The Lineup
B.I.R. Column Of Fame
Man of Steel... Wood... and Mud: Bear Grylls
Rock Legend: Tom Morello

League Gods: The Emperor and Alfie

Str-8 Shoota: Malcolm X

Str-8 Shoota: Zack de la Rocha

Super Bad mofo's

Comrade Hillary

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Smart-ass good for nothing cops 

I've had it with the cops at the moment. Last night at rush hour on Mayoral Dr: an unmarked squad car (blue Holden Commodore) with two uniformed officers inside weaves between lanes like the village drunk, performs a u-turn for no good reason, drives at 15kph up and down the street, all the while turning lights on and off arbitrarily. Dorks.

The family of the poor bugger murdered in the dairy in Manukau must have taken a lot of comfort in this police response: essentially, "yeah, dairies get robbed all the time and we knew this would happen sooner or later."

Further south again, some guy who's had a few too many wines in Queenstown is asked to leave the bar, and gets charged and convicted for "using insulting language" ... because he said police were "all rapists anyway". Resisting arrest, sure. But insulting fucking language ... get a life. Dicks.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Townsville Police arrested and charged Jonathon Thurston for "public drunkeness" - the heinous crime of walking home a bit drunk, not being able to find his keys, and deciding to take a nap in his own fucking front yard. For fuck's sake, who hasn't been guilty of that?

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the black guy running for president 

I don't really have a strong opinion about Barack Obama one way or the other. I do have a vague yet entirely unsubstantiated feeling that if he was the Democratic candidate, the Republican machine would make mince-meet of him, in a way they would struggle to do with Clinton or Edwards.

One thing that I do find curious though is the way he is always labelled as "black" or "African American". His wikipedia page for example includes this detail in the first paragraph: "He is the fifth African American Senator in U.S. history, the third to have been popularly elected, and the only African American currently serving in the U.S. Senate."

I know "race" figures very prominently in the US - as indeed does gender (the constant "will Hillary be the first female President?" question) but really ... Obama's mother was quite patently white. Now he is perfectly entitled to identify as "black" or "African American" or whatever, but it seems strange to this outsider that his decidedly mixed parentage (white/black Kenyan) is elided in favour of his constantly being labelled "black." I can't imagine he'd want to deny his "white" background (his mother apparently being very intelligent and engaging from what I've read - both she and his father earned PhDs). We're not talking a single white great-grandparent here.

Thankfully the media here doesn't harp on about these things too much in the domestic context (e.g., I haven't heard the media labelling John Key "Jewish" ... and I don't even know if he even identifies as such - nor do I care), but I am reminded of another political party leader who seems keen to deny or at least "conveniently overlook" her mixed parentage.

I realize this is murky territory, in which some are quick to take offence, but it all strikes me as rather strange. As it did in person when a certain relatively well-known professor - whose father was Scottish and whose mother was Maori - went on a quite spectacular rant at a public event I attended, to the effect of Pakeha had oppressed her people, and her personally, the Pakeha system disadvantaged her at every step (note she was a a full professor), separatism was the way to go for Maori like her, and so on. "I had a Scottish father. Nice chap. But white = bad. And brown = good." Oh fuck off you racist old bigot I felt like saying.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've lived in Auckland 22 years and I'd never been to... 

Tawharanui Regional Park ... until yesterday. Along with every man and his, err, North Shore trophy girlfriend. (No dogs allowed).

Impressions? The drive-through predator proof fence (and attestations to kiwi etc) make for an impressive entrance. Inside the fence, however, one finds largely "yet another sheep farm" (as Mrs_Red put it), which isn't necessarily what springs to mind when thinking of habitat for bellbirds and keruru.

Nevertheless, the water was impressive, with a row of pleasant white sand beaches, glistening clear waters, and an exciting swell (for the Auckland east coast) of around 0.8m. I wondered why I saw so many surf boards heading in an easterly direction!

So, I'd recommend it for those who aren't too bored with idyllic beaches with pastoral backdrops. I assume in time there will be more native planting ... we saw some evidence of this, but in terms of mature trees near the road, it was limited to macrocarpas and a handful of pohutakawas.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just 'cos you have an opinion doesn't mean the Herald should publish it 

You know that any Op-Ed piece beginning "Mike Moore is absolutely right..." would be a dubious contribution to the Sunday News, let alone the NZ Herald. Yet two chaps by the names of Sean Palmer and Simon O'Connor managed to have their "response" to Mike Moore published in that august outlet, furthering the Herald's downward spiral into the mire of incoherence and right-wing talking points.

