Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Case Against Invading Syria

With the UK and the United States arguing that it's time to take action against Syria, it seems a good time to consider the consequences of such involvement from the NATO powers.

On general principles, I do not believe that there is a particularly strong case for any of the NATO countries to inject themselves into the situation in Syria.

At the core of the argument for American involvement is the moral claim that Syria's government is attacking its citizens.  This is not particularly surprising as a claim, and superficially seems like a fair argument for some kind of direct response.

However, we need to think carefully before responding directly to the situation in Syria.  The fact is that western powers have a terrible record in the region.  The American stance towards Israel (and unfortunately, Canada's stance as well) calls into question the motivations of any intervention.

Frankly, even if the UN were to pass a resolution to intervene in Syria, I would still be cautious about a direct intervention dominated by American or British forces.  It would be

The issue is that the situation in Syria itself is not necessarily as black-and-white as it is being portrayed.  Seldom are civil wars as simple as the masses rising up against a corrupt government.  After a year, we know precious little about who the factions are in Syria.

The apparent lack of interest on the part of the Arab League is troubling.  Frankly, without some "skin in the game" from the Arab League, I don't believe that any action on the part of the United States is going to be seen as having any legitimacy by Syrians or others who live in the region.

Further, I do think that the portrayal of what is going on in Syria in the western media needs to be seen somewhat skeptically.  There are too few aspects of the story being reported, and all of them seem to be presented from the perspective of painting the Assad government as a bunch of evil sods, and the rebels as some kind of heroic freedom fighters.  While there was little doubt in the Libya situation that Gaddafi was no longer capable of holding power and acting rationally, things seem quite different where Assad is concerned.

Where western powers being involved is concerned, it is my opinion that unless the members of the Arab League are willing to lead an intervention in Syria directly, that the western powers should stay out.  Not only do the western powers lack credibility in the region, but after the disaster of Iraq, I think the public has good reason to be skeptical of not just the claims being made to justify attacking Syria, but I suspect that there are enough things that we are not being told to call into question the validity of involvement based on the facts thus far presented.

I am not arguing that Assad, or any of the other belligerents in the Syrian civil war, is any kind of angel.  I'm sure that they all have blood on their hands.  Rather, unless there is a desire on the part of Assad's peers in the region to intervene, that powers from outside the region have no moral authority on which an intervention could be justified.

It appears that the British Parliament has voted against attacking Syria.  Good start.  I'm glad to see that the UK's Parliament is still functioning.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

RoboCalls Scandal - It's Still Alive

For those who had lost track of the Robocalls fraud perpetrated by the Harper Conservatives during the 2011 election, it hasn't gone away.

Harper has done an enormous amount of work to bury this case.  Not only have they fought the allegations tooth and nail, they have hobbled the ability of Elections Canada to fully investigate the scope of the malfeasance by stripping the agency's budget.  Ultimately, a low level party operative is now facing charges related to one riding.

That court case has been slowly making its way through the courts, and because of a publication ban in place, the ability of the public to find out precisely what is going on is extremely limited.

However, the good folks at the Ottawa Citizen have been paying close attention:

An Elections Canada investigator alleges he had reason to believe that Michael Sona admitted he was involved in misleading robocalls in the 2011 federal election and also alleges that the former Conservative Party campaign worker had hinted he didn’t act alone. 
Sona is the only person charged over the “Pierre Poutine” calls sent out to more than 7,000 voters in Guelph, Ont., on election day. 
These new but unproven allegations against Sona are detailed in a sworn statement from Elections Canada investigator Allan Mathews, which came to light Monday only after a judge issued a publication ban restricting the reporting of some of the statement’s details.
I personally find it difficult to believe that Sona came up with, and executed, this scheme on his own.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

On Keystone XL ... Why?

I've generally stayed quiet on the subject of Keystone XL.  Not because I don't have opinions about the pipeline, or questions about it, but because the entire proposition has struck me as rather ridiculous from the outset.

Think about it for a moment.  Here we are, investing billions of dollars to extract bitumen from the oil sands projects in northern Alberta, and then we are just going to ship it off to refineries elsewhere to turn into usable products - refineries who will sell the final product back to Canada at very high prices, no doubt.

I'm sure that the analysts in TCPL who first dreamed up this pipeline project did all of the number crunching and determined that TCPL stands to make a handsome profit from moving all the raw (or minimally upgraded) bitumen down to Oklahoma for refining.

For the last year, we've been hearing how we get about half the price per barrel of crude out of the oilsands that is the published price on the world markets.  Shipping the raw material off to China seems equally short sighted to me.  Frankly, I just don't get it.  Why are we talking about shipping raw material out of country for processing?  It's not like Canada doesn't have the capability to build and operate refineries.

Perhaps more interesting is the sentiments in this article from Forbes.  It is, rightly asking why are we even bothering to build Keystone XL.

The tar sands are also a contentious issue within Canada (John Richardson, Esquire). Building a pipeline that takes the tar sand crude to the Canadian Pacific Coast is meeting fierce citizen resistance. The Canadian government is employing rather draconian tactics in squashing this opposition, including destroying scientists careers if they discuss scientific results that do not support the tar sands development (Thomas Homer-Dixon).  This is a different kind of cost to that country.
I’m not sure why Canada doesn’t just build refineries near the tar sands and then move the refined products to the coast where new port facilities would be built to handle the super-tankers from China. It would be a lot more lucrative for Canada in the long-run, and less environmentally risky. But it would require more up-front capital and construction and take a bit longer than using our refineries.
Ultimately, this asks the fundamental question that Canadians should have been asking a long time ago - namely why are we just selling the raw resources?  There has always been more money in refined product.  The argument that "there's already refinery capacity in the US" has never made sense to me.

Canada needs to look to its own future, and if that means insisting that we make investments in building the infrastructure to be able to manufacture refined product, then so be it.  If that angers "investors" from other countries, tough luck to them.  In the long run, Canada will be more prosperous if we look at doing things for ourselves, not just continuing to sell the raw resource materials to others to upgrade.

Keystone XL has become mired in political wrangling.  Frankly, I don't blame Obama for being unwilling to make a clear decision on the project.   No matter which way he goes, it's a political lose situation for him.  Kicking the ball down the field is probably the least damaging thing that he can do politically.

As time has gone on, I have become less and less thrilled with the idea of Keystone XL, or for that matter the Northern Gateway alternative.  Both of them continue the old pattern of Canada drawing the raw resources out of the ground and selling them, instead of making the end product.  The current rush to sell everything we have today seems foolhardy indeed - if the bitumen stays in the ground for a few years, it will still be there when we are able to extract and refine it into something more useful.

