banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Suggestions for improvements to Hallowe'en

I would like to make a few suggestions to make Hallowe'en less irritating to crotchety old guys like me. I don't have kids, and I am not a kid myself, so I usually flee the house on Hallowe'en and go into the city for dinner until it's all over. However, if these ideas catch on, maybe I'll start handing out candy again to deserving little urchins.
  1. Let's not let teenagers trick-or-treat anymore. Little kids are cute, but when a 17 year-old shows up at your door at 9:00 pm with no costume save a ball cap on sideways, and when you ask him what he's supposed to be, replies with a snarl "a gangster", the whole process kind of loses its charm. I used to buy some of those nasty molasses kisses to give to kids like this so they wouldn't slit my tires, but I noticed in the paper today that Cadbury has stopped making them, so there goes that strategy. I suggest that we have a collective policy - no trick-or-treating after grade six. As a libertarian, I don't think we need to pass a law to this effect, but certainly we can figure out ways to embarass older kids into stopping.
  2. No more zombies. Dressing up as a zombie is a cop-out - a little white face paint and some dark eyeshadow - you call that a costume? I was in a coffee shop tonight and a couple walked in obviously on the way to a Hallowe'en party dressed as zombies - I couldn't tell the difference between them and the regular thugs and crack whores who hang out in the area. When I was a kid, we dressed my brother up like Yasser Arafat and sent him out - now THAT's a costume.
  3. No costumes at work. I had to go to work today with my boss dressed like a 1920's flapper and another colleague in a Sponge Bob Square Pants outfit. Can't we have a little dignity? The tellers at the bank were dressed like vampires - that sure gave me confidence in the banking system.
  4. Abolish the use of orange garbage bags as home decorations. You know the kind I mean - they have a jack-o-lantern face printed on the front, and people fill them with leaves and leave them lying around the front yard. Who thought this was a good idea - they're supposed to look like pumpkins? To me, they look like garbage.
  5. Stop the inane local news stories that are repeated every year at Hallowe'en. You know the ones - how to trick-or-treat safely, how to apply reflective tape to costumes to protect kids while running around in traffic, long stories about the extravagant vulgarly-decorated houses that look like Las Vegas theme hotels. Enough already. While we're at it, radio stations can stop playing novelty occult-themed songs like Monster Mash all freakin' day.

So, who's with me? Let's start a movement here - if it saves one man's sanity, isn't it worth it?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

"Traditional family values" hysteria - in 1943

Skepticism of the need for change is one of the fundamental tenets of conservatism, as is respect for institutions like Parliament, the church, the family, or common law. Admirable though these conservative tendencies may be, they should not be used to imply that change should stop, or that society should remain static like a fly trapped in amber. If that was the case, then we would never have had an end to slavery, or extended universal suffrage to women.

These tendencies in conservative thought have come together in the current over-wrought debate over same-sex marriage. Extending the institution to homosexuals, we are told, will destroy society. David Warren writes in the Oct. 23 issue of The Western Standard that gay marriage "extends the psychic carnage wreaked by the feminist revolution. By decisively separating the concept of 'marriage' from the responsibilities of child-rearing, all of the conventions that hold a society together are turned topsy-turvy. The very connection between biological reality and moral order is severed." I have posted a rebuttal to that article here, but I would like to draw attention to a historical precedent where a heated argument about "family values" was used to try to prevent much needed social change.

During the Second World War, the U.S. faced a daunting task; rebuilding the armed forces after decades of neglect while facing enemies on many fronts, and at the same time repairing an economy destroyed by ten years of depression and putting it on a war footing. Millions of men were drafted into the services at the same time as industrial production was being increased dramatically - the result was a severe labour shortage in industries crucial to the war effort. The government's only option was to recruit women to the labour force by the millions. Many women left their roles as housewives or their traditional jobs in clerical or domestic service jobs to take highly paid jobs in industry.

This new tactic didn't go unchallenged. As Doris Goodwin writes in her biography of Franklin Roosevelt, No Ordinary Time:
The government's vigorous recruitment of women provoked fierce opposition in many quarters. In their lead editorial in April 1943, Catholic World argued that women who maintain jobs outside their homes ... weaken family life, endanger their own marital happiness, rob themselves of man's protective capabilities, and by consequence decrease the number of children. The principal evil in women's work is that it alienates the life of the wife from the life of the husband and gives marriage as much permanence as the room sharing of two freshmen at boarding school."

