Thursday, May 31, 2007

A note on style

Other blogs may refer to the internet or to the interweb. This blog refers only to Internet. You will see there is no definite article. Authority in this matter comes from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporaton, which broadcast this item back in the day. This blog does not use emoticons.

This blog thanks Mr Matthew Backhouse, who himself has a splendid new blog called Media Snuff, for uncovering this clip.

Fur Patrol:

No representation without taxation

As we speak, desperate attempts are being made by our fundy friends to show that New Zealand really, really is a Christian Nation. Following Bishop Brian's attempt to storm the interfaith dialogue thingy at Waitangi, and his rather obvious failure to understand the meaning of the word "Established," New Zealand Conservative has posted the Ten Commandments. Apparently, these are the basis of our laws. Well no, not quite, as Thomas Jefferson showed way back when.

In any case, this is a bowdlerised version of the Commandments. Take, for example, the Second; here it is rendered as "You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it." In the full majesty of the Authorised Version, which is much better written, as well as more Authoritative, the Second Commandment commands:
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
See, it's not just about idols, New Zealand or otherwise. The Almighty in fact bans Art, at least anything short of Abstract Expressionism. So you can smash down all your stained-glass windows, because He is going to get your kids.

Here's Ray:

Postcards from another day

As recent comments on some of these posts demonstrate, the Fundy Post has some readers who know stuff about Science, especially David, who did the maths and found that my scheme to make Lake Taupo economically viable is flawed. David has a rather nice new blog called The Atavism, which you should read.

Anyway, for the benefit of our scientifically literate readership, here is a story that made me think: a shark in Nebraska (yes, I know) had a virgin birth.

Another strange but true fact is that Headless Chickens can replicate their songs in many different versions. So here is another rendition of Cruise Control and another opportunity to yearn for Fiona McDonald:

The great New Zealand tax swindle

Dammit, dammit, dammit. Just when I was getting over my anger management issues, along comes Real Issues; yes the latest product of the Maxim Institute's 24-hour rolling bollocks service is out. And what, you may ask, do they have to gripe about this time? Well gentle reader, as the Minister of Women's affairs reminded me yesterday (not that I am one to name-drop, of course) I read this crap so you don't have to. So here we go. This week the Maxim Institute is concerned by: public health advertising.
Media campaigns increasingly clutter up our TV screens, instructing us not to gamble to excess, not to overindulge in drink, not to drink and then drive, not to speed, to watch intersections, and not to smoke. Recently announced additions to this parade of government preachiness include new ads for KiwiSaver, new pictorial warnings on cigarette packets, and this week, the government announced a new campaign to encourage healthy eating.
How about that? The Government is trying to encourage us to develop good habits and stop doing things that are obviously bad for us. Naughty, naughty Government. So, what solution does the Maxim Institute have?
The problem is not always ignorance, but the lack of personal motivation to make healthy choices, to put down the cigarette packet and pick up the broccoli. That motivation is primarily a result of individual choice and the formation of the heart and the conscience. As the messages advertising throws at us become more and more obvious, it is difficult not to wonder what is going so wrong that the formation of character and virtue is being left to the TV.  Perhaps it is time we looked at a more intimate and real form of education the education which occurs in families, neighbourhoods and communities, where virtue and healthy choices are modelled and valued, not just preached.
That's right; none at all. Once again, Maxim knows nothing about the issue and has no expertise or wisdom to offer. Maxim just dislikes the Government. Perhaps Maxim should spend a little time away from its wealthy donors and visit some communities. Perhaps they might see that, in some communities, very bad choices are modelled and valued. Perhaps they might take a look at some of the research done by people who know about these issues, which shows that these bad choices about diet and substance abuse come in clusters, that it is the poor communities who suffer the heart disease, diabetes and cancers caused by cigarettes, alcohol and poor diet. Perhaps they might stop to think that cigarettes, in particular, make people ill - they kill half their users - and poor. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Maxim Institute might then stop jerking off about the wonders of communities and realise that some people are making real efforts to improve the health of those who need it most.

Perhaps we should be asking why the Maxim Institute enjoys charitable status with the tax benefits that result. This bunch of charlatans is an educational charity, despite making no useful contribution to education. Why do we allow these pricks to avoid paying taxes? Now there's a real issue.

Here's the national anthem:

Making plans for Eric

Cripes, it is nearly the end of New Zealand Music Month. I had better move fast, if only to keep Eric happy. Here is The Clean:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A treatise on political economy

Is it just me or is this Autumn bringing out the weirdness? Take for example Peasant, who opines: "Clark's radical communist coterie is promoting a religion of secularism, in which the State becomes God, and any prior claims to truth or authority are deemed traitorous." Nothing unusual about that, I grant you, but Peasant then identifies (as we say in PC-speak) as a conservative classical liberal. What the Friedman is such a thing? Are not classical liberals supposed to be all about free markets? Are not conservatives supposed to be all about other things which are not exactly compatible with such markets?

It's time to decide, Peasant. If you want to be a conservative, then just carry on trying to stop people doing things. If you want to be a classical liberal, then you have to accept that people will want porn and pink things (batteries not included) and the market will provide them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Contains traces of nuts

The purveyors of snake oil have banded together to defeat the Government's plans to introduce regulations for the sale of alternative medicines. True to their normal standards of advertising, they have framed the issue as NZ Govt Moves to Outlaw Vitamins.

