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Monday 08 November 2010


Proclamations of the Red Queen

5th November 2010

Canada: “Hate Speech” Controversy Reaches Supreme Court

Posted by: Craig Young

In Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada has decided to analyse the case of Edmonton antigay activist, fundamentalist, former nurse and Regina mayoral candidate Bill Whatcott, after an outburst in Sasketchewan province’s Regina and Saskatoon on behalf of the “Christian Truth Activists” (sic) group, which used derogatory and over the top language to attack LGBT communities back in 2003. The Sasketchewan Human Rights Commission received four complaints about the hate propaganda in question and while he lost there, he won at the Sasketchewan Court of Appeal. In 2005, damages were awarded against him, but those were overturned earlier this year. The Sasketchewan Court of Appeal’s decision has irritated the SHRC, which has appealed against it.

Whatcott excuses his antigay rants by stating that he was brought up in foster homes and the prison system. Inevitably, it’s one of those abject-depravity-before-I-got-religion routines. He doesn’t deny he was responsible for the hate pamphlets in question and raved about ‘death, disease, abuse and eternal judgement’ in his diatribes back in 2002-3. He argued that they were ‘theological’ and ‘health-based’. He views homosexuality as akin to alcohol and drug abuse. He was stripped of his nursing license for anti-abortion activism back in 2004 and never pays fines for his behaviour.

Hate speech versus freedom of expression, round thirteen…

Recommended:

Neil Mackinnon: “Canada’s top court to hear antigay leaflet case” Xtra: 01.11.2010: http://www.xtra.ca

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

5th November 2010

Analysis: Off the Boil

Posted by: Craig Young

As predicted, the US Republican Party capitalised on historical amnesia, populist fearmongering and unrealistic perceptions about the pace of Obama’s federal reforms from the Tea Party movement. Happily, though, they weren’t completely successful.

While the Republicans seized control of the federal House of Representatives and several governorships after manipulating and manufacturing outrage at corporate bailouts, economic slowdown and Obama’s public healthcare package, they failed to obtain a federal Senate majority. This seems to be a libertarian  backlash, not a social conservative one.

Apart from Rand Paul, the incoming Republican Senator for Kentucky, none of the Tea Party’s more controversial social conservative Senate candidates won their electorate contests. In Delaware, the bizarre Christine O’Donnell’s Wiccan past and pontifications about the iniquity of self-pleasure, while Nevada’s Sharron Angle’s hardline anti-abortion views even in the case of rape and incest won her a lemon, but not a federal Senate seat.  Carl Paladino failed to become New York Governor after homophobic comments about same-sex marriages in a predominantly metropolitan state.

As for binding citizens referenda, the results were marked by an apparent lull in the hostilities over same-sex marriage, apart from an Iowa-based recall of the three state judges that introduced same-sex marriages in that state. In Colorado, an extremist anti-abortion ‘personhood’ amendment to the state constitution, which would have banned it, went down to defeat. However, California also rejected a marijuana decriminalisation bill, while South Dakota and Arizona didn’t decriminalise medical cannabis derivatives.

Recommended:

“California defeats measure to legalize marijuana” Globe and Mail: 03.11.2010: http://www.globeandmail.com/news/world/americas/california-rejects-measure-to-legalize-marijuana/article1783538/

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

4th November 2010

Review: Frank Mort: Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society

Posted by: Craig Young

 Frank Mort: Capital Affairs: London and the Rise of the Permissive Society: London: Yale University Press: 2010.

Before the swinging sixties arrived, what about the prelude? In the context of UK homosexual law reform, there have been several historical accounts of this period, such as Stephen Jeffrey-Poulter’s Peers, Queers and Commons (1992) and Patrick Higgins’  Heterosexual Dictatorship (1995).  Frank Mort provides an intriguing addition to this literature with his latest social history of that period.

Mort’s case begins with the premise that London is a diverse metropolis that reflects changes in social relationships within its geography.  In historical terms, it begins with the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 and the resurgence of the British aristocracy at the same time that there was postwar social dislocation, relative economic prosperity and growth, social mobility and mass migration occurring. Moreover, there was also the decline of religious authority and the advent of effective contraceptives like the pill.

