Saturday, July 31, 2010
An article proving once again that conservatism is not a politics, but a diagnosis:
Well, what’s the big deal about it making [the census] voluntary, then?
This question astounds statists. “Voluntary” defeats the purpose. The census is about coercion. Information is almost incidental. The long form’s function is to accustom respondents to being wards of the authorities.
Social engineers are prepared to put on a velvet glove if the Harper-government insists, but how can they plan, redistribute, regulate and expropriate without the iron fist? Long forms elicit information to serve the purposes and ideals of the centrally planned state. They have to be intrusive and obligatory.
Expense, statistical inadequacy, sample bias are all irrelevant. It's a plot. In the good old days, Hungarian ex-pat George Jonas would have appended the adjective "Communist," and mumbled about fluoridated water.
Stockwell Day was right. We walked with dinosaurs--and we continue to do so.
Friday, July 30, 2010
But a recent case in Israel raises some fundamental questions about the nature of consent. In this instance, a Muslim who adopted a Jewish name had sexual relations with a Jewish woman. He's now doing 18 months in jail.
The man, an Arab Israeli by the name of Sabbar Kashur, told a woman he met at a bar that his name was "Dudu," a diminutive of
The Ottawa Citizen's Janice Kennedy peels away some of the layers of this onion today. This case has set off a raging controversy in Israel. Journalist Gideon Levy writes in Ha'aretz:
Don't [the judges] realize that their verdict has the uncomfortable smell of racial purity, of "don't touch our daughters"? That it expresses the yearning of the extensive segments of society that would like to ban sexual relations between Arabs and Jews?
It was no coincidence that this verdict attracted the attention of foreign correspondents in Israel, temporary visitors who see every blemish. Yes, in German or Afrikaans this disgraceful verdict would have sounded much worse.
Hear, hear. But the issue goes deeper than fraught ethnic relations in the Middle East. Put the latter in brackets for a moment. Was this rape, or was it not?
Full consent can only be given on the basis of trust. Abuse of that trust makes the question of full consent problematic. But if we take an absolutist position on that, any lie by means of which one person obtains sex with another would qualify as rape.
"I had a vasectomy."
"I make $200K."
"I'm on the pill."
"Married? Heck, no."
"I don't have any kids."
Note that a lot of these assurances are gender-neutral. People lie to get other people into bed with them all the time. That's immoral, even reprehensible. But is it--or should it be--a crime?
Reuters : WikiLeaks may have blood on its hands, U.S. says
Both sources quote Admiral Mike Mullen :
"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing," Mullen said. "But the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."Guardian : The War Logs :
"...the marines opening fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road. Nineteen unarmed civilians were killed and 50 wounded."Two hours later they returned to confiscate camera evidence.
A news photographer said they told him : "Delete them, or we will delete you."
A US army colonel paid $2,000 to the families of each victim and Major General Francis Kearney ordered the marines to pull the entire 120-man company out of the country.
Washington Post reader Q&A with Assange :
"Did you take steps to delete the names and other identifying information of informants before you released the 90,000+ documents? If not, how do you answer the charge that your actions may get these informants killed?"Assange :
"We released 36,000 out of the 92,000 or so documents in the Afghan War Diaries.
15,000 have been held for further review because they may contain information about innocents or informants. We also asked the White House to provide resources to help us vet the materials; the White House did not respond."
Yesterday Obama signed the new Afganistan troop surge bill, passed by both Democrats and Republicans.
Last month, after accusing Stephen Harper of making a decision to “cut and run” from Afghanistan, Michael Ignatieff called for Canadians to stay in Afghanistan after 2011 as police and army trainers.
Harper and Iggy both supported the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and both voted to extend the Afghanistan occupation from 2009 to 2011.
Former human rights advocate Ignatieff is providing Harper and Obama with the cover necessary to support and extend that occupation.
It's down to all of us now to blow that cover : Rethink Afghanistan
"Joking about potentially trafficking illegal substances, or worse, is not funny, and the government will use the full force of the law to ensure Canadians who travel by air are safe "
...from stickers presumably, and also from any rumour indicating Canadians might not be completely humorless morons.
However due to that "full force of the law" quote, The Cheeky have decided to stop selling them in Canada - although as they point out on their press release : It’s a sticker.
Other fine Cheeky products to offend John Baird's spokesy when he is off-duty as well include an army style, uh, Man Bib "for the discerning gentleman", and the Tea Bagging Bag, which should start popping up as an illustration on blogs about US politics any time now.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
This broadcast is a couple of days old now, but in response to the continued bleating about how the simultaneous publishing of the Wikileaks war logs by the NYTimes, Spiegel, and the Guardian puts the lives of the troops and civilian informants/collaborators in danger, here is Guardian editor David Leigh explaining how Wikileaks and the three papers, together with the White House, avoided that pitfall.
Assange has stated elsewhere that the month long collaboration between Wikileaks staff and the three papers was carried out in a room at the Guardian.
Many other interesting issues discussed in this interview which can be seen in its entirety at Democracy NOW. (h/t Toe in comments below)
At 030414Z Sept 06 received SAF[small arms fire] & RPGS from sawtooth building. returned fire 1x GBU[Guided Bomb Unit] dropped on it.Sawtooth building is heavily damaged. only 4x sections remain standing. no activity observed. Casualties 4x CDN KIA[Killed in action] 4X CDN WIA[Wounded in action].This was later updated to 4 dead and 7 wounded Canadians:
At the time the Canadian military reported that the four Canadian soldiers died in battles with Taliban forces.
At 030419Z Sep received SAF and RPG fire on op, a total of WIA in these hour 7x
CDN, and 4x CDN KIA and 1x WIA interpreter Attack on: FRIEND
Type : Friendly Fire .... Category : Blue-Blue .... Affiliation : FRIEND
CBC got official clarification of that last night from Jay Paxton, spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay :
"The loss of four Canadian soldiers on September 3rd, 2006, was the result of insurgent activity in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan," Jay Paxton said in an email Monday evening. "The only friendly fire incident from the time period in question occurred on September 4th, 2006."Anyone think the Americans just casually inflate their friendly fire reports?