As you can see, one of their telling arguments is that, under the new regulations "doses will be reduced, meaning many supplements will simply become ineffective." After pausing to reflect that many supplements simply are not effective, unregulated or otherwise, we might continue to consider the implications for the manufacturers of homeopathic medicines. Since the principle of homeopathy is to reduce the active ingredient by dilution until nothing is left but a memory (water has a capacity for memory, I am sure you will understand), then these regulations are surely good news. By reducing the dosage still further, the regulators will make homeopathic cures even more effective; a first for New Zealand.

Presumably, the Extremely Expensive Approval Process would involve ensuring that homeopathic medicines contain nothing but water, that the water is not contaminated with any other substance. Perhaps the homeopathologists are worried that they might have to start listing the ingredients on their bottles, which would read something like "water: 100%."

Incidentally, some time ago, I proposed to a learned audience of friends in a pub that we drop a single molecule of cyanide into the middle of Lake Taupo and then bottle the water to sell as a homeopathic cure for cyanide poisoning. Unfortunately, my friends were not very entrepreneurial, so I offer the concept to anyone with some poison, a boat and a lot of bottles.

Things to do

1. Go here
2. Send an email to the Minister
3. Congratulate yourself on helping to end the "homosexual panic" defence.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

We're not in Kansas anymore

Attention everybody. I have an important announcement to make. And quiet at the back there.

Apparently, it seems that the debate we were having with the creationists about evolution was nothing but a ridiculous side-show. Yes, I know you will all be disappointed but the news comes from none other than Dr Bill Cooke, Vice-President of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) and Editor-in-Chief of its journal, The Open Society. It looks like we have all been wasting our efforts. That includes Dr Cooke, who has devoted quite a lot of space to the debate in his journal. This blog as well has been guilty of negligence, for thinking that the danger came from some caricature "fundy." Sorry.

Hang on, wait a minute; this can't be right. Has not Dr Cooke missed something here? Yes that's it - the bleeding obvious: it's about Science. This is what the evolution "controversy" and the debate about climate change have in common - they are about the use of scientific information and the reliability of scientific conclusions. The creationists claim that scientists have got it all wrong and use the information that Science has provided, selectively, to support their absurd claims. The climate change sceptics use scientific information (sometimes disingenuously, sometimes not) to argue against the prevailing scientific argument that climate change is caused in part by human actions.

The creationists are wrong, ridiculously so. I think the climate change sceptics are wrong as well. However, more than a few of them are real scientists working in climate science, so they have a bit more mana than the rabble of scientists who support creationism, all but a handful of whom do not work in biological fields. Although as an humble Art Historian I have no specialist knowledge, I think there is enough evidence to say that climate change is being exacerbated by us. However, I think there is room for debate, as there always in in scientific enquiry. Science's conclusions are always provisional. While there is a lot of corporate money going to fuel scepticism and some influential lobby groups are not very honest in their lobbying, genuine scientific argument is going on.

There is another important difference: the creationists are arguing about what has happened, while the sceptics are arguing about what will happen. There are debates among real scientists about how evolution happened but not that it has happened, because the evidence is plain and there is no alternative explanation within the bounds of Science. Climate change is a different matter. Predictions being what they are, we cannot be certain they will happen. So there is scope for differences of opinion.

Dr Cooke, however, feels no need to entertain such subtleties. He is convinced of his own righteousness and rather than engage in an argument, he splutters about a book which makes contrary claims on the grounds that it influenced the owner of an airline for a while. That book makes scientific arguments. If they are wrong they can be countered by better scientific arguments, not by bombast.

Quite why he is so incensed by the Skeptical Environmentalist might be explained by the fact that there is a copy in the NZARH library. Perhaps he has also realised that there are climate change sceptics, including real scientists, among the NZARH membership.

One other important aspect of the climate change debate obviously has passed by Dr Cooke. It is the fundies who are pumping out much of the propaganda against the evidence on this matter. Go to any fundy site and you will most likely find jeremiads about environmentalism alongside the specious drivel about evolution and the dire warnings about homosexualists. They are the ones, after all, who think the world is theirs to do with what they will. Perhaps someone in Dr Cooke's position should be a little better informed about what is going on in the world of religious politics.

Perhaps Dr Cooke has also not considered that all those scientists and science teachers and atheists and humanists who are fighting the battle over evolution are not just involved in a petty squabble. They are fighting for the primacy of reason, for learning and debate on scientific matters to be based on knowledge, not on dogma. We could not even begin to have a debate about climate change without agreeing that only scientific argument counts, so why should we allow scientific education to be contaminated with religion?

So this blog will not be joining the happy band of humanists who are going to save the world with their new and improved World View. I will leave the climate change debate to people who know what they are talking about. Instead I will continue to do what I do best, mock the fundies and frustrate their knavish tricks.

Finally, there is one other small matter Dr Cooke should know before he pontificates about Science. That story to which he refers in his conclusion, the one about the frog which sits in the water as slowly it rises to boiling point: it's not true.

Friday, May 25, 2007

WTF a go go

I know I keep linking to NZ Conservative and I am sorry if it is beginning to bore you; but it is a phase I am going throught and it is such fun. Take, for example, the comment here, by one Greg Bourke:
You know I disagree with the "political poitions must be based on positives" argument.
Here's an analogy:
Consider a philosophical position as terrain (or a Cartesian space). Surely philosophy with its subtle dimensions is as rich as a natural vista?
Terrain is made up of colours, textures, shades, gradients, and altitudes as is philosophy. The opposite of a valley (theism) is not a bottomless pit (a void) but is a hill (atheism). Or vice versa.

Just as a hill contributes to terrain and the aesthetic of the vista so to does a valley.

In such a way atheism contributes to positions but doesn't make any conclusion a fait accompli, as you say.
Say what? Cartesian space, subtle dimensions, colours, textures, shades gradients...altitudes?

