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Two Good Thrashings!

March 29, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m not sure which of this morning’s news stories I found more amusing: the thrashing the National Party got in it’s previously safe electorate at the by-election or the thrashing right-wing blogger Cameron Slater got in the boxing ring! By the way, I’m hoping tomorrow morning I will get an even bigger laugh with the news that New Zealand beat Australia in the final of the World Cricket Cup, but I’m not quite as confident about that one!

First, regarding the boxing. I have to say that the sport has become a bit of a farce so I don’t take it too seriously, but I think Slater probably still feels a bit sore after the first round knock-out. I should say that making some money for charity is good so he gets points for that (no one is all bad) even if it was really only a publicity stunt.

Regarding the by-election. If a previously safe seat can be taken from a (politically) successful government so easily you really have to wonder why they won the last election so convincingly. I’m afraid the obvious answer is that the opposition was so poor. The National Party is unpopular and I think many people don’t see the current government very positively, but the alternative was even worse!

National threw everything the could at winning the election too, including sending two of their most powerful assets: John Key himself and good old Mr Fix It, Steven Joyce. I think people look at Key now and see someone they can’t trust, so maybe his presence might have backfired by making the party look desperate. And I think the name Mt Fix It is a misprint because based on what he has actually done (as opposed to what the National spin machine says) I think the middle word in that nickname was another word beginning with “F” with a totally opposite meaning!

Of course that could apply to most of the National Party because any successes they have enjoyed seems to have little to do with their policies and more to do with blind luck. While the international milk price was high the country did well, but no one planned on what to do when the prices crashed which of course any sensible person knew would happen.

And the only other bright point is the Christchurch rebuild which has stimulated the economy considerably, again through no reason the government can claim credit for.

Yeah, if this is a “rock-star economy” as the National spin machine likes to say, then I think the star in question is a rather decrepit, drug-addled, has-been who might look OK to his fans but is just pathetic to anyone else.

There is one thing I should say though: Australia might win the cricket, and I admit our economy isn’t great, but their’s is even worse and their government (especially the PM) is a real joke!

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Corporate Drones

March 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Some people are very entertaining, or very talented, or very original and innovative. And some people are just arrogant, or inflexible, or self-centered. Most of us would say that those with one (or more) of the first three attributes are a real bonus to society, but those with attributes in the second set are a bit less welcome. The problem is that often the two types go together. A person might be talented but arrogant, or entertaining but self-centered, for example. In fact I think these good and supposedly bad characteristics often do go together.

A recent example is the Jeremy Clarkson saga. If you don’t know, Clarkson is the lead presenter in the incredibly successful BBC motoring show, Top Gear, and he has a habit of getting into trouble with the BBC management. There is no doubt that he is arrogant, and to be honest, probably a bit of an asshole, but he is also very entertaining and talented at his job.

So while many people are happy that the BBC might finally fire him after his most recent transgression I’m not so happy about that possibility. The first reason for this is a rather selfish one: I love Top Gear! In fact it is the only TV program I actually go to the trouble of turning the TV on to watch. I don’t take TG and Clarkson and the other presenters too seriously but I love the program for its entertainment value as well as the awesome cars it shows.

The second reason I don’t really want to see Clarkson go is that I hate the overbearing, undistinguished, holier than thou, cowardly, snivelling, pathetic, retarded management types who are against him. By now it must be very clear that I despise all people who think they can control the lives of others, especially managers whom I consider the lowest form of life on the planet, so I naturally side with the person being persecuted by them.

On the other hand, if the report that Clarkson punched a producer because there was no food available for him and the other presenters after they returned from drinking at the local pub is true then I would very uncomfortable if there were no repercussions at all. But that is an issue where I would hope that Clarkson would have to pay a big fine which hopefully would go to the producer who would donate it to a charity.

The thing that I find more distasteful though is the way the BBC management think they can make moral judgements on another person’s behaviour and use their position of power to enforce those judgements. While punching someone is potentially serious, the trivial, politically correct nonsense which has been used against Clarkson in the past is simply pathetic.

The BBC director of television has said that no one star is considered bigger than the corporation, but that is a typical “corporate drone” response. These people are so much part of the bureaucratic corporate machine that they must defend it at all costs even when they are really harming it. And if Clarkson is fired I don’t think the program will survive long and that in turn will mean that the BBC will lose both the prestige and income associated with the show.

This is a problem symptomatic of our society though: people with little talent but with a certain self-obsessed cunning when it comes to office politics find their way into positions of authority over people with genuine talent. And yes, I feel like I am sometimes in that position myself (of course I mean the position of the talented person being persecuted by an inept and mediocre but senior individual).

So Clarkson should apologise and pay compensation to the producer or to a charity, then get on with making more episodes of Top Gear, and while he should be himself he should maybe just try to tone down his more excessive and obnoxious behaviour!

Evil Bible

March 18, 2015 14 comments

There is a web site called “evilbible.com” which lists a lot of the material from the Bible which the site’s creators consider to be corrupt, violent, or immoral in some other way. It makes a lot of good points although I do have to say that it is rather one sided and ignores some contradictory material where the Bible is quite good. But that isn’t the purpose of this particular site and there are plenty of others designed to just present the good stuff.

