Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NEWS: Sale extended

And with that in mind, the Christmas sale of Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-fascist has been extended to Christmas.

Yep. That's right. Until Christmas.

If you live in Australia, you only have limited time to have a copy of the book mailed to your door for a mere price of

Now that is cheap.

So hurry as this offer ends on 7 January 2011.

Surely the extension of this amazing offer calls for a celebratory drink.

E-mail for more details and to place your order.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

OPINION: Asylum-seeker shame rises for some political pundits

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall of the United States embassy in Canberra last November. And to be sitting there watching and listening as that unnamed ''key Liberal Party strategist'' that boat people was a politically ''fantastic'' issue with ''the more boats that come the better''. And if, for no other reason, than to know who that imbecile strategist was!

Oh, to now be a fly on the wall of that strategist's office and see his or her face watching images of the Indonesian fishing vessel with 100 Iranian and Iraqi asylum-seekers on board crashing against the coastal rocks of Christmas Island.

Of course, the political logic of the strategist's comment to US diplomats is really quite straightforward. If the boats stop coming, Tony Abbott would look like a right royalist fool by standing up on Manly beach, budgie smugglers and all, and screaming at the top of his voice: ''Stop the boats!'' If there were no boats hitting Christmas Island, how would voters in nearby marginal Queensland seats feel threatened enough to vote for the Liberal National Party?

And of course, this madness is all the result of our obsession with border security. To secure our borders, we go to faraway places and take part in wars against enemies, many of whom have never heard of us. What we don't seem to realise is that when we take part in wars, we have obligations. We have an obligation that is triggered as soon as hostilities cease and our leaders feel triumphant enough to declare ''mission accomplished''. It's an obligation in international law to restore and maintain basic law and order for the lucky citizens not ripped to pieces by our weapons.

Now let's look at the record in Iraq and Afghanistan. Basically it can be summarised like this: we came, we saw, we conquered, we unconquered and we lost control. Any MP or pundit who thinks Iraq and Afghanistan are bastions of stability should spend Christmas with their family in a "holiday house" in Kandahar or Basra.

Many Iraqis don't celebrate Christmas. One of the most important religious festivals in Iraq is Ashura. It isn't easy celebrating when suicide bombers are out to blow themselves, you and your family to pieces on a holy day.

And if you do happen to celebrate Christmas, things aren't much better. A siege of the Our Lady of Deliverance church on October 31 left 52 worshippers dead. In such an environment, is it any wonder so many Iraqis and Afghans are fleeing?

But Andrew Bolt and other allegedly conservative bloggers keep reminding us of the existence of an orderly queue. Everyone should just take a ticket and patiently stand in the queue and wait for their number to be called.

So where does the queue start for Iraqis? We know that many fled to neighbouring Syria, where living conditions were described in a UNHCR survey conducted in July and August at the Waleed border crossing between Syria and Iraq. One extended family of 13 people was living in a one-bedroom unit.

Syria now holds 290,000 Iraqi refugees, more than 70 per cent of whom have lived there for at least four years. And back in May 2007, The New York Times reported that thousands of Iraqi women have been forced to work in prostitution. The report said:

Aid workers say $50 to $70 is considered a good night's wage for an Iraqi prostitute working in Damascus. And some of the Iraqi dancers in the crowded casinos of Damascus suburbs earn much less ... From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.

One Iraqi prostitute told the reporter:

The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they'll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available.

This is the orderly queue we hear about. Imagine what evil people would use people smugglers to jump from such a safe and secure environment. Surely the average Aussie, let alone Bolt and Scott Morrison, would happily bring up their families in such circumstances than spend six months in a leaky boat.

If you had to choose between selling one's daughter into prostitution and borrowing thousands to hit the high seas, the choice would be obvious. If Australian voters were more aware of the realities refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran must face, they would punish politicians who used imbecilic terms like "queue-jumper".

If anything good comes out of the Christmas Island tragedy, it will be that Australian politicians will have received a reality check. Demonising the most vulnerable should now become political suicide. Voters don't have the stomach for images of children smashed against rocks and drowning, even if it means a more humane and sensible asylum- seeker policy.

Finally, here's a Christmas gift idea. Australian-Vietnamese entertainer Ahn Do has just published his memoir The Happiest Refugee: The extraordinary true story of a boy's journey from starvation at sea to becoming one of Australia's best loved comedians.

Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and author of Once Were Radicals. This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Monday 20 December 2010.

