Monday, October 29, 2007


The next Parliamentary General Election is due for this time next year. Already, the volume from some of the minor parties is being wound to 8 and beyond. Amongst the loudest is everyone's best friend Winnie the Pooh. From his leader's speech to the faithful at the New Zealand First conference this last weekend... (thanks Scoop)
Now answer this please, which subject about New Zealand has had the most coverage internationally – in all the major media outlets across the globe – in the last ten years?

I’ll tell you, because I saw it unfolding last week. It is an unnerving feeling, to be overseas and to see our country headlined, not because of economic or sporting success, but because of a bunch of malcontents running around the bush with guns.

That was the news that the world heard from New Zealand last week.

The biggest New Zealand story in more than a decade.

The result of behaviour which has been excused, condoned, nurtured and even encouraged over the past twenty years.

What type of country do we live in, when it is not the malcontents with the guns that get turned on by society, but the police?

That is an indictment on our values system.

We had hundreds of people protesting against the police arresting Tama Iti and his mates.

They are marching – not because he is guilty or innocent – they are marching because he is brown.

We once marched against apartheid, now they are marching for it.

We have groups calling for separate nations within our nation and prepared to use guns and violence.

If you don't believe that – watch TV One's Sunday programme tonight.

What is most obscene about this is that these same people who want their separate nation, want us the taxpayer to pay for it.

Just last Friday I was in a helicopter flight overlooking the forestry estate around Taupo.

What I saw were Maori workers, hundreds of them, on tractors and trucks, working hard and being paid for their work.

Not looking for a handout, not prancing around protesting – they were too busy working to pay their taxes and support their families.

What a contrast!

This is where the system is failing – taxpayer sponsored militant separatism.

These groups want separate development – but your money to fund it.

Rejecting all our values except collecting the dole each fortnight.

Get this clear – we are not having people opting out, demanding we pay for it, and then ramming their hymn of hate down our throats.

Fortunately this situation is not without hope.

Most Maori in New Zealand actually want to be part of and enjoy their country.

The overwhelming majority of Maori have jobs and want to raise their children for a better future.

Today we call on these Maori to join the fight against militant separatism...

Now those of right wing persuasion might quite like some of the things Winnie is saying, and that is understandable as he is trying hard to create an impact in that side of his market.

But, there is much in that quote that is just plain wrong as well.

He raves at the protestors who marched in Auckland and Wellington, and that
"...They are marching – not because he is guilty or innocent – they are marching because he is brown.

We once marched against apartheid, now they are marching for it."

That makes for great headlines. It stirs the pot even further into the apartheit corner where he wants it. It might even be good politics.

But read it again. One would imagine that there was only one person arrested - Tame Iti - and that all of the protestors were there in support of his right to justice. Well, it is probable that quite a few of the 1000 or so who marched did have that as their cause.

I suspect that more than a few, likely a majority, were in fact protesting the law and the process rather than the individuals involved. Certainly that was my motivation. Certainly that is my concern.

As a note, I went to Scoop tonight looking for news of the latest releasee from the Urewera 17. She was featured on the news from TV3. It will be very interesting to see what charges she was held on, and whether further charges are laid.

And to that end, the news tonight also mentions that the Police are talking to the Attorney General about the justification and nature of charges to be laid under the Suppression of Terrorism legislation. I will say that the chances of there being more than 6 of the 17 charged are pretty darned slim to zero. More to come over the next few weeks... not least the continuing reaction to Winnie the Pooh.

Piha Rescue

The very short 2007 season of one of my most favourite television programmes has finished tonight.

The programme linked through the heading might last for a couple more weeks before TVNZ wipe it off. It will give you an idea of the quality of the programme.

Tonight's closer was a full hour long programme, instead of the usual 30 minutes. It follows a team of juniors (as young as 15) who are in their first patrol season, and some of whom have been qualified for beach duty less than a week. After a fairly stormy close to the afternoon (quite a neat NZ version of a thunderstorm)a family reports that their father went swimming about 30 minutes beforehand and has not returned. The programme follows the resulting search; I will not tell you the outcome.

See if you can get hold of it on the TV One site - use "Piha Rescue" in google if you must, but it makes a better keyword than search key.

See what the best of NZ youth are capable of, and how they react in extremely stressful conditions.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A question for those Libertarian economists...

