Liberal Party still waffling on major civil rights violations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, much to my frustration, seems to be coated in the same Teflon as the country itself, our squeaky clean public relations obscuring our role in American torture programs and a smattering of other egregious human rights violations around the world. While it is true (and important) to acknowledge that these programs were engineered by our former Conservative government, the Liberals have been slow to remove them, including the notorious Conservative Bill C-51* which greatly enhanced domestic surveillance powers. Said powers had a chance to flex their new muscles in 2015 when they persecuted civil rights organizers for actions that were not their own.

Unfortunately, too many people seem to be getting distracted by the inane “we caught Trudeau topless!” puff pieces to notice. Conservatives peddled a stereotype of the average Liberal voter who claim to have selected him because “his hair is pretty.” I don’t have any data to corroborate exactly how true that perception is, but I do know that the Liberals have not been substantially different from the Conservatives on areas of government that matter to me, and that I have seldom underestimated the depths of human shallowness.

So, back to business: Once we scrape off the Teflon, what are the Liberals actually doing about the human and civil rights violations they’ve inherited? In a word–fuck all.

In opposition, the Liberals were being squeezed by this bill. C-51 was the Conservatives’ attempt to assert they were taking muscular measures against terror. It came after two attacks in 2014, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and on Parliament Hill, and not long before the 2015 election. The bill was initially very popular.

But gradually, a campaign developed against a bill that civil-liberties advocates labelled an overreach. The NDP said they’d repeal it. But the Liberals, worried about looking either soft on terror or too much like the Tories, said they’d vote for it, and repeal the “problematic” elements later. A dodge.

So when the Liberals took power, it appeared to be one of those things they’d have to address quickly. A significant chunk of the left-leaning voters that elected the Liberals saw it as one of those Harper-legacy items that had to be undone. But from day one, they delayed.

That turned out to be shrewd. Time cooled the angry politics around it. The protest organizers – who had argued that Bill C-51 gave authorities powers to violate rights, interpret protests as security threats, and collect and share too much information on Canadians activities – directed their energy to influencing the consultations.

(Hey, about that “interpret protests as security threats” thing…)

“While this consultation was taking place, that’s certainly, for example, where my organization was investing its energies,” said David Christopher, spokesman for OpenMedia, an organization that played a sizable role in drumming up the protests.

Now, Mr. Goodale can go forward in calmer waters. Some of the controversial elements of C-51 didn’t really become the focus of criticism during the consultations. C-51 gave CSIS ill-defined powers to disrupt threats, rather than just gather intelligence; in the consultations, people expressed concern about that, but it wasn’t clear what they wanted in its place.

However, the consultation did find people aren’t sanguine about the accumulation of electronic-surveillance powers by government: warrantless interception of metadata, sharing of information between government agencies. Canadians want those things controlled. But some of those Canadian intelligence agencies will be arguing they need latitude.

Read more about Liberal waffling and stalling here. And remember this for the next election: The Liberals are saying one thing and doing another.

-Shiv


*Not to be confused with the Liberal Bill C-51.


Edit, June 20 2017: I wrote this post a few days ago before this news came up. Everything above is irrelevant. Bill C-59 is ten steps in the wrong fucking direction. I take it back–Liberals are not “waffling” on civil rights–they’re actively expanding its violations.

The valorisation of ignorance

Here today with another old post from TigTog, this time about the “valorisation of ignorance“–anti-intellectualism–in Australian politics. The topic is near and dear to my heart since intellectual fraudery is basically the entire reason this blog exists.

There has been too much under-reaction to what the government is advocating, so let me spell it out: if these grants shouldn’t happen then our universities shouldn’t have Arts faculties. If this use of resources is a waste then our universities should be downgraded to vocational training centres, all academics not working in medicine or technology should lose their jobs, and Australia can kiss goodbye to the income we get selling our education overseas, because people from other parts of the world won’t pay huge amounts of money to travel here for a qualification from an institution that can’t command international respect.

Kelly keeps referring to making Australia competitive, so let’s talk about that. Education is a product; you can’t sell it if what you are producing isn’t any good. The way the world judges whether you are capable of offering a good education is by looking at the quality of the research you publish. Not the immediate practical usefulness of the topic, the quality of the scholarship. If we stop participating in the system of higher learning engaged in by the rest of the world, it will take no time for us to have no standing in the international higher education scene. Universities function as a world-wide community, and they are wildly competitive. You fall behind, you disappear. Not publishing research across the breadth of potential fields of knowledge is to fall behind. If you want any hope of being competitive in education, you can’t limit your research to a few restricted areas.

