Sunday, August 29, 2004

Thanks Al

The old whig has elevated the probligo to his list of "recommended links".

Al, I have returned the compliment.

Thank you very much.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Current events and crimes

As the Olympics draw into their last few days, and the nationalistic fervour of “counting medals” reaches its climax, without in any way denigrating the performance of any athlete from any nation I want to talk about something else.

In the very limited circles of the ‘Net that I float round in there is always someone who has the latest “stir”, either in favour of or against the American Constitution Second Amendment and “the right to bear arms”. There has probably been more crap posted on both sides of this particular matter than any other (with the possible exceptions of abortion and religion generally, but I do not think that the latter qualifies as it is generally far to general to be specific).

But I am not going to talk directly about the right to bear arms, either.

Last night, the crime statistics for New Zealand 2003 were released by the Police.

The news report

The Police release...

The Herald article touches briefly on possible causes for the reduction as espoused by members of government and opposition. I have no firm idea of the validity of those reasons but the fact that NZ currently has unemployment below 4% (5% is the OECD “full employment ratio”) is probably a very good lead.

Right, like I like doing, let’s tie these together.

What is the rate of homicide (I interpret that to include murder, the American second degree murder, and manslaughter) in other countries expressed as a rate per million population.

NZ has just dropped from 14.25 to 11.358 homicides per million population.

Why do I need to own a gun? To defend myself? From what?

Oh, yes. By the same measure we have won 1 medal - OK, 0.988 medals - per million at these Olympic Games with possibly 1 more to come. Equally as pleasing is the number of times that l'il ol' NZ has placed in the top 10 in events.

Hame and Bevan - you ROCK!!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ahhh, the marvels of modern technology

I work for an international company. There is about a ten or eleven hour difference between here and head office.

Each day I have a small (5 minutes to prepare) report that I lodge by e-mail. Usually it just disappears into the midnight of the great beyond.

Today I got a response -

Goodnight Bob I forgot to turnoff the Blackberry and your message vibrated me out of bed.

I tell you, the possibilities make the mind boggle...

For those of you who fret and fume...

...about the role of religious teaching in schools, about the lack of moral and ethics teaching, read this...

Mahatma Gandhiji
Gandhi On Value Education
By Ravindra Kumar

MAHATMA GANDHI’S name requires no introduction because of his invaluable contribution to the national liberation movement of India. His reputation as a true nationalist as well as an internationalist shines like the sun itself. But in the academic sense of term, he is not considered a great scholar or an educationist. We have not been enlightened by his views on education or on the problems relating to it, through any particular book written by him. Even there is no special research article available which could have given us a glimpse of his ideas or suggestions on education system, except his occasional articles on the future of education in India written in a very simple and light manner. The same thing applies to the views he expressed on the subject now and then.

Despite this fact, the few articles that Gandhi has written in the simplest manner, and the views he expressed on education as a common man are of utmost importance. They provide us a guideline to proceed towards value education. Not only this, if we apply them even in the modern perspective, they can definitely give a new dimension to our education system.

Gandhi once said: "Education means all-round drawing out of the best in child and man-body, mind, and spirit." As such, education becomes the basis of personality development in all dimensions­- moral, mental, and emotional. Therefore we can say that in the long run education forms the foundations on which the castles of peace and prosperity can be built. Since ancient times, it is said "Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye," which means that with education we finally attain salvation. This small Sanskrit phrase essentially contains the thought and essence of Value Education that is relevant in all perspectives. This very concept, when applied to the simple but refined approach of Mahatma Gandhi, can provide us with a new dimension of educational development. As such, while analysing the views of Mahatma Gandhi, we can examine his views under two main heads: morality and ethics.

Moral and ethical knowledge is the first point on which Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of value education is based. Any education system that lacks these two cannot be termed as good. The reason behind such a thought is that, without morality and without ethics, no student, in a real sense, can be considered to be healthy in mental and physical terms because for it, self-control and good character is essential. A person who is not a moralist and who does not differentiate between right­ and wrong cannot rise to the essential level of a true student. The’ the attainment of spiritual growth that has been described by Mahatma Gandhi as an essential part of education can be gained only through morality and ethics. Seeing it through another viewpoint also proves the same thing, because when we consider education as a means of attaining salvation and also as a support on the pathway to liberation, we cannot differentiate it from spiritualism.

