Saturday, February 28, 2009

England their England

In which the estimable Mr Henry Porter witnesses the Metropolitan Police stopping and questioning innocent people, in the British Library, next to an exhibition about civil liberties.

Meanwhile, Britain has become Europe's most unequal country, as the estimable Ms Polly Toynbee points out.

Elsewhere, the estimable Mr Peter Cresswell has compiled an admirable list of punk videos. Unaccountably, however, he has omitted The Adverts:

Great moments in Dutch rock 'n' roll, #1

Shocking Blue, Venus, with primate and invisible keyboards player. Bet you didn't know they were Dutch.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Antisocial networking

In which Ryanair, the budget airline, shows that good manners are not part of its web strategy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One minor drawback

While U.S. intelligence officials have spent more than seven years searching fruitlessly for Osama bin Laden, UCLA geographers say they have a good idea of where the terrorist leader was at the end of 2001 — and perhaps where he has been in the years since.

In a new study published online today by the MIT International Review, the geographers report that simple facts, publicly available satellite imagery and fundamental principles of geography place the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. in one of three buildings in the northwest Pakistan town of Parachinar, in the Kurram tribal region near the border with Afghanista

The seven-member team of Geographers used distance-decay theory and island biogeographic theory to determine the town in which Bin Laden must be hiding. Having found the town, they then looked for the building:
Faced with the prospect of picking from more than 1,000 structures clearly portrayed in the satellite imagery of Parachinar, the team decided to come up with a short list of the criteria that bin Laden would need for housing, based on well-known information about him, including his height (between 6'4" and 6'6", depending on the source), his medical condition (apparently in need of regular dialysis and, therefore, electricity to run the machine) and several basic assumptions, such as a need for security, protection, privacy and overhead cover to shield him from being spotted by planes, helicopters and satellites.
They found three structures that met their criteria. So they published their findings, concluding that US forces must examine (but not bomb) these buildings.

Then Scienceblog publishes the story. And then 3 Quarks Daily picks it up. And then the first comment on the Scienceblog posting points out one small problem with this theory: Bin Laden is a Sunni, who is responsible for the deaths of many Shiites; Parachinar is a Shiite town.

I believe this is known as a Kryten moment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wrod of the day: redundent

Further proof, if proof were needed, that New Zealand leads where others follow comes from the Guardian: it seems that newspapers in the Old Country still employ Subeditors, on the premises. How quaint.

Here in thrusting, forward-thinking New Zealand, both halves of our media duopoly have centralised subbing for their many titles in vast facilities somewhere south of Bombay, or possibly north of Mumbai. Such rationalisation ensures efficient throughput and omptimaised media content generation, or some such guff.

So, come on Britain! Do what we have done: sack your subs and say goodbye to the misery of pedantry! Grammar, punctuation, facts and spelling are all so 20th Century.

Go away

I really, really wanted to blackout this blog, like all the cool kids are doing today. But I could not figure out how to do it, at least not without deleting this blog for good.

So, can we all pretend that this blog is blacked out? Just shut your eyes. No, don't; that's silly. Instead, don't read anything today. Come back tomorrow. Go on; it's for creative freedom.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Power corrupts; money corrupts absolutely

A Right-wing religious group called the Maxim Institute ran the campaign in New Zealand to deny equal treatment before the law for gay couples. Maxim was explicitly anti-free market and attacked Milton Friedman when he died. Maxim said Friedman was "simplistic" and said he ignored the "social good". They say that "the individualist view, espoused by Friedman" is just as wrong as the collectivist view mainly because it ignores the desire of theocrats like Maxim to impose Christian morality by the force of law. They couch their theocracy with left-wing phrases like "the interconnectedness of community and the relational nature of human society." Apparently this interconnectedness means they gain the right to use state imposed violence to make people obey their moral agenda.

