Thursday, December 23, 2004

And a very Merry Christmas to you all...

I make no secret of the fact that I am atheist.

Despite that, I have no hesitation in wishing all who might pass this way "Have a very happy Christmas".

To those who think it illogical or hypocritical for me to make such a wish, think on this.

Why should you, if the wish upsets you, accept what is freely given. Why should you, if the wish has religious connotations that affect your sensibilities, try to read what is in my mind.

Well, to all those "freedom loving liberals" hear this -




To those who believe that their religion is the "one true faith" and that all others must bow before it hear this -




Have a Hapy New Year as well.

I am heading south in about three hours to have Christmas with our daughter and partner. Will be back on deck in early January.

Ka kite ano.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I am a grinch, I admit it...


This is not a pick on this one guy, and if I am honest I do not think the posts he put up were “grinchy” - as he puts it - in the slightest.

Far from it in fact. One of the reasons ( and it is somewhere near the top of the list of the very many reasons that I have ) for my not having any faith in the Christian religion as a pastime is the very apparent (to me anyway) conflict between the basic precepts that are preached and the blatant commercialism of the Christmas festival.

I know that the underlying principle involved here is giving.

I know well the importance to Christian believers of the original gift.

I very much doubt that the original donor had in mind, or even contemplated the idea of a quick trip to a department store and loading up the credit card. Nor, I suspect, was the idea contemplated of children demanding of their parents gifts which the parents can not afford nor the children deserve.

My ideal gift, the one that I try to give to my wife and family every year (with meagre success sometimes I will admit), is one that just can not be bought; anywhere. It is the one gift that I would wish to receive from every member of my small family.

My ideal gift might take many different forms, but it will never be seen in a shop or warehouse.

My ideal gift has no value, because it is beyond price.

My gift will never make another person rich.

My gift is my love.

Now how grinch is that!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

From the realms of "unforeseen consequences"...

NZ's "smoke-free bars and clubs" law is now just one week old.

In this morning's paper is a small article quoting vox pop experience of the effects the new law have had.

There have been a few complaints - some about the fall-off in patronage and consequently takings and profit.

But, sufficiently significant to feature in the informal survey, is the problem of smell.

Body odour features as a good part of the comment, but the most prominent is the "problem" of (I am a country boy, this word is Anglo-Saxon, not rude) farting.

It is not that it is a new problem. It is merely the fact that it now is coming to notice rather than being concealed or camouflaged by the smell of cigarette smoke.

So, to those of you who may be smokers, and who are facing the thought of legislation that is going to take away your right to smoke in your favourite speakeasy or club, here is another line of defence for you...

Ask the pc bastards what they propose doing about the fart smells and body odours that will become apparent once people stop smoking in the bars. Tell them that you are still prepared to risk health, life and limb in the war against the imposition of unwelcome and ill-disguised body odour and the gaseous by-products of natural digestive processes.

Then, let's see what the pc brigade can make of THAT!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Why do I do this?

Dave, a long reply to your short comment...

Dave, I think that I can appreciate your opinion that the piece is a “load of crap”. It takes quite an effort, it requires a huge stretch of the imagination, but it is possible.

The other side of the debate (at least on my part) is not, as you have implied, a return to the stone age. To get a better idea of the true point of this, perhaps you might consider –

How many times have you (do you) or your wife tell your children to stop doing something “because it is dirty”?

How much adverse impact might that “dirt” really have on the health of your child?

How much disinfectant do you use in your toilet?

How much disinfectant would you use if you followed the ads on tv?

How many times do you think your “standard” of disinfectant use or more is repeated around the US? BTW this is not picking on the US here, from the attitude of my son and his partner I suspect that the same applies in NZ…

This leads to the crux of what this article is saying. To put it in my own words…

Every organism on this little space rock evolves to ensure its own survival.

If one considers a bacteria or similar simple organism, it adapts and evolves over time in response to environmental threats. That is not a “conscious” response. It is at its most fundamental a chemical change, nothing more. It is enough to ensure the survival. If the change is not made, or if the change is wrong, the “branch” dies out.

