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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Radio Confirms Our Fears

It has only been four days since I posted the first of two articles about ERBs and political interference in research. But here we are, handed a good example of how it operates. They must be primed to respond at the other end.
   The May 26 broadcast of CBC’s Metro Morning brings us the news. It’s all about a researcher named Alexandra Lysova of the University of Toronto. Alexandra has won a coveted scholarship from the P.E. Trudeau Foundation. To earn that, she’s had the good idea of doing research on women who go to jail for committing intimate-partner violence (IPV).
   Predictably, the research is being attacked by feminists; they accuse it of “blaming the victim,” since, according to feminism, the female can only be a victim, not a perpetrator.
    There is a hint of political interference in both the newscast and in the foundation’s published announcement. On the radio, Alexandra went to pains to respond to feminists and comfort their prejudices: the research, she said, would help women prevent being victimized. It was all pro-woman, and none of it had anything to do with protecting any male.
     The show’s host, Matt Galloway, reinforced this: Alexandra’s research, he said, was about “women who have a role in initiating violence.” Note the word “initiating”; it is not synonymous with “committing,” or “inciting.” The clear message, then, is that there had to have been violence by both partners, but no female responsibility or will.
    Thus, the research model, working hypothesis, and the statement of “positive outcomes for the community” would not appear to consider the female as perpetrator, but only as a misguided victim who got caught up in the battle.
      There’s only one problem with that: Ms Lysova’s female subjects are all behind bars. They have all been convicted of harming their spouse, presumably a man! Had they just “hit back,” they would not be in jail in the first place, they’d have been considered victims. 
      Here's a second problem. Millions of men experience violence at the hands of their wives—and do not hit back. Is Ms Lysova allowed to study that? And consider where she’s getting the data: in the U.S. and Aboriginal jail populations. That is relevant because more men in South Chicago are killed by their wives than wives are harmed by their husbands. And, among Aboriginal women in Canada, their violent-offender rates are astronomical in comparison with the non-Aboriginal population. 
     Yet the research seems silent on women as offenders and perpetrators, so it seems to be practicing political avoidance on precisely the population it chooses to study. We'd love to know the role that REB and departmental vetting played in this proposal (but no, we'll never get a key to that database). 
       It’s instructive to look at the way the foundation announced this grant, since it shows some of the putative influences of the REB:
Women's Involvement in Intimate Partner Violence: Dynamics of Escalation and Desistance

Women's involvement in intimate partner violence (IPV) remains an issue requiring further exploration. Despite some perspectives that question women's ability to engage in violence as active, rational human subjects, recent studies recognize the importance of exploring women's contributions to the dynamic nature of violence in intimate relationships. Alexandra Lysova's doctoral research aims to identify patterns of escalation in a single conflict and patterns of escalation or desistance across successive conflicts based on an interactional, dynamic perspective that integrates competing views on IPV, such as family violence and feminist perspectives. She assumes violent dynamics may escalate, remain stable over time, or desist depending on police intervention, and the structure (including power, gender, and economic inequalities) and the quality of the relationship. The data for Alexandra's research come from interviews with incarcerated women about their lives in the three years prior to their incarceration. The longitudinal data and multi-level design lend themselves to hierarchical linear modelling, which will allow Alexandra to assess the independent contributions of individual and relationship characteristics to the dynamics of women's involvement in IPV.

Let’s see if we can parse this for politics.

  • Title: Women's Involvement in Intimate Partner Violence: Dynamics of Escalation and Desistance.  As Ms Lysova said on the radio, she is “only” interested in enabling women to de-escalate the violence initiated by a male. “Desistance,” she explained, is where the woman saves her verbal provocation or incitement for “after the man has sobered up.”  This may be a wise strategy and a noble goal; but it does not study women as willing perpetrators of violence, which they sometimes are. Furthermore, many a man who is drunk is vulnerable to female violence, not prone to being violent himself; this is often the pattern among Aboriginal couples.
  • Despite some perspectives that question women's ability to engage in violence as active, rational human subjects, recent studies recognize the importance of exploring women's contributions to the dynamic nature of violence in intimate relationships. Those “some perspectives” that Alexandra is obliged to explore in her study all come from the core of gender-feminism, particularly the references to "structure and power" (i.e., no violent female has free will) and the myth of Female Rage. As we saw in a previous post, Female Rage is an unscientific, exculpatory doctrine, entirely self-interested; there is, say the feminists “no female violence, only female rage.” It’s like the Nazi theory of WWI: Germany’s defeat was caused by Jewish bankers, not German militarism; perhaps it was also caused by too deferential an attitude towards the evil Jew. 
  • At any rate, Alexandra is careful to say that women “make a contribution” to the partner violence, and that the violence is “dynamic.” Feminist-dominated boards will like that; this language may exclude the study of the violent woman and the passive male victim.
    • Finally, Alexandra’s statement says this about her research, that it is based on an interactional IPV, such as family violence and feminist perspectives. That’s the evidence of politically-approved bias. Alexandra will not study inherently violent women (but they are in jail!) or reach conclusions that squarely contradict gender feminism. Her study will integrate both feminist apologetics and the more scientific methods of psychology or criminology. This is the kernel of the corruption.
    We wish Ms Lysova success in her studies and in her career; but mostly, we wish her the precious gift of freedom. May her investigation go wherever it must, and may she someday be a free woman in a real university department.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    ERBs: What to do

    What we talked about in the post below was "ethics-review" boards, those committees that approve the research done in universities. We had a glimpse of their politics and the rationales that keep them in power. We haven't yet asked whether anyone can actually do something about them.
       As bad as the picture sounds in that article... reality is worse. The sample "do not ask" question offered by Dr. Newhouse at the round table was all about what he called "sacred practices" in Native sweat lodges. The suggestion was that these rituals were to be kept secret. A fair-minded person might be sympathetic to that and assume the rituals were innocent and "private" to the tribe.
        On the other hand, a health scientist, psychologist, religion scholar, cultural-studies scholar, or criminologist might disagree. So might the Auditor General of Canada, who scrutinizes the budgets that actually build the sweat lodges and keep them running.
        However, prior censorship in university research extends to everything, from Native drug-running, to tobacco smuggling, to student exam anxiety, to animal husbandry, to plant genetics, to the women's volleyball team. So fair-minded grounds for censorship are not relevant in this discussion, even if the Ethics boards promise, some day, to be more reasonable.
         Ethics review today is about a lot more than protecting potential victims of research abuse. It's often keyed to shutting down enquiries, ones that ask thorny questions. It's about Chill and power. It's a close cousin to Campus Speech Codes and hall monitors who follow students around, to listen in on conversations and re-direct them to more progressive ways of thinking (one recently disbanded in Ontario; one now in the works in Alberta).
        How did all this happen? Its origins are in the war on science that has been waged by the Postmodern academy, underway since about 1970. I gave readers a glimpse of that in my blog Courting the Female Offender. In that blog, I talked about Gender Feminism and explained how, at root, it's a polemic against the European Enlightenment and the concept of empirical science. I talked about it as Female Exceptionalism, and explored how this was a self-referential and mystical construct, and how it obfuscated psychology the way Nazism perverted history and race theory.
         Put Female Exceptionalism next to "Aboriginal Sovereignty," a ground for not asking certain questions (see blog below), and the analysis sharpens. ERB-ism is verifiably an outgrowth and instrument of this Postmodernist war. It could even be the central weed in its poisonous field.
         But to understand it, and to understand how to disarm it, we have to ask how scholars managed to be captured by it in the first place. History instructs action.
         I'm not a scholar of ERBs (but there aren't any -- too dangerous, too hard to get funded!), so, won't go into the full history of them. In the blog below, I touched upon their frank politicisation and the spread of their reach, and wrote about how they began reasonably in medical research and metastasized into a universal mechanism of speech control.
         This is how it progresses. The undergraduate, doing elementary surveys of human subjects, gets referred to a university ERB. There, she learns you can't just ask people questions, no matter how sound those questions are or how airtight your research model is. You have to get approval for each and every question you ask. (Similarly, a professor [of psychology or sociology] can't use his classroom as a base for human research, not even if that exercise teaches the students about research methods. You can barely get away with a student-satisfaction survey.) Almost all surveying has to go through Ethical Review.
         Then, as a graduate student, our researcher gets exposed to more. All her work will be darkened by the shadow of review committees and biased academic supervisors. Then, she'll graduate, and may be hired into a junior position at a university. Don't even dream of tenure, not for several years. Juniors will be under formidable pressure and influence, so bucking the bully-in-power is not an option.
          Finally, the professor, having curbed her taste for difficult questions, gets tenure and goes forth to enquire into her specialty. She branches out, but the first thing she confronts is the Ethics Board. By golly, if she's canny, she'll just run for member of an ER board! From beginning to end, the academic is never free. 

    Action, anyone?

