28 April 2010


People in public positions need to think more carefully about their utterances in relation to the gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS (GLTH) communities.

There are many people in the community at large who hear what they say and act on their homophobia by means of verbal and physical abuse, and sometimes, worse, murder.

Tony Abbott has been a homophobe since his student days and has not changed a bit! To say he feels threatened by our communities and then to explain that he could have chosen his words better shows that his thinking in 2010 is the same as it was in 1978 - read the following story by Andrew Potts in the Sydney Star Observer of 21 April 2010:

Abbott’s Mardi Gras shame

Andrew M Potts Posted: Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tony Abbott refused to condemn police for their treatment of the first Mardi Gras protesters in 1978, a Sydney Star Observer investigation has found.

Minutes of a 1978 Sydney University student representative council executive meeting show the federal Opposition leader not only refused to condemn the arrest of the 53 protesters, but voted against the council communicating its criticism of police to the then NSW government.

The information comes as Abbott attempts to smooth over his relationship with the gay and lesbian community after claiming last month he felt threatened by homosexuality.

The student council meeting occurred three days after the 1978 protest. The motion put forward by member Lesley Podesta proposed:

“The executive condemns the unprovoked and unnecessary police violence against those involved in the Mardi Gras on June 24th at Kings Cross. That this SRC actively supports and promotes equal rights for all lesbians and male homosexuals.”

Abbott, who participated in other motions during the meeting, left the room for the vote. It was passed unanimously in his absence.

Abbott returned to cast the lone dissenting vote on a subsequent motion, “That this motion be conveyed to the Premier and Attorney-General.”

Of the then executive, a number are deceased while others contacted by SSO are senior public servants and unwilling to make public comment.

SSO put questions to Abbott about his recollections of the meeting, his feelings about the actions of police, and whether the Tony Abbott of 2010 would have acted differently. However, he avoided addressing these directly, simply responding, “I would never support unlawful violence.”

New Mardi Gras co-chair Steph Sands said she hoped Abbott had grown since his university days and invited him to attend next year’s parade.

“Whether Tony Abbott deliberately avoided condemning the police action at the first Mardi Gras or was simply on a toilet break, we cannot say,” Sands said. “However, if he did hesitate in recognising the utter unacceptability of unlawful police violence at the time, I trust he has become more enlightened since then. Otherwise we should be very concerned.”

20 April 2010


Letter in The Age on 1 April 2010 - and it's for real!!!!

It's just unreal

I'M SLIGHTLY discomforted by the fact that our Prime Minister, alternative prime minister and the governor of the Reserve Bank believe in supernatural beings that exert control over their lives (and hence, to some extent, ours). Wouldn't it be better if our top public servants were people with a stronger grip on reality?

Campbell Aitken, Brunswick

Beyondblue 'incredibly neglectful'

This article from The Age newspaper by Jill Stark takes beyondblue to task over its neglect of GLTH communities and then gives beyondblue's contact details for people in trouble - isn't this called tautology??

Beyondblue 'incredibly neglectful' of gay youth
April 18, 2010

THE national depression initiative beyondblue has been called negligent for ignoring gay and lesbian young people in new guidelines to help doctors diagnose and treat depressed teenagers.

The agency's 127-page document includes just two sentences about gay adolescents, although their rates of self-harm and suicide are up to eight times higher than those of heterosexual teens.

Earlier this year, beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett told a meeting of gay and lesbian groups the organisation would do more to address concerns it had abandoned them.

In 2008, the organisation commissioned research that found that up to 31 per cent of gay people suffered from anxiety and depression compared with between 4 and 14 per cent of heterosexuals. It also found that 17 per cent of young lesbians had tried to harm or kill themselves, compared with just 2 per cent of young straight women.

But despite the seriousness of the findings, they are not included in the organisation's new treatment guidelines.

Lynne Hillier, from La Trobe University's Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, told The Sunday Age that failing to tackle the unique needs of a group at such high risk was ''incredibly neglectful''.

But beyondblue rejected the claim, with chief executive Leonie Young saying the document - the first national guidelines since 2004, to be used by doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists assessing patients aged 13 to 24 - focused on the best ways to treat depression, rather than risk factors for the illness.

However, it includes extensive information on risk factors such as sexual abuse, family conflict, trouble at school and socio-economic and ethnic background while making only passing reference to sexuality.

Ms Young said the guidelines were based on 57,000 studies from around the world and they had found little evidence to suggest gay and lesbian patients require different treatment for depression to heterosexuals.

Dr Hillier said one in five gay young people would experience homophobic bullying, and 16 per cent would be assaulted because of their sexuality. Of those who were victims of assault, 60 per cent had considered seriously harming themselves.

She said it was vital doctors were given guidance about the problems faced by young gay patients. If depressed young people were to seek advice, then ''if the therapist is basing his work on these guidelines, he's not even going to think that there could be an issue of sexuality there'', Dr Hillier said.

''Young people are not going to volunteer that information because they're living in a homophobic world which punishes them for being who they are.''

Anne Mitchell, director of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and lead author of the literature review commissioned by beyondblue, believed the organisation would use the findings to inform their clinical guidelines.

''We took that as goodwill that they would now take this group seriously, but it seems like it was a bit of window dressing,'' Associate Professor Mitchell said.

She added that depression was often preventable in young gay people if they were given appropriate support. But if doctors lacked knowledge on the possible causes - such as homophobia or fear of coming out - it could be hard to detect. ''[Coming out is] something that young people are … incredibly anxious about and if a person in authority, like a healthcare practitioner, names it and destigmatises it a bit, it can make a massive contribution to a young person being able to go forward.