The former is a doctoral student at AUT, the latter has a "background in political philosophy", by which I take it he means he completed a 200-level course on that topic at some point.

All by-the-by, let's take a look at what they had to say:
Recent constitutional changes have indeed been based on political expediency, ideological agendas, and an ironic desire to do what Australia does.

Well, unlike Australia we don't have the courage to even debate a Republic in any serious or sustained way. An actual referendum would send certain circles into "sky is falling"-style fits. Sure, we ended the knight- and dame-hoods a few years after Australia did, but Canada was the real leader in the field of abolishing imperial honours ... they did it in 1919.
No one with the best interests of Aotearoa at heart could support changes based on such divisive or ill-conceived ideas.

This is a vague assertion, not an argument. What changes? Who decided them? Were they voted on by MPs? What were the arguments pro- and con-?
He proposes that to combat the erosion of our constitution, New Zealanders ought to deliberately abandon it. The baby and the bathwater are both headed for the window!

No, he doesn't. His initial rambling contribution was conservative and elitist in orientation, in that he wanted change to be carefully considered, not populist or hasty, and the direction set not by the people or their representatives, but by a handful of plutocrats.
In reality, developing a new, republican constitution will only further the very problems he raises in his article.

Nice try, but Moore didn't call for "a new, republican constitution." Here's the extent of what he had to say:
If we are to be a republic, on which model - the US, French, Irish, or German model? There is a substantial difference.

An elected president could mean the end of our parliamentary system by establishing a potentially conflicting position of great power, but perhaps a congressional system has virtues. One attraction of the present system, a Queen or Governor General, is not the power they have but the power and prestige they deny others.

This is not an argument for a republic. Monarchists get their panties in a twist all too easily. Back to our two contributors:
The supporters of a New Zealand republic in the present Government have shown us, by their actions as much as their words, what their republic would look like. They have surreptitiously and systematically dismantled key elements of our constitution to create a new structure of government which the public does not support and which will give politicians extraordinary power.
Why do monarchists refuse to admit that Parliament is supreme? Politicians have had extraordinary power for a long, long time. The lack of a written constitution reinforces that (it would, in likelihood, turn some power over to the un-elected judiciary). As Lewis Holden put it recently: "the Sovereign would have to sign his or her own death warrant if Parliament handed it to them for assent." This is not due to any recent action on the part of Helen Clark and the "surreptitious republicans" in Parliament. But as Lewis suggests, the fundamentally dishonest claim that current politicians are grabbing royal powers is useful "in an era of popular dislike of politicians and the political process in general." Anyway, Palmer and O'Connor continue:
New Zealanders should not be under any illusion. Moves to republicanism have been made with stealth.

To date we have seen the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council, and the renaming of "Queens Counsels" to the meaningless title "Senior Counsel".

Oh fuck off. Senior Counsel makes perfect sense - it says "this person is an experienced and respected figure in the legal profession". "Queens Counsel" is actually less meaningful, in that those appointed QCs aren't actually personal counsels to Betty Windsor.
The General Salute of the armed forces has been taken away from the Governor-General and assumed by the Prime Minister. Even the portraits of our Head of State have been removed from our overseas embassies.

If true, these are changes in protocol, not the Constitution. Do these chumps even know what constitution means?
Each underhanded change has been justified with the absurd claim that the removal of our current constitutional monarchy will make New Zealand a more open and mature society. Such changes show a slow grab for power, and a disregard for tradition and democratic values.

I thought the republicanism was "by stealth"? That the politicians acted "surreptitously" and in an "underhanded" manner? But now, apparently, our elected MPs are openly arguing for "the removal of our current constitutional monarchy." Except, of course, they're not.
While Moore thinks a constitution and republic would solve this dismantling, it is much more likely that the new constitution would merely codify these very tendencies. In the Government's continuing grasp for power, as shown for example, in their restriction of free speech through the Electoral Finance Bill, we can see the inherent problems a republic would bring.

