Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Creationism in the Classroom

Once again it has been a long time since writing anything – with a hectic work schedule, and seemingly never-ending higher education, I just can’t find the time anymore to express outrage and get all angry at stuff.   Add to that PlayStation 3, watching Breaking Bad and kowtowing to my wife and my life suddenly gets filled up – and my outlet becomes yelling at the television instead of expressing myself via the written word.

But I must take a second to address a story which appeared on Stuff regarding creationism in schools.

Not US schools, mind you, but New Zealand schools.  Creationism … taught by untrained and unqualified teachers.

How unqualified teacher is allowed to teach anything at all is beyond me, but an unqualified teacher teaching scientific principles – such as the origins of the Earth, humans and the universe – with a bent towards special creation is an appalling affront to New Zealand society and to our education system.

Creationism – the peculiar evangelical version as espousedby Charter School front man and cabbage boat fancier John Banks – has long been disproven and flies directly in the face of every scientific discipline.  Physics, geology, biology, genetics and archaeology (to name just a few fields) all confirm that the Earth is significantly older than the 6,000 or so years old that special creation demands based upon the biblical chronology of James Ussher.

To teach anything else is either to knowingly teach a lie or unknowingly teach a falsehood – in which case the person shouldn’t be teaching in the first place.
Creationism (as distinct from religious studies) as a factual alternative to the scientific consensus on the formation of the Earth and the life it houses has no place in the classroom and should only ever be taught as a historical curiosity.  It should never be taught as a scientific or logical precept and only leads to scientific illiteracy.

For a more thorough breakdown on why the Earth must be significantly older than creationism teaches, this website has a good list of arguments … Hell, they aren’t even ‘arguments’ – it’s established fact.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Ideology and Asset Sales

It’s been a month or so since my last post.
The reason for this absence hasn’t been a lack of ideas or of things to write about but, rather, that in writing this blog I’ve had to wade through others people’s blogs and involve myself in discussions.

In doing so, I’ve come across some of the vilest people I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering – not just vile but dishonest, snivelling, arrogant, self-important ideologues who lie, distort facts and ignore breaches of behaviour on their own side while demonising it from other.

This comes from both the Right and Left of the political spectrum and caused me such consternation that I had to back off for a while in wonder at how simple politics can turn people so ugly.
I am not concerned with what people say to me but and rather bemused at why they say it. 

On one such Left wing site I’ve been referred to as a “tory” a “conservative” and “Right-winger” and once – bizarrely – as “John Key’s boyfriend”.
Meanwhile, on Right-leaning site I was accused of being a “commie and a far Left Marxist” – with one nitwit even suggesting that, because I am misanthropically-minded, I must be a libertarian.
What’s the truth?  They can’t both be right, can they?
Well, truth be told, neither claim is right.  I am neither politically Left or Right.  I have the view that political ideology sours conversation and poisons the mind – causing one to dispense with reason and rationalise all actions into the Left/Right spectrum.
For example:

You disagree with me on point X? You must be a leftie Marxist greenie! 
You support policy Y? Get out of my sight you fascist Nazi!

That sort of thinking is not only unhelpful, but it is polarising to the point of making even the simplest choice in an election treasonous to a certain segment of the voting population.

In my time as a voter I’ve voted for nearly every political Party in New Zealand – outside a few single issue Parties like the ALCP – because I’m not one of those people who says “I’m a Labour man!” or “my family always vote National!” Rather, I spend a long time considering my vote and – even with the most concerned meditation on the topic – still have paroxysms of indecision in the polling booth on Election Day because I try make my choice as pragmatic as possible and in an election with so many variables that can be difficult at best.

I never like to tell people who I voted for because, as far as I’m concerned, it’s irrelevant.  Firstly: if I argue an issue I’m giving my opinions, not the position of the Party that received my vote.  If proven wrong, I’ll change my opinion on the issue – unlike the ideologue, who has the insane ability to ignore what they’ve been shown to be wrong and continue to spout the misunderstanding while knowing it’s wrong.

Secondly – and what bothers me most – is that revealing who you voted for allows strict idealogues to discount your opinions as ’Right/Left spin‘.  No matter how factual your comment, you’ve been placed in a box where you can safely be ignored because you are the opposition – meaning you’re automatically wrong and should only be addressed with scorn.
I try to be as a-political as possible and vote with my head, not with my emotion.

It is because of ideology that I am now very much against National’s proposed selling down shares in SOEs.  I was never too concerned by asset sales, and the main arguments against said sales – well, the most vocal of arguments at any rate – were pretty much off-base.

