Thursday, April 30, 2009

ZenTiger The next Einstein wont be British

The next Einstein probably wont be British. Or a Kiwi. OK, so neither was the first, but there have been many famous British Scientists. Maybe not so many in the future though. But before I can tell you that story, I thought I'd mention this one:

Angels on a Pin - A Modern Parable
by Alexander Calandra
Saturday Review, Dec 21, 1968 (pg 60)
and from "More Random Walks in Science" by R.L.Weber, The Institute of Physics, 1982.

Some time ago I received a call from a colleague who asked if I would be the referee on the grading of an examination question. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed he should receive a perfect score and would if the system were not set up against the student: The instructor and the student agreed to submit this to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I went to my colleague's office and read the examination question: "Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer."

The student had answered: "Take a barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower the barometer to the street and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building."

I pointed out that the student really had a strong case for full credit since he had answered the question completely and correctly. On the other hand, if full credit was given, it could well contribute to a high grade for the student in his physics course. A high grade is supposed to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student have another try at answering the question I was not surprised that my colleague agreed, but I was surprised that the student did.

I gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said no. He had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on. In the next minute he dashed off his
answer which read:

"Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop that barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then using the formula S=½at², calculate the height of the building.

At this point I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and I gave the student almost full credit.

In leaving my colleague's office, I recalled that the student had said he had many other answers to the problem, so I asked him what they were. "Oh yes," said the student. "There are a great many ways of getting the height of a tall building with a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer and the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building and by the use of a simple proportion, determine the height of the building."

"Fine," I asked. "And the others?"

"Yes," said the student. "There is a very basic measurement method that you will like. In this method you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wa]l. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units. A very direct method."

"Of course, if you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of `g' at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference of the two values of `g' the height of the building can be calculated."

Finally, he concluded, there are many other ways of solving the problem. "Probably the best," he said, "is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent's door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: "Mr. Superintendent, here I have a fine barometer. If you tell me the height of this building, I will give you this barometer."

At this point I asked the student if he really did know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think, using the "scientific method," and to explore the deep inner logic of the subject in a pedantic way, as is often
done in the new mathematics, rather than teaching him the structure of the subject. With this in mind, he decided to revive scholasticism as an academic lark to challenge the Sputnik-panicked classrooms of America.


I noticed two recent articles about the changing demographics of science degrees. The first was broadly that 1 in 5 degrees in the UK are going to overseas students. The second was that the number of science degrees had fallen dramatically, even as places like China and Singapore reflect a rise. I can't find the link, which is a pity because the falling numbers were indeed dramatic. Combine the fall in science degrees with an increase in degrees going to foreign students and it's a fair call to suspect the next Einstein wont be from Birmingham or Leeds. No offence intended.

Interestingly, I noticed the UK based Institute of Physics had "re-engineered" their physics degrees to move away from the theoretical to the practical application of physics in the business world. They were calling this Integrated Physics. I'm not sure if that is a symptom or a response.

So whilst the above parable was interesting, it made me wonder if the creativity required in Physics has been consistently beaten out of the new and aspiring physicists, as knowledge is packaged up and streamlined for mass consumption?

A quick flick through physics blogs and forums seems to indicate otherwise - there will always be those truly enraptured by the thrill of discovery and a glimpse into the workings of the Universe. Although perhaps those numbers are far smaller than they could be?

I've been immersed in Einstein recently (well, as much as a physics ignoramus can be) and it's absolutely fascinating to notice connections to his work and thoughts in all sorts of areas, as well as obviously his work itself. But before I can tell you that story, I thought I'd just mention this one above.

Related Link: UK getting dumber by degrees

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ZenTiger Hunters the hunted

"I felt ashamed that in the same edition of the newspaper a variety of guns were going to be on that men of my generation and younger can go out and shoot small, harmless ducks...such gratuitous violence partway explains why we rank as a country with one of the highest rates of child abuse and animal cruelty in the world" --Kapiti News, Page 16 [Wed 29 April 2009].

So there you have it. Duck hunters are child abusers and are no doubt the culprits behind the recent nauseating stories on cruelty to animals.

After sneaking up behind the common duck, they stun the mallard by clubbing it brutally over the head with the gun barrel, and then smack them to death in an equally brutal disciplinary manner, just as they've practiced at home on their children. Or something like that.

Andrei This guy's a hero - prosecute him

I have a theory.

Big Government types want passive populations. Obviously the more passive the population the easier they are to rule over.

Which is why we see people hauled before the courts for defending themselves. If we passively submit to petty criminals we will also be passive in the face of petty government.

Here is the next chapter in the sorry saga of people whose lives are turned upside down because they have the temerity to not submit passively to criminality but to fight back.

A Tokoroa takeaway owner who shot a masked gunman in the leg after wrestling a semi-automatic .22 rifle off him could end up being charged for defending himself.

Aotea Chinese Takeaways owner Zhuofeng "Titan" Jiang, 25, grabbed the rifle as the gunman pointed it at Mr Jiang's 19-year-old cousin and demanded money from the till about 9.45pm on Monday.

The gunman had already fired a warning shot into the floor. Another shot went off as the men wrestled with the rifle.

When Mr Jiang got hold of the rifle he fired two shots, one into the floor, and another into the man's leg, to stop him from being attacked.

The gunman screamed in pain after being shot and fled.

So far so good but inevitably the tut tutting from the authorities and a threat to prosecute follows
Detective Senior Sergeant Todd Pearce said part of the inquiry would look at whether Mr Jiang was liable under the Arms Act. Police did not encourage people to fight back when firearms were involved.

"The victim was threatened with a firearm and sought protection to retrieve the rifle.

"If it is found he did not use the appropriate level of force to defend himself it is possible charges could be laid."
Once upon a time standing up for yourself was considered admirable but now it is quite likely to be considered criminal.

And that does not bode well for our future.

Related Link:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Andrei Puke Alert - BBC grades Obama's first hundred days

No surprises here - overall they think he has done very well. The only thing they mark him way down on is that he hasn't managed to bring peace to the Middle East yet,
Iwan Morgan: The US has not done enough to appear an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.
and Bipartisanship
Iwan Morgan: US politics is more polarised than at the comparable stage of the Bush presidency - though this is not necessarily Barack Obama's fault.

Anyway for all you die hard Obama fans out there courtesy of the BBC here is the

Obama 100 days quiz   

Do the quiz, send it to your friends and see "how they measure up".

Somehow the BBC attitude to OBAMA is reminiscent of when my eldest was a hard core Spice Girls fan. That burnt out rather quickly. I rather doubt that the BBC will mature so fast.

ZenTiger Mexican death toll now over 8,000

It's the story the papers don't want you to see. The real numbers.

The latest figures show the death toll has climbed to over 8,000 deaths in a very short space of time. That's right - EIGHT THOUSAND dead in Mexico alone. That's a staggering number of deaths, and it's good the world is taking notice. Be very worried.

Related Link: Death toll over 8,000

Related Link: Mexico tries to prevent growing death toll

Andrei Naked hiking in Appenzell

If wandering naked through the Alps has appeal, then the news it has been outlawed in Appenzell may cause you some grief.

On the other hand for most of us it is probably a mercy.

The strange thing about those who desire to flaunt their bodies in public is that for the most part they don't have bodies worth flaunting - indeed the spectacle of late middle aged men waving their all in the breeze tends to alarm most folks. Either that or reduce them to helpless laughter.

So on balance the good people of Appenzell Inner Rhodes have probably done themselves and us a favor by enacting this ban.

ZenTiger Traffic Light Disease

Green Alert. Orange Alert. Red Alert. It's traffic light disease.

The Mexican swine flu appears to be spreading. I've now seen it on the front page of every newspaper, as the lead story on the TV news and occupying large swathes of the World News section.

The TV summary provided me with what radio cannot. They showed a picture of a pig, and said "swine flu is something you get from pigs." So that's it. I had always wondered. Adolf had the more reasonable assumption that it came directly from (Labour Party) politicians, but perhaps that is "foot in mouth" disease?

Then they showed how the swine flu moves from pig to man. Queue picture of man standing next to pig. Queue green blob on pig. Queue green blob appearing on man. Obviously, the first symptom is some large green mucous blob leaps from a pig to a nearby pig farmer, and from there, the world.

I think I'll get updates from the radio.

A side effect of any potential epidemic is that it gets promoted to pandemic very quickly, and breaks out across the front page with little resistance. It almost makes me want to not take this seriously. Almost? Fellow blogger Andrei points out the "Cry Wolf" syndrome that is part and parcel of another malady - media congestion.

