Wednesday, 23 December 2009

On American racism

Let us try a thought experiment.

Imagine that Hamas has a legitimite gripe with an Israeli general - say, someone they claim is responsible for killing civilians in Gaza - and wish to kill him. On hearing that he is visiting the US, they arrange a bombing. This bombing - which may or may not kill the general - kills 49 American civilians. Images of mangled corpses of women and children fill TV screens.

The response would be obvious. Regardless of whether you supported the right of Palestinians to struggle against Israel or not, such a bombing would be universally condemned. It would be taken as a sign that Hamas was beyond the pale, and needed to be exterminated. Even if it was the other way round, with Israel attempting to assassinate a Hamas leader, it would be universally condemned. No-one has the right to blow up scores of American civilians as part of an assassination attempt, right?

The US just murdered 49 Yemeni civilians - including women and children - trying to kill a Al Qaeda leader.

Now, I was thinking - "would they ever send cruise missiles into NZ?" Would places like Aotearoa, Australia, or Canada ever find 50 civilians murdered in an explosion as the US attempted to kill its enemies?

The answer is, of course, no. For some reason, predominately white, English speaking people would never have to fear the same violence the US feels entirely justified in visiting on Arab countries. I wonder why...?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

On trudging up that hill again

Last summer, I decided to branch out on my exercise. I'd pushed myself into regularly doing 10 km walks and conquering Wellington's hills - I was climbing Mt Victoria three or four times a week, sometimes before going to work. So I borrowed a mountain bike from my uncle, the biking fanatic, and started biking. Towards the end of the summer, I'd worked myself up to 50 km road trips on the weekends (taking the train out to Paraparaumu and biking/walking back).

At the end of it, I tackled the Rimutaka Rail Trail, including biking to it from Upper Hutt and biking into Featherston. Took me hours, I got lost near the end (they could signpost the Cross Creek area better) and had to climb a fence and cut over a farm, and I was cramping up that night badly. But I did it. I'm proud of that.

This summer, I had intended to do it again - starting with reborrowing the bike and getting back into the road work. Additionally I had joined up with a gym to work on the rest of my body. My eventual goal was, in two or three years time, to work myself up into tackling the 150km Otago Rail Trail over three or four days.

I never got to use that gym membership. In between the initial payment and my intoductory session, my back suddenly went into agony, and you know the rest.

Now I get tired stumping around on crutches for 10 minutes. I'm looking at Mt Victoria now and cringing - it took me a long painful time to get my fitness up to the point where it was a pleasure to climb it and now I'll have to do it all again. Starting from learning to walk on my own two feet again.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

First you save yourself...

I've been away.

To be exact I've been away in hospital. On a Wednesday, I was sent home from work with my back problem flaring up. Over the next few days, it got worse and I only got through with the help of a friend. On Monday, I staggered to the GP to get a blood test, and was whipped into an office for an examination. And then an ambulance was called. At the ER, I was stuck quickly in an assessment bed, had saline inserted and was considered stable. Being a busy day, the ER then bumped me down the priority list and I was admitted to a ward in the wee small hours of Tuesday.

It was pretty obvious that it was a bit more than the initial diagnosis of "musculo-skeletal pain". A fair bit was dehydration - saline was pumped into me for three days. I had had a MRI scheduled for later that week; I was bumped up in priority along with the trauma victims and other serious problems, and scanned after hours.

I hate MRIs. As a test it is apallingly stressful; they have to sedate the claustrophobic.

I have an infected spinal disk, pouring pus into abscesses in my back and into my spinal canal. They monitored me for symptoms of nerve damage (past the continual pins and needles in my feet), ready to whip me into major surgery, while pouring huge amounts of antibiotics into me continously, inserting a PICC line after a while. The doctor pointed out the problem was both life and limb threatening. A CAT scan and biopsy got a sample of the bug to see to what it was vulnerable, while ultrasounds and punch biopsies looked at other problems.

I was in hospital for 23 days, most of it confined to bed. I played several long games of Civ 4 and Medieval Total Wat, and got a black belt in sudoku. Some nurses are very good at patient care and some are just petty dictators or mere jobsworths - and so it goes for any profession.

I am now at home, watching DVDs of "Outrageous Fortune" while lying on a couch and very painfully getting around on a walker frame. I have community nurses coming in every day tro check up on me and push antibiotics through the PICC line careful to maintain sterility. I also have clinics and therapists scheduled, contact numbers, and instructions for going straight back if things go wrong. It looks like I'll keep the use of my legs, and wind up with a fused disk.

Being in New Zealand, the stay cost me nothing. In fact, being confined to bed for most of this period helped my bank balance significantly. I had to purchase six drugs from a pharmacy afterwards - 5 of these were subsidised and cost me a nominal $14 (including slow release morphine); one painkiller was not, I chose to keep getting it, and I paid $80 for the privilege of a 2 week supply. I'm on sick leave while I need it, the medical services cost me nothing while things like Meals on Wheels are cheap.