You can’t publish without doing research, and no publications, no credibility. This is how the world measures whether people doing higher level intellectual work are any good or not. If our academics can’t prove they are good at what they do, no one will pay to come to their institutions to study under their guidance. People come to university to learn from experts. Experts carry out research. Grants pay their wages while they do. It is not enough for a university to only have experts in the narrow fields that sell best to overseas students. Universities are judged on the full breadth of what they produce, an institution that no longer publishes in philosophy, history or literature will not be seen as a serious site of intellectual activity. Our brand in the marketplace for that immensely valuable product, education, will be trashed.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Sex as a social construct

I had a lot of people click on the hyperlink I provided on my last long-form post in support of the claim that what is commonly referred to as “biological sex” is itself still a social model, and one that is often taught at an incomplete level at most public education institutions. Since I take the disproportionately large number of clicks to be an implicit interest in the idea, I’ve decided to signal boost another argument that explores this further. This is an oldie-but-goodie from Alex, a former FTB blogger:

A framework, not a fact

In her monologue above, Milinovich actually gives four criteria (by my count) for male/female sex determination.

  • Chromosomes: ‘[A] male has XY chromosomes and female, XX’.
  • Penis/vagina: ‘A male mammal has a penis . . . a female mammal has a vagina’.
  • Other sex organs: ‘A male mammal has . . . seminal vesicles, a prostate gland; a female has a . . . cervix, uterus, oviducts’.
  • Secondary sex characteristics: ‘size, vocal cartilage and musculature’, ‘a female mammal has . . . mammary glands’, a male facial hair, etc.

A longer, fuller list could look like this:

  • Chromosomes (XX/XY)
  • Penis/vagina
  • Gonads (testes/ovaries)
  • Other sex organs: seminal vesicle, prostate gland/oviducts, Skene’s gland, cervix, uterus
  • Secondary sex characteristics: facial hair, greater height and breadth, deeper voice/wider hips, breasts, etc.
  • Gametes: sperm production/menstruation
  • Hormone levels: high testosterone, low oestrogen/high oestrogen, low testosterone

Milinovich runs those traits she does name together, suggesting a male necessarily has XY chromosomes and a penis and a prostate gland and seminal vesicles and a distinct build and a deeper voice (her blog adds sperm production to this list) – that biological maleness requires all ‘male’ features to be present. Especially with others in the mix like those above, this co-presence is far from reliable.

Chromosomes, as Anne Fausto-Sterling details in Sexing the Body, can’t be relied on as indicators of the other traits here – sets exist beyond XX and XY, as do humans in whom both are found and outwardly ‘female-bodied’ people with the latter. Anatomy comes in endless combinations, such that estimates of ‘ambiguous’ sets’ commonness vary wildly, with some as high as one in twenty-five (John Money, cited in Fausto-Sterling’s work). Bodies with the ‘wrong’ features – height, hair, breast tissue, Adam’s apples – are common. Everyone preadolescent, postmenopausal or otherwise infertile is sexless judging by sperm and ova. Hormones, like most of these attributes, can be altered at will.

When not all these tests are passed, which overrule which? Milinovich describes people with ‘female’ anatomy and XY chromosomes as male, for example – suggesting, confusingly, that she doesn’t think maleness requires physical traits. What reason is there to choose genes rather than body parts when diagnosing sex, and not vice versa? In practice, things tend to go the other way: medics who judge a foetus’s sex via ultrasound, for instance, do so only by identifying outer sex organs, and I know nothing about my chromosomes, interior sex organs, hormones or fertility. The fact (or assumption) I have a penis is seen as enough, most of the time, to classify my sex as male, but why should it outweigh these unknown factors?

It’s common enough for adult cisgender men – deemed male at birth, with bodies read straightforwardly that way – not to grow facial hair. I know two or three who don’t; so probably do you. This isn’t seen to affect their physical sex. Why then, barring blunt intuition, should the absence of a penis? We can argue facial hair is only a secondary sex characteristic, and penises a primary one, but this relies itself on defining sex by reproductive role: the logic is circular. From that standpoint, moreover, why not make testes the sole determinant, so people possessing them and a vulva were ‘males’? Testes have, after all, the more distinct and self-contained function of sperm production. A penis, being a shell for the urethra, is just another pipe among the plumbing – we’ve no grounds except cultural ones to treat it differently from a vas deferens. So why is it more necessary for ‘maleness’?

Milinovich calls sex a static, stubborn fact, then moves inconsistently between ideas (see above) about what it is. If she herself can’t pick a definition, what does this suggest?