What are they putting in communion wafers these day?

Secrets and lies

His Holiness the Pope has kind of sort of acknowledged that very bad things were done by the Catholic colonisers of South America:
It is not possible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonisers on the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon.
Never mind, it was all done for a good reason. You see, indigenous populations welcomed their European colonisers because they were "secretly longing" for Christ "without realising it."

The next time you find yourself having a secret longing (without, of course, realising it) be very wary of Spaniards.

With thanks to Craig for the link

Socrates is a man

If you don't hear from me for a while, it is because I am busy trying to construct a syllogism from this argument on NZ Conservative.

Here is my work so far:

1. An atheist says that "without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization.''

2. The atheist "clearly recognises that modern civilisation results from mankind's realisation that there are eternal truths regarding our origin, and they are not derived from mankind itself or the primordial soup."

3. Those who say otherwise behave as brutish oafs.

This may take some time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Lucyna: an inquiry into morals

New Zealand Conservative, the gift that keeps on giving:
However, it seems unfair that LGBT people are denied communion, when there may be others (such as the serial masturbator or a couple that are living together in an unwed state) saying nothing to anyone and going up every Sunday for communion. The only difference is that in the case of the LGBT person, they have proclaimed to the world their desire for sex and the type of sex they engage in by taking on the LGBT label or identity. The serial masturbator, who would also be denied communion if he or she did the same thing, instead stays quiet and no one therefore has any reason to deny him or her.
Even if you are not interested in the fate of the serial masturbator's immortal soul (and who isn't?) this article has something for everyone, including Lucyna's interpretations of what the Pope is thinking.

The Edge of Reason

"A lot of people were afraid of being accused of being unpatriotic," he says. "One of the symptoms of this problem -- the diminishing role for reason, fact and logic -- is that what rushes in to fill the vacuum are extreme partisanship, ideology, fundamentalism and extreme nationalism."
The Washington Post has an engaging interview with Al Gore.

Girlfriend in a coma

Why won't they leave us alone? Everywhere you go, the fundies are trying to tell you the good news about Jesus, even when you are atop a mountain.

The sheer horror of this nefarious plot to bring the snowboarders to Christ is revealed in this passage:
Dan Ballard, the group's Wellington leader, said six to 10-minute chairlift rides were a good opportunity to bring up the topic of God while he had people's complete attention.
I expect by this stage you are thinking to yourself "what's with the headline" or "how is he going to bring a reference to The Smiths into the story this time?" Well no, you're wrong. Just for once, I wasn't thinking of The Smiths. I was thinking of Douglas Coupland's novel, Girlfriend in a Coma, in which something much more pleasant than evangelising happens in a chairlift.

Although it is funny you should mention The Smiths, since it is twenty-five years this month since Morrissey and Marr first met, as the Observer reminds us.

When I told my friend Aimèe that I had once seen The Smiths live, she hit me. When I added that I saw them at Rock City in Nottingham on the night before they made their first appearance on Top Of The Pops, she hit me again. I understood: As UNCUT magazine said of that performance of This Charming Man:
That Thursday evening when Manchester's feyest first appeared on TOTP would be an unexpected pivotal cultural event in the lives of a million serious English boys. His very English, camp glumness was a revolt into Sixties kitchen-sink greyness against the gaudiness of the Eighties New Pop World, as exemplified by Culture Club and their ilk. The Smiths' subject matter may have been 'squalid' but there was a purity of purpose about them that you messed with at your peril.

A song for Eric

Mr Eric Olthwaite has chastised me for not playing enough local music in New Zealand Month. So here are the Able Tasmans, especially for him:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Darwin's Beagle

Some fundies believe that Cyclone Tracy was a manifestation of God's wrath. The cyclone hit Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territories, on Christmas Day in 1974. It killed seventy-one people and destroyed more than seventy percent of the city's buildings. As an article about the city from Answers in Genesis concludes:
No wonder some have suggested ‘Tracy’ was intended to ‘wake up’ a drunken community and to warn a decadent, godless Australia. Ironic that the city involved was named after Charles Darwin, the man whose work on evolution has been a singularly significant cause of such godlessness.
It may be a good time for the citizens to take a holiday, because Richard Dawkins is on the television.

With thanks to Craig

Go read somewhere else

Elsewhere, Graham Reid has a really good post about the role of the critic.

And Russell has won a richly-deserved Qantas.

Children's hour

Meanwhile in Italy, the Church is getting tetchy about the most popular video on YouTube Italia: a BBC documentary about the Vatican's efforts to conceal child abuse.

Here's the Headless Chickens:

Friday, May 18, 2007

When Liberals attack

Fundies get angsty about liberal bloggers being mean to the memory of Jerry Falwell.

In the words of the Policy Director of the Concerned Women of America, "what we are seeing now is systematically a pattern of secular humanism."

Note that the Policy Director of the Concerned Women of America is a man. Policy obviously is not women's work; either that or the Concerned Women have an equal opportunities employment policy.

With thanks to Craig

Your own private Iowa

No God Zone comments on the distressing story of a Jewish patient in a hospital infested with evangelicals.

Here's the B-52s:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Too early for the Rapture

Jerry Falwell is with Jesus now. Thank you, Jesus, for taking him. The evangelical preacher and founder of the Moral Majority died suddenly and alone. As a tribute, the Fundy Post would like to share some of his words of wisdom:

If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being.

I had a student ask me, "Could the savior you believe in save Osama bin Laden?" Of course, we know the blood of Jesus Christ can save him, and then he must be executed.

