Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We built this city on rock and lava

I came across this letter in the New Zealand Herald of Monday, 21st April:

Pacific City?

It is time for change in Auckland. We can start by giving our place on this planet another name, such as Pacific City?

A new democratic structure is needed, as illustrated by the Auckland Regional Council. It is sad we can focus only on celebratory candidates for election to councils because there should be no place for lord mayors or grandstanding in our "new city of many."

Democracy, as defined in the Local Government Act, is "maximum feasible participation" by citizens, and that means not only voting every year but being heard and responded to in public forums.

With change, it is important these democratic traditions are not eroded and that public involvement is promoted. A name change might be the catalyst to start getting greater public interest on the governance of our Pacific City.

Kit Howden, Mt Eden.


Pacific City? I like it. I particularly like the daring use of the question mark. It it would make ours the first place in the world to use a question mark in its name and only the second to use a punctuation mark: we could be twinned with Westward Ho!

I think we could go further with this concept. You will recall, gentle reader, the occasion when our Mayor saved us from ignominy and Legal Ramifications by deftly adding (with his own hand) some stars to our new logo and so making it look quite unlike the logo for Triangle Television. He did this inspired act before Triangle Television's lawyers, who showed their astonishment and gratitude by demanding only $10,000 for their time, which citizens and ratepayers would be happy to pay, such is the esteem in which our Mayor is held; not that they had the choice, mind you.

Perhaps I might suggest a similar gesture, although the circumstances are quite different and my gesture more modest? We could take Mr (or is it Ms?) Howden's elegant and bold idea and enhance it by the use of the Spanish inverted question mark.
So Pacific City? becomes ¿Pacific City?
¡Sorchio! Now we have an even bolder title to replace boring old Auckland (a name taken from some dead white aristocrat and shared with Bishop Auckland, which is not a bishop but a place in County Durham which, for some reason, is not called Durham County and which should not be confused with Derby County, which is an Association Football club or with County Clare, which is in Eire, or Planet Clare, which is an air, by the B-52s).

To continue: with our new title, ¿Pacific City? we could reach out to the millions of people with Spanish culture and ethnicity, who will come flocking to us with their maracas and their pesetas. ¡Cha, Cha, Cha!

With our new name, we would also become the first citizenry in the world to question formally our own identity. ¡Yes, it's PoMo and it's fun! Here in New Zealand we spend much of our time asking ourselves what it means to be a New Zealander, or an Aotearoan, or both. So it is fitting that our largest city, with its diverse population and the constant threat of being blown to extinction by the lava field on which we are standing, should be the most questioning place of all. ¿Who are we, why are we here and will be still be here tomorrow?

So there we have it: a new day, a new name and, what's more, a catalyst for greater public interest on governance. As Mr (or possibly Ms) Howden observes, "it is sad we can focus only on celebratory candidates for election to councils because there should be no place for lord mayors or grandstanding in our 'new city of many.'" Quite so; this blogeur knows several celebratory candidates, people who will drop everything for a celebration; most of them can barely focus. They don't call us City Blurred Vision for nothing.

And of course there will be no place for grandstanding, because the grandstand will not be built on time.

96 Tears:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bridget: an enquiry into morals

What is it about Bridget Saunders? How does she manage to write such utter tripe week after week? And what is it about me for reading it? Why do I feel drawn to the About Town section of the SST? And why am I asking these questions? Why am I sharing my internal monologue with you? Perhaps because Bridget cannot help asking questions to which she knows the answers, but she will not tell us those answers. She is such a tease, that girl.

This week's selection, written in Bridget's characteristic schoolgirl style and with her unique punctuation, included:
Who is the biggest hypocrite the New Zealand Media has ever known? [go on, tell us; we really have no idea]

Which minister of the Crown openly admits to hating the Rt. Honourable Helen Clark? [if it is so open, why can't you tell us, Bridget – lawyers got your tongue?]

