolutely has the right to make that final call.

The issue is that Bev Oda has repeatedly changed her story about the penned in "Not" in the document we've all seen. One day she knows nothing about it, another day she admits that it was added on her instructions. In any world I'm familiar with that makes one of the two statements an outright lie. In a parliamentary democracy, lying to parliament, whether in the House of Commons or one of its committees, is lying to the Canadian public.

Along comes the Prime Minister trying to bludgeon the opposition by claiming ministerial privilege to make a decision. Hmmm...a convenient attempt at deflection which I think deserves some additional consideration here. The political head of government is now essentially endorsing lying to the Canadian people - and not even a lie that they haven't been caught out in, but a blatant lie that has been exposed for what it is.

Cynically, one might look and say that all politicians lie, what's the big deal? True enough, except that I think there's more here than just the lie itself. We have a minister who would have been compelled to resign long ago by other Prime Ministers - generally speaking getting caught in a blatant lie is pretty fatal to one's cabinet post.

But, let's think back a bit to another member of Harper's Cabinet whose career has hit a brick wall. Remember Diane Ablonczy? Yeah - she was the Minister of State who had the gumption to provide funding to Toronto's Gay Pride celebrations and was promptly muzzled and demoted for offending "The Base". (Anyone else noticed that her profile since has been positively subterranean when it comes to announcements and the like?)

What's the difference here? Ablonczy did something that damaged the HarperCon$ credentials with the wingnut base that has been supporting them in hopes of getting some or all of their Theocracy dreams realized. Bev Oda didn't. In fact, what she did no doubt enhanced Harper's credibility with "The Base" since KAIROS is mostly run by the moderate church organizations - you know the same ones who aren't up arms over GLBT rights.

What we have here is a Prime Minister defending a minister who LIED to Canada's people because her actions support the unstated goals of Harper and his backers who desperately want a majority in Parliament. The fact that Harper is so clearly NOT bothered by his ministers lying to Canadians should terrify all of us, because it calls into question the veracity of every statement or promise that he's ever made.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bill C-389: A Few Sane Voices

I'm happy to see a few writers spending the time to point out that Bill C-389 is for the greater good, rather than intrinsically evil, as the twits at "No Apologies" want to insist.

Ms. Lakritz very nicely points out the ridiculous depths that the shrieking right wingnuts have descended to:

It's sad that the level of public discourse has to dip so low when a minority group stands to be offered equal rights.

Bill C-389 is neither an attack on the family nor a danger to any child. The legitimization of gay marriage touched only the lives of gay people. A law that protects transgender people will have no effect on anyone except those who are of a mind to discriminate. The only "danger" it poses is to the attitudes of those who would treat transgender people as unequal to everyone else.

Other supportive columns: here, here and here

Write to your senators, let them know that C-389 deserves to be passed into law.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Odious One Speaks

... and apparently has been lying to Canadians and Parliament on funding for KAIROS:

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda has admitted that she ordered a document to be altered to deny funding to the church-backed aid group Kairos.

“The 'not' was inserted at my direction,” Ms. Oda said in the House of Commons Monday. “Given the way the document was formatted allowing only for concurrence this was the only way to reflect my decision.”

Wait a second, a few short days ago, Ms. Oda was telling us she didn't know where the not came from, and now she's telling us that she ordered the extra word to be added.

Well, one of these statements is clearly a lie. Let's be abundantly clear about this - a Minister of the Crown is lying to Canadians. Whether she lied at one end of the story or the other doesn't matter - she lied.

The next question that should be asked is just precisely why Ms. Oda denied KAIROS funding when they met all of the published requirements for the funding being requested. My guess is that it boils down to our lovely government exacting "consequences" for KAIROS leadership daring to be openly critical about Israel on various matters.

So...who's next to be punished by this government for daring to speak their minds and happening to end up at odds with whatever the unpublished dogma of the Conservatives is?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lucy: The Evidence For Evolution

I was quite young when Donald Johanson's book Lucy - The Beginnings Of Humankind was published in 1981. But, I read it and was captivated with the compelling story that it portrayed of how humankind as we know it today came to be.

In some respects, I've always thought of Lucy as the answer to the creationist arguments about the so-called "missing link". I realize that Lucy's story is far from complete even today, but it represents a great example of why evolution as a scientific model works.

Consider the story of Lucy's Foot that just emerged. Here's another piece of evidence that fills in some of the questions that were outstanding after the original work on Lucy was published in the mass media. Now we have good evidence that shows that Australopithecus Afarensis walked upright more or less the way that we do, which reinforces the idea that there is more than a small chance that the species is one of the predecessors of what becomes Homo Sapiens.

The beauty of the model of evolution is that every time new evidence is found, it either fits into the theory as it is already understood. Once in a while, a piece of evidence comes forth that changes the specific understanding of a particular line of the fossil record, but it doesn't result in the theory itself suffering a major change. ... and yet the theoretical construct itself stands open to refutation the moment that a fossil is found which contradicts the tenets of the theory.