God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.

And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this [the 9/11 attacks] because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."

I sincerely believe that the collective efforts of many secularists during the past generation, resulting in the expulsion from our schools and from the public square, has left us vulnerable.

I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist, [but America's] secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord's [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture ... the result is not good.

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.

The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.

If we are going to save America and evangelize the world, we cannot accommodate secular philosophies that are diametrically opposed to Christian truth ... We need to pull out all the stops to recruit and train 25 million Americans to become informed pro-moral activists whose voices can be heard in the halls of Congress.

I am convinced that America can be turned around if we will all get serious about the Master's business. It may be late, but it is never too late to do what is right. We need an old-fashioned, God-honoring, Christ-exalting revival to turn American back to God. America can be saved!

It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening.

There is no separation of church and state. Modern US Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the Founders had in mind in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Bible is the inerrant ... word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible,without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.

The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior.

Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them.

I do not believe the homosexual community deserves minority status. One's misbehavior does not qualify him or her for minority status. Blacks, Hispanics, women, etc., are God-ordained minorities who do indeed deserve minority status.

We're fighting against humanism, we're fighting against liberalism ... we are fighting against all the systems of Satan that are destroying our nation today ... our battle is with Satan himself.

AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharoah's chariotters.

Warning: contains traces of Beckham

Auntie has Panorama reporter John Sweeney's account of his experiences when making a programme on the world's largest crime syndicate, the Church of Scientology.

Answers to questions about the syndicate can be found at Operation Clambake.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lucyna di Lammermoor

As a service to readers, the Fundy Post really ought to have a Blogs of Interest section, where some of the more peculiar blogs can be brought to your attention. So let me introduce to you the one and only New Zealand Conservative. It is the creation of Lucyna, who used to reside in the right-but-readable Sir Humphreys.

Lucyna is not so much Conservative as Catholic, and not so much Catholic as Ultramontane. Here is an example of her thinking:
A while back, I came across a commenter on TBR who wholeheartedly believed that it was possible to be both a Christian and a socialist. If that were not bad enough, this person also believed that Jesus Christ was a socialist.
She is also a big fan of a book called the Pink Swastika, a deranged rant which alleges that the Nazis were not just followers of Adolf but friends of Dorothy (see here for the politically corrected version). For Lucyna, socialists and homosexualists are the source of all ills.

On the other hand, Lucyna is a big fan of Poland, whence her folks exited, pursued by a bear. So it is hardly surprising that she should be urging her readers to sign the petition to keep homosexual hands off Poland. As I mentioned earlier, Poland is becoming increasingly nasty under the rule of Doug and Dinsdale Kaczynski and the European Union is trying to do something about it. Persecution of homosexuals is not new to Europe, as Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, reminds us.

Meanwhile, the Maxim Institute is quite excited that the World Congress of Families will be held in Warsaw. The title of the congress, 'Springtime for Europe and the World' might remind you of a musical number.

Fascism against youth

It was ironic that exactly 20 years after a Jewish doctor delivered her daughter Tania with "love", she was taken away by a "person with hate and Nazi symbols tattooed on his pathetic body."
Another of the Aryan Nation's finest meets his just reward: Shane Randle, murderer of Tania McKenzie, goes to jail, leaving her parents to rebuild their lives. And, as the report in the Wanganui Chronicle shows, he wore a shirt with a double-headed eagle design for his sentencing.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Apropos again

Apropos Harvest Bird's comment on the previous post, I must share with you the joy of engrish

And here is more Goldfrapp

Fascist baby

The Guardian reports that British menswear chain Burton has been selling a t-shirt with a double-headed eagle design and a message in Russian which translates as "We will cleanse Russia of non-Russians!" So now blokes are wandering the streets of Blighty spreading the message of Russian Fascism (please note: the Fundy Post does not subscribe to the notion of 'neo-Fascism:' it hasn't changed; it is the same old Darkness), which probably wouldn't bother them that much. Whilst you ponder this thought, here is Goldfrapp:

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How to deal with Jehovah's Witnesses

Ryan threw me this link, which apparently is not good enough for his blog. It amused me. I am easily pleased.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Staff sacked daily on these premises

Subway bloggers

This blog is joining the broad coalition of bloggers who have vowed not to eat at Subway until further notice. The boycott is because a Subway franchise fired a young employee for giving a friend a soft drink and then took the matter to the Police. We really ought to be boycotting the Police as well, because they took the matter to court; crime obviously does not happen in Dunedin.

Another reason to boycott Subway is for reasons of Aesthetic preference. Subway is introducing a new interior design style, called Tuscany. This is how it is described in the brochure for potential franchisees:
Throughout our growth we’ve strived to keep our brand image fresh. This includes the look of our restaurants, which has evolved into our most recent design, Tuscany décor. We set out to develop a décor that would reinforce the fact that SUBWAY® food is healthy and great tasting. We also needed a décor that would convey to customers that SUBWAY® restaurants are family dining destinations: warm and inviting – fast casual, not fast food. Welcome to Tuscany. To find the “feel” we were looking for, we turned to the family background and Italian heritage of our co-founder Fred DeLuca, and the Tuscany region of Italy. The Tuscan region of Italy is know for its earthy tones, and vibrant flora. Vines of tomatoes and green shrubbery grace the sides of the brown stone and brick structures. The scents and flavors in the air complement the cultural and artistic variety that is truly Tuscany. Although many Tuscan structures were built as far back as the 15th century, they have stood the test of time because of the quality materials such as stone, marble and brick used to build them. This beauty, warmth and resilience embodied in those materials, were the inspiration of Tuscany décor.