If I could do a good Mexican accent over the blog, I could ask if New Zealand is heading for a ham bush. Not that wiping out 6% to 20% of the population would be funny, although the Greens might call it a start. Ah - now I see that "Green Alert" is actually more serious than "Red Alert".

MacDoctor spells out the possible theories and outcomes ranging from the totally ridiculous (the health authorities have this under control) to the more reasonable suggestion that they have completely under estimated the potential danger. File that under "they really are that stupid" if the proverbial pig manure hits the air conditioning unit.

Still, if I were the health department I'd have a press release ready: "No comment on current epidemic until entire department returns from sick leave." That would cover them, and you have to admit, the excuse sounds plausible.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to have an extra vitamin C tablet and suggest people stay home and spend more time reading the blogs. Where they can't infect me or my loved ones.

Related Millions of Links: Swine Flu 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Andrei A minority of one - a Gay female, Breton/Walloon

Here it is - the token gesture from Statistics New Zealand to deal with public concerns over the ethnicity question in the census.

Basically they are not going to change a thing because
Ethnicity statistics are used by government, service providers, and communities to plan and deliver programmes, particularly in the health and social services sectors.
More likely they will be used by grievance mongers to get a bigger slice of the pie for their group.

But if we go down this track why don't we completely tribalize. After all Indians, a recognized ethnicity, are not a homogeneous group nor are those of European ancestry.

Now this slightly related story is very funny, a Waikato University political science student is aggrieved because Hone Harawira has lumped Maori in with 'other minorities' such as "homosexuals and Asians". Which goes to show being a minority is not just a matter of race. It is anything you want it to be or not to be as the case may be.

Anyway I reckon if we tribalize enough, we can solve the problem forever. e.g how many Gay female, Breton/Walloons are there in New Zealand. Probably none if the truth be known but you get the idea, everybody defines themselves in such a way they become a minority of one ie an individual.

Then with everybody defined down to a point of uniqueness, the government would be obliged to treat everybody the same and we would all stand or fall as individuals, which is as it should be in my view.

Related Link:

ZenTiger Gay forced to become straight

In a stunning blow for human rights, a gay man has been forced to become straight.

"This is an abuse of my human rights" said Nigel Ipswitch as the court ordered he engage in marital sex with the women he was forced to marry, Susan Gladbottom.

It all started when Susan met Nigel at a party, and a strong friendship developed.

"We had so many shared interests, and Nigel was very attentive to my thoughts and feelings. One thing led to another, and love developed. I asked him if feelings were shared, and he said yes, absolutely. He then explained that we could never be anything more than friends, because he was gay."

"Well, I wasn't prepared to take no for an answer, so I checked gay lobby groups and asked if people were allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex, and they said absolutely not. It was clear that the ONLY reason Nigel could come up with for not marrying me was that I wasn't male."

"They built an entire legal case around discrimination on the basis of sex before I had a chance to tell them the full situation."

"I did try to explain. I mentioned that my issue was also about not being able to marry a gay person, and they may have interpreted this as a gay marriage issue, which it was, but not to another gay person. They doubled the legal resources at my disposal, using every trick in the book to argue their case, adding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to the suit, and pushing the legislation on the issue of gay marriage."

"Nigel, bless his heart, didn't have a chance. Have you ever tried to fight a legal suit from the gay lobby? His behaviour was exposed as blatantly discriminatory. Consequently, by the time we went to court it was too late for them to refute their own arguments, and the judge ruled in favour of our marriage and the requirement for Nigel to fulfill his nuptial duties."

"I am very comfortable marrying a gay person, but Nigel seems to have had some trouble accepting marrying a straight person, such is the extent of his heterophobic thought. The court suggested he receive counseling for his discriminatory tendencies. As part of his therapy, every night I ask him "Nigel, who would you turn straight for" and he has to say 'why you, my dear'."

Isn't anti-discrimination law wonderful?

Related to:
Texan law mandates "gender re-education"
If you commit violence against some-one, you commit a crime and deserve to be punished. No issue there. However, do you need to be "re-educated" specifically against homophobia, or simply taught about anger management and unacceptable violence against people, for any reason? This speaks to my above post.

Christian photographer sued by lesbians
Should people have the right to choose their customers? Remember the Invercargill cafe that wanted the Israeli (Jewish) women out of the cafe? His right, and his consequences.

There are a bunch of other examples that could fuel this debate - maybe I'll dig them up if this conversation takes off.

In the meantime, any gifts you care to send to Susan and Nigel in celebration of this happy event, forward to "Nigel and Susan Ipswitch-Gaybottom c/- ZenTiger, New Zealand Conservative.

Andrei Crying wolf

ver since I can remember every year or so the media and the authorities have gone into alarm mode over some fell disease that has the potential to decimate (literally kill one tenth) of the population.

But in my time this has never happened.

We do have a folk memory, I suppose, of the 1918 flu epidemic and it is almost certain that something like this will happen again.

But now?

Who knows?

The authorities will run (are running) around in circles, the media will (are going) go into hype mode and what will be, will be.

The trouble is of course we've heard it all before and I have become cynical and complacent over over-hyped disease threats, as well as a little fatalistic perhaps.

And I bet I'm not alone in this.

Perhaps this is what is behind the complacency that MacDoctor perceives in the response to this latest threat.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Andrei Monday movie trivia

To start the week, how about a quiz?

Who are the two actors and the actress in this picture? Click on the image for a higher definition version.

Although the movie might be obscure and perhaps you have never heard of one of the trio the names should all be familiar .

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lucia Obama's "Catholic problem" fueled by the Internet

It seems the internet is causing major problems for governments, but none more so that Obama's newly elected Presidency in the US. A majority of Catholics voted for Obama, and now they are turning on him as they realise just what he really is and what he stands for. But, this realisation is being fueled by the internet, where stories are being blown out of proportion by a few rousing the many.

Ah well, it had to happen. We've moved from the sanctioned few (the mainstream media) telling the many what to think, to the unsanctioned few (bloggers and alternative media) letting the many know just what is actually happening. And the many don't like what they are reading.

Scary times. Internet clamp-down is coming.

Related Link: Few Conservative Catholic Groups Fuel Obama Notre Dame Scandal ~ David Weigel, Washington Independent

Lucia Pure Genius

Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall? Well, now you can. Just follow the link to Contra Celsum and you'll be in for a real treat. My favourite bit was the insertion of the equivalent to "peace be upon him" when referring to Helen Clark in the prose. See if you can find it.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Related Link: Sauce for the Goose: Flies on the Wall in Ros Noonan's Office ~ Contra Celsum

Lucia ANZAC Day disconnection

I really feel really disconnected from the whole ANZAC Day thing, being of Polish ancestry myself. I know the Polish community in Wellington do involve themselves in the ANZAC Day Mass at St Mary of the Angels in Wellington, remembering their dead from WW2 and their own WW2 struggles.

There is a whole generation of us living in NZ because our parents or grandparents fought as part of the exiled Polish army and ended up settling here in NZ due to being ex-Soviet prisoners and not in a good position to go home, to say the least.

I suppose it really is up to those, like myself, to remember my own military connections on this day. If I don't, no one else will.

ZenTiger Spending Freedom (ANZAC Day)

MacDoctor sums it up for me.

"And when the fight was over,
We spent what they had made”

he quotes from Pink Floyd. And then goes on to say why these words are truly profound.

"A war such as the Second World War can bring us the coin of freedom, but we often spend it without regard to how precious it truly is."

It was Pink Floyd again in "The Wall" who also said "Bring the boys back home"

I wish we could.

Lest we forget.

Related Link: ANZAC Day

ZenTiger Crime doesn't pay [Updated]

Crime doesn't pay. Literally. Some $790 million is owing in unpaid fines, and the Justice department can't be bothered collecting fines from people that simply will not pay. And if crime doesn't pay, then as far as the criminal is concerned, crime does pay.

Punishment is not like a fishing expedition with a "catch and release" policy. If the Justice department cannot do their job, then they need to think of a better plan than a variation of "tax the rich".

Surely not paying fines is a crime? If so, the people get arrested and the judge makes them pay for their crimes in ways other than money.

I suspect most fine defaulters are those that are unemployed and on a benefit. They may simply not have the resources to pay, and being on a benefit gives them no incentive to stick to the straight and narrow with large fines hanging over their heads. It must be tough. Not as tough being a victim though.

So apart from making defaulters indentured slaves to force them to actually serve out community time (somewhat tempting, but I will not go there) how about we take at least something in payment for non-payment?

Translate unpaid fines into jail time or community service, and add a "no voting rights" penalty for such people. That would mean no right to vote for the next election for fine defaulters. Currently, you cannot vote if you are serving 3 years or more I think. Time to lower the threshold.

