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The worthlessness of the "War on Terror" label [29 December 2007|11:37 pm]
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[Current Music |'Carry The Zero' by Built To Spill]

Has the UK abandoned the "War on Terror" label? I'd dearly like some confirmation or denial on the matter, because I think such a move would be rather significant, and in a most positive manner.

You see, someone posted a thread on Interference with the news that the British government has officially ceased to use the "War on Terror" label, but I must admit to receiving this news with skepticism. Their source is this Military.com article from yesterday, citing an announcement apparently made by the UK's Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, on the 27th of this month. Now, I don't know much about Military.com, except that people who post there fairly regularly appear in the Fundies/Racists/Conspiracy Theorists Say The Darndest Things admission moderation queue, and the URL is an indication that this is a place probably slanted in certain directions (which you can take how you will). So, rightly or wrongly, I went into it with the intention of scrutinising things a bit more closely than I might've if this had been from some other news source. And what do I spot first? The source is the Daily Mail. The fucking Daily Mail! One of the most pathetic excuses for journalism on the planet. The odds of the Daily Mail printing the facts are worse than me winning the Melbourne Cup next year - and I am neither a horse nor do I own one!

So I did a bit of Googling, and to what amounted to a bit less than surprise, I failed to find any reports substantiating the article. I expected an announcement like this to be big news, but unless my Google powers are truly woeful, there are no other outlets carrying this as a story. However, this does seem to be based on some truth - some old news from January this year. An article from The Guardian and one from the BBC report that Macdonald challenged the British government's use of "War on Terror" rhetoric around 23 January 2007. This was his own personal view, not an official policy change, and displays some welcome common sense. What's quite noteworthy in getting to the bottom of the Military.com article is that the phrasing in the Guardian and BBC articles is essentially identical. Compare. Quoth Macdonald in the Guardian: "London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this." Purportedly quoth Macdonald on Military.com: London is not a battlefield, he said. "The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers," Macdonald said. "They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way." In both instances, Macdonald is also quoted as stating the terrorists belong to a "death cult". Now, politicians have been known to reuse phrases, but the similarities are striking and I would certainly appreciate some reports from other sources before I drop my skepticism towards Military.com's report.

This is one of those items of news that I would dearly love to be true. The language used to frame an issue in the public perception is absolutely crucial. Can you imagine the pro-choice movement having any success if it were known as anti-life? This sort of stuff matters and a simple word choice can make a massive difference. A "War on Terror" is analytically dangerous, as it overlooks nuances and demonises the other side; one is little concerned with the context or claims of the "other" in a war. After all, they're your enemy, and you need to beat them; you don't simply need to take them to court and follow due legal process, as you need to destroy them and achieve victory. They are not simply a criminal threat who can strike at civilians within the state, but an enemy of you, your neighbour, and your entire country. A "War on Terror" is politically dangerous, at least for ordinary citizens, as it is a war that can never be won. Terrorists do not constitute a regular army, they do not share aims, they do not share methods; they share precious little, and even what constitutes terrorism is open to extensive academic and popular debate. A "War on Terror" can, in the wrong hands, gain disturbingly Orwellian overtones. A "War on Terror" fundamentally fails to counter the threat it aims to counter, as it tries to fight fire with fire rather than throwing water on the root cause to extinguish it. A "War on Terror" is a ridiculous over-reaction to a minor threat; in 2001, over fourteen times the amount of people who died in the 11 September attacks were killed on US roads, but I sure don't see Bush waging a "War on Bad Driving". You are more likely to die from falling down the stairs in your house than you are from a terrorist attack.

"War on Terror", at the end of the day, is a useless label that serves to arouse patriotic and even nationalistic tendencies in the aim of political opportunism; it obscures the nuances, it is not helpful in meaningfully eradicating terrorism's root causes, and it should be discarded as soon as possible. Macdonald is dead right; these people are common criminals and should be treated as such.
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Thoughts on diverse topics: the Gold Coast, Pakistani politics, and cricket [28 December 2007|04:38 pm]
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[Current Music |Cricket on TV: the third day of the first test, Australia vs India]

