Rudd the Builder

A new article on the news.com.au site has Kevin Rudd contemplating taking over urban planning. Considering he has not been able to do what he promised to do in the election, taking over hospitals and water planning this just sound like more empty rhetoric or more made on on the run policies like he has in the last week with asylum seekers being diverted back to Indonesia. That has worked out so well that Indonesia won’t even allow the queue jumpers to land.

Kevin Rudd has not shown he is capable of running anything yet, except for a large and ever growing deficit so why would he think that his government would be capable of urban planning now.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants to intervene in urban planning – usually the preserve of state and local governments – to make sure cities are well-run and climate change-proof.

Mr Rudd has previously proposed a takeover of hospitals and water, and a greater role in education and broadband.

Now it’s cities’ turn.

In his speech Mr Rudd proposed the development of national rules for the planning of cities for the first time.

And all infrastructure funding – which runs into tens of billions of dollars – could be linked to the rules.

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Atheism debunked

Dr Dvir Abramovich has a great article up blowing holes in the arguments of atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens. Well worth a read to see all of their complaints about religion answered and answered in such a away to show that these “straw Men” that keep being presented aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

Read the whole article to read the rest of the arguments against atheism.

Hitchens and Dawkins, who are the leaders of the New Atheism movement, have received the most media spotlight and are driving the growth of this industry. Hitchens presented recently at Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas and appeared on ABC TV’s Q & A program. And Dawkins will headline next year’s Atheist Convention in Melbourne.

These atheists are angry that religion has not gone away and is thriving in various parts of the world. After all, calling other peoples’ belief a delusion is not exactly respectful. Indeed, distinguished doctor and broadcaster Lord Winston found Dawkins’ attitude to religious faith patronising, insulting and counterproductive, noting that it “portrays science in a bad light”.

Hitchens and Dawkins build a straw man — they select the worst offences that have been done in the name of religion to prove that religion is a dangerous force and a kind of virus that infects the mind. At one point Hitchens writes, “Religious belief is not merely false but also actually harmful. But I think it is a mistake to condescend to those who claim ‘faith’.”

For Hitchens and co, religion does little good and secularism hardly any evil. Never mind that tyrants devoid of religion such as Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot perpetrated the worst atrocities in history. As H. Allen Orr, professor of biology at the University of Rochester, observed, the 20th century was an experiment in secularism that produced secular evil, responsible for the unprecedented murder of more than 100 million.

Dawkins is mute on the terrors unleashed by science and technology, used by genocidal regimes such as Hitler’s Germany, in a century that proved to be the worst tyranny mankind has ever seen. And what about weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear and biological bombs developed by scientists?

Does that mean that all atheists and scientists are evil? Of course not. The point is that fanatics can be found in both religion and atheism.

How can anyone argue that not a single human benefit has resulted from religious faith? There are millions who every day selflessly dedicate their lives to helping others all in the name of religious belief. The cruelty and viciousness of the past and the abuse of religion in the present cannot extinguish the solidarity and good-heartedness of people of faith.

True religious values are grounded in notions of community, charity, mercy and peace. All too often today we focus on individualism, greed and instant gratification.

Anyone wishing to discredit theology should at least know some. The God Delusion contains very little examination of Jewish theology and dismisses the finest minds of Western thinkers and theologians who have written on sublime theological questions as “infantile”.

Hitchens cites the Binding of Isaac and “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” injunction as brutish and stupid. Yet, scholars have interpreted the binding as ending child sacrifice and the injunction as a caution against excessive vengeance. Hitchens says that the God of Moses never refers to compassion and human friendship, overlooking “love your neighbour as yourself”.

For his part, Dawkins is clearly out of his depth when it comes to Jewish teachings and ethics. He claims, for instance, that “love thy neighbour” meant only “love another Jew”. He apparently is not aware that in the same chapter, Jews are commanded to love the stranger that lives in their land as they would themselves. When Jesus, himself a Jew, was asked “Who is my neighbour” he did not refer to other Jews, but to a Samaritan, considered at that time as heretical and unclean.

Don’t sign Copehagen!