... and if it turns out we don't need it, so much the better.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Apparently Ms. Landolt Doesn't Read Her Own Words

Over at LifeSite News, we find REAL Women Canada's Gwen Landolt trying to backtrack on what she said so publicly last week.

The pro-family, pro-life conservative organization REAL Women of Canada is calling a CBC report “absolutely not” accurate that quoted president Gwen Landolt as if she tacitly approved Uganda’s contemplation of the death penalty for practicing homosexuals. 
“I don’t know if the CBC did this deliberately or whether it was accidental and they misunderstood [my position],” said Landolt to “My whole life I have been utterly opposed to capital punishment and I would never make homosexual execution the exception.”
Yes, well, when your own press release states rather unequivocally the following:

Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, has abused his position as a cabinet minister to impose his own special interests in the foreign countries of Uganda, Kenya and Russia. 
He awarded $200,000 of Canadian taxpayers’ money by way of the Department of Foreign Affairs to special interest groups in Uganda and Kenya to further his own perspective on homosexuality.  He also insulted the speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, at a meeting of the International Parliamentary Union in Quebec City when he criticized Uganda for its position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  In response, Ms. Kadaga stated that Uganda was a sovereign nation and not a colony of Canada, and no one could tell Ugandans what to do. 
In case Ms. Landolt hasn't been paying attention, Uganda is proposing a bill which would result in the imprisonment or execution of LGBT people in Uganda.  Let's not mince words here - LGBT people in that country face the most severe punishments possible under law for simply being alive.

So, Canada isn't supposed to protest what is clearly a violation of fundamental human rights in Uganda?  Apparently not, Ms. Landolt says the following:

Landolt stated that REAL Women would “never support the death penalty in any circumstance.”
“I would never ever in a hundred years say the execution of people is suitable and appropriate. Never,” she said.
Funny.  Out of one side of her mouth, she says that she doesn't support the death penalty, and yet Baird, acting on behalf of Canada at a diplomatic summit, shouldn't raise these issues?  Her logic is circular to say the least.

Saying nothing is tacit approval - especially of laws which have been so widely publicized on the world stage during their formulation.

CBC interviewed Landolt at the time, reporting: “When asked about reports that Uganda has considered the death penalty as punishment for having homosexual relations, Landolt said, ‘It may be unwise by Western standards, but who are we to interfere in a sovereign country?’” 
Landolt told LSN that her original comment to CBC was about the newly enacted Russian law to eliminate homosexual indoctrination of minors, which allows for jail terms for offenders of up to three years. 
Landolt said that she told CBC that while she didn’t think Russia’s move was “necessarily a human rights violation” she did think however that it was “unwise by Western standards” adding as an aside, “but who are we to interfere in a sovereign country?” 
Having read through Landolt's original press release, it is my opinion that she is lying through her teeth trying to undo some of the damage she did to her own organization.

Frankly, whether Landolt's comments to CBC were "specific to Russia" or not is irrelevant.  The laws recently passed in Russia are every bit as flawed and damaging as those proposed in Uganda.  About the only difference is the severity of the punishments.  The laws in Russia have rightly been criticized for being so loosely worded that just about anyone could be convicted of "homosexual propaganda".

Further, the presupposition of such a law is that there is such a thing as "homosexual propaganda" in the first place.  Let me be emphatically clear here - it is only in the minds of those who are irrationally opposed to homosexuality that there is any notion that homosexuals "recruit" people.  If you think a "pride parade" or a rainbow flag is somehow "propaganda", then chances are you haven't exactly got a clear understanding of the purpose, place and history of such things. 

The Rot Starts At The Top

Regular readers of this space will know that I am no fan of Prime Minister Harper.  

Yesterday's revelation that a "boot camp" for new Conservative Senators explicitly told the new Senators that partisan travel was a legitimate expense makes me downright furious.

Three former Conservative senators at the heart of a spending scandal were given clear directions from their leader in the upper chamber that they could bill for certain partisan — that is, political — travel when they first arrived in the Senate. 
The directions were given during a two-day “boot camp” for new Tory senators that outlined expense-claim dos and don’ts, expectations for senators, and a warning to be careful with how they spent Senate money. 
Let me be abundantly clear here:  The Senate, and the House of Commons, exist for conducting the business of this country.  NOT the business of the Conservative Party of Canada or any other party.  That the Harperites would give explicit instructions about this tells us a lot - and none of it is acceptable.

First, that they would even state that any kind of partisan travel is an acceptable expense is plain wrong. It speaks to a degree of intent to abuse the system.  In essence, the new Senators are being told "break the rules, but don't get caught - nudge, nudge, wink, wink".  I suspect that if Duffy or Wallin had only done one suspect trip in a year, nobody would be particularly outraged.  It would fall under the "cost of doing business" kind of logic that most of us understand.  However, that isn't what happened.  Instead, these two Senators were put into a position where suddenly they were doing a lot of travel on questionable business, and apparently the CPC machinery wasn't willing to invest some of the millions it raises in donations every year into funding this travel.

Second, this is little different to me than the "How to Disrupt Parliament" manual that Harper handed out to his MPs back in 2006.  It speaks to a clear intent to abuse the privileges and rights of power for partisan gain.  Make no mistake about it, the tone in the party that makes this kind of abuse of parliament and taxpayers starts at the top - look in the direction of the PMO when assigning responsibility - the man at the top should be held accountable for this.

Like the Economic Action Plan ads which are really little more than CPC propaganda, what we have here is another example of a government which is willing to abuse taxpayer funds for partisan purposes.  Canadians are paying for Harper to publish partisan propaganda - no more, no less.  Now we find out that Harper's Senate appointees are being given specific instructions on how to abuse the funding of the Senate so that they can further their partisan work.  Makes one wonder just how much of the same kind of thing is going on in the House of Commons with his caucus.  (I know that I seldom see anything from my MP except for the occasional leaflet which is completely devoid of actual content)

More so than any Prime Minister before him, Harper has gone to enormous lengths to corrupt Parliament from the ground up.  From clear violations of Canada's election laws (remember the "In-and-Out campaign financing in 2006?), to electoral fraud in 2011(yes, I hold the CPC responsible for the Robocalls mess - their database was used for it, and I do not accept the "it was hacked" line), a manual for MPs on how to disrupt parliamentary business, a steady rebranding of Canada's government using CPC colours, and now we learn that the Senate has been instructed on how to abuse the finances provided to run that body.

