The Daily Bork

September 13, 2005

Public Notice

To anyone still coming through here...
It is becoming too tricky to do this blog and Sir Humphrey's as well. So for the near future I won't try to update here. Please click through to Sir Humphrey's if you are looking for the same sort of commentary. To anyone who has the Daily Bork blog-rolled, please consider adding Sir Humphrey's as well/instead!

September 06, 2005

Hip to be square

Time to get away from hurricanes and back round to NZ politics. The Greens have a cool new invention they want to show off. It's expected to take off in a big way in the last 20 years.

"In 1975 the Values Party set a new standard for political party manifestos with its 90-page publication with a full colour cover that was sold in book shops. We have now eclipsed that cutting-edge initiative with this 21st Century equivalent," Mr Donald says.
Ummm, wasn't the CD-Rom released back around 1985? Not particularly 21st century. In fact decidely 20th, given that other greenie Al Gore must of invented it. First colour printing then CDs, what next for the intrepid party that probably would have banned CDs based on the chemicals used in manufacturing during the 80s? Oh, I see, you mean cutting edge for a political party. Congrats on raising that particular bar, look forward to the next breakthrough round 2035 then. What did ever happen to the Values party with their ground breaking manifesto? Oh yeah, died out in the ice age that they were all so terrified of if I remember right.
Nandor says that once again this demonstrates that the Greens are the most innovative, creative and technologically literate of the political parties.
Demonstrates something, not technological literacy, a bit of creativity maybe, but otherwise.
"We have demonstrated this repeatedly by having the best and most informative website and running one of New Zealand's most popular political blogs. The Greens are also the only party to have a series of music CD compilations," he says.
OK their websites are informative when you are looking for what is latest in crinolene political thought, I'll give him that. As for music CDs, again, welcome to the 80s lads.
"It never ceases to amaze me when MPs, who barely know how to use a computer, accuse us of being Luddites. Clearly we are the most techno-savvy party."
It never ceases to amaze ME how much Nandor can sound like an old man trying to be hip. Geez, even my dad wasn't that bad when I got my first computer and he's way older than Nandor. I know who is in more need of a hip replacement as well. Went to a techno-savvy party once but the drugs sucked, rate acid house parties much better.

Really if your aim is to show that you are up with the cool kids and showing up the other parties lack of technology use then PLEASE don't make an announcement that sounds like you got one of THEM to write it! This takes me back to the cringe days of parents trying to act cool for your friends when you were a teenager.
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Greens bringing back conscription

The Greens are out after the yoof vote. I'm not sure I count as part of the that anymore, probably note I suspect. But here they give 21 reasons to vote for the Greens if you're part of that generation. Reason #1?

We won’t send you overseas to die in illegal, immoral wars.

Seriously, is that really #1 on the minds of the kids? NZ hasn't had conscription since my Dad was called up back in the dark ages of the birthday ballot. So if they aren't going to send you away to an illegal war, they will send you to a legal one? Must be, otherwise there is no point in saying it. Hence, the Greens are bringing back conscription!!! The last point?

We’ve made sure silly mistakes you make when you’re young won’t haunt you for the rest of your lives.

But voting is by secret ballot so noone will know you were dumb enough to vote Green when you're 45 anyhow. Otherwise the list sounds a lot like "vote for us and we'll look after you just like Mum and Dad". But give them credit for using the term "intergenerational theft" and not mentioning invading the Caucasus as a means to ending "peak oil".

Return of the hack

The great Brown has more revisionist history up at Public Address, not in the usual Hard News section which appears to be now at least openly waving the Labour party flag, but in the great argument section where he has a transcript up of a speech at the National Library about "Information Entrepreneurs". Not much remarkable in that, just his take on the internet etc. Has a section on blogs as may be expected, with a good promo of PA and I think Scoop was the only other NZ site mentioned. The funny thing is where in a speech at the National Library he can't keep his pet hates out of it. Yes, I'm talking about his great bugbear PowerLine.
During last year's US election campaign, CBS News' 60 Minutes programme ran a controversial story on President Bush's military service, based on a hitherto unknown memo from his commanding officer. The conservative blog Power Line was annointed "weblog of the year" by Time magazine for its work in showing that the memo was forged, but in fact Power Line's authors did little more than ask the question: the real legwork was done by a horde of readers, some of whom displayed a zeal and expertise that put professional journalists to shame.

More recently, blogs on the other side of the divide used a similar division of labour to demonstrate that a mysterious conservative journalist given press accreditation to the White House was working under an assumed name, that the news organisation he worked for was nothing of the kind, and that his services as a gay prostitute were being advertised - explicitly - on the Internet. In that case the labour of investigation was explcitly allotted to willing readers; volunteer investigators.
Now why do you suppose it was written this way? The Rathergate affair culminated in the resignation of Dan "fake but accurate" Rather, indeed coined the term "fake but accurate", a spectacular achievement for a horde of readers. The sideways derision of PowerLine for "doing little more than ask the question" is selfevident, how could Time give them weblog of the year indeed? Contrast this to the unnamed blogs on "the other side of the divide" who organised a witch hunt of a journalist because he was conservative and asked the wrong questions. Why aren't the blogs named or Jeff Gannon/James Guckert mentioned by name? Because someone might go look them up and find out that it was in fact a witchhunt that went after a conservative gay reporter who was pitching easy questions. Now it is funny he doesn't mention Dan Rather either, because then you'd be left wondering why CBS has had more scandals than the "non-existent" Talon. One might also wonder how an one reporter being a party shill is comparable to a respected nationwide anchorman actively touting a forged document prior to a general election, insisting that even if it is a forgery it is accurate and finally resigning in disgrace. In fact one might in the end discover that the hunting of Guckert was the result of these blogs on the other side of the divide trying desperately to find a story of the magnitude of Rathergate with which to strike back and this was the best they could find, a gay shill.

Even funnier if you listen to the speech as well as read the transcript you will find this omitted in print
My tertiary study career consists of one essay on the Merchant of Venice that I wrote without the benefit of having actually read the play.
It's hard to believe. Unless you read Hard News and realise pretty quickly that Russell doesn't read half the stuff he links to but rather seems to pull the appropriate quotes and links from other blogs.

It really does look like another blogger, with a bit more aptitude for reading before writing and respect for knowledge, was correct in using the phrase "sordid little hack" after handing Russell his arse on a plate. Ironically that was about the Plame affair which Guckert was at one time supposedly invovled in. Russ never knows when to quit.

September 05, 2005

Round the traps

Rather than go into the details of the Katrina debate, plenty of other posts are doing that, or doing detailed fiskings of the loonier debators I give here just a few comments on the weekend's reading of the usual traps.

In Sweden the pundits have been a bit annoyed that the offer of a water cleaner and the five man operation team were turned down. I suspect that it is more that there is no shortage of hardware an operators available in the US rather than snubbing international offers. But when the headlines are "Bush accused of racism" and "USA government on PR tour of the south" among others its not difficult to see what is going on. Most of these are written by one Britt Marie-Mattsson who is the US correspondent who seems to get most of her material from the NYT and is so desperately anti-Republican she'll run almost any line regardless of the idiocy. After the severe storms of last winter, where some areas were without power for going on two months(!) the more balanced sources seem to be playing a calmer line though. It appears that the more thoughtful realise that an evacuation of a Swedish city would be a complete and unmitigated disaster. Few seem to imagine that if it happened here that the perceived failures of the US federal government they are ranting about would not be failures here because that level simply does not exist. If the equivalent crisis were to occur here then we'd be looking at total disaster since there would be no federal government to pass the buck to or await funding and manpower from.

