Bastiat Prize 2009

From the website:

IPN’s Bastiat Prize for Journalism was inspired by the 19th-century French philosopher and journalist Frédéric Bastiat.

The prize was developed to encourage and reward writers whose published works promote the institutions of a free society: limited government, rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary, protection of private property, free markets, free speech, and sound science.

It’s good to see they have a special category for online journalism which includes blogs (the winner will receive $3,000).

(via Let a Thousand Nations Bloom)

Telstra offers free calls to Gaza homes

Australian telecommunication provider Telstra’s Now We Are Talking blog announces:

Telstra will offer a telecommunications assistance package to customers who may be affected by unrest in the Gaza area. In announcing the relief package today, Telstra Chief Executive Officer, Sol Trujillo, said the assistance would be in the form of free telephone calls from Telstra retail customers’ residential fixed lines (home phones) to the Gaza area.

 …

This offer will apply for calls made from 12.00am AEST on Wednesday 7 January 2009, and finish 12.00am AEST on Thursday 15 January 2009. The offer applies to calls with the area code 0011 970 

Spiked Online’s Best and Worse of 2008

Spiked-Online runs through their best and worst of 2008, and it’s good to see our Prime Minister gets a mention:

Voted in on a groundswell of post-Iraq War disgust towards former Australian PM John Howard, Kevin Rudd has proven even worse than his despised predecessor. In February he did what Howard had infamously failed to do; he apologised to the Aborigines for the ‘stolen children’ policy. Well, who needs employment and healthcare when you can get an apology from the prime minister? In that shift from the BC to the AD eras (that’s Before Clinton and After Diana), Rudd personifies the replacement of proper socially concerned politics with apologetic performances of emotional correctness.

If reducing the Aborigines to objects of special pleading wasn’t degrading enough, he also set out to implement the Great Australian Firewall, an attempt to block unsuitable online content from the presumably all too easily influenced, monkey-see-monkey-do Australians. Both more patronising and more censorious, Rudd outstrips Howard at every step – and is a lesson in not allowing our understandable fury with the Iraq War to blunt our critical political faculties.

Rev. Fred Nile: Protecting Muslims from Topless Beaches

Fred Nile is something of an oddity in Australian politics.  The NSW politician represents the Christian Democratic Party, a party supposedly established to represent people who support “Christian and Family values” and “the sanctity of life”.   Nile also has a history of making some outrageous comments about Muslims.

In 2002, Nile told that Australian media that he wanted to ban women from wearing veils in public.  He told the ABC:

FRED NILE: I’m saying they shouldn’t be allowed to wear it in public places. If they wish to wear it at the mosque, if they wish to wear it in their home, walking down the street in Lakemba or Auburn, that’s a different matter.

I’m talking about six women walking into the Opera House. There’s no…

He stood up in parliament and asked the government to investigate introducing French-style bans on hijab in public schools.

In 2007, an organisation linked to Nile was revealed as being behind the campaign to stop Muslims building a school in the town of Camden in New South Wales.

In the same year, Nile was calling for the government to start discriminating on the basis of religion and preventing Muslim immigrants from coming to Australia.

Further to wanting to see veils banned, Muslim schools banned and Muslim immigrants banned, Nile came out this week calling for topless bathing to be banned on beaches.

Conservative MP Fred Nile says he wants topless bathing banned in NSW to protect Sydney’s Muslim and Asian communities.

Protect Muslims?  He explains further:

“Our beaches should be a place where no one is offended, whether it’s their religious or cultural views,” he said.

“If they’ve come from a Middle Eastern or Asian country where women never go topless – in fact they usually wear a lot of clothing – I think it’s important to respect all the different cultures that make up Australia.”

A few short years ago, Nile was ranting and raving about Muslim women wearing a “lot of clothing” and calling for them to be banned from public places.  Now that the political climate and community sentiment towards Muslims seems to have softened somewhat, Nile is jumping on a different bandwagon and trying to recast himself as a ‘conservative’ protector of Muslim sensibilities.

Shaheen Hasmat

The Age reported this week:

WHEN Shaheen Hasmat and his family arrived in Australia from Afghanistan as refugees five years ago, the year 8 student knew only a few words in English, like yes and no…

But yesterday, Shaheen was the dux of Reservoir District Secondary College, with a near-perfect tertiary score, or ENTER, of 99.8 and the promise of a scholarship to study medicine at Monash University.

