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Koran burning, cultural suppression... has America grown up?

Reading round the blogs, it would seem that everyone's quite happy with the idea that a would-be hatemongering Koran burner could blackmail the US into moving a Ground Zero Islamic Cultural Centre I can't understand why such a sacrifice would be condoned.

So far the claim only comes from the mouth of a smalltime U.S. pastor who obviously doesn't pray to a God of Peace.

Pastor Terry Jone's planned action would have sent violence out over the world. The US State Department was expecting demonstrations across three countries, and was warning its citizens abroad to take extra care. By broadcasting his claimed success in having the Islamic centre moved he's demonstrated how much power can fall into the hands of a religious crank, and how easily such a person could make the world wobble.

What could have been a symbol of inter-religious unity, just in time for the tenth anniversary of the Twin Towers attack, that could've created goodwill across the world, has been broadcast across the world as having been destroyed before it was built. This has been portrayed as a direct effect of having avoided the bloodshed-brewing Koran burning.

Hopefully the denials of the pastor's story are true. Otherwise we've missed the most important lesson of the September 11 tragedy - that for peace to exist in the world we need to understand each other.

Whatever happened to "Love Thy Neighbour"? It seems to me that some folks might be spending too much time reading the juicier bits of the Bible, and forgetting about the important stuff!

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All wombats to the front!

Fight for VICTORY!
For the SPIRIT of the fight,
We'll cheer with all our MIGHT!
Victors we will be!
Spread far the fame of our fair name!
And come on WOMBATS win this game...errr...FIGHT!

The grass is always greener on the other side

John Pratt: "Geoff, 50,000,000 people going hungry in the richest country in the world. It looks like a failure to feed its people to me. It is not the US that is failing, it is capitalism".

There's a lot of claims about the failure of capitalism, unfortunately most like this one are strawman arguments. Capitalism doesn't promise a perfect world, and it doesn't promise a hunger free world, although I find the above claims dubious. It's merely a system of doing things and I think the best of an imperfect bunch.

A socialist system for example attempts to subvert basic human nature, it's an impossible task and it therefore will always fall back on authoritarianism. Capitalism gives one the right to choose, something that isn't offered by any other system. Individuals make choices, those choices end in success or failure, that's life and I've long accepted it such.

Ask an average person what's wrong with the world and how it should be fixed, and that person will give you the wisdom of Solomon. Then ask that person what's one thing wrong with them, and how they plan to address the problem. A little something a wise person once shared with me, and something that I think will sum up the problems with the world for those that try the exercise.

Ad Nauseam

"A little something a wise person once shared with me, and something that I think will sum up the problems with the world for those that try the exercise."

 I say again, Paul: "You're a tease, like a woman who shows just enough to get a man excited, and then walks away."

The American dream turns into a nightmare

The ranks of the working-age poor in the United States climbed to the highest level since the 1960s as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year, leaving one in seven Americans in poverty.

The US continues to struggle with the GFC. If it spent less on war and more on love maybe it would be able to feed its own people.

God's country has a rotten heart. It is time for the US to spend less on defense and more on education and health.

The US has a long way to go before it grows up.

Human Development Index

A better ( but still controversial) measure is the UN's Human Development Index.

On that measure the US does very well indeed. Norway does better.  But I for one would much prefer to live in the US. Norway? Yuk. No contest.

The Age says so --- so this must be wrong.

The US poverty rate has been about one in seven for as long as I can remember. Even in the boom and high growth periods of the fifties and sixties it was about that.

Mostly this is because of the wonders of statistics. The US official statistics are based on a "relative" income standard which measures poverty by reference to the US median income adjusted for CPI increases.

...  The 2000 Census indicates that 73% of U.S. poor own automobiles, 76% have air conditioning, 97% own refrigerators, 62% have cable or satellite TV, and 73% have microwaves. There are many homeless and malnourished individuals in the United States, but the poverty thresholds are high enough to include many individuals who live with some modern comforts.

Instead of being homeless, almost half (46%) own their own homes with most of the rest renting their homes. On average a poor person in [ the US ]  lives in a home with 1,228 square feet (114.1 m2) which they often own and ... the home is likely air conditioned, with a refrigerator, cable or satellite TV, a microwave not to mention many other comforts.[47]

Cox and Alm[48] conclude that if the American poor formed a country of their own, they would be as well-off or even slightly better-off than the typical family in most European countries. ...