    Here's a proposed statement of principles:
    • You cannot ethically interfere in the performance of the human mind. You can't ethically curb research and enquiry; or curtail it or influence it. Humanity won that debate in the European Renaissance and is not about to concede the point.     
    • "Ethical" vetting of research is therefore an oxymoron and an Orwellian construct. It is exactly like saying "All people are free and we alone will determine the shapes and outcomes of your freedom."
    • Ethics Review boards, both in spirit and in action, are violations of the mission and mandate of scholarship. 
    • It is unethical for a scholar to submit to prior censorship or interference in the design of his research, and to afterwards claim his scholarship as valid.
    • It is the duty of scholars to prove or disprove empirical research; not to avoid it or prevent it from happening.
    • It is unethical for the scholarly community to accept scholarship conducted under ERB constraints.
    • It is unethical, then, to collaborate with Ethics Review at any level -- until said review is fundamentally curbed.
     Here's a proposed statement of action: Don't do it. Don't submit your research questions to the czars of research. Do your research independently; let them charge you with being a rebel and an Unsubmitted Person.
         Turn their hearing into a trial of the Research dictatorship. Invite students and the press. When they ban the public, don't submit. Have the public just file into the room.
         Do it the way the Yippees did their business in the 1970s, dismantling the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC), that witch-hunting body made famous by Senator Joe McCarthy. Shame them into just going away.
         Don't even talk about politely reforming these excrescences. Don't be neutered by them or get sucked into endless games of moderating them*. The continued role of ER boards is an affront to academic life, and to submit is to be an accomplice.
    *as, for example, using  "conflict of interest" as a reason for prior vetting. There can be a default statement at the top of every research report that says, "DISCLOSURE:...." etc. That nicely solves the issue of conflicts.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    On the Banning of Research Questions

    At a session of the annual conference of the Canadian Political Science Association, May 17, I was privileged to observe a vital debate. Former friend and colleague Dr. Frances Widdowson was speaking to a round-table she'd organized. The topic was Ethics Review Boards and their criteria for approving university research. In her brief remarks, Frances worried the issues of academic freedom, scholarly access, and integrity in research that involved Aboriginal communities.
        Ethics Review Boards (ERBs) are bodies within each teaching institution that must give their approval to scholars before any research in the institution takes place. Local ERBs are governed by a national body known as the National Council on Ethics in Human Research (NCEHR). The latter operates through a committee known as the Tri-Council Policy Statement, which develops guidelines for approving research in three main areas: social sciences; health science; and natural sciences and engineering.
       Titled “Aboriginal Research Ethics,” the round-table was chaired by Kathy Brock, an influential member of the Tri-Council. Other notables included Rhoda Howard-Hassman of Wilfred Laurier, Tom Flanagan of the University of Calgary, and David Newhouse of Trent University.
        In the past, the role of ethics review had been to ensure that human subjects of medical research did not suffer “harm” from the research. For example, no subject could be given an experimental drug without their explicit knowledge and consent. However, in recent years, the ERBs have expanded their mandates to include every area of scholarly concern. In some disciplines, this was a natural expansion, as for example, in the testing of materials and products destined for human use. But in other areas, this has become invasive, political, and controversial. Scholarly disciplines now speak openly of the problem of mandate creep in ERBs.
           This goes well beyond the traditional areas of ethical supervision. I was recently informed by a student of Sports Management that review boards made it difficult for him to draw up a survey to be done by members of a university team. As an example, they looked unkindly on asking athletes questions -- how they felt about their sport and how they were recruited -- without going through the coach!
         In the disciplines of the social sciences (what is a society and how does it function?) the issue of ethics review is fraught. Where scholars used to say, “Let’s look into it and draw the logical conclusions,” Ethics Review has become a giant filter that tends to halt research it considers “not beneficial” to the “welfare” of subjects; or, that pre-screens for potentially controversial enquiries, and makes it almost impossible to conduct them. Predictably, this has been driven by politics – mostly, identity politics that claim to protect certain groups from the prying eyes of the outsider (or, in the case of Aboriginals, the Native researcher not connected to the Band Council).
         The problem, too, lies in the research question. In olden times, researchers simply went looking for phenomena, come what may. They often used what was called the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis states that, by default, there is no relationship between two phenomena being measured. So, for example, there is no relationship between educational outcomes for Native youth and current schooling practices controlled by Reserves. If the research result is "false," then a relationship has been identified, and that can be the subject of later research.
       Whether or not a null hypothesis is used, the idea of "what this proves" now looms as a hurdle in the application/approval process controlled by local Ethics Boards. Boards will ask whether there are any predictable, positive outcomes from this research and what in the results impacts the “welfare of the community”; this can be important in granting of permission. 

       Dr. Widdowson, with her partner, Albert Howard, authored the 2008 book Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry, in which, using a Marxist approach, they developed a critique of current Aboriginal leaderships and of so-called Aboriginal Knowledge. Aboriginal Knowledge is the theory, promoted by Aboriginal leaders and academics, that tribal myth is a substitute for what we commonly call science, notwithstanding that it is both oral and unproved by evidence. The book raised a lively debate that went much farther than chatter: Dr. Widdowson was the target of threats and attempts were made to ostracise her, and even to ban her from scholarship. At one point, a charge of Racism was lodged by her opponents at a university Human Rights council, with a view to having her prosecuted.
       This 2011 round-table, then, was a remarkable achievement in which Dr. Widdowson was able to get her ideological enemies to sit down before an informed, academic public and trade views and debate ideas. I conclude that she’s made progress in restoring academic freedom to her area – but, as we’ll see, a lot more needs to be done.
       One defining moment on the panel was when David Newhouse aired his thoughts on "Aboriginal Sovereignty." In decades past, he’d been a young academic at a Reserve school, teaching social sciences to youth. One day, he'd explained what national sovereignty meant in World Politics. But a student then had asked him how “the Queen got it over us.” Newhouse claimed to have had a revelation; national sovereignty was a concept coming out of the nation-state, and Natives had never had one. Therefore, he concluded, “sovereignty” could not be applied to Natives in the same way as to Whites.
         Newhouse did not focus on the fact that other groups in history had never gone through the “nation-state” phase; that modern countries were a convenience to citizens that collected people from all over the globe; and that the phrase “First Nations,” in referencing any sort of “nation,” was a political invention that did not exist when the Canadian nation-state was founded. But we in the audience had to wonder where Dr. Newhouse’s remarks on “special” sovereignty were leading.
        It quickly became clear: Native sovereignty meant that the band councils could prevent research into whatever band phenomena the councils felt was private to the band – even where the investigator was a Native him- or herself. He gave a specific example: you could not enquire into “sacred practices” in the sweat lodge, even where band members—my example— complained that such practices were illegal, coercive, or corrupt.
        This ban on enquiry meant that the Ethics Review Board got to scratch out any “inappropriate questions.” In reply, Frances Widdowson and others protested: "Why not simply tell them they don't have to answer?" But Dr. Newhouse was firm: Ethics Review tells you what you cannot ask these “sovereign” people. Here the unstated theme was how much sexual and financial abuse was being shielded by what the ERBs politely call “formal governances” (band councils) and by local intimidators.
        In a vigorous response, Rhoda Howard-Hassman related how African dictators had deployed similar notions of “sovereignty” to shield horrific crimes. They’d prevented UN researchers from enquiring into systematic rape of women in their countries, all in the name of African cultural sovereignty. How was this any different? (I thought, too, of South-Asian academics who have blocked studies of forced marriage and bride-burning in India). But Dr. Newhouse did not budge. Then, he made a remarkable confession: the only thing separating him from traditional research methods was "politics; my stance is frankly political."  It was an extraordinary opening into the evident politicization of today’s academic life.*
        In the ensuing discussion, few in the room argued that the common-sense injunctions "Be sensitive" or "Be aware of the history of colonization" were sufficient for alert researchers, who could frame their research without sounding colonial or compromising ethnic pride. And yet, the right "not to answer" could be accommodated by Consent interviews, and even further explored in other research.

       One younger participant on the panel was a PhD candidate in Aboriginal Studies. He argued pragmatically that “this is the system”:  REBs would not approve Aboriginal projects unless the results of the research could be argued to be "positive or beneficial" to the communities. In other words, you would not use the null hypothesis, or posit research that threw a negative light upon Aboriginal culture. He seemed not to want to contest this.
        I immediately thought of what I, a person educated between 1975 and 1985, would have been taught: “all verifiable knowledge is beneficial to humanity”; “all human enquiry is by definition constructive.” I also worried about what the Inquisition must have said to Galileo: “You must not suggest an idea that throws Church Authority into disrepute.” Were Natives exempted from that generalization? Once again, many academic heads in the room nodded Yes.
        I could not remain silent, so ventured a question: "How can research be bounded by the constraints of philosophical Instrumentalism? Who would decide what was beneficial and what was harmful?  How would we, for example, research diseases if their exploration became embarrassing to a community?" Heads immediately stopped wagging; did anyone in the room under 50 understand the word "instrumentalism"?
        To avoid longueurs and not to provoke, I did not mention that, in the 1980s, African- American leaders had shut down AIDS prevention programs in the ghettos because their existence stigmatised their communities as "prone to AIDS." I did not mention that Black-focused research into epidemiology of AIDS had also been curtailed (and that this community is still a locus for the disease today).
        What I did point out was that one discipline, Psychology, considered it detrimental to practice psychological avoidance, which seemed to be the strategy these scholars were proposing. That is, failing to ask difficult questions would be counted by Psychology as harmful to subjects of research or to psychological patients. But the young scholar did not budge, but said he based his remarks on "the criteria that the Review Boards have set.”
        The moderator of the panel, Dr. Brock, seemed to see my point and thanked me afterwards for asking my questions. But I took the opportunity to press another worry. I said, "The discussion does raise the issue of the commonality of human experience. Is every enquiry by an outside person by definition colonial? Is there such a thing as an ad-hominem research credential? To say this is to suggest a sort of separatism, that ethnic consciousness is immune to external groups [something the Nazis argued, but I did not add that]." In reply, Dr. Brock said that she supported the contentious hypothesis: Aboriginal experience was unique, and some of it was to be decoded only by Aboriginals and their governments; and Research Boards should adhere to that.