''We hear of suicides all the time and I just get incredibly frustrated to think that something that can be prevented is getting to this stage. [The guidelines are] a real lost opportunity to throw a lifeline to a lot of young people.''

For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, or call Suicide Helpline on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.


This article was in the Southern Star and is further evidence of attacks on Melbourne's Jewish gay group Aleph. It was somewhat dismaying to read some comments in the article advising Michael Barnett of Aleph to "calm down"! This is just what must NOT be done to a group calling itself the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, because this is just what it isn't!!
"An Aleph member who asked not to be named......" - what on earth are they frightened of??? And if they are embarrassed by someone having the guts to stand up to the bullies of the JCCV they should leave Aleph and start their own splinter group of quiet timid mice who wouldn't say boo to a goose such as John Searle and others.

Jewish gay group splintering
Scott Abrahams
Thursday, 15 April 2010

A growing rift in Melbourne’s Jewish gay community saw a war of words via email last week with members of gay Jewish support group Aleph accusing current convenor Michael Barnett for being too hostile towards the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV).

Barnett told Southern Star he would not comment on the inner workings of Aleph or discuss any leadership challenge. He said he sent emails criticising the JCCV because he believes they are ignoring “intolerant” views on homosexuality in the Jewish community.

“Until the JCCV acknowledges that the real issue is religious intolerance from Orthodox Judaism, they won’t actually make any progress,” he said.
In a public letter to JCCV president John Searle, Barnett describes the JCCV as “the most shameful, leaderless organisation in the Victorian Jewish community”, and accused the organisation of taking a “wanton” approach to tackling homophobia.

Southern Star reported last September on growing discord between Aleph and the JCCV over what Barnett said was a failure by Searle to publicly denounce homophobia. His comments were sparked by the 2009 murder of two people at a Tel Aviv gay and lesbian youth centre. Since then the relationship between the two has progressively soured and Barnett has now been criticised by his own members for sending hostile group emails.

An Aleph member who asked not to be named told Southern Star other members of the 80-strong group had been “embarrassed” by Barnett’s constant “angry” emails and the group is now discussing ways to establish a new executive committee which may or may not include Barnett.

The JCCV set up a Jewish GLBT reference group late last year to tackle homophobia and transphobia in the Jewish community, however, it excluded Aleph.

The JCCV said they have “tried hard” with Barnett, however, his approach had been too aggressive and he misunderstood the “politics” involved.

Jewish GLBT reference group member Sally Goldner told Southern Star she thought Barnett had done a “great job” in the past of discussing homophobia in the Jewish community, however, his current “negative” style was not productive.

“I understand Michael’s angry about this, but you’ve got to calm down and be more constructive,” she said. “I think it is possible to reach an understanding.”
The JCCV last week announced community group Jewish Care and the Australian Jewish Psychologists Group would be represented on the GLBT reference group.


This article arrived on 19 April 2010 from Care2 in the USA:

Elderly Gay Couple Separated by Sonoma County Officials, Ignoring Couple's Express Wishes
posted by: Steve Williams


On Thursday, President Obama issued a memorandum that reinforces hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples by threatening federal funding cuts if hospitals discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As such, the issue of local authorities not adhering to medical directives or power of attorney rights when it comes to same-sex couples has been set firmly in the spotlight.

For obvious reasons, this is an issue of particular concern for many older and elderly LGBTs who may very well depend on established health care directives and the like to ensure that their wishes are adhered to when they are incapable, whether due to infirmity or an unforeseen health emergency, of communicating relevant details for hospital visitation rights and end-of-life decisions.

The following story documents one such incident of discrimination against a same-sex couple from Sonoma, California, who took all the required legal steps to establish their health care directives and power of attorney rights, but whose preparations were allegedly ignored by county officials that, despite the couple's 20 year relationship, considered them nothing more than "roommates" and kept them apart when, after an accident, one of them was hospitalized in 2008.

From the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) case summary:

Clay [Greene] and his partner of 20 years, Harold, lived in California. Clay and Harold made diligent efforts to protect their legal rights, and had their legal paperwork in place—wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives, all naming each other. Harold was 88 years old and in frail medical condition, but still living at home with Clay, 77, who was in good health [but, as this report attests, had been starting to show early signs of cognitive impairment].

One evening, Harold fell down the front steps of their home and was taken to the hospital. Based on their medical directives alone, Clay should have been consulted in Harold’s care from the first moment. Tragically, county and health care workers instead refused to allow Clay to see Harold in the hospital.

Clay and Harold did not take advantage of California's domestic partnership law and obviously weren't married in the brief time between California's marriage bans.

Instead, and like many older gay and lesbian couples, they relied on having drafted all the other appropriate legal documents naming each other as beneficiaries of their respective estates and agents for medical decisions and the like, so as to protect their wishes and assets in case of an emergency. This should have been enough. Apparently, it wasn't.

The next part of this story is truly heartbreaking and is taken from a separate, more detailed post from the NCLR:

... [While] Harold was hospitalized, Deputy Public Guardians went to the men’s home, took photographs, and commented on the desirability and quality of the furnishings, artwork, and collectibles that the men had collected over their lifetimes.

Ignoring Clay entirely, the County focused on Harold, going so far as to petition the Court for conservatorship of his estate. Outrageously referring to Clay only as a “roommate” and failing to disclose their true relationship, the County continued to treat Harold as if he had no family. The County sought immediate temporary authority to revoke Harold’s powers of attorney, to act without further notice, and to liquidate an investment account to pay for his care.