And what about the "guided bomb unit" in the US report?
Do the Taliban have fighter jets now?
PS Gotta love Laura Lynch on CBC's As it Happens too.
She asked Julian Assange whether things weren't "better now under Obama" and whether Assange "had broken the law".
Obama - that would be the guy who just ordered up a 30,000 troop surge for a war that is already costing $7-billion a month to retake Kandahar.
Assange called her repeated questions on whether he had broken the law "naive". I thought that unnecessarily charitable of him.
Yesterday Taliban Larry said the Wikileaks war logs had "nothing to do with Canada."
Update via Alain in comments :
Bombshell claim that friendly fire killed Canadian soldiers unravels :
US report discounted by soldiers who were there; "friendly fire" GBU rolled into Canadian troops but did not detonate.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Julian Assange on "the real story" of Wikileaks release of 91,000 classified Afghan war documents from 2004 to 2009 to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel.
"This is the story of the war since 2004. Like most of the accidents on the road are the result of cars not of buses, most of the deaths in this war are the result of the every day squalor of war not the big incidences."
Among other disclosures : the US gives Pakistan $1-billion a year to help fight the "insurgency" in Afghanistan but these reports indicate that the Pakistani spy service ISI, which works in concert with the CIA, is guiding the attacks on US/NATO/Afghan troops.
The Real News Network, who you should all be sending money to, has a very good interview up with Assange on the significance of these leaks and how they were obtained.
Ch 4 : There's been publicity about Bradley Manning, a military officer, who claims to be a source for Wikileaks. What can you say about him?
JA : We have a number of military sources, including ones before Manning joined the army.
Ch 4: Do you know who the source is?
JA : No, we don't know who the source is.
Ch. 4 : So how does Wikileaks work?
JA : Other journalists try to verify sources. We don't do that, we verify documents. We don't care where it came from - but we can guess that it probably came from somewhere in the US military or the US government, from someone who is disaffected. Clearly, a heroic act by the whistleblower.
CH. 4 : So the same computer system that protects the source also stops you from knowing that source?
JA : The system we have deployed to make whistleblowers to us untraceable, also prevents us knowing who they are.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Claudia Persi Haines, one of my closest friends, passed away this week in Milan. I was at her bedside with other friends and relatives during her wrenching final struggle with terminal leukemia.
Claudia was a teacher, an artist, a superb cook, a mother and grandmother...but she was far more than the sum of her roles and considerable talents. She loved life, and she lived it well. I first met her in 1968; I was a student of hers, trying to learn intermediate Italian, and I took a literature course from her the following year that featured, as I recall, a close reading of I Promessi Sposi.
In that period of time she married Charles Haines, had Charles Jr., and made herself immensely popular among her students. She was, literally, the Carleton University Italian Department for some time.
And we became friends.
The bond grew deeper over the years. We shared many meals and much talk and laughter. She returned to Udine after Charles passed away, but we spoke often on the telephone and always got together when she made trips over to Ottawa to visit young Charles, his spouse Seema, and their children.
It's impossible to put into words what substance a friendship is made of. We were just supremely happy in each other's company, and both of us looked at the world in similar ways--in other words, we were depressed by it. (We have Harper and she had Berlusconi, who frankly alarmed her.) We enjoyed fine food, wine and literature, and we argued sometimes, but never harshly.
When she became ill some time ago, she moved in with her sister Maura. She was enjoying some time with her grandchildren last week at a quiet place near Lake Como, drawing and painting with them, when she collapsed. She was quickly admitted to hospital and by the time I was able to get there (Tuesday) she had all but lost the ability to speak. But she recognized me and seized my hand.
She was the kind of person who inspired her former students to head in from all over the world, by air, sea and land, once we got the news. Maxe made her way from New Zealand, arriving, unfortunately, a matter of hours after Claudia passed. Nada took a ferry from a small island off the coast of New England, took a bus to Boston and flew from there.
I am still too numb to feel the full extent of this loss. Knowing she was in this world, even when much time elapsed between visits or conversations, was always a kind of mental haven. I loved her deeply, and I still do.
To her family and to her many friends, my deepest sympathy. Dear Claudia, I shall miss you terribly.
[Note (and correction): the picture above
"The painting was actually done by Claudia. It was an illustration that she did for a book that she wrote called E. Flower Grounder, about a plant that gets sick with leukemia. She wrote it for the kids to help them understand her illness. This painting illustrated the part of the book in which some of the plants died, became humus, which fed this beautiful garden. All of my kids were fascinated by this notion and this painting and each of them asked to hold the painting in their hands... I just thought that it should be attributed to Claudia."]
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Cannon has actually been making quiet noises about Taliban "reconciliation and re-integration" since January : Canada considering Karzai plan to offer cash to Taliban: Cannon
"So now it’s time to talk to the Taliban.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters on Tuesday that the Taliban has an important role to play in laying the foundations of a new Afghanistan. “We encourage a reconciliation process that is inclusive of all Afghans, no matter their ethnicity,” he said.
Now cup your hand to your ear and listen for the caterwauling of the uber patriots here on the home front decrying the minister’s capitulation to the enemy. Hmm. Oddly quiet. Could this minster really represent the government that so cravenly branded NDP leader Jack Layton “Taliban Jack” four years ago for suggesting exactly the same thing?
“Is it next going to be tea with Osama Bin Laden?” asked Peter MacKay.
A Globe and Mail columnist [Christie Blatchford] indignantly wrote “Would he pull out the chairs for their representatives? Would he pour tea for those who have killed 23 Canadian soldiers this year?
So almost four years after Layton suggested talking with the Taliban the minister acknowledges this is now official policy. For a guy who was labeled a soldier-hater and a Taliban-lover Jack Layton is remarkably gracious about the turnaround. I asked him recently if he was planning to ask for an apology and he demurred. “As long as the right thing gets done I don’t really care”.
