May 2009

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A couple of stories in the news this week—combined with the passing of Obama’s first 100 days in office earlier this month—have led me to ponder how his administration has been doing since his historic election. The first such story was the upholding of Prop 8 by the Californian high court—it seems we still have a fair way to go before all forms of discrimination have been removed from the legal system. (I’m sorry to say that Australia is no better in this respect—as a Christian, our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is against gay marriage as well, even though he is fairly progressive otherwise, and he did give more legal rights to gay couples.) In fairness, even though Prop 8 was passed during the Presidential election, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Obama’s administration as such. Nevertheless, it did lead me to think about how things have been going since January 20, along with another story in the news which I was very happy about indeed—the fact that Washington is finally telling Israel what they should have done all along: no more settlements, period. It’s ridiculous that even though this is a fundamental requirement of the road map to peace, Israel has been allowed to completely ignore it without the US government saying or doing anything. It finally looks as though we might be seeing the start of a fair and evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I’m wondering what my readers think of how well Obama has been doing (please note that I’m after genuine answers to this question, not unsubstantiated political propaganda). Given the cold, harsh political realities, I personally think he’s been doing about as well as can reasonably be expected, given that he is facing what must surely be the most difficult circumstances any President has had to deal with since World War II—it’s really quite ridiculous how much things deteriorated from the time George W. Bush came into office until he left. He’s left poor Obama one hell of a big mess to fix.

The computer I am modelling above (in what is certainly one of our more creative compositions I think!) is a Macintosh PowerBook G3 “Wallstreet”, taken from the PowerBook photo set on my main web site. This model was first released eleven years ago this month, so when we took this photo in 2003 (it was one of the very first photo shoots we did), it was already five years old. And believe it or not, it’s still my webmaster/photographer Lee’s main computer! (Although he has upgraded the processor to a scorching 500 MHz!) He also has a second computer (an 800 MHz SuperDrive eMac from 2002) for editing our videos and authoring/burning our DVDs. As for me, I use an original 500 MHz dual USB iBook (or “iceBook”), which coincidentally celebrates its eighth birthday this month. Read the rest of this entry »

With a title like that, I want to state up front that I’m definitely not naive enough to think freedom of speech is an unlimited right. We have libel and slander laws for example, and with very good reason. People should not be able to make defamatory comments about someone without having to answer for them, otherwise people could just say anything about another person to try and damage their reputation, regardless of whether it is true or not. Most western countries also have laws against inciting racial hatred, and I think this is with good reason as well. However, we have to be very careful that such laws do not go too far, and we also have to make sure they are applied equally.

Which brings me to the subject of this article. Australia’s own holocaust denier, Frederick Toben, was earlier this week sentenced to three month’s jail for contempt of court, for refusing a court order to take down his web site on the subject. Please note that holocaust denial is not in itself a crime in Australia, unlike in Germany for example (indeed, Germany previously attempted to extradite him to face charges over his web site, which failed). However, like any civilised country, we are all legally bound to comply with court orders, whether we feel they are justified or not. Also, before I go any further I want to state categorically that I think denying the holocaust is crazy—the evidence for it happening would appear to be overwhelming. As such, I have little doubt that the people denying it happened are racially motivated. However, does that mean the law should step in to silence them? Read the rest of this entry »

Today is the National Day of Reason. To explain what it is about, here is a quote from their web site:

Many who value the separation of religion and government have sought an appropriate response to the federally-supported National Day of Prayer, an annual abuse of the constitution. Nontheistic Americans (including freethinkers, humanists, atheists, agnostics, and deists), along with many traditionally religious allies, view such government-sanctioned sectarianism as unduly exclusionary.

A consortium of leaders from within the community of reason endorsed the idea of a National Day of Reason. This observance is held in parallel with the National Day of Prayer, on the first Thursday in May each year (May 7th in 2009). The goal of this effort is to celebrate reason-a concept all Americans can support-and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.

Sounds like something worth supporting to me! This is a great opportunity for my American readers to show their support of the secular values that America was founded on—not Christian values is as commonly thought. I find it highly offensive and very misleading that the National Day of Prayer web site uses what looks like a characterisation of George Washington kneeling in prayer in their banner.