UPDATE I: The following letter to the editor was published in the Canberra Times on 22 December 2010:

Rescue from evil

Good on you Irfan Yusuf for reminding our politicians what drives the Iraqis, Afghans and others to turn their back on their own country and seek refuge in a foreign land ("Asylum-seeker shame rises for some political pundits," Dec 20, p9). These people, who had hoped that the West would rescue them from the clutches of their wicked rulers, now realise that their safety and security was hardly the concern of the armies that dropped in to liberate them. The least we can do for these desperate people is to rescue them from the new evil which our poorly planned mission helped create.

Sam Nona
Burradoo, NSW

Thursday, December 09, 2010

BOOK: Special Christmas deal on Once Were Radicals ...

Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist is an award-winning comic memoir by Irfan Yusuf.

The book has received some rave reviews:

... Yusuf explains the complexity of Middle Eastern culture and its history in lively, simple language. Added to accessibility is laugh-out-loud humour, as he pokes fun at John Howard’s national security fridge magnets ... (Sun Herald)

... this witty, astutely written and compelling memoir ... Often laugh-out-loud funny ... Using a curiously effective combination of caustic intellect and irreverent humour to relay and analyse his experiences ...(Courier Mail)

Like Mark Twain, Yusuf reinforces some of his stronger views with a wry and occasionally laugh-aloud view of human foible. And it is Twain who actually brings us to the book’s recurring counterpoint. Like the spirited offspring of sane and loving parents the world over, by the story’s end Yusuf has travelled old Sam Clemens’s full circle of discovery. (Canberra Times)

Yusuf’s frequently amusing account of his intellectual development, interspersed with healthy doses of (possibly retrospective) irreverence ... (The Australian)

What happens if you are a true-blue Aussie with an accent like Slim Dusty, but your name is Irfan Yusuf and everyone assumes you’re a terrorist? Very funny and well worth reading. (WarCry)

Now, you can grab a copy of this book for Chanukah/Christmas/Eid/Muharram/Noparticularreason.

And if you live in Australia, the total cost of this book for you will be ... wait for it ...


That includes postage anywhere in Australia and GST.

I know what you all want to say to that offer ...

This unbelievable offer ends 31 December 2010. For more details, e-mail

UPDATE I: We are happy to entertain overseas orders, which will cost A$18 plus postage. We will not charge GST for export orders.

DeliciousBookmark this on Delicious
Digg!Get Flocked

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

MEDIA: WikiLeaks hysteria ...

This post will be a running tally of updates on WikiLeaks developments. I can't guarantee it will be updated regularly. If only I had the resources of Fairfax or News Limited!

UPDATE 1: Jeffrey T Kuhner, a writer for the Washington Times, a far-Right newspaper published by a Korean preacher, has called for WikiLeaks dude Julian Assange to be assassinated. He writes:

... we should treat Mr. Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets.

Yep, send him off to be tortured at Guantanamo. Clearly he is worse than the worst of the worst.

(Thanks to NB)

UPDATE 2: A bunch of (largely left-of-centre) academics, lawyers, journos and entertainers have signed an open letter to Julia Gillard regarding Julian Assange. Read it here.

UPDATE 3: Here's a discussion on the unusual offence Assange has been charged with under Swedish law. They call it "sex by surprise".

UPDATE 4: Here's another op-ed, this time from a newspaper that at times tries to emulate the other Washington newspaper owned by a Korean preacher I mentioned earlier. The headline reflects just how much George W Bush's imbecilic logic still pervades certain sectors of the American Right. Read this and try not to laugh:

Assange has threatened America with the cyber equivalent of thermonuclear war.

UPDATE 5: I am accustomed to hacking into Alexander Downer's record as foreign minister. Hence I always imagined he would be more stupidly pro-American than the ALP when it came to China. But The Age reports that Downer and Howard showed far more good sense on this issue.

... 2004 remarks by the then Howard government foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, that a conflict between America and China over Taiwan would not necessarily trigger Australia's obligations under the ANZUS treaty with the US. The ANZUS treaty, which came into force in 1952, commits Australia and the US to respond if the armed forces of the other party in the Pacific come under attack.

Mr Downer's comments - which he insisted were taken out of context - caused concern in Washington and prompted the then US ambassador Tom Schieffer to declare that America expected Australia's support in the event of conflict over Taiwan.

The then prime minister John Howard refused to comment publicly on what Australia would do if hostility broke out between the US and China, saying it was a hypothetical situation.