From John Manley's Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan , commissioned in 2007 :
"When asked whether President Karzai should enter into negotiations with the Taliban and allow them to participate in the political process, some 60% of Afghans currently believe a negotiated settlement should be pursued."About the same margin of Canadians, including Conservatives, also favoured negotiation back in May 2007 : CTV : Canadians support talks with Taliban: poll
"Canadians still think it's a good idea to negotiate with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents as a way to end the violence there, a poll finds.
In The Strategic Counsel poll conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail, there was almost two-to-one support for the notion:
Net good idea : 63 per cent
Net bad idea : 32 per cent
Donolo said 57 per cent of Conservative Party members supported the idea of negotiations."
Airshow Pete, "Goldie" Hawn, and World Stage Steve will eventually have to find a whole new place to play dress-up .
Friday, July 23, 2010
Or, as Boris put it in comments over at The Beav :
"Sometimes I don't even think there's an ideology at work. Just a bored kid in the garden with firecrackers and a BB gun. Being elected was like getting grounded for them."
Next time, Canadian electorate, please use Con-doms.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
This one went right by me as I finished up my academic work and then headed off to Milan. I just came back to an email from a constant reader who wonders why no mention of it, so here goes:
It seems that our cop-car smasher (above, left) has now been named and picked up. Not very likely he was a cop, after all. Never said he was, but I will confess to speculating a little. I'd sure like to know more about him, though.
Interesting discussion here. But I'm with Creative Revolution on this. Whether agents provocateurs or useful idiots, these Black Blockheads sure do get the job done.
2. Forbid the use of existing wells.
3. When the villagers turn to pumping in seawater, confiscate the pumps.
4. Condemn all the buildings.
5. If all else fails, designate the area a "live fire zone" and demolish all structures.
A farmer with 300 sheep was given 24 hours to evacuate the area or have his sheep confiscated.
Where? The West Bank, Jordan Valley, according to Haaretz.
Prime Minister Netanyahu , 9 years ago:
"Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I'm concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue."
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Aha! say the Harperclones, that's because people aren't reporting crimes to police.
The crime rate, a measure of the volume of crime reported to police, fell 3% in 2009 and was 17% lower than a decade ago.
The Crime Severity Index (CSI), a measure of the seriousness of police-reported crime, declined 4% in 2009 and stood 22% lower than in 1999.
Violent crimes, which range in seriousness from harassing phone calls to homicide, accounted for about 1 in 5 crimes in 2009. Police-reported violent crime in Canada is also declining, but to a lesser extent than overall crime.
Police identified about 165,000 youth aged 12 to 17 accused of a criminal offence in 2009. Both the number of crimes and the seriousness of crimes committed by youth have generally been declining since 2001, including a slight drop in 2009.
"Unfortunately, our safe streets and healthy communities are increasingly under threat of gun, gang and drug violence."
The Public Safety Minister and the Chair of the Justice Committee will surely be updating their websites any time now, but in the meantime here is a bit of advice from the Corrections Canada website, unfortunately long since expunged in one of those gc.ca website purges :
"American politicians have often found it in their self-interest to use fear of crime as a strategy to win elections, by promising to wage war on crime.
It is ironic that in the United States, as in Canada, crime rates have been declining since 1991. However, by waging war on crime they have managed to double their prison population without making the United States a noticeably safer society than Canada.
We would do much to advance the public interest if we can better manage the fear of crime than our American neighbours."
Monday, July 19, 2010
Finley has written an email to Kinsella which he has posted on his blog :
RE: Census. You didn’t – I DID get charged by StatsCan and am on trial.
"I refused to cooperate with the census because of the out-sourcing of census work to Lockheed Martin Corp (American military) ... Furthermore, not once in my communications with the Government have I mentioned concerns about the confidentiality of information."
The Cons having just announced a $9-billion dollar deal to buy 65 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin, I somehow don't see them taking up her cause here when they convene their emergency federal industry committee meetings on the 2011 census (and to be fair, Finley's objection is not restricted to the long-form). But someone should. She is willing to comply with a government census; she is just not willing to comply with one outsourced to an industry she objects to. While I might personally support the census long and short, I feel there should be some sort of conscientious objector status available to any citizen who objects to what amounts to the outsourcing of citizenship requirements to private industry.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
He also said the only way to deal with the Palestinians is to "beat them up so badly it's unbearable."
"I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in our way."
"80% of Americans support us. It's absurd."
"They asked me before the election if I'd honor [the Oslo accords]," he said. "I said I would, but ... I'm going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the '67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I'm concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue."
Various translations of the vid provided by Haaretz, Washington Post, and Tablet, who also posts the original.
Ten days ago Netanyahu said he did not intend to extend a 10-month moratorium on housing starts in West Bank settlements that expires in September, saying, "I think we’ve done enough."
32 new Israeli homes were just approved in the settlements even as occupied Palestinian houses are being demolished.
"I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace,” responded Obama, as Washington plans to provide Israel with $2.7-billion in security aid for 2010.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
...confirmed. One must admire David Warren's candour:
Given the contrast between the modest demeanour of many young immigrant Muslim women, with their heads covered and their strollers full of babies -- and that of so many "native" young western women, childless but provocatively half-naked under the summer sun -- I have sometimes myself wondered which side I am on.
Not surprising, really. The strident and foolish accusations of an alleged "Islamist-Left" convergence have always been lies, pure and simple. It's not the Left that attacks gays, supports capital punishment, oppresses women, enjoys the notion of endless warfare, and favours long prison sentences and the lash.
The only real differences I can see between some social conservatives and their Islamist brethren, in fact, are pork and alcohol.
UPDATE: (h/t reader Todd)
Friday, July 16, 2010
Most of Friday, the Yes- No split looked like this :
Suddenly overnight, it looks like this :
As The Pundit's Guide said at Creekside : "Also, pretty much proving the invalidity of voluntary surveys, n'est-ce pas?"
