Thursday, June 19, 2008

I am NOT here...

... because for the next ten days I am withdrawing from this care-filled world.

In emergency, I will be found on a beach in sunny Savai'i.

No phone.
No net.
No radio.
No tv.
No cares.
No worries mate.

Only my fine woman and BLISS!!

I don't even care that Dave the Justus deleted my penultimate comment. The tags were bad, I have to admit.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Old vistas, new printings.

This one took me a bit by surprise - and I must keep a weather eye for the book.
An obscure book first published in New Zealand in 1881 and republished last month, is being called as significant as Pride and Prejudice.

The Great Romance deals with "ground-breaking" themes such as interplanetary colonisation by humankind, sexual relations with aliens and the problems of space flight _ including space shuttles, spacesuits and air locks _ academics and reviewers say.

Written by an anonymous author who used the pseudonym "The Inhabitant", the novella was published as two separate volumes.

The first comprised 55 pages, the only known original of which is held in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.

The second instalment is just 39 pages.
The Los Angeles Times reviewer Ed Park described it as a "slim, oddly proportioned book, a hybrid of utopian and space exploration narratives that reaches out to grasp the reader's hand, unexpectedly and vigorously, from the equally remote milieu of late 19th-century New Zealand".

"The unfinished masterpiece is as strong a myth as literature holds," he wrote.

Publishers Weekly claimed: "This may have been the first time that anyone described space suits, air locks or the difficulties of landing on an asteroid or entering a planetary atmosphere.

"This reprint will be of considerable interest to specialist scholars of science fiction, if not the casual reader."

Now you betcha on that!! The pity - that we will probably never know for certain just who was "The Inhabitant".

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Bad karma"

I can not help but wonder if, as Sharon Stone is recorded as having said, the Chinese earthquake was the consequence of "bad karma" then what is she going to say about the floods in Cedar Rapids, and the earthquake in Japan.

And please, TF, do not get me wrong. I have as much sympathy for the victims of these latter examples of nature at work as I had for the earthquake in China.

This is about the colossal stupidity of that Stone(d) woman.

Nothing else.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Madelaine Albright resurfaces...

I have always had a regard for Albright, despite her persistent refusal to speak truth about Rwanda; she has always given the strong impression of consideration and regard in her doings.

So it is this time with this op-ed in the SMH.

A recommended read, and one that is a fine summation of the problems in the world of international aid and assistance.

She concludes -
Governments in the developing world are now determined to preserve the principle of sovereignty, even if the human costs are high.

Thus, Burma's leaders have been shielded from the repercussions of their outrageous actions.

Sudan has dictated the terms of multinational operations inside Darfur.

The Government of Zimbabwe may yet steal a presidential election.

Political leaders in Pakistan have told the Bush Administration to back off, despite the growth of al-Qaeda.

African leaders (understandably, perhaps) have said no to the creation of a regional American military command.

And despite efforts to enshrine the legal doctrine of a "responsibility to protect", the concept of humanitarian intervention has lost momentum.

The global conscience is not asleep, but after the turbulence of recent years, it is profoundly confused. Some governments will oppose any exceptions to sovereignty because they fear criticism of their own policies. Others will defend the sanctity of sovereignty until they again have confidence in the judgment of those proposing exceptions.

At the heart of the debate is the question of what the international system is. Is it just a collection of legal nuts and bolts cobbled together by governments to protect governments? Or is it a living framework of rules intended to make the world a more humane place?

We know how the Government of Burma would answer that question, but what we need to listen to is the voice - and cry - of the Burmese people.

Which is a fair question. As is also the question of Zimbabwe, and Somalia, and even Fiji. What she does not address, nor do I have the answer, is the question of method. The implied message from Albright is that the military response has failed...

A good step in a long road -

From the Herald -

This was one of the early, and nastiest, examples of the inadequacy of the parole laws in this country. It combines with another, far less publicised societal weakness of our "treatment" of mental health patients and mental health issues.

A recent tv programme (reviewed here) gives a pretty clear picture of the problems involved for the Parole Board.
Nigel Latta uttered one the most chilling sentences anyone has heard on television for a long time.

The forensic psychologist was fronting the first in his profiles of murderers, Beyond the Darklands, at 9.30pm on TV One last night.

He looked at William Bell, who in 2001 walked into the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA with a shotgun in a guitar case. He shot and killed one man, and used the butt of the shotgun to kill two more people and seriously injure another.

Latta made the frightening admission that psychologists are good at identifying psychopathic behaviour, "but [we] don't know enough yet about how to treat them".

It happens more often than perhaps some realise. Some cases - like the schizophrenic lad who killed his family and friends - are just plain sad. Others, like this and Graeme Burton, are symptomatic of a society where the rights of an individual appear to surpass the rights of society at large.

Now that last part I write with trembling hand, for I fully realise the implications of what it says. What powers that might be abused by partisan government if the detention of people on cause of "being a danger to the good order and well-being of society" were to be allowed. Two that come to mind are Bill Sutch who was held on and charged with (totally fabricated?) espionage charges in the 1970's and Ahmed Zaoui with his more recent immigration / terrorism challenges.

The Parole Board though is charged with just such a decision. In large part they get it right. There are times - like Bell and Burton - where they get it horribly, tragically, wrong.