Janet Albrechtsen has a new blog out today talking what what is missing in all the screeching about Copenhagen and how we must sign the treaty. Why is it that no one has explained until now what is in the treaty and why we should sign it. After reading this there is no way Australia should sign this and the Liberals need to wake up and take a stand now before our future is signed over to “developing” countries.

Take the time to read the whole blog and then get the word out that we should not be signing over our future to a world government that will direct billions of our money overseas.

With just over 40 days until more than 15,000 officials, advisers, diplomats, activists and journalists from more than 190 countries attend the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, we know nothing. Nothing about a climate change treaty that the Rudd government is keen to sign and one that will bind this country for years to come.

Emails started arriving telling me about a speech given by Christopher Monckton, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, at Bethel University in St Paul, Minnesota, on October 14. Monckton talked about something that no one has talked about in the lead-up to Copenhagen: the text of the draft Copenhagen treaty.

Even after Monckton’s speech, most of the media has duly ignored the substance of what he said. You don’t need me to find his St Paul address on YouTube. Interviewed on Monday morning by Alan Jones on Sydney radio station 2GB, Monckton warned that the aim of the Copenhagen draft treaty was to set up a transnational government on a scale the world has never before seen. Listening to the interview, my teenage daughters asked me whether this was true.

So I read the draft treaty. The word government appears on page 18. Monckton says: “This is the first time I’ve ever seen any transnational treaty referring to a new body to be set up under that treaty as a government. But it’s the powers that are going to be given to this entirely unelected government that are so frightening.”

Monckton says the aim of this new government is to have power to directly intervene in the financial, economic, tax and environmental affairs of all the nations that sign the Copenhagen treaty.

In a sense, countries that sign international treaties always cede powers to a UN body responsible for implementing the treaty obligations. But the difference is that we usually understand the details of the obligations and the power ceded.

The reason for that power grab is clear enough from the draft treaty. Clause after complicated clause sets out the requirement that developed countries such as Australia pay their “adaptation debt” to developing countries. Clause 33 on page 39 says that by 2020 the scale of financial flows to support adaptation in developing countries must be at least $US67 billion ($73bn), or in the range of $US70bn to $US140bn a year.

How developed countries will pay is far from clear. The draft text sets out various alternatives, including Option 7 on page 135, which provides for “a (global) levy of 2 per cent on international financial market (monetary) transactions to Annex I Parties”. This means industrialised countries such as Australia, if we sign.

Rethinking Foregin Aid

Bill Muehlenburg over at culture Watch has a new article up talking about foreign aid that I think is worth a read. The west has been giving so much aid to these countries for years (1 Trillion to African countries in the last fifty years) yet they still seem to be at the same level of development that maybe it is time to start looking at other ways to help these countries grow and develop.

Dambisa Moyo is an economist who has just penned an important new book called Dead Aid (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009). In it she argues that most overseas aid in fact creates more poverty, not less. She does not oppose all foreign aid, and certainly finds a place for disaster relief and emergency aid.

But she is against the usual pattern of Western governments propping up corrupt and lazy governments in the developing world. Most money going there never makes it to those who most need it, but stays in the hands of greedy and crooked leaders.

Indeed, decades of money being thrown at Africa has done very little good. Says Moyo, “In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse – much worse.”

She is also critical of so many the Western celebrities who run around holding rock concerts, thinking they are doing some good for world poverty. Far from it, says Moyo: “They perpetuate a negative view of Africa. All that comes out from them is what I call it the Four Horsemen of Africa’s Apocalypse: war, disease, corruption, poverty. They never say, ‘Wow, guys, let’s try and change people’s image.’ They focus very much on the negative. They’ve become the face of Africa, and that’s an artifact of the aid model.”

Instead of over-reliance on intergovernmental transfers, she prefers – in part – mechanisms such as micro-financing. She admits that this is not the only piece of the puzzle, but it is in many ways it is to be preferred to the current inefficiencies, corruption and waste of our overseas aid programs

Listening to Dambisa Moyo speak and articulate her points is certainly worth it as well. We need to move away from this welfare society that so many want to continue to perpetuate and she make great points about how we should do that for African countries.