The phenomenon of working women has undoubtedly changed the nature of the institution of marriage (arguably more so than same-sex marriage will), and the institution has survived. It will survive the inclusion of homosexual couples, in spite of hysterical preditions to the contrary.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A rebuttal to the Western Standard on gay marriage

I am a big fan of Ezra Levant and The Western Standard, and it is refreshing to see a main-stream Canadian magazine finally take positions on governing, human rights and foreign policy that challenges the CBC/Toronto Star/Maclean’s squishy left orthodoxy. In fact, I became a subscriber after Levant took so much heat for publishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons. However, David Warren’s "Culture" column in the Oct. 23 issue, "Planning the Counter-Revolution - how can the debate over same-sex marriage be done when its damage to society continues to multiply?" made me grit my teeth in frustration. Warren sounds a little unhinged in this piece, and he only reinforces the negative stereotypes of conservatives that liberals use over and over again to imply that we can’t be trusted to form a national government.

First of all, the language Warren uses is unnecessarily hysterical. He speaks of the same-sex marriage debate in terms of battles, wars, attacks, destruction, carnage, and desecration. How can we take someone seriously who says "To put a sharp point on it, in Canada today, the Devil has control of the media, the courts, the bureaucracy and the education system." Huh? The Devil is behind same-sex marriage? I agree with Warren that the debate is far from over in Canada, but to put one side of the argument on the side of Satan doesn’t invite polite level-headed dialogue.

Warren writes "The systematic attack on our common law is part of a larger attack on all norms of public decency, in what was once a Christian society. Since the ‘straight’ nuclear family was the bedrock of that society, the enemy has invested much in its destruction". As I have posted before, people need to remember that in the eyes of the law, marriage is a civil, not a religious institution. Although all major religious institutions have ceremonies and sacraments that confer blessings and approval on a couple, marital status in Canada is conferred by the state, not the church. Although religious institutions should be protected from performing marriages in situations where their doctrine forbids it, the state has no business enshrining any religious doctrine in civil law. How can the Western Standard express outrage that Ontario once considered allowing Sharia law to be used to adjudicate marital disputes and at the same time be equally outraged that Canada’s marriage policy contravenes someone’s interpretation of the Judeo-Christian roots of common law? All individuals in society are equal - civil institutions must not discriminate. Period.

Warren continues: "The genius of same-sex marriage is not that it creates the spectacle of men marrying men, women marrying women. That is mere show, like gay pride parades. To this day, few homosexuals desire to ape the symbolism of family values. And what is the point of being homosexual, if you do?" I’ll overlook the offensive use of the word "ape" for now. To whom is same-sex marriage a "spectacle"? Do heterosexuals flock to gay weddings like they do to Mardi Gras, to see the "spectacle"? Certainly to gay couples who, like married couples, are celebrating their love and commitment, it would be offensive to label their wedding a "spectacle". Few homosexuals desire to be married? Over 10 000 gay men and women have been married in Canada since the law was changed, and one must remember that this option has only been available to gay Canadians for a very short time. Many gay couples have settled into stable relationships outside of marriage because for years marriage was not an option, and young gay men and women have not grown up feeling that marriage was a possible or even desirable life path. It’s no wonder that gays aren’t rushing to get married when until recently they were told by their governments that it was unnatural for them to want to do so. Give it time. And finally, the line "what is the point of being a homosexual if you do?" Homosexuals want to get married for many of the same reasons straight couples do - to express commitment, to share resources, to provide for old age, to "settle down", and above all else, because they love each other. Why would we want the heavy hand of the state to deny this option to a minority of its citizens?