Mahatma Gandhi laid down some rules for students so as to ensure that morality and righteousness always be considered as an essential and un differentiable part of education so that every student shall gain in terms of knowledge and spirituality. He said that, on the one hand, where students should gain education under the strict regimen of high morals, self-control, and right thinking; on the other, they should also be expected to provide service to the society in general. This includes their respect towards mother, father, teachers, and elders, adorations towards younger and following of social traditions and constant awareness towards their duties and responsibilities.

In order to strengthen morality and ethics in students, Mahatma Gandhi advocated the introduction of religious education. This kind of education brings the values of forbearance, tolerance, and reverence in one’s character. And, in turn, these values are an indivisible part of ethics. Explaining the importance and need of religious education, Gandhi writes in the Young India of 6 December 1923: "A curriculum of religious instructions should include a study of the tenets of faiths other than one’s own. For this purpose the students should be trained to cultivate the habit of understanding and appreciating the doctrine of various great religions of the world in a spirit of reverence and broad­minded tolerance."

Mahatma Gandhi calls upon all teachers to impart proper education of morality and ethics to students both at the school and at the college levels. In this regard which suggesting some guidelines for teachers, he says that it is the duty of teachers to develop high morals and strong character of their students. If teachers fail to do so, it means that they depart from their social and national responsibilities and, as such, they are also insincere towards their noble profession. He said that a teacher should lay an example, to be followed, before society and students. This can only be done when he himself leads his life with high standards of morality and strong character. An ideal teacher should be free from any addiction. He needs to be polite and should set an ideal example of simple living and high thinking. He should also remember that wasting time is a sin: therefore, he should be aware of his duties towards students and society. Moreover, he should have a good reputation in the society. Therefore it is the foremost duty of students, as well as of teachers, to make it certain that moral and ethical knowledge continues to be the integral part of the education process. By doing so, they can contribute to the development of value education.

Another important aspect of Mahatma Gandhi’s value education is basic or technical education. No matter if the word buniyadi (or basic), which Mahatma Gandhi used in the third and the fourth decades of the twentieth century, meant the knowledge or education that could help rural people in the promotion of village handicrafts or to establish cottage industries. The ultimate purpose behind his attempt was to make young men and women self-reliant in the economic field. Even in the modem perspective, his idea of buniyadi or basic education is well-worthy and it has no clash with the concept of today’s job-oriented or technical education.

In fact, Mahatma Gandhi wants the student to prepare themselves for technical knowledge right from the days of his primary level of education. In this regard, his logic is not only important but adaptable; it can prove to be a milestone in the direction of value education.

It is not that Mahatma Gandhi did not talk of all-round or complete education on different occasions. He definitely spoke of imparting education based on curriculum; he, more or less wrote about graduate and postgraduate levels of education. Not only this, as I have just discussed, he laid emphasis on moral and ethical knowledge, which is helpful for character building and for the physical and mental development of a student from the very beginning of his education. He clearly believed that without a healthy body; mind could Dot be developed fully; but even after that he, not until and unless education makes a young man or woman self-reliant.

It is but obvious that when a child starts his formal education, he enters at the primary level and, step by step, at an age of twenty or twenty-two, he graduates from a university. And after so many years, if he does not find a necessary goal or if he lacks a direction to begin his career, then what could be the use of such education? What is the use of the degree for him that he has in his hand?

The reality lies in the fact that after obtaining a degree, students should definitely have a clear direction for their future; they should have no doubt towards their future goal. They should be full of self confidence. Side by side, they should be self-dependent and capable to tackling unavoidable day-to-day problems. They must not be worried about a suitable job.

But, in reality, these days we see that our younger generation is directionless. Our youths are diverted and a feeling of helplessness and dejection is prevailing on them. According to a survey, there are millions of men and women who, even after completing their studies at graduation, post graduation, and doctorate levels, fail to seek an employment of their choice. Is it not a failure of our social and educational system?

Even after spending the golden years of one’s life in attaining higher education, our youths are not self-dependent. As such, how would they be able to get rid of their day-to-day problems and how would they contribute to their society and the nation? Therefore it is a challenge not only before the youths of this country but also before the educationists, scholars, and those in the government.

To tackle this problematic challenge, Mahatma Gandhi’s views can be of great support. In this reference, he has given us his golden words that there is a need of result-oriented education. He said that every child has some special qualities that can also be termed as inherited traits of personality; so at the very primary level, a student’s quality and worth should be identified by his teacher. A student should gain education according to a curriculum and moral guidance and as such also improve his physical strength. But the teacher should watch and identify his quality that could be of help in his later life.