First, as we have seen above, Mike Moore didn't argue for a republic. He argued for an orderly debate, controlled by eminent personages. Second, I note the authors' beloved constitutional monarchy did nothing to prevent the Government "grasping" power through the Electoral Finance Act, thereby restricting "free speech" - or rather, preventing the rich from exercising their right to free speech in the shadows. Which rather suggests that, according to the authors' own logic, that constitutional reform is required. Indeed, reading on we see:
Republics do not prevent these abuses, they legitimise them. A constitution freezes the thinking and prejudices of those who wrote them.
And the prize for missing irony goes to ... those who criticize a republic for "legitimizing abuses" (i.e., legislation the right wing doesn't like), when those "abuses" were committed and legitimized under a monarchical system. Also, note there is no connection between the first and second sentences.
In the US thousands of people die because the outdated "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is in their constitution. It was included with the best of intentions, and may even have made sense two centuries ago. However, it now gives gun supporters tremendous legitimacy in that country.

Right, so because you don't like one amendment to one republican constitution, all republics are flawed. Sure. What about the clauses of our current constitution that determine who will succeed a monarch: male heirs are preferred over female ones, and the successor can't be a Catholic or married to a Catholic. Sounds like sexism and bigotry, respectively. I guess monarchies are really fucked, even if those rules were included with good intentions, and probably made sense at the time. Anyways...
The sacrosanct American Constitution is seen as largely infallible. This is an error made by many supporters of a written constitution. Written constitutions are designed to be inflexible; if they are easily amendable, they are self-defeating.

I think Americans are more likely to see the Bible than the Constitution as infallible, but that's beside the point for now. For people who are bewail any changes to current arrangements, it's a bit rich to complain that written constitutions are inflexible

All that can be said for Mssrs. Palmer and O'Connor is that they have an opinion, unlike a certain mustachioed someone who has little more than a knowledge of what happens when you highlight some text, push control-c, and then control-v.

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Ol Blighty's Taking Over 

Super Bowl XLII: England vs York - The Reincarnation

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My BDO 2008 Review 

It's not actually going to be a review because there were too many bands not worth seeing, too many bloody people there, it was too hard to get around, too hard to get a beer and too hard to get a beer in any shade, and I'm too damn old. Rather its going to be about Rage Against the Machine who were always more than just a band. And blow me down if I'm not enjoying a wine watching Saving Private Ryan and then spy The Godfather on TV3.

Might be a while in the making but I'll see if I can get it done by the end of next week. It won't be short reading so bring a deck chair and a beer if you can be fucked.

Go India.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Darth George and the art of laziness 

So, what does the dark lord have in store for us this week?

His column starts promisingly enough with a five-paragraph tribute to the late Sir Ed, although like many others Darth tries to politicize the issue: first by raising a long-standing conservative gripe about the demise of recognizable titles like "Sir", and second by characterizing the idea of an additional public holiday as, essentially, an invitation to sloth. Sir Ed's life was, Darth notes (accurately), "energetic, active, adventurous, useful and hard-working." What he fails to note is that for many people it's hard to be energetic, active and adventurous when you're tied to a desk, a telephone, or a supermarket checkout. It's much easier when you're on holiday.

As for the first claim, titles like "Sir" are certainly distinctive in a way that prestigious honours like "ONZ" are not. This seems to be true and is unfortunate. But as for the claim that "he appellation Sir carries weight no matter where you go" ... well, you can't get it in Australia (finally ceased in 1986; highest award: Order of Australia), Canada (generally discontinued since 1919; highest award: Order of Canada), the United States, Ireland, South Africa (discontinued 1952), or too many other countries where English is widely spoken as far as I can tell. Except Papua New Guinea of course - perhaps that's what Darth means by "international".

Darth even means to slip in a reference to "the new National Government we will get later this year" ... for fuck's sake man, the death of a most distinguished and likable New Zealander is no time for this pathetic carry on.

But five paragraphs of a inappropriately politicized and ill-considered tribute to Sir Ed doesn't stand up to ... (drum roll please) ... 16 paragraphs (424 words) considering "a few rare gems" Darth has received via email. Yes, Darth has rediscovered the cut and paste function on his computer. Take this "gem", versions of which are readily found on the internet.

The next time you feel as if God can't use you, just remember: Noah was a drunk; Abraham was too old; Isaac was a daydreamer; Jacob was a liar; Leah was ugly; Joseph was abused; Moses had a stuttering problem; Gideon was afraid; Samson had long hair and was a womaniser; and Rahab was a prostitute.