The court, however, chose to deny that motion, but did grant county officials what the NCLR calls "limited access" to Harold's finances in order to pay for his care. This, it seems, was insufficient. The NCLR goes on:

Then, despite being granted only limited powers and with undue haste, the County arranged for the sale of the men’s personal property, cleaned out their home, terminated their lease, confiscated their truck, and eventually disposed of all of the men’s worldly possessions, including family heirlooms, at a fraction of their value and without any proper inventory or determination of whose property was being sold.

Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from their home and confined him to a nursing home against his will—a different placement from his partner. Clay was kept from seeing Harold during this time, and his telephone calls were limited.

Three months later, Harold died in the nursing home he had been placed in, and Clay, because of the County's actions, could not be at his partner's bedside during those final months. With the exception of but one photo album that Harold had painstakingly put together for Clay during his declining weeks of life, Clay has been left without any of his personal possessions to remind him of the 20-year relationship he shared with Harold as, to date, he has not been able to recover any of the items that were auctioned off.

Clay has reportedly now been released from the nursing home following an appeal by his court-appointed attorney, Anne Dennis. Now, Ms. Dennis along with Stephen O'Neill and Margaret Flynn of Tarkington, O'Neill, Barrack & Chong, will be representing Clay in legal action against the County, the auction company and the nursing home, with technical assistance being provided by the NCLR.
A trial date has been set for July 16, 2010 in the Superior Court for the County of Sonoma.

It is perhaps pertinent to note that Sonoma County voted against Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban, by 66.1 percent in 2008, and that it is largely considered to be a progressive area where LGBT issues are concerned. As such, the emergence of this story serves to highlight the need for Thursday's memorandum, as it demonstrates that instances of discrimination can occur mostly anywhere.

However, President Obama's memorandum grazes only one of the 1138 rights that marriage affords heterosexual couples that are currently denied their same-sex counterparts. As such, the need to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is also brought into stark focus if we are to ensure that same-sex couples are not left vulnerable beyond the narrow focus of Thursday's memorandum.

For more information on end-of-life issues and the legal problems facing older LGBT people, please click here.

16 April 2010


Two organisations in Victoria, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV)(sic) and Beyondblue, Jeff Kennett's "organisation" have one major theme in common - they are both homophobic. They are both responsible, either directly or indirectly, for gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS members of our communities who suffer from depression or have suicidal ideation, being able to get any assistance from these organisations trumpeting loudly - and with financial assistance from many sources - that they are there to help those -young and old - with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Beyondblue has been in the news a great deal over the last few months, but the club known as the JCCV is mostly in the media such as the Israeli zionist times aka the Australia Jewish News, and only makes it into the mainstream when people like John Brumby, premier of the state of Victoria present themselves to some Jews in an election year to ensure that he and his government get as many votes from Jews in the communities as he possibly can.

Here is Brumby at such an event:

Brumby pays tribute to Jewish contribution
Posted on 22 March 2010 in the "Australian Jewish News"


PREMIER John Brumby paid tribute to Victoria’s Jewish community for its role in fostering diversity and multiculturalism in the state at a United Israel Appeal (UIA) fundraising dinner on Tuesday evening (March 16).

“Victoria’s Jewish community, the largest and most vibrant Jewish community in Australia, has itself played an immense role in making our state so diverse, so multicultural, so multi-faith and so tolerant,” the Premier said.

Brumby added that his government’s efforts “to stamp out religious and racial vilification have received immeasurable support from Jewish communities here in Victoria”.

He recalled the Jewish community’s support when, as Opposition leader in the mid-1990s, he worked closely with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria to develop a framework for racial vilification legislation that was brought into law by the ALP government in 2001-02.

“As you know, there were quite significant differences in many of the multicultural communities about the value of that legislation. So it was really the leadership of the Jewish community working with us and making that commitment that saw that legislation put into place in 2001.

“And in particular, in that regard, I would want to acknowledge the work of the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria because you’ve all worked so hard to promote mutual understanding and tolerance and to support the democratic fundamentals of dialogue and inclusion.”

Urging the Jewish community to support the UIA, Brumby noted that the organisation “is concerned not only with material assistance, but also with the preservation and protection of the neshamah, the concept of the Jewish soul”.
He commended UIA’s initiatives in taking Jews and non-Jews, many from Victoria, to Israel on cultural exchange programs, “to share the values of the Australian Diaspora community” and to bring home new ideas to Australia.

He gave as an example the groundbreaking Victoria-Israel Science and Technology Research and Development Fund (VISTECH) - launched by Brumby as minister for innovation in 2005 - which has received 175 expressions of interest and is now into its seventh round of grants.

Special guest Kathy Kellerman, an American who made aliyah, also spoke at the function about the Keren Hayesod-UIA Nitzana Youth Village initiative in the Negev, where she lives and works.

She predicted that Israel’s south, comprising more than 60 per cent of the country’s land mass, would become a major population centre in the future, as sustainable water and power technologies, now under development in Nitzana, became widespread.

UIA Victoria paid tribute to veteran fundraiser George Kuran, 90, who told the gathering his passion for digging deep to help Israel was sparked by a solidarity drive at South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation during the Six-Day War, and has grown ever since. In his honour, the UIA funded a 12-month scholarship for a young Victorian to take part in the programs at Nitzana.

(This comment is awaiting moderation: AJN)

March 25, 2010 at 2:14 pm

John Brumby paints a delightfully rosy picture of Victoria’s Jewish community. One would expect no less of a key guest speaker at a community fund-raising dinner. One could even be forgiven for thinking that if he said nice things, people might vote for him and his party.