Which very married media presence took a 22-year-old hooker to Asia with him? This is nothing though, compared to the 15-year-old hooker he enjoyed one day while the family were out. (He rang a knock shop and ordered in and when the girly arrived he was concerned at how young she was and asked her age. When she said 15, he first thought, "Oh dear" and then thought "Oh, what the hell, you're here now!")
Oh dear. It's all fun and games until someone violates a minor. Or rather, no: it's still fun and games because the story is about a celebrity. It doesn't matter that what he did is illegal and appalling. It doesn't matter that it is illegal for a "knock shop" to employ a girl of 15. Nah, it's all about gossip. Pause for a moment and consider the terms used: hooker – knock shop – girly. Bridget, she was Fifteen. Do you remember when you were Fifteen, about the time your prose style stopped developing? She's not a hooker or a girly, she is a child prostitute – a victim of men, including your very married celebrity.

By a strange coincidence, the lead story in the SST was about another 15 year-old girl: Marie from Christchurch, who has been missing for two weeks. But Marie's story is a cause for concern, while "the girly" is just a bit player in the life of a celebrity. At least the Police are looking for Marie. I doubt Bridget will be telling them the details of her story. I doubt the media presence will have to account for his behaviour. I doubt his victim will receive the help she needs.

Maybe I am just being a bit old-fashioned. Or maybe not; here is the start of another story by Bridget:
Once the hottest restaurateur in town, Philip Sturm, who has been to hell and back (prison for gay sexual violation) has been out on home detention for five months now and is now on parole. For those who are convinced of his innocence (an awful lot of people) this is is wonderful news and he will be welcomed back with open arms.
Wut? It was just "gay sexual violation" (five counts of sexual violation and one of stupefying involving four men, in case you forgot the case) and an awful lot of people were convinced of his innocence. Well, I can think of twelve who were not.

The striking feature of Bridget's ramblings (apart from her difficulties with English) is her absence of moral discernment. Famous people do things: the have fights in public, they have affairs, they hire child prostitutes and they rape people. It doesn't really matter; it's all goss.

But no; I am misrepresenting Bridget. She also does politics and lit-crit:
A friend has read the first 10 chapters of Ian Wishart's book Absolute Power: The Helen Clark Years and he says it will be terminally DEVASTATING for the prime minister
No it won't, Bridget. While you were deciding which lip-gloss went with which eyeliner, some of us, for some time, were reading Ian's revelations about Helen; knowing his form, we don't expect this book to bring down the Government. Trust us on this; and we will trust you to keep us informed about celebrity rapists and child molesters, in your own special way.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tied to the mast

Loads of stuff over at Russell's today, including discussion that, on Motorhead's "Bomber," Lemmy sounds like he is barracking "Obama." To which all I can say is that there's never a frown with Gordon Brown.

Everything must go

Great news for bargain hunters: now you can get Scientology training, FREE. Yes, it's crazy but it's true: previously Scientologists had to pay thousands of dollars in order to become Operating Thetans. And they had to meet other Scientologists: creepy, weird people. And they had to disavow their families and do lots of other stange stuff just because the people in charge (who wear naval uniforms) said so. But now, all that has changed. Thanks to Internet, which has no boundaries, you can download the entire Operating Thetan training programme, FREE.

All you need do is go to Wikileaks and download away. Yes, it's easy and it's fun. And it's FREE.

Of course the Church of Scientology has threatened an injunction, just as they always do. But this time, they may find their opponent is bulletproof.

By now, you are probably thinking, "what's it like, this Scientology training? Is it right for me?" Well here is a sample of some advanced Scientology drills, for you to try before you download. And yes, they are FREE.


1.Walk around and count bodies until you have a cognition. Make a report saying how many you counted and your cognition.
2.Note several large and several small female bodies until you have a cognition [Blogeur's comment: this is not what you think]. Note it down.
3.Note several large and several small male bodies until you have a cognition. Note it down.
4.Find a tight packed crowd of people, note it as a crowd, then as individuals until you have a cognition. Note it down. Do step over until you do.
5.Seat yourself unobtrusively where you can observe a number of people. Spot things and people you are not. Do to cognition. Note it down.
6.Seat yourself unobtrusively where you can observe a number of people. Spot things and people you can have. Do to cognition. Note it down.
7.Note some physical thing about yourself you don't like. Observing people, in them note that body part. Do to some change. Note it down.
8.Observing people, spot things that are not wrong with them. Do to cognition. Note it down.
9.Walk around and note someone walking toward you, then someone walking away, then someone walking toward you, etc. Do to cognition. Note it down.
10.Walk around and note how people stick to the ground and their sense of weight. Do to cognition. Note it down.
11.Spot importances in people while looking at them. Do to cognition. Note it down.
12.Look into space and find places where there are no persons. Do to cognition. Note it down.
13.Walk around and note where there are people. Do to cognition. Note it down.