Andrew Bolt, the Herald Sun journalist, linked to the story with a favourable title.  Some of the site’s readers didn’t seem too impressed; making unsavoury reference to Shaheen’s beard, religion and ethnicity.  This prompted Shaheen to write this response which was then published, to Andrew Bolt’s credit, on his blog (republished over the fold):

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MIT Arab Business Plan Competition

The MIT Arab Business Plan Competition looks like a good initiative:

The MIT Arab Business Plan Competition is the first of its kind in the Arab world. The Competition is designed to encourage all entrepreneurs in the region to start their own company and, ultimately, create a nest of leading firms in the Arab world. It also brings to the Arab world all the MIT expertise in entrepreneurship and in running such competitions.

The deadline for submitting the applications is Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 23:59, Beirut time.

The Competition is open to all Arab nationals with a business idea. The only requirement is to be part of a team. You cannot enter the Competition as one person. A team should comprise a minimum of 3 individuals and at least 2 members of the team should be citizens of the Arab world.  The business concept should also be implemented in a country within the Arab world.

Bush’s Legacy is Statism

At Cafe Hayek, Russell Roberts writes:

As we prepare to partially nationalize the American automobile industry, it is a good time to remember that George Bush is not a free market ideologue and that he did not pursue free market policies. Please remember that in his last year in office he initiated and condoned measures that helped destroy the natural feedback loops that allow markets to recover from the inevitable mistakes that human beings make. And tell your children. I know. It seems obvious. But twenty and thirty years from now, there will be people writing about how George Bush’s free market ideology caused the mess we’re in.

And, over at Cato, Daniel Mitchel writes:

According to Politico.com, Vice President Dick Cheney lobbied Republican senators to support the bailout of auto companies, arguing that it would be “Herbert Hoover time” in the absence of government intervention.

Cheney is right, but for the wrong reasons. To the extent that it is “Herbert Hoover time,” it is because the current administration has repeated many of the mistakes that were made by President Hoover. There was a huge expansion in the burden of government spending under Hoover, up 47 percent in just four years. There’s been an equally huge increase in government spending under Bush. Hoover dramatically increased government intervention with everything from schemes to prop up wages to protectionism. Bush’s intervention takes a different form, with mistakes such as steel tariffs, Sarbanes-Oxley, and bailouts.

Hoover’s legacy is statism. Bush’s legacy is statism. The only unanswered question is whether Obama will be the new Roosevelt — i.e., someone who compounds the damage caused by his predecessor with further expansions in the burden of government.

Redesigning Mecca

Architects Journal has a picture of a planned expansion to the Haram in Mecca.

The Journal explains:

According to sources, the scheme for Islam’s holiest city could create a huge new structure around the central Haram mosque that will eventually be capable of holding three million people, making it the ‘highest occupancy’ building in the world.

 

The top-secret plans are being backed by King Abdullah ben Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia who has asked a hand-picked collection of starchitects to ‘establish a new architectural vision’ for the 356,800m2 mosque complex.

 

The AJ believes that the project is likely to be phased, with phase one transforming the mosque from having an official capacity of 900,000 to 1.5 million. This will then go up to three million with the completion of several phases over the following five to 10 years.

In addition, there are also plans to build an additional 130 skyscrapers in the city.

Up to 130 new skyscrapers are anticipated, including the Abraj Al Bait Towers, a seven-tower project that will be one of the largest buildings in the world, with a 2,000-room hotel, a 1,500-person convention centre, heliports and a four-storey mall that will house hundreds of outlets.

Infochoice: Sharia loans hard to find

Infochoice on MCCA:

The withdrawal of GE Money from the Australian mortgage market will adversely effect the market for Islamic or sharia-compliant home loans. The largest provider of sharia compliant finance in Australia, the Muslim Community Co-Operative Australia provides home loans under the S2L label. These loans are ordinary home loans financed by GE Money Australia, but subject to a series of contracts between the borrower and the MCCA that deem them sharia compliant in the eyes of the MCCA’s religious advisers.

Report on Imams condoning rape and violence

Last week, the media was abuzz with reports on a study, funded by the previous government, into the conduct of Australian imams:

SOME Muslim religious leaders in Victoria are condoning rape within marriage, domestic violence, polygamy, welfare fraud and exploitation of women, according to an explosive report on the training of imams.

The Daily Telegraph covered the story under the headline “Rape within marriage OK: Muslim clerics” which more or less exemplifies the tone of much of the commentary on the report.

Needless to say, the Catch the Fire crowd can barely contain their excitement:

Yet a Howard government commissioned report, conducted by the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria and released exclusively by Barney Zwartz in The Age newspaper today, reveals that what Daniel Scott said was in fact the truth and that it is certainly happening here in Victoria.

Not having seen the report yet, it’s impossible to comment on the findings or the methodology that was used to derive them.  The sorts of issues identified almost certainly do occur although one must be cautious in drawing any conclusions as to how widespread or systemic such occurrences are.

The response to these allegations came today from “Australia’s most senior Muslim”:

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