Apparently as a community we “foster diversity” and are “so tolerant”. Nice words, but honestly, he can’t be serious. Much of the Victorian Jewish community struggles with diversity and tolerance big time on a number of issues, but mostly when it comes to the taboo topic of homosexuality.

Our community should hang it’s collective head in shame when it comes to it’s handling of this issue. Rates of suicide amongst same-sex attracted youth are at startlingly high levels in religious communities around the country, as revealed by Suicide Prevention Australia in 2009. This is being ignored by every leader of the community, but most especially by the JCCV, the organization that claims to speak on our behalf. Not a single person is talking about it.

Both homosexuality and suicide are taboo in many sections of our community. These need to be confronted head on and dealt with immediately. It’s your children and grandchildren whose lives are at stake. We can’t afford to lose them, especially to religious bigotry.

It’s time the community spoke out and started asking questions. Why are our leaders not talking about homosexuality and youth suicide? I’ve given them the statistics, but they chose to ignore them. Our leaders are playing games while the community’s youth are suffering.

Michael Barnett.
Ashwood, Victoria.

13 April 2010


These two articles appeared in the same editions of the Sydney Star Observer and Southern Star. Beyondblue is an organisation determined to propagate homophobia and assist members of the GLTH coomunities to continue suffering from depression and - worse - lead many, both young and old, to commit suicide.

Not only is Jeff Kennett a homophobe of the worst sort, but those running his organisation are running to similar patterns.

Andie Noonan
Thursday, 8 April 2010

‘Beyond a joke’

Gay and lesbian youth have again been ignored by Australia’s peak depression organisation, beyondblue.

The organisation’s new, 127-page draft guidelines for youth depression, Clinical Practice Guidelines on Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults, contains a single reference to GLBTI youth, under ‘Groups with low levels of help-seeking’.
Beyondblue board member and adolescent psychiatrist, associate professor Brett McDermott — who headed an expert panel to develop the guidelines — said the lack of inclusion was due to an absence of “high quality” research.

“We’re very disappointed about this as well,” McDermott told Sydney Star Observer.
“The process was about trawling the scientific literature for very high quality studies, for randomised control trials, or trials of a similar degree of scientific rigour.

“We only found one [study] that specifically included that group … so we’ve tried to flag that, and we’ve tried to say there’s an urgent future research agenda, there are some very important groups … we need some research on.”

But according to beyondblue’s own fact sheet, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows homosexual and bisexual people have far higher levels of anxiety disorders than their heterosexual counterparts (31 percent compared with 14 percent); and more than triple the rate of depression and related disorders (19 percent compared with 6 percent).

Critics of the draft guidelines say beyondblue is falling well short of its committment to target depression in the GLBTI community after public assurances following its GLBT mental health roundtable last December.

Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria director Anne Mitchell told Sydney Star Observer it was “ridiculous” that research GLHV compiled specifically for beyondblue in December 2008 for their own literature review, Feeling queer and blue, was not taken into account.

“They have the data,” she said. “We put together the literature review for beyondblue with a fairly substantial amount of evidence, the best evidence available … even without randomised control trials, including that evidence would be good academic practice, I would have thought.”

Mitchell also hit out at the ethics of conducting randomised control trials with adolescents, saying it was not the sort of research she would want to put participants through.

“You don’t just get two random control samples of young people, then give some depression medication and watch to see how many people suicide.”
McDermott stressed the guidelines — which were withdrawn by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2004 — were still in a draft format and said the information should be viewed as generalist.

He said beyondblue was pushing for a five-year review cycle and raised the potential for annual updates if more evidence is available.

info: The guidelines are open for public submissions until May 12.
Visit www.beyondblue.org.au (Not worth bothering about!!!)


Doug Pollard
Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A depressing lack of care

Organisations that claim to serve a ‘higher power’ are apt to see themselves as above the law.

Any illegality or immorality is justified because their mission is too important to be impeded by the law, or jeopardised by the relatively unimportant ‘mistakes’ of a few members.

The Roman Catholic Church and Scientology have both been accused of fitting this model. When attacked, they first pretend the problem doesn’t exist, or is insignificant, then throw the blame onto others, and paint themselves as the true victims.

The latest Vatican effort is particularly disgusting: according to the Pope’s personal preacher, attacks on the church over paedophilia are reminiscent of the attacks on the Jews by the Nazis — something the Pope may be presumed to know a good deal about.

There are signs that the self-styled ‘national depression initiative’, beyondblue, may be in danger of falling into a similar trap.

The initial symptoms are all there. When criticised for failing to address the horrendous rates of depression, self-harm and suicide among same sex attracted youth, the organisation’s first reaction was denial.

Then under pressure, mainly from Rob Mitchell, beyondblue commissioned a review of the pre-existing research, which confirmed the problem.

The responsible reaction might have been to institute an internal enquiry into how this had been missed, and the immediate deployment of resources to tackle the problem. Instead beyondblue sat on the report and only published it after sustained pressure.

It took more pressure before they called a ‘round-table’ of GLBTI representatives, at which they promised to make GLBTI issues a priority.

Now, after another lengthy period of silence come the clinical guidelines on the treatment of depression, which — apart from a single sentence — ignore depression among the sex and gender diverse community.

The guidelines are important because they form “practice recommendations for health care professionals, consumers, carers, families and friends to support and assist adolescents and young adults, aged 13-24 years … with depression” — National Health & Medical Research Council.

beyondblue says that, of the more than 50,000 studies worldwide confirming suicide rates among same-sex attracted youth at five to six times that of their straight counterparts, only one meets their criteria. Doesn’t that indicate a problem with the criteria?

