Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Well done separatists, you've got your way!"

If you're anything like me, you saw the front page story on the decision to fly the Maori flag (look, no ironic quote marks!), thought "That's good," turned the page, and became engrossed in news of Tiger Woods' latest mistress.

People on Your Views, however, are nothing like you and me.

"Should the Tino Rangatiratanga flag be used on Waitangi Day?"


For balance you would probably need the New Zealand First flag up there too.

He died in World War One and Two? That's commitment. Now, to find the part in the story where it said anything about changing the flag...

You mean you didn't see the notices about the hui up in the marae? Surely you heard the kaumatua talking about it? Oh.

And yes - as a pakeha I feel very offended that I didn't get a choice regarding a Maori flag. But I'm used to it; so far no other nations whatsoever have so much as asked me what I thought of their new flags.

Apartheid was truly terrible. The way that white South Africans made the government display their own flag next to the national flag in public places on one day of the year truly makes the blood boil.

Who needs racism by stealth when you can just blurt it out in a public forum?

Ian of Kerikeri writes:

Dear Ian,

I've considered your proposition, and have come up with the following solution.

Kind regards,
The Head Maori


I agree with you, pCb - NOT!

"I'm sick to death of hearing all this racism towards Maori. I want to hear some racism aimed at the Chinese!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's a column, Jim, but not as we know it

The great thing about online publications is that, whenever you discover a new blog or opinion column that you like, there is usually an archive, and you can - hypothetically, of course - spend the whole day at work reading over past posts and columns.

When, for the first time, I read Jim Hopkins' column last fortnight - and what a load of feverish bollocks it was - my opinion of him changed significantly. I had thought of him previously as just slightly embarrassing, like the awkward uncle you only see at Christmas - the one who can't resist making groan-worthy puns and telling tortuous jokes. At least he's not boring, you think, but you still don't want to be seated next to him at dinner. Actually reading his column and finding that the cause of all this merriment is the worst, least-scientific kind of climate change denial is a bit like the scene in Father Ted where Ted stumbles upon Father Fitzpatrick's collection of Nazi memorabilia.

As usual, the conflict between my repulsion and... whatever emotion it is that makes you want to stare at a car crash... was won by the latter. A simple search for "Jim Hopkins" on the Herald site brings forth a smorgasbord of literary delights. For instance, his previous column was a bizarre rant about Hone Harawira:

You're a fomo, Hone; a foul mouth.

Not a white fomo or a black fomo, though you say you are both. But you're just a fomo, Ho. A bog standard, dime a dozen, no colour, no class, swaggering shock jock fomo.

???

But let's get back to the present. He obviously felt he was onto a winner last week, as he's writing almost exactly the same thing: the climate email 'scandal' means that climate change isn't happening. Presumably, if I told Mr Hopkins that the sky is blue because of the high concentration of smurfs in the troposphere, he would conclude from the falsity of my statement that the sky is not, in fact, blue. Except, unlike a normal person, he would compose a poem about it.

Christmas spirit yet to register in sales, say worried retailers - News Item.

The cheque book's on idle, it seems, the credit card on hold. We're spooked by the recession, and more besides. We'd rather keep the money, honey, than have a Wii fling. (Why didn't Tiger think of that?).

Groan.

Someone should explain to our melancholy merchants that people don't spend when they're gloomy. And, boy, are we gloomy. The till's not ringing 'cos the heart's not singing. And the heart's not singing 'cos there's sod all to sing about, sunshine!

We can't even sing about that anymore without some sobbing celeb sanctimoaniously banging on about our bloody carbon footprint.

Memo to Mr Tindall and chums: It's hard to get a tingle in our Jingle Bells when there's a colossally wasteful, doom-on-steroids loath-in happening in Denmark. And tough to get the goodwill going with 30,000 and four hoarse men of the apocalypse screaming "Repent! Repent! The End is Nigh! Last chance to save the planet" at their taxpayer-funded religious rally in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen.

Yeah, the alleged drop in consumer spending has everything to do with global warming 'propaganda' and nothing to do with the economic recession and high unemployment. But now I guess it looks to the editors like you've written about something new, rather than the exact same thing you crapped on about last fortnight.

That's why we're not shopping, Mr T. Because we're numb with despair. Because we feel hopeless, bludgeoned by shonky science and dodgy data into a state of abject grovelment - ashamed of our sinful selves and terrified our delicate little planet is going to hell in a (very hot) handcart.

It isn't and it won't. She's a tough old Mother, Earth. She's endured many truly enormous indignities - the cosmic collision that created our moon, the enormous asteroid that did for the dinosaurs, a rent in the land in Siberia that leaked lava, like blood from a wound, for one million years.

I think the point you missed here, Jim, is that the asteroid "did for the dinosaurs". I'm not certain that most people are primarily concerned with the survival of the planet per se. Unlike the planet, species living on it have an unfortunate tendency to die out during massive ecological crises.
Though you do have to wonder what prompted these apocalyptics to unleash their millennial hysteria in the middle of our busiest retail season when people should be buying things and maintaining jobs. But if their deeply depressing opening video is any guide, those in Copenhagen would rather have children clinging grimly to trees than finding presents under them. Which makes it hard for retailers to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. But they must if we are to unlimber our purses.
Yeah, why now? You would think that the planet would have the decency to stop heating during the festive season. I haven't actually seen anything telling anyone not to spend money because of global warming, other than maybe not buying a fleet of Humvees this Christmas. Next we'll be hearing that religious unrest in Pakistan is being orchestrated by Al Gore. Or that the cricket against Pakistan is somehow involved. Oh, hang on.
Perhaps the Black Caps can help with a win in Napier. Unlikely though, unless the ICC makes underarm bowling compulsory. We sank without trace at the Basin. Against a team who couldn't catch Osama bin Laden if he was edged off a gentle full toss. Seriously, Pakistan dropped more than Tiger Woods' standards.
Seriously!
'Tis odd how everyone's in a tizz about his cheating but no one seems to care about scientists doing exactly the same in relation to a matter of much greater importance. Tiger's fictions affect his family, those fabricated in East Anglia and elsewhere affect all of us.
"No one seems to care" - no one, that is, but just about every single article that has been in the paper about the Copenhagen conference, not to mention at least three opinion columns in the New Zealand Herald. But now, like a distracted puppy, he's off on another topic:
Alas, as is so often the case, the more trivial a matter is, the more rapt our attention and prurient our interest. Which may well explain why, at the end of a very hard year, the extinguished poet laureate, Sir Jam Hipkins (honour pending) has forsaken his muse and embraced a more venal mistress, joining the burgeoning ranks of news readers, porn stars, nightclub hostesses and lonely hearts who have teed off, so to speak, with Mr Woods.

[Excruciating "poem" begins - you'll have to brave the link yourself, sorry.]
So that's climate change fakery, the spending downturn, Tiger Woods' infidelity and the cricket.

Interestingly, the article sharing the opinion page with Hopkins is "Deniers don't have a rapidly melting glacier to stand on" - perhaps a headline that Hopkins could have improved. But at least that means that the Herald's coverage is fair and balanced, right?