Non-cash income is ignored when measuring poverty rates. Welfare benefits provided in-kind such as food stamps and public housing are excluded.

That is not to say that poverty in the US is not a serious problem, as it is here and elsewhere. Moreover income inequality in the US is enormous, as it always has been. But it is nonsense to conclude that the US is failing to feed, cloth and house its people, GFC or no GFC, war or no war.  In fact it is doing a very good job of this indeed, as it nearly always has. A far better job than just about anybody else.

This is what happens when you accept the Melbourne Age as some kind of authority on anything. It is not notorious as the worst English language newspaper in all of history for no reason.

Hunger is hunger wherever you live

Barack Obama pledged to eradicate childhood hunger, has described as "unsettling" the agriculture department survey, which says 50 million people in the US – one in six of the population – were unable to afford to buy sufficient food to stay healthy at some point last year, in large part because of escalating unemployment or poorly paid jobs. That is a rise of more than one-third on the year before and the highest number since the survey began in 1995.

The agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said: "These numbers are a wake-up call … for us to get very serious about food security and hunger, about nutrition and food safety in this country."

Geoff, 50,000,000 people going hungry in the richest country in the world. It looks like a failure to feed its people to me. It is not the US that is failing, it is capitalism.

That is: unemployment and low wages.

Bigoted Atheism

Alex Stewart gets high 

Atheists can be fundamentalists too. I find myself reluctantly defending his right to do so, while deploring the fact that he did.


One thing the recent media coverage did do was remind me that I knew almost nothing about the Qur'an. So, I've just bought a copy from Ebay. Expect to be bombarded with some arcane titles and quotes in the near future. 

Fiona: Well done, Jay. It is an interesting read.

Hello? Is there anybody home ...?

Why is this so hard? Why is this nearly impossible for you to understand?

Of course it is pretty disgusting to see  some obscure individual abusing his hard won rights by threatening a deliberately offensive and provocative act. But what is truly disgusting, in fact terrifying, is that the President of the US, let me run that past you again, the President of the US, believes it's necessary to specifically condemn this and the authorities have to warn Americans everywhere of the likely violent repurcussions. We're not talking about burning flags here or people saying nasty things about Christians or whatever. We're talking about the real possibility of innocent people being shot, incinerated alive or beheaded. Why? Because some obscure nutter threatens to burn a book on TV?  Hello? What is wrong with this picture?

The IRA does not and has never pretended to represent the Catholic Church. Al Quaeda, on the other hand, and its supporters, most assuredly and emphatically claims to represent Islam. Millions of Moslems agree. The one true path, they say. The law of God himself, they say and they believe it. Everyone else is an infidel who must accept  submissive status or die by the sword. This is what they say. This is what they believe. Hello? Why are you denying this?

An obscure and powerless preacher of some sort who burns somebody else's religious book is most definitely a bit of a boor. I certainly wouldn't invite him to my next dinner party. But there is absolutely no basis of comparison whatsoever between that act and a Nazi style public book burning. There is not even a remotely symbolic connection.

Why do you have so much difficulty with moral equivalence and relativity? Belief in God is not the dangerous irrational narrow minded myopia of our time. Depending on the actual belief, it may be a little silly I guess. But if helps some people make sense of themselves and the world then what the hell? That's their prerogative. Religion is one thing. Some vicious pig ignorant murderous world view based on belief in some almighty bloodthirsty woman hating antisemitic pervert in the sky is something else entirely. That is not religion. It's not Islam either. Not unless Moslems choose to make it so.

On 11 September,  210, 224, 999 Americans failed to threaten to burn the Koran. It didn't even cross their minds to do such a thing. One, however, did. That was enough. That was enough for dribbling lunatics everywhere to spin into a hateful cowardly rage just desperate to get their hands on to some innocent people so that they can murder them as sadistically as possible. That is the issue here. It is the only issue. Everything else is small change.

Home Truths

That was enough for dribbling lunatics everywhere to spin into a hateful cowardly rage just desperate to get their hands on to some innocent people so that they can murder them as sadistically as possible. That is the issue here. It is the only issue. 

Your description of  our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq is very accurate, Geoff. Well said.