Not according to beyondblue. And so with a flutter of their pretty butterfly’s wings, a mountain of evidence conveniently disappears. Along with all those inconveniently dead depressed gay teenagers.

When challenged beyondblue — with millions of dollars from taxpayers and donations — suggests that the gay community should, at its own expense, find and present evidence that does meet the criteria. By May 12.

There isn’t a hope in hell of meeting their demandshAnd so teenagers will continue to die for want of proper guidelines for their treatment. And by beyondblue’s standards, it’ll be our fault, not theirs.

Can anyone spell ‘homophobia’?


Rudd announced a clampdown on Afghan and Tamil asylum seekers trying to get into Australia by saying they will no longer be allowed in for processing or refugee status.

In other words those people who have fled from regimes of terror in their home countries because of the policies of governments like Howard's and now Rudd's in their foreign policies and who are now refugees will be returned to the brutal regimes which persecuted them in the first place.

Rudd has been attempting to trump Abbott who has just taken over Howard's "We will decide who comes to this country and the manner of their arrival".

When I left South Africa for Australia in 1978 I really thought I was going to a country whose politics were so much more humane and progressive than the apartheid regime I was fleeing from, but how wrong can one be?

30 years later and Rudd's Australia has sunk to the lowest depths imaginable - with a government that brooks no argument or dissent of any sort and intends to silence what dissent there is by its internet censorship. They may think they will have shut people up, but as has been shown elsewhere - Thailand at the moment comes to mind - despite the shootings and killings having occurred there, people are still prepared to stay in the streets until they get what they want - free and fair elections.

In that sense we may still have the small semblance of democracy remaining because we still have elections, but when one examines how this democracy works to demolish opposition of all sorts by way of those elections, one really has to wonder where this government is heading!

05 April 2010


4 APRIL 2010

Fallen Marine's Dad Must Pay Court Costs of Group who Picketed his Son's Funeral
posted by: Steve Williams 3 days ago (from the US group CareTo)

Your son dies in a non-combat related vehicle accident in Al Anbar province in Iraq in 2006. He was just 20 years old.

Still grieving, you arrange a funeral, and a large number of people turn up to pay their respects to a young man who died in service of his country, doing what he loved. And then you see that, just a few hundred meters away, a group of people have gathered, and they hold signs that say, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Hates You," and "Sempe Fi, Semper Fags."

Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania, faced just such a reality when, burying his only child, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, he found members of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, picketing outside the funeral.

Headed by minister Fred Phelps and other members of the anti-gay Phelps family, the Westboro group has become infamous for picketing soldier's funerals, displaying anti-semitic billboards, and avowing that America is a doomed nation because of its "fag enabling" laws and permissive attitude to homosexuality.

Understandably hurt by the Westboro group's actions, Snyder decided to take them to court, suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and invasion of privacy, all in the hope that this would deter the Phelps clan from picketing other soldier's funerals in the future.

The Westboro group's defense was that they were in full compliance with state law, standing the required distance away from the funeral event, not picketing on private property, and citing that their actions were protected as matters of free speech and religious rights.

In 2007, a federal jury awarded Snyder $11 million in damages. The Westboro protesters appealed. The amount was later reduced to $5 million, and then in September, 2009, the decision was overturned completely by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court ruled that this was indeed a matter of free speech, and said that, "as utterly distasteful as these signs are," referring to the materials that the Phelps family often brings with them on their picketing campaigns, "they involve matters of public concern," and therein the court determined that the group had acted within its rights.

This week, the Court of Appeals ruled that Snyder must pay $16,510 in legal defense costs for the Westboro group. While I do not believe that this is necessarily unusual in this kind of case, it does feel like adding "insult to injury" as the Associated Press notes in its report, especially given that the Snyder family is known to have been struggling to meet the financial demands of taking this case to the Supreme Court.

The news of the court's order has outraged many, especially in light of the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States has already agreed to hear the case and to take on the question of whether the First Amendment allows the Westboro group to picket funerals in this deliberately provocative manner.

From the AP:

"We are extremely disappointed," said Sean E. Summers, an attorney for Snyder. He added that the high court will likely hear the case during its October term and make a decision in June of next year.

"The Court of Appeals certainly could have waited until the Supreme Court made its decision," Summers added. "There was no hardship presented by Phelps."

In a time of much publicized derision, this is a story that seems to have crossed political lines, uniting liberals and conservatives alike in agreement that, even if this ruling on free speech is technically correct (a point that is being hotly debated), there is an injustice in requiring Albert Snyder to pay any money to the Westboro protesters.
From the Baltimore Sun:

On Tuesday, Mark C. Seavey, new-media director for the American Legion, posted a message on his Legion-affiliated blog, The Burn Pit, urging readers to donate to the Albert Snyder Fund. The American Legion's message was picked up by conservative political blogger Michelle Malkin, who called the Westboro protesters "evil miscreants" and urged readers to donate.

"Regardless of how you feel about the merits of the Snyders' suit, the Snyders deserve to know that Americans are forever grateful for their son's heroism and for the family's sacrifice. We shouldn't stand by and watch them bankrupted," Malkin wrote. There is a bit of good news in all this, though. In 2007, Albert Snyder appeared on television and told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly the story of what happened at his son's funeral.

