Update: Harper government actually stands up for science… wha?

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of our current Federal government. They are decidedly opposed to any use of science in decision-making, preferring instead to appeal to ideologies rather than reality. The study of science and logical positivism make you, on average, more liberal than conservative – preferring to side with what works rather than stapling yourself to what you agree with. As Stephen Colbert so succinctly put it, “Reality, as you know, has a strong liberal bias.”

That’s why I was shocked to read this news story:

The Canadian government will not fund a clinical trial of the so-called liberation therapy for multiple sclerosis at this time, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says. Aglukkaq spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday, a day after a panel of North American experts announced they unanimously recommended against supporting a clinical trial of the treatment in Canada as yet. Aglukkaq commissioned the expert panel’s report from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which funds medical research, and the MS Society of Canada. “I feel the most prudent course of action at this time is to accept the recommendation of the country’s leading researchers,” Aglukkaq told a news conference (emphasis mine).

Did I say shocked? I should have said ‘floored and rended into a state of utter disbelief’. The Harper government (so called because he calls the shots, and everyone else runs his plays) actually relying on the expertise of people who know what they’re talking about? Surely I must be hallucinating. Particularly from a party that talks a big game about letting people make their own decisions, regardless of how unwise those decisions may be (a view apparently shared by my “nemesis”).

I’ve been skeptical of this ‘liberation therapy’ since it was first announced. My skepticism isn’t merely because it’s a stark departure from accepted practice, but because as a person who works in and is trained in health research, I recognize that many times these ‘radical’ approaches fail to stand up to rigorous scrutiny. A panel of experts recommended against CIHR fast-tracking large-scale clinical trials until smaller, well-controlled trials showed a benefit to the treatment. This is simple pragmatism to anyone in the health research community – it’s not a good idea to experiment on a large group of people unless you are reasonably sure they will actually benefit from it. Ethics boards actually demand this exact type of rigour before allowing research to go through. I am hopeful and optimistic that this treatment could potentially make a positive impact in the lives of people suffering from a horrible disease, but I temper my optimism with skepticism to say that I won’t advocate its use until we know for sure if it works or not.

So the Harper government thinks we should listen to the experts, and make our decisions based on that. Could this be a sign that they’re not as anti-science and ideological as I thought?

No, it’s not:

An RCMP report that evaluates the long-gun registry as cost-effective, efficient and an important tool for public safety hasn’t changed the mind of the Conservative MP behind a bill to scrap the registry. In an interview Tuesday on CBC TV’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon, Candice Hoeppner says the report told her nothing new. “My position remains steadfast as does our party’s position,” she said. “We believe the long-gun registry needs to end. As legislators, that’s our job, to look at policy, to decide what’s in the best interests of Canadians and make those decisions. So, nothing has changed.”

So instead of experts using their training and experience to help decide what’s the best use of public funds to protect the lives and property of Canadians, Ms. Hoeppner thinks that political appointees are better suited to do it. Political appointees, I’ll add, that have no experience or training in anything other than politics. Even conservatives will have to agree that if someone’s going to be making our decisions for us, it would be better if they actually knew what they were talking about.

Then again, maybe they don’t have to agree at all:

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal slams the federal government for its efforts to shut down Insite in downtown Vancouver, Canada’s only safe injection site for drug addicts… The paper points out that soon after it was elected, the Conservative government removed harm reduction as one of the four pillars of its National Anti-Drug Strategy. The four-pillar strategy, endorsed by the World Health Organization also includes treatment, enforcement and prevention.

I mean, just because a bunch of eggheads who have spent years of their lives studying the problem and potential solutions doesn’t mean that they know what they’re talking about, or that you should listen to them. It definitely doesn’t mean you should accept the evidence that’s right in front of your face.

No wait, that’s exactly what it means.

Stop “Fox News North”

I have a bullhorn, and I’m going to use it.

Those of you who come here from Facebook have seen this already, but maybe didn’t sign it. Stephen Harper, I suppose growing weary of pretending not to be a right-wing ideologue, has decided to shed his sheep’s clothing and put political pressure on our CRTC commissioner to bring a Fox News-style channel here to Canada.

This is a petition to stop it. Please sign it.

