Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Spat With India

 So, India is expanding its temper tantrum over Canada expressing concerns over the suspected role of the Modi government in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.  To a certain extent, this is a “meh, so what?” kind of move, but on other fronts its more significant and an indicator of the Modi government’s larger agenda.  

One could infer from the level of outrage coming out of India that in fact the Canadian government’s expressed worries that in fact the allegations have some merit.  It’s very much a case of “India doth protest too much” - if they really had nothing to do with this Nijjar’s murder a few months ago, then why such a public temper tantrum? 

Part of it, no doubt, has to do with the Khalistan movement to create a “Sikh homeland”. The idea of a Sikh homeland isn’t new - it’s been rattling about for decades, and was very much the driving force behind a bombing launched from within Canada back in the 1980s. I don’t particularly want to spend a pile of time rehashing the Air India bombing here, I mention it to draw attention to the somewhat fraught relationship it created within Canada regarding the Khalistan movement.

Canada’s government might well be more reactive here in part because of the fallout from the Air India bombing - which many still feel has never been fully resolved in our courts.  There have been a few cases brought to trial, but many in the Canadian public felt the outcomes were deeply unsatisfying.  Canada would be naturally sensitive to any action which would appear to be an escalation of violence relating to the Khalistan movement taking place within its borders.  A repeat of the Air India bombing is hardly a desirable thing.

I won’t attempt to go deep into the Khalistan movement and the politics around it - I simply lack the background knowledge to do the subject justice.  What I can remark upon is the Modi government’s propensity for passing arbitrary laws with deliberately discriminatory consequences.  The BJP party is described as “Hindu Nationalist”, and over time we have also observed Modi becoming increasingly authoritarian.  

To be frank, ever since Trudeau’s disastrous trip to India in 2015/16, my trust of the Modi government has been very low. It was fairly obvious that Modi participated in setting a political booby trap engineered by Harper through the IDU.  Subsequently, numerous second-rate conservative politicians have attempted to polish their image with junkets to India as a result of the Modi government inviting them to visit.  So, on that alone, I am suspicious of the Modi government’s actions here.  

It’s entirely possible that this is a setup so that the CPC here can spend the next year or so making itself out to be “the reconcilers” where India is concerned.  India gets to play the “offended party” with its nose out of joint, and effectively cuts the current Canadian government out of the picture, making any diplomatic progress impossible.  Then the CPC can rail on about how Trudeau simply doesn’t have the standing on the world stage to be taken seriously …blah blah blah… I think you get the picture. 

Then, when in 2024/5 when a new government is elected (presumably CPC, or so the plotters imagine), India suddenly stops being hostile … mostly because an IDU-aligned government is in power, and the newly elected Conservative government gets a nice little “slam-dunk” win on the world stage to set its credentials in.  

From Modi’s perspective, it’s a win too, because he gets to deal a blow to a movement that he sees as a political danger with relative impunity.  

That might be a bit of a reach, but I don’t think it’s all that far off the mark. We already have evidence of close ties between Harper and Modi, and it’s fairly clear that they’ve collaborated on schemes to bolster conservative fortunes in Canada.  

[Update:  21/09/23 17:00]:  Well, it seems that Canada does have “the receipts” that implicate the Indian government.  The whole thing just got a lot harder for the CPC to leverage credibly. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

The CPC Went Full SoCon

The brief summary of yesterday’s policy votes at the CPC 2023 convention was published by CBC. Go there first, and read it - but I really think they missed more than a few things, so this is going to be a bit more of a deep dive into the policies they passed and how much worse for women and minorities it really is.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

This Afternoon We Find Out

This afternoon, we find out which of the 50+ policy resolutions get adopted by the CPC.  Back here, I reviewed 3 policy resolutions in context, and questioned just how “broad” the conservative tent really is.  If any of those 3 resolutions is adopted, we can safely conclude that the CPC continues to tilt at the windmills of women’s rights, 2SLGBTQ+ rights, and in particular transgender rights. 

Make no mistake about it, by openly attacking transgender rights, the CPC is lining up to attack a whole host of social issues, ranging from education to women’s healthcare.