On the NZ front the usual suspects have been quiet until the overseas sites were in with their stories. The redoutable Brown has the favoured approach, start off in anguish at the failure of local, state and federal levels. Then conveniently switch to a blame Bush mode, while demonising Fox and Poweline giving free pass to a bimbo rap artist flinging accusations of racism everywhichway. It is a giveaway when a blog is accused of something but he can't actually be bothered giving a link to specific posts, in other words what he accuses of does not really exist as portrayed. Then there are links to NYT and Salon articles who seem to be arguing in a roundabout way for an interventionist federal government, funny but I think there was a civil war over that sort of thing. That red-herrings such as Iraq are played up is a dead giveaway, but it plays well to the crowd that reads this stuff. Just like the WaPo article cited by Brown, where it comes back to Sept 11 funding changes. See, another link to bad Bush policies. It's almost believable that W wanted this to happen.

Common in many thread is the confirmation of the underlying dogma that "America" is innately corrupt and this is some sort of natural outcome. For example NRT sees everything that is wrong in America because of the failure of systems to handle such a disaster. The implication seems to be that a caring society would have managed its greatest evacuation challenge in history without chaos and anarchy. This seems to be a remarkably long bow to draw and left unsaid is what would have happened in other places. I doubt very much that we'd see much better anywhere else in attempting such a thing.

Curiously at one political party blog, Frogblog, doesn't intend on commenting about the whole thing... except by running a lengthy reprint of a virulently deranged article that exemplifies everything mentioned above. Funny way of commenting without commenting if you ask me.

The whole evolving racism thing is rather curious, although par for the course in any discussion about "the South" I suppose. About the only reference I've seen to it elsewhere is here, where the writer wonders at the care taken to photograph mostly white looters.

But it seems that everyone begins seeing their own demons lurking in the shadows, as illustrated above. Some are just more obvious than others, such as inveterate whackjobs like Farrakhan, crazier evangelists and anti-gay loons seem to be having a field day seeing biblical wrath wrought on a corrupt city, not unlike Islamofascists who appear to be a bit upset the limelight has been stolen away. But it gives communist dictators the chance to parade doctors around generously gloating in their offers of help.
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Sweden slowly tilting right

The Swedish opposition block makes further headway a year out from the polls. Reinfeldt "wins TV battle". Remarkable that the media, which is usually heavily Social Democrat, conceded victory to the opposition (for all that it's worth in televised debate). Unlike NZ, it seems being rude to the females is generally OK
One aspect of Persson’s performance that has provoked criticism was when he turned his back on Maud Olofsson while she was criticising the government on unemployment.

Persson defended himself afterwards in an interview, saying he was just stretching his legs.

“It’s hard to stay still for a whole hour at my age,” he said.

But according to Expressen’s Per Wendell, his behaviour only “strengthens the picture of a self-important Persson.”
Still I guess it's a better excuse than "by definition I cannot turn my back, she must have walked round me".

American public more clued than most pundits

Who'd have thunk it, average Joe Cowboy seems to be more level-headed than the mediasphere
Americans are broadly critical of government preparedness in the Hurricane Katrina disaster -- but far fewer take George W. Bush personally to task for the problems, and public anger about the response is less widespread than some critics would suggest.
Q and O have perhaps the most succinct round up of the whole fiasco. Meanwhile Eric at Classical Values illustrates what a mess the whole concept of FEMA is after the 90s growth of "responsibilities". Basically, if you are relying on a bloated national level bureaucracy to save your bacon in the first few days, you are bacon. Of course the above two sites are of the less government is better flavour and understand a federal nation well, so expect them not to advocate for expanding federal structures even more.

Tribes

Bill Whittle spells it out in Pink and Gray. Do not read this if you were featured in Team America World Police and recently sank a boat or balk at wet feet on duty...
Hundreds of New York firemen and policemen never came home, never came home, but New Orleans Police Chief P. Edwin Compass III said, of his men, “If I put you out on the street and made you get into gun battles all day with no place to urinate and no place to defecate, I don’t think you’d be too happy either… Our vehicles can’t get any gas. The water in the street is contaminated. My officers are walking around in wet shoes.”

Well, Chief, I’m sorry your men’s feet are wet, but getting their feet wet is part of their fucking job. New York’s Finest aren’t complaining about wet feet or places to pee because they died doing their jobs. They were sheepdogs

August 16, 2005

Was it all worth it?

An interesting addition to the "what price freedom" question in the dead babies thread down below, this from the Strategy Page

Deaths in Iraq (Aug 14)
The Iraqi government now believes that at least 12,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed during the last 18 months. In the last ten months, about 800 Iraqi civilians and police have been killed each month. Adding a bit more to account for unreported deaths (especially in Sunni Arab areas where chaos, not the government, runs things) the death rate is running at the rate of about 45 dead per 100,000 population per year. This is far higher than the usual rate in Middle Eastern countries (under 10). Well, most of the time. During civil wars and insurrections, the rate has spiked to over a hundred per 100,000, sometimes for several years in a row. During Saddam’s long reign, the Iraqi death rate from democide (the government killing its own people) averaged over 100 per 100,000 a year. This does not include the several hundred thousand killed during the war with Iran in the 1980s. There are other parts of the world that are more violent than Iraq. Africa, for example, especially Congo, Sudan and South Africa. Only South Africa has a sufficiently effective government to actually keep track of the death rate, mostly from crime, but it’s over 50 per 100,000. It’s worse in places like Congo and Sudan, but the numbers there are only estimates by peacekeepers and relief workers. In southern Thailand, a terror campaign by Islamic radicals has caused a death rate of over 80 per 100,000.
So, the death rate from Saddam's time is half and falling. Add in the loss of his sons feeding people into shredders, mass torture (real torture, not taking photos), systemized rape and all the other features of Iraq in the happy kite-flying days. Is it still not worth it?

NZ, genes and religion

Interesting to see NZ picked up for its curious attitudes towards science and religion. Why isn't that great defender of the enlightenment (not) Russell Brown, among others, doing his nana over this when he threw a wobbly about intelligent design in the USA just last week. Maybe he hasn't seen it yet. Comments from Gene Expression...
One of most of the frustrating things about the modern intellectual discourse is that those of us who hew to the Enlightenment tradition, that empirical investigation can shape a rational model of the world as it is, are having to battle two sides. On the one hand, you have traditionalist religious fundamentalists, particularly in the United States, who can mobilize massive ground troops. On the other hand, you have the hyper-Post Modernist project which attempts to deprivilege Western science from its monopoly on descriptions of the physical and biological world around us by periodically blind siding us with massive air raids. This story about Maori objections to the Genographic Project illustrates how the two can work in tandem, in particular when the focus is on non-white peoples who have a history of being at a disadvantage.

For example, see this quote, "For Tongans, we were created in Tonga. We have gods, our own gods, which we created the same as the people of Israel. We have our own stories...." Or, " "We didn't come from anywhere. We know that our Dreamtime stories tell us we were always here, in Australia. Can this be twisted to say we came from Africa...." The analogy with Christian fundamentalists is not too strained here as far as the religion goes, though while the fundamentalists want to preserve a certain model of the world that they think validates their literal faith in the Bible and underpins their morality, the indigenous spokespersons have a different ax to grind: "Maori representatives at a Health Research Council conference in Wellington called for the project's "immediate halt", saying genetic information belonged to hapu, whanau and iwi collectively, not to individuals." Ultimately, this is politics that is at work, as small ethnic groups attempt to maintain their own traditions in the face of the acidifying effects of modern society (the same acid that Christian fundamentalists fear).

