Dobbing in a liar

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Did you know that politicians lie?

Apparently they say things to the public that aren’t necessarily true in order to garner support. Sometimes they even espouse opinions that are not their own to make you vote for them. It appears that they can also exaggerate events and tell fabricated stories to get the public onside…

I’m not sure why people are suddenly so indignant about such revelations.

Julia Gillard doesn’t support gay marriage because she was brought up with traditional values.

Obama closed Guantanamo Bay within twelve months of coming to office and brought all detainees to trial.

John Howard protected us from those evil boat people who threw their children overboard.

George Bush liberated Iraq and saved the world from weapons of mass destruction.

Hilary Clinton ran for cover under the fire of bullets when she landed in Bosnia.

Her husband did not have sexual relations with that woman.

Of course with the benefit of hindsight (or as in the first example, common sense) we know that this is all a load of bs. According to the bible, the Atheist Gillard lives ‘in sin’ with her unmarried partner. Obama has been in office for almost a full term and there are currently more than a hundred prisoners still in Guantanamo. The rickety ship full of asylum seekers was falling apart and no one likes to stay on a rapidly sinking boat. We now know that the Republican Party was aware the likelihood of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction was minimal. Video footage shows Clinton strolling off her jet in Bosnia in 1996, and her husband left his DNA on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.

Ultimately politicians make statements based on increasing their popularity; because it’s popularity that gets them elected. But what is popular is not always right. That’s why we have the separation of powers; to provide balance and hold them to account, that’s why we need the media; the fourth arm of democracy- to let them know they’re being watched.

With time, the outrage of some of the Australian public over Gillard’s back flip on the carbon tax is likely to be filed away in history along with the above examples. In the short term however it appears that we will have to tolerate a desperate Tony Abbott’s fear mongering while he does everything that he can to terrify the Australian people they won’t be able to afford their fruit and veg.

As Gillard herself has repeatedly stated, had the 2010 election resulted in a majority parliament, we probably wouldn’t have a carbon tax. As much as most of us want to cringe at her excuses, the point is a valid one. There is no way she or anyone in the government could have foreseen the current make up of parliament when she stated her intention not to have a carbon tax. While we will probably never know entirely what her intentions were, there is little reason to doubt that had she won over more of the electorate, we would not be having this debate now.

When examined in this light, the prime minister going back on her word pales in comparison to some of the falsehoods told by leaders in recent Australian and global history. Indeed, John Howard’s GST was a much greater deliberate deception of the public.

I don’t know what was going through Julia Gillard’s head when she said there wouldn’t be a carbon tax. I don’t know if she deliberately misled the Australian people or if she really has been cornered into a situation where the choice is to ‘do nothing’ or make a seemingly unpopular decision to ‘take action’. I do know that after a few weeks of the carbon tax, Australia is still one of the wealthiest, most economically stable countries in the world. We have a low unemployment rate, and people generally rate their happiness levels higher than the rest of the world. I also have a fair amount of faith that none of this is likely to change anytime soon. Which makes Tony Abbott’s carrying on even more ridiculous. His cries that Gillard would not have won the election had people known about the carbon tax leads me to ask; does he think people prefer a man who is on the record as acknowledging that he can’t be taken on his word?

What I do know is that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that political figures often skew the truth for their own purposes, because they’ve been doing it for as long as we can remember, even if many of us choose to selectively forget.

The Politics of Non Intervention

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In what could be described as the understatement of the year, one observer at the recent Geneva meeting of the ‘powers that be’ noted that ”too much blood has been shed,” concerning the worsening crisis in Syria. Since the conflict began early last year, more than 100 000 refugees have poured over the borders of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. More than 75 per cent of these are women and children. The longer the atrocities continue, the greater the risk it will spread throughout the Middle East. Already, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran are funding their proxies on the ground. But even if these countries only fight through their Syrian allies, the recent shooting down of a Turkish aircraft and mortar attacks spreading 20 kilometres across the Lebanese border demonstrate the danger of mistakes igniting a regional conflict.