I have seen a few apologists for the Harperites point to Mac Harb and a couple of other Liberal Senators and claim that "the system has been broken for years".  Yes, it has - no argument there.  The issue is the lengths to which Harper has abused the system, especially when he was elected in 2006 on a promise to provide Canadians with more open and accountable government.  He has provided anything but.  In fact, the corruption under Harper is far, far worse than what we have ever seen on any previous Prime Minister in living memory.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Legitimacy Of Harper's Senate Appointees

With the latest set of revelations in the ongoing Senate Scandal, we find out that Senator Wallin spends the majority of her time living in Toronto.

Frankly, I don't much care where Ms. Wallin lives.  That is largely her business - except for that part of her life where she is being paid a rather sizeable sum of money by taxpayers to be a Senator representing Saskatchewan.  (I certainly haven't seen any declaration making Ms. Wallin's residence in Toronto a part of Saskatchewan, have you?)

So, now we have Mike Duffy, allegedly representing PEI who lives in Ottawa, Pamela Wallin representing Saskatchewan who lives in Toronto, and Senator Brazeau's residence has also been questioned (although with respect to whether he is eligible for the Senate housing allowance).  I am beginning to think that we have a more serious problem facing Canada than just a couple of corrupt senators who have been taking more than their fare share from the public trough.

I think that the issue has become one of determining if any of Harper's appointees are in fact representing Canadians and their regions at all - or are they all beholden to some other role that Harper has forged for them.  We know that Mike Duffy serves primarily as a campaigning and fundraising figure (or has done), Ms. Wallin appears to be acting as an adjunct representative to a myriad of events where Harper or one of his cabinet cannot appear.  Nobody has ever figured out just what Brazeau does (other than get into boxing matches with Justin Trudeau), but I have my suspicions that there is more to it.

The underlying point here is that Harper has an ugly habit of appointing people to the Senate so that they can be paid by the public for partisan work of some kind.  The man thinks in terms of power and retaining power as if it were the only thing that mattered.

In my view, that makes all of Harper's Senate appointments suspect.  While Duffy and Wallin have simply floated to the surface as being the most prolific abusers of the system, one might imagine that there is more lurking just below the surface.  Audit every last one of them, and the ones whose "work" appears to end up having more to do with a party role than actually representing Canadians should be dismissed from their post in the Senate - immediately.

Further, the Crown in Canada should begin a process of ensuring that Senate appointments are not partisan.  While the Prime Minister can make a recommendation of someone to the Senate, the Governor General is not obliged to accept any particular nominee.  As the Queen's representative in Canada, the GG is also responsible for ensuring that Parliament is able to function appropriately.  Given Mr. Harper's propensity for making everything partisan, it seems rational to me that the GG should step in and start curbing this aspect of Mr. Harper's behaviours as it is ultimately resulting in a dysfunctional parliament that does not serve the interests of Canada and Canadians.

[Update 16/08/13]
MP Charlie Angus has a few choice words on the matter as well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Distort Things Much?

Over at his blog (where he has conveniently turned off comments), we find Walt Heyer madly scribing away, and getting it horribly wrong.

He refers to three cases of what he supposes are gender transition regret:

1) Like the physician who wrote me. He became a “trans woman.” Yes, a physician! Even after following all the standards of care, he found regret and detransitioned back to his male birth gender. This physician looks back and now says, “If I could only go back to the day before my surgery in March of 2005--I would run from that surgeon’s knife.” Sadly, the approval process for surgery does nothing to reduce such stories.
2) Like the ABC news guy who wanted everyone to accept him as a transgender woman. Don Ennis, an ABC News editor, suffered a gender identity crisis, switched his gender twice in a three-month period, and posted a workplace memo attributing his actions to amnesia. Don became Dawn. Amnesia or multiple personality disorder? Anyway this is like many of the regret letters I get from guys who were completely convinced they were women trapped in a men’s bodies only to discover later they had some psychological problems.
3) Like the NFL cheerleader, Texas native Philip Porter, who made the decision to transition back to his male birth gender after a whopping 32 years living as a transgender woman.
“I was born male, and always felt more female than male as a child growing up, to the point of before I could talk, [I thought] ‘I should be over there with the girls in dresses. After 34 years on female hormones, Philip started having discomfort with “hot flashes” so he discontinued using them. “I just said ‘Ok, I’ll stop taking these for awhile but it’s not going to change back after 34 years of taking them.’”
“And after that, it just started happening,” he continued. “After about 6 months to 9 months being off of them, ‘you know, you never gave yourself a chance to sort of live as a male. What would that be like?’ And it kind of was something in my mind that started as just a little thought that kind of like snowballed. And you know, I mean that’s just kind of how it happened.
It was just that simple, even after 32 years. So what is a “real” transgender? Is 32 years not long enough? 
His first case, I am somewhat suspicious of.  Heyer keeps on referencing this person, but they appear to have no public profile whatsoever.  The story cannot be verified independently, and given Mr. Heyer's propensity in the past for fabrication, and distortion, I am deeply suspicious of its veracity as presented on Heyer's blog.

The second case Mr. Heyer refers to actually shows us a case of the WPATH SOC working in the manner described.  The story of Don Ennis has been fairly widely publicized.  Exactly what motivated him to step back from transition is unclear to me.  In any case, he attempted transition and stepped away from it after a fairly brief time period.  This is not particularly unusual, nor does it represent any kind of failure of the treatment protocol itself.

As for Philip Porter, his story is unusual.  I am not at all sure that his choice to detransition after 30 years tells us anything other than people can, and do change.  Nothing in his story speaks of "regretting" his transition or time as a woman, so it seems more than a little specious to claim that as some kind of proof that the SOC as a treatment protocol is a failure.

Detransitions are now becoming BIG BUSINESS. The Sava Perovic Foundation website reports that worldwide more than 1,500 persons who got sex change surgery later decided they had made a mistake.
According to a doctor I know, Dr. Sava Perovic was the greatest urogenital surgeon of our time treating probably every anomaly of the reproductive organs and the urinary system that you can think of. Dr. Perovic was also responsible for teaching SRS to surgeons in Thailand. His foundation is now offering reversal surgery for regretters. 
Mr. Heyer needs to do a much more careful reading of the Sava Perovic Foundation's website.  Yes, it does mention GRS reversal procedures - but it is also abundantly clear that those surgeries are provided based on the same kind of psychological assessment that the WPATH SOC requires in the first place.  In short, the WPATH SOC exists for a reason, and their surgeons won't provide surgery for someone seeking GRS (or reversal of GRS) without appropriate psychological assessments.  I think it is important (if not vital) to note that the Sava Perovic Foundation also provides GRS services - and is rightly quite insistent that the WPATH SOC be followed.