        In summary, the panel seemed to be a watershed. It offered candid exposure both of the power structure in ERBs and the politics and philosophy that drive them. Once again, Frances Widdowson is an academic hero. She has gone into a lions' den and had the denizens purr their hearts out without eating their prey alive.
    *and, on May 18, the WLU student newspaper The Cord quoted Dr. Newhouse to the effect that, “if there’s no restraint [on academic freedom], it’s difficult to pursue a relationship that’s dedicated to peace.”

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    CBC comes to the rescue of Osama

    Well, it had to happen. Bin Laden is dead and his supporters are licking their wounds.They'll be gathering in dark places to recover their senses and plan how to restore their hero to his accustomed place in Rebel Lore.
        Not surprisingly, this has begun on CBC radio. It only took a few days, before the CBC got around to expressing its indignation over the press that bin Laden is getting in the U.S.
        We heard it first on Radio One on its Sunday morning newscast (May 8, 8:00 am). There was a report by a CBC reporter on the various ways in which Osama's final minutes were spent. Did the head terrorist possess a gun? Did he hide behind his wife? etc.
        The reporter told us that initial versions were incorrect, and later rectified by Washington. Bin Laden had not been armed. There was confusion over this business of using a woman as a shield.
        Rather than call this "inaccuracy," or "fog of war," the CBC called it "Smearing bin Laden." The reporter's voice went angry as he spat out the word: Smear.
        So there ya are. Washington has had the gall to "smear" Osama bin Laden, and thank heavens we have the CBC to denounce it.
         One wonders what other smears the CBC has tutted in the past. For example, did they rush to fix Hitler's good name in WWII? After all, Hitler was often referred to as Schicklgruber, the name of his grandmother. The Allies, big male bullies if ever you wanted to meet some, poured ridicule on Hitler by tagging him the Schicklgruber. Had CBC-Sunday been on the job, perhaps they'd have lodged an HRC action to defend the dictator and the dignity of people with similar, or all Teutonic names.
       An even more egregious smear has been committed by Canada's friends in this war against bin Laden. Turns out that Al-Queda's honcho had been tarred with the brand of an aboriginal figure from history. That's like waving the red hankie at the CBC bull. Here's how CBC Radio's Brent Bambury covers these events:
    The code name was Geronimo.
    That's what the Navy SEALS called bin Laden in the message they sent announcing he'd been killed in action. It's been controversial in the aboriginal community. Geronimo was the first manhunt mandated by federal powers in the U.S. Unlike Osama, the great Apache chief was never captured. He surrendered to authorities.
      The U.S. has launched nearly a dozen manhunts since 1885, most of them successful. It's a risky strategic policy, because you're investing your enemy with a nearly mythic status.
       Benjamin Runkle is a former paratrooper and presidential speechwriter with a Harvard PhD. He's written a book called Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts from Geronimo to Bin Laden. He joins us from Washington.
    Superman picked the wrong week for a citizenship snit.
    First, President Obama released his birth certificate to prove his citizenship once and for all. Then the bin Laden killing unleashed a storm of patriotic celebration. But Superman is a comicbook character so he wasn't totally in tune with events as they unfolded.
       So his threat in Action Comics #900 to renounce his U.S. citizenship to avoid being used as a tool of American foreign policy feels mistimed. Certainly the right wing commentators are saying so. We'll show you why comic book fans are cool with Superman's crisis of patriotic faith.
    Ralph Nader says the American left is being left out.
    Nader can't find progressive issues on the political agenda. He says the stuff he cares about -- single payer healthcare, a living wage, fighting corporate corruption -- is nowhere to be found. And he wants those things to be in play.
       So: will he run for president?
       We decided to ask him about that and also about the letter he sent to Stephen Harper during our election campaign. He thinks we should be paying closer attention to the border security perimeter negotiations and what that could do to our sovereignty.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Somewheerre Over the Rainbow....

    Matt Galloway is at it again, back in the saddle. Matt (host of Radio-1's morning show from Toronto) sounded a bit defensive, back in March, when this blogsite started critiquing him. Now and then his voice would tremble as he picked his way through that platter of Radio-left platitudes. Was this a result of Rescumi's attentions? Scarcely imaginable! Who knows. We are here to comment and to enjoy the new freedoms of the Internet and let the world be as it may.
       Today on his post-elections show, Matt called in support for an analysis of the federal elections of May 2. Predictably, that support came from the organized Left in journalism. Or, to be more specific, from an organization called "Samara."
       Samara calls itself NGO and claims charitable status. In other words, they're funded by taxpayers, just like Matt. Yet Samara is not entirely non-partisan; it appears to be an anti-capitalist think-tank. Since its focus is on journalism, you can fairly suspect that its goal is to promote long-standing left bias in the media.
       For example, Samara recently held what it termed the "Best Moment in Canadian Democracy" contest. This is the way Samara described it on its website: "We kick-offed [sic] the new year with a contest, where we asked you to identify the best moment in our democracy last year. We whiddled down [sic] your ideas to a five [sic] that we put to a vote."
       What were these great ideas whiddled down to a five? Well, they were all about mobilizing citizens to oppose the government. Four of the five ideas opposed the Harper government, one opposed the Liberal  government (Mr. Campbell's) in BC.

       Matt's Samara honcho this day was Alison Loat. Ms Loat is described on her website as "Co-founder & Executive Director," which suggests she helped found this tax-shelter and has got herself employed as its leader.
        Matt asked Ms Loat to comment on the NDP victory in Quebec, and the arrival in Ottawa of an NDP youth brigade that is manifestly unprepared for the job (annual salary: $150,000).
       Ms Loat did sort of gloat. She brushed away Matt's nervous questions (do we need experience? competence?). It was a good day for democracy, she blared. Parliament had been in the hands of middle-aged males for far too long.
       On the question of competence, Ms Loat did not know what all the fuss was about. After all, her group had held "exit interviews" with outgoing parliamentarians. When asked what their duties were, she said, "all 65 Members gave 65 different answers." This, she concluded, meant that doing a Parliamentarian's job was anything you wanted to it to be, notwithstanding the need for an "orientation" session.
       Orientation sessions are scheduled for all new employees in professions. An orientation session aims at introducing the mechanics of the job, which may not have been learned at previous employment, or which may be different from previous experience. So, for example, a university professor will be given an orientation that describes his school's regulations; the protocols for resolving difficulties; the ways in which he has to report to authority, etc.
        Prior to Orientation Day, though, a professional will have learned the substance and expertise of his job. An electrician will have had a two-year diploma and job training; a financial advisor will have had formal education and practice.
       But here was Ms Loat, suggesting that, for the 19-year-old students and bartenders of the NDP, you could be a Lawmaker in Parliament with the help of Orientation Day.
      View Ms Loat's report on her appearance on Matt's show if you wish.
       Matt concluded with a burst of enthusiasm. All those new and fresh faces in Ottawa, he exuded. All this, with the approval of a Left-journalism think-tank. Thank heavens we have it all whiddled down at the CBC.

    A New Day Dawns for the NDP

    Hello, Ms Brosseau, all you other honorable Members from NPD-Québec, welcome!
      This is our first orientation, so please sit up straight.
      You will come to understand that you were elected as a Member of Parliament, representing several thousand or hundred-thousand people. You'll be called upon to attend Parliament now and then, of course.
       [heads nod]
       Some of you will have seen Jack Layton on TV, speaking in the House and smiling when our members thump their desks. How many have seen that, put up your hands….
       Ok! It will be necessary for you to do more than just watch when the vote happens, and thump the desk when the Party Thumper begins thumping.
        [noise in the room]
        It will be necessary for you to rise in your chair when the vote is called. How many of you have seen that? Put up your hands…
        [silence in the room]
        There’s a bit more. For example, thousands of your electors will write emails to you with details of problems they're experiencing – there are hundreds of ministries, departments, and agencies. You'll be expected to answer the emails precisely. In your case, you may have to use one of the two official languages. How many of you can write in the Other Language? Put up your hands…
        You'll be expected to know about bills, their contents and controversies. You'll be asked to join committees and attend many events, not just in Ottawa......WHERE HAS EVERYONE GONE WE'RE NOT FINISHED YET?!!!