Something I want to emphasize is that the current focus of the political right on transgender women has enormous negative implications for women as a whole.  In particular, it represents a return to policing women’s bodies and appearance through peer pressure.  If you don’t look sufficiently “feminine” by someone else’s standards, you will find yourself challenged when you try to use a washroom in a public space - and by “not looking sufficiently feminine”, that could be as simple as wearing a bunch of old clothes when you pop out of the house to pick up some new paint brushes while you’re in the midst of painting your home. Whoops - you’re not dressed in the latest fashions, your hair isn’t done, and you *gasp* forgot your makeup!  I assure you that there will be someone who decides that means you’re not really a woman.  

I wish I was joking.  I’m not.  Stereotypes like the so-called Stepford Wives exist because in numerous religious subgroups, women are not merely expected to be “obedient to their husbands”, but they come under enormous scrutiny and pressure to conform (and while I write this from a generally Anglo-Christian perspective, these same pressures exist in many cultural milieus).  The ultimate goal here is very much to return women to the social role that they were forced into prior to the civil rights era, and potentially even pre-personhood where biology - specifically the ability to bear children - defines womanhood entirely. 

Transgender people present a fundamental threat to that worldview because they demand a separation of “the body” and the social roles associated with that body.  A core demand of feminism has always been autonomy, and in particular bodily autonomy.  Women have long sought the means to control their own fertility, but it has only been in the last 6 decades or so that the tools to do so have come to exist in a reasonably safe form.  To many, the changes that resulted from this autonomy, ranging from women having careers (and demanding equality in the workplace), to having actual public discourse about things like reproduction, have been an existential threat not only to existing power structures, but to their own sense of security.  The old models of “dad goes to work, mom stays home and looks after the household” have given way to much more complex structures that make old biblical adages about “the woman shall submit to her husband” very difficult to place in the modern world. 

Just as the recognition of sexual diversity has challenged the idea that “marriage” only exists for the purposes of producing children (a very utilitarian concept), or that sex only exists between “man and woman”, the mere existence of transgender people challenges previously rigid categories of “masculine” and “feminine”.  That is something which more socially conservative elements in our society have long regarded as an existential threat because not only does it require deconstructing and separating the social and the biological aspects of being human, it undermines centuries old scriptures that they hold as “divine truth”.  

That’s the whole problem here.  We have an entire segment of the population that is struggling to cope with change, and are completely unable to reconcile the “truth” of their faith with the world we exist in.  They desperately seek to roll things back to a “simpler time” where absolutes of the past still functioned - and they can only do that by erasing hard fought rights and freedoms.  

It may seem easy to look at it and say “well, they’re just going after trans people”, but spend any amount of time poking through the content on sites like LifeSite News and others that the Social Conservative set control, and it’s quite clear that if they were to ever gain actual power, a rollback of rights and freedoms across the board is their plan … in some cases think in terms of “yeah - mandatory church attendance” type stuff.  

This afternoon’s votes will tell us how much influence the SoCon right has over the CPC.  My guesstimate based on what I’ve seen over the last 20 years is that the answer is “far too much”.  Remember, this is the party which only grudgingly removed its opposition to same sex marriage in 2015 or 16 (and it did not endorse it - just removed their opposition to it), and coming up on the last election refused to admit that global warming is a thing. 

Thursday, September 07, 2023

What Exactly Is A “Broad Coalition Of Conservatives”?

This morning, on the news one of the headline stories was about the CPC policy convention, where they are going to debate a range of policies, and two of them are outright eliminationist anti-transgender crap. (We’ll come back to that) One of the party talking heads said some inane drivel about the CPC being a “democratic party with a broad coalition of conservatives”. 

Besides being a somewhat silly attempt to define the party as “big tent”, what does the term really mean? It certainly doesn’t mean inclusion - the CPC continues to pander to extreme libertarians whose idea of “economic policy” is basically “let them eat cake”.  So if you’re somewhere in the middle and lower income ranges, they sure as hell aren’t including you - your pockets are the first ones they are going to pick through user fees, means testing programs, etc.  They also continue to be very much in the thrall of social conservative movements that want to exclude people who don’t fit into a particularly narrow idea of the world (usually one based on a bad reading of Old Testament texts).  So yeah, if you’re a woman, a member of the 2SLGBTQ community, or you belong to one of those “other religions”, don’t think for a moment that you’re safe in that party - you aren’t.