Tomorrow morning, I return to Melbourne. It's been nice to visit everybody and I wish my time with them weren't so limited, but I do not miss living on the Gold Coast one bit. I may have spent nine years of my life here, but I am bloody sure that I will never move back here. I suppose I shouldn't say "never", as who knows what kind of job offer could come my way in the future, but I would not ever entertain the notion of moving here for the sake of moving here. The Gold Coast is truly a disaster of town planning; a lesson in how to not do it. Now, there are plenty of poorly planned cities out there, and others that are victims of difficult geography (such as my native Wellington). But the Gold Coast is downright horrible. It's just a bunch of seaside towns that have sprawled and sprawled into a formless mass of suburbia pretending to be a city. Accordingly, it is completely car-dependent. Public transport is either barely visible or outright non-existent. I had somewhat forgotten the feeling of total dependence on others. Due to my inability to drive, I simply cannot have any initiative in going anywhere; I have to fit in with the plans of others. The tram network in Melbourne really is one of the best things that has happened to me and I imagine I will live there for a long time yet. New Zealand may be nice, but Melbourne suits me better. In any case, if I go into New Zealand history as an academic career, it's not exactly hard for me to fly across the Tasman.

In world events, I was quite shocked but not at all surprised to see that Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Prime Minister, has been assassinated. This really just caps off a horrendously turbulent year in Pakistani politics and things seem to be on a knife's edge with Islamist parties achieving significant popularity in some regions and President Musharraf being more than just a questionable person for Western states to materially support. What does bother me is how many people have instantly brought up the issue of financial aid to Pakistan not in the context of "why in the first place?", but "why has it not successfully caused democratic change?" This in many cases seems to be based on some kind of assumption that throwing money at a problem will solve it; that if you offer people financial aid, they will behave exactly as you would desire they behave and adhere to the norms that you wish to impose. Now, I have no answers for Pakistan's problems and would never pretend to be an expert on that part of the world, but expecting Western money to motivate considerable long-term change strikes me as foolish. The issues run much, much deeper than that.

To move to a totally different topic, the sporting world, it's nice to see New Zealand convincingly win some one day cricket matches, but beating Bangladesh is hardly anything to boast about. Meanwhile, the Boxing Day test seems to have gotten away from India; Australia has declared, setting India a target of 499 for victory. The world record winning score in a fourth innings is, I believe, 416 - though someone once made approximately 650 in a drawn match. India do have over two days to play at this point, so if they can hold onto wickets and score 250 a day, they can win. Given their abysmal performance in their first innings though, where they failed to reach even 200, I do not expect big things from them and the egotistical, arrogant Australian cricketing juggernaut will roll on.
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(no subject) [14 December 2007|11:36 pm]
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[Current Music |'Headphone Dust' by Incredible Expanding Mindfuck]

I would like to address climate change, as I do not think I have ever touched on it in this blog. Honestly, I perceive that as a terrible failing, but it's not due to a lack of effort; I have tried to write more than once on the topic but scrapped the entries due to being excessively vitriolic and inflammatory. Accordingly, I will not actually make any effort to argue the case for the reality of climate change. I feel it is not necessary. The debate has been settled; it is like the evolution vs creationism debate, which has been settled emphatically and undeniably in favour of evolution but some wilfully ignorant individuals choose to continue to argue for creationism and don't wish to be bothered by the facts. The climate change skeptics are the creationists, refusing to let the facts get in the way of either 1. their desire to subjugate the planet and do with it as they please and/or 2. their vested interest in maintaining the status quo and resultant unwillingness to alter their behaviour. The facts are there for all to see (not to mention worrying, such as this article), and if you wish to deny the reality of climate change and that human activity has impacted upon the process, then you are either grossly misinformed (this is not helped by the media giving equal airtime to skeptics despite the fact that over 99% of the scientific community accepts the basic facts) or are wilfully ignorant and anti-intellectual. If you are the latter, frankly, I have no time for weak-minded cretins such as yourself.

What I most want to say with this entry is that I don't understand the need for much of the debate that is currently being had. Essentially, whether or not climate change is a reality and whether or not it is going to this or that extreme, shouldn't we still be urgently pursuing the most environmentally friendly policies and taking a long term perspective? So often, I see environmentally friendly actions condemned and obstructed by people advocating short term economic interests and immediate maximisation of financial wealth. These perspectives suffer from an absolute blindness or a refusal to acknowledge that environmental damage, while perhaps convenient in the short term for a company's bottom line, is hugely detrimental in the long term. Even localised pollution will ultimately come back to haunt an employer through declining employee health, negative impact on other industries that sustain the local population and provide a source of workers, and of course a tarnished reputation. Ultimately, what is best short term must be considered in light of its long term consequences. If it is detrimental in the long term, then the short term economic growth disappears into irrelevancy as it cannot be maintained and will in the end cause more decline than growth.