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Recti Dissects the Canadian Elections

     A thumbnail critique of the Canadian federal election, May 2, 2011.

    LIBERAL PARTY: In the past 10 years, the Liberal Party of Canada has been reduced to its base constituency. This consisted of urban and ethnically-identified voters (Toronto, Montreal), the Quebec constituency, and parts of the Maritimes. In this election, the ruling Conservatives targeted the immigrant vote and the Quebec vote turned its back on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Mr. Ignatieff was clumsy at the outset of the campaign, but that cannot account for his historic defeat. Although it’s too early to predict the demise of the Liberal Party of Canada, it is in limbo for the next 5-7 years. Note to Liberals: do not enter any sort of “coalition.”
    BLOC QUEBECOIS: The Bloc’s vote was Identity politics personified, combined with a strategic vote for a regional party. In both those cases, this was more conceptual than real: the Bloc’s presence helped push through some measures that appeased Quebec, but, at the constituency level, Bloc members would not have translated their presence in the House into local advantages for Quebeckers. That would be reserved for ridings where Quebec Tories were elected. In this election, the phenomenon of Identity voting gave way to a more permanent thing, ideological voting: so-called “Quebec values” are social-democratic in nature. At any rate the Bloc, being nothing more than a strategic vote, is now dead because the nationalist strategy requires different tactics.
    [UPDATED May 8] It now appears that, in many ridings won by the NDP-Quebec, voter turnout fell by as much as 6%; this would point to a collapse of interest in federal politics, not a renewal. Total turnout in Quebec was 61.96% of the electorate; if you factor in the vote for other parties, NDP winners may have received between 28 and 32% of the vote in many ridings (but around 42% in the entire province). 
       With regards to the Bloc and its motivations, we have some serious questions to look at. For example, did it really want to win? Reports suggested that Duceppe was not even campaigning except in his home riding, which he lost. The frantic recruitment of Marois and the elderly, discredited Parizeau, end of campaign, cannot have been to expand the Bloc base, but only to constrict it and ultimately kill it. Can it be that the Bloquistas felt themselves played out? Were they bored with answering constituent emails in that god-forsaken town on the Ottawa River? Just happy to pick up their luxurious MP pensions and look for employment in real estate? Time will tell...
    GREEN PARTY: Ms May does not lead an actual pan-Canadian party, she heads up an amorphous trend. Her party’s identity has been blurred by sharing it with the NDPers. Ms May is more accurately labelled a Green Independent. It was therefore fitting that her movement abandon its local candidates to concentrate on getting her, and her alone, elected. Also significant is that her party’s entire vote was cut in half. Ms May is a narcissistic enthusiast; she was shut out of the federal Debates because she talks over other speakers and can’t keep her mouth shut; and, since she’s a female, no debate host was willing to silence her. Ms May’s constituents feature European roots, and are often wealthy retirees on Vancouver Island. Canadian gentry who love Dr. Suzuki hug the Island's shores and vote Green. The constituency also has Insular oddities, such as a colony of lesbians who have always inhabited that region.
    NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The NDP’s success (official opposition) is due to the collapse of the Bloc and the Liberal Party. The NDP’s breakthrough is logical but highly problematic for the NDP itself. It has swept into the House a band of nobodies from Quebec that includes ex-Communists, a beardless youth, and university students. All sorts of ridicule will follow from that, as these tadpoles get their tails snipped. The NDP’s Quebec vote is still a “protest” against English Canada, so that will have to be accounted for. But a Quebec that is a new base for the NDP has no shelf life at all.
       The NDP still has no responsibility for any sort of governance. Indeed, it has less responsibility for the grounding of its policies than it had before, since there is now a Conservative majority which does not have to govern with one eye over its shoulder. The NDP will make much noise, but it remains to be seen whether this election results in permanent progress and proximity to power.
    CONSERVATIVE PARTY: It conforms to Canada’s wishes that the new Tories will be able to rule by themselves. Mr. Harper is a relatively cautious leader, and his policies will be middle-of-the-road, to slightly right-wing. Mr. Harper will not address the claims of man-made Climate Change by funding hard scientific research. His party will not address the tectonic shift in political culture that happened under the Trudeau Liberals: the replacement of personal liberty with court-mandated rights; collectivism; state-ism, and privileges for Identity groups. He will do nothing to halt the destruction of fathers' rights; the corruption of the courts by feminist judges; and the continued soft terror of “Human Rights” councils that pander to group and individual blackmail. He will not address the anachronisms of state institutions like the CBC, which was once an instrument for national identity, and is now a make-work project for feminists, arts wannabees, and the Utopian left. Similarly, he will never face down the droning and corrupt Aboriginal elites and their autonomic supporters. In short, Mr. Harper will be another Brian Mulroney -- but without those Quebec carpetbaggers. It remains to be seen how he will balance his regional affinities and basic political sympathies, against the demands of people in the new media, who are now more influential than traditional voting groups and newspapers.
    ON BALANCE: Canada has gone back to the future; it is now more of a traditional body politic than ever. Canada now has a Christian-Democratic government*; a Social-Democratic opposition, one Green MP, and a fringe of remainders. Canada is more than ever a European country and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
    *Christian Democrats were the major force in capitalist Europe, post-World-War II. Their mildly conservative ideology combines Christian social principles and market economics. Among major countries with Christian-Democrat traditions are Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Italy.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Courting the Female Offender

    April is here, and the news is not good for men in Canada. In two recent court decisions, female law-breakers have been exonerated by the courts in two provinces. In the second case, the woman was freed after arranging for the murder of her husband.
        The facts are these. In Ontario, on April 7, a woman named Ashley Kirilow was convicted of defrauding the public by collecting donations for her phony medical treatments. Claiming to be a cancer victim, Ashley staged an elaborate, high-profile scam, where she shaved her head and eyebrows and ran charity events for herself.
       The judge at sentencing relieved her of any worry that she was going to jail. Instead, she’s going to get psychiatric counseling, take medications for anxiety (sic!) and stay in her house for 10 months. Ashley had scammed the public of at least $12,000; since most of that was cash, there really is no record of how much she stole.
        This is the way the judge expressed his enthusiasm for Ashley: The sentence, he said, “is not an instrument for the acting of public vengeance and retribution.” The emphasis is on “rehabilitation of the offender which obviously benefits both the offender and society.”
        Ashley's crime is not as minor as it sounds. Ms Kirilow was facing a maximum of 14 years in prison. But it’s now official: depressed women with low self-esteem who commit fraud do not risk jail.
        The second case is far more troubling. This is the one involving a woman in Nova Scotia, Nicole Ryan, who put out a contract on her husband. Not knowing she was negotiating with an undercover cop, she arranged to have the officer kill her husband, alleging she was terrified of him and of his ongoing abuse. That constitutes first degree murder. What made this case truly savory was that Nicole was not living with the man. She was already separated and had instituted divorce proceedings. Nicole was better educated -- an employed public school teacher -- and probably more financially secure than her husband, a retired Canadian Army man.
       Nicole’s case was heard in Superior Court by three judges, two male, one female. Here is what the spokesperson for the court said: “I must say at first blush that it is easy to empathize with the Crown’s position on this issue. It is hard to imagine that, as a teacher with a steady income, support from family and friends, presumed police protection, a divorce in the works and with the last specific threat months before the ‘crime,’ she would not have other avenues of escape.”
       However, context is critical, said Chief Justice Michael MacDonald, and the evidence, he said, showed that Ms. Ryan had good reason to believe that her husband would explode into violence at any time, killing her and their daughter.
        There was lots of testimony (from Nicole) that the man had had a violent temper and made grossly threatening gestures; we might as well believe this, but it does not affect our view of justice. There does not seem to have been any recorded attempt by him to murder either Nicole or her daughter. Therefore, the contract for a hit man, engineered by Nicole, was the only attempted murder or conspiracy to murder heard in this case.
          In the past, clear evidence of guilt meant a conviction. That meant that the law -- the most serious law in the criminal code -- was upheld. That did not mean the perpetrator necessarily went to prison: mercy could be shown in sentencing. But you would not be acquitted by courts that knew you were guilty. Forget that precedent.
            From the standpoint of the Law, this dip into Female Exceptionalism is a challenge. Merciful on the surface, the judge's actions can only encourage lawlessness, rather than supporting the resolution of conflict and the protection of the weak. In the case of murder-for-hire, husbands in shaky marriages had better arm themselves; were they to have the slightest suspicion of a wife’s intention to kill, they'd better act now. 
          Unfortunately that might include killing a wife before she legally kills you. For that’s what this decision means: if she claims she was mortally afraid of you, she will get away with murder. And so, decisions like this shake our lawful society to its foundations.
         What is happening? First and foremost, the courts are now deeply politicized and are bowing to feminism at alarming rates. We see this in Family Law, where males are so vastly disfavored that equity is a token reference, and legal marriage, a risky venture.
        But the two April cases deepen this crisis. They seem to point to a new and critical mass of prejudice against men. So it is useful to ask where this comes from. Is it just social evolution? Does it represent public thinking? Is it an appropriate response, to compensate for prior injustices to women?
        Partly, it is the latter. It is true that females, and particularly wives, have been disadvantaged in the past by a Justice that was prejudiced and blind to obvious trauma, obvious helplessness. We had that situation up to the end of the 1960s.
         But that was yesterday, and today is today. Today we have to talk about the famous pendulum: so vigorously has it swung, in the opposite direction, that today it threatens mayhem. 