The fact is, contra this talk of "gods," almost all the inhabitants of Tonga are Christian. According to The Joshua Project the vast majority of Maori are Christian. So are the majority of Australian Aboriginals. An emphasis on "traditional beliefs" is belied by the reality on the ground (if you read the article one researcher in New Zealand notes that he's had little trouble in convincing individual Maori to give blood). I am not a hard-core believer in either the Dawkinsian or Gouldian position on the Religion-Science relationship, that is, conflict vs. nonoverlapping magisteria. But, when mythology conflicts with science, I think that the universal acid will always win. It doesn't matter if the mythology is Christian or non-Christian, in the face of modern science they are simply presenting unneeded and superseded hypotheses.

"The enemies we make"

Done With Mirrors has an excellent article on caricaturing the "enemy" and the curious inversion that has taken place between WW2 and now. As the official organs of Western governments go more and more out of its way to avoid caricaturing, the film makers and commetators in the West have gone to the other extreme.
Atop a grieving Statue of Liberty, the demonic-looking U.S. president waves a banner reading "democracy," but in his other fist he clutches the club of "dictatorship." Around him, on the statue's crown points, a young woman hangs in fetters, "anti-war" soldiers carouse, U.S. workers protest, and a clown in a dunce cap emblazoned with the Star of David inflates a stars-and-stripes balloon.

The latest from Ted Rall, Ward Churchill, Steve Bell, or Michael Moore? Something from "Le Monde" or "Der Spiegel?"

No, the president caricatured is Roosevelt, and the image is by the great Japanese illustrator Ono Saseo, and it graced the pages of the January 1942 issue of the Japanese magazine "Manga."


It is an interesting article, contrasting Frank Capra and Michael Moore, Imperial Japan and bin Laden, the attitudes to the enemy and allies.

Capra was reluctant at first to create propaganda films to motivate the troops, but eventually became the master of using the enemies own pieces to damn them. Moore on the other hand has become the master of using his own countrymen's and allies pieces to damn themselves (although in this age of online information it isn't hard to find the rebuttals and refutations)...
If this technique reminds you of Michael Moore, it ought to. He did the same thing, but with the morality and virtues in photo-negative.

Like Capra, Moore mostly used footage shot by others when he cobbled together "Fahrenheit 9/11." The IMDB "cast" list for the film names 40 public figures; of these, 37 are credited as from "archival footage." Even the common soldiers portrayed often weren't filmed by Moore. Some are from an Australian documentary, "Soundtrack to War," and were used despite the objection of film-maker George Gittoes, who said he had no idea his work was in "Fahrenheit 9/11" until it was screened at the Cannes film festival.

Moore's archival footage of Baghdad before the invasion shows the kind of happy glow Capra might have given to the American hearth. And where Capra showed the devastated cities of China strewn with civilian corpses, Moore gives us a U.S. military campaign in Iraq that seems to have killed only women and children.
In particular he draws attention to the weird use of Moore's propaganda by those who wouold never allow its creation in the first place...
How ironic is it that the most significant piece of Hollywood propaganda produced in this current war is lauded by the people who would burn Hollywood to ash and sow its soil with salt if they had the chance? The religious authorities in Iran scrapped the scheduled program at the Farabi Cinema complex in Tehran to put Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" on display. "This film unmasks the Great Satan America," a spokesman said. "It tells Muslim people why they are right in hating America. It is the duty of every believer to see [this film] and learn the truth."
He ends with a lament, which on the whole is not unjustified...
The care taken by our people to avoid crude caricatures of the enemy's culture is worthy of praise. It sets this war apart from World War II -- ironically, the "Good War" -- when even Dr. Seuss got into the Jap-bashing act. But how sad that we've turned instead to making crude caricatures bashing ourselves.

We aren't for the other side, but we aren't exactly on your side either

The Guardian runs an article titled Give up your freedoms - or change tack. Blair's anti-terror measures are exactly what Bin Laden wants, with text that basically runs the same line you'll see round the traps, by one Saad al-Fagih who is described in the footnote as
Saad al-Fagih is a leading exiled Saudi dissident and director of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia
Some people take a bit of an exception to such a description, Harry's Place has the run down
Today's Comment piece by Sa’ad al-Fagih [sic] is, I think, a somewhat more worrying example of the Guardian's naiivity in the field of extremist Islamist politics. The essence of the article is that the United Kingdom government needs to change its policies as it is playing into the hands of al-Qaida.

What concerns me is this.

Sa’ad al-Faqih described in the footnote to the article as “a leading exiled Saudi dissident and director of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia”.

In fact Sa’ad al-Faqih is a little bit more than that.

Al-Faiqih seems to have bought the satellite phone which was used by one of the Al Qaeda suicide bombers who blew up the US embassy in Nairobi.

Sa'ad al-Faqih, was "designated" by the United States Treasury on December 21, 2004 and on 23 Dec 2004 was named on the United Nations 1267 Committee consolidated list of individuals belonging to or associated with the Al-Qaida organisation.

On 14 July 2005, the US Treasury "designated" al-Faiqih's "Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia" (MIRA), a U.K.-based Saudi oppositionist organization, for providing material support to al Qaida:
There's more but you get the gist.

So why is the Guardian running opinion pieces from somone who is more than just an al Qaeda cheerleader or playing Devil's advocate? The Guardian of course knows who he is but don't disclose his affiliations, after all bin Laden could be described as a Saudi dissdent. Imagine Lord Haw Haw running his radio programme from inside Britain during WW2.

Via Instapundit.

It helps if you read the links you reference

I shouldn't, I shouldn't, I shouldn't.

But it's just too much fun.
The New York Review of Books has Peter W. Galbraith's Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic. The new Harper's magazine has a wonderful essay by Bill McKibben; 'The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong'. The full essay is print-only, but there's an except here. Pogblog is calling it "one of the most important watershed moral upheavals of our generation."

McKibben, a former New Yorker staffer and current Methodist Sunday School teacher, has also been interviewed in a piece headed What Would Jesus Drive?
Let's start at Pogblog. What do they actually say?

The Anti-Christ Nation
The imagination quails – shrinks back, shudders – at the violence of the delusion, the wickedness, the nastiness, the awful arrogance of our present Golden-Calf-ridden Nation. Christ would certainly be turning over in his grave if he were still there. Looking at it from the Anti-Christ angle, one trembles at the audacity of it (By the way, Karlsputin Rove³ was born on December 25, 1950 if you want an Absolut Reba’s Baby³ moment of chilling synchronicity tinct with frostbites of ironies.) Look at the conversion of GeorgeBush, Barbara’s Baby, from alcoholic to christoholic. It’s the same addiction circuits.

The guy who writes pogblog is a freaking loon. Look at some of his other articles, if you can get through them. Russ might as well put in a quotation from Pat Robertson, it'd make as much sense. Or Scrappleface, if he wants to go that road again.

The McKibben article? Hmmm, seems to be admonishing Americans for believing in Jesus without knowing the 10 commandments or being able to control their credit cards. Mind you, this is the same wingnut who praises Cuba's dire agriculture after they lost Soviet support, without the need for dependence on oil (Chavez who???) etc. No agenda there then. As for his What Would Jesus Drive, read it to see what happens when environmentalism becomes a religion mixed up with a contempt for the average population. Russ doesn't like fundie Christians, but the Christians who mix it all up with Marxism and Greenie politics are just fine. I can only imagine he calls it a "wonderful essay" because it is full of numbers showing how dumb your average American is.