Whether or not you accept the reality of climate change, it simply makes good sense on every level to act in the best interests of the environment. It provides economic security and sustainability in the long term. It provides the social benefits that come with a healthy ecosystem; just compare the sickness, squalour, and poor quality of life in Industrial Revolution England or some of the rapidly industrialising cities of the third world with the health, sanitation, and high quality of life in communities where environmental degradation and pollution are low. It provides cultural benefits, especially in regions with large groups of ethnic communities that possess strong ties to a pure and undefiled land. It provides political benefits nowadays too, as climate change increasingly becomes a significant election issue. And from my own special interest, it's good for the development of public transport and especially railways and tramways, as rail is the most environmentally friendly form of transport.

Essentially, I am presenting an "even if" case. Back when I debated in high school, it was one strategy we routinely employed - "even if this point and that point presented by the opposition are true, here is why their core contention is false". Even if climate change skeptics are justified in their skepticism, we still gain more from pursuing environmentally friendly action. We achieve long term economic and social stability, while unregulated or minimally regulated action that focuses on the potential for short term growth and gain is ultimately disastrous. Just look at Nauru, which I wrote about yesterday. The failure to sustainably manage its phosphate resources provided it with brief wealth - it was once the wealthiest Pacific island state. However, it is now on the verge of insolvency and faces the possibility of a very bleak future. Climate change or no climate change, I don't think any of us want to see that happen elsewhere. Climate change or no climate change, I think all city dwellers want to live in a city where the air is safe to breathe and stars can be seen in the city. Climate change or no climate change, I think all those whose living is dependent on the land do not want to be destroyed by issues such as erosion, soil degradation, desertification, and drought. Why squander the beautiful planet we have?
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(no subject) [12 December 2007|09:27 pm]
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[Current Music |'Quiet' by This Will Destroy You]

It's early days yet, but the new Rudd Labour government is doing me proud. A start has been made on dismantling the institutionalised latent racism of the John Howard era. In response to the MV Tampa affair, Howard & Co. established their morally repulsive "Pacific Solution". Thousands of islands which were formerly in Australia's migration zone were removed, and asylum seekers who land there or are otherwise intercepted prior to reaching the Australian mainland have no right to apply for an Australian visa. The government even tried to do this retroactively to some territories after asylum seekers landed there. So what happened to these people? They were transported to processing facilities also located outside Australia's migration zone to have their applications for refugee status assessed, most notably to the effectively bankrupt island country of Nauru in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In other words, the Australian government deliberately sought to reduce the rights of and their responsibility to some of the planet's most vulnerable and desperate people. After all, to quote (possibly paraphrase) Howard, "we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come here", and it's not hard to guess who Howard and his cronies decided they wanted to let in after one government minister incorrectly asserted that African migrants are more prone to criminal activity. You better believe that if there were white refugees from a civil war in New Zealand or a repressive theocracy in the US or widespread "dirty" terrorism in the UK, they wouldn't be sent to languish for up to three years in Nauru.

As you would expect, this policy was an absolute failure. Acording to an August 2007 article in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Pacific Solution cost Australian taxpayers a cool billion dollars over a five year period, and the cost of processing asylum seekers offshore was seven times that of processing them in Australia. Money that could have been spent on improving healthcare and educational facilities with better equipment and higher wages was burnt on blatant deprivation of rights. Money that could have been spent on urgent infrastructural upgrades to boost capacity on rail and lower pollution by transferring freight to environmentally friendly trains was burnt on a pathetic attempt to demonstrate the government's muscle to the right wing. The Howard government tried to pretend to Australians that it was the best option for economic growth and strongest on security. In reality, it pursued an option that was economically daft, stripped thousands of people of the security of law, and even failed to achieve its desired outcoming in reducing how many people are seeking asylum in Australia. Thank goodness these foolish xenophobes are gone.

