November 11 2012, 04:18 PM

Malala Yousafzai, in a 2011 interview with CNN, discussing her activism on behalf of girls seeking education in Pakistan.

October 30 2012, 06:29 PM
I put this together using the Electoral College tool at Real Clear Politics using RCP’s most current polling data. Only two states are dead ties - Colorado and Virginia - and they’re represented in grey. Pink and light blue states are leaning one way within a 1-2% margin, and dark pink and royal blue states are leaning one way with a margin greater than 3%. 
Should Romney win both Colorado and Virginia, the final electoral count would be 281-257, a clear victory for Obama. Should Obama win both states, the count would be 303-235 - again, victory for the Democrats. 
The important thing to take away here is that based solely on the most current polling data, a Romney win seems unlikely.
At this point, far more states are leaning blue than leaning red. The race will hinge on vote counts in Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Iowa. If you live in those states, go vote, and bring all your friends and family with you.

I put this together using the Electoral College tool at Real Clear Politics using RCP’s most current polling data. Only two states are dead ties - Colorado and Virginia - and they’re represented in grey. Pink and light blue states are leaning one way within a 1-2% margin, and dark pink and royal blue states are leaning one way with a margin greater than 3%. 

Should Romney win both Colorado and Virginia, the final electoral count would be 281-257, a clear victory for Obama. Should Obama win both states, the count would be 303-235 - again, victory for the Democrats. 

The important thing to take away here is that based solely on the most current polling data, a Romney win seems unlikely.

At this point, far more states are leaning blue than leaning red. The race will hinge on vote counts in Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Iowa. If you live in those states, go vote, and bring all your friends and family with you.

October 16 2012, 12:22 PM

Why attributing Amanda Todd’s death to “poor internet safety” is wrong

In the wake of Amanda Todd’s suicide, schools in Coquitlam have begun sending students home with letters advising parents to talk to their children about internet safety. Although many have lauded the move, it’s the wrong approach. Amanda Todd did not die because she behaved recklessly or made bad decisions regarding social media usage. She took her own life because she was exhausted of constant torment at the hands of her peers.

How sick is it that rather than chiding the 32-year-old man who blackmailed Amanda with a topless photo of herself, or punishing the kids who freely shared Amanda’s nudes, administrators are advising students not to take topless photos lest they wind up like Amanda?

Amanda’s tormentors attacked her for the crime of displaying, for a split second, a body part normally considered private. Her tormentors broke the law by distributing images of Amanda’s private anatomy to adult men and pedophiles. And once they had shattered Amanda’s reputation and destroyed her privacy, they called her “slut” and “whore” as if she had any agency in distributing images of her nude upper body.

The problem here is not that Amanda was unsafe on the internet - it’s that her peers saw fit to degrade Amanda for the simple fact of her anatomy, and share private images of her without her consent.

Would a fifteen-year-old boy be blamed and shamed for yanking off his shirt on camera? If Amanda were Adam, and his shirtless photos got out, would he be called a slut and a whore, or would he be regaled as a stud?

There is something misogynistic in saying that Amanda brought torment upon herself, and that she should have been more savvy about social media. When administrators distribute pamphlets advising students not to post topless photos, they are blaming Amanda for her own death. They are reinforcing the bullies’ cries of “slut” and “whore.” They aren’t punishing the people who drove Amanda to suicide or explaining that women possess breasts and should not be shamed for their own anatomy.

"Girls," they are saying, "Did you know that, uh, your boobs go inside your shirt?”

Amanda Todd did nothing wrong. She has already been tormented and punished enough. Don’t shame her after her death.

September 25 2012, 07:19 PM

Unlikely warriors 

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stood before the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations this month and outlined his aggressive agenda to “stand up to the violent mobs that seek to criminalize homosexuality.”

"Draconian punishment and unspeakable violence are inflicted on people simply for whom they love and for who they are," he said.

That same day, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney touted Canada as a haven for gay refugees from Iran. Working with Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, Mr. Kenney’s office had fast-tracked 100 gay Iranians into Canada, saving them from possible execution.