Galbraith is at least credible and worries about the emergence of an Islamic republic. Which is fine, the outcomes of war are never certain and removing the tyrant will unleash unknown quantities. However, per his usual MO, Russ uses one reasonable introductory piece but fills it out with outright loonies as if to show some wide ranging consensus or coherent thread. Who wants to bet he even read the impenetrable pogblog article? Anyone??
A soldier's videoblog from Iraq. Two minutes' noise, confusion and chaos.
Well, it's a video of some American soldiers raining heavy gun fire on some distant and unknown target. Noise. Yes, usually accompanies heavy calibre machine guns. Confusion and chaos? No. Quite a lot of excitement, though fairly orderly. Back up the link one step to the "all videos" section and you find it's some weird German site filled with virtual propaganda videos against the US. The point of the reference? Well, you see that soldiers fire guns and that there is a general level of excitement during battle. Who'd have thought it?
And, finally, MSNBC's Tucker Carlson has explicitly endorsed terrorism: so long as it's French. He said, on air, that the fatal attack on the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland made him "respect" France and "won me over". I've always thought he was a tosser, but …
Find some media loudmouth who says something stupid. Good hunting, can't wait for his similar exposés on various other morons of the media. Otherwise it seems to be a good reason to avoid PBS, if you can actually get it, which you probably can't.

There is some stuff about the political debate on TV3, but since I didn't see it and won't I can't really comment except where it is apparently OK that a judge ordered TV3 about which is OK by Russ. Presumably because Don Brash was declared the loser and his most favouritest woman-in-a-Mao-shirt won, at least according to the Herald. Then there is the obligatory food/drink reference, what cool music I listened to and, shock horror for the prudish out there, he mentions how much he is getting
and in the afternoon I nailed something I've been working on for a long time
Tee hee, see I can play the out of context game too!

(Cue Ackers, stage left...)

In a similar vein, this lengthy holier-than-thou lecture could be equally informative if condensed to,
I once worked with some Pacific Island women, aren't I cool and understanding?
To quote his stablemate,
I've always thought he was a tosser, but …
I should hand this gig back to RWDB.

I can't see this guy helping things

What happens when you take a bigotted Englishman who gets revelation on an oil well and converts? A speaking tour of NZ by an intellectual dwarf that is supposedly going to help relations with Islam.
Mr Green said he was taken aback by learning something from an Egyptian, because he had considered them inferior people.
And, surprisingly enough, the conversion does not seem to have cured him of being a bigot.
Mr Green drew smiles from the predominantly Muslim audience while explaining his doubts about the Holy Trinity, saying he realised that believing it meant believing God could die and was His own father.
Like that is the biggest problem when you are believing in a god. If God is god and can do what he likes, why on Earth can't he fake his own death and be his own father?

"We have every convincing reason to believe that the Koran we have in our hands today is the same one revealed to the Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago ... when the Prophet Muhammad died, there was no more revelation."
Oh right, so there is nothing in there that is as troubling as the concept of the Trinity.

But just to round out the loon-fest,
Mr Peters said Mr Green is part of the "militant underbelly of Islam", and called on Maori to "reject this insidious threat to our nation".
Still, if the guy did actually say this
However, after reports in Australia that Mr Green had said "dying while fighting jihad is one of the surest ways to paradise and Allah's good pleasure", he was barred from stopping in Brisbane on his way to New Zealand and had to alter his plans.
he deserves little sympathy, not to mention saying this
"Actually, the whole British middle class are brought up to be extremely arrogant, as though they are the pinnacle of human development."
after just saying
"I was arrogant," he said last night.
News flash, you still are.

Green Pied Pipers

Sue Kedgley is doing her save the children act again...
“Kiwi parents are being outgunned by food companies promoting unhealthy fat, sugar and salt laden foods to our kids. Unless we make sweeping changes to protect our children from the overwhelming commercial pressures on them to eat unhealthy food, dietary-related diseases will overwhelm our health system and many of the present generation of children may die before their parents,” Ms Kedgley says.
Nothing like a bit of total hyperbole to scare the parents. Usual nutbar response, oh here is a massive problem that is about to doom society and all that can save us is the revolution, follow us to the promised land! Remember to throw in the word children a couple of times for good guilt measure.

“We also want to develop a traffic light labelling system to help children identify healthy and unhealthy food – green for healthy, orange for ‘don’t eat too much’ and red for high sugar-high fat foods. And we want to change the rules so that only healthy food and drink can be sold in schools. We want nutrition education taught in all schools, no advertising of unhealthy foods on television, and the government to report annually on what it is doing to create an environment that encourages healthy eating
How utterly sexist. After all, a good fraction of boys are colour blind, who's looking out for them? I demand yet another labelling scheme to cater to this underrepresented minority.

Funny how many extra regulations there are in there, all designed to remove freedoms in the name of the kids. Strange, but I don't see a tax being proposed on fish'n'chip shops or the local burger joint. But after all, only the government can protect the children from the evils of commerce. Parents just mess it up far too much.
“Ultimately the only way to reduce the burden on taxpayers is to attack the main causes of ill health such as poor diet. This is what our food policy seeks to do,” Ms Kedgley said.
Ultimately the only way to reduce the burden on taxpayers is to add more tax. Or, maybe, make the choices you make in eating (or allowing your children to eat) personally costly. If you spend a lifetime eating your way to diabetes, fund your own treatment. It would neatly save this problem.
“Poor diet is the biggest cause of preventable death in this country. The cost to the health system is enormous. Obesity alone is estimated to cost $303 million a year,” Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.
If you can't control your kids and give in all the time to sweets and fat then why on Earth did you have any? Kids will try it on for anything regardless of what's on TV. They are your responsibility, not everyone else's via the grand apparatus of the State.

Bad science 2

After the fuss of Bush allegedly promoting the intelligent design farce it was interesting to come across something similar from the opposite side, so to speak. Not long ago Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, gave a speech in which he said that due to biological factors in the brain it was less likely that women reach the pinnacles of research in the "hard" sciences. As if to prove his point, one woman (I forger her name) had to leave during the speech due to the nausea this induced in her, seemingly unaware of the irony. It all nearly cost Summers his job, before he backed down and made amends with those howling for his blood. Anyway, Simon Baron-Cohen takes this up again in the NY Times. He is an evolutionary psychologist.
So was Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, right when he remarked that women were innately less suited than men to be top-level scientists? Judging from current research, he was and he wasn't. It's true that scientists have documented psychological and physiological differences between male and female brains. But Mr. Summers was wrong to imply that these differences render any individual woman less capable than any individual man of becoming a top-level scientist.
A complete misrepresentation of what Summers said. He never implied anything that resembled the opinion that the innate differences rendered any particular woman less able than any given man and Baron-Cohen must know it. Why did he even bring it up in an article about autism?



The rest of the article is acknowledging the well known differences in brain structure between males and females to build an idea on the causes of autism.

So what was the point of using the Summers case? There was none, it is totally unrelated to the topic of autism. It was purely political assassination of a man who spoke about well known ideas backed by well known brain studies but was gunned down by the establishment because they were politically inconvenient.

Now if I was of a mind to write an article I could start talking about a "sinister left-wing political agenda" or the millenialism of the PC movement, but I won't. Just pointing out that the sort of things that work up various commentators about education is not restricted to debates on intelligent design.
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Cole-ture shock

Our old friend Juan Cole gets a tongue lashing for getting the final word in on a debate... after the opponent has died. That'd Steven Vincent, who was killed in Iraq.

Cole presented his piece here.

Martin Kramer takes exception.
In other words, Vincent got himself killed, out of ignorance. Implication: his journalism should be dismissed.

It's certainly refreshing to see Cole slip into the style of Raphael Patai, going on about honor and shame and all that. Pentagon, take note: it's all true. (But you knew that.)

What reeks of bad taste is Cole's superior dismissal of Vincent, as if his death somehow proves his ignorance. Point of fact: you can know everything "serious" about Middle Eastern culture and never criticize it even in the mildest way, and still get yourself killed by fanatics.