Some people scream quite loudly that National has no mandate which is – unfortunately for them – untrue.  National won the governance of New Zealand for a second term in a lawful, democratic manner on a campaign that included a promise to carry out these sales.  A main plank of Labour’s 2011 election campaign was: “A vote for National is a vote for asset sales” because they also knew that if National got in they’d gain the mandate to sell them.
Others complain that power prices will soar but – given that power prices have been shooting up for the past decade – this argument rings rather hollow to my ears, particularly when places like the US have much cheaper power and almost no publically-owned power supply (EDIT - Citation needed. Quite possibly not as I suggested...TheContrarian).

As I stated: the arguments against asset sales, and the sales themselves, never gave me much cause for alarm.  What has alarmed me is National’s insistence at going ahead when it looks more and more like a bloody stupid thing to do.  New Zealand is an indebted nation, like many, and if National wants to pay down debt there are several things it can do, quickly and pragmatically, before having to sell up.

I am in a high/top tax bracket and would be more than happy to have my tax go up a percentage point or two.  I’m not going to pretend I’m OK with paying more than 40 percent nor do I think the rate should be returned to where it was before, but I don’t mind paying a bit extra to slow New Zealand’s growing debt.  I can afford it and, while it wouldn’t dent my bank balance much, it would provide relief for others.  

I also think that the retirement age is going to need to increase at some point so you may as well begin staggering it now – when you can do so incrementally – instead of hitting a point in the future when you have to do it in one big whack (United Future actually has a very interesting Super policy).  Also, a capital gains tax isn’t all that bad an idea, though I think Labour’s method of implementing it while using the income gained from it before any had actually been gained was a complete disaster as a policy and I also think 15% is too high. If they had said 5% across the board the idea may have got a little more traction.

These policies, for someone like me who enjoys his low tax rate and doesn’t want to see a capital gains tax, are some of the decisions that need to be considered whether you like them or not.  To entertain the thought of something you may ideologically oppose, but realistically may need, is a reasoned and rational position to take in Government.  All I see from National, however, is blind ideology – a blind ideology that we didn’t see in the first term when National was arguably more centrist.

This is why I can no longer be OK with asset sales because to do so, for me, is to support an ideologically-driven policy that seems further and further away from a rational response to New Zealand’s debt.

I am aware of some of the potential responses that an ideologue could take with my pragmatic approach to politics.  The Right could accuse me of being a communist for wanting to raise taxes on the ’job creators‘, while the Left my view me a fascist for being financially comfortable and not wanting to increase taxes to level they see as appropriate for someone on my salary... but the people who think like that will do it anyway, no matter what you support.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

"But...but...THREE SETS!"

A couple of items concerning theft in the Christchurch red-zone have hit the news recently. Firstly the case of Victor Tupotahi Jackson who stole around $23,000 worth of merchandise while working as a contractor and secondly an as of yet unnamed police officer who was accused of stealing sunglasses from a store.

Jackson wound up in jail for 2 years with a $6000 reparation bill as the police recovered about $17,000 worth of goods. The police officer was not convicted because "Officers' fingerprints are recorded for elimination purposes, but it is not lawful for these to be used for any other purpose.  As a result the decision was made, reluctantly, that charges could not be brought against the constable."

Sounds fairly standard - though one does wonder if the officer should have faced a charge at least. But some commentator/blogger thought there was something odd about this and wrote a piece about the two cases - drawing them together in a baffling manner.

It was this quote on The Standard which got me thinking:

So I posted back - hoping  to clarify the confusion (note: the linked $36000 related to reports from April 2012):

After receiving no response and my curiosity growing I replied directly to the blog posting:

The Jackal responded with recent link clarifying the amount stolen by Jackson but the missing sunglasses went from three to at least six:

I mistyped and wrote "$24,000" instead of "$23,000" not that it changed the point. Following up with another comment, I wondered about where those extra sunglasses had appeared from. As you can see I received a stern warning for my outrageous adherence to facts.

In the next post Jackal iterated the issue was in fact about the policeman getting away with apparent theft followed by the issue of race:

For the record, I don't want to get involved in racial disputes. It is counter-productive and I find it brings the worst out of people so I wanted sidestep that particular point while not avoiding it - but still addressing the other points raised:

No more of these silly questions:

 Ahhhh, well. Perhaps I should ask if he thought these were $8000 magic sunglasses?

The Jackal actually did make amends to his error though:

Criminal A merely got away with $6000. Right, that fixes everything. Hell, if I go on a shooting spree one day I have a wonderful defence. "Not to worry judge, while I tried to kill 26 people I only actually killed six."
Is this what they call attempted theft? I would have pointed out this wonderful inconsistency but for:

But why does this matter? What is gained from bothering some poor fool who no one listens to on the back-ends of the internet? The reason this matters is because the commentator in question posts this sort of thing on sites that have a wide audience (like The Standard). Gibberish like this gets promulgated, regurgitated and spat out as truth. Even by people who should know better. And no one cares about actually doing their research, all they want is a convenient excuse, no matter how fanciful, to shore up their preconceived biases.

