Sunday, December 12, 2021

Bill C4 - Conversion Therapy Passed - Now What?

To my surprise, Bill C4 made it through parliament in record time.  Personally, I think this is a good thing.  However, I also know that Social Conservatives and Gender Critical factions will ally with each other to challenge the legislation in the courts.  

I suspect there was an agreement drawn up in the CPC caucus to allow the bill through with a minimal amount of fuss because they have finally figured out that pushing attitudes that go back to the 1950s probably isn't going over well with Canadian voters.  In a minority parliament, the last thing a party that has lost 3 elections in succession wants is to be tainted again with various members engaging in bozo eruption moments over a hobby horse issue.  

However, let's put political strategy aside and take a look at the likely avenues of attack that will be used in the courts to argue that Bill C-4 is either too broad, or overly intrusive into the lives of Canadians.  

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Conversion Therapy and Affirmative Therapy

Now that the LPC government has tabled Bill C-4, it's probably a good time to examine the two terms that are inevitably going to be argued about the most with this legislation.  Specifically, I want to talk about the terms "Conversion Therapy" and "Affirmative Therapy".  

I will be doing this primarily through the lens of mental health therapy, although in the coming debate over Bill C-4, you can expect that to get conflated with medical interventions such as surgeries or hormone therapies.  The relationship between mental health and medical interventions is a separate matter that will be addressed in another article. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

There Is No Such Thing As A "True Conservative"

In his column for yesterday's National Post, John Robson opines that the problems that Jason Kenney and Erin O'Toole are having with the electorate are because they aren't being "Real Conservatives" (or "Conservative Enough").  

No, Mr. Robson, that isn't it at all. Perhaps it's escaped your notice in the last couple of decades, but conservatism has changed, and the evidence of that change exists in many places. The selection of leaders like Kenney, Scheer, and O'Toole are evidence of that change. The change started decades ago, and it solidified when Harper engineered his take-over of the PCs and Canadian Alliance parties to form the current CPC.

Yet, every time a conservative runs headlong into the reality that they aren't winning, writers like Mr. Robson start opining that it's really because the politician isn't "a true conservative".  I don't know what this "true conservative" looks like, and frankly I suspect that such an animal doesn't really exist. 

Why do I say this? Because the claim itself rests upon a 'No True Scotsman' fallacy. Writers who make this claim are blinding themselves to the reality that is unfolding around them. Today's Conservatism is no longer some semi-idealized version of a politics that was opined into existence in the 19th century. It has changed.

Conservatives chose to rally around Harper, Kenney, Ford, and more recently O'Toole ... and frankly voters are turning their backs on this brand of populist, deceitful conservatism for good reason.  

Kenney has been sliding in the polls for at least the last year. Why? Because once in power he showed us who he really is with arrogance, condescension, and lies. He has earned the ire of voters in Alberta for a bunch of reasons - but he is very much the face of today's populist conservatism. 

O'Toole came out swinging in the election, and in some ways did far better than expected.  But - and it's a big but - he lost ground in the key province of Ontario. Since losing to Trudeau in 2015, the CPC has all but undone the gains made in Ontario that helped the party win in 2006. What was it that caused them to lose in 2015? Harper dropping the veil and showing us the ugly side of the CPC - whether that was an elitist view of citizenship, or the overt racism of the campaign (Old Stock Canadians, Barbaric Cultural Practices Hotline, etc.).  

You see, these, are the values that conservatism has come to hold in Canada. Language like "Traditional Social Values" no longer means what guys like Robson seem to think it does.  It has become code-speak for a miserable combination of elitism and bigotry drawn from the worst elements of the 19th century British Empire. Fiscal probity, something conservatives have long claimed to be the natural proponents of, has become coded language for letting the wealthy off from paying their fair share towards the nation, and throws in a side helping of corporate greed.  

Conservatism today isn't what Robson thinks it is, and the fix isn't for "Kenney and O'Toole to act more like conservatives" - they are what conservatism has become. 

Figure out what conservatism should be, and find a way to that place. Don't insult Canadians' intelligence by telling us that the worst leaders of the movement "just need to act better".  The movement needs to change. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Prognostications On The War In The UCP

 The UCP in Alberta is at war with itself, and the war has broken into the open just before their Annual General Meeting (AGM).  

What’s the fight over? No less than Jason Kenney himself. 

Make no mistake about it, the UCP was formed to be a vehicle for Kenney to ride to power and control the province with. For that party to now be looking seriously at kicking Kenney to the curb is somewhat astonishing, but here we are. As of yesterday, some 22 Riding Associations (RA) had signed on to a letter demanding a leadership review ASAP, and more are expected to follow suit, a number which meets the threshold in the Party Constitution to force the matter.  

What are Kenney’s options? 

I see a handful of scenarios for Kenney: 

Scenario 1:  He Tries To Hang On

Kenney sees himself as an invincible campaigner.  It’s possible that he thinks he holds enough cards that he can persuade the bulk of the active party membership to endorse his leadership.  This would, in some ways, be the best possible path for Kenney’s public image - if he can survive a leadership review at this time, he comes out looking like a much more dangerous foe to his opponents both within the party and outside of it.   

Scenario 2:  The Leadership Review Happens, Kenney Is Booted

More likely, given what we’ve seen so far, is that enough of the party is either pissed off about “COVID Restrictions” (rural ridings), or are panicking about the upcoming 2023 election (urban ridings), that Kenney comes to be seen as a liability.  

 With Brian Jean once again stalking around the leadership discussion, one might imagine that this is a far more likely outcome for a governing party whose polling numbers are at all-time lows, and whose leader is increasingly seen as a small, petulant man unwilling to do the right things by anyone except his own interests. 

Scenario 3:  An Agreement With Party Brass

Kenney might make an agreement with party brass to hang on until just before the planned spring leadership review. If he doesn’t think he can win that with a sufficient fraction of the party support, then he “goes for a walk in the snow” and announces his retirement from Alberta politics. 