And remember, when people like the Church of Scientology and the Maxim Institute are trying to limit your access to information, libraries gave us power.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On food

Eat food.
Not too much.
Mostly plants.
Being - as you know - a non-religious sort of chap, I am not one for mantras, incantations, that sort of thing. But I have had the above words in my head since reading Jason Epstein's elegant piece in the New York Review of Books about Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. I think I am on the side of the angels on this issue: mostly, I make my own meals from vegetables which I buy locally. But still, I have found it useful to keep Pollan's advice in mind while negotiating the heffalump trap-filled aisles of the supermarket. I did think of buying some packets of noodles, until I read the small print and found that the largest single component of the "flavour pack" is salt, closely followed by some flavour enhancers (quite what flavour they enhance is anyone's guess), some assorted E-numbers and various other ingredients which would have been unknown to Aunt Daisy. I suspect the beef-flavour noodles contain nothing that has been near cattle; the manufacturers could quite probably declare said noodles to be suitable for vegetarians, although to do so might alert their intended market - of people who think they are getting a nourishing meaty meal in a packet and in an instant - to the fact that something very odd is going on.

Of course, it will be objected that Messrs Epstein and Pollan are talking about America, the land of the freely ensnared, where everything is authentic but nothing is real. And such an objection has a point, since an American supermarket – which will sell a hundred-thousand different products, all of them packaged crap – is a wonder to behold; moreover, the USofA is a place where buying fresh fruit and vegetables is a slightly-outdated and cranky pursuit of middle-aged liberals, the sort of people who are portrayed by Alan Alda and Candice Bergen in films set in New England university towns.

Such objections also would have substance if America was over there, in some way distant – like other countries. After all, Russia under its present elective dictatorship produces some of the most poisonous wodka known to man, but reserves it for consumption at home, where the demand for oblivion is scarcely met by supply. We produce our own equivalents, which are much better and much more safe, producing the desired delirium without causing blindness. America, by contrast, brings us only woe. Its main exports are its own myths, which it not only prints but fries, deeply. And these myths include those of food which is both plentiful and cheap, while having qualities of coolness that cannot be found at home. And we munch these myths, we supersize them, and then add relish.

If we took a moment to ask ourselves, "how did we come to this," we would be stumped for a reply. What, after all, is a burger? It has no relation to anything we have eaten traditionally and only a slender association with a form of meat that was brought to America by German immigrants. For reasons to do with its period of mutation during the 1950s, the burger is covered in lifeless salad vegetables, encased in a bun of unknown provenance and sold with limp chips. To make matters worse, this toxic combination is usually sold with a drink that keeps dentists and dieticians in business the world over.

McDonalds, of course, made a local delicacy of this global sludge by adding the miracle ingredient of sliced beetroot; unto us was born the Kiwi Burger, surely one of the most spurious yet effective marketing ploys in our history.

Worse horrors still are to be found in the KFC (which, incidentally, no longer stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken or for anything; its is one of those de-meaninged acronyms, like ASB) next door. There, our Polynesian neighbours feast on family-sized tubs of instant Type 2 Diabetes, accompanied by mounds of mashed potatoes soaked in gravy - a bizarre addition to the traditional chicken'n'fries combination which suggests that somehow the secret recipe fell into the hands of Yorkshiremen, who made additions to suit their own tastes. From them it came to New Zealand, where people who had lived on fish and fruit for generations rushed to chow down on the nutritional equivalent of an influenza-infected blanket.