Accordingly, there were some visible pressure points, much as there was in New Zealand’s case with the Parker/Hulme murder and the Mazengarb Report of the same period, although our politicians appear to have been boring paragons of virtue by comparison. After the appearance of Betty Windsor, there ensued the trial of the serial killer John Christie, executed in 1953 after the murder of his wife and several other young women, three of them sex workers. Inevitably, the Wolfenden Report also materialises in this context, although later gay scholarship has drawn attention to its hesitant and highly constricted concept of limited ‘reform’ in the context of decriminalisation of homosexuality- not in Northern Ireland or Scotland, not in the armed forces, not in groups, not in public and one had to wait until one was twenty one.

However, the focal point of this book is the heterosexual Profumo scandal. For those not au fait with this period, it was as follows: John Profumo was Secretary for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative Government. In 1963, he met call girl/sex worker, exotic dancer and future mistress Christine Keeler at a Cliveden party and embarked on an affair with her. The problem wasn’t the affair, it was who else was involved- her criminal ex-lover Johnny Edgecumbe and a Soviet military officer and KGB agent at the Russian Embassy. 

Edgecumbe made a scene at the offices of Dr Stephen Ward, where Keeler was staying to avoid her violent ex, and retaliated against Ward, Profumo and Keeler by disclosing their affair to the tabloid media and general public. Profumo really should have resigned, especially once the Soviet attache connection emerged, but compounded his misery by misleading Parliament over his relationship and whether pillow talk emerged. It was all a rich confection of social mobility, geographical mobility, cross-cultural relationships, mass immigration, and changing gender roles. No parliamentarian indiscretion elsewhere has had quite the impact, with the exception of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the mid-nineties. Even then, the US general public got tired of right-wing prurience and punished Republican obsessing about that issue.

Also Recommended:

Stephen Jeffrey-Poulter: Peers, Queers and Commons: London: Routledge: 1992.

Patrick Higgins: Heterosexual Dictatorship: Homosexuality in Postwar Britain: London: Fourth Estate: 1995.

→ No CommentsTags: Politics

28th October 2010

Victoria: Adoption Reform Next?

Posted by: Craig Young

According to the Melbourne Age newspaper, ALP State Premier John Brumby has stated that if the ALP wins its forthcoming state election, the relatively progressive state government (which earlier decriminalised abortion) will introduce legislation that opens access for eligible same-sex parents to adopt children, as has already occurred in Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania (coparents only) and New South Wales (exempting religious adoption providers who opt out). If this eventuates, Victoria will become the fifth jurisdiction and fourth Australian state to introduce inclusive adoption reform, which will increase the pressure on the Key administration to do something similar here. Predictably, though, the fundamentalist “Australian Christian Lobby” has whined that this is intended to hose down Australian Green support.

Recommended:

Farrah Tomazin: “Labor’s bold play to win pink vote” Melbourne Age: 23.10.2010: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/labors-bold-play-to-win-pink-vote-20101022-16xvi.html

Not Recommended:

Australian “Christian” Lobby: http://www.acl.org.au

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

27th October 2010

Of Cannibals and Conservative Christians

Posted by: Craig Young

What is one to do when one confronts an enclave with values that are radically out of kilter with those of the social mainstream?

Recently, I read Australian anthropologist Paul Raffaele’s Among the Cannibals (2008), which deals with several societies or social enclaves that condone different forms of cannibalism. Irian Jaya’s Kasowari highlands tribal community is especially emphasised, although precolonial Melanesia, Polynesia and Aztec Mesoamerica all come in for critical scrutiny. While India’s Hindu Ayhori sect mix abjection and sanctity in their consumption of corpses and human remains at cremation sites in Benares, the murderous Ugandan Lords Resistance Army force abducted male and female children to undertake cannibalism before pedophile rape and polygamy (for the girls) and soldiery (for the boys).

Among the Kasowari, cannibalism is sanctioned by their insular religious belief system. If misfortune strikes their arboreal communities, malevolent witchcraft is attributed to men attributed as khakua (demonic sorcerors), which designates them as precisely nonhuman and able to be executed and consumed for food on that basis. Kasowari traditions are being eroded, so we may be witnessing the last generations of this way of life. Similar integration has happened to remote Amazonian cannibal indigenous tribal communities, although more violent colonial conquest put paid to the practice of colonialism in Central America, Polynesia and Melanesia.

