Give Yourself a Slap Upside the Head Canada


In these days of action for democracy in Egypt, Canada once again finds itself on the wrong side of humanity’s hope for freedom, thanks to His Harperness’ failure to condemn the brutal totalitarian regime of Hosni Mubarak. In that context, I hope everyone watches this:


And just to clarify that the bone I’m picking is with the state of Israel and not all of Israel’s people, watch this too:

Girls, Guergis, Guns & Armageddon


Marci McDonald’s 2006 article in The Walrus, Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons, gave us the first systematic analysis of the hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda of Stephen Harper’s goals for Canada – the establishment of the conditions necessary for the Second Coming of you-know-who.  Who knows if Harper is such a fantastical fool that he really believes in all that anti-evolutionary, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-Israel STFUness.  What matters is that a bunch of nutbars has such power in the corridors of Canadian political power.

Harper has cemented a partnership with people who have become astonishingly powerful in the US and whose religious ideology nicely parallels social conservatism.  Harper is known to be a fiscal conservative, but has needed the support of old-style Progressive Conservatives who haven’t necessarily had the ability to attract the support of the far right wing – if they had, they wouldn’t have lost their Party.  Each time Harper throws an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-Israel, law and order dog biscuit to this crowd he wins votes that would not necessarily fall into his lap via fiscal conservatism alone.

Is all this becoming more clear to Canadians?

Antonia Zerbisias’ interview with McDonald, now the author of a book on these issues – The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada  – provides us with a startling (to some people) collection of issues that have come to the fore of late that certainly substantiate the writer’s painstaking research, from the cancellation of Paul Martin’s national daycare programme to the introduction of  private members’ bills that would limit women’s free reproductive choice to Harper and company’s otherwise inexplicably over-the-top support of Israeli policy towards Palestine and general opposition to same-sex marriage.

That’s a cartload of issues and each one deserves it’s own discussion.  I’m going to have a brief look at how acceptance of the Fundy Formula effects women or, for the sake of the almost alliteration – teh girls – and how “liberals” have failed to appreciate the significance of CON policy and legislation.

From the outset women and women’s advocacy groups have had no difficulty apprehending HarperCON’s anti-woman agenda.  As McDonald points out, he began with the cancellation of a national daycare programme, moved on to a systematic assault on women’s equality-seeking groups and from there to defunding NGOs with specific focusses on providing reproductive services to women in developing countries and anti-violence initiatives.  He has also engaged in a vicious public assault on his former Minister for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, whose portfolio had been all but disabled anyway.

These issues share many common characteristics and some that are not so obvious.  For instance, though most of us here understand quite well that the lack of a national daycare programme hurts not only the children of Canada but also women who are still their primary caretakers, we were probably less aware that, as McDonald points out, Harper “was also pandering to social conservatives who don’t believe that the government should have any role in child-rearing, who believe that mothers should be at home bringing up their children or who send their children to religious daycares and schools.”

Speaking for myself, I got the “women at home” aspect but missed the part about the children of working mothers placed in religious daycares and schools and the concomitant threat to public education.  As McDonald concludes:

 It was one of those policies that cut across both of his constituencies, economic and social. That would characterize most of his policies.

But McDonald misses something – that the struggle for a national daycare programme is something that not even Liberals will take to the wall – making it much too easy for Harper to hand out gifts to his social conservative base.  Maybe libs and lefties will take daycare if they can get it but it’s certainly nothing to bring down a minority government over.  Few issues that are perceived to be or actually are those that effect primarily teh girls are that important.  Or none.  In fact, when these issues are raised what I hear most often from the libs and even the left, such as it is, is that these issues are “distractions”, diversions from primary purposes, that they might be worth a few jabs in question period and an opportunistic media punchline here or there, but they are really window-dressing issues, dog bones thrown out or removed with little political, social or economic meaning beyond the moment.