'Party on, Garth' enters the digital age!

I wasn't going to bother writing about Garth George's latest column. I've got to the point, just about, where the urge to expose Herald-related awfulness is overwhelmed by feelings of futility and misanthropy, and visions flash before my eyes of bearded madmen shrieking wildly as they charge into battle, scimitar aloft.

But then I discovered a new feature on Garth's online column: comments!

The article itself is reasonably unremarkable, going with the standard 'Christians are repressed' meme that he does so well.
A flash of anger ... then sadness ... then perplexity over why anybody would choose to produce a scurrilous - nay, blasphemous - so-called comedy [some play called 'Christ Almighty'] about the central characters in the biblical Christian story.

[...] We Christians - well, most of us anyway - can certainly laugh at ourselves, because we don't take ourselves too seriously.

We do, however, take our faith seriously, and while we rarely have issues with irreverence, many of us find downright pornographic profanity deeply offensive and, for some, profoundly hurtful.

Oh dear. Garth's upset at a play that I'm pretty sure he hasn't seen.

Simei-Barton's review makes another good point: that if such blasphemies were aimed at the Prophet of Islam the consequences would be dire.

How about, instead of portraying Joseph as perhaps having an improper relationship with his donkey, "some virgin who claims she's been knocked up by God" and a cross-dressing angel, the writers could have chosen to make a farce out of Muhammad and his harem and his prurient interest in his camel.

Is anyone else as sick of this argument as me? Oh, we're so grateful that you don't threaten us with violence! It's like a politician getting a knighthood, or a dog getting a treat for not pooping on the carpet - not threatening violence is the default option, and you don't get praise for it. Sorry.

As someone who finds all religions/metaphysical philosophies equally ridiculous - don't get me started on Buddhism - I can say that, while Muslims might have cornered the market on violent outrage at blasphemy, Christians are still tops when it comes to self-righteous moaning.

The thing I find most disturbing about this latest denigration of Christianity is that tens of thousands of New Zealanders will be deeply hurt by it - again, since it's only the latest of several.

[...] No one seems to be concerned that the salacious slurs cast upon these revered historical figures might bring real distress to thousands of believers, reduce many to tears and drive others to their knees in lamentation and to beseech God to forgive the perpetrators.

Laying it on thick today, Garth. He doesn't seem concerned that if he hadn't written about it "tens of thousands of New Zealanders" would never have heard of this play, and would be happily tucking in to tea and scones without having to worry about Joseph buggering a donkey.
But, I suppose, it's not surprising. Jesus himself warned his original disciples that they and their faith would often be ridiculed, and we modern disciples can expect the same. However, on the bright side, we Christians can be grateful that, unlike those early followers, we are not persecuted in this country - yet.
Yeah... but you had a good run, didn't you? I mean, 1500 years at the top of the charts! You got a lot of persecuting done, but every party has to come to an end. And it could be worse - gays may be roaming the streets, but at least they can't get married - yet.

Fittingly, he finishes off by plagiarising borrowing the words of the Magnificat, apparently penned by the Virgin Mary herself.
He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty.
Sounds about right.

Anyway, the most exciting discovery was the comments!

First!

It's spelt 'prophet'.

I think you're in the wrong forum.


ANYWAY. I hope everyone is as excited by this development as I am.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Headline of the day

Not more news about this interminable saga...


"Tiger buckles to animal instincts"


EDIT: They've changed the headline... that's odd!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Golden Garths

It's that time of year - the time of year when we cease doing any real work, and start reminiscing about the past twelve months. Depressing, isn't it.

On that note, I would like to introduce the First Annual Editing The Herald Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Journalism, and I hereby call for nominations - nominations that may well result in nothing less than the awarding of cynical and pedantic media criticism's highest honour, the Golden Garth - in the following categories:
  • Worst Opinion Columnist: It's going to be difficult to budge the man himself from this award but, if anyone can do it, it's almost anyone else writing opinion columns for the New Zealand Herald.
  • Most Egregious Example of Advertising Masquerading as News: A Herald favourite, be it a press release dressed up as news, or just an unprompted gushing about a major advertiser.
  • Biggest Media Beat-up: Once the Herald has tasted blood, there's no limit to how many times they'll ring up Bos McCoskrie and find out what he thinks. Hone Harawira is a racist, AND didn't wear a motorcycle helmet? AND he went to Auckland Grammar?
  • Worst Article: The big one. It's the 'Best Picture' of the Golden Garths, and there's a lot to choose from.
This is where I need you. Send in your nominations, either by leaving comments or by email. If there's an important category you think I've missed, suggest it. Once the nominations are in, the EtH editorial board will convene, locked in a sealed chamber until the decisions have been made.

This is your chance to participate in real democracy, which I'm told doesn't really exist anymore now the Dancing with the Stars has been canned. We've fought wars for this, and a lot less. Don't forfeit your birthright - submit your nominations now.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hedging their bets


Are they sure they're speaking with a man?


UPDATE:

Well that cleared things up.

Please don't read this article

"Weatherston's account of killing Sophie Elliott too gruesome"

From the page A3 article on TVNZ's censure for overly graphic coverage of the Weatherston trial:
TVNZ has been reprimanded for failing to run warnings before the 6pm news when it screened graphic evidence during the Sophie Elliott murder trial.

[...] Shona Thompson complained to TVNZ over its coverage of the trial, when footage was aired showing Ms Elliott's former Otago University tutor and boyfriend Clayton Weatherston giving evidence on July 13.
Next paragraph:
The footage showed Weatherston describing what happened when he stabbed 22-year-old Ms Elliott 216 times and mutilated her body in January last year. Weatherston said: "The most vivid recall I have next is of standing or kneeling over her with a pair of scissors in my right hand, and um, the scissors had gone through the front of her throat and I can feel a crunching sound, like it's against her spine."
Broadcasting Standards Authority > Press Council.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Listen to the transport professionals

From the Herald's front-page story on plans to build a new harbour crossing in Auckland:

But yesterday's developments have given new hope to promoters of an "Anzac Bridge" across the harbour on a similar alignment to the tunnels route, making it at least one and a half times longer than the existing bridge.

A group led by former Auckland City Council member Richard Simpson and including companies such as Jasmax and NZ Steel wants construction to start by 2015 to commemorate the centenary of Anzac Day.

Yes, that seems like an excellent basis for sound long-term transport planning.

Stranger in a strange land

I don't really want to write about Tiger Woods, and I hope that you don't really want to read about him. But in the context of what I wrote the other day about what happens when sportspeople do everyday things - blow their nose, open a bank account, cheat on their wife - I thought I would point out for your perusal today's article on Woods by the Herald's Chris Rattue. It's fascinating to skim-read, in that it's a piece of sportswriting - full of clichés, tortuous extended metaphor and matey nudge-nudge-wink-winks, that is - but about something that is important, at least to two of the people involved.
It was difficult to know exactly how Woods would react in the immediate aftermath of his mis-drive, but certainly no surprise that he retreated behind the walls while throwing a dart over the top containing his vague statement.
Ugh.