Furthermore, we need to come down harder on people failing to perform their community service. Same deal, they lose their right to vote in the next election if they don't pay their time fine.

What other benefits of society can we withdraw for people who refuse to act like good citizens, and for people that cannot or will not pay for their crimes?

Related Link: DomPost front page story.
Updated 26/4/09: Adjusted my "voting rights" paragraph to be more relevant to unpaid fines.

Andrei Its climate science Jim, but not as we know it

One of New Zealand's top global warming promoters has been sacked by NIWA.

Leading Government scientist Jim Salinger, an international pioneer in climate change research, has been sacked for what he says is talking out of turn to news organisations.

Now I happen to think Dr Salinger is wrong about Global warming. However if the facts are as stated this is a worrying development.

We need robust debate on matters of public policy. And although in this case the debate has been a trifle one sided, on Dr Salinger's side, firing him in this manner will not enhance the quality of that debate one iota.

There has to be more to this than meets the eye. I predict storms ahead.

Friday, April 24, 2009

ZenTiger Echos of 1980

Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins. I was in Canada around that time, and just before this Canadian synth pop band had their one big hit.

I was reminded of it listening to Supertramp, which took me back to the same time. Hat tip, Dad4Justice: Supertramp - The logical song

ZenTiger Freedom of religion

Canterbury Atheist (Paul) has recently done a post asserting that the organisation of the Catholic Church is (shock horror) not a democracy, indeed, he claims it to be interchangeably totalitarian and fascist. I think he was serious.

If we were to accept his premise that a religious organisation needs to be democratic, it follows all institutions in our society need to be democratic. Businesses would require a CEO to be voted in by workers, families would require a vote from Johnnie on vegetables or sweets for dinner and so on. I'm not going to bore you with more examples that prove my point, I'm assuming that you can see this.

I could also spend a bit of time pointing out that we don't really have a classically democratic system. At best it is an indirect democracy, and at worst, something closer to an oligarchy, given we elect members to parliament for a reasonably long period of time, that make all sorts of decisions, supposedly on our behalf but it's rare we agree with all their policies. Of course, if you didn't vote for the party that wins, this is even worse.

Another issue with democracy is that the will of the majority doesn't mean the best decisions will be made. The more specialist a topic, perhaps the more important the will of the majority does not prevail. A surgeon asking where to cut in a delicate operation shouldn't put it to the vote. A bomb disposal expert might not want to put it to a vote with the people tied to the bomb if he's 99% sure it's the red wire. Asking him to do so is a recipe for disaster.

Equally, on matters of faith, relying on Priests who have studied the theology all their lives to explain doctrinal matters is better than relying on the "garden variety catholic" (Paul's words) who may not understand the full reasoning behind the Catholic position on issue of morality or spirituality. I personally have learned much when looking into Catholic matters that I once only had society's preconceived and often ill-conceived thoughts for my education.

Still, discussing democracy is not really the point. Aristotle said it was bad, but better than anything else (actually, he added a rider that this was only as a political system for governance of up to 10,000 people as he could not comprehend how a state could function democratically if it were bigger).

The point Paul misses is that the Catholic Church is like many organisations operating in a secular society, and there are some important freedoms (and reasons) that underpin its right to exist. And make no mistake, Paul is ultimately arguing for ways to negate this right. Paul is actually the totalitarian here.

The definition of totalitarianism is this:

1. of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.
2. exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic.

I suggest that Paul wishes to use the State to exercise control over the freedom, will and thought of others. He wishes to deny people their freedom of belief, by shutting down their freedom of association.

For that is the one freedom that underpins membership in this "hierarchical power structure" - freedom of association. Consider that the Catholic Church is funded by voluntary donations from its members. Consider that they are free not to baptise their children, yet they do. Consider that they choose to follow the Catholic faith, and all its tenets. Consider that they choose to place children in Catholic schools (as do many non-believers). Consider that they have the freedom to leave the faith, according to their conscience. Some do.

Also of note, many people choose to become Catholic. The Catholic Church is open to all regardless of age, race, colour or sex. Hardly the hallmark of a fascist and totalitarian regime, that persecutes large swathes of its population. The Catholic Church is more open than many democracies. It preaches a doctrine of faith to follow, which many Catholics often ignore or fall short on (contraception being one often ignored). How does the church punish this? With forgiveness for those that repent and confess.

Contrast Iran who last year put a bill through their democratic parliament to make apostasy - in particular, leaving the Islamic faith, a crime punishable by death. If that's the will of the majority, then that's alright then according to Canterbury Atheist. Because democracy is superior to a Christian moral belief set that treats all people as children of God, and worthy of love, and offered forgiveness for genuine repentance.

Paul argues: "The system the Catholic Church functions under bears a striking resemblance to European fascist regimes of the 1930’s , except I guess you could argue, those historic dictators first came to power via the democratic system. Paul doesn't make a great case for his former proposition, and scores an own goal with the latter.

Canterbury Atheist treats freedom of association and freedom of belief as something that requires state control, because the decisions the individual makes are not respected.

It's not democracy that is actually superior, it's the constitution we agree to live by.

The Catholic "constitution" is actually one that has helped build our western civilisation, and is founded on a strong philosophical grounding based on a synthesis of faith and reason.

Any decent constitution or bill of rights in a secular society will guarantee freedom of religion, and close to that is freedom of thought, among other freedoms.

The emerging use of so-called "human rights violations" and "hate speech" legislation to shut down freedom of religion and consequently freedom of opinion is chilling, and like those that voted in Hitler, I hope they know not what they do. Because if they do know, we are dealing with great evil rather than great ignorance.

Related Link: Canterbury Atheist unbelievable

See also JT at Contra Celsum: Losing Ground

And my earlier post: Saving Us From Ourselves

Lucia Friday night free for all

It's the last day of the school holidays ... back into madness next week. I'm actually kind of looking forward to it.

What I'm not looking forward to is hearing how the Government has run out of money, and rather than aiming it's guns at all the layabouts, it's instead saying they're going to keep their promises to them (to not cut "entitlements") and break the promise of a tax-cut (ie sorry guys, we still need you to be putting in just as much as if we were a socialist government, oh wait, I think we are ...) to the poor slobs who work and work and work and end up paying for everything.

Maybe it's all a bad dream and I'll wake up soon.

Lucia New UN Gender Policing Agency

I'm not sure what the UN gender policing agency is supposed to do (but I can guess, thought crimes anyone?), but it looks like it might be coming soon unless the member countries of the UN manage to hold it off, with staff on the ground in some 150 countries to "promote normative and policy functions" of the entity.

NEW YORK, NY, April 23, 2009 (C-FAM) - At a meeting at United Nations (UN) headquarters last week, nations pushed back when UN staff insisted governments approve an enormous new gender-policing agency with scant details on its budget, staffing, or mandate. The UN Secretariat called the meeting to get nations to choose one of four models it proposed for a new UN "gender entity." It is estimated that the new entity will have a minimum one billion dollar annual budget, including non-voluntary funding by the United States (US) and other major UN donors, while giving the new agency free rein to set the UN's "gender" agenda and broad authority to hold UN agencies and member States accountable for implementing it.

Related Link: Nations Balk at UN Proposal for Billion Dollar Global Gender-Policing Agency ~ LifeSiteNews

Lucia Thought crimes in the USA

Divine coincidence or just ironic?

Yesterday I had a conversation with Madeleine over WhaleOil's boycott of the Tumeke blog due to WhaleOil's disapproval of Tim Selwyn's opinions on Israel and the Holocaust. Suffice to say, I will not be joining the boycott.

Today, I've been reading the WND articles on a new federal law about to be passed in the USA criminalising thought - the dreaded "hate crime" legislation that typically has chilling effects upon free speech (normally Christian free-speech) in every country it has been implemented in.
Critics have said "hate crimes" laws actually criminalize thought because they demand enhanced penalties due to the "perception" of the victim by the perpetrator. A mugger, for example, who attacks a victim while screaming an epithet denoting a race or sexual preference could receive a much more significant penalty than a mugger who attacks a victim but doesn't say anything.

Four years ago, in a post about the flawed thinking of Tim Selwyn when he tried to equate the invasion of Iraq by Americans with the invasion of Poland the Germans, I said:
On a serious note, I'm trying to impart something important here. It's not a thought crime to compare Iraq to Poland. Instead it's a minimisation of what happened in Poland. So it's not so much a "you said something wrong now I'm going to jump on you" attitude, so much as ... "Do these people not have a clue"??? Do you, Tim, not have a clue?

I hope the above establishes how against the concept of thought crimes I am.