In that way, over time, we are now experiencing the result of the Tuberculum bacteria evolving to the extent that the Salk type vaccines are less effective; we now have mutated forms of Staphlococcus that are unaffected by penicillin, and in some cases even the more powerful man-made chemical antibacterial agents are ineffective giving the MRSA infections; the ultimate is, of course, the HIV virus which - if the reports I see are correct - is mutating at a rate of hundreds of “new strains” every day. Many of those strains are “duplicates” or arrive at the same “end”, but the problem lies in the fact that this is such a simple organism most mutations survive.

The very big difficulty is that all higher animal species are (obviously) many millions of times more complex that single cell beasties. That is not a DNA measure that I am using – it is a matter of thinking about all of the different cell types in our body and how they must change in response to a threat and at the same time maintain the ”cooperation” needed for a body to function.

So that is the physical aspect of survival – not just for the human species but for every form of life. The greater the complexity of the organism, the greater it has difficulty in responding to environmental changes. That, BTW, does not automatically imply global warming or the like. The progression of animal life from sea to land might have been the consequence of a series of adaptations across a wide range of species in response to quite different threats; those might include climate change, predation patterns, food source adaptation or evolution…

The other part, one which I flicked to in my haste, is the mental aspects of survival. It is well documented that if you take an animal from its “natural” environment and place it in a different surrounding, the level of stress that is created is directly related (in the mathematical sense) to the degree of change. Given the opportunity to adapt, the time to adapt, the stress can be completely overcome. But this adaptation is not genetic, it is more immediate than that.

This reflects a good part of what the linked article is speaking of… If you change the immediate environment of living thing – plant or animal – the change creates stresses that can affect the physical viability of the organism. Think of transplanting a flower, compared with a tree. Think of taking an animal from a zoo to be released into the wild, or vice versa.

I do not question that ADHD or anorexia existed 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 years ago. The difference from then to now is not that we are able to “diagnose” it. (My honest feeling on ADHD is that it is “manufactured” in part - there are some individuals that might have such a syndrome). The difference is that having recognized it we are now aware of where and when it can occur.

I suspect (and I say that because this is entirely speculative) that if one were to research the incidence of ADHD in the Masai peoples (the example from the article) one would find that there was a much lower, probably unmeasurable, level in that community.

I have another example, this is not on the mental adaptations required, but on the physical. There are a series now of well documented research studies into the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (adult onset, non-pancreatic) in the Polynesian peoples. This is a major on-going problem for NZ’s health services, hence the detailed studies that are continuing.

What these studies are finding is that the problem is being caused not by “bad diet” as such. The problem is far more fundamental than that. The Polynesian / Micronesian peoples have adapted over some 10,000 years to specific diet and lifestyle parameters. Those adaptations involve (if I understand this correctly) the ability to store energy foods for long periods, and to then metabolise that very rapidly when required. The source of the adaptation has been the low fat, medium sugar, high protein and high fibre diets that these people lived on over that period combined with the physical stresses created by long sea voyages (from days to weeks and perhaps even months) on very low diets…

Their diet has changed, overnight when you compare 100 years to 10,000. It has now become high fat, high sugar, low fibre high protein. That change, so the research indicates, has brought about stresses which which the Polynesian metabolism has been (statistically) unable to cope. The comparatively very high availability of diet sugars in particular has created stresses evidenced by high blood sugar levels and the obvious consequence of Type 2 diabetes.

So, if I use this example to illustrate the conclusion that the article reaches by a different route –

There is an artificially created (that means “man-made”) environmental change that has made drastic changes to the diet of the Polynesian peoples. That change has been traced as the probable cause of the high rates of Type 2 Diabetes.

The article’s conclusions if applied to this situation DO NOT predicate that we “send” the Polynesian peoples “back to where or when” they came from”. That, I think, is the implication of your comment regarding the stone age.

The article says (as I read it) that we should be using science to find better ways of easing the adaptations required to overcome the problem.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Well, well!!! Someone who agrees with me...

...and they are very few and far between.

Came across this through Human Nature.