A mere seven years ago, the Tories were famously the opponents of same-sex marriage. Now, the Harper Conservatives freely push gay rights abroad and even host an annual gathering of gay Tories. While they remain the favourite punching bag for Canadian LGBT activists, have the Harper Tories become unlikely warriors for gay rights?

"I can no longer shock people in the conservative movement when I tell them I’m gay - but I can shock gay people when I tell them I’m Conservative," said Fred Litwin, former vice-president of the Ottawa Centre Conservatives.

In June, Mr. Litwin was one of the organizers of the Fabulous Blue Tent Party, a gathering of approximately 800 gay Conservatives at Ottawa’s Westin Hotel that went until 3 a.m.

The same weekend, however, Tories at the party’s annual convention also passed a resolution supporting religious organizations who refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

Although Mr. Harper has resolutely vowed never to touch samesex marriage, it was only 2005 when, as opposition leader, he told an Ottawa rally, “when elected Prime Minister … I will bring in legislation that will define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” That same year, in a lengthy parliamentary speech Jason Kenney called marriage a “tautologically a heterosexual institution.”

"It’s no secret that the Conservative Party hasn’t always been the biggest champion of gay rights, but public pressure, and quite frankly, society evolving has changed their views," said Jamie Ellerton, an openly gay former staffer for Mr. Kenney.

"The Conservative Party, like the rest of society, has moved to be more supportive of gay rights in recent years, and I see that trend continuing," he said.

Mr. Baird often supported samesex marriage in his days as a Progressive Conservative member of Ontario’s provincial parliament. As foreign affairs minister, he has taken the fight for gay rights overseas.

In January, before the Royal Commonwealth Society in London Mr. Baird harangued African and Caribbean countries for keeping anti-homosexual laws on their books, calling it a hangover of the colonial era. Two months later, he spoke out against a Russian law that banned the “promotion” of homosexuality, effectively outlawing all gay pride events.

"Canada’s ambassador has written to the Russian government to express our deep concern and, yes, we have at his request, put a travel advisory on our website," said Mr. Baird.

In 2009, Mr. Harper spoke out against a Ugandan bill that promised to dramatically toughen criminal sanctions against homosexuality, which were already illegal in the African country.

"When I was at the Commonwealth conference, what was [Stephen Harper] talking about? The gays," Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni said in 2010.

After the 2011 suicide of gay Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley, Mr. Baird told the House that homophobia has no place in Canadian schools, and then appeared with other Tory MPs in a video for the “It Gets Better Project,” an online campaign looking to curb the disproportionately high suicide rates among LGBT youth.

In June, members of the Tory caucus even came to the rescue of a transgendered rights bill put forward by NDP MP Randall Garrison. Promising to protect transgender people under the Canadian Human Rights Act and make anti-transgender violence a hate crime, the bill passed second reading thanks to the support of 15 Conservative MPs, including Jim Flaherty and Lisa Raitt.

"I don’t question other members who may have a different take on this, but, for me and for the kind of principles that I wish to stand up for, this was important," Tory MP Bruce Stanton, one of the bill’s supporters, told Simcoe.com

U.K. Tories are undergoing a similar evolution. In October, British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to suspend aid to Commonwealth countries if they refused to abandon anti-gay legislation. Last summer, during a reception for LGBT representatives at 10 Downing Street, Mr. Cameron promised to legalize gay marriage by 2015. “If it’s good enough for straight people like me, it’s good enough for everybody,” he said.

Gay/conservative relations are not nearly as cordial in the United States, where large swaths of the Republican party view homosexuality as a sin. In May, Richard Grenell, an openly gay spokesman for Republican vice-president candidate Mitt Romney, stepped down after the campaign was barraged by criticism from socially conservative groups.

By focusing on free enterprise and individual liberties, instead of religious and cultural issues, Canada’s conservatives have been able to maintain a “much broader tent than the Republican Party in the United States and a stronger movement overall,” wrote Chris Reid, a gay former Conservative candidate, in an email to the Post.

Still, the stigma of Tories-ashomophobes remains.

In 2008, the NDP discovered a videotape from 1991 featuring Saskatchewan Tory MP Tom Lukiwski spouting off against “homosexual faggots with dirt under their fingernails that transmit diseases” - prompting calls for his resignation.