Considering that most blogging servers reside in the USA, I wonder what ramifications there will be for disagreeing with homosexual acts on the blogs ... And who knows, maybe in our brave, new future, a potential Miss California could be jailed for her pro-male-female-marriage views, rather than just being denied the crown?
"Instead of treating all crime victims equally, it creates a caste system where select groups, such as gays and lesbians, are given greater priority in the criminal justice system. This is not progress; it is political correctness. In other nations and states, the adoption of hate crimes legislation has been the first step toward widespread suppression of speech and ideas critical of homosexuality," he said.
The sad thing is, that a number of American Jewish groups support this legislation. Maybe the thinking is that it will prevent another Holocaust. The thing is, the Holocaust was dreamed up by an elected government. Using the force of law to try and prevent another one, thus, reducing the ability of individuals to protest what they consider to be immoral things, is going to be counterproductive, to say the least.

Related Links: House to vote on 'hate crimes' bill
Will Christians face prosecution for speaking out against homosexuality?

Judiciary Committee greenlights 'hate crimes'
Members refuse to protect Christian pastors from charges

Lucia Jewish Holy Site vandalised by Palestinians

JERUSALEM – Jews who arrived last night to pray at Joseph's Tomb – Judaism's third holiest site – were stunned to learn the structure had been vandalized, with the headstone smashed in and swastikas painted on the walls.

"Only barbarians could do such things. People who pathologically disgrace such a holy place don't deserve to be called human beings," said Gershon Mesika, head of the Jewish regional council in the West Bank.

Joseph's Tomb is the believed burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers into slavery and later became viceroy of Egypt. Following repeated Palestinian attacks, Israel in October 2000 unilaterally retreated from Joseph's Tomb and, with very few exceptions, banned Jews from returning to the site purportedly for security reasons. The tomb area is now controlled entirely by the Palestinians.

I wonder if this act of vandalism is connected to the UN Racism Conference. Emboldened by Ahmadinejad denouncing Israel as "the most cruel and repressive racist regime." Yet, by using swastikas, the barbarians show their profound ignorance and instead position themselves firmly on the side of evil.

I really, really, really dislike people who vandalise historical sites.

Related Link: Swastikas painted on Joseph's Tomb
Headstone smashed, bloody Star of David graffiti scrawled on wall
~ WND, Jerusalem

Lucia Nisi credideritis non intellegetis

Unless you will have first believed, you will not understand.
We can only go so far on our own.
Faith then brings to completion what reason begins to explore.
Fr Z.

Goes into the carbon dating controversy, the style of sewing done on the linen (only ever seen from 1st Century Masada fabric), and the wounds of the man on the cloth. Definitely blood, as well. DNA evidence, because of the blood degradation could only confirm a human male. No one knows how the image could have been faked. Issue of the age, how it kept so well over time*.

*Holy things tend not to be subject to time in the same way. Our Lady of Guadalupe, for example, was imprinted upon cactus cloth that should have only had a lifespan of 20 years. Instead, it's already survived for 500 years.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lucia Anti-Catholic Fear Mongering in NZ

A recent post by Paul of Canterbury Atheists really deserves a longer comment that this meagre one I am about to give. But, I think that even if I do no more than exposing this sort of anti-Catholic fear-mongering (which pops up so regularly in history as to follow a predictable pattern), then for now I have done enough.
Why should the non-Catholics amongst us, grant special privileges, like a tax-free life-style, to a group that wants to play by its own rules, and rejects the very system we ‘spilled blood’ to keep?

So why does secular society, like here in New Zealand, allow groups in our midst to operate outside the bounds we consider to be fair, for the rest of us?

Allows them to set-up a sepearte schooling system, that selects children on the basis of their parents religion?

The N.Z National Front can’t come-out and say “we don’t want none of them Jews n’ blacks”, without facing state sanction.

Yet, the same state authorities endorse sexism in Churches up and down the country, by taking the default position.

Even if The N.Z Government, made it illegal for Churches to select employees in a non-sexist fashion – the Churches in New Zealand don’t take orders from the state anyway!

Their mandate comes from overseas, exploiting the very freedoms, that they themselves reject outright.

The irony here is that Western democracy grew from Christian countries. Secularism, likewise, is allowed and supported in those same countries. While as any political system that is largely atheistic (think Communism) is totalitarian in nature and seeks to suppress any system of thought, religious or otherwise, that it deems to be in competition to it.

Have a read of the two articles below to see what has happened historically when non-Catholics start to consider Catholics to be a threat to either their nation or their interests. Many of the arguments used to justify anti-Catholic persecution are very similar to those that Paul, the Canterbury Atheist uses.

German Catholics Under the Iron Fist: Bismarck and the Kulturkampf ~ Matthew E. Bunson, This Rock

Québec and French America: What Might Have Been ~ Gary Potter,

Related Link: Churches are largely at odds with Western Democracy ~ Canterbury Atheists*

*WARNING: The heading of the blog displays "man-eating sheep". Not recommended for the easily disturbed.

ZenTiger's response: Freedom of Religion

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How (some) schools hit academic goals

Look in many school foyers and you will notice the school's academic goals are displayed. They will be framed and say something like this:
"We will improve our literacy and numeracy rate" or
"We will improve our NCEA1 pass rate"
This serious document will be signed by the principal as it will be part of the performance goals the Board of Trustees is monitoring.

Yet how meaningful are NCEA pass rates and such goals?

There are three issues to consider.
First, two schools may have the same pass rate but will not have used the same mix of achievement and somewhat easier unit standards to get the same result.
Second, schools, in particular principals, are canny enough to change their school's mix of unit/achievement standards over time to meet professional performance goals.
Third, schools that don't play the game of changing the standards mix are getting overtaken or devalued by schools that do.

What appears to be missing from recent magazine features is how performance can be influenced by changing the mix of unit standards and achievement standards within subjects. Unit standards, generally speaking, are less challenging than achievement standards. Unit standards permit re-sits of non-achieved tests and finally allow verbal examination whereas achievement standards are stricter. Schools are able to mix unit and achievement standards as they see fit across all subject domains.

Regarding school performance, what is striking is that a principal can appear to move the academic standing of their school, and of particular groups within their school, without an equivalent improvement in teaching standards and objective academic standards.

Schools can be "improved" and the principal and senior management appear competent by changing the mix of standards. For example, if you want to improve numeracy and literacy you ignore the achievement standards and push the unit standards at Year 11. The result is that your school's basic literacy and numeracy rate will leap dramatically in 3-4 years. That, however, should not be begrudged. The NCEA literacy and numeracy standard, 8 credits of each, is a basic level of achievement and can serve as a positive introduction to academic success.

What is concerning though are principals and management teams that change the unit-achievement standard weighting across the whole school. This gives the impression that adroit leadership is lifting the competence of their students. Instead, it is the dilution of subject material and the reduced challenge which is giving an appearance of improving pass rates. Who really benefits? The students or the careers of teachers?

Consider the following real but unnamed schools, A and B. From the 2006 data, School A's NCEA 1 pass rate was 69%. School B's NCEA1 pass rate was 65%. School A was decile 3 whereas School B was decile 6.
All things been equal, which school appears to be better? Indeed, School A is decile 3 and is outstripping School B! School A must be doing something right.

However, when the mix of unit standards (US) and achievement standards (AS) are taken into account the picture changes. Here are the results again with the %mix as (unit%/achieve%)

School A: pass rate 69%, (U55/A44).
School B: pass rate 65%, (U27/A73).

School A achieves their 69% pass rate by using unit standards half the time whereas School B hits their 65% pass rate using unit standards only quarter of the time.

Now how do the two compare?

Further 2006 data for NCEA1 Y11 (formerly 5th form School Cert for 15-16 year olds):

Otago BHS: pass rate 75%, (U32/A68).
Palmerston North BHS: pass rate 80%, (U17/A83)
PNGHS: pass rate 82%, (U12/A88)

Auckland Grammar: pass rate 26%, (U9/A91).
Westlake Boys: pass rate 52%, (U18/A82) decile 10.
Glenfield HS: pass rate 56%, (U30/A70).
Wanganui High School: pass rate 88%, (U42/A58) decile 5.

New Plymouth BHS: pass rate 68%, (U18/A82) decile 7
Wellington College: pass rate 83%, (U12/A88).
Chilton St James: pass rate 99%, (U11/A89)

You will notice two things. Firstly, most schools have pass rates over 60% and that unheralded schools such as Wanganui HS can have pass rates to rival Scholarship factories such as Palmerston North GHS and secondly, the mix of unit to achievement standards varies massively.

