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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Linkspam: Feminism, Science & Usability

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Even during crazy weeks when I’m up to my eyeballs in work, Fringe shows and social appointments, I still manage to read piles of stuff on the Internet. Here is a sampling of the most interesting things I’ve stumbled upon this week.

Feminism & Women

 

Science & Technology

 

Politics

 

Usability
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Edmonton Jasper Avenue Safety Survey Results

Monday, August 9th, 2010

The Jasper Avenue Safety Survey Results have been published online and I’m not terribly impressed by Toybox’s breakdown of the data.

They asked questions like “do you live in downtown Edmonton” but didn’t break down the rest of the results by people who live downtown and those who don’t. People who live downtown spend more time here and likely have a deeper understanding of the real versus superficial safety concerns. By mixing the data, how are we to know whether or not there are real safety problems or perception issues? If the people who live downtown report very different safety concerns (or levels of safety concerns) than those who are here only to work or only to experience the nightlife, the disconnect needs to be addressed. The two issues — safety versus perception of safety — have to be dealt with in very different ways.

Also, they asked for age but not gender. More women than men experience street harassment (especially walking past popular bars like Oil City after midnight) and are a much better indicator of harassment levels than 25-35 year old white men, who by comparison are targeted for harassment less frequently. Depending on the gender mix of survey respondants, the harassment numbers may potentially be under-represented.

People experience downtown areas in different ways depending on their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, whether or not they live downtown, and which area of downtown they live in. My sister, for example, who feels most secure in white picket fence enclosed suburbia does not feel at all safe walking downtown at night, whereas I, who live, work and play 24/7 downtown, would comparatively report I feel safe most of the time. Who is right and who is wrong? Is the issue my sister’s unwarranted anxiety the issue, or am I, as a resident, just too used to to living here to notice as many safety concerns? Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as most truths do, but this survey doesn’t provide the statistical depth required to help answer those legitimate questions.

I think a comprehensive survey of safety issues downtown is a great idea, but this survey isn’t very thorough and seems to skim the surface of a lot of issues that are worth a deep dive. I would be wary of drawing any conclusions from it until the data has been broken down further. I’m not certain Toybox Media was the best company to go through for this survey. Do they have the specialized statistical expertise needed to write and analyse a survey that has potential government and tax-dollar implications? Or would this have been better outsourced to a company that specializes in polling rather than one that specializes in marketing?

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Prop 8 Ruling A Rational Win for Gay Rights

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Yesterday Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled California’s Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage as unconstitutional and discriminatory, a major victory for gay and lesbian marriage advocates. The decision has already been appealed and will have to go through the 9th Circuit and, eventually, the US Supreme Court.

Over the last 12 hours I took the time to read through Judge Walker’s 138 page ruling, and what I was most pleased about was how he framed his decision, not in morals or emotional appeals, but in rational fact, which legal experts say will make it much harder for higher courts to overturn.

Walker’s focus on hard evidence and fact thrills me, and reading through his ruling as he methodically and without emotional appeal refutes the claimes of the Prop 8 proponents based on the fantastic legwork of the pro gay marriage legal team.

The anti gay-marriage proponents brought the “gay boogyman” to the trial, claiming that homosexual marriage would errode heterosexual marriage and damage children, and instead of moralizing, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said came back with piles of evidence, facts, precident and expert witness testimony from psychologists to social epidemiologists, methodically rebutting each of their claims. At one point when pressed by Judge Vaughn Walker to provide even one solid, fact-based harm that might come from permitting gay men and women to marry, Mr. Cooper had nothing but “Your honor, my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know.” Aside from the boogyman that appeals to homophobic sentiment and discrimination, the anti-gay side has seemingly no evidence to back up their position.

A long list of factual evidence — most of which the Proposition 8 proponents conceeded to during the trial (my understanding based on reading through the ruling) — has been pulled out and is available for quick reading on the Yes Means Yes blog.

Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick has written an outstanding article highlighting the factual, well-reasoned Prop 8 ruling:

“But for all the lofty language about freedom and morality, nobody can fairly accuse Judge Walker of putting together an insubstantial or unsubstantiated opinion today. Indeed, the whole point of this legal exercise—the lengthy trial, the spectacularly detailed finding of facts (80 of them! with subheadings!)—was to pit expert against expert, science against science, and fact against prejudice.

It’s hard to read Judge Walker’s opinion without sensing that what really won out today was science, methodology, and hard work. Had the proponents of Prop 8 made even a minimal effort to put on a case, to track down real experts, to do more than try to assert their way to legal victory, this would have been a closer case. But faced with one team that mounted a serious effort and another team that did little more than fire up their big, gay boogeyman screensaver for two straight weeks, it wasn’t much of a fight. Judge Walker scolds them at the outset for promising in their trial brief to prove that same-sex marriage would “effect some twenty-three harmful consequences” and then putting on almost no case.”

Read the full article on Slate.

And my favourite quote from Lithwick’s article comes at the very end, one with which I heartily agree:

“The real triumph of Perry v. Schwarzenegger may be that it talks in the very loftiest terms about matters rooted in logic, science, money, social psychology, and fact.”

Anti-gay marriage supporters are already calling out Judge Walker and trying to refocus the story, calling his ruling a conflict of interest because he’s gay. This implies heterosexual people by default aren’t biased about this issue, which cleary is not the case: the fact that this is such a fought over, controversial topic tells us both heterosexuals and homosexuals have potential and very real biases and conflicts here. And after reading through the ruling, I have to say I think Judge Walker did an fantastic job of concentrating as much as possible on the evidence of the case — perhaps because he was concerned about being seen as biased, perhaps just because he’s generally awesome like that. In any event and for whatever reason, his ruling is founded on evidence rather than sentiment.

I encourage everyone to read the ruling themselves, but here are a few choice snippets (references to other court cases removed):

In response to the purported arguement that reserving marriage as a union between a man and woman excluding any other relationship on “it’s tradition” grounds:

“Tradition alone, however, cannot form a rational basis for a law. The “ancient lineage” of a classification does not make it rational. Rather, the state must have an interest apart from the fact of the traditon itself.”

“Because it’s always been this way” isn’t a good enough argument to form the basis of a law.

“Proponents’ argument that tradition prefers opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples equates to the notion that opposite-sex relationships are simply better than same-sex relationships. Tradition alone cannot legitimate this purported interest. Plaintiffs presented evidence showing conclusively that the state has no interest in preferring opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples or in preferring heterosexuality to homosexuality. Moreover, the state cannot have an interest in disadvantaging an unpopular minority group simply because the group is unpopular.

The evidence shows that the state advances nothing when it adheres to the tradition of excluding same-sex couples from marriage. Proponents’ asserted state interests in tradition are nothing more than tautologies and do not amount to rational bases for Proposition 8.”

In response to the purported argument that social change should be implemented with caution:

“Proponents presented no reliable evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have any negative effects on society or on the institution of marriage. The process of allowing same-sex couples to marry is straightforward, and no evidence suggests that the state needs any significant lead time to integrate same-sex couples into marriage. … The evidence shows that allowing same-sex couples to marry will be simple for California to implement because it has already done so; no change need be phased in.

Because the evidence shows same-sex marriage has and will have no adverse effects on society or the institution of marriage, California has no interest in waiting and no practical need to wait to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Proposition 8 is thus not rationally related to proponents’ purported interests in proceeding with caution when implementing social change.”

Basically, in order to justify “proceeding with caution”, there needs to be a better and more factual reason other than “because people won’t like it”. Nothing but policy has to change to make same-sex marriage a reality: there is no cost or time needed to make it happen, and no limited number of marriage licenses available to the population of California. A same-sex couple getting a marriage license does not prevent or delay an opposite-sex couple from getting one.