It is not difficult to appreciate why NATO has thus far failed to notably intervene in Syria. With the US war weary from Iraq and Afghanistan and Europe holding onto economic stability by a thread, Syria presents a headache that no one wants to deal with. To add to this, Russian support has ensured Syria’s defence capabilities are significantly more sophisticated than Libya and Iraq. Given that the army has remained largely loyal to the President, any Western intervention will incur losses to the military, as well as a high civilian death toll. Not to mention the dramatic affect intervention will have on already tense international relations between the West and China and Russia. Fearful of losing any influence in the region, the two Security Council members have repeatedly stated that they will not support military engagement.

Despite the immense challenges involved in humanitarian intervention, the international community legally can and morally should intervene in Syria. The relatively recent examples of Rwanda and Darfur show that we are yet to learn from our failure to act to prevent wide scale killings. The United Nations Charter authorises the Security Council to use military force in confronting threats to global security where peaceful means have failed. In 2005, world leaders concluded that these threats include crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing under the ”responsibility to protect” doctrine. At close scrutiny, it is clear that Syria meets these requirements.

The rationale behind intervention must be to prevent crimes against humanity, not pursue ulterior motives such as resource grabbing. Considering the well documented atrocities being committed in Syria, the world’s humanitarian concerns are justified. Following this, military force must be a final and proportionate resort after peaceful options are exhausted. By his own admission, Kofi Annan’s peace plan is dead and political negotiations have failed. As such, only the minimum force necessary to stop the violence may be used. Intervention is not a licence for regime change; though, as in Libya, it becomes unavoidable if regimes continue to brutalise their own people. The difficulty and unpredictability lies in the fact that an intervention must have reasonable prospects of success. Any intervention must be ruthlessly examined by the international community to guarantee it does not exceed its mandate. As previously mentioned, Syria is sufficiently armed for a long conflict. The international community needs to determine what price is worth paying- and what we are prepared to live with as a result of both action and inaction. Most problematically, an intervention must be approved by the Security Council; this is not going to happen as China and Russia are certain to veto.

It now seems probable that the Assad regime will have to collapse before productive conversations on rebuilding a broken Syria can even begin. In Geneva, World powers failed to reach a consensus on calling for the removal of Assad, instead agreeing on a plan for a political transition which has little to no chance of effective implementation. It is further toothless time wasting such as this that allows Assad to continue with his stream of human rights abuses while the West looks on and promises stricter ‘observation’. In one of the most defiant acts against international law norms, the Red Cross confirmed that its attempts to aid civilians and evacuate the wounded from the besieged city of Homs had again failed when a rescue team was prevented from entering the worst hit areas. Towns with rebel strongholds have had electricity and water cut, and summary executions are now commonplace. How much more carnage must occur before someone decides that the “Never again” line so often thrown around but rarely acted upon must apply? If the Council does not intervene, governments of moral courage may go it alone. We have been willing to do this when oil revenues are at stake, to fail to do so over principles of humanity shows gross moral negligence. Sometimes, we have to pick a side, and the past has shown us that history is not kind when we sit by and do nothing. Humanitarianism cannot remain politically neutral in conflicts where dictators continuously target innocent civilians. Without United Nations backing, unilateral humanitarian intervention is illegal, but sometimes it’s right.

There must be more to this Provincial life!

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Provence is the superlative of all your Southern French dreams. The sky really is that blue, the food is as fresh and tasty as can be, and the people are as welcoming and hospitable as the everlasting sunlight that warms your skin. Easily accessible by TGV from Paris, Provence is only three hours away from the capital. Alternatively, one can hire a car and make the most of the French country side on route. Either way, no excursion to the south of France is complete without stopping in this idyllic region and getting lost in any one or other of the picturesque towns while exploring the unspoiled landscapes.

If Provence is a highlight of the country, than the city of Aix is the area’s treasure. Through this quaint town you can meander for hours; get lost in a free standing market, idle down a cobbled laneway ignorant of where it leads, or be lured by one of the amazing Provencal restaurants; surrounded by air so thick with enticing smells you just cannot help yourself- and wouldn’t if you could. This city is known for both a lively student atmosphere, and an overwhelming style and sophistication. Compact and easy to navigate by foot, you’ll find Aix with its 17th century architecture and open paved plazas a delight to visit. Indeed, the history and ambiance will leave you wanting to return.