However, I want to closely examine the process of ‘deviant’ attribution, identification and killing of the khakua in Kasowari society, as well as the similar practice of divine human sacrifice in precolonial Aztec Mesoamerica. Granted, cannibalism is morally reprehensible and indefensible, but the reprehensibility lies in the attribution, identification and killing of those labelled deviant and subjected to capital offences or abuse of human rights by irrational, premodern religious and philosophical systems. Like German Catholic or Lutheran anti-Semitism, which legitimised the prelude to the Nazi Holocaust. Or Serbian Orthodoxy’s demonisation of Muslims. Or Iranian Shia Islam and the Bahai. Or, for that matter, Christian Reconstructionist/theonomist sects that preach assassination of abortion providers and drool about the prospects of a theocratic religious dictatorship that executes lesbians and gay men for ’sodomy’, a similar meaningless premodern concoction.

We might well abhor the Kasowari legitimisation of cannibalism. Are we similarly prepared to critically scrutinise the role of irrational deviant attribution that leads to other forms of dehumanisation and death in our own societies?

Recommended:

Paul Raffaele: Among the Cannibals: New York: HarperCollins: 2008.

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics · Religion

13th October 2010

United States: Tea Potty?

Posted by: Craig Young

In the United States, the Republican Party is expected to make gains at the forthcoming midterm elections…but will they be great as the party leadership believes?

Much of this has to do with the “Tea Party” libertarian populist movement, which began with selective historical amnesia, pretending that the Bush administration never happened and does not have primary responsibility for the rundown of public sector employment and regulation of the housing market and finance industries which resulted in the spate of bank and corporate failures which have plagued the United States. The “Tea Party” believes that further public sector cuts, tax reduction and restriction of access to public health care is the ‘answer’ to the woes of the United States. Despite being ostensibly ‘grassroots’ and ‘libertarian,’ the Tea Party populists have attracted fundamentalist Christians. Some progressive libertarians resent this reorientation of attention away from the fiscal conservative and limited government agenda.

Added to which, some of the Tea Party fundamentalist carpetbaggers are truly bizarre and counterproductive figures. Christine O’Donnell (Delaware) dabbled in Wicca in a teenager, but is now a fundamentalist Pentecostal anti-abortionist who also opposes self-pleasure. In Nevada, Sharron Angle opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest. Carl Paladino is an ultra-Orthodox Jew opponent of school diversity and inclusiveness education programmes who doesn’t think that homosexuality is ‘normal’ as well as an opponent of same-sex marriage. It should be noted that there is a spectrum of Orthodox opinion on the morality of homosexuality and Paladino evidently represents Orthodox Jewish Right fellow travellers with militant fundamentalist Christians who excuse and overlook their latent anti-Semitism:

“That’s not how God created us,” “and that’s not the example that we should be showing our children.”

Straight marriages and families are  ”much better off and much more successful.”

“I don’t want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option,” Paladino concluded.

The above alienated moderate Republicans. However, due to the absence of a welfare state, strong trade unionism and abnormally high compensatory levels of religious observance, as well as a permanent leader of the Opposition and weak party discipline, the Tea Party has found it easy to subvert the Republican Party. Due to unrealistic public expectations about the pace and depth of neccessary reform, the Democrats are in trouble and may lose control of the federal Senate and House of Representatives as a consequence.

Recommended:

“Tea Party born in anger, trips on social issues”3 News: 09.10.2010: http://www.3news.co.nz/Tea-party-born-in-anger-trips-on-social-issues/tabid/313/articleID/180946/Default.aspx

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics · Religion

8th October 2010

Henrygate: Beyond the Point of No Return?

Posted by: Craig Young

Over the last fortnight, the lead New Zealand cultural and media story has been the question of TVNZ Breakfast copresenter Paul Henry. As a result of two anti-Indian racist outbursts, there is growing controversy about the future of this media figure.

Henry has been Breakfast copresenter since 2004 and has amassed considerable controversy beforehand. He has described lesbians and gay men as ‘unnatural’, despite the fact that TVNZ’s morning weather presenter, Tamati Coffey, is takatapui himself. He also stood unsuccessfully against Labour’s Carterton MP Georgina Beyer when she was the elected representative for that seat. In this instance, the outbursts were related to India’s Delhi Games Minister, Ms. Sheila Dixit, and New Zealand’s own Governor-General, Anand Satyanand, who was born in Ponsonby and is of Indo-Fijian descent.