Warren says "the genius is rather in what same-sex marriage does to society at large. It compels the rewriting of the legal and tax codes to eliminate such concepts as ‘father,’ ‘mother’, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. It creates doubt and confusion about all social relations... By decisively separating the concept of ‘marriage’ from the responsibility of child rearing, all of the conventions that hold a society together are turned topsy-turvy. The very connection between biological reality and moral order is severed." Yes, gay couples can’t have children - but to use this argument to exclude gays from marriage is illogical. Many married couples are childless. We do not deny marriage to the infertile - in fact, we celebrate marriage in the case of mature couples who find love late in life. If marriage is all about child rearing, then this is an argument about heterosexual marriage, not gay marriage. By this argument, we should only allow fertile couples to marry, and we should legally prevent heterosexuals from having children out of wedlock. We should make divorce and cohabitation illegal to make sure every child is raised by a married heterosexual couple. If Warren is upset about gay couples raising children, he should be arguing against gay couples adopting children, which is a separate issue altogether. And I hate to break it to David Warren, but the concepts of father & mother, husband & wife have not had any legal meaning in Canadian law for quite some time, long before gay marriage was legal. The tax code, the criminal code and property law have long ago ceased to recognize any difference in legal status between male "husband" and female "wife". Is he advocating a return to the good old days when only the husband payed taxes and could legally beat his wife, and women had no legal claim to marital property? If so, this has nothing to do with gay marriage and hints at an underlying unease with the concept of female equality.

"To be fair, few of the nominal supporters of same-sex marriage grasp any of this. They have been told this is just a ‘rights issue’, and they’ve been taught to avoid any form of prudential reasoning" writes Warren. This is just flat-out offensive. Does Warren actually know any homosexuals? Thank you for pointing out that my support of same-sex marriage is because I’ve been brainwashed, and that, like a retarded child I am incapable of making up my own mind on the issue and must be taught to avoid "any form of prudential reasoning". I could also point out that some would say that Warren’s statement that "I’m a Catholic, and therefore sure God is with us" requires an avoidance of prudential reasoning, but that’s another argument.

Finally, Warren states "The prime minister has ... started to appoint supreme and superior court judges who are morally and intellectually sound, though we will have to keep the Liberals and their like out of power for a decade or more to turn that tide". Morally and intellectually sound? In other words, anyone in favour of gay marriage is immoral and intellectually unsound? The last resort of a weak argument is ad hominem attacks on one’s opponents. And this talk of packing the courts with fundamentalist Christian judges is exactly what the left wants to hear - remember Harper’s "secret agenda" in the last election? It is talk like this from people like David Warren that will deny the Conservative Party a majority in the next federal election. Opposition to gay marriage is a millstone around the party’s neck - it’s time to move on and concentrate on serious issues.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Memo to the left: why we're in Afghanistan

This post on GayPatriot recounts a recent interview with Arshad Misbahi, the leading Muslim cleric in Manchester, UK:

Manchester’s leading Imam has confirmed that he thinks the execution of sexually active gay men is justified. Mr. Arshad Misbahi, who is based at the Manchester Central Mosque, confirmed his views in a conversation to Dr John Casson, a local psychotherapist.

Dr Casson said: “I asked him if the execution of gay Muslims in Iran and Iraq was an acceptable punishment in Sharia law, or the result of culture, not religion. He told me that in a true Islamic state, such punishments were part of Islam: if the person had had a trial, at which four witnesses testified that they had seen the actual homosexual acts.”

“I asked him what would be the British Muslim view? He repeated that in an Islamic state these punishments were justified. They might result in the deaths of thousands but if this deterred millions from having sex, and spreading disease, then it was worthwhile to protect the wider community.”

“I checked again that this was not a matter of tradition, culture or local prejudice. ‘No,’ he said, ‘It is part of the central tenets of Islam: that sex outside marriage is forbidden; this is stated in the Koran and the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had stated that these punishments were due to such behaviours.' "

Life in Afghanistan under the Taliban was a nightmarish hell, and the country was used as a base to spread Islamic fundamentalism around the world. At the very least, Canada's presence there is helping to prevent a return to a sadistic regime that persecuted women and exterminated homosexuals. In the broader term, our actions send a message that this kind of thinking is not acceptable in Canada. It may be too late to stop it in some areas of Europe, but it isn't too late here. Jack Layton and fans: time to get with the program.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ontario provides character for the masses

The Liberal government of Ontario has announced that it is introducing mandatory "character education" to all public schools next year. The libertarian in me bristles at things like this. I have an instinctive distrust of government programs that are designed to shape thoughts and personalities, especially in children. History is littered with appalling examples of governments deciding which character traits are desirable and which are deemed antisocial, and while it is facetious to compare Ontario to say, North Korea, it is wise to be skeptical when bureaucrats tinker in social engineering.

