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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reality is as Mad as a Hatter 

While the war on terror was busy guarding Santa, no one was guarding opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan.

Well actually, she had an armoured convey that included anti-bomb detonation equipment (apparently they send out frequencies to jam cell phone detonations), a bullet and bomb-proof car, and a healthy enslaught of body guards.

The jury is still out as to whether she died of gunshot wounds, shrapnel, or if "after she tried to duck back into the vehicle and the shock waves from the blast knocked her head into a lever attached to the sunroof, fracturing her skull."

While the coroner gets to his conclusions, the global media has decided that Al Qaeda and the Taliban...BOTH OF THEM, caused the incident.

I want details.

So far the Interior Ministry Spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Javed Iqbal Cheema claimed that Pakistani intelligence intercepted a cellphone message from an "Al Qaeda leader" Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud sent out a call of congratulations on a job well done.

Who did he call? The suicide bomber?

Seriously, the spin doctors have lost it on this one. To quickly label both supposed groups responsible on the evidence at hand is seriously flawed. For a while now I have said that uses of the labels "Taliban" and "Al Qaeda" are overblown, shrewed and barely understood. But the global media does a pretty slick job of jamming both groups into a single entity (I noticed this between the French and English press in Canada... While Canadian soldiers are usually fighting Taliban in English, in French they're after Kamikaze d'al qaida).

But back to it! Baitullah Meshsud is a known leader in the Waziri region, and is often labelled a Taliban leader (meaning one of many resistance movements in the northern league nations that stretch along Afghanistan's borders). The Waziri resistance movement dates back to the 19th century, and even today tribal conflict is a thorn in the side of the Musharraf dictatorship.

On February 8, 2005 the Musharraf dictatorship offered Meshud $20 million (USD) for a ceasefire from tribal aggression against Pakistan. Many tribal leaders (labelled Taliban) were offered similar bribes. "Some Taliban leaders had claimed they needed the money because they owed Al Qaeda (meaning a loosely defined network of arms dealers, and financiers that have links to Saudi Arabia) money, and couldn't disengage from hostilities unless the debt was repaid." But Meshud asked for the money to be given to compensate families who had suffered during military operations.

For Ministry Spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Cheema to pin responsibility for Bhutto's assassination on Al Qaeda and the Taliban because the government intercepted a cell phone message from Meshud is a sign that the spinning wheels of deceit are running out of ideas, because their stories do not consider two simple facts:

- The tribes in the Waziri region are not centrally organized as a single unit to be simply labelled the Taliban.

- Tribal resistance in these regions are greatly indebted to the repayment of funds to a supposed Al Qaeda group (again, meaning the financial network... not Bin Laden and his alleged military envoy that hang out in his secret underground cave with his dialysis machine). They are clients of, not decision makers with, such organizations.

Bhutto's assassination will be used by Pakistani, U.S. and other international figures to justify the scaling up of military activity in the region. My guess is that in 2008 Iran will somehow get thrown into the mix too. The goal, as always, is not to worry about details, or expose behind-the-scenes bribes and politics, but to take quick and fanatical action against alleged threats.

The fabrications that come out of the mouths of world leaders are getting out of hand. They make no sense, and yet they quickly justify brutal, widespread military responses. They also make instant Martyrs out of people like Bhutto.

There are serious cracks in the official stories that get spun. Unless we push up against those cracks, by asking some questions about the basic details, or at least by doing 10 minutes of research on Wikipedia, we're doomed to be blue in the face from being spun so hard.

Yamis adds: Wikipedia page for Al Qaeda
Wikipedia page for Taliban

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Santa, the War on Terror's Latest Victim 

Merry Christmas to all!

Last night I took part in a very traditional Canadian Christmas-eve. Some food, some cheer, a tree lit up, the whole show.

And of course we had the radio on playing Christmas Carroll after Christmas Carroll. And of course between songs were the NORAD (North American Radar Air Defense) reports that tracked Santa's progress.

I remember this fondly, as a child of the cold war. NORAD, which was built to defend us helpless saps against the Soviet threat and is now maintained to make sure that China doesn't step out of line, would soften the hearts of every youngster by letting them know that Santa was in national airspace, and by letting them know that NORAD actually does something.