Strange days

Sometimes I think that perhaps the USofA is just weird. Times such as today, when I read a New York Times article (having followed a link from New Zealand's Best Business Columnist) about Conservatives debating whether Darwin is alright by them after all.

For a start, the NYT mentions, almost in passing, that three of the ten candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination do not believe in evolution. Those of us outside the asylum could hardly be surprised, given the messianic glee of the present incumbent and the legions of the dead which provide his support base. Nevertheless, it is worth stopping and staring about this fact for a moment: thirty per cent of the candidates are saying that biologists are wrong; not wrong morally (although they quite possibly think that as well) but wrong theoretically. They might as well say that all the universities and research institutions in the United States which do Biology of any kind are not doing it right.

Of course these three candidates are from Kansas, Arkansas and Colorado but that is no excuse. These men are presumptuous enough to doubt the founding theory of modern biology, because it conflicts with their voters' strongly held and erroneous religious convictions.

Also of note is that here the New York Times, supposedly a liberal newspaper and certainly one of the most influential, using the term Darwinism to describe Evolutionary Biology. Darwinism is the word the Creationists prefer to use; it helps suggest that evolution is just a theory and, worse still, just another -ism (by their nature, -isms are bad things: look at Marxism, Socialism, Feminism), that it is a fusty and old 19th Century idea (as opposed to the sleek new theory of Intelligent Design) and that it is simply the opinion of one man. By using the term interchangeably with Evolution and largely in place of it, the Times shows that the Creationists have framed the debate on their terms. They have also managed to create confusion, as this article evinces, between the work of Charles Darwin on the origin of species and the notions of Social Darwinism created in the wake of his discoveries, which have precious little to do with Biology.

We should also note, not just here but whenever the pseudo-issue of Darwinism is discussed, that it is a redundant term. We (and by 'we' I mean the human race) now have the Modern Synthesis between the work started by Darwin and our knowledge of Genetics. Creationists like to refer to this body of knowledge (on occasions when they cannot ignore it entirely) as 'neo-Darwinism,' a term designed to be as appealing as 'neo-Fascism.' On the whole, though, the Creationists would prefer that we don't think about DNA and such stuff, because it disproves everything they believe. Instead they would like us to think that there is a debate going on in Science between boring old Darwinism and their exciting new theory of ID, which in truth is about as scientific as Astrology.

Most remarkable of all is the import of this article: that some Conservatives are warming to their conception of Darwinism, which was the creation of their Creationist brethren, because it serves the very purposes about which the Creationists have been warning us. This neo-Conservative, neo-Social Darwinism is red in tooth and claw.

Yes, the USofA is weird.

Science for dummies

In a logic-defying feat, "Conservative Policy Expert" John West, has found a link between Charles Darwin and the Eugenics movement.

Oh well, that's it then; Biologists will have to give up doing Science. Things are worse than that: Gregor Mendel was a Catholic Friar and Catholics were behind
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, so Protestants should be drawing unjustified inferences about Genetics.

with thanks to Craig for the link

Monday, May 07, 2007

You're too obscure for me

This is the Verlaines. You can tell this video was made in Dunedin because everyone wears overcoats indoors. That's not cigarette smoke in the video; it's steam.

The enthusiast who posted this to You Tube summed it up thus: "bunny hops around while band play really cool song."

You can see Stephen Malkmus covering this song at Amplifier here but you have to register for Amplifer and use Windows Media Player. Despite this, it is worth it. Alternatively, you could watch Alt TV until they play it again or you could buy the Very Short Films DVD.

Oh, pack it in

The New Statesman has a special issue, Blair: The Reckoning. It includes many pictures of manic grinning and much good writing, the best of which is David Hare on Iraq:
At a moment when the west needed great secular leadership, it was given instead demented religious leadership. A man who arrived in politics as the voice of modernity and reason became, at his own wish, that most ancient and mystic of figures: the prophet unloved in his own country.

Public service announcement

Fundy Post readers, especially Harvest Bird, need to be aware of the following message from the Wrigley gum FAQ:
Is it OK for my dog to chew/eat sugarfree gum?

Some of our chewing gums contain xylitol, which is a safe, even beneficial, additive which has been used in food, confectionery and other products - like toothpaste - as a sweetener and flavor enhancer for over 30 years and has been widely approved by regulatory authorities all over the world.

Although chewing gum products are not intended for use by dogs, cats or other pets, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has reported that xylitol may be toxic for dogs.

In fact, in addition to food products containing xylitol, the AVMA recommends that many foods that are perfectly safe for humans be kept away from pets because of potential harm - including coffee grounds, grapes/raisins, chocolate, onions, yeast, dough, tea, macadamia nuts, alcohol, fatty foods, salt, avocadoes and garlic. For more information, please go to
Thank you for your cooperation. Normal service will now be resumed.

Canada News

It is Monday and I can't think of anything to write. So here is something from the Canada News section in last week's Craccum. As News Editor of Craccum I think it important that Auckland University students are kept informed about events in Canada; now it's your turn.

According to The Globe and Mail, Stanley Fox, a film professor at York University has been fossicking through papers relating to film censorship and found a strong political bias in censorship decisions.

In 1913, the B.C. Legislature created the office of Censor of Moving Pictures. The censor's duty was to "prevent the depiction of scenes of an immoral or obscene nature, the representation of crime or pictures reproducing any brutalizing spectacle, or which indicate or suggest lewdness or indecency, or the infidelity or unfaithfulness of husband or wife, or any other such pictures which he may consider injurious to morals or against the public welfare or which may offer evil suggestions to the minds of children, or which may be likely to offend the public."