A few people, some of whom are people whose opinions I greatly respect (although they differ sharply from my own), have pointed out to me that the media is already biased, and/or that my objection to a Fox-style channel is that I just don’t like conservatives. I feel the need at this point to clarify a few things:

1 – I don’t like conservativism (although I greatly enjoy the company of my few conservative friends – there are few in university science programs, which is my cohort). That’s emphatically not the source of my opposition. I’d be just as against this if it was a bunch of lying arch-Liberal finks (who I also detest).

2 – Even if I did buy that our current media outlets are biased, I fail to see how adding one that is explicitly and purposefully biased makes that situation better. An informed electorate is crucial to a healthy country. Adding another voice to the supposed pantheon of radical viewpoints doesn’t improve the situation at all – it makes people less informed. Fox News isn’t watched by those on the left to “get the other side of the argument”, it’s watched by those on the right to confirm their in-grained biases; the same can be said vice versa. The answer is to reduce the amount of bias in media outlets through careful surveillance, not to burn the whole house down because you spilled some wine on the carpet.

3 – Even if I did buy that adding another biased point of view (as all points of view will be) will somehow improve the lives of Canadians, Fox News is not simply another network. They lie, distort facts, invent facts when they can’t twist the ones that already exist, and are unrelentingly hypocritical in their stance on issues. They are unprincipled, they lack integrity, and they are poisoning the political and social discourse of the United States. Any station patterned after them will do the same thing, sending Canada down the road to destruction down which the United States is currently drunkenly weaving.

4 – Even if I did buy that a Fox News equivalent would be a good thing for the country, the Prime Minister has no business spearheading it, or shilling for it in any way. He certainly has no business forcing out the qualified head of the CRTC simply for standing up for media standards. All of this is to say nothing of the meetings that Mr. Harper has taken with Rupert Murdoch in order to make this a reality. It is a blatant political ploy designed to ensure that he has a channel that is completely uncritical of his policies that he can lavish his special attention and political influence upon, much the way that Bush/Cheney/Rove and the Republican Party has done with Fox News.

Personally, I like my country. I don’t want it to turn into the pathetic circus farce that is the current political reality of the United States, where a Harvard-educated constitutional scholar has to fight with a clueless, ignorant and feckless “hackey maam” from Wasilla to win the trust of the populace. Apparently Steven Harper will be much happier ruling over that country – I think we should be aiming to get better, not worse.

Sign the petition.

It’s a good day for Kenya

More good news!

Kenya has adopted a new constitution, more than three weeks after it was overwhelmingly approved in a national referendum… The document provides for greater checks on presidential powers and more regional devolution. It also recognises the UN human rights charter and creates a second parliamentary chamber – the senate.

It may seem a little unusual for me to provide commentary on a purely political story on this blog, which is purportedly about race, free speech, and religion (although somehow gay shit keeps creeping in… paging Dr. Freud). I’ve been following this story for a number of months now without commenting on it, but I can tell you that it’s highly appropriate.

First, there is a fundamental (and racist) misunderstanding we have in North America about Africa. The first thing to consider is the fact that Africa is not a country. You didn’t have to look much farther than the promotion of the World Cup to see that Europe and North America seem to consider Africa to be a homogeneous entity, but it is peopled by vastly different cultures and histories. There are modern democracies like Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria; there are corrupt dictatorships like Zimbabwe and the Congo; and there are dictatorial theocracies like Sudan and Somalia (the latter without a central government of any kind). Much of the strife plaguing the continent can be traced back to exploitation by colonial powers who used (and continue to use) the countries of Africa as a source of material wealth without building up the infrastructure needed to make the countries self-sufficient. Without the ability to harness their own natural wealth, the people of Africa are at the mercy of warlord-like governments who are largely controlled by foreign corporate regimes.

By ratifying a constitution, one that decentralizes the powers of the presidency and creates both a bill of rights and a second branch of government (ah, checks and balances), Kenya has taken a step towards true independence and freedom for its people. Such protections allow Kenya to (eventually) become a player on the international stage, much as Uganda and Ethiopia once were, and challenge the prevailing winds of prejudice against the continent.