I did take a look through the CPC policy proposals, and there are some doozies in there.  Let's go exploring, shall we?

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

"Return To The Office" Policies

So, now that we are 3 years past the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a sizeable number of companies are beginning to demand people "be back in the office".  For many good reasons, workers are pushing back.  

Here's the first thing about "back to the office" policies.  The vast majority of them are little more than a return to "how do I know work is being done if I can't see a bum in a seat every day?" management.  While there are definitely business contexts where the work requires someone to be physically present (e.g. you're assembling physical parts on an assembly line, you work in retail, etc.).  

So-called "bum-in-a-chair" managers argue that people being out of the office means that problems don't get solved as quickly, there's less opportunity for "collaboration", "communication" etc.  Yet, they ignore that for 3 years, a lot of people worked remotely just fine, and online platforms that facilitate communication worked out pretty well.  

Does managing a team that works "by remote control" turn out to be different from managing a team of people in an office?  Yes, in some respects it is.  If you're a manager, at the end of the day, it's still your job to bring people together when needed, and to help your team achieve their objectives.  

What companies need to acknowledge and deal with is the fact that people are asserting their right to a degree of self-determination in their work.  Over the last few decades, workplaces have increasingly erased any sense of personal identity in workspaces.  Cubicle farms are the beginning of the fall, and so-called open plan offices with open desk arrangements, or worse yet, unassigned "hotel" desk arrangements mean that people going to the office feel absolutely no sense of ownership of their workspace. 

Would you want to go in to sit at a random desk daily where you aren't even allowed so much as a couple of ornaments to make the space feel a bit like it's your own? I wouldn't.  

Then there is the hellish environment that these spaces create.  There's constant noise and activity, and for anybody who has to concentrate to accomplish their job, it's a losing battle.  Out come the noise cancelling headphones - anything to create some kind of barrier between yourself and the chaos around you. 

I don't care what gimmicks you add to make the workplace seem "fun" - whether that's games rooms, cafes, or "privacy booths".  At best you're putting a bandage over the sucking chest wound that is your workspaces suck.

Workers are pushing back because when they work from home, they have some control over their workspace, they have a bit more privacy than sitting at seemingly endless rows of desks with no privacy, and a world of distractions.  

From a worker's perspective, they've already shown that they are perfectly capable of being productive without sitting in the office 8 hours a day - for the last 3 years no less. Workers are asserting a very simple demand for a degree of reasonable autonomy and control over when and how they do their jobs.  They have learned that not only can they do most, if not all of their jobs without "going into the office", they are realizing that their quality of life is better. 

If businesses want people "in the office" then things need to change. Workspaces need to become something people want to go to. They have to be places that people actually want to experience. 

Second, plan on compensating people for the time they spend commuting to / from your workplace.  Yes, that should be paid time - if I have to spend half an hour to an hour each way getting to and from work - especially when the alternative is a few seconds walk down the hall at home, then yes, some compensation is justified.  IMO, we should be insisting that employers pay people for commute time and costs regardless  of the work.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Bailey’s Baaaack … and He’s Pissed

Apparently, J. Michael Bailey is “back”, and he wants to make himself out as another Jordan Peterson - beset by the onslaught of “woke” attacking his work.  Bailey’s the same researcher who tried to define transgender people based mostly on his interviews of drag queens in a book titled “The Man Who Would Be Queen”.  

Now he’s gotten all hot and bothered about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD).  A “diagnosis” proposed by Lisa Littman, and has about the same amount of intellectual validity as “Autogynephilia” (AGP) - a diagnosis proposed by Ray Blanchard years ago.  (If you’re interested in the background here, I’ve written a few pieces on Bailey’s work here)

His latest piece (it’s an editorial article, not actual academic research) is titled “My Research on Gender Dysphoria Was Censored, But I Won’t Be”.  Apparently, he’s upset that a paper he co-authored was retracted. 