The Garden of Eden

Although rational in many ways, the idea of considering human beings as something apart from nature is dangerous. Evolution has shaped all organisms, us included. Moreover, we are all shaped to live in particular environments. If animals are kept under unfavourable conditions their health tends to deteriorate, they typically behave oddly and appear discontent. People living in modern societies show similar ailments, as witnessed by the incidence of various maladies, including mental disorders. I believe it is possible to alleviate these problems by creating living conditions closer to those our genes are adapted to; but in order to do so, we need to accept our biological inheritance...


...Yes, our genes are adapted to a Stone Age way of life. They expect our bodies, including our brains, to mature in interaction with the social, physical and natural environment of those days. When conditions deviate from that norm, we gamble with our health. Some changes may not matter, or may even be purely beneficial, but other discrepancies make us vulnerable.


Take our immune system, for example. A highly complex entity designed to interact with the surrounding world of germs, our immune system seems to suffer from a lack of dirt! Ten thousand years ago babies crawled on a carpet of soil and grass. Today, in the absence of a steady stream of mostly innocent bacteria to contend with, the immune system tends to develop aberrant ‘behaviour’. It launches excessive attacks on harmless pollen or, even worse, on the person it belongs to. Asthma, allergy and rheumatic disorders descend on us like plagues. But who would have guessed that the solution may be a bit of Stone Age living: a daily spoonful of mud for the babies?
Hey!! I agree with THAT

I don't know that I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion that we can re-create paradise.

However, when you consider the increasing prevalence of behavioural disfunctions such as ADHD, anorexia, through to "road rage", you really do have to wonder where we "lost touch".

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Brian Tamaki in the news again...

On the front page of my Sunday paper this morning the lead article is about Ahmed Zhaoui, the Algerian Government Minister in exile who was released from 2 years detention without trial or charge during the past week and placed on bail in the care of the Order of Benedictine monks in Auckland..

The second lead though is the one which I wish to address.

It centres on my favourite "Christian", the born again bikie bad boy, the "Reverend" Brian Tamaki. This time the article is a brief outline (make that "rehash" ) of previous revelations (should that be Revelations? ), interspersed with the "news" that he had received a "custom built motor bike".

This apparently was payment in kind for making the trip to the US and preaching at the home church of his mentor, the very "Bishop" Eddie L Long.

Now this is a man about whom I know nothing, wish to know even less, and hope never to meet. Nothing whatsoever to do with his being Christian nor his preaching of his version of the religion.

No, the report includes a brief description of him in the following terms -

...Long has visited New Zealand several times, including at Labour Weekend (That is the end of October). Cardno (official spokeswoman for the Destiny Church - Tamaki's own) confirmed that Long was given an honorarium for his visit, but she would not give specifics.

"It would obviously be generous", she said, "It's the same at any huge conference".

In a previous visit, Long told a Destiny congregation that the church would be "ruling New Zealand" before its 10th anniversary.

"That means you control the wealth, that means you control the riches, that means you control the politics, that means you control the social order, that means you are in charge", he said.

Now that, coming from a man who professes Christianity (of some kind), I find to be very scary, very scary indeed. It is particularly so when you consider that the sermon was given to Tamaki's faithful before "Enough is enough" and the formation of the Destiny Party.

Well, I can but wonder what manner of people believe this $h!t enough to contribute 10% of their income to maintaining this guy's (Tamaki's) palatial living style. Talk about the religion of lies and deceit...

A different tack -

I think that this is a fascinating site, full of all manner of commentary and scientific gems.

Human nature

Some of the more recent -

An essay on social justice and poverty-

A look at evolution and the connections between humans and nature -

Quite a bit on schizophrenia at the moment -

As I say - interesting stuff...

Monday, December 06, 2004

I know that it takes all kinds...

I have been reading this site for a while now, and it proves to be quite interesting in many respects; particularly for me in that the stories it tells are of real people. I have no idea as to its provenance or accuracy or truth, but it has a ring of honesty that is missing from many others…

Glimpse of Iraq

This particular thread is followed by this comment…

"Speaking as an American, I am very sorry we have failed you. In such an attack, you should expect and hope that nearly all of Amir's friends would be killed. To have only killed one is a very sad result. Certainly we will have to improve our productivity if the goal of creating a decent democratic Iraq is to be realized.

Amir wanted to prevent democracy. He wanted to prevent Iraq from becoming a free country where rights of all are protected. Because of his totally immoral and ignorant opinions, he was killed. We will do better the next time."