Left hand, meet right hand

Now, I'm not trying to say that all the people writing in the same newspaper have to interpret things in the same way. I'm certainly not saying that everyone has to agree on every single aspect of everything. But I going to say that I find it a bit odd when the writer(s) of the editorial don't seem to have read their own newspaper.

It's not even that unusual. The editorial is usually, although not always, a reasonably sober reflection on the issues that are at the same time being manically screamed about on the front pages and the website. What interested me today about this was reading the Herald's two musings on the Maori Party's dealing with Hone Harawira, the party having announced that Harawira would be staying on. Let's just say that they took a rather divergent view of the outcome.

John Armstrong, "Political Commentator of the Year", wrote a piece entitled, "Maori Party flouting fundamental law of politics", where he argued that the Maori Party "made a complete hash of" the situation. The editorial, meanwhile, is headlined, "Party gets full marks for Harawira test" and claims that the party has "handled this affair well".

Armstrong:
Put that down to inexperience, a lack of established procedures for maintaining discipline, plus being a small party constantly distracted by other priorities - points made by co-leader Pita Sharples. However, he also insisted the party had handled the Harawira problem "our way". The question is whether in choosing "our way", the Maori Party can flout a fundamental law of politics, namely that disunity both personnel-wise and policy-wise is death.
Editorial:
Yesterday, he issued his third apology and this time it was unequivocal. In the way of these things it seemed more abject than the offence warranted but this incident was about more than meets the eye. It has been a test of the Maori Party's status as a competent, respectable and effective participant in national politics. It may even prove to be the last gasp of mindless antagonism.
Of course, political predictions are a chump's game. Much like short-term weather forecasting, the best 'prediction' strategy is usually to claim that tomorrow's political situation (and weather) will be much the same as today's; you miss all the turning points, but at least you right more often than not, just like I was right about it being overcast in Auckland today. What, to me, that means is that how this series of Hone-Harawira-related events will affect the future of the Maori Party, the current parliament, and NZ politics in general is pretty inscrutable, and I don't think there's any more reason to accept Armstrong's account, or the editorial's, than there is to believe the one scrawled on the toilet cubicle wall.

Presumably, however, that's not going to be the position of the Herald editorial board, employers as they are of a collection of political experts whose job it is to interpret political events. So I do find it odd that, in writing 'their' editorial, 'they' haven't really bothered to find out what their leading political 'expert' thinks of the issue. Maybe they have, of course, and I'm not going to call a side that I think is 'correct', but it's odd to see two positions in the same paper that are less 'divergent', and more 'completely opposite'.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Mistake

Normally I have far, far better things to do - but last night I watched 3 News. It's a mistake I shan't be repeating any time soon. Here are just some of the wonderful things I learned.


1 ) The lead item was about the rapid melting of ice in the Himalayas. "Oh, this is all right," I thought. It did feature Mike McRoberts standing at a screen, rather than sitting at a desk (possibly due to haemorroids). He then pushes 'buttons' on the screen, although I'm almost certain that either no buttons exist or the producers just decided to have buttons to make it look more... interactive?

Anyway, eventually we got to the item itself. It appears the ice in the Himalayas is melting at an unprecedented rate, leading to worries in some quarters that the rivers that water South and East Asia, the most populous region on Earth, will start to diminish. The interesting thing about the piece was that there was almost zero analysis. Why is the ice melting so quickly? Shrug. What could be the consequences if it keeps going like this? Who cares; what's Tiger Woods doing?


2) The next piece was a live cross to a reporter in Australia - you know the one, the woman who is always incredibly overdressed, as if she is covering a state dinner but is actually standing outside a factory reporting on a chemical spill. Remarkably, it wasn't even a news item with a live cross in it; it was a live cross with news items in it. She talked for a bit about the Liberal Party leadership elections, and told us who won, but again really gave no analysis as to what that meant. She then talked about other, less interesting things happening in Australia - all the while with Mike "It's All About the News" McRoberts standing there, itching to push the button.


3) And in American news... there was a 'piece' that literally lasted seven seconds on Obama's plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan - apparently something is going on there - before a neat segue into the latest on Tiger Woods.


4) Best of all, and leading the 3 News promos, was a really interesting story from Dunedin. It seems that there was a Guinness World Record in the offing! That classic world record, that is, for the most scrambled eggs cooked at once, a record for which humanity has strived since the discovery of the egg. Oh, did we mention it was being done for McDonalds? To advertise their switch, in 19 South Island stores, to 'free range' eggs? They cooked a free breakfast - I trust the sausages were made from free range pork - for people in Dunedin's central city, which worked nicely because it got them some free advertising on the national news. If you don't watch the clip, at least follow the link and see the still of McRoberts, now happily ensconced at his desk, next to those famous golden arches.


5) Lead story on Campbell Live: an exclusive interview with the mother locked in the closet by her infant. A few weeks ago I had a dream that I was sitting in the back seat of a car with John Campbell. I remember asking him why it was that, when he is - or was - obviously a competent journalist, his show was so awful. All I remember after that is him getting really angry and physically assaulting me. So yeah... if you see him around town, maybe don't bring that up.

-------------------------------------

On another note, here's an update from today's paper - page A3 - on the apparent epidemic of infants locking insufferable middle-class mothers in closets. Warning: the headline is quite funny but it's all downhill from there.

In the case of another mischievous youngster, Clare of Glendowie was busy sorting her 2-year-old son's wardrobe when he closed the door behind her.

[...] "I asked my little one to try and open his bedroom door, but he said he couldn't get out of bed because of the sharks in the sea (his bed is his boat)."

[...] About half an hour later her partner thought he heard something and came to check on the pair.

"My partner thought that I had fallen asleep with our son in his bed. Aren't they just lovely!"

APN Holdings also publishes the New Zealand Woman's Weekly. I think that, in the business world, this is what they call 'a synergy'.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nanny state

From today's front page:

"Playful Harry pushes the closet door shut and starts a nightmare in the dark for his mother"
The worst thing is that, under current law, he has to be tried as a juvenile.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Crash of the Tiger

There is a pretty strict division in the news media between 'actual' news and sports news. They need to be in different sections of the paper, in a way that doesn't apply to news about, say, politics and news about education. Television news needs a different person to read off the autocue about rugby than it does to read about healthcare. Unfortunately for this clean division, sometimes 'sportspeople' - that is, people whose only interesting characteristic is that they are good at sport - do things that don't involve sports: Jesse Ryder gets drunk; an NRL team gangrapes has group sex with a teenage girl; Jonah Lomu runs for Prime Minister. And this poses a problem: where to put the story? Sometimes it's clearly a puff piece, or some advertising, and it doesn't matter too much. Sometimes it is actually important, and the whole thing is handled quite poorly. My favourite example was when TV3's sports anchor, a serious man of much gravitas, reported on allegations of sexual assault against a rugby league player, and then segued into the next item with an excited, "But that affair won't be affecting his team going into their big clash this Saturday..."