The Chief Censor did not concern himself just with smutty pictures. In the 1920s mention of the Irish rebellion against Britain was prohibited, as was "anything derogatory to the Crown." Newsreels featuring riots in India and protests in Palestine were banned. In 1929, references to the Prince of Wales and the King were cut from The Cocoanuts, the first feature-length Marx Brothers film. In 1930, references to "the King of England and the revolt of the Colonies" were eliminated from the comedy/romance Under a Texas Moon.

Feature films were also censored for other reasons. In 1930, the Academy Award-winning The Big House was banned for being "educational on jail breaks." The same year East is West was rejected because it might have encouraged Canadians to marry Asians: "The B.C. Board goes on record in objecting to Eurasian romances as the consensus of opinion is that these romances and marriages are not in the best interests of the Province."

The Chief Censor rejected the 1933 film The Woman I Stole because: "the whole theme of the story is the unfaithfulness of the wife ... culminating finally in the discarding of the woman for a little hussy picked up in a speak-easy ... unwholesome and degenerating exhibition of dishonoured females, entirely lacking in portrayal of chivalry upon the part of the chief actor."

In 1943 Ape Man was rejected: "... because this is a horror picture and extremely frightening, and as we have decided to reject all horror pictures for the duration of the war, this one is placed in that category." In the same year, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was banned because "this is nothing more than a reproduction in most part of the horror pictures Frankenstein and Dracula and as horror pictures are being banned from showing, this is classified as such."

After the Second World War, censorship took a different course. In 1952, BC banned a film for PC reasons: Explaining his decision to ban a film called Outrages of the Orient, the Chief Censor said "This picture portrays the atrocities perpetrated by the invading Japanese armies upon the Philippine Islands in 1942 and in the light of present day events and a world trying to rise above feelings of hatred and revenge, I consider the showing of this picture to be against the public welfare"

Film censorship of this kind did not end until 1970, when a classification system was introduced.

Here are the Cowboy Junkies, from Toronto:

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Apparently there is a Great Brutalism Debate going on somewhere. Not round these parts, where Brutalism is a preferred taste, nor others, where it is served on a plate .

3am Magazine has contributed to the debate by publishing 17 Lines in Defence of Brutalism by Tony O’Neil. Aprart from writing poems and prose, Tony O'Neil is a musician who was in the Brian Jonestown Massacre for a short while. So here are the Dandy Warhols.

Think I'll drive and find a place to be surly

Jon Savage, author of England's Dreaming, a magnificent history of the Punk era, has now published Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture. The New York Times has a review by Camille Paglia here. 3am has a link-infested interview with Savage here.

And here is Cracker performing Teen Angst in a field:

Friday, May 04, 2007

Someone needs a hug

Peasant at number 8 wire (Recalling Godzone & Kiwi virtues, amidst the detritus of Helengrad) has taken the Section 59 decision rather badly.

Tags: petty bureaucrats, reasonable parents, pigheaded utopianism, crime against common sense, Bradford's bill, lawlessness in every home, Leftist academics and politicians, enlightened mission, grubby masses, tradition, morals, personal property, responsibility, Helen's diabolical marxist dream, slimy piece of legislation, teachers, Big Sister, self-righteous a**hole, 80% of the population, controversial laws, long term outcomes, human nature, deluded fool, aggressive ideologue, totalitarian, Sweden, Cuba, Russia, true-hearted Kiwis, lies, corrupt, power-mad Labour party.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thanks for the add

Techpresident reports on the The Battle to Control Obama's Myspace, as Barack Obama's campaign team beat up a geek for the Myspace page that bears Obama's name. Yes, these netsavvy political operatives can behave just as grown-up as teenagers on Myspace: it's like totally our profile and he like had no frigging right to it and we totally pwn him now, for sure.

It is interesting to note that profile had just over 160,000 friends when it was in private hands but has only about 12,000 now it is controlled by the campaign team. Evidently, Obama can no longer rely on the votes of teenage emo kids, wannabe rappers, unkown bands and imaginary women who love your profile and want to get to know you.

Turn it up

Ladies and gentlemen, for New Zealand Music Month, we present to you The Open Souls:

News from the West Wing

Who'd have thought it? Karl Rove is an atheist, according to Christopher Hitchens. Now fundies will have one more evil atheist to throw into the argument about morals: Stalin, Pol Pot and Rove.

Well no, they're not going to do that are they, because Karl works for their boss. So does that make him a good atheist? Oh dear, its all so confusing, this morality business.

Myself, I am glad Mr Rove has made a life-long commitment to nothing. Like no god zone, I don't think one's atheism has anything to do with one's ethics. It tires me to see happy-clappy Christians and equally happy-clappy Humanists throwing famous people back and forth, as if the virtues and vices of adherents or infidels could prove the truth claims of either position. Whether one has religious beliefs or not says nothing about one's morality. There are bad atheists and good atheists; get used it.

Worse still is to witness some Humanists judging who can be called an atheist. The ridiculous Dr Cooke, in one of his editorials for the NZARH journal, deemed that Heidegger was the wrong kind of atheist, while Sartre was not an atheist at all. We couldn't have those nasty Continentals joining our clusterfuck, could we?

I could go on but I will save that for a later rant.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Goodnight Vienna

The Gates of Vienna is one of those American conservative blogs that have sprung up in the years since 9/11. In case you do not get the reference in the title, a helpful subhead explains: At the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war.

This blog is fighting in the Culture Wars. These wars are fought on two fronts: against the Muslim hordes and against the Liberals. The first enemy is responsible for Terrorism, the second for Secularism, Relativism and all the other evils that have made the West decadent and weak.

