Tuesday, December 18, 2012
British MPs and Peers launch gay marriage rebellion saying Cameron has 'no mandate'
Almost 60 members of the Commons and Lords have signed a letter to The Daily Telegraph accusing the Coalition of acting without a mandate. In a strongly-worded statement, they pour scorn on the Government’s consultation process which they say is mired in doubts over its legitimacy.
And they accuse the Coalition of “ploughing on regardless” in the face of what they describe as an “overwhelming public response” opposition to the change.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, announced plans to allow same-sex couples to marry last week. A bill is expected at the end of January and David Cameron hopes to get the redefinition of marriage through parliament by the summer.
The letter which carries the names of Conservative, Labour and independent members as well as those from smaller parties, marks the launch of a campaign in Parliament to oppose the measure.
Supporters say those who have publicly signed so far represent only a proportion of those likely to vote against when a bill comes before Parliament in the New Year.
Some 137 Conservative MPs, almost half the parliamentary party, are now expected to vote against, based on letters written privately to constituents. But this is the first time a large number of parliamentarians have publicly signed up to oppose the change.
“At the last election, none of the three main parties stood on a platform to redefine marriage,” they write. “It was not contained in any of their manifestos, nor did it feature in the Coalition’s Programme for Government. “These facts alone should have led to extreme caution on the part of those calling for this change to be made.
“Instead the Government is ignoring the overwhelming public response against the plans. “The consultation has ignored the views of 500,000 British residents in favour of anonymous submissions from anyone anywhere in the world. “We believe that the Government does not have a mandate to redefine marriage.”
The group includes former ministers such as Sir Gerald Howarth, Tim Loughton and David Davis as well as rising stars of the party such as Rehman Chishti, the Pakistan-born former Benazir Bhutto who once ran as a Labour candidate before defecting to the Tories.
The campaign is being orchestrated by David Burrowes, the Tory MP for Enfield in north London, who once received death threats because of his stance on same-sex marriage.
Supporters in the Lords include Labour’s Lord Anderson and the crossbencher Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.
The group insist that they value “loving and committed” gay relationships and support civil partnerships but see marriage as “distinctive” and insist the move is “divisive and unnecessary”.
“We understand some parliamentarians support freedom for same sex couples to marry, but we support a freedom from the state being able to redefine the meaning of marriage,” they write.
In a commentary on telegraph.co.uk Mr Burrowes speaks of opponents of same-sex marriage already facing “Orwellian” treatment, such as that meted out to Adrian Smith, the housing trust official from Trafford who lost his managerial position after expressing his view in a personal Facebook posting.
“Last week the Coalition Government announced the beginning of the end of the traditional meaning of marriage,” he writes. “It also marked the beginning of the Parliamentary campaign which I am leading and supported by a coalition of Parliamentarians across the political spectrum.”
He claims that once gay marriage becomes “state orthodoxy” those who oppose could find themselves “persecuted”.
One of the biggest challenges Mr Cameron faces over this issue is outside Parliament.
Last week Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, warned the row over marriage could “rip apart” the Tories and said he was planning to put the issue at the heart of his party’s 2014 European parliamentary elections campaign.
Only one side of the story about killing of black man
They're off and running! Members of America's "we need only one side of a story" posse have saddled up and are riding roughshod again.
What's their cause this time? The death of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old youth who was fatally shot on Nov. 23.
The incident happened in Jacksonville, Fla. According to news reports, Davis was in an SUV with several other young men. They would later admit to police that there was music coming from the SUV and that the music was loud.
Enter Michael Dunn, who, at 45, should have known that if you hear loud music coming from any vehicle, then the most appropriate -- not to mention most prudent and safest -- thing to do would be to call the police and make a disturbing-the-peace-complaint.
Both Dunn and the SUV's driver were parked at a gas station. Dunn, armed with a handgun, decided to walk up to the SUV and either ask or demand that the music be turned down.
Young people being what they are -- which is to say hopelessly stupid at times -- Dunn's request went over like flatulence at a Sunday church service. But we do have to wonder if Dunn was much brighter than the youngsters.
It was probably at this point that what I've called in the past "macho stupidity" took over. Apparently a testy exchange took place.
Dunn says the youths threatened to kill him; one of them, Dunn said, according to news reports, pointed what looked like a shotgun out of the SUV's window.
It was then and only then, Dunn and his attorney contend, that he pulled out his own handgun and fired into the SUV. Eight or nine times.
Two of the bullets hit Davis. Dunn drove from the scene and was charged with Davis' murder and the attempted murder of the other occupants of the SUV.
Davis was black; Dunn is white. (Oh come on, do you really think you'd be reading about this story if the shooter and the victims were of the same race?) It didn't take long for those committed to hearing only one side of a story to go into their act. There is now a "Justice for Jordan Davis" Facebook page. And the story is being repeated that Dunn shot Davis because of some loud music. Dunn's allegation of his being threatened and a gun being wielded are never mentioned.