While I often find O'Reilly's politics and general manner unpalatable, he has admirably promised to lift Snyder's burden by paying the legal fees himself, saying on Tuesday night's O'Reilly Factor that this was an "outrage," and adding:
"I will pay Mr. Snyder's obligation. I am not going to let this injustice stand... It's obvious they were disturbing the peace by disrupting the funeral. They should have been arrested, but our system is so screwed up, so screwed up, that loons are allowed to run wild. Snyder is fighting the good fight, and he is taking his case to the Supreme Court as he should. We are behind him 100 percent."

Meanwhile a grass-roots effort to support Snyder has flourished, and offers continue to roll-in to help with further legal costs. Snyder's attorney, Sean Summers, has said that the "thousands" of offers of donations Albert Snyder has received from the public will soon be able to cover the fees connected with the upcoming Supreme Court case.

From a personal perspective, I am acutely aware that we can not pick and choose which person's free speech it is that we protect based on what suits us, or what seems to adhere to a common sense of decency, even. The Phelps family's "God Hates Fags" brand of vitriol is truly abhorrent and the messages they peddle about as mean spirited as it is possible to be.

But that does not mean that their right to free speech should not be protected. The question is how far that free speech extends to protect them while they intentionally inflict emotional distress on others through their actions.

This is one of the key issues that will be put before the Supreme Court when they take on the case in October.
Related Links:

• I Support Al Snyder in His Fight Against Westboro Baptists - Connect on Facebook

Read more: army, soldiers, free speech, civil rights, lgbt rights, fred phelps, westboro baptists

04 April 2010


The sermons - not on the mount, but in the Melbourne churches and others around Australia - were of a non-cristian pattern of attack - on atheists and atheism and its pernicious effect on people in this country.

Be alert and alarmed was the message, and don't be distracted from the big picture - sex abuse by priests, homophobic attacks against people in many communities, war in the name of religion, racist attacks on people who appear to be "different"!!

This is what religion has come down to in 2010 - is it any wonder that so many are questioning their faith in those who are supposed to have morals and ethics and are their leaders???

Religions are under threat and will continue to be so until people come to realise there is no-one up there listening to them and protecting them from a terrible fate awaiting them in the hereafter - whatever that is supposed to be!


No Right of Reply in AJN to certain people?
The Israel discussion
Posted on 13 November 2009

THE right to disagree with Israeli government policy has become, in many ways, even more controversial than the policies themselves. Over the past decade, a number of Jewish activists have railed against what they claim is a taboo, imposed by established pro-Israeli advocate groups, against any criticism of Israel.

First there was the Independent Jewish Voices in England, followed by similar groups in Europe and here, the Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV). All these groups have attempted to widen the debate about the Middle East. But the English and Australian groups have touched a nerve and created a dilemma for many thoughtful, open-minded Jews.

In Australia, many people would like to see Israel’s policies more flexible, less aggressive and defensive, but they cannot bring themselves to support IAJV due to an underlying hostility in the group’s activism that unnerves them.
Now, a new group has emerged in America, called J Street -– the name referring to a missing street in the grid system of Washington DC, a nod to the missing voice in debate about Israeli policy. J Street is founded and supported by a broad range of American Jewish public figures.

Its call for more vigorous debate has attracted criticism from the heavy hitter of American Jewish advocacy, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
From a global perspective, however, the significant thing about J Street is that it is clearly, unequivocally pro-Israel. J Street’s charter on its website reads: “J Street is the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. J Street was founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. We support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East.

“J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own.”

The IAJV’s statement of principles on its website reads: “We are Jews with diverse opinions on the Middle East who share a deep concern about the current crisis in the region, we are committed to ensuring a just peace that recognises the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians with a solution that protects the human rights of all.

“We believe that Israel’s right to exist must be recognised and that Palestinians’ right to a homeland must also be acknowledged … We feel there is an urgent need to hear alternative voices that not be silenced by being labelled disloyal or ‘self-hating’ … in particular we are concerned that the Jewish establishment does not represent the full range of Jewish opinion.”

I have abridged the statement, but anyone who reads it in full on the website will notice that something is missing: a declaration that the IAJV is pro-Israel.
The IAJV recognises Israel’s right to exist, but does not say it is pro-Israel. This absence carries a significance far beyond words. It underscores the whole vibe, reportage, commentary and activism that has emanated from this group over the past few years. The group is characterised by a noticeable lack of empathy with Israel, beyond its criticism of successive governments and policy towards Palestinians.
There is no reason why any group of Jews has to declare itself pro-Israel, and the IAJV is entitled to be critical of the Israeli government. It refers to J Street on its site and sees the two as kindred spirits. But that absence of an underlying support for the country, the nation and the people permeates everything it does and says. Deep down, this is what rankles a substantial number of Australian Jews, and stops them from supporting the group.

J Street has illuminated why the temperature of discussion is so heated in Australia, why many have tried to ignore or dismiss the IAJV and why others have started their own response (such as The Sensible Jew, a blog started this year by two Melbourne women who wanted to present an alternative voice to both the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the IAJV).

Hopefully, J Street’s model can be used to help forge a new cast of public discussion in Australia. At the very least, it may loosen up a conversation that has been stifled by attention-seeking behaviour and name calling.
Michael Visontay lectures in media at the University of NSW.(I am pleased I am not a media student at UNSW!!!)

Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 04:50PM by IAJV
No Right of Reply in AJN to certain people?
The article below is a reply to Michael Visontay in AJN Nov. 13, 2009, ‘The Israel Discussion’:

The editor of AJN, Zeddy Lawrence refused to publish this reply in which I have sought to correct certain misrepresentations and misunderstandings about the nature of IAJV published in an Opinion article by Michael Visontay. Whatever one’s views of the issues concerning Israel/Palestine or of IAJV, the most significant fact about the editor’s decision is his policy of not allowing the right of reply to certain people whose views he considers are not to be made available to the readership of AJN.