...who believe that inflation is the consequence of government interference in economic systems.

If the cost of my weekly food bill rises (as is predicted) by up to 20% over the next 12 months, what is it called if not "inflation"?

If it is "inflation", how is it being caused by government interference in the economy, or the supply of money, or whatever?

First of the big movers are dairy products, slated to increase by up to 45% by March next year. Why? Well it has to do with the fact that NZ is an open economy, where there are no subsidies on internal production, and others are prepared to pay that much more for our products. Simple economics, demand and supply affecting pricing.

Second big mover will be wheat and flour. Why? Because NZ's main supplier - Australia - is suffering its worst drought in many years. Farming production in Australia in general could be reduced by as much as 50% if the worst prognostications are realised.

Meats will increase in price as Americans divert land from agriculture for food to cropping for fuel. Good for our economy, and for the farmers, bad for me because I pay the same price for a leg of lamb or a slice of sirloin as does the supermarket that Al buys his from...

Oil will continue to impact upon my pay packet as well.

But the point is - none of these involve government action.

So, all of you economist experts - is it inflation, or do you have another name for it?

Friday, October 26, 2007


Scoop is an internet newspaper that I tap into quite frequently, and most particularly when there is news about of the more pressing and political kind.

So their slant on the "Terrorism Raids" of a fortnight back is at the least an interesting read - with the "conspiracy theory" filters turned on it can almost make sense.

Scoop has, however, done something that no other MSM outlets has yet given us. Thus far Scoop has given short bio's of two of the Urewera 17.

- Omar Hamed
- Rongomai Bailey

Well, certainly the first just has to be a terrorist. Look at his name for a starter!! And he is proud of the fact that he is half Palestinian!! Terrorist for sure!!

As for the second, well what can you say in favour of a MAori who has a European name!! Yeah, and he's an activist as well. Why else would he be a terrorist!!

OK, so let's take a look at the bio of the head cop in the investigation... Assistant Police Commissioner Jon White. Good cop!! He makes sure that these terrorists can't hide anywhere. Keeps us safe in our beds at night.

OK, that's the fun part over.

Go back and read those three bio's. Go to Wikipedia for Tame ITi's - he is well documented.

The Herald this morning has an outliner of a fourth - one Jamie Lockett. Of all those known of at the moment, including Iti, this guy is the one that scares me the most. He is (has been for some years) a serious loose cannon with no brakes... From the Herald -
The 46-year-old stands apart from his 15 co-accused because he does not have an underpinning philosophy.

Those who know Lockett say he is no anarchist or Maori activist: he is driven instead by a seemingly pathological dislike for police, said to have begun when an officer spat in his shoe while he was being held in custody.

It began a belligerent feud that has become so all-consuming it has left him penniless, seen him fall out with friends, and means few who know him can recall what he was like before it began.

Lockett has spent nearly all his life in Auckland's eastern suburbs, enjoying a comfortable upbringing as son of the managing director of the successful Morgan Furniture.

He was educated at Auckland Grammar before training as a mechanic, living overseas and working at the furniture company.

Not a particularly "spectacular" beginning for a man who is a serious candidate as a "terrorist". None of the expected "disadvantage" and "disenfranchise" aspects that is often promoted as most likely cause for a person becoming a terrorist. Quite the opposite in fact. And to dismiss him as "nutter" is just to simple, too glib, and dangerous.

Tame Iti, let's start with him. He is a hot-head. He does not like the government, or the police. He has been ill-used by both over the years. The people he represents have been ill-served as I have said in the previous two parts of this series. He has whakapohani'd important people, and hupe'd at them. Quite artfully too! He is the thorn in several important sides when it comes to Maori issues in general, and particularly those issues that impinge (however indirectly) on the Tuhoe people.

Iti, let us remember, occupies the same kind of space as Joe Hawke who I have mentioned previously and who was one of the organisers of the Bastion Point occupation in the 1970's. The closure of that event was another sad day in the history of Maori and government. This present government - at least as it is represented by our Police force - seems determined to repeat those mistakes.

Iti also, let us remember, is fighting the same battle that the Harawira family (led by the now rather formidable matriarch Titewhai) fought over the Raglan Golf Club. Her son, Hone, is now a member of Parliament.