It was cute when I was seven. Knowing that our top military infrastructure could pick up Rudolph's nose. Back in the day, NORAD central command would say, "We have confirmed Santa's presence...Merry Christmas to all." I

t was just enough to encourage us little people to tuck in under the covers nice and early.

But last night the message changed, somewhat. "We have confirmed Santa's presence, and we have scrambled CF-18 fighter planes to escort the make sure that he's safe."

Safe from what?

The Grinch?

Is it not enough that we're inundated every other day of the year with bogus military and media reports about how our forces are doing wonders to keep us safe? I mean, do they really have to protect Santa Clause from terrorism too?

This is too much, and what really scared me was how natural the radio relayed the report. There was no stutter, no giggle, no condescending voice that comes when you speak with children.

No no, NORAD central command and the radio station seamlessly told the story of Canadian fighter jets protecting the jolly elf. They told it with the same vigour and professionalism as they tell us that Iran is nuclear capable, progress exists in Iraq, and that Afghans actually admire NATO forces.

For a while now I haven't believed in the story of Santa, even though that the message is a good one. Knowing now that our military believes in Santa or Pierre Noel (or whatever the local handle is) just as much as they believe in Al Qaeda or the Taliban (or whatever the local handle is), no longer gives me comfort. It gives me panic.

Because while we tend to outgrow, and then help become a part of, the Santa myth, I think that very few us outgrow the military myth, and by doing so we'll always stay a part of it.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't Piss in my glass and tell me it's alcopop 

Especially not at christmas.

According to the metservice website today is supposed to be sunny and partly cloudy.

Thus far it has drizzled for approximately 4 and a half hours non stop. Well it did stop for about an hour but with cloud as far as the eye can see.

I wonder if they failed to notice the rain radar on their site has had light rain drifting across the Auckland region since day break.

A bloody useful website though nonetheless. Forget what they are telling you is happening or will happen. Just check out the satellite images and rain radar and you get all you need to know. Great for those outdoor paint jobs if you need to know if any rain is coming in the next few hours... Or if you will be cutting through wet wood with a wet saw to build a wet gate in the wet. FUCK! I think I'll just watch daytime TV. Not much of a choice there.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas staple 

Errg, I just heard the inevitable story on Morning Report: "NZ retailers worried about slow pre-Christmas sales." They trot out this shit every year and a lazy media laps it up. In 2-3 days we will hear: "NZ retailers relieved by last-minute spending spree." Y'know, just like we do every year.

Cricket correspondent Jonathon Millmow has another go this morning, but is rather self-referential in discussing the team's response to media criticism. Yeah, criticism that has come from Millmow himself (and rightly so).

The interesting thing is that Millmow reports, at considerable length, Vettori's defence of Comical Braces. What this actually means is that Braces is fucked if we lose today. A leading player (esp. a captain) coming to defence of the coach in this way (i.e., beyond: "he's good, we like him") is like the deputy leader of a political party swearing undying loyalty to the leader. Followed by a challenge at the start of the next week. When someone is actually in charge at the top, no one needs to offer long-winded defences.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You couldn't make this stuff up 

Until about 10 minutes ago I had apparently lost the will to blog. But thankfully the venerable New Zealand Herald has reinvigorated me. When pausing to refill my coffee cup in the lunch room I noticed the following two lift out sections in today's edition:

Carbonwise (Byline - Part 3 of 5: Transport)
Super Wheels (Byline - Speeding Up)

I think Homer Simpson said it best when he once asked: "Do I know what irony means?"

The first of these lift outs (over which I have spilled my coffee in an accidental but strangely satisfying manner) is in large part an advertorial, but it does at least include mention of such things as a supposedly forthcoming 660cc i-Car from Mitsubishi. The second is in even larger part an advertorial, promoting such dubious pleasures as a supercharger kit for your Holden V8, so you too can join the "Fast and the Furious" (actual headline - what happened to the first "the"?)