Problem is, the ramifications of the Pacific Solution will last years. I am not referring to Australia's tarnished image on human rights or whether Rudd will restore the former boundaries of Australia's migration zone, though those are significant issues. I'm referring to poor Nauru. Once a wealthy Pacific island state, it is a lesson in why you need to manage your money well and why you should not let large multi-national companies gang-rape your land and take all your resources. Nauru was loaded with phosphate; was. The resources are gone. The island has precious little else to offer. My uncle went to Nauru to help build a new hospital ward (and lost an eye there); I understand that funds ran out and the ward remains unfinished. The place has gone down the economic gurgler. Howard & Co. effectively bribed Nauru to participate in the Pacific Solution; they preyed on Nauru's economic desperation and vulnerability by offering considerable financial aid in exchange for establishing a centre to process illegal immigrants in their territory. Nauru received millions of dollars in exchange for doing so, and in the process has become considerably dependent on the Pacific Solution. Now, with Rudd phasing it out, The Age reports that Nauru fears that it is screwed. That's right; not only did Howard pursue a repugnant policy "solution" in response to asylum seekers, but he also made an entire country dependent on it. Now what will the people of Nauru do? No matter how well Rudd phases out the Pacific Solution and no matter how much financial aid Australia continues to supply, that's simply not going to cut it. It keeps Nauru dependent and on the verge of insolvency if the political or economic winds in Australia shift away from it. Let's hope no more politicians exploit this tiny country for their own gain.

I am so genuinely relieved that Howard has gone, and writing this entry really drove that home for me. The Howard government sure enjoyed exploiting the desperate and vulnerable people of this world, both to gather votes ("oh noes illegal immigrants - crime, disease, terrorism!" played well to morons on the right wing) and to accomplish their morally bankrupt schemes ("hey, Nauru, we hear you could use some money ..."). I don't think anybody with a sense of compassion will miss them.
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(no subject) [4 December 2007|11:58 pm]
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[Current Mood |goodgood]
[Current Music |'Summer's Envy' by Woods Of Ypres]

Well, for the first time in my entire life, I'm proud of the government of the country in which I live. Kevin Rudd was sworn in as Australian Prime Minister yesterday. His first action? Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

As I was born in 1987, I was far too young to remember the Labour government of David Lange (and in its dying year, Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore). In my youth, New Zealand was led by Jim Bolger and the Nationals, who in my youthful political awareness did not appeal to me, and I left New Zealand months before Jenny Shipley took over from Bulger (a woman who repulses me) and over two years before Helen Clark became PM for Labour. While I've been in Australia, the Prime Minister has always been John Howard. Words cannot express my delight to finally have a Prime Minister I actually like. It's going to be interesting to see how Rudd's wave of support lasts. Given the absolute disarray within the Liberal Party, I think it's safe to say we've got a two-term Labour government on our hands. Here's hoping this means more funding for education and public transport. Maybe that Inland Australia Railway will finally happen.

In other news, I've noticed my friends list has been rather silent on the matter of LiveJournal's ownership passing from Six Apart to SUP. Meanwhile, the drama on the two news posts (1 and 2) has been beyond hilarious. Watch out, everybody! Dodgy Russian politicians are coming to read your friends-locked entries and use your credit card to buy vodka and AK-47 Kalashnikovs. People, calm down. It's an online blogging service. You might want to consider putting the energy of your righteous indignation and wild paranoia towards a good cause. Or, you know, you could continue to whine incessantly and create all kinds of conspiracy theories about the Russian mafia, Vladimir Putin, and LJ while the genocide in Darfur goes on, Burma remains thoroughly repressed, and millions live in such poverty that they could not even imagine a website like LJ. Now, I'm not going to present myself as a paragon of virtue, someone whose priorities are perfectly straight, but for goodness' sakes, there are bigger things to worry about. I can't say I've noticed much in the way of tangible change since I began using LJ 4.5 years ago, and none of it negative. Ah well, I suppose all this drama provides me with a handy source of amusement. The news posts contain page after page of comedic gold!
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The aftermath of the Aussie federal election circus hitting town [25 November 2007|12:49 am]
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[Current Mood |pleasedpleased]
[Current Music |'Wide Open Road' by The Triffids]

It happened.


