Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to view the news?

TF Stern has posted a "comparative" of the presentation of the stories about the Moscow terrorist action, and the arrest of "freedom fighters" in Illinois and Michigan. He opens thusly -
A couple of stories this morning give a glimpse of how the news media portray dangerous factions of society. See if you can figure out the bias as the details are brought out.

The article he links is an AP feed on Foxnews (Oh dear how the Right have sold out!!). It starts -
DETROIT -- Nine alleged members of a right-wing Christian militia group that was girding for battle with the Antichrist were charged Monday with plotting to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral -- all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the U.S. government.

Seven men and one woman believed to be part of the Michigan-based Hutaree militia were arrested over the weekend in raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The ninth suspect was arrested Monday night after a search in rural southern Michigan.

TF opens out his critique -
The article went on to name the faction Christian group Hutaree, obviously one of the right wing terrorist groups mentioned recently. I do have a question, exactly what crime was committed or is it now permissible to arrest American citizens for thinking about committing a crime; you know, like in the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise?

Now that is a fair question. It is one I have asked as well, following the misguided and unjustified raids in the Ureweras.

The news that I read, courtesy of the NZ (Granny) Herald, opened the corresponding article like this -
DETROIT - Nine suspects tied to a Christian militia that was preparing for the Antichrist were charged with conspiring to kill police officers, then kill scores more by attacking a funeral using homemade bombs, federal prosecutors said.

The Michigan-based group, called Hutaree, planned to use the attack on police as a catalyst for a larger uprising against the government, according to newly unsealed court papers.

US Attorney Barbara McQuade said agents moved quickly on the group because its members were planning a violent mission sometime in April.

Members of the group, including its leader, David Brian Stone, also known as "Captain Hutaree," were charged following FBI raids over the weekend on locations in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

Seven people were arraigned in Detroit on Monday, and another one of Stone's sons, Joshua, is being sought.

Interestingly, though the article does quote individuals interviewed by AP and is similar in structure to the Fox article, it is actually by-lined to an individual - Corey Williams. Does that make it any more valid?

For my part, I have an element of sympathy with TF's criticism. It is a law-enforcement action which has parallels dangerously close to the Urewera raids. That makes it not a good thing but a bad.

I will watch with interest, TF, and I will be interested to hear when these people appear in Court to face charges. The Urewera seven have been charged, are on bail at present, and with no date as yet set for the formal trial to begin. I hope that American justice is somewhat swifter than ours.

The second article, again from Fox News, TF introduces like this -
The other AP story in today’s headlines, Homicide Bombers Kill 38 on Moscow Subway . That had me wondering, “What kind of folks strap on explosives and detonate themselves with the intent of taking out as many innocent civilians as possible?”

The answer was given; but not exactly in clear and understandable English. The AP preferred to use coded text rather than come right out and say, “Muslim Terrorists”; instead these were “rebels from the restive Caucasus region that includes Chechnya”. I like that “restive region”; sounds like a vacation poster slogan instead of an area of the world infested with Muslim Terrorists who have declared war on infidels where ever they might be.

Just a bit further into the article:

“The head of Russia's main security agency said preliminary investigation places the blame on rebels from the restive Caucasus region that includes Chechnya, where separatists have fought Russian forces since the mid-1990s.”

That really clears things up, “separatists”; well why didn’t you say so? You should hear the music from the Wizard of Oz playing as you enter the Emerald City, the door keeper stroking his mustache as you get a glimpse of the Horse of a Different Color.

His only quote from the story -
“Russian police have killed several Islamic militant leaders in the North Caucasus recently, including one last week in the Kabardino-Balkariya region. The killing of Anzor Astemirov was mourned by contributors to two al-Qaida-affiliated Web sites.”

TF must have read no further because I am sure that he might have found greater value toward the end of the Fox article -
In February, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov warned in an interview on a rebel-affiliated Website that "the zone of military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia ... the war is coming to their cities."