What was that paper about, again, Michael?  ROGD you say?  So that would be the bizarre concept that Lisa Littman dreamed up after talking to a bunch of Gender Critical parents, and not a single transgender youth?  That concept?  

Yup, sure sounds like it.  Littman’s 2018 paper was trash too - for the fundamental reason that it failed to actually explore what was happening with transgender youth, and for massive sampling bias.  What answers did you think you were going to get when the primary avenues of soliciting responses was through web forums full of Gender Critical parents?  

The Littman paper also made the assumption that “social contagion” was a valid construct when talking about gender identity, but never even made so much as an effort to look at it and validate the construct either through other literature, or as part of the research.  No, Littman just assumed it was valid the same way that Blanchard decided that transgender women “get aroused by the idea of having a vagina”, and that’s why they transition. 

Uh - no, Michael - that wasn’t “activist outrage”.  That was plain bad science, and anyone with a reasonable amount of understanding of the fundamentals of study design would pick up on.  It was striking that Littman’s paper was based on information from the parents, and not once did Littman talk to the teens being described.  Further, did Littman go to websites where people were trying to figure out how to support their children? No - she went to some of the most rancid websites on the internet and posted it there.  I can’t imagine how that would turn out (snark).  

I don’t know the full story behind the parting of ways between Littman and Brown University. I can only presume that when actual experts weighed in on the 2018 paper, and Littman’s refusal to do more than publish a minor revision to the title that perhaps things didn’t exactly go in Littman’s favour.  Universities are more than a little sensitive to having their names associated with Junk Science.

Here we also get a hint as to where Bailey is going.  Note the use of the word “progressive community”.  Now, I don’t know exactly what he means here, but it sounds a lot like he’s basically saying “OMG, look what’s happening over there!”, while he tries to claim some moral higher ground.  The problem is that he’s trying to imply some kind of “social contagion” is going on with groups of adolescent girls.  

Now we start getting into the particulars of this latest paper.  We have an “anonymous” author who just happens to have a transgender child that they think is experiencing ROGD.  At that point, didn’t it occur to you Michael that you have all sorts of problems with bias in the fundamental design of the study?  Did it not come to mind that perhaps this was repeating the mistakes that Littman has made in her study? You, of all people, with decades of academic experience should know how to identify flaws in the study design and approach that this person was taking.  

Oh wait - so not only did you repeat the fundamental error of the original Littman study (only talking to parents of transgender youth), you repeated the second error of recruiting only from sources where parents already believed the idea of ROGD?  That doesn’t “limit the research”, it all but invalidates it.  Those are such fundamental flaws that any objective review of the study design should have resulted in it being thrown in the wastebin. 

Which is exactly what other researchers demanded be done a range of concerns:

Here’s a link to the open letter.  Yes, it’s as bad as you might expect at this point, and the authors of the letter point out additional aspects of the “research” that are enormously problematic, not only for the paper itself, but for the general issue of ethics in research.  

Bailey goes on in his tirade to extoll the great wisdom of Ken Zucker, but let’s also remember that he has long acted as a skeptic of transgender youth in particular.  Ultimately, he was pushed out of Toronto’s CAMH gender clinic for using therapeutic strategies that were looking increasingly like conversion therapy techniques.  Zucker unquestionably made significant contributions to research on transgender people - in the 80s and 90s.  That’s a long time ago now.  For the last number of years, he has been part of  an increasingly isolated group that continue to promote constructs like AGP and now ROGD, while being considerably out of step with where the bulk of the literature has been pointing. 

Wrapping up his tirade, Bailey swears that he’s going to launch this huge, long term study.  Until such times as he publishes the study’s design, I’m going to assume he’s going to repeat the same errors.  His past track record doesn’t give me much reason to believe otherwise, and frankly collaborating with both Littman and Zucker on this study is hardly making me optimistic.  

Just to put my $0.02 in on study design, I don’t see one study here, I see a need for several studies that need to be done, and a lot of deep, detailed research in order to make it all fit together. 