There are only a limited number of ways that the WPATH SOC will fail to protect a patient - and most of them are the direct result of the patient attempting to "game" the system instead of being brutally honest with themselves.  I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of those "inappropriate" GRS procedures are the direct result of the patient managing to lie their way through the evaluation process.  As I have noted before, Mr. Heyer admits in his own autobiography that he lied routinely in his pursuit of GRS.  A reality that calls into question the accusations he makes of the treatment community.

Monday, August 12, 2013

On The Ongoing Senate Scandal

As the summer wears on, more keeps dribbling out about the misdeeds of various Senators.  Whether we are talking about Wallin, Duffy or Brazeau the outrage that we direct towards these senators for their individual misdeeds should be directed in equal measure towards the man currently residing at 24 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa - Stephen Harper.

Remember, the key figures in this scandal were all appointed by Harper, and two of them served key roles during the 2011 election campaign - a period when it is suspected that Duffy was billing the Senate for the bulk of the travel expenses that could rightly be considered campaigning, and I have little doubt that Ms. Wallin's expenses are equally suspect during that same timeframe.

There is little doubt that Wallin and Duffy were appointed to the Senate by Harper because of their "star power" as part of the party fundraising apparatus.

The 2011 election is among the most controversial to ever take place in Canada.  Not only do we have an election where voters were deliberately misdirected away from the correct polling stations by "robocalls" which are widely understood to have been driven by data from the CPC's own voter information database, but now we are learning that Canadian taxpayers were effectively bankrolling CPC campaigning and fundraising efforts during the campaign through CPC Senators charging campaign related travel back to the Senate (presumably for "meeting with the community" over dinner or some other nonsense to justify the "Senate Business" aspect of their trip).  There have also been a number of CPC candidates whose campaign finances have been deemed suspicious - at least one a former cabinet minister who has since resigned and lost a byelection bid to regain his seat.

In short, the 2011 election gave Stephen Harper a majority not because he had the better platform, but because he lied, cheated and ultimately stole victory - and democracy - from Canadians.

My point?  Mr. Harper has fostered a culture of deception and entitlement within his party.  His "power at any cost" approach to things has created fertile ground for avarice and greed to become the dominant forces in his party.  Is there any surprise that we are finding CPC Senators with their snouts firmly in the public trough?  Mr. Harper is plainly responsible, and Canadians should rightly be absolutely furious with him for duplicity, dishonesty as well as picking our pockets.

While Senate Reform is a laudable objective to pursue, it cannot be credibly pursued by Stephen Harper - a man who has so clearly abused the trust of Canadians to such an extent.

Remember this next time you stand in a polling both with a pencil in hand and a ballot before you.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Barbara Kay on REAL Women Canada's Outburst

In one sense, I was very happy to read Barbara Kay's column excoriating Gwen Landolt and REAL Women Canada for their attack on Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird this week.  I was pleased to see that at least someone on the far right could see the ridiculousness of Landolt's position.

That said, there are a couple of aspects of Kay's column that I find somewhat troubling.  Superficially, it gives off the impression that she is truly outraged by Landolt's statements.  But, there is an undercurrent of a parent scolding a wayward child for doing something phenomenally stupid ... like throwing a rock through the window of the neighbour that nobody on the block likes.

On one hand, the child went too far, acting in part based on what they've heard their parents say over dinner.  In effect, the child has given expression to what the parents have said in private but would never act on in public.

The child has to be disciplined for what they did, even though the parents may well think that it's perfectly apropos.

I've read enough of Ms. Kay's columns over the years to be fairly confident that she is generally sympathetic to most of the positions that REAL Women Canada has expressed.  In broad terms, she lives on the political right of Canada's spectrum, and would qualify as a social conservative no matter which way you examine her statements.

Ms. Landolt is out of line here. What Mr. Baird does or does not believe about homosexuality is irrelevant to his job, which is to represent official Canadian positions. Our government, and most Canadians, perceive homosexuals as fully equal citizens under the law, including the right to marriage and parenting. Whether or not many Canadians are uncomfortable with those positions (as indeed many are) is not pertinent to this situation. Mr. Baird is not demanding other countries enact gay-marriage laws. He is reacting to punitive measures for the “crime” of being homosexual. 
It gets worse. 
Ms. Landolt told a CBC interviewer that gay rights is not a human rights issue per se. She said, “according to the culture and the religion of, you know, Uganda, it’s not a human rights issue. You can’t imply that every country has to take our human rights issues and plunk it down in another country.” When pressed to comment on the fact that Uganda has contemplated the death penalty for practicing homosexuality, Ms. Landolt responded: “It may be unwise by Western standards, but who are we to interfere in a sovereign country?” [ ]

For a long time, I have felt that Canada's social conservatives have an unwritten rule about what they say publicly:  "Don't let the ugliest stuff out of the closet - believe it, advocate for it behind the scenes, but never say it where Canadians will hear it".

It's almost as if the Conservatives have an unacknowledged monologue that gets brutally suppressed when it surfaces.  (Not unlike the "in the closet" experiences of many LGBT people, I might add)

Ms. Landolt's outburst was that voice coming to the surface when the body politic of the right wing wasn't willing to face itself.  Ms. Kay is acting very much in the role of the parent scolding the child.

I'd feel better if I saw a general renunciation of these positions coming from Ms. Kay rather than what appears to be a scolding of an errant child.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Gwen Landolt On Russia and Uganda

It seems that Gwen Landolt's organization has gotten its knickers in a twist over the Harper Government's flaccid response to Russia's recent spurt of severely anti-LGBT legislation.

While the CBC's article is fairly bland about the whole business, wandering over to REAL Women Canada's website, we find Landolt's entire "news release":