Umarov also claimed his fighters were responsible for the November bombing of the Nevsky Express passenger train that killed 26 people en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

I wonder, unlike him, how he might have written had the FBI failed to take action against the Hutaree. I can not help but wonder had the Hutaree bombed government buildings on a scale compared with the Olkahoma bombing of some years back how he would have viewed the failure of law enforcement to prevent the commission of such a crime. His criticism is more than a bit OTT in my book, but lets look to the Herald's version of the same story -
Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up on Moscow's subway system as it was jam-packed with morning rush-hour passengers, killing at least 35 people and wounding more than 30, the city's mayor and other officials said.

Now I have to leave out at this point any further criticism of TF's conceptions and understanding of events as I am writing about differences in the presentation of the news, not an individual's understanding. Again there are similarities, close ones, between the Fox and Herald articles.

TF concludes -
Maybe it’s just me, being one of those right wing Christians with a concealed handgun permit just waiting for my opportunity to blast away from my easy chair while listening to Rush, Hannity or Beck; but has the news media forgotten how to report evenly and without prejudice or have they refused to do their job since being purchased by the Obama administration?

I guess that the validity of the struggle does not depend upon the oppression and direct impact of war, the strictures against the free conduct of religion. It depends far more on the religion of the insurgents. Because the mid-west arrested are Christian, and fighting against the US government they are the good guys. Because the Tchetchians are Muslim, they must be the bad guys, end of story.

Personally, both presentations of the two events struck me as reasonably, supportably, even-handed and objective. Perhaps that is the problem TF faced. There was not the rabid anti-Muslim invective he was expecting in the article from Russia, nor the warm fuzzy sympathy for right-minded Americans on the other.

There was not the clear reporting and open criticism of events presented Herald and other NZ media following the Urewera stupidity.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ahura's comment, verbatim -
"I studied macro-economics as part of my professional qualifications and I do know a little bit about what constitutes an economy."

Oh ok, so it's only on macro-economics that you demand concrete steps and outlines then? [1]

"Yes, I did criticise the Bush Jnr administration. For the little jaunt he took into Iraq."

So you're angry that Iraqis are free from a tyrant and can choose their own destiny now? What about Afghanistan, was that also a little jaunt? [2]

"That criticism was based on my personal assessment of the evidence presented, was clearly explained, and (to my great surprise) has since proved to be largely correct ( the enquiry into British involvement in Iraq has reached the same conclusion, the basis for my assertion)."

So i take it you didn't have a outline of concrete actions to be taken instead to rid the world of Saddam Hussein? Also was that all you criticized about the Bush administration, nothing else accompanied by an outline of concrete actions to be taken? [3]

And are you saying you never criticized the actions of any other government, just Bush Jnr and his 'little jaunt' into Iraq? [4]

"I presume that Obama is, in your book wrong for wanting to bring "your boys" home?"

Yes, if be brought them home in defeat. Oh and i'm making the assumption that you mean soldiers and not small children.

And while you're on the subject of Obama and "the boys", what's your opinion on him authorizing the bombing of all those suspected "terrorists" in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Do you think he is wrong for not giving them fair trials? [5]

This is going to be fun... :)

[1] Outline only. General principles. Like for example the idea of "a deposit guarantee scheme" as implemented by Australia, Britain, and NZ. Or perhaps even "do nothing and see what happens".

[2] Afghanistan was supported by the international community. The evidence was relatively conclusive; that was where alQaeda was operating from.

Saddam was not the most pressing problem of the times. It was made so by a tin-pot President who persuaded two of his mates to go on a rumble.

The money spent on the war in Iraq alone would have made every man woman and child in Iraq rich beyond their wildest dreams. Why not just hand out the cash, with the US's favourite candidate printed on the bags? It makes as much sense.

Iraq was based upon failed, even falsified, evidence. There was no international mandate.

Saddam needed to be dealt with, no question; but then so did (still does) Mugabe and we do not see the US charging in to "bring democracy" there, do we?

Saddam needed to be dealth with, but then so did (still does) the military junta in Burma. We don't see the US charging over the hill to rescue the innocent there either, do we?