    War Against the Enlightenment
    One of the facilitators of this slide, rarely discussed in print, is the soft penetration of hard-core feminist animus towards our civilization. Here, we depart from what is called “equity” feminism, the notion that women deserve an equal break in an equitable world, only to wander into Identity or “gender feminism,” the movement for Female Exceptionalism in all aspects of life.
         Academic feminists have labored for decades to harden and codify this, and to have it applied in the active world. In preparation for that, millions of young people, particularly women, were made to absorb it in their university training. The net result is a slow death of a civic tradition we've nurtured for 3,000 years. 
         Those 3,000 years culminated in the 18th century movement known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was the platform for modern Canada. It held that humans were all endowed with equal capabilities; created equal and entitled to equality under the Law. If you held all to the same standards -- for work, compensation, and civic behavior -- society could progress. 
          Also, if you held society to the same methods of discourse-- the examining of ideas and arguments, for example, before resorting to censure -- civilization would prosper. This foundational insight helped dissolve superstitions, foster science, and disinherit the power of aristocracies; it freed the slaves; and it eventually gave women an equal footing in society. 
         Indeed, this is the movement that now inspires masses of people in the Arab world.
         Oh, but really and truly, the Enlightenment does stick in the craw of gender feminism. Gender feminism is not keen for the idea of responsible individuals in a commonwealth of rights. On the contrary, feminism is a collectivist, exceptionalist, and utopian system (see this earlier blog); it dreamily posits that women “understand” the universe differently than men. Men may not even pretend they understand femalehood, a sort of hormonal cult.
          What are men to do? Simply acquiesce; they have no say in the matter. Therefore, you never hold a woman to the standards of Enlightenment justice, which was historically devised by males, not females -- in a male-dominated Europe. In the final analysis, shorn of the pitiful context, it is this contempt for Enlightenment principles that has led to the Nova Scotia decision.

    The Myth of “Female Rage”
    Gender-identity feminism is an elaborate system, lavishly subscribed by public subsidies; fawningly tolerated by academic males; ideologically self-referential; and unexamined scientifically. It has been around for about 40 years and took root in academic writings of the 1970s.
       One of the founding notions of gender feminism is the idea that violent women are not like violent men. Violent men are always wrong and evil; punish and condemn them no matter what (unless they’re gay, of course).
        Violent women can and do commit evil acts; but some of those acts are not only excusable, they are both excusable and desirable!
         This was the theme of one of the first writers of gender feminism, Teresa Bernardez-Bonesatti, who focused on one active factor in crime: Anger. Many people break the law because they are angry, and what’s our opinion of that? Are they justified? Do women get angry? Why? Is female anger different from male anger?
       We can follow that thematic in Bernardez-Bonesatti’s early article “Women and Anger,” (Sciences, Nov. 1, 1978). In the latter, she tends to excuse and even justify female anger. Women are socialized not to “upset” the household, she argues, by avoiding conflict and not being disagreeable in public. Ladies of the 1970s, and prior, did not get angry, it just wasn't womanly.
         Bernardez-Bonesatti tells us that this is not a healthy attitude; today, psychologists would agree: people should acknowledge their frustrations, rather than suppressing them. However, that’s not what this author was suggesting. Far from recommending simple “acknowledgement,” she suggested women vent their anger by being angry. This was not only proper, she said, it was therapeutic: “To legitimate angry feelings in women is a therapeutic move….Anger is the voice of [female] self-respect.” 
         Today, 40 years later, this posture is supported by psychological counsellors influenced by feminism: get angry! In fact, at certain universities, they actively counsel their female clients that way. They call it "embrace your anger by getting angry." However, they counsel even more than anger. I have witnessed cases where feminist counsellors urged their patients to file angry charges against male teachers. Not just angry charges, but false ones. And they openly justified it; they argued in public that the laying of charges, no matter how unfounded, was therapeutic to the women, even if evil and destructive to their victims.
         So: lie and press charges and get angry, it’s great for the female mood, and who cares about the consequences for men.
         Next on the scene came a new sophistication. This involved separating out “ordinary female anger,” from what was termed “female rage.” Anger was the stuff you felt every day; you more or less controlled it. But rage, oh that was a different matter. Female rage was uncontrollable, suggested the feminist psychologists.  Females who raged did so in a sort of autonomic trance.
        Rage, however, for defence lawyers, would be the ultimate blank cheque: claim you are operating in a trance and you no longer can be called to account!
        In fact, among hard-core feminists, there is no such thing as “female violence.” They outlaw the term; there is only female anger, often justified; and, at the end of the spectrum, there is female “rage,” uncontrollable and therefore not blameworthy.
         And so the picture is complete: not a single woman who “rages,” for a feminist, nor kills in rage, is guilty -- certainly not if it's against any man! No woman is ever engaged in what we uninitiated call criminal violence. Only men who kill are criminals. Here’s how today’s feminists put it (from Flemke and Allen, “Women’s Experience of Rage: A Critical Feminist Analysis,” in the Journal of Marriage and the Family – first published online, January, 2008):  

    “Once an episode of rage was triggered, many women felt at the mercy of something greater than their control…This out-of-control feeling about rage was contrasted with common experiences of anger, which was repeatedly described as a basic emotion that can be managed. More than two thirds of the sample, 26 women, differentiated rage as an internal force wanting them to attack another person:
    Annabeth: Anger is when you are mad. Rage is when you can’t control your anger and you try to hurt somebody.
    Honey: Rage is unstoppable.”
    Here, these women say they are incapable of not pulling the trigger, or drowning their kids, or strangling them, or knifing the mother of a rival cheer-leader. That’s what they say. But how will the psychologist respond? What kind of analytical approach do professionals take? On that matter, these authors are clear: they are not JUST psychologists; rather, they clearly see themselves as “feminist psychologists”; and thus do they participate in this self-referential construct of women’s minds:
    A feminist approach in social science has a decidedly emancipatory aim, designed to critique dominant discourses and ameliorate oppressive conditions, not only for women but for all who remain at risk in a society that privileges wealth and other forms of power (Allen, 2000).
        Applying a critical feminist perspective to IPV research, we deconstructed male-defined standards of violence (Renzetti, 1999). We deliberately confronted prevailing stereotypes and biases regarding women’s feelings of anger, experiences of rage, and usage of violence (McHugh et al., 2005; Richardson, 2005). We unpacked the double standard that women should not experience anger, let alone rage, nor act upon such culturally taboo nonfeminine emotions and behavior (Lamb, 1999; Ring, 1997).
         Therefore, our primary purpose in this feminist analysis was to first and foremost portray women’s dynamic understanding of their experience of rage toward their intimate partners. Our empirical goal was to capture and depict what the experience of rage is like for the participants. By using a feminist lens, we challenge and reevaluate the assumptions pertaining to women’s experiences of IPV. Having a deeper understanding of such an experience provides valuable insights for future analysis and practice.” [boldface added]

    A unionized school teacher in the Maritimes, 39 years of age, goes and hires a killer to murder her husband, gets trapped before the deed, and the law exonerates her. Court declines to recommend a legal way of ensuring her safety:  just let the crime stand. Over in Ontario, a low-life, female, pretends to have cancer, collects money, basks in publicity, and steals the proceeds. All of this is excused by the courts, and all excuse-making is in the name of women. Can anyone suggest a way to uh, arrest this development?    
                                             [Is "feminist psychology" a recognized discipline? Read this blog]

