The Netherlands shows us how it’s done

In Canada’s last election, a voter turnout of 68% was considered astonishing. Then the Netherlands has their election and cranks out a whopping 81%.

There were some murmurings worried about Geert Wilders’ potential success, but it looks like the impending government will be a centrist (relative to Dutch politics) coalition.

I don’t know much else other than, “the Dutch fascists lost.” So hurray! Plus there’s this… delightful interview from an exit poll:

If other parties would offer, for example, an approach against groups of youths showing disrespectful behaviour, they could lure away a lot of PVV voters. It’s not that hard: more money for 24/7 police surveillance and social work, for example. People need anything that shows that the government cares.

Try not to have existential crises every time you glimpse into the mind of an authoritarian.

-Shiv

 

 

Trans 101: Put Down the Map

One common theme you’ll see throughout the work of some trans feminists is a distinct reluctance or distaste for ever broaching the topic of “Trans 101.” Asher explicitly says as much in his “Not Your Mom’s Trans 101” (which is officially recommended by me) when he says “Trying to teach a new perspective to the victims of this extremely aggressive brainwashing can be daunting.” Cristan Williams, whose work is exemplary within The Discourse, makes no explicit sentiment in this vein–but her Trans 101 is also enormous, and the lack of brevity is itself a message that we resist quick and easy reductions.

This is in my estimate because “trans” isn’t a 100-level topic. Embedded in the culture in which we live are many assumptions which often muddy The Discourse, rendering productive conversation impossible, causing countless instances of two people talking past each other. This does not mean that my attempt will be overly complex, but it’s probably not something that could be captured in a Twitter hashtag.

To bring us to the task at hand, we must first acknowledge a few guiding principles:

[Read more…]

“It’s intolerant,” whines Catholic school board of their critics

And you know what? They’re damn right. I am intolerant of bronze age morality that teaches you it is okay to psychologically torture somebody because of who they are. What now? You were expecting me to deny it? No. Catholics: Eat a shit sandwich and get the fuck out of public school.

Last August, Wells and Public Interest Alberta issued a “report card” analyzing how well four of those policies complied with laws passed in 2015. They concluded Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools’ policy failed to protect students, and gave Grande Prairie Catholic Schools’ policy a D grade. The school districts refuted Wells’ findings.

Last September, the superintendents of both school districts, the then-president of the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta and the president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association wrote letters to Turpin and university chancellor Douglas Stollery calling Wells’ statements “inaccurate and intolerant.”

They took issue with Wells’ comments that teaching students chastity is “embarrassing and inappropriate in 2016.”

“Is Dr. Wells lecturing his U of A education students to promote their grade school students being sexually active?” state letters from both the Grande Prairie Catholic school board and the Catholic superintendents’ group.

YES. YOU FUCKING IDIOT. IT’S CALLED “SEX EDUCATION.”

-Shiv

It’s my blagaversary

Happy blagaversary everyone. It’s officially been one year since I started on FtB. In that time we’ve fact-checked an irritatingly popular documentary, picked rhetorical fights with clueless media pundits, rebutted a histrionic U of T professor (several times), reviewed some really bizarre political theatre in Alberta, blasted shitty journalists, skewered Canadian Blood Services enough that they flew me in to consult on their LGBTQ donor policy, and got published in a genn-yoo-ine paper.

Here’s the good news: I still love doing this, and I still have a lot of will to continue the long-form fact checking, debunking, and essay writing.

Here’s the bad news: This shit takes time, and I need to make a living. To that end, I want to ask two things of readers who think they’d like to support me.

  • Support The Establishment. They have smaller donation options as well as a store from which to buy swag! Although several publications have given me tentative acceptance for long-form work that I’ve taken to them, only The Establishment offered any kind of compensation. I’m not doing this shit for free, yo. (cough cough Huffington Post)
  • Consider supporting me through Patreon. To be confirmed soon–I had hoped to navigate the financial bureaucracy before March 14th, but alas, bureaucracy takes its sweet time. Look out for my Patreon announcement and consider chipping in as little as $3 USD/month to help make my Serious Business writing a reality.