After 11 years of bad government, the Australian people finally summoned up enough common sense to send John Howard packing, and he looks likely to have become only the second sitting Prime Minister after Stanley Bruce in 1929 to lose his own seat! Labour, who began today with 60 lower house seats, gained the 16 required to form a majority and look set to come out of the election with 86. This time last year, Luke and I talked about how much we liked Kevin Rudd and how we wished he led this country. A couple of weeks later, he was leader of the Labour Party. And now? Kevin Rudd is the 26th Prime Minister of Australia! Abso-fucking-lutely fan-bloody-tastic.

Even more delightfully, the Greens were the only party of any significance besides Labour to increase their primary vote, by 0.6% nationwide (this despite strong demographic overlap with Labour supporters!), and achieved the best result of an Australian third party ever. Their nationwide vote is actually higher than the junior Coalition partner of the Liberals, the Nationals (but as the Nationals vote is concentrated in rural areas, they are able to win some seats). The Greens look set to have multiple Senators, including leader Bob Brown, who was resoundingly returned to the Senate as a representative for Tasmania. In the House of Representatives, they polled very strongly in some areas, including the central Melbourne seat where they look probable to come second, behind the Labour candidate and ahead of the Liberal candidate. In my own district of Wills, David Collis, who I quite like, performed sensationally despite Labour's Kelvin Thomson's resounding win, and I hope he stands again. If I may be optimistic for a moment, we may soon have the Greens in the lower as well as the upper house. We had a false start with the Democrats as a viable and successful third party, but I think the Greens are looking strong and cohesive and have a very bright future.

The losers? John Howard looked like he was about to cry during his concession of defeat. Mal Brough is gone - I actually didn't mind him as much as some of the other Liberals, but his intervention in the Northern Territory was nauseating and I lost all respect for him over that. The Liberals in general have had their arses so roundly kicked in recent state and federal elections that Brisbane's mayor, Campbell Newman, is actually the highest ranking Liberal officeholder in the country! Speaking of parties receiving kicks in the arse, the Democrats have plunged into electoral oblivion and have surely entered a void from which they will not return. Their vote was bad, embarrassingly bad, worse than Family First, worse than even the Christian Democratic Party, and they now have nobody at all in either house of parliament. Family First - Fundies First - had a bit of a decline in their vote, and one can only hope this trend will continue in the future.

This is fantastic. The entire decade I've lived in Australia, John Howard has been Prime Minister. He's finally gone. Good riddance, Johnny. All the best to Rudd.
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It's that time again: the Aussie federal election circus is in town! [24 November 2007|04:57 pm]
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[Current Music |'Small Spark' by Martin Phillipps]

So, after three long years since the Aussie people bizarrely re-elected John Howard, and after a total of eleven years under this anti-intellectual cretin, it's finally time to vote again. Let's hope Australians this time around have the good sense to resoundingly defeat Howard at the polls. Labour need a big swing, but the wave of popularity that Kevin Rudd is riding will hopefully be enough. Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Greens are a good shot at seizing the balance of power. I voted first thing this morning, before the queues became ridiculous, and am now mildly impatiently waiting for the polls to close and ballot counting to begin. I live in one of the country's safest Labour seats, so there's no prizes for correctly guessing that Kelvin Thompson will be re-elected despite the scandal earlier this year about how his office provided a letter of recommendation to gangland figure Tony Mokbel. The Liberal candidate didn't even seem to try; I only knew his name because I actually looked it up, as I didn't receive any promotional material from him! Makes a stark contrast from last year's Queensland state election, when I got wave after wave of crap from the major parties. This year, I got more from the Greens and the Socialist Alliance than I did from the major parties. I suppose that's what you get for living in such a safe seat though.

However, it didn't stop me from eagerly researching all the parties so that I could work out my vote. It wasn't hard to determine my vote for my electorate's House of Representatives seat, as thanks to the preferential system of voting, a vote for the Greens followed by the Socialist Alliance with Labour as my third preference is not a wasted vote and won't harm an outcome favourable towards removing Howard. For Victoria's six Senate seats, the preferential system is also used, and you can either vote just for one party "above the line" and accept their official preference flows ticket (which too few people bother to read, as the Liberals disturbingly favour Family First), or you can vote "below the line" and preference every single one of the 68 candidates (though some parties stand multiple candidates). Now, some of these represent the mainstream parties; the Greens are fielding six candidates in Victoria, for instance, and the Coalition and Labour naturally have a similar amount. But then there are some really ... interesting parties out there. And that's why I'm writing this entry.