For instance.  When the cabal reconvened after prorogation, Harper threw one of his bright shiny things into the Throne Speech, promising to make our national anthem “gender neutral”.  Quite apart from the discussions about what that would take and the general hue and cry about history and national treasures, what interested me was the response from the centre and the left along the lines that language doesn’t matter, sons are “generic” and Harper is just trying to trick you stupid broads into accepting this bright shiny thing as if it’s something real.  Down the toilet went the respectable and now historical feminist argument that yes, language does matter and under the bus, ground into the ruts, went teh girls.  Of course Harper had no trouble dumping the proposal and looked like he was responding to the outrage from social conservatives and liberals all in one fell swoop.  How nice for him.

I’m beginning to see a similar modus in operation with respect to Helena Guergis.  She’s a young, childless woman married to a brown man in political difficulty (even though he’s no longer in office) who “managed” a portfolio that men, conservative and otherwise, don’t care much about.  She wasn’t and isn’t worth much to anybody it seems.  Any attempt to point out the rampant sexism of the attack on Guergis result in shouts from the left that Guergis is a loose cannon, mythically and powerfully destructive and possibly a blondly stupid disaster with whom we should not concern ourselves one teensy bit.  STFU girls.

I was never a Guergis supporter.  But did she ever have any supporters?  And is there a liberal or left dude that gives an elderberry fart about what happens to women in politics?

It’s also been clear in the past that the abolition of Canada’s long-gun registry is an issue used as a political football by left, right and centre in attempts to prevent the alienation of “rural voters”, all of whom are assumed to be men.  Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton failed to whip their parties before the vote on the abolition bill in the last session of Parliament, resulting in an easy “yea” result for the legislation.  It remains mighty unclear that anything has changed this time ’round, despite Ignatieff’s attempts to revise the legislation.  Will Jack Layton whip?  Who the hell knows.  So it’s not only girls under the bus on this one, it’s dead girls under the bus.

As for the progressive defunding of women’s equality-seeking groups and NGOs, Ignatieff is perfectly content to use this issue as a political chip – but where the f**k has he been for the last four years while it was happening?  Where was he in December 2009 and early 2010 when a Liberal/NDP coalition would have brought down this anti-democratic, anti-woman, homophobic, pro-Israel and the Rapture government and, for instance, its attempted assault on pay equity?  As for the Libs failed attempt to underscore the reproductive rights of women with their Parliamentary motion?  I actually will stfu on that one.

Women have allowed themselves to be used thus for too long, hoping to get bigger prizes in the end.  Or perhaps any prize at all.  I’m beginning to hear heartening rumbles from girlfriend-land that none of these hopeless pols ought to rest comfortably in the beds their wives and girlfriends have made for so long, and so patiently.

The Theocons so well described by Marci McDonald are the focus of renewed realizations, discussions and organizing among awakening and already fully conscious women – and a few pro-feminist men.  Take care liberal and left doodz.  Move out of the crosshairs of that metaphorical but very well-aimed long-gun.



HarperCON whines

“Last night’s dominant CBC story … featured an attack on the religious affiliation of some government members and supporters,” the Tory missive says. “Apparently, the CBC thinks it newsworthy that some Conservative Ministers and MPs practice their faith. Even more scandalous, some members of the Prime Minister’s Office go to church!”

Pale is peeved.

And on the Helena Guergis story, there’s this from the PI who started it all:

“I have nothing — I have no evidence, or no information, with respect to the conduct of Ms. Guergis in my possession or knowledge,” he stated.

Instead, he said the mere threat of bad optics, coming after a string of embarrassing gaffes by Guergis, may have been enough to force Harper’s hand.

“This is an issue of optics,” Snowdy said.

Sex & The Divine (Not Divine Sex)

The sinfulness of sexual pleasure has always had more than a fair bit to do with the sinfulness of woman.