At any rate, thank you all for your participation and support. I look forward to doing it again another year!

Cheers.

-Shiv

 

Sadistic Catch-22s

The legalities of gender variance in its most benign form can be a matter of tedium. This is what I have to cope with–an initial not insubstantial cost to request my first legal change to my name, and from there, just a long series of much smaller requests with much smaller fees. For the most part, my difficulty is discovering the sheer number of databases in which I exist–and in which I must request changes.

Compare that to this trans teacher in Wisconsin. State employees recently had a policy change instituted seemingly without warning on gender designation changes, and now it has suddenly erected onerous bureaucratic barriers that needlessly involve courts and doctors. Perhaps the most insidious requirement is “proof” of gender change–in this case, surgery.

Remember that the Affordable Care Act prevented discrimination from insurers against trans people, and that the provision was removed by a Trump order. Having had no direction to include trans people within their coverage, the State of Wisconsins’s health insurer reinstated the ban on transition-related surgeries. Now trans people have to pay between $15,000-$25,000 out of pocket to get bottom surgery, assuming they even want it in the first place (which most don’t).

On top of that, after yanking out coverage for surgery, Wisconsin is now implementing a requirement for the surgery they just denied coverage to in order to change your documents. Talk about sadistic!

Before I get to discussing the additional demands ETF is making, let me point out a very broad problem, and that is the idea that agents of the state can change one’s legal status retroactively at any time. Imagine, for example, if the state decided that it wished to make it harder for people to get married, and so it imposed a new requirement–that in order to have a marriage recognized, residents would have to provide DNA evidence proving they and their spouse are not related (an expensive prospect). Then imagine that all married state employees were informed that their status had been reverted to single in employment databases and systems, because they had not complied with the DNA test requirement when documenting their marriages. That’s not the way regulatory changes, mundane or shocking, operate–they are applied going forward, but not retroactively.

Now, as for the new procedures for gender transitioning, there are three requirements listed by ETF. The first is that the employee must notify ETF directly, providing their old and new names, old and new gender markers, ETF ID number, and a declaration that they are gender transitioning. Previously, employees notified HR at their place of employment, and employer HR staff changed the gender marker directly in the benefits system. But now ETF will centralize control over implementing transitions, and maintain a database of gender transitioners. In essence, we are being required to register with the state. As a Jewish person who lost extended family in the Holocaust, I find this extremely creepy.

The second thing trans people are required to do is provide “proof of identity,” such as a driver’s license or military ID showing the new name and gender marker. That’s what we had to do in the past, and my wife and I can easily produce our Wisconsin driver’s licenses showing our names and most correct binary gender markers. But now ETF is demanding more.

We are now being required to produce a third item, “proof of gender.” This is very strange, because a driver’s license already provides state-recognized proof of one’s gender. Requiring more serves no purpose other than to make it harder for people to get their identified genders recognized. And the new “proof of gender” items are difficult and intrusive items to get.

Let’s look at the options. One is a court order of gender change. To get one of these is difficult, expensive, and in many states, like Wisconsin, requires a doctor to testify that one has had surgical sex reassignment. Now, some people cannot have such surgery for medical reasons. Others do not want it–they desire social recognition of their identified genders, not a program of body modifications. And nonbinary gender transitioners often find they are denied access to surgeries. But let me underline that in any case, the very surgeries that ETF is making necessary in order to have one’s transition recognized it has also categorically excluded from insurance coverage. My wife and I have been waiting for years to access some surgical interventions that would make our lives easier on many levels, one of which is being able to access things like a court order of gender change. But we can’t afford them without insurance coverage. It’s a Catch-22, and seems deliberately cruel.

All of this contributes to a very roundabout “unpersonhood” of trans people. The retroactive editing of legitimately modified documents is un-fucking-believable and nothing less than a directed attack against us.

