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9/11 Nine Years On

Well it seems we’ve managed to avoid a Koran burning, but we still had Christians ripping pages out of the Koran at the White House to protest “the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion”—what a shame these hypocrites don’t give the outrageous violence and intolerance in their own Bible the same scrutiny. The huge controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” (which will actually be two blocks away and will be more of a Muslim community centre than what most people think of as a mosque) has only been inflamed by this year’s anniversary of September 11, however.

My own views on this issue are expressed very well by the video above—opposing this mosque is tantamount to equating all Muslims with Islamic extremist terrorists, which is the same as equating all Christians with Christian extremist terrorists. As critical as I am of the extreme violence and intolerance written into the both the Koran and the Bible, it is not reflective of how most Muslims practice their religion, just as it isn’t reflective of how most Christians practice theirs. And while it may seem strange for an outspoken atheist to preach religious tolerance, the fact of the matter is, without freedom of religion, there wouldn’t be freedom of no religion. Freedom of religion is one of the key things that makes us better than the terrorists—to deny this only brings us down to their level. Read the rest of this entry »

Okay, so I’m not entirely sure what “refudiate” means (as the word doesn’t exist), but as it seems she meant repudiate, I’m pretty sure I’m using it correctly! Sarah Palin’s difficulties with the English language are of course now legendary, and a favourite subject for commedians. It is however very disturbing that some one whose native language is English can be considered a credible presidential candidate, when they have so much difficulty speaking it correctly. I am far from a perfect English speaker myself, as I learned it as an adult—I would never dare to publish my unedited text here. But Sarah clearly has no problem with doing this, and even likens herself to Shakespeare! Still, a native English speaker who is a potential president should be able to publish their unedited text—the fact that she can’t should be an embarrassment to all American conservatives. The fact that it isn’t says just as much about them as it does about her, and is deeply disturbing. In essence, they celebrate poor education, stupidity and ignorance. This isn’t about right or left—this is about right and wrong.

The other thing the far right celebrates, of course, is bigotry, which as this video says, should be getting as much attention as Sarah’s choice of words. The outrage over the building of a mosque two blocks away from “ground zero” effectively equates all Muslims with the perpetrators of September 11, as that is the only way a simple mosque can be considered “stabbing the heart” of the American heartland. Yet at the same time, they claim not to be anti-Muslim, and Palin even calls on peaceful Muslims to support her! Why should they? If they are peaceful, then there is nothing wrong with this mosque (or rather, there isn’t anything more wrong with it than any other place of religious worship).

Game On!

With Julia Gillard about to announce her new climate change policy (which I am sure will have to be better than the opposition’s!)—after last weekend setting a date for the next Australian election on August the 21st—I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the upcoming Australian election here, and Julia’s performance so far. If I could sum up her style of politics in one word, I would call it “pragmatic”. Unlike Kevin Rudd, she certainly isn’t over promising, which I think was his downfall: I still believe he was sincere in his stated intent, but when circumstances didn’t allow him to deliver on some of his promises, he was perceived as dishonest. Julia certainly isn’t falling into that trap—she has been very cautious indeed with her promises.

July 23 update: Well Julia has just announced her climate change policy, and while it certainly is better than the opposition’s, I think she’s taken the pragmatism a little too far this time, to the point where it looks like a bit of a cop-out. I’d really like to see her work together with the Greens (who will no doubt hold the balance of power after the election) to take decisive action on climate change.

Many people have dismissed Julia’s pragmatism as “backing down” and “not standing for anything”, but quite frankly, I think it is a good thing. This is politics after all: deals have to be struck and compromises have to be made to get anything done at all. As I’ve said here before, I often feel left wing/progressive voters are too idealistic—unless our leaders do a perfect job, we often don’t vote for them. But we have to face the reality that the nature of politics makes this virtually impossible. And it opens the way for conservative politicians to get into power, as conservative voters usually aren’t critical at all: they just believe what they want to believe (the facts be damned), and believe their politicians deliver on it, seemingly no matter what. We have to accept less than ideal solutions in the short term, so that more ideal solutions can be arrived at later. Otherwise, we are simply allowing the conservatives to turn back the clock. Read the rest of this entry »

When I first heard that the Australian Labor party had ousted Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, I wasn’t happy. Labor wasn’t doing that badly in the polls, so I just felt they were panicking too much; indeed, I feel they’ve been doing this for some time now, which I think is the main reason why they ended up doing so badly in the polls in the first place. I think they’ve actually done a pretty god job of running the country under very difficult circumstances—for example, Australia survived the global financial crisis better than any other first world country. Yes, they’ve made some mistakes, but I feel their mistakes are vastly outweighed by their achievements. The problem is that their mistakes have all come in the last few months (with an election looming), and the electorate has a very short memory. Read the rest of this entry »

I am constantly astounded by Israel’s ability to commit outrageous acts of military violence against civilians, then cast themselves as the victims. The above video is a great example: it singles out attacks on Israeli soldiers, but for goodness sake—the Israeli military is conducting a raid on an unarmed vessel in international waters! The people on board are doing whatever they can to defend themselves—they have no guns, so they’re using what they have. In response, the Israeli military opens fire on them! The result is up to 19 people dead—and not a single one of them was Israeli.