It is interesting to follow the changing MIX of unit and achievement standards over time at a single school.
For example, School A above had a NCEA1 pass rate in 2003 of 49% (U45/A55), by 2006 the pass rate was 69% (U55/A45) and in 2007 the pass rate was 70% and the mix (U65/A35).
Notice anything? Between 2003 and 2006 the ratio of unit standards to achievement standards was flipped and in the following year the trend steepened to the point where a mere 35% of credits awarded school-wide at Y11 were"achievement standards".

Naturally, the principal can point to these figures as a success. They will have achieved their performance goals and will trumpet that in newsletters.
Perhaps parents and Boards of Trustees need to be more canny!

Lastly, the consistency of certain schools and their unwillingness to play the game of mixing standards shows through in the statistics. In 2003, Wellington College's pass rate was 79% U5/A95; in 2006, 83% U12/A88; in 2007, 82% U9/A91. In 2003 Palmerston North BHS pass rate was 80%, (U15/A85) and their most recently published 2007 results are about the same with the same standards mix. In comparison, the 2004 New Zealand pass rate was 54%, by 2008 it had risen to 63%.
Is it any wonder that once schools realized they could give the impression of academic improvement that the pass rate has inflated 9-10% over four years?
Have schools such Wellington College stood still or are other schools more cynical and playing the system if allowed by their BOT?

The stats for your school are available here: NZQA School Stats.
Method: the data used above are taken for a particular year, in this case 2006, and "Percentage" display selected. The NCEA1 "pass rate" is the "% of roll achieving greater than or equal to 80 credits (80 credits is the requirement for obtaining NCEA). The unit to achievement standard mix for that year level (Y11) is found in the same column, "% of NQF results gaining credit". Unit standards are awarded as "pass" while "achievement standards" have the passing grades achieve, merit, and excellence. Anecdotally, the unofficial rule of thumb is that "acheive" is in the range of 30-65%, "merit" is 65-80%, and "excellence" is 80-100%.

ZenTiger Greenie sues her parents for her life

Environmentalist Teresa Green has today sued her parents for causing global warming by giving her life.

"I'm the third child of four, and it's quite clear that not stopping at one child is the root cause of global warming. Quite frankly, I should never have been born, and it's their fault."

"Indeed, my mother was the second of three, and she should never have been born either, so I've taken the hard step of suing my grandparents also, on my mother's behalf."

Given that my grandparents are dead, is no reason to desist. Although the fact they died in a tragic car accident before their seventy second year counts favourably for them, as they have helped to reduce the average life expectancy of the population."

In determining the amount of the law suit, I had to take into account that the eldest child should naturally receive 100% of the three million dollar inheritance they left for their children, and I'll be suing myself for my share of the inheritance, which I should never have received.

"Because I only deal with first borns, it took some time to find a suitable lawyer. But I found one who was also prepared to give up his first born son for a 50% share of the proceeeds. That's the kind of committment I think we all need to bring to this issue. He's really impressed me, actually. I want to marry him and have his baby."

Related Link: Green Abortion [Warning, you did notice the satire tag did you not? Unfortunately, the link post is NOT satire]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ZenTiger Green Abortion

Whilst Trevor Mallard is defending the honour of Wainui homeboys, by ironically implying Aussies are not fair dinkum, the odd Australian does appear rather odd. Perhaps they have relatives who live in Wainuiomata? Come to think of it, I do.

Whilst I personally would never disparage a geographical location (unless it deserved it) I am guilty of the occasional disparaging comment about our Greenie brothers and sisters.

Except, in this case, that would have to be my point. If they had their way, I wouldn't have a Greenie brother or sister, and they wouldn't be bothering me, so I couldn't possibly make a disparaging comment about them. Isn't it lucky they are alive?

Restricting each couple to one baby, as China does, is "one way of assisting to reduce the population''.

"It's something we need to throw into the mix," the former Democrats parliamentarian said.

More people means more coal-fired electricity, cars, houses, water use and food production, all of which increase greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

Ms Kanck, who has one child herself, expects her campaign will receive a hostile reaction.

"The Catholic church is going to be in like Flynn on an argument like this."

I'm heartened to see that the Catholic Church is seen as a bastion of morality, even by the Greenies, who would not only ration human life, but have no qualms in ending it to "maintain the balance".

"National president [of Sustainable Population Australia] Sandra Kanck wants Australia's population of almost 22 million reduced to seven million to tackle climate change.".

Found on Crusader Rabbit: Spot the Moron (and other easy tasks)

Andrei Ask a controversial question

And you might get a controversial answer.


You have to love this.

Under the headline "Miss USA runner-up sparks gay rights row" stuff reports
The runner-up to Miss USA has stirred controversy at this year's beauty pageant by saying she did not believe in gay marriage.

Miss California’s comments at Sunday's pageant sparked outrage, with some audience members going head-to-head with supporters after the show.

Surely the last thing Miss California wanted to do was stir controversy. She got thrown a curve ball when "gay pageant judge and celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton" asked her the question.

Call me unreasonable but any "gay rights row" that has been "sparked" was surely down so by "gay pageant judge and celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton" who had every intention of doing just that when he asked the question.

And for the most part the media has gone along with his agenda.

What a nasty piece of work he must be.

ZenTiger Obama getting no mercy from the media

In celebration of NZC's 60th post this month, we bring you a copy and paste job - some excellent satire from the Onion, covering the harsh grilling Obama is subjected to in the media, right wing fascists that they all are.

But first, whilst you are preparing your mouse wheel for a bit of fast scrolling, a reminder that to have a quick look at the recent posts for any particular blogger at NZC, simply click the post author's name at the top of the page.

WASHINGTON—More than a week after President Barack Obama's cold-blooded killing of a local couple, members of the American news media admitted Tuesday that they were still trying to find the best angle for covering the gruesome crime.

"I know there's a story in there somewhere," said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, referring to Obama's home invasion and execution-style slaying of Jeff and Sue Finowicz on Apr. 8. "Right now though, it's probably best to just sit back and wait for more information to come in. After all, the only thing we know for sure is that our president senselessly murdered two unsuspecting Americans without emotion or hesitation."

Added Meacham, "It's not so cut and dried."

Associated Press reporters investigate any possible gym training regimens the president might have used to get into peak physical condition for the murders.

Since the killings took place, reporters across the country have struggled to come up with an appropriate take on the ruthless crime, with some wondering whether it warrants front-page coverage, and others questioning its relevance in a fast-changing media landscape.

"What exactly is the news hook here?" asked Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the CBS Evening News. "Is this an upbeat human-interest story about a 'day in the life' of a bloodthirsty president who likes to kill people? Or is it more of an examination of how Obama's unusual upbringing in Hawaii helped to shape the way he would one day viciously butcher two helpless citizens in their own home?"

"Or maybe the story is just that murder is cool now," Kaplan continued. "I don't know. There are a million different angles on this one."

So far, the president's double-homicide has not been covered by any major news outlets. The only two mentions of the heinous tragedy have been a 100-word blurb on the Associated Press wire and an obituary on page E7 of this week's edition of the Lake County Examiner.

While Obama has expressed no remorse for the grisly murders—point-blank shootings with an unregistered .38-caliber revolver—many journalists said it would be irresponsible for the press to sensationalize the story.

The rest of the article over at the Onion. As long as the sods keep it there for at least 60 days. Click and hope you are not too late: Obama getting the rough treatment from the fourth estate

Monday, April 20, 2009

ZenTiger An Unacceptable Insult

Keith Locke said it was "an unacceptable insult" for New Zealand to snub the United Nations Forum on Racism. I think he's right.

A more acceptable insult might be to send a shoe to the convention.

The reasons Keith Locke and the Greens cite for going to the convention are typical:

"There may be some criticism of Israel at the meeting, but surely that is par for the course at UN meetings, and has some validity given the way a number of Israeli administrations have treated Palestinians, particularly those residing in Gaza.

Looks like Locke got confused. Even though it's a forum to discuss racism, it's not actually supposed to encourage racism, but look at ways of curbing it. Starting out with a Jew hating tirade shouldn't be "par for the course". Just as it didn't back in 2001. Just think of it as breaking the cycle Keith.

"Pulling out of the conference is an unacceptable insult to the UN"

The United Nations is a bureaucratic machine. Bureaucratic machines cannot be insulted. Only the members of the machine, and the servants of the machinery. Who are these people? Helen Clark? Are we offending her? Ki Ban Moon? Surely, he should be more offended about happenings in Sri Lanka, North Korea, Zimbabwe, The DRC - places where people are dying and the UN failing to stop it.

just at the time when our former Prime Minister Helen Clark is taking up a major UN post," said Mr Locke.