For that purpose, it is necessary that after completing studies up to a certain level, he must, in addition to above three kinds of education­ general (according to syllabi), moral, and physical-be provided facilities to gain technical knowledge in accordance with the special trait that has already been identified in his personality by his teacher. Since by nature he has interest in that knowledge, he will easily gain it; he will become adept in that. Now, when he completes his study up to graduate level and with this extra knowledge comes out of a college or university, he would have a direction. As such, even if he does not get a private or government job, he would manage to get through some sort of self-employment on the basis of his technical knowledge. At least, then, his education would be considered as result-oriented.

This indeed is Gandhi’s viewpoint pertaining to value education which should be applied in a wider perspective. Its worth lies in the fact that education should necessarily be helpful in employment and its foundations should be laid on morality and ethics. We all who are concerned with it need to think over it deeply. We have to apply Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas according to present circumstances of our country and also as per the demand of time.

Mind you, I can see some problems for people who look for
their specific beliefs and morals to be taught universally. The fact for starters that Ghandi suggests that teaching ""A curriculum of religious instructions should include a study of the tenets of faiths other than one’s own."

But the most significant part of this post is in the accompanying commentary...

he says that it is the duty of teachers to develop high morals and strong character of their students. If teachers fail to do so, it means that they depart from their social and national responsibilities and, as such, they are also insincere towards their noble profession. He said that a teacher should lay an example, to be followed, before society and students. This can only be done when he himself leads his life with high standards of morality and strong character. An ideal teacher should be free from any addiction. He needs to be polite and should set an ideal example of simple living and high thinking. He should also remember that wasting time is a sin: therefore, he should be aware of his duties towards students and society. Moreover, he should have a good reputation in the society. Therefore it is the foremost duty of students, as well as of teachers, to make it certain that moral and ethical knowledge continues to be the integral part of the education process. By doing so, they can contribute to the development of value education.

In this country, I can attest to the fact that teachers have never been "over-valued". In fact, when you consider that a teacher with 10 years' experience in front of classes earns little more than a skilled clerk, or an assistant accountant, you can see their real value. As for starting a career in teaching, think of a salary of $28,000 to $30,000 when a new graduate in commerce might get $40,000 (this is all NZ dollars, take 60% for rough conversion to USD).

Is it any wonder that the teaching profession in this country (as it is in so many others) is in trouble.

The solution? Whatever it might be is going to cost huge amounts more than it does at present. Whatever it might be it is going to have to attract teachers out of the cities and into the rural communities. Whatever else, it has to be FAIR.

Oh 'tis nice to dream...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Taken at the Muriwai gannet colony 2004. I use this shot for the background wallpaper on my Desktop. Posted by Hello

Friday, August 20, 2004

Another "Good Grief" followed by "Well I never!"

I posted about the fact that my posts seemed to be going missing. That post had not appeared on the front page and I was starting to fret about doing something wrong.

I thought "Hmmm, take a look in the archive" and waddayano there it is. So I am posting this, publish, and see whuthappen...

Well, there ya go!!! This time it actually published instead of sitting at "0% This make take a few minutes if you have a large blog..." for five minutes and then timing out. This time it wound straight back at 66% for starters!!! Technology never ceases to amaze...!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

A real Charley Brown "Good Grief!!"

As those who have passed this way might have noticed there have been as many as 4 similar posts in the past four days or so.

How this happen?

Well the first post siezed up on me - never gotten past 0% published - so I assumed it had not published. As I had written it straight to blogger (despite what I told oldwhig) I had no copy of it.

The second post, I think, was posted from work. We have very severe firewalls and security and stuff and the same thing happened.

Never mind, try again from home. Oh! You want to know why I kept posting all this time? Didn't see the posts were already there? Good ol MS Explorer. Doesnt miss a trick...

Hilarious technology. With me around s'ware HAS to be muleproof. This it ain't.

Right, where's me mule. Giddap Mitsi!!!! Hometime!!!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Well now, what a damp squib THAT turned out to be...

I had intended to post up a tirade about documentation that came my way for a vacant position advertised here recently. Of the six individual documents, one was a description of the organisation, another the job description for the position.

Both were quite short, the organisation description a two page table, the JD a six page statement of HR-speak that probably required two Batchelors and a Master to compile.