So what terrible crime were the people on this boat engaging in to receive such treatment? They were trying to bring aid to Palestinians in Gaza. And why did they need to do that? Because Gaza has been blockaded from receiving aid from the outside world by Israel! So this is, in effect, one outrageous crime against humanity, that has come about as a result of another outrageous crime against humanity—both committed by Israel. Yet Israel still tries to claim that they are the victims!

As always, Israel’s actions have received the usual piss-weak response from western governments, especially (also as always) the US. While I have defended Obama’s performance in many areas, on Israel I’m afraid I have to give him the same score as every President who has gone before him: a great big fat zero. How many more atrocities will Israel have to commit before the west (particularly the US, who have always stuck by Israel through thick and thin) takes decisive action to stop them?

Today was once again the National Day of Reason, and this year there’s something to celebrate: the National Day of Prayer (which was the original inspiration for this day) was ruled an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state by a federal judge. Sadly however (though given the political realities of the US, hardly surprisingly), President Obama will continue to observe it until all appeals are exhausted, and (like every President before him) ignore the National Day of Reason. It is very difficult to see how the National Day of Prayer could be constitutionally valid, however, so it seems inevitable that it will eventually be declared illegal. I hope this will make more Americans aware of the fact that the US constitution was not founded on Christian values, but secular ones.

I am very sorry about the lack of posts recently, but the reaction to my new sexy Bible readings has been overwhelming! Anyway, I’ve been intending to do a detailed article on the passing of Obama’s health care plan and the reaction to it, but I wanted to get a post up quickly to bring this petition to everyone’s attention: Tell the Republican Party to STOP Inciting Tea Party Racism! The extremism and hatred of the American right in what is supposed to be a civilised country is simply astonishing.

India vs. Australia

No, I’m not talking about the cricket—I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand how anyone could watch a game that goes for five days without slipping into a boredom induced coma. I’m referring to the continued attacks on Indian students in Melbourne (I’m happy to say that this isn’t happening in the part of Australia I live in), the news of which has been a very sad reflection on Australia in the international media. The Victorian police and the Australian government have both tried to deny that there is a racist element to these attacks, but while that may have been true when there were only a few of them, there have been so many now that I think a racist motive must be undeniable to any reasonable person. I don’t believe Australia is a racist country, but like every other country on earth, there are certainly still plenty of racists here. And neither the police nor the government will be able to do much about them while they bury their heads in the sand and pretend they don’t exist.

Indeed, the government and the Australian media seem to have taken to blaming the Indian media for stirring up this problem. Once again, there was originally some truth to this, and I’m sure it did amplify the hatred of the racists behind these attacks. But that doesn’t even come close to being an excuse for these attacks, which really have been happening (and they are continuing to happen, with the result that one Indian man has now been murdered, and another doused and set alight). This is totally and utterly inexcusable, and it has been going on for far too long now. The recent cartoon in the Indian media portraying the Victorian police as the Ku Klux Klan was certainly over the top, but I can understand how they feel—why is it taking so long for the Victorian police to get any leads on these attacks, when they’ve been going on for so long now? It just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

The Australian government and the Victorian police need to stop trying to deny the obvious racist element to these attacks—and trying to blame the Indian media for them—so they can take serious action to stop these terrible crimes. If nothing else, our huge foreign student industry depends on it.

After looking as though no deal might be struck at all, a last minute agreement has been reached at the Copenhagen summit on global change. Although the deal is disappointing, as Obama says, it is only the beginning, not the end, and in my opinion far better than no deal at all. At least now we have something to build on—as Australia’s leading campaigner on climate change Tim Flannery has said, I think we have to accept the political realities, and accept this deal as a positive outcome overall. Read the rest of this entry »

With Obama’s announcement of a 30,000 strong troop surge in Afghanistan, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on the so-called “war on terror”, and how well it has been prosecuted by both US administrations involved (Bush and Obama). Although I’ve always been of the opinion that the war in Afghanistan was probably a losing battle, given that the US and its allies are already there, I guess it makes sense to try and “finish the job” with a massive troop surge. It is different from the situation in Iraq, in as much as Afghanistan actually was a haven for terrorists, and likely will be again should the Taliban regain control of the country. Importantly though, there must be some kind of deadline for when the US and its allies pull out, regardless of whether the surge is successful or not. Obama’s timeline of a staged pull-out starting in 18 months seems reasonable. Read the rest of this entry »

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