by C. Gwendolyn Landolt.  August 7, 2013.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, has abused his position as a cabinet minister to impose his own special interests in the foreign countries of Uganda, Kenya and Russia.
He awarded $200,000 of Canadian taxpayers’ money by way of the Department of Foreign Affairs to special interest groups in Uganda and Kenya to further his own perspective on homosexuality.  He also insulted the speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, at a meeting of the International Parliamentary Union in Quebec City when he criticized Uganda for its position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  In response, Ms. Kadaga stated that Uganda was a sovereign nation and not a colony of Canada, and no one could tell Ugandans what to do.
Last week, Baird admitted working extensively behind the scenes to prevent Russia from passing legislation designated to protect Russian minors from homosexual propaganda.  Baird blasted these laws as hateful, anti-gay and intolerant.  Russia has also restricted foreign adoption of Russian children after incidents of horrendous child abuse; for example, adoptive “fathers” in Australia together with other men, sexually abused a 6 year old boy, starting at 22 months of age, born of a Russian surrogate mother.
It is a fact, that homosexual activists in Canada are intolerant of any resistance to their demands, and, as such have become a tyrannical minority.
Conscientious objections based on religion and traditional values have led, in Canada, to public officials, educators and business owners facing heavy fines and lengthy court battles for rejecting the homosexual lifestyle.  This is not democracy.  It is not equality.
This is the strange, intolerant world Mr. Baird wishes to impose on sovereign countries, despite their own cultures and religion which find this unreasonable and unacceptable.
Gwendolyn Landolt, National Vice-President, stated, “Just who does John Baird think he is, using taxpayers’ money to promote his own personal agenda and endeavouring to set standards of the laws of foreign countries?  He argues that homosexual rights are a ‘Canadian value’, but this applies only to himself and his fellow activists and the left-wing elitists.  These are not conservative values and that of grass roots Canadians, who after all, pay the bulk of the taxes”.
Mr. Baird’s actions are highly offensive to conservative taxpayers.  He cannot and must not undermine other countries’ sovereignty and dignity, rooted in stable family structures and religious faith, in order to impose his own value system on them.
Mr. Baird’s actions are destructive to the conservative base in Canada and causing collateral damage to his party.
Source:  REAL Women of Canada
Ms. Landolt apparently thinks that any kind of support for Canada's LGBT citizens is an unjustified use of taxpayer resources.  This isn't terribly surprising given her past utterances.  I can only imagine what her outrage would be if Uganda was passing laws which criminalized being a Christian, or Russia passing laws against "Christian Propaganda" which outlawed attending church.

What she is missing is that both Russia and Uganda are passing laws which explicitly attack not only their own citizens, but the citizens of other nations who should happen to end up in those countries.  A state which moves against its own citizens in such a hostile manner is in fact a threat to itself and to those around it.

Her argument also fails to consider that LGBT Canadians are also taxpayers.  These laws create an explicit hazard for LGBT Canadians who have to travel to these countries.  While it is easy to look upon travel as a luxury, the fact is most travel is done for business reasons.  Therefore, these laws create an economic constraint that affects Canada's economic fortunes as well.

A More Detailed Analysis Of The Harper Government Factum

I spent some time today reviewing in detail the Harper Government's factum arguments that they are putting to the Supreme Court of Canada with respect to the subject of Senate Reform.

A large chunk of the first half of the document is devoted to how the constitution was amended prior to the current amending formula coming into force.  Since those formulae exist in a context where the Canadian Constitution lacked any explicit amending procedure, I am going to ignore them as fundamentally irrelevant noise in the government's arguments.

Question 1:  

1. In relation to each ofthe following proposed limits to the tenure ofSenators, is it within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada, acting pursuant to section 44 ofthe Constitution Act, 1982, to make amendments to section 29 ofthe Constitution Act, 1867 providing for
(a) a fixed term of nine years for Senators, as set out in clause 5 of Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Act;
(b) a fixed term often years or more for Senators;
(c) a fixed term of eight years or less for Senators;
(d) a fixed term of the life of two or three Parliaments for Senators;
(e) a renewable term for Senators, as set out in clause 2 of Bill S-4, Constitution Act, 2006
(Senate tenure);
(Senate tenure);(j) limits to the terms for Senators appointed after October 14, 2008 as set out in subclause 4(1) of Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Act; and
(g) retrospective limits to the terms for Senators appointed before October 14, 2008? 
The government's argument hinges around their interpretation of S.44 of the 1982 Constitution Act, which seems excessively narrow:

79. The general scheme of Part V as it pertains to Senate reform may be simply expressed: changes to the powers of the Senate, the method of selecting Senators, the number of Senators to which a province is entitled and the residency qualifications of Senators require resort to the "7/50" formula; that is, the general amending procedure in s. 38 requiring the approval of the legislative assemblies of at least two-thirds of the provinces representing 50 per cent of the population of the provinces. All other matters concerning the amendment of the Constitution in relation to the Senate are left exclusively to Parliament by virtue of s. 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The text of Part V gives very clear guidance in answering the questions on this reference.
Section 44 of the 1982 Constitution Act reads as follows:

 Subject to sections 41 and 42, Parliament may exclusively make laws amending the Constitution of Canada in relation to the executive government of Canada or the Senate and House of Commons. 
My concern with the Harper Government's interpretation of things here is that they are trying to interpret the Constitution's amending procedure very narrowly.  They are essentially arguing that the general procedure (S.38) does not apply except in the circumstances laid out in S42. 

  • 42. (1) An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made only in accordance with subsection 38(1):
    (a) the principle of proportionate representation of the provinces in the House of Commons prescribed by the Constitution of Canada;
    (b) the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators;
    (c) the number of members by which a province is entitled to be represented in the Senate and the residence qualifications of Senators;
    (d) subject to paragraph 41(d), the Supreme Court of Canada;
    (e) the extension of existing provinces into the territories; and
    (f) notwithstanding any other law or practice, the establishment of new provinces.Marginal note: 
    (2) Subsections 38(2) to (4) do not apply in respect of amendments in relation to matters referred to in subsection (1).
The problem I have with this is simple - the circumstances laid out in S42 establish a base list of situations where the General Procedure applies, but I do not believe that this should be read as a closed list.  Just as S.15 of the constitution is clearly an open (inclusive) list, I think that the same principal applies to S.42 - namely that S.42 specifies a set of situations where the General Procedure must be applied, it is not an exclusive procedure.

Further, while S.44 appears to give the Parliament the right to pass legislation amending the constitution with respect to the House of Commons, the Senate and the executive branches of government, it does not appear to abrogate S.38 entirely.  In fact, there is an argument that the notion of term limits for Senators in effect modifies the qualifications of Senators, and it does so by imposing an additional criteria for membership in the Senate - namely that of having not previously sat in the Senate.  (as an aside, bill C-7 is unclear whether that term limit is a lifetime limit or if it merely means that a Senator cannot be summoned to the Senate for one full "term" after the expiry of the previous term that they sat.

From the point of view of the provinces, this is a modification of the qualifications for a Senate seat.  I will further point out that bill C-7 further only obliges the Prime Minister to "consider" the list of candidates that a province submits, but is not bound to select senators from that list.  This is a fundamental problem which renders the "election of senators" as set out in Bill C-7 as nothing more than window dressing.

The choice of wording in Bill C-7 is clearly intended to sidestep the issue of actually electing senators, and therefore be bound unquestionably to engaging with the provinces under S.38.  