I bring this all up because on the front page of today's paper - right below the surprising news that Don Brash's review panel has declared that to catch up to Australia we need to punch the poor in the groin - is this article:

That's Tiger Woods, golfer. Let me précis the story for you: he crashed his car and is now fine.

Of course, that's not the whole 'story'. In fact, the bulk of the article is made up of prurient gossip on the love life of a man who can hit a small ball with a stick.
Hollywood entertainment website tmz.com reported Woods argued with his wife, Swedish model Elin Nordegren, about tabloid allegations he had been having an affair, and that she then chased after his car.
A broadsheet newspaper citing a "Hollywood entertainment website" - as opposed to a Hollywood science website - on the front page... I believe this is in Revelation as one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse.
The downmarket National Enquirer reported last week that Woods had been having an affair with party events organiser Rachel Uchitel, a story that could have caused tension in the Woods family home.
The National Enquirer! The National Enquirer. I think even 'Dobbo' is going to be shaking his head at this one.


EDIT: Here's the story on the front page of the Herald website:

In the same vein, I also deny I am having an affair with a New York club hostess. On the contrary, the boiling point of water is 100 degrees celsius.

It's Garth, Jim, but not as we know it

You probably don't need me to tell you that there's been a wee bit of climate change denial - sorry, disagreement - in the Herald recently, mostly centred on the person of Garth George. I've written enough about his views on the climate, but I really had thought that we could ring-fence the issue, preferably by literally putting a fence around him.

Unfortunately, the virus has spread to a place you may never have suspected. I've never understood the point of Jim Hopkins; he's the 'funny man' of the opinion page, but I personally find his writing so interminably self-indulgent - and not in an interesting and droll Steve Braunias way - that, until now, I had never managed to read one of his columns end-to-end. But he's wacky! He goes where serious commentators can't, using the tool of satire to throw the high-and-mighty from their perch! He writes satirical poetry and puts it in his column! And he wears red glasses!

Crazy. Here goes Fridays column, entitled "Dodgy science gets us all off the hook":

We've seen two examples of monetary muckiness recently. In one case, already touched upon, an author embellished his text with words that weren't his own - a hanging offence for students writing a thesis but not, apparently, so grim for those who teach them.

The other concerns a gaggle of Newton's heirs, scientific geezers beavering away, recording data, analysing statistics and reporting only what is provable and true.

Except these crooks haven't. They've cooked the books. They've lied.

They've falsified the facts to induce needless panic and alarum in the bosoms of the groundlings. Along the way, they've blackened the reputations of others who challenged their conclusions, whilst earning for themselves great renown and large amounts of dosh.

When did this happen? Hopkins regales us with examples: the Piltdown Man was a hoax! Of course, the 'discovery' of the Piltdown Man was 'made' by an self-styled 'amateur archaeologist', and before too long actual scientists had shown it to be a fake. Moving on...

But these egregious boffins have done more than remind us that the purest of research is prone to the corruptions of ambition and income. What they've done is wilfully attempt to influence public opinion - and political outcomes - around the world.

For these data-bodgers weren't investigating the mating habits of the Lesser Crested Gobsnot. No, they were climate scientists. Or, more precisely, pseudo-scientists, twisting the truth to produce results which they and their employers desired.

As some playwright said, "ay, there's the rub". I like to think I'm a reasonably skeptical person, but that has limits. It's one thing to say that the structure of modern science institutions - Nobel prizes, Royal Societies, publications in Nature - might alter incentives to a point. It's another thing to say that a vast conspiracy of nearly every climate scientist in the world is trying to destroy the planet, with the result that Jim Hopkins has to turn his lights out when he leaves the room. But here he goes:

What's been revealed, although without enthusiasm by our credulous media, is that an influential cabal of researchers in England and America colluded to mislead us yobbos, perhaps so we'd more readily accept draconian measures like flatulent ETSs and the flying of kaumatua to Copenhagen. [Ah, throw some casual racism in there, excellent.]

A single email, one of many leaked by hackers and reprinted in the Guardian last weekend, proves the point: "I've just completed Mike's Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

"Mike's trick?" "Adding in?" "Hide the decline?" Such words warrant only the opprobrium of their author's peers. But no whistles were blown on this gravy train. Instead, these co-conspirators acted as warm-mongers, shouting "Fire" in the scientific theatre although they knew there was no blaze.

This has all been dealt with by far more qualified people on the internet and elsewhere already, but let's look at these three shameful phrases with a more charitable eye:
  • "trick": The art, knack, or faculty of doing something skilfully or successfully. (OED)
  • "adding in [the real temps]": "Would you mind adding in the flour to the cake mix?"
  • "hide the decline": Maybe, you know, it's an apparent decline - like hiding a mirage.
Even if, of course, this email does flag an egregious violation of scientific ethics and procedure, you would think that it would discredit the scientists involved, and perhaps make us a little more skeptical of the science in general. But that's not enough for Jim Hopkins:

This is wonderful news, folks. Truly, it is!! As Madoff was to money, these cons are to climate. They've given sackcloth and ashes such a bad name no one will want to wear it.

Because we now know all this hand- wringing, finger-pointing, cringing, wimpish, guilt-inducing "We're to blame and it's killing the planet" palaver, embraced as a new religion by countless control-freaks, wowsers and old, bewildered hippies is based on totally dodgy data.

It's bollocks!! The "facts" are a crock!! Whoopee!!! Send those pseuds a huge bunch of flowers and a note saying, "Thanks for letting us off the hook."

See, the interesting part of this is that he is so over the top that, even at this stage of the article, I couldn't tell whether he was going to get to the end and say, "But anyway folks, this is all a ridiculous non-controversy that I have skewered with my pointed wit See you next week."He couldn't possibly be trying to argue that these emails mean that climate change isn't happening. Could he?

Because we are. You may not believe it yet - and certainly most journalists won't. "Where there's muck, there's money," definitely applies in their industry. It feeds on the apocalyptic. And global warming was the KFC of disasters, a cataclysm so yummy no scribe could resist it.

Especially since the usual suspects; big business, Uncle Sam, globalisation, flash motor cars, fast food - all things most journalists instinctively dislike and wish to demonise - were allegedly the root of the evil.

[...] So it will take the scribes some time to overcome their addiction. "It won't happen overnight," as Witi would have it, "but it will happen". And when it does, look out, for the wrath of the writers will be swift and savage. No one suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous reporting more intensely than a fallen angel.

What does that even mean? Just because you wear red glasses doesn't mean you don't have to make any sense. In a sense, Hopkins is worse than Garth George. At least the latter doesn't dress his rubbish up in purple prose - he's just a man who tells it like it is, or at least like it was in the 1950s. You don't have to untangle metaphor after turgid metaphor to work out that he's not keen on male homosexuality.

Lucky then he's only published every fortnight.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They must be taking the piss



After that weekend, I'm taking a break from thinking about the Herald for a couple of days. Feel free to email me anything truly astoundingly bad, and I'll write something up from my wireless-broadband-capable Fijian beach hut.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So what did you do yesterday?

I went to a protest. Cheers to Kieran Whelan - here are his amazing photos of the march on Flickr - for one or two of the pics.