Participation in the above poll is of course voluntary, rather like democracy. If you or your government don't have accurate information or the means to obtain it, it doesn't work properly.
Personally I would have preferred a poll that asks : "Are you in favor of StatsCan having the same info you freely offer up to Facebook and your insurance agent?"
Or are there unnamed "statisticians" at StatsCan who should be fired for gross incompetence?
As everyone is aware, Industry Minister Tony Clement, possibly taking his cue from US Congressional luminary Michelle Bachmann last year, is set to impose a massive case of corporate amnesia upon our country. In an unprecedented act of ideological vandalism, he will be scrapping the mandatory long-form census and introducing a statistically useless--and more expensive--voluntary version.
Clements' latest excuse for swimming manfully against the current of intelligence, common sense and statistical expertise is, according to today's Globe and Mail, that Statistics Canada is backing him up:
I asked [Statistics Canada] specifically, "Are you confident you can do your job?" They said "If you do these extra things: the extra advertising and the extra sample size, then yes, we can do our job."
Clements went on to say that the array of people and organizations now up in arms--including the legendary former Chief Statistician Ivan Fellagi, and the Statistical Society of Canada--"should trust Statistics Canada."
We have no way of checking whether StatsCan has really abandoned statistical methodology in favour of conservative voodoo, however, because it has been muzzled by the government:
The agency is no longer granting interviews on the issue and is now responding to inquiries with e-mail statements only. As usual, the Ottawa Citizen's Dan Gardner is making hay with all this. But the know-nothings, once again, are winning. That's not Bluesfest you're hearing from afar on these balmy Ottawa summer nights, folks. It's the sound of banjos on Parliament Hill.
UPDATE: We don't need no information.
UPPERDATE: Looks like we have an answer to my question.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
"They are individuals who are not suspects - they are people who are wanted for criminal offences and the only difficulty that the investigative team has is at this point we don't know who they are so we're seeking the assistance of the public to identify them to us ."He further advised they have "over 14,000 still images of individuals and over 500 videos", which they will be sharing with the Canadian Banking Association to run through their facial recognition software. Keep those citizen CDs and vids coming, he said.
So after ignoring the rioters for an hour and a half on June 26th in favour of taking their pictures, and then rounding up, IDing and photographing over a thousand hapless random citizens the following day, you will now use the banks' software tools to look for a match between the two groups.
Well at least we know the point of the Sunday bucket detainments now - it was just their bad luck to be chosen to act as the control group.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Alors, to demonstrate that we are most eager and willing to assist the police in their efforts to identify the 10 Most Wanted, we ask our readers to help identify this alleged thug/hooligan/anarchist.
H/T to fern hill at DAMMIT JANET! and G20Justice.
Regular readers will know that I have little time for the works of Margaret Somerville, the bioethics queen currently holding court at McGill University and uttering her edicts, decrees and injunctions through the popular press.
I have long suspected that Margo is a religious zealot in academic drag--opposing gay marriage, euthanasia and abortion, inveighing against stem cell research and adoption, but avoiding specifically religious vocabulary. (There is method in this madness, and I'm not alone in seeing it.)
Most recently, she published an op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail arguing that people who do not know their genetic origins suffer harm as a result, equivalent to the suffering of aboriginal children in residential schools. This prompted a letter from bioethicist Arthur Schafer and none other than Amir Attaran, a professor at the University of Ottawa. Attaran is better known perhaps for his opposition to our conduct of the Afghanistan war, but he works in the field of public health.
What follows is very lengthy--caveat lector--but it is worth reproducing as a prime example of how a seasoned academic, like Attaran, confronts mysticism and prejudice with facts and reason. It takes place in the course of a series of email exchanges which are here reproduced unabridged. I now yield the floor.
1. From: Amir Attaran
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 7:01 AM
To: Margaret Somerville
Subject: Your essay in the Globe and Mail
I obviously profoundly disagree with you about gamete donation. To be totally frank, as scholars should be, I found your piece in the Globe over the weekend poorly done in its use of hand-picked anecdotes, to the exclusion of methodologically rigorous, scholarly evidence. Had it been written by a student of mine, it would have received a low mark for falling prey to a hoary statistical fallacy about comparisons of groups: i.e. that if donor-conceived people are psychologically equal to naturally-conceived people, then of course one will find a few donor-conceived people offering up dark and unhappy anecdotes about their origins, because as everyone knows there are naturally-born people (e.g. Woody Allen) who are clinically anxious, depressed, or otherwise neurotic about their origins.
In other words, even if donor-conceived people are not a jot worse off than naturally-conceived people, a teleologically-driven researcher will easily turn up anecdotes of unhappiness among them.
My view is that to research this question credibly, one has to leave the anecdotes aside, and if there is such a thing as donor-driven psychopathology, it should be observable in psychosocial cohort studies. Don’t you agree?
I attach at the end of this email seven such cohort studies and one review.* This is NOT an exhaustive list of studies, but it is the preponderance, and it is representative of the vast majority of studies in concluding that people born of donated gametes are psychologically no better or worse off than the population at large (and I am well aware that one or two studies somewhat disagree). These cohort studies in some cases have lengthy follow-up, into the adolescent years.
That said, I do not want to close my mind to contrary evidence, and so if I am wrong, can I please ask for a little reciprocity: i.e. can you please send me a collection of psychosocial studies which you think support the thesis in your article? Specifically, can you please send me a few studies -- not one isolated study, but a few -- which show that as a population, donor-conceived people are more likely to be of impaired mental health compared to naturally-conceived people?
If you undertake to send me those studies, I give you my solemn promise I will read them carefully, and after weighing the evidence, I will change my mind if that is warranted.
I look forward to receiving the studies from you.
Professor Amir Attaran, D. Phil. LL.B.
Canada Research Chair in Law, Population Health and Global Development Policy
Faculties of Law and Medicine; University of Ottawa
2. From: Margaret Somerville
Sent: July-13-10 11:50 AM
To: Amir Attaran
Subject: RE: Your essay in the Globe and Mail
Dear Professor Attaran,
I find the tone of your email arrogant and offensive and, consequently, would prefer not to engage in an exchange with you.