Jeremiah and Timothy were too young; David had an affair and was a murderer; Elijah was suicidal; Isaiah preached naked; Jonah ran from God; Naomi was a widow; and Job went bankrupt.

Peter denied Christ; the disciples fell asleep while praying; Martha worried about everything; Mary Magdalene was ... well ... you know; the Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once; Zaccheus was too small; Paul was too religious; Timothy had an ulcer; and, if you please, Lazarus was dead.

For fuck's sake man, what does this have to do with anything? You're too lazy to even do your own proselytizing, so prefer instead to cut and paste hackneyed lines pointing out the foibles (including "divorce" apparently) of the key characters in the book? Why? And there's some obscure characters there too: I can't recall ever hearing of Rahab or Zaccheus. And the word he was looking for to describe Mary Magdalene was "prostitute". Just like Rahab.

Who pays this chump? At least hand his column over directly to the National Party. There's evidence that Bill English has a sense of humour - "The trouble is that New Zealanders are leaving the country in planeloads, and Australians are coming here in kayaks." Assuming that's an original line, it's bloody funny. Originality and humour are not things that Darth seems well-acquainted with.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Darth Watch: this week, meet Dr Darth, Chief Herald Scientist 

Today Darth wades into the murky waters of climate change, concluding that it is to scientists what smoking is to "health professionals": no, not "a serious risk to human wellbeing", but rather "an international rort". I bet Ole Smokey really wanted to say "health Nazis" but the sub-editor wouldn't let him. Anyway, perhaps Darth is driving the piss-poor climate change skeptic/denial writing in the Herald lately, convincingly exposed first by Russell Brown, and second by Idiot/Savant.

In large part it was Fran O'Sullivan's serving of denialist craptrap that led Russell Brown to label the Herald an embarrassment: a big call, but the right one. Idiot/Savant did a good job of fisking another "think piece" by Brian Leyland, an apologist for "yesterday's dirty technology, unable to understand that the world has moved on."

Anyways, back to Darth: he refers to a letter (updated: thanks to Anon, below) from "more than 100 prominent scientists from around the world, including at least seven from New Zealand, to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon" which questions the notion of human-induced climate change, and rings alarm bells about trying to reduce carbon emissions. I hope for Darth's sake they are real scientists, and not a motley collection of TV weathermen and gardeners, a la the infamous Inhofe list cited by O'Sullivan.

Update: Hot Topic astutely notes: "The 'prominent' scientists overlap with Fran O’Sullivans 'eminent' scientists. Yes, Owen McShane and Bryan Leyland are there. Again." Ahh, nice to see NZ's finest scientific minds hard at work.

Darth is basically in parroting mode today. I guess we should be thankful it's not trite Bible phrases (a Darth specialty) or a National Party press release (a talkback specialty). He basically asserts, on the basis of this "letter", that current climate change is not abnormal because it is within the bounds of natural variability (highly unlikely and depends on a cherry-pick), that computer modelling can't predict climate (as models go, they're highly sophisticated), and that old favourite "there has been no net global warming since 1998" (a stupendous heap of dung).

Is there a place for debate on climate change and how humans should respond, if at all? Absolutely there is. But don't look to Darth and his friends at the Herald for anything meaningful.

Time to put NZ's leading man of letters out to pasture.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The end is nigh, with Darth George 

Russell Brown has recently observed the "petty", "spiteful" and (increasingly) "unreadable" quality of the NZ Herald opinions. He didn't specifically comment on the latest effort from our friend Darth, though. Darth's New Year's message rails against ... (drum roll please) ... political correctness! It is hard to believe anyone is willing to pay this chump to roll out crusade against "political correctness", in an outdated 2005 Wayne Mappesque fashion. This is all very familiar territory.

Our friend Darth doesn't pass on any particular warm wishes for the festive season or the New Year, but blathers on about this amorphous thing which supposedly "robs us of our uniqueness as human beings, while it tries to reduce us all to an amorphous mass of uncertain, anxious, obedient wimps." Darth declines to give any specific example of political correctness, apparently preferring to talk in generalizations about its alleged effects on language (unwillingness to "call a spade a spade") and denial of natural differences between human beings (e.g., claims that "all men and women (and even children) are not just equal but the same.")