I agreed not to make Lawrence’s actual email to me public, but indicated that I would convey the gist of his remarks: His reasons for not publishing my piece were essentially that he sees his role as protecting the community from unpopular views by standing up for Israel and ensuring that Israel’s point of view is expressed. I provide my own reply to Zeddy Lawrence below the article.

IAJV and “empathy with Israel”
Peter Slezak

It is reassuring that in his recent column (AJN November 13), Michael Visontay does not find fault with anything Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) has actually said or written but only with what he imagines we really mean. Visontay does not cite anything from the voluminous material on the IAJV website since 2007 to justify his charge of “an underlying hostility in the group’s activism.” Remarkably, Visontay also presumes to explain what “permeates everything” IAJV does without interviewing any of its founders or contributing writers.

By inventing the stance of IAJV, Visontay neglects key features of IAJV articulated in declarations on our website. We have hundreds of signatories to various statements and several bloggers, none of whom are likely to agree with one another on anything. Visontay does not reveal that IAJV is not an organization with a membership, representatives or official doctrines at all. By analogy with the editorial role of a magazine or journal, we write:

IAJV is not an organization or society with members or political platform. In accordance with the principles enunciated in the initial statement, we aim to widen the debate to include a range of opinions not reflected in mainstream Jewish media or official community organizations. As part of this effort, our blogs provide a forum for independent Jewish opinions that are, of course, those of their authors and not those of IAJV organizers or signatories of any IAJV petitions or statements.
Of course, there is no doubt about our critical “editorial” orientation. However, Visontay’s charge of bias is always made against dissident opinion on the spurious assumption that the prevailing orthodoxy is somehow neutral.

The significance of IAJV rests precisely on the fact that we are concerned to widen the public dialogue and to ensure a representation of growing Jewish opinion here and around the world that departs from the uncritical “pro-Israel” line of community leadership and official organizations.

Toward this end, we have cooperated with other groups to bring significant people on lecture tours including internationally renowned Jewish figures such as Jeff Halper and Sara Roy. Their views are well represented in Israel itself and regularly published in Ha’aretz, and therefore it is meaningless to describe our efforts to have them heard here as hostile to Israel.

For the record, there can be no inference from what we have published to the claim that IAJV is not “pro-Israel” unless this is interpreted to mean uncritical support for all Israeli government policies and actions. Facing uncomfortable facts about Israel is discouraged by those who, in Ed Murrow’s familiar words, confuse dissent with disloyalty. Those who voice criticism are denounced in familiar ways, or merely “characterised by a noticeable lack of empathy with Israel”. I addressed these questions in my talk to the recent Limmud-Oz festival in Sydney on Jewish Identity and Responsibility (available on the IAJV website). It is noteworthy that Visontay’s charge was precisely the one levelled against Hannah Arendt because she dared to hold Israel to universal standards. She insisted that Eichmann’s crime was a “crime against humanity” and not just against the Jewish people. In a famous admonition Gershom Scholem said that Arendt lacked ahavat Israel – love of the Jewish people. However, there can be no doubt either about Arendt’s profound commitment to her Jewishness or that she was, in Scholem’s own words, “an extraordinary Zionist”.

Other commentators saw Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem as her “most intensely Jewish work, in which she identifies herself morally and epistemologically with the Jewish people.” Her answer to the charge of lacking ahavat Israel was to say “Love is not a collective matter: I indeed love ‘only’ my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons.” In this way, at the same time as Arendt emphatically confirmed her Jewishness by giving it political expression, she continued to challenge the unreflective, self-celebratory nature of group affiliations.

It helps us to see Visontay’s complaints about IAJV’s lack of sufficient “empathy with Israel” in a wider context. It is striking that in Plato’s Republic, Socrates makes the same distinction as Arendt and admonishes Callicles for not only loving a person but also for being in love with the state of Athens.

I have noticed that we have something in common. We are both lovers … Besides the person I love, I am also in love with philosophy, while besides your lover, you are also in love with thestate of Athens. Now, I have noticed that, despite all your cleverness, you are unable to contradict any assertion made by your beloved ...
Israeli Jeff Halper notes that today the same “unreflexive, self-celebratory group affiliation” is deep in the heart of Jewish identity, but mainly among diaspora Jews, and not so much among Israelis themselves. However, the true friends of Israel are not those who serve uncritically as propagandists for official myths but those who stand with the many Israelis to condemn, not only the crimes of Palestinians, but also those of the State of Israel. Independent Australian Jewish voices who speak out against crimes committed in their name recognize a responsibility to the wider human community, especially Palestinians, to participate in a more balanced dialogue. In this regard, it is revealing that, of all the desperately important moral and political issues IAJV has raised, Visontay manages not to mention a single one.

Email To Editor of AJN, November 21, 2009

Dear Zeddy,

Thanks for your lengthy reply and for explaining your reasons for rejecting my article.

I confess that I am rather shocked by the reasons you give, especially because, on your own account, clearly it's nothing about the content of what I have written that is the ground for your decision.

You refer to your responsibility to the Jewish community as editor which you evidently conceive as not allowing the right of reply to direct criticism. I'm sure that even people in the Jewish community who strongly disagree with my views would not support your position in preventing them being heard in the community newspaper. Even if they did think that I should not be heard, it's rather more astonishing that you, as editor, should take such a stance.