Examples? Take Malcolm Kerr, a former president of MESA who left UCLA to run the American University of Beirut at the worst possible time, and got himself killed by gunmen on campus. Take Michel Seurat, French sociologist of Islam, who stayed in Beirut at the worst possible time, got himself kidnapped by Islamic Jihad (Hezbollah's kind), got himself mistreated by his captors, and got himself dead by falling seriously ill in his dungeon. (His body still hasn't been recovered.) These two Western scholars were born in the Arab world (Kerr in Lebanon, Seurat in Tunisia), spoke fluent Arabic, spent decades in the region, knew all about the dangers--and still they died. Should we conclude they were "acting in an extremely dangerous manner"? Or does sole responsibility for their deaths lie with their killers and torturers? And if it does, why should Vincent be an exception?
Here is the bit where Vincent takes Cole to task, prior to his death,
You might want to review your own site and how well it reflects love and concern for the Iraqi people. After all, on "Informed Comment," pro-liberation Iraqi bloggers are accused of being CIA agents, the elections are practically dismissed as window-dressing and every terrorist--no, I mean guerrilla, as Cole would have it--attack is given marquis billing, as if their psychopathic bloodlust discredits the liberation of 26 million people. Whoops, I mean 23.5 million--because according to Cole's Wednesday post, 2.5 million Iraqis support the "resistance."

Well, I thank Cole for revealing his gut-level concern for the Iraqi people... My question to the Professor is, which Iraqi people--the fascist thugs he calls the "resistance," or the police, National Guardsmen, politicians, everyday people and eight million voters who comprise the true Iraqi "resistance"? We await his Informed Comment.
It is also an entirely different view of him than some selected quotes from him given elsewhere, particularly amusing from those fond of also quoting Cole. Course it helps to read a bit further afield than the Guardian and Scoop "Guardian-lite" News. Anyway, back to Kramer:
Cole didn't respond then. But now that Vincent is dead, Cole has seized the last word in the argument. Vincent shamed him, but now he has his honor back. He's taken his revenge. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown among full professors.

I will give Cole this: he does have cultural knowledge--enough to keep away from Iraq, which he's never visited. Nothing he's written has endeared him to any Iraqi faction outside the insurgency--quite the opposite. He'd have no protectors. And as someone who spent years in the Middle East as a Bahai missionary, his life wouldn't be worth a plugged nickel if he fell into the wrong hands in Shiite country. Were Cole to surface in Iraq, he'd be "acting in an extremely dangerous manner." So far, he hasn't.

But as it happens, Cole will be headed for Beirut in December, on the tab of Saudi billionnaire Prince Alwaleed, to whip up support for his Americana Translation Project. (Is it a coincidence that Cole has just written a fawning puff piece at Salon.com, praising the new King Abdullah--who "has the smile and goatee of a genial beatnik"--and defending the kingdom against all comers, from Michael Moore to the neocons? Who knows? The Saudis have a long history of suborning the Middle East studies establishment.) And once in Beirut, Cole could pop over to Baghdad...
Winning an argument with a dead man, really difficult.

So is Cole a Saudi pawn in the pay of the bigboys there? Maybe he shares a room with the Bush family when they are all over there plotting to hike the price of oil.

Shopping malls, bastions of democracy

More stupid ideas from Keith.

Westfield won't let enrolment stalls in their malls unless they pay a fee. Apparently this is highly undemocratic.
"The footpaths outside street shops are public space and can be freely used for petitioning, stalls, busking, even political protesting. Perhaps we need new by-laws to require such commercially-operated, and often foreign-owned, malls to open up to free community activities, including enrolling voters."
Here's an idea... set up a stall outside the mall you cheapskate. How is it going to help the democratic process by imposing laws on businesses that they must allow "free community activities"? I know that in the green tinged world property rights and everything derived thereof have nothing to do with democracy or freedom, but really... if it is so exceedingly important that these nasty "foreign owned" malls must have enrolment stalls then why not use your dopey soft-drink tax to pay the going rate to the mall? You're mad keen on wasting money on everything else, why not this? Lots of Maori and Pacific Islanders go to church, are you going to force things in there too? Or on the local marae, even if they don't want it?

Please do not feed

Whose been poking sticks through the bars at PA today then?

Tibby the one-eyed cat:
So despite all the protestations of our resident pyjamahadeen over there in RWDB-O-Plenty (you people really need to get out of the house, and stop posting photos of women you'll never actually sleep with),
Which if you follow his pajamahadeen link you can read As Andrew Sullivan noted in response to Klein's remarks: "Actually, I'm in sweatpants and a tanktop. But of course, it doesn't matter a jot what a fact-checker is wearing as long as his facts are correct. CBS's apparently aren't." Substitute PA for CBS and there you go.

Can someone point me to the RWDBOPlenty web site? I have some pictures to post...

Then the redoubtable one-eye Brown going into uncharacteristic granny mode,
Finally, one of the more curious characteristics of the local right-wing blogosphere is the frequency with which its denizens need to keep assuring everyone they're getting some, oh yes they are. In which spirit, this story from Insolent Prick, which DPF thinks it is "outrageous" (presumably in a good way). I think it's sort of embarrassing, even as humour, as which it is presumably intended.
Naughty DPF, you should go engagingly ballistic or have a rhetorical flourish when you are commending the uncommendable, otherwise you are merely exhibiting your
Small. Penis.

August 10, 2005

Shopping malls, bastions of democracy

More stupid ideas from Keith.

Westfield won't let enrolment stalls in their malls unless they pay a fee. Apparently this is highly undemocratic.
"The footpaths outside street shops are public space and can be freely used for petitioning, stalls, busking, even political protesting. Perhaps we need new by-laws to require such commercially-operated, and often foreign-owned, malls to open up to free community activities, including enrolling voters."
Here's an idea... set up a stall outside the mall you cheapskate. How is it going to help the democratic process by imposing laws on businesses that they must allow "free community activities"? I know that in the green tinged world property rights and everything derived thereof have nothing to do with democracy or freedom, but really... if it is so exceedingly important that these nasty "foreign owned" malls must have enrolment stalls then why not use your dopey soft-drink tax to pay the going rate to the mall? You're mad keen on wasting money on everything else, why not this? Lots of Maori and Pacific Islanders go to church, are you going to force things in there too? Or on the local marae, even if they don't want it?

Please do not feed

Whose been poking sticks through the bars at PA today then?

Tibby the one-eyed cat:
So despite all the protestations of our resident pyjamahadeen over there in RWDB-O-Plenty (you people really need to get out of the house, and stop posting photos of women you'll never actually sleep with),
Which if you follow his pajamahadeen link you can read As Andrew Sullivan noted in response to Klein's remarks: "Actually, I'm in sweatpants and a tanktop. But of course, it doesn't matter a jot what a fact-checker is wearing as long as his facts are correct. CBS's apparently aren't." Substitute PA for CBS and there you go.

Can someone point me to the RWDBOPlenty web site? I have some pictures to post...

Then the redoubtable one-eye Brown going into uncharacteristic granny mode,
Finally, one of the more curious characteristics of the local right-wing blogosphere is the frequency with which its denizens need to keep assuring everyone they're getting some, oh yes they are. In which spirit, this story from Insolent Prick, which DPF thinks it is "outrageous" (presumably in a good way). I think it's sort of embarrassing, even as humour, as which it is presumably intended.
Naughty DPF, you should go engagingly ballistic or have a rhetorical flourish when you are commending the uncommendable, otherwise you are merely exhibiting your
Small. Penis.

Tally me bananas

Harry Belafonte is seemingly lost in la-la-land.
As Cybercast News Service reported, Belafonte over the weekend used a Hitler analogy when asked what impact prominent blacks such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had on the Bush administration's relations with minorities.

"Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value," Belafonte said in an exclusive interview with Cybercast News Service.
Of course colour does not necessarily denote moonbat status either. Sucks to be a conservative black in America, you can never escape your little pigeonholed group. Ironic that this particular group is "supposed" to vote for the party that most resisted their emancipation and civil rights.