This handsome man has a point.

This sign ended up in a lot of photos.

Yeah, I think that decision has been taken. This clown, riding in front of the march on a tiny motorcycle, really summed up the march for me.

"DISCUSTING IGNORANCE"

MP John Boscawen (bottom right) faces the full force of satire. The gent on the left told Prime News that he was calling for a referendum of Carly Binding, but stuff.co.nz still reported this:
Some of the more unusual placards included 'Bring Back Dancing with the Stars' and one calling for a referendum on former TrueBliss singer Carly Binding.
More piss-poor journalism from the MSM.

Random man in the crowd to me: "There are a lot of intelligent people here today, you know."

I'm sure they just needed a good smack.

Thanks for clearing up this vexed semantic issue.

Just FYI.


The reporting on the protest was quite interesting. TV3's report seemed to take it all rather seriously, while One News managed to call it what it was - a bizarre mishmash of various interest groups with no more coherent overall position than feeling that history is passing them by. The One News clip has the added bonus of briefly featuring me.

Once José sorts out the link, I'll put up our discussion of the march from the bFM Sunday Breakfast this morning.

Overall, just about the best day ever.

100,000

On January 19, 2009, I must have been rather bored. It was the day that I decided that, rather than just complaining orally about what was in the newspaper, I would put it down in writing:
Auckland, brought to you by Sir Edmund Hillary: Of course, this isn't strictly news but, for some unknown reason, bored people have been writing in to the Letters page with their wonderful suggestions as to how to further honour the most-honoured New Zealander: rename One Tree Hill 'Mt Hillary; rename the airport 'Sir Edmund Hillary International Airport', presumably to commemorate his legendary love of flying; or how about renaming Auckland 'Hillary City'. Hillary fucking City!
The worst part is not, of course, that the man had more honours than any NZer since Ernest Rutherford (a point made recently by Helen Clark - you could almost hear the sigh in her voice while reading her quote), but that he actually said he didn't want any of this. He was fundamentally a humble man who wanted his memorial to be a continuation of his charitable work, rather than wasting money on a statue. So, NZ Herald, for the love of God, enough with the letters!
A couple of weeks later, when I added a visitor counter to the site, I was astonished to find more than twenty people had visited in a day. Back then it was almost entirely my friends - now I have no idea what sort of weirdos and perverts are reading this blog. What I do know is that yesterday Editing the Herald got its 100,000th "unique visit", whatever that means, and it seems like some sort of milestone.

Before I get too self-indulgent, I wanted to thank everyone who comes and reads the blog, who comments on the posts, and who emails me encouragement, abuse or material. A special shout-out to my mystery fan in Bahrain - 111 visits! - and all those who end up here after googling "gay wankers" or "cannibalism 2009".

Now, I'm sure I have something better to write about...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Q.E.D.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. It's like Your Views - but I'm already signed up!

"REPEAL SECTION 51"

Today's front page describes the conviction of a woman for beating her ten-year-old son with a hose; she now faces 15 months in prison. Whether sending her to prison, rather than some other sort of punishment, is a good idea either for the taxpayer or for the family is one question, but what is for certain is this: her lawyer couldn't use the defence that she had used reasonable force to discipline her children. Why not? Oh, because section 59 removed that defence! Perhaps it might not have come off - she is from South Auckland so she probably couldn't afford a fancy lawyer - but you can bet they would have tried.

Not that the Herald makes any mention of that.

Meanwhile, on page A2 there is a hilarious turn of events which actually makes me love the Herald. Embedded in an article entitled, "Boycott march, kids' advocate urges", is a small table:

"Demanding the right to hit?", I thought? That's going to piss them off, given how fine a line the organisers have been treading. They have taken pains to give the impression that the march is about democracy, rather than about hitting kids - presumably in the full knowledge that people won't march for abstract concepts, and most of them will be there (probably dragging their kids along) to endorse physical discipline.

As busy as I am, I've taken some time to troll the Facebook group for the March for Democracy. In fact, I was honoured to see some of my own words up there!

Thanks Stephen - AKA WITI IHIMAERA.

But I digress. This morning sees this post from one Glyn McLean:

The heading on the box at the end of the story containing details of the march in my original copy was simply "March for Democracy". It was changed by a subeditor to, "Demanding the right to hit."
This confirms two things:
  • The Herald does, in fact, employ subeditors at least once a week.
  • Sometimes those subeditors are awesome.
Anyway, if Glyn is outraged by poor journalism at the Herald, I have just the site for him.


Tomorrow is shaping up to be quite the event. The MetService is predicting a balmy 22 degrees, fine spells with cloudy breaks. Apparently, the march will be followed by a concert 'outside the Town Hall', whatever that means - Aotea Square is almost entirely taken up with construction works. There'll be, I don't know, balloons and clowns and racists. Do come, and bring a hilarious sign or banner to win... a mystery prize: YOUR photo on Editing the Herald.

The march supposedly starts at 1.30pm tomorrow (Saturday) from the corner of Queen St and Fort St. And remember:
If a binding referendum told you to do it, you'd have to come.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Party on, Garth

Perhaps Garth is reading Editing the Herald after all. In today's column he tries it out on the Weekend Herald. Of course, it's more reading the paper and then moaning out society going down the tubes.

It takes me anything up to three hours to read the Weekend Herald - quite rightly named New Zealand's best newspaper - but half an hour into it on Saturday I began to wonder just how long we can keep going before our intractable social problems overwhelm us completely.

By the time I reached the end of the Review section, I was tempted to give thanks that I'm as old as I am and might well be gone from this world before they reach that stage.

Well at least there's something we can agree on. The view that things are just continually getting worse isn't a new one, of course. Almost every human society, until the 'invention' of Whig history, has looked back with rose-tinted spectacles on a lost past: the ancient Greeks had their Golden Age; the Judeo-Christian tradition has, of course the Garden of Eden; and Garth George has... I don't know, the 1950s? But he's clearly wrong - we all have iPods now.

It started on page one with news that drug rings are recruiting students at some of our top schools to receive drug parcels from overseas.

And while we know that illegal drugs are just as popular in the wealthier suburbs as they are in the mean gangland streets of the poorer, this indicates a rather large step up in the distribution of these murderous products.

Sure, the police and Customs do their damnedest to stem the flow of illegal substances into this country, but they're obviously fighting a losing battle, and the pot and the P and the coke and the horse still flow like a river.

It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that if there were no customers there would be no demand and that maybe we're looking at this problem from the wrong end.

"...the horse still flow[s] like a river."

Anyway, a brilliant idea to focus on reducing demand instead of only focusing on supply. We could start by criminalising possession of drugs for personal use, and then we could launch some sort of public awareness campaign to show people the damage that drugs can do. Why has no one thought of this before?



Let's fast-forward: rampant child abuse; justice system in disarray; "thieving millionaire shysters"; "mirage of easy wealth"... oh, look, Hone Harawira.
And on page five we come to the Harawira affair, probably the most sinister of all the things that should be giving us the heebie-jeebies.
Yes, it's far worse than child abuse.