So how do three such different people "qualify" as terrorists. There is much debate on just what the motive for these raids might have been. The most suasive is the connect [conspiracy warning] between the raids and the introduction to Parliament for consideration of a Bill to amend the existing, already somewhat repressive, anti-terrorism law. From Scoop's analysis -
Passed in the wake of September 11, primarily to fulfil New Zealand's obligations under international law to seek to prevent terrorism, the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 does a hell of a lot less than a lot of people seem to think.

Unlike similarly-themed laws passed in other countries it doesn't create search or arrest powers. It doesn't allow phone tapping. It doesn't allow extended periods of interrogation or lengthy periods of confinement without charge. It doesn't permit the use of secret evidence in terrorism prosecutions, or prohibit the media from discussing what's going on. Nor are there special powers to set up road blocks, or storm school buses.

In New Zealand, terrorism offences are treated the same as other offences. The same presumption of innocence, the same criminal procedure, the same suppression rules and bail laws. Applications for search or interception warrants follow the same procedure whether the offence is against the Terrorism Suppression Act, the Arms Act or the Crimes Act.

So what does it do? Mostly, it's about terrorist financing: creating consequences for people who fund terrorism, and allowing the freezing and seizing of terrorists' assets. For this purpose, it sets up a regime to designate groups and people as terrorists – so that we know whom we can't finance.

It also incorporates other obligations we have under various international conventions. To enact into NZ law obligations under the Bombings Convention (which pre-dates 9/11) it creates offences relating to terrorist bombing. Fulfilling our obligations under the Nuclear Material Convention, and the Plastic Explosives Convention, sees the creation of offences relating to the handling of unmarked plastic explosives, and the misuse or nuclear material.

The update of this law that is now before Parliament contains all of the "missing bits" -
This Bill amends the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, seeking to correct inconsistencies of that Act with New Zealand's obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council resolutions on terrorism. It contains proposals on the designation of UN listed terrorist entities, the High Court extension of designations for those entities, the freezing of terrorists' assets, the terrorist financing offences, the offences of committing a terrorist act and participating in a terrorist group. The Bill also introduces new offences involving nuclear material.

The emphasis is where the major part of the debate is centred.

The new law gives the Prime Minister (who by "tradition" has always been responsible for the SIS and GCSB) the sole and unfettered power to declare a person or a group of persons as being "terrorist". There is remaining a right of judicial review but, given the progress [conspiracy warning] of the current secret trials - and as yet the present anti-terrorism law has not been formally invoked - it is likely that the review would be in the fact of undeclared and unchallenged evidence that would never get to the eyes of the Judge let alone any of the individuals trying to express their own views on life and politics in NZ.

To show just how draconian this could become. I mentioned Joe Hawke earlier. If the terrorist law - existing and proposed - had been available to Rob Muldoon, just how long would it have taken him to invoke its provisions against Hawke? Can anyone imagine Dame Whina Cooper as a designated terrorist? OK, so she never took part in "training camps" in the Ureweras. But Hawke was certainly described by Muldoon as "activist" in a way that would equate with "terrorist" in this new day and age.

Those of us who protested against visits by LBJ in the '60's would now be somewhat more uncertain of our right to try and keep the b***** awake all night. We would need to be, given the matters being used to judge the difference between legitimate protest and "terrorist acts". "Likely to lead to public disorder and disobedience" might not appear in so many words. With Auntie Helen the first Prime Minister in a very long time if ever, to suffer the outrage of an act of sedition. It will be very interesting indeed to see if Timothy Selwyn's name crops up among the Urewera 17.

So, I can imagine that names like Nicky Hager, Timothy Selwyn, John Campbell (remember the ambush of Auntie Helen?), Winston Peters, Hone Tamahiri, Animal Action Rescue Team (no I don't agree with their beliefs, tactics or actions, but they should have the right to protest within the limits of existing criminal law), Forest and Bird Society, Greenpeace - the list could cover every aspect of NZ life and political concern - being designated as "terrorist" or "terrorist group". The impact of a designation would remain even though subsequent judicial review might find the designation to be unjustified. It might be "safe" law in the hands of known politicians but we must also look to the future, and the possibility of future abuse of the power of this law by less scrupulous politicians.

