Sunday, 25 May 2008

Israel and Syria: Talking at last

A debate is brewing about diplomatic negotiations between Syria and Israel, who are technically still at war. In this situation, it's quite hard to see how talks could hurt. However the White House's policy on 'no talks with the enemy (lest we appease them)' seems to contradict its Mideast ally's approach.


Israel, America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East, just became the latest example of a country that has decided it is better to deal with its foes than to ignore them.

The announcement that Israel has entered into comprehensive peace talks with Syria is at odds with the course counseled by the Bush administration, which initially opposed such talks in private conversations with Israelis, according to Israeli and American officials.
But in many ways, the Bush administration’s own policies appear to be at odds with his thesis.

Isn't this the same administration that took part in talks (albeit delayed ones) that resulted in the ongoing denuclearization of the North Korean state?

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Women and the Bible (part 4)

As the Protestant reformer Martin Luther once commented, "If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there." To be fair, many of the viewpoints expressed up to this point have been those of fundamentalists. After all, a new, modern Christianity cannot just interpret the Bible, it must bring a sense of fairness so it is not seen as an outdated an backwards faith (which is the truth any way one spins it). Egalitarians and liberals, trying to bring their faith into the modern age, say women do have rights; there are even some Christian feminists! But how can there be a feminist whose faith rests upon the words of a book contrary to their sole beliefs? So-called moderates can be just as bad as their extremist counterparts, strongly cherry-picking Biblical passages, liberally quoting them, ignoring the contradictions elsewhere in the Holy Book. That's not to say all modern Christian orginizations recognize women as equal. The Roman Catholic church — the world's largest religious body at 1 billion members and counting — still doesn't let women perform any official religious duties — in other words, they cant be reverends, bishops, etc. Keep in mind, though, that this is the same religious entity that refuses to acknowledge the link between condoms and AIDS prevention, or the scientific theory of evolution (the Vatican is not alone in its views).

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Italy's government encourages racism

It seems that European xenophobia is not limited to people from predominately-Muslim countries...

Sixty-eight per cent of Italians, fuelled by often inflammatory attacks by the new rightwing government, want to see all of the country's 150,000 Gypsies, many of them Italian citizens, expelled, according to an opinion poll.

The survey, published as mobs in Naples burned down Gypsy camps this week, revealed that the majority also wanted all Gypsy camps in Italy to be demolished .

About 70,000 Gypsies in Italy hold Italian passports, including about 30,000 descended from 15th-century Gypsy settlers in the country. The remainder have arrived since, many fleeing the Balkans during the 1990s.
In a second poll, 81% of Italian respondents said they found all Gypsies, Romanian or not, "barely likeable or not likeable at all", a greater number than the 64% who said they felt the same way about non-Gypsy Romanians.

Many Gypsies are as entitled legally to live in Italy as 'ethnic' Italians, making this extreme xenophobia and racism all the more alarming. The government has made immigration rules harsher as it takes a swing to the right.

Italy will only get worse under its reelected, corrupt media-mogul leader Silvio Berlusconi.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The new 'appeasement' controversy

Make diplomacy, not war
President Bush made an attack on Barack Obama and other Democrats in a speech in the Israeli parliament.

The president, at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem, suggested that some Democrats were acting in the same way some Western leaders did when they appeased Hitler in the runup to World War II.

Those ready to talk to hostile regimes are not cowardly appeasers; they are actually courageous. Anyone can start a war (see George W. Bush), but it takes someone with diplomatic tact to keep the peace. Diplomacy, and thus engaged discussions, is required to do so. This is one of many reasons Obama is better-suited for the Oval Office than the incumbent officeholder. The Bush administration is responding to Iran's saber-rattling just the way Iran wants them to respond: with more saber-rattling. This makes war a greater possibility and raises tensions on both sides. It's time for both sides to back down.

It is not 'appeasement' to talk to the enemy, and in fact that word has become all-too-dirty since the appeasement of Hitler before the Second World War. To label everyone who does not support your every whim an 'enemy' is also a dangerous move this administration has chosen to take at a time where the world needs more peace, not more hostility.