Sex is a framework, not a fact – a means of interpreting biology, but not a part of it. Of course menstruation, chromosomes and so on aren’t social constructs, but the argument isn’t over their existence, it’s over what they mean. That’s not about empirical reality. Vaginas are as real as Pluto is; defining them as female is like defining Pluto as a planet, a question of inscription not description.

Alex is quite humble in estimating his own ability, but he’s nailed it.

-Shiv

No one is obligated to forgive

I’m a “mutually assured destruction” kind of gal. Christians had whole centuries in Europe to put their “turn the other cheek” philosophy into practice… we now call that period the Dark Ages for a reason. It don’t work. Convincing your many enemies that it costs more to hurt you than they’ll get out of it, however, appeals to even the ethically bankrupt, because it appeals to that unceasing selfishness they possess. Given that it is often the unceasingly selfish who gain power, this seems to me a smarter strategy than blanket forgiveness, which tells the abuser that they have permission to abuse again.

When my brothers and I fought, growing up, we were immediately halted and told to apologize.

“Say you’re sorry,” my dad would command, towering over us, brows furrowed.

I’d purse my lips and ball my fists before hissing a “sorry” between clenched teeth.

“Now, hug. Say ‘I forgive you,’ and tell each other ‘I love you,’” my dad would say next.

We did — and then stormed off to other rooms to avoid getting ourselves grounded in a moment of untempered rage.

The same scenario played out in my religious teachings for years. After all, my family and my preachers told me, Christianity itself exists because Jesus forgave our sin-riddled selves, so much that he died for us.

The sacrificial lamb metaphor was never one I completely grasped growing up, though. It never quite made sense to me that some oppressive leaders slaughtered the human embodiment of my religion’s deity because I was going to someday be born, bully my little brother, and go to hell for it. And every time I asked how that sacrifice worked logistically, I was given dismissive answers or elusive explanations with too many contemporary Christian buzzwords like “covenant” and “unconditional.” An English degree later, and I still don’t quite get it.

It’s with this same convoluted understanding that, as an adult atheist who must respect her family’s religious views in order to maintain healthy relationships with them, I’ve been forced to ask a question that Junior Asparagus never posed: If Christians are supposed to forgive every enemy, every single time, does that still apply when forgiveness could cause more harm than good?

I ain’t buyin’ it.

-Shiv

 

Signal boosting: Sex negative Christianity and ace folks

Siggy has a fantastic post on his blag about the impact of sex-negativity in Christianity on ace folks:

In ace discussion, one thing we talk about is “delayed realization”, when people realize that they’re ace much later than you’d expect. It’s the realization that, oh, people weren’t doing it just to be cool, they’re actually really into sex! Or else it’s the realization, hey this much-vaunted sex thing isn’t that great at all. Sadly for many, the realization comes only after being in a relationship, or even multiple relationships.

Christian views on sex often exacerbate the delayed realization. According to many Christian ace accounts I’ve heard, they receive all this messaging which doesn’t just tell them to resist sex, but which also implies that resisting sex is really difficult. This causes cognitive dissonance, but it isn’t enough to make a person realize they’re ace because the assumption is unspoken, and no alternative possibilities are offered. Sometimes, the resolution to this dissonance is to say, I’ll probably like sex once I’m married.

Read more here.

-Shiv

that double standard tho

Last Friday, Silentbob pointed out that TigTog, a radical feminist whose work I’ve occasionally encountered on teh interwebs, sometimes comments on FTB. From there I figured I could check out her blog, and I found a few excellent posts I’ll signal boost over the next couple weeks.

The first is a curious double standard which I wrote about on Friday, albeit with a different pair of power groups. TigTog writes about the double standard between criticisms from men (which are viewed as a dialogue and contribution to free speech) and criticisms from women (which are viewed as terrible censorship) despite the fact that the content of the criticisms isn’t overly different, based on a kerfluffle that started all the way back in 2013.

This time it’s women objecting to sexist content in the professional magazine for the Science Fiction Writers Of America who are causing Deep Rifts™. Pointing out that discussing female editors and writers in terms of how good they look in a bathing suit is a blatantly disrespectful trivialision of the work these women do and would never happen in a discussion of male editorsand writers and is therefore sexist and a double standard: that sort of talk is, according to the two men who did that, a call for censorship and suppression of their free speech.  As for complaining in the SWFA forum about a male columnist recommending women take Barbie as a role model to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should”?  Well, that was just making the forum  “the arena for difference”.

Hey, whatever happened to all that free speech crowd’s support for their beloved aphorism: “the only remedy for bad speech is more speech”?