Premier Dalton McGuinty, who has always reminded me of a hectoring Presbyterian Sunday-school teacher, says "What [character education] is a matter of doing is taking shared values that are in the background and bringing these to the foreground .... It turns out that there is a strong correlation between schools which integrate character education into their curriculum and the reduction in absenteeism, a reduction in misbehaviour, increases in academic success - all those are related to a tone of civility that is brought to our schools." The premier apparently rejected comments that the program would, according to the National Post, "mould a citizenry that accepts the status quo and does not question authority."

The program is being coordinated by Avis Glaze, former Director of the Peterborough-area Kawartha-Pine Ridge District School Board, who is now the Ontario government’s "chief student achievement officer". When she was in Peterborough, she instituted a mandatory character education program that may be the model for what is to come in Ontario. After much consultation with "stakeholders"in the school system, the board came up with a "vision statement" that said "Character education is a deliberate effort to nurture universal attributes that transcend racial, religious, socio-economic and cultural lines. It is a whole school effort to create a community that promotes the highest ideas of student discipline and citizenship. The skill and expectations are nurtured in an explicit, focused and intentional manner." Subsequently, ten character traits were identified as being the focus of each school’s character education program: respect, responsibility, honesty, integrity, empathy, fairness, initiative, perseverence, courage and optimism. These "ten commandments" were then put on laminated plaques and displayed prominently in the lobbies of every school in the board.

Who could argue with these goals? Well, I suppose no-one who wants to turn out model citizens who all get along and don’t make waves. However, there are some traits that are conspicuous by their absence. How about individualism, or self-reliance, or patriotism, or delaying gratification? Speaking as a self-professed eccentric crank, where do the budding young eccentric cranks fit into this system? The problem is that the traits that are considered "shared values" are the ones that the majority share; this puts a lot of pressure on the minority of perfectly happy citizens who may have characteristics that are deemed unacceptable, like being crabby, or Dalton-forbid, inability to work in groups.

When I read about policies like this, I can’t help but think of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. In chapter 2, after the animals have taken over Manor Farm and re-named it Animal Farm, the pigs call a meeting of the other animals:

They explained that by their studies of the past three months the pigs had succeeded in reducing the principles of Animalism to Seven Commandments. These Seven Commandments would now be inscribed on the wall; they would form an unalterable law by which all the animals on Animal Farm must live for ever after... The Commandments were written on the tarred wall in great white letters that could be read thirty yards away. They ran thus:

The Seven Commandments
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

All the animals nodded in complete agreement, and the cleverer ones at once began to learn the commandments by heart.... When they had once got it by heart, the sheep developed a great liking for [one] maxim, and often as they lay in the field they would all start bleating "Four legs good, two legs bad! Four legs good, two legs bad!" and keep it up for hours on end, never growing tired of it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Casual Fridays and the collapse of civilization

My workplace has instituted a "Dress Down on Fridays for Charity" program, which means that everyone dresses like a slob on Fridays and wears a conspicuous tag that says "I'm dressed down for (insert name of charity here)". I have several problems with this. First of all, my colleagues dress like slobs every day of the week, so there is no discernible difference in attire on Fridays that I can tell. Secondly, walking around advertising that you are contributing to charity seems to defeat the purpose of charity: doing good works should be a private act and should be done without trying to announce the fact to the community. Lastly, dressing casually on Fridays seems to imply that business done on that day is not as important as that done on Monday to Thursday, and this seems to me to be a symptom of the general lax attitude we have to the conventions that once contributed to the smooth and efficient functioning of society. With the barbarians at the gates, we give up these traditions at our peril.

Take banking as an example. It used to be that banks were imposing structures built like Roman temples with vast vaulted lobbies furnished in marble and mahogany. When you made a transaction, you were treated formally by conservatively-dressed tellers with elaborate paperwork and rituals. You got the feeling that your money was important and the transaction was like a church sacrament. Now banks are indistinguishable from convenience stores, and tellers are dressed like Avril Lavigne. Who knows what they do with your money once you leave? Do they care? At Hallowe'en the tellers in my bank dress in costumes - how does that make me feel to have my mortgage handled by someone dressed, literally, like a clown?

When I was young, the male teachers at my high school all wore jackets and ties, and the female staff wore dresses, never pants. Learning was serious business - you could tell by the way they were dressed. Now, if you walk into a typical school, the teachers are indistinguishable from the students. Teachers take professional development training to learn how to handle discipline in their classes, and then go to work dressed like skateboarders.