In January, when a foreign same-sex couple who had married in Toronto in 2005 returned to Canada to apply for a divorce, a Crown lawyer argued that the marriage was never technically valid, since neither of the partners were Canadian permanent residents at the time. It was purely a jurisdictional decision - but fingers immediately pointed at a Harper government plot to dissolve thousands of foreign same-sex marriages. (Tellingly, the government introduced measures to make it easier for same-sex couples to divorce.)

Mr. Kenney is still criticized for a 2010 episode in which internal documents revealed his office had decided to omit a brief gay rights timeline from Canada’s official citizenship guide, opting instead to feature a photo of Olympic gold medal swimmer Mark Tewksbury, identifying him as a “prominent activist for gay and lesbian Canadians.”

In truth, the 1990s-era guide had never contained any mention of gay rights before Mr. Kenney ordered an update in 2009. An updated edition now reads “Canada’s diversity includes gay and lesbian Canadians, who enjoy the full protection of and equal treatment under the law, including access to civil marriage.”

The Tories also face criticism for being conspicuously absent from gay pride events. Mr. Litwin said he’s tried to rally Tories into the Ottawa pride parade, but noted that Tory cabinet ministers have been booed in similar appearances at LGBT events.

"Can [the opposition] point and say there’s no openly gay MPs in the Conservative caucus?" said Mr. Ellerton. "I suppose that’s true - maybe one day there will be."

The Conservatives do have one openly gay caucus member - Senator Nancy Ruth. She originally sat as an independent Progressive Conservative when she was appointed by Liberal Paul Martin, but then became a Conservative after the Harper government’s 2006 election win.

"I’m fat, I’m short, I’m a lesbian, and I’m a Conservative. I don’t fit in with most people I know," she said in a 2009 interview, adding "I’m here to do things and you can only do things if you have access."

September 21 2012, 11:36 PM

Paul Krugman’s Advice to Recent Graduates

In many ways, college graduates are now actually in a worse position financially than those who don’t go to college, says Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman. Here, Krugman shares his advice for dealing with debt and surviving American unemployment.

September 14 2012, 03:19 PM

Canada to make women’s, gay rights in emerging democracies a priority: Conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird 

As violence and extremism threatened to undo the advances of the Arab Spring, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday Canada would help emerging democracies by promoting the rights of women.

In a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Baird described what he called Canada’s “principled, values based” foreign policy and said a key priority was to ensure women were full participants in society.

“I have made it a priority to advocate for the participation of women at all levels of society, especially as old regimes fall and new governments emerge in countries seeking progress, freedom and dignity,” according to the advance text of his luncheon address.

“I do this because states where woman play vital, central roles in government and civil society are generally more prosperous and more pluralistic overall. If we want fewer extremist governments, we need the active participation of women in all aspects of society.”

The minister made no mention of his surprise decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Iran last week. Nor did he discuss the protests that erupted in the Muslim world this week over an obscure anti-Islamic film.

Instead, he outlined what he called “the untold story” of Canada’s foreign policy under the Conservative government and its focus on advancing Canadian values by advocating for women.

As an example, he described his fight to end early forced marriages of girls as young as nine, despite opposition from countries he said had admonished him for being culturally insensitive for even raising the issue.

He said Canada would also encourage “the friends of freedom” in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen —Arab countries emerging from years of oppressive rule — to see the benefits of making sure women played active roles in governing.

“One of the key premises of our values-based foreign policy is this: if we want to promote prosperity, if we want to promote fundamental freedoms, and, increasingly, if we want to cut off radical extremism at the knees, we must actively support not just the equality of men and women, but the full participation of women in all parts of civil society,” he said.

Mr. Baird said he was also calling on countries to repeal “regressive and punitive laws” against homosexuality. He cited an activist in Uganda, David Kato, who was murdered after a newspaper published his photo with the headline: Hang Them.

“Our government wants Canada’s voice to be heard, for it to be clear, and for it to be unambiguously free of moral relativism. We believe what is right is right. And what’s wrong is wrong. And it is in defence of those beliefs that we act.”