Both were almost impossible to understand at first read. Both used some of the most complex and convoluted language I have seen in one heck of a long time. A sample -

"The Business
The focus of the Local Government and Community Branch (LGCB) is on fostering sustainable community development and local governance. The Branch exists to:
provide high quality advice on the legislative and regulatory framework of local government;
  • provide high quality community development support services and advice;
  • provide high quality service to the National Advisory Committee for COGs and its distribution Committees; the Lottery Grants Board; and a significant number of Trusts;
  • provide ongoing assessment of the needs of the community , ensuring these are reflected in service delivery and advice;
  • provide high quality, evaluative thinking and evidence informed policy analysis and advice to Ministers to support their decision-making;
  • be the primary repository of knowledge and information on local government and community matters;
  • assist in the management of local government/central government interface in relation to the community outcome processes
  • assist in the development of sound relationships between whänau, hapü, iwi, Mäori and local government.

The position was for a Project Coordinator, part time, involved in "sustainable cities".

So I pondered on this while soaking in a really truly mineral pool in Rotorua these past three days and decided that I needed to look at it again. That evolved into a damnation of knowing little to nothing about "sustainable cities".

So, I tried to write up on that, tying the topic to the coming municipal elections. After several hours, all I managed to do was confirm even more just how ignorant I am on the subject.

I think I need to attend some election meetings, ask some questions...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Noted in the news -

There is speculation about the appointment of the next Ambassador to Washington USA representing the Fiji people. The speculation centres on one Sitiveni Rabuka (pronounced with "m" before the "b") who, for those who might not know, was charged and convicted of treason for his part in organising the coup d'etat against the legally elected Choudry Labour government. The required death penalty was removed by the Transitional Government that replaced Rabuka's illegal administration.

Quite apart from his political leanings (he should do well in DC as a good right wing buddy of GWB) his qualifications for the position are quite unique. ( I am jumping to the conclusion here that the rumours become fact)

He is (apparently) a member of "an international prayer group" that meets in Washington annually. For that reason I hesitate to say "He hasn't a prayer".

For those who like to see pictures of women on blog sites, here is the first of a series...

This is Valerie Adams. She will be competing for NZ in shot put. She is world 19y-o champion in this event.

Photo from Sunday Star Times...hope they don't mind... Posted by Hello

Friday, August 06, 2004

A hiatus...

My employers have, for reasons best known to themselves, told me to take a holiday for the next week.

I must comply and consequently the next posts here will be some time after 15 August.

The topic is already known, and has nothing to do with the US...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I am not a person qualified in anything other than butchering accountancy. Please, if anyone wants to take me on about the "scientific" validity of what I am going to say "have at it". Remember that I put the word in quotes simply because I do not consider any of the psycho-sciences to qualify as such. I promise that I will not listen to any attempted refutation that states I do not know what I am talking about. I admit it, this is a purely personal, abstract, appraisal.

I want to talk about "isolationism", in particular the attitude that some people from the United States of America adopt whenever the kitchen starts getting a bit on the warm side for their liking.

Because this is a totally UN-scientific, opinionated and possibly biased analysis I am not going to apologise either in advance or after. If my approach upsets readers, that might indicate the need for a little quiet soul searching on their part, not mine.

There, health and safety warnings in place, check; furnace grade ceramic underwear in place, check... Next thing is the development of the scenarios and analysis…

To be fair, though, this really is about the practicality of a nation such as the US withdrawing from the general society of nations (not here implying the UN, but rather the global community). There are already at least two instances of nations having chosen or preferred such isolation; North Korea and Mianmar without doubt, East Germany and the Russian bloc, other possibilities would be the apardtheit South Africa, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and Iran with others as weaker possibilities. All of these instances are so unlike the US that using them as immediate "proof" of my position is unwarranted and unsupportable.

So to the first example…

At the extreme, the notion of "withdrawal" has been taken by some as far as including mutual defence arrangements, external trade, sharing of technological development, and (by implication) any immigration, emigration, or tourism.

Now I do not believe for a moment that this is the level of isolationism that most "proposers" have considered. It is interesting to see just how conceivable it might be as a proposition. In effect, this would be a self-imposed combination of North Korea, East Germany and Cuba.

The first and immediate impact of this level of isolationism would be on the internal politic. It would require voluntary, individual level, suspension of most aspects of the American Constitution. The more opposition there might be, or the lower the level of voluntary compliance, the greater would be the pressure for the isolation to collapse, or for the government to impose even more draconian measures to uphold its position.