Hone Harawira was born angry, from the womb of an angry woman. And what his latest outburst reveals is that there is among many Maori an abiding and malevolent antipathy towards Pakeha, which is far more widespread than we're prepared to acknowledge, and which no amount of monetary and land compensation, special treatment and political cuddle-ups is going to change.

To make matters worse, there is a corresponding bitter antagonism to Maori on the part of many Pakeha, who deeply resent the money, land and special treatment given to Maori and whose anger grows exponentially with every new concession. This, too, is far more widespread than most people care to admit.

Oh, he's fair and balanced, right? Because Maori hate Pakeha and Pakeha hate Maori! Except that "many" Maori have "an abiding and malevolent [!] antipathy towards Pakeha", whereas Pakeha merely "resent the money, land and special treatment given to Maori". That's why there was no racism toward Maori before the Waitangi Tribunal was founded, right? I just love the idea that "no amount of monetary and land compensation, special treatment and political cuddle-ups" will change the irrational hatred of Maori for Pakeha; maybe some policies that actually move Maori from the top of every single negative social indicator will make them see some sense.

You can hardly blame Harawira, who after all was "born from the womb of an angry woman", for getting a bit upset.
And don't tell me I exaggerate: I have a finely tuned intuition and live in a city where at least a third of the population is Maori.
In fact, some of his best friends are Maori.
Yet we continue with a policy of separatism - you might even call it apartheid - the latest example of which is Tariana Turia's Whanau Ora scheme to give Maori sole control of their community services.
You might even call it "Nazism". You might even call it "Auschwitz" or "necrophilia" or "Clayton Weatherston". It was only yesterday, after all, that I tried to use a water fountain only to be told that it was "Maori only". And, for God's sake, can you blame Maori for wanting control of their own social services after the shite job that 'Pakeha' services have done? Honestly, how can you write a column that spends half its time bitching about what a poor job social services are doing, and then complain when someone wants to try something different? I'll give you a clue: it's one word, and it begins with 'R'.

But nine out of 10 of us don't want to know. That's not new. Thousands of years ago God said through the prophet Isaiah: "Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."

But those of us who do hear and see and understand might take some comfort from the words God spoke to King Solomon: "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Fat chance, but the offer is still open.

As Monty Python used to say: Oh, what a giveaway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Can't think of a Witi title

If you pan down the front page from the photo of hippopotamuses attacking a crocodile, you find a story about Witi Ihimaera, the veteran literary author, winning a $50,000 award from the Arts Foundation for his contribution to the arts in New Zealand. Except the article isn't really about that at all. "Ihimaera wins $50,000 arts prize," says the headline, "despite plagiarism row." I wasn't really aware there was a "row" about it at all, but let's see what the article has to say about the prize - an award not only made to Ihimaera, one of New Zealand's most critically and commercially successful authors, but to "carver Lyonel Grant, musicians Chris Knox and Richard Nunns and photographer Anne Noble".

Author Witi Ihimaera was last night presented with a prestigious arts award and a $50,000 prize - a week after he was caught up in a plagiarism row.

The writer of Whale Rider was embarrassed by revelations that his latest novel, The Trowenna Sea, contains passages by other authors without attribution.

He apologised for the oversight, which he said amounted to less than 0.4 per cent of what had been published, and promised any future editions of the book would include proper acknowledgments.

Right. You seem to have stopped talking about the award whatsoever. You realise that you've already published a bunch of articles on this amazing find, right? What is interesting about this particular article is that almost every paragraph feels the need to stick the knife in by mentioning or alluding to the 'controversy'. It's reasonably long, but let's look through it:

Despite the controversy, he has been named a laureate by the Arts Foundation. The honour comes with a cheque for $50,000.

Carver Lyonel Grant, musicians Chris Knox and Richard Nunns and photographer Anne Noble were also named laureates at last night's awards ceremony at the ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane.

Ihimaera made no specific mention of the scandal, but in as [sic, facepalm] speech that lasted about 10 minutes alluded to the furore.

"I would rather be someone else this week. Any of you are welcome to be Witi Ihimaera."

Yesterday, Arts Foundation executive director Simon Bowden defended the selection of Ihimaera so soon after the controversy.

"The award itself is for a lifetime of work and is an investment in someone's future ... He's an extraordinary artist."

Mr Bowden accepted the plagiarism was a "serious matter" but said Ihimaera was trying to make things right "as much as he can".

Ihimaera had told the foundation of the plagiarism claim before it became public and it did generate discussion among the selectors.

However, Mr Bowden said those things weren't enough to change their minds because Ihimaera was an artist whose writing had been enjoyed by generations. Though Mr Bowden had had only positive reaction from those he had spoken to about the issue, he accepted there could be some adverse feedback from the arts community. He believed most would congratulate the Arts Foundation on carrying on with the award.

Ihimaera said he hoped the plagiarism issue wouldn't overshadow the award.

"I take the long view ... that every author goes through a controversy at one part of their career. I do believe my entire career models the best ethical behaviour that is required of all artists in New Zealand."

He was grateful for the support he'd received from the foundation which would help him move past the controversy. He apologised again to those he failed to acknowledge, which was "inadvertent and regretful".

He planned to use the $50,000 prize to support himself while he wrote more historical novels - including a follow-up to The Trowenna Sea and another novel set in New York. He is retiring from his position as a professor at Auckland University next year.

Ihimaera said he had been unsure if he should accept the award because he didn't think he was good enough, but was "honoured and humbled" by it.

Anyone would think that the New Zealand Herald didn't regularly plagiarise press releases from, say, the BNZ or TVNZ. Like I said, this article was on the front page, but another similar, but more bitter, article didn't make the print edition and can be found online: "Exposed plagiarist [!] Witi Ihimaera given $50,000 award". Sorry Witi, you're no longer an author; you're an exposed plagiarist.
Prominent New Zealand author Witi Ihimaera has been named an Arts Foundation laureate and will receive a no-strings-attached $50,000 to spend as he pleases.
Jesus. "No-strings-attached"? "To spend as he pleases"? Unconscionable! You mean he doesn't even have to promise not to plagiarise anymore? And to add insult to injury, he doesn't even have to spend the money on subscriptions to APN publications? APN publications, that is, such as the Listener, a magazine that used to be an interesting and progressive read but is now almost entirely dedicated to stories about house prices and where to send your kids to school. (St Cuths or Dio? Oh dear.) Funnily enough, it's also the magazine which 'broke' the news of Ihimaera's borrowing of small passages without attribution. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that not only is the award criticised in a front page article, but also in today's editorial - "Top award for Ihimaera is embarrassing":

The Arts Foundation of New Zealand has created an embarrassment with one of its five "laureate" awards last night. Doubtless the decision to make one of the $50,000 awards to writer Witi Ihimaera was made long before his latest novel was found to include at least 16 unattributed passages that appear to be substantially the work of others.

Doubtless, too, the selection panel operates at arm's length from the foundation set up to assist and promote cultural achievement of the highest quality in this country. But in the week since a reviewer's concerns were reported by the New Zealand Listener, somebody at the foundation should have intervened.