I dunno how much I'd be facing in the US either with or without insurance, especially since some of the other problems were "pre-existing conditions". My worries involve pain and keeping this line into my veins sterile; they do not involve a huge debt, keeping my job despite being off for two months or more, or choices about paying for necessary care to support me at home.

Keep telling us socialised medicine is no good.

BTW, the title comes from a favourite Greg Johnson song.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

On matters embarrasing

In case anyone who might be sending stuff to my real name is wondering why I might not be answering email, it's because I haven't been at work for nearly a week.

After being in a great deal of pain, I am now hobbling around like an old man, but recovering fast. It's just muscular, which is much better than my original fear that the massive and sudden back pain had to do with my kidneys. My blood pressure is fine, and my pee is free from excess glucose, nitrates or blood, lo, pure as the driven sn- well, pure anyway.

To note:

i, Diclofenac sodium (aka Voltaren) is the bomb. Weeee. I thoroughly recommend this cheeky little painkiller. However, be sure to follow the instructions about food and a good quantity of water. I especially emphasise that for those of you who may have no appetite due to pain; the last thing you need is to be reintroduced to what little you've eaten over the last few days.

ii, It is possible to lose 6.2 kg in a week without exercise. It is not recommended. I suspect that as I start sucking down more liquids and stop sweating them out this may correct itself.

iii, A good time to join the gym would have been a week before I actually did - it would have been nice to be aching pleasently from an upper body workout rather than whimpering in agony from my flabby body stuffing itself sitting down. Oh well - should be able to get into the first session next week accoring to my doctor. And I'm still on track to tackle the Rimutaka Rail Trail again at the end of summer.

iv, In US$, costs were as follows:
a) One walk-in (hobble-in) consultation with emergency physician on a Sunday evening, 40 minute wait after initial assessment by nurse, $61.
b) One inspection by the GP I choose four years ago, with an appointment within 24 hours of phoning up, $41.
c) Drugs - 20 x d. sodium 75mg slow release, and 100 generic paracetamol 500mg, $5
d) Sick leave - around 5.5 to 7.5 days fully paid sick leave, depending on how I feel next week, no cost. I have a contract with an "unlimited sick leave" provision, on the assumption that I'm an adult, and the point is to get well first.

Of course, if I had been poor ("community needs"), all but the first would have been free to me. And if I *had* had kidney problems, I'd probably be in a free hospital bed right now.

Oh, the oppression of socialised medicine. Well, single payer medicine.

Embarrassing things to find for the NZ male:

i, Having relative strangers compliment you regarding weight loss over the last couple of years.

ii, Having your more distant friends expressing so much worry about you being sick in your Facebook status reports.

iii, Having your close friends txt you about it.

iv, Having family cite you as an inspiration to them personally.

v, And finding that "I'm a librarian" while reading graphic novels is a great way to sneer down ridicule after hobbling to the local branch library.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

In remembrance - September 11th

On September 11th 1973, a military coup toppled the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende.

By 7 AM, the Navy had seized Chile's major port, and shut down radio and television stations. The Army closed down most of these in the capital, with the Air Force bombing the rest.

By 9 AM, the armed forces controlled all of Chile but the area around the presidential palace. Allende refused to negotiate and gave a final speech telling the nation about the coup d'etat, and his refusal to resign.

The palace was bombed, and then assaulted by infantry and armour. Allende died, probably by suicide, possibly shot. Around sixty people died on the day.

The military then arrested and imprisoned 40,000 in the National Stadium. It lost 160 and killed thousands in the next few months, and another few thousand were killed by the subsequent Pinochet regime during the next seventeen years. Pinochet tortured tens of thousands during this period.

The population of Chile was under 10 million at the time of the coup.

Two days after the coup, 13th September 1973, the military junta dissolved Congress and banned all political activity. Democratic rule was not restored until 1990.

Also on this day, 11th September 1982, the Multinational Force in Lebanon (consisting of French, Americans and Italians) guaranteeing the safety of Palestinian refugees was withdrawn from Beirut.

Four days later, the Israeli Defense Force surrounded the Sabra-Shatila camps, and started shelling them. The Israelis let 1500 Lebanese Phalangist militia enter the camps. Over the next 48 hours, between 16th and 18th September, the militia murdered hundreds of civilians, including deliberate killings of women and children. The IDF were ordered not to interfere.

The IDF estimates 700-800 civilians were killed, the Red Crescent and journalists estimate over 2000, possibly up to 3500.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Aussie drivers...

From Stuff:

Australian schoolgirl skipper Jessica Watson, 16, has crashed her yacht on the first leg of her solo around-the-world voyage.