One question though... why on Earth is anyone asking Harry Belafonte about politics? No one ever asks me about early Zulu artworks and the answers would be about as meaningful. Oh maybe perhaps because he is chums with Castro and sings the praises of Stalinist groups. Another funny thing that, a black man celebrating Castro, a white man who has had murdered more black men than any Republican or Democrat ever could.
That's incorrect, said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which describes itself as a research and education institute focusing on America's response to the Holocaust.

"Some entertainers simply don't know much about history," said Medoff. "The fact is that there were no Jews in Hitler's hierarchy; the policies of America and Israel are not similar to those of Hitler; and African-American conservatives are not comparable to Nazis."
"Some entertainers simply don't know much about history", possibly the understatement of the month.

Harry is not the only one who is a few bananas short of a boatload,
Earlier this summer, comedian and filmmaker Woody Allen told the German magazine Der Spiegel: "The history of the world is like, he kills me, I kill him -- only with different cosmetics and different castings: so in 2001 some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other."
Potato, potatoe. Tomato, tomatoe...
"Such analogies pollute public discourse by trivializing the brutal horrors committed by the Nazis," Medoff said.

"Hitler was a maniacal dictator whose regime systematically annihilated six million Jews, and launched a world war that caused the deaths of more than forty million people. How can any reasonable person put Hitler and the Nazis in the same sentence as American or Israeli leaders, or black conservatives?"
I guess Mr Medoff didn't get the group-memo saying that Jews in America are supposed to vote Democrat as well.

Bad science

Russell is out after the creationists now, well, Bush "advocating" intelligent design teaching in schools. He covers it in a concern for science or truth or whatever, but fails pretty weakly.
Salon has an interesting interview with philosopher Michael Ruse "an ardent evolutionist who thinks creationism is claptrap," but accuses atheistic scientists like Richard Dawkins "of being as religious as born-again Bible thumpers." I think he has a point: Dawkins et al sometimes seem keener on trying to disprove God than they are on pursuing science.
Being a scientist is no guarantee against irrational behaviour. Atheistic scientists are just that, atheist, true. But it doesn't stop a fraction of them searching for a psychological replacement for whatever personal reason. Likewise some are militant atheists, more concerned with whacking believers. In that respect they are behaving in a similar manner to the creationist wingnuts.

But having begun with a comparatively rational statement, Russell does his usual trick. Find a convenient quote from some "authority" that halfway through makes a switch to an unrelated but seemingly connected point.
He thinks that creationists, both of the old-fashioned "young earth" variety and the newfangled intelligent-design model -- which President Bush said earlier this week should be taught in schools -- are spewing dangerous claptrap and are in league, consciously or not, with a sinister right-wing political agenda.

It's a two-level answer. I think creationism is dangerous because I don't think you should teach young people bad ideas. I'm a post-Enlightenment person. Inasmuch as I see creationism as a litmus test, I don't think creationism as such is dangerous. I think premillennialism is dangerous, because this inclines you to simplistic and dangerous positions. You hear echoes of this when George Bush talks about the "evildoers." I think the decision to go to war in Iraq was bound up with many different issues; Cheney just did it for the oil. But I do see it as allied to premillennial thinking, and that's even before you get to the Israel issue. Why are evangelical Christians so gung-ho in favor of Israel? Well, it's not because they like Jews. It's because of their eschatological reading of the Book of Revelation. I do think these things are very dangerous.
See the switch? Creationism isn't dangerous, but Bush believes in it (apparently). Premillenialism is dangerous, many Christians are millenialist and now we get to introduce the Jews and Iraq for free! What does Israel have to do with intelligent design? Sweet FA that's what. By this argument, if Bush believed completely in neo-Darwinism we would see that that too was dangerous because of premillenialist beliefs about Israel. The whole argument is invalid, of course Russell wouldn't want to point that out since it meshes so nicely with his "humanist" posturings.

But the guy really blew his cover with "sinister right-wing political agenda". For heaven's sake, there are plenty of right wing scientists who have no time for intelligent design. On one hand there are plenty of excellent scientists who are creationists, I had a supervisor who was a physics professor who was a "flood literalist" but was quite happy doing good work in cosmology and particle physics. On the other hand, I've known a number of scientists who were atheists and were about as useful wet paper bag.

But it gets worse, here he starts blithering about some "star" in string theory. The idea of a star in science is rather repulsive to most scientists, since it starts to reek of argument from authority which is exactly what we need to avoid. Anyway, note the star is Buddhist-Presbyterian.
String theory star Michio Kaku, profiled in the new Australian science mag Cosmos (whose editor Wilson da Silva I'm interviewing at 12.30 tomorrow on 95bFM), takes a similar view of fundamentalism, but has a surprisingly spiritual perspective on his work. He had Buddhist parents but was raised a Presbyterian and likes string theory as a marriage of the two:
With the following quote
"In Christianity, there is an instant of creation; while in Buddhism there is Nirvana, which is timeless. I am pleased that modern cosmology provides a beautiful melding of these two otherwise mutually contradictory ideas: that a continual genesis is taking place in a hyper-dimensional timeless Nirvana."
So what do we have? Yet another scientist who desperately seeks to find religious happiness in science. This is exactly where intelligent design comes from. The science has no knowledge of religions and likewise it is highly unlikely (about as likely than intelligent design is correct I'd say) that these two particular religions are in anyway inspired by the true workings of nature. What is this guy going to do if string theory turns out to be useful but ultimately incorrect? Every age of science goes through it, just look at Newton and what his mechanical view of the universe inspired. It was wrong, useful in many instances but as an inspiration to theology? Pretty useless.

Being a scientist, atheist, humanist, whatever, is no guarantee of being rational. Finding mystical inspiration in physics is highly irrational and bound to end in tears.

Finally
Meanwhile, a physicist-stand-up-comedian-screenwriter-blogger goes engagingly ballistic about President Bush's apparent endorsement of teaching "intelligent design" in American classrooms and the Vatican astronomer fires back at Cardinal Shonborn's attempt to drag the church back into the 18th century. Good.
As far as I can tell, Bush's endorsement goes as far as devolving it to a state choice while saying in a roundabout way that he likes intelligent design. So? Some pissy little physicist gets all knicker twisted about the politics of education. But the guy went "engagingly" ballistic, just like when Russell was praising George Galloway, of all people, for getting the better of a Republican senator. What is substance when you have style?

Intelligent design is a load of crap, in my opinion. But if schools are going to teach crap history, crap maths, crap literature and can't even teach basic literacy then what is a bit of bad science? Nothing, except for Russell of course as a convenient thing to whine about Bush/Republicans a bit more while in the USA it is yet another constitutional battle ground.

Here's a novel idea. Do away with state schools, let people send their kids to whichever school they like, some can even teach intelligent design. Those that turn out usefully educated people will thrive while those that don't won't. For free you get rid of bias from national government, so the President could worship the cockroach in the kitchen who personally birthed the universe and it wouldn't matter. Oh, but then you wouldn't get to teach all that rubbish history, literature, philosophy,... it isn't really about a love of science after all is it?

Rawling on the river

Che Tibby is off on another tangent about minority groups, or at least the ones he is "worried" about. Another prime example of taking a concept too far out of its intended area of application.
Anyway, catharsis over, and what Sandel had to say was pretty interesting. In a nutshell, he built upon the thought of this other smart-guy, John Rawls, and talked about the issue of knowing too much. Not too much in general, but too much about risk.