The second question in the Harper Government's list is this:

2. Is it within the legislative authority ofthe Parliament ofCanada, acting pursuant to section 91 ofthe Constitution Act, 1867, or section 44 ofthe Constitution Act, 1982, to enact legislation that provides a means o f consulting the population o f each province and territory as to its preferences for potential nominees for appointment to the Senate pursuant to a national process as was set out in Bill C-20, the Senate Appointment Consultations Act? 
Per se, the Senate Consultations Act is perfectly within the rights of parliament to implement.  However, it falls into that category not because the principles of the act and the intent behind it are constitutional, but rather because it very, very carefully avoids actually touching the constitution itself.  As such, Bill C-20 does not  meaningfully change anything.  Okay, so it creates a vehicle through which each province will have a list of "Senators-in-Waiting" ... big deal.  Since it makes no change to the procedure in the Constitution through which a Senator is selected and summoned, the bill is so much window dressing.  Frankly it is window dress intended to give the illusion of the public having a say in the selection of a senator when in fact the decision remains exclusively in the Prime Minister's hands - which will give us more pork barrel Senators like Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau being selected.

3. Is it within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada, acting pursuant to section 91 ofthe Constitution Act, 1867, or section 44 ofthe Constitution Act, 1982, to establish a framework setting out a basis for provincial and territorial legislatures to enact legislation to consult their population as to their preferences for potential nominees for appointment to the Senate as set out in the schedule to Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Act?

Frankly, this is a redundant rehash of the second question.  As long as the government carefully stays away from actually obliging the Prime Minister to nominate from the list of provincially "elected" candidates, there is no amendment to the Constitution, and while many provinces might chafe at having a "selection framework" imposed from Ottawa, it seems to me that this is within the boundaries of Ottawa's authority.

That said, it remains utterly meaningless without amendments to the Constitution which place an onus upon the sitting Prime Minister to select Senators from the list of nominees.

4. Is it within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada, acting pursuant to section44 ofthe Constitution Act, 1982, to repeal subsections 23(3) and (4) ofthe Constitution Act, 1867 regarding property qualifications for Senators? 
Again, the government is trying to skate around the edges of this one.  The property qualifications in S.23(3) and S.23(4) that they reference set out a very old net worth calculation.   Where I can appreciate that such a calculation is perhaps of debatable value in today's world, the qualifications are in fact tied back to the residency requirements.  As such, it strikes me that such an amendment in fact should be handled under the S.38 General Amending Formula on the basis that it does affect the qualfications for residency.

The proposed modification that the government is trying to make here in fact weakens the residency requirements to such a degree that it makes it easier for Senators who do not in fact reside in the province that they supposedly represent to claim residency.  Again, this opens the door to more corrupt appointments such as Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau or several others that Harper has appointed as payment for political favours.

5. Can an amendment to the Constitution of Canada to abolish the Senate be acco~plishedby the general amending procedure set out in section 38 ofthe Constitution Act, 1982, by one of the following methods:
(a) by inserting a separate provision stating that the Senate is to be abolished as of a certain date, as an amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867 or as a separate provision that is outside of the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982 but that is still part of the Constitution ofCanada;
(b) by amending or repealing some or all ofthe references to the Senate in the Constitution of Canada; or
(c) by abolishing the powers of the Senate and eliminating the representation of provinces pursuant to paragraphs 42(1)(b) and (c) ofthe Constitution Act, 1982?
6. Ifthe general amending procedure set out in section 38 ofthe Constitution Act, 1982 is not sufficient to abolish the Senate, does the unanimous consent procedure set out in section 41 of the Constitution Act, 1982 apply? 

Ironically, it is only these two questions which in fact speak to making direct amendments to the constitution itself.  Every other question fundamentally only talks about making "window dressing" changes.

The government's question here is surprisingly naive.  Even the briefest reading of S.41 and S.42 turn up the following unavoidable reality:

Section 41(b) reads:

  • (b) the right of a province to a number of members in the House of Commons not less than the number of Senators by which the province is entitled to be represented at the time this Part comes into force;
As much as I am sure that Harper would dearly love to ignore this, the fact is that abolishing the Senate directly affects S.41(b), which would naturally be in full force.  Therefore, the government is bound to the Unanimous Consent procedure should it choose to pursue the abolition option.

Quite frankly, Harper's desire to "reform" the Senate by avoiding engagement with the provinces is appalling.  It shows a grave disrespect on Harper's part for the fundamentals of Canada's constitution, and the fundamental fact that Canada was born out of negotiation and compromise, not absolutism.

I am very disappointed in this government's attempts to create the appearance of reforming aspects of our government that deserve to be revisited, for all that they have really done is created a fa├žade without effecting real change.

Real change is hard - it will take work, and it will take a Prime Minister to lead it who is not afraid of differing opinions.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Harper's Senate Reform Reference

For the most part, I have chosen to ignore Harper's cheap gambit of trying to get the Supreme Court to overturn the amending formula in Canada's constitution to enable Senate Reform.

However, Emmett McFarlane over at Maclean's has undertaken a rather detailed examination of the government's submission to the Supreme Court.  The implications of it are horrifying should the Supreme Court allow this to go through.