Maxim has run campaigns exclusively on socially conservative issues. It has never taken an explicitly libertarian position on anything. Maxim spent most their budget in two years to combat the legalization of brothels and the civil unions legislation.

These campaigns were funded, in part, with money that Atlas Foundation gave them. In fact this money was just Templeton money channeled through Atlas. In 2005 alone Maxim received three “awards” from Atlas for their anti-libertarian positions.
The true history of the Atlas Foundation, sponsor of the Maxim Institute.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The burial of the dead

As Dr Johnson might have observed: Sir, a Fundamentalist Christian's talking about Aesthetics is like a dog's preaching. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. Here it is done on the subject of George Dickie's Aesthetics: an Introduction; to cut to the chase, the reviewer concludes that a hatrack cannot be a work of art and that Dickie is of "the dead who bury their dead," whatever that means. Oh well, at least she tried.

The Inmates, from 1980:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The new pornographers

It's not easy beeing teen: Newsweek reports on the phenomenon of sexting and its enemies. The solution to the problem of children making nude photographs of themselves is to make those children child sex offenders.

Meanwhile, in another part of Pennsylvania, a teenage girl is sent down for three months, for setting up a fake Myspace page. Why? Because the judge was getting a kickback from the correctional facility.

Back home, the Sensible Sentencing Trust contrives to strain the quality of mercy to within an inch of its life: one the once hand, the trust accuses those civil liberties types of causing panic and alarm with their talk of invasions of privacy, breaches of human rights and a police state. Says Garth McVicar, in bold type: "If some thug steals or trashes our property, rapes or maims – or worse still murders someone – they should have the book thrown at them" adding that he doesn't "give a toss if getting tough on criminals and crime upsets civil libertarians." But then Garth reveals his kinder, gentler side when it comes to someone like himself: teen-killer Bruce Emery.

Kids: can't live with them, can't kill them. No wonder the world is going to Hell in a handbasket.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The lucky country

Catch the Fire Ministries, known for its obsessive hatred of Islam, is blaming the real fires, those in Victoria, on divine retribution: the State decriminalised abortion, so God has removed his "conditional protection." Fortunately for the victims of God's Wrath, Catch the Fire is more merciful, and is accepting donations of necessaries, including Tea bags and under wear (NEW). May God Bless Australia with His Rains of Mercy!

An alternative reading of events might be that God has shown her displeasure with Australia by inflicting such nasty Christians upon it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More Catholic fun

It deepens like a coastal shelf: following the matter of the Wykehamist prodigal Bishop whose main theological concern was how to solve a problem like Maria, the Pope has now appointed a Bishop who is wild about Harry. The new Bishop of Linz thinks reading Harry Potter leads to Satan and that Hurricane Katrina was God's divine vengeance; something to do with whores and homos, apparently. Oh dear.

Meanwhile, the Fundy Post has now used the power of Internet to track down some more Transalpine Redemptorists at home, which is Papa Stonsay. Here is a travelogue.

The Transalpine Redemptorists of Christchurch are a branch (the branch, to be exact) of the congregation on Papa Stronsay. Transalpine Redemptorists do the Latin Mass. They like bells and smells. They like to dress up. It is all very English.

The Transalpine Redemptorists should not be confused with the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as the Redemptorists. The Redemptorists also have a presence in New Zealand. And here is a funny thing: remember that couple with the baby who appeared on the Labour propaganda leaflets during the last election? Well, it turns out that they are redemptorists.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Idle vice

