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In the discussion of my previous post, the topic of universal health care came up, and as Obama’s attempts to bring it in in the US is very much in the news at the moment, I thought it might be worth a post to itself. Like gun control laws and legalised prostitution (something I will also be devoting a post to in the future), universal health care is the sort of thing that many (perhaps most) Americans consider to be very radical, but which is in fact already in place in most other first world countries. Read the rest of this entry »

Normalising Sex

As I’m sure most of you know by now, one of the things I have always been outspoken about is what you might call the normalisation of sex. In short, society’s taboos surrounding sex are without any basis in logic or fact, and are also extremely unhealthy, both physically and psychologically. I will have more to say about those psychological effects in a future article, but for now, I’d like to bring your attention this story regarding the physical side of things—it really brought a smile to my face!

There have already been well-supported scientific studies which indicate that regular masturbation can significantly reduce the prevalence of prostate cancer in men, and regular sex has been linked to better cardiovascular health (as it is a completely natural yet also vigourous form of exercise). So it is refreshing to see sex education moving beyond the silly “sex without pleasure” mentality that it has been mired in for far too long now (no doubt due to traditional Christian ideas on sex), to let teenagers know how pleasurable sex can be. The idea is that sex should actually be encouraged, as it is good for our health and well being. Furthermore, it is believed that if women in particular were better educated about the pleasure they can derive from sex, they will be more inclined to be more assertive in their sexual encounters, and as such more likely to insist upon safe sexual practices.

This initiative has lead to predictable criticisms that it will lead to more underage sex, but as this article says, teenagers don’t suddenly become sexual at 18—many (perhaps most) already engage in underage sex anyway, so it seems to me that it is best if they know as much about it as possible.

Just before I launched this blog, another new atheist site was launched—Atheist Nexus. Basically, it is a social networking site exclusively for non-theists. As you can see I am on there, but sadly I haven’t had much time for it, as I devote all my free social networking time to this blog. But as my readership obviously has a lot of non-theists, I thought you might be interested in joining. They are aiming to reach 10,000 memberships on their anniversary, and as you can see, they’re very close!

I once again don’t have time for a proper post this week (I should be back in the saddle next week!), so I thought I’d post this little bit of humour (click for the full size image). Can you come up with any more? Choose whatever religion you want, or even atheism if you can come up with something good!


NOTE: I originally posted this on November 4 last year, but it seems it got a little lost in the flurry of pre-election posts. So as I again don’t have time to do a new post this week, I thought I’d re-post it.

After all my serious election related posts, I thought it was time for a humorous one as Americans head off to the polls. On the surface, this brilliant Mad TV sketch is a parody of a Steve Jobs Apple keynote (and it actually works pretty well on that level), but underneath it is actually an even funnier parody of something else entirely. Definitely one of the cleverest comedy sketches I’ve ever seen!

I don’t have time for a full post this week—and I figure it’s time for a little comic relief anyway—so here’s an amusing, Quentin Tarantino flavoured religious satire. It’s based on a parable from the web site jhuger.com, which features a lot more material casting a very critical eye over religion as well.

It seems pretty ironic that just after my previous So How’s Obama Doing? post went up, two events occurred that could well come to define his presidency. One of these was his very impressive Cairo speech. Given how keen George W. was to go to war with the Muslim world, I think it’s pretty hard to argue that Obama represents more of the same. Cynics will say it’s just another one of his charming public performances, but the reality is, when it comes to diplomacy, speeches like this do matter—a lot. He has once again demonstrated his remarkable diplomatic skill in negotiating his way between what are in many ways opposing ideologies, which is exactly what is needed if there is to be peace between the west and the Muslim world. While Bush burnt more bridges than perhaps any other US President in history, Obama has what it takes to rebuild them as few other people do. Yes, a lot of it does come down to charm, but once again, in matters of diplomacy this is a very positive attribute. Plus it’s not as if his speech lacked substance anyway, and I think his expressed intent is genuine. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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