Given Kenney’s ego, this scenario seems unlikely, but it might occur if Party Brass initiates it and manages to convince Kenney to do something that will allow the party to continue on afterwards. 

Scenario 4:  Nuclear Option

Kenney’s last option is basically “nuclear”.  He walks to the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, and asks for the dissolution of the legislature, triggering an immediate election. 

He has already threatened to do this to keep an increasingly unruly caucus in line, and doing it right now would likely blow the party apart. He knows he would lose the election, but this would be an act of political revenge on those who dared oppose him. Remember, this party was built around Kenney in the first place, and I suspect he sees it very much as “his party”.  That makes it quite likely that he’ll be willing to play the “if I can’t have it, nobody can” card.  

The consequences would be grim for the party, because Kenney would likely as not refuse to sign the nomination papers for anyone who has dared challenge him, forcing them to run as independents or not run at all. 

It would put the party itself in a “come from behind” situation, and one that given current polling would practically hand the election to the NDP.  

Either way, the next few days will be very interesting, as Kenney will be fighting for his political life, and frankly may well see it as “I’ve got nothing to lose”. 

Outcomes

The first 3 scenarios don’t trigger anything immediate for Albertans.  At most we get a sideshow spectacle as the UCP attempts to hold itself together during a leadership race.  Now, I don’t think the UCP is truly “united” - mostly because it is made up of the same constituencies as the Federal CPC, and unlike Harper, Kenney lacks the leadership skills and character needed to “bring them together” and foster cooperation.  Part of that arises from being so clearly a member of the SoCon faction - anything he does there is subject to accusations within the party that he’s favouring that faction over others. That means a snap leadership race is probably going to inflame divisions, not heal them.  

The last scenario is by far the “bloodiest” politically.  It will blow the conservative movement in Alberta apart and set it back for at least a decade electorally.  The UCP is unlikely to survive a snap election call.  Even if Kenney believes he can win the vote, the party won’t survive. Voters would rightly look at this as a cynical political maneuver by Kenney, and likely as not would punish him at the ballot box.  New candidates that are unknowns because he refused to sign nomination papers for incumbents won’t be easily elected, no matter how “amazing” a campaign Kenney executes - especially in urban Alberta, where the level of disaffection has clearly hit party support the hardest. 

The UCP would likely fracture into 3 major subgroups:  urban conservatives (mostly fiscal hawks, I suspect), rural conservatives (predominantly libertarian), and social conservatives. If Kenney thinks that he’s got a problem “herding cats” now, it’s nothing on what will happen when those 3 groups start squabbling over control of the UCP corpse.  

What Happens To Kenney? 

Quite frankly, I think Kenney’s days as an elected politician are over.  He won’t return to elected politics for at least 2 full election cycles - his brand is tarnished by a series of avoidable, unnecessary mistakes - ranging from simply being petulant and petty with the Federal government to being seen as unlikeable and arrogant.  He might be a “tireless campaigner”, but his ability to portray himself as “oh so reasonable” has been badly damaged in voters’ minds both provincially and federally. 

Expect to see a defeated Jason Kenney join Harper and Associates, becoming an “advisor” to whoever replaces Erin O’Toole in Ottawa.  

Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Few Thoughts On The Rittenhouse Trial

 The Kyle Rittenhouse trial is a farce.  A travesty, and potentially will end up being one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in history (and not just US history, either).  

From the get-go, it’s clear that the judge has an agenda:  to get Rittenhouse acquitted.  That shows up time and again, whether it is a ruling on the language that can be used in the courtroom to describe the people that Rittenhouse shot, or clearly trying to hamstring the prosecutor’s line of questioning, the judge is playing games because he knows this trial is being watched closely by other Trumpists.  My guess is that this judge is playing electoral politics - but he’s also playing with fire - and the fire is outside his courtroom. 

I’ve mused repeatedly on this blog about how toxic partisanship has become in our politics. Remember that in the US, county level judges are elected, and therefore are intrinsically political to begin with. Schroeder’s actions during the Rittenhouse trial strongly suggest bias in the case, and call into question how objectively he can oversee the trial. 

My expectation at this point is that Rittenhouse will be acquitted - even though there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate not just intent, but a violent intent tinged with an unpleasant side of racism. But, when the judge overseeing the trial does things like rule that you cannot call the victims of a shooting ‘victims’, it’s pretty clear that the trial is already prejudiced. 

… and then there’s the point in the trial where the judge’s cell phone starts ringing, and it happens to play the song that Trump uses when he walks on stage.  That’s where partisanship walks into the room and drops its pants. 

The results of this trial will go down in history as the moment that it became abundantly clear that the American judiciary has become a purely partisan entity, and it will then come to matter in the courts whether the accused is known to belong to “the other party”, or if the accused is being tried for something that the judge’s party approves of.  

Even if an acquittal is eventually overturned on appeal because of various legal errors made by the presiding judge, the fact of the matter will still be that the trial process - especially at the local levels - is now subject to partisan considerations.  If you thought the riots after George Floyd was killed were something, just wait until marginalized people figure that out.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The "Free Alberta Strategy"

 I'll forgive people elsewhere in Canada who might be wondering what the hell is going on in Alberta. A little over a year ago, we were treated to the spectacle of a bunch of Alberta MPs and other luminaries signing the Buffalo Declaration, and today, we get "The Free Alberta Strategy". 

For all that there's some genuflection in the direction of keeping Alberta part of Canada, the reality is that this is still the same old separatist garbage that I first encountered in Junior High when the Constitution was being repatriated. 

I won't waste your time with the deceitfully written complaints about how being part of Canada is such an unfair burden on Alberta. We've all seen it before, and it's the same old whining nonsense that has more to do with winding up the rubes than it does with any real and legitimate issues.  

What is somewhat unique about this document is a series of legislative initiatives that they propose.

Well ... Yesterday Was An Off-Price Day In Alberta Politics

The day started with a bunch of Kenney's caucus showing up at yet another separatist policy dog-whistle being unveiled:


... and it ended with a COVID update presser from Jason Kenney that basically said "nah, we don't care about whether you're landing in ICU on a ventilator, or that the rest of the health care system is crashing".