[...] Those who put him in this position have questions to answer. The selection panel consisted of Elizabeth Ellis, Jenny Harper, Derek Lardelli and two writers, Bill Manhire and Grant Smithies. Did they read the book? Did they miss the stylistic oddities that alerted the Listener's Jolisa Gracewood? Do they think her revelations unimportant?

Oh, did we mention that it was discovered by Jolisa Gracewood? From the Listener? The amazing thing is, despite this award being such an "embarrassment", the Herald have seemingly failed to find a single figure from the New Zealand arts world to quote from who will say they are embarrassed by it. Anyone? It's almost as if... no one else cares.

Plagiarism isn't cool. As a former pseudo-academic (aka student) myself, I worked long and hard to produce my own material and blah blah blah. But it's not like he plagiarised a whole book, and it's not like the award has anything to do with the work in question. So get over it.

I was thinking last week how lucky Rodney Hide was that Hone Harawira magnificently exploded into the news. Now I can't help but think how lucky Harawira is that Witi Ihimaera won $50,000. It's all just a giant merry-go-round - or, if you prefer, a tag-team wrestling match where the wrestlers are constantly tagging in and out, all avoiding that final, match-ending hold that they may or may not deserve.


Beast from the depths, Vol. 4

First it was the shark. Then it was a whale. Third was the killer jellyfish menacing Japanese fisherman. Today, fourth in the Herald's front page series on 'When Underwater Beasts Go Bad':

They really need to fix that crocodile problem in Western Springs Park.


EDIT: Some clever anonymous commentator pointed out that the Guardian is running a series of these photos on their site. Firstly, if the Guardian put a photo of a crocodile on the front page unrealted to any story, that would be rubbish - I'm not sure why anyone thinks I would deny that. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the inclination to 'edit' every newspaper in the world.

Incidentally, here's the front page of the most recent Guardian:

The man in the photo, in case you're unaware, is David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party. You may notice the actual article accompanying the shot.

(Not a crocodile.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A quality newspaper on quality TV

I hate to pick on the same journalist twice in one day but... I'm sorry, I don't know how to finish that sentence.

Today's page A3 has an article about TV One's acquisition of a new season of shows which differ considerably from what we might expect - a collection of trashy, derivative-sounding America sitcoms and awful local reality TV series. The reporter does a really good, honest job of questioning whether this is the right choice for the network to make, given its strong reputation for quality programming and its main demographic, let alone its responsibilities to the TVNZ charter.
The new shows seem aimed at a younger demographic, which seems to leave TV One's older viewers, accustomed to high-quality British drama, out in the cold. It is also questionable whether local copies of overseas shows such as The Apprentice and Masterchef satisfy the demand for serious, quality local programming. Media commentators have questioned the purchase of series such as The Vampire Diaries, which seems to largely ride on the current popularity of Twilight and True Blood.

TVNZ general manager of programming Jane Wilson would not comment on whether these shows met the expectations and responsibilities of New Zealand's oldest television station.
And then I woke up, and it was all a dream.


What the actual article says, of course, is quite different:

It is seen as the more serious terrestrial television channel but TV One is about to be sexed up with a series about a well-endowed man.

Hung is a drama charting the life of a cash-strapped high-school teacher who resorts to prostitution after his house burns down.

It is one of a number of new shows in TVNZ's 2010 schedule.

General manager of programming Jane Wilson said the comedy drama "pushes the boundaries" - something the broadcaster was hoping to achieve with TV One.

"We want to be a little bit edgier and a little less safe."

Cool. All of which, of course, could have been - and probably was - copied verbatim from a TVNZ press release. It then gives helpful synopses of some of the great shows coming to primetime on TVNZ's mainstream channels:
Cougar Town: An American sitcom starring former Friends star Courtney Cox, who plays a recently divorced mother entering a dating scene filled with younger men.

[...] FlashForward: An American science fiction series starring Joseph Fiennes. Based around a future where a mysterious event makes everyone in the world black out. As people gain consciousness, the world starts changing because people know their future.
Shows not coming to primetime on TVNZ's mainstream channels:
Anything that seriously discusses politics, culture or the media.
Sorry, Close Up doesn't count :(

Good golly(wog)!

Nice critical journalism on page A6 regarding an outstanding issue of the day - provision of golliwogs dolls that are definitely not related to golliwogs in some awful bourgeois gift shop - "Golly dolls no different to Barbies, says store director":

A retail chain is making no apologies for selling "Golly" dolls which many people believe have racist connotations.

A full display of the Australian-designed Golly range is on show at Acquisitions St Lukes - ranging in price from $79.99 to $149.99.

Surprise surprise, Australian-designed. Well, I don't know where people are getting this idea that it is racist. I mean, it looks like a golliwog, but apart from that...

But Richard Thomson, general manager of Acquisitions, does not believe the store's dolls are offensive.

"We don't sell Golliwogs, we sell Gollys," he said. "The reason we're very careful about calling them Golly and not Golliwog is because we realise that 'wog' is an offensive term and we wouldn't want to be associated with the use of it."

Ah. I see what you've done here. They're not golliwogs at all. They're "Golly's". They're probably named that because the inventor said "Golly, that's a great idea for a doll" when he or she came up with it. Any resemblance in name or appearance to any other doll, racist or not, is entirely unintentional - like in that Law & Order episode where the famous and eccentric fictional singer dies after complications with fictional drugs prescribed by his fictional doctor.

So I would hate to break in here and claim that it's not actually the word 'wog' that offends people about golliwogs. It's the concept, and therefore the word, of the golliwog. But you wouldn't want to be associated with that.

He said the dolls had been on sale for about a month and had proved popular in the 10 stores around the country.

"They're selling exceptionally well."

Always a good test. "Is it racist?" "I dunno." "Is it popular?" "Yes." "Well it can't be racist then." "How are they selling in our Christchurch store?" "Great!"
Asked if the company had considered that some people might find them offensive, Mr Thomson said: "We recognise that's always a possibility but our view is that these are caricatures in the same way as Barbie or any other doll is.
Barbie does truly represent the horrors of the centuries-long exploitation and deprecation of tall, skinny, blonde women.
"It's very difficult to please everyone and what we do is we say: 'Look, this is our style and we sell a huge range of products and people will pick and choose the items that they like or don't like and that's absolutely as it should be."
For example, when I walk into Acquisitions St Lukes I turn my nose up at the racist doll section and proceed directly to the area festooned with Nazi memorabilia.


Anyway, it's interesting how a stupid story about a rubbish shop selling what really is a terrible piece of overpriced awfulness becomes essentially an ad for said shop, simply because the reporter involved can't manage to ask some critical questions that ought to make up Lecture Two of Journalism 101:
  • "If it's not a golliwog, why is it called a Golly?"
  • "Do you think that the use of Golliwog imagery in the context of colonialism has anything to do with the taboo attached to the figure?"
  • "You do realise that you sound like an idiot, don't you?"