Second, the ratification of this document was plagued by violent opposition, hate speech accusations, and (of course) religious conflict:

Church leaders who organised Sunday’s rally have also accused the government of being behind the grenade attack which led to a stampede. At least 20 people were injured in Sunday’s blast. Many Kenyans doubt the Church leaders’ claim that the government could be behind the blasts, especially as it seems most people are already backing the “Yes” campaign, says the BBC’s Will Ross in Nairobi… Sunday’s rally was organised by Christian groups opposed to a draft constitution because it retains recognition of existing Islamic courts and includes a clause on abortion.

But despite the obstacles, and despite Kenya’s entrenched religiousness (see? more gay shit!), the measure passed with a healthy 2/3 majority. This is the right step for Kenya, the right step for Africa, and the right step for the rest of the world.

Lebanon struggles for civil rights

How can people think that religion advances the cause of humanity? At every major milestone of the past century – women’s rights, black civil rights, gay rights – have been vigorously opposed by religious groups. And then, as though we’re all collectively the guy from Memento, Christian groups turn around and start talking about “Christian ideals of tolerance and acceptance.” Nope, sorry, some of us actually read the history books instead of just skimming through the pictures. You don’t get to claim the advances of secular society as religious accomplishments; particularly those done over your strong objections.

Right now a similar fight is happening in Lebanon:

Lebanon’s parliament has, after long delay, passed a law which allows Palestinian refugees to work legally. There are an estimated 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon and, given its delicate sectarian balance, their status is a sensitive issue.

Ah, good. People are being granted the right to make an honest living rather than being forced to either live in squalor or return to a homeland where their lives are under constant threat. And where’s our Christian spirit of tolerance and acceptance?

But the law is unlikely to transform their lives, as they will not be able to work in the public sector or for certain professions, nor buy property. To meet objections from a number of Christian factions, the legislation was heavily diluted from the version proposed earlier in the summer by the Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt.

Ah, there it is. There’s the bigotry and intolerance that we’ve come to expect whenever a religious group is granted any kind of political influence. Similar to what Catholics have done in the Phillipines, Christian groups have gutted the legislation so that it barely has a hope of working. Then, in 6 months time, they will come back and say “see? It doesn’t work! Scrap the whole thing!”

Incidentally, we’re not talking about a fringe group here, or radical extremists. These are your so-called “moderate” Christians. What does it say when you are the right-wing opposition to liberal Muslims in the middle-east? It says that something has seriously fucked up.

Canada Revenue Agency stops beating dead horse

Here’s an interesting legal connundrum:

David Little, who has spent the last few years moving back and forth between P.E.I. and New Brunswick, has refused to file tax returns since 2000 in protest of government-funded abortions. He was due in court in Fredericton this week to face a charge of refusing a court order to file them. Little was found guilty in 2007 on three counts of failing to file, and eventually was sentenced to 66 days in jail for refusing to pay the $3,000 fine. He believes it’s his religious right to refuse to pay taxes because he doesn’t want his money funding abortions.

Oh… wait… did I say “interesting”? I meant “stupid”. There is no such right enshrined in the Canadian Charter allowing you not to pay taxes for things you don’t believe in. Freedom of religion and belief is what is termed a ‘positive right’, meaning that you have the ability to pursue it, and that nobody has the right to bar you from such pursuit. It does not encompass the right to exempt yourself from civic obligations because you don’t like them.

For example, it would be permissible for Mr. Little to post anti-abortion tracts on public notice boards, or picket abortion clinics. He could even start a blog and talk himself to death about how abortion is murder. If Mr. Little were a private medical practitioner, he could refuse to perform abortions (doctors are considered contractors to the state, not employees of the state, and therefore are not required to provide any services they don’t want to). All of the above actions are perfectly legal expressions of Mr. Little’s religious objection to abortion (although the Bible says nothing about abortion, and equating it with murder means that he must also refuse to pay taxes to support the military).

Refusing to pay taxes, however, is neither legal nor smart. However, the Canada Revenue Agency recognizes that pursuing him for the money may be legal, but it has ceased to be smart:

“You can only beat a dead horse so long, and then the whip starts to fray,” [Federal prosecutor Keith] Ward told CBC News Monday. Not only are the taxpayers of Canada insulted once by having to pay all this money to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada on what is a lark of Mr. Little’s, but now they’re going to be faced with it again.”

It also turns out that Mr. Little doesn’t have the money to pay the fine anyway, so the thing is a moot point.