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    At the Milestone

    A few days ago we welcomed our thousandth reader; this event came just 6 weeks after Rescumi begin its life on Google. Thanks to one and all for taking the time to visit, and welcome newcomers.
        At this point, it's useful to pause, not just to salute the readers, but to develop a mission statement.
        Well, mission is perhaps grandiose. The question is, "What's this blog all about?"
        I must admit I have asked myself that same question. Or rather, I avoided confronting the question, while implicitly exploring it, by posting on a number of topics.
        Finally, it dawned on me: this Blog is about Everything and Nothing. It's about everything you wanted to talk about, but found little opportunity for. And, it's about the looming Nothing that's allowed to be said openly, or discussed candidly, in traditional media.
        For example, a certain amount of chatter is available on Sharon Pollock's Blood Relations in university papers, journals, etc. But no-one seems to have examined it through the lens I've provided in my article on Rescumi. Why? It's possible no-one ever considered the issues I've raised; but I rather doubt that. No, given how eagerly the play has been promoted, I suspect some people have worried about the kernel of it, why it gets produced, why it was even written in the first place. But to ponder those matters is to raise indelicate questions that are banned from conversation.
         Then, there's the series on the residential real-estate industry. When  I began writing it, I did whatever research I could on  the topic. Not necessarily to "understand" real-estate agents: I've had rather too much contact with those people for that to ever be a need. But simply to ask, "What's been written on the topic?"
          The answer astounded me. In professional and academic databases, in commercial magazines, newspapers, the Internet, there was not a single word. There was a bit of chatter about whether or not you needed to hire an agent, but that was sparse, and all of it was generated by agents themselves.
           Even more amazing was the bland acceptance of "house staging." When I looked, there was not a single, third-party, disinterested, and genuine examination of that very current issue. And yet, "staging" is now a vast cottage industry, one of the biggest  make-work schemes for the under- or unemployable since F.D.R. set up work camps in the Great Depression.     
          So we must tackle it, first, because it's a colossal distortion, even perversion of an essential trade; but mostly because critical examination of the topic is banned from the mainstream media.
             And so we seem to have done it, stumbled onto a mission for Rescumi -- simply by writing about what everyone else won't touch; by interrogating that which is being actively stifled. As Auntie Mame said to a horrified room of Upscale types: Someone should open the curtains in here!
        Signed, Recti

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Jobs in the Green-Tape Sector?

    You might enjoy this page, which documents the emerging "green-tape" sector, a new hive of bureaucrats that is growing under Climate Correctness laws, particularly in Europe.
    This page is from JoNova, a lively blogsite run by an Australian skeptic.

    On a Blue Moon Science will Bloom

    Rare are the days when media stars are taken by surprise. The shows are carefully scripted. This is true not only for drama and comedy, but also for the News. Although news is sent out "live" in some markets, the newsreader is always reciting a script, normally off the prompter. At the very least, the anchor is following a plan that he or she developed earlier in the day.
       So there was Peter Mansbridge of the CBC, talking about Japan and the nuclear industry. That's how he set it up: We know what's happening in Japan; but how will that crisis impact the Canadian nuclear industry? What does Japan suggest for the relationship, between nuclear power and public safety, or pollution, or ecology?
        He said he wanted answers from the CBC's science expert; so onto the set strode Bob McDonald, the lively figure who has been reporting on Science for many years at the CBC. And then Bob took Peter by surprise.
        The first thing McDonald did was reassure the viewers: Those Japanese reactors were old, due to go offline only two weeks before the catastrophe. No other plant in Japan was designed that way. There was essentially nothing to worry about. Mansbridge gaped; he seemed to want McDonald to say more.
        The next thing Bob said was that it was a testament to the good design of reactors that they'd survived the greatest earthquake in Japanese history. The troubles had been due to the tsunami, not the quake. In fact, nuclear energy had a good track record for safety, said Bob. Mansbridge gasped. You could hear him murmur: "And what about...?" 
        No, but McDonald was emphatic: there was no reason to be against nuclear power. Not only was it soundly designed and engineered, it was the safest energy on Earth. You had to look at it scientifically and count up the risks and the rewards.
        At this point, Mansbridge recovered and leaned forward. Out came some objecting noise, not articulate, just a few mutters: "Yes but of course we know that..." and, "However, when we consider, and having seen the news..."  No, said McDonald, Nuclear Power is the safest when scientifically measured; it's safer than burning fossil fuels or any other current energy; it does not contribute to global warming, etc. Mansbridge went pale; one could almost hear the rattle of his dentures.
         Peter Mansbridge is a "rock star" of the TV news. I once heard him lecture to a group of students, students of Journalism. He was onstage to talk about his career and the role of journalists in society.
         Mansbridge made it clear that journalism was exciting, not for writing the reports, but for the influence those reports might have on society. There were many nefarious schemes that Industry was up to; journalists could uncover those. There were many progressive or alternative movements around; journalists could report on those.
        Mansbridge acknowledged that he'd never been to university. In fact, our Peter really does not have an education: his Wikipedia entry says he dropped out of high school in Ottawa. Was it necessary to get an education, somebody asked. Well, replied Peter, education is great, but you really don't need it to become a journalist; experience is everything.
         Off the set went Bob McDonald to prepare his next stint at the CBC. Bob, we really wish you were in charge down there.

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Upon My Honor Killing, Sir, I Am Offended.

    Canada's Liberal Party is in panic mode this week, in reaction to Justin Trudeau's gaffe about "honor killings." In a media interview, Trudeau said he was "concerned" about a reference to "honor killings" and other foreign habits of mind, which had appeared in a Guide for the Immigrant prepared by the current Conservative government. He did not like the idea of calling female genital mutilation and honor killing "barbaric."
        The politicians went ballistic: was Mr Trudeau suggesting that when Indians or Afghans kill women for "family honor" this was not barbaric? Were they just venting some sort of ethnic tic, not to be so harshly stigmatized by us white people? Within hours of his statement, Trudeau had backed down and issued an apology for his remarks.
        Justin Trudeau is the son of ex-prime-minister Pierre Trudeau. P. E. Trudeau governed in the 1970s and 198s, but is still a hero to the left and centre-left in Canada. Correspondingly, he's a villain to the right and centre-right. Trudeau was responsible for inserting a personal-rights philosophy into Canadian law that  had not existed previously. His new Charter of Rights now supersedes the body of precedent law that is more typical of British-style democracies. On the basis of it, all sorts of good has been done, but also some questionables and some evil. For example, the unreasonable accommodation of private or group complaint has emerged as a powerful principle of law. That means that you'd better step lightly when you editorialize about a person's ethnicity and what it urges you do do.
       Justin is the son who went into politics. He was the one who delivered the eulogy at his father's funeral, a State event held in Montreal in 2000 that was attended by an old soul-mate of Trudeau's, Fidel Castro (Trudeau was not a communist, just an open sympathiser of Castro and Castro's Cuba). At this event, Justin got up and delivered a weepy, poetic, histrionic, and altogether preposterous encomium to Pierre the Father. It went beyond sobriety or sincerity, to reach the limits of grand-standing. Sure enough, it was that speech which attracted fans, and which eventually got him into politics.
        And now here he is, defending the culture of honor-killings because we don't have the right to call it "barbaric." Call it "an unfortunate choice of options," or some-such.
        The Tories have made great music over this, calling for disavowal but also trying to smear the Liberals. They've not accepted Trudeau's apology; they want the issue to stand and spread -- help them into an elusive majority government. This too is not unreasonable; in fact, public outrage over Trudeau's gaffe has been palpable, and the Tory gambit might work.
       On the other side stands the Liberal Party and the liberal establishment, especially in the press, and that's small-l liberal as well as Liberal. In Ottawa, a Liberal media writer satirized the Tory attitude and tried to convey its dishonest flavor:

    How utterly typical. You don't love Canada. You don't support the troops. You sympathize with terrorists. You don't care about victims of crime. For the [Conservative] prime minister ... there is no such thing as honest and honourable disagreement...[E]nemies must be defeated by any means necessary.

    Unhappily, both sides are missing the point. The Liberals do not appreciate how corrupt and deeply decadent Mr Trudeau's views are -- and yes, we're talking about his views, not just his "vocabulary." The Conservatives have attacked the statement and the man, period. What they haven't queried are the Why's and Wherefores. What led Mr. Trudeau to say what he said? After all, he seems to be a nice, well-read citizen. Is it true that he doesn't consider it "barbaric" to kill your sister for going out with  the wrong sort of boyfriend?
       In fact, were Conservatives to plumb this issue, they'd find it much deeper, much darker than perhaps even they care to admit. Mr. Trudeau's gaffe was a culturally programmed response from his own culture; it wasn't from some disorganized heap of verbal errors, as he claims.
        Mr. Trudeau was educated at a university English department and then went on to do studies at a Faculty of Education. That's his culture, not the ambient values of general society.  His education is what he knows and thinks, and his education is what he was expressing that day. His university training is the prompt for his words.
       The education Mr. Trudeau received (and swallowed) suggests that there's no such thing as higher, more civilized cultures, and cultures that are less civilized, even unto being barbaric. Everything is "relative." The ways of a woman-beating Afghan must be "understood," not condemned. It's imperialistic to suggest otherwise.
        Why, not even a feminist is supposed to disagree with that. A Western feminist who condemns a third-world practice might be accused of Western thinking and imposing her thoughts upon an alien group: bad form. Skeptics of this approach call it moral relativism and condemn it appropriately.
         It's also part of what's called "progressive" or "feminist" epistemology. Literally, that means "there's a progressive (gender-defined) way of knowing the world," and an un-progressive way, two competing truths; therefore there is no consensus on any matter; therefore there is no consensus for civic or moral value.
         One feminist I knew related the story of a thesis defense at a Canadian university. This was the late 1980s-1990s, when feminism in the Academy was hardening its epistemology; minting new degrees; and inventing new disciplines. The thesis being defended, for a Ph. D. degree, was about women on the Indian sub-continent. It explored the ways in which females in that Asian country coped with male chauvinism; more significantly for us, the thesis author was rationalising that society in ways that justified it to Western observers.
          Her committee was composed of an Indian professor of gender studies  -- the candidate's mentor -- and two other faculty, including a woman from outside gender studies.
         The latter took the mike to ask her question: The analysis was interesting, she said. But was the candidate taking into consideration such things as dowry burnings and honor killings?
         Instantly, the Indian professor was on his feet: How dare you, a White woman, raise that question! You have no right -- you are part of an oppressor/alien culture. It is your duty to listen and learn.
         Privately, I heard this story with deepening horror. Could we possibly be granting degrees to such people? could they possibly be sheltered from scrutiny by the bully rant of a South-Asian? And this committee member: could her questions be so egregiously silenced?
         I looked at my feminist friend; she was smiling at the memory of this event.
      Justin's gaffe was not a gaffe, it was a reflex sprung from the strands of feminism he must have had scrawled on his grey matter. The gaffe explains the man, because that's who he is: a re-genderized, cultural relativist who can never understand why Canada is a civilization, not a base camp for immigrants.
          As for the Conservatives, one wishes for more penetration, more depth. Get beyond the jostle for power. Understand that philosophical toxins stick around. Notwithstanding that campuses are autonomous-- as they must be! -- the Tories need to be alert as to what a faculty of Education actually turns out.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    A wicked observation...