The October 11 Financial Post had an article about a lawyer in St. Louis who gave up her practice to start a business training young lawyers how to behave professionally. She hit on the idea when a young law student showed up for a job interview dressed in shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. Her business is booming, and all she does is teach bright young lawyers how to use an iron, tie a Windsor knot, cover up their tattoos and not embarass themselves in a restaurant. What is the world coming to when law firms have to train their associates not to go to court with their boxer shorts sticking out above their pants?

So, I have started my own personal rebellion against Casual Fridays. I donate to charities privately without advertising the fact, and I deliberately dress more formally on Fridays. I wear a tie every day of the week (I'm one of the few men at my workplace that still does), but on Fridays I now wear shirts with French cuffs and cufflinks. I haven't yet worn a tag that proclaims "I'm wearing French cuffs for civilization", but it may come to that. "French Cuff Fridays" - it has a nice ring to it. Maybe when France next does something stupid, we can switch the name to "Freedom Cuffs".

Monday, October 09, 2006

Why gay marriage is good conservative policy

Once again, the Conservative Party of Canada is in the throes of an existential debate about gay marriage. Despite indications that most Canadians do not want to revisit the issue, trial balloons are floating around Ottawa suggesting that the CPC will introduce a Defence of Religion Act if a motion to re-open the marriage debate fails to pass in the House of Commons. Much has been written about the issue, but I would like to present the argument that supporting gay marriage is in fact a sound conservative policy, and one that members of the CPC can feel comfortable with for traditional conservative reasons.

First of all, let us recognize that this is a very polarizing issue. Proponents of both sides feel strongly about gay marriage for very legitimate reasons, and it does not advance the debate to demonize or belittle those with whom we disagree. Opponents of same-sex marriage are mostly decent people who are not necessarily bigots, and those in favour are not by definition depraved sexual libertines who are hell-bent on destroying the ancient pillars of society. It should be possible to have a civilized argument about this without name-calling and mud-slinging.

That being said, let’s examine the conservative arguments for gay marriage. I’m not going to outline anything here that hasn’t already been written by more eloquent and talented writers than me; rather I would like to summarize some of the points made by writers who are in the midst of the same debate in the US. I think their arguments make sense to Canadian libertarian conservatives.

Author Jonathan Rauch identifies three main purposes of marriage: the raising of children, the stabilizing and settling of the young (especially young men) and the provision of reliable caregivers. Opponents of gay marriage tend to focus on the first of these as an argument to exclude homosexuals from the institution of marriage, but the last two reasons are equally applicable to both gay and straight couples. He argues that marriage, and even the prospect of marriage, is a great domesticator and is a stabilizing influence in society, especially on unstable young men. "If you hope to get married, and if your friends and peers hope to get married, you will socialize and date more carefully... you will reach for respectability. You will devote yourself to work, try to build status, and earn money to make yourself more marriageable... Because you aspire to marry, you prepare to marry. You make yourself what people used to call marriage material". This is a very conservative pro-marriage argument, and is equally valid for homosexual couples, who have until recently have never had this outcome to strive for.

The argument about caregiving is also a very conservative one. As Rauch points out, "from society’s point of view, an unattached person is an accident waiting to happen. The burdens of contingency are likely to fall, immediately and sometimes crushingly, on people - relatives, friends, neighbours - who have enough problems of their own, and then on charities and welfare agencies. We all suffer periods of illness, sadness, distress, fury. What happens to us, and what happens to the people around us, when we desperately need a hand but find none to hold? If marriage has any meaning at all, it is that when you collapse from a stroke, there will be another person whose ‘job’ it is to drop everything and come to your aid. Or that when you come home after being fired, there will be someone to talk you out of committing a massacre or killing yourself. To be married is to know there is someone out there for whom you are always first in line". Denying this option to gay couples places this burden of care on the state - how is this good conservative policy?

The argument is frequently made that marriage should be about raising children in a stable man-woman family unit and thus gays should be denied access to marriage because they are by definition unable to produce children. This line of reasoning in itself has logical inconsistencies. We do not deny civil marriage to infertile or elderly couples, or to post-menopausal women. We do not impose a fertility test as a requirement for a marriage licence, or force shot-gun marriages on unwed mothers. Paul Varnell argues that, if anything, this is an argument for forcing heterosexuals to marry if they want to have children, and for making divorce and cohabitation more difficult. "In short, it is an argument about what heterosexual parents should do, not about gay couples who do not and by themselves cannot have children." Furthermore, according to the 2000 US census, 27% of American households headed by same-sex couples contain children - there is no reason to believe that the figures are radically different in Canada. Is it good conservative policy to prevent these children from living in a household with married parents?