The part of this story that is interesting, however, is the abuse of “freedom of religion” as an excuse for all kinds of things. Many on the right talk about their “freedom of religion” being infringed upon because public schools teach the reality that homosexuality isn’t an abomination; merely a personal trait like hair or eye colour. These same people invoke “freedom of religion” when talking about the rights to gay marriage, sex education, or abortion. Having the freedom to believe in your own religion doesn’t mean you exist in a bubble where no opposing ideas are allowed in, or that you have the right to impose your personal beliefs on anyone besides yourself. It definitely doesn’t mean you have the right to cut your children off from hearing any information you don’t like. What it does mean is that you can express your objection, teach your kids what your beliefs are, and allow them the opportunity to decide for themselves.

Classically Liberal: The intersection between Libertarian and Liberal

I’ve mentioned a couple times before that I regularly read a libertarian blog written by CLS called ‘Classically Liberal’. While I don’t agree with everything CLS says (particularly his views on the role of government and health care), I find his articles useful and insightful.

Today’s post is no exception:

But things have changed. Both the Left and the Right have changed. The Left in most the world no longer has the same slavish dedication to dirigism that they once had. The political Left, to a large degree has shifted politically toward the center. The communist empire that attracted so many of them collapsed and so did the ideological assumptions of many on the Left. You now have former socialists like New Zealand’s Michael Moore, the former prime minister, writing in defense of globalization and free trade. This isn’t the Left of fifty years ago anymore. It isn’t even the “New Left” of the 1960s, which was just a more obnoxious version of the old Left.

I find myself struggling to see where I fit with the libertarian moniker. There is a great deal about the philosophy that appeals to me – maximum liberty for all people, the power of free market capitalism, the possibility of multiple viewpoints and approaches where the best one comes through. At the same time, I recognize that regulation and taxation exist for a reason – to compel us to do things that are in our best interest that we might not otherwise do. PZ Myers is notoriously dismissive of libertarians, a fact that is much to my chagrin as I agree with him on most other things. A friend and commenter on the site is much more libertarian-leaning than I am, and I’m not sure that I agree with his stance either.

Wherever I may find myself on the libertarian/authoritarian scale, it will never be in the morass of conservatism that is destroying the word ‘libertarian’ in the United States. I shudder when I see our neighbours to the immediate south dress up bigotry and xenophobia in the costume of Libertarianism (note the capital L), whilst simultaneously eschewing its core principles of equal rights and maximum liberty. CLS’ article draws a sharp line to show why being in bed with conservatives is indeed sharing that bed with the devil.

The Right of the 1980s was not obsessed with bigotry. What did happen, however, is that the Christian fundamentalists abandoned the Democratic Party. Until the 80s the fundamentalists were Democrats, since Southern Democrats were the most consistently hatefully, bigoted politicians around. But when the national Democratic Party adopted the civil rights movement white fundamentalists abandoned their natural home for the GOP. Unfortunately they brought with them the stilted, bigoted views that they always held. They eventually, for the most part, came to accept black people as their legal equals but they still harbor a natural tendency to find scapegoats to hate. At the moment their favorite targets are gay people and immigrants.

Read the article. It’s not good; it’s great. Plus, I learned a new word: dirigisme

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CFI Vancouver stands in solidarity with Sakineh Ashtiani

On Saturday, August 28th skeptics from Centre for Inquiry Vancouver attended a rally on the south steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The rally was in support of Sakineh Ashtiani Mohammadi, the Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning, for the alleged crime of adultery. I say ‘alleged’ not simply because I don’t see adultery as being a crime worth punishing, but also because Ms. Ashtiani has denied the charge several times. The Iranian government, refusing to bother with little things like truth or integrity, staged a bogus confession on live TV. This rally was one of 100 held in cities all over the world, and was a follow-up to a rally I attended on July 24th.

A handful of members of CFI Vancouver were present to show our support for both Ms. Ashtiani and for the international movement opposing stoning. We arrived, spoke with the organizers, and participated in the event. There was a series of speeches, a large petition poster (which we all signed) and a (somewhat disturbing) simulation of a stoning victim. Organizers also handed out postcards destined for the United Nations assembly, demanding that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be barred from speaking there in September.