As a meagre response to the incident, TVNZ Chief Executive Rick Ellis has suspended Henry without pay for a fortnight’s duration. However, it now seems as if the racist outbursts probably merit greater response from his quarter.  Due to the Internet, they have reached the Indian media and are now endangering our trade and media relationships. Global Peace and Justice Auckland and the Unite union have called for his sacking and protested outside the TVNZ offices in Auckland, and the Auckland Indian Association has suggested that there should be a boycott of products and services advertised on TVNZ until Henry either resigns, or is sacked.  Meanwhile, its complaints hotline is running hot, and there is also the Broadcasting Standards Authority and Code of Broadcasting Standards to consider. While it is true that the New Zealand Herald and TV3 are taking advantage of the self-inflicted misfortunes of their fellow media outlet, there is one solution to the above.  Henry’s position seems to have become untenable. 

Extend boot, contact backside, evict miscreant from corporate premises.

Relevant websites:

Auckland Indian Association: http://www.aiai.org.nz

Global Peace and Justice Auckland: http://www.gpja.org.nz

Unite union: http://www.unite.org.nz

Broadcasting Standards Authority: http://www.bsa.govt.nz

TVNZ: http://www.tvnz.co.nz

→ No CommentsTags: Politics

5th October 2010

Backgrounder: Auckland Local Elections and STV

Posted by: Craig Young

At the moment, Aucklanders are electing a mayor and twenty councillors in a newly consolidated and rationalised greater city council.

LGBT interests have traditionally been focused on central government in New Zealand. Unlike Canada and Australia, we are a unitary and centralised state and our provincial and municipal councils have jurisdiction over areas like sanitation, recreational activities and other mundane matters of local infrastructure. There have been times when that has not been the case- the most glaring was the headaches that the Hero Parade and Party experienced at the hands of the fundamentalist-dominated Citizens and Ratepayers ticket under the social conservative mayoralty of Les Mills and his deputy, David Hay, son of homosexual law reform opponent Keith Hay. Fortunately, that didn’t last long, and since then, relationships have been more or less convivial. So, why should we be concerned about local body governance?

Auckland’s local body rationalisation began in 2007, when the Clark administration convened a Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. It recommended a grand council of twenty elected representatives, eight at large and twelve from wards.  The new Auckland Council would abolish the prior Auckland City Council, Rodney District Council, North Shore City Council, Waitakere City Council, Manukau City Council, Papakura District Council, Franklin District Council and Auckland Regional Council. Some rural councils objected to their inclusion, while local iwi Ngati Whatua o Orakei objected to the absence of dedicated local representation as tangata whenua of the Tamaki isthmus and Auckland area.

Inexplicably, controversy hasn’t attended the decision to hold the first Auckland local elections under the flawed First Past the Post electoral system, despite the greater equitability and diversity of candidates selected under the Single Transferable Vote electoral system.

What is STV? Single Transferable Vote electoral systems are widely used. They are used for lower house elections in Tasmania, Legislative Assembly elections in the Australian Capital Territory, Legislative Council/upper house elections in Western Australia, Southern Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly elections, Irish Dail (parliamentary) elections and Maltese parliamentary elections. They have the advantage of familiarity for New Zealanders- we use them in hospital board and other municipal elections, for the Dunedin City Council, Kaipara District Council, Kapiti Coast District Council, Porirua City Council and Wellington City Council . It came second in the first indicative referendum on electoral reform in New Zealand, ahead of FPP, in 1992, and is expected to do similarly well at next year’s third electoral reform referendum.

They consist of preferential voting, which requires that one ranks candidates in terms of preferences, and  has the advantage of multiple seat constituencies, which preserves the element of proportionality. Few wasted votes occur in this system, although  it is costly to administer, given the number of preference ranking elimination rounds that may be needed before the final winner is chosen through a  quota system. However, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral System (1986) ranked it the second most popular electoral system and especially recommended it for local body elections, given its proportionality and encouragement of ethnic and other diversity. Unfortunately, New Zealand’s relative centralisation has meant that there is less interest in local body proportional representation than at the central government level, although Wellington and its surrounding environs tend to be a hotbed of STV support, past and present.

It would certainly accomodate Ngati Whatua o Orakei concerns, although they should be able to choose whether they want STV or dedicated local body seats as tangata whenua at some future date. STV does privilege demographic concentrations, which would meet their needs as well as our own (and that of fundamentalist Christians, although the homogeneity of Mount Roskill has declined in recent years, thankfully).