Naturally, and as one might expect from the rabies infested minds that produce this kind of garbage, it is by our old friend “Anonymous”.

A question to all you Americans who think that the war in Iraq is just and right.

Is this “Anonymous” thing representative of your nation, your thoughts?

Saturday, December 04, 2004

What IS going on in the UN?

One of the little annoyances that media generally cause me is this thing that they have about “mixing stories”. Now I can see in this example - from CSM - that the common thread is the UN, and the report prepared by Kofi Annan. The real point is that here are TWO important items coming out of that organization, both of which would warrant lead articles of their own. As a consequence of “mixing” both have lost their impact somewhat.

Now, to be honest, this item and another from CSM came up in my search for more detail on the proposed changes to the Charter of the UN. I think that more of that is going to have to wait. There are other matters at hand.

What is more to the point presently is the furore that surrounds Kofi Annan. This is an interesting little piece of demonisation, not least because in many respects it goes hand in hand with the “ineffectiveness of the UN”. That there is something rather nasty smelling in the back of his pantry is, in my opinion, a convenient hook on which to get him hung. The truth of the matter is, objectively, that Annan’s connections to the Iraq Oil money scandal is no different to the relationship between Cheney and Halliburton.

Annan’s bio, courtesy of the UN, makes for interesting reading and especially this part…

Official UN bio - Annan
Before being appointed Secretary-General, Mr. Annan served as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (March 1992-February 1993) and then as Under-Secretary-General (March 1993-December 1996). His tenure as Under-Secretary-General coincided with unprecedented growth in the size and scope of United Nations peacekeeping operations, with a total deployment, at its peak in 1995, of almost 70,000 military and civilian personnel from 77 countries. From November 1995 to March 1996, following the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Annan served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, overseeing the transition in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to the multinational Implementation Force (IFOR) led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

He has used his good offices in several delicate political situations. These included an attempt in 1998 to gain Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions; a mission in 1998 to help promote the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria; an agreement in 1999 to resolve a stalemate between Libya and the Security Council over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing; diplomacy in 1999 to forge an international response to violence in East Timor; the certification of Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in September 2000, and further efforts, since the renewed outbreak of violence in September 2000, to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their differences through peaceful negotiations based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of "land for peace".

Why do I think that significant? Not because it is wrong. To my knowledge it is totally factual, except for one small detail.

During 1995-6, Annan was the Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Africa. He had particular responsibility for the administration of UN activity in Central Africa. He was responsible for the administration of UNFOMOR and subsequently UNFOMIR. As is well known, this UN attempt at administering conflict control (in this instance in Rwanda) without involvement was something of an unmitigated disaster.

A very big part of the cause, I have read, is Annan’s personal attitude that the UN had no mandate to get involved in the internal affairs of any nation. That he was dealing with Bosnia at much the same time, and with much the same result as far as the UN was concerned is more than coincidental. His recommendation (as I recall it ) that NATO should deal with Serbia / Bosnia as it saw fit is merely another of the expressions of that attitude.

So, how did he become Sec Gen of the UN? This is how I see it…

He replaced Boutros-Ghali…

Boutros-Ghali bio - independant?
Boutros-Ghali, Boutros , 1922–, Egyptian statesman, secretary-general of the United Nations (1992–96). He attended the universities of Cairo and Paris (Ph.D., 1949). He was (1949–79) professor of international relations at Cairo Univ. A member of numerous academic and diplomatic organizations, he was present (1978) at the Egypt-Israel Camp David Accords negotiations. He also served as Egypt's delegate to the United Nations and other international bodies and conferences. A member of the Egyptian parliament (1987–91), Boutros-Ghali became Egypt's minister of state for foreign affairs and deputy prime minister for foreign affairs. The first African and Arab head of the United Nations, he moved to reorganize and streamline the UN Secretariat and strengthen the UN's peacekeeping role. In 1996, after policy disagreements mainly with the United States, he was forced from office. He became secretary-general of La Francophonie, an organization of French-speaking nations, in 1997.

And another...