As a long-term owner and occasional reader of Dawood's (Penguin), Abdel Haleem's (Oxford) and Shakir's (Tahrike Tasile) translations of the Koran, but no expert, allow me to say there is too much conformity and political correctness on Webdiary.  If I attempted to describe in a reasonably detached way (but selectively) some of what is in that book it would not get past the moderators.  Accurate description would be religious vilification.

I think your response here, Jay, is a case in point.  You are in the grip of a political correctness reaction to the Koran-burning commotion and it has led you to describe the invasion of Irak as having sadism as a motive and having the intention to murder innocent people as a motive.

The cruel murder of innocent people has been the consequence.  It is culpable, very much so.  The use of uranium-jacketed projectiles in Irak is perhaps the worst war crime in history.

But please distinguish between criminal actions and the intentions (bad enough) that led to them, the motives.  I don't believe sadism was a motive.

I think I'm the only person in the world who has defended the Christian pastor, as tens of thousands have unanimously condemned him.  But I would agree with Geoff's "a bit of a boor" comment, and, strangely, most of what he wrote in the piece you are responding to..

Rather than political correctness reflexes, let's try for some kind of detached objectivity.  Detached from conformity to the conventional.  Granted, I'm no good at it, either, but let's try.   Indeed, is there anybody home?

Incidentally, there's been a lot of talk about Nazis.  They didn't invent book burning, by a long shot.  A very, very long shot.

Another, by no means unique, example is the burning of the books of Wyclif by the Roman Catholic Church in fifteenth century Prague, before Huss went from there to Constance under safe conduct and was himself burnt to a cinder in the latter city.  Many, many other cases, before and after.


You are quite right, Michael. I cannot say that I really believe the maximisation of sexual pleasure from inflicting pain was a motive in invading Iraq.

On the other hand, I recall the repeated screening on our screens of Baghdad as it was bombed at night, and Rumsfeld's description of it as "shock and Awe". I felt the TV coverage was eerily parallel to the mesmerising screening of the planes hitting the twin towers.

Yes, at a conscious level, there was a need to stop a hard to control regime developing WMD. There also was a recognition that Saddam's was a repressive regime. But, there were also strong undercurrents of blood-lust and a need to squash  an impertinent protege who had grown too big for his boots.

These are multiple truths, and it is often difficult to decide which is most true. In such cases, it may be most appropriate to see what the ultimate result was, and pass judgement (recognising that we are all sinners) based on the results achieved. It's called accountability.

The politics of division and fear

It is difficult too, watching from a mostly secular society, to fathom how profoundly Christian identity is interwoven with mainstream expressions of American patriotism and how effectively that feeling has been channelled by conservative populists against President Obama. The notion that President Obama is anti-American and may be a secret Muslim enjoys currency in quite broad sections of US public opinion.

These trends suit America's enemies and alarm its friends. Those who admire that nation's historical commitment to the rights of man find it distressing to see the burning of holy books and the banning of houses of worship creeping into political discourse.

That distress should be a warning against complacency at home. Britain is not immune to virulent Islamophobia, as the English Defence League and the British National party prove. Elsewhere in Europe, mainstream politics is struggling to accommodate popular unease about a growing and visible Muslim minority. In France and Spain, this manifests itself as illiberal secularism, with bans on Islamic dress; in Switzerland, it shows up as a prohibition on minarets; and across the Continent opposition to Turkish membership of the EU is laced with anxiety about a mass mingling of Muslims and Christians that might ensue.

There is no easy distinction of left and right in these trends. What defines them is an angry, defensive reaction against an imagined threat to identity: national, secular or Christian.

This is the politics of division and fear and it demands a response, equivalent in passion, from the politics of solidarity and hope.

This extract from a editorial in the Guardian.

The politics of fear is becoming all too common. It is up to us to question our motivation - is it hope or fear?

We should be wary of media or politicians that pander to our fears.

Look for those that offer hope.

That film was bogus

It has been known for years now that the dancing Palestinians were filmed in 2000 when the US left Iraq the first time.

Guns and butter

The war on terror, like the war on drugs, and the soon to be war on climate change start for various reasons, and always it ends the same.

These mega issues give rise to cottage industries as well as mainstream. They also allow government to limit personal freedoms. These wars create government agencies, taxes, and more and more red tape. All intended to place restrictions on business and therefore society. That's the world of the post WWII corporatist states we've all been a part of.

Of more interest to me is what happens as history tells us will happen, and the corporatist state fails? I suspect this will begin to take place as the world stimulas con job becomes clear (it was never going to work, it was the only thing they had). Personally I'm excited at the prospect and I believe the changes that probably will take place are long over due.