To be honest, I'm not at all sure which to be angrier about - a bunch of numpties stuffing the Buffalo Declaration and the old Firewall Letter in a blender and calling it something new, or a heartless premier who seems all too content with letting Alberta burn to the ground while he screws around.

I'm disgusted with both, and I'm even more appalled that the UCP caucus hasn't got the collective spine to give this premier the boot that he so richly deserves. It says much about them, and none of it good. 

  

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Post Election Calls For Electoral Reform

In the wake of voting for our 44th Parliament, there are numerous calls out there to move Canada to some form of Proportional Representation (PR).  I am sympathetic to these calls for reform - our current system of elections really does not give us a government that reflects the diversity of beliefs in our our political landscape. 

There are many arguments as to whether, for example, the views of a party like the PPC in fact are deserving of representation in our parliament, while at the same time wanting to give voice to other small parties like the GPC. Similarly, there are many forms of PR, and hybrid models, and I don't think at this point in time that anyone has done an effective job of analyzing them, and defining a model that is workable in the Canadian context. So we have a lot of discussions to be had over what form of PR we should use, and the specifics of implementation. 

This isn't to argue that there is no form of PR that can work in Canada. There may well be, but at this point in time, nobody has put forward a model with adequate analysis to show that it is both viable and equitable to the people of Canada. 

Canada presents some unique challenges for electoral reform that many proponents do not seem to be thinking of. First, is our geography - Canada is vast.  Hugely so.  We have major differences in political perspectives that are shaped by that very geography. The Prairie provinces (MB/SK/AB) have wildly different concerns than one sees in Southern Ontario around the Great Lakes.  The Maritimes are different yet again, and then there's Qu├ębec.  History and cultural considerations further play into the picture, and also need to be talked about. 

Would these regional and cultural considerations spell the end of "national parties" like the current CPC and LPC, leaving Canada dominated politically by a series of regional parties like the BQ squabbling over control?  This latter prospect would no doubt end up with a government dominated by the two central Canadian provinces, and leaving smaller regions with even less ability to influence the national discourse than we see today. 

At the end of the day, however, PR would leave us with a key source of the polarization in our political discourse:  Parties.  The last couple of elections, and the last parliament in particular, have shown us that the party system has supplanted the principles of representative democracy. If you don't belong to the same political tribe as your MP or MLA, chances are very good that you don't even feel that they are willing or able to represent your issues and concerns to the government.  Instead, we are left with their issues and concerns being buried in the mire of party loyalty. Citizen level concerns are subservient to the dictates of the party, and party discipline - meaning that your MP or MLA is really there to represent their party to you, and to do the party's bidding in the legislature. 

This is backwards, and violates the fundamental principles that made the Westminster model work in the first place. One might argue that in a PR driven legislature, the MPs would be more willing to represent individual and constituency concerns because no one party is ever likely to have a stranglehold on power. Perhaps this is true, but there is no guarantee of such a change. 

The willingness of several parties this past election cycle to ignore reality and make things up on the fly leads me to argue that perhaps we need to think much more carefully about our political system, and ask whether or not changing the voting model is in fact going to address the fundamental issues. Or would we just be "changing the colour of the curtains"? 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

An Open Letter To Jason Kenney

 Dear Premier Kenney, 

The time for you to step down has come. 

It actually arrived in July of 2021 when COVID-19 modelling was showing Alberta going into a fourth wave in mid-August. Your government decided to do nothing then, and things got worse than they needed to. 

You disappeared on a "vacation" in August. In doing so, you left the entire government paralyzed. Nobody in your cabinet felt they could make a decision to act without your go ahead. Albertans were treated to the scene of your ministers not answering basic questions, and press conferences being shut down by the "issues managers" (political minders) you assigned to them

You, and your government remained fundamentally incommunicado straight through until mid-way through the last week of the federal election campaign, at which time you rolled out a state of emergency declaration and some half-baked "not a vaccine passport, but it's a vaccine passport" policy in response to the obvious fact that the health care system was overwhelmed and collapsing catastrophically.

This isn't just a failure of leadership, Mr. Kenney. No, it's far, far worse than that. It's a failure to carry out the duties that you swore you would bear when you were sworn in as Premier in 2019. You failed to direct your Minister of Health to take steps to mitigate a fourth wave of COVID-19. You failed to direct your Minister of Health to safeguard the functioning of the health care system as a whole. Then, when the crisis became too large to ignore, you and your cabinet came up with a series of non-solutions that had deleterious effects on the health of Albertans. Urgently needed surgeries were delayed indefinitely while ICU wards were overrun with COVID-19 patients who hadn't been vaccinated yet.


Then, when a federal election is in the offing, you conveniently disappear mid-campaign so as not to further damage your federal peers' chances of election. You went radio silence, left your government and the people of Alberta hanging while COVID-19 escalated out of control ... all so that your federal cousins might have a better chance at being elected. Your partisan goals do not supersede the needs of the people you govern, and you allowed that to happen. 

Your tenure as a Premier has been one unmitigated disaster. Your government has lurched from one ham-fisted policy to the next. Then, when it was faced with a monumental crisis called a pandemic, you decided that doing nothing was going to be just fine. Instead of leading with a solid, positive example, you chose to give the braying fools who thought this pandemic was fake a platform. You allowed them to hold demonstrations because it was politically convenient for you to do so. Instead of leading, you cowered before the basest of the base, and let them run amok.

You, sir, have failed the very people you swore to serve to the best of your ability.

It is time to depart. Call an election in Alberta today, and let the adults start cleaning up the mess you have made. 

Signed, 


One Pissed Off Albertan

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

How The CPC Snatched Defeat From The Jaws of Victory on September 20

Last night's election was an object lesson in how the CPC has failed as a party.  Practically speaking, they failed horribly last night.  On paper, they garnered more of the vote than the LPC did (33.9% versus 32.2%).  Yet, they garnered only 119 seats, where the LPC garnered 158.