I'm not being overly harsh in my interpretation. But I don't see much evidence of the first problem, and suggest the second is in fact, wrong by about 180 deg. One thing I absolutely loathe is a tendency amongst many far left/ultra-critical commentators not to deny the differences between people (on the basis of ethnicity, gender, age, etc) but to grossly exaggerate them, in order to advance a political case that, say, the interests of Maori are radically, perhaps diametrically, opposed to the interests of other New Zealand citizens. Or that women are universally and constantly oppressed by men, etc (hence the need for their own subway cars, perhaps). Such thinking is a recipe for separatism of various sorts, and is far more alarming than any supposed trend towards saying that everyone is "the same" (whatever that might mean). In fact, I think we could do with more emphasis on our common, shared interests as human beings, than on ethnic or gender differences.

What made Darth's alarmist nonsense about tortured, obscure language and the (probably non-existent) trend towards sameness somewhat amusing was the google ad pop-up which accompanied his column at the time I first read it.
1. George W. Bush WWIII
2. Iran Nuclear War Prophesy
3. Your name and Bible codes

Between political correctness, George W. Bush and "Bible codes" the end is surely nigh.

I had the good sense to create a screen capture.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thinking Of ME 

When I go back to Korea for a holiday this is going to be a great place to pick up chicks. Just don't tell my wife.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Getting Personal 

Happy 2008 to our three regular readers out there. Excuse me for writing a totally personal life blog. I usually base my posts on something that has given me the shits but I'll allow myself one for the year...

Pretty uneventful night for yours truly. I think I am at that stage in my life where my parents have more fun at New Years than I do thanks to having a one year old. I'd say the next decade will basically be more of the same. My parents are down at my uncle and aunts holiday home in the Hawkes Bay perched on a hill with 360 degree views by all accounts. My wife went to a midnight mass at her local Korean church while I was left reading Pillars of the Earth as the new year came in. I then sat down to watch the demolition of Bangladesh replayed on Prime. It was briefly interupted by our neighbour goping off his tit at some other 'neighbours' through the bush out the back of our houses. It's about 30 metres of pine infested low quality, 'rejuventaing native' bush with some houses on the otherside. Our neighbour had let off some fucken big banging fireworks at about quarter past 12 which they must have called out about. He then began abusing the shit out of them and threw an empty beer bottle in their general direction. This is one dude you don't want to fuck with when he's had a few. And the only other moment of 'interest' was near 2am when a party going a couple of hundred metres up the road had most of the woman folk singing a certain song from Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle album which you would not expect women to be singing. If you know the album you'll know the song I mean and if you don't it's probably just as well. I'd hate living next door to that crowd. Though their parties are usually few and far between. By and large our area is pretty deathly silent 350 days out of the year after dark.

I've nearly finished my retaining wall out the front of our house. It's the curse of buying a steeply sloping property that it needs a wall out the front and at least one big one out the back which I'm not going to build. Thankfully the wall is only about 75cm tall so wasn't a major. I do have major design issues with how to get some kind of flow from the steps up the path towards the road and the paved bbq area that it runs next too. It smells of an impending fuckup unless I devote about 5 hours thought to it and twice that much sweat. Still not a bad holiday so far. Have built two gates that will keep the one year old away from the road at least. Now she can just fall down the rotten death trap stairs at the side of the house or off the driveway retaining wall. On the to do list remains: smash up the remainder of the existing pathway, finish ends of retianing wall, fill in retaining wall and plant up, build deck out to retaining wall, design and build steps up to letterbox and paved area, paint 30 metres of fence and gates, paint new deck area and jack up some kind of pole system to get our shade sail up. It's 3.6m by 3.6m and our deck is about 6m by 3m so not sure exactly how I will jerry-rig that, and that will about do it for these holidays. I still have to fix the rest of our deck and remove and replace those bloody rotting stairs though. Then I can move back inside to the tiling in the bathroom and kitchen, and installation of a dishwasher and cupboards and then blow me down if that won't be about when we put the house on the market. Straight after we get the fucker finished. Mind you, I would probably get bored living in a house that had more or less reached it's potential.

Oh yeah, going up north for a week as well. Should be interesting. Hope the car survives so then we do too. Spots I am really looking forward to are Dargaville and Kaitaia.

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