One of the team on The Gates of Vienna is Dymphna, a Catholic and a mother, as her personal blog shows. She has posted recently a message she received from her son at college, under the title Making The Modern Case for Monasticism, which Alicublog has also noticed.
Dear Guys —

I know it’s late, but I thought you might “like” to hear about this. I had a fairly frightening experience with a young liberal co-ed tonight.

“Max” and I had water guns and were using them to squirt people at various points during the party [held at our dorm suite]...

This intoxicated young woman suddenly attacked me, trying to take the gun...

When I wouldn’t let her take it, she grabbed my glasses instead. Afraid she might break them; I grabbed her arm — without hurting her — and took my glasses back. At which point the girl said:

“I could call the police.”

I was mystified. “About what?”

“You attacked me!”

I looked at her, up and down. “There aren’t any marks on you.”

She drew her own fingernails down her skin. “Not yet. There could be.”

At that point I decided —

1) she was drunk, and
2) not worth talking to.

But I think this is an example of a perspective endemic on college campuses: the police aren’t there to protect you; they’re there to help enforce petty vendettas on men. Rather than stand on their own two feet, women are relying on men to help them out against other men.

If that’s not sexist and establishing women as an inferior, weaker, species, I don’t know what is.


Yer still intact and un-arrested boy
Still intact, indeed. The truth will hit him sometime soon or maybe much, much later. It is not something he will want to write his mother about. Perhaps he will wake in the middle of the night, perhaps it will come to him at Vespers, perhaps while he is playing some healthy masculine contact sport with his friends. Then he will understand what she meant:
I looked at her, up and down. “There aren’t any marks on you.”

She drew her own fingernails down her skin. “Not yet. There could be.”
She wanted him. He may have been a bespectacled Catholic boy who squirts girls with a water gun at parties and writes to his mother about it, but that young liberal co-ed was making her intentions quite clear, if only had known at the time.

Mother had warned him about young liberal co-eds and Mother was always right. This was his opportunity to find out if everything Mother had hinted at was true. He could have had SEX. First time sex with a young, drunk, liberal co-ed, not wedding-night fumblings with a nice girl approved by Mother. Not dutiful coupling for the purpose of procreation but wild, exciting sex, with biting and scratching. Dirty, dirty sex. There she was, a girl who must be Experienced, a girl who would have taught him; a girl who probably had books by Anais Nin on her night-stand and a pair of handcuffs in the drawer. And he missed his chance. If only he had known. If only he had recognised the signs.

If only.

So bloated-up happy I could throw things around me.

We won. Section 59 will be repealed. Yay us.

Well no, not really that yay. We hardly won the debate. The child beating lobby massed the forces of the fearful and indignant. They framed this issue, which concerns how we treat our children, as one of unwarranted intrusion by the nanny state in the lives of ordinary kiwi battlers, or something like that. They had resources, they had Talkback on their side. The voices of those who care for children and those who have expertise in this area were seldom heard.

As usual the media took an insular approach and barely considered how other modern democracies view the corporal punishment of children. The only time they took note of the rest of the world was when that ridiculous woman was flown over from Sweden to tell us how wretched life was in one of the World's most prosperous and peaceful nations. Then of course there was Professor Larzelere, who turned out to be much more reasonable than the child batterers would have wished.

Perhaps it was the involvement of Bishop Brian that made National come to its senses and support the Bill. That odious mixture of hate, greed and bad taste has become useful for progressive causes. The sight of Brian's army of Real Men marching down Queen Street turned a lot of opinion towards Civil Unions and doubtless he would have done the same for s59. National could be forgiven for being nervous: the party has caused itself enough problems by hanging out with religious nuts already.

I think National's concern about the Bill was all a stunt: a case of manufacturing dissent, as it were. John Key wanted to put some blue water between him and the Government, to create the impression that he was principled and policied. What better issue for this purpose than a private members bill from a member who is not part of the Government but who is associated with the far left, at least by those whose knees were made for jerking? The Government could not control Sue Bradford but also could not distance themselves from her. Perfect. Unfortunately for Key, the Government gave the Bill some breathing space which was filled by responsible and informed opinion: the very organisations that care for children. This made the Bill's opponents look increasingly silly, which they were. Key could have supported the Bill then and kept some credibility, particularly as there was genuine division within his Caucus. Instead he persisted with the Chester Borrows amendment [note to National's brand mangers: you must change that man's name] and with the strangely ethereal Compromise, which no-one could quite define.

In the end, National's Caucus was shown to have all the integrity of a used-car salesmen's convention when the Bill's supporters (all except the magnificent Katherine Rich, who should be leading the party) rushed to the other side in the face of determined opinion polls. Key kept up the pretence of principled concern, to his detriment: he now looks insincere and indecisive. He changed his mind at the last minute, making him look like either a mountebank or a wobbler, possibly both. He got noting except a silly and irrelevant note in the Bill, saying the Police should not use their powers frivolously. Woo Hoo.

I would imagine that a lot of National's supporters, particularly in the Rightosphere, must be feeling betrayed. After all, they put heart and soul into this issue, blogging day and night to protest the injustice of it all. Then their Leader pulls the rug from under their indignation.

Oh well, that's their problem. What matters is that it will no longer possible to defend beating your children with a riding crop or similar instrument. What needs to be done now is to create a culture where such barbaric practices will be unthinkable. That may take a little time and a lot of consensus.