Saddam needed to be dealt with on the basis of sound evidence, not the paddock platters that were dealt out. Look to the evidence given to the British Commission of Enquiry to see what they were thinking at the time.

[3] See [2]. And yes, that was about my only criticism of the Bush administration.

[4] I criticise the NZ government whenever I think they got something as wrong as the US in Iraq. I have criticised, and praised, the British government as I see the occasion warrants. I have poked the bone at the Autralian government because baiting Aussies in good sport, particularly when they start acting like galahs.

It matters not if you think the US has "won" in Iraq or not. The probability of "democracy" surviving there in any recognisable form for more than 5 years after is less than 50/50; about the same time as it took Saddam to change things from "democracy" to dictatorship.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How a Stern response works - 1

Probligo, There is no simple answer; however, the numbers you show include all the free passes given to illegal aliens [1] and moochers living off those who actually do pay their fair share[2]. That having been said, another reason for high costs have to do with greedy lawyers making a fat living off civil court cases filed simply to make money rather than to correct some fault which may or may not have caused injury to their client. Regardless of the outcome, doctors have to protect against such suits, hospitals raise their prices and so on and so on [3].

Having watched our government screw up almost everything they get their hands on, what is to keep them from destroying the health care system far below any standard we now have? Nothing! [4]

This isn't about government providing health care so much as it has to do with government taking control of health care which in turn turns citizens into subjects. Subjects are much easier to control when you have their health controlled.[5]

Aside from the cost of doing business, there's another detail, that of Agency, the right of individuals to act on their own without having to bow and scrape to anyone.[6] Our system, as inefficient as it is, mostly due to government intervention I might add, does work to supply the best medical service anywhere in the world [7] as proven by the fact that world leaders come to the USA for treatment when the going gets ugly [8].

No, you can have your government health care doled out [9] and may you always enjoy good health; I'd have preferred the socialists we have here to have moved to a country which would more suit their desires and to have left the best form of government alone [10].

[1] Valid point number one. Do those illegals have green cards, TF? Alternatively, you have agreed that you would not find carrying a photo-id as being an insult to your freedoms (despite the fact that two of your most notorious enemies in Hitler's Germany and Soviet Russia had the same government controls). Why should the health system not ask "green card, please". Or perhaps you could have your number tattooed on your forearm! That would be even better, never leave it at home!

There is the first grouch here as well. It is the practice of using politically correct generalisations such as " all the free passes", "illegal aliens" and " those who actually do pay their fair share".

Now I do understand the category you think of as "illegal aliens". It is a very extensive group that ranges from Mexican wetbacks who pick fruit in California all the way through to ET himself. But in truth, what proportion of the total population would they represent. Here in NZ (yes, people do try very hard to immigrate here illegally) they might number in their hundreds. A "clean out" of illegal Polynesians(in the late 1970's), most Samoans and Tongans, in what became known as "The Dawn Raids" resulted in about 800 people being sent home and about 2000 being granted permanent residence eventually; in the main justified by the fact that they were employed in jobs no one else wanted.

Perhaps, just for me, you could explain your concept of "their fair share"? Is that just a politically correct code name for "only for themselves"? or perhaps "no more than I absolutely have to"? Or is it more a convenient way of dropping out of an unsupportable position?

[2] I have already dealt with the politically correct generalisation here. Still, valid point number two. NZ has its share of "free-loaders and moochers" too. It is probably as big a problem here as it is in the US.

Our current government (it is Conservative to the extent of being "right of centre) is arguing that that number includes women whose men have walked out (to Australia) to avoid paying family support, those teenage girls who get pregnant and whose families refuse to support them, and other instances of one parent families. There are some 40,000 on the DPB at present, about 1% of the total population.

Do you include unemployed in that total? Yep, they are freeloaders too.

How is about youngsters no longer covered by their parents insurance, but who are not able to afford their own insurance?

How about those aged over 55 whose insurers have told them "you are too much of a risk - insurance declined".

When did you last look at an insurance proposal form? Ever seen that question "Have you ever had a proposal or policy of insurance declined or cancelled? If yes, please provide full details." You automatically write or tick off "No" and pass on to the next. How much do you really know of insurance law? The principle of a "fiducial relationship"? The duty you have of full and relevant disclosure, and the consequences if the insurer gets the slightest whiff that you "forgot" something relevant.