Oh yeah – the ideal of more and more and more speech being an axiomatic good only applies when it’s men who are expressing contrary opinions to others. When women express our contrary opinions to men, we’re trying to silence them entirely. Because we’re just that evil and divisive.

It’s double standards all the way down. (And before anybody in the atheoskeptosphere starts Vaculating along the lines of “what about your double standards?” with respect to women identifying “what-Vacula-calls-disagreement” as an intimidatory silencing campaign, if only all the Vaculators were doing was “disagreeing” then you might have a point, but that isn’t what’s happening and you know it.  Refusing to engage with vexatious “you’re not allowed to ignore me” types is not a refusal to defend one’s ideas generally: it’s simply being aware that DARVO is the game being played and refusing to play it.)

Read more about this here.

Of course, the exact same power dynamic is sometimes re-created by TERFs who insist that any response to their material constitutes a grave moral failing, while issuing their poisonous diktats is seen as morally righteous.

-Shiv

How to poison the trans well in five easy steps

Cis women occupy a unique position within the discourse between sex essentialist/trans-exclusionary radical feminists and trans feminists. As we’re about to see below, TERFs sometimes employ a subtle technique of rhetorical manipulation that disarms any trans critics long before we’ve even spoken. Since cis women in these sex essentialist constructs lack the various boogeymen and spectres that TERFs raise as evidence of trans women’s “male essence,” they’re able to more directly interface with the material without having to first waste time on specious accusations of “aggression” or “violence.” This is why I made a post eons ago briefly thanking M. A. Melby for her work–she not only acknowledges this unique position but actively uses it to expose the intellectual fraud of sex essentialist feminists.

Here I document a specific strain of rhetoric which has the intention to demonize the transgender critic regardless of their actual behaviour. My hope is that cis women step up to the plate when they see it deployed, because they undermine its fundamental strategy simply by voicing a criticism while being neither transgender or a man. We’re looking at a recent piece by Julian Vigo, but the rhetoric used here is likely to make an appearance again.

All emphasis seen in the quotations are added by me unless marked otherwise. Typos are from the original material. Lastly, I use “trans feminist” to refer to a specific tradition of trans-inclusive feminism, not as “a feminist who is also transgender,” though they often overlap.

Content Notice for trans-antagonism and sexual assault.

1. Frame your critics as oppressors.

 

It’s not exactly difficult for those who experience misogyny to paint that experience as rather harrowing. There are countless disparities between men and women in virtually every metric you can think of from violent victimization to wage earnings to health outcomes. If one is invested in evidence as their basis for beliefs, it is virtually inescapable to conclude anything except that women as a demographic are treated unfairly in a myriad of ways (not that people don’t try). Despite the ceaseless statistical evidence, Vigo opts to use a personal narrative instead:

[Read more…]

It’s official, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth…

…my existence has now been federally recognized in Canada. Bill C-16 just passed in the Senate, and is off for Royal Assent.

OTTAWA, June 15, 2017 /CNW/ – The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has issued the following statement:

“Our Government is very pleased that Bill C-16 was passed by the Senate today, bringing us one step closer to strengthening laws against discrimination, hate propaganda, and hate crime based on gender identity and gender expression.

“In Canada we celebrate inclusion and diversity, and all Canadians should feel safe to be themselves. Trans and gender diverse persons must be granted equal status in Canadian society, and this Bill makes that status explicit in Canadian law.

“The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that everyone can live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose. It will protect people from discrimination, hate propaganda and hate crimes. Once it receives Royal Assent, the legislation will add the grounds of gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. Gender identity and gender expression would become prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the updates to the Criminal Code would protect trans and gender diverse Canadians who are targeted because of their gender identity or expression from hate propaganda. These changes would also require a court to treat the commission of an offence that is motivated by hate based on gender identity or expression as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

“I would like to acknowledge the courage and the leadership of the trans community and their decades of effort to achieve equality. Their dedication, resilience and tireless advocacy for equal rights inspire me.

“Finally, I would like to thank Members of Parliament and the Senate for supporting this important piece of legislation. Diversity is our strength. I am proud of the steps we are taking to ensure that all Canadians are treated equally.”

I agree. Diversity is our strength. After all, Bill C-16 has probably been the only law on the books in which the religious right, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, the alt-right, and Joe Everyman all gathered under the same banner–the Sign of the Asshole–to righteously stick it to those unemployed, underemployed icky trans people who somehow simultaneously control the entire healthcare industry and all of academia while needing to access homeless and crisis shelters at the same time.

-Shiv