Every summer Aix hosts its annual arts festival in July. Since 1948 spectators have been offered opera, theatre and concerts over a diverse variety of genres. With a now established international reputation for excellence, the festival is one of the most renowned in France. The 2012 Festival, running from July 5th-27th, heavily focuses on the power of Opera. Director Bernard Fouccroulle hopes that the experience will profoundly affect every spectator’s humanity, and no one observer will leave unchanged. Visitors can take advantage of several ticket packages in order to experience this musical/theatrical extravaganza.

If one needs a break from city culture, there are a dozen or so beautiful vineyards surrounding the city. There is no better circumstance under which to unwind after touring, then to indulge in some delectable wine tasting. And you will not find a more striking example of this than the Chateau de Vauclaire. Situated only 15km from Aix, the estate of Vauclaire consists of 120 hectares, 30 of which hold an expansive vineyard, right in the heart of Provence. The Sallier wine makers of Domaine de Vauclaire have taken advantage of the land’s natural assets to produce some of the best rich and subtle blends of red, white and rose across the country. Their award winning produce leaves no visitor dissatisfied and is sure to please the palate of the most fastidious critique. Having been passed down through the family for generations, you can be assured that the wine here is made with the greatest care and attention to detail possible.

The difference between the Salliers and other wine makers in France is evident in their story. Enlightened art collectors, they devoted themselves to winemaking with this same taste for refinement and excellence. From generation to generation, the family has improved their know-how and expanded their knowledge, encouraged by the growing potential of the wine market in Provence. The diversity of grape varieties within the vineyard reflects a long history of Mediterranean wine. It allows the Sallier family the freedom to compose with rich and subtle blends. Having spent a summer at Vauclaire, the author can attest to the domain’s spiritual atmosphere and healing surroundings. It is impossible to find fault with the vineyard’s location, ambiance or hosts. Ideal for a summer escape or winter sojourn; Vauclaire is perfect all year long.

So if you are pondering a European jaunt anytime soon, whether you are after sunshine, sightseeing, culture or culinary delights; look no further than the south of France. A few days in Provence will leave you refreshed, relaxed and planning your return trip. With dozens of villages worth a visit and exploration, the thumping beat of the streets of Marseille, France’s second largest city, and the overwhelming calm and sophistication of Aix; there is something in the Provincial region for everyone.

Redefining the Norm

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I’m not one to espouse the virtues of matrimony. I never dreamt of a big wedding or a white dress or a frosted cake. (Although I do love cake) There was a moment when I liked the idea of marriage, but I think that in our world we should be able to love and commit without a piece of paper, and I think that over time the piece of paper has come to mean less and less. And frankly, I want something more than that. Of course not everyone one is as lucky as me. Despite the fact that I have zero desire to marry, and no one with whom I would want to, if I so wished tomorrow I could pick some random off the street, and if he was willing we could be married in a matter of hours. Yet a girl exactly like me, who has been in a loving relationship with another woman for years, is not able to choose not to marry the person that she loves. We tell this girl that her relationship is not as valid, or meaningful, or sacred, because the person that she loves happens to share the same genitalia. We tell her that because she is attracted to women and not men, she is not allowed to access one of the most fundamental and ancient rights known to mankind. And we tell her that she shouldn’t complain about this, because we’ve created a different institution for her to be a part of.

‘Calm down’, we say ‘Don’t you know that you can get a civil union? It’s pretty much exactly the same thing- just for people like you’. Or in the words of our esteemed Prime Minister, rest assured that you don’t need to get married, because she doesn’t believe it’s necessary, you shouldn’t either. Despite sharing a very similar view of the institution as our Prime Minister, I don’t see the automatic causation to denying people the right to participate in something I don’t value.

Following Barack Obama’s rather unsurprising revelation that his position on gay marriage has ‘evolved’ to one of support, the after effects are reverberating around the world. From predictable admiration and support out of tinsel town, to the inevitable conservative fear mongering from those terrified of change; reaction has been far reaching and varied.