One can certainly make the argument that there are valid religious reasons for opposing same-sex marriage, and I won’t dispute this. However, I would point out that marriage is legally a civil institution, not a religious one. Churches, mosques and synagogues have religious ceremonies that confer spiritual blessings and approval on a married couple, but as far as the law is concerned married status is conferred by the state, not the church. The state should allow religious institutions the right to opt out of performing same-sex marriage ceremonies for theological reasons, but a blanket ban on civil marriage for gays makes no sense. The Roman Catholic church is opposed to remarriage after divorce, but most Catholics are not seeking to make it illegal for everyone to obtain a civil divorce or to remarry. The state has no business enshrining religious doctrine in civil law. After all, it is not illegal to be gay in Canada. As Andrew Sullivan has written, "Can you think of any other legal, non-criminal minority in society toward which social conservatives have nothing but negative social policy? What other group in society do conservatives believe should be kept outside integrating social institutions? On what other issue do conservatives favour separatism over integration?"

I don’t accept the argument that same-sex marriage cheapens or belittles heterosexual marriage, either. Gay couples are not cheap or flawed versions of straight couples, and it is ridiculous to think that a straight couple would refuse to get married if they were so inclined just because a gay couple in their community is also married. Jonathan Rauch points out that what cheapens the institution of marriage is denying it to committed couples who want it. Liberal-minded citizens are going to recoil from participating in an institution that is discriminatory. Benton County, Oregon has stopped issuing marriage licences because officials do not want any part of a legal institution that discriminates. Recently Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced that they would not get married until homosexuals could also legally marry in the US. I’m not suggesting that we make policy based on the public musings of Hollywood celebrities (that’s more of a Paul Martin thing), but the institution of marriage may become tainted by political incorrectness as long as it is perceived to discriminate against a minority. This is not good for marriage, and certainly doesn’t strike me as good conservative policy.

The most serious aspect of this debate to conservatives is the damage it does to the image of the CPC. It is the one issue that opponents seize on to argue that the Conservative Party is in thrall to religious zealots and homophobic bigots and can’t be trusted with power. More than the perfectly defensible positions on the war in Afghanistan, the gun registry or the Kyoto Accord, the attempt to repeal the gay marriage law sends a message to centrist voters that a CPC majority would open up all sorts of social policy areas that are now considered settled in Canada. Over 10 000 gay Canadian citizens have been married since the Liberals changed the law - the negative fallout from a change now would outweigh any perceived benefits and doom the CPC to opposition status.

Andrew Sullivan wrote in 2003 in Time Magazine: "Like most other homosexuals, I grew up in a heterosexual family and tried to imagine how I too could one day be a full part of the family I loved. But I figured then that I had no such future. I could never have a marriage, never have a family, never be a full and equal part of the weddings and relationships and holidays that give families structure and meaning. When I looked forward, I saw nothing but emptiness and loneliness. No wonder it was hard to connect sex with love and commitment. No wonder it was hard to feel at home in what was, in fact, my home." Most heterosexuals don’t realize how insulting and humiliating it is for homosexuals to be told by their own government that they are not worthy of the legal benefits and responsibilities of civil marriage. Marriage policy is not a zero-sum game: extending civil marriage to gays in no way takes anything away from heterosexual married couples, so other than saying to gays that they are not fit to be married, what legitimate social policy objective can be achieved by banning gay marriage?

How can it be good conservative policy to advocate excluding homosexuals from the benefits and responsibilities of this institution? Allowing gay citizens to marry will stabilize and enrich gay relationships while benefitting society and strengthening the institution of marriage. It will respect individual rights while minimizing the oppressive intrusion of the state into the lives of a minority of its citizens. Above all, it will treat all Canadian citizens as equal under the law. All of these values are deeply rooted in the conservative movement and appeal to gays and straights alike. Stephen Harper promised in the last election that he would allow a free vote in the House on gay marriage, and there is every indication that a motion to re-open the debate will be soundly defeated. Many Conservative M.P.s are in favour of gay marriage. Harper should introduce the motion in the House, and when it is defeated, drop the issue once and for all.