Generally there are excuses and rationalisations for the evil material in the Bible but how convincing is this stuff? Well it varies, but I think there is some material in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, which is inexcusable without using the most ridiculous convoluted logic (or lack of logic), so let’s have a look at one particular verse (or two verses) I find quite interesting…

The Bible clearly accepts slavery and specifies rules which slave owners should follow. It doesn’t say that slavery is fundamentally immoral in any way, yet most people (including Christians) would say it is now. So if slavery isn’t inherently immoral what is? Do God’s moral rules change with time? If they do are they real moral rules at all or just some temporary whim of the creator?

Have a look at this rather interesting rule from Exodus 21:20-21: “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”

So this says several things. First, it is OK to use physical punishment on a slave. Second, you can kill a slave without punishment as long as the slave’s death takes a day or two (instead of being immediate). And third, a slave is a possession (“for he is his money”). How can this be anything but evil?

Some sources try to justify this by saying it was part of the older tradition of societies at the time and that new standards have been introduced in the New Testament. But I have two issues with that. First, the NT doesn’t exactly condemn slavery either, so it is barely much of an improvement on the OT. And second, does God change his mind? Was slavery OK at one point but then suddenly became more acceptable? Surely an immoral activity is always immoral not just good or bad depending on the standards of society? (at least morals are absolute for most religious people, I would claim that they are precisely based on societal standards although I would still have issues with supporting slavery).

For example, here is a justification of the verse I found on the web: “An entirely different culture. Slavery was an accepted practice and women could be treated as property. In Islamic countries, it’s pretty much that way now.” So God didn’t try to fix this problem because it was an accepted practice? Isn’t he supposed to tell us what is acceptable instead of just changing his rules to fit? And many Christians would claim that Islam has similar rules today because they are deluded. Does that mean that the followers of the OT were also deluded? Maybe they still are, and the followers of the NT too!

But slavery is a minor issue compared with a lot of the activities God approves of in the Old Testament. Mass murder, ethnic cleansing, rape, and other heinous crimes are actively ordered, encouraged, or at least tolerated by this “loving God”. As I said above, I think the “Evil Bible” site does just consider one aspect of the message of the Bible (and that’s fair enough because that is why the site exists) but it is an aspect which cannot be ignored, no matter how hard the Bible’s followers try to make excuses.

Parts of the Bible are interesting, other parts are confusing, others are practically meaningless, and some present undoubtedly positive ideas. But there are also parts which are truly evil and if this represents the mind of the god that the Bible is about then I don’t want to have anything to do with him!

Too Many Secrets

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

I’ve got to say that I’m getting pretty sick of being locked out of processes which I have every right to participate in. And when I say “I” here I would extend that to all citizens of this country. And when I say this country I would extend that to mean any country.

What am I thinking of in particular on this occasion? Well, a couple of things immediately spring to mind but there are undoubtedly many more. The two I am particularly incensed by at the moment are the extensive spying on our friends, and the trade deals designed to increase the power and wealth of big corporations. Yes, it’s the NZ spy agencies collecting untargeted data and the secret negotiations of the TPP I am worried about.

Both of these issues have been the subject of previous blog entries (see “TPPPPPPPPPPPP” from 2014-02-15 and “Nixonian” from 2014-12-03 for example) but I think I need to update and reiterate the danger here, because I am far more concerned about the problems associated with spying than any small chance of harm from terrorists, and I am far more concerned with the freedoms we give away from poorly framed trade deals than any possible loss of trade if we don’t negotiate them.

How do I know these bad consequences are likely? Well, for a start the prime minister tells us they won’t happen so that’s an extremely good indicator that they will. Yes, good old John Key is a useful source of guidance because if you assume that the opposite of what he says is true then you probably won’t be far off reality!

OK, I agree that was a rather trite piece of justification (and possibly a bit of a cheap shot at the PM) but it is difficult to come to any better conclusion based on real facts because there is just too much secrecy involved in both issues.

Not surprisingly the old classic excuses are usually trotted out by those who want to obscure the unfortunate facts (mainly the PM), such as “the negotiations are held in secret because of commercial sensitivity” and “I don’t discuss operational details involving intelligence matters”.

Yeah well I’m sorry but that just isn’t good enough. I don’t care how commercially sensitive something is and I don’t care what the usual procedure is involving spying, because I think the public deserve to be informed about the processes they are paying for and which will possibly affect them significantly.

At the end of the day (I couldn’t resist using a classic JK phrase there) if these things are really so good for us then what could be the harm in discussing them with a bit more honesty? I don’t want to know the potential personal gains of every participant in trade deals or the the home address of every spy working for us, but I do want to know a lot more than what we are being told now. The current level of disclosure – basically nothing except a rather unconvincing assurance that we can trust the process – really cannot be justified in any reasonable way.

The supporters of spying tell us that everything that is being done is legal. Well I have two comments on that. First, who cares what’s legal? Laws are made to suit the current political agenda. I’m more interested in what’s moral. Second, is it really legal? There have been so many instances of illegal spying in the past who could possibly claim that there is no chance of that happening again? Well, the PM does, but his assurances are meaningless.

The supporters of the TPP tell us that we will benefit from increased trade with the US. That might or might bit be true but even if it is true what will be the cost? Surely no one is so naive as to think that the negotiators for corporate America won’t get more than what they give. Why would they do it otherwise? These are amongst the most immoral, greedy, destructive people on the planet. If you really think a few New Zealand politicians will get a good deal from them you must be mad!

But the current government is so intent on being friends with the US (maybe so that the PM can score another game of golf with Obama) that they would agree to anything, including sending troops into a hopeless war in the Middle East – but that’s another subject involving a lot of secrecy which I won’t even start on here, except to say there are just too many secrets.