It is something I find quite absurd, hilarious and angering all at the same time.


Seems The Jackalman wasn't too appreciative of my deconstruction concerning his dishonesty and bullshit claims so he has decided to retort with a strawman. Hilariously though he links to a video wherein the Police confirm that 3 pairs of sunglasses were stolen. Ahhh well buddy, better luck next time.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Rise of Colin Craig...maybe

There has been a lot of talk recently about the possibility of the Conservative Party in partnership with National if John Banks is finally tarred, feathered and tossed out of Epsom.  Of course, Conservative Party Leader Colin Craig would have to run in the Epsom by-election – his Party garnering less than two percent of the vote (ed note: Conservatives got a little over 2%) in the 2011 election – and defeat Paul Goldsmith, but National could still endorse the Conservative Party candidate.
The question is, would the people of Epsom listen?  And would National find an ally in a social conservative?

New Zealand has a long history of social liberalism and never – at least, in my 30-plus years – have we ever been threatened with a socially conservative government.  Social conservatism exists somewhat outside the mainstream in these shaky isles – supported almost exclusively by religious organisations such as Family First and Destiny Church – and religion and politics do not mix here.

While the New Zealand Parliament begins each sitting with a prayer, the religious nature of our politicians is rarely – if ever – a consideration.  Helen Clark was openly agnostic and, while he attends church, so too is John Key – who believes that religion is “doing the right thing”, as opposed to submission to a heavenly being.  Contrast this with the US where, not only would it be near impossible for an agnostic or atheist to be elected to higher office but, atheists are the least trusted segment of the population. 

Coming from New Zealand – where the 2006 Census showed that nearly a third of the population self-identify as ’non-religious‘ – I find rather bizarre that atheists are so reviled.

So where does this leave poor old Colin Craig and his Conservative Party?  Although there is no doubt that Colin Craig is a Christian he doesn’t, in fact, attend church and his Party policy page doesn’t provide much insight into his proposed method of governance – aside from being tough on crime while oddly libertarian in some aspects but a freaking hard line conservative in others.

Will the New Zealand populace accept a religious social conservative comparable to Rick Santorum on sexual issues, Newt Gingrich when it comes to personal wealth and Rick Perry on his bizarre bloodlust when it comes to crime? 

History doesn't seem to be on Craig’s side and the closest New Zealand has been previously to any type of socially conservative and/or religiously motivated political power was the Christian Heritage Party….and we all remember what happened then…

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

John Banks on Kim Dotcom: I did not have sexual relations with that man

It was a little over a week ago that I speculated on John Banks’ mental health regarding his genuine belief that he could lead ACT to electability in 2014.  If this week’s Kim Dotcom row is anything to go by, it looks like I was right on the money.

Because we’ve all seen the news, I’ll sum it up briefly.  Allegedly:

Banks took a few helicopter rides – which he now seems to have forgotten – to visit Kim Dotcom and help with his application to buy land through the Overseas Investment Office (OIO); have dinner with Mr and Mrs Dotcom; and enjoy a fireworks show.  Somewhere along the line Dotcom donated $50,000 toward Banks’ mayoral bid, which Banks asked be split into $25,000 cheques so as to be claimed as anonymous donations.  Banks then phoned to thank Dotcom for the donations.  Banks denies any knowledge of asking for the donations to be split, or of the phonecall.

Which brings us, in a nutshell, to where we are now.

Now, you’ll excuse any omissions in this breakdown because I’m not trying to focus on this issue – despite it being a serious one.  Rather, I’m more concerned with John Banks’ mental wellbeing and his ability to care for himself. 

The general reaction of someone at the centre of a breaking scandal is to avoid media scrum and any situation where there are tough questions to answer.  So it was rather baffling to see Banks – resplendent in his much-loved velvet jacket – appearing with Labour MP David Parker to debate the Budget on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A’ programme on Sunday.

Within five minutes the interviewer predictably turned to Banks and started questioning him over the Dotcom scandal.  Banks appeared surprised, and stated that he was only there to discuss the Budget.  While David Parker looked positively gleeful, Banks insisted he had “nothing to hide” – and then refused to answer any questions, opting instead to either stare at his shoes or look wistfully off into the distance while muttering about Cabbage Boats.

Whose idea was it to wheel a baffled and confused John Banks into an interview, with an Opposition MP, on TVNZ’s finest political programming when he was on the cusp of a scandal involving a fat German facing extradition to the US?

Surely everyone could see that this was a bad idea from the outset, so who let Banks out of the house?  His demeanour was one of bewilderment – as though he’d been discovered wandering outside TVNZ in his bathrobe, flung into make-up, and then hauled in front of the camera … when all he was looking for was his Sunday morning crepes.