Margaret Somerville AM, FRSC, DCL
McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law
3. Dear Margaret,
I mean zero offence and apologize unreservedly if you are offended. I am, however, trained as a scientist (DPhil, Oxford; MS, Caltech, BA, Berkeley) and the scientific culture is notoriously blunt when it comes to debate.
But surely, whether you were offended has no bearing on whether the harm that you allege exists in donor conception—harm that you compared to residential schools trauma—actually is real. That is a question to be decided purely by the evidence—and the tone of my email, or one’s religious leanings, or one’s inherent preferences, are simply irrelevant.
As professors both, let us have the maturity to treat this as a purely professional transaction: Can you please send me citations to psychosocial studies which you think support the thesis in your article? Specifically, can you please send me a few studies -- not one isolated study, but a few -- which show that as a population, donor-conceived people are more likely to be of impaired mental health compared to naturally-conceived people?
I have sent my evidence comprising seven original, peer-reviewed studies showing that donor-conceived children get on fine, equally well as their peers. Despite my best efforts to search, I am aware of no persuasive studies showing harm of the kind that you say exists.
But, that said, I always want to keep an open mind in case I am wrong, and so can I please ask for YOUR evidence?
4. Dear Amir,
Over the years I have come into contact with many donor conceived people. To be quite frank it never occurred to me what the harm done to them was until I got to know them. I would not have characterized it as psychological harm (although that, too, may well be present), but as existential harm, which is what I was speaking about in my essay. A feeling of having been deliberately cut loose from their human roots and moorings and a longing to know through whom life travelled to them. They can feel this most keenly, it seems, when they themselves are considering having children, because they believe they would be inflicting the same loss they have suffered on their children. They feel a loss of identity and, as one of them said to me, “Each morning when I look in the mirror I feel that half of me is missing”. If you read Ishiguro’s book, “Never Let Me Go” you will find an extensive description of the kind of harm I am speaking about. And for first person donor conceived adults’ stories see http://www.infertilitynetwork.org/dc_offspring
As well the research psychologist David Vellaman has described how important a feeling of genetic identification with our close relatives is in forming our own identity. We identify traits in them that we also share and those traits we like, we decide to copy and those we dislike we vow “never to be like our mother”. It may well be that I’ve met more of these people than many other people, as the first cohort of donor conceived people to reach adulthood were in Australia, because Australia had the earliest, large IVF program in the world in the early 1980’s. In fact, the IVF researchers sought me out and I spent a sabbatical working with the program and did some of the legal and ethical work for them.
I believe the kind of harm I am describing deserves attention, even if it’s more ephemeral than “mental illness” measured through classic scientific research methodologies. Moreover, it deserves attention even if it is not common, although we have no idea how common it is. One problem with research in this area is that probably the vast majority of donor conceived children don’t know that is what they are so they can be followed. That also means that we then have the issue of the harm and ethics (or more accurately lack thereof) of deception. As well, those who do know their status can be traumatized by discussing it or they want to safeguard their privacy – all of which are “flow on” harms of donor conception. The current estimates are that between 30,000 and 60,000 donor conceived children are born in the US each year. We have no idea how many know their real status regarding their biological parentage.
For some evidence of the kind of harm you are interested in, there is a new report just released “My daddy’s name is donor” written by Elizabeth Marquardt et al. And I’ve just acted as an external examiner on a PhD thesis “A critical examination of Sperm Donation Practice” by Joanna Rose submitted to the Queensland University of Technology, which has 27 pages of references. That should be publicly available in the near future, if you want to follow up on the references.
I do not want to enter a debate with you about the validity of the science in the references you sent to me, but I’m sure you are aware that at least some studies of this kind can be challenged and have been.
I’m swamped with work and am not going to continue any debate, so please don’t be offended if I do not reply to any further emails.
Thank you for your reply. If you have the Marquardt paper and Rose thesis to hand, would you please share the same?
I appreciate the honesty of your answer, though I find it surprising on one point. You say that donor-born children suffer “existential harm,” rather than “psychological harm.” Further, the picture you paint of this existential harm is not that it is permanent or debilitating, but “ephemeral.” You also say that it “deserves attention even if it is not common,” but you also qualify that by saying nobody knows how common it is, because it is impossible to measure.
Taking all those qualifiers at face value, aren’t you actually speaking of the flimsiest of threats, or in other words, a threat which practically (and I choose my words carefully here) is an article of faith?
I probably cannot change your mind on this, but I invite you to rethink the comparison you made in the Globe and Mail, where you likened this ephemeral, existential harm which may exist with egg or sperm donor offspring, to the more tangible, traumatic, lifelong psychological harm, often manifested by serious clinical psychoses, wrought upon Canada’s residential schools offspring? In arguing against creating donor offspring, you wrote in the Globe:
“Are we repeating in a new context and in new ways the terrible errors and grave injustices that occurred with Australia’s “stolen generation” of aboriginal children, the United Kingdom’s “home children” sent to Canada and other British Commonwealth countries, and the “scoop” of native children from reserves into Canadian residential schools?”
Now, that you have done me the courtesy of clarifying your position on the donor children, it appears you’ve retreated several furlongs from what you wrote in the Globe, and probably you wouldn’t make that comparison any longer. I am grateful for your flexibility on this matter, and I hope you stand by your softer position in the future.
But I have to say this, because all scholars, myself included, need to be reminded sometimes: As public intellectuals, Margaret, you and I both owe it to our readers to be scrupulously accurate and evidence-based in everything we write; otherwise we are no better than angry tabloid columnists. Please keep this in mind when you write for a popular audience, for where the writing is not accurate or evidence-based, it misleads, which is exactly the opposite of education.
