Category Archives: Politics

What’s your jihad?

Back in October, Conservative American blogger, activist and executive director of the American Freedom Defence Initiative, Pamela Geller courted controversy by announcing plans to expand a pro-Israeli, ‘anti-jihad’ advertising campaign from its initial position on three subway platforms to include all of the buses in Manhattan.

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In response, the public education campaign MyJihad has brought its campaign (to share the proper meaning of jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims) to the buses of New York as well.

Jihad means “struggling in the way of God”. The way of God being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc. It is ‘putting up the good fight’ as it were, against whatever odds or barriers one faces in life.

Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed that has been widely misrepresented due, first and foremost, to the actions of Muslim extremists, with the knock-on effect that Islamophobes use these actions to further convince the public that such actions are the true face of Islam. Finally, a selective media understandably focuses on the sensational.

The campaign’s focus is on reclaiming Islam for the majority of Muslims, especially in relation to the public’s wider perception of what this means.

I enjoyed the campaign for its ability to combat such a negative attack so airily.

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Filed under Ad Campaigns, America, Politics, Religion

Armistice Day

The shirtless young anti-war protester in this photo is Frank C. Plada. He later died in Vietnam.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, History, Life, Photography, Politics, War

Thought-provoking images and videos regarding the murder of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin was a black teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a white man (Jewish father, Peruvian mother) in Florida on the 26th of February. Martin, who was unarmed, had been walking to his father’s girlfriend’s home from a convenience store when Zimmerman called 911 and followed Martin after witnessing what he described as “suspicious” behaviour. Soon afterward, he fatally shot Martin during an altercation between the two. Zimmerman had called 911 over forty times in the previous 12 months. Martin, it transpired, was carrying nothing on him other than a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Ice Tea. Zimmerman told police he shot in self-defence (legal in Florida, even if your attacker is an unarmed seventeen year-old) and was not arrested. The public backlash has been immense.

Here is some of the rhetoric swirling around the blogosphere regarding an incident which has brought home the dangers of being black in a largely self-segregated society ruled by a culture of racial fear. And really, does anyone know a seventeen year-old who doesn’t own a hoodie?

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March 24, 2012 · 7:00 pm

Boies & Olson – future hypothetical Oscar material

This week, America’s west coast experienced two major developments in the ongoing fight for same-sex marriage. In Olympia yesterday, lawmakers voted to make Washington the seventh state to allow gay marriage, with the governor likely to sign the bill into law at some stage next week.

In California on Tuesday, a federal court ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional thus effectively paving the way for the gay marriage case to move to the Supreme Court.

Ted Olson and David Boies are the two plaintiffs attorneys who fought in the case Perry v Schwarzenegger. Although now firm friends, the ultra-conservative Olson and the liberal Boies were once famous opponents in the legal battle to decide whether Al Gore or George W. Bush would become the next President of the United States in 2000. The two became friends after Olson’s wife Barbara was killed on Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

When they teamed up to defend the right for homosexuals to marry in 2009, they set tongues wagging on both sides of the political spectrum. Since then, they have both been named in the Time’s 100 Greatest Thinkers list for their work on the landmark case and in 2011, they were awarded the American Bar Association’s highest honour: the ABA Medal.

All said and done, the story is surefire Hollywood material, courage of conviction in the face of adversity mixed with setting aside political differences for the greater good. As well as this, it is a fantastic study in exactly why there’s little better than good law.

In this extract from a Fox News interview, Olsen calmly and thoughtfully takes apart all arguments thrown at him by a partisan conservative anchor who himself concludes at the end of the interview that he doesn’t see how Olsen could ever lose a case.

Coming soon to a cinema near you? I know I’d watch it.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Film, Politics

Miss Representation – vive la différence?

Had you ever heard of the documentary Miss Representation? I hadn’t. And yet, it seems to encapsulate in one fell swoop almost all of the social concerns I have for the next century. The American documentary, premiered in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival, explores how (American) mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of females. For a prime (and frankly, shocking) example, pay close attention to the video below around the 2.45 mark.

Although the film is indeed very America-centric, this is still relevant to us across the Atlantic, given how much of the pop culture media we consume is American. Some of the statistics are quite stunning – America is actually regressing in its journey towards gender equality. This comes as less of a surprise once we consider such TV programmes as ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians‘, ‘Gossip Girl‘ and the late ‘The Hills‘. America is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an anomaly – there are only two countries with 50% or more women in parliament – Andorra and Rwanda. After that, the numbers fall dramatically.

Although we studied it at university, I have yet to see such a compelling distress signal regarding the deeply harmful effects that the misogynistic portrayal of women in the media might have on society as this film. Western nations love to pat themselves on the back for treating women equally, quick to compare themselves favourably against such backward nations as Iran where women are subjugated by the rules of Sharia law. However, the case against the Western (or at least, the American) media is strong and as the movie points out, it is only growing stronger,

It is my wont to swiftly draw comparisons between America and Europe. On Sunday the 15th of January, French journalist Anne-Sophie Lapix welcomed the far-right leader of the Front Nationale party Marine Le Pen onto her Sunday night current affairs show Dimanche +. In the space of about ten minutes, Lapix, probably as well-known for her looks than her journalism up to that point, calmly and efficiently destroyed Le Pen’s economic policies in a battle of the titans that is now all over the French press. If for no other reason, and even though the entire conversation is in French, it is worth a watch just for the pure spectacle – the meaning of what they are saying can probably be inferred simply through their body language.