Just how far their "duty of care" might extend will hopefully be answered in the coming Court proceedings. I among many will watch with interest. I among many will pay for the outcome as taxpayer.

There is no similar "central authority" that determines the continuing detention or conditional release of mental health patients. Nor do I think that there should be. For probably 99% of the people with mental disabilities, their danger to society is minimal. There are the few (other than the sociopaths like Burton and Bell) who might stand as a danger to others. They are few and far between; and we really know very little about the triggers and mechanisms that might make them dangerous.

On balance, I think that I will continue to take my chances rather than place at risk the rights and freedoms of others. There are more murderers on the road than in an asylum.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Am I allowed a bit of a skite?

Just for a moment to three?

Auckland ranks No 5 in the world for its quality of living.

The usual praise and three cheers please...

Oh, and Ilse will be pleased to know that Dusseldorf is only just behind at No6 after ranking equal 5th with Auckland last year.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The raruraru about the things you see - 6

As a follow up to that last item on the photograph exhibition... [all links and quotes thanks to SMH]

Photographer Bill Henson and the Sydney gallery which displayed his controversial pictures of naked children last month will not be prosecuted after police accepted there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Police today said they made the decision following advice from NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery.

Assistant Commissioner Catherine Burn said the matter was a "complex area of law'' but police were obliged to launch their investigation after complaints from the public.

She said police had only received three complaints but "we would respond if there was one complaint from the public''.

She later conceded that the level of response might differ if only one complaint was received.

As well as that -
Henson photo not porn, says censor
David Marr
June 6, 2008

IT'S official. The picture of the naked girl that sparked the Bill Henson fuss is not pornography.

The sight of her on an invitation to the photographer's Sydney exhibition two weeks ago provoked shock and outrage, but the Classifications Board has now declared the picture "mild" and safe for many children.

So, was this storm in a teacup territory? Be easy to so say. Seems that there are some who just can not let it go -

Ms Johnston warned her child protection organisation, Bravehearts, would now be lobbying for legislative change. "It's an absolute disgrace," she said. "I think we've become the laughing stock around the globe."

Hmm, I wonder why?
But the politicians were sticking to their guns.

The Premier, Morris Iemma, told the Herald: "The police deserve our thanks for their investigate work. My personal opinion remains clear - these photographs crossed the line and were inappropriate. I can't understand how a parent could allow a child to be photographed in this way." The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, also continued to condemn the work. "I said what my views are as a parent. I don't budge from that. But I'm not about to go around and start dictating to the legal authorities what they should or should not do."

Well, there is nothing better than a bandwagon for a politician to jump on. Three votes in the bag for both Iemma and Rudd. Seems to me that the whole thing was a no-brainer.

Don't like the tv programme? Turn it off. There is the button.

Don't like the art? Don't go look.

Having said all that, and using the Liebowitz Vanity Fair cover as a guide, it is an area of art that does need to be monitored. The outcome in the Sydney instance might have been a no-brainer. The outcome of the three complaints is summed up in that last link -
Viewing is by appointment only.

I wonder why that is?

As a postscript, I think that this image is as pornographic as the Liebowitz -

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Oh dear oh dear oh dear!

Ban Ki-Moon will be in trouble with the US - Israel Friendship lobbies. REAL trouble!
UN boss Ban Ki-moon is deeply concerned at Israel's decision to build 884 more houses in east Jerusalem, which is "contrary to international law," his press office said Monday in a statement.

"The secretary general is deeply concerned at the recent announcement by the Israeli government to invite new tenders for construction in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem," the statement added.

"The government of Israel's continued construction in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory is contrary to international law and to its commitments under the roadmap and the Annapolis process," it said.

Drafted by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, the roadmap for Middle East peace calls for a halt to Jewish settlement activity in Palestinian territories and an end to Palestinian attacks against Israel.

The plan has made little progress since it was drafted in 2003, but Israel and the Palestinians agreed last November to relaunch it during a conference in the US city of Annapolis that restarted the peace process after a seven-year hiatus.

Sunday, Israel announced plans to build 884 more houses in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem...

Condemnation from the US? "Not a sausage".

The Aussies are coming home -

"Have further terrorist attacks been prevented? No they have not been.

Has any evidence of a link between WMD and the former Iraqi regime and terrorists been found? No.

Have the actions of rogue states like Iran been moderated? No.

After five years, has the humanitarian crisis in Iraq been removed? No it has not."

Sound like a left-wing blogger? Yes.

In fact it is Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister, announcing the return of Australian troops from Iraq.

THE withdrawal of Australian combat troops from Iraq reopened old wounds yesterday, when Kevin Rudd accused the Coalition of taking the nation to war based on a lie.

In a terse statement to Parliament, the Prime Minister said the Howard government had embarked on the mission using abused intelligence and "without a full and proper assessment" of the consequences.

Supporting the war without approval of the United Nations had set a dangerous precedent and undermined the international system, Mr Rudd said.

As a measure of the Australian committment -
"Roughly half of our infantry and cavalry is somehow tied to those deployments," he said. "This is an unsustainable position." The Iraqis had not asked the Australian troops for help in 20 months, he said, and they were needed elsewhere.

And in return all they got was an American Free Trade agreement - free for America, nothing for the Aussies for another 4 years...

Thanks smh...