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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.