Watson's sloop, Ella's Pink Lady, hit a merchant ship near Stradbroke Island about 2.30am, less than 24 hours after leaving the Sunshine Coast for Sydney.

The Buderim schoolgirl contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which was monitoring her journey, and was told to turn her motor on and head back to Southport on the Gold Coast.

The teenager was not injured in the collision, but her yacht's mast and bow were substantially damaged.

I tell you, letting teenagers have the keys to ANY vehicle is a bad idea...

Saturday, 5 September 2009

On conspiracy theories...

I've noticed an interesting trend here.

When the biannual film festival starts up, as it usually does with a bang, I've usually got a paper due.

When the Downtown Ministry holds their bookfair, as they are this weekend, I've usually got a paper due.

And when this puppy rolls around again and I start eyeing it to see if I still have the stamina of my long distant youth - you guessed it, there's a paper due that Monday.

Of course, the rational person might say that this has something to do with the numerous extensions and procrastination - BUT THE RATIONAL PERSON WOULD BE IN ON THE EDUCATIONIST CONSPIRACY!!!

It all makes sense. I wonder if it would still make sense if I ever manage to catch up on my sleep?

Friday, 21 August 2009

The top 5 lies about US healthcare

...and the envelope please...

From Foreign Policy, The Top 5 Lies about Health Care which have been spouted during this debate:







Thursday, 20 August 2009

On the confusions of biculturalism...

Recent messages:

Me: "Heh. I've just run into a reporter for a Maori magazine with the very Maori name of "Virginia Windsor"".

Assimilated Yank: "Meh. No biggie. I talked to a Beefeater at Buckingham Palace once named Tane Ruakura."

Saturday, 15 August 2009

On failing to listen...

... and making assumptions

I actually know, um, two people like that.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Moral contamination

With the news that PM John Key is sending SAS troops back to Afghanistan, this story by Jon Stephenson is timely:

The issue of identification is critical. International law, and the New Zealand Defence Force's own rules, say a New Zealand commander cannot transfer prisoners to another country unless he or she is satisfied they will be treated humanely. Clearly it is far more difficult to locate and check a prisoner handed over to the Americans if you don't know his name.

WHAT DID the New Zealand government know about all this, and what did it do about it? Here, much also remains unclear. A top US international human rights lawyer, Michael Ratner, says the New Zealand government should have heard alarm bells as early as Feburary 2002, when President Bush and US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that alQaeda and Taliban prisoners were not entitled to prisoner-of-war status or the legal protections of the Geneva Convention.

"It was obvious to everybody what was going on," says Ratner. "The New Zealand authorities knew that turning prisoners over to the Americans was very likely or very possibly going to cause inhumane treatment."

By March 2002 there were reports in the New York Times and other major media outlets that prisoners were being mistreated at Kandahar. The treatment of prisoners was also raised by SAS boss Jim Blackwell at a meeting he called in April at the air base with other special forces commanders.

The New Zealand defence force's top lawyer, Brigadier Kevin Riordan, says New Zealand took its responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and international law very seriously.

The fact is that we are contaminated by this torture simply by cooperating with our allies. I suspect there may be questions asked in Parliament, and it may come down to a refusal by NZ or others to hand troops over to the US, an acknowledgment that it has fallen below the level expected of civilised countries.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Close to the edge

The week has been lousy, and I'm in despair. There's little left. I need some good news soon, please?


2009 (Bill Direen)

We have gone from the ages
Of coal and aluminium
To the slamming of doors in faces.
Faith healers buy their own channels
As landsnatchers grab handfuls of dirt
And puritanical doctors preach:
Look to your body!
All crimes against it
Will be punished!

Our bands have abandoned revolt,
Our cults have rewritten Revelations,
And it was a hasty affair
- the firesale revolution.

The chasm’s getting wider,
And there’s no safety net.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Not... the FRIED SHRIMP!

I'm at a complete loss for words here...


Thursday, 25 June 2009

Goodbye to Scarlett

Oh well.

Needless to say, I am not a Masterton woman. However, it occurs to me that the NSB actually *is*...

Oh well. It was nice to dream for a while. Back to work *sigh*.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What Google thinks of you...

Exploring the new features of Google, I came across the Wonderwheel, which allows semantic navigation based on search terms.

I'm very boring. Litbrit is an isolated little puppy with nobody who likes her. Amanda Marcotte appears to have a fan club, Melissa McEwan is still, alas, still considered to be Amanda's sidekick, The Dark Wraith might be getting fans of Terry Brooks very confused, and PZ Myers isn't an academic at all.

Any other interesting results?

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Some nifty statistical sleuthing here...

I've been suspending judgement on the Iranian election so far; some (few) reports have suggested it might have been a reasonable result.

Now we have this.