Craig Y demands proof that Bishop Williamson dislikes the Sound of Music. Fair enough; if it is proof you want, proof you shall have:
Clean family edification? Nothing of the kind! Can you imagine this Julie Andrews staying with the Captain if 'the romance went out of their marriage'? Would she not divorce him and grab his children from him to be her toys? Such romance is not actually pornographic but all the elements of pornography are there, just waiting to break out. One remembers the media sensation when a few years later Julie Andrews appeared topless in another film. That was no sensation, just a natural development for one rolling canine female.
Clearly, the Bishop has some difficulty discerning the difference between fact and fiction, and not of the usual kind that afflicts people who believe that one tiny little wafer can turn into the flesh of their demi-god. Most of us know that Maria von Trapp and Julie Andrews are not the same person, but Bishop Andrews cannot grasp this distinction, nor that between Ms Andrews and Sally Farmer in S.O.B. They are all the same canine woman. The further subtlety of the relationship between the reputation of Sally Farmer and that of Julie Andrews would be probably to complex to explain to the Bishop. It would be advisable to keep him away from Nativity plays.

Meanwhile, speaking of Alps, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer in Christchurch (a blogging Order, it would seem) have expressed their disapproval of Bishop Williamson for his appearance on Swedish Television, where he again presented his "revisionist" theories of the Holocaust. The Sons also note that it is claimed that Bishop Williamson is not merely a dirty little Wykehamist, but also a Rosicrucian and one of the Plymouth Brethren: "According to a French sedevacantist, Bishop Williamson's coat of arms has Rosicrucian symbolism and he is part of a Masonic plot to bring the world under the dominion of an 'illuminist, apocalyptic, Darbyist sect' i.e. the Plymouth Brethren!"

Should you wish to make a donation to the Sons in recognition of their bold stand, account details are on their blog: "Name of Account- Transalpine Redemptorists."

It really is quite difficult keeping abreast of all this.

Beige is the new Brown

On the face of it, and in the absence of any evidence arguing to the contrary, Bennett's decision to take Halaholo under her roof and her pleas in mitigation on his behalf are unexceptionable, understandable and even commendable. At times of strife, particularly when the law is requiring an errant youngster to face the consequences of his actions, family bonds are tested, and those that do not break are precious indeed. It is difficult to imagine that Bennett's motives in allowing her granddaughter's father to be bailed to her home were anything other than entirely blameless. Her personal history, which has not been free of tribulation over which she has triumphed, would equip her to be an ideal guardian of a young man who needed watching over, and the non-custodial remand alternatives, presuming they existed, would very probably have been less satisfactory.
So, what's the problem? Paul Bennett, who is now Minister for Social Development, gave her daughter's partner somewhere to live while he is on bail and writes letters attesting to his character. Why is this not "unexceptionable, understandable and even commendable?" Because the Herald wants blood, that's why. Paula Bennett was alright when she was the battler who triumphed over adversity, when she was a role model for the Brown folk. She was the new face of Change, for a short while, the get-up-and-go Minister from the wrong side of the tracks who knew about life at the bottom and was going to do something about the people there. Then she was the real-life battler, who took on the thugs in hand to hand combat. But now it turns out she has been harbouring a criminal. Worse than than, she has been harbouring him in leafy Titirangi.

On the face of it, Ms Bennett's actions were "unexceptionable, understandable and even commendable." But clearly they were unacceptable. For a start, she has an unmarried daughter whose partner is a member of a vicious street gang. And, rather than shunning her and condemning him, she offered them shelter and support. You don't do that sort of thing. They want the perps to be crushed, not welcomed into homes in leafy Titirangi. They want revenge. They (and by They, I mean the Herald, its readers in leafy suburbs, the angry middle-aged men, the commentators and such like) cannot bear to see the perpetrators of crime being supported, rather than condemned. Nor can they bear to see the perps revealed as people, who have families and children, and with merits. Tories cannot bear too much reality.

Ms Bennett's failed to realise that They did not want Brown. They wanted beige. They wanted someone who would be an example to the Brown folk, not one of them. They wanted someone who was once Brown herself, but now has a home in leafy Titirangi and is otherwise indistinguishable from white folk. Instead They got a security risk, someone who is a risk to the security of their own prejudices. And unfortunately for Ms Bennett, that nice Mr Key is so nervous of upsetting Them that he will abandon her to Them.