Even stranger still is the pizza, a rather inconsequential side-dish (a traditional Neapolitan pizza is nothing more than the base, the tomato sauce and the cheese) which has been distorted into shapes that would be inconceivable in its homeland, so that it could become a convenient main meal for people who eat on sofas (which they call couches), consuming piles of dough while they consume equally bland Media. The diversity and perversity of pizza toppings is remarkable; and I speak not just of the Hawaiian pizza, with its innovative ham-pineapple-cheese combination: the nadir of the pizza came in the early 1980s, with the invention of the chow mein topping - a cultural mix which suggests that, when Marco Polo came back from the East, he brought not just rice but takeaways.

My point, for the benefit of readers distracted by whatever simulacra snack they are eating as they read, is that the laughably inappropriately-named "meals" served by fast-food franchises are not just bad for your arteries. They distort your notions of reality. These creations are not meals. A meal is made up of major food groups in some sort of pleasing combination. A meal is made with a certain amount of attention and demands a similar amount when it is eaten. Most importantly, a meal tastes of something.

I challenge anybody who claims to enjoy this sort of mush to describe what tastes are involved. I think we can all agree that the substance of such food is pretty dodgy - mostly starch and meat "products" which are unidentifiable - not just as to what animals they come from but what parts of whatever animals are used. But the more important question is about what flavours are produced by this stodge. I would suggest the answer is – almost none. Fast food does not really taste of much at all. And what tastes it does possess are mostly similar across all possible combinations, as if the same bland stuff had been manipulated into various food-like shapes and given suitable connotations – Mexican, Chinese, Italian, whatever; which is more or less what has happened.

Now, before nutritionists rush in where angels fear to tread, I do realise that what the fast-food eater is getting is not a taste but a feeling – one of starchy fullness with a sugar-high on the side. But what troubles me is that we (truth to tell, probably you rather than me) have abandoned tastes as objects of eating. It is enough to have those feelings of satiation and excitement. The age-old requirement (except for readers in England) that food have at least one taste has become redundant.

For that matter, fast-food doesn't smell of anything either. Restaurants, cafés, delis and bakeries are full of smells but fast-fooderies are almost odourless; all you can smell is the other customers. Given how much stuff is being produced at any one time in the kitchen which stands straight in front of you, why is there no smell? Obvious answer - it is all artificial; if they wanted anything to have a smell, they would give it a smell. Less obvious answer - it doesn't matter. Smell, like taste, is unnecessary. Its the feelings that count.

I could go on. I will go on. But you are probably eating lunch. In the meantime, consider the implications of the global food shock, which Russell discussed a few days ago. The fast-food manufacturers could have a corn syrup crisis on their hands.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Boundary issues

It has been a while since I have commented on a publication of the Maxim Institute, for the simple reason that I could not be bothered to read any of them. But now here comes the latest edition of Real Issues and its about Internet
The arrival of the internet in our lives has drastically changed the way we receive information and communicate. Where information flow once required people to meet in person to speak or deliver documents, we are now able to access far-away people and places at rapid speeds. With change come both opportunities and risks. The internet opens exciting opportunities for learning and relating, whilst also provoking genuine concerns about user safety and the amount of time people, particularly children, spend in the "virtual" rather than the "real" world.
Before we go on, I cannot help but comment on the tone of this and other pronouncements by the Maxim Institute on new technology. There is something very Home Service about it all. Although TCP/IP is twenty-five years old, Maxim still talks of the arrival of Internet in our lives. It is as if Maxim received its Internet on bakelite-cased machines produced by the Empire Internet Corporation of Staines, Middlesex, England. But now we return to our scheduled broadcast.