Axver's Guide to the No-Hoper Parties of the 2007 Australian Federal Election!Collapse )

So now it's only an hour until the polls close. I'd hate to see what the queues are like at the polling stations right now! I'm looking forward to the start of the evening electoral coverage and the end of Howard. He's even looking like he might become only the second sitting Aussie Prime Minister after Stanley Bruce in 1929 to lose his seat. This should be good.
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It's just a trick of the light ... [25 September 2007|11:27 pm]
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[Current Music |'Don't Fall' by The Chameleons]

I haven't posted in too long, and now screendoor3 is insisting I should. I suppose I do need to put some stuff into words, but articulating it is the hard part. That's why I haven't written much. What do I say? How do I say it? There are so many tensions in my mind, no resolution ... every search for a resolution leads to new tensions. There's too much frustration in those tensions, frustrations with the world and with myself and with the complete lack of any real answers or happiness. A couple of people whose opinions I take seriously say I might be depressed. I don't think so. I think I just grew up and became a cynic because I realised that what life looks like from when you're seven is completely at odds with our worthless fucking reality.

It's all so horrible, whether you take a shallow or deep perspective. Look at the news. The shallow news media lately have reported on a depressing murder and child abandonment story that makes for sensational headlines; the breakdown of a famous marriage in Aussie sport and harassed the parties involved just to rub in how unpleasant it must be; and the usual political mudslinging that focuses not on policy but scandalous soundbytes and hollow promises. Then the more serious news media is a brutal dose of reality - unprecedented protests in Burma that are sure to end in a tragically harsh military crackdown; horrific flooding in sub-Saharan Africa; inaction on climate change because some people seem incapable of reading data or co-operating; and, as usual, the Middle East, from semi-anarchy in Iraq to increasing tensions in the delicately balanced Lebanese political system to women's (lack of) rights in Saudi Arabia. It's just so miserable.

And we sit in our cosy Western cuccoon and think nothing's in a hurry to change, we haven't personally been affected. It's all stuff that happens to other people. I'd like to see a change in the world, but it's all idealistic nonsense and nothing will ever happen. Well, something will, but I doubt it'll be positive. It might be an improvement, but that's a very relative thing, you know. I'm wondering when the next great paradigm shift in international organisation will happen. A lot of us think the territorial state system has lasted forever, but it really hasn't, it's a very new, European invention with origins in the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. We need a world system beyond borders. Borders enforce the "other people" thing. Other people living in other countries on the periphery, and we don't notice them, or when their existence is raised, we don't care because they aren't one of "us". I hate it when people say we need to worry about our own country before doing anything for people being oppressed. It just makes me think of "well, yeah, it'd be nice to end racial discrimination and do something for those impoverished blacks, but we need to worry about us whites first". It's just a new form of discrimination, a more politically acceptable form due to our current international organisation that privileges state sovereignty. I cannot help but think of a British editorial from the 1930s that stated, and I paraphrase, "what Germans do to other Germans is none of our concern". And International Relations realism, with its emphasis on sovereignty, just furthers that sort of rubbish. We won't see much improvement in the world if we continue to see borders as something more than arbitrary lines on a map.

I'm dodging the issues. I'm not getting to the point. Instead of putting things into words, I'm taking every opportunity to deviate, to talk about the news and politics and history. I'm passionate about those topics, but I don't have to confront my innermost ... somethings. Fears, not really. Worries, that's not right either. Who knows. But it's all so dismal, you know? I feel like I've lost or I'm losing my religion. Sometimes I experience something that feels real, but only briefly and only rarely. Intellectually, I'm agnostic in a Christian tradition, I know religion's largely a sham and I don't believe in any kind of personal deity; sometimes I think no intelligent person with a sincere devotion to truth and knowledge really would in this day and age when we can disprove just about every claim of organised religion to anybody willing to wrench themselves from the suffocating clutches of cultural tradition. But on ... some other level, I feel something occasionally and used to draw a lot of very deep comfort and a feeling of, perhaps, love or contentment. I'm sure it was just a nice chemical release in the brain, and it'd be a huge fucking letdown if that's all life really is, but it damn well meant something and I'd like some more of it. It's certainly hard to reconstruct a purpose. I wish I hadn't picked up a religion at that crucial formative moment in my teenage years when I was finding my place in the world, because now that religion has been intellectually smashed to pieces, I'm struggling to fill a void. Religion is bad for children, folks. Let them find God once they've found their place in the world first; if they do the reverse and then lose God, they lose their place in the world and finding a new one is much harder.