From an essay by Francine Prose at Lapham’s Quarterly:

The debate over sex with the beautiful versus sex with the ugly had its twisted roots in the belief that there was an almost mathematical ratio between pleasure and sin. The greater the pleasure, the worse the evil. Apparently, too, there also was considerable worry about ejaculation as something that drains and weakens the male, a dangerous process in general and particularly in the presence of the predatory woman who, unlike her mate, doesn’t lose in sex a life-sustaining fluid. The rabbinic admonition to think of a woman as “a pitcher of filth with its mouth full of blood” was echoed in the work of the twelfth-century theologian Petrus Cantor. “Consider that the most lovely woman has come into being from a foul-smelling drop of semen; then consider her midpoint, how she is a container of filth; and after that consider her end, when she will be food for worms.”  [too much more]

Robert George on  heterosexual marital sex and hating anything else:

… the argument for marriage between a man and a woman can require “somewhat technical philosophical analysis.” It is a two-step case that starts with marriage and works its way back to sex. First, he contends that marriage is a uniquely “comprehensive” union, meaning that it is shared at several different levels at once — emotional, spiritual and bodily. “And the really interesting evidence that it is comprehensive is that it is anchored in bodily sharing,” he says.“Ordinary friendships wouldn’t be friendships anymore if they involved bodily sharing,” he explained to me. “If I, despite being a married man, had this female friend of mine and I said, ‘Well, gosh, why don’t we do some bodily sharing,’ and we had straightforward sexual intercourse, well, that wouldn’t be friendship or marriage. It is bodily, O.K., but it is not part of a comprehensive sharing of life. My comprehensive sharing of life is with my wife, which I just now violated.” But just as friendships with sex are not friendships, marriage without sex is not marriage. Sex, George said, is the key to this “comprehensive unity.” He then imagined himself as a man with no interest in sex who proposed to seal a romance by committing to play tennis only with his beloved. Breaking that promise, he said, would not be adultery.

The second step is more complicated, and more graphic. George argues that only vaginal intercourse — “procreative-type” sex acts, as George puts it — can consummate this “multilevel” mind-body union. Only in reproduction, unlike digestion, circulation, respiration or any other bodily function, do two individuals perform a single function and thus become, in effect, “one organism.” Each opposite-sex partner is incomplete for the task; yet together they create a “one-flesh union,” in the language of Scripture. “Their bodies become one (they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together) in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs and other organs form a unity by coordinating for the biological good of the whole,” George writes in a draft of his latest essay on the subject. Unloving sex between married partners does not perform the same multilevel function, he argues, nor does oral or anal sex — even between loving spouses.

Infertile couples, too, are performing this uniquely shared reproductive function, George says, even if they know their sperm and ovum cannot complete it. Marriage is designed in part for procreation in the way a baseball team is designed for winning games, he says, but “people who can practice baseball can be teammates without victories on the field.”  [ewww more]

From Johann Hari at the New Statesman:

After all the arguments for subordinating women have been shown to be self-serving lies, what are misogynists left with? They have only one feeble argument that is still deferred to and shown undeserving respect across the world, even by people who should know better: “God told me to. I have to treat women as lesser beings, because it is inscribed in my Holy Book.”

Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom are the editors of Butterflies and Wheels, the best atheist site on the web. In Does God Hate Women? they forensically dismantle the last respectable misogyny. They argue: “What would otherwise look like stark bullying is very often made respectable and holy by a putative religious law or aphorism or scriptural quotation . . . They worship a God who is a male who gangs up with other males against women. They worship a thug.”

Every major religion’s texts were written at a time when women were regarded as little better than talking cattle. Their words and commands reflect this, plainly and bluntly. This book starts with a panoramic sweep across the world, showing – with archetypal cases – how every religion has groups today thumping women down with its Holy Book.  [the review carries on]

The Fundamental Theology of Politics

Marci McDonald, author of the upcoming The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, says, “Harper has given the religious right a welcome and access in Ottawa and government they’ve never had before – and they’ve become used it.”

They are, she says, “here to stay.”


But he [Harper] believes in an incremental approach. Author McDonald sees it as the foundation of his thinking: “It fits with his natural personality and tendencies.

“Is he really a fanatic?” she asks in an interview. “I do not believe he is. I think he’s a very wily strategist… I see him as tacking on a sailing course.”