Oh, so we have to buy Tupperware because your aunt works for the company?

"It is also a slap in the face for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who will be opening the conference and played such a key role in getting Helen Clark appointed as head of the UN Development Programme."

Well maybe he should have appointed her a conference delegate instead, if its that important? Are you saying Helen didn't get the job because of her ability? That the whole job is just some big leftist quid-pro-quo? I think you've just given Helen an unacceptable insult.

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay apparently went to great lengths to produce a draft conference text that avoided controversial issues, such as the Middle East, and any restrictions on criticising religion.

And then went to great lengths to re-affirm the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action, reminding all of the anti-Israeli views expressed first time around. And to add the icing to the cake, brings in Ahmadinejad as the opening speaker. No wonder Keith Locke is wetting his pants.

"Our boycott is letting down the victims of racism around the world and putting us at odds with most other nations.

Who are the victims of racism? New Zealanders?

Maybe Ki Ban Moon should have invited Turia, who could speak on how important racism is for New Zealand, and how she would like a racially based prison system, racially reserved seats on a local council, racially protected seats in National Elections and ownership of New Zealand's resources, racially based health care, racially based education and a separate superannuation scheme to be paid according to race.

"It is not a good look for us to be seen once more as a pawn of the bigger Western nations trying to enforce their will on a world body, to stop any criticism of Israel."

And there goes your same excuse again - you want a forum that is going to criticise Israel. You are like a broken record. With Ahmadinejad the opening speaker, who is the pawn? The Western nations are not enforcing their will, they are just choosing not to play this petty game.

Let's spend our tax dollars on something more fruitful, and we'll wait for the DVD edition of the conference. Then we can fast forward through all the racist bits.

Related Link: Going against the Geneva Convention

Related Link: Greenies Red With Anger Over Lost Opportunity to Bash Israel

Oswald asks the United Nations to make diplomatic overtures

Inventory2 points out that Keith probably has a "Palestinians want peace - it's not rocket science" bumper sticker.

And I'm sure the other blogs are getting around to commenting. The more that do, the more the Greens will probably decry the excessively unfair and disproportionate disagreement :-)

ZenTiger Saving Us From Ourselves

The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills. [Thomas Jefferson]

God himself will not save men from their wills. Thomas Jefferson understood this and suggested that the State also, is fundamentally unable to save men from their desires.

A democracy allows the majority to vote in a political class committed to keeping the lambs well feed. A democracy also has the capacity to vote the same wolves out if they do not behave themselves. Sort of. Apathy, ignorance and ideological disposition may mean that the majority simply follows the best propaganda. Do we recognise propaganda when we see it?

The age of reason heralded in an age of human rationalism that spread some ideas that at first glance seem, well, liberating. Some of those ideas though were easily turned to extremes such as communism and fascism. Equally, we've seen socialism and "third way" politics grow government in an efforts to feed as many lambs as possible. It often leads us with a range of choices across a very small band.

After the extremes of the last century, we tag almost anything new as "extremist" and defining anything as "radical" instantly frames the idea as risky. Thus, en masse, the herd settles on varying degrees of repeating the same mistakes in slightly different ways, to achieve much the same results. Why do we expect anything to be different then?

The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it. [P.J. O'Rourke]. Not much choice there really. Perhaps that's much the same right now with New Zealand. It's too early to tell, other than the rule of 'repetition in degrees' has already been established. We can actually predict the outcome.

This is one of those posts where I've said absolutely nothing, and yet it has to be said before I could possibly hope to make a point. The information can only be delivered in bite sized chunks. Who has time to read a book, when you are so busy reading 20 blogs?

So here's two more pieces of the puzzle: Oswald makes my point with some words from the master we all grok: Heinlein and a Perfect Democracy

and Roger Gardner reflects on the rise of the State of Obama

There is also a third piece of the puzzle, but it takes me so far off track from this post, I'll save it for later. Let's see where this takes us.

Andrei How tuck shop sausage rolls are destroying the planet

In a landmark study that combines two modern obsessions in one seminal paper, Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts have concluded that global warming is linked to obesity.
"Population fatness has an environmental impact," said Phil Edwards, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "We're all being told to stay fit and keep our weight down because it's good for our health. The important thing is that staying slim is good for your health and for the health of the planet."
It seems fat people emit more CO2* than thin people. Who would have ever guessed?

*A natural component of the atmosphere recently reclassified by the EPA as a pollutant.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

ZenTiger Obama calls on Jack Bauer

The story so far:

0600 to 0659
Iranian Police arrest an American Citizen, Roxana Saberi, and charge her of the serious crime of being a journalist without a press pass.

0700 to 0759
Obama notified. Suggests a pet dog might help defuse the situation.

0800 to 0859
Iranian Courts add new charges - Roxana Saberi is actually an American Spy. The whereabouts of Jennifer Garner become a matter of National Security as the story is checked.

0900 to 0959
Obama addresses people of Turkey. "We are not at War with Islam." He authorises project "Allah Akbar" to rescue hostages of Somali Coast to demonstrate superior military strength. This has no effect on Iranian Judges who find Saberi guilty.

1000 to 1059
Obama responds with awe inspiring speech of appeasement: "We are not at war with Iran" said Obama. "Therefore, even though the evidence has never been published, the trial was held in secret and her father claims she was tricked into making a false confession, I have no reason to doubt the Iranian authorities."

"I am further assured of the validity of their claims because I offered 50 nuclear bombs in exchange for our spy, which they politely declined - proving they are not in any way interested in gaining nuclear technology. Or that they already have enough. One or the other. If only we had a spy in there, we would know for sure."

1100 to 1159
Obama announces rescue mission imminent. Asks the media to report only in English, to ensure the plans remain secret. Hillary Clinton heads the task force and explains: "It is all dependent upon Jack Bauer's availability, and if he could work a bit faster. No disrespect to Jack, but we were hoping for a 3 hour turnaround, and he takes up to 24. He is used to working with a black President though, so he's definitely a good choice."

1200 to 1259
Obama feels certain he is making good progress in negotiations. "I've closed Gitmo, announced America is not a Christian Nation, and talked at length about my Islamic connections."

1300 to 1359
An anti-American parade goes ahead in Tehran. Students chant 'Death to Obama'. Obama receives Homeland Security report indicating students are probably just right wing extremists, or worse, Republicans.

1400 to 1459
Obama, having exhausted all diplomatic efforts, bar agreeing that the holocaust never happened finally relents to calling in Jack Bauer. He goes on National TV.

"We are sending in Jack Bauer. And if for some reason Jack Bauer fails, or the series ends on a cliff hanger and continues next season, I want to make one thing clear. This is an American in an Iranian prison. We cannot forget. We cannot rest. We must ensure we have the will and resolve to do whatever it takes to rescue um, Ms. um, whoever, until all options have been exhausted, and then, and only then, will I fully capitulate."

"And that's a change you can count on."

Will Jack Bauer and Project "PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him)" get the green light?

To be continued

Related Link: Spy Captured and Obama Helpless

Hat tip via MacDoctor: The real test

Lucia Tea parties and rude jokes

There are some things I'd rather not know, and the homosexual use of the word "teabagging" (is it actually a word?), falls into that category. Of course now it is seared into my mind and I can't get it out.

Related Link: Cooper, Gergen mum on 'tea-bagging' insult
Groups call for action over CNN oral sex crack
~ World Net Daily

Saturday, April 18, 2009

ZenTiger Making Civilisation Civilised

I was going to speak of Humanism, and how religion is automatically rejected as providing any basis for claiming authority, requiring reason alone. I was also going to discuss Catholic thought, that speaks of the role of both faith AND reason.

Topics too big for a single post, so I'll simply make this a part of the whole.

So I'll begin this post with some of the problems Humanists have to grapple with, by quoting Clive James (Cultural Amnesia, 2007). He sees the power of reason, and wonders how we can make civilisation more civilised. If humanists have faith, it is in reason. Why are people then, so unreasonable?

It was terrible, that age...The full facts about Nazi Germany came out quite quickly, and were more than enough to induce despair. The full facts about the Soviet Union were slower to become generally appreciated, but when they at last were, the despair was compounded. The full facts about Mao's China left that compounded despair looking like an inadequate response. After Mao, not even Pol Pot came as a surprise. Sadly, he was a cliché.

Ours was an age of extermination, an epoch of the abattoir. But the accumulated destruction yielded one constructive effect, salutary if solitary. It made us think hard about the way we thought. For my own part, it made me think hard about all the fields of creativity that I seemed to love equally, whatever their place in a supposed hierarchy.