You see, it's all about boundaries. Children need them when using Internet. Otherwise, they might end up suffering Internet Addiction, one of the most serious public health issues in South Korea. And we wouldn't want to end up like the South Koreans - eating all that cabbage and making the world's worst beer - would we? Maxim continues:
The reported incidents of internet addiction worldwide are small, yet they speak grave and important words to us, if we listen. They speak of people trapped in the cravings for instant sensation and connection. They speak of people losing an ability to function physically as the virtual world rules their head. And they speak of a society that builds internet cafes that are cheaper the longer you stay, and then watches as people sit for hours, interacting only with a computer. They are words that we need to hear, not to spark paranoia, but to recognise that responsibility is crucial in the way we interact with information technology. The problem does not lie with the internet. It lies with a boundless culture, instant communication and a glut of sensation. It lies with fickle beliefs and an inability to siphon information. Somehow we must slow down, turn off some switches and speak to each other again about how to be discerning.
Rather rum, isn't it, how Maxim always talks about "society" being to blame for issues that are the responsibility of business? Society does not build Internet cafés - they are the work of private businesses. It is dashed funny how moral conservatives will always blame some cultural elite when an artist produces a work that offends, but never blame a business elite when businesses stuff up people's lives by exploiting them. I suppose that has something to do with the sources of funding enjoyed by morally conservative groups.

In any case, Maxim has little reason to demand boundaries on Internet. If it were not for wild and free surfing, Maxim would be nothing. All that "research" Maxim presented to Parliament was found on Internet by Maxim staffers who knew nothing of the areas in which they pretended to specialise. They just visited other conservative web sites and stole their lies. Internet also allowed Bruce Logan to steal the words of other conservative commentators. Of course, it also allowed me to discover what Brucie was doing; besides, my information source within Maxim, Harriet (the spy), could only do that thing she did because of Internet.

You see, that's the great thing about a boundless Internet - anybody can use it. We don't have self-appointed and self-interested moral guardians like Maxim setting the boundaries for us.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Someone to watch over me

Matters arising: I was a little unsettled that, within fifteen minutes of my posting the previous post, a sciborg should make a comment. And that comment included a link to the CoS site After the tsunami as a demonstration of Good Works carried out by the Church.

So, what did the CoS do when the tsunami struck, wiping out the littorals of several countries, killing untold numbers of people, devastating entire communities? They sent a bunch of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed sciborgs to perform what the CoS terminology calls "assists." And what was the substance of these assists? Massage. While people were crying out for food, shelter and their relatives, the sciborgs were getting all touchy-feely. Naturelement, the form of massage administered was one devised by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard himself, a man who once had a posse of pubescent girls to administer his own deep tissue relief (they wore hot pants and halter tops - this was the Seventies, after all - and waited upon his every need, apparently).

The nature and purpose of such assists was revealed by some leaked correspondence after 9/11. It seems that the only two groups who saw the destruction of the World Trade Center as a win were Al Quaida and the Church of Scientology. The CoS rushed its volunteers to Ground Zero and did its best to thwart the efforts of the "psychs" - genuine mental health professionals. The CoS felt more than a little pleased that it managed to fool Fox TV into displaying a phone number for its call centre by using a bogus name.

Another sciborg commented that I should not be mentioning the name of Lisa McPherson. See, I have gone and done it again. Lisa McPherson was a member of the CoS who suffered a mental health crisis. Members of her local CoS coven intervened to stop her receiving the treatment she needed. She died soon after, while in the custody of the CoS. Quite what horrors she endured are undocumented, but the before and after photographs (not safe for lunch) say a great deal. Of course, this happened several years ago in another country, but has the CoS ever explained or apologised for what happened? Of course, no. And is this the only case of maltreatment by the CoS of someone who should have received proper psychiatric care? Again, and of course, no.

The hostility, some might say paranoia, of the CoS towards the psychiatric profession is remarkable. L Ron Hubbard, like Basil Fawlty, had a horror of psychiatrists, being himself completely barking. His Church shares this dread, working tirelessly to replace psychiatry with Dianetics, its own science of mental health, which involves removing Thetans from the patient's body.

The CoS also maintains a taxpayer-assisted campaign against the psychiatric profession. A few months ago, the estimable Mr David Do and I visited an "exhibition" mounted by the CoS in Auckland's Victoria Market. It purported to show the evils of psychiatry, in part by showing that, in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, psychiatrists were, respectively, Nazis and Communists. The CoS was mentioned only once in the entire show, and then only in a newspaper article which had been reproduced as a display. Instead, the show was presented as the work of the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights, which is one of the many front organisations for the CoS. All this would be laughable nonsense, were it not for cases like that of Lisa McPherson.