Anyway, here's Martin:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Today is the first day of New Zealand Music Month, so here is Collapsing Cities:

Searching for clues

  1. I saw a man wearing a shirt that said: Find It, Fuck it, Forget it
  2. Burger King uses women in bikinis to advertise its chicken burger
  3. Women are organising to take back the blog
  4. In today's Guardian, Kira Cochrane discusses Torture Porn

Perhaps these are connected.

Wild about nothing

I wrote this piece for the current issue of Craccum, which is all about religion. It was written hastily and despite a bout of food poisoning, so it is a bit rough.

Dear Matty,

A few days ago, you called me and asked me to write about Atheism for this edition of Craccum. Since then I have done a lot of research and a lot of thinking and I have come to this conclusion:

Atheists do not believe in gods

Will that do? I guess not. I think you said something about wanting two pages. I suppose you could make the typeface really large but the readers might feel cheated. Or you could leave the rest of the space blank to symbolise the absence of belief and the emptiness of life; but that would be a little bit Elam. Then again, you could fill the empty space with pictures you have found on Internet.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking this just is not good enough. You have asked someone who describes himself as an Atheist to talk about Atheism and all he can come up with is a six-word statement of the bleeding obvious: Atheists do not believe in gods. The trouble is, there really is not much more to Atheism than that. It hardlydeserves that capital A; in fact, Atheism is not really an ism at all.

At this point, I could resort to the last refuge of a journalist in need of a story: Google. I could tell you that a search of the word Atheism produces 1,700,000 pages, which is a very large number. I could read some of these pages and tell you what other people think about Atheism. I could quote from Wikipedia, which says there are varieties of Atheism: Strong and Weak, Positive and Negative, Implicit and Explicit. But I think that would confuse matters. Whatever the nuances, Atheism comes down to an absence of a belief.

Now, I find this a relatively simple matter. Some people believe in a god, others believe in many gods, Atheists believe in none. But it seems to cause a lot of confusion, even amongst Atheists. Apparently,Strong Atheists believe in the non-existence of gods while Weak Atheists reject belief in gods. But that is not a very helpful distinction, if it is a distinction at all, which I doubt.

It causes even more confusion amongst believers. I have had so many long, tedious conversations with people who believe so strongly in a god (usually God with a capital G) that they cannot conceive of anybody not believing in any god. They are far happier, on the whole, with people who believe in a different god; these people are just plain wrong, but at least they believe in something. People like me are baffling. The believers usually make things worse for themselves by taking it personally - they assume it is their god with a capital G which I don't believe in and convince themselves that they can persuade me to believe in Him with a capital H if only they try hard enough. But it is not that simple, because I do not have an opposing belief. I have none.

I can see this is not really helping. I'm sorry. Belief is a very difficult subject. Unbelief ought to be a very simple matter but it is complicated by people taking it to be a form of belief.

Myself, I blame the Rationalists and Humanists. As you know, I used to be the Spokesman for the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) but I am not blaming them specifically. My problem is with Atheists attaching other names to themselves to qualify their unbelief. They do it all the time and they come up with far too many names. There are Rationalists, Humanists, Freethinkers, Non-theists, Anti-theists, Naturalists, Brights and so on and so on. And don't get me started on the Agnostics.

Ignoring all the others, Rationalists bother me because they seem determined to prove that there are no gods. They go on about religion all the time, pointing out errors in the Bible, arguing how God is philosophically impossible. Say what you like about them, but at least they take religion seriously. Far too seriously, in my  opinion. Their error is a tactical one: they are fighting on their opponents ground.
Believers love this sort of argument, because they have been trained in arguing the case for their beliefs. Long, tedious conversations are the inevitable result.

And then there are the Humanists. Now, don't get me wrong; most humanists are thoroughly nice people. Some however, are authoritarian prigs. One such is Dr Bill Cooke, Vice-President of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc). For him, mere Atheism is a bit vulgar. In his long incoherent essays he often expounds the superiority of Humanists like him over us simple Atheists. Here's an example, from one of his editorials in the Open Society, the journal of the Rationalists and Humanists:
Atheism is only about what I don't can't build a way of life entirely on what you don't believe. The next step of determining our way of life is much more interesting and rewarding. My humanism is about what I do believe and my rationalism is about how I believe it.
What Dr Cooke's Humanism is all about is a bit of a mystery, even though he talks about it all the time. It seems to involve something called Eupraxsophy and the novels of Iris Murdoch. I think it is all a load of pseudo-academic wank, but that is just my opinion.

What it comes down to is that Dr Cooke has a world view: "What label we use to describe the positive world view we build on the foundation of atheism is neither here nor there. I call it humanism. But that such a construction must be built is imperative. There is so much more to being non-religious than simply being an atheist."

No there is not. Simply being an Atheist is quite enough.  Religious people have world views, through which they filter all their responses to the world. Most Atheists do not have a world view. We have opinions about lots of things. Our opinions differ, often. They have precious little to do with our Atheism, which is simply an absence of belief.

I could go on but I would be repeating myself. As I said, it is a difficult matter talking about unbelief. It is much easier to writeCanada News. All I need to do is read Canadian newspapers on Internet and write something about Hockey games and Avril Lavigne. I think Craccum can be proud of its distinction as the only New Zealand student newspaper to feature news from Canada regularly. This Atheism business is a bit more tricky.

Perhaps you should fill up the rest of the space with pictures. But what pictures could you use? It is not as if Atheism has symbols like crosses and crescents or cathedrals or men in funny clothes performing strange rituals. I don't want to tell you how to do your job but maybe you could download some pictures of cute kittens. People like kittens. You will find lots of pictures of kittens on Internet.

Yours faithlessly,