I loved poetry, but such towering figures as Brecht and Neruda were only two of the gifted poets who had given aid and comfort to totalitarian power. I loved classical music, but so did Reinhard Heydrich and the ineffable Dr. Mengele. I loved modern fiction in all its fearless inclusiveness, but Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the author of that amazing phantasmagoria Voyage au bout de la nuit, had also written Bagatelles pour un massacre, a breviary for racialist fanatics. On examination, none of these exalted activities was a sure antidote in itself to the poison of irrationality, which is inseparable from human affairs, but fatal to them if granted a life of its own. and for the less exalted activities, examination was scarcely necessary. I loved popular music, but one look at Johnny Rotten was enough to show you why even the SS occasionally court-martialled a few of its personnel for nihilistic behaviour beyond the call of duty, and more recently there have been rap lyrics distinguishable from the "Horst Wessell Song" only in being less well written. I loved the art sports, but so had Leni Riefenstahl, who also provided evidence that there was nothing necessarily humanist about the movies: Triumph of the Will is a spectacle everyone should see but no one should adore. It would be nice to believe that comedy, one of my fields of employment, was of its nature opposed to political horror, but there are too many well-attested instances of Stalin and Molotov cracking each other up while they signed death warrants, and there was all too much evidence that Hitler told quite good jokes. If there was no field of creativity that was incorruptibly pure, where did that leave humanism?
Now Clive James was speaking of humanism, not in the political sense but the cultural.

In the end though, his point is universal.

We discuss Stalin, Hitler, Mao and endless others, in endless degrees, and try to ascribe their beliefs to an ideology that we could some-how ban or control or stamp out. And yet, it isn't really an idea that sins, but the sinner themselves*. The sinner has always been free to choose from competing ideas. Good or evil. We can all too easily find some reason to see evil in good, and we have the capacity to find reason to see good coming from evil. How do we trust reason, when we add our own meaning to what happens?

We have eaten the apple and our reasoning denies our sin. Not Thy will, but my will. It's what Christianity has always understood as the core of the problem, although this message is often missed by her detractors. A small point, with far reaching implications.

If we are to nurture the human qualities that move us from sinners to saints, will it be reason alone that gets us there?


This post is really a continuation of a recent post: Is all religion bad (cake or death). I haven't got around to making any particular point as yet, and it may take some time. Stay tuned.

*I'm not saying here though that some ideas are not dangerous, as they become instruments for facilitating 'sin'. Sometimes it is better to simply avoid temptation by not keeping those bad ideas around!

Semi-related post: Saving us from ourselves

And also: Freedom of Religion

Lucia Idiot atheists want debaptism

There is a growing movement of atheists that think by getting a certificate of "debaptism", that it will have a real effect on undoing the baptism they didn't consent to that they got as babies.
"We now produce a certificate on parchment and we have sold 1,500 units at three pounds (4.35 dollars, 3.20 euros) a pop," said NSS president Terry Sanderson, 58.

John Hunt, a 58-year-old from London and one of the first to try to be "de-baptised," held that he was too young to make any decision when he was christened at five months old.

The male nurse said he approached the Church of England to ask it to remove his name. "They said they had sought legal advice and that I should place an announcement in the London Gazette," said Hunt, referring to one of the official journals of record of the British government.

So that's what he did -- his notice of renouncement was published in the Gazette in May 2008 and other Britons have followed suit.

Michael Evans, 66, branded baptising children as "a form of child abuse" -- and said that when he complained to the church where he was christened he was told to contact the European Court of Human Rights.

Only problem is that baptism marks the soul and cannot be removed. From the Vatican website on Baptism:
272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.82 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
Oh well, if these people ever come back into the Church, they are going to have one hell of a confession to make.

Related Link: Following atheist trend, Britons seek 'de-baptism'

Andrei The face that launched 1000 ships? Not likely

Angelina Jolie has been voted the most beautiful woman in the world.

Well she's no Helen of Troy. The Tat in the picture has gone now. It has been replaced by many others since - some of which have also been removed.

Normally I don't even read stories such as that linked above - they are mere fluff.

But it troubles me slightly that a woman who mutilates herself is held up as the epitome of feminine beauty because it will lead the less favored to imitate, which does little to enhance their place in this world and is something I'm sure they will live to regret.

Every generation has its feted beauties of course, most vapid celebrities but a few with more substance, maybe.

Here is a young Bette Davis in a soft focus photograph. Far more feminine than the latest epitome of female beauty, few could argue with that.

She was a great actress too. Good enough to last in the film industry well into her later years when her beauty had long faded.

She is shown on the right in a still from the 1987 film "Whales of August" the last film she ever made.

Bette Davis died in France in 1989 aged 81.

Were Bette Davis a contemporary of Angelina who do you think would get the nod as the worlds most beautiful woman?

It might be fun (but also cruel) to post pictures of great beauties through the ages comparing them in youth with later life and examine their foolish indulgences as their star wanes.

It is also very sad that all that most have to offer is body beautiful and that is a very ephemeral thing.

But there is one image of feminine beauty that transcends all ages, is immortal and almost universally cross cultural. And is also one that many given the chance would suppress.

I wonder why?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fletch Friday Trains Fiasco - Passengers told to find their own way home.

Make your own way home: that's what passengers were told at Britomart train station this Friday evening. Not a great end to the day, but then it didn't have that auspicious a beginning either for Auckland's rail system..

I wanted to get to the City as early as I could today, being that I had to to hand in a summative for class and I still had a lot of work to do; so, what happens? I get to Papakura and they tell us 'pats' (that's their little nickname for us passengers I presume) that there will be a delay because of an 'oil spill' at Takanini. We get on the train and sit for a good 10 minutes and I wonder why I see one of the train personell opening the fusebox and looking inside it. Next announcement is that there will be no trains departing Papakura and that buses will be laid on. Roughly 20 mins later, buses do arrive and we all pack on and drive from train station to train station picking up more people until we're packed on like sardines.

Eventually we get to Otahuhu, where they drop us off and tell us we can either catch another bus (some more have been laid on) or we can wait for the next train (the one which the conductor has no idea when it might arrive). I choose the bus (better moving than standing still and not knowing) and off we go again from station to station and eventually arrive at Britomart a good 3 hours after we left Papakura.

I make it to class and only just finish my summative - not having had a chance to check my files for errors because of lack of time. I'm sure it's not great.

Then tonight I get to the station at Britomart and a voice comes over the tannoy telling us that NO trains are leaving Britomart tonight because of a points problem and that we must all find our own way home. No buses laid on this time; you had to find (and pay!) your own way, so I end up forking out $7.50 for a bus ticket and told where to go out into the street to catch it. I asked the woman behind the ticket counter if the ride was free for us who were supposed to be taking the train, but she said she hadn't been given the OK to give free rides.

I think the train service is just appalling in Auckland. I'm wondering if the whole 'oil spill' story was just a smokescreen (if you'll pardon the pun). It's a bit of a coincidence for there to be an oil spill in the morning and for the points system to be out this evening.

Get your act together MAXX!

As a point of interest, the guard at my local Park'n'Ride tells me that it soon won't be free to park, especially if the Super City gets the go-ahead as they'll "have to raise the revenue for the Super City somehow". Even if the Super City doesn't get the green light, you can still expect to pay in a couple of months I was told. So, it'll be a Pay'n'Park'n'Ride (although you're lucky if you can find a park these days - seems like everyone is doing the right thing and getting out of their cars onto public transport but the parking facilities sure aren't keeping up).

End of Rant

ZenTiger Friday Night Free for All

It's Friday. Good Friday for some, so Happy Easter!

Drop in and say hello. If I get a chance later I'll update this post with a weekly roundup. In the meantime, let's just get this puppy moving.

How about an Obama joke to kick things off?

A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, "This joke isn't going to work because there's no Muslim in this boat." [Andy Borowitz]

Lucia Today's online reading

Many times when I go through periods of silence online, I end up doing a lot of reading. Here is a smattering of that reading, I thought I would share with everyone.

Obama's Unholy War Against Christianity, Not Islam ~ American Spectator, George Neumayr

Liberals are far more tolerant of Islam than of Christianity.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

German Catholics Under the Iron Fist; Bismarck and the Kulturkampf ~ Catholic Answers, This Rock, Matthew E. Bunson

A fascinating article on the persecution of the Church during the post-Enlightenment period, and pre-Nazi Germany.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Question of Suffering, the Response of the Cross ~ Ignatius Insight, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

I think I was attracted to this article because of the discussion on the problem of evil, why God allows suffering on M&M. I feel unable to address all the issues involved, but will quote the Pope when he said in the above linked article:
Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.