[3]Valid point three. How to overcome the litigious nature of American life? Why does anyone in the US become a doctor? I certainly would not want to... By all means expect professional standards of health care.

But what you are getting is truly what you want - an unregulated society. After all, if locksmiths do not need to be registered, why should you expect doctors to be the same? It impinges on their God-given right to work as and how they please. Caveat emptor prevails. Pick the wrong one and you might be able to get yourself rich. Sue someone just because he cut your fingernails instead of curing your in-grown toenail. Who cares?

[4] You mean you are happy with the way things are? I'll repeat my previous question, TF. What will you do when you can no longer afford your health insurance? Go on Medicaid?

If it is broken, what have your political champions ever done to try and fix it? Anything? Ever? Why did their solutions not work?

[5] Political claptrap number three. If a Democrat government ever changed the system so it applied only to members of their party, what would be your solution? Mine would be armed insurrection.

[6] Political claptrap number four. I had heart surgery two years back. In what way did I have to "bow and scrape" in order to have that (life-saving to me) done? It was two spits better than my private insurance that refused to fix it "because it is a pre-existing condition". OK, I could have sued them, but there is no way I could afford to... That would have cost more than the surgery.

[7] ...providing US citizens with the 46th highest life expectancy in the world. If that is what the best can do, give me our second-rate health system any day.

[8] Yep, state leaders from places such as Israel, Iraq, Zimbabwe and Russia. Name one world leader from the EU, or any of the members of OECD, who has gone to the US for health care. There are none. They use the health system in their own country.

[9] Political claptrap five. Doled out? No. Sufficient resources to meet demand? Yes.

[10] Political claptrap six. You have the government and system that you deserve.

What is becoming apparent, TF, is that for reasons you can not explain - other than the fact that he is a Democrat - you do not agree with what Obama is doing. It becomes a matter of opposing simply because he is "one of them" and not "one of us". The important thing is to sling around as much shit as you can in the hope - vain hope I believe - that more of it will stick to others than does to yourself.

Your simplistic response that "the money does not matter - I leave that to my wife and my accountant" is clear evidence of that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On matters of health

For some while my left hand has had an itch to grab a (virtual) pen and write a long diatribe on the wrongs of the American health system. I actually got to collection of statistics from sources such as Congressional Budget Organisation, planning the direction that I would take.

But I am not going to do this for the simple reason that it is pointless. No one "system" is any better than another. And if America wants to continue its massive strides toward social extinction why the F*** should I care?

The epiphany came from a single page comparative I read in a National Geographic (of all places) last weekend. It comprised a short three paras, with a planomic showing health expenditure (total, not government funded alone) per head of population on one side with a line linking to average age expectancy at birth on the other.

I was looking at this and quickily found NZ (as I do) but for the life of me nowhere could I see the US! NZ was about 2/3s of the way down the page. Canada was above that, Britain further up again at about half way. No US. Then I found a red line that ended at about age 70, nearly opposite NZ on the spending side. It ran from there back up to the top printing margin on the left; US - $7,415 per head of population; printed in red which is why I did not see it immediately being very slightly red/green colour-blind.

What was not at all clear was whether this $7,415 php was the cost of providing medical services alone, or the "tax plus premiums" cost I had been seeking. From the data I have already dug out, I suspect it is the former. The true cost (tax and premiums paid to insurers) could well be higher again.

What I have learned through the exercise is that the American health system is all inclusive; it would cover dental (partially subsidised by the taxpayer in NZ), glasses (not subsidised), accident (covered separately from separate "tax") as well as basic health services (I pay the first $30 of every visit to the doctor).

So I can turn my back on the American health topic for good. America you are welcome to your unique (it is too, the only rich nation that does not provide universal health coverage) system.

TF, when you reach 65, will you be going on to Medicaid? Or will you continue working to pay your health insurance?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What price salvation - with friends like these...

