Monthly Archives: May 2007

Australia to rush to U.S. side in its war on the world

One has become painfully used to Australian governments being the first to rush to the side of their favourite major power — once the UK, now the US — whenever it decides to declare yet another imperialist war in defiance of international opinion.

And Australia’s foremost rightwing propaganda machine, the IPA, has taxed its imagination to the limit by borrowing wholesale its culture wars and anti-environmental arguments from the U.S. neocons — see Quarterly Essay discussion

So why be surprised to wake up this morning to read how the US has invited to its side in the upcoming international greenhouse emissions summit one of the smallest greenhouse gas emitters, Australia. The news story is here.

We know Howard’s record on climate change — his silencing of CSIRO scientists, and his total focus on being an agent for the coal and nuclear industries — read Scorcher, The Dirty Politics of Climate Change, by Clive Hamilton — so can there be any doubt that Bush needs Australia to prove he’s “not alone” in his anti-world position at the upcoming summit. Only yesterday I was listening to the rationale for this summit where it was explained it was to consist of the “leading” greenhouse gas emitters! So Bush wants Howard to hold his hand there! The world can get stuffed so long as they help out their oil, coal and nuclear godfather buddies.

An untold genocide and Christians in Iraq

The links in this post are of real-life here-and-now importance, I think, more than most others on this blog. They point to recent radio discussions about Christians in Iraq but their importance is not just for the sake of the people directly concerned, but also for the potential they carry to inform us about today’s role of Christians in the U.S. and some closely related nations. read more »

Report from Donna Mulhearn on the Pine Gap Trial

Dear friends

Tuesday: Today the trial proceedings finally began (after a colourful procession to court with banners and singing) with some house-keeping, including an attempt by the Crown Prosecutor, Mr Hilton Dembo, to place us under house arrest!

Needless to say we argued back – and we won! He also argued that we not be permitted to be anywhere within 2kms within Pine Gap, (meaning we could not attend our planned demonstrations there on the weekend). We argued back that we had a right to political protest, and we won!

The only other piece of colour today in the usually serious courtroom came from the judge and crown prosecutor. The sun-tanned, silver-haired, gowned and wigged Mr Dembo who a few months ago declared: “what is civil disobedience anyway?” is starting to fit well into a caricature of a bombastic, cranky prosecutor.

He requested that a Australian Federal Police officer be seated next to him at the bar table when the trial begins so that he could assist with exhibits. And, he added: “to be a buffer between myself and the defendants….not that I am scared of them…”

Without missing a beat, the usually poker-faced judge, Justice Sall y Thomas commented:

“Perhaps they should be scared of you!”

Meanwhile today, successful solidarity events were held all over Australia to mark the start of the trial. Thank you everyone for your support and thoughts and prayers – we are off to a great start!

Tomorrow we have jury selection at 10am, and after that the prosecution opens its case and the trial proper begins.

Here’s how the media reported today’s events:

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21815635-1702,00.html

http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Pine-Gap-protesters-gather-in-Brisbane/2007/05/29/1180205216633.html

http://www.melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2007/05/145591.php

http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/node/51062

Have a listen to late night live with Philip Adams on Radio National on Wednesday night

And this analysis from Crikey.com yesterday:

15. Pine Gap protestors facing the long, cold arm of the law

Greg Barns writes:

Tomorrow, in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, Pine Gap military base protesters go on trial. Nothing unusual in that — the US Australian military facility has long been a focal point for discontent, and the Alice Springs courts regularly process defendants charged with trespass, assault and other petty crime charges. And nearly all of these cases are dealt with a slap on the wrist for the protestors, or at worst, a fine.

But Bryan Law, Donna Mulhearn, Adele Goldie, and James Dowling, who are appearing in the Alice Springs court tomorrow, fac e jail terms because on 9 December, 2005, they managed to gain access to Pine Gap by cutting a fence, climbing onto the roof of a building and taking photographs of the facility.

This quartet of activists self-described as “Christian Pacificists” say they wanted to conduct a citizens’ inspection of Pine Gap. They, like many Australians, are opposed to the war in Iraq, and believe that Australian participation in the Iraq war has made this country more vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

But their short and harmless foray into the Pine Gap has been taken very seriously by the Howard Government and its law enforcement agencies. No easy ride through the Alice Springs Magistrates Court for this lot. Instead, the Commonwealth ha s dusted off a 1952 law, passed by the Menzies government at the height of the Cold War, and called the Defence Powers (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. Breach this Act and you can face jail terms of up to seven years.