-Shiv

How to write about lies

Judith Donath has some sage advice about how to write and debunk falsehoods. She notes on the tendency for falsehoods to be believed if they are repeated often enough, something which short-circuits the more cautious and structured thinking of explicit rationalism. In attempting to debunk something, one must avoid this by first stating the truth, then stating the lie, then stating the truth again. Instead, most outlets put the lie in their headline, the lie at the start of the article, and a video (if spoken) repeating the lie a third time, long before the author gets around to fact checking.

But there is one big drawback to fact-checking and lie-correcting. The more often a lie is repeated, even in the context of debunking it, the more believable it becomes.Familiarity provides the impression of truth. Furthermore, false statements, even when we know they are false, influence our emotional response to people and events.

So, we need to be judicious in our zeal to correct.

One simple and effective, yet often overlooked, action is to be smarter about how we present corrections.

· State the truth in the headline (or tweet), rather than repeating the falsehood.

· Use vivid graphics that depict reality

· If the key point is that someone is lying — say that. Then state the truth. Don’t restate the lie in the headline.

This advice is not only for journalists, but for all of us who post stories on Twitter, Facebook etc. Multiple exposures to an “alternative fact” gives it credence. Remember to make the truth, not the falsehood, the most vivid take-away.

Let’s look at an example.

Read more here. I will certainly be following this advice.

-Shiv

“Cut the wage of public workers” crowd strangely silent after NDP’s executive pay cut

The Progressive Conservatives would have you believe that Alberta’s budget is going to turn into a Greece situation tomorrow. Often they have union busted, or at least union bruised, in the public sector, calling for hiring and wage freezes for front-line workers. But it’s not the nurse working 14 hour shifts who is bringing home the big bucks, and freezing those wages often nets the province a meagre amount compared to the budget. If the current government did that now, they’d net about $8 million.

So at first I was surprised to hear that the New Democratic Party has announced cuts themselves. But this time it came with a twist: They were targeting the executives.

Now here’s the really weird part–despite finding almost twice as much room in the budget as a result of these cuts ($16 million)–the “slash, cut and burn” crowd are nowhere to be seen.

You’d think this would have pleased the opposition. After all, just three weeks ago they were screaming that the NDP Government of Premier Rachel Notley must freeze the pay of front-line nurses, health care workers, teachers and civil servants who will be negotiating new collective agreements this year.

Back then, in an official statement, the Wildrose Party called a mediator’s recommendation of raises ranging for 29 cents to 88 cents an hour for 14,000 health care aides and licensed practical nurses represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees “a slap in the face to struggling Albertans.”

Some of those health care workers are currently being paid less than $20 an hour. Freezing their salaries for 2016 as the Wildrosers demanded would have saved the provincial treasury about $8 million.

By contrast, on Friday, the cuts made to the sometimes outrageous pay and perks of only about 270 ABC Sector executives – a hangover from the days when the ABCs served in part as a lush pasture for old Tory warhorses – will save taxpayers roughly double that.

Now, it would be entirely consistent for the Opposition to say, “good step, but not far enough.” Or even, “it was about time they stopped the gravy train!” Instead? Pretty much crickets.

There was nary a quote from the PCs (who are responsible for most of the executive pay rates to which Mr. Ceci took his axe), the Wildrosers (who are after all the Official Opposition) or the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (Canada’s self-described and routinely quoted tax watchdog) in any mainstream media report I noticed.

At any rate, tonight’s beer is dedicated to the NDP. Thanks for cutting the absurd salaries of the schleps who can afford it for once.

-Shiv

 

Conservative Senator wants you to find the silver lining of genocide

I’m not joking.

Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak mounted a defence of the residential school system for Aboriginal children in the Red Chamber Tuesday, lamenting that the “good deeds” accomplished by “well-intentioned” religious teachers have been overshadowed by negative reports documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Let us consult the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: (emphasis mine)

“[Residential school] was a very harsh environment. They, they treated us like criminals.… You, you had to, it’s like a prison. But we were small kids, and we didn’t understand. We didn’t understand harsh discipline. We, we understood love from our, our parents. But the harsh discipline was hard to take, and that happened to everybody, not only me.”

Children exposed to strict and regimented discipline in the schools sometimes found it difficult to become loving parents. Genine Paul-Dimitracopoulos’s mother was placed in the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia at a very early age. Paul-Dimitracopoulos told the Commission that knowing this, and what the school was like, helped her understand “how we grew up because my mom never really showed us love when we were kids coming up. She, when I was hurt or cried, she was never there to console you or to hug you. If I hurt myself she would never give me a hug and tell me it would be okay. I didn’t understand why.”4 Alma Scott of Winnipeg told the Commission that as “a direct result of those residential schools because I was a dysfunctional mother.… I spent over twenty years of my life stuck in a bottle in an addiction where I didn’t want to feel any emotions so I numbed out with drugs and with alcohol…. That’s how I raised my children, that’s what my children saw, and that’s what I saw.

Residential schools, as acknowledged by the prime minister’s own admission in his 2008 official apology from Canada, were an attack on Aboriginal children and families. They were based on racist attitudes that considered Aboriginal families as being frequently unfit to care for their children. By removing children from their communities and by subjecting them to strict discipline, religious indoctrination, and a regimented life more akin to life in a prison than a family, residential schools often harmed the subsequent ability of the students to be caring parents.

Your conservative “family values,” everyone.

*spit*

-Shiv

 

Meet the new Bishop

Same as the old Bishop.

“(Bishop Fred Henry) was a very bold bishop in terms of his statements. I’m sure that he has created controversy. I don’t think it’s for that purpose. I think he wants to be provocative, he wants to sort of allow people to understand the truth that might be at stake in some of these social issues,” said William McGrattan, 60.

Coming from Peterborough, McGrattan will be installed as Calgary’s eighth bishop at a mass Monday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, attended by 30 Canadian bishops, local priests and an expected crowd of about 1,000. He is taking the helm of a diocese that covers 79 parishes and missions, 317 Catholic schools and more than 400,000 parishioners who have been guided by the same faith leader for almost two decades.

Bishop Henry was a polarizing figure. Lauded for his work with the poor and on climate change, his conservative positions on same-sex marriage and gender identity were often at odds with those outside, and sometimes inside, the church. He spoke against students receiving the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, encouraged the Catholic School District to abandon casinos as fundraisers and closed three aging churches in Lethbridge in favour of a 1,200-seat mega-church. 

Right, so the Catholic church’s previous representative in Calgary was a science denialist piece of shit who openly flouted Alberta’s human rights laws for the entirety of his tenure. And, as we’ve previously discussed, the current government has the unenviable position of discovering the extent of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Catholic church in this province and now has to deal with the prospect of reining them in or joining the Progressive Conservative’s legacy of tolerating the abuses.

None of this is surprising, particularly to Queer Catholic and ex-Catholic Albertans. So meet the new boss, same as the old boss:

“With regard to gay-straight alliance, even that very terminology creates a sense of what I would say not an agenda but is promoting a certain lifestyle. In Ontario, we call that respecting differences so that we allow young people to know there are differences and that we need to respect those without labelling them with those particular terms.”

Perhaps the most controversial issue in Alberta schools of late is the NDP government’s new guidelines to protect the rights of gay and transgender students and teachers.

Although new to the province, McGrattan did not sidestep the issue.

“I have found them to be a little more strident, a little more directive in terms of how they’re trying to promote this particular theory. And I refer back to that terminology. It is gender theory, it’s not truth and therefore I think we begin to organize our society and establish relationships based on a theory.”

“It’s not truth”?

And it makes you hope they’ll think the same thing about gravity, because then maybe they’ll just… float the fuck away.

–Tim Minchin

-Shiv