Your position is all the more remarkable because you have not objected to anything I have written. My article is surely unremarkable and mild. I have mainly sought to correct Visontay's misrepresentations about the nature of IAJV and put his criticisms in a larger intellectual context by citing distinguished intellectual figures and universalized ethical principles that are also central to the venerable Jewish tradition.

As I mentioned in the article, these were views I had articulated at the Jewish Limmud-Oz festival and this makes your other reasons equally inappropriate where you suggest, by comparison with the British IJV that I am somehow to be regarded as setting up my tent outside the Jewish community. You must recognize that this is not our own view of ourselves but an effort to quarantine certain members of the community whose views you don't share - in this case many hundreds of distinguished and ordinary Jews.

Furthermore, this is deeply offensive not only to me personally but an affront to the entire community that you claim to be acting on behalf of. My 84 year-old mother is a survivor or Auschwitz and your idea that I must be somehow excluded from the Jewish community is to treat your community with disrespect by presuming to decide whose views they may be permitted to hear in your AJN pages.

When this goes so far as to prevent the right of reply to direct criticism and misrepresentation, it really does raise questions about how you understand your role as editor. Evidently, this means that Visontay may discuss IAJV and make misrepresentations, but I am not permitted to reply because of who I am in some unclear sense, even when I make the mildest responses to which you seem to have no substantive objection.

You may not know that AJN has in the past not rejected articles and letters from me speaking even more explicitly and strongly about controversial questions regarding Israel and the Jewish community. Your policy as you describe it is now a serious departure from this openness that the AJN had admirably followed in accordance with the most elementary principles of fairness and journalistic standards.

In effect, you have said that the AJN must protect the wider Jewish community from hearing certain views of some of its own members who are, after all, respectable and informed. Worse still, these very views are widely available in the public media in Israel itself, as you well know. This is a conception of a censorship that is quite shocking to me and would be to many members of the Jewish community who would not agree with my views.

The most dictatorial regimes permit a free press to the views they agree with. The test of editorial and journalistic principles is whether you permit the expression of views that you or the community may not share.

I'm afraid that even from your own point of view, you fail to recognize the harmful effect that your decision and attitude will have for AJN and the Jewish community you claim to support. You may recall the bad press in the mainstream media that AJN received on an earlier occasion when an advertisement placed by Jewish community members was censored. Such efforts to prevent respected people being heard is hardly to advance the very aims you express in support of the Jewish community or Israel. You don't seem to understand or accept the point I made in my article that I and IAJV sympathizers are also supporters of Israel. I have close family in Nahariya and Tel-Aviv and close friends who are Israelis. You don't advance the cause you support by so explicitly admitting to acting in the patronizing way towards the Jewish community by deciding which Jews they may be permitted to hear.

I had a large and respectful audience at Limmud-Oz where I presented my talk, though most did not agree with my views. They knew who I am and came in the best spirit to hear what I had to say and to argue with me. We had a vigorous and mutually respectful and even enormously friendly discussion, with many strongly opposed people getting in touch with me afterwards to continue the discussion. This is the spirit in which I had expected the AJN might serve its important role in the community. Surely, this is how it should be, and there was no hint that I was somehow unwelcome or inappropriate as a member of the Jewish community presenting at a community festival. Your effort (not ours) to somehow exclude me and other supporters of IAJV from the Jewish community is a very disappointing and frankly offensive position to adopt.

I had naively imagined that my mildly expressed article and my explanation about the nature of IAJV would indicate that IAJV is far from being hostile to Israel or the Jewish community as you appear to think. On the contrary, I had expected that you would recognize that we may disagree about various substantive questions but that we are trying to foster the dialogue where we disagree. So, you respond, not by taking up the well-meaning concern to engage in respectful, informed dialogue, but by preventing me being heard - and not even because you object to anything I have actually said!

Let me conclude by asking you to reconsider your decision and to publish my piece - as AJN has done in the past. This would be an important, constructive step towards engaging with those many respected, informed members of the community who care as much as you do about their Jewishness and about Israel. It's precisely the fact that we disagree that provides the reason to engage with each other in the pages of AJN.
I look forward to hearing from you again.

Best and cheers for now,

(The zionists are so afraid of controversy here in Australia that they will go to any lengths they can to shoot the messenger and the message. In the longer term they are doomed to failure as the zionist enterprise collapses under its excesses which grow more abusive day by day - Ed.)

01 April 2010


Type the word sex into the Google search engine and you get the following:

The word "sex" has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active.

Google has made some story about withdrawing from its lucrative Chinese market because of that country's continuing censorship of the internet.

What this sentence reveals is that Google is doing just the same as the Chinese here in Australia and is endeavouring to censor what we may need to find out about sex and anything related to sexual activities.

How about safe sex messages to teach people about the dangers of unprotected sex when so many sexually transmitted diseases are around??

So anything to do with sex is taboo??

How did Google's developers arrive in the world?? Was it by some immaculate conception on the part of their mothers? Were they all taught that sexual activities are "dirty" because that infamous book the bible, written by some dirty old men some few thousands of years ago kept on talking about so-and-so begat so-and-so and someone else committed "adultery" and should be stoned to death accordingly?

It is an outrage that in this day and age a company like google should indulge in such mean-spirited and ridiculous censorship when they would be more aware than most that there are ways of circumventing this sort of nonsense!

When are these sorts of people going to grow up and accept that sex is part of life's activities and no amount of censorship is going to stop sex happening??

The world wide web is truly in a parlous state when sex is censored but violence and homophobia and bigotry and racist hate sites continue to flourish unabated.


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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm