1. The King of Saudi Arabia bowed to international pressure and pardoned a teenage rape victim who was to receive 200 lashes and a prison sentence.
2. Japan similarly bowed to international pressure and agreed to suspend its hunt of humpback whales this year.
3. The Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef who was wrongfully detained on charges of terrorism and who had his work visa revoked on character grounds won his case in the Australian Federal Court to have his work visa reinstated.
4. New Jersey became the first US state in 40 years to outlaw the death penalty. (Twelve other states and the District of Columbia do not have the death penalty either.)
All great reasons to celebrate the coming New Year. They prove to me that the world is getting better, that moral persuasion works, that the rule of law still holds and that the law itself is becoming more humane.
It doesn't seem proper at this time to quibble, but I do think the glass is less than full.
1. Why does a victim require a pardon?
2. Why can't Japan (and Iceland and Norway) stop hunting whales altogether?
3. Why does former immigration minister Kevin Andrews still insist that the Australian government appeal the Federal Court's verdict? What part of the phrase "travesty of justice" doesn't he get? And why are the Australian Federal Police still pursuing Stephen Keim, the lawyer who revealed details of how the investigation had been botched?
4. Why doesn't the US repeal the second amendment (which protects the "right" to bear arms) and reduce the incidence of violent crimes and suicides? (Heavy sarcasm: or is there still no proven link between smoking and lung cancer?)
[Mohammed Haneef's Australian ordeal forces me to a conclusion regarding the three immigration ministers appointed by former prime minister John Howard, - Philip Ruddock, Amanda Vanstone and Kevin Andrews. All three of them were notorious for having zero empathy for asylum seekers and migrants. A person who is incapable of feeling empathy is called a psychopath. I'm sure that was one of the prerequisite qualifications Howard insisted on for the job. "Minister for Immigration" is probably Orwellian newspeak for "psychopathic person responsible for ensuring that the dirty so-and-sos don't get in and pollute Australia Fair".]
So while I celebrate the world's uneven but inexorable progress towards true civilisation, I realise there's still a ways to go. Sigh.