First, a study needs to be undertaken to explore the notion of “social contagion” and to validate whether or not it is even applicable to gender identity.  I’ll be quite blunt, as it has been used to this point, the construct comes across as very similar to “tabula rasa” (blank slate) theory which led John Money to advocate that David Reimer be raised as a girl.  The outcome of that experiment was tragic indeed, but it’s also indicative that gender identity is not some easily mutable trait that is going to be influenced by peer pressure in school. Just about every transgender adult’s story seems to back that up - the peer pressure to conform with social expectations was crushing, and still they ended up transitioning. 

Second, once you have some sense that “social contagion” has a reasonable degree of validity, then you can set about designing a study that examines the distinction between “onset” of gender dysphoria (e.g.  when a person starts talking about it) and the actual experience of gender in the individual.  This applies just as much to adults as it does to youth.  Developmental psychology research shows quite clearly that children have a working understanding of gender somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5.  Such a study will help you design tools to assess the experience of the person. 

Third, once you have designed your tools for assessing traits, you will need to execute studies to demonstrate that they have appropriate levels of construct validity (that is to say that they assess what they’re supposed to), and that they are reasonably reliable.  

Then, and only then, do you have the fundamental materials you need to execute your longer term study.  Any reasonable version of such a study will need to:  

Recruit participants broadly. Recruiting participants solely from websites with specific biases isn’t anywhere near acceptable. 

Researchers will need to do more than just talk to the parents of transgender youth.  You MUST talk to the youth directly

Researchers will also need to assess the dynamics within the families, as well as those within the social circles of the youth.  In other words, are the youth reporting what they think they want their parents to hear; are they being given certain messages at home; etc.

The concept of “desistance” is going to come up here.  It will need to be carefully defined for the purposes of the study, because it has been grossly misused in the past, and if not carefully considered will become a serious problem in the analysis of any data gathered. 

If, after all of that analysis, you can find a considerable pattern of “peer influence” resulting in gender dysphoria being expressed, then you might have a credible basis for proposing an explanation like ROGD.  

I do not expect Bailey’s proposed study to be anywhere near this level of complexity and clarity.  He, along with Littman, have already demonstrated that they have an axe to grind.  I fully expect to see a repetition of the same errors that launched so much criticism of Littman’s original paper. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Alright - One More Post About Jordan Peterson

Okay - all the wagging mouths are going off about the latest ruling in the ongoing Jordan Peterson court drama.  Over at Runkle of the Bailey on YouTube, Ian Runkle has posted a lengthy discussion of the ruling and his concerns that it represents an overreach on the part of the College of Psychologists of Ontario Psychologists (CPO).

Back here, I spent some quality time examining the statements made by Peterson and how they relate to the CPO professional conduct standards, and the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) Code of Ethics.  Please read that post first, as I think you will find it enlightening as to how CPO is likely analyzing the situation. 

The first point I need to bring out here is that this has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Dr. Peterson's conduct meets thresholds that are applied in the Criminal code.  In fact, those thresholds are irrelevant to the matter. The bar here is the one laid out in the CPO Professional Conduct Standard, and the CPA Code of Ethics. 

At one point in his discussion, Ian Runkle says "well, this doesn't meet the standard for hate speech".  If this were a criminal complaint, that's a valid claim to make - and I would agree with it.  However, criminal law is a very blunt instrument compared to professional conduct ethics.  Professional conduct isn't about whether a given act rises to the level of criminality, it's about whether or not the behaviour is appropriate for a person who is a part of that profession.  

Let's talk a little bit about the jurisdictional issues here.  Peterson would like us all to believe that his commentary on Twitter is entirely political, and therefore stands apart from his professional credentials.  Yet, on his Twitter Profile, we clearly see the regulated title "Clinical Psychologist".  We'll come back to this in a bit. 

Professions like Law already have broad statements in their codes of conduct that pretty much say that your actions outside of the practice of law can be examined as part of a review.  In fact, we already have several former Justice Ministers in Alberta whose "personal" actions are being reviewed because of complaints about their behaviour outside the practice of law. 