By the time they have come to power; by the time they have abused the powers this new law contains; it will be too late.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


On Friday in the Herald and again in the SST on Sunday were parallel stories with potted, and in both instances fairly sympathetic, histories of the Tuhoe people backgrounding the rather turbulent relationship between the "Children of the Mist" and GOvernments in years past.

I have mentioned before that my parents taught in the school at Te Whaiti in the more northern parts of the Ureweras. It is a time that made an indelible impression on me as an eight year old; not least being the fact that I went from being one of a majority of white children to one of a very small minority in what was essentially a "foreign" culture. To that latter end, I recall the old man's reaction when the School Inspectors gave him a right bollicking for allowing the speaking of Maori in the playgrounds, and reminding him that it was illegal for that to happen. As Headmaster that put responsibilities on him to ensure that English was the only language to be heard. The old man's response was to encourage his Assistant Teacher and some of the local Maori community to take Maori cultural activities during school time.

Now that the dust is settling after the raids there are two things to be noted -

First is the very quiet - no, the total absence of any - response from the government to either the raids or the public reaction.

The second is the apparent desire from some sections of the community to have the "terrorist" stories to be true. To that end a "informal poll" conducted by SST showed some 77% of respondants think that the police action was justified. The poll carries the normal warning that it is not statistically accurate as it is the views only of the respondants and not from a random sample of all NZers...

Just because Tame's arse is a fairly terrifying sight does not in any way make him a terrorist. Just because he was tried on charges of discharging a gun in a public place and shooting up on a poor defenseless NZ flag does not imply that he has direct intention to overthrow the rule of law let alone the government. Just because he has the mana and the power to speak truth that is very uncomfortable for the pakeha majority does not mean that they will be his next target.

I only caught this article in the Herald yesterday during a coffee stop and lunch on our way home from Opo. It is not an earth-shattering article, or even all that well written. But it does have a very dark element of truth in it...
It's peak reality du jour; the savvy among us know that nothing is as it seems. If you are intelligent enough, sophisticated enough, or cynical enough, the truth can be uncoiled from the hidden snake of evil political machinations - once you figure out how to charm that sucker out of its basket.

Seeing the political world from an Oliver Stone perspective is easy. Growing up, the Zapruder home movie of the Kennedy assassination was as much a part of my childhood as Kermit the Frog. I'm supposed to get it. But I refuse.

These fractured fairy tales stink. If you are a "sheeple", as Conspiracists would label me, it would be easy enough to laugh off some of the wilder theories with researched fact - but there's a problem.

The pungency of these conspiracy theories is spreading like weapons of mass hate. This is no fringe occurrence, it is worldwide. Today, millions of Americans think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in September 11 and that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis.

A Scripps-Howard poll recently found a whopping 36 per cent of Americans thought it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that US Government officials either allowed the attacks or carried out the attacks themselves.

On the flip side, many in the Arab world believe a myth that 4000 Jews working in the World Trade Centre had been warned to stay home that day. A Pew Global Attitudes poll found that the number who do not believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks is soaring; 59 per cent of Turks and Egyptians, 65 per cent of Indonesians, 53 per cent of Jordanians, 41 per cent of Pakistanis, and even 56 per cent of British Muslims, as reported in the Washington Post.

What are we looking for when we substitute the simplest answer for some mysterious, more exciting complexity? Is this the ultimate in political sophistication or just mass denial when real answers are loaded with complicated truths that we don't want to see?

It's natural to look for meaning and explanation to give us a sense of control over something that feels bigger than we are. But today we have learned to jettison the obvious truth for the conspiracy du jour - and what do you know - it just so happens to confirm our existing beliefs. Psychologists call that "confirmation bias."

We're fostering a world where the truth can be picked out of a hat. Arabs, Jews or Americans themselves felled the Twin Towers, depending on whether you sit in Tel Aviv, Tehran, or Texas.

We are creating a new politics of hidden agenda, and the biggest irony of all is that it's smothering the simplest truths.

Sociologist Frank Furedi of the University of Kent warns that this simplistic worldview of conspiracy thinking displaces critical engagement with public life and instead replaces it with a destructive search for hidden motives, for the story behind the story as a way of avoiding larger core issues.

Isn't that what this is really all about, our inability to see the ugliness of the world as it sometimes is?

Two children continue shouting about who started the fight because neither is ready to begin the process of figuring out how to play together again.

Sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy. Maybe it's just as simple as that - at least that's how any lone "sheeple" would see it from this grassy knoll.

What we are blindly refusing to see is how to fix it.

Now I am not certain quite how Tracey Barnett proposes "fixing it". The simplistic, instant gratification (especially for members of NRA and ex-Marines) solutions are rapidly being exhausted. Even OBL seems to be running out of ideas as to how best get his message across to an Administration that just refuses to give up. No, not because they are winning - unless the score is kept in terms of how many enemies you can make during the duration of the game. Her bio gives no indication of her political leanings, other than that she is American and President Bush "owes her" for what America has lost.

As for us NZers, how many are "sheeple" and how many are the conspiracists who try to stoke the fires of the anti-police sentiments; the worthy who believe that Auntie Helen has lost it completely and is using the Police to prop up a failed government; the lost who believe that there are a majority of Police who have motives that would end with a Police Totalitarian State - a bit like Fiji perhap; and how many fall in the ranks of the apathetic who could care less until their beer costs too much. There is a very small number who I would like to number myself among who believe that there is still a system of Justice which believe in innocence until guilt is proven.

And there I must confess to an increasing concern. In some respects it is the consequence of the Rickard affair; this interview with Ross Meurant does not help assuage the concern.

But the most pressing, the most concerning, was this news item and interview...
Tonight, for the first time anywhere, someone who attended Tame Iti's secret training camps in the Urewera's, talks about what took place.

Today, at courts in Auckland and Wellington, all evidence relating to what allegedly happened at these camps, was suppressed.

But we can talk to someone who has not been arrested and charged.

One Whakatane man attended Iti's camps until the most recent one, only two weeks ago.

He says there were two reasons for him going.

One, to train for a high paying security job in conflict zones like Iraq.

Two, to protect Tuhoe land and the people who live on it, although he was not able to explain from whom, or why.

To protect his identity, he wanted to wear a balaclava.

This is his story of what went on in those hills.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


[I make absolutely no apology for only providing links to what I think are the most germaine parts of this story. It is too important for high volume c&p. I leave you to judge the merits of the information provided.]

Seems NZ has hit the headlines as some kind of terrorist state, where quasi-military training camps have been taking students from such sources from eco-terrorist who rescue “rare” snails to the political nutter who makes threats against such persons as Auntie Helen and the Queen (Liz, in case you think it might be Camilla).

I have my skepticism screwed right up high.

First, I listened to Sean Plunkett interview Police Commissioner Broad who managed to say very close to nothing of any import. The strong impression that came over was that there was a fair lump of political influence behind the “anti-terrorism action”. That of course can only mean Auntie Helen is involved somewhere along the line, very possibly at the beginning.

Then I went back and read the Herald report again.

Then I thought hard about the people who had been targeted by the Police in this action…

Tame Iti seems to head everyone’s list in the news world. The best portrayal is this morning’s Herald cartoon. Puts the overall picture into sharp focus. Is Tame a terrorist? The best measure of that is Joe Hawke. He was a terrorist 30 years back; was described so by Muldoon who was PM of the day. He led a group that occupied a piece of land that is one of the most valuable in the central Auckland City. He won. He is now a very highly respected leader of the local iwi; respected by both political and non-political sectors, as a leader with very considerable mana.

The outright maniac - of there is at least one.

The “snail group” in Christchurch. Yes, very embarrassing and awkward politically. A bunch of nuisances on the ground. Not people I can admire other than for their chutzpah. Terrorists? No more than Sonja Davies and her cronies who tried to stop the Nelson railway from being ripped up…

The anti-vivisectionist and anti-battery hens groups. Well they describe themselves as “terrorists”. Perhaps they do deserve what they get. Military hardware and Molotov cocktails is not really their style.

It needs to be said that the area around Taneatua is one place in this country where I would choose not to go. I had (through my father) close association with the Tuhoe community at Te Whaiti which is at the northern end of the Ureweras. I would not hesitate to return to Te Whaiti and Minginui, even though it is over 50 years since we were there. The areas in the northern foothills of the Ureweras are a totally different prospect.

And the area is no stranger to unjustified police action either. Read the story of Te Kooti - who not Tuhoe was able to disappear into the Ureweras after escaping from prison on the Chatham Islands.