The Republicans' need to smear Obama on foreign policy lies not only on their own warped views of the world, but also their insecurity as America is increasingly Democratic (by a 10% margin). Furthermore, Bush's speech was entirely inappropriate as it was in the Israeli Knesset. Is Bush trying to prove to the world we are the world's most polarized nation when he makes a veiled attack in his speech, or what? Hillary Clinton, Obama's competitor for the Democratic presidential candidacy, and looking more like she belongs on the other side of the aisle than ever, has also struck low blows, criticizing Obama's position on diplomacy with countries like Iran.

We need a president who's not afraid to talk with the other side.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Wishing Israel a happy birthday

(If only it was a peaceful one.)

It has been roughly 60 years since the founding of the Zionist state of Israel. Here are a couple articles of note:

  • BBC News - Israel at 60
  • Foreign Policy - Think Again: Israel (subscription required; I'll try to find an alternate link)

    And its nearly impossible to talk about Israel without bringing up the fun topic of Palestine... Is Israel contributing to humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip? You decide!

  • More natural disaster

    China's southwestern Sichuan province was hit by a major earthquake today...

    One of the worst earthquakes in decades struck central China on Monday, killing nearly 9,000 people, trapping about 900 students under the rubble of their school and causing a toxic chemical leak, state media reported.

    The 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated a hilly region of small cities and towns. The official Xinhua News Agency said 8,533 people died in Sichuan province and more than 200 others were killed in three other provinces and the mega-city of Chongqing.

    The death toll is likely to break 10,000.

    The Chinese government has actually done a fairly good job responding to the post-earthquake humanitarian needs of its people. Conveniently trembles from the quake were felt in Beijing, so the government could not even attempt to mask the damage this earthquake has brought (a 1976 earthquake killed hundreds of thousands; the government attempted to cover it up).

    Thursday, 8 May 2008

    The tale of John McCain and his crazy reverend

    With all the over-hyped fury over Obama's pastor, you'd think McCain's even more insane 'spiritual guide' would make more headlines...

    You may have heard of Rev. John Hagee, the McCain supporter who said God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its homosexual "sins." Well now meet Rev. Rod Parsley, the televangelist megachurch pastor from Ohio who hates Islam. According to David Corn of Mother Jones, Parsley has called on Christians to wage war against Islam, which he considers to be a "false religion." In the past, Parsley has also railed against the separation of church and state, homosexuals, and abortion rights, comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazis.

    So much for freedom of religion. This is a man who wants to see all other religions but his destroyed. Interestingly enough, Obama denounced Jeremiah Wright; McCain hasn't even dropped the endorsement of Rev. Parsley. As far as I'm concerned, this Wright business has gone vastly overboard, politically speaking and considering the massive coverage its gotten over the past couple months.

    Monday, 5 May 2008

    Burma gets hit, hard

    As if enough bad things haven't already happened to the Burmese people...

    BBC News

    More than 10,000 people were killed in a devastating cyclone that hit western Burma on Saturday, Foreign Minister Nyan Win has said on state TV.

    This is one of the worst storms of its kind in years.

    With disasters like this, the death toll usually rises rapidly. From 350 Saturday to 2,000 on Sunday then 10,000 today. It may continue to rise as more evidence of the cyclone's destruction is found. If only the Burmese government didn't block large amounts of aid meant to assist the disaster-ravaged people within its borders. It is also preventing people who aim to survey the effects of Cyclone Nargis from coming to Burma (aka Myanmar).

    Sunday, 4 May 2008

    McCain: Four more years of Bush?

    With the two senators on the Democratic side still duking it out for the presidental nomination, John McCain has been trying to capitalize on the rift within the Democratic party, with his own Republican nomination already secured.

    McCain shows no sign of straying from Bush's path on the economy and the Iraq war — two of the biggest issues facing America today. He is sure to continue the current administration's disastrous policies at home and abroad, and has put forth no plan to combat poverty or the health care crisis. Not even counting Iraq (where the US may maintain presence for 100-plus years, according to McCain), his foreign policy plans are delusional. Of course, McCain shows vastly better leadership skills than the current president, and indeed would be better than the status quo, but that's not good enough. In brief, McCain is a panderer; he panders to the extreme right of the United States, an ideological group that has run this country into the ground with its extremist and irrational views.

    Whichever Democrat comes up on top — be it Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama — they will most certainly be better for this country than the GOP's nominee.