As expected, one group who has had plenty to say on the topic, are Christians. While there are without question plenty of practising Christians who support the right of a man to love a man and a woman to love a woman, sadly these individuals do not speak loudly or often enough. On the other hand, the deafening cries of the Church in defence of ‘traditional’ marriage and supposed family values can scarcely be avoided.

Mainstream Christianity and its representatives seem to want to have it both ways. In their panicked rhetoric against gay marriage they simultaneously argue that removing further barriers to equal rights will endanger future generations by normalising same sex relationships, as well as feigning concern over how children growing up with two parents of the same sex will handle school yard bullying. God watch over the child with gay parents who is bound to be picked on for coming from a different family background, but heaven forbid that gay relations be normalised by society and shield that child in the first place. Not to mention that this argument completely ignores and even devalues the diverse array of families that exist in today’s society. In a world where the nuclear family structure has long been outnumbered by single guardians, remarried parents and situations where other family members act as the main caregiver, can we really still entertain the notion that any type of structure differing from mum and dad and the kids is a threat to our community? 

As is often the case, surely the best answer is the most simple. Kids are not born with prejudice and judgement; these are things that they learn, from their parents, their teachers, from role models in society. Teach your children not to discriminate and judge. Or why not take a leaf out of your own book and just tell them to love their neighbour? The golden rule writes as simple as that, with no qualifying clause excluding individuals based on who they love. If you teach your children that every family is different and that the most important thing is that we respect each other and those differences, the worst result is that we end up with a more tolerant world, a more accepting future and people less inclined to hate and fear each other.

Of course such an argument won’t appease those who believe that any physical love between two people of the same sex is inherently wrong. On the contrary, the idea that people will not automatically judge minority groups in society will be abhorrent to many who claim to exemplify the virtues of Christianity. But on what basis do religious groups feel they can claim a monopoly over the institution of marriage? Marriage has existed in various shapes and forms since the dawn of time, originally as a union for largely economic purposes. Christianity’s cries to be protecting the historical sacredness of the institution are just not sustained by fact. Once again we are witness to human being’s inability to learn from the past. As every single example in history shows; separate but equal doesn’t work; because separate is never equal. And as most examples of discrimination in history show, just as we look back with shame on a time where black people couldn’t marry white, so too we will look back on the present day and hang our heads with embarrassment that we didn’t recognise the love between a man and a man and a woman and a woman. That we entertained ludicrous comparisons with polygamy or buggery; ignoring the fact that none of these circumstances are simply about two human beings who love each other and wish to celebrate that love.

Because surely this is all that it should come down to; surely in a world with so much hatred and so many problems we should embrace at every opportunity that we can, two individuals who want to celebrate their love. Whether they choose to do it by signing a piece of paper or not. Wouldn’t it be great if the Church was so vocal against real evils?  One might question why we rarely see groups of Christians handing out material against child abuse, or paedophilia, or campaigning for women’s rights, or sprouting wisdom on how Christianity can work in a modern context with reproductive health. Instead we have church leaders like the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney claiming that same sex marriage is detrimental to society, lamenting that should it become legal, “it would be impossible to teach in the classroom that marriage is exclusively for male and female”. A travesty indeed.

An extract of this piece can be found on; http://www.dailydissident.com/author/kate/

What’s this?

So I have finally bitten the bullet and started the blog I always said I wouldn’t in response to potential publications asking me about my ‘online presence’, with the hope that it may indeed catapult me into some amazing opportunity. Someone who I love to bits told me that I just have to remember I’m doing it for myself, and as such if I get ripped to shreds I technically still haven’t failed- This is fantastic as it allows me to pretend I’m being brave but reassure myself failure is not a possibility because I only have to answer to me. Plus, if I never try to promote it, I can’t feel bad about no one reading it; a win-win situation really. The title will make sense only to a select few, which works well as I really have no idea what I’m doing anyway. There is no exact genre for this; I write about what I want to write about and on any given week a post could range from a bus trip in Africa, to moaning about conservative Christians, to whinging about the metro in Paris being full of les parisiens. So feel free to read, disagree, and rip me to shreds- I’m brave and am only doing it for myself after all. 😛 Peace, Kate X