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Three Rants

December 10, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve been working on a few different programming projects recently so I haven’t had as much time as I usually do to write blog entries (you might have noticed my decreased output). But there have been many interesting issues in the last few days and I feel I need to comment on them all, so here is a “random rants” entry where I will briefly comment (or perhaps rant) on a series of seemingly unrelated topics. So, let’s get started….

Rant the first, subject: politics. The CIA torture report and the moral standards of the US power structure in general.

Well there’s no surprises there really, is there? I mean, the report found that the CIA indulge in torture, abuse, and other illegal activities – including on many innocent people – and then lie about it and launch propaganda campaigns supporting their case.

Surely nobody would have been naive enough to think that the CIA, and the US power structure in general, didn’t partake in activities which superficially seem to be just as bad as those of their opponents.

The only question really is whether, because the Americans are the “good guys”, we should accept these activities as a necessary evil. Maybe sacrificing a few innocent victims is just a price we have to pay. Maybe we have to fight immoral violent terrorist activities with similarly violent reactions. Maybe the only unfortunate thing was that these activities have been uncovered.

I would say that this isn’t acceptable because not only are these actions morally unacceptable but practically they don’t work either: torture has been shown on many occasions to be a poor way to gain new information from suspects.

Rant the second, subject: religion. How religious belief can lead to extreme, hateful, and anti-social behaviour.

A New Zealand pastor sent an abusive email to a prominent gay author saying he prayed for the author’s death: “I pray that you will commit suicide, you filthy fag.” The pastor, from Westcity Bible Baptist Church (maybe he got the church’s name mixed up with Westboro Baptist!), was replying to a message the author sent to Auckland churches about his new autobiography.

It’s debatable to what extent the Bible encourages its followers to despise gays. There is no doubt it partly encourages this attitude because it’s clearly there in scripture. Of course, many Christians ignore this by making excuses about why a particular verse has been superseded or has been misinterpreted, and that’s good because people having blind belief in an old book is one of my biggest objections to religion.

Sure, there are non-Christians who also hate gays, and there are Christians who don’t. But I don’t accept the idea that you can’t blame the religion for the bad attitude of some of its followers. Of course you can (partly) blame it because it is a major factor in the problem.

The final rant, subject: economics. New Zealand has done well (macro-economically speaking) in the last few years largely because of its success at exporting dairy products, but what will happen now?

There is a case which could be made to say that New Zealand has done better than many other countries since the global financial crisis. Of course the government likes to claim that it was their management which lead to this success, but how true is that claim?

I would say not true at all. A case could be made that a more moderate approach might have lead to even greater success and that global dairy prices – something completely beyond the government’s control – have been what saved the country more than anything else.

While dairy prices were high many people were saying how great it was and what a great job New Zealand’s dairy monopoly (or virtual monopoly) Fonterra was doing. But some were warning us that it wouldn’t last and that greater diversification of the economy would be a wise move and that at a minimum greater value should be added by processing dairy instead of just trying to increase volumes.

Now dairy prices have plummeted and that advice is looking like it might have been pretty good, after all. Now who did that advice come from? That’s right, the Greens, who the current government like to criticise as being economically illiterate.

I’m sure that as out economy begins to fail all the people who claimed they were in charge when things were going well will suddenly claim that they can’t be held responsible for this failure. Yes, the government and Fonterra are entirely responsible for all the good stuff but can’t be blamed for the bad. How convenient for them!

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