In response to the purported argument of opposite-sex parenting over same-sex parenting:

“The evidence does not support a finding that California has an interest in preferring opposite-sex parents over same-sex parents. Indeed, the evidence shows beyond any doubt that parents’ genders are irrelevant to children’s developmental outcomes. Moreover, Proposition 8 has nothing to do with children, as Proposition 8 simply prevents same-sex couples from marrying. Same-sex couples can have (or adopt) and raise children. When they do, they are treated identically to opposite-sex parents under California law. Even if California had an interest in preferring opposite-sex parents to same-sex parents — and the evidence plainly shows that California does not — Proposition 8 is not rationally related to that interest, because Proposition 8 does not affect who can or should become a parent under Californai law.”

So Propositon 8 doesn’t have anything to say about children or who is qualified to raise children, which makes the “think of the children” argument irrelevant to Prop 8 specifically. Also:

“Proponents argue Proposition 8 advances a state interest in encouraging the formation of stable households. Instead, the evidence shows that Proposition 8 undermines that state interest, because same-sex households have become less stable by the passage of Proposition 8. The inability to marry denies same-sex couples the benefits, including stability, attendant to marriage.

Proponents failed to put forth any credible evidence that married opposite-sex households are made more stable through Proposition 8. The only rational conclusion in light of the evidence is that Proposition 8 makes it less likely that California children will be raised in stable households. None of the interests put forth by proponents relating to parents and children is advanced by Proposition 8; instead, the evidence shows Proposition 8 disadvantages families and their children.”

I’m beyond pleased Judge Walker pointed out this inherent contradiction in this frequently used anti same-sex marriage argument. By not allowing gay and lesibian couples to wed, their families suffer social and psychologial strain that disadvantages them in our society and prevents them from creating a “stable household” which Prop 8 proponents claim to desire over everything else.

In response to the purported argument of protecting the freedom of those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples:

“Proposition 8 is not rationally related to an interest in protecting the rights of those opposed to same-sex couples because, as a matter of law, Proposition 8 does not affect the rights of those opposed to homosexuality or to marriage for couples of the same sex.

To the extent proponents argue that one of the rights of those morally opposed to same-sex unions is the right to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, as explained presently those individuals’ moral views are an insufficient basis upon which to enact a legislative classification.”

You have every right not to like it, but not liking something or someone doesn’t give anyone the right to supress the rights of others when no actual, evidential, factual harm is being done.

I absolutely encourage everyone to read through the 80 facts called out in Judge Walker’s ruling on Prop 8 and to read through at least pages 109 – 138 of the ruling itself.

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Citizen and Immigration Minister Pulls Gay Rights Mention from Citizenship Guide

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Jason Kenney, notorious for his anti-gay-marriage opinions, is apparently responsible for pulling sections of the Canadian citizenship guide about the rights of homosexuals in Canada. This includes references to homosexuality being decriminalized in 1969, that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that same-sex marriage was legalized nationally in 2005. The reason he gives for pulling the mention? Brevity. Apparently those mentions bogged down the 63-page guide.

Uh-huh.

This is not my Canada, either, Mr. Kenney. I’d like for new people looking to make Canada home to A) know that, if they identify with the LGBT community, our country supports them and recognizes them with full rights by law; and B) if they don’t identify with that group and have problems with it, the Canadian legal system doesn’t condone discrimination or hate. I’m not saying I need an 8 page treatise, but the 50 words Kenney axed seems pretty petty.

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Reporter from Texas Likens Canadians to Nazis

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I wish I was making this up, but I am absolutely not.

Apparently our country has so appauled Texan journalist Gil Lebreton that he felt likening the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games to the games held in Berlin at the height of the Nazi’s control over Germany was the best possible comparison.

“Canada wanted to hold a party, and the Canadians did. The gold medals only seemed to fuel them.

Team Canada hockey jerseys became the uniform of the streets. Maple leafs were either hanging or on clothing everywhere.

One thing I never saw: a simple flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings. Not anywhere. After 15 Olympics, that was a first.

I didn’t attend the ’36 Olympics, but I’ve seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.”