She argues Harper’s social conservatism is “more strategy than a deep impulse of the heart” and doesn’t envision draconian social measures under a Harper majority, but rather bureaucratic tinkering, appointments and staffing changes. Anything he did on, say, abortion, wouldn’t be a sudden reversal but “something that opens the way.”

However, if he were to do something, McDonald concludes, it would be irreversible by the time it was detected and “would change Canada in a profound way… People seem to wake up to what Harper is doing too late.”

More on the Boom Times for PMO’s God Squad at The Star

Ah cha cha:

Church Should Be SO Ashamed

A feminist theologian comments on the case of a nine-year old Brazilian girl impregnated by her stepfather.  The Roman Catholic Church publicly excommunicated her family and those involved in procuring and performing an abortion:

It is hard to find words sufficient to convey the moral indignation elicited by the Roman Catholic Church’s actions. As a Catholic feminist theologian who is pro-choice, I have dealt with abortion for decades. I thought I was inured to its callousness. Maybe it’s because I have an 8-year-old daughter that I find the Church’s actions in this case violent beyond defense.

By any measure, the family involved is in big trouble. The father is gone, the mother has at least two children, one of whom is handicapped, and the stepfather is a sexual predator. It is a recipe for a disaster. The pregnancy happened because an adult male assaulted a girl child; an oft-told story, tragic every time. The mother endeavored to do the best she could in a bad situation. Medical personnel handled it according to the law. But the Roman Catholic Church used the tragedy to make a theo-political point. Have they no shame? Are they so heartless as to kick this family while it is down?

Whatever their relationship to the institutional church, the archbishop’s claim that those who help procure an abortion are automatically excommunicated tells this family that the mother is unwelcome, unworthy to receive the sacraments. One churchman had the gall to note that the church in its infinite wisdom does not excommunicate minors, so the nine-year-old is still in full communion. Small comfort. What he failed to mention was that the perpetrator, the stepfather, never even made it to the ecclesial radar screen. I am not suggesting the man be excommunicated; no one should be. But it is sickening and morally repugnant to realize that abortion, in this case the most humane solution to a terrible problem, is the cause of excommunication while sexual abuse is not. Something is seriously wrong with this picture, and it is the Roman Catholic Church.  [more]

Right on.

UPDATEFetus and Pope-ish fetishism

They Don’t WANT To Get It!

There’s no other explanation for the continuing intransigence of the Roman Catholic Church in dealing with the sexual abuses committed by its priests:

A staunchly conservative religious order favored by Pope John Paul II said Wednesday that there had been unspecified misconduct by its founder.

Legionaries of Christ’s founder Marcial Maciel was a Mexican priest who was disciplined by the Vatican several years ago after allegations from former seminarians about sexual abuse.

In a report on its Web site, the National Catholic Reporter cited four unidentified former Legionaries or supporters of the order in the United States and Mexico as saying that the order had recently told current members and supporters privately that Maciel “apparently” fathered a child out of wedlock.

Chicago-based Legionaries spokesman Jim Fair declined to comment on specific allegations but said the order had learned “surprising” things about Maciel that were “not appropriate for a Catholic priest.”

Maciel died last year in Texas at age 87.

“We’ve learned some things that are surprising and difficult to understand and in fact there are aspects of his life that obviously were not appropriate for a Catholic priest,” Fair said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“God does good sometimes through really flawed people,” Fair said, insisting that the work of the order would continue.

Maciel founded the order in 1941 in Mexico City.

The Legionaries’ conservative view, strict loyalty to Vatican teaching and its success in enrolling recruits won the admiration of John Paul. The order has been one of the fastest-growing religious orders in the Catholic church, which has been hit by a general drop in priestly vocations in many parts of the West.

But Maciel spent the last years of his life fending off the accusations by former seminarians that he had sexually abused them.

In 2006, a year after Benedict was elected pope, the Vatican said it had decided against a full-fledged church trial because of Maciel’s age and poor health. Instead Maciel was asked to lead a “reserved life of prayer and penance,” meaning the priest could not celebrate Mass in public.   [here]

 Maciel’s age and poor health was not the critical issue here.  A full airing of the facts, a calling to account if warranted and the imposition of a punishment, even if it was a “reserved life of prayer and penance” would have gone a long way towards achieving justice for whomever Maciel’s accusers were.  Supposedly, it isn’t just the welfare of its priests and its public image that concerns the Church but it does a damn poor job of showing that.