So what can we make of Iran's election results? We used the results released by the Ministry of the Interior and published on the web site of Press TV, a news channel funded by Iran's government. The ministry provided data for 29 provinces, and we examined the number of votes each of the four main candidates -- Ahmadinejad, Mousavi, Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai -- is reported to have received in each of the provinces -- a total of 116 numbers.

The numbers look suspicious. We find too many 7s and not enough 5s in the last digit. We expect each digit (0, 1, 2, and so on) to appear at the end of 10 percent of the vote counts. But in Iran's provincial results, the digit 7 appears 17 percent of the time, and only 4 percent of the results end in the number 5. Two such departures from the average -- a spike of 17 percent or more in one digit and a drop to 4 percent or less in another -- are extremely unlikely. Fewer than four in a hundred non-fraudulent elections would produce such numbers.
But that's not all. Psychologists have also found that humans have trouble generating non-adjacent digits (such as 64 or 17, as opposed to 23) as frequently as one would expect in a sequence of random numbers. To check for deviations of this type, we examined the pairs of last and second-to-last digits in Iran's vote counts. On average, if the results had not been manipulated, 70 percent of these pairs should consist of distinct, non-adjacent digits.

Not so in the data from Iran: Only 62 percent of the pairs contain non-adjacent digits. This may not sound so different from 70 percent, but the probability that a fair election would produce a difference this large is less than 4.2 percent. And while our first test -- variation in last-digit frequencies -- suggests that Rezai's vote counts are the most irregular, the lack of non-adjacent digits is most striking in the results reported for Ahmadinejad.

Each of these two tests provides strong evidence that the numbers released by Iran's Ministry of the Interior were manipulated. But taken together, they leave very little room for reasonable doubt. The probability that a fair election would produce both too few non-adjacent digits and the suspicious deviations in last-digit frequencies described earlier is less than .005. In other words, a bet that the numbers are clean is a one in two-hundred long shot.

That's easily enough evidence to justify a do-over under close outside observation. If Iran was a working democracy. I have to conclude that it isn't, that the Revolution failed, and the kids in the streets are right to fight.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Why the wind is cold

As an update to the piece below, note this post from Brad DeLong about the worrying state of the US economy.

The money shot is this:

My third--unrelated--point is that the policy innovations of the past year have created a potentially dangerous weakness in the Federal Reserve system. The Federal Reserve's balance sheet has more than doubled over the past year, as it has acquired an enormous and bizarre menagerie of assets. On the liability side, it has funded this acquisition by expanding the monetary base, and has increased private-sector willingness to hold this monetary base by paying interest on reserves. This has added a fourth motive--profit--to the three traditional motives for holding reserve deposits at the Fed: the transactions demand, the emergency liquidity demand, and the speculative demand.

As long as the dollar remains the safest currency in the world, as long as the dollar remains the linchpin of the global financial system, there is no problem in the Federal Reserve's funding by what is essentially overnight borrowing the expansion of its balance sheet and the purchase of private securities that will vary up or down in market price with an eye toward holding them to maturity.

However, at some future time the dollar will cease to be the linchpin of the world financial system, in which case the Federal Reserve's financing its balance sheet via overnight borrowing will leave it vulnerable to the mother of all bank runs. It would be very good to fix this now: to give the Federal Reserve now the option to borrow not in what are essentially demand but rather in time deposits--to grant the Federal Reserve the power to issue its own bonds. This diminishes the chance of a great financial crisis in 2050 or so, with no downside that I can see.

I'd be really dubious about any asset backed by the US government and denominated in dollars right about now. If I had any investments with which to be dubious about.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cold wind blowing

From Chris Hedges, the sound of bells.

I especially note the US asking to sit in as observers - and the SCO saying "no". A while back, the wingnuts were freaking out about a New World Currency. They should have been worried about the old ones.

The NZ free trade agreement with China is looking wiser and wiser.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Among the hazards of librarianship...

...I have to read sentences such as this:

In the post 9/11 era there is considerable opportunity for the media profession to give insight into what has compelled one side to act in a way that has enraged and empowered another side to act in a manner that further caused hostility or anger to become entrenched.

God help us, the person who wrote this is a journalist.

We will notice that it was also a male. This is important - a woman would have notice if she'd skipped that many periods...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Nightmare scenarios - part 1

Okay, so the nature of the job means I'm a few days behind most magazines, but cover a wide range.

The latest issue of the Listener has a story covering the scope of the power that the proposed Auckland super-city mayor would wield. It's no exaggeration to describe this position as the second or third most powerful in the country in terms of practical politics.

Of the six contenders mentioned with over 5% support, five were pale frail males. No real surprise there.

The sixth was Winston.

Dear God, can no-one put a stake through his heart, cut off his head, and bury him at the crossroads? Please?