Ha, I did it again. I started to get to the point and then I went off on a tangent. I've wasted enough of your time today, whether it's actually reading this or just scrolling a wee way past it. Have a good one.
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I can't stop laughing [6 September 2007|11:58 pm]
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[Current Mood |excitedhighly amused]
[Current Music |'Hibernation' by Solar Powered People]

OK, The Chaser officially wins at life. I am so amused.

For those of you (i.e. anybody outside Australia) unaware, The Chaser is a group of satirical comedians who are incredibly hilarious and push the limits of just what you can get away with, and their current show is The Chaser's War On Everything ("George Bush declared a war on terror, but only The Chaser is willing to declare a war on everything!"). They have established enough of a reputation that they were even included on an official list of terrorists, anarchists, and protesters deemed to pose a risk when Dick Cheney visited Australia earlier this year.

So, this week, the APEC conference is beginning in Sydney. The heads of 21 countries, including the US and China, are here and untold disruption is being caused in Sydney - to be perfectly frank, I'd be livid if this were happening in Melbourne, especially at Bush, whose excess becomes quickly apparent when compared with the Chinese leader. Central Sydney is effectively in lockdown, with a serious police presence and a rigid security cordon and whatnot. The police even warned The Chaser not to pull any stunts.

Except they did. Disguised as the Canadian motorcade, two members of The Chaser, Chas Licciardello and Julian Morrow, along with nine crew and drivers, got through the heavy security and made it all the way to George Bush's hotel! The police only realised what was going on when Chas stepped out of a car dressed as Osama bin Laden. So all eleven were arrested (and subsequently released on bail, with trial in October) and this has caused a huge furore. Millions upon millions of dollars has been wasted spent on security, only for comedians to breach it. This is easily the biggest success The Chaser has ever had in demonstrating the absurdity of something and humiliating the people behind it. This was headline news on EVERY SINGLE NETWORK. Lead story on some. Even SBS, the bastion of serious-as-opposed-to-sensationalist reporting, mentioned The Chaser in one of their top stories. You can't buy publicity like this.

The funniest part, though, has to go to the official response. Ladies and gentlemen, the ability of Chas and Julian to get within metres of Bush's hotel actually proves the success of the security! Apparently the fact that The Chaser so easily got so close to Bush's hotel that, if they were terrorists, they could have detonated a bomb and killed him, demonstrates SUCCESS. I quote: An angry [NSW Police Minister] David Campbell denied he was embarrassed by the comedians' ability to penetrate APEC's restricted zone - rather, he was pleased the "multi-layered" security had worked. Because, you know, the cops only realised this wasn't the Canadian motorcade when Chas stepped out, and real terrorists aiming to blow up Bush would have definitely stopped, got out, and waved their bombs around before detonating them and destroying the hotel. Yep, the security totally worked. Come on, how stupid do you think we are?

In other words, Sydney is being thrown into chaos by multi-million dollar security that can be breached by a comedy team with relatively little planning in comparison to that of a terrorist organisation. The Chaser has just made this whole fuss look completely stupid. I can't stop laughing, though I have a funny sense of "my tax dollars paid for that failure ..."
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(no subject) [28 August 2007|12:21 pm]
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[Current Music |'Pictorial' by Terraces]

Hey, academics! Did you know that if you contribute a single chapter to a collection, you are actually a co-author of the entire book? That's what Australia's Immigration Minister thinks, anyway. Could that guy be any more of a joke? The way he handled the Dr Mohamed Haneef case was and continues to be laughably inept, and now he just looks totally silly. Really, the entire Howard government is a joke. I wish Howard would hurry up and call the election already. I'm picking it will take place on 3 November, the last Saturday before the Reserve Bank meets.

Oh, and something more positive for everyone in Australia: make sure you're looking at the sky this evening, because there will be a total lunar eclipse, though those of us in Melbourne may get screwed by clouds. Let's hope not!
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