Police found no weapon of any kind in the SUV, according to news reports. But those who cling to the notion that they'd like to hear as many sides of a story as possible will at least concede that, if the youths in the SUV did have a shotgun, then they might have had time to ditch it before police arrived.
That, of course, is speculation, and it doesn't help Dunn's case one iota. He'll be tried on the facts, and right now the facts don't look too good for him.
But that doesn't mean we should be convicting the man in the media, which is what seems to be happening. The biggest culprit in this might be Michael Baisden, the host of a nationally syndicated radio show.
Last week Baisden took to the airwaves to decry Davis' slaying, even telling his listeners at one point what he thought the exchange between the black youths and Dunn might have sounded like.
Then he urged his listeners to turn up the volume on their radios the next day, in memory of Davis.
So a tragedy that occurred as a result of obnoxious conduct is commemorated with more obnoxious conduct? Way to enlighten the public, Baisden. I wonder what this guy wants to be when he grows up.
Outrage over homosexual couple’s nativity scene with two Josephs and no Mary
What they do in their own homes would normally be beyond question but they have publicized it and got the attacks that they no doubt expected
A gay couple has sparked outrage for displaying a 'homosexual nativity scene' in their Colombian home. Andrés Vásquez and Felipe Cárdenas have come under fire for their all-male manger - where the baby Jesus has two father Josephs and the Virgin Mary is nowhere to be seen.
The country's Catholic Church has labelled the display, in the northern city of Cartagena, as 'sacrilege'.
And thousands of Colombians have taken to social networking sites to slam the pair, with many saying they show 'a lack of respect to God and all Christians'.
A Facebook user added: 'As much as I support gay rights, this is just stupid on so many levels. If you are a Catholic you have to accept Jesus' parents were Mary and Joseph.'
Political analyst Vásquez and entrepreneur Felipe have been together for four years and were united by a civil union, the closest thing to marriage for homosexuals in Colombia, three months ago.
The gay rights activists told the Diario Veloz website that they set up the scene, a picture of which was then posted on Facebook, in the hope that it would help in bringing about reform in the country's gay marriage laws.
A bill to legalise gay marriage is currently being looked at by the country's politicians and has passed the first of four debates. But it has been dubbed as 'unconstitutional' by the nation's conservative lawmakers.
Vásquez told the website: 'We did it because we believe in Colombia. We have lived in different cities in the world and we prefer to return to our country. 'We are beginning to build [a better country] through our new union.'
No price on free speech
Comments by LOUIS NOWRA, a prominent Australian playwright. He is referring below to the particularly obnoxious Human Rights Commission in the State of Victoria, which has been very repressive of free speech in some well-known cases (Nalliah; Bolt)
AT first I thought it was a joke, but it turned out to be true. Two women decided to take me to the Human Rights Commission, complaining about a play I had written. Set in Sarajevo, it was based on a beauty pageant held during the siege in the Balkan conflict. I wrote it because I was tired of films and plays that depicted the misery of the events, always portraying the besieged as victims. I was more interested in the beauty contestants symbolising the resilience of the human spirit.
The two women had no connection to the siege or the ethnic groups involved. However, they had decided that I was pro-Serbian and the clincher was that one of the actresses in the Melbourne production had a Serb background. The women wanted royalties from previous productions confiscated and demanded the play be banned because it was a piece of Serbian propaganda.
Their interpretation of the play couldn't have been more wrong, so much so that I wondered just how bright they were. But if I thought the ludicrous nature of the complaint would be laughed off by the HRC, then I didn't understand its bureaucratic mission. For a year I had to deal with hundreds of pages pouring out of the commission and had to engage a lawyer. The complaint eventually was thrown out but, not to be denied, these two dolts found a loophole in the law and appealed again. It was nearly another year before this appeal was dismissed.
During this time I didn't write a play. I found I was censoring myself. Just what could I write that wouldn't offend anybody, even if they took offence from a total misinterpretation of the play? What subjects would cause other people to take me to the HRC? What disturbed me above all was that there was no attempt to understand my side of the story. If the two women intended to creatively paralyse me then they couldn't have found a better bureaucratic vehicle.
During my career a Christian family tried for several years to have my play Summer of the Aliens banned from the school curriculum using newspapers and television to promote their cause. Film reviewer David Stratton considered a film I wrote to be racist and I found myself tabloid fodder. (He made the classic mistake of believing that if a character is racist then the writer and director must be.)