If that weren’t bad enough, he then committed himself to an interview on Radio Live Monday.  During this, he mistook a question about his business relationship with Kim Dotcom for an insinuation that he was involved in a homoerotic relationship with a fat German.  As such, he flipped his lid and exclaimed, “But he’s married!”

He has now, at a press gathering in the halls of Parliament, answered “No” when asked if he knew of the Dotcom donation.  But this was not “No” with the roar of innocence but, rather, with the misty distraction of a cataract patient pretending to see friends and family where only a fridge and hat-stand are present.
John Banks’ behaviour has gone from sycophantic and doddering to downright bizarre, and we can only imagine where it will go next.  Are we going to see him marching into Parliament, half shaven, in his wife’s pink terrycloth robe demanding a cure for pancakes? Or will the men in white coats toss him into a home for the bewildered where he can spend his days making things out of papier-mâché and wearing mittens all year round?

Only one man can make that call. John Key
Key faces a tough choice. Does he keep this Banks around in all his insane glory or does he stand him down from his ministerial post and feed him to the public? When Winston Peters was caught in a similar embroilment over his forgetfulness regarding a donation from Owen Glenn, Key lead a very vocal charge to have Helen Clarke step him down stating unequivocally
"Helen Clark must stand Mr Peters down as a minister. That is what I would do if I were prime minister."

Now that Banks is charged with a similar ‘crime’ Key needs to remain consistent.  If he doesn’t his credibility takes a hit and his carefully prepared 2008 claim that he would run his government by “the highest ethical standards” look hypocritical and disingenuous. It’s a tough time to be Prime Minister, particularly when your one seat majority is held by a bumbling Mr Magoo impersonator. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Standard: "There's no such thing as 'rational' debate!"

For those of you not familiar with the website, The Standard is a blog hosting various lefties, environmentalists and socialists. I had never previously commented there but had read their stories from time to time. In an effort to pimp my own blog I signed up and began discussing the Crafar Farms deal. But I found myself rubbing a moderator the wrong way. Was it my language? Was I asking for trouble? You decide!

It began with my discussing the Crafar deal - outlining it as I have done here – and a user wondered about how Allan Crafar himself fared as farm owner and manager:

I commented that Allan Crafar himself was looking to offload the whole damned farm himself which caught the eye of the kind and friendly moderator, 1prent, who responded in bold:

I wasn't particularly perturbed but felt he was being rather rude so I provided a source and suggested he might want to apologise. This obviously flew in the face of 1prent's hallowed beliefs so it must be wrong and I must be a gullible fool for swallowing such a ridiculous story. Hence I mustn't be able to read let alone understand what I was reading:

I was feeling a little bewildered by this point. I couldn't understand why this user was getting so upset by what I had presented. Undeterred I provided some more information. Perhaps, if I explained myself better, we could be friends. 

Ahhhh but it was not to be...

Now I was highly amused. Obviously this was a guy not used to being wrong. Not only wrong, but wrong on his own goddamn territory!
"Oh no! I'm losing! Quick, pile on the denigrating comments!"

The most amusing remark was that I was trying to swing my e-dick around. The accusation coming from a guy who was telling me,
"I'm a moderator round these parts and I can block you whenever I damned well please, hur hur hur".

Well, I couldn't leave this just hanging out there so I made, once again, a disarmingly polite yet direct comment (at this stage 1prent had logged in instead of merely moderating):

Wait what?
"I don't think that anyone didn't know that"?
Hang on buddy...weren't you the guy who said,
"I have never seen anything that said the Crafar's were trying to sell the 16 farms"

I didn't have time to reply as something interesting was happening further down the page. 

You'll notice I say,
"...I find it ironic you are berating me for not providing links yet lower down in the page you are berating me for asking others for links"

Let's have a look at that bit now. This gentleman named "vto" was complaining that no one could explain to him how foreign ownership was better than NZ ownership. I had called him up a few times on this blatant Strawman argument because no one, anywhere, had said foreign ownership was better. I explained this once again and got the following response:

John Key and all his government has claimed foreign ownership is better? Really? I would like to see a source for that claim.

I wasn't quite sure what 1prent was going on about and before I could query him a second moderator jumped in:

Nice save RedLogix! The strawman just wasn't enough so Redlogix decided to spice things up with a Burden of Proof fallacy. That'll surely confuse him now!

Ahhh but I am cleverer than that:

1prent again jumps in to save the day! 
"We aren't interested in formal rules"

Whoa whoa, back the fuck up buddy. Aren't you you the guy who said,
"Stating something as fact generally requires that you link to it to substantiate it..."

"There is no such thing as 'rational' debate"
What the fuck, dude?

After I try to explain myself 1prent closes up the debate with some awful gibberish and then put me on the moderation list which means any comments will be vetted first and my foolish insistence on discussing things logically will no longer infect everyone.

Ho ho ho! What fun to be had!