When we know that the way of love–this exodus, this going out of oneself–is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish.
For more on suffering, see my post from a couple of years ago on Mother Teresa, whom atheists seem to hate with an unholy passion and intensity.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The non-violent Jesus - symbolic direct action ~ Wel-com, Jim Consedine

Attempts to justify Fr Gerald Burns' anti-Jewish actions in Wellington, by using Jesus's anger at the moneychangers in the Temple as an example followed by Fr Burns. I don't agree with his reasoning, we are not in Palestine or Israel, there are more direct injustices that offend God happening right now in this country, such as government abortion factories operating right in the heart of our hospitals. Attacking the Jewish memorial was a publicity stunt whose sole aim was to increase Fr Burns' stature amongst those whose hatred of Israel and promotion of leftist causes is their whole reason for being.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Apologetics Boot Camp; Ten Things the Military Taught Me about Evangelization ~ Catholic Answers, This Rock, Pete Vere, JCL

I need to read this article again, this time with the point of view as to what I should be doing rather than realising everything I'm not doing. Very intimidating the first time around. Anyone that wants to be a Catholic Apologist needs to read this article as well.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Truth of the Resurrection ~ Ignatius Insight, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Love that transcends death.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Mass is Serious Business ~ Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Bryce A. Sibley
Catholic Priests need to take the Mass seriously, it was bought at a price, and is a supernatural event that renews the Sacrifice of the Cross.

Related listening : Heaven's Mass: What John Really Saw in the Book of Revelation ~ Sons of Thunder (uses Realplayer), Scott Hahn

ZenTiger Obama avoids a world war in latest cover-up

Obama avoided a World War today, by ensuring the words "Jesus" were covered in black cloth so they wouldn't be seen on camera at the Catholic University he was speaking at. The University was willing to oblige.

"We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock." said Obama in a speech at Georgetown Catholic University, mollifying Christians around the world with a biblical quote.

I guess Presidents must be seen to be neutral, for fear of upsetting the strong and possibly violent atheist lobby :-) not to mention starting a war with upset radical Islamic Fundamentalists, who still haven't gotten over the Danish cartoons and Iraq (or are they Democrats?).

Some people are a little upset about this White House "cover-up". Questions are naturally asked: Is it that such a backdrop causes offense? Is it that some people cannot figure why it is there? Is it simply easier to squash all religious references?

I don't think so, given the frequent religious references he peppers his speeches with. Just the usual White House worries about spin. Of course, then even this action gets some spin. The end result might be that all speeches are done from the White House, or he has a traveling backdrop of a flag in every single speech. Just the thing to start calls of American imperialism!

I'm not offended, but I am noticing Christian references are increasingly deemed "inappropriate". When this is also the case from a so-called champion of religious tolerance, perhaps the story is more significant than I realise.

Related Link: Religious symbols far too symbolic

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ZenTiger Bula Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell gives a succinct summary of the current situation in Fiji, and more importantly, how they got there. He could have added a couple more paragraphs on the kind of 'democratic' corruption the Qarase government was engaged in, but you'll get the idea. Some excerpts (large chunks might be more accurate) below:

The notion that an election, any election is an over-riding litmus test of political legitimacy cannot pass unchallenged...Qarase’s mandate, and the methods by which he gained it, were always dubious - and addressing the patent inadequacies in the Fijian voting system has been a genuine reason for delay in calling elections.

...Some delay was inevitable, and desirable – because the 2006 election had been no picnic for democracy. The election was hastily called in 2006, the weighting of votes between constituencies .. was unjust, and there were major inaccuracies in the rolls – while the campaign itself entailed the campaign bribes (eg wage rises held out to public servants) and an extreme polarisation of society along racial lines that Qarase’s campaign fed on and fostered. These factors cannot be tidily divorced from the events that are now unfolding in Fiji.

Another election along 2006 lines is therefore indefensible. And if holding an election is the only test of political morality that really matters, the Marcos family would still be running the Philippines, the Shah’s dynasty would still be in power in Iran and conversely, Hamas would be administering international aid right now to Gaza...

As Trotter pointed out, Qarase had been installed by Bainimarama in the wake of the George Speight coup – and on an understanding that he would not abuse that incumbency within the 2001 election. Qarase then formed a political party and forged an alliance with a crew of ethno-nationalists that were close to the coup plotters who – among other things – had tried to assassinate Bainimarama in November 2000. Many of the seeds of the current conflict were sown during this period.

On other grounds, it is not as if the election process had been smashingly admirable in the 2001 election, either. Labour won most of the vote – 34.9% – but got only 28 seats in the 71 seat House of Representatives. Labour were then denied by Qarase their constitutional right to Cabinet power sharing. Even when subsequently ordered by the courts. Qarase lengthily delayed his compliance, especially over the seating of Mahendra Chaudhry. For some reason, none of this caused much concern to the Fiji desk at MFAT. [My emphasis. Probably thought retrospective validation of legislation would fix the problem, it did in NZ]

Nor was the voting system in Fiji quite so very free and fair in other respects...[examples follow of gerrymandering]..So if each person’s vote is to be of equal importance — as the UN requires — you wouldn’t recommend the Fiji system, whatever its ethnic predispositions.

So the 2006 election was, to that extent, rigged. The issues that need to be addressed before truly free and fair elections are called go to the heart of the many flaws in the current communal forms of seat allocations, and the voting system in play.

..The job of reforming this mess had been embraced by Bainimarama who – in the cause of fostering national identity – has advocated scrapping the communal voting system altogether, in favour of a ‘one man, one vote’ common roll system that would make no ethnic distinctions between voters.

..The point being, any meaningful dialogue between the regime and the South Pacific Forum should be identifying the remaining barriers to cleaning up the electoral rolls, to establishing a fairer weighting between constituencies and to replacing the alternative vote system – and to setting a reasonable timetable for these outcomes, and the deployment of resources (from outside if need be) to help complete the tasks.

The interim regime had already established a Peoples Charter process of electoral reform. It has long claimed to need more time to complete this process. So far, the regime and the Forum have not engaged in any fruitful dialogue on reaching a compromise timetable.

..As Singh points out, the level of corruption in the years 2001-2006 was immense, with the interim government alleging some 50% of allocated funds were being lost via corruption and waste. Though Qarase’s economic credentials rested on his prior career as a banker, public debt doubled to 52% of GDP during that time. By late 2006, Bainimarama had had more than enough.

..Should he have obeyed orders, and dutifully continued to serve as a dutiful servant of the Qarase government? Yes, according to those who believe in the primacy of elections, any elections. Yet when a system is corrupt and its leaders about to enact divisive and racist laws on behalf of its cronies and factional support base – including the boosting of a socially regressive GST-type tax – some people may decide not to be its accomplice any longer. So Bainimarama made his move. Illegal? Maybe. Understandable? Yes.

..The interim government tried to live up to its pledge to combat corruption, requiring all civil service appointments be made by the Public Service Commission, creating a new anticorruption investigation team to collect evidence of fraud and graft in all government organizations, and establishing an independent commission to adjudicate evidence gathered by the investigators. As a result, numerous high-profile actions were taken in a matter of months, including the suspension of the chief executive of the $2 billion National Provident Fund for alleged corruption and abuses and of the assistant police commissioner for accepting bribes.

..Bainimarama also pledged to rid the system of race-based politics so as to restore social peace, curb the exodus of skilled Indo-Fijians, and revive the economy.

..There is no going back. If the end result delivers Fiji back to the same corrupt, incompetent and race-mongering elites that Bainimarama has tried to replace, it would be a double tragedy. Chris Trotter at least, seems willing to consider that even worse alternatives than the current regime are on the cards.

In late 2006, if there had been a truly progressive Labour government in New Zealand, it might have grasped the opportunity that Qarase’s exit offered. It could have engaged positively with the interim government. It chose not to. The result, in all likelihood, will not be in New Zealand’s best interests, much less that of most Fijians. As Scoop has previously argued, our current diplomatic policy is only likely to push Bainimarama further into isolation, and further towards a closer alliance with China, thus providing China with a military and economic ally right on our doorstep.

There is not much hope to hold onto. Yet any election at all, under any terms and conditions whatsoever – is not a recipe for a just and socially sustainable future for Fiji, either.

Much more in the link, but given the habit of links disappearing, I posted a chunk of the article above. His article replies to comments by NRT and Chris Trotter. I haven't got the links for those just now (places to be, things to do, maybe later) but it seems in the short space of a week or so, this will be the second time Chris Trotter has found some agreement at NZC. Amazing.

Via Scoop: Gordon Campbell on Fiji

Earlier on NZC: Fiji in Crisis