Of even greater influence - even as late as the late 1950's - was Rua Kenana. Of all of the links, this is one of the most interesting...

During WWI he was harassed by the police and in a moment of anger he said the Germans would win. This was the moment the Pakeha were waiting for. Rua and 31 others were arrested for sedition during which shots were exchanged between police and his followers. His oldest son Toko and Toko's maternal uncle Te Maipi were killed. A jury found Rua not guilty of sedition and only "morally" guilty of resisting arrest.

I do have, have had for some long while, concerns about some of the more hot-headed of the Maori separatist groups and their leadership. Tame might fall into this category but recent events such as his non-showing at Waitangi this year and last could indicate he is cooling off the ardour somewhat. The concerns do not rank in terms of “potential military conflict”. The very big danger that they pose is that they will alienate the greater part of the Maori people who for the most part are prepared to work through the system rather than by force of arms. Judging by the very narrow path being trodden by the Maori Party, Pita Sharples and Taniana Turia in particular, that fear exists within the Maori community as well.

It will be most interesting this weekend to quietly tap into the feeling of the locals up at Opo. Ngapuhi have been showing two faces – very much depending upon who is talking – for some while now. The Ngawha Prison fiasco did nothing to calm the waters either…

And this is what it is all about -
The Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

* the law makes it a criminal offence to take part in, finance or recruit for a terrorist organisation or terrorist act;

* planning a terrorist act, or making a "credible threat", is also illegal even if it is not carried out;

* unlike other countries the law does not give police additional powers of arrest or detainment;

* the Attorney-General must give the green light to any prosecutions under the Act, but Michael Cullen has delegated this responsibility to Solicitor-General David Collins;

* under the Act groups can be listed as a designated terrorist entity, but so far no local groups have been designated. Those that have been listed are United Nations designated groups.

Thoughts of Perelandra...

The Old Whig has pondered a number of subjects, including his running socks, his finisher’s shirt and medal and then tagged me for my thoughts on C.S. Lewis and the “Perelandra” trilogy.

I have already dipped my toe into the waters of “That Hideous Strength” following Al’s all too brief summary of his thoughts on the lack of any siezable utopia. It is important though to consider the trilogy as a whole rather than as individual stories. As I said in a comment to him, I don’t think that any utopia was intended; far more likely he was presenting the conflict against a terrestrial distopia.

My first thought is that “science fiction” is a misnomer, a miscategorisation, of the trilogy. Now that judgement is purely subjective (as will be most of my thoughts and impressions in this article) and very much subject to debate. I believe that the foundation of that lies not in the presence or absence of “science”, or the presence of religious reference. A good parallel might be found in Tolkein’s “Ring” trilogy which lies very happily in the category of fantasy. That I think is a far more comfortable description of Lewis’ trilogy. Whether political fantasy or religious is not needed – too fine is the line to make that judgement.

As a whole, the three books present an interesting triangle of religious and civilisation status –

Malacandra (Mars) as the aging and wise.
Perelandra (Venus) as the new-born and innocent.
Thulcandra (Earth) as the dark source of evil.

There are perhaps (at a “religious” level) broad parallels between Malacandra and the Ancient Greek mythologies, Hindu and Bhuddism. Perelandra has the most Christian emphasis with the “temptation of Eve” as its foundation. Much has been made (including by Lewis himself) of the sacrifical parallel between the character of Ransom and Christ. That Lewis has crafted that parallel very carefully gives a good part of the religious them in the third book.

I passed the comment that “That Hideous Strength” presented Lewis’ view of the relationship between science and religion, and I would add to that a good mix of his political outlook as well. Certainly N.I.C.E. is as effective presentation of government oppression of fundamental freedoms and religious activity as anything Rand wrote at ten times the length.

Overall, I am quite fond of the Perelandra trilogy. I still occasionally read the three slim volumes (paperback) that my father very kindly gave me as “compulsory reading” when I was 13. Good grief that makes them 47 years old or more! They are still enjoyable reading; though I say that whilst thinking that “Out of the Silent Planet” is the most enjoyable, “Voyage to Venus” is very contrived and pompous in its religiosity, and “That Hideous Strength” still makes me feel ill if only because I can see the real events that parallel its central ideas. Picture the activities of Mengele and his ilk in Germany if I need to point it out with a hammer; the denigrations and methods of the Soviet oppression of religions under the desire to replace god worship with state worship.