A couple of posts back I wrote of the Destiny Church, and the parallels between modern tithing and the mediaeval trade of the pardoners.

Anyone who read the full article might have noted the name Cardno and heard a faint tinkle of a far-off bell.

Well, I am not trying to suggest that Janine Cardno is tarred with the same brush as her brother-in-law; they are related only by marriage after all.

But this news may well stir some legal ire over in the US of A.
A Herald investigation has revealed "Sir Grant Cardno" is working as a petrol station attendant in Otaki, near Wellington, using the name "Tom".

The revelation has infuriated his victims, who cannot understand why he has not been brought to justice.

The Herald revealed last week that in 2005, Grant Thomas Cardno was named by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as being involved in a "prime bank" Ponzi scheme involving up to US$390 million (nearly $550 million at today's exchange rates) from more than 1400 American investors.

He was served with a summons and an outline of the case against him, but didn't turn up in court to defend himself, and in November 2006 a Texas judge found against his company, Sovereign Capital Investments, by default.

The SEC said Sovereign was involved in "fraud, deceit and a deliberate or reckless disregard of regulatory requirements" which "directly or indirectly" resulted in substantial losses to investors.

I regret that the NZ Police, Immigration, and perhaps even Ag and Fishy might have some 'splainin to do.

And soon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thought for the day -

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

Seneca the Younger

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bits and pieces; odds and ends...

Those words that stick in the mind -

Prolix; prolixis(?) Unnecessarily long and wordy. I wonder why that came to mind.

I was trying to think of a word for the unnecessary use of epithets.

The f'rinstance that brought that to mind was one of the writers I read regularly joining in the castigation of a person for using the word "fart" - one of the good old Anglo-Saxon words if ever I heard one. What made me wonder was the same person not a few days later addressing the same intent with the spelling of "phart".


OK, so there are a few words in my personal lexicon that I would not use in public. But then I can not think of any where a more publicly acceptable alternative does not exist.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What price salvation now, mate?

I was doing a quiet browse around the Wonderland yesterday lunchtime and followed a couple of threads which arose from a story I had come across about 6 months back. It was a story of, not by, Geoffery Chaucer - the man best known for "The Canterbury Tales" and "The Parliament of Fowles". Among the early links thrown up by google was this - to a discussion of the "The Pardoner's Tale".
Having so much wealth to distribute among the faithful, the Church used to insure its repartition through means of certain people who went about, authorized by official letters, offering to good Christians some particle of the heavenly wealth placed at the disposal of the successors of St. Peter. They expected in return some part of the much more worldly riches their hearers might be possessed of, and which could be applied to more tangible uses than the "treasury." The men entrusted with this mission were called sometimes quæstors, on account of what they asked, and sometimes pardoners, on account of what they gave.

Does not the name of these strange beings, whose character is peculiar to the Middle Ages much more than that of the friars, or any of those whom we have just studied, recall the sparkling laugh of Chaucer, and bring back his amusing portrait to the memory? His pardoner describes himself:

"Lordyngs, quod he, in chirches whan I preche,
I peyne me to have an hauteyn speche,
And ryng it out, as lowd as doth a belle,
For I can al by rote which that I telle.
My teeme is alway oon, and ever was;
Radix omnium malorum est cupiditas."

In the pulpit he leans to the right, to the left, he gesticulates, he babbles; his arms move as much as his tongue; it is a wonder to see and hear him.

"I stonde lik a clerk in my pulpit,
And whan the lewed people is doun i-set,
I preche so as ye have herd before,
And telle hem an hondred japes more.
Than peyne I me to strecche forth my necke
And est and west upon the poeple I bekke,
As doth a dowfe, syttyng on a berne;
Myn hondes and my tonge goon so yerne,
That it is joye to se my businesse.