We were asked to say a few words on behalf of CFI, and since I had spoken at the last rally, I volunteered to speak for the organization:

“My name is [Crommunist]. I’m a volunteer with Centre for Inquiry in Vancouver and I’m very happy to represent the Centre for Inquiry at today’s important event to save the life of Sakineh, and to bring awareness of the unconscionable human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“We’ve heard other speakers detail the specifics of this horrible story. What I’d like to do briefly is remind the world that this is not an isolated case of abuse. Iran has been accused of violating multiple international agreements, the most egregious being the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in its execution of minors. Iran is one of the last countries to engage in the execution of children, accounting for two-thirds of the global total of such executions, and currently Iran has roughly 120 people on death row for crimes committed as juveniles. In one of the most well known cases in 2005, Human Rights Watch brought to light the case of two young boys – 16 year old Moahmoud Asgari and 18 year old Ayaz Marhoni, who were whipped and then hanged supposedly for unidentified sexual offenses, but in reality likely simply for being gay. It’s rather amazing how Iran can violate multiple human rights at once, in this case those of children and gays.

“In 2004 a UN resolution condemned Iran for human rights violations including the execution of children and gays, torture, the persecution of political opponents, discrimination against minorities, and violations of freedom of speech and expression.

“The Centre for Inquiry is deeply concerned about human rights abuses around the world, and we fight for the advent of rational, critical and scientific thinking, coupled with secular humanist ethics of compassion and tolerance and secularism itself, which means church-state separation. Iran is an example of what can go so terribly wrong when the principles and values that we stand for are trampled on in almost every possible way.

“Iran may be among the world’s most extreme examples of how bad a government and society can become when it’s run by a theocracy that has no conception for church-state separation, but it does remind us of why we must fight around the world and right here at home for the continued prioritization of the values of the enlightenment. Those values are rationalism, accountability, freedom of expression, secularism, human rights, an openness to new ideas and a spirit of respect and compassion. These may be abstract and lofty philosophical ideals, but they are given a very human face today by the plight of these victims of stoning.

“The CFI is proud to stand with Iran Solidarity, we are proud to stand against the horrific act of stoning, we are proud to stand with over 100 cities around the world to say with a loud voice ‘we will not tolerate this any more‘.”

This issue is precisely what CFI should be standing up for. Such atrocities can only happen in places where the religious establishment wields control over the secular authority. While I’m not ready to strap on a rifle and charge into Iran to fight the regime, I am happy that I was able to take part in this event, and join people all over the world in showing our opposition to the practice of stoning.

Special thanks go to Justin Trottier of CFI Canada and Jamie Williams of CFI Vancouver for preparing the speech, and to Fred Bremmer for taking the photos.

Sakinah confesses! I guess I was wrong…

You’ll remember the news about Sakineh Ashtiani, the Iranian woman accused of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. You may also remember that after a world-wide rally was held on her behalf, her lawyer disappeared, and subsequently resurfaced in Turkey. Around that same time, new allegations surfaced that Ms. Ashtiani has conspired to murder her husband, which was the real reason she was being sentenced. Of course those charges were never proven, and she denied them repeatedly.

Looks like we were all hoodwinked!

Iranian state TV has aired what it says is a confession by a woman under threat of being stoned to death for adultery. In the interview shown on Wednesday, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani purportedly admits conspiring to murder her husband in 2005 and denounces her lawyer.

Of course… her face was blurred out, and her voice was dubbed over, and she was wearing a black niqab so it was impossible to identify her… but she said it was her. And so what if she all of a sudden is completely retracting her position for the past 5 years… she said it was her!

The airing of the TV confession is a sign that she could soon be executed, probably by hanging, our correspondent says. It seems the Iranian officials are sending a tough message to Western media and human rights groups that if they interfere in Iranian affairs and cause embarrassment, it will be counter-productive, he adds.

I don’t know if I can believe that second part. I’ll certainly buy that the government seems hell-bent on murdering this woman, regardless of either legality or reality or the outcry from the rest of the world. If the Iranian government thinks that anyone will be swayed by such a flimsy and obviously-fabricated ‘confession’, they’re severely overestimating the level of trust that the rest of the world has in the state of Iran. I’d be unlikely to believe this from my own government, let alone that of an evidently psychotic theocratic bully state with a history of fraud and intimidation.