A church trial would also have provided an opportunity to express concern for and give support to Maciel’s victims and might well have encouraged other victims to come forward.  This kind of response by the Romans rubs salt in the wounds of its congregants who have suffered abuse at the hands of the clergy.  I wish someone would shake the hell out of Ratzinger.  Until then its leaders show some hint that they know what they’re doing I think priests should be banned.

BTW, the report says he “apparently” fathered a child out of wedlock.  The “out of wedlock” part is redundant.

The Vatican & The Twisted Sisters

Is feminism destroying “manhood”?  That would be good news.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t done much towards destroying Vatican manhood:

While visiting Manila-Philippines, Vatican official Paul Josef Cordes declared yesterday that “feminism” is not only eroding manhood but causing “a crisis in fatherhood.”

According to Cordes, “gender mainstreaming” and “radical feminism” attack biological manhood by insisting that gender roles are learned. He claims that men are demeaned by the ideal of a “sweeter man” who is both emasculated and feminized.

Cordes lays the blame for delinquency and suicides among “fatherless children,” on women. This prompted a local feminist (who considers “sweeter men” as a cause for celebration) to ask the obvious: “How is it that when men abandon their families, women get blamed?”

Cordes’ lament comes in the wake of deliberations in the Philippine Senate, which is likely to result in the passage of pro-women’s rights legislation called the Magna Carta for Women. The bill seeks to adopt the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into local legislation.

While there is reason to hope that a law furthering women’s rights will be passed soon, it was recently noted in the local media that the influential wife of a former Senator was “lobbying” in the Senate by threatening senators with no less than the “opprobrium of the Catholic bishops.”  Even as I write this post, advocates are hard at work to defend the provisions of the bill, which are being targeted for deletion by the self-appointed Catholic lobbyists.

Good lord!  Or not.

Read the whole thing here

But ya know, the position of the United States on the ratification of CEDAW isn’t much better than what the Romans want, really:

So, where is the whole U.S. CEDAW ratification movement?

Not only has the U.S. not ratified CEDAW, but most supporters of ratification, including new Vice President Joe Biden, treat its ratification like voting for a national flower, taking pains to reassure the public that ratification would not impose any new burdens on the government. Of course, this is true, because with the full support of the Democratic Congress and the women’s movement, the version of CEDAW now pending in the U.S. Senate has been gutted to the core by some eleven reservations, understandings and declarations (RUDs). (A full listing of RUDs is available at under Human Rights Treaties.) The support by liberal proponents of CEDAW, including Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama, is not qualified by the important distinction that the treaty should only be ratified without reservations. These leaders, while well intentioned in their efforts to ratify the treaty, do not realize that if passed with the qualifiers currently in place, CEDAW will threaten the advancement of equality rights globally.

The twisted sister CEDAW would preclude women from challenging laws based on the physical differences between men and women, including discriminatory maternity coverage or criminal abortion laws.

The most deceptive RUD, unopposed by CEDAW supporters, states, Nothing in this convention shall be construed to reflect or create any right to abortion and in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. This language is touted as neutral or benign but is not. Drafted by the late Republican Senator Jesse Helms, a vociferous opponent of abortion, this language can and has been used as an anti-abortion weapon. Without the right to govern decisions about their own bodies and health, women will never achieve full equality.

Ironically, if the U.S. intention in ratifying CEDAW is to send a supportive message to women globally, our twisted sister version will, in fact, do the opposite. Although the RUDs seemingly apply solely to American women, they eviscerate the core of CEDAW, the definition of equality and provide legal authority to those who want to undermine women’s rights.