Right at the start of the section of the factum on abolition, the government’s lawyers begin by flagrantly abusing the plain meaning of the constitutional text.
153. The abolition of the Senate by any of the methods suggested in Question 5 would not constitute, in pith and substance, an attempt to amend Part V of the Constitution Act, 1982, because abolition of the Senate is not a matter in relation to the amendment of the amending procedures. The changes resulting to the operation of those procedures would be incidental to the Senate’s abolition.
This statement is true only if you literally don’t read the amending procedures. I’m a stickler, so here’s the text of the general amending procedure, section 38(1), and the unanimity procedure, section 41. Note that I’ve added the relevant parts in bold to help the DoJ’s lawyers out:
38. (1) An amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by
  • (a) resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons; and
  • (b) resolutions of the legislative assemblies of at least two-thirds of the provinces that have, in the aggregate, according to the then latest general census, at least fifty per cent of the population of all the provinces.
41. An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the following matters may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada only where authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province:
  • (a) the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province;
  • (b) the right of a province to a number of members in the House of Commons not less than the number of Senators by which the province is entitled to be represented at the time this Part comes into force;
  • (c) subject to section 43, the use of the English or the French language;
  • (d) the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada; and
  • (e) an amendment to this Part.
Note 41(e): “Part” refers to all of Part V of the Act. Any changes to the amending formula require unanimity. The factum later acknowledges this, and things get a little more complicated when, as the factum points out, we see that the drafters provide for an effective veto in the event the Senate fails to pass a resolution on an amendment. From the factum:
162. The primary argument advanced by those who believe the unanimous consent procedure is necessary to abolish the Senate is that the abolition of the Senate itself constitutes an amendment to Part V of the Constitution Act, 1982 and therefore requires unanimous approval pursuant to s. 41.
163. The Senate is expressly mentioned in ss. 38, 41 and 43 of Part V. However, the Senate is not an essential actor in relation to any of the multilateral amending procedures in the Constitution. With the exception of s. 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the Senate has only a suspensive veto in respect of the amendment process. The absence of the Senate would not prevent the enactment of amendments under s. 38 (the 7/50 formula), s.41 (unanimity) or bilateral/multilateral amendments under s. 43.
164. That the concurrence of the Senate is not required for any of the major categories of amendments of the Constitution is supported by s. 47 of the Constitution Act, 1982. That section makes it clear that an amendment to the Constitution under ss. 38,41,42 or 43 may be made without a resolution of the Senate if within 180 days after the House of Commons adopts an authorizing resolution, the House again adopts the resolution.
This is a really interesting interpretation, in that it suggests all the references to the Senate in the amending formula are meaningless because section 47 allows the Senate to be overridden after 180 days. Except one could flip the logic here and suggest that the Senate is in fact very important to the amending formula—so important that the drafters took pains to include a separate clause requiring a full 180 days to pass before the Constitution can be amended without the Senate’s approval. “Incidental” indeed.
Of the five questions that the government has put forward to the SCoC, all but the question of abolition are essentially "gimmes".  The government can, in principle, legislate anything it desires with respect to the Senate as long as it does not change the wording of the Constitution itself.

So, just as Harper pushed through a piece of legislation which theoretically created a framework for elections on fixed dates every four years, they could certainly pass legislation "enabling" provinces to hold senator elections (much as Alberta has done for the past ten years or so), or creating arbitrary term limits for senators could also be done by legislative fiat.  As long as those changes do not attempt to override the language of the existing constitution documents.

Harper's 4 year election law did this by essentially ordering Elections Canada to prepare for an election every four years on a fixed, known date.  However, the law itself was fundamentally window dressing because it contained exactly nothing which compelled the Prime Minister to approach the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.  Further, there were exactly no consequences for the Prime Minister violating this act by asking the Governor General to dissolve parliament early - which is precisely what Harper did in 2008.

So, as happens in Alberta, there is nothing which stops a province today from holding "Senatorial Elections" which produce a list of nominees to be put before the Prime Minister should a vacancy in the Senate for the Province in question arise.  Of course, what goes unsaid here is that there is exactly nothing which obliges the Prime Minister to recommend a senator from that list to the Governor General.  In short, we would have the status quo, with the PM still reserving the right to allocate Senators based on his or her whim.

It is only if the language of the Constitution is amended that there is a meaningful consequence to a failure of the PM to comply with these changes.  At that point, the head of state is in a legal position to remove the Prime Minister from power for violating the Constitution itself.

Stepping aside from the issue of reforming the Senate for a moment, what Harper has proposed to the Supreme Court in terms of how the Amending Formula for the Constitution should be interpreted has other far more dangerous implications.  It in essence attempts to undermine the broad consultative aspects of the Amending Formula in an effort to put the power to change things firmly in the hands of the Federal Government in Ottawa.

If, as the Harper Government argues, the Senate can be ignored in matters involving Senate reform, then what is to stop a future government from randomly amending other aspects of the Constitution without implementing the Amending formula as it is written?  In essence, the Harper Government is trying to put itself in a position where it is not meaningfully bound or limited by the Constitution, and would therefore be free to arbitrarily implement changes to aspects of the Constitution which it finds inconvenient - such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has long been a thorn in Harper's side because it stands quite firmly between the TheoConservative Base's desires and Harper's authoritarian streak.

Now that we have a copy of the Senate Reference itself available, I will no doubt spend some serious time analyzing it.  If it is anything like other aspects of the Harper Government's agenda and ethos, I imagine it will be a disastrous for Canadians should the SCoC allow key aspects of their arguments to stand.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Wow, Walt - Generalize Much?

If the latest utterances from Walt Heyer were the first you had ever heard from him, you could easily be forgiven for believing that the man had never had anything to do with the transgender community.  

Women—Simply Men with no Snoopy 
The real war on women today is being waged on the female gender by men who remove their tallywacker (Snoopy) and declare they are full-fledged women. 
These people, transgenders who are just men with no Snoopy, can use your restrooms and change the gender designation on their birth records and other ID to female. They’ll show you birth gender females a swinging thing or two by legally proving that you females are the same as men, just with no Snoopy. 
Transgender women, manufactured from men by surgery, have more protections under the law then you pesky women who were born female. 
Depending on what your view of female is, you may see transgender females (i.e., men who removed their tallywacker) as lovable little fuzzballs who need to be protected from the wacko, transphobic, homophobic, bigoted gender normals who were born male and female. 
Perhaps you see transgender women as men who enjoy what looks like childish play gone psycho with dress-up taken to extreme–copious amounts of makeup, flamboyant mannerisms, surgical breasts, facial work and yes, the removal of the old useless trouser snake known as "Snoopy." 
This post was prompted by talking with a woman I know who is outraged that birth gender women do not march by the thousands against lawmakers. She is appalled that a man without a dangling participle is made legally equivalent to a birth female. She feels that laws that protect surgically-produced replicas of women denigrate and ridicule real women and the female gender. 
In effect, the lawmakers are now saying that women are simply men with no Snoopy. Like it or not, it is the sign of our times.   
Walt Heyer
Apparently in Heyer's fevered mind, trans people are now part of the "war on women".  I'm not sure how he arrives at this, since it is conservative Republicans who are busily passing laws that disproportionately affect women for the worse, making reproductive health care all the harder to access, or forcing unwanted invasive procedures on women.

His characterization of transgender people as a whole sounds like something out of a couple of nights spent getting drunk in a drag bar, on par with the research that Bailey did for his book a few years ago.  It's funny how Heyer comes up with all sorts of generalizations about trans people, and yet I would wager he wouldn't be able to identify half of the trans people he interacts with on a daily basis.  

If recognizing women of transsexual history as women is somehow "denigrating" or "ridiculing" natal women, I'd love to hear just how that works.  I have yet to meet a transsexual whose life and experience could be argued as "denigrating" of women.  The only people that make such arguments are usually Radical Feminists and ultra-conservative religious demagogues who seem to think that womanhood (or manhood) are defined by chromosomes.  I have never seen a coherent argument which supports the contention that a MtF transsexual is somehow co-opting the female experience.