September 05 2012, 02:54 AM

1 dead, 1 critically injured as shots ring out during Marois' PQ victory speech 

I might be sick to my stomach. I have a lot of feelings about this, none of which I can articulate clearly right now.

I have a lot of friends in Montreal, live only a few minutes from Quebec, and attend a bilingual university with a large Francophone community. This tragedy is going to colour literally every moment of my life, and I’m only tangentially involved.

I’ll just let the article speak for itself:

A celebration of the Parti Quebecois’ return to power was shattered Tuesday — first by a political disappointment, then by a stunning tragedy.

The party won a minority government with a weaker-than-desired result that could severely limit its ability to pursue its independence agenda.

A victory speech by premier-in-waiting Pauline Marois was then marred by an exceptionally ugly scene: she was whisked off the stage by guards during an attack in which two people were shot, one was killed, and a fire was set in back of the assembly hall.

Police tackled a masked, housecoat-wearing suspect to the ground, and took him away in a patrol car. The two people shot were originally listed in critical condition, and one was later pronounced dead. Televised images showed a long gun being confiscated.

The suspect, while being dragged toward the police cruiser, shouted in French, “The English are waking up!”

It was certainly the most tragic, and least jubilant, election win in the PQ’s long history.

Even before the attack there was frustration at the Metropolis auditorium, where the partisan PQ crowd had assembled. The PQ has never governed with a minority in its history and, therefore, has never faced the need to table a referendum question, an inaugural speech, or any other confidence measure with the support of parties that oppose its core values.

Its score in the popular vote was lower than any time it has governed. The PQ took about 32 per cent of votes. That was just one percentage point more than the governing Liberals, who staved off the electoral annihilation many had predicted. The new Coalition party had 27 per cent.

The attack then took place, ironically, just after Marois spoke English — a rare occurrence in a speech at a partisan PQ event. She had promised English-speaking Quebecers that their rights would be protected, following an emotionally charged campaign that saw her party focus on language-and-identity issues.

“Quebecers made their choice,” Marois said, in a reference to the limits of governing with a minority. “We will respect their choice by governing with all those elected.”

She promised to work for independence and her party faithful chanted nationalist slogans.

But the bitterness in the victory was evident earlier in the boos that had greeted each reference to opposing politicians. Earlier in the evening, people in the crowd booed when they heard outgoing premier Jean Charest speak English in his concession speech.

August 05 2012, 05:01 PM

I feel that I no longer wish to support your presidential campaign and ask that you please return the maximum contribution that I gave to you last year. You have chosen to be on the wrong side of history and I do not support your run for president any longer.

 - Bill White, the openly gay chairman and CEO of the New York consulting firm Constellations Group, writing to the Romney campaign (via Washington Post)
August 05 2012, 04:23 PM

GOP Insider: Religion destroyed my party 

One might imagine that the religious right’s agenda would be incompatible with the concerns for privacy and individual autonomy by those who consider themselves to belong to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party—the “don’t tread on me,” “live free or die” crowd that Grover Norquist once called the “leave me alone” conservatives. Given their profound distaste for an oppressive and intrusive federal government, one would think they might have trepidations about a religious movement determined to impose statutory controls on private behavior that libertarians nominally hold to be nobody’s business, and particularly not the government’s business.

Some more libertarian-leaning Republicans have in fact pushed back against the religious right. Former House majority leader Dick Armey expressed his profound distaste for the tactics of the religious right in 2006—from the safety of the sidelines—by blasting its leadership in unequivocal terms:

[James] Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they’re easy. There ain’t no thinking.

August 02 2012, 01:50 PM

Jack Schaap, a Hammond Megachurch pastor has been fired after being admitting to having an affair with a sixteen-year-old girl. The FBI is leading the investigation, as there are potentially multiple incidents occurring across state lines. No charges have been filed so far in this case.

Here are some comments made by male members of the congregation responding to the allegations that their pastor committed statutory rape. Trigger warning: everything.

"You know, we’re all sinners, and Romans 3:10 says, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.’ So we’re all sinners too. You can’t leave that out."

"I’m here to support this pastor and this church. You know, you can never judge the book by its cover. Uh, people can say different statements and different stories about this man. Um, only God can be the judge."

"We loved that man and we trusted that man. We still do love him."