So, we already have a fundamental point here that even if Peterson's commentary was not connected to his professional work, it can be considered in the context of his professional status.  So, yes, the college certainly has some right to step in here.

I think previous, I established that there are aspects of Peterson's tweets that cross the line into being matters of professional comment, where he has stepped into a discussion using his credentials to bolster his opinions.  I think it's important to recognize those specific topics as being well within the College's purview to review and comment on.  

Other comments, such as implicitly suggesting that someone kill themselves if they are so worried about population are still troubling.  Here is where we have to look at the realities of the ethics of belonging to what is broadly a "caring profession" (one in which we care for the health and wellbeing of others).

There are important principles in the ethics of psychology that are both very broad, and very relevant to the conduct of a psychologist in all aspects of their life.  The CPA code of ethics states 4 broad principles that provide a framework within which the rest of their ethical code rests: 

Principle I:  Respect for the Dignity of Persons and Peoples

Principle II:  Responsible Caring

Principle III:  Integrity in Relationships

Principle IV:  Responsibility to Society

Most of Peterson's questionable online activity falls under the rubric of Principle I: Respect for the Dignity of Persons and Peoples

Is telling someone to "go kill themselves" respecting their dignity?  Remember, you can contextualize all you want about sarcasm or whatever, but it's how the person the comment was directed at sees it that matters.  Is referring to a person who has declared their personal pronouns to be they/them as "it" respectful of that person? No, of course it isn't. 

Now, let's come back around to these comments and how a regulating college might see it.  In full context, the college might well look at it as not merely harmful to the persons at whom the comments are directed, but in fact injurious to the profession as a whole, as well as injurious to society.  

Injury to the profession would occur if one could reasonably argue that these kinds of statements would cause the "reasonable person" in the public to start questioning the integrity of the profession at large.  In other words, the question that needs to be ask here is "did Peterson's comments call into question the general character of the profession?"  I won't address that directly here - that's a big question.  

Injury to society is more concerning.  Peterson has a large following on a variety of social media platforms, and his comments are taken seriously by a significant number of people. In particular, Peterson's often violent comments regarding transgender people and how he feels care providers should be dealt with are troubling.  Transgender people are recognized as a small, vulnerable population in our society and they have been subjected to an increasing level of hate over the last few years. Could Peterson's commentary be considered corrosive in that regard?  Part of a larger campaign of what arguably is a form of stochastic terrorism, perhaps? 

Again, I'm not trying to answer those questions here, but rather pointing out that from the perspective of the CPA Code of Ethics, his statements certainly should cause anyone examining them through a lens of professional conduct to be concerned.  Certainly the college would see those statements as within their purview even if Peterson wasn't opining on matters that are common reasons that people may seek out the services of a psychologist. 

If we look at this through a purely constitutional lens, we have to ask if the limits that come from membership in a regulating college are in fact "reasonable limits" as set out in S1 of the Charter.  

In general, the principle behind a self-regulating profession is that the members of the profession are the most qualified people to guide the expected behaviour of the members of that profession.  Membership in a given college is only sort-of optional. You cannot practice as a lawyer without being admitted to the Bar, and being a member in good standing of the Law Society.  This gives a regulating college a fair bit more weight than a voluntary organization that we might lose our membership from for any number of reasons.

If the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) were to find that the CPO code of conduct and the CPA code of ethics were somehow either over-reaching, or that the CPO is overreaching relative to Mr. Peterson, it would call into question the entire construct of a self-regulating profession.  I doubt that the SCC would make such a sweeping finding here.  I would expect that they would fall back on the limits in behaviour that result from membership in a regulating college are saved by S1 in general, citing the basic principle that a regulating college exists to protect the public from potential harm done by unscrupulous members of those professions. 

There is certainly a case to be made that the CPO has an interest in Mr. Peterson's conduct.  Whether the CPO's processes are reasonable and just may be a different matter.  If Mr. Peterson and his lawyers wish to challenge the ethical frameworks involved, I wish them luck in doing so - as those ethical frameworks have decades of study behind them. 




The Spat With India

 So, India is expanding its temper tantrum over Canada expressing concerns over the suspected role of the Modi government in the murder of ...