Why the discrepancy? 

Sunday, September 05, 2021

On Politics and Qualifications

 Back in July, I wrote an extensive piece advocating for all but removing the party system from our parliament. In other discussions the topic of qualifications and expertise came up - the general gist of it was basically whether or not a government formed as I proposed would have the requisite expertise needed.  I feel that this warrants a bit more discussion. 

First of all, I want to point out that our current system simply does not guarantee that anybody we elect to the post of MP (or MLA) has any particular expertise for any particular post. One only has to look at people like Jason Kenney, Pierre Poilievre, Michelle Rempel, or any of a dozen back bencher MPs from other parties, and ask "what particular expertise do these people bring?".  When Kenney was Minister of Immigration, did he have any particular expertise in the area of immigration?  No, he did not. In fact, we have an entire system of government built on the idea that one does not need any particular expertise in order to govern. In theory, anybody can become a politician, regardless of education, experience or anything else - they basically have to be good at being visible to the voters. 

Much has been made of Justin Trudeau's "lack of experience and qualifications". Yet, Justin Trudeau holds not one, but two degrees, and has actual work experience in a profession. Jason Kenney? Well - he's been a fixture in the political circuit ever since he dropped out of an undergraduate degree. Yet both men sit at the apex of their respective parties. 

Traditionally, politics has been dominated by men, and those men have mostly been either lawyers or businessmen. Lawyers seem to be attracted to politics in part because of an interest in creating the laws that they work with professionally; businessmen often seem to engage because they see power as a tool to achieve their goals. 

But in truth, even those two groups of people seldom have "expertise" in the various mechanisms of government such as policy creation, or managing topics like foreign affairs.

So, how do I propose we address this?

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Untangling Sex

The discourse around transgender people often breaks into two sides screaming at each other, one arguing that 'gender is a social construct', and the other stamping their feet and yelling that such an argument denies the biological realities of women.  Both positions are correct from certain perspectives, but the "biological" argument fails to recognize the deconstruction of "sex" that many transgender people find themselves forced to engage in, and that deconstruction forms the basis for a much more nuanced discussion of both the social and physical issues involved. 

In this essay, I will endeavour to walk the reader through the concepts involved in the deconstruction of sex that transgender people often use as they are coming to an understanding of their own experience which is so different from that of their peers.  I will then start to explore how this deconstruction opens doors to much more complete discussions of the issues faced not just by transgender people, but by all of us as we navigate our way through society. 

Saturday, August 07, 2021

TERFy Arguments On Twitter

Today turned out to be "Day of the TERFs" on Twitter for me.  I realize that for all that TERFs and GCs like to think of themselves as "clever" and being "the smart person in the room", they really aren't all that well informed.  Most of their arguments are fundamentally emotional arguments which have little real world evidence to back them up. 

Let me give you an example of the structure of the typical argument (and for the sake of the guilty, I'll paraphrase):

TERF:  "We have to keep men out of gender segregated facilities!!!"

Challenger: "So you want to ban transgender women from using the bathroom?" 

TERF: "No, I don't have a problem with transgender women, but we have to keep male predators out."

Challenger: "Then what do you want?" 

TERF: "Men have no place in women's facilities"

Challenger: "So, you propose what?"

TERF: "Men have penises.  They have no business in a women's washroom" 

Challenger: "So you want to ban transgender women?" 

TERF: "We have to keep sexual predators out so that women and girls are safe"

Challenger: "Then the real problem is sexual predators, not transgender women" 

TERF: "But what about all the women and girls who have been sexually assaulted in bathrooms?" 

Challenger: "Were the people who assaulted them transgender women?" 

TERF: "... no, but we're letting potential sexual predators with penises into women's spaces!"

Challenger: "Wait ... so you're saying that everybody with a penis is a predator now?" 

TERF: "No, but if we're allowing transgender women into bathrooms, what's stopping a man from dressing up and saying he's a woman?" 

Challenger: "Transgender women have been using public washrooms for decades.  Do you have any evidence this has ever happened?" 

TERF: <* Throws up random news article about a sexual assault in a bathroom *> 

Challenger:  "The attacker here clearly wasn't transgender ..."

TERF:  "Oh, so you want more sexual assaults to happen!"

Challenger:  "Most such assaults are committed by people known to the victim. Random assaults are comparatively rare, and ones involving transgender women even more so"

<It goes on from here, but I'll stop at this point because there's only so many times you can chase around the same mulberry bush> 

There's a series of underlying patterns here that I want to point out:  

1)  The automatic assumption that because someone has a penis, they are automatically a threat to women and girls.  

Simple observation of the world around us shows that this is simply false. By far the vast majority of male-bodied people simply aren't a problem.  So, why is it they keep banging away at transgender women as if they are some kind of threat?  

2) The minute that you challenge them directly, they pivot to "sexual predators"

It's a quaint 19th century type of notion that predators won't go into a room because it's marked "Ladies".  Sexual predators are a special subset of the population, and if you think a sign is going to stop them, you're missing a whole lot of bits of reality. We used to call them "peeping toms" back in the day, and every so often, one would get found hiding in a stall in the ladies' bathroom.

However, the claim now gets twisted into "but you're creating more opportunities for them by accommodating transgender women". Again, not really. These people would find / create opportunities before, they'll create them now. 

The idea that a predator would do the "wolf in sheep's clothing" routine to gain access to their prey is somewhat laughable. That isn't how the "predator-prey" thing works.

3) "But What About Women/Girls Who Have Been Sexually Assaulted?" 

This is a guilt play. They're demanding that the transgender woman live some kind of shadowy existence ultimately to "comfort" those who have been sexually assaulted. There is no justification for this, since nobody has shown that transgender women are more likely to commit sexual assaults than other women (and yes, such things do happen).