After which he dutifully followed with a ‘no political reference is meant” note. Just in case someone gets confused by him comparing Canada to Nazi Germany, and — golly — why would they?

His major complaints are our overt patriotism, including having the gall to wear Canadian hockey team jerseys and other Canadian clothing in public, on TV, and in the stands. He freely admits he has no idea the awful coverage NBC gave to the Olympics in general, but curses Canadian newspapers featuring Canadian athletes rather than those under-appreciated American and European ones. Yes, Gil. How dare Canadian media spotlight Canadian athletes at the Canadian-hosted Winter Olympics! The sheer nerve!

Well. Forgive us for daring to put winning Canadian athletes on the front covers of our newspapers and at the front of the daily highlights of our sportscasts. I’m certain the Americans were busy featuring all the non-American winning athletes on the covers of their news media and in the first thirty seconds of their news broadcasts, so clearly something dreadful was overlooked. Terribly sorry not to have fangirled Americans while you were here, we should have realized you wanted to know what they were up to and would only bother looking at the front page.

Jeff Lee of the Vancouver Sun offers his response to Gil Lebreton, and thank GOD for it:

What bugs me most about this whole affair is that Lebreton came here and shat on Canadian hospitality as if only Americans have a right to feel patriotic. If we are normally the polite society, the people who say “sorry” and “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome” then does he think we won’t speak out and object when he makes such inane statements as suggesting we suffer from a “classic Canadian inferiority complex.” (And just what does that mean anyway? Classic? As in maple syrup or Canadian bacon?) Likening us to Nazis? What was that you put in your drink? A double dose of Sour-me-mash?

Listen, Gil. I get it. You were probably hard up for a column on deadline. You thought you’d be clever. You figured you could smack the nice little Canadians around and nobody would object. After all, what are we gonna do? March down to Washington. D.C. and burn down the White House again? What, you think people up here don’t read? Have a gander at my chain’s newspapers and you’ll see that we had better than 30 people involved delivering comprehensive news of all of the Olympic events, especially those not won by Canadians. If in these Games we also celebrated our Canadian successes, should we be ashamed of that

Bolded emphasis mine.

And good ol’ Gil? He wants us to know that offending Canada wasn’t intentional. Because gosh darn, who’d a thunk folk these days could get so twisted up over being compared to Nazis? Pshaw! We Canadians sure are sensitive about this kind of thing, aren’t we?

You know what? I’m going to be unCanadian right now and not apolgoize anymore. I’m not going to apologize for winning 14 gold medals, the most in the Olympic Winter Games history, and I’m not going to apolgize for celebrating it as loudly as I can either. I refuse to apologize for the awesome TV and online streaming CTV coverage of the Olympics that featured Canadian games when it had to choose because it’s our network and when 90% of your viewing audience is Canadian that’s what you show. I will not apologize for our newspapers and newscasters singing our athletes praises the days they won medals, which happened to be every day of the Olympics but one, because again that’s what 90% of those media outlet’s audience wants to hear. I categorically decline to apologize that for two weeks Canadian content outstaged, outshone, and outgunned American content in Canada and around the world, and that for once it was Canadian flags that was top of mind globally instead of American ones. I will not apologize for the amazing 14 medals won by Canadian women or the 11 won by Canadian men, or the gold won by ice dance pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. I absolutely refuse to apologize for Canada’s heartfelt embrace of Joannie Rochette, for the women who celebrated hockey gold in true Canadian form with beer and cigars, for Jon Montgomery’s cry of joyeous triumph from the podium, or for a nation that celebrated men’s hockey gold on the streets.

I refuse to apologize, world. At least about this, at least right now. Because my country is just as awesome as any of yours, because my national pride deserves to be showcased and highlighted, too, and because for once in my 27 years every time I turned on the TV or listened to the radio my ears and eyes were greeted by the voices and faces of fellow Canadians across our country united by our love of this nation, our love of sport, and our encouragement of our athletes.

My name is Rachelle, and I am Canadian. I won’t apologise for that, either.

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