    This earthquake news is nothing but a Japanese horror flick being remade for CNN.
    I'm waiting to see Godzilla, who will have to be coaxed out of retirement. Was this done by Toho Films?
    A sample scene here.

    Advocacy Radio Tackles Cancer

    Yes, I know, we're always on Matt Galloway, that CBC radio host who warbles his way into our mornings. He does get picked on in this space -- the poor soul! At this point, I suspect some are worried this blog is biased and Matt is a victim. They should not be. Matt's got a billion-dollar public utility on his side, CBC. Not only that, he's welcome to post rebuttals in our Commentary section, or rebut us on air. We're ready for our closeup, Mr DeMille!
        What's it all about this morning, eh? Cancer funding.
        This morning, Matt had a guest on, a lady, of course. Said lady was fighting breast cancer. She had discovered a fairly small tumor and wanted it treated with a very expensive new drug. Treatment would cost $50,000, she said. The province said No, that's new, that's too costly, and the cancer is too small (therefore it's early enough to treat it conventionally).
            After all, this is a public health-care system subsidized by Ontario taxpayers. It's not Free Unlimited Care-on-Demand; it's a rationed system. Based on triage, it can't afford to treat everyone with all the latest drugs.
         On the radio, the lady was indignant-- also, articulate, highly educated, very upper class. Matt wished her well in her just cause; in reply, she said she "owed it to my family to keep struggling" for her $50,000 health subsidy. Perhaps she thought this sounded self-sacrificing.
        Not that cruelty is in order here; despite the irony in my last paragraph, I heartily sympathise, and understand her frustration. I understand her fear, and wish her speedy good health. Having lost some of my dearest friends to breast cancer, I could not be indifferent.
         But, in media as in life there is a thing called context. No phenomenon can be understood without knowing its context. 
         Guess what: other people have cancer too. We have to ask: Who is entitled to exactly what in Ontario Health Care? Also, from the medical standpoint, Why? Where does the needed care get defined?
         Women suffer the trauma of breast cancer; but there are other malignancies about, deadly ones. Also, there are cancers that, like breast cancer, are sex-specific and deadly. In men, there is prostate cancer. These cancers are subject to standard triage, the sorting out of early, medium, and emergency cases.
         Did Matt point this out? Did he frame his interview with that reality? After all, a show about breast cancer is not a show about learning the clarinet in retirement. Covering the topic on radio implies covering it as a responsible journalist.
         To be fair, Matt did add a few words of balance. He did suggest to his guest that "lots of people request new and costly treatments and the system can't subsidize them all." This was good, but it was an after-thought. It was loaded into a tiny, late-coming single sentence! In no way did it frame the discussion.
         In other words, the show was much closer to advocacy than it was to responsible journalism. 
         Here's the essential question that Matt did NOT ask: To what extent is your health statistically compromised by using existing treatments?
         Or: In terms of risk, does your early tumor require this new treatment for you to survive?
         Or: Given the population of cancer patients and their risks, is it justified to guarantee your survival while we correspondingly risk other deaths?
         These are the hard questions we needed to hear, questions we will never get from the Women's Advocacy Radio.
         One other thing we needed was the voice of scientific authority, an actual, live doctor or researcher. Did Matt try to contact one? Was no-one at the Ministry available? Could he not have phoned someone, talked to them, and just sort of...taken notes?
         And was I the only one in his audience interested in their answers? Or is his listenership composed exclusively of women who all want the system to fund blanket coverage of every breast-cancer treatment under the sun.
           Possibly, it is. Don't blame 'em for that, it's only natural. But this channel is Public Radio, not Women's Advocacy.
           Arriving in Ontario several months ago, I checked into a "family practice" of medicine. The first thing I told my new doctor (actually, an intern; I will never be allowed to see a practicing doctor) was this: I am required to have a colonoscopy every 5 years. My time is nigh.
          Oh, she said, We don't do that in Ontario; we give you a blood test. Seeing my shock, she recovered and said, Oh, but if you begin to have symptoms, serious cancer symptoms, then we'd order the colonoscopy and it would be covered.
           Breast-cancer research is funded so well in North America that the US coalition dedicated to it now boasts of eradicating the disease. In fact, it has set a deadline for total eradication: 2020. Now, that's confidence! We do wish them well. However, by contrast, prostate cancer, killer of millions of men, is under-funded. Men do not whine about their health; men do not clamor for $50,000 special treatments, and men certainly don't have the CBC in their corner.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Advocacy Radio Cranks Up

    Thirty-six hours after the Japanese earthquake-tsunami disaster, CBC One (a.k.a. Radio FemIntern) had already attacked the nuclear industry. The program was Sunday Morning, normally hosted by Michael Enright, a credentialed voice of the Canadian left. Initial reference was to the ongoing drama in Japan, with two or three reactors shut down. Radioactive vapor had escaped into the atmosphere and the potential for core meltdown was not yet excluded.
       The program dealt with the industry in Japan, focusing on alleged lax safety and poor design. But the show-host quickly glid and slid: from particularities of Japan to a blanket questioning of the world-wide nuclear industry, including Canada.
       It was clear that the host was against nuclear energy. Not only that, he thought the crisis was a great opportunity to re-examine the licencing of, and support for, nuclear power. I listened carefully, and was confused: this did not sound like Michael Enright. I had turned on the radio late; so, when the broadcast was over, I checked, and discovered the show's host was a man named Robert Harris.
       So it isn't Michael's performance we're appalled by today, it's Robert Harris's.
       Let's first note the cynicism of this report, which seized upon a natural disaster to attack an energy policy...virtually one day from the ongoing event. Yes, there are all sorts of issues we need to examine; however, rushing these issues onto the front page is both hasty and suspect. The timing is not innocent and timing of media coverage is not inconsequential. The entire nuclear sector in the US, for example, was shut down for a decade after the Pennsylvania incident. This was not due to safety concerns; it was a  result of bad press and public nervousness, period.
       This sort of political mash-up is predictable on the CBC, and no, we're not talking about the smashing of houses in Japan, but of the use of Japan to batter the nuclear option.  Here's the quote from Sunday Morning's promotional website:
    "The thing that a lot of people cannot comprehend is that Mother Nature doesn't have a bullet with your name on it, she has millions of bullets inscribed with 'to whom it may concern'"...

    ...which says a lot about panic radio, but little about the substance of this story.
       This jump to influence public opinion might be questioned by listeners. After all,  the CBC is not a private concern; it is OWNED by the taxpayers, and, in terms of its radio outlets, entirely financed by us, with zero revenue from advertising.
       So we can question this instant amalgam between Japan and Canadian policy, and worry about media timing. However, this was only a part of the story. The most curious thing was the reporting style of the show host.
        Mr. Harris had two expert witnesses to interview. One was a legitimate expert, a man from the nuclear policy intelligentsia. The other was a man from an environmental lobby, traditional foe of industries such as nuclear. Mr. Harris fired questions at both men.
       The questions were sharp-edged and dealt with the consequences of employing nuclear energy in the first place. They did not ask the one question that a serious reporter should ask: What are the real risks and real benefits of using this technology? What are the risks in Japan, as opposed to those in other countries? Rather than examine that, the discussion focused on whether this event shouldn't instantly harden our minds against the nuclear.
        Now and then, the nuclear expert sensed this lack of probity. He was the only speaker who had dealt with true risk and reasonable benefit. However, sniffing the desires of CBC Radio, he quickly slid to Mr. Harris's bias; after proper, scientific caution, he appended a disavowal of the nuclear option -- onto the same sentence.
        Perhaps the most assertive part of Mr. Harris's performance was his questioning technique. It was suggestive, aggressive, and adversarial. This was especially true of his approach to the nuclear expert, who, it must be said, was neither politician nor lobbyist.
       Questioning this putative "adversary," Harris pressed his own bias relentlessly. Getting the expert to admit "possibilities" of risk led Harris to demand more than that, certainties. And so, he sounded like a prosecuting attorney: Didn't this [assertion] mean that....? Yes, but, why couldn't we say that.....? Sure, but, wasn't it true that...?
        CBC militates on, while Japan burns.
        There are some questions surrounding nuclear power and safety. However, in the mind of  this observer, they are complex, not straightforward, as Mr. Harris was suggesting. Yes, placing reactor plants on the Japanese islands is dubious, perhaps reckless. But what about Canada? The country is the most unshakable mass of rock on the entire planet. Furthermore, the damaged reactors beautifully survived this magnitude 9.0 quake! It  was the tsunami that caused the power outages.
       So: how many Canadian reactors are vulnerable to a tsunami? I can't think of one.