Our Grandchildrens' world will look much more different than ours on so many fronts. I'm optimistic that'll be a very good thing.

Guns shoot, butter clogs arteries

Very true, Paul. 'The War on ...' mantra usually has a very predicable ending.

I'm interested to hear what you think our grand-children's world will look like. You're a tease, like a woman who shows just enough to get a man excited, and then walks away.

Don't forget, though, that business left to itself grows into big business, and big business is just as corporatist as big government. They love personal freedoms, but ignore personal responsibilities. They may preach free markets, but love monopolies and collusive trade practices. They'll happily shit in their neighbour's yard (pollution), and walk away with a pious complaint about the smell.

If you remain a small business, though, in a competitive market: It's a jungle out there, man. It's dog eat dog, and winning is all that matters.

What happens as history tells us will happen is that military power often goes hand in hand with economic power.....

Ratty and the Crucible

Hell, yours truly burnt a Bible, a Koran, a Rig Veda, a soft back of Lady Chatterley's Lover (although long ago it was hard), a few (somewhat stained) black and white picks of Betty Page (looking rather sweet I might add) and an old beta video titled: "Honey, I lost the pan-tech, now you owe me one #68" - (don't ask me) oh, and a character reference from some guy named Chris Parsons.

The funny thing was nobody gave a shit - except for a dear old rat that had taken up resident beneath the 44 gallon drum cum crucible.

Ratty, was really pissed, and for the right reasons I suspect.

The divil's in the detail

Alan, I reckon I first heard of the Nazi book-burning watching The Waltons as a kid, but obviously have larned a little more since. The deed is enshrined in history, and should be a "once larned, never fergotten" situation. Anything reminiscent of the world Hitler would have created should be expunged from our universe.

Daniel's spot on – an inter-faith amnesty on burning religious text would be a sensible start. So would the freedom to build a temple to any religion wherever its devotees wished. Don't get me wrong, Daniel, I'm not a major fan or religions either – but until humanity cottons on that it can do the "mountain-moving-faith" stuff without invoking a deity, at least when religion's working properly it keep societies cohesive.

Really, there's bugger all difference between them. As Alan would say, a bit like the lack of difference between Labor and Liberal. The divil's in the details, as usual.

Misinterpretation (Richard and Alan)!

Richard, please note that I did not suggest a book burning amnesty. I suggested that the proposed Koran burning be extended to all religious books.

Your other suggestion about religion, when it's working properly, keeping societies cohesive, ignores the battles between religions that have been going on for thousands of years. It also ignores events like the Spanish Inquisition and the molestation of children by Christian clerics to say nothing of the honor killings so beloved by Muslims.

It also ignores the fact that there are many atheists who are more moral than many believers. And we don't need the promise of some mythical 'afterlife' to encourage us to be that way.

Alan, your suggestion about my youth is misplaced as many of your suggestions often are.

Frankly, I don't see much difference between Hitler's attempt to take over the world and what America is currently doing under the duplicitous banner of spreading human rights and democracy.

Iraq gives us a good example of American success and exposes its real agenda!  The number of military bases America has around the world gives another. Do you know how many bases it has, Alan?

Love thy neighbour?

Given that we live in a rapidly changing world, Paul, statements like 'love thy neighbour' have become filled with new, rather disturbing meanings. I guess it  depends on whether one is heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual  or all of the above or whether, behind locked doors, one practices even more exotic sensual trangressions perhaps with slippers or the family pet!

I too thought that America might learn a lesson from 9/11 but, true to form, they learn nothing. Nothing penetrates their indoctrination, not even the gradual sinking of their economic ship or the continuing failure of their military assault on the Muslim world.

Richard, regarding Koran burning, I would prefer it to extend to all religious books. When the last holy book has been burned, then we humans might be able to begin to become realists and, freed from childish superstition, use our intelligence to make a better world.


" When the last holy book has been burned,"

You must have mis-spoke, Daniel. Much of the world's early literature, science and philosophy is in religious literature.

Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good,
Search for justice,
Help the oppressed;
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.

Isaiah 1:16-17

(Isaiah is accepted as a major prophet by Christianity, Islam and Judaism.)

Book burning

Daniel Smythe , I too thought that America might learn a lesson from 9/11 but, true to form, they learn nothing.