Perhaps Al, you missed your utopia. Perelandra as the world where “the first” did not fall to evil should have grabbed you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vale - Steve Fossett

One of today's adventurers missing in mysterious circumstances. My thoughts go with his family. Is it too early to mourn?

A very irreverent thought - I wonder if he was a candidate for Rand's utopia...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yet another "TRAITOR"...

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (ret'd).

Well, more power to his arm I say. Speak truth to power.

Utopia - and "That Hideous Strength"

The Old Whig has been reading – and this comment has been picking at my brain since he wrote on 29 September...
Now I'm reading That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis, after having read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra - all on The Probligo's recommendation. Very enlightening stuff: pretty deep theology, delivered entertainingly. Since I'm not done with the last book of the series, I'm still not sure where there's a vision of a utopia that I'd actually want to aim for in them.

That last comment is the thorn that has been pricking my brain.

First I need to explain, and please I do not need to be told now, that when I first read the trilogy the theological references went over my head. That is until I met up with the Gaia mythology. However I know that Lewis would not have had this in his mind as he wrote. The deeper mires of Christian references I know are there and I (subconciously but perhaps intentionally) find them difficult to pin down.

Leave that aside, because it is the reference to “utopia” that is the very sharp point that I wish to pick up.

I do not believe for a moment that Lewis had a utopian vision in mind. As I read the stories I have a far sharper picture of “dealing with existing realities” than providing an ideal future. Al may like to remember that my recommendation came as a part of a fairly barbed comment about “objectivists”. That was based upon some of the final scenes in “Hideous Strength” involving the “Objective Room” and the attempts to persuade Mark Studdock to denigrate the symbols of Christianity.

I get a far stronger message from the trilogy that, among other things, Lewis was arguing strongly of the relationships between science and religion.

On the wider front, I want to talk about utopias in general.

Yep, I am biased. There is no such thing as a practical utopia. I do not think that “Atlas” presented a practical utopia any more than “Brave New World”. I must go back and read the full “Lilliput” stories (Swift) and refresh my memory for I believe that the same message came clear and strong from him as well.

All of the stories I have read that involve the presentation of a utopia include either or both of –

The seeds of its demise – BNW is based upon the control of the society through drugs and the principle of “man is worth no more than his ability to contribute”. Add to that the element of predetermination and the future of that society does not even need the “thinking man” (in the persona of “the native”) to emphasise the flaws.

The application of a level of exclusivity; the “grand society” – such as “Atlas” and the presentation of the perfect capitalism. On a wider scale, every utopia (and distopia) has a fundamental political theme behind it that reaches into the same parts of man’s psyche as does religion.

I can not escape the feeling that every picture of “perfection” starts to crumble as soon as you put mankind into it. I prefer the reality of living as best one may, with care and with honesty, and with respect for every other person. That is not a utopia; I suspect that I would feel the same whether rich as I am in NZ or as poor as I might be in India or China or Zimbabwe. It is my environment (in what is around me and what is happening around me) that shapes my life more than sweet dreams of religious redemption or political and military power.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Who IS Blackwater - 2

I wrote on this back in March when the subject was raised by Sen Jim Webb in a Congressional Hearing, and the article in "The Nation" had me running (yep I admit I am a chicken).

WSJ has the best summary I can find in a hurry.
Blackwater USA's controversial private security work in Iraq and Afghanistan quickly came under heavy criticism at a congressional hearing Tuesday morning, with Democratic lawmakers reciting problems with State Department oversight of the firm and calling for broader contractor accountability by the U.S. government.


Mr. Waxman made clear that the Moyock, N.C., security company will have to address why Blackwater guards have been involved in 195 shooting incidents since 2005 and why contractors have not been punished for breaking rules that would land military personnel in jail.


Rep. Tom Davis (R., Va.), the ranking Republican on the committee, acknowledged "blind spots" in State Department oversight of its security guards but said there's not enough information to "know if one company's rate of weapons-related incidents is the product of a dangerous 'cowboy' culture or the predictable result of conducting higher-risk missions."

Perhaps my concern was not misplaced after all.

Oh, and an interesting little link led to this article on a quite unrelated topic.