Recommended:

New Zealand Government: Auckland Governance: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/feature/changes+auckland+governance

Ngati Whatua o Orakei: http://www.ngatiwhatuaorakei.com

Nicola Legat: “In God We Trust: The Mount Roskillisation of Auckland” Metro 152 (Feb. 1994): 58-63.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Politics · Religion

30th September 2010

Canada: Prostitution Law Reform in Ontario?

Posted by: Craig Young

Canada’s Conservative Harper administration will appeal against a ground-breaking provincial court ruling that decriminalises pimping, soliciting and brothels.

Conservative Parliamentarians vowed to defend the laws found unconstitutional, saying prostitution “harms” women in the sex industry. One wonders if they’ve ever read accounts from sex workers themselves, who have always maintained that it is criminalisation that creates stigmatisation, social exclusion and unsafe working conditions.

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice ruled in favour of three sex workers who argued that anti-sexwork laws  forced them to risk their safety on the streets. Unfortunately, the existing legislation will remain in force during a thirty day delayed effect period following the decision.

“Anyone that believes that women involved in the sex trade are not victims is very mistaken,” Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, told CBC news.

“There’s a lot of victims in that industry and we need to protect them.” (One wonders how that can happen during periods of criminalisation, when condoms are admissible evidence of “wrongdoing” and when it is known to deter requisite occupational health and safety provisions common in Australasia).

In a 131-page ruling, Judge Susan Himel found that national anti-sexwork laws, which  banned brothels, street soliciting of clients and management of sex workers violated a provision of the Canadian Constitution which guarantees “the right to life, liberty and security”.

Judge Himel stated that the Canadian Parliament should regulate sex work, rather than ban such practices: “These laws… force prostitutes to choose between their liberty, interest and their right to security of the person,” she said.

The three women described the ruling as providing greater protection for sex workers. One referred to it as  ”emancipation day“.

Sadly, the ruling is limited to only the province of Ontario at present, but if the government loses the appeal, it could lead to changes in the law nationwide. Let us hope justice and inclusion prevail and sex workers rights are upheld at the level of the Canadian Supreme Court. I’ve never understood why a humane and liberal society like Canada maintains such evil legislation that threatens the lives and health of female, male and transgender sex workers

Postscript: British Columbian sex workers have been given the go-ahead for a case against anti-sexworker laws in the BC Court of Appeal as well.  Meawhile, Conservative MP Joy Smith is working on a private members bill to recriminalise sex work, despite denials that she’s on a moral crusade against sex workers. The Bloc Quebecois party has said that it won’t support any such bill in the House of Commons. Smith has misrepresented New Zealand’s Prostitution Law Review 2008, which found that the Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003 was working. The New Democrats and Liberals are similarly critical, as is University of Ottawa criminologist Christine Bruckert. Smith favours a prohibitionist Swedish anti-sexworker measure.

Recommended:

“Canada to appeal against ruling against brothel ban” BBC News: 29.09.2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11440521

Dale Smith: “Conservative MP and Critics squabble over prostitution” Xtra Canada: 08.10.2010: http://www.xtra.ca/public/printStory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=1&STORY_ID=9257

The Ruling:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/bedford-ruling.pdf

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics

30th September 2010

Moscow: Yuri Luzkhov’s Sacking

Posted by: Craig Young

Given the current machinations about who’s going to be the powerbrokers in Auckland local body politics, it’s interesting to look at the current developments in Moscow, where President Dimitri Medvedev has just sacked the long-serving conservative mayor of that city, Yuri Luzkhov, after eighteen years of authoritarian rule.

Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, former President and now United Russian Prime Minister, have to take some blame for letting the situation of human rights and civil liberties repression in the Russian capital carry on for so long. For the last three years, Pride marches have been violently suppressed in the city. Added to which, there are problems with traffic congestion, utility provision, heritage preservation and nepotism reported. None of this is unusual in the “new” Russia- if anything, it demonstrates the continuities that exist between Tsarism, the former Soviet Union and the “post-communist” oligarchy of business leaders, government bureaucrats and United Russia political leaders that control the country. Still, with Luzkhov gone, there may be some faint hope for reform. But don’t bet on it.

Recommended:

Yuri Luzkhov: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Luzkhov

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Religion