Because Abortion needs to be explained, apparently.

I am irate. Look, I realise that I am in a position of privilege, and I realise that I’m not angry about this all the time because I’m male and that this is something that I have the privilege of simply not-concerning-myself-about for the vast bulk of my life.

I rationalise this as that I pay attention only insofar as harm is brought to my attention. And Ireland has ever-so-slowly been moving towards legalising abortion since 1992. Oh, that’s right, you didn’t know that abortion was illegal in Ireland. My bad. Did you know that it was actually illegal for doctors to tell patients about their abortion options in other countries? And that it was illegal for people to travel to another country for an abortion? No? Well, anyway, we were focused on my privilege, so let’s keep on topic.

[Read more...]

Got to find the reason, reason things went wrong…

I once attended a forum for black students held at York University, where there were a number of seminars and sessions to try to broaden the discussion and (I guess) impart some life skills. One of these forums was about developing and harnessing economic power, moderated by two women who had a successful business consulting firm. Some of the stuff was useful (invest in real estate, work closely with other black businesses to keep money ‘in the community’), while some of the stuff was a bit… different (sell your real estate and buy platinum bouillon!). In a fit of mysticism that I have found to be distressingly common among black intellectuals, they encouraged us to think of ‘money’ as part of an acronym:

Mobilize Our Natural Energy Yield

Which is, y’know… not where the word comes from, but whatever. Small quibble.

The point of the acronym was, I think, to divorce our minds from the concept that paper money is actually worth something in and of itself. Money is, and always has been, a proxy for the time and skill that goes in to the production of goods or services. Since its very early days, it has grown and expanded to represent a lot of other things as well, but at its fundamental level money is what you exchange for goods and services according to the level to which you value them.

The recent economic collapse revealed that our concept of ‘money’ had moved dangerously far away from anything resembling goods and services, and has instead mutated into a seemingly-arbitrary score that different groups use to decide who is better than the other. And when we started realizing “hey, wait a second, this whole thing is built on fairy dust and leprechaun tears”, it collapsed. But at some point, there was MONEY flowing between places, right? So where the hell did it all go? Did it just disappear into the ghost of the machine? Maybe. Then again, maybe not: [Read more...]

British Columbia flooded with drug money

The great challenge of being politically conscious is to remain critical (one might say ‘skeptical’, although I don’t think that word means the same thing in this context that we usually mean) of propaganda and showy announcements. Whether you think politicians are cravenly trying to pull a fast one on the populace, or if you’re like me and think that politicians simply begin to think in propagandist terms, the sign of a person who is cognitively engaged with politics is the ability to parse both the positives and negatives from political announcements.

To give you an idea of the way in which I wrestle through the political landscape, here’s an example of a recent development that I found particularly interesting: [Read more...]

Physician, kill myself

Anyone who follows my Twitter feed will be familiar with my habit of occasionally spontaneously going on rants about how much I love my city. I really do – we have a mayor I can respect, we have a proud tradition of social activism, we live in greater harmony with our natural environment than most cities our size. Despite its faults, Vancouver is a great place to live. Similarly, despite the fact that I don’t hold our government in terribly high esteem, I do rather like the province of British Columbia. Lots of hydroelectric power, natural custodianship, and abundant natural beauty. We got it like that.

But I am pretty confident that I have never been more proud to live when and where I live that I do after hearing this news: [Read more...]

The paradox of science and conservatism

I expend a great deal of time and effort in the disparagement of conservative ideologies. They oversimplify complex issues to the point where the ‘solutions’ that arise from such ideologies are often more harmful than the problems they purport to ‘fix’. Reality is a multifaceted state of affairs with a lot of moving parts that defy the panacaea of upper-class tax cuts and ‘common sense’, and yet those who hold conservative ideologies are often openly contemptuous of the nuanced view of the world that is required to make any headway or improvement.

Despite my irritation, I must confess a certain sympathy for conservatism. Not a sympathy borne of pity (considering the way in which conservative policies are decimating not only my own country but others around the world, there is no room left for pity), but one borne of understanding. The conservative impulse, in its essence, is the human tendency to grind to a halt when new challenges face us. To put that another way, it is to address new problems with the solutions that have worked before – tradition and ‘common sense’ (which, in light of this view of conservatism, is simply what we call those things which used to confound us but we have answers for now). [Read more...]

Edwina Rogers: the unanswered questions

Like many of you, I was a bit stunned to learn that the Secular Coalition for America had hired a former Republican operative as their new executive director. Considering the extent to which the Republican party is and has been decidedly anti-secular, the appointment of a party insider to this position struck me as strange. However, I decided to keep an open mind and extend the benefit of the doubt. After all, her political savvy and connections could be useful, and an unorthodox choice like Ms. Rogers would certainly shake things up. So she used to work for the wrong people, so what? People change, right?

Yeah… then I read this:

People are going to do a double-take when they hear a Republican strategist is now the leader of an organization working on behalf of atheists… what do you hope the public reaction will be?

I hope it will be a positive reaction and one that gets everyone thinking about the right direction for the secular movement. Often times, problems are arising from the conservative side and that’s one reason why it’s important to include both sides. The majority of the gubernatorial positions and state legislatures are controlled by Republicans. The Religious Right is a segment of the Republican Party — but it’s not a majority within the party and it certainly does not represent a majority of Americans. It’s a very active, vocal part of the Republican base, but it’s a minority.