There's definitely material for some stand-up comedy in this, if only through screaming in panic on stage for five minutes...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Know your heroes - part of a continuing series

Philip Mangano - the system got us into this, the system can get us out:

PHILIP MANGANO is credited with beginning to do what was unthinkable only years ago: eradicating homelessness in the United States. The silver-coiffed, dark-suited "Homelessness Czar" was appointed by the former president in 2002, and continues in the Obama Administration.

One of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2007, Mangano has persuaded 350 US jurisdictions to adopt 10-year plans to end homelessness, and spread his ideas to Canada and Australia.

Mangano fashions himself as an abolitionist, intentionally invoking the anti-slavery rhetoric.

The epiphany that convinced the former band manager to dedicate his life to working for the "poorest poor" came when he was watching a Franco Zeffirelli film about St Francis of Assisi. He calls homelessness a "moral, spiritual and humanitarian disgrace", a "human tragedy".

However well-meaning, he condemns attempts to simply help people survive on the streets - or to make them "prove" their fitness for housing through mental health and other programmes - as entrenching the problem.

His first targets were the hardest cases: the 10 per cent of homeless who were long term and mentally ill. Between 2005 and 2007, this group fell by 30 per cent from 176,000 on any given night to 124,000. The total number of people living on the street or in shelters fell 12 per cent to 671,888.

Why? This is why.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Women to avoid - psychics

Even the sexy, intelligent ones.

Me: "I saw a singer last night that made me run in circles and howl."

S.I.P.: "Hmmm, which singer would appeal? ... Some anonymous red-haired YouTube floozy falling out of her top?"

Me: "How the f**k did you do that?"

(About 1.00 minute in, the singer doing the chorus)

Man, if it were not for her... considerable charms... I'd be terrified of this woman.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Dear Wingnuts - about that medical tourism...

For years now, whenever comparative studies are bought up showing the problems with the US health system, winguts routinely respond with "what about the hordes of Canadians heading south to use our system, huh?" They never quantify this, of course.

But on quantification:

A report published last month by Deloitte, a consultancy, predicts that the number of Americans travelling abroad for treatment will soar from 750,000 last year to 6m by 2010 and reach 10m by 2012 (see chart). Its authors reckon that this exodus will be worth $21 billion a year to developing countries in four years’ time. Europe’s state-funded systems still give patients every reason to stay at home, but even there, private patients may start to travel more as it becomes cheaper and easier to get treated abroad.
One motive is to save money. America’s health inflation has consistently outpaced economic growth, making it the most expensive health market in the world. The average price at good facilities abroad for a range of common medical procedures is, by Deloitte’s reckoning, barely 15% of the price a patient would have to pay in the United States (see table)

And for good measure, from Medtral (in a Metro article, Apr 2009, sourced to the American Medical Association):

Surgery costs by country (costs in US$, excluding implants and travel)
Procedure USA India Thailand Singapore New Zealand
Heart bypass 130,000 10,000 11,000 18,500 19,000
Heart valve replacement 160,000 9,000 10,000 12,500 17,500
Hysterectomy 20,000 3,000 4,500 6,000 6,500
Knee replacement 40,000 8,500 10,000 13,000 15,000
Spinal fusion 62,000 5,500 7,000 9,000 7,500

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Can't keep a good woman down...

Clark will be 'spinning wheels' to start UN job:

The United Nations General assembly has approved former prime minister Helen Clark as the new head of the UN Development Programme.
The position is the third highest in the UN, behind the secretary-general and his deputy.

The former prime minister - from 1999 to 2008 - gained unanimous approval from the 192-nation General Assembly.

The UNDP oversees a global development network with an estimated US$13 billion ($23.12 billion) in resources. It operates in 166 nations.

Clark is, by the way, impressive and articulate in person. I'd place her up against any world leader - the timing wasn't right for her to be Secretary General last time, but she's still in the running for the next opening. Incidentally, the budget for the agency is about a third of total NZ government revenues.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Time to play connect the dots again...

Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots:

Others in the U.S. government, including CIA officials, fear the consequences of taking a man into court who was waterboarded on largely false assumptions, because of the prospect of interrogation methods being revealed in detail and because of the chance of an acquittal that might set a legal precedent. Instead, they would prefer to send him to Jordan.

Spanish Court Weighs Inquiry on Torture for 6 Bush-Era Officials

LONDON — A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

Son of Ex-President of Liberia Is Convicted of Torture

MIAMI — A federal jury on Thursday convicted the son of the former president of Liberia of torturing suspected opponents of his father’s government. It was the first case brought under a 1994 law that makes it a crime for United States citizens to commit torture overseas.

Testimony Is Said to Implicate C.I.A. in Seizure of Suspect in Italy

A former Italian intelligence chief's testimony obtained by Reuters says that this conversation took place about 16 months before prosecutors say the C.I.A. grabbed a radical Muslim cleric in Milan and flew him to Egypt, where, he says, he was tortured.
A court in Munich issued arrest warrants last month for 13 people suspected of being C.I.A. agents who were accused of kidnapping a German of Lebanese descent and flying him to Afghanistan, where he, too, said he was tortured.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Get those damned kids off my fence

Rolling-pin gran: I gave it to him

Pensioner Lois Thompson says the kids in her neighbourhood probably think she can be "a bit grumpy" at times.