Rauch, Jonathan. Gay marriage - why it is good for gays, good for straights and good for America. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 2004

Rauch, Jonathan. On gay marriage, conservatives betray conservatism. The Public Interest: Summer 2004

Sullivan, Andrew. The conservative case for gay marriage. Time: June 22, 2003

Sullivan, Andrew. If it’s not a crime to be gay, why can’t we get married? The Wall Street Journal: Oct. 8 2003

Varnell, Paul. The failed case against gay marriage. The Chicago Free Press: Sep. 17 2003.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Questions about the Mark Foley scandal

First - Congressman Mark Foley is a creep, and deserves whatever happens to him as a result of an impending FBI probe into his e-mail exchanges with underage Capitol Hill pages. However, something smells fishy about the whole thing. Some bloggers in the U.S. are wondering if Foley has been a target of a sting operation by Democrats who may have known about Foley but sat on the evidence until they could unleash an "October Surprise" on the Republicans one month before the mid-term election.

I read a complete transcript of the e-mails, and they are very disturbing. Foley is deservedly in serious trouble, and his defence that he is an alcoholic and was abused by a clergyman as a teenager is pathetic. In addition to his abuse of his position of authority over children and the damage he may have done to his victims, he has reinforced the misconception that gay men are all pedophiles and are unsuited to public office or professions which will put them in contact with children. The fact that a large majority of pedophiles are heterosexual men preying on young girls will be lost on most people. His behaviour also makes it more difficult for gay Republicans to come out the closet.

Some people are wondering, though, if Foley was targeted by Democrats who knew of his problematic behaviour and then set him up. Here's a sample e-mail that makes me wonder:
Foley: "To be honest, I am a little too interested in you. So that's why I need to back off a little."
Page: "Ya, slow things down a little I'm still young - like under 18. Don't want to do anything illegal - I'm not 18."
This doesn't sound like a teenager talking - it sounds like someone trying to get it in writing that Foley was harassing an underage boy. What teenager would say "Don't want to do anything illegal - I'm not 18"? This doesn't excuse Foley's behaviour, but it raises some questions:
Who leaked the e-mails to ABC news? How did they come into that person's posession? When did that person become aware of Foley's e-mail exchange, and how long did they sit on the story before it was released, coincidentally just weeks before a crucial election that will determine which party controls Congress?

House Speaker Dennis Hastert is taking serious heat over allegations that he was informed about the Foley problem as early as 2003 and did nothing about it. Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are baying for Republican blood. However, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that Democrats also had early knowledge of the problem and waited to do something about it until it had its maximum political effect. If this is true, then it is equally despicable.

I'll leave the last word to Andrew Tobias, a gay American writer (and treasurer of the Democratic National Committee):

“As somebody who has met Mark Foley personally and has mutual friends, I am sad for Mark and I hope he doesn’t go to jail. The last time I saw Mark, he was 19
years into a relationship. That was sad that it had to be hidden.
“I hope the Republican Party continues to evolve so it’s not so difficult to be an openly gay Republican.”

For more on this issue, check out GayPatriot, Gateway Pundit, and the Right Side of the Rainbow

Monday, October 02, 2006

In the Google dimension

The internet is a weird place. Occasionally out of curiosity I go into my Sitemeter account to see who is reading my blog - I don't have that many readers so it's easy to do. My favourite part of doing this is checking the search words that have directed someone to my blog while doing a Google blog search.

A while ago I did a post on Katie Couric's debut on the CBS Evening News. Apparently there are a lot of obsessed Katie Couric fans out there; I have had several hits using the search words "Katie Couric tight pants". That same post, which mentioned BBC World News anchor Katty Kay got a hit for "Katty Kay escort". For all you hookers out there who look like Katty Kay - business may be looking up, so practice your British accent.

Because I identify myself as gay in my profile, I get a few hits every week using the search words "gay sex" or "gay escorts" or various other combinations. Oddly enough, several of them have been from Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Malaysia - this is kind of sad or disturbing, depending on who is doing the searching. They must be a little surprised when they click on my link.

I frequently get hits to a post I did on the CBC's new show Canada's Greatest Inventions. I can imagine the poor elementary school kids googling their class project on Canadian Inventors and then landing on a post that rips the CBC and compares Canada unfavourably to the U.S. - school teachers all over the land will be filtering that one.

Thank goodness for search engines - if it wasn't for people landing randomly here via Google, I wouldn't have any readers at all.