Creationists can complain all they like, but the fact is that the body of evidence found to date fits the model that evolution postulates. You can argue that the earth is flat all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that the world is in fact a globe, does it?

I look forward to hearing what the creationists have to say in their efforts to dismiss this latest piece of the puzzle.

Friday, February 11, 2011

KAIROS, Bev Oda and Conservative Dogma

The recent revelations of government finagling over funding KAIROS shows us some of the great problems that are manifesting in the Conservative Party's execution of their legislative and policy dogma.

On the CBC website is a copy of the signed document with a "NOT" penned into a key sentence, with no date, initials or other information that would validate its existence and traceability.

The first question that I have to ask is why did a document in such a questionable state of authenticity was ever used to implement anything? If I write a cheque, and substantially change the amount of that cheque, I am obliged to initial each change I make. Surely no less a requirement should apply to the documents used to define and guide the implementation of government policy.

If, as Ms. Oda claims, the "NOT" was absent from the version of the document that she signed, then we must ask ourselves who added that word and when. Several issues arise in my mind. First, who had access to the signed documents after signatures had been acquired? Second, does the Minister's office not keep digital records of documents signed by the minister? ... and if not, why not? If there are such records, let's see them immediately.

Then we come to the next issue that deserves our attentions. The HarperCon$ ran on a platform of increasing government accountability and transparency. Does it not strike anyone else as odd that such a simple control as requiring copies of signed documents to be maintained (even electronically) at the various levels of authorization are not being executed? Further, how is it that nobody in either the government or the bureaucracy noticed this unusual alteration of a document? Or was this change done by one of the minister's political staff after the minister signed it purely for unofficial political reasons?

This business stinks - and, paraphrasing Shakespeare, Something is rotten in Ottawa.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Evolution "Debate" - An Observation

This post has its roots in some observations about the reactions I have observed when the "devout" (read fundamentalist) are confronted with evidence, or are pressed to provide evidence to substantiate their position.

The common pattern is to pull up a collection of largely disproven arguments. When those objections are reasonably disproven, one of two things typically get dragged out - a series of "why doesn't evolution explain ", or a variation on Pascal's Wager.

It doesn't matter whether we are talking about someone who is a member of the clergy or simply a follower of the faith, the pattern is consistent. No amount of persuasion will get them to even attempt to consider or assimilate new information.

This reveals a serious problem in the modern practice of Christianity, especially in the more hard-line groups. The real strength of Christianity in its early years was its ability to adapt and absorb as it encountered new situations and practices.

Through much of the re-awakening and renaissance, the Church was both the primary force of objection to the findings of early science as well as the sponsor of so many of those whose work ultimately became the foundations of science in some form or another.

Then there is what we see today - a concept of faith that is rigid and inflexible. One that is unwilling to consider anything except that which validates their interpretation of scripture. Whether I think about the current Pope in Rome, or the so-called "evangelical" leaders, the story is the same - rigid adherence to an inflexible understanding of the "absolute truth" of scripture.

It seems to me that what has happened is that monotheistic faith has reach a predictable point. No longer is it able to adapt to a changing world, but instead it is now insisting that the world must conform to it.

The railing of the Pope against "creeping secularism" is an excellent example. Instead of providing a meaningful alternative through leading by example, we find the Roman Catholic Church increasingly mired in scandal and its very credibility on such matters being rendered moot. The continued insistence of evangelical leaders on a very judgmental and harsh interpretation of scripture is being rendered equally irrelevant every time a high profile evangelical leader is found to be engaging in the very activities they decry as evil and sinful.

In the past, religions have been able to morph and change to fill the power vacuum that often exists with the gap between the day to day realities of governance and the guidance of that government overall. Today, the increasing rigidity of how scripture is interpreted for "truth" has rendered these bodies unable to morph and fill in the gaps. Instead, they are becoming obstacles to be overcome and later discarded as they cease to be constructive members of the dialogue.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Oh That's A Surprise

It seems that CTS Television has just dumped McVety's Word TV program:

CTS (Crossroads Television System) regrets that Word TV will no longer be broadcast due to its lack of compliance with the CTS Code of Ethics to which Word TV agreed under contract.

Last week, its producer and host, Dr. Charles McVety erroneously communicated that CTS was being pressured to censor Word TV; these comments are inaccurate and misleading. The fact is that Word TV failed to keep its agreement to comply with the CTS Code of Ethics and indicated a refusal to comply in the future. Unfortunately, numerous attempts by CTS to work with Dr. McVety were unsuccessful.

Cue the violins, I'm sure McVety's going to be bleating that he's a martyr even louder now.

In spite of the fact that the issue is much simpler - McVety was distorting the truth to suit his political agenda.

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...