"I tell them to get off my fence and climb on their own fence," says the 76-year-old.

"They say, 'We haven't got one', so I say to them, 'Well tell your parents to build one'."

Now the Hamilton great-grandmother has cemented her fierce reputation by using her rolling pin to fight off a teenager who tried to break into her house.


"So I grabbed my rolling pin and really gave it to him," said Mrs Thompson.

"And then I thought, 'Oh, I hope I haven't broken his teeth or his nose', but I really let fly. I hoped I really hadn't damaged him."

After receiving at least three blows to the head, the teenager slumped back on to the doorstep, crying and holding his face.

Police arrived not long after and found that the boy - who had had a "wee accident" and had stripped down to his boxer shorts - was keen to be taken away.

What ever happened to the good old days, when we had real teenage hoodlums?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

God Hates Figs

This is the way you do it:

That ain't the way you do it:

Shouting someone down when they have a right to speak in lieu of dealing with their ideas, however odious, is a failure. It's a failure if Bill O'Reilly does it; it's a failure if a LGBT group does it; it's a failure if Jesus Christ and a choir of angels from above do it. It is contemptible.

It's interesting to note yet again that it is precisely those that would yell the loudest against any attempt to silence their own voices who are most eager to silence the voices of others. I have contempt for Phelps, Sorba and their ilk; I have only slightly less contempt for those who would deny Phelps or Sorba - or any other hatemonger, poltroon or moron - their legitimate right to speak.

"Evil is not the attempt to eliminate the play of another according to published and accepted rules, but to eliminate the play of another regardless of the rules. Evil is not the acquisition of power, but the expression of power." - James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games.

It's interesting to note yet again that it is precisely those that would yell the loudest against any attempt to silence their own voices who are most eager to silence the voices of others.

Mockery, on the other hand, is a perfect way of puncturing the pretense to respectability of the like of Phelps.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Staying right here for the time being

The New Scientist this week has about given up hope on controlling climate change, and instead is looking at the effects of what now seems inevitable.

Of special interest is this graphic, which lays out the situation in 2100 (or 2050, in a worst case scenario).

This is going to be such an interesting century, in the Chinese sense. I wonder how NZ immigration can best keep the wingnuts fleeing the deserts spreading over their nation out lest they start spreading their stupidity here?

Saturday, 28 February 2009

A better metaphor for our lives

Fuck Atlas shrugging. Catchy title, stupid metaphor.

Would a book entitled "Sisyphus said 'screw this' and went off to play Halo" sell?

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Well done, National...

Government kills pay-equity inquiries:

The Government has axed two investigations aimed at improving the pay of women as it tries to save money by controlling public sector salaries.

The inquiries were aimed at female social workers at Child, Youth and Family, who are paid 9.5 per cent less than their male colleagues, and at inequities in the pay of mainly female school support workers.

Now, I also think we can save a bit more money if we pay Maori workers with muskets and whiskey, and perhaps import Chinese guestworkers for about ten cents a day.

Update - the text of Brian Easton's talk (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

Brian Easton's talk to "Drinking Liberally" can be found here - Part 1 and Part 2.

I STRONGLY recommend it for anyone interested in the economics of the current problem, whether Kiwi or otherwise. Part 1 is on world economics, part 2 NZ.

Reaction to the talk may be found here and here.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Seems our Tourist Information Agency is doing a good job...

Swiped SHAMELESSLY from the Wellingtonista:

As noizyboy says, the translation may not be entirely accurate.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

A good summation of how we got here...

From Bruce Meredith, _NZ Business_ (Feb 09, p.70):

"There is only one place money comes from. Customers.

"The financial markets are not where the money comes from. At best, these markets are enablers - at its core, a simple concept and structure - as long as everyone involved both understands and knows how to play the game.

"Where the wheels fall off is when players in that market either fail or refuse to grasp that concept and set out with one, single minded objective, to use money to make money. Where money is not just the enabler, but is also the product and the result.

"That is when greed and avarice emerge.

"It has happened before in the history of the capitalist model and it will happen again. And it sure as heck is happening now.

"Business has become a dirty word. Capitalism has become a dirty word. profit has become a dirty word. Not because any of those concepts are, in themselves, flawed. Rather, because of in the way a relatively small number of greed possessed fat cats play the game. Their objective is always simple - to make money irrespective of the cost to, or effect on, anyone else.

"When that happens, eventually the model will crash and the little guy ends up paying the price. The assembly line worker at General Motors, the despatch clerk at Fisher & Paykel, the first time home buyer who has to find a significantly greater deposit, putting the purchase of a house out of their reach for the foreseeable future.