You'd think that left-wingers would defend freedom of speech but, as I was to discover, they may espouse liberal views but not when it concerns themselves. I wrote pieces on Germaine Greer, Bob Ellis and mentioned in passing the humourless Richard Flanagan, all with progressive attitudes, but the first response of all three was to threaten to sue. Not that academics are much better. Two female academics withdrew their subscriptions from the magazine that published the Greer article; the frightening thing was that they were proud of the fact they refused to even read the piece.
What truly bothered me was that some people said it was brave of me to have written the article and it confirmed just how conformist and insular are most of those who would describe themselves as liberal or left-leaning. It is not as if authors are any different. It seems many subscribe to the idea that novels must be of educational and moral value.
Writer and teacher Christopher Bantick recently wrote that Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera should not be taught to final-year high school students because it "says repeatedly that screwing a child for art's sake is excusable". In the novel the main character, an amoral Lothario, Florentino Ariza, has an affair with a 14-year-old girl when he is 76. Bantick doesn't see a complicated character and ambiguous morality working here; all he sees is child abuse.
I was once talking to some of Australia's best women writers and all loathed Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita, summing up the beautiful, morally complex story as "a pedophile's charter". In other words, these writers treat literature as a form of moral instruction and therefore their sensibilities are easily offended by authors such as Marquez and Nabokov.
But just what is offensive? Twitter's billions of tweets carry some of the most vile remarks one could read. Take, for example, Aboriginal academic and lawyer Larissa Behrendt. In one tweet she described watching bestiality on television as "less offensive than Bess Price", an Aboriginal woman in favour of the Northern Territory intervention. Behrendt blamed the comment on the TV show Deadwood which, she said, "seemed pretty offensive". The logic seemed simple: she was offended, so she was careless about offending someone whose views she didn't agree with. All it did was offend Price and reveal Behrendt's real thoughts, and they're not pretty (though the tweet did have a vividness missing from her banal novels).
Cartoonist Michael Leunig has been frequently criticised for his supposed anti-Semitic attitudes. Recently a cartoon of his in The Age equated the actions of Israel in Gaza to those of the Nazis, and for many Jews it seemed that Leunig was saying that the Jews were committing genocide against the Palestinians. The cartoonist justified his position as "all nations that throw their military weight around, occupying neighbouring lands and treating the residents with callous and humiliating disregard, are already sliding towards the dark possibilities in human nature." Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, criticised the cartoonist and wondered "how a survivor of the Holocaust would react when they came upon his cartoon". If one did, I am sure that he or she would be offended, but is offending one person a reason to ban a cartoon?
There are many cartoonists who view it as their job to take unpopular stances that many may judge as offensive. Frankly I found Bob Carr forcing the Prime Minister to change her support for Israel in the recent UN vote on Palestine more offensive than any cartoon. Carr took the action because NSW Right Labor MPs feared a no vote could offend Middle Eastern and Muslim communities in marginal southwestern Sydney seats before next year's federal election. Never mind that many Muslims, especially those of the Middle East, are anti-Semitic.
I may be offended by anti-Semitic comments but I believe that even Holocaust deniers have a right to free speech. Of course it's always nice when a denier such as historian David Irving gets his comeuppance, as happened when he brought an unsuccessful case against another historian, with the judge finding Irving was an anti-Semite, racist and associated with neo-Nazis.
Louis Theroux's recent documentary on a fundamentalist church in the US whose members turn up at the funerals of American servicemen with placards calling the dead men and their families "Fags" and "Dirty Jews" was shocking, yet I respect a nation that allows even these crazies the right to offend.
Australia is less tolerant because we are a very conformist society that dislikes whistleblowers, eccentrics and the unusual. We put up with the Defence Force and government treating us like dummies. The war in Afghanistan is reported to us through spin doctors. We see VC winners and rescued dogs but not the true nature of the conflict. If we want to know what is really happening then we must read the huge library of American and English journalists in the field. Julia Gillard talks as if we're winning there, even though the Pentagon has realised that the withdrawal of US forces will be a disaster for Afghanistan. The equation is easy in Australia: if you criticise the war then you must be criticising our brave troops. Few nations would put up with this codswallop.
If we allow anyone behavioural latitude, then it's towards the larrikin. Two such larrikins, DJs working for 2Day FM radio, made a hoax call to an English hospital where they tricked ward nurses into giving details about Kate Middleton, who was in the hospital at the time. The prank allegedly so devastated one of the nurses that she committed suicide. The result was that the two DJs were vilified by the media and those on the net, and their protective status as larrikins vanished in the media hysteria. Columnist Miranda Devine said of the prank that "we are witnessing the Boratisation of our culture, where decent people are deliberately offended".
But just who are the decent people? Devine herself? Quite simply, it's becoming very easy to offend.