Boutros-Ghali headed the Egyptian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1979,1982 and 1990. From 1992 to 1996 he served as Secretary General to the United Nations (U.N.). He was the first Arab and the first African to obtain this post, which he assumed as the role of the U.N. was expanding in the post-Cold War era. During his term he was faced with crises in Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, and the former Yugoslavia. Throughout his tenure he was concerned with conflict in the Middle East and the widening economic divide between North and South, as well as the bureaucratic reorganisation of the U.N. Secretariat. The United States opposed his re-election for a second term despite strong African and Security Council support for his cadidacy.

Boutros-Ghali made an enemy of the US. No debate on that. He was quite a different Sec Gen that Annan has been. He was much more in the mould of Hammerskjold, an independent thinker who is not averse to shoving people around to get them into a course of action. Of course, when Boutros-Ghali began trying to shunt the US on its position in the Middle East, and Israel in particular, some noses went out of joint very quickly. The accusations against him (again my memory) did not specifically state but inferred strongly that trying to influence US foreign policy was “interfering in its internal affairs”. In some respects, no make that many respects, the Rwanda debacle was a convenient clothesline on which to hang him out to dry.
So, what should the rest of the world have expected?

Here we have the incumbent Sec Gen Boutros-Ghali, not doing a bad job; a bit abrasive; not afraid of telling important people what he thinks; making one or two – especially one – very powerful enemies.
The rules of the UN require the Sec Gen to be a diplomat, from a “non-aligned” nation, and that the post will be rotated among the five major continents. Thus we have had Europe (Hammerskjold), Asia (Thant) and Africa (Boutros-Ghali). That meant (and I recall this being debated at length) the next Sec Gen should come from the Americas.

Now that was an arrangement that pleased one particular nation very much indeed. But the Africa bloc were considerably p’d off that their “turn” was being cut short by the US applying its Veto to the reappointment of Boutros-Ghali.

In the end, the solution came back to compromise. Africa put up an alternative candidate that the US could agree to. Why could they agree to Annan?

Simple. He had already shown himself to be strongly on the side of non-interference in internal matters of individual nations, and he had also shown himself to be a very good administrator… Totally ineffectual when required.

Back to the CSM for the final word from the article (same link as the first...)
The panel proposes an expansion that includes either six new permanent members - with no veto - or new regionally distributed seats renewable every four years. That would boost membership from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Muslim world.
But critics say adding more voices at the table means more debates, more lobbying, more gamesmanship - and less action.

"Yes, it will make it slower, but ... it will be more representative, will boost the ego of the other continents, and make them happier by opting them in," says Yusuf Juwayeyi, the former UN ambassador for Malawi.

While the veto of the "Permanent Five" will continue to dictate how and when the Council responds to crises, two other factors also look unlikely to change: the widespread lack of political will among UN member-states to act against friends and neighbors - regardless of the transgression - and the vital role the US plays in UN success.

But the US is not expected to embrace any UN reforms that would dilute its influence there or constrain its ability to act unilaterally. And that really is the nub...

"The United States should exercise its moral authority to work through the UN and really find a way to forge these solutions to common problems," says Suzanne DiMaggio, of the UN advocacy group United Nations Association of the USA. "It's not that I'm not holding France, China, and Russia to the same standard, but the US is a special case, as the world's only superpower. It's beholden upon us to be a leader."

And, guess why there is still considerable pressure for the UN to get shot of Annan?

There is still the matter of who will replace him. It is the turn of which continent next? Who in the Americas would be non-aligned and acceptable to the rest of the world?

That, really, is the greatest threat by far to the continuation of the UN.

Friday, December 03, 2004

For those with an interest in things ...

This is another of those blogs that I have come across by chance.

News from Basque country...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just at the moment, I feel a bit of a wally...

a twit, an idjit even.

My apologies go to anyone who may have tried to e-mail me from this blog.

I do not know why, but I had the wrong addy on it. Stupid boy...

If you want to hurl invective, damn with faint praise, or even just talk the e-mail will now (I hope) get to me.

Oh, one other thing.

I am going to have to pull my head in somewhat. Spending time on blogs at work is NOT a good look. People with important titles start wondering what you are being paid to do...

So, posting is going to limit to once a week, Sundays. Commentary might be even less.