I too thought that Labor might learn something from the Dismissal, but true to form they learnt nothing.

They still treat the electorate as fools.Nothing penetrates their indoctrination.

 Paul Walter, What happened instead was paranoid hysteria that has lasted for years.

The Dismissal was a piddling event that upset Whitlam and his corrupt Cabinet, but saved Australia from being sold to some Middle Eastern country. Labor has fed off this for years.

When you compare the the dismissal of a corrupt Labor government to the danger of creeping Islam to our Australian way of life, it is no contest.

The Muslims can burn our flag and preach hatred, but if we say anything about the Quran we are wrong.

Wake up and see what is creeping up on us, today it is Lakemba next year it will be more of the western suburbs.

Daniel Smythe, regarding the burning of books, you are probably too young to remember the Nazis burning books.

The US will "never" be at war with Islam

Alan, you thought Labor might learn something from the Dismissal. That has nothing to do with this thread and a lot to do with with the sorry way you think.

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama, marking the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, yesterday pledged the US will "never" be at war with Islam.

In the wake of tense controversy surrounding a renegade Florida pastor's threat to publicly burn hundreds of copies of the Quran to mark 9/11 and debate over plans to build a Muslim community centre and place of worship near Ground Zero, Obama urged his compatriots to be "tolerant".

"As Americans, we will not and never will be at war with Islam," he said at a memorial service at the Pentagon to remember the 184 people who were killed after a hijacked plane slammed into the Defence Department headquarters.

"It was not a religion that attacked us that September day. It was Al Qaeda, a sorry band of men, which perverts religion."

What Obama says is true. It was not a religion that attacked the US but a sorry band of men.

The same can be said of the sorry band of men that call themselves the IRA. IRA terrorists, when they use terror, do not represent the Catholic Church.  The IRA does not represent the Catholic Church just as Al Qaeda does not represent Islam.

There is nothing creeping up on us but fear spread by the sorry band of men who use fear to gain power.

The sorry band of men in the Liberal Party who use fear instead of policy to try and win power will always come off second to a party that has good policy.

Obama and Islam

John Pratt ,  What Obama says is true. It was not a religion that attacked the US but a sorry band of men.

Well he would say that being a Muslim.

Can't you remember the newsreels of the thousands of Muslims cheering and dancing in the street at the news of the planes crashing in to the twin towers? a sorry band of men, I think not.

At a memorial service at the Pentagon to remember the 184 people who were killed after a hijacked plane slammed into the Defence Department headquarters, however the total number of Americans that were killed that day was 2752.

Daniel Smythe , I have no idea how many military bases the US has around the world, but I am glad they are there.

I think most people would think this was preferable to being surrounded by Palestinians.

Richard:  Alan, you know as well as I that Obama's not a Muslim.. your Jedi Mind Tricks don't work here... 

Alan loves U.S. imperialism!

Alan, as America's Imperial Empire continues to swallow up more and more of the world (using invasion and occupation) there are some people, myself included, who find it appalling and very, very dangerous.

America takes its ambition to control the world via military force very seriously. Indeed, it believes that it was born to rule the world. I think it got this idea after it massacred all the Red Indians. It built upon this fantasy after it believed it alone won WW2.

To this end it has put together the world's biggest army. This army is not for self-defence but is being used to take over resource-rich countries or those which offer strategic advantage. America is doing this because it fears the rise of China and perhaps India.

America's endless warmongering and wish for global domination, Alan, is probably the most serious issue facing the world today.

A deep thinker like yourself should really be concerned about it because, given that nukes are involved, we might reach the stage where the planet is threatened or that it ends up looking like the moon. If that happens, Alan, the earth will be empty of life.

Why don't you check out the number of American military bases? It could be the start of a new awareness!

"love thy neighbour as thy self..."

I remember after 11/9 writing into Webdiary expressing the hope that in the wake of such an event the Americans woud retire to some sort of respectful contemplation as to the meaning of the event in the context of the wider world, as to America's attitude toward it and vice versa.

What happened instead was paranoid hysteria, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the American people side tracked away from working out what was really happening with their economy prior to 2007.

A ruinous decade implicitly dismissed with contempt by Obama, the inheritor of the mess left in the wake of Bush and Cheney, in harsh words concerning the idiot, publicity seeking response of Xtian fundies to the mosque antic.

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