So, originally this post was going to talk details about what Sandel had to say, but I can boil it all down to the simple statement that the future does not lie in organising life around the individual to the exclusion of collective, public ventures.
No, really? I can boil this down to setting up the false dichotomy of politics being the "thoughtful, caring about the collective" left and the "libertarian to the point of anarchy" right.
What he lectured on was the danger that private health care (for example) will become too risky for private companies because of advances in genetic identification of probable hereditary diseases.
Of course the way is not clear on that issue, it does however ignore the great benefits gained in knowing predispositions to diseases, the concurrent advances in treatments etc etc. But abuse of information is always a problem, but it is not necessarily insurmountable.
This issue is potentially huge, and if you extend it out to the question of making our society cohesive, then it becomes incredibly tricky. What happens if in another scenario, people simply aren't interested in paying taxes to support another group that has a history of poor health?
Quite apart from the issue of how do you make society cohesive, in this instance why does the group have poor health? Is the group defined by the poor health, possibly because of personal choices, or is it a, for example, racial group with inherited tendencies to a disease? It makes a lot of difference.
This isn't so far fetched, half the time the right refuses to pay money to beneficiaries because they see it as funding dole-bludging minorities.
Oh lordy, can he not help himself? You could take his entire question about the treatment of groups, expounded on further on, and apply it right here to his attitude to "the right". I somehow suspect that the attitudes of "the right" are axiomatic in his mind so some strawman argument is all that is required to use this as a proof for his previous dodgy example.
The question I tried (unsuccessfully) to bring to the discussion concerned religious minorities. What happens if a minority is considered too risky to have in or near our society? Rawls' idea is that you design your political system so that it remains ignorant of specific content like religion or race, and just provides equally and justly to all.
That would seem to be the ideal case, but I would have thought it argued towards smaller government with less power. It seems that the larger the government the more entangled it gets in issues of religion, race, group identity, etc etc.

However, what do you do when you have a group, religious or otherwise, who has a stated intent of destroying the society you so value? When that group has no interest in your Rawlsian ideal and couldn't give two stuffs about equality and justice, however it is delivered? Can you really afford to ignore them and treat all equally? It would be like having cancer but refusing to go to the doctor for fear of the diagnosis.

Curiously, Rawls also argued against the same principles being applied internationally. Here he favoured limited assistance only but argued countries with sound economic policies had no duty to aid those that did not. I wonder if Tibbs is so keen on that idea from his smart guy.
But what happens if this neutrality is undermined by a popular predisposition to distaining groups in our society?
It depends on the cause of the disdain rather, doesn't it? Ghetto living Jews causing every woe of European history. Or organised crime families in New York. Or Islamist revolutionaries in Britain. What is the difference?
After all, people are starting to really hate Islam.
A rather contentious claim, with no real backing.
Does this mean that in time that entire Muslim communities will be marginalized and excluded in places like Britain?
It would seem to depend on how the faction dedicated to destroying Britain are handled, would it not?
Will they be forced to entirely shut down their contribution to public debate, say in opposing things like the levelling of Falluja?
Nope. But they should also be forward in their opinions on, say, blowing up subways, the murder of Israeli schoolchildren, the murder of Iraqi children, the murder of Russian children, etc so that everyone knows where they stand for better or worse.
It's a worry.
Only when you are using those minorities you are so terribly worried about to push your own agenda.

Battle of the Blog

The Green election blog is heralding the marshalling of the "progressive blogs" and gearing up for a counterattack...
It’s often been said that, globally, blogging is dominated by right-wingers.
Actually what it means is that blogging is suited to those of a more independent and sceptical nature, who are automatically labelled rightwing regardless of who they may actually vote for.
Well, if progressive forces in New Zealand politics were slow to pick up the art (and I’m not sure that they were), then the right/left battle is certainly a lot more even-handed than it was a year ago. Joining the seasoned Russell Brown, Jordan Carter and No Right Turn on the, er, correct side of the ideological divide have been frogblog and, now, KeepLeftNZ. The blog battle is now a much fairer fight.
Russell can't remember if he is in NZ or the USA, the Republican party of NZ must be quaking in its boots. Jordan is what, a semi-official party mouthpiece and No Right Turn seems to be the local Fisk appreciation society. KeepLeftNZ should really be called simply WeHateDonBrashNZ because that seems to be all that they are interested in. In common they all have a strange obsession with Iraq and Bush which, really, has little bearing on the NZ elections.

Interesting that they say "the blog battle is now a much fairer fight". It seems to suggest that the Greens feel there is a fight and that "they" were losing. If KeepLeftNZ is the best that they can come up with to aid the fight then the "progressive blogs" seem well on the way to having as much impact as they did in the US, somewhere between none to counterproductive, where the demented ranters on Daily Kos and Democratic Underground were the leading lights of the cause.

Update:

On a related note, how long before someone does this for NZ blogs? (Or has it already been done?)

MOONBAT BLOG TAXONOMY
Conservative Blog Taxonomy

Update 2:

Oh I missed this at No Right Turn
If you're reading this from Australia, you might want to check out GetUp!. It's an internet-based, grassroots progressive movement, essentially an Australian version of MoveOn.org. As with MoveOn, the basic idea is to campaign and mobilise grassroots support on key issues. Their first campaign is to remind federal senators that while the Coalition now has a majority in the Senate, they are still answerable to the electorate, and will be held accountable for the legislation they pass. More will no doubt follow.

Getting visibility and building membership is important, so if you have lefty friends in Australia, please drop them the link.

It would be nice to see something like this here, but I suspect one of the preconditions is having a right-wing government. And I don't really think that's worth it...
They want to fight a battle using blogs, yet here is a luminary of the left advocating using a model that was an abject failure. Throw millions of dollars at getting out the vote, sure, just make sure you get them to vote for your party, twits. There probably aren't millionaires daft enough in NZ to throw away enough money on this sort of scheme anyway. I know the fool goes by the name Idiot/Savant, but I have yet to see any of the savant part yet. Maybe he's good at adding up or something.

NY Times strikes again

Gobsmacked. The NY Times runs an article titled Where Are the War Heroes?
Their names are Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester and Sgt. Rafael Peralta. If you have never heard of them, even in a week when more than 20 marines were killed in Iraq by insurgents, that might be because the military, the White House and the culture at large have not publicized their actions with the zeal that was lavished on the heroes of World War I and World War II.
Bwa ha. Bwa ha ha ha! Not "we refused to commend any heroic actions because that might have helped W and defeating W was far more important than any stinking murdering hero".
The change began, historians said, with the murky stalemate of the Korean War, which did not require as much mobilization or support as previous wars. Vietnam cemented the shift. While the swashbuckling Green Berets were lionized in the war's early years, by 1968 the public became skeptical of military planners who perpetually predicted a victory that never came.
Or, in the real world, the change began when an active fifth column funded and directed by Moscow manipulated the western media. Victory that never came? Tet offensive anyone?
"What happened very quickly was a move away from the bravery of the kids fighting," David Halberstam, the author and former war correspondent, said in an interview. The question that ran through everyone's mind was, Can this war be won?
Yeah, because WW2 was a foregone conclusion. I mean, losing the heart of the Pacific fleet was a mere flesh wound. Dunkirk, Singapore, Malaysia? Bah, I fart in your general direction.
"We had absolute military superiority but they had absolute political supremacy," Mr. Halberstam said. "That led to a stalemate - and that became the governing issue."
Victories that never came, yet absolute military superiority? Come on, you can't really have it both ways. And what was this political supremacy? John Kerry running to "peace talks" as an illegal representative of his country? Jane Fonda swanning round Hanoi? You mean that a war that should have been won was defeated by the actions of those actively working against their own country perhaps?

Ah, the bald faced cheek of it all. Anyway, read it for a sorry laugh.