Monday, November 16, 2009

March against democracy

Sir Winston Churchill, whose bust had pride of place in George W. Bush's Oval Office, famously said this about democracy:
Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Of course, Churchill also said "'Keep England White' is a good slogan," got hammered every night, never got up before midday and was keen on gassing Arab villages, so perhaps we should take his ideas with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, in this instance I think he was more or less right: as flawed as democracy is, the other options are all worse. And I say this as a person who has read a lot of Your Views.

As always, there's a qualification. The ancient Greeks supposedly recognised three 'pure' forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. They also recognised that, without vigilance, all three could easily be corrupted - monarchy could become autocracy, aristocracy could turn into oligarchy, and democracy could become anarchy. Back in the old days anarchy didn't (just) mean throwing a brick through a McDonald's shopfront; there was no leader, but also no leadership structure, and decisions would be made based on the passions of the populace (except the women and slaves, of course).

In other words, it would be kind of like a world of binding referenda:
Organisers of past referenda ignored by governments have lent their weight to Saturday's march over the anti-smacking referendum, billed as "the biggest march in New Zealand's history".
Well of course they are upset if they think they've been ignored, but the reality is totally different. The governments didn't ignore their referenda; they looked at them, read them, considered them and, in full possession of the facts, decided they were ridiculous.

Also, I think you'll find that it was not an anti-smacking referendum - it was a pro-smacking referendum. Just thought I would clear that up.

Organisers from past referendums - including Garth McVicar who led the referendum on Law and order, Margaret Robertson who campaigned for 99 MPs and the organiser of the last anti-smacking referendum Sheryl Savill - appeared at a media conference this morning.

March organiser Colin Craig called past referendum organisers "true New Zealand heroes".

How can Garth McVicar claim that his referendum was ignored? If it's the one I vaguely remember about tougher sentences for violent offenders, then he must surely be delighted with the results - our prisons are literally overflowing with people!

Mr Craig said he hoped the march would focus attention on past referenda that have been ignored by governments going back to the 1990s.

"I think the people will win out."

I wouldn't be so sure. The Destiny march got more than 10,000 people chanting 'Enough is Enough', yet immorality is still rampant: topless prostitutes wander the streets, and homosexuals openly fornicate with single mothers in parks and town squares. Writing a passionate comment on Your Views is one thing; getting up on a Saturday morning and marching up Queen St to defend 'democracy' is quite another.

Yet that is exactly what I am suggesting you - we - do. Democracy's greatest heroes, from Thomas Jefferson to Tony Blair, appeared to me in a dream and showed me a glorious vision: a vision of sensible people, people like you and me, joining the march and showing it to be ridiculous. I am inviting you to come to the march! (You may already be going, in which case this is a bit awkward.)

At the moment it's a bit difficult to tell what the emphasis of the march is: mob rule or hitting children. The organisers are emphasising the former, but in a country where most people's closest experience with democracy is voting for Dancing with the Stars I can't see many people getting out of bed for that. Surely almost all the opposition today to the s59 amendment is simply petulance - petulance that would, ironically, normally see a child smacked.

Given that police on site will probably frown on people marching with pitchforks and flaming torches, we may have to do with banners. Should none of the banners from the March for Democracy website suit, here are a few suggestions:
  • Do what the mob says!
  • Down with Auntie Helen!
  • Start talking smack!
  • Nannies have no place in raising our children!
  • Down with this sort of thing!
Let your imaginations run wild. Anyway, I anticipate a fun and unusual day out, and would encourage you to find some like-minded people, tell them to come along, and then beat them until they agree. I'll post more details this week, but the details of the March itself are:
1.30pm, Saturday 21 November (this Saturday)
Corner of Fort St and Queen St in the Auckland CBD
That's just outside the QF Tavern, which would be a good place for a pre-march beer.

Teh New Zelaand Herlad

First, there's this - cheers to one who cannot be named for a lovely juxtaposition of death and life insurance:

I thought this might be a nice way to segue into the general point I wanted to make. I've had quite a few emails over the past few days with spelling or grammar errors from either the print edition or the website, peaking, of course, with the misspelling of 'Barak' Obama's name in a political article on page A2 late last week - a mistake that is still on the website as of writing. The fact that such a blatant mistake could get past the journalist, his subeditor and whatever proof-readers theoretically work at the newspaper is quite depressing, even if it is 'just a typo'.

Sure, everyone knows what John Armstrong means by 'Barak Obama' but, to me, that isn't the point. If I want to read spelling mistakes, I'll read a blog. Newspaper owners and editors keep saying that one of the things that sets newspapers apart from blogs is professionalism. Despite the urgings of some, I haven't been doing any quantitative analysis of things going on in the Herald over the year, but anecdotally it seems to me that such errors have become considerably more frequent over the past year. To me, it is carelessness, and once you start getting careless about things like spelling then why not get careless about news?

Anyway, I'm not going to keep banging on about these 'minor' errors on the blog, unless they're particularly hilarious. I just thought I would put the view out there that I don't think they're totally innocuous.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Methampheta-ma-mine

Thanks to Andrew for this after-hours tip:

Clearly they didn't catch it all.

A depressing end to the week

Just a quick note for those who are finishing the week on a high - perhaps you've been given a raise, have learned of a colleague's pregnancy, or have become engaged. If this is you, then definitely do NOT click on this link. This one right here. For it leads to a Your Views 'debate' about IMMIGINTS : they're here, they're queer, they're stealing all our jobs (or are they?).

"Should NZ offer refuge to 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers?" (Go on, guess what YV contributors think about that.)

Doggone (Hamilton): Absolutely not to the Sri Lanken refugees, we can't afford them. Time to stop taking in all the riff raff that just go on to our benefit system. It would be interesting to know of the refugees we have taken in over the past 10 years, how many are on benefits, how many have bothered to learn our language, how many have had extended family members arrive under reunification of families, how many clog up our health system etc. Sorry but time to look after our own for once and for all. Thank god St Helen of the Pacific is not our PM or we would get the whole boatload and then some.

And, Doggone, if someone did give you the information about "the refugees we have taken in over the past 10 years, how many are on benefits, how many have bothered to learn our language, how many have had extended family members arrive under reunification of families, how many clog up our health system", and you found out that actually none of those things were borne out by the evidence, would that change your view?

I suspect not. I suspect that, like with 'Intelligent Design Theory', you'd just come up with some other bollocks rationale. The paradox of WW2-era anti-Semitism was that Jews were portrayed as both rampaging capitalists and snivelling, traitorous socialists. The paradox of anti-immigration rants is that immigrants both come and steal our jobs and bludge off the welfare state.

Kiwi overseas (Brunei Darussalam): When I lived in NZ I was naive and would have said "let them all in". Now I say "why should they be allowed to jump the queue", "why should NZ be so gullible', etc. These are economic migrants who are playing cleverly on our sympathetic and unworldly natures. Take a very hard line both with so-called refugees and also with all immigration.

...says the New Zealander living in Brunei. As for preying on "our sympathetic and unworldly natures", I don't think there's much danger of that on YV.


So yeah... don't read any of that. Have a nice weekend.