Access to appropriate therapy in the wake of a sexual assault is absolutely important, and needs to exist and be augmented from where it is today. Punishing transgender women because sexual assaults do happen seems unnecessarily harsh and unreasonable.

All of this is to say you will encounter a lot of twisting about to justify what amounts to "concern trolling" - which is to say, they don't actually have any valid concerns beyond their own discomfort with the fact that a transgender woman may in fact possess (or once possessed) a penis. Frankly, like everybody else, the transgender woman is in there for the same reason everybody else is - usually to pee, wash their hands, and leave.  (and maybe refresh their make-up a little) 

Lastly, on the subject of gender neutral facilities, there are no doubt design issues with what is currently done in public bathrooms and changing room facilities. Those issues need to be identified and appropriately dealt with. Collectively punishing transgender women because of these shortfalls is ... silly.   

 

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Alberta's Conservatives Are Abusers

 It should come as no surprise to most readers that I have little use for conservatism in its current form. I think it has become something to be reviled, and today, I was introduced to an article that reinforced my thoughts on the matter, and in some key respects highlights the nature of how conservatives have been abusing Albertans - for decades.  

The article is in Alberta Views:  "Rural Resentment"

When I saw this article reposted on Facebook, I started to write out a comment, but I quickly found it was getting too long to be a comment, so I'm moving it here. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Junk Science Masquerading As Political Advocacy

 Yesterday, I learned of the existence of a group calling themselves "Gender Dysphoria Alliance Canada". I was not happy with what I saw. 

They claim to be "evidence-based", and that's the first red flag when I wandered over to their website and started perusing it.  To me, the term "evidence-based" means something quite specific.  It means that you are using the best available science to inform your positions and advocacy. This is not particularly difficult to understand ... I hope. 

However, this group is not representing gender dysphoria, or its treatment in a reasonable  and evidence-based manner.  Far too much of the material presented is far from the mainstream of treatment and support for transgender people, and far too many talking points come straight out of the anti-transgender "Gender Critical" world. 

As far as I can tell, nobody involved with this group is actually involved in the science or treatment aspects related to Gender Dysphoria, and given the nature of what they are presenting, that is deeply concerning. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

It's Time To Blow Up The Party System

I have never been a political partisan.  That isn't to say I don't have political beliefs, or positions.  But I simply don't buy into the broad idea of being a member of a political party.  My own politics are fairly complex, and I don't wish to find myself in the position of having to conform with some "party policy" or another on the basis of creating the appearance of unity.  

However, over the last decade or so, I have observed a disturbing change in the nature of our political parties in Canada. They have become businesses - businesses that sell access to power.  Perhaps most disturbingly, they do so on the backs of what is largely a volunteer workforce.  While a small number of people are employed by these parties, the vast majority of the work of fundraising (cash flow) is really done by the active volunteer base.  Meanwhile, the proposition to the voter is "if our party gets into power, we can give you what you want".  

This is true of all parties - everybody is jockeying for a position of influence somewhere.  However, it has also created a more disturbing industry of groups that are attempting to control the parties themselves.  Don't get me wrong, factions in a party are a normal social consequence of putting a group of people together to accomplish a common goal.  I'm talking about organizations like Campaign Life who have spent decades organizing their base in a bid to assert covert control over the Conservative Party. 

But there's more to this whole picture. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Faking Incidents To Attack Rights

The recent Wi Spa video incident in Los Angeles raises some very troubling implications about both the tactics that the Gender Critical / TERF crowd are now adopting, as well as the role of emerging technologies in facilitating those tactics.  

The first point is that the Wi Spa incident suggests that in the absence of real incidents supporting the claim that allowing transgender women to access female spaces will enable sexual predators, the next step is to start manufacturing the incidents needed.  We've certainly heard threats along these lines in the past, where RW organizers have threatened to enter women's spaces on the basis of claiming a female gender identity. I'm not aware of any such incidents actually happening. 

A willingness to manufacture incidents to support a political narrative strikes me as both dishonest and dangerous.  

The potential role of technologies like Deep Fake to enable the creation of "evidence" for these moments is profoundly worrisome.  It is now perfectly plausible that someone could make a video of a space, and then insert the desired person - complete with verbal cues etc. - into the video.  This is a very dangerous situation for anyone, because it means that "the camera never lies" evidence is now subject to overt manipulation and outright fakery.  

Now we are in the situation where "events" can be manufactured on someone's laptop and distributed around the internet very quickly.  Just as the Wi Spa incident has resulted in two transgender women being violently attacked, the potential for the fundamental safety of people to be violated is much higher now. 


Friday, July 02, 2021

Senator Plett's Speech On Bill C-6

 So, the other day, Bill C-6 passed from the House of Commons to the Senate.  As I had expected, Senator Don Plett led the conservative attack on the bill with a lengthy, long-winded speech full of utter nonsense.  

Let's take a closer look at the speech now that it's in the Hansard, and I've had some time to read it and digest the nonsense that Senator Plett has uttered. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

On Transgender Athletic Performance

There is an enormous amount of noise being made about the alleged advantage that transgender women have in athletics.  First, let me start off by saying that the topic of athletic performance is not an area of expertise for me, so what follows is largely my opinion, bolstered by observations about what I see in the academic materials published. 

Broadly speaking, the claims of "an advantage" hinge around the development of secondary sex characteristics from a male puberty.  Generally speaking, these claims fall into a small range of categories relating to skeletal structure, muscle mass, and height, and so on.

A superficial look would suggest that a male certainly does have "an advantage" in athletics, and to some extent that is borne out by marked differences between male and female record performances in various forms of athletics.  However, it's a much more complicated discussion when we start talking about transgender athletes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

On Bill C-6 - Conversion Therapy

 Bill C-6's next step is on to the Senate once the House of Commons holds a third reading vote.  I expect the usual suspects like Senator Plett will do their level best to muddy the waters and confuse things.  Let's take a closer look at what the uproar is really about.  

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Let's Talk A Bit About "Gender Ideology"

Over at The Economist, we have a somewhat simplistic article blathering away about how there's a backlash happening against "Gender Ideology".