Men, an insecure lot

How on earth can anyone seriously write this sort of stuff??
Brickell said masculinity was always in crisis. Women's suffrage made men anxious, as did the fortitude and resourcefulness of women during the world wars, gay liberation, the second wave of feminism and black power.
Basically, everything that can possibly happen makes men "anxious". Oh wait...
Similarly, Otago University sociologist and gender studies lecturer Dr Chris Brickell had little time for the British research.
Reminds me why I left the university system and I did science so got off pretty easy.

I remember going to a lecture in feminist studies with my (now) wife, to see what it was like. They showed a film about the insecurities of men, something about a little mouse of a man dominated by some woman or another if I remember. We both crept out after 10 minutes. Why was my wife doing the course? Only one that fitted the timetable. It was one of those ironic courses you think only exists in a comedy sketch, the guys would deliberately write an all out assault essay on anything "male" and get A+ while the less political women would get C for considering the opposite "side" of the topic.

Small town irony

I went for a drive today to a town nearby, Alingsås, down the main road towards Stockholm. It's a nice little cafe town, full of arty stuff and parks and things. Alingsås is known for a few things, chiefly it seems to be the place that the potato took hold in Sweden. So much so that they have a potato festival every year, which I guess I will have to see sometime.

Another thing it is known for is that Herman Goering convalesced in hospital there after the First World War.

As we were driving round we drove past the local offices of the Social Democrats, the Center Party and the Left Party. The Left Party had a single poster on their front door, "Boycott Israel".

Funny how somethings don't change.

Art and Empowerment

If I ever move to the USA, California is one state I am not living in...

The Art of Protesting: Kids take creative approach to activism at camp in Ben Lomond
While most summer camps get kids out of the house and give parents a break, a group called Art in Action is nurturing the next Michael Moore — the controversial filmmaker who created "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Art in Action’s "art and empowerment" camp is being held at the Quaker Center nestled in the redwoods of Ben Lomond. Campers at the 10-day retreat attend workshops on cultural activism, nonviolent action and alternative media.
Oh good grief. Did someone pick up a rejected Dharma and Greg script and run it as news?
"The reality is that the media is not actually showing what’s really going on in Iraq," said Jouse Bustos, 19, of central Los Angeles. "By doing this mural, I’m showing what’s going on.
And pray tell, Mr Bustos, when you were in Iraq last?
Bustos is one of 25 young people attending the camp. For 10 days, they learn to say "no" to military recruiting, racism and war, and "yes" to eco-justice, community and love.

Campers spend their time making banners, writing poetry and choreographing dances that represent a vision of "positive alternatives to the madness of war and oppression."

The hours spent building giant puppets and talking about how to influence the rest of the world culminate with a performance for the community Thursday night at The Attic on Pacific Avenue.

"Art is the best way to communicate social messages," said camp founder Alli Chalabi-Starr, who grew up in Santa Cruz but now lives in San Francisco. "We want to inspire young people to get involved."

Chalabi-Starr, 37, gave up a career as a modern dancer to start Art in Action five years ago.

Each year she invites people ages 17-25 — mostly from low-income families — from cities across the country to attend the camp, which has been held in Nevada City and Half Moon Bay.

"Queer, working class and youth of color are strongly encouraged to apply," an Art in Action postcard states.

The cost of camp, up to $750 a person for meals, lodging and workshops, is mostly covered by donations, Chalabi-Starr said.

In the middle of an uncomfortably warm afternoon, campers — trying to dodge the sun and grab a spot under a towering tree canopy — are absorbed in various activities.

Some glue together pieces of newspaper that will become the giant puppet unveiled Thursday night — the divided face of a Muslim woman and woman of color from the United States.

Stamped across the face will be an American flag, said camp co-founder Maryam Roberts of San Francisco.

The face "represents silence forced upon both women by their governments," Roberts said. "There is a feeling of silence."

Pamela Chavez, a student at UC Santa Cruz, said the conversations at camp have helped her express the frustration from growing up as a Costa Rican migrant who moved at least 14 times with her family before settling in Hayward.

"It’s really cool," Chavez, 21, said. "More than anything I’ve learned a lot from the other youth here about solidarity and the struggles everyone has gone through."
Struggles with reality, struggles in which reality has had six kinds of crap kicked out of it before lunch time by the look of it.

August 05, 2005

Juan Cole redux

I see the great Brown has trotted out the Juan Cole load of cobblers which has been pinging round the traps for a while now...
Juan Cole's Fisking the War on Terror is one to cut out and keep. Bring it out when somebody asks you where terrorists come from.
Funnily enough, the article doesn't show any pictures of terrorists' mothers.

He seems to have "missed" these, among others, somehow:

Fisking Juan Cole: A Photo Gallery
Responding to the Obvious
Making Cole-slaw of history

Mind you, he does seem to like the intellect-lite style of the great JC, whom he references quite a lot.

Oh and do you reckon he'll be saying something like this when Condi is elected VP in 2008?
And here's the Wiki on Canada's new Governor General, Michaëlle Jean. Journalist. Immigrant. Black. Intellectual. Total babe.

Yoga, it pisses you off

News from the slightly odd side...

Yoga classes 'provoke' prisoners
A prison in Norway has stopped holding yoga classes after it found that instead of calming inmates, they were actually making some more aggressive.
High-security Ringerike jail near Oslo offered the classes to eight inmates on a trial basis earlier this year.

Prison warden Sigbjoern Hagen said some of the inmates became more irritable and agitated and had trouble sleeping.

He said the prison did not have the resources to treat emotions unleashed by the deep breathing exercises.

The yoga group expressed surprise at the prison's findings.

It said the project had been tested successfully on some 100,000 prisoners in around 15 countries, the AFP news agency reported.

"The reactions we received from the prisoners who participated in the classes were very varied, ranging from completely positive to completely negative," Mr Hagen reportedly wrote in a letter to the group.

On the negative side, the yoga had provoked "strong reactions: agitation, aggression, irritability, trouble sleeping and mental confusion", he said.

The deep breathing exercises are an essential element of Yoga, which originated in India more than 5,000 years ago and aims to harmonise mind, body and spirit.

But such exercises could make inmates more dangerous by unblocking their psychological barriers, Mr Hagen was quoted as saying.
I dunno. Isn't it just possible that people in high security prisons are, on the average, quite likely to be somewhat different in their reactions? Sure some of them will be products of society, but quite a few of them will be a few sandwiches short of a picnic. How do you harmonise mind, body and spirit in someone with psychopathic tendencies?

Swedish socialism in the rearview mirror

John Ray has an interesting piece on the development of Swedish politics over the 20th century.

Sweden: Fascism in slow motion
Has not Sweden been the great icon of the Democratic Left in the postwar period? It has indeed, though these days conservatives have better reasons for mentioning the Swedish experience than Leftists do. Nonetheless, little-recognized though it might be, there are substantial reasons for seeing interwar Sweden as Fascist. Like all Fascisms, however, Swedish Fascism had its own unique national characteristics and its most unusual characteristic was how slowly it developed, with much of its development taking place AFTER WW2 rather than before.
As you can guess, it'll probably have admirers of the idea of great socialist welfare states apoplectic. But it is worth a read to see the various paths socialism takes.

August 04, 2005

Oooh oooh the winds of change.

The socialist block continues to lose ground in Sweden. The latest polls have the liberal party alliance stretching their lead by 10 points over the ruling socialist block. Still a year out to the election but at least it's going in the right direction.

Trucks and trains

The Greens (NZ) want to encourage people off the roads and on to trains.

Yet they are also recommending people buy extremely fuel efficient cars.

Call me crazy, but if I suddenly get much better fuel efficiency, why bother with the train? I'd recommend people buy trucks, big heavy ones. Then they would take the train to work. Imagine trying to park a truck in the city, let alone filling it every couple of days.