As I said, all this is taxpayer-assisted. The IRD, in its wisdom, decided that the CoS qualifies as a church for accounting purposes and so does not have to pay income tax. As you would expect, I object to any religious organisation enjoying this benefit. But what particularly rankles in the case of the CoS is the deceit and the cost.

Let me explain with a counter-example: Catholics. The Doctrine of the Trinity (that God, like oil, is three-in-one but also one-in-three) is palpable nonsense - incomprehensible and, for that matter, unbiblical. But, for all the Doctrine's theological, philosophical and historical wants, the Holy Catholic Church makes no attempt to hide it. Go into any Catholic church and you will find a pamphlet on what Catholics believe. The CoS, by contrast, does not tell you what it believes - that human beings are covered in Thetans, which are the spirits of beings who were brought to this planet, deep frozen, by Xenu in spacecraft which look just like the McDonnell-Douglas DC-8 and who were stacked around volcanoes (some of which do not exist), into which Xenu dropped atom bombs (as one of my commentators noted: yes, that retarded). The CoS instead tells you that you are stressed.

The CoS determines that you are stressed by giving you a test with the E-Meter. As I noted earlier, this is no more than a Wheatstone Bridge - a device for measuring electrical resistance. I am but an humble Art Historian and know nothing about electrical resistance other than that it is measured in Ohms, a word which is impossible to say without smiling (in fact, saying the word Ohm would probably do more to reduce stress than anything the CoS has to offer). The sciborgs who administer these tests might really, really believe that these devices are discovering something, but the CoS, which manufactures the E-Meters, knows what they are making. So far, I have yet to read any argument from the CoS that the electrical resistance of the human body is caused by stress or the presence of Thetans. It may well be that Mr Tom Cruise has fewer Ohms than you or I, but I have yet to see any evidence to that effect.

It is not until one is well-advanced in the practice of Scientology that the CoS tells one why there is a picture of a volcano on the front cover of L Ron Hubbard's best-selling Dianetics - The Modern Science of Mental Health. By that stage, one will have spent an awful lot of money getting to this point of knowledge. Which brings me to my second objection to Scientology: the cost. The Catholics pass round a plate, and may ask you to consider them in your will, but they do not charge you to go to Mass. The CoS, having hooked the initiate with the stress test, charges him to do courses. To get to the level of mental health exemplified by Mr Tom Cruise costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As one of my commentators noted, this is clearly a business, and a particularly dodgy one at that. Other self-improvement businesses, such as Pilates instructors or practitioners of the Alexander Technique, do not enjoy the tax benefits of being a religion. They go about they work and declare their earnings, without the colossal subsidy that we, the taxpayers of New Zealand, provide the CoS.

The accumulated cash has put the CoS in the position where it can buy the building occupied by Whitecliffe College of Art. As Lyndon noted elsewhere, this purchase particularly annoyed me. Fortunately, my friend the Leverhulme girl has now graduated and so will not have to suffer the indignity of attending the College's new premises in Manukau (City of the Future), which surely would have broken her dear heart. But the purchase will give the CoS a presence is does not enjoy in its current headquarters in Panmure. The CoS will also be a lot closer to the CBD, so we can expect to see many more stress tests taking place on the streets of Auckland.

Which brings me to membership. Mon frere Craig Young asks how many members the CoS has in New Zealand, which is an interesting question. The CoS claims eight thousand adherents but the most recent Census, in 2006, showed that only 357 souls were willing to stand up and be counted as followers of L Ron. This discrepancy of numbers reveals a simple fact of the CoS - that it cannot tell the truth about anything. Like its founder, the CoS is a pathological liar. And because of an IRD decision that the CoS calls a "victory," we pay for these lies.

Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope in the suggestion, by one commentator here, that the E-Meters may be in breach of rules for electrical devices. Perhaps the folly of the IRD will be corrected by Fair Trading departments. Or perhaps we can do something. As Anonymous observed, we are from Internet - and we are here to help.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

They fought the lulz but the lulz won

This image comes from the Scientology Handbook and apparently represents an essential part of Scientology training, which will soon be happening at the building now occupied by Whitecliffe College of Art. I would love to know what she will become curious about next; perhaps it will be "why am I wearing a strait-jacket," or "you're really quite creepy, aren't you?"

On the other hand, she might be thinking "why don't I give up this crap and become Anonymous; at least I would get to wear a suit and a mask."

You see, the people who call themselves Anonymous are more than a little bit annoyed by the Church of Scientology, ever since the CoS tried to stop people seeing a scientology video showing Tom Cruise being mad. Anonymous has been protesting against Scientology worldwide, including in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the first local protest was not very well-attended and has become known globally as the Epic New Zealand Fail. But a couple of weekends ago, Anonymous New Zealand made up for it by participating in the second global protest, with an enthusiastic demonstrations in downtown Auckland and elsewhere. I understand the next protest will be on 12th April.

The beauty of these protests is that the CoS cannot find anyone to sue. In the past, the CoS set its lawyers on anyone who investigated Scientology or criticised its practices. But Anonymous is anonymous. There is no membership or organisation, just some websites where Anonymous lurks, anonymously. The Rules of Internet prevent me from naming these sites, but I can reveal they are of the wiki or imageboard kind, where users can post or modify content anonymously. It is in these places that the word is spread about demonstrations and other actions against Scientology.

The CoS tried, in a Florida court, to obtain an injunction against Anonymous by filing a Petition against twenty-six individuals "alleged to be associating as a group referred to as Anonymous." The court noted that the Petition contained "no specific allegations of wrongdoing against the individuals named as respondents" and denied the Petition because there was "no allegation of the existence of any organisation or hierarchy of command that exercises any form of collective or coordinated action that results in the systematic deprivation of the Petitioner's rights." In short, the CoS tried to stop all actions against it made by people identifying themselves as Anonymous but failed. In shorter still: they fought the lulz but the lulz won.

The CoS has every reason to be worried about Anonymous. Deprived of its main weapon of legal action, it is helpless. Worse still for the "Church," Anonymous has created a new generation of opponents, people who otherwise would never have known about CoS. Of course, the CoS will bleat about freedom of religion and whine that it is being oppressed but such tactics are standard operating procedure: the Scientology organisation calls itself a church for two reasons - tax breaks and special privileges.

In turn, Anonymous has every reason to be worried about New Zealand. We are one of the few countries in the grown-up world which recognises Scientology as a religion for tax purposes. Of course, in the not so humble opinion of this blogeur, no religion should get tax breaks - religions are no different from private clubs and religion is not in itself a public good that should be rewarded. That said, it is particularly galling that the bunch of crooks calling themselves the Church of Scientology get tax breaks for doing their dirty work. Their income, which is derived from acts of deceit, is not subject to tax. No wonder they can afford to buy Whitecliffe.

In case any fair-minded, decent, liberal reader (I believe there are some) is choking on his pancetta after reading my description of the CoS as a bunch of crooks, let me explain. Everything the CoS does is designed to increase revenue. The CoS deceives its members in order to get their money. Most members are duped into joining CoS by taking the E-Meter test. The E-Meter (the current version is the Mark Super VII Quantum E-Meter) is supposed to measure one's mental health (to be precise, it is supposed to detect the Thetans on one's body, but the CoS does not tell an adherent about the Thetans - the spirits of aliens brought to this planet by Xenu - until the member is well and truly caught up in the con). It is inevitable that the person taking an E-Meter test for the first time will fail it and so will require a course of treatment, which of course will cost money.

The E-meter is nothing more than a wheatstone bridge - it measures the electrical resistance of the subject's body. So, when the CoS offers you a "stress test" (which you will fail) it is duping you to get your money - a criminal act. The money it raises from this crime, and the many others it commits in the form of courses for members, is tax-free in New Zealand. This is the true Epic New Zealand Fail - a crime syndicate fooled the tax authorities of a nation into believing it was a religion.