I'm not going to dissect the article in detail, because there's a more important point that needs to be made here.  The concept of "Gender Ideology" is fundamentally a creation of the various anti-transgender groups in an effort to define the discourse.

The problem with the term is that it is fundamentally a straw man in the first place. A variety of people opposed to transgender rights contributed to the "idea" that there is such a thing, be they "TERF"s, hardline religious types, or more recently the so-called "Gender Criticals".

Friday, June 18, 2021

Doubling Down on Racism - The Chris Champion Edition

 Over at the Dorchester Review, we find one Chris Champion doubling down on his position that the "Indian Residential Schools (IRS) really weren't all that bad".  

The dust-up on Twitter starts a few days ago, but culminates in a series of posts like this one, depicting students "having an absolute blast on that play structure", for which the poster got well blasted in the responses.  


First of all, I will point out that WWII Nazi propaganda showed us pictures of smiling children in concentration camps, and prisoners playing football - that doesn't change the brutality of the conditions they were kept in - it was still propaganda. 

For context, the Dorchester Review is a quasi-intellectual publication operated by the same Chris Champion that led the writing of the much criticized Social Studies components in the Kenney Government's proposed curriculum revisions - we'll come back to that.  For now, I want to focus on what the Dorchester Review's Twitter account has posted, and an article that was published on their website this morning.  Given the tone and tenor of what is written in the article, and what I have seen on Twitter, I assume that whoever is running the Dorchester Review Twitter account is either Chris Champion himself, or someone very close to Mr. Champion. (does it really matter?)  

This morning, in reply to this tweet, and several others, we find the following tweet: 


Which just happens to link to an article on the subject written by Mr. Champion.  Let's take a closer look at Mr. Champion's ideas here, shall we? 

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Referendumbs and Equalization

 So, the Kenney-led UCP government in Alberta wants to hold a referendum on equalization.

Here’s the proposed question: 


I want to bring two points to your attention here. First, is the fact that this is about removing Section 36(2) from the constitution. To put it bluntly, this is a non-trivial amendment to propose (I’ll come back to this in a moment).  Second, is that this isn’t a referendum about opening negotiations with Ottawa about the equalization formulas as they are currently implemented.  

If, as Kenney was asserting but a few years ago, equalization is unfair to Alberta, fixing that should be a matter of negotiating new formulas with Ottawa. Of course, in Kenney’s mind, that would mean negotiating with those gosh-darned Liberal elites that Trudeau Junior (add sneer) has installed. No, this is political theatre.  It’s purpose has more to do with creating another grievance politics item that conservatives can bang on about for years to come like they did with the NEP.  

Let’s dive a little deeper into this and explore what’s likely really behind all this, shall we? 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Wherein We Learn That Cryptocurrency Is About to Repeat History

 According to this article, Cryptocurrency market volatility is because they are "free"

The upshot of the argument being made here is that because the "worth" of a cryptocurrency is entirely decoupled from any measurability, that this means that the markets are "more free" (free as in freedom, in a somewhat libertarian sense of the word).

As an investor with a pretty good background in different kinds of instruments and valuation tools, I see this kind of blithe claim, and I shudder.  It brings back memories of things like Black Friday, or the collapse of Enron.  There are lessons in these events - and those lessons are important for anyone interested in investing. They are tales of how a wealthy few played the rules to their own advantage, and caused enormous harm to others in the process. 

The libertarian notion of freedom often overlooks the moral and ethical dimensions of how one's actions affect others. In the context of cryptocurrencies, that seems to mean "I can run the price up as far as I want, and as long as I make money, who cares?".  

When you have a "commodity" (cryptocurrency) that operates as if it is completely disconnected from market forces, you have a gambling instrument, not a credible investment. Even a casino game is more predictable than a cryptocurrency in this regard - a casino game operates within an established set of probabilities that can be measured, and a clever player can usually figure out where things stand. 

With cryptocurrency valuation, even the science of probabilities doesn't come into play.  The valuation literally becomes "what will the market bear" - an arbitrary number based on how participants feel about things at that moment.  While that opens the door to enormous gains to be had, it also opens the other door to enormous losses - a market that is not connected to actual economic forces is vulnerable to manipulation.  

I'm sure that in time, forces will emerge that stay the hand of the more chaotic aspects of the cryptocurrency market, but until that happens, fortunes will be made and destroyed in that market in much the same way that the old 'penny stocks' used to. Right now, the entire cryptocurrency world is hugely volatile, and it is subject to the kind of shenanigans that gave us the Wall Street Crash of 1929, or Enron's collapse in the early 2000s. 

Freedom can have a price, and as is often said about it in democratic societies, the price is eternal vigilance.  If I were playing any amount of money in cryptocurrency right now, I'd be peeling off profits when they happened, and expecting whatever capital I put in to vanish overnight. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

A Skeptical View Of Cryptocurrencies

Recently, I have seen a lot of discussion on Twitter about cryptocurrencies, and their validity.  The arguments basically boil down to proponents arguing that this technology is the future of currency, and others pointing out a range of problems from "what's the basis of valuation?' to "jeez, something about this technology doesn't smell right/good/whatever".  

A Little History

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

A Little On Workspaces and Design

This morning on CBC, there was a brief segment on "what will workplaces look like after COVID".  They brought in someone from one of the big architecture firms to talk about this, and the first words out of her mouth were something to the effect of "more emphasis on collaborative work" <blah blah blah> ... after that I tuned out.  

Here's the thing. I've been hearing the "collaboration" argument used to justify cramming more workers into less space for years. The result has been a one-size-fits-all dystopian hellscape of so-called "open concept" workspaces that are noisy, have no privacy for workers, and are basically breeding grounds for adult-onset ADHD problems. 

In my opinion, the "open concept office" is one of the greatest failures of the 20th century.  It "saves money" by cramming more people into less space, but with no regard for how the individual needs to work, or the nature of the work that they are doing.  