But what of Kim Beazley?

AUSTRALIA'S ambassador to the US and former opposition leader, Kim Beazley, assured American officials that Australia would always side with the US in the event of a war with China, a confidential diplomatic cable reveals.

Mr Beazley's remarks, made in a 2006 meeting with the then US ambassador Robert McCallum just months before Kevin Rudd replaced him as Labor leader, are significant because no Australian federal political leader has publicly disclosed what position they believe the nation should take if the US and China came to blows over Taiwan - an event that would present Australia's greatest foreign policy dilemma.

The cable, classified as confidential and not to be disclosed outside the US government, gave the following summary of Mr Beazley's comments: "In the event of a war between the United States and China, Australia would have absolutely no alternative but to line up militarily beside the US. Otherwise the alliance would be effectively dead and buried, something that Australia could never afford to see happen."

If the contents of this cable are correct, they show a troubling degree of political and foreign policy naivety. It also shows that our political establishment places the interests of a foreign power above those of our own nation.

UPDATE 6: While millions in his country were suffering after a massive cyclone and storm surge, the head of Burma's military junta wanted to spend $1 billion buying English football team Manchester United. We know about this because of WikiLeaks.

UPDATE 7: A report from AlJazeera English on WikiLeaks on Latin American leaders.

UPDATE 8: Julian Assange cites Rupert Murdoch in Rupert's own Australian flagship newspaper.

UPDATE 9: A Labor Right powerbroker revealed as one of numerous US Embassy contacts within the Labor Party.

UPDATE 10: Hopefully my credit card won't be affected by this revenge hacking.

UPDATE 11: Hilarious video.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

DeliciousBookmark this on Delicious
Digg!Get Flocked

Saturday, December 04, 2010

COMMENT: Why isn't this man donating to Israel's bushfire effort?

Lots of countries are helping Israel out with its current bushfire predicament. Among them are Bulgaria, Greece and Spain. Also helping are Muslim-majority states such as Azerbaijan. According to the News AZ website:

The Azerbaijani Ministry for Emergencies sent today two helicopters of the aviation group to join the international crews helping Israel in the battle a huge forest fire.

MES’ two helicopters – "Ka-32A" and "Mi-17-1b" left for Israel from Baku International Airport.

Chief of the Aviation group of MES, Colonel Ashraf Gasimov reported to the journalists that according to Israeli government’s appeal, the Azerbaijani government would take part in fire extinguishing.

Also helping is Turkey. Remember that Israeli troops recently stormed a Turkish flotilla and killed Turkish citizens on board. Still, Turkey heeded the call of its old ally. Zaman reported on 4 December:

Turkey has put aside tensions in diplomatic relations with Israel, and under orders by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, has rushed to send fire fighting aircraft to assist in the battle against Israel’s biggest-ever fire that has already killed around 40 people.

The man some of Israel's most hawkish friends dub as a dangerous Islamist managed to earn thanks from Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu. According to Ynet News reporting on 3 December:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with other world leaders for sending planes and firefighting equipment to Israel in order to assist the battle against the blaze consuming its northern region.

Netanyahu added that he spoke with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan who "expressed his and his country's condolences to the families of the 41 casualties and Turkey's willingness to help."

"I told Erdogan that we appreciate the major efforts during this time and I am sure that this will be a gateway to improving relations between the two countries", the prime minister said noted.

But there's one American journalist who refuses to help. Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic, has written a scathing attack on what he sees as the negligence of Israeli authorities in not doing more to protect their citizens from the elements.

Israel's per capita GDP is nearly $30,000. Israel is a rich country. The fact that it doesn't possess adequate firefighting equipment is its own fault. The fact that the leadership of its fire service is incompetent is its own fault ...

It's a compelling argument. Israel isn't accustomed to fighting fires on this scale. Indeed, it's more accustomed to starting fires in other people's backyards. Still, right now Israel needs help needs help. Just as it needs help with convincing itself not to set off the kinds of fires that kill children. Fires like the one shown below.

Or is it in poor taste to mention these children at this time?

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

DeliciousBookmark this on Delicious
Digg!Get Flocked

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

POLITICS: Liberal plane set to crash if crew bombs left wing

Here's a scenario for politically astute, frequently flying Canberrans. A passenger jet is about to make its descent to its destination. The pilot, Captain Blackadder, orders the cabin crew to prepare for landing.

But some of the crew have a cunning plan. They harbour a strange belief that this plane should fly with only one wing. They have strapped makeshift bombs to the left wing of the plane, attempting to cause irreparable damage, if not destroy it. They then plan to enter the cockpit, knock out Captain Blackadder and take charge of the plane.

It all sounds like a cunning plan. And one likely to lead to a rather bumpy crash landing, one with perhaps more crash than landing.

In certain sections of the Liberal Party, such delusional crash-landing politics has become the norm. Some Liberals seem to think it's not only possible but necessary to fly their party's plane with only a right wing. This kind of Liberal thinking might work well in campus politics, where often only the most doctrinaire ideological creatures congregate.

Indeed, many allegedly conservative Liberals insist that anyone not as conservative as they should find another party. NSW Young Liberal presidents have often subscribed to this school of factional aeronautics. Back in May 2005, one Young Liberal president openly criticised moderate party members. The young man told the Sydney Morning Herald:

Nobody joins the Liberal Party to be left-wing. If you stand for compulsory student unionism, drug-injecting rooms and lowering the [homosexual] age of consent, you can choose the Greens, Labor or the Democrats.

He went further and promised conservative stacking to mould the NSW Liberal Party in his own image.

I'm about a long-term philosophical shift in the Liberal Party to the right ... I do not shrink from signing up people who believe in conservative agendas and the free market. I'll sign as many as I can up every day of the week.

That young man is now a federal member for a safe Sydney seat. He is hopefully now embarrassed by the words of his political youth. If he isn't, Tony Abbott might be in for a crash landing soon.

The arch-rival of this Young Liberal was then NSW Opposition leader John Brogden. Many NSW Liberal right-wingers, both young and old, were of the view that Brogden would be unelectable. They argued that the electorate would only vote for conservative Liberals. Small ''l'', limp-wristed wets would never attract votes.

Brogden's response? '

The Liberal Party is a broad tent, capable of encompassing many views, but someone is auditioning for the role of clown.

Sadly for Brogden, the broad-tent model descended into a circus. Labor won the following NSW election. And it's fair to say that the likely result of the next NSW election would be better described as an ALP loss than a Coalition victory.

The ideological NSW Liberal right also cost Tony Abbott the Lodge. Abbott should have won western Sydney seats such as Lindsay and Banks. He could have defeated Julia Gillard's divided and demoralised ALP.

But the factional one-wingers in his home state, who prefer stacking branches with people with little incentive to hand out how-to- vote cards on election day, missed a golden opportunity to secure government for Mr Abbott, not to mention staffer jobs for themselves.

Liberals in Julia Gillard's home state have managed to pull off what Tony Abbott's Liberals could only dream of doing. They have soundly defeated both the ALP and the Greens. They have achieved the kinds of swings of seats that, if replicated at a federal level, could have avoided the prospect of a hung parliament in Canberra. And they did it with a leader who was probably to the left of his Labor opponent on a host of social issues.

Ted Baillieu is the kind of Liberal leader that Labor voters would feel comfortable voting for. He isn't a raving monoculturalist or a theocratic fruit loop. He isn't the sort of chap who would be invited to submit regular opinion pieces to a certain national newspaper.

Baillieu is the kind of Liberal premier New South Welshmen could have had back in 2006 if a certain group of Young Libs hadn't tried to dynamite the left wing. As the eminently sensible Charles Richardson wrote in Crikey recently:

Ted Baillieu has consciously branded himself as a social liberal, and even those who held no brief for the Liberal Party have wished him well in the hope of preserving that strain in the party's heritage.

The last thing the Coalition needs is to be seen as a political force that will happily "stop the boats" but ignore the electorate. As Richardson notes, Baillieu's election shows that ...

... the party has an alternative to the Howard-Abbott model of hard-right populism.

And that's a good thing not just for the party but for our democracy. If only believers in one-winged crash-land politics would understand this.

Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer and author of the comic memoir Once Were Radicals. This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Wednesday 1 December 2010.

UPDATE I: An anonymous person surnamed Darby and formerly of Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party sent this interesting response:

I'm sure the Liberals appreciate being lectured to by a revoltingly fat and smelly Pakinigger. How about fixing your sad life and mental illneses before trying to fix the Liberal Party? Alex Hawke and Tony Abbott can at least get out of bed without needing to scoff kebabs and cakes. The best thing you can do for Australia is leave it. There is no need to apologise for being alive. Just get out of Australia and don't come back.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

DeliciousBookmark this on Delicious
Digg!Get Flocked

MUSIC: Diesel live