This is the law which allowed the Menzies government to keep from public view vast tracts of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory where nuclear tests, including the infamous Maralinga tests, were carried out. It hasn’t been used by the Commonwealth for years. In fact, according to some academic reports, this is the first time anyone has been prosecuted under this law — a remarkable fact given it has been around for 55 years and there have been literally hundreds of Pine Gap protests.

But then, Philip Rud dock is the most aggressive attorney-general this country has seen in years. As he showed when he was immigration minister, he’s prepared to use the full legislative arsenal at his disposal to enforce government policy, even if the law in question is obscure and of questionable validity in this day and age.

The importance of this case in the context of a civil liberties and human rights is evidenced by the fact that high-profile Melbourne barrister and former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel is heading the legal team for the activists.

Many Australians might not agree with direct action protest of the type undertaken by these four activists, but there’s a larger issue in this case. Should governments be using draconian Cold War laws on the citizenry of Australia almost 20 years after the Berlin Wall came down?

More news and pics soon!

We’re excited!

from

pilgrim Donna

Tales of the 2 Judas gospels

And one more — again a set of Rachel Kohn Spirit of Things interviews — this time discussions of the “real” gospel of Judas as recently made public, AND the novel! Why not! I haven’t had time to catch up with this program myself but I’m sure it will have much of interest — in both halves. read more »

Dead Sea Scrolls at 60

Another gem on Radio National, this time again on Rachel Kohn’s Spirit of Things. Interviews with Drs George Brooke, Jodi Magness and Ian Young discussing the history and scholarship over the past 60 years relating to the Scrolls and the Qumran site, read more »

Another cries out, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!”

Intenet Infidels Discussion Board (IIDB) has a discussion thread on some recently/about to be published views of Professor of philosophy and religious studies Hector Avalos:

The primary interest is a Society of Biblical Literature article by Avalos, “The Ideology of the Society of Biblical Literature and the Demise of an Academic Profession“. But there is also reference to a new publication due out about now . . . . . read more »

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18b

Bauckham’s use of Paul Ricoeur

Bauckham pursues the fundamental role of testimony for history through reference to internationally renowned French philosopher Paul Ricoeur‘s “Memory, History, Forgetting” (2004). Before discussing this section of B’s final chapter I want to address a sentence of Ricoeur’s on which Bauckham places particularly heavy and repeated emphasis:

First, trust the word of others, then doubt if there are good reasons for doing so. (p.165, Memory) read more »

The rises and falls of the religious right: Spong on Falwell

Spong discusses Jerry Falwell’s place in the history of America’s religious right; and “optimistically” sees the beginning of the decline of Bush administration’s popularity and the influence of the religious right to the Terry Schiavo scandal. read more »

The subtext of Jesus’ family relationships — (1)

Unlike Greek saviour-type heroes such as Achilles (and even Socrates), not once in the canonical gospels is Jesus shown to have had a healthy relationship with a normal loving woman, not even at birth. And is there a complementary dark significance to the absence of any hint of a relationship with his presumed stepfather, Joseph? What follows is my extrapolation of some thoughts brought to the surface by Richard Holway in his discussion of the mythology and psychology of Achilles and Socrates in his article Achilles, Socrates, and Democracy published in Political Theory, Vol. 22, No. 4. (Nov., 1994), pp.561-590. read more »

Mark, The Embarrassing Gospel

The criterion of embarrassment is a “rule” commonly appealed to by scholars to argue that certain events must be historical because they were so well-known and undeniable that, although gospel authors were clearly embarrassed by them, they nevertheless could not avoid addressing them. One example is the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Why would gospel authors say that Jesus was baptized by his inferior unless it really happened? Surely it was not in the interests of presenting Jesus as the superior to John the Baptist to publicize such an event. The only explanation could be that the event was so well known that the authors had no choice but to report it and put the best spin on it that they could muster.

(This reasoning sounds so “self-evident” that it deserves to be kept in mind when reading the scholarly explanations for why Paul does NOT mention so much about Jesus for the reason that it was “so well known that there was no need to address it” — even if to do so would (a) support his position, or (b) require spin to get around how Jesus embarrassed Paul’s position.)