* * * * *

I preche no thyng but of coveityse.
Therfor my teem is yit, and ever was,
Radix omnium malorum est cupiditas."

and again -
These quæstores, or quæstiarii as they were officially called, were, so says Boniface IX., speaking at the very time that the poet wrote his tales, sometimes secular priests and sometimes friars, but extremely impudent. They dispensed with all ecclesiastic licence, and went from hamlet to hamlet delivering speeches, showing their relics and selling their pardons. It was a lucrative trade, and the competition was great; the success of the authorized pardoners had caused a crowd of interested pardoners to issue from the schools or the priory, or from mere nothingness, greedy, with glittering eyes, as in the "Canterbury Tales": "suche glaryng eyghen hadde he as an hare;" true vagabonds, infesters of the highroads, who having nothing to care for, boldly carried on their impostor's traffic. They imposed it, spoke loud, and without scruple unbound upon earth all that might be bound in heaven. Much profit arose from this; Chaucer's pardoner gained a hundred marks a year, which might easily be, since, having asked no authority from any one he gave no one any accounts, and kept all the gains to himself. In his measured language the Pope tells us as much as the poet, and it seems as though he would recommence, feature for feature, the portrait drawn by the old storyteller. First, says the pontifical letter, these pardoners swear that they were sent by the Court of Rome: "Certain religious, who even belong to different mendicant orders, and some secular clerks, occasionally advanced in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, affirm that they are sent by us or by the legates or the nuncios of the apostolic see, and that they have received the mission to treat of certain affairs, ... to receive money for us and the Roman Church, and they go about the country under these pretexts." We find in the same manner that it is Rome whence Chaucer's personage comes, and he is always speaking against avarice:

"a gentil pardoner

* * * * *

That streyt was comen from the court of Rome

* * * * *

His walet lay byforn him in his lappe,
Bret-ful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot."

* * * * *

"What! trowe ye, whiles that I may preche
And wynne gold and silver for I teche,
That I wil lyve in povert wilfully?

* * * * *

For I wol preche and begge in sondry londes,
I wil not do no labour with myn hondes,

* * * * *

I wol noon of thapostles counterfete
I wol have money, wolle, chese, and whete."

OK, so let us Tardis forward about 600 years...

Over the past few weeks there has been an increasing raruraru in the media here following the walkout of Pastor and a good part of his congregation from the Brisbane (QLD) branch of the Destiny Church.

Since then it seems everyone and their grandmother's dog has been on the bandwagon, culminating in this gem -
Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki says his $1 million-plus home and $75,000 car are "not much" of a reward for decades of clean and righteous living and taking his message to the masses.

In an interview with broadcaster Willie Jackson on Radio Live yesterday, Bishop Tamaki, who was accompanied by church spokesman Richard Lewis, said his expensive car and $1.25 million home at Maraetai in Manukau City were just reward for living right and working hard.

He said he had never been on a benefit, nor had it been in his mind that ministering to the church, which has a membership of 7000, was a vocation people took to make money.

"My wife and I have lived right, we don't drink, smoke, we haven't wasted our money, we have got some wisdom behind us," he said. "Shouldn't we have a house and a car by now?"

Asked if his approach was too extravagant and lavish and if his dress style was too brazen, Bishop Tamaki said: "I kinda like me.

"I figured really early in life I'd better get to like me first or it would be an ugly situation," Bishop Tamaki said.

"But that's not pride. I'm confident. At the same time, I'm honoured and I'm humbled to be used of God in this measure."

But a former high-ranking Destiny member told the Weekend Herald he and others left because people were hearing less about Jesus Christ and hearing more about the church's leader.

The man, who has since joined another church in Auckland, had a close association with Bishop Tamaki but left after the two clashed over their theological differences.

"You want people to focus on the content of what you're saying, so when the finance, the glitz and the lifestyle take precedence over what you are saying, all people are seeing is the bling," he said.

"What they didn't hear much about was about being good, caring Christians and sure, the pastor shouldn't be riding a Raleigh 20 bike, but there's a fine line and if you want to reach more people you have to tone things down.'

The man said he could understand his former colleague Pastor Andrew Stock's reasons for walking out of Brisbane's Destiny Church this week allegedly because of concerns over the church's covenant.

This whole story has at its base the practice of tithing members.

Nothing has changed in 600 years?

Now I must, must, must go read "The Parliament of Fowles".