"The fat cats don't pay. They board their Gulfstream corporate jets and head to Washington to plead poverty and seek taxpayer handouts. And the most galling and unjust element of this whole sorry saga is that these effects have little or nothing to do with the trading performance of business as a whole. It is not poor business trading performance that has caused what we are currently experiencing. It is nothing more than the effects of spectacular greed and avarice on the part of those who are supposed to be the enablers of business performance - the money men - whether they be retail bankers, investment bankers, finance companies or money market traders. These are the men (and women) who must carry the can for this spectacular global economic mess."

Or, as the Front Lawn said many years ago:

Can you believe this place?
Well can you?
They're making money out of money here,
They're making buildings out of glass.
Their kids look like they stepped out of fashion magazines,
But none of it's going to last.

A thought for anyone having to deal with someone who wants to tell them about Jesus,,,

Have you ever thought how much "Messiah" sounds like "Mary Sue"?

Something to consider the next time a god-botherer wants to inform you how awesome Christ is, and how He likes this and that, but hates the other...

Thursday, 12 February 2009

And all the roads are jammed up with credit...

I went to a lecture from Brian Easton today, one of NZ's leading (orthodox) economists.

Oh fuck.

There are two problems in general with the world economy - the recession and the credit crisis.

We're better positioned than most for a recession, thanks to a grasping Scottish tightwad who was running our Treasury for years. Importantly, our banks don't seem to have any toxic assets such as those besetting the American (and to some extent Australian) systems. Our finance companies had some; they died. They were unnecessary to our larger economy. Sucks for the investors, but that's what investing means.

However, NZ's unusual position makes the credit problem very very real, our options are limited, and the important decisions are out of our hands. There's a word which was floated which I don't even want to repeat out loud in a wider forum.

On the plus side, I now know what to look for in global economic news.

The new Ambassador to Ankh Morpork...

Terry Prachett has been knighted.

Might I propose "Vert, a Luggage proper salient" for the coat of arms?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

On cautioning against euphoria

Remember all the joy about Obama being such a change?


Obama Administration Maintains Bush Position on 'Extraordinary Rendition' Lawsuit

The Obama Administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.

A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.

This is not going to please civil libertarians and human rights activists who had hoped the Obama administration would allow the lawsuit to proceed.

That seems pretty much uncontestable. The Obama Administration just blew the first test on civil rights. Charitably, they've got too much going on and they've been captured in this policy area by the intelligence community which would be embarrassed to have their dirty laundry aired further in public.

There are two things that are going to be more nausating than the oh-so-predictable backbiting and snark on the liberal blogs about this - the crowing on the wingnut blogs, and the whole American torture policy itself.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Oh crap...

We are fucked now. Forget the recession/depression, this is the worst news you may hear all month.

Millions of tonnes of the potent greenhouse gas methane have apparently begun leaking from the seabed beneath wide areas of the Arctic Ocean, the British Independent reported on September 23.

Scientists on board the research ship Yakov Smirnitsky recently finished taking precise measurements of methane along Russia’s entire northern coastline. Conducted under the International Siberian Shelf Study 2008, the research revealed methane concentrations as much as 100 times background levels, with the largest anomalies tens of thousands of square kilometers in extent.

“We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below”, researcher Dr Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University told the British Independent in an email. “It is obvious that the source is the seabed.”

In some places, the gas was evidently bubbling from the sea floor in volumes too great to be dissolved by the surrounding water. Echo-soundings detected “methane chimneys” reaching all the way to the surface.

Positive feedback cycle reached. Kyoto was way too little, way too late.

We're screwed. Time to hunker down and start considering national NZ survival in the face of a world losing, say, half its population.

Monday, 2 February 2009

On comparisons between Presidents

With the current US President, the mark of the true insider is having his email address.

With the last US President, the mark of the true insider was to have him calling you some stupid name like "Turd Blossom".

Says it all, really.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

On writing and sexual frustration

When Beck Eleven finally gets laid again, The Press is going to be just that little less entertaining. Just saying...

Friday, 23 January 2009

Twenty instructions in Tai Chi (Peter Rawnsley)

Twenty instructions in Tai Chi (Peter Rawnsley)

Stand and let
gravity fall through you.

Part the mane of the most
beautiful of all horses.

Be a crane alighting
a brief flash of wings.

Turn and brush away
whatever hinders.

Lean back, let your fingers
play the strings of a lute.

Repulse four monkeys
until your mind is still.

Stroke a sparrow's tail
pull down the sky.

Press upon the air
push forward.

Gather like a whip
spiral out, touch.

Let yourself float
drift like a cloud.

Reach high and pat the most
beautiful of all horses

Kick out
the world will part before you.

Bring your fists together
box in your enemies.

Let yourself flow down
like a snake or waterfall.