The scarier prospect is that they know their video is crap, but that they don’t care enough to make it believable – that it’s just a big ‘fuck you’ to the rest of the world. From what I’ve seen of the Iranian regime, that’s quite likely to be the case.

Sodomy – the ULTIMATE sin

For anyone who’s ever complained about the government needing to “get off our backs”, or complaints about legislation being “shoved down our throat”, you can stop whining. It could be way worse:

The trial of the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, on charges of sodomy, has resumed after a long delay.

Unsurprisingly, sodomy is a crime in Malaysia. I say unsurprisingly because Malaysia, like Lebanon, has articles in its constitution that make it a requirement for holders of certain levels of political office to be of a certain religion, and can declare portions of its population Muslim by legislative fiat. Any place where there is a constitutional requirement to profess religion to hold high office is likely a place where bizarre Biblical (or, as the case may be, Qu’ranic) statutes are enforced by the power of the state. As CLS has noted before: “The church is pretty much a toothless dog when it doesn’t have access to state power.”

Luckily for the church in Malaysia, it’s a crime to have sex with another man, and they can drag the leader of the opposition through the mud whenever they see fit. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time these charges have been laid against him (pun fully intended).

What strikes me about this story isn’t that Malaysia is backwards because it’s a crime to be gay. Don’t get me wrong – trying to legislate sexuality is about as productive as passing a law requiring you to be at least 6′ tall, and all countries with ridiculous and untenable “morality” laws should be ashamed of themselves. What’s fascinating about these charges is that the people of Malaysia and the government seem to have no problem with Ibrahim having been convicted on corruption charges; they’re just interested in where his penis has been.

I break character for a moment

This is not a political or law blog. There are enough of those out there, and I don’t consider myself informed enough to give a meaningful opinion on the law. However, this story made me upset:

The federal government is moving once again to scotch the Criminal Code’s so-called faint hope clause, which allows killers to seek parole up to 10 years earlier than normal if they can satisfy a jury that they’ve reformed.

“Tough on Crime” is a catch-phrase we hear often in political debate. Conservatives are supposedly tough on crime, while “hug-a-thug” (doesn’t the right wing come up with such clever names?) Liberals are weak-willed and think that the criminals should have more rights than the victims.

I am not pro-crime. However, I want to see my government pass legal legislation designed to actually reduce crime, not simply increase punishment for those who don’t have good lawyers. Actions like this one by the federal government do not serve to lower crime, they are merely optics designed to dupe people who only pay attention to sound-bytes into thinking that their lives are somehow being made “safer” by keeping people in prison longer.

Never mind the fact that people get bounced out of prison due to over-crowding, or the fact that people with longer stretches in prison are more likely to re-offend than those who are granted pardons based on genuine reform. No, let’s take away the motivation that convicted people might have had to demonstrate some improvement. Let’s make sure that the people in prison stay bitter, resentful and come out far more dangerous than when they went in. That should fix everything. And don’t worry about the cost, it’s only 7-10 billion dollars over 5 years, also known as twice the annual national aid budget.

This is what gets me so upset about Conservativism, and politics in general. Policies get made that aren’t designed to make anyone’s life actually better; it’s done to get votes from the people who are probably least qualified to hold an opinion. Leadership isn’t about following the uninformed will of the masses; it’s about showing people why your policies will make their lives better. All this is to say nothing of Harper’s recent bill that refuses to allow foreign aid dollars to fund abortion. He says he doesn’t want to “divide Canadians” by bringing up the abortion debate.  It’s pretty clear that he’s perfectly happy to divide Canadians, since there has been no debate except among the right wing. All of sudden though, there’s a debate! Presto! Gee Whiz! I wonder how that happened…

Recently, Ontario premiere Dalton McGuinty announced a bold new approach to sexual education, designed to teach kids the facts about sex and sexuality early in their schooling. As soon as I heard about it, I sent him a letter telling him that although he was sure to get a lot of flack from people for “teaching kids to have sex” and “usurping the role of the parents”, that this was a courageous and admirable step to make changes that work. Of course, the very next day he pulled a complete about face and announced that the program was going back on the shelf. If you believe in something, fight for it. Don’t let people’s meanest and least-informed instincts deter you from the right cause by using fear tactics. There are some things that are more important than getting re-elected.

Anyway, I will get back to my usual topics of discussion. I just felt like talking about this for a second.