I do think that for the vast majority of conservatives and Republicans, they are true believers of secularism — the majority of Republicans believe in the separation of church and state. Many of them are simply laissez faire about the issues, which gives us an opening to recruit them to the movement. Just within the last few months, talking to all my Republican conservative friends, the majority of them are in line with our thinking. They can be recruited, they just haven’t been active.

Hoooo boy. [Read more...]

Rhetorical questions: of rocks and Jell-O

So this past weekend was the Reason Rally, where atheists from all over the United States gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to make a powerful political point: atheists exist and we are paying attention to politics. The kind of obsequious Jesus-based pandering that is the lifeblood of American democracy is at a particular peak, which makes more baffling the claims of Christians to be some kind of oppressed minority who is forbidden from practicing their faith by the evil secularist government forces headed by secular Muslim socialist Caliph Barack Obama (I am trying to distill a bunch of crazy into one sentence, so I am making this parenthetical thought extra-long in order to not overload the ratio of crazy:comprehensible… almost there… how are all of you doing?).

I didn’t go to the Reason Rally, but I was overjoyed to see a segment on MSNBC’s Up! With Chris Hayes where an all-atheist panel was assembled to discuss some of the rally’s major issues. I was quite impressed with the panel’s mere existence, because it stands in sharp contrast to the usual practice of having a lone atheist forced to contend with one or more idiots presenting “the other side” uncritically. The atheist’s time is then consumed almost entirely in distractions, forced to explain what atheism is, the difference between criticism of belief vs. believers, and in some cases having to explain grade 6 science to grown adults. This panel was different though; everyone (including the host) was an atheist, and thus could discuss the vagaries of the divergent viewpoints within organized atheism without having to stop every five seconds and explain why there are still monkeys.

I enjoyed watching the show, despite having a few objections (that are not really worth going into), and thought it was quite a coup for a nationally broadcast program to put that many atheists on camera at once. But then I read this: [Read more...]

Sometimes it’s a good day

If there’s anyone in the Canadian political system who’s reading this and wants to make me an extremely happy guy, it’s really not that difficult. I’m a simple man who enjoys the finer things in life – a nice meal, a pint of good beer, a productive day at work, time spent with close friends… it doesn’t take a lot. What puts me over the moon is when politicians legislate like liberals and act like grown-ups.

Liberal ideas – promoting equality and long-term progress through evidence-based policy – are ideas that I can support. For reasons that surpass understanding, it is rare to see someone get tough with liberal ideas. Not tough in a macho, bullying kind of way, but tough in a “I believe in this, and am willing to fight for it” sort of way. Too often, perfectly defensible liberal ideas get bulldozed by threats of political ramifications or hurt feelings. However, there are rare moments when the planets align and politicians get tough on things I agree with, and those days make me happy.

Today is a very good day. [Read more...]

Happy about this too, but for an entirely different reason

Somewhere along the line, being a liberal meant abandoning assertiveness. Liberal became synonymous with indecisive and weak. Part of that association, I’m sure, comes from the fact that liberals recognize that complex problems seldom have easy answers, and that the truth requires complex weighing of ideas that are often contradictory. That being said, liberals have values, and yet “values voters” are conservative. Liberals have families, and yet “family values” are conservative ones. Liberals love their countries enough to work hard to improve them, and yet “patriotism” has been reduced to the most banal flag-waving support of whatever conservative leader is in power.

Which is why, whenever I see someone take a spirited defense of liberalism, it makes me cheer a little. Especially when it is delivered so… directly:

New Democrat MP Pat Martin aired his frustrations with the Conservatives — and one online critic — with an expletive-filled tantrum on Twitter while he was sitting in the House of Commons.

“This is a f—ing disgrace . . . closure again. And on the Budget! There’s not a democracy in the world that would tolerate this jackboot s—,” Martin tweeted Wednesday night when Conservative MPs shut down parliamentary debate on the bill implementing the spring federal budget.

“F— you,” Martin (Winnipeg Centre) then replied to someone on Twitter who called him a socialist with a foul mouth.

The curse words travelled quickly through the Twitterverse on Wednesday night — making Martin’s name a trending topic for Canada on the social media site — but the MP told the Star on Thursday he would not delete or apologize for tweeting about his troubled feelings.

“I don’t apologize for that. I don’t retract it. It is a f—ing disgrace, what they’re doing,” Martin said of the multiple times Conservatives have limited debate on bills this fall. “They’re running roughshod over everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy and Canadians should be outraged and their elected representatives on their behalf should be outraged.” [Read more...]

A rare, happy moment

I spend a lot of time bashing our political system. It’s a formula that has yielded a fairly consistent source of not only blog fodder, but commenter agreement as well. After all, who doesn’t love complaining about politics? It gives us an opportunity to appear erudite and superior to those who would try to represent themselves as the “ruling class”. Plus we get to spread indiscriminate blame on all politicians as being morally deficient hucksters.

It brings me no personal satisfaction, however, to live in a country with crappy politics. As a liberal, I believe that government can be a force for good in the world. That as a representation of the collective will of the populace, we can do more as a group than we can as individuals pulling for our own selfish ends. That there is room for giving up a bit of personal liberty to gain a greater measure of mutual success.

It is not the failures of the body politic that make me happy. It is stories like this: [Read more...]