If Heyer was to actually think things through, what he would realize is that in many respects the places where law has engaged with the language of gender, it is no longer useful to do so.  Does it matter if your driver's license stipulates gender?  Probably not.  Last I checked, women can be just as lead-footed as men, and the speeding ticket is the same either way.  Outside of certain statistical applications, gender is utterly irrelevant.

Of course, in areas such as health care, women have specific needs that must be met that a male bodied person will never need.  I know of no transsexuals who stand in opposition to proper medical care for women.

Frankly, I'm beginning to suspect that Heyer is just jealous of the successful transitions that others have made simply because of his own failings.  

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Reasons For A Boycott Of The Sochi Games

In light of John Baird's recent comments regarding Russia's recently-passed anti-gay laws which basically outlaw any "gay propaganda" (such as two people of the same sex holding hands), I'd like to spend a bit of time talking about why a boycott of the Sochi games, along with generally isolating Russia politically is needed right now.

Baird described how he saw the roots of the issue take hold during a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in May 2012. 
“I can recall being in Washington when (then U.S. secretary of state) Hillary Clinton was chairing the G8 foreign ministers meeting and we put, as part of our statement, support for sexual minorities. Russia put an asterisk beside it saying they were not on board,” he said.
“This did not just pop out of nowhere.”
 He's right about one thing - this didn't "pop out of nowhere".  While Canada's Foreign Affairs minister cannot point the finger at the source of this vile piece of legislation, I can.  Take a look south of the US border, in particular to one Scott Lively, who has been exporting the American evangelical version of homophobia since the 1990s.  In the mid-2000s, Lively made a speaking tour of Russia where he started the process of advocating for stricter anti-gay laws.

Make no mistake about it, Lively even goes so far as to try taking a significant amount of credit for the laws that Russia has recently passed in one of his columns for WND.
I am personally very pleased to see this development, having called specifically for legislation of this sort in my speaking tour of the former Soviet Union in 2006 and 2007. During that tour, which began in the Russian eastern city of Blagoveschensk and ended in St. Petersburg, I lectured in a variety of venues including numerous universities, churches and conference halls, and met with numerous government leaders at various levels of influence. Read more at 
Now, the fact that this is an export of the worst aspects of American-style religious evangelism is almost secondary to the discussion.  LGBT people in North America are well aware of who Scott Lively is, and just what he represents.

However, this is the first of the reasons that I am going to raise as to why something stronger than diplomatic arm-twisting is required.  Whether we like it or not, Canada's current government is rapidly becoming seen as no better than the US when it comes to foreign affairs.  The positions taken are ridiculously absolutist, and worse often end up tacitly condoning activities which the majority of its population do not approve of.  Both the United States and Canada need to be seen to be moving definitively against these laws for one basic reason:  failure to do so gives the extremists at home the excuse they need to push towards similar laws here.

Think I'm kidding?  Take a look at the tone of LifeSite's article on Russia's laws:

While Russians certainly do not want to encourage homosexuality, by no means do they criminalize homosexuality, nor do they discriminate against homosexuals, as some media have claimed. Homosexuals enjoy the same privileges as all other Russians, but they may not promote homosexuality as something positive among children in the same way as Mayor Bloomberg wants to eliminate sugary drinks, and Michelle Obama wants to get unhealthy foods out of school cafeterias.  
The media has been portraying the law as an unreasonable measure pushed by “radical religious groups.” But this cannot account for why the lower house of the Russian parliament approved the bill unanimously, with only one abstention. Russia can hardly be described as a religious nation, but the law has overwhelming support in the legislature.
Russians have consistently denied homosexual groups parade permits, sparing its children and the public at large the ludicrous and disturbing behavior on show in the squares and streets of Europe and America. 
Similarly the news reports have highlighted episodes where some LGBT persons were victims of violence, without highlighting that the vast majority of the demonstrators at the parliament while the law was being passed were in favor of the law, and that the violence had nothing to do with the vast majority of demonstrators. 
The law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality among children simply codifies that Russia truly is interested in protecting its children, not that is interested in persecuting homosexuals. The fact is, that homosexuality is associated with almost a 20 times higher risk of HIV/AIDS, and other bad health statistics like higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and even suicide. It is no wonder that Russians want to protect their children from embracing homosexual lifestyles. 
What the articles authors conveniently leave out is that the definition of "homosexual propaganda" used in the Russian legislation is so broad that it effectively outlaws being gay.  Full stop.  The notion of propaganda includes holding hands, having or displaying the pride flag, or even just looking gay when it comes down to it.  Legitimate political advocacy, such as speaking out for human rights on behalf of LGBT people is considered propaganda, as is providing educational content.  In short, while being gay in Russia isn't strictly illegal, they have made any expression of homosexuality whatsoever illegal ... it amounts to the same thing.  (I'm not at all sure how these laws play when we are talking about the transgender population - especially transsexuals - I suspect it could get really nasty fast).

Which brings me to the second reason why I think that a boycott of the Sochi Games is a reasonable response.  Quite frankly, the IOC's own charter would justify yanking the Sochi Games entirely.

1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious developmentof humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
I think that when a country moves against its own citizens as blatantly as the Russians have, that country is in violation of the very fundamental principles in the first two clauses of the Olympic Charter.

Since the IOC has been reluctant to speak out against the Russian laws, especially since we have considerable reason to believe that these laws will be enforced against foreign athletes and spectators during the games,  speaking up with a boycott of the Sochi Games sends a message to both Russia (whose pride and honour is resting upon the success of the Sochi Games), and the IOC, that laws which unreasonably attack the freedoms and civil liberties of a nation's citizens are not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

I have heard others in the LGBT rights movement in Russia say that they do not agree that a boycott of the Sochi games is appropriate.  I disagree.  Isolating the Russian power structure, both through diplomacy and direct action against the state is a clear statement:  "You will not attack your own citizens without it being noted, and you will absolutely not endanger the citizens of any other nation either".

The third point that I would raise is that in today's era, it is long past time to take laws of this nature and expose them for what they truly are.  We've been through this before in recent history - whether we are discussing Stalin's overly heavy handed authoritarianism, or Hitler's maniacal "Final Solution".  Both boil down to the state attacking its own people.

Under no circumstances should the world look upon this and simply try to shrug it off.  This is criminal and it endangers otherwise peaceful members of the society.  Such a law is as unacceptable in Russia as it is in Canada, the United States or Uganda.

It is time for the world community to stand up and be heard ... before we have another genocide.

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...