However, it takes away from people a myriad of things that contribute to being productive in the workplace, including personalizing their workspaces (yes, this is often much more important than you think), recognizing different working styles that people may have, and so on. Banging away on "collaboration" is missing the point - collaboration isn't some magical elixir that's going to make business better, or make the workplace better. 

In a 25 year career in software development, I experienced multiple types of workplaces, and some worked better for me than others. Some I liked, some were absolute trash. The work I did often involved long periods of time for deeply focused concentration - as in close the door, and get lost in the problem I was trying to solve.  The last thing I needed was the kind of constant distractions that happen with the pervasive noise and activity in a cubicle farm or "open concept" environment.  

Thinking about the different kinds of work that were going on in that company, there were clearly departments who benefit from having individual offices, and there were other departments which would have benefited from having more open environments, and still other parts of the operation where combinations were needed because of varying workloads.  

There's a point here:  businesses need to get away from what I will only kindly call "one size fits all" approaches to workspaces and working.  When you are designing a workspace, talk to your stakeholders, and design the space for how they want to work. Understand both the nature of the work itself, as well as the workflow that is going on, then design for that.  

Additionally, you need to pay attention to the human needs - not just the shape of the chairs, or the height of the desks, etc., but also the very human need for people to make their workspace at least somewhat their own.  If you're expecting someone to be at their desk all day, it's utterly unreasonable to insist that they not personalize their space at all (a practice that has become increasingly common as walls have slowly dropped in height to barely be enough to keep your neighbour's lunch from landing on your desk, and the concept of "hoteling" or unassigned seating has become fashionable. 

While these more recent trends no doubt reduce the "cost per employee" in terms of space, they do very little or nothing to improve the working conditions for employees, and have a hidden cost in terms of lost productivity.  

After spending the last year mostly working from home, many workers are going to return to their former workspaces and ask themselves "what kind of hell is this from?".  For the last year, workers have had direct control over their workspaces, and while we might all be a little tired from constantly using Zoom, Teams or other conferencing tools to communicate with our peers, many have had a level of control over their work environment that they haven't had for years.  Businesses should not expect them to give that up. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others (The Alberta Edition)

 In KenneyLand (aka Alaberta or Bertabama), it seems that there are two sets of rules at play.  

First, let me introduce you to the saga of GraceLife Church in Parkland County.  This organization has been holding services and ignoring public health orders since Fall of 2020.  The province has seemingly been unwilling to do anything about it until recently - in fact, it took until just after Easter (we'll come back to this point in a moment) for concrete steps to be taken.  Steps that the government had to take if they were going to enforce anything with a rising third wave of the pandemic. 

Friday, April 09, 2021

48 Hrs In Alberta Politics

 The last couple of days in Alberta have been interesting ... not good, but interesting.  

It all starts with a bunch of rural UCP MLAs putting out a joint letter complaining loudly about the return to a much stricter set of restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19. 

In public, Kenney tried to paper this over as "legitimate debate", saying that his party supports differences of opinion.  Then there's what happened behind closed doors.  Not only did Kenney threaten to call a snap election in caucus, but he also threatened to boot out MLAs who violated public health orders - a non-subtle reference to the Christmas travel scandal a few months ago. 

All of this paints a very interesting political picture.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Vaccination Rollout In Canada Is Being Botched - Deliberately

As a third wave of COVID is about to clobber Canada, I want to talk a bit about why this is completely unnecessary, and likely as not has more to do with politics than it does anything else. 

Since Canada has no capacity of its own to produce vaccines, especially not something as sophisticated as the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, the Federal Government took the step of over-procuring - basically signing contracts for far more than we actually need with multiple vendors, and hoping that enough would come in from each of them to be useful.  More or less, that plan has worked out fairly well.  There have been hiccups resulting from production capacity problems in Europe, and more recently some squawking from European states over exports, but nothing insurmountable. 

The point being that vaccines are here, and they are being distributed to the provinces. 

So, why is it being so painfully slow to get vaccines into people's arms?  

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

... and Kenney Called The NDP "Ideological"

 So, today the Kenney government took the wraps off its proposed K-6 school curriculum: 

https://curriculum.learnalberta.ca/curriculum/en

*I can't guarantee how long this link will be viable, so screenshots will be used to illustrate points.

Kenney bitched and moaned at every turn about the curriculum revision that the NDP was working on.  What is in this is even more ideological than anything that he could criticize in the NDP's efforts.  This isn't just a "step backwards" in terms of educating future generations, it's a walk off an ideological cliff.  

Especially in the areas of Social Studies, this curriculum is like stepping back into the 1960s era - an era when the only perspective on Canada's history was defined by British colonialism. Any perspective from indigenous peoples was carefully sanitized out of the picture (and yes, at that time, the "60s Scoop" was forcibly separating native youths from their families and shipping them off to residential schools).  

I can't wade through the entirety of this curriculum to identify all of the absolute nonsense it contains, but there is a lot of bias lurking in it, and the biases come out early.  Consider the following elements from Grade 1 and Grade 2 social studies:  

Grade 1 Social Studies

Grade 2 Social Studies

First, consider the questionable assumption lurking in the grade 1 element that the indigenous societies on the Canadian prairies were "primitive" (unsophisticated to a European's eyes).  The curriculum then goes on to talk about earth worship spiritualities as part of the belief systems of indigenous peoples.  There is a not so subtle bias playing out here of portraying the indigenous as "primitive" or "simple".  

Then in Grade 2, we get a declaration that monotheistic religions have common origins.  Again, a subtle but of priming going on here and it's nasty.  In Grade 1, we prime students with the idea that earth worship is "primitive", and then in Grade 2, we start making declarations about "common roots" for the 3 Abrahamic faiths, but quietly ignores the fact that other faiths arrived at monotheistic models independently.  To a grade 2 student, the logical conclusion to draw would be that the Abrahamic faiths are "more correct" than those "primitive" earth worship faiths.  