6. [From Margaret Somerville] Your email makes me realize that there is an error in my previous email, the word ephemeral, which I am grateful to have pointed out, but there is no damage done as this was a private email to you and not a public document. I meant by it intangible, but nevertheless very serious harm, as should be obvious from the context, but, that said, it’s not the correct word to express that. Consequently, the rest of what you’ve written based on that word is completely wrong and in no way states what I think. I completely stand by what I said in my Globe Essay, as stated. For the record, I do believe that we will look back on widespread donor conception, especially that which is unacknowledged, as a great human tragedy of the 21st Century equivalent to the other tragedies I named.
As to your sanctimonious preaching, I’m surprised that you claim the title of public intellectual for yourself, I’ve always considered that a label that only others can bestow, and I must admit that I, for one, have never thought of you in that way.
7. Dear Margaret,
I have treated you politely and professionally, but also firmly, because good scholarship demands that we hold one another to the best standards of evidence. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would hope that you would debate firmly and hold me to the same standards—and I would hope that I have the grace to deal with it.
Regrettably, you aren’t showing that grace, for your last email is quite intentionally and gratuitously insulting. I regret that is your choice, but being that it is, I will not accede to your request that yours was a private email, since I think your way of addressing an intellectual debate is not acceptable.
8. [From Margaret Somerville] Re your request for Joanna Rose’s thesis: I would have thought that you would know that it would be a breach of privacy and academic ethics, and legally prohibited, for me to share with another person a student’s thesis, especially one to which I only had access as the external examiner.
At which point Attaran finally realized he was not involved in a genuine intellectual discussion at all, and retorted:
9. Calm down, Margaret. You could always ask Ms. Rose’s permission.
To those intrepid readers who have ventured this far--congratulations!--I think this exchange should be held up as an exemplar (at least until the very end) of how to conduct oneself with grace and politesse when confronted with ignorance and superstition cloaked in ethobabble. We can all learn a lesson from it--myself included.
*1. Fertil Steril. 2006 Mar;85(3):610-8.
Egg donation parents and their children: follow-up at age 12 years.
Murray C, MacCallum F, Golombok S.
Family and Child Psychology Research Centre, City University, London, United
OBJECTIVE: To assess the quality of parenting and psychological adjustment of egg
donation families as the child approaches adolescence in comparison with donor
insemination (DI) and IVF families. DESIGN: A study of 17 egg donation families,
35 DI families, and 34 IVF families with a 12-year-old child. Standardized
interview and questionnaire measures were administered to mothers and children.
SETTING: Follow-up of families recruited from three assisted conception units in
the United Kingdom. PATIENT(S): Mothers and their 12-year-old children conceived
through egg donation, DI, and IVF. INTERVENTION(S): Mothers and children were
interviewed and administered questionnaires. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Parents'
marital and psychological state, quality of parent-child relationships, father's
contribution to parenting, and children's socioemotional development. RESULT(S):
No differences were found between the egg donation and IVF families. The
differences between egg donation and DI families reflected lower levels of
sensitive responding of egg donation mothers toward their children compared with
DI mothers. Donor insemination mothers were more likely to be emotionally
over-involved with their child than egg donation mothers. The egg donation
children were well adjusted in terms of their social and emotional development.
CONCLUSION(S): The findings are discussed in relation to the different pattern of
genetic relationships between egg donation and DI families and the secrecy
surrounding the use of donated gametes to conceive a child.
PMID: 16500327 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
2. Child Dev. 1995 Apr;66(2):285-98.
Families created by the new reproductive technologies: quality of parenting and
social and emotional development of the children.
Golombok S, Cook R, Bish A, Murray C.
Child and Family Psychology Unit, City University, London, UK.
The creation of families by means of the new reproductive technologies has raised
important questions about the psychological consequences for children,
particularly where gamete donation has been used in the child's conception.
Findings are presented of a study of family relationships and the social and
emotional development of children in families created as a result of the 2 most
widely used reproductive technologies, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and donor
insemination (DI), in comparison with control groups of families with a naturally
conceived child and adoptive families. The quality of parenting was assessed
using a standardized interview with the mother, and mothers and fathers completed
questionnaire measures of stress associated with parenting, marital satisfaction,
and emotional state. Data on children's psychiatric state were also obtained by
standardized interview with the mother, and by questionnaires completed by the
mothers and the children's teachers. The children were administered the
Separation Anxiety Test, the Family Relations Test, and the Pictorial Scale of
Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance. The results showed that the quality
of parenting in families with a child conceived by assisted conception is
superior to that shown by families with a naturally conceived child. No group
differences were found for any of the measures of children's emotions, behavior,
or relationships with parents. The findings are discussed in terms of their
implications for understanding the role of genetic ties in family functioning and
PMID: 7750366 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
3. Hum Reprod. 1996 Oct;11(10):2324-31.
The European study of assisted reproduction families: family functioning and
Golombok S, Brewaeys A, Cook R, Giavazzi MT, Guerra D, Mantovani A, van Hall E,
Crosignani PG, Dexeus S.
Family and Child Psychology Research Centre, City University, London, UK.
Findings are presented of a European study (conducted in the UK, Italy, Spain and
The Netherlands) of family relationships and the social and emotional development
of children in families created as a result of the two most widely used
reproductive technologies, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and donor insemination
(DI), in comparison with control groups of families with naturally conceived
child and adoptive families. Mothers of children conceived by assisted
reproduction expressed greater warmth towards their child, were more emotionally
involved with their child, interacted more with their child and reported less
stress associated with parenting than mothers who conceived their child
naturally. Similarly, assisted reproduction fathers were found to interact more
with their child and to contribute more to parenting than fathers with a
naturally conceived child. With respect to the children themselves, no group
differences were found for either the presence of psychological disorder or for
children's perceptions of the quality of family relationships. The findings
relating to the quality of parenting and the socio-emotional development of the
children were similar in each of the four countries studied.
PMID: 8943550 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
4. J Fam Psychol. 2007 Jun;21(2):278-87.
Parenting and child development in families with a child conceived through embryo
MacCallum F, Golombok S, Brinsden P.
Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.
Concerns have been raised regarding the potentially negative effects of
conception using donated embryos on parenting and child development. Findings are
presented of an exploratory study of families with a child conceived through
embryo donation. Twenty-one embryo donation families were compared with 28
adoptive families and 30 in vitro fertilization families on standardized
interview and questionnaire measures of the parents' marital and psychological
state, the quality of parent-child relationships, and the child's development. In
all 3 groups, the children were aged 2-5 years. The differences indicated higher
emotional overinvolvement and defensive responding in the embryo donation
families, along with greater secrecy about the child's origins. The children were
not at increased risk of psychological problems. The study provides interesting
but preliminary findings on parent-child relationships and child development in a
new family form.
PMID: 17605550 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
5. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1999 May;40(4):519-27.
Social versus biological parenting: family functioning and the socioemotional
development of children conceived by egg or sperm donation.
Golombok S, Murray C, Brinsden P, Abdalla H.
Family and Child Psychology Research Centre, City University, London, UK.
By investigating egg donation families, donor insemination families, adoptive
families, and families created by in vitro fertilization, the aim of the present
study was to examine parents' emotional well-being, the quality of parenting, and
childrens' socioemotional development in families with a child who is genetically
unrelated to the mother or the father. The differences that were found to exist
between families according to the presence or absence of genetic ties between
parents and their children reflected greater psychological well-being among
mothers and fathers in families where there was no genetic link between the
mother and the child. The families did not differ with respect to the quality of
parenting or the psychological adjustment of the child.
PMID: 10357159 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
6. Hum Reprod. 1997 Jun;12(6):1349-59.
Donor insemination: child development and family functioning in lesbian mother
Brewaeys A, Ponjaert I, Van Hall EV, Golombok S.
Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine, University
Hospital, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Findings are presented of a comparative study investigating the family
relationships and the emotional and gender development of children raised in
lesbian mother families. A total of 30 lesbian mother families with 4-8 year old
children created as a result of donor insemination (DI) were compared with 38
heterosexual families with a DI child and with 30 heterosexual families who had a
naturally conceived child. A variety of assessment measures, including a
standardized interview and questionnaires from the parents and psychological
testing of the child were used to collect the data. The quality of the couples'
relationships and the quality of the mother-child interaction did not differ
between lesbian mother families and either of the heterosexual family groups. The
quality of the interaction between the social mother and the child in lesbian
families was superior to that between the father and the child in both groups of
heterosexual families. Childrens' own perception of their parents was similar in
all family types; the social mother in lesbian families was regarded by the child
to be as much a 'parent' as the father in both types of heterosexual families.
With regard to their emotional/behavioural development, boys and girls raised in
lesbian mother families were well adjusted and their gender role development did
not differ from that of children raised in heterosexual families. These results
indicate that child and family development in lesbian mother families is similar
to that of heterosexual families.
PMID: 9222029 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
7. Child Dev. 1998 Apr;69(2):443-57.
Psychosocial adjustment among children conceived via donor insemination by
lesbian and heterosexual mothers.
Chan RW, Raboy B, Patterson CJ.
Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville 22903-2477,
This study examined the relations among family structure (e.g., number of
parents, parental sexual orientation), family process (e.g., parents'
relationship satisfaction, interparental conflict), and the psychological
adjustment of children who had been conceived via donor insemination. The 80
participating families, all of whom had conceived children using the resources of
a single sperm bank, included 55 families headed by lesbian and 25 families
headed by heterosexual parents. Fifty families were headed by couples and 30 by
single parents. Participating children averaged 7 years of age. Results showed
that children were developing in normal fashion, and that their adjustment was
unrelated to structural variables such as parental sexual orientation or the
number of parents in the household. These results held true for teacher reports
as well as for parent reports. Variables associated with family interactions and
processes were, however, significantly related to indices of children's
adjustment. Parents who were experiencing higher levels of parenting stress,
higher levels of interparental conflict, and lower levels of love for each other
had children who exhibited more behavior problems.
PMID: 9586218 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
8. Hum Reprod Update. 2001 Jan-Feb;7(1):38-46.
Review: parent-child relationships and child development in donor insemination
Netherlands Institute of Social Sexological Research, Utrecht.
The present article reviews the empirical research regarding the parent-child
relationships and the development of children in donor insemination (DI)
families. Over the years, follow-up studies have appeared sporadically and,
despite the varying quality of the research methods, preliminary findings have
emerged. Heterosexual DI parents were psychologically well adjusted and had
stable marital relationships. DI parents showed a similar or higher quality of
parent-child interaction and a greater emotional involvement with their children
compared with naturally conceived families. The majority of studies which
investigated several aspects of child development found that, overall, DI
children were doing well. Findings with regard to emotional/behavioural
development, however, were divergent in that some studies identified an increase
of such problems while others did not. A steadily growing group within the DI
population is lesbian mother families. More recently, follow-up studies have been
carried out among DI children who were raised from birth by two mothers. Despite
many concerns about the well-being of these children, no adverse effects of this
alternative family structure on child development could be identified. As the DI
children in all investigations were still young, our knowledge about the
long-term effects of DI remains incomplete.
PMID: 11212073 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Will there be a parliamentary study on G20 security issues?
Well, first they have to agree to a motion to have such a study and they have only two hours to get over this seemingly insurmountable procedural hurdle. Let's look in ....
Dave MacKenzie, Con : Motion to commend the efforts of the police to protect Canadians. Violent mob, thugs, hooligans ... violent mob of thugs and hooligans ... violent mob of thugs, hooligans, and anarchists who set fire to police cars ... mob of thugs, hooligans and anarchists ... cowards packed with weapons ... mob of ...
NDP Paul Dewar : Is this a new motion? What about the motion to have a study on security?
Con Chair Garry Breitkreuz : No, this is just a discussion. Go ahead, Mr. MacKenzie
Con Dave MacKenzie : Mob of thugs, hooligans, and anarchists ... let's wait for the ISU to do their study first.