Shock jock Alan Jones made a callous comment about Gillard's recently deceased father. The result was an uproar where those thousands who were offended ganged up on him and forced advertisers to withdraw from his talkback show. It was an example of what is becoming common - cyber lynching. Like those mindless mobs in the Wild West, they are driven by self-righteousness and lust for revenge. One has to ask where were these thousands of offended people when Jones called Sydney's Lebanese Muslims "vermin" who "infest our shores" and "rape" and "pillage" our nation. Jones's incitement was more than offensive; it was despicable.
Some people are easily offended, others are not; yet we have the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it unlawful to "offend" people. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is preparing to consolidate present anti-discrimination laws from five acts into one planned overhaul of anti-discrimination laws. Her view of the Australian people is that of a private school headmistress announcing to her pupils that the new laws will "help everyone understand what behaviour is expected".
Exactly what behaviour is expected? Probably it will be based on her own middle-class, middlebrow values and attitudes.
This is part of an ongoing project by the Labor government to impose its morality and values on our culture. Part of its mission is to tame what it sees as an unruly populace and media. It used the British phone-hacking scandal to hold an inquiry into the Australian media. Really, this was the government wanting to get back at their critics, especially News Limited. The Finkelstein report proposed a News Media Council, which would have the legally enforceable power to adjudicate on journalist fairness and make the media answerable to the courts. A deadly and expensive combination of lawyers and academics would make up the panel.
The trouble with that is that many academics are not interested in free speech and are captives of groupthink. They may make token comments about liberal values but universities, as I found out as a student and later a teacher at Queensland University and Yale, are anything but bastions of free speech. They promote a culture where if you do not agree with the prevailing ideological orthodoxy then it's death to your career. The attitude is summed up by Wendy Bacon, who heads the journalism school at the University of Technology, Sydney. She saw the Finkelstein report as it really was - an attack on News Limited - and given she considered that organisation a threat to free speech, chose not to defend the concept. Like many of her ilk, she appears to loathe the tabloids and any organisation that disagrees with her left-wing values. The idea of competing ideas and diversity of opinions seems to be anathema to her.
After Ray Finkelstein handed in his report, Lord Justice Brian Leveson, head of Britain's media ethics inquiry, delivered his 2000-page report into what was morally reprehensible behaviour by some British journalists and editors. But it was interesting that only five paragraphs in the report were about the net and the issues it raises for media regulation. Like Finkelstein, Leveson viewed his job as neutering the press by the subtle threat of an independent board. What he didn't realise was that compared with the internet even the most feral tabloids are models of restraint. Rumours, gossip and hatred are part of the DNA of cyberspace. Newspapers obey court injunctions, but the embargo is broken by the net. It has been all too common to see on the net the news that someone has died, who hasn't, people named as pedophiles when they're not, and private photographs plastered on websites.
Some people point to WikiLeaks as something that could happen only on the internet. But Julian Assange is no journalist. He was able to funnel a huge amount of information given to him and release it on the net. He was just a facilitator. But it required newspapers to print the material for it to really matter in the wider world.
The net may provide photographs and information that journalists can't cover but newspapers are more essential than ever. It requires time, money and resources to undertake thorough investigations. If it weren't for journalists we wouldn't know the extent of corruption in NSW Labor politics and there wouldn't be the present Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation of the Obeid family and disgraced politician Ian Macdonald.
The net cannot offer anything like that. It's a medium that celebrates a short attention span. It glories in cyber-lynchings as if the foaming indignation is a sign that those taking part in it - and all you have to do is push a button - are morally right. Much of its vitriol is delivered by anonymous people; it's a medium for cowards.
What is of concern in the real world is that a small group of like-minded elites are determined to restrict free speech unless the speech agrees with their outlook on life and values. Instead of diversity and inclusiveness, these people want to determine our proper "behaviour", to use Roxon's term.
It's a sign that Australia is losing its larrikin personality and that those cultural and political elites want a tame society in their image. It's not unlike middle-class professionals shifting into the red-light district of Kings Cross and afterwards sanitising it, excluding and deriding everyone except clones of themselves.
An integral part of this push is the notion of offence. But really offence is hard to define. Yes, comments such as Behrendt's are offensive, but do they do deep harm? She suffered justified criticism and repented. Leunig's cartoon may offend a Holocaust survivor but it may have forced many readers to rethink their attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The notion of offensiveness is one that changes through the years. We once banned offensive novels such as Lolita and Ulysses; now they are studied. As we discover in the playground, sticks and stones do not hurt as much as words. But that is the nature of human beings; we can taunt and hurt with what we say. If there is one thing that shouldn't be condoned it is comments that go beyond offensive abuse to the incitement of hatred and physical violence.
There has been a slow and sinister attempt to control the old media and to modify our words and thoughts through legislation. The problem is that free speech is coming under attack from those who think it's their duty to morally correct us. Any time a government does that then it becomes certain that the laws they bring in will be used in the future to control us even more
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.