What I found interesting about the segment was the way in which these women were being portrayed. Sophisticated, intelligent, and calm – they seemed to embody the exact opposite of the stereotypes referred to in ‘Miss Representation‘ of women as hysterical bimbos probably suffering from PMS. The more disappointing facet to this is the fact that France isn’t even a bastion of gender equality (although progress is slowly being made). I can’t even grin smugly and say ‘at least somebody’s doing it right – vive la différence!’.

How are we ever expected to achieve the dream of universal equality when we so readily ignore this derogatory treatment of women in a media we consume so voraciously? What does it say about our progress or indeed even our desire for progress? As the older brother of an eighteen year-old girl, the statistics and the evidence are hardly comforting. I don’t know what she wants to do with her life, I’m sure she doesn’t either, not just yet. No doubt her plans are ambitious. Looking at the trailer for this movie really makes me wonder what I’m supposed to say to her, other than ‘well, do your best’.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Documentaries, Europe, Politics, Pop Culture, Women

Norris -> President

The following is probably the best summary of current events in Ireland regarding the upcoming Presidential elections. For those of you unfamiliar with recent goings-on, the main point of interest is an ageing senator named David Norris, who couldn’t be more controversial a figure if he tried. He’s an openly gay, Anglo-Irish Protestant whose campaign has encountering no small amount of difficulty, leading him to bow out of the race at the beginning of August, only to re-enter last Friday:

David Norris made late-night television history Friday, appearing on the RTÉ network’s Late Late Show to address the personal allegations that have derailed his Irish presidential campaign. The Irish presidency is a largely ceremonial position, a national spokesman job really, with no legislative or executive power but a good deal of cultural clout. And for months David Norris — the openly gay, avowedly intellectual writer, Trinity College Dublin literature professor and ceremonial Irish senator — has been challenging and reshaping the Irish cultural zeitgeist like no public figure of his time. But is that a good thing? 

Read the rest…

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Filed under Current Affairs, Ireland, Politics

September

This photo, The Falling Man, by AP photographer Richard Drew, is of a man falling from the North Tower on September 11th 2001. To me, it’s probably the most disturbing of all the images from that day. The man has been unofficially identified as Jonathan Briley, who worked in a cafe on the top floor.

Amongst the wreckage of the two towers, 147 wedding rings were found.

Take a look at this interactive map by the New York Times, asking readers where they were on that day, ten years ago.

And this story, published in London’s Evening Standard newspaper on Friday.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Politics

Why study for a degree in Politics when you could just watch the West Wing?

My friend Delap has recently become obsessed with the West Wing, just as I did in my second year at uni. I loved how much it taught me about the world of American and indeed, global politics.

This here is just one of several uncanny examples of life imitating art:

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Politics

WikiLeaks ad

I can use Visa and Mastercard to pay for porn and support anti-abortion fanatics, Prop 8 homophobic bigots, and the Ku Klux Klan. But I can’t use them or PayPal to support Wikileaks, transparency, the First Amendment, and true government reform.

Just saying.

– Jeff Jarvis, Huffington Post

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Thorium – the next step for nuclear power?

Since the Fukushima incident which followed Japan’s massive earthquake and consequent tsunami in Marcj of this year, the issue of nuclear energy has been at the forefront of current affairs across the globe. Germany made headlines when its coalition government declared it was to terminate its nuclear energy programme by the year 2022. There had been widespread mass-protest against nuclear energy in Germany in the wake of Fukushima and the decision has made Germany the largest industrial power to commit to giving up on nuclear power.

The news had a hugely positive effect on share prices for renewable energy companies with German solar manufacturer, Solarworld, up 7.6% whilst Danish wind turbine maker Vestas gained more than 3% within a day of the German government’s announcement.

Nonetheless, there is still speculation from sceptics who say that, in order for Germany to make up for the amount of nuclear energy it will be disposing of (currently 11% 0f total energy consumed), the country will have to burn more fossil fuels, thus doing more harm than good to the environment. They believe that, although the German economy can survive without nuclear power, such a quick phase-out is negligent. A stable power supply is taken for granted in Germany – and any suggestion that this was no longer 100 per cent guaranteed might deter investors. According to Dorothea Slems of German paper Die Welt, “A look back at the oil price shocks in the 1970s shows how sensitive the question of energy is.”

This leads me to what could be the greatest energy technology breakthrough of this century, and could potentially change the global energy landscape forever. Thorium is a radioactive chemical element which is around four times more abundant than Uranium and far less hazardous. Some countries, most notable India and China, are now investing heavily in research to build thorium-based nuclear reactors. India has also made thorium based nuclear reactors a priority with its focus on developing ‘fast breeder’ technology (nuclear reactors that create more fissile material in fuel than they consume).

Some of the benefits of Thorium, when compared with Uranium are:

  • Weapons-grade fissionable material (233U) is harder to retrieve safely and clandestinely from a thorium reactor;
  • Thorium produces 10 to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste;
  • Thorium comes out of the ground as a 100% pure, usable isotope, which does not require enrichment, whereas natural uranium contains only 0.7% fissionable U-235;
  • Thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reactor without priming, so fission stops by default.
Norway appears set on running its post-oil economy on Thorium-based nuclear energy. The technology’s supporters say it will be the saving grace of a world hurtling towards a massive energy crisis based on Asia’s ever-expanding economies and the West’s evermore entrenched commitment to guzzling fuel.
Germany’s decision to end all nuclear energy within its borders may have been rushed and may not have been entirely environmentally sound. But it has sent out a loud and clear message to the rest of the world: It’s time to re-think the way we produce the energy we rely on. If such economic behemoths as India and China are listening, that can only be a good thing.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Energy, Europe, Politics