The second level to impact would be economic. When I read the papers and news releases from the White House, I find that the justification for America’s fiscal and trading deficits is the "fact" that these are countered by external investment in the nation. Shutting off the external trading deficit, and the counter-balance external investment leaves the internal fiscal deficit hanging out there on its own. I know little of the internal machinations of the US so I am not going to preach what might or might not be sacrificed in trying to get that internal balance back. We can see the results of failure to address the economic implications of uncontrolled internal deficits in history. Germany of 1930 to 39 is one example, Argentina today, and on a small scale in New Zealand between 1965 and 1984. In all instances extreme demand driven inflation, and internal deficits in excess of 20% GDP are present. In NZ, it resulted in default on external loans – a case of international insolvency.

Aligned with the economic impact is the closing of trade with the rest of the world. Would the US survive without coffee? Does the US have the capability to be self-sufficient in food over a long period? Does the US have the capacity for long term energy requirements?
Taking all into consideration the chances that this level of isolation would even start, let alone survive, are close to nothing.

So, up the scale to the next level…

If I minimise the impact of the isolation – to the point where it might be seen to give greatest benefit to the US – I think the scenario might be along the lines of:

  • Withdrawal from the United Nations
  • Withdrawal from selected defence arrangements, including replacement of NATO with bilateral US - Britain and US – EU at a lower level.
  • Withdrawal from international trade and finance organisations such as WTO, OECD and World Bank.
  • Withdrawal from international law conventions.

My first reaction after seeing those words is "Plus ca change, les meme choses".

Would the withdrawal of the US from the United Nations spell the end of that international forum? I can not be sure if it is heart or head that says "No."

How would Europe greet the death of NATO, given that its soul intention was defence against neighbours who now are members of the political/economic equivalent – the EU? I suspect that France especially and, possibly, Germany would welcome the prospect. Britain would want a bilateral arrangement similar to ANZUS (With NZ gone, should that now be AUSUS, or AUS, or USA or USAUS? Sorry…). The smaller and "poorer" signatories would be concerned, and perhaps very unhappy at the thought of throwing their lot in with French or Germans.

When I think about the other two pieces I posted earlier, the first thing to come to mind is Sir T.O.M. Sopwith who (if memory serves me right) was the man who said of his participation in the America’s Cup in 1900-1925 that "Britain rules the waves, America waves the rules". It becomes even more appropriate when adding "I" to create "America waives the rules" increases the pune.

There is an increasing international disenchantment over the US’s ability to circumvent any rules that might stand in the way of "our interests". This has been especially so in the past three or so years, starting with the renunciation of the US’s support for the International Court of Justice.
Therefore, it seems on reflection that in terms of effect rather than fact that the US is already somewhat isolationist in its outlook. That is true, I think, as long as it is in the interests of the US to so do.

It is at this point too, that I tie back to a comment in an earlier post. In 1984, NZ was at the forefront of protest against French testing of nuclear weapons at Mururoa, Tahiti. This was not a government sponsored or supported protest. Greenpeace led it with great verve and vigour.

In 1984, as the French were about to begin I think the third series of atmospheric tests, the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior was berthed in Auckland preparing to lead a small flotilla of yachts to Mururoa. She was bombed and sunk with the loss of one life. A short while later, two members of the French Secret Service were detained, charged and found guilty of the crime. This was New Zealand’s first taste of a world in which advantage and success is gained through acts of stealth and terror. It might not measure in impact with 9/11. It sure did qualify under the same heading as "an attack against NZ". Remember at this point that this took place two years before the passing of the nuclear weapons ban legislation by the NZ government. This was a good two years before the US closed New Zealand’s membership of ANZUS.

Now, if the world were right then an attack on NZ such as this, irrespective of the perpetrator, should elicit some response from the other Treaty partners. Well one would imagine if the document required "an attack on one member will be considered an attack on all members". That certainly was the interpretation in 2001 following 9/11. Certainly, that clause won Australia’s involvement in Iraq 2.

What happened in 1984 when NZ was attacked by French terrorists? Nothing. As far as ANZUS partnerships were concerned, it was a non-event. Literally, it did not happen. There were no offers of weapons to repel boarders; there were no offers of help to investigate and apprehend (mind you we do that pretty well by ourselves as the Israelis have discovered); there was no offer of support to extract revenge (utu is a much better word) from the French.

So even today, if the US sees no interest or advantage to its involvement under a mutual defence treaty, I strongly suspect that it would be almightily difficult to get their attention. As a f’rinstance; if Israeli commandos were to attack government buildings in Paris or Bonn tomorrow, I suspect that there would be a lengthy silence from Washington once the "Oh dear how sad…" messages had gone out. No "I told you so" ‘s because diplomacy is not meant to be that petty. No "Can we help…" because ‘tit for tat’ is a valid diplomatic response.