Yes, this is an example of bias - and it's a fairly subtle one - one that should make us all very wary of the intentions of the authors of this curriculum plan.  Public schools are not places we should be indoctrinating students with ideas about the "correctness" of any faith - explicitly or implicitly.  If you want to talk about different faiths, that's fine, but it has to be done on a level footing, not with all kinds of subtle priming going on to lead students to particular conclusions. 

... and just in case you're thinking that I'm "reading too much into this", let me introduce part of the "sex education" portion of the curriculum: 

Grade 6 Sex Ed

You're not misreading this - we literally have 'abstinence-only' being imposed here.  This is in no way complete or comprehensive.  This ignores reality, and it clearly comes out of the religious right's toolbox of bullshit.  It's basically saying "don't have sex until you get married, or you will become diseased with something awful and incurable".  I won't go on about how this ignores sexual orientations beyond heterosexual, or gender diversity, because the minute you jump down the "abstinence-only" hole, you're already well into Bible-land.  

Educators I have chatted with briefly are also critical of this curriculum for over-emphasizing memorization, and doing far too little to encourage integration and critical thought.  This is also not a surprise - Kenney is an anti-intellectual with a serious amount of difficulty with the idea that anyone might be able to think beyond him. 

I'm not going to say that I am in any way surprised by this bullshit.  Kenney and the UCP were telling us exactly who and what they are from the get-go.  Albertans voted for this government in droves, many thinking that "oh, they won't be _THAT_ bad".  No, they're _THAT_ bad, and worse. This curriculum is an insidious piece of trash that will put Alberta at the back of the house when it comes to academic achievement.  


Saturday, February 20, 2021

No, Conservatives, Texas Power Grid Collapse Wasn't Because Of Wind Turbine Failures

 Texas had a record breaking cold snap this past week as a result of the Jet Stream slumping way south of where it normally sits, and allowing a huge mass of arctic air to drop temperatures down into the range of -20C.  For a state that rarely sees 0F, that's shockingly cold.  As you have seen in the news, the power grid in Texas basically collapsed in the face of record cold and snowy conditions.  

In the wake of this, we have had numerous figures blaming this power disaster on renewable energy sources like wind turbines. Factually, even CNN is pointing out that this is utter nonsense.  Anyone who lives in a more wintery climate (like Alberta for example) is used to -20C or colder temperatures not affecting much of anything.  

So, why did the Texas power grid collapse so violently?  DailyKOS published an analysis this week which walks through the combination of policy going back to the days of electrification in the 1930s, ego, greed, and what ultimately is a fundamental failure to safeguard the public interest by Texas politicians. 

Mechanically, the basic statement is that Texas has never bothered to spend the money needed to prepare their infrastructure for winter conditions, even in the wake of a 2011 weather event which resulted in rolling power outages. 

While it would be an enjoyable exercise to talk about the relative ease with which the technical problems could be solved, the politics are much more informative, especially with a conservative disinformation campaign gearing up to discredit "green" energy in the public mind. 

Texas' woes really started when the state decided to "go it alone" by not allowing its grid to interconnect with its neighbours.  This arose out of some conservative paranoia about "federal regulators".  As a result, the Texas power grid basically stands as an island in the North American power grid system.  It has minor interconnects with its neighbours, but none are adequate to do more than the most trivial of load balancing, certainly not enough to hold the grid up if a major collapse starts.  

Isolationism, combined with a deep rooted skepticism about climate change (funded by Texas-based oil companies), meant that a lot of executives in the Texas energy industry decided that taking protective steps to avoid blackouts was an unnecessary expense.  When a 2011 winter storm resulted in recommendations to winterize, those ideas quietly disappeared off the radar after a couple of more normal winters. 

Here in Canada, we are getting fed a steady stream of right wing propaganda that "renewables are unreliable".  Yes, there are days where the wind doesn't blow (although residents of Lethbridge, AB  might contest that); there are overcast days where solar isn't going to be as efficient, and so on.  I think we all know these as "self evident facts".  Yes, you need a range of generation options right now.  Nobody with any sense is saying you don't. 

However, politics being what it is, people with very deep pockets are pouring huge dollars into convincing you that renewable energy isn't the way to go.  Why?  Because their profits depend on burning fossil fuels for as long as possible.  They know, just as well as you and I do when we look at the hard science, that the bill for burning hydrocarbons for energy is coming due. They want to maximize their profits as long as possible. So, they pour money into disinformation spread through PostMedia, Fox News, and wherever else they own control. 

The "right" mix of energy sources is largely going to be a matter of engineering decisions, not political.  Arguments like those being put forth by Danielle Smith and other writers for PostMedia do us no favours by choosing to lie about the reality of what happened in Texas.  


Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Alberta's Administrative Penalties Act: Justice More Expedient, or Justice Denied?

 In July 2020, Alberta passed a bill which makes sweeping changes to what it euphemistically calls "Administrative Penalties" (basically anything you might get a ticket for) and the way that they are handled. Bill 21, The Administrative Penalties Act, dramatically changes the scope of what police or other enforcement officials can do when they hand out tickets.  

First of all, a ticket is no longer a "summons" to appear in court.  It becomes an "administrative penalty", which is extremely broadly defined:  

Definition of Administrative Penalty

So, basically, this is just about anything up to, but not including being imprisoned. When you start considering that can include impounding your vehicle, seizure of property, imposing restrictions on your driver's license, etc., that's a lot of potential consequences. 

This legislation is a lot more slippery than merely giving police enormous powers over your life. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Twisting the Night Away ...

 I won’t waste much time directly addressing the attempted coup that took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday this past week. Others have already covered it in considerable depth, and the fallout will no doubt take months or more to sort out.  

However, Maclean’s decided to publish something today that I think deserves to be smacked around for continuing exactly the patterns that I have become increasingly critical of conservatism in Canada for following. 

The column, entitled “Let’s Not Waste This Crisis in American Democracy”, and is written by former Harper-era communications guy Andrew MacDougall.  Please, go and read it.  When you are done reading it, I’ll explain just how twisted it really is. 

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...