Stand like a cockerel
on one leg, balanced, still.

Work the shuttle
threading between yin and yang.

Pick a tiny needle
from the bottom of the sea.

Fan out, turn, strike
whatever is an obstacle.

Draw back and apparently
withhold, yet push forward.

Raise, lower, stand
let gravity fall through you.

Friday, 16 January 2009

A brief note to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign

Item buried in page 6 (local news) for the Press, the major Christchurch daily:

Game of love sees gay MP score the man of his dreams

They met playing together in the country's first gay rugby team - the Krazy Knights - and today the happy couple will tie the knot in a public display of love.

"I said in my maiden speech - we're proof that it pays not to stereotype," Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said.

The gay Labour politician and former No. 8 is swapping vows and rings with his sweetheart of 10 years, Alf Kaiwai - an ex-halfback - this afternoon in a civil union cermony at Old St Paul's church in Thorndon, Wellington.

This was last week. To the best of my knowledge, my straight engaged friends are still engaged, and my straight married friends are still married. Wellington has yet to sink beneath the waves, and we've been having gorgeous weather recently. This only got recorded because it was an MP and because of the rugby angle.

If you voted Yes on Prop 8, or you have similiar views - grow up. And join the rest of the civilised world.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Battlestar Galactica speculation

Warning - may be spoilers, may be complete codswallop.

I came up with this as a throwaway on Pandagon, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

The major remaining mystery of Battlestar Galactica as we head into the final season is - who is the fifth Cylon - the one missing between Lee Adama and Tigh in this photo:

Some clues already given:

- It's been noted that "The fifth Cylon will be "organic and satisfying. It won't be some day player from Season 1." says SciFi Channel VP Mark Stern.[5] Stern describes it as "delicious" and "one of those things that are right under your nose and you don't expect it -- but it makes total sense." He says, "it doesn't feel arbitrary, It feels like it could have been planned all along."[6]"

- "The First Hybrid says this about the final Cylon:
"The fifth is still is in shadow, drawn toward the light, hungering for redemption, that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering." (Razor)"

- "D'Anna Biers's vision of the Final Five led her to speak of "the one who programmed us." (Rapture)"

My guess is that the fifth Cylon is, in fact, the Battlestar Galactica itself. I'd rate it at about 30-40% probable - it seems silly on first glance, but the more I look at it, the more it seems possible, and both a twist and an organic part of the whole series.

- The purpose of the final Five is to find Earth. If Galactica is pulling their strings, this would explain the musical episode. And what else is more likely to be there if the fleet succeeds?
- The Galactica, using the other four and perhaps Baltar's Number Six as unwitting catspaws, has been manipulating the humans and also manipulating the Cylons, without the Seven being generally aware of what has been happening. The Cylon pursuit of the Fleet has been a spur towards the goal of finding Earth.
- There is no reason why a Cylon should look human - at all.
- The key argument against this theory is that it is a military ship, presumably with every inch maintained on a regular basis. How are you going to hide a Cylon brain on board? This makes sense until you consider that both the ship's chief petty officer and its second in command may have been manipulated - the two people most able to conceal the truth.
- The directors have said that they were leaving clues, and then they came out with the "Last Supper" picture. This conspiciously had an empty place. But, then again, perhaps they're just enamoured with their own cleverness enough to leave the clue in plain sight - look closer and it is not an empty place at all. The Fifth Cylon is right there...

Okay, so it seems unlikely. But, considering it, it is a narratively brilliant stroke, and considerably more satisfying than having Zarek or anyone else turn out to be the candidate. I'd wager on it if anyone would give me two to one odds.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

More game-playing foolishness

Consider this bit of news:

President-elect Barack Obama is resurrecting an idea that fell short of enactment twice in 2008: allowing companies a speedier recovery of their current losses through refunds of taxes they paid on earnings in previous years.

The extension of net operating loss carryback from two years to five, which is favored by Republicans, would provide instant refunds to some of the firms that have been hit hardest by the recession, including large portions of the financial services and real estate industries.

Economically, this doesn't appear to be very clever for two reasons.

Firstly, it fails as an economic stimulus. The research is best illustrated by this, from Firedoglake.

If you are going to try to stimulate the economy, reducing corporate taxes is not the best way to do it.

Firedoglake also points out one means of gameplaying via this provision. Another immediately springs to my mind, and this is the encouragement of exaggerated expenses and valuing losses associated with a specific corporate identity as, again, a means of gaming the system. A company that makes a loss might be considered worth acquiring precisely because that past loss might be offset, post acquisition, against a tax burden on other profits. or you might run global expenses through an American subsidiary precisely to incur a loss.

I'm almost economically illiterate. If I can see the potential for corporate gameplaying involved with this, the smart money must be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect.

And the very last thing the American corporate and financial structure needs now is yet another reason for people to distrust it.