Con Dean del Mastro : Summit a great success ... thugs, hooligans and anarchists ... anarchist groups ... call for a study is just a cheap political stunt ... Unlike the NDP-led coalition we stand for our police ... There have been no allegations of PMO interference ... NDP's coalition is lining itself up with anarchist groups ... We should trust the ISU and Toronto Police to do its final review - they have the expertise .... We should condemn the actions of anarchists, not give them a public forum to defend their criminal deeds and I believe the motion Mr. MacKenzie has discussed does do this - condemn the actions of these hooligans. This is the view of the overwhelming majority of Canadians - 75%. Stand with our police, stand with the appropriate bodies, and condemn the thugs and hooligans.
Con Paul Calandra : How disappointing to be here to promote the agenda of the thugs and hooligans ... hooligans and thugs ... [omigawd, now he's reading from the gov's promotional G20 pamphlet] ... growth prospects, make our financial systems stronger, going forward more work remains, transparency, we stand united with the people of Haiti, resist protectionism, [and finally he gets around to]....thugs, hooligans, and hooligans ...
Thugs, hooligans, and hooligans?
Oh dear, an unfortunate and probably unauthorized variation on the prepared text. No drink for you.
Anyway, as we're only at the half hour mark out of two hours here, I'll spare you the suspense. After many many more "thugs, hooligans, and anarchists", sometimes preceded by "mob of", and despite attempts by NDP Paul Dewar, Libs Andrew Kania and Mark Holland, and Bloc Maria Mourani to get around to the actual reason for convening this meeting - the motion to study G20 security issues - the committee adjourned without ever having a vote on it.
Well done, Public Safety and National Security Committee.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Ditto on Explorer : "Cannot find server".
I haven't been able to access the Toronto Star for a couple of days now and several recent source links I've made to Antonia Z at The Star are also non-functional.
Anyone else having the same trouble?
Friday, July 09, 2010
- Are people aware that, once again, we--that is, Tony Clement and, of course, Stephen Harper, without whose divine approval not a blade of government grass stirs--are slavishly following in the footsteps of American politicians?
Anyone remember Michele Bachmann, the far-right flake who is frequently the unwilling recipient of Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" award?
Michele co-sponsored a bill just last year to--guess what?--gut the American census. Reasons? "Privacy concerns" -- utterly bogus, of course, but Clement is now channelling her. Do Canadian cons ever have ideas of their own?
- Be sure to read Dan Gardner's take-down today--referring to this move as "the Conservative government's latest act of gratuitous stupidity." He points to what should be obvious: a voluntary long-form is useless because of its inevitable sample bias. And here's more on that subject from blogger Stephen Gordon [h/t BCL].
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Taser International's lawyers are challenging the findings of the Braidwood Commission in the BC Supreme Court.
I believe that the terms that I've emphasized, if employed by anyone other than a lawyer working for Taser International, could be considered weasel words.
Taser International says its bottom line is hurting and its reputation has been slurred in the wake of a provincial public inquiry report that concluded the weapon can cause death. ...
David Neave, a lawyer for the U.S. manufacturer, told Judge Robert Sewell on Monday that Taser is concerned about Braidwood’s conclusion that the weapon can cause death. “It’s a slur on Taser that its device can kill,” Neave said. “That’s a slur that ought to be removed.”
Sewell noted the commission had concluded the “harm this product could cause carries with it a low risk of death.” However, Neave said there is no medical or scientific evidence to support that the weapon has caused any deaths.
Sewell challenged Neave further and said use of the weapon, if carried out by anyone other than police officers, could be considered assault causing bodily harm. “This product is designed to cause harm,” the judge said.
Neave rejected that. “It’s designed to incapacitate,” he said. “Certainly there is a pain component associated.”
Taser International claims that Braidwood's conclusions "had caused concern with customers around the world and it was hurting potential sales". The price of stock shares seems to be affected also, as a result of the commissioner's plain language observations that were widely disseminated in news items.
I blogged about Braidwood last year. I mentioned, and linked to a letter sent to Sofia Cisowski from Dr Mike Webster, RCMP staff psychologist. There are points that he used that need repeating, in light of what happened in Toronto during the g-20.
In May 2009 blogpost, I refered to a tipping point,
As in all democratic societies, the police in Canada are given the authority to use force to ensure that the laws of the country are upheld and public safety and security are maintained. This, of course, carries the expectation that police persons and their organizations will be accountable to the public for any use of force . However, even though the community provides the police with the ability to employ legitimate force, several questions arise:
i. What is a reasonable use of force?
ii. Why and under what circumstances is one type of force chosen over another?; and, iii. What standards are in place to ensure that there is consistency in addressing use of force situations?
The police, in Canada, have attempted to address these questions by developing use of force models. No matter whether it is the RCMP's Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM) or the more widely used National Use of Force Framework (NUFF), these are attempts to integrate force options (e.g. presence, communication…etc.) with a generic decision making model (e.g. assess-plan-act). There are some key principles underlying these models:
i. The primary responsibility of a police person is to preserve and protect life;
ii. The primary objective of any use of force is to ensure public safety;
iii. The safety of the police person is essential to public safety; and,
iv. The use of force model does not replace the law.
"the level at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable", as defined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, refining the expression as a sociological term: "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point."Dr Dawg also used that expression in this post.
There are reports, many documented by lawyers who attempted to communicate with their clients (activists pre-emptively apprehended and detained in cells during the g-20) that young people from the province of Québec were specifically targeted by police organizations.
That information must be presented in the course of the civilian-led public review into the behaviour of the riot police in order to identify the source of directives that dictated their actions - even though the head of the Toronto Police union has rightfully stated that it won't be a a full-fledged public inquiry that would be legally binding, as ordered by the province.
Update: As more information about the abusive policing methods on display at the g-20 emerge, some media are suggesting that "the RCMP were largely at the helm" of the security operations. This makes the information supplied by Dr David Webster relevant to these circumstances also.