But there is a problem. One of those canonical gospels demonstrates not a single ounce or gram of embarrassment over Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist, nor any of the other episodes to which spin has to be plied by the other gospels to get around various “embarrassing but unavoidable historical facts.” The Gospel of Mark simply waltzes in and unashamedly offers us a point by point account of how John the Baptist baptized Jesus (his superior)! read more »

Spiderman 3 — an amateur social and political critique

Even when I do get out to see the odd movie I still see politics on the screen. For the hell of it I decided to see Spiderman 3 for total escape but even with this one I could not escape the political. What an updated commentary on “The Current Political State of America” this movie is! — well at least in my eyes.

It went out of its way to show how the good guy in red, (a little) white and blue could become bad and like his enemies, and needed to keep himself in check (with church redemption of course) — and how even the worst enemies have human motivations and hearts and need forgiveness. What else could have echoed more loudly so much of the liberal anti-neocon popular mood against the warmongering of the Bush admin since 9/11.

But it was still oh so puerile in its manichaean view of evil. It was still showing “evil” as some alien cosmic force that is antithetical to people, something abstract and absolute out there that people “choose” bla blah bs bs bs.

Near the dramatic end Spiderman flashed across a huge screen-size American flag that came out of nowhere — a clip that sort of helped me think I was thinking on the right track about it with all my political perspective after all.

America is singular in being an advanced industrial nation that still collectively projects a medieval sense of morality. There appears to be no grasp of evil as something possibly complex and human. If they think you’re evil you have to die, simple as that! Except Spiderman was showing them a better way — damn liberals. But too many cars rolling around and getting smashed, too much metal clashing, too much animation for my taste after 3 minutes. I’m old fashioned and like my actors to do more than spend most of their time swinging against a blue screen — I want my politics undiluted, maybe.

Back to the movie. It was a sort of “every individual can make a difference” type of fantasy. Identify with the nerdy hopeless Spiderman who is just like those old western heroes, a Jimmy Stewart type, looks completely hopeless till pushed too far then goes in and suddenly puts an end to their mockery and shoots them all dead. Except Spiderman is still knocked as a nerd when he returns to his “out of uniform” normal self (except when he becomes bad — the only real antidote to nerdiness?) . An interesting mutation on the old westerns.

I really know squat about movies. I’m making all this up of course. But the girl in the movie? She’s jsut a symbol of freedom and democracy, the frail beauty who is under threat. No superhero can just go out and fight evil for the hell of it. He has to be fighting the monster men to rescue her. And of course he rescues her and wins her love.

But talking of the girl, oh how very puritanically American this movie was! The only time there is any sexual attraction and desire expressed is when Spiderman was consumed by cosmic evil for a while. And that tinge of sexuality was coupled with bad-man violence. Interesting association, I thought. As a friend commented, “So cosmic evil equates with lust?” Yup, guess so, just like in the Bible. One is never quite sure if sexual sin is ranked way higher than any form of violence there too.

Almost forgot. How tediously unimaginative that the moment of Spiderman’s redemption from the power of evil had to happen in a damned church! I guess it can’t be any other way if one sees “good” and “bad” as cosmic or alien forces that people have to struggle over, and not as something more basically inherent in our socio-biological and psychological makeup.

Well, we must be grateful for small steps, and I can’t deny it was nice to see a violent movie showing its hero demonstrating some meaure of understanding and forgiveness for his, … ‘alter ego’?

Is Mark mocking Joseph of Arimathea, and Pilate?

Joseph of Arimathea is most commonly viewed as something of a partial redemption of the harsh conclusion of Mark, given that he is said to have had courage where courage failed the disciples; and Pilate is seen as almost an innocent bystander in some ways. But I’m playing with an interpretation here that suggests their roles in Mark’s narrative were not quite so untouched by Mark’s well-known penchant for savage irony. read more »

“god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”

Interview on (Australian) Radio National’s “Late Night Live” program with “polemicist and essayist extraordinaire Christopher Hitchens in an extended discussion on his new book: god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything read more »

Pilate and the cosmic order in Mark

This is a disorganized collage of thoughts stimulated partly by the unlikely combo of John Carroll’s The Existential Jesus and Michael Patella’s The Lord of the Cosmos. read more »