Do two sections of completely opposed intent constitute balance? I am reminded on an ongoing gripe of George Monbiot. This is what he had to say back in October:
The BBC drops Planet Relief for fear of breaching its impartiality guidelines: heaven forbid that it should come out against mass death. But it broadcasts a programme - Top Gear - that puts a match to its guidelines every week, and now looks about as pertinent as the Black and White Minstrel Show. The schedules are crammed with shows urging us to travel further, drive faster, build bigger, buy more, yet none of them are deemed to offend the rules, which really means that they don’t offend the interests of business or the pampered sensibilities of the Aga class. The media, driven by fear and advertising, is hopelessly biased towards the consumer economy and against the biosphere.
More recently, on the topic of speed cameras, he took another (deserved) swipe:
Nowhere is more nonsense spoken about this issue than on the BBC. Its Top Gear series has become a sort of looking-glass Crimewatch, in which the presenters enlist the public to help criminals foil the police. There are tips on how to avoid prosecution and endless suggestions that speed cameras are useless or counter-productive. The tone was set in 2002, when the team demonstrated that you could beat the cameras by driving past them at 170mph(5).
As an aside, should I feel bad about agreeing with Monbiot, but still really enjoying Top Gear? Nah. Will I watch Top Gear on Prime tonight? Probably. If I do, will I find it to a great laugh? Ahh, yes.

Anyway, back to the august Herald, about which I've taken a few swipes lately, along with many of my disposition. A quick browse of Carbonwise revealed at least one howler. On page 12, under "Trends to Watch" it reports that "Oil is here to stay" and that we should "Forget peak oil - the world is not about to run out of the stuff." Which displays a spectacular absence of understanding of what peak oil is about. Running out of "the stuff" is called ... well, "running out of the stuff", or perhaps something like "resource exhaustion". Peak Oil is the point at which oil extraction reaches its maximum rate, after which supply falls, and it becomes progressively more difficult and more expensive to extract oil from the ground.

Anyway, I'm just back from Australia. Tropical North Queensland to be precise. The night before my second boat trip out to the Reef I saw the following headline on the evening news: "Great Barrier Reef may be gone in 10 years: report." In one sense it affirmed my intention to spend a small fortune visiting it the next day. On the other, I couldn't help wonder about another irony: will the carbon emissions associated with my return flight (Auckland-Cairns), my ground transport (including 4 days behind the wheel of a rented Hyundai Getz with spectacularly bad wheel alignment), and my boat trips, contribute to the Reef's demise?

It wasn't helped the next day when a crew member on board the boat proudly announced we would be burning 1000 litres of diesel to get out to the Reef and back to Port Douglas again.

Fuck irony, I say. Port Douglas is a great town though, and reef snorkelling well worth it. I found Nemo, and a large number of his relatives, for example.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Racism in NZ? Surely Not 

I found this link in a PA thread to racism in Christchurch.

Being married to a Korean I would obviously be in a decent position to know if there was a hell of a lot of racism towards say Koreans in Auckland and to be honest it's never come up in the 3 years we have been living in Auckland. The only time she had any obvious racist crap directed towards her (actually it was towards me when I was with her) was when we were on holiday in the South Island, Invercargill to be exact about 4 summers ago. Since the n there's been nada. I can only assume that if she had been the victim of any racist crap when I wasn't around she would have let me know but again, nothing.

I'ts fairly obvious what the two main triggers of racism are. the first is ignorance, which generally happens when people simply don't know anything about another race or interact with any members of another race. The second trigger is when one race is perceived to be benefiting over another or to blame for another races woes.

I think the first trigger is to blame for any of the dorkish behaviour down south and in some of our other mono-cultural centres. The second trigger is far more likely to come about somewhere like Auckland.

Out on the streets in Auckland I see so many Asians, Maori, Pacific Islanders etc that you don't even register it and judging by every other white face reaction it's much the same with them. I also think that people are a bit more careful about who they vent their dodgy views to as well because they can't be sure the person they talk to isn't married to one of them, dating one of them, friends with one, or some of them, or tolerant of them. And over a period of time this breeds a lot of bigotry out of people because they just never get a chance to spout crap and then low and behold they actually meet a Chinese bloke who is strangely normal, or find a Maori guy down at the squash club who becomes their new best buddy.

But unfortunately it'll be a long fucken time before certain parts of NZ start to move that way.

But fuck them, they can wallow in economic, intellectual and moral stagnation.

Good night

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Friday, December 07, 2007

You Want Surreal? 