       In France, power is delivered largely from nuclear plants. In that country, the earthquake risk is low outside the Mediterranean provinces. Yet France is attached to Italy, where earthquakes are a common risk. Should the French dismantle their power plants? The French have made a reasonable reply: No.
        The Pennsylvania incident resulted in Bad Press. Bad Press became a driver of policy. But bad press can also be poor science and terrible politics. How unfortunate it is, to see the CBC contribute to this narcissistic exercise.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Prostitution: a Liberal-Feminist Outreach

    This June, the government of Canada will attempt to restore reason and responsibility to the control of  prostitution in the country. The government will be in court to respond to Susan Himel, an Ontario judge who, in 2010, attempted to legalize all forms of, and venues for, prostitution.
       Judge Himel's decision had struck down the laws that punish pimping, keeping a brothel, and communicating for the purposes of prostitution -- all laws against the sex trade. There is no law in Canada that penalizes the actual performance of a sexual act for money; the law merely makes it harder to do that.
        In her judgment, Judge Himel had maintained that laws set up to protect prostitutes actually endangered them -- by forcing them to engage in furtive transactions conducted in shady locations. In other words, legislating against pimps and bawdy houses made it more desirable for prostitutes to walk the streets and ply the highways -- so it followed that we should just let the pimps and gals do their stuff indoors and out.
       The response by Justice officials -- an attempt to restore the existing laws -- has been met with outrage, especially in liberal media. A pro-prostitute lobby has sprung up, complete with dominatrix figureheads and leaders from feminist factions. They want Susan Himel's ruling to stand, and they want to abolish all sanctions against prostitution. 
       I agree with the government's response to Himel. First, I'm not interested in condoning or fostering the sex trade. It is in every respect a stain on society. It degrades the prostitute and the client, and surrounds itself with other forms of vice. We've known this for about 100,000 years, and that wisdom is not to be cast aside by Judge Himel.
        Second, I'm not shocked at the knowledge that there are risks in the sex trade. It's still an activity curbed by law, and shunned by decent folks. Any illicit commerce is by definition more dangerous to the trader than a clean business would be. This not a mystery to prostitutes, it's patently obvious. Most such women (and men) choose prostitution, they're not forced into it. They inherit the trade from their addicted mothers, or learn the habit from role models, particularly among aboriginals. When a vice is thus passed on, the knowledge of its risks is also passed on.
        According to newspapers (I can't locate a press release), here is the Justice Department's position: "Prostitutes voluntarily enter a world known for violence, drugs and death. The State does not owe prostitutes a promise of safety if they choose a profession that is fraught with danger... It is the practice of prostitution in any venue, exaggerated by efforts to avoid the law, that is the source of the risk to prostitutes.”    The brief suggests that Himel was wrong to rule that prostitution is a career entitlement, and goes on to say that Parliament “is not obliged to minimize hindrances and maximize safety for those [whose work is] contrary to the law.”

    To be clear, I do think prostitutes deserve equality before the law. Despite the fact that they are self-degraders; despite their willing engagement in risk; they should be equally protected by our law enforcement; when a crime is committed against them, that crime must be prosecuted vigorously.
         However, the prostitute lobby seeks more than equality: it demands workplace protection, blanket protection of the prostitute corps wherever it is, as if sex-traders were women working in a factory. Cops would then be patrolling under bridges -- benignly -- and cities would have brothels intermingled with Toys R Us. This is wrong, arrogant, and preposterous.
    Who, then, is lobbying for legalized and open prostitution in Canada? Chiefly it is organized prostitution, a portion of the feminists, and liberally minded people who are sympathetic to poor aboriginals. The liberals are mobilized when they get news of crimes against prostitutes. It is hard not to be moved by such stories, especially that of the Picton outrage in British Columbia. I share the emotion. However, I'm not about to throw social values (to say nothing of reason) out the window simply because one criminal has pounced on his grisly opportunities. And that is the unvarnished case: most prostitute victims are victims of an environment of crime they've chosen to live in.

    Radical feminists tend to dislike prostitution, as this site demonstrates, although it's true that feminism denigrates ALL heterosexual sex, therefore, prostitute sex. Feminists will vilify the clients, while they absolve the prostitute of responsibility. However, feminism is a concatenation of enthusiastic sentiments, not a coherent ideology, so you never know what sexual politicians will say.
         But there is a body of people who are happy for a world full of prostitutes. They tend to be liberals and liberal-feminists. They imagine a world where Joe the Coal Miner and James the Barrel-maker trawl the streets of London to quench their burning desires; for these men (yes, they did exist in 1825), poor females are a swarm, an army of starving wretches newly drawn from outlying villages. No woman will get hired into any respectable employment. Remember, we are in the Industrial Revolution; Charles Dickens is beginning to write.
        For Joe and James, the closest thing to sex they encounter is the racy postcard they saw in a shop, the one from Paris. And that's why social reformers all agree that "prostitutes can help develop sexual hygiene in the frustrated masses," as a character from George Bernard Shaw or a pamphlet from the era might put it.
       Our liberals and lib-feminists are a projection of this 19th-century construct. They see themselves as sexual emancipators, just like the streetwalker herself. The hooker icon is a good-hearted therapist of the orgasm; perhaps, at night, she reads Susan Faludi to improve herself; the only distinction between the whore and the feminist soul-sister is that the former is into erotics: she gives blow jobs to teenagers for reduced rates.
       This body of people has never actually met a prostitute. But pay that no mind -- it's the prostitute's aura that dictates attitude. So, in today's liberal concoction, the prostitute is liberator, dominatrix (among males!), foxy outlaw; vanguard of the libido; anointed Whore.
          Here's a description of a house that is located in my neighborhood in southwestern Ontario. The occupants here described were on the premises until the neighborhood had them all evicted:

    In good weather, johns arrived at noon, fresh from work at the local factory; or, they arrived after work when neighborhood kids were around. They parked up and down the street illegally. The johns purchased sex, but also drugs of every type. They smoked marijuana and drank beer on the sidewalks.
       As the johns had their indoor communion, associated whores cruised the walk; these women  lived four doors away but were controlled by a pimp stationed at the house near mine. The pimp handled streetwalkers on the lawn using a cell phone. Clients pulled in and out of the property; we had the impression of sex happening in the cars.
        Sometimes, there were disputes. The street women fought with each other, shrieking curses, and particularly went after Larna, the gal who actually lived next door. Larna was the pimp's favorite, so the streetwalkers were rivals, working their way up. Some day, one of them would be the new Larna.
       When johns had finished their business, they peeled off in the cars, or were invited back onto the lawn -- especially if they knew someone at the house. There, they could join the block party.
        The party began at 10 am and often lasted until 9:30 pm. It  had to end at 11:00, because that's when the noise bylaw was enforceable. Men and women drank and danced and shouted obscenities, often for 10 hours a day. Women were groped. The noise could be heard in a radius of about 100 m, over three different streets, an uninterrupted screech.
        One hot evening two police cars came racing down the street and took up positions, one pulling onto the lawn, the other blocking traffic. The cops drew their guns; a man with a dirty ponytail was seen exiting the house; the cops took him down with the whole street watching.
       On another night, police and social workers arrived in a convoy. Once again, guns were drawn; we quickly discovered that a woman inside the house had been raped. Out she came, with her panties still in disorder, and she raced down the street to the address four doors away; it was learned later that she refused to testify. Nevertheless, there was an aggressor, and he had to be booked; he was carted away in handcuffs.
        Finally, the social worker emerged from her car, impeccably dressed -- a peach suit, matching gloves and shoes. She gathered up documents and made her way into the house. An hour later, she emerged with three very young, aboriginal children on her arm.
        We had all lived on the street for awhile; however, we knew nothing of the children. Soon, their story did the circuit: they belonged to one of the streetwalkers. One of them, about 6, was afflicted: fetal alcohol syndrome; I had seen him, now and then on the lawn, since the mother -- strangely -- allowed him, but only him, to emerge. He had no control over balance, could barely stand on his feet.  The other two were a mystery; it seems, though, that they had been hidden in the basement by their prostitute mother.