Here’s the Women’s Division of CEDAW


It’s been a long, long, long time since I identified as a Catholic.  Still they embarass me.  Having been a part of that community, I do know that some of them are better than others.  So, just to offset Ratzinger’s embrace of the holocaust denying Bishop Richard Williamson, I offer this book review by Patricia A. Kossman and James Martin:

Not a book for the faint hearted, this is nonetheless a noteworthy and needed addition to Holocaust literature. Desbois is secretary to the French Conference of Bishops for relations with Judaism; in 2004 he founded an organization called Yahad-in Unum that investigates the mass killings of Eastern European Jews by the Nazis from 1941 to 1945. Traveling with a team to Ukraine in 2007, he visited numerous locations and interviewed surviving witnesses (many of whom had been conscripted by the Germans to “dig”) to the humiliation and calculated murder of more than a million unsuspecting Jews. With the assistance of an interpreter, a ballistics expert, a photographer and an archival researcher, the author recounts in vivid, unflinching detail the methodical torture, shooting and burial of Jews (some still alive) in huge open pits throughout various small towns and villages. These were not isolated sites, but in full view of local villagers of all ages, the victims’ non-Jewish neighbors and even friends. A chilling refrain underlying all the testimony presented is that “the earth moved for three days.” History is indebted to Father Desbois and his team for uncovering the truth and bringing to light a dark, almost forgotten chapter in the story of Nazi atrocities.

Doesn’t excuse Ratzinger who, at the very least, needed to explain what he did and why he did it.

The Veil as Social Screen

From Hootan Shambayati, reviewing The Politics of the Veil  by Joan Wallach Scott:

In this book, one of the foremost students of France asks why has the head covering worn by millions of Muslim women across the world attracted so much controversy in recent French politics. Even in the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim world, where the veil is worn by large segments of the population, it has become a potent political issue with different societies and political regimes adopting very different approaches in dealing with it. The constitutional court in secular Turkey recently rejected a constitutional amendment because it could have potentially eased the ban on female university students wearing a headscarf, while neighboring Iran legally requires all women to cover their hair in public. Although, this book deals only with the French case, it has implications beyond the borders of that country.

As Joan Wallach Scott recognizes, there are many different styles of veil, from the full body covering and face masks to the more relaxed version that only covers the hair and the neck. In addition, each has a different meaning for both those who wear them and those who are concerned about them. Nevertheless, for the sake of brevity and to reflect how the term was used during the actual debates in France, she uses the generic term veil to refer to all forms of headscarves worn by Muslim women (p.16). Scott is also quick to warn the readers that “this is not a book about French Muslims; it is about the dominant French view of them.” She is “interested in the way in which the veil became a screen onto which were projected images of strangeness and danger – danger to the fabric of French society and to the future of the republican nation” (p.10). She pursues her quest by examining the circumstances that led to the adoption of a 2004 law that banned the display of “conspicuous” religious symbols in French public schools. As is well known, although legally the ban applied equally to all religions, its true targets were a small number of female Muslim students who insisted on wearing the veil to school. The question then is why did the veil become such a controversial political issue in French politics.

Read the rest here

What About Polygamy?

Martha Nussbaum:

What is wrong with polygamy?

Nineteenth-century Americans coupled it with slavery, calling both “the twin relics of barbarism.” Today, it is used as a scare image to deter people from approving same-sex marriage, lest it lead down a slippery slope to that horror of horrors.

But what, exactly, is bad about it? Looking at the Texas sect at the Yearning for Zion ranch, so much in the news, will not tell us, because that sect allegedly forced underage girls into marriage. The case then becomes one of child sexual abuse, a crime hardly unknown in the monogamous family, although it gets less splashy publicity when it occurs there. Disturbing things are fun to contemplate when they can be pinned on distant “deviants,” but threatening when they occur in families like one’s own.

Mormon polygamy of the 19th century was not child abuse. Adult women married by consent, and typically lived in separate dwellings, each visited by the husband in turn. In addition to their theological rationale, Mormons defended the practice with social arguments – in particular that polygamous men would abandon wives or visit prostitutes less frequently. Instead of answering these arguments, however, Americans hastened to vilify Mormon society, publishing semi-pornographic novels that depicted polygamy as a hotbed of incest and child abuse.

Read the rest here