Try this...

A bloke comes along and takes the best and most well known rugby team of all time and starts handing out their jerseys to fucken anybody half decent and tours with b-teams and then fails to field the same lineup or anything close to it for consecutive weeks for about two years, and then this team starts playing like shit from the end of year tour last year right through this year but wins most games because a) most sides we played were crap and b) we win most games all the time forever anyway. And then he takes our best 22 rugby players in the country and makes sure they don't play rugby for half the year meaning a guy like Mealamu gets 9 starts in all rugby games in all of 2007 and most others don't get many more. And then he comes out and says it was a mistake and that they will have to go back to the drawing board and work out when a good time to rest these guys is. I'll tell you mate and you don't need to give me a consultancy fee either. It's called the fucken off season! It goes for about 2 months with no serious training and about 3 months with no games. I'll even tell you the months. December to the end of February and if you aren't on the AB NH tour it goes a month longer. And then he says he doesn't want to win the WC playing ugly rugby even though he knows thats probably what it will take.

And we reappoint the guy?!

And why? Because the retards that run the game were just as responsible for allowing the AB jersey to be cheapened and the professional game domestically to get sold down the river and so by giving Henry the boot they would effectively be saying that a) they fucked up and b) Henry was a scapegoat and if he goes we should go too.

They had no choice.

Henry is a good coach, theres no two ways about it but he joins a long line of AB coaches who buried their head further and further up their arse as their time in charge went on. I seriously reckon that the NZRU should appoint a brand new coach 12 months out from every single WC because all our coaches have gone fully bananas by the time 4 years rolls around. They have gone stir crazy and spent so much time plotting for this one event that they can no longer see the wood for the trees.

But I'll tell you what. It would take a long fucken time with Henry picking the best team we have available and not a single word about systems and processes and strategies and squad building and player depth and all that crap for me to even develop a hint of respect for any of those mongrels.

Why in fucks name do you need player depth (with 15 of those guys watching the game), and two year strategies to win a WC (which you never win) meanwhile shitting all over the games in between and then watching a side with no journey, process, system or strategy or massive depth or anything come through and win the WC?

Ah fuck this. And when you see those polls with 70% support for Henry it just goes to show that 70% of those surveyed watch rugby and 30% actually give a shit about it and understand it and the damage that has been done to it.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Business as usual? 

A cop makes a three point turn on a bend of a narrow provincial highway, thereby blocking both lanes, and two motorcyclists coming around the corner wear the damage: serious bloody injuries, plus two smashed Italian bikes. The idiot cop whose dangerous maneuver is responsible for the whole thing blames the motorcyclists for speeding (of course he would have taken the bend at 35 kph, anticipating that some idiot could be blocking both lanes with his large Australian sedan).

In other news:

1/ Outrageous Fortune was bloody good last night.
2/ I accidentally (I must stress this!) saw David Beckham at Wellington Airport, as he was departing for the Spice Girls concert in Vancouver.

On a livelier note, the pitch at Dunedin's "new" test venue, the University Oval, looks, um, lively: "34 wickets fell inside two days of a State Championship match" between Otago and Auckland.

In Auckland's second innings, there were 5 ducks, and only 3 guys made it past eight. Yes, eight.

Don't worry, NZ Cricket is sending its "top turf doctor". I can picture it now: "Out of my way, I'm a turf doctor!" WTF? Since NZ Cricket can't select its way out of a candy shop, I doubt it's on top of the turf thing.

Actually, I say leave the thing as it is and take our chances. I've often thought Dunedin would be the only place we might hope to dismiss a test team for less than 26, and thereby get this monkey off our backs.

Imagine the following:

Team from the subcontinent (in this case the weakest team, Bangladesh)
+ howling cold southerly (unlikely but not impossible in early January in Dunedin - December would be preferable)
+ cloud cover (highly likely)
+ green top (possible - something is up with the pitch)
+ NZ wins the toss and fields
= ????

If we had Bond steaming in with the southerly at his back (although the pitch seems to be aligned NW-SE, rather than strictly N-S, but you get the idea) they'd be in all sorts of trouble. But Bond is injured so it's business as usual.

You can zoom in a have a look at the pitch here.

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